Having a small entourage from Asgard showing up in his tower is not what Tony Stark pictures as a good start to his day. But apparently the universe doesn’t care about his opinion, because now four stoic Einherjer warriors clad in furs and armed to the teeth are standing before him, explaining their business to their reluctant host. It’s way too early in the day for this, and his throat is itching for a glass of brandy, a drink of scotch, or… anything, really. Anything that has alcohol in it.
“… you’ll be pleased to hear that the Allfather has now pronounced judgement,” says what Tony assumes is the leader of the little group.
Under other circumstances, those words would have been reassuring, informing him that Loki has been dealt with. Locked up in some Asgardian prison for the next few centuries. One irate god of chaos less for the planet to worry about.
Yeah, those words would have been reassuring, if the object of said pronounced judgement hadn’t been standing there in the middle of the Einherjers with his arms held in a bone-crushing grip.
Then why is he here then? The vexed question is just on the tip of Tony’s tongue, on the verge of rolling off. Why did you bring him into my fucking tower where he’s done enough damage already? But the commanding presence of the Einherjers – or perhaps rather the humungous swords at their belts – makes him hold back his probably premature enquiries. The guys not doing the talking don’t look like people who’d take kindly to someone interrupting their leader while he’s busy explaining important stuff.
Loki is just standing there while his guard talks, mercifully quiet for once, his eyes not meeting with Tony’s. Instead, his gaze is locked to a spot on the floor, as if it promises to reveal intriguing answers to unknown cosmic secrets.
So staring isn’t polite, but Tony was never one to let himself be restricted by niceties. His gaze scrutinizes the fallen god, up and down, and then up again. Loki is wearing rather plain clothes – by Asgardian standards anyway, even if he’d probably get a few stares walking down the main street of most any city in America. Gone are the armour, the sweeping cloak and that ridiculous helmet he wore during their last encounter. Good riddance. What’s left now is some green and black, a bit of leather. Nothing fancy.
But the change in attire isn’t the biggest change in the figure standing there on his floor, in his tower. In his home. No, somehow Loki seems smaller, like somebody threw him into the tumble dryer without reading the washing instructions first, causing subsequent shrinking. But that’s not it, really, because he’s still towering over Tony with the same number of inches as before. Maybe it’s rather that the arrogance that has always clung to the trickster like a wet t-shirt is gone now, replaced by what can best be described as sullen resignation. He can’t see that much of Loki’s face – the god’s face is still down turned – but what parts are visible shows tautness and a rigidly clenched jaw line.
This god, who’s brought so much death and destruction to their world. And now he’s back here – albeit under heavy guard – and it makes Tony’s stomach feel like a smouldering pit of fury. He doesn’t want to se Loki again and hopes that the Asgardian warriors will soon take him back to their own realm where this joke of a god will face his well-deserved punishment. Whatever that will turn out to be.
“… after long considerations, and lengthy discussion with the Council, it was decided that only one punishment was sufficient to make amends,” the Einherjer drones on, oblivious to Tony’s impatience. Erik the Blabbermouth, he settles for calling him in his mind. He doesn’t know the guy’s real name, and frankly he doesn’t care. He just wants the big brute to come to the point and then escort the prisoner out of his house. Off the planet.
He stifles a yawn as Erik’s story derails into singing the praises of Odin’s wisdom and his sense of justice. What are they gonna do to Loki, anyway, he wonders, not really listening. Lock him up for a few centuries? Banish him to the deepest pits of Nifelheim? Turn him into a squirrel? He’s read up a bit on Norse mythology and found that the Aesir seem to have a penchant for some rather unsavoury punishments – ones that would rather classify as torture where Tony comes from – but he tries not to think about that. Torture doesn’t sit well with him. Not that Loki wouldn’t deserve the more creative forms of justice he’s read about, but… well. Besides, Loki is Odin’s son, albeit adopted. And surely that guy isn’t gonna let his own son…
“… serve as your slave.” Erik’s unexpected words startle him out from his little reverie and Tony’s eyes dart back to the Aesir warrior. Say what?
His tongue uncharacteristically fumbles for a few seconds before he manages to blurt out the resemblance of a full sentence.
“Uh, I don’t think I… really caught that last part. The one where you mentioned something that sounded suspiciously like the word slave. Care to repeat that?”
Erik’s face tightens. He’s obviously annoyed by Tony’s inattention as he’s addressing this grave matter, but he acquiesces and repeats his words more slowly this time, as if the other man is a borderline imbecile.
“Loki has caused much trouble and mischief in the past, and Odin has punished him in various ways for it, hoping for him to see the error of his ways and be set on the right path. Unfortunately, his punishments have always failed to have the desired effect. And now, Loki has inflicted great harm upon your realm.” The Einherjer makes a short pause, almost as if he’s feeling a little guilty on account of the perpetrator being a fellow Asgardian, before clearing his throat and continuing. “So this time, the Allfather has decided that some, as you Midgardians would put it, poetic justice is in order. Since Loki tried to enslave Midgard and its humans, it is only fair that he in turn will become a slave here in Midgard. And Odin has decided that this slave shall be given to you, Man of Iron.”
Man of Iron. So Thor has passed on that cute little nickname of his to the rest of Asgard too, huh?
And it’s ridiculous that he’s even thinking about that now, because of all that Erik has said in the last minute, this is by far the most insignificant piece of information. And that is precisely why his mind grabs onto it, because all that other stuff is just too much for him to wrap his brain around at the moment. It’s just too unreal. Like he’s on candid camera and a self-righteous, pompous asshat of a show host is about to break through his door with a microphone in hand, gloating over how the unsuspecting victim fell for their little ploy, fair and square.
Just in case, he casts a glance over his shoulder. But the door remains closed.
Suddenly, he wants that glass of scotch more than anything.
Erik continues, undeterred. “You are, however, not allowed to give him away to someone else. He will remain your slave, unless otherwise is decided by Odin.” He then falls silent, obviously waiting for Tony’s acquiescing acceptance.
Which he isn’t about to give.
“Hey, wait just a minute now, where’s the part where I get a say in this?” he asks – okay, yells, but he doesn’t care. “How come no one’s bothered to ask me whether I actually want a crazy war criminal as my freaking…” the word feels foreign in his mouth, and he pauses briefly, “…slave? You know, informed consent and all that?” Tony can feel his insides clenching with fury. He wants the god responsible for the wanton razing of Manhattan and for almost killing Coulson as far away from his own person as possible. Preferably in a deep dark dungeon somewhere.
He’s sounding like a petulant child, and he knows it, but he couldn’t care less right now. The Einherjer are only watching him impassively as he continues his righteous fuming. “And besides, there’s this little pesky thing called the law! We don’t allow slavery here in America. Not anymore. You can’t actually own another person, so that kind of defeats the whole purpose of this not-in-the-slightest brilliant idea!” He gestures animatedly with his hands, as if that will somehow convince Erik and the rest of this little entourage. Judging by the unimpressed look on their faces, his efforts don’t have the desired effect.
“It is of no matter. The word of the Allfather is above Midgard law and the judgement is final. Loki is your slave. Do with him as you will.”
And with that, Erik turns to leave (just like that!), but then stops and adds, as if in afterthought, “Loki has had his magic and powers bound.” He gestures to the thin silvery chains circling the wrists of his charge. “For all intents and purposes, he is no more than a mere mortal and hardly a threat.”
“Hardly a threat?” Tony bristles at that, “Even a mere mortal can stab someone in the back or poison someone’s drink or…”
“You need not worry, Man of Iron. If Loki harms or kills another Midgardian, he will die. And he will not be given a quick and clean death. He has nowhere to run and if he tries, he will be found immediately.” The Einherjer’s voice is ice and fire and venom all at once as his hand – accidentally? – brushes the hilt of his sword, and Tony takes half a step back.
Yeah, remind me never to piss this dude off.
After a few seconds of silence, Erik nods his good-bye. “Farewell, Man of Iron. The Allfather will be pleased to hear of your cooperation in this matter.” And Tony thinks he hears a subtle threat in there, but he doesn’t want to probe further. He’s just too tired to protest and possibly cause a diplomatic conflict between his world and that of the Aesir. Somehow, he doesn’t think a disagreement like that will end with Earth coming out on top. And their planet has had enough outer-worldly problems to last them a while.
Erik’s warriors follow their leader, and the door closes behind them with a dull thud. A small part of Tony is grateful that they at least had the decency not to apparate – or whatever that thing they do is called – back to Asgard right here in his living room. He’s feeling nauseous enough as it already is. And he hasn’t even had his first drink for the day.
He stares at the closed door for a while. Why me, he wants to scream at it. Why not Steve or Bruce? Or Clint – that guy would have been delighted to be in his situation right now. Why did Odin pick him, of all the Avengers?
No answers are forthcoming despite his glaring; still, Tony doesn’t want to turn around and face the god, the man, the whatever, who is standing there behind him. His freaking slave.
But the door can only provide so much amusement. So finally, he turns.
Loki is standing where the guards left him, eyes still nailed to the same spot on the floor. He neither moves nor speaks. Like he’s a marble statue or something. With weird clothes.
And just what the hell is he supposed to do with Loki now?
The situation is freakishly surreal, and for a while Tony just stands there, too, neither moving nor speaking. Memories of Loki’s last appearance here on Earth are filling his mind; a scene in particular from Stuttgart, one where the god is ordering the scared and bewildered people in the square to kneel before him, smiling triumphantly as his orders are obeyed.
The whim that suddenly comes rushing over him is just too great, too tempting. He can’t help himself. And besides, if this is to be the order of the day, he might as well make the best out of the situation. Play along with the cards he’s been dealt. He’s good at that.
“You know, I might be new to this whole slave-owning thing, but there’s one thing that I’ve picked up along the way,” he hears his own voice drawl, mocking and snide. “Aren’t slaves supposed to kneel before their masters?”
So he might be going to hell for this, but it would be so worth it, just to see the arrogant god forced to his knees in front of a mere mortal after the little stunt he tried to pull with world domination and all.
Loki lifts his head and looks Tony in the eye, just briefly, before looking away again. Even though the moment is quickly over, Tony can see the tiredness in the pale face, the dark circles under his eyes. Clearly, Loki’s jailors haven’t been coddling him. Good.
“If their masters command them to,” Loki says after a few seconds of silence, posture stiff and avoidant. The voice is taut, as if the god has to force the words out from a constricting throat. He still doesn’t move, though.
“Consider it a command, then.”
Loki visibly tenses and the hands at his sides clench. But nothing more than that happens, and as the seconds tic away Tony is starting to feel, well, stupid. Of course the pompous ass isn’t going to kneel before him, slave or no slave. What had he been expecting, really? And how is he even going to enforce a command like that if Loki refuses to obey? Tackle him from behind? Kick him in the knee caps? The whole situation is ludicrous.
Tony can feel his anger building up again; even now, in this position, Loki has the power to make his life difficult, to take away all semblance of control from him. A part of him wants to drive his fist into that pale face, send him crashing to the floor, just so he can see the arrogant god crawling at his feet.
Suddenly, there is a fluid motion of green and black and when Tony looks up, Loki is kneeling on the ground.