“When I hear the thunder I think of things to come.”
Steve smiled. Tony was staring out the window. Torrents of rain were coming down laced with the warning grumbles of thunder, lightning flashed casting Tony’s figure briefly to shadows. Tony always had a pretty way with words. Steve only sipped his brandy and admired the other man’s sleek build. He was a dark haired man with expressive dark brown eyes and his lips were always quirked in a sort of smile. He had an easy charm and his words were always slick. It helped him win the hearts of dames and fellows alike. Tony turned, an easy genuine smile for Steve, as he leaned against the window frame.
Tony and Steve were a study in contrasts. Steve was tall and broad while Tony stood an inch shorter than average with a more compact body type. Steve was blond and blue eyed his face fresh and shaved—Tony had a mustache. He had boyish looks while Tony’s was a more mature handsome, although Steve was the older of the two if you counted the years.
From an outsider’s perspective it might have been hard to believe that millionaire weapons manufacturer Tony Stark was keeping company with a washed out P.I. who was set up on the bad side of town.
Steve was a man with too many memories and too few friends now-a-days. Hank was gone, Jan was gone, and Banner was gone before Steve even really got there and Bucky was gone long before any of them. Tony had stayed though. Tony and the others had found him, brought him out of the Glacier after so long, but Tony was the only one who stayed.
“You’re in a dark mood, I can tell,” Tony took a sip of his own drink studying the serious look on his friend’s face
“I’m not the one talking about thunder and things to come,” Steve pointed out.
“Even a mechanical minded man like me can start waxing poetic on a night like tonight,” Tony shrugged, “I’ve always loved a good storm.”
The thunder groaned above.
There was a sudden insistent knocking on the door in the reception area. The two men glanced at each other as if expecting the other to admit they were expecting company.
“Don’t you have regular hours or something?” Tony asked. He didn’t seem nervous. Steve wished he was more nervous sometimes.
“As regular as it gets around here,” Steve confirmed. He pulled his gun and glanced at Tony.
“Probably a break in. Stay here.”
Tony rolled his eyes as he always did when Steve tried to protect him, but nodded all the same.
Steve went to the door. Through the tinted glass a tall bulky figure’s shadow was cast.
The knocking became more insistent.
“We’re closed,” Steve barked.
“I’d have a word with you Captain.”
Steve stiffened. He knew that voice. He put the gun in his pocket and unlocked the door, but he didn’t let his grip on the gun loosen.
“Mr. Odinson,” Steve glanced back. Tony was leaning on the doorframe more relaxed than he should be.
“I told you to stay in the office.”
“You tell me a lot of things,” Tony replied. Thor Odinson glanced between the two of them.
“I had expected only you,” His eyes fell on Steve. Steve ushered the larger man inside closing the door firmly behind him.
“You shouldn’t have expected anyone at all at eleven o’clock at night,” Steve pointed out.
“Your types are always at the office,” Thor said no more than that, but he was glancing pointedly at Tony.
“Anything you want to discuss with me at this hour you can discuss in front of Mr. Stark as well. He’s trust worthy and as discreet as they come.”
“He would have to be.” Tony snorted at that as if he found Odinson’s barb funny.
“Question is, are you?”
Odinson let out a small bark of laughter, “Fair Captain, quite fair, but I am not here to cause you and your … partner… trouble. I’m here to give you a case.”
Steve had known Thor as long as he had known Tony, but under different circumstances. While Tony was on the outside of the Glacier rallying, Thor had been on the inside right beside him.
Steve led the tall Norwegian into his office. He sat down behind his desk. Tony went back to looking out the window and Odinson sat on one of the arm chairs.
“I assume you know I only do things that are –strictly speaking—on the level.”
Mr. Odinson’s smile was an arrogant one.
“Of course. Who would have known you were an innocent man after all?” He glanced at Tony when he said this then looked back at Steve his icy blue eyes were friendly enough, but there was always danger lurking behind anyone that was an Odinson. On the level or not this wouldn’t be easy, but Steve wasn’t here to do things the easy way.
“I suppose you wouldn’t want to be thrown back in legitimately. Then not even friends in high or low places could get you out.”
“What’s the business Thor?” It was eleven fifteen and Steve, as usual, hadn’t gotten any buzz from his bourbon, just irritation at the unexpected company. It was time to cut to the chase.
“I’m looking for my Brother, Loki.” Thor pushed a picture over to Steve. Steve examined it. A dark haired man with intense eyes and a wide, almost unsettling smile stared back out at him.
“He doesn’t look a thing like you,” Steve almost jumped. Tony was leaning over him giving the photo a once over as well.
“He’s adopted,” Thor admitted, “Which is part of the problem.” He looked at the two men before him carefully. Steve knew when he was being sized up.
“You promise total discretion? What I’m about to tell you can’t get out, otherwise chaos will ensue.”
Thunder rumbled as if to highlight Thor’s words.
Tony held up his hands knowing the question was mostly aimed at him, “Who’d I tell? Who’d I know that would be interested? I’m as far away from you as they get,” The last part was a joke considering the company Tony kept. Tony was always more interested in real people than classy people. That’s what would get him killed if it wasn’t a business rival or a pretty face or a bottle of booze.
“I hate Nick Fury,” Tony said easily, “Ask anyone. He’s not particularly fond of me either. If he finds out your secrets it’s because he has his fingers in every pie and don’t ever think different. And I don’t gossip to people on staff if that’s really what you’re worried about.”
Thor nodded, “Very well. My Father is dead.”
Steve and Tony both had the best poker faces known to man. Steve’s was crafted from his days as an actor and Tony being a business man made it a survival instinct. They didn’t go slack jawed, but their false easy smiles fell right off and their eyes widened before narrowing, serious expressions taking over.
“I thought that would interest you,” Thor nodded.
“Odin is dead?” That was the worst sort of news Steve had heard in his office. Odin was basically the King,
hell, the god of the underworld. He was the Norwegian mafia and with Odin in town you could forget the Irish or the Italians, “How long?” he asked sharply.
“So a war is coming then.” Tony sighed and glanced at Steve.
“It doesn’t have to,” Thor said quickly, “I know we work on different sides of things Captain, but we can both agree that a war would be disastrous for everyone: Asgardians, cops, and regular people. I don’t like innocents killed any better than you do. My men, the cops, they know what they’re getting into when they sign up for this life, but people will die, and not people that are prepared for it. I run my business as I run it for the last amount of collateral damage.”
“That’s a nice speech,” Steve said slowly, “It’s got me listening.”
“When the All-Father died Loki learned the truth, that he was adopted. All I need is to talk to him before
he decides to do something harmful.”
“What’s the harm he could do?” Steve asked.
“Civil war,” Thor admitted grimly, “I became the heir before my Father’s death. Loki changed. He was one for tricks and dirty business, but it became dirtier. He accepted my Father’s decision though because at the time…” Thor broke off, “You don’t need to know this.”
“I really do.”
“It’s an old story Steve,” Tony shook his head and poured himself another brandy, “Odin was supposed to be picking the best man for the job. He says it’s Thor and Loki’s sore, but he accepts it cause that’s what brothers do, that’s what sons do. Then he learns that Odin didn’t pick the best man for the job, he picked the son he always loved better, because obviously Odin’d never love the adopted one more.”
“He loved us equally,” Thor roared standing up slamming his hands on Steve’s desk.
“I mean no offense,” Tony hadn’t even stepped back and Steve wondered if it was more liquid courage than the actual stuff, “I don’t know your circumstances, but I do know people. If I were Loki it’s exactly what I would think.”
Thor slowly sat back down, “That is what I’m worried about,” He admitted hunched over. Thor was as hard as they come, but Steve could see the hurt and the desperation. This wasn’t about a war; this was about a man who wanted to make things right with his brother.
“So what do you want me to do about all this?” Steve asked as gently as he could given the man in front of him.
“Find my brother. I just want to talk to him, but if I send my men he might see it as an act of war and if I go myself it might be seen as a sign of weakness. I have no idea where he is. He is good at not being found, at disappearing when he needs to.”
“You got to give me something.”
“He prefers a place… one you are probably familiar with,” He glanced at Tony, “Hellfire Club. That is all I have gentlemen.”
He reached over. Steve shook his hand. He then lay down three hundred dollar bills.
“I’ll let myself out.”
They listened to his tread and the latch of the door in silence. Tony fell into the chair that was occupied by Thor. They stared at the money.
“You know I always was hoping a tall gorgeous blond would one day walk into your office and knock me
off my feet, but that’s not really what I meant.”
“Civil war in Asgard…”
“It’d be every cop’s wet dream if it weren’t so damn terrifying a nightmare,” Tony sighed, “Hellfire Club. Not surprising.”
The Hellfire Club was an elite sort of place open only to the rich. The brand of rich didn’t really matter. In fact if you were lily white chances were you wouldn’t get an invite. Tony Stark had been a member for as many years as he’d been legal; he hadn’t been there for three.
Now he knew why Thor had asked him. Steve might be one of the only trustworthy sorts this close to the bottom, but he was also one of the only guys that was close friends with a millionaire with an open reservation at the Hellfire club. Not that Tony was advertised, but Thor had been his cellmate and more clever than he let on. He would have pieced two and two together.
“I really don’t want to involve you on this one,” Steve admitted. He didn’t bother with the booze; it wouldn’t do anything or him anyway. Tony wasn’t so held back as he went for his fourth.
“You won’t get anywhere if you don’t go there. I’ll get you in. I’ll stay out of your way.”
“I’ll have Mr. Iron back you up. How’s that?”
“He’s not the most subtle sort,” Steve pointed out.
Mr. Iron was Tony’s supposed body guard (although in Steve’s opinion he wasn’t very good at that aspect of his job). He was disfigured in an accident overseas while working for Tony. Tony had apparently been so torn up he created the armor. It was a masterful piece of technology involving transistors. It protected Mr. Iron’s skin from exposure, but at the same time gave him three times the strength he should have. The armor was also rigged with a few other surprises. Mr. Iron (or Iron Man as criminals called him) was as true as they come. A good man to be sure, however Steve always disapproved of the number of times Tony seemed to get captured while on his watch, or how he would send Tony to run off while he stayed to finish off the bad guys. Shoddy bodyguard work, but Steve was pretty sure ‘bodyguard’ was an excuse so that Tony could fund his friend’s crime fighting.
“No, he’s not that subtle is he? But maybe I’ll have him wait outside just in case.”
“No,” Steve said, “You said you wouldn’t gossip to staff remember?” It was an obvious request from Thor and one that Steve would have to follow like it or not, “Mr. Iron—and you for that matter are out of this one. You get me in and then stay out of trouble. This is big and I trust you both, but you’re both loud. You know that.”
“Captain America says I’m loud, jeez. Alright, alright I promised never to interfere and if you’re pulling that card on me—”
“Then I won’t interfere, easy as that,” Tony downed the rest of his drink and they sat in silence for a bit.
Tony wasn’t sullen. In the beginning of their friendship he would have been. He would have been insulted that Steve would leave him (never mind Iron Man) out, but he knew now there were some things Steve was better off (and more comfortable) doing on his own. If Steve needed him he wouldn’t hesitate to call.
“Loki never struck me as a reckless sort of guy.” Tony broke the easy silence, and of course Tony would know him. Steve glared at him sharply. Tony shrugged in a ‘what are you going to do’ sort of way.
“He’s the sort I like when he’s not being as crazy as a bag of cats. Daddy issues and pretty hair. What more could I want?”
Slept with him too. Better and better. Steve let the jealousy pool in his stomach; there was no reason to be jealous of anyone where Tony was concerned. Tony sought comfort where he could find it, but he never sought love. As selfish as it was, Steve was glad of that. Tony was all he had and if it had to be in friendship so be it. There were reasons on both sides why it could never be between them, but every time a dame or fellow touched his friend he couldn’t help but feel a longing.
“Daddy issues?” Steve pulled himself back to the case with effort.
“It didn’t take finding out he was adopted for those to spring up. Let Mr. Odinson think what he will, Odin never loved Loki as much as Thor, but he didn’t love either of them half as much as Balder god rest that boy’s soul. Being last is still being last and when your daddy doesn’t love you it’s hard to miss.”
The ‘I would know’ was a given.
“Even so, Loki plays the long game. He plays it cool and slow. Thor’s worried Loki’ll be irrational on this one, and he will be, but he’ll have a damn good plan while he’s being irrational. His wrath will be cold, not hot.”
“It’s late,” Steve finally said.
“I’ll get out of your hair and I’ll pick you up at eight tomorrow, how’s that sound?”
“It’s a date then,” Tony smirked. He grabbed his coat (he never wore a hat). He turned back suddenly,
“Steve… I know you don’t want me on this one because it’s dangerous, but isn’t it always dangerous with you?”
“You and me have seen a lot of things Tony, sometimes moving, or bitter or sad. Sometimes the good wins and sometimes it’s the bad guys that get it in the end. We’ve faced long odds and yes, we’ve seen danger, but you’ve never seen war and I’d like to keep it that way.”
Tony had an odd look Steve couldn’t place, but he just nodded.
“Goodnight Steve,” and he was gone.
Steve leaned back in his chair.
"Goodnight Tony," he said to no one.