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Change of course

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"Stop. I don't want to listen to anything you have to say. Just leave me alone." She turned and stormed out the door. She got home in blurs of motion, she didn't care how, once she closed the door, her legs gave out and she fell on the floor and started crying. Next thing she knew she fell asleep on her living room floor.

...

"What the..., Where am I? This doesn't look like my room. Arghhhh, dammit. My head hurts."
....
"Sir"
"Yeah, JARVIS."
"There was a small disturbance in lab surveillance for 0.03 seconds, after which an unconscious female appeared in lab. She gained conscious for a few moments and then passed out again."
Tony looked up from the lunch Bruce had dragged him to eat.
("You need to eat something Tony." "No, coffee isn't an acceptable nutritional food." And JARVIS shut down the lab. The traitor. These two have been ganging up to make him eat and sleep regularly. And they dragged Pepper in it from time to time. When he tried to complain to his honey-bear, he laughed at Tony. "Well there is someone else now, who is making sure you are fed and watered regularly." "I'm not a house plant that needs to be fed and watered." Tony flailed. "Sure, Tony.")
He got up and started heading towards the elevator.
"Okay, I'm on my way. Prepare the suit and if she wakes up and tries to poke around, hit her with a tranquilizer and in the meantime, start a full body scan."
"You're not going there alone. I'm coming with you." Bruce hurried to catch up with Tony.
"I have also notified Mr.Hogan, Miss Potts, Colonel Rhodes per protocol. Mr.Hogan is arriving with a security team. My scans indicates her to be a non-enhanced human in her twenties. Further information can't be provided without more through scans. Still I would suggest caution while dealing with her."

The elevator doors opened on the lab floor and the suit was standing in the lobby out of view from the lab. Tony then entered the suit and went in lab. The girl was groaning and trying to turn around.
" Sir it seems she is regaining her consciousness back."
" Yes, J. I can see that." He aimed the repulsor at her and asked, "Now, tell me how did you get in before I blast you in the face."
"What? Uhhhh, who are you and where am I?" She clutched her head and then looked up at the suit.

"The actual f**k? This is a very weird dream."

"Dream?"

"Yeah, I'm dreaming about Iron Man standing in front of me in his lab from the view of it. Not the weirdest dream I had. Beats the dream of roaming around graveyard like a horror movie."

"Sir, Miss Potts is inquiring about the situation here."

"Oh wow, there's also JARVIS in my dream, and Dr. Banner from the looks of it. Hey, Dr. Banner. It's nice to meet you." She waved at Bruce. And Bruce ducked his head in that adorable manner that made Tony want to coo at the guy. But Rhodey would never let him live it down if he got the news of it, also not the time. So he turned his attention back to the mystery girl who was busy looking around curiously. "But I don't wanna dream about you guys now. So tootles." And then she laid down again and closed her eyes.

"Did she just nod off? Oye, you're not dreaming. You're in my tower, in my lab. So answer me how you got in or I'll hand you off to police however young you are. How old are you anyway? You don't look more old then 17 or 18." She got up instantly, and poked her finger into his face.

"First of all, I'm 22 and what do you mean by I'm not dreaming. I'm dreaming because you guys are not real. You guys are movie and comic book characters. None of you actually exist." She was breathing heavily by the end of her screaming. Both of the men looked baffled at her statement.

"Okay, you have a very nice charade going here. but I'm not gonna believe you so get up." Saying he grabbed her hand and dragged her out in the lobby. "Happy detain her and call the police." He handed her to the security guard and turned around to walk away. "Wait, what? No,no,no. I'm not breaking in. I seriously don't know how I ended up here. I was sleeping in my home last night and then I got up here. I really don't have any idea." She struggled to free herself from the guard.

"Sir, she may not be lying completely."

"What the f**k are you saying J?" Tony asked.

"As I was saying when Miss Powell appeared here she was carrying a purse with her, which I had DumE bring aside. There was a driving licence inside, according to which she must be 15 years old right now. Also the phone she has is advanced, according to my calculation, the technology is 3 to 4 years ahead of current phone market. I believe some questions needs to be asked before any further action."

"Alright, J. Turn on the external speaker."

"Hap, get her in one of the empty conference room and get Pep. Bruce buddy, lets go. Miss Powell you have some questions to answer, after which we will see what to do with you."

"Okay, whatever you want, just don't send me to jail. And my name is Gianna."

Once everyone (Bruce, Tony, Happy, Pepper and Rhodes on video call) gathered in the conference room, Gianna sitting in the middle and Tony and Pepper sitting on one side and Bruce and Happy sitting on other side while the video screen facing them all. 

 

"J, blackout mode. Now you, start talking." 

"Okay, then. I don't know how I ended up here. I was sleeping in my house and then when I woke up I was in your lab. Seeing your chest I can say that it is still before 2013 because the reactor is still in your chest. I am from 2019 and where I come from you guys are movie and comic-book characters portrayed by actors who look exactly like you. I know it seems a bit far-fetched, and I myself am still trying to process it. I'm gonna freak out about that later. So, since you guys may be suspicious of me, let me tell you a few facts from the movies I have learned about you guys. Since the movies are centered around Mr.Stark, most of the facts will be regarding Mr.Stark. So, uh, in Afghanistan, you met a fallow captive, Ho Yinsen, who performed the surgery to save your life. He was from Gulmira, and in the beginning  he told you he had a family that he was going to see when he got out of there, at the time you thought he was talking about going back to Gulmira, but in the end when he was dying he confessed that his family was already dead and that he was going to see them. I also know that Stane's death was not an airplane crash. He was the one wearing the Iron Monger suit and he attacked you and then he died. You took his suit to higher altitude knowing that his suit will have ice built-up, because yours had it because you tried to break SR-71 flight record and your suit froze at that altitude and you were falling from almost 85,000 meter height."

Chapter Text

"Did she just say that you tried to break SR-71 flight record in the Mark-2?" The ice in Pepper's voice made Tony gulp. 

"Pep, light of my life..." Tony stammered.

"JARVIS, is that true?" Pepper asked in a very crisp voice, one that promised a very nice screaming session for later.

"That would be true Miss Potts. I tried to warn sir but his response was 'Records are meant to be broken.'" The last bit came in an audio recording of Tony. There were glares thrown at him from everyone present in the room.

"I feel like ganged up on."

"As much as I am loving it, but are we done here or shall I go on?" Gianna asked with a mischievous spark in her eyes. That little devil deliberately told about failed flight.

"That doesn't prove anything." Rhodey spoke from the other end. 

"Did you know that Mr.Stark deliberately let you take the suit? Because each suit has a biometric scan which only allows authorized users to use the suit."

"I did realize that later, but that doesn't prove anything."

"Hmmmm. You made Miss Potts eggs on return trip from Monaco, which took you three hours to cook. You also bought Miss Potts strawberries as an apology which she was allergic to. And during that meeting Miss Potts was going to hurl something at you iif you said I one more time. And you made a comment about losing both children in the divorce as well. Also Vanko already knew about poisoning before everyone else baring Shield of course." She hummed.  "What else? When you flew that nuke through the portal, there was a chitauri mothership on the other end of portal. Before you entered the portal, JARVIS patched the call to Miss Potts, but she was sitting on the plane watching you on TV carrying the nuke. The phone was at a bit distance, so she didn't pick up the phone."

The room was silent.

"So from what you say, do they come back?" Tony asked hesitantly.

"Yes, yes they do." She replied very softly. 

"I don't have any proof for what I'm about to say but believing it is all up to you. The first invasion wasn't Loki exactly. Not completely at least. Thor told you that the Chitauri weren't Loki's. That is true. When on bifrost Loki let go of Thor's hand, he fell in void. There he somehow ended up in hands of this purple grape alien - yes he has a name, no I'm not saying it - who tortured him - I don't have details for that, it wasn't clarified more than that in movie - and gave him the scepter. The scepter actually worked like a leash for him, keeping Loki under control."

"Are you saying that Loki was just a pawn? And you expect us to believe that." Rhodey scoffed.

"More or less. Look I'm not saying that he was some sweet summer child. But he made best of the situation as he could. History portrays him as a trickster. And look at his planning from beginning to end. Does it seem like centuries old  trickster God?"

"You seem very sympathetic towards him." Happy said.

"Not sure. But let's continue with the main topic. Like I said this purple alien, his home planet was destroyed a long time ago. The reason for it, actually very common on many planets. Too many mouths and not enough resources. He presented genocide as a solution for it. Random, disassociated genocide. The council declined, called him a madman. And the planet fell. He was the last survivor of his species. After that he made an army for himself. Then he went from planet to planet, killing half of the population of each planet." 

"Is that what he had planned for Earth?"

"Yeah."

Chapter Text

The room was silent for a while.

"So, what happened next?" Tony asked. His face was blank of any emotions and his hands were shaking. There was a tremble in his voice. Every one at the table could see that he was taking it hard.

Pepper softly caught his hand and squeezed it. "Tony look at me. Hey, it's alright. We're going to be okay." Tony looked up and there was so much fear in his eyes. And then he looked at everyone's face. They were all looking at him with concern. And then he was facing Gianna. 

"So, do we win?" He asked.

Gianna cleared her throat and then looked at them nervously. "Well, it was a victory, if you call it one."

"Elaborate please."

"Uh, when he came in 2018 he succeeded in his mission. He managed to wipe out half of the population of entire universe in one go. After which there was a five year gap and then you guys managed to find a way to reverse it and bring those all people back. And then he brought his army to fight on Earth and all the avengers and some other parties from both Earth and other planets assembled their own army and fought against him, and managed to defeat him."

"There's a lot of stuff you've left out." Bruce remarked suspiciously.

"Yes, there are a lot of details left out, but for that you guys need to learn a lot of stuff in-between. So I first laid it out in cliff notes and now we will go about everything year by year."

"Alright then." Rhodey nodded.

"But first, I'm getting hungry and I haven't eaten anything since lunch yesterday. Food and water." Gianna said theatrically.

Pepper sighed and told JARVIS to order some snacks for everyone.

"Oh, before you order just letting you know that I'm vegetarian."

"I shall order accordingly Miss Powell."

"Thank you very much, JARVIS."

"The pleasure is all mine, miss. Also may I suggest making a timeline to account for the events that may occur and that which needs to be prevented."

"An excellent suggestion, J." Tony said while spinning around in his chair.

"Alright let's start then. So, Colonel Rhodes, if you don't mind me asking since the plot didn't specify much about beginning of the bombing incidents. How many bombing incidents has occurred under the name of Mandarin?"

"That's classified information, which you said you saw on a movie. So there's been two bombing so far, both middle East."

"Well, the total number from my knowledge so far is three. The first being in a small town in Tennessee called Rose Hill. Cute little town. With not much population and close knit community. He was a veteran who lost a limb. There was this company that was offering a cure for their disability. They called it the Extremis."

"Wait, that kind of sounds familiar? What was it?" Tony massaged his temples.

"Conference in Bern, Switzerland in 1999. It was New year I think."

"That plant woman?" Happy suggested. 

"Give that man a prize. Correct." Gianna cheered him. Happy rolled his eyes good naturedly, accustomed to his employer's antics. 

"Her name is Maya Hensen. She's a scientist, I can't explain it more than that, because not my department. So, basically she invented this virus called Extremis, that healed your injuries, limb regrowth, fire breathing. So in short terms, it turns you into a living and breathing chimney."

"So you're saying that this Hansen woman is somehow involved with Mandarin." Rhodes asked. 

"She suspects that her boss is in some shady business. But as of right now she's just burying her head in the sand. Right now, the formula is unstable as well."

"And who is this boss?" Tony asked.

"You met him, at that night in the elevator he tried to sell you his idea, it was the whole ambush someone at party style. You obviously didn't pay much attention to him and blew him off. There was all the villain monologue and blame game crap. So any way that was the beginning of the journey of Mandarin, Aldrich Killian."

"Wait, Aldrich Killian, the short, walked with a limp, skinny and thick glasses Aldrich Killian." Miss Potts asked shocked.

"Yeah, the same."

"Pepper do you know him?" Rhodey asked.

"Yeah used to work with him."

"He owns the Advanced Idea Mechanics." Gianna added.

"The food has arrived." JARVIS interrupted.

"Yay, food." Saying Gianna jumped out of her chair.

Chapter Text

"So where were we?" Gianna plopping back on her seat.

"You told us Killian is Mandarin." Bruce quipped.

"And call us by our names. The whole Mr. Stark is making me feel old." Tony shuddered. Gianna looked at everyone around the table and then nodded her head in acceptance.

"Alright then, Mr S- Tony was developing some new tech to call the suit to himself by inserting micro-implants in his body. Uh, Pepper had a meeting with Killian, where he tried to sell the whole extremis idea to her, but she declined saying that it could be also used as a weapon. Mr. Stark called Happy around the same time. And he was suspicious of Killian but Tony blew him off saying that Happy was being paranoid. So, Happy took a picture of Killian's number plate and then followed the car later. There he got caught up in a blast orchestrated by Killian's bodyguard." Gianna winced at the last part.

"Oh my God!" Pepper was looking wide-eyed at Happy.

"You're not going to be anywhere near that guy, Hap. That's an order." Tony said stubbornly.

"Not planning on it, boss." Happy replied somberly.

"So later when Tony visited Happy at the hospital, some reporter made a comment about when someone was going to deal with the Mandarin dude. So Tony got all pissed off and threatened the Mandarin on TV and announced his Malibu address telling Mandarin that he was not scared of him." Gianna finished with a flourish.

"He..what...Tony!!!" Pepper literally screamed in Tony's face.

"This is heights of stupid, Tones. What on Earth were you thinking?" Rhodey pinched his nose.

"Boss, as much as I appreciate your protectiveness, I'm pretty sure it's my job to protect you and not the other way around." Happy deadpanned.

"Uh, after that Hensen cane to your house and wanted to talk to you, but Miss Potts insisted that you guys go off grid for a while. But then your house was attacked by Killian's bodyguard and he launched two missiles at your house. So, your Malibu mansion slid into the ocean. You managed to get Pepper and Maya out of the house, but by the time the suit assembled around you, you were already in the water. JARVIS had prepared a flight plan to Rose Hill that evening, so the suit directly took you there. And the news channels were speculating for you to be dead. Nothing new there."

"Can't object there. Sometimes seems like you have the whole nine lives of a cat thing going." Bruce muttered while cleaning his glasses for the thousanth time. Sometimes it seemed like the man had a tick of cleaning his glasses.

"The suit shut down once it reached Rose Hill. And there you got some help. You also made a call informing Pepper that you were alive and that you were going off grid for a while. Then Pepper was driving Hensen to a nearby hotel to lay low and discuss whatever she wanted to talk to you about. So, then Maya explained how she suspected that her boss was working with Mandarin and that her boss was Killian. Later he kidnapped Pepper."

"That motherf**er..." Tony swore loudly. "If he lays his hand on you, I'm gonna toast him." He started pacing around. 

"Tony calm down." Pepper said. Her voice sounded shaken.

Tony sat down and cupped her face gently and said in a soft voice, "Hey, he won't get to you. I won't let that happen. I promise."

"Please continue." Pepper requested to Gianna.

"Well on other end, Tony broke into someone's garage and that guy helped him a lot. He took you to the bombing site, helped you with panic attacks, although he was the one mentioning the points that triggered the attacks, but can't blame the guy, didn't have much brain to mouth filter, and guarded the suit and fed you sandwich. So once you met with Mrs.Davis, the soldier's mother, she gave you his son's file. But actually she was waiting for someone else, who happened to be Killian's goon and you got in a fight with her and her partner. You managed to kill her and incapacitate her partner. You went through the file and recognized the AIM logo. Meanwhile, the Mandarin threatened the president again by holding a Roxxon Oil Corp employee at gunpoint and that if the president didn't call on the number flashing on his phone then he would kill the guy. President Ellis obviously called him but he didn't receive the call, and killed the guy anyway. And told him that he was going to kill the president before Christmas."

"He threatened the president?" Rhodey asked somberly.

"Yeah, you were then dispatched to Pakistan to capture him, because that's where the broadcast signal was coming from. Tony then sneaked into a cameraman's van and contacted Rhodey and asked him for his login and password, to hack into the AIM database. Because they did some work on warmachime a few months ago. So, then Tony found videos of Killian's experiments. And he thought that Killian sold the virus to Mandarin. Then Killian kidnapped Pepper and Maya tried to placate him by saying that Pepper will serve as an incentive to get Tony onboard. The warmachime was wondering around the Middle East and went from location to location for searching Mandarin base. At one of those places was a extremis soldier waiting for him. She managed to disable the suit and then they brought it to main base. Tony called JARVIS, he informed him that the suit was still out of commission and that the broadcast signal was coming from Miami. Then you had another panic attack, Harley talked you out of it. He said that you were a mechanic, so why not build some stuff. So you got inspired and built some cool gadgets from Christmas toys that went boom and a makeshift taser and stun gun. You were a total badass back then." Gianna started literally gushing about how cool Tony was in that scene.

Tony was preening like a peacock.

"Stop preening you idiot." Rhodey snarked from the other end of the world. 

"Pep..." Tony whined.

"What?" Pepper asked innocently while smiling into her glass. Happy and Bruce were also trying to keep their laughter in.

"No respect..." Tony pouted.

"Sir, I detected an energy disturbance in Chelsea Park. It was similar to the energy readout I got on miss Powell."

"Any nearby cameras J?" Tony asked getting up.

"Accessing the feed." The screen showed a guy looking around the park. Seeing him Gianna froze.

"What?" She whispered.

Chapter Text

Ellen couldn't remember where he was. The last thing he remembered was sitting on their hanging spot. He had bought the sleeping pills a few days ago. He had been toying with it for the past few hours, sitting there thinking about it. She wouldn't have liked what he was thinking of doing, but then she wasn't there. And not like he hadn't broken every promise he made to her. He had hurt her, which he had promised to never do, he broke her heart. He had started drinking again, fought with his parents, was rude with his siblings, and altogether was being a shitty person. If she saw him now there would be only disappointment in her eyes.

But she wasn't there, and he couldn't take it anymore. The guilt was eating him alive. It seemed like everyone blamed him that she was... But no one said it to his face. 

It was overwhelming to see her parents sitting there, her mother's eyes were red, and she looked like she was ready to collapse. Her father was in no better condition. He couldn't even get himself to go and comfort them. If it wasn't for him, their baby girl might have still been alive. 

He just wished to hold her one more time. Tell her how sorry he was. Beg her to give him a second chance. Beg her to not leave. Cause if she hadn't left, she would still be alive. Everytime he closed his eyes, he could see her, feel her fingers entwined with his, listen her giggles, and smell her scent. His own place felt empty, dull. He could picture her standing in the kitchen, going through cupboards, humming to herself, looking for something to cook. Could still picture her swaying in his arms to the soft music. Feel her warm body pressed to his in the morning. 

He couldn't take this anymore. It should have been him instead of her. He just wished that when he faced her again, that he could look her in the eyes. 

"I can't live without you anymore. I wish that I had a chance to make it up to you. That I could heal the heartache I caused you. That I could make you happy and content for the rest of your life. Could put a ring on that finger. But I can't. I'm coming to you." Saying he swallowed the pills in the bottle.

Then everything went blank.

He woke up on the same spot, with the bottle no where in sight. He was feeling a little dizzy and lightheaded. He tried to get up and look around. Everything looked the same, and yet he felt like it wasn't. He tripped and fell down. He got up and went to the bench and plopped down. He rested his head on the back of the bench and tried to get his bearings straight. He sat there for a while, a few joggers passed by but they didn't seem to pay any attention to him. Then he felt someone standing in front of him. He looked up and there was a guy standing in front of him. He looked familiar. "Can I help you mister?" I asked him.

"Well you can, by coming with me." He said.

"And why should I go with you? I don't even know you. Now leave me alone." I told him. For all I care, he could just go and f**k himself. 

I stood up and tried to leave but I got up too fast and my head was spinning again. I held him to steady myself. 

"Kid you alright?" He asked worriedly.

"I'm not feeling so good." And the darkness took over.

The next time he got up, he was in a car. The dude from before was driving. The car was pretty cool, but he wasn't feeling well, so forgive him if he didn't pay attention to it.

"So, where are we? Are we meeting your big boss?" I started shooting questions at him. I was feeling miserable, and I wasn't going to suffer alone. And he just ignored me like I wasn't even there.

I didn't even see where we were going. So the movement of the elevator shocked me. I didn't have to wait long. The lift opened revealing a posh office space. The guy started to move towards a door and signaled me to get in. 

I entered the room and froze. It..it...c.. couldn't be. I slowly moved forward. The look on her face was so much like that night. He wanted to reach out and see if she was real. If he wasn't dreaming again. He reached out to her, and caressed her face.

He could touch her, he wasn't hallucinating, she was real and there, standing in front of him.

He grabbed her and hugged her. It was just too much, he heard some shuffling sound, but he barely registered anything else, all his senses were filled with her. He was too busy inhaling her scent, he rested his chin on her shoulder, holding her just the way that used to make her curl up in him like a kitten. He missed her so much.

"You're alive. I... can't...I can't believe it. I'm sorry. I'm so f**king sorry. I..*sob* shouldn't have let you go that night. If it wasn't for me, you would still be alive. I'm sorry..so...so...sorry." I sobbed.

"I'm sorry, that I drank, I shouldn't have, but everything was too much. I couldn't live without you. Not anymore. I...I know that you will hate me for this, that I shouldn't have done that, but I..it was so bad. I didn't want to be away from you...." I mumbled. I was feeling like shit. She was saying something, but everything was fading again.

Chapter Text

Gianna couldn't believe what she was seeing. The events from few hours ago were still fresh in her mind. Her head was spinning. Of all the people in the world, why did it has to be him? Bloody hell. She couldn't decide, if she should laugh or cry or tear her hair out. 

He looked quite different from the last time she saw him. He was a bit hunched over and there were bags under his eyes. He tried to stand up and fell down. He also seemed a little drunk. She felt disappointed. Seems like it didn't take long for him to get back to his old life style. What was she even expecting. If he didn't love her, what was the point of keeping the promise he made her. 

"So who is he?" I turned around to look at Tony. I contemplated about what to tell him. 

"He is a person I know. Anything more than that -can't believe I'm saying that- it's complicated." I replied. "Can you have someone bring him here?" I asked him.

"If you'd noticed Happy is already on his way." He snorted. That's when I noticed that Happy wasn't there. "I was thinking about everything that happened in the past few hours, so I wasn't paying attention." I replied shippishly. He sighed and signaled me to follow him. "Tell me more about this guy."

"His name is Ellen Ardent. He has two siblings, his parents owns a restaurant in the city. He's a year older than me and I babysit his siblings. We also attend the same University." I recounted shortly. I didn't want to talk more about him. It was still too fresh for her to recounter.

"Hmmm. Now why does it seem like there is a lot more to the story than that?" Tony asked slyly. I huffed and shook my head. I still can't get how a man can be so intelligent yet so dumb at the same time. 

"He's also sort of an ex that I don't want to talk about." I replied.

"Can't say I know much about that?" He replied hotly. I gave him the best and scariest glare I could musture. 

"Sheath your claws kitten. Doesn't make you look threatening. Moreover you look like an angry squirrel." He said with a teasing smirk. I wish that I could hit him with something but that would be counterproductive. So I continued to glare at him. Pepper reached out and smacked him and said, "Be nice." I being the mature person that I was, flipped him the bird. 

"Till they get here, why don't we take a break? I don't know about you guys but I need some time to process everything." Bruce chimed in.

"Yeah, even I need to get back to work. Look guys whatever you decide, just inform me." Rhodey said.

"Uh, can you not do anything about whatever we talked about until I explain everything. I don't want to spook them and change the events too much. Cause if we try to change the events too much, then a lot things may happen differently and some things may never happen at all." I tried to explain.

"Don't worry about that. Right now I don't have much to go on. And frankly I don't even know how much we can trust you. The things you say seems too farfetched." Rhodey clarified. And I did understand what he was saying.

"I understand. It feels so surreal. You guys don't know me and don't have any reason to trust me. I'm not gonna demand you to do either. You can poke around and see if I'm telling the truth. Just don't set off any alarms. And I will also advise you guys not to involve SHIELD. Because they are infiltrated right now. And I'm not sure, which are which."

"SHIELD is what?" "The f**ck..." The room around me in chaos. "Quite." I screeched. 

"How about we put it under the later tab. It's not going to happen until 2014 if we don't mess up the timeline too much." I tried to explain. 

"Alright, if you say that it's infiltrated then how long has it been infiltrated for and how did it happen?" Tony asked while running hand down his face. 

"It was HYDRA and they have infiltrated SHIELD since the very beginning. It was something about operation Paperclip and they folded some German scientists in the SHIELD scientific division. Then it was a piece of cake for them. And it's not just SHIELD, it's most of governments of the world. And not only just government, other intelligence agencies, companies that can profit them, anywhere and everywhere. Infiltration, assassination, blackmail, war terror. A lot of unrest in different countries was their doing. The only people I know for sure who are not HYDRA in SHIELD are Fury, Hill, Carter Jr., Romanoff, Barton and Rogers. Oh and a few others like Melinda May, Daisy Jhonson, Leo Fittz and Jemma Simons. More than that, I don't know. They had this whole series named Agents of SHIELD. But I haven't watched it yet, so I can't be sure about that." I summarized. 

"Alright who are you sure about that are definitely HYDRA?" Bruce asked. He looked a bit tensed. 

"Do you need timeout? Because you're not looking very good right now." I stepped a bit away from him. Just because I wasn't completely scared, it didn't mean that I was going to hug his alter-ego anytime soon. I do have some survival instinct. 

"No I have it under control." He gritted out. 

"Okay. The only people I know for sure that are HYDRA are Alexander Pierce, Brock Rumlow, Jasper Sitwell, that Senator Stern and few other from Roger's strike team. There's also Baron Von Strucker. But he didn't enter the story till 2015. There's the whole lot of in between but I haven't watched it." I mumbled the last parts to myself.

I also couldn't figure out how to tell Tony about his parents. He wasn't in a great mental state now. Telling him right now could make him go after Barnes. But not telling him could also backfire in the worst ways possible. In the end I figured to say it when he was less likely to go down the rabbit hole. But that didn't mean I wasn't going to tell anyone. Telling Rhodes and Pepper for now will be a better idea.

"Colonel Rhodes if you don't mind, can we talk about something when you get here. You are going to be posted in US soon." I asked biting my nails. It was a bad habit I have developed since I was a kid. And for the love of God I couldn't get rid of it. 

He narrowed his eyes at me and repeated,  "You need to talk to me?" I nodded my head in agreement. 

"What about?" He asked me suspiciously.

"It's regarding Mr. Stark. But I'm not sure if telling him right now will be a good idea. I also think that if it comes from his trusted people will help rather than a stranger." I asked looking in his direction. 

I turned towards Tony and told him softly, "I wish I could tell you right now, but believe me when I say that having all of your loved ones around will be better. It's not good and I don't think you'll take it... Saying that you'll take it better if they are around is stupid because there's no way anyone can take it better. It's not good and you may do something that may seem justified to you then but will drown you in guilt laters. And you're drowning in it anyway, so not sure adding more guilt to it is a good idea." 

"I... Just... Was it something I did?" I had to stop myself from tackling him in a hug.

"No, it's nothing you did." I replied.

"Apologies for the interruption, but Mr. Hogan has arrived with Mr. Ardent. They're on their way up here." JARVIS said apologetically.

"Okay. I'm so not looking forward to this." I mumbled to myself. And then the lift opened. They came in to the room and he froze when he saw me. He looked at me in disbelief and shock. Then he reached out and touched my face. I didn't realize that I had stepped towards him as well. And then he was pulling me into a hug like he didn't want to let go. He was mumbling something but I couldn't understand what he was saying. I doubted in just a few hours he may get this hysterical. I shot a look at the others to help me.

"El, what are you saying, I don't understand." But before I could say anything else his legs gave out and he came crashing on me. Thank goodness for Happy, that he caught us,or we would have fell hard. 

"Let's put him in a chair." Saying that he started dragging Ellen to a nearby chair. 

"Sir I believe that he may need immediate medical attention, my scans indicates he may have overdosed." 

"Get him to medical now. Bruce can you please.." Bruce cut him off saying that he'll handle it. 

I followed them down to the medical. God please don't let anything happen to him. If something happened to him I'll never forgive myself. I sat for what felt like hours. (P.s. I don't know about timing for that kind of medical procedure.) I was starting to nod off when Bruce came out.

"What's wrong? Is he okay? Can I see him please?" I started firing questions at him. 

"He's okay. He was dehydrated and maybe hasn't eaten anything in the past few days. Also his hand needed to be bandaged two days ago and again today but seemed like he skipped it. So it's infected."

"Bandaged? Infection? Dehydration? He was staying with his siblings for the past two days and I was also staying with them. Since I was the one cooking for them, the dehydration doesn't make sense. Also I would remember if his hand was damaged like that.And what about the whole overdosed thing. I just saw him a few hours ago and yet he was clinging to me like I was gone for years. That doesn't make any sense to me." I was screaming by the end. 

"Well we won't know for sure until he wakes up. You can go in there but don't disturb anything. JARVIS is monitoring his vitals and if he wakes up JARVIS will notify me. I need to go and talk to Tony. Whatever you were going to tell Rhodes how bad is it." He hesitantly asked.

"It's pretty bad. I think it would be best if you guys could convince him to see a therapist or just talk to one of you guys. In the movie he tried to talk to you about the whole Mandarin debacle but you kinda fell asleep on him. I don't know if you were acting like that because you didn't know what to say, if you got scared of how much he trusted you or you were actually a douchebag who fell asleep. But just listen to him if he comes to you. He didn't want a therapist when he came to you, but just a friend. So, yeah. Good talk. And don't think I have forgotten about overdosing. But I'll leave you alone for now." Saying that I hightailed out of there before he could tell me anything.

Chapter Text

Bruce headed towards the elevator. “JARVIS, where are the others?”

“They’re in the penthouse, Dr. Banner. Sir requested your presence once you were done here.”

“Alright, take me to the penthouse and keep watch on these two.”

Once he reached the penthouse, all of them were sitting in the living room. Pepper and Tony were snuggling on the couch and Happy was sprawled out on a chair. He sat down on the loveseat.

“So what’s his condition?” Pepper inquired.

“It’s not looking good. I didn’t tell her, but he had overdosed on sleeping pills. Now, modern medicine has made them safe enough that death from overdosing is difficult. But he was also drinking a lot in the past few days. And because of that, I don’t even know how this guy is still alive.” It was reminding him too much of his own attemps. And he was having a hard time keeping lid on the other guy. “From what I heard him say in the conference room, it seemed like he tried to..” he couldn’t get himself to say it out loud.

“We’ll deal with that once he wakes up. In the meantime, what do you think of her story?” Tony asked. From the things she has revealed he seemed a bit shaken. He was holding Pepper close to himself and kept sneaking glances at Happy. Understandably, what he had observed in his stay at the tower, Rhodes, Pepper and Happy were close to his heart.

“She didn’t say much about anyone else. She spoke most of you.”

“Yeah, that’s true. And most of what she said about past events was true as well. And what she said about Loki. I mean she has a point there. I could plan a better strategy than that when drunk off my ass. That was the most shittiest plan I have ever seen. And I also asked JARVIS to research a bit on Killian and also have him enter the SHIELD database from the backdoor we made during invasion. From what we have got she might be correct. The Killian dude looks a lot different than 2000. Now, I know physiotherapy can do wonders. But this, this is not it. I think whatever this extremis is, he used it on himself. But completely trusting her right away, is out of the question.” Tony said.

"I have also been analyzing the energy readout they gave when they appeared. They have energy readings of the tessaract and the scepter but they also had some other energy signals similar to them." JARVIS announced. 

"Let's just keep an eye out on them for now. Listen to what they say but don't jump in with half cooked plans. Discuss it with everyone else." Everyone gave a look to Tony on the last comment.

"Yes, like you don't do anything without discussion." Pepper commented dryly.

"I walked into that one." Tony admitted.

"Sir, Miss Powell requested her phone. I told her I needed your permission for that." JARVIS said.

"Alright, get into her phone and get one of the boys to bring it to her." Tony replied.

"As you say sir." JARVIS said theatrically.

"The sass I endure from you..." Tony waggled his finger at nearest camera.

"I do not know what you are talking about, sir." JARVIS sassed back.

"DumE had delivered Miss Powell her phone and has returned to the lab." JARVIS announced after a few minutes.

****

Gianna was sitting in the room for quite a while now. She couldn't take her eyes off him. A year and a half of loving someone didn't just fade away in a few hours. He was the first guy that she had let in her heart to such extend. "Why did you have to break my heart like that? Was I so that bad that you couldn't even tell me the truth." She sobbed. She sat on the couch and tried to think of something else. Her phone. 

"JARVIS, can you get me my phone please?" She asked while looking at the nearest camera.

"I must ask sir Miss Powell." He replied in a lower voice.

"Okay." 

"I have asked boss and he agreed to return you your phone. If you could step out and collect your phone." He replied after a few minutes. 

"Alright." She went outside and looked around. The lift opened and she heard a whirring sound.

"JARVIS, is that DumE?" She asked excitedly.

"Yes he insisted on coming." He replied dryly.

"Hush you. Oh my God!!!" He moved his arm and opened and closed the claw. And let out a series of beeps. 

"So cute. What's he saying?" She was bouncing on her steps. 

"He is introducing himself and asking about you." 

"Hi DumE. My name is Gianna and it's nice to meet you." He chirped again and started heading back to the lift.

"He said it was nice to meet you and wished your friend quick recovery." 

"Tell him my thanks." 

"Of course miss." 

She contemplated if she should ask or not but in the end decided to ask anyway. "JARVIS you can locate the energy signals the scepter generates, right."

"Yes I can, if the radiation it emits is not being blocked. May I inquire the reason of this particular question." 

"In 2014, infiltration of SHIELD comes to light, and Rogers and Romanoff dumps entire SHIELD data online. In all of the chaos, the scepter gets stolen by Hydra. That's why I am asking. They use the scepter for biological enhancement." 

"Shouldn't you be discussing this matter with sir and others?" 

"I do but if the info dump still happens, then I don't want them to forget about it. That's why I'm telling you. So that even if they forget, you still remember it." 

"Miss, Mr. Ardent is waking up. I'll inform Dr. Banner."

Chapter Text

The first thing Ellen saw when he woke up was a white room. For a moment he panicked and then he remembered everything. A hand waved in front of his face and he realized that there was someone else in the room. He looked up and saw...

Wait, is that Mark Ruffalo???!!!!!

"Mr. Ardent, Ellen can you hear me?" Oh my God!!! Mark Ruffalo is talking to him. Eeeeeeppp! Come on Ellen, control yourself. Stay Calm and Don't Stutter. Be mature.

"Loud and clear, Mr. Ruffalo. Uh, what are you doing here? And how do you know my name?Are you doing some fan tour in the hospital as Banner?" There you go blabbering again. Congratulations Ellen, you did a great job.

"Ruffalo?" He looked very confused.

"That's your name, isn't it?" I asked. I'm pretty sure I didn't forget his name. 

"No, it is actually Bruce Banner." He replied.

"Is this some gag reel? Is there a cameraman behind the door? Are there any hidden cameras in this room? Because this is definitely not funny. Can you please get Gi? Or maybe my family member, or even a real doctor will do." I was getting irritated.

"You mean Miss Powell?" He asked again.

"Yes, her only." I practically screamed.

The door opened and there she was. "JARVIS told me I was needed here." She asked Mark. I didn't even hear what she said, I just ripped off whatever IV they had inserted and scrambled off the bed and ran towards her. I couldn't believe that I was holding her in my arms. How could this be possible? She was dead. Maybe I was too. That's why I was seeing her and Mark too. Although that didn't make sense. He would have rather preferred Natalie Portman or Jaimie Alexander. 

"I won't mind those two, but I will prefer RDJ and Kat Dennings more. And yes you said that outloud." She listed off. All with the counting off actions. My drama queen. I love her.

"I'm sure we could get them if we knew who they are." Bruce deadpanned.

"Natalie Portman is Jane Foster, Jaimie Alexander is Lady Sif, RDJ is Tony, and Kat Dennings is Darcy Lewis, Jane's assistant." She replied in a fake accent. It was horrible, couldn't even pinpoint which one. God did I mention how much I love this woman? How did it take me so long to realize?

"Anyway, I don't know how, what, why, but we're in MCU world apparently. And what's with the tackling. I was gone for like five hours. You're acting like you haven't seen me in years. And what's with the drinking? Never mind that. What right do I have to ask you that?" The last part made me flinch back.

"I..I.." I didn't know what to say.

"Save it. I don't want to hear it. And if we're done here I would like to leave." Saying she freed her hand and left.

It suddenly came to me what she said. "Wait, what did she mean by five hours?"

"She's been here for total of nine hours, five before and four after your arrival."

"If what she's saying is true then, that means,I died too." I whispered to myself. Holy shit. I died. I died and I'll never see them again. Mom, dad, my brother and sister. I can't breathe. Suddenly there were hands holding me. Mark, yeah, no it was Banner. He held my face and said something and started breathing exercise. I tried to copy him. Slowly I could hear his voice. 

"It's okay. Everything is fine. We'll find a way to send you guys back." He tried to soothe, but it wasn't making any difference.

"No, you don't understand. We're dead. We died there, and that's how we got here. Gianna, she died three weeks ago. The night we fought, she went back to her place. She was supposed to stay over. But she left and there was this robber who broke into her apartment. She.. she called me, told me someone was there, that she was scared. I should have gone right after her or I shouldn't have let her leave. Then, she would have been-, I was on the phone the whole time, I told her I was on my way, that she just needed to hide just a little bit longer. But he found her. He threw her in the glass table. By the time I arrived, she was already gone. I had given her a ring on her birthday. A promise ring. She was clutching it the whole time. It looked like he had tried to take it, but she didn't give it. I tried, God I tried but I couldn't take it anymore. I got drunk, fought with my parents, my brother, he stopped talking to me. He blamed me too. He never said it to my face. God forbid, he will ever do something that she told him not to. But he did. I couldn't sleep. I had nightmares about her, her blaming me, all bloody and crying, everyone else screaming at me that I was the reason that she was gone. I drank more. And then one day, I finally decided to end it all. Took a lot of sleeping pills and..." I heard a choking sound and a sob. I realized who it was, and looked up. She was standing in the door. Tears running down her face. She stumbled back and ran out the door.

I wanted to go after her but she wouldn't want me with her right now. After everything that I messed up. I looked at Ruffalo, no Banner. He sighed and looked away.

"I will tell Pepper to check on her, and maybe try to make her open up." He patted my shoulder and left. 

I laid back down trying to process everything that happened. How she would take it, and everything else. And then soon I was out.

Chapter Text

Pepper was having a good day. SI stocks were almost back to normal.The deal with the Paine Enterprise has gone through. That deal will get SI a major profit. Legal had managed to renegotiate the reparation cost the Government wanted Iron Man to pay. They wanted Tony to pay 46 percent of the total amount because of the interference of Iron Man and it being Stark Tower, but they managed to minimize that amount to 18 percent. The updates Tony had given for new Stark phones and tablets were approved by the board without much fuss. 

"JARVIS where is Tony?" She looked up at the nearest camera. 

"Sir is in the workshop working on the suit, Miss Potts." Hearing that her mood deflated a bit.

She was getting worried about Tony. Ever since the invasion, he was sleeping less and less and was spending most of his time in the lab building new suits. He had made three suits so far in the last month. She hoped that this obsession of his will pass soon. He was also upset about the other avengers refusing to move in the tower. He was so eager for them to move in. He had designed each of their floor with their preference and comfort in mind. But when they all declined, it broke Tony's heart. He wanted them all to live together like a team. In a way, she could understand their reasoning for refusing. Rogers wanted to travel a bit, and find the changes that had happened, find his footing in this new world. Thor wasn't even from Earth. He was a prince of a realm and has a family and friends back waiting for him on Asgard. The spy twins, they were a different story entirely. She was actually glad that they declined. She didn't trust Natashalie for the stunts she had pulled during Tony's poisoning. SHIELD had known for a while that Tony was dying, and they had the cure for it. Yet they were more than happy to sit back and enjoy while Tony suffered. JARVIS had also told her about how Natasha had goaded Tony during her entire stay. And how could she forget about the whole 'Iron Man- Yes, Tony Stark- Not Recommended' shit. She wasn't sure if she ever saw Natashalie again, that she won't scratch her face off. And the order to close the portal, didn't endear them to her much. Logically she knew that they needed to close the portal, but it was her boyfriend on the other side of the portal. So she was justified to be angry about that. 

She came out of her musings when her assistant came in to give her some paperwork. She just hoped that the rest of the day will pass without any trouble. 

*****

Pepper was staring out the penthouse window. She was not happy with the way things turned out to be. It all started, when JARVIS announced about the intruder in the lab. Hearing her story, Pepper was starting to get a headache. She had seen flying mechanical suits, supersecret spy organization, aliens falling out of sky,  supersoldier who was alive after being frozen for seventy and didn't even age a bit. Hell, she had met two literal Norse gods, time travel and alternate universe shouldn't even surprise her that much. She heard footsteps and turned around to see Happy and Tony entering the room. Tony looked a bit pale and shaken, she could understand it. If someone had told her that his girlfriend was going to get kidnapped and his bodyguard was going to get caught up in a bomb-blast, and the aliens that he fought were going to return to attack his planet, anyone will get shaken up. She went and hugged him. He hugged her back tightly and once they separated, he held her hand. She led him to sofa and they sat there drawing comfort from each other. Happy sat down in the loveseat nearby. He also looked a little pale. She reached out and squeezed his hand, and gave him a reassuring smile. He smiled back and then they all sat like there in the silence for a while. The echoing footsteps then alerted them to Bruce's presence. He looked a little green around the edges. Only Tony's cool kept her from flinching. He then told them about Ellen's suicide attempt. He hadn't told Gianna about it, but he wanted to discuss about it with her later. Then they discussed about what to do with those two. After that they all got back to their work. 

*****

She was going through some paperwork when JARVIS announced that Bruce wanted to talk to her. She asked him to patch him through. 

"Bruce, you wanted to talk to me. Anything I can do to help?" She asked him. 

"Yes, I was hoping that if you could talk to Gianna. When Ellen woke up he sort of started rambling and she kind of heard him say somethings that was disturbing. After which she stormed out of the room. I was hoping if you could please talk to her. JARVIS can show you the footage of what happened. I just.. it will be good for her to talk to someone. And she may open up to you more than any of us." Bruce said.

"I'll see what I can do Bruce." Saying that she cut off the call.

"JARVIS show me the footage." 

"As you wish Miss Potts." And then he played the footage on her phone.

After seeing the footage, Pepper decided that she needed to talk to the girl. 

"JARVIS, where is Gianna?"

"Miss Powell is on the 153rd level. Once she left the medical room, I directed her towards the empty guest floor. She's been there the whole time." 

"Good work, JARVIS." She smiled at the nearest camera. 

"I concluded that Miss Powell might need some time to process the information." JARVIS's voice rang out in the lift. 

Once she got on the level 153, she walked to the living room. She could see a lone figure sitting on the floor, resting their head on the couch. She could see the faint line of dried tears running down her face in the dim light. She couldn't help but feel pity for the girl. Away from home and family, not knowing when or if she would ever be able to return or not, learning of her own death and the impact it had on someone else's life, it wasn't easy. 

"Gianna sweetheart. Wake up." She softly patted her shoulder.

"Huh. What? Oh, Miss Potts." She got up and tried to fix her hair and clothes.

"Sorry, I must have fallen asleep. Did you need something?" She asked nervously.

"Bruce told me about what happened. Do you want to talk about it?" Pepper asked her softly. 

It seemed like the words broke whatever strength she had found and started sobbing again.

"I don't know what to do. I mean we had a fight before I left. I felt so angry and betrayed. He was the first guy that I had let in my heart. I loved him and still do. Because even if it has been three weeks for him, its just been a few hours for me. I can't even look at him without remembering everything that happened. Their words just keep echoing in my head. Hobo. Bookworm. Nerd. Old lady. Waste of time. Should just get rid of her now that you don't need to..." She was pacing around while talking the whole time, and spitting the last few words. And then she took a deep breath and was off again. 

"They said that he was just pretending to date me. So that his cousin's boyfriend doesn't break up with her. Why would they even think something like that. Rick and I- we were just friends. More along the lines of a brother and sister. We both were single child and liked to hang out, because then we could pretend that we weren't alone. That we also had a brother or sister to fall back on. And I'm not a homewrecker. I'll never come between two people like that. Did he think so lowly of me. And that didn't mean that he had a right to play me like that. Was it all a lie? The care, the love, this ring, all the promises he made, was it all just fake?"  She was sobbing loudly and shaking like a leaf. 

"Gianna, I can't tell you what Ellen feels for you, or what he was thinking. What I do know is that keeping it all in, it won't do you any good. Talk to him. From what I've seen, that guy feels guilty about your death. He is blaming himself. You both need to talk and find some closure. Tell him what you feel, and listen to what he has to say, and then you decide, if you want him to be in your life." She soothed the girl as much as she could.

"You should take your own advise too. Talk to Tony. Or at least make him talk to someone. He's suffering from PTSD. How many suits has he made by now?" Pepper looked at the girl surprised. 

"He made a lot of suits. But blew them all up on Christmas because you didn't like them. Although they did come handy in fighting the extremis soldiers. And that was conveniently on the Christmas Eve as well. So, just talk to him. And maybe get him to see a therapist, his PTSD will get a lot worse over the years. Actually I think, Ellen will need a therapist as well. I think I'll try to get him to talk to one. It was nice talking to you Miss Potts. No one has listened to my rants except him." She smiled sadly at the last part. Then she walked out the door, and told JARVIS to take her to the medical room. 

She was left standing there staring towards the door. Then she sighed and shook her head.

"JARVIS, take me to Tony."

Chapter Text

Tony was pouring over the data from the scans JARVIS took of Gianna and Ellen, more specifically of the area they appeared in. It looked like their transportation left some energy traces. The readings were similar to that of the tessaract and Loki's scepter. Infact it seemed like the scepter and the tessaract were used in bringing those two here, but there were four other energy signatures as well. Unfortunately he didn't have access to the tessaract, what with it being on Asgard, and if he asked Fury to study the scepter, the one-eyed pirate will get all interrogative on his ass. And he couldn't draw suspicion from anyone.

"Sir, Miss Potts is headed down." JARVIS announced, and lowered the volume of music blasting off. The sound of the elevator ding and clack of heels alerted him to her presence. She looked as radiant as she did this morning.

She came closer and caressed his face. He leaned into her touch, seeking the comfort and warmth it provided. She smiled at him, but it was a sad smile.

"Hey, Pep. Light of my life. What brings you to my humble abode." He asked her cheekily.

"It's 1 in the morning, Tony. You have a meeting at 11 tomorrow. And I don't want you to fall asleep in the meeting or skip out saying that you didn't get any sleep. So, you're going to bed." She replied playfully.

"I have some updates to..." She cut off his protests with an or else look. 

"Why don't you want to go to sleep?" She asked suspiciously.

"I... just..Pep, please. I can't sleep." He fidgeted.

"Tony, what's wrong? You have been sneaking off to the lab every night. I haven't seen you sleep for more than ten to twelve hours in a week. You have made three suits in the past month. Until how long, before it becomes too much to keep it all buried in your head. Talk to me, talk to Rhodey, Jarvis, Bruce, anyone. Just please don't keep it all buried in." She pleaded with him.

"I'm... Nothing has been same since past month. You see things, experience them, Gods, aliens. I'm just a man in the can. Truth is I've been a pipping hot mess. You're there, and Bruce is there, and it's great. But Honey, I can't sleep. You go to sleep, and I come here and tinker with things. Because that's the only way I know. I have to protect the one thing that I can't live without. And that's you." He couldn't look into her eyes. He didn't want to see the pity and disappointment in her eyes. But when she got closer and hugged him, he couldn't help but hug her back. The feel of her warm body in his arms, calmed him down. 

"You know what she said. You still have time. And I know that you will find a way. I trust you. And whatever you do, know that I'll always be here by your side." Saying that she kissed his forehead and then went back towards the lift.

"I'm going to take a shower." She announced while turning halfway.

"Alright." He nodded.

"And you're joining me." Saying that she turned back and continued towards the lift.

"Better." And he followed her to the lift.

Once they were done showering, they went to the bed. Thinking about upcoming events and everything, he drifted off to sleep.

*****

He woke up to the sound of JARVIS listing off the date, time, location, weather conditions and schedule for the day. He had woken up after four hours of sleep and tumbled down to the lab. There he had tinkered with the suit for a bit and then had fallen asleep there only.

"Sir you have a meeting in three hours, and Miss Potts requested to inform you to come to the penthouse once you woke up." 

Tony groaned and asked, "Alright, I'll go. What are the love birds and green bean doing?" 

"Dr. Banner and Miss Powell are in the medbay with Mr. Ardent. Dr. Banner is checking Mr. Ardent's vitals."

"Alright then. First a shower, then medbay. JARVIS, order some breakfast. And have it brought to the penthouse." 

"Breakfast has been ordered. Dr. Banner instructed to keep Mr. Ardent on liquid diet for the day. Hence I had a smoothie ordered for him." 

"Good work, J." He praised his friend.

"I had also ordered some clothes for both of them, to be sufficient for them for the next few days. Miss Powell's clothes have been delivered to her guest room and Mr. Ardent's are sent to the medbay, as Dr. Banner plans to discharge Mr. Ardent." 

"J, buddy. What will I do without you?" Tony chuckled while looking at the nearest camera, while showing how grateful he was.

"Let's never find out, sir. I'll hate to be unable to protect you." JARVIS firmly replied.

After taking shower, Tony went down to the medbay and found Bruce standing there fussing over his patient. His patient on the other hand, was making puppy dog eyes at his girlfriend, or is it ex-girlfriend. Said ex-girlfriend was busy glaring at the puppy dog eyes. 

"So lovebirds, what are you two up to today?" The glare that she threw his way was quite scary. And that was a feat in itself, considering he was at the receiving end of many of them from Pepper. Pepper's glares were menacing. And Bruce gave him an exasperated look.

"Not lovebirds." Gianna hissed out. Poor Ellen wilted like a flower. 

"So, Brucey. What's the status? Can the lover boy get out of the bed." Bruce gave him a look, that made it clear that he knew what he was doing. He gave Bruce a big innocent grin. He sighed and replied, "He can leave, but he needs to get nutritions in his body. I will recommend to get him on a liquid diet first, and then gradually some light food, and eventually on regular diet." 

"You're going to follow that diet, and take whatever medicine he prescribes you." Gianna spoke in a tone that promised immense pain, if disobeyed.

Ellen gulped and nodded his head. Smart guy. Although not too smart if he managed to piss her off. But he pissed off Pepper on daily basis. 

Once Ellen was cleared, and changed his clothes, they all headed upstairs. JARVIS had ordered some clothes for those two last night. He could see Pepper sitting in the kitchen with a cup of coffee, and talking on the phone. She waved at the others to take the seat. She finished the call and turned towards them. 

"So, Mr. Ardent, how're you feeling today?" She inquired.

"I'm feeling better now. Thank you for asking." He replied.

"Sir, breakfast has arrived, and is being brought upstairs." Soon a bot arrived with their food, and put it on the table and went away.

They all ate breakfast silently. Pepper was eyeing those two, and Ellen was sneaking glances at Gianna. Although it seemed like Gianna was hell-bent on ignoring him.

"Tony, have you found any way to send us back?" Gianna asked with a hopeful look. 

"I'm sorry, sweetheart. But I'm still analyzing the energy signals. The only thing I have found is that it's a combination of six different energy signals." She looked up at that. She looked like she was thinking something. Then she asked, "They aren't similar to the scepter and the tessaract, are they?" 

"Why do you ask that?" Bruce asked her curiously.

"I just have some suspicion about that. Were there any other energy signatures with those two?" A theory has started to build up in his mind.

"So, you think that it has something to do with tessaract and scepter, and four other objects similar to them. That these six artifacts somehow managed to get you two from there to here." The theory seemed like a good sci-fi story. But they're literally living the life of a sci-fi movie, so it could be possible. 

"But even if you want to send them back to their home, you'll need all those six artifacts. And I don't see SHIELD or Asgard handing over the scepter or tessaract. Moreover we don't even know where this other artefacts are." Bruce chimed in.

"Well, first of all, they are infinity stones. And Dr. Banner is right. The stones are on different planets and not all of them are accessible." 

"What do you mean by not accessible?" 

"Well, one of them is hidden away by Thor's grandfather and will not be found for the next year. And the other one requires something from the seeker." She sadly replied. 

"You're talking about that orange one. For which Clint and Natasha went." Ellen inquired. 

"What about Clint and Natasha?" Bruce leaned in. Gianna threw a death glare at Ellen and sighed.

"In the future, he manages to get all of the stones and accomplish his goal to kill half of the population of entire universe. And then he destroys the stones or they're too damaged to be used or something. But the point is the stones are gone. Then a bunch of stuff later, you guys find a way to time travel."

"What?" "That's dangerous.." "It was me, wasn't it.." They all end up speaking at the same time.

"Quiet. You guys divide into different time streams, to collect all the stones. Clint and Natasha went to find the one that requires a sacrifice from the seeker. The sacrifice of a loved one." She looked upset.

"One of them dies." Bruce whispered, and looked up at her. She nodded without meeting his eyes. 

"So, that's why I don't... Holy cow!!! Why didn't I think of her? She may be able to help. JARVIS find out if you can access the wifi network for 177A, Bleeker Street, Greenwich village. If you do... But he won't be there yet. He might be at Kamar-Taj now." She murmured to herself.

"Can't we just go and knock the front door?" Ellen asked.  Gianna gave him a look at that.

"No, we can't. The sanctum is covered in protection runes, and we may not even be able to see it." She explained like she was talking to a child. 

"Don't mock me. I haven't watched all of them like you." He protested. 

"Fine. You're right. I'm sorry. I hurt your poor baby feelings." She replied sarcastically and in a mocking tone. 

Bruce cleared his throat loudly and asked, "Are you two done?" Tony started sneakering at that and Pepper tried to hide her smile behind her coffee cup. Both of them turn red at that.

"We can still try going there and knocking on the door, until JARVIS finds a way to contact this person. Tell him the location of this Kamary, whatever it is. And her name." Tony said. 

"It's Kamar-Taj actually. And it's in Kathmandu, Nepal. Don't know the exact location, but it's a bit off the grid. And her name is Ancient One." Gianna could just feel the comment coming from Tony.

"I'm sorry. Did you say her name is Ancient One. Like what kind of name is that? Is she like all wrinkly, old and bald. Is that even her real name. Because that name is a disaster for any kid. What were her parents even thinking when naming her?" One glare from Pepper shut him up. 

"I don't know if that's her real name. No, she's not wrinkly. She's old and bald, but she looks like she's just in her early thirties." She replied amusedly. 

"Pep" Tony whined and Pepper instantly scolded him, "No Tony. You're not skipping the meeting. You've already postponed it two times. You're coming and that's final. JARVIS will look for her and these two in the meantime will go with Bruce and Happy to Greenwich village." She said in a decisive tone. 

"Alright then, we'll leave you guys to your meeting. And will get out of your hair. " Bruce replied. 

After breakfast all of them parted to their ways.

Chapter Text

The car ride to the sanctum was spent mostly in silence. Once they were a few blocks away, Gianna asked Happy to park the car.

"What is it?" Bruce asked.

"Are we sure it's a good idea for you to come with us. No offense Dr. Bruce, but SHIELD has you and Tony under surveillance most of the time. I don't want to draw their attention to the sanctum." Gianna replied apologetically.

"It's alright. I understand your concern. I wouldn't want something like that to happen either. I'll stay here, but if you guys don't come out or check in soon enough, I'll come in there." Bruce warned.

"I don't think you'll be able to do anything." Ellen snorted. Bruce raised his eyebrows at that in the Talk Right Now manner. 

"Long story. But don't worry. They're not that hostile." Gianna argued.

"Somehow that's not very reassuring. I'm coming with you guys." Saying that he took out hat and sunglasses from the glove box and put them on. Before they could stop him, Bruce got out of the car. Gianna and Ellen sulkily followed Bruce and Happy. 

When they crossed the barrier around the sanctum, Gianna and Ellen felt it.

"Did you guys feel that?" Ellen asked others. 

"What?" Bruce and Happy asked together. "I kinda did. Felt like I was walking through something." Gianna replied worriedly.

When they reached the sanctum, the doors opened automatically. 

"That's new." Gianna commented and looked around. "Yeah, this place looks like a haunted house." Happy commented. All of them turned to look at him. "What!" Happy asked irritatedly. 

"Let's just go." Saying that Gianna entered the sanctum. The rest of the three hurried after her. Soon orange sparkles started erupting in front of them. A person in yellow robes walked through the portal, her face hidden underneath the hood. Luckily, Gianna realized who it was. She started smiling and stepped forward. Happy reached out and dragged her back. 

"What are you doing? She could be dangerous. What if she attacks you? Pepper will have my head if you two got hurt." He hissed out.

"She won't. She is friendly. She's the one we're here to meet, the Ancient One." Gianna protested.

"You know who I am, and yet I don't remember crossing paths with you. So who are you?" She asked while removing the hood.

"That's a bit complicated." Ellen butted in. 

"Interesting. Both of you are blessed by the infinity stones. You both are very powerful. Powerful enough to get through the wards of the sanctum." She said while looking at them curiously.

 "Oh. So that's what we sensed when we entered." Ellen mused.

"You didn't do it deliberately. How much training did you two have?" She asked them.

"Training! Are you kidding me?! We didn't even know until you told us we have powers. We came to you for help to send us back home." Ellen ranted out frustratedly. 

"You can look into my mind and see the problem for yourself." Gianna offered and stepped towards her.

Before anyone could protest, Ancient One put her hand on Gianna's forehead and started murmuring a spell. But immediately opened her eyes and removed her hand. 

"Your mind is well shielded. No telepath or empath will be able to read your mind. No matter how powerful they are. With practice you might be able to shield others as well. Infact I believe you did that already. Your friends should not have been able to get past the wards set around the sanctum. There is a spell that makes people ignore the sanctum's existence without the sanctum master's permission. You protected your friends mind as well." She replied.

"Can you check the same for him?" Bruce asked.

"Sure. Come forward child." Saying that she waved Ellen to come closer. Then she put her hand on his forehead and murmured the spell.

"Hmmm. Interesting. You don't have the same ability as her. I can see into your mind. You two are from different reality, and you want my help to send you back." And then she removed her hand. 

"I apologise that it is not possible. Not without tearing a hole into the time-space continuum. You two exist in this time and reality now. You two belong here. If you two had been an anomaly, I would have sensed it the moment you entered the sanctum. The stones have brought you here. And they have granted you powers as well." 

"I...I... Is there no way to send us back? We have families and our entire lives back there." Gianna pleaded tearfully. Ellen dragged her into a hug. She buried her head into his chest. 

"I'm sorry, my child. There's nothing I can do about it. There's a chance that if you gather all the stones, you might be able to go back but.." she trailed off.

"But whoever uses them, if human will die. Not only that, but one of them requires sacrifice of a loved one. And gathering the stones like that would be like inviting trouble." Gianna completed for her. She was still sobbing. Ellen's eyes were teary as well, but he was holding them back for her sake. He will break down later, when she had calmed down and wasn't there to watch him fall apart. But right now, she needed him and he was going to be there for her. 

The ancient one studied those two. She had seen in his mind, the love he held for her, and the heartache he has caused. Yet here she was seeking comfort from him. With time, these two will be back together. Individually they were powerful, but together they would be a force to be reckoned with. They'll be a great help if what she saw in his mind was to happen. She was brought out of her musings by Dr. Banner's voice.

"So they're very much stuck here." He asked.

"Unfortunately, yes. The stones have merged them within this time and reality. Sending them there, if it is even possible, will jeopardize that reality. And a weakened reality and timeline attracts trouble of all sorts." She said while still looking at those two. 

"You two need to train to control those powers." She suggested or more like ordered them.

"Can we have some time to think? We're still processing everything." Ellen asked.

"Take sometime. But hurry up. The powers are still adjusting within your body. You'll be a lot more powerful once you gain control of these powers." She warned them. 

"How do we contact you?" Gianna asked. 

"You can come here. Master Drumm will send you to Kamar-Taj." Saying that she opened the portal to leave. And then she turned around again and said, "And tell Mr. Stark, when the time comes, the sorcerers of Kamar-Taj will assist in the war." Saying that she went through the portal and closed it. 

Master Drumm then showed them their way out. And they started walking back towards the car. 

"Do you have any bug detector in the car?" She asked Happy. 

"No I don't." Happy winced. "But I checked the car before we left. It wasn't bugged." He sighed in relief.

"Alright then, don't say anything about sanctum in the car. Talk about nonsense, lunch or anything else. We'll discuss everything else later. And maybe check the car for bugs." Gianna told him.

"You got a point there. You'll make a good security detail." He praised her. 

"Don't give her ideas. She might actually take you up on that offer, once she is trained properly. And don't lie to me. You've already decided to join the fight once you learn to use them." Ellen accusedly pointed at her.

"Yes, I have. And you're not going to change my mind." She hissed at him. 

"I know you won't change your mind, and I'm not going to ask you to. I'm not gonna sit back either. If you think you're going out there alone to fight, then you're sadly mistaken." He argued back. Then they reached the car.

The ride back was mostly silent, except for discussing lunch options. Once they reached the tower, Happy sweeped the car for bugs and found three bugs. He then put them into a container.

"Now we can talk. I didn't imagine that right. That woman didn't just appear and disappear through the sparkly orange thing, right. Right?!"

"Yes she did. And that was a portal. Thank God we didn't bring Tony with us. He would have had a panic attack." Gianna muttered.

"Panic attack?" Bruce asked worriedly. 

"Yeah. They're not that severe now, but they keep getting worse. And then the witch messed up with his mind. Whoa!! We don't need a code green right now. Calm down. She hasn't gained her powers yet. And I've a plan to make sure she never gets them." She tried to calm down Bruce who looked a bit green around the edges.

"She messed up his mind. The other guy likes Tony, and someone hurting Tony is making him angry." He gritted out.

"Hey hulk, buddy. Calm down. She doesn't have her powers yet. And she won't get them either. I'll make sure of that. And even if she does, we'll protect Tinman. Okay." She tried to soothe him. Soon, Bruce returned to his normal self with a few deep breaths.

"What's your plan for her?" He asked her. 

"Well I've JARVIS looking for the scepter. Once he finds it, he'll monitor it. When the Hydra in SHIELD is revealed, we'll take the scepter. Both of them will think that the other has the scepter. Meanwhile we will retract the stone from scepter and contain it and hide it. They used the scepter to give them powers. So if Hydra doesn't get the scepter, they won't be able to experiment on it. Meaning no wonder twins to deal with. Although those two seriously needs some counseling." She said.

"Why do you say that?" Happy asked her. 

"JARVIS, I don't want this to go back to Tony." 

"If it's not a threat to sir." He replied protectively.

"They're a threat to him. But what I'm about to say isn't good for his mental health. Pietro and Wanda Maximoff. Twins, Sokovians. Their country is a Hydra foothold, and going through a civil war of sorts. When they were eight, a bomb struck down their house. Their parents died in front of them and they got stuck in the rubble. A second she'll soon landed. With SI logo. They were stuck there two days. Staring at the missile. Waiting for it to go off. Ever since then they blamed Tony for their parents death. They volunteered for Hydra experiment, to gain the powers to kill Tony." 

"She did look a bit loony while fighting Thanos. She had this crazy look in her eyes." Ellen spoke.

"Why was she there? Fighting alongside Tony if she hated him so much?" 

"I don't know her reasoning. I think she wasn't fighting alongside him, more like she was fighting against Thanos. The guy killed her boyfriend. Which in my personal opinion was a shit show. If someone throws me through seventeen floors, there's no way I will ever be in the same room as them. Dating him is out of the question." She shuddered. 

"He threw her through seventeen floors?" Bruce asked bewilderedly.

"No she threw him through seventeen floors. And you're one to talk. Your girlfriend threw you off a cliff to make you transform into the hulk against your wish. Seriously, what were you thinking making gooey eyes at her after that." She berated him. 

"My girlfriend?" He asked stupidly. God she wanted to smack him. 

"Yes your lovely red head, green eyed psycho girlfriend." She ranted. 

"Natasha?" Bruce asked.

"The one and only." She replied sarcastically.

"You don't seem to like her much." 

"Don't get her started. There aren't many of the avengers she likes much. The only ones she likes are you, Tony, and maybe Thor a bit. The rest of the people you haven't met yet." Ellen said. 

"First, she infiltrated Tony's company under false pretenses, when he was dying of palladium poisoning. She egged him on to do some stupid things. Then there's injecting Tony with lithium concoction they made for poisoning symptoms. They didn't even know how it may react. Then there's that shit profile she wrote on him. No psychiatrist worth their salt will consider that report. The report was done when he was suffering through heavy metal poisoning. And she didn't mention a thing about it in the report. Moreover she didn't do it neutrally. She had a biased view of him. Then there's the whole dumping SHIELD's entire data online for everyone to see. Did she even realize how many agents, their families, enhanced people they were monitoring, or anyone that was on SHIELD database have they put in danger. Only one third of the SHIELD was Hydra. The rest of them were SHIELD. Tony stretched himself thin to save as many of those people as he could. He saved them, gave them all a new fresh start if they wished so. And she calls him the one with ego. The gal of that woman. Trust me if she ever tried to do something stupid in my presence I'll bi**hslap her. And that comment she made about Tony needing to watch his back. That lying, two faced, egostical bi**h. Do you know she didn't even show an ounce of remorse, for those agents she burned. Worse she told the US Senate on live TV that they won't arrest her because they need her. The f**k she gets to judge Tony. She has an ego problem worse than him. And talk about narcissism. She's even a bigger narcist than Tony." She finished her rant. 

"I haven't seen someone curse Romanoff  this passionately. And that's saying something after watching Pep curse her from hell and back. Should I worry about you two teaming up against her." Tony asked while sauntering into the room. 

Gianna's face turned tomato red at that. "Don't be like that, Tones." Everyone looked up at the new voice. Colonel James Rhodes walked in right after his friend. 

"Hey, Rhodey." Bruce and Happy greeted Rhodey.

"Hey, Hap, Bruce. Good to see you guys. And now someone introduce me to these two." He gestured towards Gianna and Ellen.

"Ah, yes. Honeybear. Meet the lovely Gianna Powell and Ellen Ardent. Gianna, Ellen this is my honeybear, my platypus, my Rhodey-patooty." Tony draped himself over Rhodey.

"We know who he is. He's the one in the silver armour. It was cool." Ellen replied. 

"He's war machine or iron patriot. Personally I like War machine more. You're his friend since college days. An Air Force Colonel, military liasion to the Stark Industries." Gianna exclaimed excitedly.

"Someone did their homework." Rhodey joked. 

"I think if there are any details regarding Tony or their close ones, she knows each one of them. Out of all of them, he's her most favorite." Ellen said teasingly. Gianna elbowed him at that. 

"Really?" Tony asked with a smug smile. 

"Yes I admire you a lot. But I also think you're a big idiot from time to time. So cool down." She defensively replied.

"That he is." Rhodey agreed with her. 

"Hey, how come you are here this early?" She asked Rhodes. 

"I called his boss, and told him I needed to make a few upgrades. So he was allowed to come here for two weeks." Tony replied. 

"If you're making any upgrades, then remember to double reinforce the spinal area and put another power source, so that if someone targets the reactor, he still has some power to safely land." Gianna instructed. 

"I'm not gonna ask why you made those specific requests." Tony shuddered. Saying that he went to the kitchen. 

Rhodey turned to her. "We're going to talk about whatever you wanted to say later." 

Gianna nodded her head. "It's not good. And he'll need all the support he can get. It's always been a sore spot for him." 

"It's about Howard, isn't it?" He asked. Gianna just nodded her head in agreement. 

"Alright, I hope you two had discussed whatever you wanted to talk about." Tony asked while looking at them. 

"Yes we have." Gianna replied. 

"Going to share with the class?" He asked.

"Soon. But not now." Gianna replied.

"It's something that should be learnt from someone close in a calm environment. While also learning the whole picture. Because I can assure you that you'll react badly and do something that you'll definitely regret later." She told him.

"Alright then. Let's set the table. Pep is coming for lunch. You guys can tell us everything that happened on your trip."

Chapter Text

Once Pepper got back to the penthouse, they had lunch and discussed what happened at sanctum.

"Magic?" Tony asked in a manner that guaranteed a tirade of magic not being real.  

"Yes. Magic!" Gianna deadpanned in a tone that made it clear, she didn't want to argue on that topic. But it was Tony, therefore her words were completely ignored. 

"Magic is not real. It's just a science-" Gianna cut off his predicted response by completing it in a childish voice,"-You don't understand."

"Yes I am quite aware of your opinion and distaste for magic." She continued the rest of the speech in her normal voice. 

"Brucie bear, honeybuns, support me here." Tony said while clutching Rhodey's shoulder and shaking it. 

"I don't know Tones, I want to agree with you but in the last two three years, saw too much to deny it." Rhodey shrugged off Tony's grip while grinning mischievously. 

"I turn into a green giant, I don't have any room to talk." Bruce defended himself. 

"But..." A glare from Pepper shut him up. 

"So, what have you two decided?" She asked Gianna and Ellen, trying to change the topic. 

Ellen and Gianna looked at each other and then Ellen replied, "We haven't decided yet, but both of us are of opinion that we should at least learn to control our powers. We don't want to accidentally hurt someone." 

"Moreover, she said that we still have some time before they becomes a problem. So our first priority is to sort out other things. We still need to talk about everything that happened before we got here. Then there's the whole identities issue, living arrangements, jobs, qualifications etc." Gianna expressed her worries.

"You guys don't have to worry about those. I can have J sort out identity and qualifications issue. Also, what's wrong with living here." He asked in an offended voice, but truthfully he was hurt by their reluctance to live in the tower. First the rest of the Avengers, and now these two. 

"Nothing is wrong with that. But. Gianna, you explain." Ellen gestured to her frustratingly. He couldn't articulate his words without sounding ungrateful. 

"Tony, I moved out of my parent's place after I turned 18. I had enough money set aside by my parents for my college fees and a portion of the rent. Both of them had jobs and could set aside enough money for me to not only pay full rent but also day to day expenses. But they didn't, because they wanted me to be independent. I took a part-time babysitting job, and other job at a cafe on weekends and holidays. Because I didn't want to use that rent money they set aside. Ellen also moved out of his parents place, once he turned 18. We both like being independent. For earning for ourselves. We can't just live here off your money." Gianna clarified their reasoning. 

Ellen pointedly said, "Plus, if we live here on your money like that, we're no different than them." Gianna nodded her head in agreement, and decided to clarify it a bit. 

"After Natasha drops the whole SHIELD database online, Tony buys the rights to the avengers name. And then Steve, Natasha and Clint take Tony's offer on living in the tower. That reminds me, do not name this tower Avengers Tower." She emphasised on the last sentence. 

"Why?" Tony asked confusedly. He had already designed the logo that would represent the Avengers symbol. 

"Because this team can work in world ending situation, but not in daily life. Tony you were running yourself thin with the amount of work on your shoulders. You not only had your duties with SI, but you were also Iron Man, Avenger's benefactor, weapon designer, the one dealing with media and politicians, do I need to go on?" Gianna was pacing around by the time she finished her rant. 

She continued to speak while gesturing around wildly, "Moreover than that, none of those idiots even thanked you for it. Worse they expected you to do better, while lounging around in the luxury of upstate compound. And when you complained or tried to point out their mistakes, it was suddenly your fault, or about your ego. I swear to God, if I had extremis I would have burned them to crisp." She made the gesture of burning someone with her fingers. 

"I think my comment about us being a time bomb was correct." Bruce piped in while adjusting his glass frame. Gianna glowered at him for that comment. 

"Unfortunately, when it blew up you weren't there. And it ended up blowing up in his face in the worst ways possible." She hissed at Bruce, while remembering those harsh comments and cutting remarks directed at Tony. 

"We're getting side tracked again." Ellen intervened seeing the wild look in her eyes. He knew that if she continued, she may just rake them on coals for their actions, or lack thereof for some cases. 

"Yeah. I'm sorry. I sometimes start ranting a bit." Gianna said apologetically while tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear. Ellen always thought that she looked adorable while doing that, but her face flushed red with anger, combined with that action made him feel like kissing her so throughly, that used to leave her out of breath. 

"It's alright. Why don't you two go and discuss your issues and future plans. And then we'll go from there. In the meantime Tony can sort out your identities and rest of the paperwork." Pepper suggested, sensing Gianna's embarrassment. 

"Alright. But I don't think you need to worry much about qualifications. I have my documents scanned in my phone." Gianna replied, remembering the scanned copies of documents in her phone. Since she and Ellen did it together, Ellen realized that he had his undergrad documents scanned as well. "Me too." He piped up. 

"Okay, then. We just need to change the graduation year and a bit. Rest of it will be same." Tony muttered to himself, while going over their grades. 

"And I'll look it over later, if we have any positions available for your qualifications." Pepper added, knowing that Tony might just create a new position for them only. That would have made those two unhappy.

"Alright. As you wish. But if the Ancient One wants us to stay at Kamar-Taj then, we won't be able to work for you guys for a while." Ellen spoke as he put his dish in the dishwasher. 

"I'm going to my room. I'll see you guys later." Saying that he left the room. 

Soon everyone finished their lunch and left for their own work. 

"Colonel Rhodes. Can I talk to you?" Gianna asked Rhodey, and speed walking towards him at the same time. Rhodey turned around and looked at her. She was fidgeting. He got a feeling that he knew what she wanted to talk about. 

"Sure. JARVIS, where is Tony?" 

"Sir is in his lab, Colonel Rhodes."

Seeing that it was the best opportunity he was going to get, he motioned Gianna to start speaking.

"Can we get Pepper, Bruce and Happy here as well. I would like to tell you all at the same." She requested, knowing that telling them together was the best option. 

"Alright. JARVIS get everyone else in the penthouse." Saying that, he started walking to the living room. 

"They're on their way." JARVIS announced.

Soon Pepper was exiting out of her home office that Tony set up for her in the penthouse. Happy and Bruce arrived as well. Once everyone was sitting in the living room, Gianna exhaled and started speaking, knowing that she needed to word everything very carefully if she didn't want Barnes to be dead. 

"So, as we all know how James Barnes died. But the truth is that he didn't die. In 1943, when the 107th was captured, Armin Zola experimented on him. When Barnes fell of the train in Austrian Alps, the experimentation saved him from the fall with only loss of his left arm. But he was then found by Soviet Union and Hydra. They cut off his left arm and fitted him with a cybernetic arm. Then they brainwashed him and programmed him to become their assassin, the Winter Soldier. He was regularly put into a chair where he was electrocuted, to erase all the memories of his past life. They programmed him with key words that allowed them to make him do anything they wanted. When he wasn't needed for a mission, they put him on ice in a cryostasis chamber. He was thawed out when needed, and put back after a memory wipe after a mission." She looked up at the others to see their reaction. 

Pepper had tears running down her face, one of her hands across her lips, muffling her sobs and the clutching the corner of her seat, Rhodey looked like he was starting to connect the dots arriving on the conclusion from her previous hint, Bruce on the other hand was clenching his fists which were an alarming shade of green, and Happy looked ashen and pale. She herself wasn't coping well. Her hands were shaking. The whole Siberian scene, made her uneasy all the time. But she still had to go on. 

"Over the past seventy years, they had him assassinate a lot of people. A scientist in SHIELD has managed to replicate the supersoldier serum. He was going to deliver them to SHIELD on his way to somewhere else. He was traveling with his wife. The Winter Soldier was sent after him to retrieve the serum, kill the scientist and leave no witness. He followed them, shot their car's tier on a secluded spot, dragged out the driver out of the car, repeatedly punched him in the face with his metal arm. Then he set him back on his seat, making it look like his face smashed into the steering wheel. The wife was sitting in the car, calling out her husband's name. He choked her. The order was to kill them in a place that had surveillance camera. He then retrieved the serum, shot the surveillance camera and left." She finished with a trembling voice. 

"They said it was a car accident." Rhodey whispered to himself. 

Hearing him Pepper choked up, and ran out of the room, bile rising up her throat. Bruce got up and stormed towards the lift, looking like he was moments away from hulking out any moment. Happy was breathing hard, his face red with anger. He remembered the scrawny guy he saved from being kidnapped, how devastated he was from his parents death. 

"It wasn't. They were murdered. They lied to Tony. There were few people, who definitely knew the truth. Namely, Carter Senior, Stane, few SHIELD higher ups, including Fury maybe, because he was Carter's right hand man, the coroner and some others they paid to keep their mouth shut." Gianna whispered, while making a mental list of asking JARVIS to track down all these people. 

"How did the us in movies learned about it?" Rhodey asked with a dangerous undertone, connecting dots regarding Gianna's dislike for certain Avengers. 

"Rogers and Romanoff learned about it during SHIELDRA fiasco. After that, some events later, Barnes gets captured, and a psychiatrist is called in to assess his mental health. The psychiatrist is later discovered to be dead, and the guy who interrogated Barnes turns out to be a Sokovian whose entire family died in an Avengers fight, and he wanted them to pay. He wanted to destroy them from inside. So he lured them to Siberia, where only Rogers, Barnes and Tony made it. He showed them the tape of Winter Soldier killing Howard and Maria Stark. From Roger's lack of reaction Tony realized that he already knew. But when Tony asked him Rogers tried to lie to his face. So, Tony got angry and punched Rogers. From there their fight escalated, and it ended with Barnes trying to take out the reactor, which resulted in his arm being blown off, and Rogers slamming down his Shield in the reactor and disabling the suit. After that he left with Barnes. Tony told him that his father made that Shield and Steve didn't deserve it. So he f**king dropped the shield and walked off." Just remembering that scene left her burning with fury. 

"That bastard. I'm going to kill him." Rhodey roared up.

"No, you're not. What you need to do right now is to be by your friend's side, when he learns the truth. I don't claim to know Tony as you do, but even I can tell that he'll regret going after Barnes, because he was a weapon. To Hydra that's what Barnes has always been. A weapon to be controlled. They don't even treat him like a human being, his condition is worse than a dog." Her voice shook while describing his condition. She knew that she was doing the same thing, expecting Tony to help Barnes and forgive him in the future, when the truth was that he was perfectly entitled to never help Barnes if he wished to do so. The realization made her disappointed in herself. She silently stood up, and started walking towards the lift. 

She looked at Rhodey and whispered, "I'm going to my room. Please explain the rest to the others. Once you guys are ready, tell it to Tony. He blamed himself these many years. That he angered Howard to the point, where it resulted him into driving drunk, and killing himself and his mother. When the truth is far from it." Saying that she walked into the lift.  

Chapter Text

Pepper ran to the nearest washroom and emptied her lunch. Thinking about what she has learned, made bile rise in her throat. Oh my God! Tony. His parents didn't die in a car accident, they were killed. They were killed by a man Howard had considered to be a friend. The best friend of a man, he spent entire life searching, as far as going to neglect his own family. And they had died such cruel death. Even if she hated Howard for how he treated Tony, no one deserves to die like that. 

Pepper knows how much Tony blames himself and Howard for their death. Knowing they were murdered is going to crush him.  He will feel guilty about blaming Howard for all these years. And he loved his mother. It just showed in the way he talked about her, how much he loved her. 

Pepper knew that there was more, but she couldn't just listen it. She cleaned herself up, and tried to calm down. Tony was going to need her. He would need her, Rhodey, Happy and Bruce. He will get all the support and comfort they will provide. Gianna was right in telling them first beforehand. She needed to discuss it with the others. She got out of the washroom and headed to the living room. When she got there, only Rhodey and Happy were there.

"Where are Bruce and Gianna?" She asked them while taking a seat on the couch. 

"Dr. Banner is currently in the hulk room, and Miss Powell is on the guest floor. She and Mr. Ardent are in discussion regarding everything that's happened in the past few days." JARVIS replied. His voice was a little more mechanical than regular, usually similar to when he learnt something that he didn't liked?

"JARVIS, are you alright?" Pepper asked while looking at the nearest camera. People had a habit of looking at ceiling when talking to JARVIS, as if he resided in there. She did it too, until she started living with Tony, and saw him look at the camera while talking. After a while, she also started to look at the camera when addressing him. 

"I'm displeased. I feel anger at Captain Rogers, Miss Romanoff, and SHEILD. I also find myself angry towards Miss Carter and Mr. Stane. I wish that I could comfort Sir the way you will be able to. I've also started looking through the SHIELD database carefully, for the surveillance video, all the people present at the scene, coroner, and the people who ordered that hit and people within SHIELD who are aware of the truth." JARVIS replied in a no nonsense tone. He was on a mission, and whoever has harmed sir's family and caused heartache to sir will suffer. He also made sure to downgrade the Captain Rogers, Miss Romanoff and Director Fury on the priority list. He was also looking for any and every information they had on the Stark family. Miss Powell has pointed out that, when sir has turned a blind eye to everything related to the Stark name after his parent's death, SHIELD and Stane both had taken advantage of it, snatching most of the Stark senior's research and inventions for themselves. And it was already proven by their possession of the video tape Stark senior had left for sir. 

****

Hulk was angry. He had listened Sad Girl talk about Metal Arm hurting Tinman mama.Hulk want to smash Metal Arm for hurting Tinman mama. Hulk remembers his mama. Mama nice and warm and sweet. Mama safe. But then Angry man kill mama. Mama not wake up. Tinman like Hulk. Hulk protect Tinman. Tinman not alone. Hulk roared and smashed into the glass, but the glass being hulk-proof didn't break. 

Soon Hulk started turning back into Bruce. Bruce was exhausted, and passed out soon enough. But he remembered what he had heard before hulking out, and he promised himself that he would be there for Tony. 

*****

Tony oblivious to it all was busy working in his lab.

*****

 Ellen was sitting in living room of the guest floor. He knew that Gianna was talking to others about something. And he also knew that when she got here, they were going to talk about everything that happened in the past few days. He would tell her everything and hope that she forgives him. After that if she doesn't want to be with him, then he will accept it. Being around her would be enough. He was brought out of his thoughts by the ding of the elevator, he turned around to see her exiting the lift, wiping her tears off. He stood up and started walking towards her, to hug her and comfort her. But when he reached her, he realized that she might not welcome his touch. He withdrew his hands that had extended to draw her in a hug.

"What happened?" He asked her while following her to the couch. Once they both sat down on the opposite end of couch facing each other, she looked up at him and replied, "I told them about Tony's parents deaths. About how it wasn't an accident and that they were murdered." Her voice trembled. He remembered her going on a tirade after the movie, about how much Rogers lifting Thor's hammer was ridiculous, and counting the reasons behind it, and one of the reasons being him hiding Tony's parents murder. 

"Did you tell them about how Rogers and Romanoff knew about it, and Siberia?" She nodded her head in reply. He sighed and caught her hand and gave it a squeeze. She removed her hand from his grip, and that hurt. He had hoped that when she had hugged him today in the sanctum, that he still had a chance. 

"We need to talk." She said in a tone that made it clear that there was no way out. They were going to talk. Funny, how he was begging the God to give him a chance to explain everything to her and ask for her forgiveness. But now that he had that chance, he was scared. What if she doesn't forgive him? He couldn't bear her not forgiving him. But it wasn't about him. He had hurt her, and now it was time to owe up to his mistakes. 

"Okay." He exhaled. "Where do you want to start with?" He asked her. 

"Why did you do it? You don't love me. So, why did you pretend for 3 months to flirt with me, and try to hit on me? Why be in a relationship with me for a year and a half? Why give me this when you didn't even mean it?" She waved the ring he gave her on her birthday. The ring that he gave her with a promise of always loving her and never breaking her heart. He broke the last part of that promise. He broke her heart. 

He took a shakey breath, and replied, "I do love you. Maybe I didn't in the beginning, but in the six months dating you, I realized that I had fallen in love with you." She scoffed at that. He knew that making her believe his words wasn't going to be easy. But he was not going to give up. So, he continued to speak, "Emily used to get so jealous when Rick used to hang out with you. It was horrible to watch her crying over him. And she wasn't just my cousin, she was my best friend. So, when one of the guys suggested that if you were dating someone, then Rick won't hover around you, I thought why not. I just thought that maybe if I dated you for sometime, then he'll leave you alone, and concentrate on his relationship with her. But then, you happened. I didn't even realize when you managed to make a permanent residence in my heart." He laughed at the last part. He looked at her, and saw the tears running down her face. "Gradually I just forgot about it. Being with you, felt so right. Like I was missing something in life, and you were that missing something. I used to be so angry at everything, after mom passed away, I had this anger simmering below the surface, like it would burn everyone around if it ever got out. But you, you embraced it. And first time in my life I felt calm. I didn't feel like burning the world. You accepted me with my all anger issues, family problems. My brother hated me. But you brought us together. You know he blamed me for your death. But the little shit. Never said anything to me. Because you took a promise from him." He laughed at that. "I could talk to my father without screaming and fighting with him. And it was all because of you. You were my angel. That night when you came, I was going to take you out to dinner, and ask you to marry me." He looked up at her face. To know what she was thinking. She tried to say something, but then closed her mouth, and she wiped off her tears. 

"I.. When I found you that night bleeding out in your living room, I felt like my whole life ended. I didn't even moved from there until the police arrived. Your neighbor had come with me after seeing me run into your house like that. He had called the police. For the next few days, everything was a blur. And then I saw a bottle sitting there right in front of me. I couldn't resist it. I'm sorry. I promised you I'll not drink but I just couldn't. Everywhere I looked I could see you doing something, or hear your voice, sometimes saying something or just laughing. Everyone gave me this pitying look, and I just wanted to scream at them. In the end, I just gave up, and then I woke up here. I wished so badly to get a chance to ask you for forgiveness. So, please, please forgive me. I know that I broke your heart. That I betrayed you. And I beg you to forgive me. You can give me any punishment you want." He swallowed painfully. "And if you don't want to see me, or talk to me, I'll leave. Once we've trained, I'll go. And you'll never have to see me again." He promised her, even if it pained him to do so. 

"No. You're not leaving. You broke my heart, my trust." She was speaking with an edge. "You knew that you were the first guy I was in relationship with. I loved you. And how could you even think like that about me and Rick. He was like an older brother to me. We were both single child with both parents working. We felt lonely. We wanted to feel like having a sibling. To have someone that has your back in difficult times. If you had just asked me to back off, or told me about Emily's insecurities, I would have talked to her. Clarified everything, or just back off. Why go through all that? You had known me for three months before that, and you could have just talked to me. Do you have any idea how hard it is? Everytime I look at you, and all of their words from that night starts echoing in my head. It hurts. It bloody so much here." She said while hitting him in the chest. He tried to stop her, and then suddenly he was feeling so many emotions. Love, pain, hurt, anger, betrayal, longing. He was overwhelmed. He could hear her speaking but he couldn't make out the words. It was like someone was speaking in a distance. And suddenly it just stopped. He looked up at her, and he saw her eyes. Instead of her bluish green eyes, they were shining with different colors. Like a rainbow. 

"Your eyes?" He reached out touching her face. He felt a connection to her. Like he could feel her in an entire different way. "My eyes? Look at yours. They're shining like a rainbow." She caressed his face. "Yours are too." He whispered leaning forward. And then he connected his forehead with hers and closed his eyes. He tried to soke up the moment as much as he could. After a few moments, he opened his eyes, revealing his dark brown eyes, searching for the blue green ones. He saw that Gianna had her eyes closed as well. He pulled back, and that made her open her eyes, that were back to their natural color. 

"I think we figured out one of my powers." He whispered jokingly. She looked up at him in curiosity. "I might be an empath." He shrugged off. On surface, he was playing it cool but inside he was freaking out. The intensity of her feelings was overwhelming.

"I didn't know that I was hurting you this much." And that had her pulling away very fast. She tucked a piece of hair behind her ear, she was nervous. She started stuttering. But he cut her off, "I'm sorry. I just-" he pinched his nose. "I was scared. That if you ever found out, then you'll leave me. And I was too much of a coward to tell you the truth. And it's my fault. Whatever punishment you give me, I'll accept it."

"I think the past three weeks had been a punishment for you. But you need to understand that, even though it has been weeks for you, it's still just more than 24 hours for me. So, it will take time for me to process it, and then forgive you. I'm also not sure if I will be able to trust you with my heart again." Saying that was painful for her. But she needed to do it. She couldn't string him along with the hope of being together again, when she herself wasn't sure if it will ever happen. 

"I understand." And he did. She needed time to come terms with everything. "But promise me, if you need me, for anything. A shoulder to cry on, someone to just talk to, or listen to your rants. You will come to me." She nodded her head in acceptance, and then took off the ring he gave her and put it in his hand, turned around and left. He looked at the ring in his hand with regret. He took it, and strung it along the pendant she gave him, and wore that chain around his neck hidden behind his clothes and closer to his heart. 

Chapter Text

In the penthouse Pepper, Rhodey and Happy were discussing the strategy to break the news to Tony. 

Happy was pacing around the room, "We can't tell Tony right now."  

Rhodey agreed with him on that point, "Yeah. If we tell him now, the idiot will lock himself in the lab for the next week or so. And that'll be bad." 

Pepper was drinking some tea, "Let's just wait to tell him until tomorrow."

Rhodey didn't believe for a single second that Tony won't realize that something was wrong, and he said so, "I don't think, that'll work. I mean, we know Tony as well as he knows us. It won't take him long to figure out that we're hiding something." 

Pepper then frustratedly slammed her cup down on the table, "Then what do we do?" She couldn't think of anything. 

"How about telling me what's going on?" Tony asked while entering the lounge. His face was blank. They all looked at each other, and none of them had a clue what to say. 

Seeing that no one was going to do anything, Rhodey decided to speak up, "Do you remember when Gianna said something about telling you something sensitive?" Tony inclined his head acknowledging that he remembered. "And she also said that it would make you go down the rabbit hole." Tony again nodded his head at that. Rhodey continued speaking, "Well, she told us what it was. And I agree with her, that it would be better coming from us then her. Cause you'll need all the support you can get." He finished. 

Tony thought about it, and decided that it would be better to just get it done with. "Alright, then. Lay it out. I just want to get it done with. I have been thinking a lot about what it could be. So, just give it to me." He braced himself.

All the three of them looked at each other, they had a silent communication between them, and decided to just tell him. They waited for someone to speak, but when no one did, Rhodey decided to do it himself. He was actually there when his parents had died, "Tones. It's about your parents." Hearing this Tony froze. "What about them?" His tone was clipped, and face blank of any emotions.

"Their death. It, it wasn't an accident. Your father was transporting the supersoldier serum he had created, when Hydra sent their assassin to kill them and retrieve the serum." Rhodey looked at Tony's face. His mask has slipped off, and he could just see the boy who had learned his parents had died.

Disbelief, hurt, anger, betrayal, regret. These all emotions were running through his head. Disbelief. He couldn't believe that his parents were murdered. Hurt. He was hurting. Of course he was hurting. He loved his mother. And maybe he didn't like Howard much. But still, the man was his father. Anger. Anger at himself for not seeing through the lies that Stane and SHIELD had woven around his parents death. Anger at his father, for dragging his mother into it. Because if she wasn't with him that night, she would still be alive. Betrayal. Betrayal of Obadiah Stane, Peggy Carter, Nick Fury. Cause there was no way, that those three didn't know. Worse, two of them had lied to his face. Regret. Regret that their last memory of him was bitterness and anger. 

"How did the us in the movies know?" He asked. 

Rhodey sighed at that. He knew that his friend would never see Rogers the same way ever again. Worse, whatever plus points Rogers had managed to get, they were going down the drain. "Rogers and Romanoff learned about it during SHIELDRA infodump. Two years later, some villain who wanted to tear apart the Avengers, showed you the footage with both Rogers and the guy standing nearly two feet away from you. When Rogers didn't react like he was learning it for the first time, you realized that he had known, and hid it from you for two years. Everything else, just ask Gianna about it. I was kind of in angry haze by the time she told me that Rogers knew. So, I didn't hear much after that." That bastard. Rhodey still wanted to have a go at him in the suit.

Tony was shaking with anger. "JARVIS."

JARVIS replied in a determined tone, "I've already bumped down Director Fury, Mr. Rogers, and Agent Romanoff in the priority list. They no longer have unrestricted access to the tower. I'm also going through Shield data to find any information regarding your parents death. I'm trying to find a way to access Hydra database to collect all the information on Winter Soldier, his missions in the past seventy years, his current location, and everything I can find on him." 

Tony nodded his head and turned around heading towards the lift. "JARVIS take me to the lab." And then he looked back at his friends, "I need some time alone. I'll see you guys soon." Saying that he went in to the lift. 

The lift took him down to the lab. "JARVIS total black out mode. Make finding everything about Starks in SHIELD and Hydra files your top priority. And make sure you don't trigger any alarms." 

"I'll do, Sir. Also my condolences for your parents." JARVIS replied in a sympathetic tone. At any other time, he would have been very happy with his friend's progress, but right now he couldn't bring himself to be happy. He smiled sadly at the nearest camera, "Thanks, J. What would I do without you, Buddy? Also, ask Gianna to tell you about everything that she knows about this Winter Soldier. In the meantime, let's bolster up your firewalls. I don't want you to catch some virus, and get sick." He joked. 

JARVIS replied dryly, "Have faith in your programming Sir. Your updated firewalls hold just fine. Worry not. I'll be careful to not get ill." Tony chuckled at that.

"But still, if we're going to go around sneaking around Hydra and SHIELD, I want to make sure that you're safe. Moreover, it doesn't hurts to be extra careful." He scolded his youngest, yet most intelligent child. 

"My servers remember someone saying about running before walking." JARVIS replied in a mischievous tone. 

"Hush you." And then Tony engrossed himself into the work. Right now, he was okay. He was dreading the moment when it'll finally set in his mind. But until then, he was going to make of it as much as he could. 

And after a few hours, it finally did kick in, his parents were murdered. They didn't die in the car accident. They were murdered in cold blood. And the people he had trusted, had lied to him. He blamed his father for years, for getting his mother killed. He still blamed him for dragging her with him, but knowing that he was as helpless in this situation as her, made him guilty for blaming him. He let out a frustrated roar and threw everything on the table on the ground. And then, he just fell on his knees. His vision was getting blurry with tears. Sobs wrecking his body, he curled up into himself. He felt like he was seventeen again. Sobbing silently to himself in the corner of his dormroom. He heard a mechanical whir, indicating that it was one of the bots. He looked up at DumE. He was clutching a ratty blanket in his claw, which he draped over his body. He brought his claw near Tony's face and chirped a bit. "Nothing for you to worry about, buddy. Daddy has to deal with few things." He chirped again, and whirred closer to where Tony was curled up. Tony put his hands around the bot and closed his eyes. After this many years, it was still DumE that he was curled around, just like that night. Soon, exhaustion came over him, and he fell asleep in that position only. The last thing he heard before falling asleep was a chirp from DumE. 

Chapter Text

For the next three days, Tony kept himself locked up in his lab. He cried, he broke things, he tinkered, he slept for an hour or two, and drank ungodly amount of coffee. 

After three days, he got out of the lab. He wandered into the penthouse, but stopped in his track due to the heavenly scent coming from the kitchen. The bitter smell of coffee entwined with something else. But he couldn't figure out what. He entered the kitchen to see who it was. "What are you doing here at this time?" 

Gianna turned around with a spoonful of  in her hand. "Oh, you're out of the lab. I sorted out the whole job thing with Miss Potts. You're talking to your new personal chef and dietician." She replied with an awful amount of chirpiness that should be illegal at this ungodly hour of. "It's 7.30 am." She replied cheerfully.

"Wait, did I say that outloud?" He rubbed his eyes and yawned. "Yes you did." She replied in the same cheerful tone. Ugh. Wait, did she just...

"Did you just say you're my-" she cut him off. "New cook and Dietician. Yes." She emphasised on the dietician part. He decided to just roll with it for now. 

"And what about your boyfriend?" That got him a dirty look.

"First of all, he's not my boyfriend. At least not anymore." Then she just turned around, and started stirring something in the bowl. From the looks, it seemed like she was making pancake batter. "And Miss Potts told him that she could get him a part-time job for now, if he wanted to complete his MBA. And he agreed." 

"What about that bald lady friend of yours?" He inquired. "How are you going to manage that? Weren't you supposed to stay with her cult for your training?"

She spun around at that and branded a spoon at him in a threatening manner. "Her name is Ancient One. Don't pretend to be dumb or arrogant to not remember her name. Second thing, JARVIS managed to get in contact with Wong, through him, we were able to request her to come to the Stark tower. At first, she and Pepper were just sizing up each other. Pepper expressed her sceptism with them being a shady secret cult. But then Ancient One kind of explained it from her point of view, and pointed out that it was mainly because of one artifact they guarded that required for them to stay hidden. Then they talked a bit and came to some sort of understanding. I think Pepper and her will get along just fine. They looked quite chummy, while drinking tea. Yuck." She made a face at that. He could agree with her on that, he didn't like tea much himself.

Her voice brought him out of his thoughts, "Anyway. We kind of set up a schedule. Four days at the sanctum, and three days at SI. Ellen is taking online classes. So, he has to work around that. Pepper also  to help her with the maintenance and running of the sanctum. She wanted to provide some financial aid to the sanctum. Ancient One tried to decline, but Pepper said that she was going to do it, weather she liked it or not. Said that since SHIELD was going down the drain anyway, you won't be paying ridiculous amount for them anymore. And that the amount she was giving to the sanctums was not even 12 percent of the amount you spent after SHIELD and Avengers." She smirked at the 12 percent. 

I rolled my eyes and turned around to leave the room, "Wait, wait. One more thing, the Ancient One said that the Arc reactor generates energy in itself. That energy builds a protective ward around the building. It makes it difficult for Heimdall to see through the barrier. Oh, and we found one of Ellen's power. He's an empath." She was leaning on the counter by now.

He quirked an eyebrow at that, "And how did you guys find it out? I mean when the Wise One tried to check, it didn't show." She took out the spoon from the bowl, and set it on the plate. "I don't know. We were fighting, I was hysterical, he tried to help me calm down, then one moment he was holding my hands and the next, he fell on his knees in pain. His eyes were shining multicolored. Then I kind of felt this nudge in my head, and I just went with it. Turns out, my emotions can be read by him. When he touched me, he felt my emotions, but it got too much for him for the first try. It stopped when I made a barrier around his mind." She shrugged like it was no big deal. But he could see through her mask, "You didn't like him reading your emotions."

She nodded her head, "I didn't mind a few of them, I was glad that he felt them. Made him realize how much he hurt me. But he also felt the love I still held for him. And I don't want him to hold on to this hope that I'll forgive him, and we'll get back together. With time I'll forgive him, but-" and he realized what she was trying to say. "You can't go back to being in a relationship with him. Because you don't trust him like that anymore." She nodded her head. He sighed, "I can't give you any advise, what with Pepper being my first serious relationship." She laughed at that, "I'm not asking you for advise. I can deal with it when I get there, I just needed someone to talk to. Take it off my chest." She was smiling faintly. "Now, you go and take a shower, and I'll have your breakfast and coffee ready for you." She then turned around and went back to her work. His stomach rumbled, but not too loudly. So he decided that may be some food wasn a good idea. Decided, he turned around and went to his room. Pepper was fast asleep on the bed, and he just stood there for a few moments, admiring the view. And then he went to take a shower. It was going to be a long day.

******

After shower, when he got out of the bathroom, he saw Pepper awake, sitting on the bed. "Hey, Pep. Good morning." She threw a small smile in his direction, "Good morning. How're you holding up?" She asked him. He sighed, "I'm fine." She gave him a look, and got out of the bed and walked to him. She encircled her hands around his neck, "Tony, when you say you're fine, usually you're anything but fine. So, please. Tell me honestly how are you feeling?" He clasped her hands and brought them in front of his chest, "I'm angry, sad, betrayed, hurt. But I think I'm doing better than the last time. I'm not sitting in some dark corner drinking myself oblivious. So that's progress." 

"Sir, Miss Potts. Breakfast is ready. Everyone else are in the kitchen, and are waiting for you two." JARVIS announced in his glorious British manner. Tony huffed at that, "Tell them we'll be there in 5 minutes." He replied after looking at Pepper's sign of 5 minutes. By the time he got dressed in a fresh Black Sabbath t-shirt and jeans, Pepper was out of the bathroom. They then wandered into the kitchen. Tony made a beeline for the coffee machine. JARVIS, bless his soul had a cup brewed already. So, he just lifted it and gulped down the scalding liquid. Then he turned around and looked at the table. There were a lot of dishes laid out there, "So what are these all other dishes? I know there's some bacon and pancakes, but what about the other dishes?" 

Gianna clapped her hands in a gleeful manner, "Well the smoothie in the glass is for you. You didn't have much solid food for three days, so I made a peanut butter and banana smoothie for you. These are sweet potato and black bean breakfast burritos. Spinach and Cheddar Microwave Quiche. And lastly, some Quinoa fruit salad." 

Pepper scanned all the dishes with an impressed look, "When did you get up to cook this much food?" Ellen replied to that in a fond exasperated voice, "Knowing her, she would have woken up around 6.00 am and started cooking around 6.30." Gianna went tomato red at that. "That's not.." she started sputtering. And everyone at the table laughed at that. "You didn't need to sweetheart. The bacon, eggs and pancakes would have sufficed." Pepper told her in a gentle voice. Gianna shook her head in denial, "Breakfast is an important meal. You should have at least something healthy and nutritious for breakfast. And these dishes weren't that time consuming. By the time, Tony came upstairs, I was done with almost everything. The only things I made after that were pancakes and smoothie." 

Rhodey piped in while lifting his utensils, "Well, I don't know about you guys, but I'm starving. And everything looks very delicious." That got him a bright smile from their newly assigned cook. He took the bowl and put the fruit salad from it on his plate. He took a spoonful and let out a groan, "This is good." And then everyone dug into the breakfast. The food was good, and in measured proportion. Everyone was full after eating it, even Bruce. And that was a feat in itself, because Bruce was hungry most of the time. 

After breakfast everyone bid the others goodbye and went to their work. Pepper and Happy went downstairs to their respective workstations. Bruce went to his lab, and Tony and Rhodey stayed behind with the other two to learn more about the upcoming events and make plans to contain the situation or simply stop it from happening. 

Chapter Text

The four of them went into Tony's office in the penthouse, which was rarely used. Since Tony spent most of his time in the lab. Although, it looked like it was used in the past few days. Tony clapped his hands to get everyone's attention, "So JARVIS tells me, you three have been brainstorming for the past three days." He got three identical mischievous looks. "Well, we kind of have...." Rhodey trailed off. 

Rhodey motioned towards the hologram table where few graphs were displayed. "Look at this data. What do you see?" And Tony observed all the graphs on displayed. He observed them thoughtfully. "They show the popularity of both Iron Man and Captain America in different countries. What of it?" 

Gianna grinned at that. "Well, as you can see, in most of the countries, Iron Man is more popular than Captain America. In US despite it being their beloved Captain, you're still leading by a few percents. So, first and foremost we are going to boost your public image. And in doing so, if we manage to gain you some political clout, then that's even better for us." 

Tony looked at each of them carefully, "Okay. But why?" Gianna hummed at that. She pulled up another image, in this one there were few familiar and some unfamiliar faces. "To prevent this. As you can see, you, Rogers, Romanoff, Rhodey, Barton are there. The rest of them are some new faces that gets added to the Avengers roster. The black cat suit guy, is the crown prince of Wakanda, T'Challa. The one in the red and blue suit, which you made him, is Spiderman. The guy floating in the cape is Vision, that's an entire different movie. But since we'll get the mind stone beforehand, he won't be there. And that's a touchy subject. So, no questions about that. On the other side, the flying guy with wings, Sam Wilson. The falcon. The one with red light show, Scarlett Witch a.k.a Wanda Maximoff. There's one of them who's using Pym's Ant-Man suit. Scott Lang. And let's leave her on Van Dyne. She'll make him cry like a baby. And then there's him. The one with the metal arm." She stopped speaking, and all of them were looking at him.

"He's the one who killed them, isn't he?" Tony looked away. Gianna sighed and patted his back, "Yeah. The Winter Soldier. James Buchanan Barnes."

He choked at that. "What the f**k? He's who? I'm sorry. Are you telling me that Winter Soldier, the guy who killed my parents, is the same guy who fought by Rogers against Hydra. Who by the way died after falling off a train?" His voice sounded hysterical to himself. 

Gianna replied in a calm and even tone, "Yes, they're the same. When he was captured in 1943, Zola experimented on him. Then Rogers came and rescued him. When he fell off the train. He survived because of the experiment, but lost his left arm. Then he was found by Hydra and Soviet. They cut off his arm, and replaced it with that metal arm. Then they spent the next few years torturing, electrocuting and brainwashing him to become their pet assassin. They programmed him to comply to all of their commands once they spoke a series of Russian words in order. They would speak the words, send him on a mission, then when he completed the mission, he would be brought back for memory wipe, and put into cryostasis. During brainwashing and electrocuting the guy, they managed to wipe out memories of his life. Maybe he has some of them locked away deep within his brain. When he recognized Rogers during the fight in DC, it was more because he wasn't electrocuted for a while, and his serum was healing his brain, and maybe the second electrocution wasn't that successful. But Rogers saying that it was his friendship that broke the conditioning is laughable. He was just at the right place at the right time."

Tony looked very disturbed at that. It was all reminding him too much of Afghanistan. The capture, the body modification without consent. "So, he wasn't himself when he.. when he.." He couldn't even bring himself to say the words. "Yeah." Gianna replied softly.

"What's he doing there?" They all realised the attempt at topic change. "He was framed for a bomb-blast in Vienna. There was an arrest warrant. Rogers decided that Bucky was innocent, and the big bad world was trying to kill his best friend. And one of the casualties in the bombing were King T'Chaka. So , T'Challa went after him for revenge. But Barnes was in Romania at the time, so when the JCTC went to arrest him, Rogers had already found him. They injured and killed those JCTC officers. Then T'Challa arrived at the scene. So, there was a chase between Barnes, T'Challa and Rogers through the streets of Bucharest. And they collapsed a tunnel in the process. A tunnel full of traffic." She emphasised on the last sentence.

Tony realized the implication of her words. A tunnel full of ongoing traffic. "We're getting off track here again." Ellen muttered. Gianna sighed and continued, "You're right. So, after the tunnel collapsed, they were arrested by Warmachine. The psychiatrist that was sent to analyze Barnes's mental health, was actually a Sokovian military and ex-Hydra. He knew the trigger words, so he triggered Barnes, asked him of the mission report for December,1991. He confirmed target termination, and that the serum was aquired, and given to top five Hydra operatives. And then their location. Once that was done, Zemo left. But Barnes remembered what he was asked. And he remembered those soldiers a bit. He escaped, and wanted to get to Siberia before Zemo. So that he could stop Zemo and kill those other soldiers. That's laughable you know. The guy who can be triggered, wants to stop the other soldiers from being triggered because they're too dangerous. Dude, how much of the backstory of these people do you even know? What if some of them are similar to you? Captured, tortured and brainwashed to do their bidding. And when Rogers found him, he told Rogers about them. And he agreed. He f**king agreed."

Gianna was angrily pacing the room by now. And her anger was understandable in a way. Neither Rogers nor Barnes knew anything much about those soldiers else then them being Hydra's elite soldiers. They could have been in the same boat as Barnes. But they didn't seem to care about that. "So, what happened?"

"Rogers instead of calling you, gathered the six around him, and decided to steal a quinjet from the airport hanger, and fly to Siberia and deal with those soldiers. This is my personal opinion, that Rogers not telling you had a lot less to do with accords tying your hands, then the bunch of other reasons. One, him not wanting you to have any interaction with Barnes. Second, that if he managed to deal with those soldiers with his own selected people, and those who haven't signed the accords, then he would be able to prove them useless. That the accords weren't necessary, or that they didn't need supervision. Third, if he signed the accords, this one is for when he refused to sign before bombing, and that he realized Barnes was in Romania. That if he signed the accords, he won't be able to search for Barnes like before. You didn't ask him much about the missions he went on, but now someone was going to ask the questions. It would have come out that the money you were giving avengers to protect the world, he was using it to look for Barnes. And if the whole truth had come out, Pepper would have burried him in the lawsuits. And you would have taken away the money as well. I think adding Wanda to the roster was because of that as well. If he could get a willing Hydra agent to turn a new leaf, and redeem herself, then why not Barnes. He could argue the case with Barnes being brainwashed." The whole details were suddenly painting a very different picture of Rogers. One that didn't made him look very patriotic or a hero. A dread washed over Tony. "Gianna, what happened in Siberia?" 

Gianna cursed herself. She should have realized that Tony would connect dots in a minute, and figure out about Siberia. "You went to the Raft where everyone from Roger's side except him and Barnes were being kept. You begged Wilson to tell you where they were headed, and he agreed to tell you in exchange of a promise to go there alone." She threw a nasty look at his way at that.

"And you dumbass, actually went there alone. Did it occur to you that it could have been a trap? Tell me what you would have done if Zemo had actually planned to activate the soldiers then, just killing them. He could have activated Barnes as well. And Rogers would have never fought Barnes. Worse if you would have tried to attack Barnes he would have fought against you. And how exactly did you plan to defeat five Winter Soldiers, six if we include Barnes, against three or two or one. Since, if Barnes was triggered, it would be Rogers and you against six of them, and then Rogers may not even join the fight, and continue to fight against Barnes while trying to get his friend to overcome the trigger words. Then it would have been five on one. And once Zemo showed you the footage of your parents murder, you saw that there was no reaction on Roger's face. And you realized that he already knew. When you asked him if he knew, the guy lied to your face. Worse he tried to justify himself by saying that he didn't know if it was Barnes. I mean the gal of that man, if he didn't know that it was Barnes, he sure as f**k knew that it was a murder. So, then you punched Rogers, and attacked Barnes. You wanted him to hurt as much as you were hurting. But Rogers thought that you were trying to kill Bucky. So he joined the fight, and those two... No.  You don't need to add more nightmares to your list. Oh, and I would recommend to talk to someone about well, everything. I know you don't want to see a therapist, but please reconsider that. Your panic attacks get worse with time. And the previous one you talked to was a scheming of Stane. He may not have wanted you to heal, so that's why he may have done something to make yourself distrustful of them. And we can have them checked out by JARVIS to previous three generations for connection to SHIELD or Hydra. And it doesn't even have to be announced in the New York Times.  We could help you with that. If we get her to portal in and out of the tower, nobody will realize that you're seeing a therapist. We could even ask the Ancient One for that. I mean not everyone that comes to Kamar-Taj is just to learn magic. Some of them use the energy to heal themselves of something. Cancer, Paralysis, Injuries. Those people, some of them are even depressed. So ,she must have someone working as a counselor." She looked very determined to get him to see a therapist. Everytime he had tried to speak up, she had continued to speak over him. He was getting looks from everyone in the room at that. If they got involved- "Don't make me ask Pepper to talk to you." 

"Sir, of I may, I've been looking for some doctors, to talk to. I've run some background checks, and they've come back clean. With some NDAs signed, I believe it to be a benefitual endeavor. They also have quite a success rate, and are highly praised. Please Sir. Consider it." JARVIS spoke in a pleading tone. 

How could he say no to him? His oldest companion other than Rhodey. The person he trusts more than himself. "Alright, J. I'll do it for you." Everyone in the room cheered at that. "I thank you sir for your consideration. It means a lot to me." JARVIS replied with an emotional undertone. He smiled at the camera in the corner. 

Chapter Text

Gianna looked out the window of her new apartment. It has been seven months since she had appeared in Tony's lab. In these seven months, there had been a lot of changes in the tower and it's residents. 

She had talked to Pepper and Tony about events that had occurred after the Mandarin. About Jane's contact with Aether, Thor's return, Jane's trip to Asgard, Odin's disregard for humans, Dark Elves's attack on Asgard, Frigga's death, Loki's release from the prison, extraction of Aether from Jane's body, Loki's supposed death during the fight against Malekeith, Jane and Thor's return to Earth, their fight against Dark Elves, and in the end reveal of Loki's impersonation of Odin, and him banishing Odin to Earth with no memories to an old age home. That had Tony laughing so hard.

But it had resulted in Tony inviting Jane, Darcy and Selvig to the tower, and offer to sponsor their research. That had been a fun week. Tony and Darcy had hit it off immediately. So had Jane, Selvig, Bruce and Tony, once they got to talking science. Darcy had also became close with her and Ellen, what with them being of nearly same age. It had also been kind of painful to watch Ellen stutter around Jane.

Then about Fury's suspicion, his attempts to delay Project Insight, his murder by the Winter Soldier at Roger's apartment, Fury faking his death, Rogers being framed for treason, his escape from SHIELD HQ, Rogers and Romanoff investigating SHIELD's infiltration by HYDRA, Zola's algorithm, their escape to Wilson's home, Wilson joining the fight with Rogers, their interrogation of Sitwell, Winter Soldier's attack on them, Rogers learning that Bucky is Winter Soldier, Bucky remembering and being wiped after questioning about his previous life, Rogers, Romanoff and Wilson being caught by Hydra, Hill saving them, Fury revealing his survival, Fury and Natasha dumping all of SHIELD data online, and Rogers facing off Barnes on helicarrier, and then crashing all three helicarrier in Potomac River, Barnes saving Rogers from drowning and then leaving, Natasha's congressional hearing, her statement and disregard for all the agents and people that had suffered due to data-dump. About Tony running himself thin, rescuing all those agents, and giving them new lives.

Both of them had turned pale realising the implication of dumping all the files online. The number of agents, their families and monitored individuals that had died or had been tortured.

Then how Rogers, Romanoff and Barton had moved in after fall of SHIELD, and had started living off Tony's money, while demanding new weapons, political favors from him. Told them about Roger's search for Barnes after the whole incident with Tony's money and resources, while knowing the truth. The livid expression on Pepper's face was so worth it.

She had also told them about the Maximoff twins, Wanda messing with Tony's head, about Ultron, Jarvis's death, the fight and after-fight in the penthouse, Ultron's team up with twins, team's confrontation with Ultron at shipyard, Wanda messing with everyone's head except Tony and Barton, unleashing Hulk at Johannesburg, Hulk buster, Ultron escaping with Vibranium, the Avengers going to Clint's farm and meeting the Bartons, Tony and Steve's talk, Fury revealing himself to Tony, Tony confining in him about the vision Wanda showed him, Fury and team talking over dinner, Ultron kidnapping Helen Cho and her cradle to create the body, the twins learning Ultron's plan to destroy the entire planet, Wanda freeing Helen from her magic, then escaping with her brother, the team's confrontation with Ultron in Seoul, Natasha's kidnapping by Ultron, the twins convincing Rogers of Ultron's destructive nature coming from Tony, Tony convincing Bruce to transfer JARVIS's data matrix to cradle, the twins with Rogers arriving at tower, Rogers attacking Tony out of suit, Bruce threatening Wanda, Roger's insistence on twin's change of heart, Thor coming and providing the cradle power to complete Vision's birth/creation, Vision lifting Mjolnir, Nat sending them her current location, their flight to Sokovia, Ultron lifting up the city to higher altitude, Natasha throwing Bruce off a cliff to force a Hulk transformation, Avengers fighting Ultron and his army, Clint's speech to Wanda of becoming an Avenger, Fury's arrival with the helicarriers, transportation of people to helicarriers, Pietro's death, Wanda's outburst, Bruce leaving in a quinjet in his Hulk form, Tony putting his life in danger again to save the planet, and his not so shocking survival after that. Pepper had a fun hour screaming at him after learning that tidbit. And then came the inclusion of Wanda Maximoff in the Avengers roster by Rogers. That was the stroke that broke the camel's back. Tony was absolutely livid by that.

"I can tolerate a lot of things. But making me house the one responsible behind my kid's murder while disregarding his death, while hiding the truth of my parents from me, and insulting me, berating me constantly and yet making more demands despite forcing me to leave the team. Yeah, these are the things I'll not tolerate. If any of them do something like this, they are done for." 

Pepper had suggested to Tony about remodeling the personal floors of Avengers. How housing them and providing SHIELD with equipments and everything was not Tony's job.

Moreover, talking to therapist had done wonders to his mental health. He had realized how much SHIELD had taken advantage of him. Fury's first meet, the Palladium incident, SI's infiltration by Natasha, Coulson's threat to taser him, that shitty personality profile Natasha did on him, he could see it all in a new light. And all of it was making him loose any sort of Goodwill for them. So, in the end he had given go ahead to Pepper.

That had ended up in renovation of the top fifteen floors of the tower. The penthouse had remained untouched. But the three floors below it had been converted into Tony's personal lab. Below that was Gianna and Ellen's floor, including their bedrooms, a study room for Ellen, a library and perfect kitchen for Gianna, a meditation room, training area and two guest room. The next floor housed Thor, Jane, Darcy and Selvig's bedrooms and personal labs for Jane and Selvig, a small kitchenette and living room. Below that a floor housing Rogers, Romanoff and Barton. Then there was a training area made up of two floors, which had a landing pad on side. Below that Bruce's floor containing his room, kitchen, a guest room and his lab. Below that two floors for a hulk room, which were accessible from Bruce's floor. Then it was entertainment center. There was a movie theater, a game room and a dance studio. Then Tony's personal labs for SI stuff. Also, there had been a solid security update of JARVIS's firewalls. And weekly hard drive backup had become mandatory.

So, after alternating between Kamar-Taj and Stark tower for seven months, her and Ellen were back at tower for a month to deal with Mandarin issue, since it was December already. They had made a plan to deal with Killian.

****Seven months ago*****(The meeting between Ellen, Gianna, Rhodey and Tony)

"So, in previous timeline, you dealt with Killian and his extremis enhanced army with a lot of spare suits you had been building in your downtime. After which you had gotten the idea of Iron Legion. This is a picture of a Legionnaire we were able to salvage from video clips I have on my phone." JARVIS brought up the image of the Legionnaire. "From my scans of the video, I've been able to construct a crude 3D model of it." And a 3D image of the Legionnaire popped up. "We're planning to accelerate the timeline for it, and introduce the legion now. Our plan is to use the Iron Legion to gain you some points from public and politicians both."

Gianna looked at Tony to get his reaction. He looked like he was catching up on what they were suggesting. He was analyzing the model. "It'll take me a few days to design it, add in fabrication of parts, assembling and testing, and it'll take me two weeks minimum to make this baby perfect. Then, what else?" 

Rhodey pointed towards himself at the question. "I'm going to put a few words here and there about Legionnaire. And you're going to use two or three of them in clean up efforts. Once they get the look of it, it will get the ball rolling. Then SI can negotiate a contract with military. So, it will get you in good books with military. That reminds me, how about the bulletproof material you designed for Avenger's uniform. Supplying it to the military, FBI, CIA and other law enforcement will get you some backing from them." 

Tony nodded thoughtfully at that. They did have a point. It would get him backing of other agencies and get back some trust from the military. He could also design the Legionnaire for other purpose as well. He could already think of one or two ways. 

"Yeah. I can do that. I can also repurpose Legionnaire for other tasks." 

Gianna hummed at that, "That could work. You can set the delivery date for the New Year, that way you don't raise much suspicions about having that many Legionnaires. You were on Mark 43 at that time. So, you will need 39 to 40 Legionnaire."

Tony sat silently for minutes, toying with the hologram of Legionnaire. "Hm. I could try to get to those numbers. We could give eight of them to Rhodey, count five of them as testing units, six for infrastructure purpose, six for disaster relief and my personal missions. Rest of them, we have Mark 4 to 11. So, there goes other eight. Remaining ones I can pass off as testing suits for legionnaires project."

"Cool."

"Yeah."

"Good." 

*******

They had decided that Tony, Pepper, Gianna with Happy would be moving to the Malibu mansion for the Christmas.

The initial phase of their project has worked perfectly. They were able to collect some DNA samples from Killian's hidden lab two months ago. Since one of Gianna's abilities was teleportation it had been a piece of cake. So, it had been easy to get those samples once JARVIS had hacked into their system. Bruce had been working on a cure for extremis since then. He was close to figuring it out. 

"You guys ready to go?" Bruce's voice brought her out of her thoughts. Tony turned around to look at Bruce, "Yeah. We're good to go. I still wish we could have a normal Christmas." 

Gianna laughed at that, remembering the giant stuffed bunny, "Wait. You didn't get Pepper a giant stuffed bunny, right?" She asked him immediately, also remembering Pepper's reaction to it. 

"How did you.. She loved it, didn't she? Wait. Was it destroyed in the attack?" He sounded very distressed at that. 

Gianna shook her head vigorously, "No. Don't get her that. She didn't like it. And yes, it was destroyed. Look, if you want to give her something, give her something more subtle, something you had made, like she made you that reactor display. But don't make her a suit. It's too soon for that." She started biting her nails, and pacing around the room. 

"Everything alright, Gia? Why are you pacing around the room?" Pepper asked from the entrance. 

"Nothing." Three voices echoed at the same time. 

Pepper raised an eyebrow at that, "Alright." Then she turned towards Tony, "We need to leave now. Gianna, let's go." She said looking back at Gianna. 

All four of them, headed to the training area, where the jet was. Ellen and Happy were standing there waiting for them to arrive. 

Ellen came forward and hugged her tightly, whispering in her ear, "Be safe. Please." And she squeezed back, "You too." Then they parted and the four of them boarded the jet. She looked out the window, and waved at him. She hoped that everything went according to the plan. 

"Don't worry. Everything will be fine. All we need is a fresh active sample, which we'll get at the Chinese theater. Then Bruce will test the cure. Even if it fails, with the current success rate, we'll be able to subdue the virus for next ten to twelve hours." Tony tried to assure her. 

She tried to smile at him, "I know. But I'm still going to worry." 

Chapter Text

Ellen wandered into Bruce's lab. He was getting fidgety sitting in his room, doing nothing. "Hey, how's it going? Any improvement?" 

Bruce sighed from his place behind the hologram, "No. The cure I have managed to develop is still making the virus go dormant for 18 hours or so. I have managed to improvise the formula a bit more, and it may even work to completely remove the virus. But I need to test it first, and for that I need a fresh sample, one collected just within minutes. Tony told me before leaving that there's supposed to be a guy making an attempt at Chinese theater. They'll collect blood samples from him and Gianna will bring it to us immediately. But by then, I need to make it. I'm just going through final notes on both the stabilizers and virus developed by Maya. See if I can improve it a little more."

Ellen nodded at that. "Yeah. At least you can do something. I'm just sitting duck out here." He said frustratedly.

Bruce looked up at him, "You know that's not true right. You're going to tail Tony in Rose Hill. You'll be protecting him and that kid." 

"I know that. But what if I fail? What if something happens to them? What if something happens to her?" Ellen rambles on. He's pacing around and looks ready for a battle.

Bruce had gotten to know the guy in the past several months and he wasn't one to get agitated like this. No, something else was bothering him. "What's exactly bothering you, Ellen? I know for a fact that you're not the one to get all fidgety like that. That's Gianna. Overthinking everything, and going through all the what ifs." 

Ellen deflated at that and gave him a puppy dog eyes. "The boy that Tony will meet there, him and his sister are same age as my younger brother and sister. Even Harley's attitude and looks are similar to him. Both of them sarcastic, smart, loves their younger sister, and their blonde hair and blue eyes. I miss them already as it is, but seeing Harley, it'll kinda bring back all those memories." He then turned around and left the lab. 

*****

"Home Sweet Home. Gianna Powell, may I welcome you to my humble Californian abode." Tony announced imitating a fake British accent. Gianna giggled at that. 

"Sir, Miss Potts, Miss Powell. Welcome home." JARVIS announced while turning on the lights of the mansion. 

Pepper sat down on the couch and let out a relieved sigh, "Glad to be back, JARVIS." Tony plopped down right beside her, "J, order some dinner please."

Gianna sighed sitting on the chair opposite of them, "I'm your cook. It's my job to feed you guys." She groaned out at them.

"Gianna sweetheart, I know that you like to take your job very seriously. But you're as tired as we're. Please rest for now." Pepper told her in a calm voice without even opening her eyes. 

"Alright, then. Let's just call the others, and then freshen up and go to sleep." Gianna suggested. 

Tony grunted from his place, "Yeah, agreed. JARVIS patch the call to tower." 

"Calling Doctor Banner and Mr. Ardent." The TV on the wall was filled with the image of Bruce and Ellen in the common area on Bruce's floor. "Hey, guys." Bruce waved at them.

Tony waved back drowsily, "Hey, Brucie bear. How's it going? Not throwing wild parties when I'm away, I hope?" He babbled. 

Bruce chuckled at that and said playing along, "I don't know, Tony. It's pretty boring without you guys around. Who knows? We might as well throw one." 

Gianna interrupted them saying, "No wild parties without me. We just called to inform you that we have reached Malibu."

"Yeah, you guys must be tired. Just fresh up and go to sleep. And don't forget to eat something." Ellen piped in from the other end. 

Tony shot Bruce a mischievous look and looked towards Gianna and screen, getting his message Bruce grinned back at him. "Oh my Elly poo, how much I have missed you in the past few hours. I couldn't wait to get a glimpse of you. And I look forward to seeing you soon." And made kissing noises looking at Ellen, while elbowing Gianna. Gianna turned bright red at that. 

"I missed you too, my baby Gi. I've been moping around ever since you left. I also can't wait to see you." Bruce declared dramatically. Ellen started sputtering at that about not moping around. After that they continued to talk for a few minutes.

"Sir, the dinner has arrived." JARVIS announced and Tony went to collect the food, and Bruce and Ellen bid them good bye. Soon they finished the dinner and went to their rooms to go to sleep.

 In the morning, Pepper left for SI office. Happy and a drone developed by Tony will be there with her on the way. The drone had retroreflective panels, which made it invisible. Tony had also added enough darts for 20 extremis soldiers and a few sedative darts. Pepper was to meet Killian today in the afternoon, so that the drone could tail Killian after meeting. Backing up the story of Happy finding Killian suspicious. So, when the extremis soldier starts heating up to dangerous temperature, JARVIS can direct a suit at him, collect the DNA sample, and drop him off in the nearest large water source. Gianna would then teleport the viles from the suit to Bruce. Bruce will then test the cure against the sample. 

So, far everything has been going as planned. Pepper's meeting with Killian went without a hitch and Droney had successfully tagged the car. Now, Savin was headed towards the Chinese theater, similar to the previous timeline, meeting the person who ends up blowing up. 

"Tones, man you don't look so good. Have you been getting sleep at all?" Rhodey and him were sitting in a cafe at 5 minutes walking distance, and the suit was parked up on the terrace. He and Rhodey were supposed to pretend meeting for a casual chat. "Yes I have. No need to be a mama bear." He teased back. "Well, someone needs to. Or you'll burn down half of your hair and an eyebrow." Tony turned red at that, and they could hear the cackling from Gianna on the other end of comms. The comms they were wearing were very tiny and unnoticeable. 

"That was one time platypus. And it was semester's end with Obie and Howard breathing down my neck about a deadline." Hearing those two's name had Rhodey and Gianna shutting up. 

"Guys, I can see Savin. He's meeting with the same guy. Keep the suit ready." Gianna warned them, when she saw Savin approach the same man as the movie. Savin handed the guy a suitcase, and left. The guy took out some capsule from the suitcase and ingested it. Soon, he was turning orange. She got an idea, and she teleported some capsules from the suitcase to Bruce's work table. 

The noice of repulsors had her sighing in relief, the suit lifted up the guy, while dowsing him in fire extinguishing gas. That was something. People started cheering.

Soon, JARVIS announced in their comms, "Samples collected." And she immediately visualized the vials on Bruce's table. "Dr. Banner has received the vials and capsules. He is inquiring about the capsules." 

She turned around heading out of the area to a secluded place from where she could teleport herself to tower. She turned around in an alley, and then imagined the tower, Bruce's floor. "I'm coming there." And next moment she was on Bruce's floor. She heard a choking sound, and turned around. 

Before she could see who it was, she was engulfed in a hug. Familiar scent washed over her, and she relaxed and returned the hug. "I'm fine." She whispered. 

Ellen let go of her and looked her over. "Yeah, breathtaking like usual." He grinned at her, and she punched him in the shoulder. "Stop laying it thick." And both of them laughed. 

"Come on, you two. Glad to see you back, Gianna." Bruce said while entering the room. "Thanks. Savin gave the other guy these capsules. After ingesting it, the other guy started to burn up. Until then, he was pretty chill. I think the guy himself wasn't even aware what he was taking." She explained about the viles. 

"We'll look into that later. For now, I have released the cure in the fresh sample. Let's go." And they all hurried towards the observation panel. It was decided that the experiment would be done in Hulk room. So that, even if it ends up blowing up, no one gets hurt. 

They saw the sample turning mellow orange from it's bright and pulsing form, after thirty seconds or so, the sample had returned to it's natural red form. 

"Experiment successful. The cure takes effect within 28 seconds. Calculation suggests, it'll take 2 minutes 45 seconds to take effect on a human body." 

They all cheered at that. They immediately called Tony and Rhodey after that, "Hey guys. Did it work? Are we successful?"

"Yes. Yes it works. Time to carry out the second part of our plan. We'll start making it, and fitting the Legionnaires with it. Also, I'll send Ellen with two viles of the cure. Use it on Savin and Brandt." 

Chapter Text

It's been five hours since he got back from the Chinese theater. JARVIS had supersoniced the guy to the ocean, which had prevented a huge life loss and property damage. Rhodey bear had left after he got a call from his CO to debrief about the situation. He will be meeting them at the Edward Base tomorrow morning. Currently, he was in the lab, making some final adjustments to the suit he was taking with him to Rose Hill. News about the blast and Iron Man's appearance were being broadcasted on the TV.

There had been no words on the Mandarin front yet. From JARVIS's spying of AIM servers, they were all scrambling around. Killian had blown up a chair, quite literally, when he had learned about it. 

"Sir, there was another blast near Neptune's Net. Mr. Hogan was unfortunately present there, and has been gravely injured. He's currently undergoing a surgery at Los Angeles Mercy Hospital." By the time JARVIS finished speaking, Tony had let out an angry scream and thrown a wrench at the wall. 

He and Pepper immediately got into the car. But before they could leave the garage, Gianna materialized just in front of the gate. She got into the car without a word, and they drove straight to the hospital. 

By the time they got there, Happy was out of the surgery. He had some second degree burns, a dislocated shoulder ,a few broken bones and a concussion. 

Tony had him moved to a VIP room. Pepper and Gianna were sitting on the sofa in the room. Gianna was sobbing silently, blaming herself. But it wasn't her fault. It was his. He should have known, that Killian would have retaliated somehow, he shouldn't have let Happy leave. "Sir, the Mandarin had made a statement." Watching it had made his blood boil. He angrily stormed out the hospital. 

All the reporters standing outside the hospital crowded him, "Sir, what are your plans for the situation with the Mandarin?" 

"Are the Avengers going to deal with him?" 

"What happened outside the Chinese theater, Mr. Stark? Was it similar in the nature to the attack at restaurant?" 

"Just asking Mr. Stark, when is someone going to kill this guy?" 

That snapped him out of it, "Is that what you want? For me to kill this guy?  Here's my little holiday greeting to the Mandarin. I didn't know how to phrase it until now. My name is Tony Stark and I'm not afraid of you. You're a coward, so I've decided that you just died pal. So, I'm gonna come and get the body. There's no politics here, just good old revenge. There's no Pentagon, it's just you and me. And if there's an off chance you're a man, here's my home address. 10880, Malibu Point, 90265. I'll leave the door open. That's what you wanted right?" Saying he threw the reporter's phone at the wall. "Bill me." And he got into his car and left. He could hear the ringing of his phone, but he ignored it. He drove for a while, as soon as he got on a secluded road, Gianna materialized beside him.

"You know we are trying to prevent the things from happening the same way, right." She said angrily. 

"Yeah. And how did you manage to do that exactly? People still died. Happy still ended up in the hospital." He also hissed out. The moment he realized what he had said, he regretted it. "I didn't mean-" she cut him off. 

"No. You're right. I was supposed to prevent it from happening. And I failed, and for that I'm sorry." And started sobbing. 

"Look. Don't cry, please. I know you tried your best. And we didn't think about him retaliating like that. So, it's on us too." He frantically tried to calm her down. If Pepper was here, or God forbid, his mother was here, they would have ripped him a new one to make her cry. 

"But it still happened. And you threatened a terrorist on TV. And he's going to blow up your house with a missile. And it'll end up at the bottom of the ocean. Oh my God!!!! What on Earth were you thinking? I told you what he did last time. So, why did you threaten him? Do you know how worried Pepper was?" She shouted at him. 

He tried to shush her, "Stop screaming in my ears. I've a sensitive hearing."

"What you have is a death wish! A stupid, idiotic man with zero self-preservation. That's what you are!" She jabbed her finger in his shoulder. 

She stayed silent after that for a while. "I teleported some stealth mode drones and legionnaires in the hospital. All the legionnaires are hovering around the hospital, one drone is stationed at each entrance of the hospital, two drones are scanning each floor for extremis heat signatures, there are two drones stationed outside Happy's room and three inside it. All of them are armed with extremis cure and sedatives. Enough to take out 60 peoples." 

He nodded his head and turned towards her, "You can just go home, and wait for me." 

"Or I could teleport ourselves there with car. Stop the car somewhere out of view. And I'll just teleport it to the garage." He turned the car towards the alleyway ahead, and parked the car making sure no one was looking. He even had JARVIS double-check it. Once he got okay from JARVIS, they were in the garage a moment later. 

He got out of the car and started heading towards the lab, "Alright, then. I'm going to go to the lab, tinker with my suit. You go and get some sleep."

She nodded her head, "Yeah. I'll just cook something for you guys, and then go to sleep." He opened his mouth to tell her not to bother, but she cut him off before that, "Look, tinkering is a your way to deal with things, cooking is mine. So just let me do it." He nodded his head, turned around and left. 

An hour later, he found a bowl of bean stew on the table in front of him. He ate it quietly, and asked JARVIS if she slept. JARVIS replied, "Miss Powell had gone to the tower. I believe she was seeking Mr. Ardent's company. However before she left, she brought Miss Potts here." 

"Okay, then. Save the progress and keep the suit on standby. If it's going to be like Gianna said, then we need be prepared. And station some legionnaires and drones outside. We're on yellow alert."

"Do not worry sir. I'll make sure that the castle is not stormed." He shot an exasperated eye roll at the camera and left the lab. 

He entered the bedroom, and prayed to whatever God that was listening, hopefully not Loki though, that Pepper doesn't castrate him. "Pep, darling." He called out. She turned around and looked at him, and just sighed. "Let's just go to sleep. JARVIS told me that Gianna already screamed at you. So no need for me to do so. Just promise me that you will return safely to me, and please don't die." She pleaded. He hugged her tightly and kissed her forehead, "I promise. In the end, I will always come back to you. It's you, it's always been you." 

*****

The next morning they found the house surrounded by various news-vans, two of them had choppers perimeter the house as well.

And then there was a sound of doorbell. "Are you kidding me? We're still on doorbell system. I threatened a terrorist, God damnit. The house is supposed to be on total lockdown." He could see Maya Hensen on the door. 

JARVIS replied sarcastically, "There's so much I can do Sir, when you announce your address to the world. And it was Dr. Hensen. I scanned her car, there was nothing suspicious there. No bugs or tracking device either. She's clean." 

"Alright. Let her in. And inform Pepper to get down. Also, get me my suit." Soon, the suit arrived and engulfed him, before Maya even entered the door. He powered up the repulsor and stood pointing it at her, "You're not Mandarin. Are you?" And then he lifted up the faceplate, "Are you?" 

She just let out a small laugh, "You don't remember? Why am I not surprised?" 

"Don't take it personally. I don't even remember what I had for breakfast." He shrugged.

JARVIS sassed from the speakers of the suit, "Gluton free waffles, Sir." And he agreed remembering eating the waffles. 

Maya started fidgeting and look around, "Okay, look. I need to be alone with you. But someplace not here." And added as an afterthought, "It's kind of urgent." 

He pretended to think about what she said, "Normally, I'd go for that sort of thing. But now, I'm in a committed relationship." Then he had a bag thrown down just beside him. "With her, actually." And Pepper started to come downstairs calling his name.

"Tony, Is there someone down there? Who're you talking to?" Pepper said pretending along. He got out of the suit. 

"Maya Hensen. An old botanist pal. Who I used to know back in the days, barely." Maya oohed at his comment, realizing that he did remember her. Oh, if only she knew. They had been keeping a tab on her and Killian for the past six months. 

He joked to Maya about some 12 year old kid, and she deadpanned with saying that he was 13. He pretended to gasp at that. And then she said, she was joking. Of course she was joking. Being the heir to a million dollar company, he was very careful. 

"But what I need is your help right now." He got alert at that. The things were playing out word by word as Gianna said. "What for? Why now?" He was feeling like he was actually in a movie. A really bad movie. 

"Because I've read the papers. And frankly I don't believe you'll last a week." He waved her off. "I'll be fine."

Pepper decides to make her entrance just then, "Sorry, with Happy in the hospital. I didn't know we were expecting guests." And they were off talking over the other one. 

Pepper's sarcastic, "And old girlfriends." And Maya was like, "I'm really not.." And Tony shrugging off, "She's really not my girlfriend."

Maya continuing, "Yeah, we're just a.." 

Tony defended himself, "It was just a one night stand." Maya agreed.

And Pepper deadpanned, "That's how you did it back then, isn't it?" 

And then she continued speaking to Maya, "You know what, you just saved yourself a world of pain." Maya nodded agreeing with her. "Yeah, I'm sure. " 

Tony let out a bewildered, "What?"

And Pepper turned towards him, "We're going out of town. Trust me." And she lifted one of the bags and started heading out. "Nope. We've been already over this. The man says no." And Maya being predictable, "Yup. We should go." He started protesting and trying to stop them. But secretly ushering them towards the door, a missile hit the house. And it started crumbling down. Good thing was both Maya and Pepper were near the entrance. So, Maya managed to drag Pepper out. 

Soon, the suit was engulfing him, "Sir, there's a second missile in the chopper. But the structural integrity of the house is not suitable for flying condition through the door. The best course of action will be to fly through the window facing the ocean." 

"Alright then. Fire back and make a way." And there was a rain of bullets on the chopper. One hit the pilot, and he lost control. But the chopper fell on the mansion instead of ocean, due to which the remaining part he was standing on started to fall as well. He fell in the water. He started to climb up, when other debris started to fall on him. Some of them hit the suit, and damaged it. His leg was stuck between two debris, and the suit had started to fill up with water. He couldn't breathe, and then he was suddenly free of the debris and water, the suit soon took off. 

He started loosing consciousness after that.

*****

"Is he okay?" He could hear voices. 

"Yeah, he's fine. Just a bit concussed." A familiar voice replied back. 

"When will he wake up? I need to get back to Pepper as well. I don't want to leave her alone with Maya." Hearing it, all started coming back. Pepper, Maya, mansion, missile, debris, water. He gasped. 

"You're awake. Thank God." He realized who's voices he was hearing. 

"Gianna. What're you doing here? Where's Pepper?" He asked frantically. 

She pushed him back down on the sofa, "Pepper's fine. She's driving with Maya right now. I'm supposed to go back to her. But she wanted to make sure that you were alright." 

"You teleported me away from the debris. Didn't you?" He asked her relaxing. 

"Yeah, I just teleported you in the sky. For a moment I was worried. And then, JARVIS told me you were alive, and I just got you out." She finished in a single breath. 

"Where are we, anyway?" He asked looking around. Looked like a garage. Not very sophisticated, but doable.

"Harley Keener's garage. It was the only place I was familiar with in Rose Hill, that was safe to go to." She replied.

"Impressive." He said lowly. 

"Yeah, well. Wait until you meet him. He's a lot more impressive. From what I checked, no one is home right now." Ellen added. 

"Miss Potts and Miss Hensen have arrived at the hotel. I would suggest you to hurry up Miss Powell." JARVIS announced from the suit. 

She soon teleported away. And then there was him and Ellen alone with JARVIS for company. 

Chapter Text

Pepper was being dragged out of the falling mansion by Maya. She was trying very hard to get out of Maya's grip, but no success there. Then there was sudden static in her ear piece, "Miss Potts. Please try to calm down. Sir is safe. Miss Powell arrived just in time and removed him from the water, he's currently enroute to Rose Hill, Tennessee. Sir has a mild concussion and some minor cuts. He's unconscious right now, but I'll have him contact you as soon as he gets back on his feet." That calmed her down. 

A hand landed on her shoulder, she jumped and turned around. It was Maya. "I think we should get out of here. It's not safe. Can you think of someplace we can lay low." 

Pepper looked up at her. Dear God, this woman. She couldn't even tell if she was faking the concern. "Yeah. Uh. I can book us a hotel room, under false names. Let's go." 

They were driving to a hotel near airport. There was a Stark jet coming in two hours to pick them up. "So what were you going to tell Tony? What was so important that you had to seek him out after these many years?" Pepper asked her. 

"I think my boss is working for the Mandarin." She said. Oh honey! If only you knew. 

"Your boss? Who's your boss?" Pepper asked faking as much shock as she could.

Maya replied hesitantly, "Aldrich Killian. The guy who owns AIM."

"Killian? I thought you were a botanist." Pepper commented. 

"That's what Tony says. In reality, I run a team of fifty scientists for a think tank. When I met Tony in Bern, I was working on this formula called the Extremis. But it wasn't stable back then. Killian was also there that night. But Tony blew him off or something. I don't know much about that. But after few months, Killian offered me funding for my research and a team of scientists. That night, Tony had told me that he could stabilize the formula. So I was here to ask for his help. Both to stabilize the formula, and to put an end to Killian's schemes." 

They had arrived at the hotel. She checked her phone to make sure that JARVIS had made the reservations, and he had. 

"Let's go in." She said while getting out of the car. Soon, they were entering the reception. They took their room keys. 

She took out her phone when it buzzed. She took it out, and there were messages from JARVIS. 

J- Sir has regained consciousness. Miss Powell and Mr. Ardent are with him. They're in Mr. Keener's garage right now. Unfortunately, the suit is damaged and powered down at the moment. 

J- Miss Powell is on her way to your hotel room. Sir had also left a message for you. 

And then she heard Tony's voice, "Hey Pep. I'm sorry. Sorry for putting you in the danger like that. I shouldn't have acted so selfishly. Should have thought about others as well. I got you almost killed, and for that I am sorry. And once again sorry, because I won't be able to make it back for Christmas. I need to stop this guy." Tears started running down her cheeks.

And there was a knock on the door. Thinking it was Gianna she opened the door. But it wasn't her. 

"Hello, Virginia. Nice to see you again." Killian entered the room. She took a couple of steps back. He walked forward and turned towards Maya, "Fancy seeing you here, Maya. What were you doing at Stark's mansion today? Rekindling old flame." His eyes were shining orange. 

Maya stood up from her place on the bed, "It's not what you think. I swear. I was just hoping he could help with the formula." She stammered out. She was scared of him. 'Where was Gianna?' Pepper thought. Killian had started to walk towards Maya, "Maya, Maya. Babe. Why do you have to be like that?" His hands were glowing. Shit. 

"Leave her alone, you ba***rd." But he turned around, and grabbed her by the neck and slam her into the wall. He was choking her. Pepper tried to slap his arm and scratch it to free herself. She was starting to loose consciousness. She closed her eyes, and then the next moment she felt herself falling down. But a pair of arms caught her. 

"Pepper, you alright. Sorry, it took me this long to get. But the lift was filled with a lot of people. So, it took me time to get here." Gianna huffed out. 

"Why are you panting?" She asked Gianna. 

"JARVIS alerted me. And I was still 10 floors away and there were 7 stops in between. So I took stairs. Now, let's get in the car." They were hurrying to her car and got in. Gianna turned around to face Maya and Pepper started to drive.  

"Now, you listen to me, b***ch. If you have any tracking device, or anything on you, then get rid of it. And don't try to play with me. I'll teleport you in to a volcano. Remember that." Maya just nodded her head a little dazed. 

"Tracker now." Gianna spoke in a threatening tone. It was weird to see the rambling and bubbly girl who loves to cook, threaten someone like that. Maya though, took out her phone and threw it out the window.

They were on highway when a car came out of nowhere and smashed into theirs. Pepper lost control, and then Gianna could feel herself losing consciousness. Last thing she remembered was blood oozing out of her head, Pepper's bloodied form, and a glowing orange body coming their way. And then everything faded. 

******

Tony was looking around the garage, if he could find some decent tools to repair his suit. He made a noice of approval seeing some of the tools. Whoever this Keener guy was, he was good. Even had potential. He'll have to see about hiring the guy.

"What's wrong?" Ellen asked from his place on the other side of garage. 

"This Keener guy is good. I'm going to hire him once we get back. Man seems to have some potential." 

Ellen gave him an amused look at that, "Pretty sure, you won't be able to for a while." 

"Why? If he's got some problem, I will have it taken care of." He suggested. If it was some kind of debt, or contract, he will have JARVIS look into it. It was the least he could do. Suddenly there was a bang, and he turned around, "Freeze." 

A 10 years old kid was standing there. "Don't move." He raised his hands in a sign of surrender. "You got us. Nice potato gun by the way. Barrel's a little too long, between that and the wide gauge, it'll diminish your FPS." He pointed out. And kid shot the table lamp right beside him. It turned away.  Okay taunting the kid whose house you broke into. Bad move. But he never could keep his mouth shut after all. 

"And now, you're out of ammo." Kid pointed the gun towards his chest. 

"What's that?" He asked. And it was a question born from curiosity and not any malice. So he answered the kid honestly. 

"It's an electro-magnet. You should know. You've got a box full of it here." He pointed towards the jar full of them.

The kid came closer, lowering his gun, "What does it power?"

He just stood up and directed the light from the table lamp towards the suit. There was awe on the kid's face. "Oh my God! Is that.. is that Iron Man?" He asked hesitantly approaching the suit. 

"Technically I am." He replied. The kid just slapped a newspaper in his hand, "Technically you're dead." He opened the newspaper and there it was. Seriously, people need to have more faith in him than that. "Isn't first time."

The kid had latched himself to the suit, and was poking it. He took the helmet and twisted it around, "What happened to him?" 

"Life. I built him. I take care of him. I'll fix him." The kid turned to face him at that. "Like a mechanic." He said hesitantly. Tony couldn't help but smile at that, "Yeah. Like a mechanic." "Cool." And then he was back to poking around. 

"If I was building Iron Man and War Machine" Tony couldn't help but pipe in at that, "Actually it's Iron Patriot now." The kid's face lit up at the name, "That's way cooler." Okay, now Tony needs to rethink on his opinion of the kid, "No, it's not."

He continued to speak, "Anyway, I'll add the retro.." he stopped not being able to speak the whole word. "Retroreflective panels." He added. The kid nodded, and continued, "To make a stealth mode." He looked up at him hopefully. 

"Kinda did it with the new drones I'm working on. Haven't started on the suit yet. But good idea, kid." He replied. And then he fiddled with the fingers and broke one. "Oops." He turned towards him apologetically.

He started to scold the kid, "What're you doing? Leave him alone. He's in pain. He's been injured." He looked down at that. "Sorry." He said sulkily. 

"Are you?" Tony asked when he saw the spark in his eyes. "Don't worry. I'll fix him. By the way, who's home?" He asked the kid.

He put down the broken finger, and started fidgeting, "Well, Mom already left for dinner. Dad went to the six-eleven. I guess he won, because that was six years ago." The kid looked away at that. The tone in which he said, reminded him kind of his childhood. So, he told the kid what he had taken to tell himself back then. "And that's alright. Dads leave. No need to be a p***y about it." And that's when Ellen decided to announce his presence, "Tony. A little bit tact." He gave Tony a look.

The kid jumped at him, "Who're you?" He asked pointing his potato gun at Ellen. "I just heard him tell you that you don't have ammo." He pointed towards Tony. Harley turned to look at him, "Is he your friend?" Tony nodded affirmatively. "Yeah, Ellen meet-" he stopped. He didn't even know the kid's name, "What's your name kid?" The kid gave him a look. "Harley Keener." He deadpanned. 

"Yeah, Harley Keener. Harley meet Ellen Ardent. A friend of mine." Harley looked at him, then Ellen and then back to him, "Is he like some superhero too?" "No." "Nope." Two different replies came, first from Ellen and second from himself. And Harley nodded his head. 

Before he could say something else, there was a sound of something falling, and a squeak. Ellen shouted, "Who's there?" And a mop of blonde curls looked out from behind the door, very similar to Harley's. "Harley?" She squeaked out. 

Both of the adults turned to look at Harley, "That's my sister. Rebecca. Becca look. It's Iron Man." And he ran to her sister and brought her inside the garage, hiding her behind himself. The younger kid didn't look more older than 6, so probably born around the time their father left. So, the kid had probably taken the role of the protector of the house. 

"Hii." She waved from her position behind Harley. The kid seemed a little bit shy. Both him and Ellen waved at her. She ducked her head and hid again behind Harley. 

"So, here's what I need. A laptop, a digital watch, a cellphone, a big spring, a map of town and a big tuna fish sandwich." Ellen groaned, "Even I dealt better with my siblings then this." Tony decided to pay no attention to him. 

Harley looked at him, "What's in it for me?" Smart kid. Knows how to bargain. But he was the King of bargaining. "Salvation. What's his name?" He asked.

"Who?" The kid asked. Tony sniffed and said, "The kid who bullies you at school. What's his name?" 

"How do you know that?" He asked. He entirely ignored the pulling of his jacket and the murmuring of, "You get bullied. I'm telling mama. Who's it?" 

"I've got just the thing for you." He walked to the suit. And took out a mini missile from the side compartment. "This is a pinata for a cricket. Kidding. This is a military grade explosive. Point it away from your face, and press the button on top. It'll discourage the bullying. Non-lethal. Just to cover one's ass."

"Bad word." Rebecca whispered. Ellen let out a pained sigh. "Tony, you don't give a 12 years old a bomb." 

"It's non-lethal." He defended himself. 

Chapter Text

"We took down the house, but there was no sign of a body." Savin said from the other end of the phone. He twirled around the paperweight on his desk. "I see." "No Stark." 

"I have to go now." He said standing up and walking towards the studio. "The Master is about to record and... You know how he gets. Keep your appointment tonight and tell me how it goes." He entered the studio. Everything looked good. "Okay, everybody. No talking and no eye contact. Unless you want to get shot in the face."

A car pulled up outside the mansion. And a figure in hood got out. He entered the mansion and one of the guards spoke in his radio, "The Master is on his way." And soon the hooded figure entered the studio. Two women walked after him and hurriedly removed the hood. It was the Mandarin. "Well, what are we waiting for?" 

********

Tony and Ellen had decided that Tony will go out in the town with Tony and Ellen will stay behind with Rebecca.

"Do you want me to bring you something to eat?" Tony asked Ellen. But he waved it off, "I'm good." Okay. His loss. He shrugged and left with Harley. 

*******

"So, the sandwich was fair, the spring's a little bit rusty, and the rest of the materials, I'll make do." He told Harley while crossing the road. "By the way, when you said your sister had a watch.." "Yeah" "..I was kinda hoping for a little more adult than that." And Harley let out a laugh at that. "She's six. Anyway it's a limited edition. When can we talk about New York?" 

Tony felt unease at the mention of New York. "Probably never. Relax about it." He remembered Gianna's words. Half of the universe gone. Harley bounced up beside him. "What about the Avengers? Can we talk about them?" He remembered the closing warmhole. The report. The fantom pain of Natasha stabbing him in the neck. Bruce's comment about them being a ticking time bomb. "I dunno. Later. Kid. Give me a little space." 

And then they came across Chad Davis's memorial or house. He'd read about it. Did a little research. "What's the official story here? What happened?" Harley came up and stood behind him. "I guess this guy named Chad Davis used to live roundabouts. He won a bunch of medals in the army." And then they took a seat, down on some rubble. "And one day, folks say- he went crazy, and built a bomb- you know. Then he blew himself up right here." 

Tony stood up and examined the walls of the house. The way Chad Davis must have burned up, screaming in pain and agony. "Six people died right?" "Yeah." "Including Chad Davis." He asked. "Yeah, yeah." He came back and stood beside the kid. "Yeah, that doesn't make sense. Six people died, and only five shadows." He looked at the kid. 

"Well, the people say that shadows are like marks of the people going to heaven. Except the bomb guy. He went to hell, on account of he didn't get a shadow. That's why there's only five." He pointed towards the shadows. 

Tony studied the kid for a moment, "And do you buy that?" And the kid just shrugged, "That's what everyone says." Seems like he doesn't believe that. Then he got a glint in his eyes, "Do you know what this crater reminds me of? That giant warmhole, in New York. Does it remind you?" Dear God. Does this kid needs to hit all of his weak points!

"That's, that's manipulative. I don't wanna talk about it." But the kid didn't seem to get the hint. "Are they coming back?" Flashes of the mothership. Chitauri screeching echoing in his mind. 'They come back. And they sort of win the first round.' He gasps, "Maybe. Can you stop? Remember that I told you that I have an anxiety issue." He rasped out. 

"Does this subject make you edgy?" No wonder, people wanted to punch him back as a kid. If the kid is even like half anything like him, then he can't imagine people not wanting to punch him. He took deep breaths, "Yeah, a little bit. Can I just catch my breath for a second?" He let out a groan. "Are there bad guys in Rose Hill?" Shut up, kid. For all that's holy. "Do you need a plastic bag to breathe into? Do you need medication?" 

"Yes." He replied. 

"Do you have it?" Harley asked again.

"Probably."

"Do you have PTSD?" Jesus Christ. This kid.

"Yes." He glared at the kid, hoping he gets the message.

"Are you going completely mental?" No such luck. "I can stop. Do you want me to stop?" He started to take deep breaths. Don't hit the kid. That's bad.

"Remember when I told you to stop doing that? I swear that you're gonna freak me out." He snapped at him. Shit. Shit. Shit. 

"Ah, Man, you did it, didn't you? You happy now?" The kid looked baffled. He stood up and started to walk away. The kid stood up and ran after him, "What did I say? Hey. Wait. Wait. Wait up." Tony and Harley both were panting by now. "What the hell was that?" Tony just scooped up some snow and burried his face in it. He then threw the snow at kid. 

"Your fault. You spazzed me out." He huffed out. "Okay, back to business. Where were we?" The kid was trying to not smile. Better than asking stupid questions. Jesus. He needed to visit his therapist. Few questions from the kid and he was all spazzed out.

"The guy who died. Relatives? Mom? Mrs. Davis, where's she?" He asked. 

The kid rubbed his nose. Adorable. Focus!!! 

"Where she always is." The kid took him to the bar. Figures. Lone Wolf. Dead family. No one else. Where else they'd be if not at the bar! "See now you're being helpful." 

******

 Ellen and Rebecca sat there staring at each other. The scrunching look from the shortcake was making him uncomfortable. It didn't help that she looked awfully a lot like Kathy.

"So, what do you want to do until your brother gets back?" He asked her. She dragged him to the ratty couch there, and pushed him down. Not that it made him loose his balance or something, it totally didn't. So, he adjusted himself, and she was climbing up in his lap. He held her properly and adjusted her position. She had her head resting on his chest. And she was hugging him. 

"You want to take a nap?" He asked her. She shook her head in denial. "So, what do you want to do?" He asked again. "Story." She replied, her voice muffled in his chest. 

"I don't know a story. That was my girlfriend's department. But I do sing a nice lullaby. Do you want to hear it?" She nodded her head. 

"Alright then." And he started to hum the lullaby that his mother used to sing him. He sung it for a while. He then looked down to check if she had slept. 

She was looking up at him with her big blue eyes. She reached out to his face, and wiped away some tears. He hadn't even realized when he started to cry. 

"Why are you crying?" She asked him softly. He replied, "I miss my family. My mama used to sing it to me, and after she passed away, and I got a new mama and two younger siblings. When they were kids I used to sing it to them as well."

She patted his cheek. "It's okay to miss them. I miss Daddy too. I'm not supposed to. Harley says Daddy was a bad man." She replied honestly. He let out a sob.

Kathy, Liam. He misses them so much. "I was a year younger than your brother, when my mama passed away. Then my Dad got a new wife. And then Liam was born, I was so happy. I had a little brother. And I used to love Liam's mum too. Six years passed away in me fussing over him, and spoiling him. Then Liam's mum  had another baby. A girl. Kathy. She was so pretty. So beautiful. She looks just like you. And I loved her too. But then I had a fight with Dad and Mum. I moved out of the house. And then we started to hang out less and less. Until Gi came. She got me talking to my brother, sister and mum and dad. Everything was good again." He stopped at the noise of snores coming from the little bundle in his arms. He sighed and kissed her forehead. And murmured to himself, "And I miss them so much."

*******

Tony walked towards the bar. He could hear the Christmas music playing in the background. He met a woman on the way who dropped off her glove. He bantered with her a little, and went into the bar. He felt something off about the lady, but he brushed it off. Right now, he needed to find Mrs. Davis, get the files from her and leave. Killian's goons could arrive anytime, and he needed to leave before that. Found her. 

He walked to her table with a glass, "Mind if I join you?" He could be polite when he needed to be. She just raised her glass at him, "Free country." He took a seat across her. "So, where'd you like me to start?" She asked him. F**k. He knew that tone. When you'd resigned yourself into believing that the only reason people were interested in you was because they wanted something. And in this case, the tragedy of his kid's life. He remembers it. Reporters and business associates, all asking him about the accident, but no one consoling him. And if there ever were any, most of them being fake. 

"Mrs. Davis, first of all, I'm very sorry about your loss. Loosing a kid like that can be hard. I don't have a kid, but I lost my parents a long time ago, and I just...want to say, I'm sorry." He sighed. She looked down at her glass. "Thank you." He didn't want to reopen the wounds but, "Mrs. Davis, I hate to ask this, but what do you think happened to your son?" 

She stared at him for a few moments, "You're not the person who called me, are you?" Before he could reply, a hand suddenly slammed into the table. "Actually, I'm." The lady from the outside said. One moment he was sitting, and the next he was being slammed against the table top. He saw her hand start to heat up. But before she could make a move, three darts were sticking in her neck. And slowly she let go, her entire body started to glow faint orange and then fade away. She soon fell down on her knees. 

A drone soon materialized in front of him, "Apologies for the delay sir. As soon as the cranes managed to remove the debris from the cellar doors, I sent two drones, one suit and four legionnaires enroute to you. It took them a while to arrive from Malibu to Rose Hill. Facial recognition showed one of the Extremis Soldier in the car parked outside. I've also given him the cure." JARVIS announced in his prim and proper voice, and boy was he happy to hear it. 

"Good to see you too, buddy." And if his voice had a light tremble to it, no one had to know. 

The sheriff decided to ask questions at that moment, "You Mister. What the hell is going on?" He asked pointing a gun at him.

He removed his hat, "Well that's a long story. But for now, this lovely lady here and his companion in the car are working with a terrorist organization. I'm sure you've heard of the Mandarin. Well they're his people." People around him gasped at that, and took a few steps back. Then he turned back towards Mrs. Davis. 

"Mrs. Davis, your son didn't kill himself. Someone used him as a weapon. He went to them in hope of a cure for his disability, but they turned him into a bomb. And I promise to you, that I'm gonna get your son the justice that he deserves." Saying that he walked out the door, where a suit was waiting for him. "Oh, and sheriff, don't receive their phone call. But don't switch it off either. I'm leaving a drone and two legionnaires here." Then he got into the suit and took off. 

"JARVIS, what's the status on the other end?"

JARVIS replied in an apologetic and worried tone, "Sir, I'm unable to contact either Miss Potts or Miss Powell. Moreover, their car was found on the Californian highway, and reviewing the security footage, I concluded that they have been kidnapped by Mr. Killian. And since Miss Powell passed out, she couldn't teleport them either." 

"Son of a b***ch."

Chapter Text

Gianna opened her eyes slowly. She was feeling groggy. Everything looked blurry at the moment and she had a very bad headache. She squeezed her eyes shut and tried to concentrate on the voices around her. She could hear someone groaning in pain. She felt like she knew that voice, but couldn't pinpoint it. A few minutes passed. Everything was quiet except for the groans. She opened her eyes again and looked around. 

She could make out a figure glowing orange strapped to the operation table. Extremis. She realized. Someone was being injected with extremis. She looked at the face of the person. Oh my God. It was Pepper. "Pepp..Pep" she tried to croak out. But her throat felt dry. But she did manage to get Pepper's attention. Pepper tried to say something, but it seemed she was having trouble speaking as well. Not a surprise, since she must have been screaming for a while. 

Gianna tried to get up. But she fell down again, and felt dizzy. Seems like the ba***rds had drugged her. She felt for her comm unit, but couldn't find it. Damnit. They had taken it out as well. She tried to picture a new comm unit, but it didn't appear. But she kept trying. After ten minutes, she finally managed to get it back in her ear. "JARVIS, you there." She whispered.

"Miss Powell. It is good to hear from you." He replied with a relieved undertone. "I'm tracking your current location, now that I have a means to pinpoint your location. I'll direct some legionnaires and drones your way. Sir wishes to talk to Miss Potts and you." She sent a distressed look Pepper's way. "Sorry, JARVIS. She is kinda out of commission right now. But patch me through. Once they know that I'm awake and talking to you, they'll snatch this one as well." But by the time she was halfway done, JARVIS had already patched her to Tony. "Out of commission. What do you mean?" Tony's frantic voice came from the other end. "Extremis. But you can deal with it later, right now get here." Before she could continue she heard a bang and hurried footsteps. She closed her eyes and concentrated hard.

They had discovered that her and Ellen's bodies burned through drugs and alcohol a little faster than average human, but not as fast as Rogers or Bruce. So, by now she could teleport one of them to long distance and the other to a shorter one. Decided which she was going to send where, she braced herself, "JARVIS, tell Bruce to get the Hulk room ready. I'm sending Pepper his way." And then she closed her eyes and thought of the Hulk room. She could feel the power flowing through her veins and when she opened them again, Pepper was gone with only the blue sparks of her powers left behind.

The door burst open and Killian barreled in. When he saw no sign of Pepper in the room, he strode in her direction with his body starting to glow orange. He lifted her by the neck and slammed her in the wall, "Where is she?" He bellowed at her. She tried to remove his hand from her throat but didn't succeed. "F...fa...r aw...ay...f...fr...from...y...ou." She rasped out. And then she teleported away from there to the entrance of the estate. Once she had managed to get out there, her legs gave out and she collapsed.

"JARVIS, I'm still at the same place right?" She asked him. "You're outside of the estate you were held captive in. I would also like to inform you that Miss Potts has arrived in the Hulk room, and Doctor Banner is currently working on analyzing her condition. It seems the virus Miss Potts is injected with is a modified version." "F**k." She rasped out. She was still out of breath. "JARVIS, can you get in their security system? Alert me if anyone is coming here?" She said while looking around for any CCTV camera. She didn't find any around her.

"I've already done that. I've caused a distraction by sending a couple of suits to the North entrance. It will buy you enough time. Do not worry. Sir's ETA is 4 minutes." Thank God. She sighed in relief. Then a thought occurred to her, "JARVIS. They may try to erase the data or move it to another server. Download all of it, and start sending experiment videos and reports, patient list, information on involved parties and any relevant information except the virus formulas and similar files to FBI, CIA, NSA and white house maybe. The vise president was involved last time, so search for his involvement and any other government officials, and mark them as priority. And make sure to secure the Mandarin guy from the building, he's an actor who was paid by Killian to act as Mandarin. His name is Trevor Slattory." 

The sound of repulsors made her look up. A suit soon landed in front of her. The face plate opened up and she came face to face with Tony's shit eating grin. "Where's Ellen?" She asked him.

He winced at that, "I did think that I was forgetting something." She couldn't believe what she was hearing, "You left him in Tennessee. What the hell?" Saying that she teleported to Harley's garage. 

The scene in front of her has her smiling. Harley, Ellen and a little girl who must be Harley's sister, were somehow sleeping on that ratty couch. She almost felt bad about waking them up. She slowly moved behind the couch, and ran her hand through Ellen's hair. He jerked a bit, but not enough to wake up the other two. He turned to look at her, "Hey." She smiled at his sleepy voice. "Hey." And then he suddenly stopped smiling, "What happened to you? You're bleeding from your head." He tried to stand up. And in the process woke up the duo. "What.." Harley rasped out. His sister just stared at Gianna and Ellen.

"Who is she?" Harley asked Ellen. "How did she get in? Why is she bleeding?" He rapid fired the questions. 

"You're his girlfriend." Harley's sister said like it was a fact.

"Not right now." "No." Ellen and her replied respectively.

"Did you guys fight like mommy and daddy too?" She asked them curiously. Her and Ellen sputtered at that.

"No. And to answer your brother's question, she's Gianna. A friend of mine and Tony. She can teleport, and that's how she got in. And why are you bleeding?" Ellen directed the last part at her. She sighed, "Me and Pepper were escaping the hotel Pepper was going to stay at. And one of Killian's goon dorve into our car. So, then I passed out, woke up to Pepper glowing orange on a stretcher. Teleported her to tower, and myself outside the estate. Tony arrived in the suit. Can't believe he just forgot to pick you up."

"Are you okay, now? Your head. How is it now?" Ellen started to fuss over her. She batted away his hands. "I'm okay. We need to get going." She told him. "You're not going anywhere. Except for tower. You need medical attention." He scolded her.

She scowled back at him, "I can't. He needs our help." She argued. He gave her a nod at that. "Alright kiddos. I need to go and help Tony right now. I'll see you two soon." Saying that he held Gianna's hand. She smiled at the two kids and then closed her eyes. 

When she opened her eyes, they were standing in front of Tony. They saw all the drones, legionnaires and suits JARVIS had brought. The War Machine armor landed right beside them. Before she could she say anything, she felt her vision going dark.

******

Ellen removed his hands from Gianna's head. He looked up at the other two. "I don't think she's in condition to fight right now." Both of them nodded at him. "JARVIS, call Adria." JARVIS patched up the call to Gianna's red head friend from Kamar-Taj.

"Hey, Adria." He said nervously.

"Hello, Romeo. What's up?" She asked him cheerfully. 

"I needed a favor. Can you help?" He asked her. He knew that she was going to agree anyway. But it was a polite thing to ask.

"Sure. What is it?" She asked sensing his distress. 

"I'm sending you a picture. Can you open a portal here?" He asked her. She said yes. And he sighed in relief. 

"JARVIS send her a picture of this location." Soon he could see the orange sparks of a portal opening. When she saw the bloodied form of Gianna, she hurried towards him. "What happened to her?" 

"She's injured. She got in a car crash, and then was kidnapped. I'll tell you about it later. Can you get us to..." Before he completed his sentence she was opening a portal to Kamar-Taj. That could work too. He entered the premises, and two of the students rushed to him. They got her settled in the medical wing. "I'll be back soon. I need to go." He rasped out and was walking out the door. Adria followed him out and opened up a portal for him, "Don't worry about her. I'll make sure she's okay." She squeezed his shoulder. He nodded and walked through the portal.

"So gentlemen. Shall we?" He asked with a hard edge to his voice. 

Chapter Text

Tony and Rhodey made an entrance in the Iron Man and War Machine armor. Meanwhile, Ellen got a lift from one of the legionnaires inside the estate. "JARVIS, where to now?" 

"The main building is at your four o'clock. They're escorting Mr. Slattory through the backdoor.  There's a tree near the entrance, which gives you a good cover." He heads to the building and finds the tree. "They'll be here in 45 seconds and he's being escorted by two guards only." JARVIS's voice rings out from his comm unit. He hides behind the tree and waits for them. Soon, the two guards come out with Trevor.

Ellen lets the energy gather at the tips of his fingers and blasts the two guys. They get thrown into the wall on impact and Trevor faceplants onto the ground. A legionnaire soon comes down, lifts him up and fly away.

"I'll have him deposited to the nearest police station. And inform them about the situation. In the meantime, many of the legionnaires and suits are down, the situation might get overwhelming for Sir and Colonel Rhodes. If you would please head down to the South-East direction." 

Ellen starts running in the mentioned direction. When he reaches there and sees the fight going around, he realizes that JARVIS is right. Their side is overwhelmed right now. He jumps in and shoots two of the guys with his strongest energy blasts. Both of them blows up violently. That gets him attention from the other soldiers. Three of them starts running towards him, but before they reach him, a suit flies down and pulls him away from there. He drops him off on the top of the building. He sees Tony and Rhodey flying around hitting people at distance with cure, and the ones who manage to get too close with repulsor blasts and bullets. The legionnaires and empty suits have been reduced to just three in numbers, being torn apart by Extremis Soldiers. They were viciously tearing apart the suits.

Rhodey, Tony and the rest of the three suits/legionnaires lands beside him. "God. I would kill for some backup right now." Rhodey says seeing all of the Extremis Soldiers gathering around the building. Tony looks around as well, "Yeah, we need backup." Ellen agreed as well, "Yeah. A bunch." 

Tony looks ahead and states, "You know what?" And points towards the sky, where they see a figure headed their way. Rhodey stares dumbfounded at it, "Is that.." Tony nods his head,

"Yup." Tony smirks.

Soon, the single figure turns into three and then into a lot. Ellen turned gleefully towards Tony, "Are those.."

"Yeah." He says while grinning madly at him. And all the suits starts to line up in the air. "Merry Christmas, guys." He pats both of their shoulders. 

"JARVIS, Target the Extremis heat signatures. Disable with extreme prejudice." Tony orders. 

"Yes, Sir." The voice echoes out of all the suits. 

"What are you waiting for?" He asks stepping forward, and then spreads his hands wide open, "It's Christmas. Take em to church." And then flys up to fight with the soldiers. 

All the suits are flying around, fighting the extremis soldiers. Everything was blowing up and there was fight everywhere. Ellen soon joined in, blasting many of them, if they got too close to either himself, Rhodey or Tony. 

In all of this, he didn't notice the person sneaking up on him, until it was too late. The guy grabbed his shirt and yanked him back, resulting in him falling hard onto the floor. He got up quickly and looked at the person who had attacked him. It was Killian. He remembered the burn marks on Gianna's throat. He had asked JARVIS about it, and he had told Ellen how Killian had lifted her up by neck and slammed her in the wall. 

"You choked my girlfriend." He gritted out. Killian tilted his head, and looked at him, "You mean that blonde girl. Cute little thing. But was too much of a pain in the ass. I'd planned to just give her to one of the guys to deal with. You know sort of a plaything." He smirked at him. 

Ellen's temper was through the roof, he let out a roar and threw his strongest energy blast at him. Killian dodged it, and laughed at him. "Pathetic. What even does she sees in you? After I'm done with you idiots. I'm going to find her and Virginia. She would look wonderful all bruised and bloodied, lying in my bed. Don't you think?" Killian goaded him some more.

Ellen's eyes were shining brightly with the colors of the Stones, "Shut up." And pieces of the Iron Man armor and debris came from different directions and pierced through Killian's body. The impact had him fall of the roof. Ellen's eyes then turned back to their normal color. "What? What happened?" He looked around. 

"It seems you have the ability known as  psychokinesis." JARVIS replied.

Tony's voice rang out in his comm, "You okay, Romeo?" He sighed, "Yeah. I'm fine. He was just spouting some bullshit about Gia. So, I just snapped." He explained. 

"I understand. Even I have to blast him into the face for hurting Pepper." Tony spitted out.

"Sir, it seems the good doctor and her benefactor are trying to escape discreetly. How would you like me to proceed?" JARVIS announced in all of their comm units. 

"Send me their location. I'm heading there now. You two can handle here for a while, right?" He asked them. 

"We've got it."  "Blast him in the face on my behalf once." Came the two replies from Rhodes and Ellen respectively. He saluted them and was off to their location.

*******

Tony blasted the two security guards escorting Maya to the car. Surprisingly, both of them were human. Interesting. He landed right in front of her. And lifted up his faceplate. She looked at him and stepped back hugging herself.

"It wasn't my idea." She said nonchalantly. 

"Okay, so you took Killian's card." He told her shaking his head. 

"I took his money." She argued. 

"And here you are. 13 years later, running away. Hiding in the shadows." He pointed out.

"I'm so close. Extremis is practically stabilized now." She stepped closer. 

"No, it's not. People are blowing up Maya. They're painting the walls. Don't kid yourself. Look around you." He told her in a frustrated tone. 

"Then help me fix it." She replied in a desperate voice. And then she showed him the card of Bern conference from 2000. With the 'You know who I am' scribbled on the one side, and some equation scribbled on the other. He studied the card, and then looked up at her.

"Did I do that? Is that what you have been chasing after?" He asked her in shock. "You don't remember." She said hysterically. 

"I remember the night. The morning not so much. I can't help you. You used to have moral psychology. You used to have ideals. You wanted to help people. Now look at you." She looked at him in disbelief. 

"I still get to wake up every morning with someone who still has their soul. Turn yourself in. Do the right thing." She shook her head and started to walk away. 

Killian's voice rung out next second, "You know what my old man used to say, one of my favorite things of the many he said. 'The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.'" He spoke while putting one of the suitcase in the car. 

"You're not still pissed off about the Switzerland, are you?" Tony jibed at him. 

"How can I be pissed at you, Tony? I'm here to thank you." He said patronizingly. 

"You've gave me the greatest gift, anyone has ever given me. Desperation. You know that night, for the first twenty minutes I thought you were going to show up. And the next hour, I spent thinking about taking that one steo shortcut to the lobby. If you know what I mean?" He monologued. 

"Honestly, I'm still trying to figure out, what happened to the first mouse." But the guy ignored his comment and continued his monologue, "But you know when I looked out at the city, I realized that nobody knew that I was there, nobody could see me, no one was even looking. I had a thought at the time, that would guide me for years to come. Anonymity, Tony. Right?" He turned to look at Maya. Who bitterly smirked right back at him. "Simply rule from behind the scenes. Because the second you give evil a face, a Bin Laden, a Gaddafi, a Mandarin. You hand people a target." 

"You're something else." Tony muttered. 

"He's a bit over the top sometimes. He has a tenden.. He's a stage actor. They said his-" The second suit dragged him away and plummeted him into the ground. 

"Your monologue was boring me off." Tony said landing beside him. Killian grunted and then breathed out fire, that had Tony dodging away. Killian stood up and destroyed the other suit standing in front of him. 

"Tony, Tony!!" And he started to run towards Tony. He jumped at him, and they started to fight. He tore off the gauntlets from the suit, and as soon as he was going to punch through the chest plate, Tony had JARVIS deploy him from suit. So Tony slipped out of the suit just by a moment. He had another suit come in and wrap around him immediately. He tried to fly up, but Killian latched onto the suit. So, they both stumbled up on the roof. 

"So, here we are. 13 years later, on a roof." Saying this he teared off the suit in half. But he was already exiting the suit. So, all he got was some minor burns. He heard the sound of repulsors made their way to him. 

"Mark 42 inbound, Sir." JARVIS's voice rang out. "I'll be damned." Tony muttered. He had landed in the balcony below the roof when he had exited the previous one. The suit came and he crouched down in a position for the suit to start engulfing him. But instead of the suit wrapping him up, it crashed into the status beside him. "Whatever." He rolled his eyes. 

Killian tilted his head, "You really didn't deserve her, Tony. It was a pity. I was really close to having her perfect." And jumped down in front of him. Tony bolted up and backed up, "Wait. Wait. Wait. Slow down. Slow down." And Killian stopped marching towards him. 

"You're right. I don't deserve her. But here's where you are wrong. She was already perfect." Saying he thrust his hands forward and guided the suit to wrap up Killian.

"JARVIS, do me a favor and blow up Mark 42." And he jumped down the balcony and a suit approached to break his fall. He heard Killian's scream before he jumped off, that was later muffled by the helmet. 

The other suit wasn't able to break his fall, and due to the impact from the explosion, it was ripped in pieces by falling debris and fell apart when he hit the ground. He laid there for a while, trying to shield himself from the debris. The only piece of the suit he had left was his entire left arm. 

An Iron Man helmet tumbled down and slid off in front of him. The thing was surrounded by flames. And it was giving the whole horror movie effect. All it was left for it, was to crack open and display a scull. He stared at it for several seconds, and the faceplate popped up and fell down. No scull. He let out a sigh of relief. 

But then he heard sound of someone moving away the debris. So, he looked up in the direction where the sound was coming from. A figure stood up and walked out of the fire. It was Killian. How was he still alive? The guy was a damn cockroach. He started to slide backwards to get away from the ba***rd. 

"No more false faces." Killian gritted out. The guy's entire face was destroyed, and his entire body was pulsing like a volcano. "You wanted the Mandarin. You're looking right at him. It was me from the beginning, Tony. I'm the Mandarin." He bellowed out. 

From nowhere a pipe smashed into Killian, that had him flying away and smash into a wall. And the. Pepper Potts stood in front of him holding the said pipe, glowing like a fire ball. She was breathing hard. Tony just looked at her with a slacked jaw. "I got nothing." He told her. 

A suit was soon swooping down, repulsors fully charged. Both himself and Pepper looked at it. Killian had also recoverd and stood up. "JARVIS, subject at my 12 o'clock is not a target, disengage!" But he soon realized that his comm had fallen off when he had crash landed. He found it two feet away from Pepper, but before he could even move, the suit fired a repulsor blast at Pepper. She obviously dodged it, but the suit took a turn and was heading towards her again. She glared at him and grunted angrily, "What? Oh, what, you mad at me?" She started to run towards him, gave herself a boost from his knee and jumped in the air, punching through the chest plate and bringing the suit down. She took out her hand, then thrusted it back in the suit, wearing the hand part, and teared it off. Then she slammed her arm into Killian who had charged at them. "Whow!" He gasped out. He heard two set of gasps from the sidelines as well. Then Pepper kicked up the missile laying at her feet towards Killian, and spun around, aimed the repulsor at Killian and hit the missile. It blasted, along with a purple blast at him. The guy was atoms now. 

"Honey?" He cautiously called out to Pepper. She spun around and looked at him with fear, disbelief, hope in her eyes. Her body has started to loose the color of the Extremis and was returning to its normal shade. 

Pepper was breathing out heavily, "Oh my God! That was really violent." She gasped out. "You scared the devil out of me." He told her. She let out a small laugh, "Why, because I was kidnapped and injected with experimental serum. This is a payback for all the times you scare me." She joked. She ruffled her hair, "Who's the hot mess now? Huh?" She asked him. "Still debatable. Why don't you dress like this at home. The whole sport bra thing." He joked back. He stood up and tried to hug her, "No. No. Don't touch me. I'll burn you." She tried to protest. "Pep. Pep. It's okay. You're not burning me. Not hot. It's alright." He told her while clutching her hand. They hugged and she asked hysterically, "Am I gonna be okay?" Tony kissed her cheek, "You're in a relationship with me. Everything is never gonna be okay." He replied jokingly. "I had this figured out thirteen years ago when I was drunk. I think I can do it. And we've got Bruce to help too." 

The War Machine armor landed right beside them, "Pepper you okay?" Rhodey asked worriedly. "Beside me being a piping hot mess right now. Everything is just dandy." She sarcastically replied. And then let out a chuckle that was borderline hysterical. 

"I think I should take her back to the tower. Get some rest." Gianna volunteered. Pepper nodded her head, and walked towards her. She turned around and looked at him in the eyes, "Get home soon." Then they teleported away.

Tony looked around once they left and let out a groan. "Clean up, and paperwork. So much paperwork. And the whole legal stuff. JARVIS, contact the legal department. And where are our lovely three letter friends?" He asked. 

"They are still going through the data. Although, they had requested to let them know once the situation is dealt with. As soon as all the extremis soldiers were taken care of, I had immediately notified them. They will be here in 15 minutes. In the meantime, how do you want me to proceed with the ones shot with the cure?" 

He looked at Rhodey, and Rhodey let out a sigh. "JARVIS, gather them up, and restrain them. What about the doctor?" He panicked. 

"She's being guarded by two suits. Shall I bring her with the others?" JARVIS asked hesitantly. 

Tony shook his head and replied, "Nope. The others might try to attack her or something. We can't take any chances." 

"Sir, Miss Powell has inquired if you all would like to be brought to the tower once you have dealt with the situation here." JARVIS broadcasted in all of their comms. He looked around at the others.

"I don't mind." Ellen shrugged. 

"Just for a couple of minutes. To just check in with Pepper and her. I will need to be here for a while to handle everything." Rhodey muttered. He looked around at everything and let out a tired sigh, "Man. I'll be stuck at work for weeks." 

"Yeah. New Year product launch, and deadline for legionnaires. I'll be busy too. And I may also need to testify, no I'll be definitely asked to testify. And there's a Maria Stark Foundation Ball. I'll have to check the final arrangements, since Pepper will need some rest." He said sulkily.

"You guys are boring." Ellen piped in from his place on the stool. 

"Where did you even find this?" Tony asked him exasperatedly. 

"It was lying there." Ellen whined out.

"By the way, why did you have these many suits?" Rhodey asked Tony sitting down on one of the bigger piece of debris. 

"I got a lot of ideas, and I just kept building them." He shrugged. 

"Lame." Ellen called out from his place. 

"Why you little ungrateful.." he started to rant out. 

"Yeah. Yeah. We get it. Can we not talk for a while? I'm sleepy. Couches aren't exactly the most comfortable places to sleep in." He groaned out, while stretching his body.

Chapter Text

The place was soon brimming with agents from all the intelligence agencies. Tony and Rhodey were dealing with them, answering all the questions and explaining everything as best as they could. They had decided earlier that hiding Ellen's involvement for the time being would be better. So, they had Gianna teleport him back to the tower.

After eight hours of questioning and debriefing, they were allowed to leave the scene. Tony and Rhodey had traveled to the private air strip of SI, in case they were being followed. After the plane had taken off, they had contacted Gianna, who had then teleported them to the tower. 

The first thing Tony had done after he arrived at the tower was to go and see Pepper. She was inside the Hulk room, with an IV injecting her with the cool blue liquid of the cure. 

"Why does she need a bagful?" He had asked Bruce who had started to fuss over him, as soon as he had reached the observation room. Rhodey had also come with him. 

"She was injected with a modified version. It constantly fights with the cure. And this is her second bag actually. We may need to inject her with more though." He had replied, looking worriedly behind the glass. "Although there are chances that the cure will just destroy the virus, and won't do anything to the DNA that has already mutated." Tony looked behind the glass at Pepper sadly.

"He was right, you know? That I don't deserve her." He mumbled in a hoarse voice and looked away. 

"Maybe you do, maybe you don't." Gianna replied from the doorway sauntering inside. Bruce and Rhodey gave her a disapproving look, "Oh, don't give me that look. Nothing you guys and I say is going to change his mind on that. The guy has a tendency of blaming himself for every situation. Loving you was her choice. She knew what she was getting into, when she agreed to date you. That woman loves you. Don't give up on her in a moment of self doubt. Please." She squatted down in front of him and squeezed his hand. He nodded while playing with the bandage on his hands. 

"Did you get your head checked?" He asked her quietly knocking on her temple. She let out a huff, "Yes, you mama bear. I'm okay now. Just a little tired. Nothing some rest can't take care of. What about you? How many bones did you break?" She nudged him playfully. "I stopped counting after I broke Timmy Bennett's nose in MIT." He sniffed.

Bruce who was standing beside them, looking over Pepper's vitals replied, "Sprained left ankle, cracked ribs, fractured a finger and some cuts and burns. And you were supposed to be resting. Where's Ellen? He was supposed to keep an eye on you." He told her disapprovingly. 

She let out an exasperated sigh, "All I had to do was pretend to be asleep. He didn't last long. Fell asleep in the chair. I just teleported him to bed, and made sure he was comfy. Then I sneaked out here. Simple." She replied with a toothy grin. All of them just smirked at her. She wondered why were they smirking? 

And the answer for that came from behind her, "Yes, quite simple. Let's see if you can get out this time." Saying that Ellen was lifting her bridal style. And she was too shocked to even protest. "See you guys in the morning." He said while exiting the room. "Ellen put me down. Or I swear to God-" they heard Gianna bellow at him until they entered the lift. 

All three of them laughed at the couple's entics. "You guys should go and get some rest. I'll stay here with Pepper." Tony told the other two. Bruce declined saying, "No. What you're going to do is sleep for at least three hours." Tony tried to protest, but Bruce didn't listen to him. "Just a few hours. I'll wake you up in three hours. I promise." He reluctantly agreed. "Promise you'll wake me up in three hours?" He asked Bruce once again. 

Bruce let out an exasperated sigh, "Yes, I promise. If you want, you can sleep in the guest room on my floor. That way you will be closer." And he had taken him up on that offer and gone to sleep in the guestroom. Rhodey had also gone to sleep, squeezing out a promise of waking him up as well.

*****

The sound of JARVIS's voice woke her up. She looked at the digital clock on her bedside table, and realized it was still 3 am. "JARVIS, what's wrong?" She groaned out and pulled up the comforter over her head. 

"Mr. Ardent is having a nightmare. I tried to wake him up, but he didn't respond." Gianna removed the comforter after what he said. "Alright. I'll go and check on him." She stood up and went to his room. JARVIS silently opened the door, and let her in. Ellen was writhing on the bed, tangled in sheets and covered in sweat. He was mumbling something.

She sighed and climbed into his bed. "Hey. Shh. It's okay. It's okay. I'm here." She spoke softly, while running her hand through his hair. He let out a groan and twisted around burrowing his head in her lap, and clutching her waist. She froze for a moment, and then relaxed a little. She sat there, combing through his hair, and fell asleep after a while. 

******

Pepper came to the sound of someone entering the room. She turned her head to see Bruce walking towards her with a blood bag filled with blue translucent liquid. Her throat felt dry when she tried to speak up. Luckily Bruce saw that she was up. "Hey, Pepper. How are you feeling now?" He asked her in a low volume. She opened her mouth to speak, but when no voice came out, she pursed her lips. Bruce gave her some ice chips, which soothed her dry throat a little. "I'm okay. Better than before.Where is Tony?" She asked him. 

"I sent him to sleep. The guy didn't want to leave your side for even a second. I had to promise him to wake him up in three hours. He's in a guest room on my floor. If you want I can have JARVIS wake him up." He told her. 

Pepper let out a sigh and shook her head. "No. Let him sleep. What about the others?" She asked him. "Gianna had a concussion, Rhodey had a few cuts and burns here and there, Ellen also had some bumps and cuts, but he was healing rapidly. Although the guy was drained with the amount of power he used. Tony, he has some broken ribs and sprained ankle, few cuts and burns." He answered. 

"Alright." She said. But she seemed distracted. Bruce cleared his throat, "Anything wrong?" He asked her. She was fidgeting with the strap on her wrist, "I heard you talking to Tony before he went to sleep. You said something about extremis mutating my DNA. Can you tell me more about it?" She asked him hesitantly. 

Bruce let out a defeated sigh, "Extremis was mutating your DNA. Once we started to administrate you with the cure, it stopped the virus from mutating your DNA any further and it's killing constantly the virus in your body. But it's not having any effect on your DNA which has already mutated. Now, we could find some way to get rid of the mutation, but it'll damage the affected DNA." 

She nodded her head, going over what Bruce had told her. "So, if I leave the mutated DNA alone, what will it do to me?" She asked him. 

"I'm not sure. But you may have some enhancements. It could be anything. You could have a healing factor, faster reflexes, higher metabolism, super strength, increased life span. One thing for sure, you will run a few degrees hotter than normal." Bruce replied. 

"Alright then. I need to think about it." She told him. Bruce nodded his head, checked her vitals and left.

******

When Ellen woke up, he felt the heat radiating off the body laying beside him. He felt weight on his chest, he looked down to check and found a mop of blonde hair in his face.

He whispered in a soft voice, "JARVIS, what happened?" 

JARVIS replied in similar hushed tone, "You were having a nightmare. I tried to wake you up, but you didn't. So, I asked Miss for her help. She came here and fell asleep while sitting." 

He exhaled slowly, seemed like some time during the night they had managed to slide closer, and ended up spooning. This is going to be awkward, when she wakes up. And like being summoned, she started to wake up. He immediately closed his eyes, and pretended to be asleep. He felt her head move up. "I know you're awake. You let out pig like snorts when you're asleep." She said. 

Ellen immediately sat up at that, "I do not." He immediately announced. He then realized what he had done, and looked at her sheepishly. She was grinning madly, "I'm quite aware that you don't." 

Ellen glared at her. "You're evil." He said petulantly. She squeezed his cheeks and laughed loudly, "I know." And then she was getting up and moving out the door. "Get ready. We've a lot of work to do." She shouted while going to her room. 

Ellen shook his head and got up. As she said they had a lot of work to do.

Chapter Text

The day after their fight against Killian, the occupants of the tower had gathered for a brunch in the penthouse.

Tony and Bruce were off to the lab, mumbling about some time sensitive experiment. Rhodey had to make a detour to DC, to settle the ruffled feathers on Legionnaires matter. But he promised to be back by dinner. Pepper had decided to take a day off and just relax. Although after yesterday's events, no one was going to blame her for taking a week off. Gianna and Ellen were free as well. So they decided to watch a movie and then bake a lot of cookies. 

They had just taken out the last batch from the oven, when a voice came from the doorway.

"Are those cookies I smell?" Darcy asked while entering the kitchen. Gianna's face lit up seeing her. "Surprise!" Darcy exclaimed while opening her arms wide open. "Oh my God! Darcy!" Gianna tackled Darcy in a hug. "What, we don't get any hugs?" Jane joked, she was standing behind Darcy with Selvig. "Of course not." She said pulling away from Darcy, and hugging the two of them. Pepper and Ellen also greeted the three of them. 

"Come on in. We just finished baking all of these. We were going to have a suit deliver some to you guys." Pepper exclaimed, forwarding a bowl of mint chocolate chip cookies to Darcy, and a bowl of oatmeal raisin cookies to Jane. Both of them thanked Pepper and took the bowls. "Don't this old man get some cookies?" Erik asked jokingly. "Of course not! Here are your peanut butter cookies." Ellen handed Erik his bowl of cookies. 

"You three have been busy." Darcy said while stuffing her face with cookies. "Well, we took a day off." Pepper replied. "What about you guys?" She asked. 

"We saw the attack on Malibu mansion on TV. Tried to call you guys, but no one picked up. So, we got worried and headed down to New York. We were like seven hours away from the city, when we learned that Mandarin was arrested. But there wasn't anything about you guys, so we came to check on you all." Erik said. The guy had dark circles around his eyes, and he was slurring his words as well. 

"How about you guys fresh up and take some rest. I'll have JARVIS wake you up in time for dinner." Pepper suggested while pointedly looking at the two women and signaling towards Erik. Getting the message, both Darcy and Jane agreed, and dragged away Selvig to take some rest. 

After they left, Gianna let out a sigh of relief and said, "Did you guys see Erik?" She asked the others. "Yeah. The guy looked like death warmed over him." Ellen said munching on his own cookie. "Maybe he's just tired from traveling." Pepper suggested. 

"I'm not sure. In the movie, they showed him to have gone a little crazy. The guy needs therapy." Gianna said. "Don't we all?" Pepper snorted, and then let out a sigh, "Let's suggest it to Darcy and Jane. They might have better luck with convincing him." The other two nodded in agreement. 

"JARVIS, inform the others of their arrival." Pepper said, and took her own bowl of cookies. "Anyone up for a second movie?" She asked while walking out the kitchen. 

At night Rhodey returned, and all of them had dinner. They had decided to just order in some Italian from Bamonte's. It was a fun dinner with lots of banter between all of them. Then they had queued up another Christmas movie and fallen asleep in the home theater. 

The next four days passed in experiments for the scientists, some shopping and preparations for the New Year Ball for Darcy, Pepper, Ellen and Gianna, with some office work for Pepper, Ellen and Tony. 

Now, it was time for the Ball. Pepper, Tony and Ellen had to leave early to make sure everything was in order. Rhodey and Bruce were going to escort Gianna, Jane and Darcy to the Ball. Selvig had already left the day before saying about meeting up with old friends. The ball had been a lot of fun with lots of dancing, drinking and stuffing their faces with food very primly. Tony had given a nice speech about doi some good for upcoming generations, announcing a few new lines in which SI was expanding, and hinted towards a new prosthetic division opening in a year or so. Overall it was a great night. 

Then came the day when Jane and Darcy were going to leave. "I'll miss you guys, and the nice food." Darcy had said while clinging to Gianna. "We'll miss you too." Gianna had replied, also hugging Darcy as tightly. "I have a surprise gift for you guys. Consider it a Christmas bonus." Tony had said while handing them three key cards. "These are access cards to SI housing facilities. In case you need to stay for a while in some other State or Country. It'll work." Darcy had literally jumped on him after that. Before leaving, they had also assured them that they'll convince Selvig to get some help. With some more tear sheds, the two were off to New Mexico. 

"So, what's next on our agenda?" Tony asked turning around to the others.

"Well, next main event is about Thor, and that's in October, 2013." Gianna replied. "Okay, that's good. I was actually thinking about removing this." Tony said tapping the reactor. "You did do it last time." Gianna commented. "You don't sound very happy." Bruce pointed out. 

"It's not that I'm unhappy. But the thing is, that reactor protected him from the mind stone. And in the end, he did put it back as a nanoparticles housing unit." She finished for them. 

"A nanotech suit?" Tony asked thoughtfully. Then he suddenly hugged her and pulled back, "You have given me just the project to work on. See you guys later." And he was off to the lab telling JARVIS to fire up the engines. "What just happened?" Ellen asked. "You just gave him an idea to hole himself in the lab for weeks." Pepper replied with an exhausted sigh. Bruce patted her shoulder and left for his lab, muttering about needing to do some work. 

"Hey Pepper. I have a suggestion for you. There's this scientist in Seoul, Helen Cho. She is a geneticist. She and her team developed a way to regenerate skin tissues. Because of the whole fiasco with Ultron, she kinda backed out. But she was one of the doctors Tony trusted. Oh and Doctor Wu. He's the one who performed Tony's surgery when he decided to remove the reactor. He's an expert in Chinese and Western Medicine, and a Cardiologist. So, if you could look into them?" She completed hesitantly. "Sorry, I just went off."

"Don't worry. I'll look into them, and suggest Tony and Bruce to go through their papers as well." Pepper replied. "Now, I have a meeting in 20 minutes. So, I'll leave. You two do what your plans are for today." She said and left. 

The two of them saw her leave. "Let's go to Kamar-Taj then. We can do something there." Gianna sighed. "Yeah. Back to work." Ellen sighed out. 

******

"Hey, Pepper. What's up?" Ellen asked her. "Tony's called for a meeting for everyone." Pepper replied from the other end of phone. "Do you know what it is about?" He asked. "I don't know. But he seemed excited and nervous sort of." She said. "Alright, we'll be there in two hours. Gianna's kinda in training right now." Ellen replied looking over at the group training. Then he hung up. 

After two hours when Gianna's training ended, they informed the Ancient One about it. "I have also been asked to join you. Mister Stark called and asked me to consult him on the matter." That confused them more. Ellen then portaled to the tower. He had discovered his ability of Wormhole Creation. By now most of their abilities had been discovered, and they had to take a full time residence at Kamar-Taj to learn all of them. 

Once they entered the penthouse, JARVIS then directed them to the training area. He saw Pepper, Happy, Rhodey and Bruce were already there along with Tony. 

"So, now that everyone is here, we're going to start the show." And then he opened a box, took out something and put in on his chest. When they got a good look at it, they realized what it was. He then double tapped the new reactor on his chest, and a metalic liquid started to flow out of it, which covered his entire body and turned into the familiar red and gold suit. 

"Oh my God! You did it!" Gianna exclaimed loudly. Ellen also let out a whoop and cheered him on. The rest of the others were looking at Tony in bewilderment. Then Rhodey was the first one to recover from the shock. "That was awesome! Creepy but awesome!" He said hugging the suit. "It is quite impressive." The Ancient One commented looking it over. 

"I was wondering if you could help me with the magical aspect of things? If ever I crossed paths with a magic user, I want to be prepared." He asked her sincerely. Tony had come to respect the woman in the past year. 

"I'll see what I can do to help. There might be a spell protect you from magical attacks and deflect any curses directed at you." Ancient One replied, Tony beamed at her. "Now for the squishy science, Brucie bear, I'll need your help. I want to regrow my sternum and parts of the lungs that Yinsen had to remove. And for that I am thinking about using Extremis. A watered down version kind of thing." He completed hesitantly. "Of course I'll help." Bruce exclaimed, and Tony let out a sigh of relief. He turned towards Pepper and Rhodey dreading if they would agree or not.

"Tones, quit that kicked puppy look. We knew that you were going to remove the reactor, when you suggested it all those months ago. And we know that it would have been some variation of Extremis." Rhodey said exasperatedly.

Pepper caressed his face and said softly, "Tony, you're going to remove sharpnels from your chest. Am I going to worry? Of course I'm. You're the man I love. Of course I'm going to worry. But I know how important it is to you. It was something that was done against your will, but you turned it into something better." Tony just leaned his head on hers. 

"Guys, we're still here." Ellen whined. Tony and Pepper just laughed and separated from each other. 

"Alright then. The second announcement of the day. Kiddos, introduce yourselves." He clapped his hands together and stepped back towards them. Three different projections similar to JARVIS's data matrix, but in smaller size appeared in the room. 

 "Hello, I am FRIDAY. I am created by Doctor Anthony Edward Stark to assist Miss Virginia Potts in the administration of Stark Industries, and to assist in piloting the Iron Man armor or Rescue armor. In addition to that I'll also be piloting the Iron Legion used by Doctor Stark along with JARVIS." Said the rose gold colored data matrix. She had an Irish lilt to her voice. 

"Greetings, I'm TADASHI. I'm also created by Doctor Stark, and I will be integrated in Kamar-Taj and the three sanctums. I'll be assisting the Masters and students there with their day to day activities, and their management." TADASHI was the matrix colored green, a shade similar to that of the Time Stone. He had a Japanese accent. 

"Hello, I'm JOCASTA. I will be assisting Colonel Rhodes with the operation of War Machine armor and pilot the Iron Legion under his command. I will also monitor the outer space for suspicious activities, and activate the Warrior Legionnaires in case of an invasion of grander scale. I will also be integrated into the Upstate Compound after it is built." She was a data matrix of glowing silver color with a southern accent. 

"So, what do you guys think? I mean I should have asked you guys before, especially you." Tony said while pointing at Ancient One, and continued speaking, "Because it's your domain, and it's your decision to make any changes to it. But I got excited and started planning. And I trust you with him, you're a good leader and teacher, and I know that you will treat him right." The Ancient One raised her hand, indicating him to stop. 

"I'm honored to be considered worthy to care for one of your children. And I accept your offer, it'll be helpful to have him with us. I'll make sure that everyone treats him with utmost respect and love. Do not worry." She told him amusedly, yet with sincerity. Tony gaped for a few seconds, opening and closing his mouth, and then just sighed.

"Thank you. I've also uploaded the books you had lent me to read about magic on his servers. Maybe in future, he may be able to help you detect any magical threat or misuse if he could learn more about it." He said hesitantly. The Ancient One nodded, "I'll see to it." 

"So, JOCASTA, huh?" He turned around to look at his best friend standing with his arms folded across his chest, and an eyebrow raised in interrogation. Tony smiled shippishly at him. "Yeah, she is encoded to assist you. In the chain of command, you'll be the first one she'll listen to, then me, JARVIS, Pepper and Fri. She'll be piloting the Iron Legion that works with you, but in case we fight together, she and Friday will coordinate with each other." 

"I like her. And as she said." Rhodey said nodding in the direction of Ancient One, "It's an honour to be trusted with one of your kiddos. And she'll be safe and loved." 

Then he turned towards Pepper, wait. Where's Pepper and Bruce? And the wonder twins? He looked around and found them huddled around the four data matrices. He went to them and cleared his throat, "What are you doing?" He asked tapping his foot. 

"We're introducing ourselves. Duh." Gianna replied. "Tony she's beautiful and lovely." Pepper said smiling. "So, you like her?" He asked her. "We'll get along just fine." She replied mischievously. "I don't like that smile Potts. Don't. Whatever you are thinking, just don't." In response, she just smiled more widely. 

Chapter Text

The day had finally arrived, when Tony was going to have the sharpnels removed from his heart, and inject himself with a modified diluted version of Extremis. It had been a collaborated project between Helen Cho, Doctor Wu, Bruce and Tony. After three months of brainstorming, they had finally found a version of it that will help Tony. But there was still this little doubt of something happening. After all it was an experimental serum. 

Pepper, Rhodey, Happy, Ellen and Gianna were going to look from the observation panel. Doctor Wu was going to perform the surgery of removing the sharpnels. After which he'll be moved to the Hulk room, where Bruce and Helen will inject him with the Extremis serum, and monitor his vitals throughout the procedure. The Ancient One had offered to separate his Astral Form from his body, during the operation, so that he could observe it. And wasn't that a bit tripping. 

The operation passed successfully, and Tony was sharpnel free. After the surgery, he was brought to the Hulk room. It was decided to merge his Astral Form with his body for that part of the procedure. 

"Injecting Extremis version 5.6 in 10 seconds." Bruce said from within the Hulk room. Tony was strapped to a gurney in the room, with various machines monitoring his vitals and heart rate.

"Wait." Gianna suddenly exclaimed. "JARVIS, shut down all the micro-implants he had injected in his body. Also, cut off his access to all the suits for now. We don't want him to call upon a suit in there." She said. 

"Apologies, Miss Powell. But only Sir, Colonel Rhodes and Miss Potts have the authority to give such command." JARVIS replied apologetically. Gianna just waved her hand, indicating she didn't mind. Tony was paranoid like that, and she wasn't offended anyway. Unlike some people she did understand that trust didn't come freely like that. 

"JARVIS, override code, alpha-delta-78777244-M-864. Turn off the micro-implants in Tony's body, and cut off his access to the suits, until there's an override on the command from both me and Pepper." Rhodey spoke up. 

"Voice sample and Facial recognition match. Override code accepted. Sir had been shut out of all the suits. The access will be only granted via override codes from both Colonel Rhodes and Miss Potts." JARVIS replied. 

"Why did you do that?" Pepper asked her. "The micro-implants will call the suit to him in case he's distressed. We don't want the suit to merge with him during the procedure." Gianna explained. 

"Also in one of the comic version, this scenario actually happened." She added. She got three incredulous look at the comment. Then Rhodey just huffed and shook his head, "Only he would be able to do something this sci-fi." He said exasperatedly. "True." Pepper said. 

"Can I inject him now?" Bruce asked them loudly. He had listened their conversation on his comm unit, and was worried as well. Hopefully, the precaution that they took will be helpful there. But he didn't held his hopes high. It was Tony after all. The guy had a lot of curve balls thrown his way. 

He took a deep breath and then injected the serum in the IV. He then got out of the room along with Helen. She had been a great help. At first they assumed the woman to be soft spoken and polite. Lies. The woman was cunning and shrewd. With rasor sharp wit and sarcastic as ever, matching Tony quip for quip. Tony had of course been delighted, to have someone to snark with. 

Soon, Tony's body had gained a faint orange glow, and his body temperature has risen by 25°C. After an hour or so, Tony let out a pained groan. His temperature was now 40° higher. The monitor showed his lungs being rebuilt, and the cuts in his veins around the heart has also healed. 

Three hours into the surgery, and Tony let out a scream. His body was thrashing in it's hold. He managed to rip off one of the restraints holding him down, but Ellen immediately repaired it, and had him restrained. Tony opened his eyes and they were shining blue. All the tech in the room let out loud screeches and then shorted out. Everything then got quiet after that. And the power went out in the tower. 

"JARVIS, what happened? Is Tony okay?" Pepper frantically asked him. But she didn't get any response. "JARVIS? JARVIS? FRIDAY?" Pepper called out to them. Suddenly her phone pinged. 'Something has occurred in our servers. The servers are intact, but we're unable to access any part of the tower. There's also another presence in here.' JARVIS messaged her. 

"Pepper, what's happening?" Gianna asked her worriedly. "JARVIS just texted me. They're alright, but stuck in their servers. They said there was someone else in there with them. And it's preventing those two from accessing Tower." 

"I have a hunch. Mind if I go in?" Gianna asked while indicating towards the cage. "You don't think that it was him, do you?" Rhodey asked her sceptically. Gianna just raised her eyebrows at him, and before anyone else could stop her, she was inside the cage. She looked at Tony and reached out to him, and tried to detect his mind. Ah. There it was. Now, if only she could concentrate. She held his hand and corralled his mind back into his head. It took a few minutes, but it was done. 

"Miss Potts? Are you okay?" FRIDAY's frantic voice came from the speakers. "Yes, FRIDAY. I'm fine. Can you and JARVIS check up on Tony." Pepper said trying to soothe the younger AI. "Sir's vitals are holding steady. But Miss Potts, the vitals are being transmitted directly from sir's body. The machinery in the room are shut down." JARVIS announced in a worried tone. 

All of them turned towards Gianna, who had teleported back beside them. "Congratulations. Anthony Edward Stark is now officially a technopath." She said with a false cheer. "A technopath?" Helen asked sceptically.

"Yup. His mind was spread out in tower's mainframe, I had to coarse him to leave it and get back to his mind. But, he's fine now. I've put a temporary shield around his mind, to protect and contain it." She replied while scratching her head. 

 "A technopath." Pepper mumbled. She facepalmed. "Of all the things in the world, did it have to be technopath? The guy doesn't leave his workshop much, but now it'll be so much difficult." She said hysterically. 

Everyone groaned at her comment. They all knew Tony's workaholic tendencies. The guy would even forget eating and sleeping.

******

Tony woke up to the shrill sounds of machines scattered around him. They were giving him a headache. 'Shut up.' He screamed in his mind. And all the machines suddenly became silent.

But, still it wasn't enough. So, he tried to block out the other two presence and other little noises he could hear around. Then at last, it was all silent now. 

He felt a new presence after a while. But this one wasn't loud like others. It was quiet, warm and safe. It was beckoning him, lulling him to sleep, and he went towards it. He then found himself surrounded by a shimmering blue and green barrier. But he didn't feel constricted, he felt at ease. Soon, he was falling asleep again. 

The next time he woke up, he could hear a melodic voice speaking worriedly, "Why isn't he waking up?" The voice asked. It was a familiar voice, soothing, calm and loving. Pepper. It was Pepper. Then came a second British voice, "His vitals are as steady as the Extremis will allow. Sir's organs has also regrown themselves. He should be waking up soon enough." JARVIS. It was his oldest friend beside Rhodey. He tried to speak up, but his throat felt like sandpaper. But it has gotten the attention of the others. Soon,he was being fed a few ice chips. That soothed his throat a bit. He opened his eyes, and looked around. 

The other occupants let out a sigh of relief, Tony's eyes had turned back to their brown color. His body had also stopped glowing orange and his body temperature was under control, as much as under control it would be with Extremis running through his veins. 

"So what's up?" Tony casually asked everyone present in the room. That got him a few glares and frowns. "Sir, next time please refrain from locking us in our servers." JARVIS was the first one to speak up. "What?" He asked confusedly. "Congratulations, Boss. You're a technopath now." FRIDAY announced cheerfully. 

"I'm a technopath." Tony mumbled. Then nodded his head, "I'm a technopath." He said it loudly this time. Then he let out a hysteric laugh, "I'm a bloody technopath." He screamed out clutching his head. 

"Yes. We got it the first time." Rhodey said exasperatedly hugging him. "Platypus, do you know what it means?" He asked him gleefully. Rhodey raised an eyebrow, still maintaining his amused expression. "I can take over the world now." He let out a cackle. 

"That means you'll have a lot of paperwork." Pepper pointed out, and that had his mind relaxing a little. She was joking, that meant Pepper wasn't too angry, and she won't leave him. "You're right. I hate paperwork. You can handle it. I will just take over and you can do the managing part." He looked at her with a hopeful and hesitant smile. Her eyes widened a bit and then saddened a little, then she had a pained smile on her face, "I will be there, always. I'm not going anywhere, you're all I have too, you know?" She repeated her statement from all those years ago. 

He let out a relieved laugh, "Of course. Will that be all Miss Potts?" He asked with a practised ease of many years. And she let out a watery laugh, "That will be all Mister Stark." She completed. 

"Okay, you two are making me cry. And that's not acceptable." Gianna spoke loudly. "Yeah, it was getting too mushy. You guys can fight like seals in the bedroom." Rhodey said with fake gag. 

"Honeybear. I missed you." Tony tried to flail. But he was still restrained to the gurney. Bruce and Ellen hurried up to his side and removed them. He shakily stepped down from the gurney. Happy brought forward a wheelchair, and Tony was already backing away from it. "Are you kidding me? Get rid of that thing." He exclaimed loudly. But he was held by Bruce and Ellen. "Tony, get in." Pepper ordered with a menacing glare. And his protests died down. He grumbled and sat down in it. All the way down to the medbay, he was pouting, expressing his displeasure by grumbling. 

There they met up with Doctor Wu. He was then laid down in a bed, and poked and prodded by Helen, Wu and Bruce. After several x-rays, CT scans and other stuff, he was recommended to remain in the medbay for next twenty four hours for observation. He tried to protest, but a look from Pepper had him dropping the idea.

******

It had been a month since Tony's operation, he had been training to control his technopathic abilities, and learn to create mental shield around his mind, and kick out anyone who tries to attack him. Since, he was a quick learner, he had mastered the ability in no time. He had also been practicing with the new armor, and with his technopathic abilities it had been working like a dream. 

And then came the call of doom. Darcy called him in the middle of a meeting, "Jane's gone missing, and I don't know what to do." She had said hysterically. "Don't worry, I'll be there in two hours." He had assured her. 

"Gentlemen and Ladies. I'm sorry to cut short this meeting. But there's been an incident which requires my immediate assistance." He told the board members apologetically. Although he wasn't feeling very apologetic. It was a boring meeting anyway. "Miss Potts, a second?" He asked Pepper. She nodded and came out of the room with him. "Tony what's wrong?" She asked worriedly. "Darcy called. Jane's gone missing. I think it's starting now. I need to go." She nodded and kissed him briefly, "Be safe. And call me if you need anything." He nodded and turned around to head up to the penthouse. "JARVIS, call Gianna, Ellen and Bruce. Alert Ancient One and Rhodey as well." He told the AI. 

"Already done, Sir." Came the reply from the AI. "Miss Powell and Mr. Ardent are waiting for you on the landing pad with the suit ready in the quinjet. Dr. Banner will join you from his floor." He carried on. 

The lift stopped on Bruce's floor and he entered the lift. "So, it's time." Tony just nodded his head. They arrived at the landing pad, where as JARVIS announced Gianna and Ellen were waiting for them, in their suits he had designed. They just nodded their heads in acknowledging each other. Soon, they boarded the jet and were off to London. 

Chapter Text

Jane was having a normal day. Sure her mom had forced to have a date with a guy, but everything was fine. It wasn't like she was missing Thor, and moping around or something. No, she was completely FINE. And she wasn't hiding behind a menu either. 

She sneaked a look at Richard from behind the menu. Shit. He saw her. She hurriedly raised the menu again. A tissue paper slid down in front of her, 'Hi.' She immediately closed the menu and looked up at him. "Hi." Richard said. She replied with a nervous Hi as well. God she was awful at this. They talked for a while and then lo and behold, Darcy arrived. 

Darcy then started to embarrass her and talk about readings, and then left when she told her to. She then started to mumble repeatedly Sea Bass while thinking about the readings. Damn Darcy, damn Thor and damn those readings. Argh. When Richard gave her all okay to leave, she was out like a bullet. She felt bad about the guy, but it was science. 

"And I hate you." She told Darcy who was smirking at her. "What? I told you he was cute." She didn't look at her smug face and told her to drive. Then there was the new assistant. No, her assistant's assistant. And then she called Erik for the hundredth time in the past two days, but no answer. Yeah, totally having a normal day. 

Then they find the weird portal thing with readings similar to bifrost. So, she heads up on the other floor, and the readings start spiking around the corner. She then feels herself pulled towards it. She tries to resist, but couldn't do it, so she closes her eyes, she stops and opens her eyes. Shit. She could have fell down in that darkness. She looks around and calls out to Darcy. 

She walks around trying to find a way back and finds the pulsing light between two stones. She looks at it. So fascinating. She reaches out a little to look more closely, there's a movement in there, and suddenly the thing leaps at her and enters her body. Shit. Need to get it out. Get out, get out. And then she feels lightheaded and falls down. 

******

Darcy was throwing things in whatever it was. Then the idiotic intern threw the car keys and they didn't return. "Were those car keys?" She asked him. He looks distressed and starts freaking out. Jane has an extra key. She goes around looking for Jane. "Jane? Jane?" She roams around the building. But she couldn't find her. "Intern? Kids? Have you seen Jane?" She returns and asks them frantically. The kids all shake their heads, and intern also denies, commenting about his name being Ian. They all start looking around to find her. After two hours or so, she still couldn't find her. 

Panicking she calls Tony, "Jane's gone missing, and I don't know what to do." She told him hysterically. "Don't worry I'll be there in two hours." She nodded her head and cut off the call. She turned towards the kids and Ian, "Okay. Reinforcement is on the way, but we need to keep looking." And they looked around everywhere.

Two hours later, a quinjet landed there. Bruce, Tony, Ellen and Gianna came out of it. Tony's suit was moving behind him. 

Ellen and Gianna started to look around with grimace. She hurried towards them. "Finally. You guys are here. We're looking for hours, but we can't find Janie." She said worriedly. Gianna walked forward and hugged her, "It's alright. We'll find a way to get her back." She hugged her back, trying to fight her tears. Wait. "Get her back from where?" She asked her. 

Gianna sighed and looked at her, "Come on in. Let's sit down and talk about it. You guys, too. There are some cookies and biscuits on the quinjet. But don't touch anything else." Saying that she led them all back to it. They all took a seat. She gave the kids some biscuits, her and Ian got a cup of coffee. "The readings you got are from shifting of different portals here. There's an event called convergence, that happens once in every five thousand years or so. All the nine planets align, and the boundaries between them becomes almost non-existent. It's in one or two days time. Until it passes, the portals will keep opening up everywhere." She explained it to them. 

"What's it got to do with Jane? You don't think that she walked into one, do you?" She told them. Ellen was the one replying this time, "From what I sensed, they keep changing locations, and durations of said portal. It could be that she accidentally sunk in one of them and then it closed." 

"So, you're saying that she could be anywhere in our solar system, where most of the planets can't even support life." Ian asked. Shit. No. "Don't say like that. Janie is fine." She swatted him. 

"No, she's alive. We put a protection spell on her, if she was dying or heavily injured, I would know." Gianna replied. Darcy raised her eyebrows at that, "Really?" 

"Yup. Infact, there is one on you and Erik too. Bruce, Tony, Pepper, Happy and Rhodey as well." She grinned.

She got an idea. Before she could ask, Ellen cut her off, "No. We can't use it to track her. She isn't injured or dying." She deflated at that. 

"And when were you guys planning on telling us about these powers and spells?" She asked them angrily. 

They all looked away guiltily. "Don't f***king look away. Answer me damnit. How long were you going to hide it from us? When you joined the Avengers?" She screamed out. 

"How long did you even have these powers?" She asked them. But no answer came from them. Then Gianna just sighed and looked at her, "It was our decision. Mine and Ellen's. We didn't want for you to know until we'd known you long enough. Moreover, Erik had worked with SHIELD, and we didn't trust him back then to not tell them." 

Darcy felt her heart break. "So, you trusted the two guys who were Avengers?" She asked her incredulously. "It's more complicated." She said.

"Apologies for interrupting, but I just got the news, that Dr. Selvig had been arrested for trespassing and harassing the tourists at Stone Hedge, completely naked." JARVIS announced, and played a clip of Selvig being arrested. 

Tony swore and took out his phone, "JARVIS, inform legal and have someone get him bailed." 

"I'll head down to the station, and collect him." Bruce said standing up and walking outside. "I have a car arriving here in a few minutes for you." Tony shouted out to Bruce, "Got it." He screamed back. 

"Sir, I detect a few heat signatures there in the building at different locations. They're all heading downstairs." JARVIS announced after few minutes. "Send a drone and check them out." Tony told him. Soon a drone was flying inside the building, and they could watch it on the hologram. It got to the heat signature, and they all sighed in relief. It was Jane. Darcy ran out the door to the building. Jane had came out of the building by then. Darcy hugged her tightly, "Jane, oh my God." She cried out. 

"What's wrong?" Jane asked pulling away. And then she looked behind her, "And why are Tony and others here?" She asked her confusedly. "Darcy, you know how closely SHIELD monitors Tony, and if they'll know that he's here, they'll be here all here area 51ing this place." She said frustratedly. 

"Ouch, Foster. That hurts. Although, it's true." He said pointing at her. "Jane, you were gone for like five hours. What was I supposed to do?" She asked her. 

"Five hours. That doesn't make any sense. I was there just for minutes." She said defensively. "Well, time passes different from planet to planet." Gianna said. "Uh oh. Incoming." Ellen said and suddenly it started to rain. Weirdly enough, the rain wasn't falling on them. "Weird." Darcy mumbled. Jane spread out her hand and tried to feel the rain. And then she saw him, standing there. Thor. And she ran towards him. 

"Typical." Darcy mumbled, looking at her friend hugging Thor. She was dreading the moment when he'll leave again and her friend will be heartbroken. And then Jane slapped Thor, twice. Huh. Kind of deserves it actually.

She turned around at the sounds of gun cocking. They turned around and saw two police officers standing there aiming the gun at them, "What the hell is happening here?" One of them asked her, since she was standing closest. "Uh.." she couldn't come up with something to say. And Ian being the idiot started to ramble about readings and investigating. So, they started to arrest them for trespassing, she in the meantime sneaked out to Thor and Jane. She interrupted their kissing session. She told Jane about police, and she left to try and talk to them. She asked Thor about space and he answered it, and then there was boom, and Thor was shielding her. 

Then Thor hurried up to Jane who was being fussed over by Ellen, Gianna and Tony. The next second Thor called out to sky, and the rainbow thing happened and they were gone. She will need to deal with these officers herself now. She turned to look at them, and they were all running away. Huh. So she might not need to deal with them after all.

*******

When the police officer grabbed her, she felt a power surge within herself, and everyone else blew away from her. Then she started to feel dizzy, but Tony and Gianna grabbed her. Soon, Ellen and Thor arrived too. She felt herself being snatched into Thor's arms and then the rainbow bridge coming around herself and the others. 

They were traveling through the bifrost, all they could see was passing Stars. Then they landed and she looked around. Gasps and wheezing sounds had her turning around. Tony was down on his knees, being supported by Gianna and Ellen, he looked pale. "What's wrong with him?" She asked them worriedly. "Space, panic attack." Gianna replied, and tried to calm him down. After a few seconds, Tony seemed to have it under control. 

A throat cleared behind them, she turned around and saw a tall dark guy with golden eyes. "Hi." She waved at him awkwardly. "Welcome to Asgard." He told them, stepping forward. Soon, they were being led to palace and there were taken to a chamber where she was laid down on a table. Tony and Thor were standing beside her worriedly, and Ellen and Gianna were standing at a distance looking around at everyone with guarded eyes. 

A lady then started to wave her hand around like controlling a hologram projection. An orange hologram of her body was projecting above her body, "What's that?" She asked her. But she told her to stay still. Humph. 

"It's not of Earth. What is it?" Thor asked the woman standing beside him. "We do not know. But whatever it is, she will not survive the energy surging within her." She told him. 

Jane again tried to touch it, but the woman held down her hand and gave her a stern look. "That's a quantum field generator, isn't it?" She asked the lady. "It's the soul forge." She replied without looking at her. This time it was Tony who spoke up, "Does a soul forge transfer molecular energy from one place to another?" He asked her. She seemed quite shocked listening his question. "Yes." She replied astonished. "Then it's a quantum field generator." She told excitedly to Thor and Tony. 

A man then came in and shut off the generator. Gianna and Ellen moved forward, with Gianna standing beside her and Ellen standing beside Tony. "My words are completely noises to you that you ignore them completely?" He asked stepping into the room. Gianna held her hand tightly and tapped out 'don't' on her wrist. "She's ill." Thor replied. "She's mortal. Illness is their defining trait." He said while circling around them and standing on opposite side of Thor. "I brought her here because we can help." Thor argued. 

"She does not belong here in Asgard, anymore than a goat belongs at the banquet table." He said while looking at her and her friends. 

"Did he just.." Jane tried to speak, but Gianna squeezed her hand tightly cutting her off, tapping out 'no' on it. She looked at Gianna, and could make out the anger simmering in her eyes, and defiance in her stance. 

"Who the hell do you think you are?" Tony asked the question she was going to. Beside her Gianna squeezed her fists once more. 

"Odin. King of Asgard. Protector of the nine realms." That was Thor's dad. "Oh." And he turned to look in her direction, "Uh. I am.." He cut her off, "I know very well who you are, Jane Foster." He knew her. "Did you tell your dad about me?" Jane asked Thor excitedly. "Helicopter parent." Ellen muttered while faking a cough. That had her excitement die down. Gianna patted her shoulder sympathetically. 

Thor walked towards Odin, "Something is within her. Something I have never seen before." Thor argued. "Her world has healers. They are called the Doctors. Let them deal with it. Guards, take them back to Midgard." Odin ordered and turned around to leave. 

The guards started to walk towards them, and grabbed Gianna first, pulling her away from Jane, and two of them grabbed her hands. Thor walked forward, trying to warn them, but the energy blast happened again, and the guards were thrown away.

Once Jane fell down again, she rushed to her. Thor was already cradling her, "Impossible. The infection, it's defending her." The healer lady whispered. Thor argued about it defending itself. Odin checked her wrist, making it pulse red. She heard Ellen snort mumbling about it not being an infection. 

"It's a sentient presence. Using her body as a host, similar to a symbiote." Ellen explained. "You're saying that there's an alien inside my body." Jane asked curiously. "Come with me." Odin commanded, cutting off all the arguments.

Chapter Text

Jane, Tony, Ellen and Gianna were brought into the library, where they could see the yggdrasil branching out. They were in the heart of Asgard. They discussed about the Aether. "So, what you're saying that Jane has an infinity stone running through her veins." She stated. Odin looked at her suspiciously, "You know of the stones." He commented. 

"Somewhat. There had been some mention of them in a book. Unfortunately, there wasn't much than their origin story and names." Tony spoke up. 

Odin had surprisingly bought into their explanations, and let them settle in different rooms. They had insisted on her and Jane sharing a room. Ellen and Tony had requested the same as well. Since, Odin seemed to have some disdain over them, it hadn't taken long to convince him of their request. 

The maids had provided them with dresses and then just left. When she had provided Jane with some jeggings and sleepwear for night, she had started to jump in joy. Those dresses were not fun to walk into. 

Thor had then arrived at the room, "Lady Gianna. It is an honor to meet you. Friend Stark proclaimed that you helped him battle the fire breathing warriors to protect Lady Pepper." He boomed out. "Perhaps I shall introduce you to my friend Lady Sif. She's also a warrior like you." 

Meeting that arrogant, narcissistic, racist b***ch and watch her make cow eyes at Thor and glare daggers at Jane. Nah. She smiled sweetly at Thor, "I believe he exaggerated my contribution. The only thing I did was getting Pepper safely to the tower, and help JARVIS locate the base of the enemy. As for meeting up with your friend, perhaps another time. She must be busy. I had rather not disturb her. I'll just see that Tony and Ellen doesn't cause any trouble. If you will excuse me. I must find them, if you could keep Jane company?" She asked him with an innocent and sincere smile. 

Thor who was happy to spend time with Jane readily agreed, whisking her away. Now, all she has to do is find those idiots. So, she walked towards their room, pretending to look around. Fortunately, they were outside their room, "Finally, I found you two. I've been looking around trying to find your room." She told them widening her eyes.

Tony got her message and played along, "We were also looking for you. You would've gotten bored watching their romance." He wiggled his eyebrows at her. She smacked him on his arm, "shush." He burst out laughing, "Let's go find them."

They were heading towards the lake, where Gianna knew Thor and Jane would be, along with Frigga. They found the three talking, when Thor saw them, "Friend Anthony. Come here." They went to him, and stood beside Jane. "May I introduce you to my mother, Queen Frigga." Tony bowed down his head in acknowledgement, "Nice to meet you, Queen Frigga." Tony replied. "It is nice to meet you too Anthony. My son speaks very highly of you. If you do not mind me asking, who are your companions?" 

"This is Gianna Powell and Ellen Ardent, both are skilled and enhanced fighters." He replied. 

"So, you two are enhanced." Jane said gleefully. The three of them looked shocked at her. "Your reaction is a lot more different than your bestie." Tony muttered. "I had my doubt since Mandarin. But since you guys didn't say anything, I thought maybe you don't want us to know." Jane shrugged. She looked a bit hurt and disappointed. 

"Jane, it's nothing to do with you. But SHIELD keeps an eye out for any and every enhanced they can find. And they do keep an eye on you." Ellen tried to explain. "It's alright. We didn't know each other that well." She replied. 

Just then, alarms started to go off. "The prisons." Thor mumbled. "Loki." Frigga gasped out. "Go, I'll protect them." She told him. "I'm coming with you." Tony said running along with Thor. "You two make sure the four of you are safe." 

Tony then tapped the reactor and the suit started to form around his body. When Thor took off from the balcony, he wasn't far behind either. Before he left, he heard a few gasps. He smirked behind his helmet. Take that you motherf***ers.

They soon reached the prisons. And it was a circus. "Return to your cells, and no further harm will come to you. You have my word." And a helmet head came and punched him. Ouch. 

"Very well. You do not have my word." Saying Thor punched back. A minotaur helmet guy leaped on his back, which Tony blasted off. And they were off to fighting all the guys. 

******

Ellen, Jane and Gianna hurried after Frigga. They met Odin and bunch of Soldiers going off. "Odin." Frigga called out. "Frigga." Odin turned to look at them. "Go!" He told the soldiers. "It's a skirmish. Nothing to fear." He tried to reassure them. Both Gianna and Ellen gave him dubious looks. "You've never been a very good liar, my dear." Frigga scolded him. Yeah. The guy was a big fat liar. After a while Frigga started to usher them away. "It's only because I worry, that you've survived this long." Gianna let out a snort at that. "Same could be said for your sons." Frigga looked startled at her comment. "Not here. We need to move." Frigga told them. 

"No. Wait. I can sense something coming." Saying that Gianna ran out towards the window. She knew that Malekeith will be coming right about now. They just arrived in time to see Heimdall destroy a ship, and other ships appearing. 

"Damnit." Ellen said, and threw his hand forward, and two big waves of water shot out throwing back the ships in the ones behind them. Gianna immediately flew out there and shot out two blasts blowing up other two ships. The third one whizzed past her, and she turned around and threw a kinetically charged dagger at it, which ended up blowing a part of the ship. The rest got blown away by Asgardians. 

There were more ships coming, Ellen teleported beside her, "I'll handle it here, you go with Jane." She wanted to protest, but he was right. She would be a lot more help there. And her plan depended on them saving Frigga. So, she nodded and turned away to leave, but then she stopped and turned back to him, "Don't die." He gave her a salute, and flew away. 

Gianna teleported inside Frigga's room. "Alright, I have a plan. And we need to hide." They nodded and hid deep inside the room. Gianna concentrated, and a false Frigga and Jane appeared in the room. "I need to concentrate." She warned them. Both of them nodded. "Sweet pea, I need your help." She reached out to Jane, trying to reach out to Aether. The Aether crooned, and she felt power surge within herself. 

A few minutes later, the door opened.

*******

Ellen threw a few energy blasts at incoming ships, meanwhile shielding himself from their attacks. He blew up two ships, and threw a giant boulder at the third one. Still, there were a lot of them. How many ships does this bastard have? He kept fighting, hoping to God that Gianna will succeed.

*******

Tony felt the vibration from the upstairs. He looked at Thor who was also looking up. Then he looked at the rest of them. "We need to go. I think this was a distraction." He told them. "I agree my friend." Thor said. Both of them looked at each other, and were off to the palace. 

*******

They saw Malekeith enter the room. The fake Jane stepped back. Fake Frigga looked at her, and then at Malekeith, "Stand back creature. And you may still survive this." And the scene goes on the same way as in the movie. Thor and Odin steps towards fake Frigga's body. They hunch over her, and she makes the body disappear and drops the illusion around them. "What?" Thor looks up at them. "Mother!" He exclaims and rushes to her and lifts her up, hugging her tightly. "I'm alright my son." 

"Frigga!" Odin calls out shakily, caressing her face. Ellen and Tony arrives as well. "Gia!" Ellen calls out, and she steps forward to hug him. But the pain in her side stops her and she falls down. But Ellen manages to catch her. "You alright, my child?" Frigga asked her. She saw Frigga's fight with Loki. Oh her powers were still working. "Yes. I'm fine." 

"You're a rather powerful sorceress to be able to deceive Malekeith like this." Odin spoke up. The fight at the vault, and their talk in the medical. Amplify. She tapped out to Ellen. He sneakily amplified her past seeing ability. "I'm not a sorceress. I have a few specific abilities, which I use to fight and protect. Also, I asked the Aether for help, and she agreed." A year or so.

"My King. Rumours are the army attacking the Midgard belongs to the Mad Titan. They whisper of Prince Loki fell victim to his abuse." His spy reported. "It is disgraceful of him to let himself be used by a mad man in such manner. You may leave now. Do not speak of this matter to anyone, or you shall have to face my wrath." He threatened the spy. "My King, Prince Thor has arrived with the prisoner." A guard announced from outside the door. "I see. Summon the counsel. I will be there soon enough." 'If anything, he might be useful to throw at the feet of the Mad Titan when he comes. It may buy us some time. Too bad. If it wasn't for Frigga and Thor, I would have thrown him at the Titan already.' Her blood started to boil. How dare he? The scumbag. 

"It is rather strange that one of the most powerful relic in existence chooses a Midgardian woman to communicate." He told her. She could read between the lines of his suspicion and mockery. "And yet SHE chose a Midgardian as her weasel as well. Perhaps she is fond of us Midgardians. Or it may be that we're treating her with curiosity and respect, and not like she's some thing to be possessed." She spat out. Disdain and disgust for Jane. The blind eye to mistreatment of Loki. His partiality towards Thor. Hundreds of incidents where he blamed, degraded, ignored, insulted, scolded Loki and punished him for mistakes not even his own. Then came the battle of Jotunheim. 

"He's a powerful ice mage. Moreover he is Laufey's son, most powerful one amongst the three. If we leave him here, he's most likely to ascend the throne, and he'll be a considerable threat to Asgard if such thing happens. If we take him with us, and raise him amongst Aesir, he can become a good bargain for Laufey. If we have him under control,he can rule Jotunheim as our enforcer." Odin had told the warrior standing beside him. She couldn't hide it anymore. 

"Oh my God! You're so disgusting." She shouted out at Odin. "You f**king knew that he was innocent." She said with loath and disgust. "Have care of how you speak to my father!" Thor boomed out. "Do you have any idea what he did?" She argued with him. "When you returned with Loki after the invasion, his spy had already informed him about Thanos. He knew that Thanos had tortured Loki, but he still threw him into jail. So, that when Thanos came he could just hand over Loki to him. If it wasn't for you and your mother, he would have already handed over Loki to that bastard." She screamed, trying to lunge at him. But Ellen and Tony were holding her back. 

"You knew that he was the most likely one to ascend the throne after Laufey, because he was the strongest. So, you kidnapped him to use as a bargaining chip for later. You wanted him to be your puppet King of Jotunheim." She continued speaking. "All of his childhood, you knew that your people treated him badly, but you turn a blind eye to it. You treated him like dirt for his whole life, but not anymore." She teleported Loki out of his cell, in the room they were in. "What the..." He spoke out. "Loki?" Thor said, but before anything else could be said or done, Gianna teleported herself, Tony, Jane, Ellen and Loki to Stark tower.

"Gianna?" Tony called out to her. "What did you do?" Jane asked her angrily. "Gia?" Ellen hugged her cautiously, sensing the turmoil of emotions radiating off her. 

"Not that I'm ungrateful or anything, because your accomodations are far too much to my liking than the Asgardian dungeon. But why am I here?" The Norse God she had dragged along asked. 

Chapter Text

"That is something hard to explain." Tony commented to Loki's enquiry. Although he had come to peace with Loki's involvement in the invasion, he was still a little vary of him. "Gianna, hon. Time to speak." He poked her. 

She let out a sigh, "When I saw Oldin's memories, I saw a spy informing him of Thanos's involvement with the invasion. But he still threw Loki in prison. He was thinking of handing over Loki to Thanos. If it hadn't costed him Frigga and Thor, he would have done it immediately." Tony discreetly looked at Loki. He was clenching his fists hard. "Do not stop on my account. No one ever did." He hissed out. Gianna and Tony flinched at that.

"A lot of times, when people treated you badly, he turned a blind eye to it. And when he abducted you from Jotunheim, he actually wanted to raise you to be his puppet King." By the end of it, he was looking murderous. 

"I wish I could repulsor that bastard in his face." Tony muttered angrily. 

At that time the lift door opened and Pepper walked in, "Tony, JARVIS said you're back, and.... what the hell is he doing here?" She asked pointing at Loki. She looked a moment away from punching him. Tony rushed to Pepper, "I can explain. And don't punch the angry God right now. Come on." Saying he dragged her away. 

"You two seem to possess some unique powers." Loki said looking at her and Ellen after Tony and Pepper left. "Like you're one to talk." Ellen snorted out. "After Frigga you're known to be one of the most powerful sorcerer out there." He commented. Mention of Frigga's name had Loki stiffening. "Sorry." Ellen muttered.

"Not your fault mortal." Loki said. "Ellen. My name is Ellen." Ellen replied. "I didn't ask, and powers are useless, if you don't know how to weild them." Loki retorted. "So, can you teach us?" Ellen asked him with a hopeful puppy dog eyes. "Norns you're worse than Thor." He rolled his eyes. But then realizing what he said, he just hunched over.

"You know that they love you right. Thor and Frigga, I mean." She told him softly. "Why? You looked into their memories too?" Loki gritted out. "Yes." She replied in a neutral tone. "I could see through everyone's memories I was talking to. I didn't see all of them, but past few years and recent ones. He used to go to the bifrost every night, look down that bridge and lay down there on edge for hours. He didn't even speak to anyone for weeks. When Sif bad-mouthed you, he almost broke her hand. And he actually beat up a few people who insulted you." 

"Was it before or after New York?" He sullenly asked her. "Before." She deflated. She wanted to tell him about what he told Odin at the end of TTDW.

She then turned to Jane, "Hey, Jane. I think it would be best if you stay downstairs near the Arc Reactor. It will conceal the presence of Aether a lot more." She told her. "Ellen, why don't you go with her?" She asked them. "I'll send Pepper your way when she is done grilling me." They both nodded and left for the underground floors. Several minutes passed where both of them just glared at each other.

The clacking sound of heels had them both turning in Pepper and Tony's direction. "Gianna Rosette Powell. What did you do?" She angrily asked her. "What if Odin takes offense, and decides to declare war to Earth?" 

Gianna sighed and looked at her, "He won't have time to. I read Malekeith's thoughts before he left. He was planning on attacking Asgard again. So, I would say they'll be busy for a while. The defense shields around palace are down, the artillery can't detect them, hell even Heimdall is a sitting duck. They're defenseless right now." She said in an uncaring tone. "You're quite knowledgeable of Asgard's defense system." Loki told her warily. 

"Want to know what else I know?" She wiggled her fingers in front of him. He looked thoughtful for a few moments, but then took her hand. She closed her eyes, but a sharp nudge at her mind had her opening them again. She glared at Loki, "Don't try to poke around my head. I can easily drop you back in that dungeon." She growled out, before closing her eyes again.

Then she concentrated, and showed her Frigga's actual death, her funeral, his jailbreak, fight against Malekeith, his death, him impersonating Odin, Hela, Sakaar, Ragnarok, Thanos, his second death, defeat against Thanos, Thor's depression. 

After it was over, they all sat in silence, waiting for someone to speak up. In the end it was Loki who spoke up first, "So, what do you need me to do?" She smirked at him, "Well..." 

*******

"What she said, was it true?" Frigga angrily asked Odin. Thor was still processing everything, but her mother's question brought him out of his thoughts. "Mother.." But her mother's glare stopped him from speaking anything else. "Answer me, Borrson, what she said, was it true?" She screamed out. "Frigga, you can not believe some.." He tried to pacify her, but an angry shout of his mother stopped him. 

"You need to remember that you cannot lie to me." She told him, muttering angrily and hitting his father with a spell. He tried to lunge forward, but he felt himself unable to move. "What did you do to me?" Odin asked Frigga, unable to move himself. "Uh, uh. Dear husband. I'll be the one asking questions now." She tutted at him. "Now, what she said about you knowing about Thanos's involvement in the invasion of Midgard, was it true?" She asked him. "Yes." He spoke out.

Both Odin and Thor were shocked at his reply. "Then why did you send him to the dungeons?" She asked him with pure rage written across her face. "Because he had become useless and a disgrace. I could no longer use him as a bargain or shield against the jotuns. The only use he had was as a cannon fodder when Thanos comes." He spat out. 

Thor shocked upon Odin's words just stared at him. Rage started to simmer underneath his skin. "How could you? All these years, and you do not feel anything for him." He angrily shouted at Odin. "The Norns spoke of him as the instigator of the Ragnarok. I could not leave him there in that waste land to be found by Laufey. He would have succeeded the throne there, and lead an uprising against Asgard." Odin also screamed out. 

"Enough. I've had enough of you ruling my children's lives, as if they were your pawns. But not anymore." Saying that she started to mutter a spell again. "Mother, what are you doing?" Thor loudly called out to her. "From this day onwards, you'll live the life of a civilian, with no memories of your past life, spending the rest of your life in banishment, until you learn humility." Saying that she hurled a sphere of energy at Odin. The next moment he disappeared from their sight. 

Thor, who could move from his position now, hurried towards his mother. "Mother, what did you do?" He asked her worriedly. "What I should have done a long time ago." She answered him quietly. "Perhaps then I wouldn't have lost my childrens to rage, war and despair." She told him picking up the Gungnir. Then she strode out the door in the hallway. The warriors were moving out of the way whispering to each other. But he didn't pay any heed to them, hurrying to catch up with his mother.

Both of them arrived at the throne room, where the destroyed ship of Dark Elves was leaning on the columns. "Mother, what do you plan on doing now?" He asked her. "Guards." She shouted ignoring his comment. The guards all gathered in front of her. "Prepare a small group of five soldiers with somewhat of a diplomatic skills. Thor's going to Midgard." She announced, saying the last part directing more at him. 

"Mother?" He asked her confusedly. "I would have loved to come with you my child. But someone needs to be here, when the enemy is still on the horizon. Be calm, and let the girl see your memories of past hour. If you are seeing this, then come back here." She said while looking into his eyes. 

"So, what do you want to talk to me about? And where's the eyepatch?" Gianna asked Frigga, leaning on the pillar. Loki who was standing beside her, was looking around in full alert mode. "Why don't you see for yourself?" Frigga told her stepping forward. Gianna let the power surge through her, and started to talk to Frigga.

"You're holding the Gungnir. It won't come to you unless...Ah. Now I see." Gianna replied observing the memories. Clever woman. "I must say, this isn't what I thought it would lead to." She said applauding the woman. "Now, is there a safe place we could talk without being heard?" She asked them. "Where's Jane?" Thor urgently asked her. "Safe." She didn't say anything more than that, and started following Frigga to wherever she was taking them. 

They came back to the library. She then turned to Loki, "When I bring them here you'll need to get changed." She told him. He rolled his eyes, and turned into a red headed woman with green eyes and then turned back into himself. "What's the meaning of this?" Thor asked them. "Selvig." She replied. 

******

"What do you want me to do?" Loki had asked her. "Well, we'll need Erik's help to locate the convergence's focal point. But seeing you will send him into a cardiac arrest. I don't want that. So, around him, change your looks. We'll slowly bring him in on everything, but until then, please don't show yourself to him. I know that I'm asking a lot, but Erik hasn't been the same since New York. And despite everything he's a good man, and a fantastic astrophysicist." 

Loki nodded his head, "You do not need to give a speech. Barton, I may not feel as guilty, but Selvig, I do feel guilty for him. He was a civilian, trying to do something better for world, and protect Thor's lover from SHIELD." He said while looking at the glass table. 

"So, you and I are breaking in into Asgard. I know that Odin and Thor are going to have a fight. I say we take advantage of that, include him into our plan, and let the events of your escape from Asgard play out the same way. But this time, instead of destroying the Aether, tell Thor to give his strongest attack on Malekeith. Meanwhile, we all deal with his troops and the ship. You can fake your death again, if you want to. Then, you do whatever you want." She told him. 

"Alright, that could work. But we need to plan the details. Your overall plan is good and workable in ideal conditions. But the Dark Elves are notoriously known for being flexible. We need to have contingency for each moment that could go wrong." He told her. She nodded her head in acknowledgement. 

"You're right. I'm giving it to you because we won't be able to discuss it around everyone else." She told him. He nodded.

"Are you two done?" Tony asked, they both turned around to look at him. He was sitting in the chair with popcorns. "How long have you been sitting there?" She asked him confusedly. "Thirty minutes, I guess." He told her. "By the way, good plan. Let's contact Selvig and Bruce. Once he figures it out, we'll inform the British authorities, so that they can evacuate the area." He told them. 

"Alright. JARVIS, call Bruce." The screen on the TV showed the call connecting, and she looked at Loki, who had turned into a redhead woman in her early twenties. "Nice." Tony commented looking over the female form of Loki. "Good choice. Not the obvious black hair, green eyes thing." She complemented him. 

"Hey guys." Bruce's voice came from TV. "Hey Bruce. How's it going? Are Erik and Darcy there? And that intern, Ian I think." She asked him. "Yeah, we're all here at Selvig's place. What about you guys? Did you manage to get that thing out of Jane?" He asked them. "No. But we have a plan. Tell Selvig to gather up his research. I'm coming to get you now." Saying that she cut off the call. 

"JARVIS, tell the party to come upstairs." She told him. "Of course miss." He replied. Loki curiously looked up at the ceiling. "He doesn't live in ceiling." She told him, pointing at the camera in the corner. He nodded his head. 

"Now, I'm off to London, so until I return play nice." Saying that she teleported herself to Selvig's apartment. "Hey guys. Ready to go?" She asked them. "You, you..." Darcy made some puff puff noise and did some actions with her hands. "Okay. I don't understand this *puff puff* sounds you're making." She told Darcy. "Your powers looked a lot more like tessaract." Erik commented. "It's complicated." She told him. "Can we go now?" All of them nodded their heads and started to pick up things around them. She just rolled her eyes, and teleported all of them and their things to the tower. 

They arrived just as the others entered the room. "Good, you're here. Planning time now. Erik, can you tell us the focal point of convergence?" She asked him. "Greenwich. Before you guys called, me and Bruce were just doing that." She nodded her head. "Can you make a report about it, we are going to submit it to the British authorities and ask them to evacuate the area." Tony spoke up at her request. "Don't worry about that. I've already sent a preliminary report to MI6. They're going to get back to me as soon as possible." He informed them.

"Alright. Me and Laureen will go to Asgard, try to sway Thor to help us. In the meantime, you guys try to make something that may help us detect those portals." She pointed at them.

"Alright then Laureen, off we go." Saying that she teleported them to Asgard's throne room. She hoped that her illusions were working. She then heard Frigga's words.

*******

"What's friend Selvig got to do with this?" Thor asked her. "He's not good right now. Guy's going crazy. Seeing your brother might trigger him. Now, get your friends here." She told him. He looked at her and had a servant call for them. 

As soon as they entered and saw her and Loki, they all drew out their weapons and stood in a battle stance. "Really?" She raised her eyebrow, and flicked her wrist, sending their weapons in one of her pocket dimensions. Loki let out a smirk at their baffled expressions. 

"Calm down you three." Frigga scolded them. "So, what is the plan?" 

*******

Jane was sitting in her room in the palace, two guards were standing at the door. Suddenly, both of them were hit by Sif, "You, come with me." She told Jane. Jane hurried after her towards the lobby.

("We don't know if Malekeith is listening to everything through her." Gianna told her. "So, we play it out like you don't trust our plan, and that's why you're going to take her to Malekeith yourself, and when he takes out Aether from her body, you'll destroy it. But please don't do that in real. Cause that won't work. The only way to destroy an infinity stone is by attacking it with a similar power. Your lightning won't do a shit to it.")

There Thor and Loki were waiting for her. "Jane." Thor hugs her. "What's happening?" A few soldiers spots them at the moment, "Later." They hurry towards the throne room. But Sif doesn't come with them, "You go. I'll hold them off." She tells them. Thor nods his head at her. And she nods back with a smirk. Before Loki leaves, a sword is thrust under his throat. "Betray him, and I'll kill you." She glares at Loki, who just gives a shark grin to her. 

 Volstagg, who was waiting for them in the throne room, nodes at Thor. "Thank you my friend." Thor parts him on the back. Volstagg hugs him back and murmurers a "Stay Safe." Thor nods his head and heads inside the ship. "Betray him, and-" Loki cuts him off with a "you will kill me? Evidently, there'll be a line." He replied sarcastically. 

("You." She pointed at Thor. "Let him pilot the ship. You maybe able to fly, but he's the skilled pilot. And by God's grace, don't crash it in any structure. I'll leave you on Mount Everest if you do so." She threatened them.)

"Are you set in?" Loki asked standing in front of the control panel. "Yeah, let's go." Thor tells him. Loki then beautifully pilots the ship out of Asgard, and on the waters. Jane in the middle of it, passes out. "Oh dear. Is she dead?" He comments dryly. Thor glares at him and bends down to pat Jane's cheek. "Jane? Jane?" He calls out worriedly. "Hmm. I'm fine." Jane replies before turning around and curling up. Thor lets out a sigh of relief. Loki rolls his eyes at his brother's antics. The people at guarding stations starts firing at them, but misses most of the time of course. "So, who's the better pilot now?" Loki asks Thor gloating. "I can do better." Thor replies with a sniff. And then throws Loki out of the ship. 

("That ship won't fit through the entrance. It will cut off in half." Loki told them. "Alright then. Abandon the ship, and let your troops blow it up. They should get to have some fun too." Gianna told them. "Let me guess, you want me to bring a smaller craft to carry them through the path." Fandral asked her. "Gold star for shazm." She clapped his shoulder. "Shazm?" He muttered confusedly.) 

Thor then carries Jane and jumps off the ship himself. The troops then blows it up viciously. Thor lands gracefully, while laughing at Loki's less than graceful landing. "I see your time in dungeon has made you no less graceful, Loki." Loki just ignores him. 

"You lied to me. I'm impressed." He played his part. "I'm glad you're pleased. Now do as you promised. And take us to your secret pathway." Loki just grins madly and grabs the handle to pilot the boat. He feels the rush and thrill of the blowing winds, and grins more widely. 

A second ship soon follows after, shooting at their ship. Loki manoeuvres the ship carefully to dodge the shooting. He then takes the ship to higher altitude. "Fandral." Thor commands. "Right." Fandral sighes out and takes a rope, jumping off the ship and using the momentum to land on the other ship. "Sorry boys. Nothing personal." And fake punches Ellen, Volstagg and Sif. 

("You'll land our ship and fake knocking out the soldiers on board. But don't do it really, because that would be us disguised as the Soldiers. Then we'll teleport to the Dark World. And stay hidden. He'll detect her the moment she enters the Dark World." She tells them.)

Thor and Loki fly through the secret passageway, ending up in the Dark World.

Chapter Text

Maneuvering the ship Loki looked at his brother tucking in his mortal lover. For a moment, he felt pity for her, to suffer through something like this. But then he remembered all the mockery, insults and disgust he had faced by those Asgardians, and how his brother had not even lifted a finger to stop them or help him. 

"What I could do with the power that flows through those veins." He commented. "It would consume you." Thor replied sitting in front of her. "She's holding up alright." He argued tilting his head in her direction. "For now. She's strong in the ways you'd never even know." Thor replied. 'If only you knew what true suffering and torment meant.' He thought angrily. "Say goodbye." He told Thor sarcastically. "Not today." He replied stubbornly. 

"This day, the next, a hundred years, it's nothing." He replied, painfully remembering those few lovers from all those other realms he had travelled. How it'd been too late by the time he returned from whatever task Odin had for him. Sometimes he wondered if it was a way for Odin to punish him. "It's a heartbeat. You'll never be ready. The only woman you've loved will be snatched from you." He said while remembering the grief he'd felt when he'd learnt, that either they had died or moved on after waiting for a while. 

But once again the idiot took his words in an entirely different meaning, "And will that satisfy you?" He asked Loki angrily. "Satisfaction is not in my nature." He replied briskly. "Surrender is not in mine." Thor argued. 

"The son of Odin..." He trailed off, knowing that it would set off Thor, and it did. "No, not just Odin." Thor angrily said, stalking up to him. "You think you alone were loved of mother? You had her tricks, but I had her trust." Those words were enough to set him off as well. The pain, sorrow and anger of years came simmering up on the surface. "Tricks? How wonderful Thor, that something she spent centuries learning and mastering, you're ridiculing to mere parlor tricks. And talk about trust, where was this trust when she was almost dead because of you. If it wasn't for that girl, mother would have been dead. Is that her trust in you, that would let her die?" He asked angrily. 

"What help were you sitting in that cell?" Thor retorted. "Who put me in there? Who put me in there?" He asked Thor angrily. "You pretend to know me, and yet you fail to understand anything I say or do. For you everything I do is for some nefarious purpose, isn't it right brother?" He sneered. "The mortals who never even knew me, who had only read of me from the tales realized that something was wrong with the way I was behaving. You who claims to be my brother, and never realized that I was acting odd, how my eyes were green and not blue. Is that how much you know me?" He roared out.

"I needed you, and you weren't there. I cried and pleaded and begged for you to come and save me. But you didn't come. Despite standing by your side for entirety of my life, being there when you needed me, you weren't there when I needed you the most. Not once or twice, but every single time I needed you, you weren't there. They tortured me, burned me, beat me up until I was drowning in my own blood, but they couldn't break me. Do you want to know why?" He said stalking up to him, "Because of you. Because I held out on a hope that even if no one does, you'll come for me." Then he realized what he had said in a moment of weakness, and turned away from him, picking up the control again. 

Thor wanted to say something to Loki, but he couldn't figure out what to say to him, and then he saw Jane open her eyes suddenly. They weren't her usual warm brown shade but a cold blue, a very familiar cold blue eyes of Malekeith. "Jane." He called out to her. But she ignored him and stood up, looking at the sky, where a ship was making it's descent. "Malekeith." She whispered. 

Hearing his brother call out the mortal's name, Loki turned around, and watched her look at the sky and whisper Malekeith's name. The ship of the Dark Elves was descending from the dark clouds. They abandoned their vehicle, and decided to observe from a cliff, which provided them with cover, and gave a clear view of the activities happening on the other end. 

"He's here. Are you ready?" Thor asked Jane, and Loki who was standing beside her brought out a knife, and attacked Thor with it. "Well, I definitely am. You shouldn't have trusted me, brother." He sneered and pushed Thor off the cliff. Malekeith who was watching it all happening, stepped forward looking puzzled. 

("When you guys reach there, and see Malekeith, act like you guys are having a fight. That I'm leaving on to you two. What I want is for you to act like you're switching sides." Sif let out a snort at that. Gianna glared at her and then smirked inwardly. "If you want stab him or cut off his limb or two, to make it more believable." She smirked at Loki. He grinned sharply, "Oh don't worry, I will." The others started to protest but she continued speaking. "When he takes out Aether from Jane's body, return his limbs and cover Jane. You will attack Malekeith then." She said while pointing at Thor. "And don't try to get oversmart and destroy Aether. She won't be destroyed by anything else but something similar to itself and equally powerful." She warned him. He nodded his head. "We'll then join the fight and destroy the troops." She said looking around at the others. They all nodded their heads in agreement. 

"Now, for the contingency plans, if we aren't able to stop him from taking the Aether, and if the convergence starts before we finish them." She said. "I'm going to get a few people from Earth, who will be staying on Earth as standby." Saying that she teleported back to Earth.)

******

Gianna teleported back on Earth in the tower. There she could see a man standing in a tactical gear on the other side of screen. He was ripped like Rogers and Thor. He stopped talking and looked at her, which made her the centre of attention for everyone else in the room. "Hi guys." She waved her hand sheepishly at them. Tony came to her and dragged her forward in front of the screen.

"Captain Braddock. This is also an acquaintance of mine, who had agreed to help in this situation. Gianna this is Captain Braddock, leader of the enhanced team of Britain. The British council agreed to let us help, on the condition that we co-operate with them. So we will need to take him with us as well." He told her. Enhanced team in other country, and this was Captain Britain. She had a few guesses who his teammates will be, but she kept her mouth shut for the time being. She just nodded her head.

"Captain Braddock, you will need to come with us to Asgard, we have already discussed the battle strategy. But if it were to fail, we will need to have some contingencies in the place, for which we will need you, Bruce, Tony and Erik to be present there. I can have you teleported there with us, if you wish?" He nodded his head and the next moment she had teleported the five of them to Asgard. 

She and Tony then introduced both side of teams. "So what are your abilities?" Thor asked Braddock. "I have peak human condition, which translates to higher speed, strength, increased metabolism, healing factor, enhanced reflexes. I can also create energy beams, force fields, and I can fly." Braddock replied. Thor nodded his head. "You must be wondering why didn't we help during the New York invasion?" He asked Thor. Thor nodded his head in agreement. Braddock sighed at that and replied, "We weren't aware that such attack was happening. SHIELD is notoriously known for not sharing information. In Germany they just swooped in and waltzed out the door. So by the time we learned about the invasion, it had already started. Also by the time we were halfway, the fight was already over." 

Then they discussed the contingencies. The Greenwich area for 20 blocks would be evacuated, and the devices to create the anomalies were going to be put around the block. They'll use this anomalies to divide the enemy forces. It was decided that Tony would stay with them, and a team member of Braddock's will be also there with them. So, she dropped them off to Earth and returned to Asgard. She'll collect them when they get to Dark World. 

*******(Back to our fight in Dark World)

Thor started to roll down the slope, and Jane hurried after him. Loki then strolled down the the cliff and kicked Thor in stomach. "You think I cared about you or Frigga? All I ever  wanted was you and Odin dead at my feet. I hate you." He said the last words and cut off Thor's hand, that was reaching out for his hammer. Thor cried out painfully. Jane hurried towards Thor calling out his name. ("Hope he's not betraying us for real." Sif muttered. "Can you cut the guy some slack? I mean the things he had been through." Ellen shook his head and looked away.)

Loki snatched her by her waist and pulled old her away from Thor. "Malekeith, I am Loki of Jotunheim, and I bring you a gift." Saying that he threw her at Malekeith's feet. "I only ask one thing in return. A good seat from which to watch Asgard burn." The minotaur standing beside Malekeith, told him of Loki being Asgard's enemy. Malekeith nodded his head and walked up to Thor. He kicked Thor in chest to turn him around, "Look at me." He then lifted up Jane, and pulled the Aether out of her body.

As soon as the Aether was out of her body she fell down. Thor then sat up and called out to Loki, "Loki now." And Loki brought back his cut off hand, and Thor grabbed Mjolnir and threw his most deadly attack on Malekeith. Loki then teleported Jane away, back to their ship, and started to fight with the minotaur. The others had also arrived immediately, from their hiding places and joined the battle. 

Thor's attack had thrown off Malekeith, and left the Aether in open. "Sweet pea, come on. Time to free yourself of meanie over there." Gianna teleported directly below the Aether and called out to her. The Aether immediately leapt at her and went inside her body. Malekeith screamed out a loud no, but he has to defend himself of an incoming attack from Thor.

"When I said, come to me, I didn't mean make me your home." Gianna muttered to herself. The Aether within her body let out a trill of protest. "Shush you. We need to defeat this idiot." She said pointing in direction of Malekeith, and a strong red energy blast came out of her hand and threw him back quite a bit. "Wow." She said looking at her hand, "Did you give me an upgrade?" She asked her. The Aether vibrated happily in her mind. "Okay then." She paused for a second, "I have a plan." Saying that she started to fly towards the top of the ship of Dark Elves.

A few soldiers, who were in the ship, tried to shoot at her, but she blasted off the weapons targeting her. Once she reached the top, she reached out to the system in the ship, it was a little difficult, but the Aether was translating everything for her. So, she locked up all the entrances in the ship, and turned the remaining weapons to target the elves. With not having to fight the other soldiers, the rest of them divided in helping Thor and Loki fight Malekeith and minotaur. 

Tony's attack on the minotaur distracted him long enough for Loki to get a jump on him and activate the weapon on his body, and then jump out of the way. The bomb blew up and swallowed minotaur in itself violently. That only left Malekeith and troops inside the ship. Gianna then activated self destruct command in the ship, and teleported away from there. She created an energy barrier around them all to protect them from the projectiles. 

In the meantime, Malekeith was battling Thor. Thor managed to get a strong hit at Malekeith pushing him to Loki who stabbed Malekeith through his throat. He then pulled back the dagger and brought it full force on Malekeith's head cutting it off. His head rolled down to the side and body fell down with a thud. Ellen then set off both of the body parts on fire, burning them until they turned ashes. 

The field was silent for a few seconds after that. Then Volstagg and Fandral let out a victorious cry, and everyone started to cheer. Aether flowed out of Gianna's body and settled on her wrist in the form of an intricate designed gauntlet. "Nice." She said looking at it. 

They then dropped off the other Asgardian warriors to Asgard, and brought the rest of them to Earth. They waited for convergence to pass in the Greenwich, standing guarded. But it passed peacefully, with a lot of readings for the scientists to faun over. If you count a Jotunheim beast to barrel out of a portal, and the time it took to get it back to Jotunheim, a bird incident, some floating cars and two teenagers sneaking in to take a picture of Thor and Iron Man as peacefully. They had to sit through a debrief after that, and that was it. Although, before leaving Tony asked Braddock had a talk, after which Tony asked him to keep in touch, which Braddock agreed to. 

They then boarded the quinjet and travelled back to New York. After arriving at New York, they all went to their rooms and freshened up. Ellen and Gianna had dragged away Loki to their floor instead of letting him go with Thor. 

After taking a shower Loki wandered out into the living room. He looked out the window at the cityscape. He heard footsteps coming from the hallway, and turned around to find Ellen. He turned back to look at the city. "Can I get you something to drink or eat?" He asked Loki. "It's alright. I wouldn't mind some tea though." Loki replied. "Well Pepper and Bruce are the only tea drinkers here. So, I can just run up to the penthouse and bring it down here, or we could go to the penthouse." Ellen suggested. 

"Actually, Sir requested Mister Loki's presence at the penthouse after he has freshened up." JARVIS announced. 

Ellen looked at Loki questioningly, and he nodded his head. "Alright J. Tell him we're on our way." Saying that he started to walk towards the elevator. "Why not just open a portal?" Loki asked getting in the elevator after him. "Because Tony still has some minor freak-out about portals." Loki nodded his head thoughtfully.

They reached the penthouse and saw Tony sitting on the couch. They sat down on the couch facing him. "You wanted to talk?" Ellen asked Tony. Tony nodded his head while eyeing Loki with an unreadable expression. "So, I was wondering if you were interested in filling me in on the Thanos guy. I mean these two did shed some light on things, but they don't have any actual information on him and his army which could be helpful in making a battle strategy." Tony told Loki. 

Loki looked thoughtful for a while and then his expression changed, like he had come to some sort of decision. "Alright. It's... He has an army base in one of the darker part of the galaxy. And since Heimdall can see only within nine realms, he won't be able to see him until he starts attacking. He goes from planet to planet, slaughtering half of the population, and if someone on the planet catches his interest, he takes them in and kind of adopts them to be his chil-" Loki choked at his words. But then he swallowed it down and continued to speak. 

"His children. He calls them the black order. I know a few of them. Gamora, Nebula, Corvus Glaive, Proxima Midnight, Ebony Maw, Black Dwarf. Then there's the other." He said the last name with hesitation and some fear. He looked lost in thoughts for a moment and then started hyperventilating. "Loki, Lokes, Reindeer Games." Tony called out a few times and then waved a hand in front of his face. That had Loki flinching back a little. "Hey, it's alright. You're on Earth at the Stark tower, the year is 2013, and it's seven pm. Take a deep breath and relax." He told him. 

"I am fine." Loki snapped out. "Yeah. Well I don't believe that. You may have got a lid on it, but you're far from okay." Tony told him seriously. "Why don't you drink some tea? Pepper says tea's good for stress reducing. I'll get you some tea. Ellen get the nice Chinaware out for Reindeer Games. And please don't break it, cause Pepper will have our heads then." He said while putting up the water to boil and starting the coffee machine. "Ellen, what will you drink?" He asked while getting a mug from the shelf. "Coffee." Ellen replied, holding the Chinaware very carefully, because Tony wasn't lying when he said Pepper will have their heads if they broke it. 

"Here try this one. It's Bruce's favorite Post-Hulkout." He said forwarding the tea bag and the cup to Loki. Then he took his and Ellen's coffee and sat down at the table. "This is acceptable." Loki replied drinking his tea. In his head Tony pictured Loki as a delicate princess saying that. He tried not to choke on his coffee at the mental image. 

"So, what do you plan on doing after going back to Asgard?" Ellen asked Loki. "I am not sure." Loki replied after thinking for a few minutes. "What do you want to do?" Tony asked him. "I have been thinking of something. It'll depend on what happens back there. But in the meantime, I would like to apologise to Dr Selvig. If he's amicable to it." He said hesitantly. 

"I talked to him about what we had discovered, and he might be ready to see you some day, but not today." Tony told him. Loki nodded his head and looked down at his cup. "I also wanted to apologise to you. Even if I wasn't in control, I still threw you out the window, and it was unacceptable of me. Yet, you tried to clear my name. If you need my help with anything, do not hesitate. Also, do not trust SHIELD. I wasn't lying when I said that they were liers and killers." Loki told him seriously. 

"Apology accepted. And I understand where you are coming from. Sure I wasn't held captive for two years and I wasn't mind controlled by them, but I was still their prisoner for three months. You made the best of the situation. God knows I did." Tony said with a bitter chuckle. "As for SHIELD. They're not going to last long." He said with a smirk. 

"Sir, Mr Odinson is on his way. He was searching for Mr Loki." JARVIS announced. Loki let out a sigh and muttered something under his breath. "Friends." Thor's booming voice rang out from the hall. "In here big guy." Tony called out. Thor entered the room and he was towering over all of them. He suddenly felt sympathetic towards Loki for living between a whole lot of them. 

"So, what brings you here?" Tony asked Thor. "We should head back to Asgard. If you could get your friend to bring the Aether it would be nice." Thor replied looking at Loki.  Loki didn't look up at Thor but did nod his head in agreement. "I'll have Gianna bring it here." Tony told Thor, to which Thor nodded his head. 

Soon, Gianna arrived in the living room. "Look, if you're planning to give her to the collector, don't. I don't think it's a good idea." She said caressing the Aether. "Why?" Thor asked her. "Well, he kinda wants to collect all of them. Don't know the motive, but it could be anything. Maybe he wants to do something with them himself, maybe he is just collecting them, I don't know. But you're right that having two on the same planet is bad as well." She said thinking about the mind stone and the time stone. If they left the Aether here, Earth will have three infinity stones, making it a center of trouble. 

Chapter Text

In the end it was decided that the Aether would be given to the collector, and will be taken back from him when the time comes. So, Thor and Loki returned to Asgard with the Aether. Thor sent Sif and Volstagg to hand over the Aether to the collector, and headed towards the palace with Loki.

"Mother." Thor said in a booming voice. "Thor, Loki. You are back." Frigga replied smiling, walking forward and hugging both of them. "I'm glad to have you both back home." She said smilingly. "Except this is not my home." Loki said. Both Frigga and Thor tried to protest but Loki raised his hand to stop them from speaking. "You may not like hearing it, but at the end of the day it is the truth. I've never really felt like Asgard was my home. Like I've been never accepted as myself. Every moment of my life, I have spent under your shadow. But not anymore." He said, and then took a deep breath.

"I've been thinking about it for some time now. My life has been a lie for so long, with no idea of what or who I really am. I would like to find that out. Starting with apologising to those people whose King I killed, and accept whatever punishment they seem worthy. I also want to return them something that is rightfully theirs." He said the last part looking in Frigga's direction. "You wish to give the casket to jotuns." Frigga replied eyeing him thoughtfully. "Yes." Loki replied. "Loki you can't be possibly thinking of doing something like this. Frost Giants do not like Asgardians or Asgard, they might try to destroy Asgard with the help of the casket. And what if they decide to sentence you death for killing their King?" Thor boomed out. 

"I'm aware of that you idiot. It is your nature to charge in without a second thought, not mine." Loki replied scathingly. "Moreover they do not possess manpower, supplies or weapons to battle against Asgardian army." Before Thor could make a comment Frigga cut him off, "Are you sure Loki?" She asked giving him a searching look. "Yes, I'm sure all-mother." Loki replied curtly. Both Frigga and Thor flinched at Loki's address of Frigga. "Alright my child. As you wish to do." Saying that Frigga led them to the treasure vault of the palace. They were then standing in front of the casket. 

Loki took a deep breath and reached out to the casket, touching it. Soon he felt the same chill he had felt when he had first touched the casket. He looked at his hand intensely which was turning blue. He felt the chill spreading through his entire body and heard a gasp behind him. He turned around and saw Thor flinching away when their eyes locked, "Still want to call me brother Thor Odinson." He asked Thor bluntly. Thor didn't say anything for a second, but then his eyes turned determined and he stepped forward, hugging Loki, "Always brother." Then he stepped back, "Although hugging you might be a bit of a problem, what with it kind of freezing me." He jokingly said removing the ice from his skin and clothes. But then he turned serious, "Take care brother. I know that you won't believe me, but you'll always have me." Loki smiled sadly at him, "You're right. I cannot believe you on that because I didn't have you when I needed you the most." And then he left through the pathway that he'd shown to the jotuns on Thor's coronation.

"Why did you not try to stop him mother?" Thor asked Frigga. "I saw it in his eyes. He was determined to see it through, no amount of cajoling or explaining on our part was going to change his mind. I had always wished for him to learn about that part of his heritage, but your father forbade me from telling him anything. Maybe if he stays with them, he may hate himself a little less." She replied, expressing her own hopes.

******

Loki soon arrived at the frozen tundra, ahead of which laid the path to Utgard, the capital of Jotunheim. He started to walk towards it. On the halfway he gained a few shadows, but he didn't make a move to harm them or anything. He peacefully continued his walk towards the capital. Getting tired of just following him, they must have decided to show themselves. "Asgardian state your business or be ready to be beheaded." One said while putting a cold sword at his neck. "I come in peace." Loki replied diplomatically. 

"You Asgardians do not know the meaning of the word peace." Another one spoke up with disgust. True. Asgard was known for a lot of things, but being peaceful was not one of them. "Well it is a good thing that I am not an Asgardian anymore, isn't it?" He asked looking at the person who had made that comment. "State your business." The one standing behind him said while pressing the sword a little harder. "I wanted to apologies for the crimes I committed against your kingdom, and accept whatever punishment that I'm given." He replied seriously. 

The one standing behind him hissed out, "And what if it is a scheme of yours to kill our new King, weren't you the one to kill previous one?" The sword was now drawing some blood from his neck. "It is not. I know that my word will mean nothing to you, but I swear on my magic that I speak the truth. I only wish to atone for my crime." He hoped that the guy would consider it and take him to the castle.

"Very well then. I'll take you to my chieftain. He'll surely know what to do with you." The guy behind him said nudging him forward. Loki started to walk and the guards surrounding him did as well. They walked through the streets of Utgard, feeling eyes on him from everywhere. They then arrived at the palace where a few people were standing outside. The guards walking beside him kneeled down to the man in the center. "Chieftain, we found this Asgardian wandering around in the tundra." The guy who was previously standing behind him said. 

"What are you doing here Asgardian? Was killing our leader not enough for you?" He asked Loki angrily. "I came for the very reason. In my rage, I committed the crime of murdering your King. For that I apologise. I wish to offer myself up for any punishment your ruler gives me." Loki replied looking straight into the eyes of the chieftain. "You speak very bold words Asgardian. But are you daring enough to pay the price of your sin?" He asked Loki holding up his jaw in his hand. Loki just looked at him defiantly and nodded his head. 

"Alright then. I will talk to the King, but if you try any of your tricks trickster, you'll be dead." The chieftain said looking into his eyes, then turned around and left. 

A few minutes later a guard came back and told the other guards to bring him in. They passed through a hallway and entered a throne room a little similar to that of Asgard, the only difference being it made up of ice entirely. The whole palace was made of ice, with various carvings and designs in it. Loki came and stood in front of the throne where a man was sitting on the throne, and the chieftain was standing by his side, and another man with markings on his skin similar to that of the one sitting on the throne. That must be the new chieftain's son or a relative. 

"What brings the prince of Asgard to these frozen wastelands?" He said in a mocking tone. "Not the prince anymore." He replied stiffly. "Ah. Rumours has it after your stunt in the Midgard he put you in the dungeons for the rest of your life, I believe." He told Loki. "He did." Loki replied. "Then what are you doing out here?" He asked Loki curiously. "It is a long story, which is not any of your concerns. But if you're worried about me running away from the prison and arriving here, then you can relax. Nothing like that happened. I have come here willingly to atone for my sin." He replied looking straight ahead. 

"Our sire wasn't the same man after losing my youngest brother. He would himself have detested the man he had become. By killing him you did us a favor, but he was our King and we cannot just let you walk free for it either. However, you had already suffered enough at the hands of Thanos, if the rumors we've heard are true." Loki's head shot upwards at the King's comment.

"How do you know of Thanos?" He tried to ask in a detached voice, but he couldn't get rid of the slight tremble in it. If they were associating with Thanos, then he needed to get out of there as soon as possible. "Words travel, people talk." The guy standing beside the King replied. "Since we need to wander around on the other planets to search for food, water and other things, our people have expanded their horizons a lot." The guy snapped. "Brother." The King said in a reprimand, and he listened to the King. Amazing, if it had been him and Thor, his reprimand would have been ignored. 

"In the meantime, take him to the cages. We will announce our decision tomorrow." Saying that he dismissed the court and the soldiers started to drag him towards the other side of the palace. He was then put into a cage with only one or two cages filled with people. "There aren't many people here." He remarked, looking around himself. "We do not go around conquering other realms, and taking prisoners. Moreover, there aren't many people anyway. Your King made sure of that when he took away the casket and slaughtered all those people and children placed in the temple, including our youngest prince." The guard told him angrily pushing him inside a cage.

Loki fell down from the strength of the guard, but he didn't say anything and got up. He had committed a crime against them, so he didn't make any snide comment and just settled himself against a wall. The exhaustion soon took over him, and he fell asleep as soon as he sat down. 

******

"Father, I assume the messenger I sent for you must have debriefed you on the situation." Helblindi asked his father. Fárbauti looked up from studying the supplies he had bargained on his last trip. "Indeed he did." He replied looking at his eldest son. "What is on your mind son?" Fárbauti asked him. "He apologized for killing our bearer, but not even once did he mention his relation to us." He looked at him puzzled. "Perhaps he does not have made the connection yet." Fárbauti replied arranging the supplies in order. "He's known to be one of the cleverest among the nine realms. Please do not insult my brother's intelligence like that father." Helblindi protested. 

"Your brother?" Fárbauti asked mischievously. "He may not acknowledge it, but he is our brother. I do not know what to do father. If I let him off without a reprimand or a punishment, it will cause uproar in our people. But at the same time I also understand where he is coming from. The Aesir aren't very fond of jotuns, and they must have poisoned his mind against our kind. Then to suddenly learn that your entire life has been a lie, it must have broken his heart. And after that being captured by Thanos, it is a miracle that he still has the will to live on. Many would have succumbed to their demons by now." He said clenching his fists. 

"What does your heart tells you?" Fárbauti asked him. "The ruler in me wishes to bring justice to my bearer's killer, but at the same time he and the brother in me demands Odin's blood for taking away one of our own and twisting him up so cruelly. The brother part of me also wishes for just hugging his brother and hiding him away from the cruelty of this world." Helblindi replied. 

"I believe in you my son. And I know you will make a rational decision." Fárbauti told him, patting him on the back. And then he left him standing there with his thoughts. 

Once he was out of the room, he cleared his throat loudly. "You can come out now Býleistr, Brimir. What has your brother and mother said about eavesdropping." He said turning around and tapping his foot, waiting for the other two to drop their illusions. "That it is frowned upon." Brimir replied petulantly. "What brother does not know will not hurt him." Býleistr huffed. Fárbauti picked up Brimir chuckling and signaled Býleistr to follow him. "What were you eavesdropping for anyway?" Fárbauti asked them. "We wanted to know what was going to happen to Uncle Loki." Brimir replied pouting angrily. 

Fárbauti let out a sigh and shook his head. "You will know tomorrow. Until then go and rest. And do not pester your father on the matter." He chided. The child sitting in his arms nodded his head. "Yes farmor." And the kid jumped out of his arms and ran off. "What do you think brother's decision will be?" Býleistr asked him after Brimir was out of sight. "Your brother will make a just decision." Fárbauti replied, praying in his mind that Helblindi will not be too strict on Loki. 

******

"Rise and shine." The guy he had assumed to be Býleistr said, entering his cage. Loki stood up and nodded his head in acknowledgement. "Let's get going." He said turning around and getting out of the cage. "So has your King come to a decision?" Loki asked Býleistr. Býleistr just hummed in response. Loki felt irritated at not getting a proper response, but he was here for whatever punishment they deemed necessary, so it didn't matter what he had decided. Except for being handed over to Thanos, he will kill himself before going anywhere near that heartless monster. 

They arrived at the throne room, and Helblindi was already sitting on the throne. Another man with some resemblance to both Helblindi and Býleistr was standing on one side of him, must be some relative. On the other side the chieftain from yesterday was standing. Býleistr soon went up and stood beside the chieftain. 

"I have had a lengthy conversation and considered for a while, after which I have come to the conclusion that helping in rebuilding Jotunheim is an appropriate punishment for you. As unfortunate it is to say, but my bearer had become a shallow husk of the man he used to be, death was a kindness to him in a way. The only part of it I regret is that it was at his own son's hands that he died. That he never got to learn that the son he had thought dead was still alive." Helblindi announced looking straight at Loki. Loki hadn't realized that Helblindi had started to walk towards him during his speech, so he wasn't prepared when Helblindi suddenly grabbed his hand. 

Loki knew what was going to happen after that. He heard gasps and murmurs from people around them. He had closed his eyes when Helblindi had clutched his hand, so he slowly opened them. He saw his hands had turned blue where they were visible from his clothing. "You could have easily gotten lesser sentence, if you had announced your true identity. But you didn't, may I ask why?" Helblindi asked him tilting his head to the side a little. 

"I did not wish to receive a lighter punishment simply by announcing my identity." Loki replied snatching his hand back. He didn't turn back to his Aesir looks though. "Also I have something that may help you in rebuilding and repairing Jotunheim a little more." Saying that he pulled out the Casket of Ancient Winters from one of his pocket dimensions. He was holding the Casket, which solidified the truth of him being a jotun. "I presume that you didn't inform about having it, because you didn't want to lessen your punishment." Fárbauti commented. Loki nodded his head. 

"If you do not mind me asking who are you? Clearly from the resemblance you're related to the two of them. But you're around Laufey's age. So are you some sort of an uncle? His brother perhaps?" Loki asked him. The guy let out a chuckle at his question. "How much of Jotun biology are you aware of?" The guy asked him. "Not much. I haven't encountered any jotuns before Thor's coronation, and after that it was all too much to swift through the pages. Moreover Asgardian libraries scarcely have anything on jotun biology." He replied. 

"That explains so much. I'm your father. All the three of you. Laufey is your bearer." The words bearer started to ring in his ears. Bearer. Bearer. "I think I need some time to process it all." Loki said while trying to stand straight. His head was spinning. 

"I think you broke him, father." These were the last words he heard before everything went dark.

Chapter Text

Loki woke up to the sensation of being watched. He then felt something touch his nose and he opened his eyes immediately. He found a child hovering over him. The child blinked and spoke up, "You're awake. I'm going to inform Farmor." Saying that the child raced out of the room. He sat up and looked around at the room. He was laying on a ice slab, and his body was covered in a brown sheet of some sort. It was very soft and warm. The room didn't have any traditional furniture, but made up of ice. 

The sound of footsteps made him stop his observation of the room, and had him looking at the door where his birth father was walking in with the small child in his tow. "Ah, son. I see you're awake. I hope you had a good rest, and won't pass out on us again." He said while checking up on him. "I believe what you learnt two days ago must have shocked you." Loki whipped up his head to look at him, "Two days." He spoke in disbelief. "Yes, you were quite fatigued and were malnourished." The man scowled at him. "Those Asgardians weren't taking very good care of you." He growled out. "The Queen did make sure to have me fed regularly and brought some books to entertain me, but I sometimes refused to eat or drink in fit of anger." Loki said somewhat ashamedly. 

He heard Fárbauti sigh, and start to speak. But a tug from the child with him had him stopping from speaking. The child glared at the old ruler. "Apologies. May I introduce you to my grandson, your brother Helblindi's son, Brimir. Your nephew." The child, Brimir beamed at him. "Hello." Loki said softly. "Hello Uncle. I'm Brimir. I'm 352 cycles old." Loki chuckled at the child's enthusiasm. "It is very nice to meet you, Brimir. I'm Loki. I'm 1200 cycles old. I'm your father's brother." Fárbauti coughed at the last part, "Bearer's brother." He murmured. "Apologies, your Bearer's brother." Loki corrected himself with a strained smile and flushed face. Brimir giggled at the two of them. 

"Brimir why don't you go and help Býleistr." Fárbauti said in a firm voice. Brimir wanted to protest but his Farmor's strict tone made it clear that he won't take no for an answer. So, he nodded and bid his new uncle and Farmor goodbye.

Fárbauti let out a sigh and sat down in front of Loki. "I understand that the Asgardians must have fed you a lot of falsehoods regarding our culture and history, but not all of it is true. The war between Asgardians and Jotuns has been going on for a long time, even before I was born. No one really knows anymore why it began in the first place. And then Odin took you and the casket. People were devastated from the loss of their children, and Prince. We were grieving too. Your brothers took it the hardest, especially Helblindi. He was the eldest child at the time, and was supposed to protect you. He was no older than Brimir at the time. When the Asgardians attacked, we hid you all in the temple. But when they attacked the temple, some of them escaped to woods, including your brothers. By the time we got there, Odin had already left with you. Some animals had gotten in the temple before that and ate the flesh of the left ones. So, we assumed that you were also.." Fárbauti stopped at that. "You thought that I was dead as well." Loki finished his sentence. 

Fárbauti silently nodded his head. Loki tentatively reached out and squeezed Fárbauti's hand. Fárbauti exhaled loudly and then looked up at Loki. "Everyday I wish that we wouldn't have put you all there in the temple. Then maybe things would have been different." He said while looking at Loki. "But it's done now, and no amount of dwelling is going to change that." Loki said while tracing circles on the sheet he was covered in. 

At that moment did he notice, that he was in his Jotun form and not the Asgardian one. He looked at his true form curiously, and then started to compare the markings between himself and Fárbauti. Fárbauti saw him observing their markings, "Yours are a lot more similar to Laufey in looks." He said running his hand over Loki's marks. His stomach chose that moment to let known it's emptiness. Loki turned purple from blushing and looked anywhere but at his supposed father. 

Fárbauti let out a chuckle, and stood up. "I'll have someone bring down some food for you." He said while clapping Loki's back and then walking out of the room.

After half an hour or so, a man he met yesterday came in with his food. "Hello there, little brother. I'm Býleistr. Your second elder brother." The guy said cheerfully. His cheerful nature reminded Loki of Thor. He gave himself a mental shake. Stop thinking of that idiotic oaf. He scolded himself. 

"Nice to meet you Býleistr." Loki replied to Býleistr. Býleistr grinned at him. Loki studied him for a while. It seemed like Býleistr took after Fárbauti in the looks department. "What are you looking at baby brother?" Býleistr asked Loki, once he saw Loki staring at him. "You look a lot like uh.." He hesitated to say the last word, "Father." He whispered. 

Býleistr smiled inwardly at how cute his little brother was being, but when he saw Loki staring at him again he replied hurriedly. "Yes, I'm told. And you look a lot like our bearer." And he had killed him, Loki thought bitterly. Býleistr saw the expression on Loki's face, and decided to change the topic, because he realized what that expression meant. Utter self-loathing.

"So I've heard that you're a powerful sorcerer." Býleistr said. Loki nodded his head. "What of it?" Loki asked cautiously. Usually whenever his magic was brought up, it was to make fun of him or to belittle him. "No, it's just I've heard a lot of how much of an accomplished sorcerer you are, and uh I was just trying to make small talks." He said shippishly. Loki was lost for words for the moment. "Oh. I won't mind to learn something about you and the others." He said while looking at his plate. It was some kind of meat slices with dark liquid. He started to eat slowly and listened to Býleistr regaling him with stories of his childhood.

********

Dark sky full of stars.The cackling of various chitauri and buzzing sound from the speedsters. He couldn't breathe. The mothership blowing up. Falling down from the sky. The portal closing on him. A deep chuckle in the background. He woke up with a gasp. "It's 22nd October, 2013 and 4.00 AM. The weather in New York is 58°F." JARVIS announced. "Good morning, J. How long was I asleep for?" He asked rubbing his face. "4 hours, Sir." JARVIS replied. "May I recommend taking a shower and eating something light afterwards." JARVIS pointedly said. Tony let out a sigh and nodded his head. He knew that he was smelling bad and that his stomach was growling. 

Tony entered the lift and FRIDAY silently brought him to the penthouse. He saw Pepper sleeping in the bedroom. He decided to just nap for a while and joined her under the covers.

The next time he woke up, sunlight was streaming through the window. He turned around and found Pepper laying awake beside him. "Hey." He smiled sleepily. "Good morning." She whispered. "Mmh. Morning." He replied in a sleepy tone.

The next time he woke up, Pepper was in the shower, where he happily joined. After that they had breakfast and were off to meetings. It was that kind of boring day. He wanted to skip out and go down to the labs, but he didn't want to entice Pepper's wrath. So, he played nice as much as he could. Meaning he annoyed the board members. 

He spent the evening helping Pepper pack and then all of them loitering in the kitchen while Gianna and Bruce cooked the dinner.

After dinner Pepper took the jet to Berlin and Happy went with her. Once the jet took off they returned to the penthouse. "So what do you guys plan on doing now?" He asked the others. 

"I'm going to call it a night." Bruce replied. The other two chimed in their agreement. Tony rolled his eyes at them, "I didn't mean like that. I was talking about future plans, like in the next few months. Are you guys going back to Kamar-Taj or staying or what?" He asked looking at the two of them. 

Gianna who was half laying on the couch replied, "We don't have to go back there regularly. Just two days a week. So, I think we can make a training schedule for here as well. We managed to get past the first two disasters, but we can't go floundering around like this." Tony thought about what she said, and it was true. They needed better coordination.

"Also, some self defense training for Pepper. And operating rescue armor." Tony said. "Yeah, that. But I'm thinking that we all should work on our hand to hand combat skills." Bruce suggested. He got three nods of approval. "Probably should include Jane, Darcy and Selvig too." Gianna spoke up. 

"Yeah. It'll be good for them to have some basic self-defense knowledge." Ellen said. "I'll talk to them about it." Tony mumbled. 

"So that's decided then. We've got to go to Kamar-Taj on Monday and Friday. So any two other days works fine for us." Gianna said sitting up. All of them looked around at everyone else and then agreed. "Good then. I'm off to sleep." Saying that she teleported away to her room. "Give me a lift." Bruce pleaded to Ellen and Ellen just sighed and opened a portal to Bruce's bedroom. "Good night you two." Bruce said going through the portal. Tony just leaned back on the couch. "You're not going to sleep?" Ellen asked Tony. "Later." Tony mumbled. Ellen nodded and went off to his own room, and fell asleep. 

The next day morning, they were going through the breakfast and daily news. "Two dead, after gunfire erupts in Tulsa, Oklahoma yesterday evening. The police do not know the reason of the shooting, and denied it being an active shooting." Tony read out loudly. "Gang violence?" Gianna speculated sipping her coffee. "Don't know. But it says here that they were shooting at some guy who could shoot laser beams from his eyes and one other girl. There's even a video of the fight, posted by some teenager." Saying that he played the video.

"Wait, shooting laser from his eyes? Show me." Saying that Ellen snatched the tablet out of Tony's hand, and he and Gianna watched the video. And it was him. Scott mo******king Summers. In his X-Men suit. They put down the tablet, "Are you telling me that you guys have mutants in your universe?" Gianna asked Tony and Bruce. "We thought you guys knew." Bruce said. The two groaned at Bruce's comment.

Chapter Text

(16 hours earlier)

'Scott, I need you to go to Tulsa. The mutant I've been talking to, her father found out about her mutation. She heard him talking about giving her to some group to cure her.' Said the frantic voice of the professor in his head. 

'Where is she now?' Scott asked mentally. "Alright, class dismissed. The rest of the questions will be your assignment. You have two days to finish them." He spoke out loud to his class. 

'She's hiding in the woods near Yahola lake. She sneaked out when he left for work. We have three hours, before her father returns and realizes that she's gone.' Scott was starting up the blackbird. 

"Don't worry, professor. By the time he realizes, I'll be on my way back with her." Scott spoke out loud. The blackbird rose out of the underground hanger below the basketball court. 'CLOAKING MODE ACTIVATED.' The display said. 

Three hours later he was landing the blackbird in the woods near lake Yahola. 'Be careful, Scott. Alissa saw her father and a few men roaming around the lake. I can't sense them,so they might be wearing psionic blockers or some sort of cloaking device. Head North towards the park exit. There's a cafe around the corner. Just wait out there, she isn't very far from there.' 

Soon he reached the exit, and found the cafe. He was standing out there, when he saw a girl, scared and looking around at everyone. 'It's her.' "Alissa?" He asked tapping on the girl's shoulder. "Yes, are you Mr. Summers?" She asked him in a timid voice, still looking around and fidgeting. "Yes, I am. Let's go, the professor is waiting for us." Suddenly she let out a sob, "I'm so sorry. I didn't want to do anything, but they have my mum." Her comment alerted him on a possible foul play.

"Alissa, what do you mean?" He asked he angrily gripping her wrist. He looked around and saw some men staring at him and speaking into comms. "Damnit." He said and tried to drag her away with him. But his hand phased through her. "I'm sorry. But I have to save my mum." She said hysterically. The professor was shouting in his head repeatedly to leave. The men must have realized that their covers were blown, so they started to fire at him. He used his optic blasts to defend himself, and try to get out of there. 

The fight must have shocked Alissa, because he was able to drag her with him this time. They managed to get inside the woods, but then he felt a prick on his neck. He saw the injection in Alissa's hand, and realized that she had deliberately let herself be dragged with him. The last thing he remembered was her cries of forgiveness and approaching footsteps of those men.

******

"Damnit." Professor said hitting the control panel in front of him. He immediately reached out to everyone else. 'I need you to come back immediately.' He told them and again tried to reach out to both Alissa and Scott. No response. He couldn't even sense them now. Something was blocking him. 

Twenty minutes later Peter and Ororo were standing in front of him. They were in Panama when he had reached out to them. "What is it Prof?" Hank who was in the lab, had come out immediately after learning of the situation. He was pacing around and brooding about not going with Scott. Charles refrained from pointing out that he would have been easily subsided by Alissa. Jean and Wendy were on their way back from the town. He directed the memory of the incident to both Ororo and Peter. 

"I'll go there and see if I can find out their lair." Saying that Peter was gone. Charles sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "I'll try to contact Scott again. Ororo, can you please keep an eye out on students?" Charles said puting on the helmet again. He didn't wait to see if Ororo did as he said so. His main focus was Scott right now. 

*******

Peter searched through every corner of Tulsa for Scott, but there was no sign of him or the people who took him. It was like they had taken Scott and just simply vanished. Frustrated he returned to the mansion. He passed Jean, Wendy and Ororo in the cafeteria on his way down to the cerebro.

“Did you find him?” He asked professor. Hank was standing beside him. Professor sighed and shook his head, “I can’t. Whoever took him, they must have some sort of technology which is stopping me from contacting Scott.” Peter was getting restless. What if the same people who took him and Wendy, had gotten their hands on Scott. Fear shot through him at that thought. “Peter, please calm down. You’re making it hard for me to concentrate.” The professor told him with strained voice.

“I’ll just- I mean- I will go. Upstairs. Help with the kids and make sure no one suspicious is loitering around.” Saying that Peter got the hell outta there. He went through the entire mansion, and made sure that all the doors and windows were locked properly, patrolled the grounds two three times for good measure and checked up on all of the kids. The ladies had all of the students and staff gathered up in the cafeteria, so it wasn’t much hassle to check on them. He then checked the security systems, which were working totally fine.

Once satisfied he returned to the cafeteria. “You okay now?” Jean asked sitting down beside him. “Yeah, I’m fine. It’s just kinda reminding of the time we were taken by those guys.” He mumbled while fidgeting with his headphones. They were a gift from his mom. He missed her. Marya looked so much like a younger version of their mom, it kind of hurt sometimes to look at her. But he loved her as much as he loved his twin, and he should check on her. He turned to tell Jean that he was going to check on Marya, but she spoke up first, “Wendy already called her. She’s fine. She’s heading home.” Peter let out a breath of relief at that. “And Alex? Does he want me to pick him up from wherever he is?”

“No, he’s in flight right now. And there are four other mutants with him, so it might be a little difficult for you to get them all here at once.” Jean told him. He nodded his head. “Do we know anything about those four mutants? Who they are? What if they’re also some sort of trap? I mean they’ve already got one Summers.” He whisper shouted at her. No need to scare the kids more than they already are. “They are not. One of them is a part of X-Men from Logan’s past timeline. Their flight will land in an hour. So he'll be here very soon. Although professor hasn't told him anything yet. Said it might not be a good idea to tell him when he's airborne." She choked out. 

Peter really looked at her at that moment and realized that Jean must have been crying for a while. Despite their relationship not working out, Scott was the one that Jean was closest to. "Hey, he'll be fine. I bet he's giving them his YOU'RE DISAPPOINTING look right now." He dragged her into a one arm hug. She laughed at that. "We'll find him, right? I don't want to lose anyone else in my life." She whispered. "Yeah, we will." He told her with determination lacing his voice. 

***(10 hours ago)***

In years this is the first time that Scott woke up with no pain behind his eyelids. His head felt so clear, no pressure. Everything around him looked bleary, but it wasn't tinted with red color. He closed his eyes to steady himself and remember what happened to him. 

Professor. Tulsa. Girl. Ambush. Yeah. He remembered it all now.

He took a deep breath and exhaled. Okay, assess the situation. He quickly opened his eyes and closed them.

No optic blasts.

Could be worse.

He opened his eyes again and looked around. He was in a cell. There was just one slot in the door, to check on him and provide him with food, if they did feed the mutants they captured. There was also a CCTV camera above the door. 

He tried to reach out to professor or Jean. But despite concentrating very hard, he couldn't feel presence of either of them in his head. Maybe they had telepathic dampeners. 

He heard two sets of footsteps walking and stopping in front of his cell door. Before he could take any action, he felt a powerful electric shock from the collar he now noticed, was around his neck.

The next time he came to, he was tied up to an operation table. He tried to get free, but who was he kidding. He didn't have super strength like Hank. 

"If I were you I would stop trying to break free from those. They're designed to hold the likes of project X. And believe me, he's the strongest we have."

"Major Stryker. I would say I wasn't expecting it to be you, but then I would be lying." He told the man walking through the door.

Chapter Text

***Present Time***

"Jarvis, can you make a call on this address?" Saying that Gianna told him the address of Xavier's mansion.

"I'm afraid Miss Powell, but the call is not going through. Although there were several complaints made by the neighbors yesterday night about loud noises." JARVIS informed them apologetically.

"Scott Summers is attacked by armed men and then the communication at the manor are off, moreover neighbors complain about loud noises. I hope it's not what I think it is. We need to go there now." She grabbed Ellen's hand and teleported them in the mansion's driveway.

Unfortunately, since she hadn't given him a warning Ellen didn't get the chance to brace himself. He hunched over and put his head between his legs. "Sorry!" Gianna whispered softly. 

They entered the mansion and saw the broken front door and the windows shattered. "This is turning out to be more and more like a scene from X2 when Stryker attacked the mansion." She muttered to herself.

"Yeah, let's take a quick look around, see if we can find anything useful." Ellen spoke up. They surveyed the place and found bodies of armed men in the hallways and on stairs. It seemed like some of them had caught back. There were claw marks, burns and shattered objects lying around. 

"Modified weapons." Gianna said examining the one or two intact weapons.

"Examine them later, we still have a lot of ground to cover." Gianna nodded and stood up. They went down to the cerebro, and saw the closed door. "I need to check the data on it." Saying that she accessed the biometric lock and opened the door.

She connected her mind to cerebro, and the sheer power of the machine overwhelmed her. She let go with a gasp, and crumbled down. "What happened?" Ellen crouched down and asked her worriedly. 

"It's too powerful. Kinda overwhelmed me there for a bit. I'm fine now. Just need to build up a few more firewalls. Then I can try again." She told him while massaging her temples. "Don't be an idiot. I'm not letting you try it again immediately after almost passing out trying first time." Ellen argued. 

"Please, just let me try. I'm sure I can find something." Gianna argued stubbornly. "Fine, but not too long." Ellen relented after few seconds. 

After creating some new firewalls, she reconnected with the machine. Surprisingly the cerebro had all recordings of any and every communication made by it within the last week.

She examined the events of yesterday night and learned that the school was attacked by Stryker and his men. Charles, Alex and Hank were down here trying to find Scott, but it was looking more and more like a dead end. Stryker had Kurt take out Peter and Jean first, and shut down the generators. After which his men swarmed in and spread throughout the manor. Most of the adults were taken down by those modified stun batons she saw upstairs. Once they were down, the children weren't too hard to sedate.

Piotr and Wendy had thankfully managed to escape with a few children. They had gotten out through underground tunnels. In a last attempt Charles had reached out to Raven and informed her about the situation, then he was also captured. 

"Okay, I can confirm that it was Stryker. He's taken them hostage, but some of the kids escaped with Rasputin and Wendy. I don't know where they're headed, except for the fact that they're not with Stryker. Hopefully. Also, Xavier had reached out to Raven, so she was probably here, tossed around the place for any clues, and left, or she's on her way here. Let's leave a drone or two to monitor the place." She removed her consciousness from the cerebro and walked out of there. They went back upstairs and searched the bodies for any clues.

"What do we do about the bodies?" Ellen asked her. "I'm not sure. Just put them in the mirror dimension for now." She muttered while putting illusions around the mansion leading to the basement. Ellen in the meantime scanned the bodies and put them in the mirror dimension.

They returned to the tower and went up to the penthouse. Bruce was sitting on the couch watching TV, where the images of them working with MI6 were being displayed.

"I wonder what will Rogers say about not inviting them to the party." Gianna commented sarcastically, flopping down on the loveseat. Ellen dropped down on the couch beside Bruce. "Where's Tony?" Ellen asked. Bruce tilted his head backwards, where Tony's temporary office was situated. 

"Meeting?" Gianna inquired. "Sir got a call from Captain Braddock. His sister needed sir's aid regarding something on the US soil. And I believe it has got something to do with the Xavier's school. I've alerted sir of your arrival, and he wished to have one of you there." Jarvis's voice came out of the speakers. 

Gianna was going to stand up but Ellen pushed her back, "No, you rest. I will handle it." She let out a relieved sigh and snuggled a bit deeper into cushions. Truth to be told cerebro had drained her completely. She was experiencing a massive headache, it was too much all at once. "I'm going to take a nap." She mumbled, not caring if Bruce heard or not and dozed off. 

Ellen entered Tony's office and saw him talking to some mutant guy. "You called?" He asked entering the room, drawing both Tony's and the other mutant's attention to him. "Yeah, Ellen meet Psylocke. She's a resident of Genosha and a member of their council." Tony said introducing them to each other. "You wish to know if we found something at Xavier's?" He asked leaning back against the wall. "Yes." Betsy replied. 

"We found a few dead bodies of armed men. Gia's running their pictures through facial recognition, see if anything pops up. We've also found that this attack was made by some guy named William Stryker. Two of the staff members escaped with a few kids, but the rest were captured. Before passing out Xavier had reached out to someone named Raven, I think." He told her.

"Hmm. Thank you for the information. I will discuss this with the council and see what we can do. Have a good day." Saying that she cut off the connection.

"That went well." Tony commented. Ellen snorted and straightened up. "Yeah. I'm pretty sure we're going to get a call very soon." He replied amusedly following Tony to the living room.

"Why?" Tony asked. 

"Cause we hid the bodies in the mirror dimension and put up illusions around the mansion. So, even if Raven goes there, she isn't going to find any clues." Tony hummed and nodded his head thoughtfully. 

"So, any interesting extra tidbits you know?" He asked them sitting down on the second loveseat. "Well, Psylocke's real name is Elizabeth Braddock. She looks younger than she actually is, but she's actually Brian's twin." Ellen replied. 

"Betsy?" Gianna asked from her seat. "Yeah. Although I do wonder what she's doing here, instead of MI6." Ellen mused. 

"Not something for us to worry about. What we do need to figure out is how to point them in the direction of the right base?" She asked bringing up the security feed from Alkali base. 

"Mind giving us some context." Bruce asked studying the footage. 

"What do you know about Bolivar Trask?" She asked bringing up his picture. "He was CEO of Trask Industries. In 1996 he was imprisoned after his not so legal experiments on mutants were exposed by some mutants. The president had it investigated and Trask was found guilty. They shut down the program, the company was bought by transigen and Trask was sentenced for life."  

"Well, the thing is we aren't the very first time travelers. There was a guy before us. His name was Logan. The future he came from, there were these robots designed called sentinels." She pulled up two videos of the original and those from the future.

"They were originally designed to track down the mutants and kill them. But soon they were targeting people who could have mutant kids or grandkids. One of Xavier's student, Kitty, had ability to send someone's consciousness in the past, so Xavier and Lehnsherr came up with a plan to send back Xavier's consciousness around the time Raven aka mystique murdered Trask. It was the event which scared the government into giving the sentinels program a green light. With Raven's mutation they were able to program the sentinels to adapt against any mutation. Their plan was to send back Xavier, so he could convince Raven to not kill Trask. Kitty unfortunately couldn't send him back that far because it wasn't physically possible for him, so Logan volunteered since he had a healing factor and would survive the trip. And he succeeded. He arrived in 1996, contacted Xavier, convinced him to help him with the plan, and saved the mutants from almost extinction. But who we are dealing with right now is William Stryker." She brought up Stryker's picture. 

"Ex-colonel William Stryker was a part of it. He used to supply Trask with mutants who were given a military discharge or were missing or injured. After being dishonourably discharged, he started to go after civilized mutants and experiment on them." She finished and saw Bruce run to the hulk room. 

"Logan is one of his experiments. Stryker had his entire skeleton coated with adamamtium. Logan originally had three six to eight inches long bone claws coming out of his fist. He's also got a healing factor due to which his aging rate decreased. Can you tell from the picture how old he is?" She asked pulling up a picture of Logan. 

Tony zoomed in on the picture. "He looks somewhat in his early to mid thirties, mutations mostly manifest at puberty, so I would say sixty-seventy."

"Actually both Logan and his older half brother were born in 1830s. In 1845, Victor had already manifested at the age of 15, and Logan manifested after seeing his step father being murdered by his biological father. He was 9 years old. Victor had two upper fangs and inch long nails that he could retract at will. Same with Logan's claws." Ellen explained. 

"I'm pretty sure he was assigned a mission or two with Howlies." Gianna piped up, finger-quoting Howlies. "I'm sure if we search records we will find their enlistment forms and stuff from 1860 onwards. He was definitely in either Hiroshima or Nagasaki on the day of nuclear bombing." 

"He survived that?" Tony asked leaping out of his seat. 

"There's hardly anything that Logan won't survive." Gianna deadpanned. "Same could be said for Wilson." Ellen commented. 

"Sam?" Gianna asked bewildered. "No, no. Of course not. I was talking about Wade." Ellen replied with a frown. "You had me worried there for a moment. I mean nothing's wrong with Sam, the guy is cool and funny but-" she let out a deep breath and continued, "he's got his head too far up Roger's ass." 

"Sir I've got an incoming call from Miss Braddock." Friday announced. And Gianna jumped up screaming a yes.