Chapter 1: Prologue
He didn’t immediately wake up. In fact, the first thing he did when the pain stopped was sleeping. He was exhausted from being exhausted. It would need two more days until he would finally growl a first: “Where the hell am I?” And pronouncing this sentence would leave him almost dumbfounded: His voice was unfamiliar. It was hoarse, quiet and it felt like it had the wrong pitch. As if he had screamed his lung out of his body.
The first person he saw was someone who seemed to have put a damp piece of cloth on his forehead. He was blurred at first, merely a silhouette. But with time the lines got clearer and he could see a blonde man in front of him, maybe 27 or 28 years old. His blonde hair had been braided on several spots and his grey eyes seemed to fix Tony in an uncomfortable way.
“You are in the Healing Chambers of Asgard, Herra Stark,” he answered his question calmly. Tony needed some time to recall how he had gotten here. He remembered Thor had brought him here to get over Pepper. Well, get over meant get wasted in that case. It had its perks to have a royal drinking buddy with access to a wine cellar so huge that you could get lost in it.
That was what he liked most about Thor: Unlike the others on the team, he didn’t give a single fuck about how much and why Tony was drinking. On the contrary: He wasn’t particularly interested in talking about his problems or reflect if drinking was a healthy coping mechanism (It wasn’t. Tony wasn’t that stupid). They had just drunk side by side and talked about unimportant things, mostly anecdotes of their youth. What had happened after that was a blur.
“How are you feeling?”
“Like I could run a marathon. At the same time as if I just had run a marathon. Does that make sense? Probably not” he sat up.
“Please, Herra Stark, you should lie down.”
“Well, the funny thing about doctors is that I never listen to them, nothing personal, though.” He looked around. He was in a sort of med bay, so he had probably drunk too much. That wasn’t too far-fetched considering the fact that Asgard had a variety of booze Tony hadn’t even been allowed to touch. Thor had explained him in a serious tone of voice (hearing something reasonable from him had been a shock for both of them) that it was too strong for his ‘weak Midgardian body’. Fair enough.
He tried to remember what had happened then but the memories were not really clear on that one. What he remembered was seeing Loki. He had asked Thor about that.
“Isn’t he supposed to be grounded?”
“Oh, believe me, social activities like this one is what he really dreads.”
He hadn’t wanted to talk much on that front but it seemed like his father hadn’t punished him yet, he was just under close surveillance until Odin would find a suitable punishment for him.
Tony turned his body around slightly. “Hey, Buddy.”
“How are you feeling?”
“Why is everyone asking that?” He rolled his eyes. “Not like I have a hangover, so whatever stuff it was you’ve given me, I want more of it.”
He glared at Thor’s feature who didn’t seem too fond of what he was seeing. He had no idea what was wrong and it didn’t seem like his friend or the doctor wanted to tell him what was wrong. “Okay, either I’ve just grown myself a second head or something’s wrong.”
“Aye, but I don’t know how-”
Thor was interrupted by his father coming into the healing chambers. The healer bowed down. “Your Majesty.”
Tony noticed how Odin completely ignored him. None of his business, though. They had barely spoken a sentence yesterday. All Tony knew was that he hadn’t been too fond of his presence and had told Thor it would be the first and the last time he could bring Tony here.
“This is a catastrophe, Thor. And you are partly responsible for this.”
“Enough.” he looked at Tony. “Do you remember what has happened, boy?”
Tony’s mouth was agape for a moment. The last person calling him boy had been his father when he was seventeen. Odin’s presence made him uneasy. Like the room had frozen in his presence. “No, I just remember having a good time with Thor.”
Odin sighed but nodded.
“Loki will pay for this, father. I vouch for Stark, he would never do this on his own accords, he was deceived.”
“Look, I don’t wanna be rude, but I still have no idea what the issue is. So if someone could bother explaining? Thanks in advance.”
Both Odin and Thor glared at him as if he had just set something on fire, the healer next to him sucked in a sharp breath.
“I don’t like being interrupted.”
“I just want to know what’s wrong, right? Am I okay?”
“What will we do now, father?”
Getting ignored seemed to be a common occurrence here and Tony wasn’t having it. He had only come here to have a nice evening until he would return back to his now empty penthouse.
“You will tell him what happened. I will talk to your brother.”
It seemed like an eternity until Odin was gone and Tony looked at Thor expectantly. “So? What happened?”
“You started to talk with Loki yesterday.”
Tony tried to remember this and he managed to at least remember that yes, they had talked. He didn’t remember why or what had been discussed but he was sure to remember that he had been the one starting the conversation. “Yeah, right.”
“You two left the halls and-”
“Shit, please don’t tell me I slept with him.”
“What?” Thor frowned. “No, no such thing.”
“Thank fucking god,” he exhaled. “Okay, so I went away with Loki at that party. Seems like a stupid thing I’d do while being drunk. And then?”
Thor stared at him for a long time. “I don’t know how to tell you this.”
“Straight away, pal. Come on, you are kinda making me nervous.”
Thor nodded and decided directly was the best way for this. “Do you remember anything? He gave you something?”
“No offense, but shouldn’t you be rotting in a cell somewhere?”
“Oh well, it is a rather long story not worth to tell yet.”
Tony felt giddy from the alcohol and sat down with him. The party was nice but Thor had left him alone to drink while he was amusing himself with two ladies and Tony was pissed, to say the least. “So, why’re we here?”
Loki shrugged. “I thought you might need rescuing from the daft actions of my brother.”
He asked the servant something Tony couldn’t understand and he returned with something looking like pie. “Do you want some as well, Stark?”
“You think I am trying to ‘poison’ you? I would not know why.” he started eating it with a grin. “Now, why are you here? Oh, how impolite of me. You probably came here to drink.”
He ordered a cider for Tony. It wasn’t that Tony trusted him, but he was drunk enough not to be suspicious.
“Yeah… I drank some cider, I think. No idea.”
“It is beyond me how you could accept something from him.”
Tony was not insulted per se but he rolled his eyes. “Well, don’t leave me alone on an unknown planet.”
“Whatever. Now, what did he do? Did he poison me or something?”
“The cider was made of a special apple, Idunn’s gift.”
“I… don’t really follow, sorry,” he explained and sat up completely, much to the distaste of the healer but it seemed like he would tolerate it this time.
“These apples are grown in the royal gardens. On this tree, only two apples will grow every two millennia. They used to be given to Midgardians like you for special merits. One of those apples has already been used a millennia ago.”
“Sounds good,” he said. “So Loki’s given me a prize? If it was like that you wouldn’t be so concerned. What do these apples do?”
It couldn’t be too good, after all, he had never seen Thor so tense before. Special merits. It couldn’t be too bad but unwanted. What had Loki done? What could be so bad?
“Whoever tastes them gets the gift of immortality, of being one among the gods.”
“I am sorry, what?”
“He made you a-”
“No, wait, pause, stop,” Tony said. “You mean to tell me he-”
“Yes. He gave you one of the golden apples. You are as Aesir as me now, Stark. You are a god.”
Chapter 2: Poetry and Irony
Tony wants answers and gets some.
“I can’t believe this happened. Goddamnit, Thor!”
Tony went up and down the room. They were in Thor’s chambers because Tony had refused to stay in the Healing Chambers any longer. He had found out he had been here for four days so far and was more than furious. he just hoped no one was missing him yet. At least Thor promised to tell the team that he was kind of… stuck here until they knew how they would find a solution for this problem.
“Loki will pay for this, Stark. He has gone too far.” Thor assured him as if it would comfort him more.
No, it didn’t.
He didn’t care what would and wouldn’t happen to Loki; He just wanted to be normal again and then get the hell out of here. This would be his first and last visit. He was astounded he just got angry now. it seemed his phase of denial was over.
“This wouldn’t have happened if you would’ve fucking imprisoned him!” Tony stood again. “I mean, come one, Thor, he murdered hundreds of fucking people and you thought it was okay to just let it slide? ”
Thor sighed. “We did not *let it slide,* Stark. It is not so easy to imprison a prince of Asgard. it would lead to a huge scandal and-”
“And of course your reputation’s more important than the safety of others, yeah. You know, that’s the reason we told England to fuck off two hundred years ago: Monarchies suck.”
He turned around again and came to sit on the divan. He couldn’t understand why he was being told to wait. It seemed Odin had other matters to attend to and he needed to wait until he’d have time for him again. He couldn’t believe there was something more important right now than him eating the Forbidden Fruit of Asgard. He had asked if this was reversible, what they would do next or what punishment Loki would face for doing that shit to him and every time he had opened his mouth Odin had ignored him.
“My father will know what to do.”
“Your dad can kiss my ass if he doesn’t show up soon.” He needed to finally get some answers. “I mean it, Thor. I need to go home today, I’ve got so many things on my plate that I gotta get a second one. Just reverse that shit and send me home.”
“I have no idea if this is even possible. My mother is looking through her spell books right now. my father thinks of what to do as well now. You would better be thankful, Stark, instead of rampaging in here like a bilgesnipe.”
“Like a what now?”
“Stark. Be calm. There is nothing you can do.”
“You know, the fact that you are saying that is what I call irony.” he crossed his arms, looking at the crackling fire in front of him. It was winter in Asgard and would stay like this for a year, or at least Thor had told him this. One year of winter was…. well, a bit too much of Game of Thrones for him.
It wasn’t like Tony was particularly interested in the seasonal system of Thor’s home but he had explained it briefly when Tony had complained. It was July in New York.
“Where is Loki now, anyway?”
“In a cell. Until we know what will happen next,” he replied steadily, as if this was an impressive fact. Tony was not having it.
“A cell? You know, maybe you should’ve done that in the first place!”
“Loki might have deceived you but you should have known better than this.”
Oh, now it was his fault. Good to know. “I wanna speak to him.”
“Yes. I think I’ve got a right to ask what the hell this was all about. I wanna know why the hell he did that to me.”
“Did that to you?” Thor snorted. “Stark, this is the highest honor a Midgardian can receive.”
“Oh, quit that ad. I am sorry I am not genuflecting in front of him right now and pledge my loyalty. I doubt he did that because he has a crush on me. Now, where’s that cell?”
Thor seemed to be already tired of talking this through but if this had ever stopped Tony, he wouldn’t be himself.
“I cannot just let you into the dungeons. You are a civilian. Less even, you do not reside here.”
“Thor, I swear to fucking god, just lead me there.”
His father wouldn’t be pleased, Thor was certain of that. At the same time, Stark would at least remain calm if he could talk to him. He knew him only for a year but he already knew that he would find another way if he didn’t allow him. And Tony was his teammate, his shield brother. He owed him these answers. “I will lead you there. But we only have ten minutes.”
“I want to be alone with him. He is in a cell, right? I doubt he will tell me anything with you in the room.”
Thor nodded; Stark was right. If Loki would talk at all, it would not be with him present.
Tony was sure he’d never find back on his own. The dungeons were a really nice word for labyrinth. Several corridors had about four cells before splitting again and again. Thor led him through them as if he had a mental image of the place already and in a way it made sense, he thought. Thor had lived in this palace for centuries now. It would have been strange if he hadn’t explored the dungeons as well at this point.
Thor pointed to a white cell when they were deep into those tunnels and Tony could already see Loki. it was a rather luxurious cell, he thought. All white, with a divan, a table and other goods he was pretty sure the other cells didn’t have. It wasn’t important. Not really.
He was not even completely standing in front of the cell when Loki, lying on the divan, began to speak without looking towards him.
“The Man of Iron, what a pleasure.”
Tony would have loved to wipe the grin off the man’s face and kick him into the next dimension but his chances were slim and he knew that. “Save it, Reindeer Games, what the fucking hell is wrong with you?”
“I have not the faintest idea what you could mean, Anthony. Might you elaborate?”
“Call me Anthony one more time and I will shove the candle on your table so deep into your ass that your father thinks you are a fucking unicorn. And you know exactly what I mean! Why did you do this?”
Loki seemed to enjoy this. His smile had grown wider when he had seen Tony’s lack of understanding, his obvious anger and confusion. “Why? Oh, of course, your little Midgardian mind could not fathom the irony of this.”
“Then tell me. Come on, I bet you’ve already prepared your crappy monologue.”
“Oh, you know, the usual: To upset my brother. Not a plan I thought I could pursue like this, but you were a lucky coincidence. You see, it is the only remaining apple in this generation. The next two will be harvested in two millennia. Not too long for-.”
“And that’s peanuts for you, yeah, got it. But how would you ups-? Oh.”
It hit him and he was not quite sure what to think. If he wanted to upset Thor and Tony eating the apple was more of a coincidence , like Loki had said, this meant it wasn’t about the fact he had eaten it. The consequence of him consuming that apple was also that the apple was no longer available. if he wanted to upset Thor with this it meant he had wanted to use it for someone. And it was more than obvious who Thor had wanted to eat it. “Wait, really? That’s what this is about? All of that just because you are not a big fan of your brother’s girlfriend?”
“Oh, from what I have heard she is a charming girl. This is more about my brother than anyone else. I don’t see why he should be given the chance to live together with a Midgardian. He had so much luck recently, I consider this as outweighing his chances.”
It made sense now. If Thor wanted Jane Foster to eat the apple, it meant he wanted to make the relationship serious. Well, not anymore. He would outlive her by far now. He had no idea why this would have been a problem for Loki but then again he didn’t know much about him anyway. Maybe good old sibling rivalry, maybe something else. None of his business. There were other things he needed to know much more urgently.
“Okay, so you didn’t want a sister in law, got it. But why the hell did you give it to me? You could’ve just thrown it into the trash or out of the window. Thor said it was a really great honor for people who are interested in it. And I doubt you did it to impress me. Well, if you did I am flattered but-”
“For once in your life, you should learn when to shut up, Stark. It was not an action to impress you. I am hardly in need of your favour. I thought the irony was fitting, however. I am taking this apple for a girl who wants to live and give it to a man who cannot seem to die. Poetic, don’t you think?”
“Spare me, Hamlet.”
“Oh, but it
interesting,” he continued with a smirk. “Not all Midgardians survive this transformation. This is why they used to be so carefully selected. It is a really painful process. Exhausting. Most hearts stop during this but your little machine seemed to have ensured your survival.”
He ignored the fact Loki had just told him this spell had changed his DNA like it was nothing and just rolled his eyes. “As soon as your mum fixes this shit, I’ll make sure you’ll rot here.”
“Oh please.” Loki turned left and strolled along a side of the cell. “As if a Midgardian like you had any power here. It is rather amusing my brother told you mother would even bother looking into her Grimoires. There is no fix for it, Stark, for it is neither an error nor a disease. It is not reversible.”
“Are you really under the assumption you could just undo this? Idunn’s gift, undone like a simple charm? And here I thought you were supposed to be smart.”
“For someone so smart, you get into monologuing really fast. Villain trope, I guess.”
“Villain? Oh, this is rather a black and white dichotomy you have created for yourself. Heroes… Villains… we are not in a fairy tale. As for my willingness to talk to you so freely: Knowing my father, it will not matter too much what I will tell you now.”
“What do you mean?”
“Oh, I’d rather you found this out yourself.”
The way Loki said it made uneasy. As if a hurricane was about to strike and Loki was already in his bunker.
He hadn’t heard Thor approach again. When he heard his voice, he could not quite place it for a while.
“Stark, we should go. Father has requested our presence,” the other informed him. It didn’t sound too bad, the way he said it. Thor seemed to have hope.
“Oh, I bet he has.” Loki’s smirk turned into a grin, again as if he knew something they didn’t.
Chapter 3: An hour
Odin proposes an idea. Tony isn't happy.
It was almost scary how many halls this palace had and one looked like the other. not that this would have bothered Thor. Naturally, he stirred Tony through seemingly endless corridors and more stairs than he would walk in a week. No one who lived here needed an exercise plan.
The throne room was rather easy to recognize once you were there. Its doors were out of solid gold, decorated with several golden flower tendrils. The flower within wasn’t one Tony knew but that didn’t have to mean anything: His knowledge of botany wasn’t really existent. He looked to the side of the door, where two guards were stationed. They ignored him mostly and just bowed down for Thor, then they opened the prestigious double door.
Tony didn’t have too much of a good feeling. Loki’s words still echoed in his head: As for my willingness to talk to you so freely: Knowing my father, it will not matter too much what I will tell you now. He had no idea what the other had meant but was sure he would find it out. And that he wouldn’t like it too much, given Loki’s smile.
By the time this train of thought had ended, they had already passed hlf of the hall and stood in front of Odin. Tony didn’t know if he was angry or not; His face was expressionless as if something had carved it out of wood. He was waiting for something, obviously and Thor elbowed him, so he must have forgotten something. Only didn’t he have a clue, what.
“He is Midgardian, father. He does not know of our-”
“Yes, I know this as well.” He didn’t seem to mind too much or was preoccupied with thinking something else, then he turned back to them both. “I have thought about the possibilities and consequences of your consumption, Stark.”
Odin made a pause and Tony was way too impatient for this. “...yeah? So you found a way to fix it?”
The Allfather frowned at that. “It cannot be reversed.”
“Then why the hell did I have to wait for an entire day for an antidote, huh?”
“Stark. You forget your place.” Thor hissed quietly beside him. His friend’s behaviour seemed to embarrass him. Tony couldn’t believe Thor of all the people was embarrassed about this sort of thing, then again he probably was a Daddy’s boy.
“I did not need a day to find an imaginary antidote. Rather did I ponder what to do with you, boy. The easiest way, I immediately thought, is to just kill you.”
Tony was the one frowning now. This was what Loki had meant. It seemed like the other had come to the same assumption as his father. Adoptive father. Whatever. Thor seemed just as shocked though so at least Tony knew he hadn’t expected this either.
“Father, he is a war hero of Midgard. You cannot-”
“Quiet,” he demanded. “I cannot let you return to Midgard with your enhanced strength and lifespan. It would be too much of a threat. Midgard should not be given this much power.”
“They already have you to protect them, my son. Another Aesir without allegiance to the throne could be fatal. It is not a risk I am going to take.”
Tony had no idea what he was talking about. He had no idea what that kind of reasoning was supposed to be. But he knew that he had to negotiate his way out of this dilemma.
“If you kill me, you’re gonna regret it,” he informed him. “We defeated an army of alien bastards and Loki with just six of us. Now, just imagine what we’ll do if you really get us angry? You don’t want that on your conscience.”
“Thank you for your input, Midgardian. But I did not say I would kill you. What you have just said came into my mind as well. Then I thought locking you away would do the trick, although I must confess it would not be to my satisfaction.”
“To your satisfaction? Glad we have that out of the world, then.”
Thor had not moved once since they had stopped in front of the throne and Tony wondered if he was listening too much or not at all. Anyway, he was glad to have someone else next to him.
“You should learn how to hold your tongue.”
“Oh, trust me; You’re not the first one telling me that. Now, instead of telling me what you thought would not work, you could just say what you thought was a good solution. After that, we’ll see if I take the offer.”
“Your friend has great courage. Or is naive. Perhaps both.” he stared down Tony and took a deep breath. “I thought what might be best is an alliance with Midgard and Asgard. Your company and the capital, to be exact. I must confess I have neglected this realm for centuries. Your independence made you uninteresting for a time. But now with your advances, you have my admiration. Something not many enjoy.”
“An alliance? Sure. Give me the details, give me a contract and I can call my CEO for the negotiations.”
He had not thought it would be so easy, if he was honest. After Odin’s first suggestion had been straight up murdering him he had not thought there would be much more to that. Luckily, there was. And since he had said allegiance it would be a trade in both ways. Really, probably nothing Pepper would oppose to.
“Stark, you misunderstand this term.” Thor added quietly and it made Tony sigh. “When he says an allegiance, he means-”
“Marriage,” Odin explained.
Tony blinked a few time,s not used to this roller coaster of possibilities. “Wait a sec - you are saying I gotta marry a chick here so you won’t kill me? Look, nice offer but no.”
“Oh, on the contrary. I thought it might be best if you marry my son.”
Tony listened to the man who told him this in all seriousness as if they were talking about nice sightseeing tips. “You want me to marry Thor?” The idea was too abstract for him to process.
“No, I want you to marry my other son.”
“Wait a- You want me to marry Loki?” Tony felt like he was trapped in a really bad joke, like a Framed episode. “You want me to marry the guy who almost killed me and destroyed my entire city? Is that what you’re saying?”
“You have lain with men before” was Odin’s only answer and it made Tony something between furious and sarcastic.
“Father, he is not from a Royal Family. Marriage does not mean the same on Midgard anymore as it once did,” Thor tried. Tony was glad he did because he was not quite sure how to respond to it all.
“I know this. It will hinder them from interfering in this either way. The alternative is to lock you away, Stark.”
“I think he needs time to think about this, father.”
“I see. You have an hour, I will not waste more time with you.”
"Is that really how you Asgardians do it? Marry each other off?" he crossed his arms. This was a freaking nightmare, really. He hated feeling helpless and he hated being in this situation. He had told Thor he wanted to talk to Loki. He had known something like this would happen, evidently. And as shitty of a person as he was, maybe he would know what he could do.
"That's generally how it works, yes." Loki shrugged, seemingly indifferent. "Some get to pick and choose, but even when you're choosing the final decision is really someone else's call."
"Well, I am from fucking Earth and there is no fucking way I am going to get married off, thank you very much." he hissed. "So I think you should fucking help me convincing your father to make another deal, unless you want to spend the rest of my life with me."
He waved a hand dismissively. The idea of marriage didn't really appeal to him very much. But of all the possible punishments, it wasn't really the worst. "It could have been worse. I know you will not bother me too much, at least compared to other picks. You don’t even speak our language. The Allspeak charm will not hold forever.”
"Oh, so it's totally alright with you!" he clenched his fists. "Let me guess: You are the one suggesting it? Is this some sort of a joke, Reindeer Games? Because I am not fucking laughing!"
"Oh don't flatter yourself, you're not even my type." He rolled his eyes, "Why would I ever go out of my way to tie myself down to you? But I'm not about to go trading a ring for handcuffs, am I? Because that seems like a poor deal on my part."
“Yeah, I get it: You’ve got a nice advantage there. I haven’t. I am asking you to help me here because I doubt you wanna end up with me.”
Loki rolled his eyes again and stood, strolling towards him but halted before the energy shield. “Ask Thor if you're so desperate to have Odin’s mind changed."
"Oh, I did. He says he can't do it. Too much of a daddy boy. Scared he might reject his girlfriend. You choose." True, after the throne room he had begged Thor to say anything, to discuss this thing with Odin but he had just shaken his head, had told him he couldn’t afford to anger him even more than he already had with bringing Tony here.
“Oh, I am more than aware of my brother’s position.”
Tony looked at Loki that was still anything but surprised or even worried. "Why are you so freaking calm with this?"
"It was inevitable that one day I'd be told who I should marry. It always has been." The casual Tony made Tony develop compassion for Thor he didn’t know he even had. He had never told him anything about this policy, though Tony had never really asked either. "I'd been assuming recently he'd want me to pick a frost giant and secure Niflheim for Asgardian rule, you're a slightly more pleasant alternative to that."
Brilliant. Thor wouldn't help him. Loki wouldn't either. Odin was a dick. He knew he was fucked. No loophole this time "I can’t fucking believe this!”
"You're the one who'll be marrying up and reaping all the benefits, and I don't expect any sort of commitment. So I really don't see why you're going to throw a fit over it."
"All the benefits ? Knowing your father’s attitude towards me I know who will have all the benefits. And I won’t fucking sleep with you. If this is about my money or the company or a shitty revenge plan-”
"What need do I have for your money? You would be a prince consort, what more do you ask for when looking to be married? And when the old man passes and if some unfortunate tragedy befalls my dear brother, you would be beside me on the throne and enjoy all the privileges that entail." He rolled his eyes, "You only need to go to bed with me once. If you don't want to consummate the marriage with your husband, I can just as easily be wife for the evening if that appeals to you more?"
Tony said nothing. He was too busy trying not to strangle this whole family. There must be a way out, anything…
"You can always just abandon the agreement if you don't like the price." He shrugged, sitting down. "You asked him for something, the old man named his price. I still don't understand why it's such an issue. It's only marriage."
"Yeah, you know, in Midgard, like... the place I come from, you know - arranged marriages are out for like 200 years.”
“It is not my problem, Stark. For all I care you can agree or reject my fathers offer. Either my situation stays the same or gets slightly better. Pay mind, though, that you will have more privileges, should you decide to agree.”
Tony rolled his eyes and went back to the exit, to Thor. As much as he hated to admit it; He was right.