"A message from Nicholas Fury. He has need of the Black Panther."
"I will leave at once."
"Be careful brother."
"Of course Shuri. Take care of Wakanda while I'm gone."
"You're the Black Panther I take it?"
"Indeed. You are?"
"Assistant Director Maria Hill. If you'll follow me, I'll take you to Director Fury."
"So as I understand it, you are the Prince of Wakanda."
"This is correct, but I'm not here as a Prince; I'm here as a Warrior."
"Good, cause that's what I need in my response team."
T'Challa leant against a wall in the bridge, looking around at the tech S.H.I.E.L.D. had on offer. He was disappointed that most of it seemed to be for show; to look impressive, instead of doing something useful, though that may have been nothing more than the pride he held for Wakanda speaking.
Fury had contacted his father years ago about having a Wakandan on his response team. T'Chaka didn't much trust Fury, but felt that having a foot in the door would be useful. T'Challa and Shuri had battled for the position, and now, here T'Challa stood.
As of yet, Fury was waiting for two quinjets with T'Challa's 'teammates'. The ETA of both very close.
T'Challa had been of two minds when he read about Captain America; on the one hand the man was legendary, taking on impossible odds and winning, proven by his resurrection from seventy years encased in ice. On the other, this was a man who had been more or less torn from everything he knew, and everyone he loved; Fury wanted Steve Rogers to be the leader of the Avengers, but would the man be stable enough to do so?
T'Challa was very interested in the presence of Doctor Banner though. A genius who had been exposed to enough radiation to create a secondary persona that caused drastic physical changes? T'Challa looked forward to picking the man's mind.
But before he could introduce himself to the woman and two men who joined them on the bridge, their target, the Asgardian Loki, was spotted.
T'Challa didn't like how Fury expected Rogers and himself to work together easily; the two men had no exposure to each other, no idea how they worked in battle. It was going to end badly. Loki was toying with them, easily able to overpower them physically, taking hits like they were nothing.
Shoot to thrill, play to kill
Too many women with too many pills
Shoot to thrill, play to kill
I got my gun at the ready, gonna fire at will
The rock music blared through the speakers of the quinjet they had arrived in, and T'Challa let a little awe fall into his expression, hidden behind his mask as it was.
A shot at Loki had the Asgardian flying back, falling harshly on the steps. The armour stuck the iconic three point landing, before standing and revealing a small arsenal facing the godling.
"Your move Reindeer Games."
In a flare of light, the asgardian lost his gold horns, now only in his green robes. The weapons facing him disappeared into their hiding places.
T'Challa could get to like Tony Stark.
Stark had removed his helmet, revealing ruffled hair and gorgeous eyes. Rogers had lowered his cowl, and T'Challa his mask.
"I don't like it."
Rogers lowly muttered, his eyes never leaving Loki's form.
"What? Rock of Ages giving up so easily?"
A look of confusion on Rogers face before he continued.
"I don't remember it being ever that easy. This guy packs a wallop."
T'Challa agreed; Loki was very strong.
"He had been playing with us. I do not doubt the effectiveness of your weapons Stark, but Loki did not even try to fight back once you appeared."
Stark's face had taken on a thoughtful look at T'Challa's words, and seemed to be mulling something over before he spoke.
"He was able to hide pretty completely once he left the S.H.I.E.L.D. base; a good deal of that could be because of Agent Barton, but the string bean is called the trickster. He knows how to keep himself out of sight."
Stark looks T'Challa in the eyes.
"While we were facing him, what else was going on?"
A distraction. Yes, that fit. Everyone was looking for the godling; what about those he had under thrall?
Stark pulled the helmet back on his head.
"I'll have J.A.R.V.I.S. start looking for reports of anything happening in Stuttgart at the time; Loki could have chosen the locale at random, but I'm betting it was either close to where he's set up base, or close to something he wanted."
T'Challa nodded in agreement before turning his gaze back to Rogers. Rogers looked... almost angry. Like he was annoyed that he hadn't been part of the back and forth. T'Challa raised a brow in question, but before Rogers could speak a word, a roar of thunder rolled through the air, and a streak of lightning crossed the sky. Rogers gaze jumped to their captive.
"What, scared of a little lightning?"
Loki was looking to the ceiling of the craft and, yes, looked a little paler then he had moments before.
"I'm not overly fond of what follows."
Sharing a questioning glance, Rogers opened his mouth to speak when something landed on top of the quinjet. Stark moved and opened the hatch, preparing to fly out and investigate when a tall form landed on the exposed ramp, grabbed Stark and threw him into Rogers, before absconding with Loki in tow.
"And now there's that guy."
Stark rose and once more moved to the exit.
Agent Romanoff's voice called from the cockpit, followed by Rogers'.
"Think he's a friendly?!"
"Doesn't matter; if he frees Loki, or kills him, the Tesseract's lost."
"Stark! We need a plan of attack!"
Stark looked at Rogers, the glowing eyes of the Iron Man a cold fire.
"I have a plan; attack."
So saying, the red and gold armour leapt form the aircraft, disappearing in the darkness of the night. Rogers released an aggravated sound, before rushing to don a parachute.
"I'd sit this one out, Cap!"
"I don't see how I can."
"These guys come from legend! They're basically gods!"
"There's only one God, ma'am, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't dress like that."
"That depends entirely on your culture Rogers. Go after them if you must, but remember to apprehend Loki first; we unfortunately need him."
Rogers gaze met T'Challa's before the man nodded and leapt from the quinjet.
"Why did you let him go?! It's already bad enough that Stark's going to be there!"
T'Challa levelled an unimpressed look at the woman.
"Stark was right to go to ensure we do not lose Loki. Rogers was not going to stop for anything, so at least he has direction. Instead of complaining, move to find them and pick up our cargo."
Though irritated, Agent Romanoff obeyed, and the quinjet was turned around to track their wayward teammates.
They found them in a wide clearing, covered in dirt and detritus, but aside from a few scratches and one gauntlet, none seemed to be in any real danger.
Upon arriving back at the helicarrier, Loki was placed under the guard of a group of Fury's men, Stark disappeared into the bowels of the craft, and the rest of them made their way to the bridge.
There was some small talk as they found their places waiting for the others to join them. Assistant Director Hill opened a window displaying the security feed on Loki's cell as Doctor Banner joined them.
"In case it's unclear, if you try to escape, you so much as scratch that glass..."
Fury hit a button on the machine next to him and the floor of the room opened, a hole perfect for the glass prison Loki was suspended in.
"...it's 30,000 feet straight down in a steel trap. You get how that works? Ant... boot."
Fury seemed to have a little childish delight in those words; perhaps throwing back something Loki had said at the S.H.I.E.L.D. base he destroyed. Loki looked around.
"It's an impressive cage. Not built, I think, for me."
"Built for something a lot stronger than you."
Loki smiles, a bitter thing filled with teeth.
"Oh, I've heard. The mindless beast, makes play he's still a man. How desperate are you, that you call on such lost creatures to defend you?"
Fury's expression was dark, almost living up to the man's name.
"How desperate am I? You threaten my world with war. You steal a force you can't hope to control. You talk about peace and you kill 'cause it's fun. You have made me VERY desperate. You might not be glad that you did."
A chuckle from the prisoner.
"Ooh. It burns you to have come so close. To have the Tesseract, to have power, unlimited power. And for what? A warm light for all mankind to share. And then to be reminded what real power is."
It was a taunt, an obvious one at that, but it was effective if Fury's scowl was anything to go by.
"Well, let me know if 'real power' wants a magazine or something."
Fury left the room, Hill turning the display off.
"He really grows on you doesn't he?"
T'Challa smiled at the Doctor's sense of humour. He seemed to be the only one however.
"Loki's gonna drag this out. Thor, what's his play?"
The room fell into a back and forth discussion on what Loki was maybe planning, and how they would stop him. T'Challa's thought went back to the quinjet before Thor arrived
"While we were facing him, what else was going on?"
Doctor Banner's voice broke though his thoughts.
"What do they need Iridium for?"
"It's a stabilising agent."
Stark had arrived, inserting himself into the conversation. He shared a few final words with Agent Coulson before facing the team.
"Means the portal won't collapse in on itself like it did at S.H.I.E.L.D., Doctor Schafer -you know, the guy Loki stabbed through the face? He's still alive; woozy as hell, gonna be in hospital for a good few months- told me what he could about the chunk of the stuff Agent Barton took. So Loki can open the portal as wide and for as long as he wants. No hard feelings Point Break; you got a mean swing."
Stark gave a friendly pat to the Thunderer's arm as he made his way to the main console.
"Jib the topsails. Raise the mizzenmast... That man is playing Galaga!"
T'Challa felt his eyes dart in the direction Stark pointed, barely catching sight of the man changing his screen from the game to a scanning file.
They were in the middle of a possible Alien Invasion threat. Americans.
"He thought we wouldn't notice, but we did."
Stark placed a hand over one eye and focused on the console before turning to look at Hill.
"How does Fury even see these?"
Stark ignored the slight hostility in her tone, running his hands across the unit, fingers lingering here and there.
"Sounds exhausting. The rest of the raw materials, Agent Barton can get his hands on pretty easily. Only major component he still needs is a power source. A high energy density, something to kick start the cube."
T'Challa found a little smile crossing his lips at the energy Stark possessed; the cute little clapping he did emphasising his words. Hills voice, full of noticeable disdain, caused his smile to drop.
"When did you become an expert in thermonuclear astrophysics?"
T'Challa felt his jaw drop, just a little. He had, of course, heard of Tony Stark's intelligence, but to learn even just a chunk of the subject in so short a time?
A shiver ran down his spine at the thought of what Stark must have learned over his years.
"Am I the only one who did the reading?"
T'Challa answered Stark quickly; almost, he reflected later, like he was trying to impress a teacher.
"Read it, yes. Understood it, not so much. It is not my usual area of study, so I only really followed the points that overlapped."
Stark looked at him in consideration, obviously surprised that he admitted not understanding. Given Rogers' next words, it wasn't hard to see why.
"Does Loki need any particular kind of power source?"
A question that Stark had already answered. T'Challa saw that the Captain wanted to be useful, wanted to do something productive, but it was clear that he was confused. Doctor Banner joined the conversation again.
"He's got to heat the cube to a hundred and twenty million Kelvin just to break through the Coulomb barrier."
Stark perked up at the words, a gentle curling on his lips a precursor to his words.
"Unless, Selvig has figured out how to stabilize the quantum tunnelling effect."
An almost matching curl appeared on the Doctor's lips as the two men volleyed.
"Well, if he could do that he could achieve Heavy Ion Fusion at any reactor on the planet."
Stark out-and-out grinned moving towards the Doctor.
"Finally, someone who speaks English."
The joy on his face was real, genuine in a way that T'Challa had never seen the media capture. And it was over science.
No, T'Challa's eyes widened at the man as he walked to the Doctor, ignoring the muttering from Rogers.
It was over someone keeping up.
"It’s good to meet you, Doctor Banner. You’re work on anti-electron collisions is unparalleled. And I’m a huge fan of the way you lose control and turn into an enormous green rage monster."
The Doctor was unsure how to take the praise, and it showed in his lack-lustre "Thanks."
It was then that Fury finally arrived.
"Doctor Banner is only here to track the cube. I was hoping you might join him."
Stark was unimpressed by Fury and his words, choosing not to respond to the man.
"I'd start with that stick of his. It may be magical, but it works an awful lot like a Hydra weapon."
Rogers once more interjected, though his statement was of more use than previous ones. Fury gave the Captain his attention.
"I don’t know about that, but it is powered by the cube. And I’d like to know how Loki used it to turn two of the sharpest men I know into his personal flying monkeys."
Thor looked confused.
"Monkeys? I do not understand."
"I do! I understood that reference."
Rogers' delight was apparent, as was his embarrassment when he noticed everyone's looks. Stark rolled his eyes then turned to Doctor Banner.
"Shall we play Doctor? Jasso-kissa over there can join us if he wants."
Seeing as he was being pointed at, T'Challa moved to follow them.
He had brains to pick.
Working alongside minds such as Bruce and Tony, as they had requested to be called, was incredible.
T'Challa had been in mental raptures discussing various branches of science with the two men, and had been proud that he had been able to not only keep up, but contribute when his own studies came to the fore. He was relaxing and joking with the two men, who were such opposites, but were so in tandem in the lab. That he had managed to hangout with and impress two of the worlds top scientists.
His Father and sister would be so jealous.
Rogers had come in about half an hour after they had left the bridge, and Tony had just jabbed Bruce, complimenting the man's control.
"Are you nuts?!"
"Jury's out. You really have got a lid on it, haven’t you? What’s your secret? Mellow jazz? Bongo drums? Huge bag of weed?"
T'Challa stifled a laugh, before joining in.
"Stress knitting! Can't you just picture it? Aggressively pearling in his seat."
Tony and Bruce both laughed, the image such a silly thing that what could you do but chuckle?
Rogers was not impressed.
"This is not a matter to be joking and laughing about."
Stark raised an eyebrow at Rogers as Bruce started retreating back into the shell he wore around most others. T'Challa was unimpressed.
"There was no harm done Captain, and we will stop should Bruce show genuine signs of discomfort. We are merely having fun."
"Threatening the safety of everyone on this ship isn’t funny. No offense, doctor."
Bruce was half hiding behind Tony, making himself small and unthreatening. T'Challa bit his lip; Bruce had been having as much fun as T'Challa and Tony.
"No, it..it’s alright. I wouldn’t have come aboard if I couldn’t handle pointy things."
Tony's lips pursed at the way Bruce wasn't looking at anyone. He moved away from the table to the case he had brought onto the helicarrier.
"You’re tiptoeing, big man. You need to strut."
Rogers glared at the man.
"And you need to focus on the problem, Mr. Stark."
Tony's attention snapped to the Captain, anger simmering in his eyes, and a tightness to his jaw.
"You think I’m not? Why did Fury call us and why now? Why not before? What isn’t he telling us. I can’t do the equation unless I have all the variables."
"You think Fury’s hiding something?"
Tony stepped close to the Captain, opening a bag of blueberries.
"He’s a spy. Captain, he’s the spy. His secrets have secrets."
T'Challa nodded, it was why he was here after all; his Father didn't trust Fury to tell everything that was needed.
"There is keeping cards close to the chest, and then there is having a second deck."
Tony smiled at him, eyes crinkling that someone got what he was saying.
"‘A warm light for all mankind to share’, Loki’s jab at Fury about the cube."
They all turned to Bruce who had chosen to speak up, straightening a little as he made his comment. Rogers nodded.
"I heard it."
"Well, I think that was meant for Tony. Even if Barton didn’t tell, the completion of Stark Tower's all over the news."
While Tony and T'Challa nodded at what Bruce was saying, Rogers let out a half chuckle in his words that died out at Tony's look.
"The Stark Tower? That big ugly…building in New York? "
Bruce took a breath before continuing.
"It’s powered by the arc Reactors, self sustaining energy source. That building will run itself for what, a year?"
Even as Tony agreed, expanding the information for Rogers, something in that sentence pinged for T'Challa... but what?
"So why didn’t S.H.I.E.L.D. bring him in on the Tesseract project? I mean, What are they doing in the energy business in the first place?"
T'Challa voiced his agreement.
"It can't have been a matter of Tony not being knowledgeable in the science; given what he learned overnight, Selvig would have had no trouble reading Tony into the project. And given that the files spoke of the machines needed to try and understand the Tesseract, it makes more sense for them to have an engineer of Tony's repute, who is used to dealing with unpredictable energies, case in point; the arc reactor which powers the Iron Man armour."
Tony gifted him another smile as he pulled one of his devices from his pocket.
"I'll look into that once my decryption program finishes breaking into all of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s secure files."
Rogers started, looking at Tony with wide eyes.
"I’m sorry, did you say…?
T'Challa moved closer to the display Tony opened up, showing the program at work.
"J.A.R.V.I.S. has been running it since I hit the bridge. In a few hours, I'll know every dirty little secret S.H.I.E.L.D. has ever tried to hide. Blueberry?"
Rogers was standing jaw agape, disbelief dripping from his frame. Bruce leaned over to grab a few blueberries, throwing a couple to T'Challa, who nodded in thanks.
"And you're confused about why they don't want you around?"
Tony rolled his eyes again.
"I declined when Fury first came to me about the Avengers Cap. He then had a personality profile done on me when I was dying. So of course whatever files you were given on me aren't going to paint me in the best light, but do me a favour and forget about them for the next five minutes; I am recognised by the world, not just America or S.H.I.E.L.D. but the world as being one of the greatest engineers. My company, which again is recognised worldwide, is the front-runner in clean, sustainable energy.
Yet I'm not included.
This isn't me being selfish, this is me asking questions. There wasn't a request to use our tech, our research, nothing. Some of that is because it's a power source from space, okay, I get that, but like Myšpulín over there stated; we have experience dealing with unpredictable energy, but no questions were asked of us. Why?
Most likely answer? I'm known to shut down that which displeases me, and for the last few years, S.H.I.E.L.D. has been responsible for a lot of things which displease me. What, on their work of the Tesseract, would displease me and have a high relation to a potentially unlimited energy source?"
Bruce and T'Challa reached the conclusion at the same time.
Tony nodded and stepped back to the display of J.A.R.V.I.S.' progress. Rogers stood in silence for a few moments, wrapping his mind around what had been said.
"Just find the cube."
Rogers quickly left, no doubt afraid of other uncomfortable ideas coming to light.
"That’s the guy my dad never shut up about? Wondering if they shouldn’t have kept him on ice."
T'Challa darted his gaze to Tony in shock, only to see an old, pained look in his eyes, even if his words were light. T'Challa quickly replayed the words spoken and took a breath.
"Don't let the past get to you Tony; you are a futurist. Whatever failings Howard Stark may have had, do not let them become yours, or affect your life now."
Tony rested his weight against one of the worktables, sighing deeply, showing just a hint of the stress he was under; the circles under his eyes from a night spent studying, the way his arm was rested against the top of the table a token of the skirmish he faced with Thor, the slouched repose a reminder that Tony was a man in his forties, who was going toe-to-toe with aliens.
"I'll try. I may not succeed; I am an old man, who may be stuck in my ways, but I will certainly try."
Bruce spoke as T'Challa smiled.
"That's all anyone has the right to ask for Tony."
The next hour or so was spent discussing robotics, and Tony's work with A.I.'s.
J.A.R.V.I.S.' program was still on the display and T'Challa had so many questions. Tony answered what he could, but drunk science came up a few times. It just gobsmacked T'Challa that even sloshed, Tony was able to keep creating perfectly.
"I wouldn't say perfectly. Drunk me plays pranks on hung-over me, and leaves all kinds of bugs and glitches that I find hilarious when making, but murderous when fixing. It's why I never deny it when people say I'm a jerk, because trust me; I know."
T'Challa couldn't remember the last time he had laughed so much; he was truly enjoying himself.
"Hey Brucie-Bear; how exactly do you gain all that mass when Green Bean comes out to play? Are you skinnier when he goes to sleep? Do you talk to him in your head? Tell meeeeeeeeee!"
Bruce looked shocked, and a little wary.
"Why do you want to know?"
Tony pulled an affronted look.
"Why, For Science! Until I know better, you are carrying a walking disregard to the Laws of Conservation of Mass!"
T'Challa couldn't help laughing again; Tony looked so serious, as though he was insulted that he couldn't explain the science.
"I must ask; is that your Battle Cry?"
Two confused looks were directed to him. T'Challa smiled.
The two genius' looked at each other in a mixture of surprise and thought before matching grins pulled their lips, and they took deep breaths,
They burst into joyful laughter and T'Challa couldn't help but to join them. Bruce speaks when he finally calms down.
"I don't know where the Other Guy's bulk comes from; I'm always pretty out of it when the change happens, so I can't really pay attention. I'm not skinnier but I am near starving when I am back in control. And we don't... talk per se, we just sorta get impressions of what the other feels and wants."
Tony grins in delight.
"This is so cool. Who do you think would win in an arm wrestling comp; the big guy or Thoreal?"
T'Challa is mortified that he snorted but, come on, Thoreal. Tony's grin gets wider.
"Maybe he's Bjorn with it."
It's so bad... so why can't he stop laughing?
"Please Tony, just stop..."
Tony throws an exaggerated pout on his face, making T'Challa and Bruce laugh a little more before once more being graced with that happy smile.
"Seriously, once we're done here, you two need to come play at the tower. It'll be a whole lot of fun."
Bruce once more shakes his head but he's still smiling. T'Challa just nods.
"Hey Cupcake, do you think Jade Jaws has a favourite food? Is it different from yours? Would he come out to play if I left a mountain of his favourite food?"
Bruce just starts chuckling again while Tony fiddles a little with the display screen, and is about to answer when Fury stalks into the room.
"What are you doing Mister Stark?!"
Fury is living up to his name, but his anger doesn't faze Tony.
"Uh…kind of been wondering the same thing about you."
"You're supposed to be locating the Tesseract!"
Bruce spoke up, almost distractedly, though he was paying the Director his full attention.
"We are, the model’s locked and we’re sweeping for the signature now. When we get a hit, we’ll have the location within half a mile."
Bruce pointed to the window currently displaying a map. T'Challa spoke up as well.
"We have done all we can with the sceptre for the moment; as soon as the tests have been completed we will have more to work with, but for now, we have some down time until we go collect the cube."
Tony chirped in, still looking at the display with a look of slight confusion on his face.
"No muss no fuss. What is Phase Two?"
A loud clatter drew there attention to where Rogers had just dropped a piece of weaponry on the workbench.
"Phase Two is the reason they didn't ask for Stark's help. Sorry, the computer was moving a little slow for me."
Fury took a small step towards Rogers, one hand raised in placation.
"Rogers, we gathered everything related to the Tesseract. This does not mean that we’re…"
"I'm sorry Nick. What were you lying?"
Eyes were drawn to the display Tony had been working with, showing the design specifications for the weapon Rogers had brought in. Rogers turned back to Fury.
"I was wrong, Director. The world hasn’t changed a bit."
Agent Romanoff entered with Thor trailing behind her. Bruce turned to her, pointing at the screen.
"Did you know about this?"
"You wanna think about removing yourself from this environment, doctor?"
Bruce levelled a flat look at her.
"I was in Calcutta; I was pretty well removed."
Agent Romanoff looked irritated that she wasn't being obeyed.
"Loki's manipulating you."
"And you've been doing what, exactly?"
Romanoff looked derisively at the Doctor.
"You didn't come here because I batted my eyelashes at you."
Bruce was getting irritated now, raising his voice as he replied.
"Yes, and I'm not leaving because you suddenly get a little twitchy!"
T'Challa's shout had the room's attention fall on him.
"You are not doing this here; you may continue your argument if you please, but not in the laboratory! If someone loses their temper and breaks something, it will take us that much longer to locate the Tesseract!"
The room was in silence aside from the hums and beeps of the machines surrounding them. Tony and Bruce stayed where they were, as did T'Challa. Rogers picked up the weapon and left the room, hand latched securely around the Directors arm. Romanoff stalked off in a huff, coming to stand guard outside the lab, and Thor merely moved closer, looking at the displays.
"Do you think you can really locate the Tesseract with your technology?"
The Thunderer's tone is completely curious, no mocking undertone, no disbelief, just sheer curiosity.
Tony takes a deep breath.
"Yes, we can, because we have too. Loki may be chilling in his cell here, but the men he brainwashed are still obeying the orders he set for them. So even if Loki never leaves, we're still up against the little green men."
Thor looks puzzled, and then a little worried.
"Green men? Is that what the Chitauri look like? Have you seen them? When? Where?"
Tony raises both palms up to try and calm the godling.
"Easy Goldilocks, little green men is a reference to aliens in general."
Thor looks puzzled again. Tony's voice is calm and smooth as he explains.
"Humans are vain and arrogant. When we started thinking about how there could be other forms of life in the Universe, we considered ourselves to be the peak of design; every type of life we initially considered in some way looked like us, but not as defined as us. The little green man was thought to be short, naked and primitive in thought and speech and of course green, but we decided that aliens would in someway look like humans. Little green men is a general term, I've never seen a Chitauri, at least I don't think I have, and all I'm hoping for is that they die easily if we can't prevent the portal being opened."
A series of sounds from one of the displays cut the conversation, Bruce moving to look at it.
"Signatures been located, just give it a second to upload."
Tony stretched as he finally came down from the bench he'd been sitting on.
"I can probably get there fastest. Unless you want to race Shakespeare?"
Thor matched the little grin Tony sported.
"You think to again pit yourself against a god? Very well Man of Iron, I look forward to besting you."
T'Challa smirked watching the playful boasting of the two men when he heard Bruce's breath stutter.
"Oh my God."
The explosion rocked the helicarrier.
T'Challa landed in the depths of the helicarrier, debris pinning his leg, and Bruce straining to remain calm beside him. Have the Hulk play on the helicarrier would not end well, probably what Romanoff meant when she spoke of Loki's manipulation. Ignoring the ringing in his ears, T'Challa faced Bruce and spoke.
"They say that Science and Religion should never cross paths, that one will always try to invalidate the other. Yet what most people may not know is that the Big Bang Theory, the idea of how the Universe was created before evolving into what we know today, was originally from a Catholic Priest. Perhaps the man was a double agent or something."
Bruce focused on his words, the green glaze on his eyes and painting his skin lessening the more T'Challa talked. A few breathy chuckles were loosed here and there, and T'Challa could not help but think that Tony would have Bruce laughing uproariously by now.
But Tony wasn't here now; T'Challa was. And as the aircraft took another blow, the green returning to Bruce, T'Challa merely took a breath and kept going.
Agent Coulson was dead, Thor missing, and Loki had escaped.
T'Challa rubbed his hands over his face, taking deep breaths.
Romanoff had managed to return Agent Barton, Bruce was exhausted but still present, and Tony and Rogers had managed to work together and fix the engine, but that was it. Bruce wasn't able to give much of his focus to anything, not even noticing when he was being spoken to, so T'Challa couldn't ask what the map readout before the first explosion hit said, and the helicarrier was practically dead.
They didn't know what to do.
"There was an idea, Stark knows this, as does T'Challa, called The Avengers Initiative. The idea was to bring together a group of remarkable people, see if they could become something more. See if they could work together when we needed them to, to fight the battles that we never could. Phil Coulson died still believing in that idea, in heroes."
Tony stood and quickly left the bridge, anger shaking his frame. Fury sighed gently.
"Well, it’s an old fashioned notion."
Rogers stood and moved to follow Tony. T'Challa's eyes followed before a hand patted at his face. Looking at the sleepy Bruce, it took a moment to realise that the Doctor was waving a weak hand in the direction the two other men had left before nodding. T'Challa smiled and gave a nod in return, before rising and leaving the same way.
"We are NOT SOLDIERS!!"
T'Challa hid himself in the shadows of the doorway. Tony's words did little to hide the grief in his voice.
"I'm not marching to Fury's fife."
The genius looked tired and weary, far too much going on in his mind to keep control over his emotions.
Roger's voice was calm and gentle, like one would talk to soothe a wounded beast.
"Neither am I. He’s got the same blood on his hands that Loki does, but right now we gotta put that behind us and get this done. Now Loki needs a power source, if we can put together a list…"
Tony's eyes snapped up from the blood staining the wall.
"He made it personal."
"That's not the point."
But Tony was gaining steam, fingers and hands twitching and moving.
"That is the point. That’s Loki’s point. He hit us all right where we live. He wanted to unleash the Hulk; how would he do that? Make Bruce angry. How would he do that from his cell? Get someone else, say the Black Widow, to. The sceptre went missing, I'd bet Loki's got it, and that thing messes with people's minds right? So who's to say Loki didn't have influence even in the lab through the sceptre? We were all getting pretty angry until Carbonel, King of the Cats put his foot down. The helicarrier could be a whole lot worse off. Loki hit us here and hard. Why?"
Realisation had come onto Rogers face as Tony's thoughts gained traction. T'Challa slowly entered the room, making sure both saw him. Rogers answered.
"To tear us apart."
Tony was nodding, starting to pace as his thoughts kept aligning.
"Yeah, divide and conquer is great, but he knows he has to take us out to win, right? THAT'S what he wants. He wants to beat us, he wants to be seen doing it. He wants an audience."
Rogers quickly looked at T'Challa as he spoke.
"Right. We caught his act in Stuttgart."
T'Challa remembered how the godling had being toying with Rogers and himself, but had surrendered almost immediately once Tony arrived.
"He was buying time for his plans to be completed, while all eyes were on him."
"Yeah, that was just previews. This is- this is opening night. And Loki, he’s a full-tilt diva, right? He wants flowers, he wants parades, he wants a monument built to the skies with his name plastered..."
T'Challa's eyes widened.
"A warm light for all man-kind."
Rogers looked confused as anger started brushing Tony's features
"Son of a bitch."
The battle was long and hard. There had been no time to call reinforcements from Wakanda, so the seven men and woman fought for all their worth. Every second, every time he even blinked, it seemed as though T'Challa was suddenly in a completely different part of the battle, fighting against a never ending wave of Chitauri warriors.
The comm piece he'd been given kept him aware of where his comrades were, and where they were most needed, and he was thankful, because aside from Iron Man's unbelievable ability to seemingly be everywhere, he only caught the briefest glimpses of the others.
He was not ashamed to admit the gratitude and relief that flooded him when Romanoff's voice came through the comms.
"I can close it! Can anybody hear me? I can shut the portal down!"
Rogers voice sounded quickly.
"Stark, these things are still coming!"
"I got a nuke coming in, set to blow in less than a minute."
T'Challa's breath caught. Someone had shot a missile? At a city still full of people?
"And I know just where to put it."
Of course! If the portal closed with the missile on the other side, no further damage would be done to the city!
"Stark, you know that's one way trip."
A few seconds over the comms of nothing but breathing before...
"It's been an honour."
The flash of red and gold rose higher and higher until... nothing.
Iron Man, Tony Stark, travelled through the portal, missile and all.
The area around T'Challa had been cleared of foes, and though there were still more to fight, he couldn't tear his eyes from the portal.
"Come on Stark."
Romanoff's plea received no answer and the Captain finally stated
A terrifying screech seemed to fill the air, a deeper pulse of blue travelling the light leading to the portal. The opening shrunk, getting smaller and smaller until-
"Son of a gun."
It closed with Tony making it through in the last second.
"He's not slowing down!"
Thor's voice had T'Challa once more searching for the red and gold, and yes, Tony was falling, falling-
T'Challa ran. The Chitauri had all fallen with the portals closing, so he more or less ran unobstructed, coming upon the spot where the Hulk had landed with Tony, just in time to see Thor rip the face plate of the armour off.
Tony was so still. His features were lax, as though in sleep, but there was no movement, no indication that he still lived.
T'Challa's throat felt tight as he drew closer; would they have to bury this good man?
The roar of the Hulk caused them all to jump, including Tony who gasped for breath, his eyes darting everywhere.
"What the hell?! What just happened?! Please tell me nobody kissed me?!"
The half choked questions loosened a great tightness in T'Challa's chest.
"We were going to let the Hulk do it."
Tony's eyes met his, before turning the Hulk.
"Yeah, no. Let's not do that. I love you Big Guy, but not like that, more like one loves their teddy bear, thanks for the catch by the way I owe you; do you have a favourite food? I will get you a mountain of your favourite food, howsabout that?"
The hulk just gave a rumbling chuckle, amused by Tony's rambling.
"We won Stark."
Rogers' words caught Tony's attention, and Tony let out a deep sigh.
"Alright. Hey. Alright. Good job, guys. Let’s just not come in tomorrow. Let’s just take a day. Have you ever tried shawarma? There’s a shawarma joint about two blocks from here. I don’t know what it is, but I wanna try it."
The thought of food was greatly appealing, T'Challa feeling his stomach murmur at the mention. Thor spoke up.
"We’re not finished yet."
They all looked to Tony's Tower.
"And then shawarma after."
T'Challa smiled as he helped Rogers lift Tony from the ground.
"Indeed, we shall feast. There is much I have yet to know about you Tony."
Tony just sent him a smirk.
"Then be prepared to stick around to learn T'Challa."