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Path to Redemption - Initial Version

Chapter Text

This story starts, how else, with a punishment. A just, well-deserved, long-delayed punishment. Because Odin is a wise king - he is the All Father, the ruler of the Nine Realms and he knows more than one way to put some sense into his stubborn, arrogant sons and convince them to walk on the right path. Force them, if needed.

After all, if he failed to educate his sons, if he couldn't make himself respected by his own family, then how could he possibly deserve the respect and the obedience of an entire galaxy?

First, it had been the eldest son who betrayed his trust and had to be punished. Now, it is Loki's turn to be judged for his crimes.

And here he is - standing in front of the All Father, waiting for a verdict, still defiant, still showing no sign of remorse as he looks his king in the eye, his green orbs darkened with hatred and anger. Behind his mask, Odin can still see the pained child who tried to destroy an entire civilization in exchange for his father's approval. The child who let himself fall into the abyss, preferring to embrace death than live in his brother's shadow.

His child.

Because, no matter what Loki believed, no matter what others might say, he was his youngest son – and that was the precise reason for which Odin couldn't be merciful. He could show mercy to his people, to his servants, to his soldiers. He could even show mercy to Jotuns, but not to his sons. They were princes of Asgard, not vassals, and they had to live up to their responsibilities. He simply couldn't allow them to throw the worlds into chaos at their whim, just because it was in their power to do so.

Above all, he couldn't allow his sons to play gods. Never play gods.

Sometimes, being a father and the king of the Galaxy really sucked.

"I was a fool to think you would understand, Loki! You are far too young, too reckless, too proud and too foolish to see the truth, to accept it!" he thunders, raising his sceptre above Loki's head.

"What truth?" Loki mutters bitterly, the shadow of a smile barely touching his lips. "There is only one truth-"

"I did not allow you to talk, you foolish boy! But yes, there is only one truth and you will find it or you will die trying!" Odin cuts, his only good eye cutting deep into his son's soul.

Loki opens his mouth in protest, but Odin has no intention to hear more of the foolish retorts his son never seems to fall short of.

"Through your vanity, you have endangered a peaceful, defenseless realm such as Midgard and a lot of lives were lost – and for what? To satisfy your thirst for some kind of childish revenge?"

"You thought I deemed you unworthy because of your origins? Were that the case, I would have never bothered to raise you in the first place! It is you and your foolish behavior which led you to this, which made you unworthy of this realm and of the love of your family!"

A few steps behind his brother, Thor makes an impatient gesture, like he wants to run by Loki's side and offer him comfort. Odin lives under no illusion that his eldest son will approve his decision, but Loki had to be punished if he wanted to make a man of his son. And it certainly was the time for Loki to stop acting like a one thousand years old brat and behave like a real prince of Asgard.

Without hesitation, Odin points the sceptre at Loki's chest.

"I take from you your magic!" the All Father shouts, his voice echoing like thunder in the throne hall. He barely finishes his words and a swirl of brilliant green light bursts out from Loki's body, the force of the energy wave knocking him on the ground.

For a brief moment, no one dares moving. Then, slowly, Loki raises his head and reaches for Odin. Anger and hatred gone from his eyes, he doesn't even try to hide his pain anymore.

"Why don't you just kill me," he whispers quietly as the last trace of magic vanishes, leaving him empty, helpless and... mortal.

It couldn't be helped.

"You will live, Loki, and you will repent for all your sins! In the name of my father, and his father before, I, Odin, the All Father, cast you out!"

"Father, no!" Thor shouts as a blast of white light erupts from Odin's sceptre. Instinctively, Thor covers his eyes with his arm and desperately tries to reach for his brother, only to see him being sucked into the light.

"What did you do to him, father? Where is my brother, where did you send him?"

Looking at his son's face, Odin suddenly feels very, very old.

The king had done the right thing – but that does not mean the father is happy. He wishes he didn't have to make such decisions – especially not when it came to Loki, who had always been such a difficult, self-conscious child.

"He shall be fine," he groans, putting a hand on Thor's shoulder. "And he will recover his magic – just like you did."

"Keep this in mind, Thor. The path to redemption is never easy, but it is a quest your brother must pursue for himself. We are not supposed to interfere, my son."

Bowing his head, Thor swallows the lump in his throat.

"You are wise, father, and I shall obey your command. Still, I have lost my brother once; I do not wish to lose him again. I beg you, allow me to keep an eye on him. I promise I shall not intervene unless you grant me permission."

Although he would have never said it out loud, Odin was rarely able to refuse his son when he was asking him something so nicely.

Besides, he is no less worried for Loki. With a deep groan, the old king puts the sceptre aside.

"Be it as you wish, my son," he concedes. "Watch over your brother if you have to, but remember: should you interfere without my permission, even to save his life, I shall put you to trial. And, for once, I might not be just as merciful."

Thor doesn't need to hear more.

"Yes, father," he says with a curt bow of his head before leaving the throne hall in a hurry.

Chapter Text

And Loki falls from Asgard, from immortality and from the grace of his father. He falls for what seems an eternity, thousands of deserted planets appearing before his eyes only to disappear a millisecond after, hundreds of suns blinding him with their light before he leaves them behind and continues his hopeless journey to the unknown.

After a while he realizes he is going to die in the middle of nowhere, surrounded only by star dust and unknown planets and his weak, human heart beats so hard it hurts. He opens his mouth, but no scream passes over his lips. In the infinity of the space he can't scream, can't move, can't escape death. He feels, however, every fiber and every nerve of his body awakening, crying for salvation, protesting against the imminent perdition. And this time, there is no one to save him and no future lies ahead. No one will find his lifeless body; no one will mourn his loss.

'And now... now what? Will you let my soul be lost in this frozen vastness of nothingness? No forgiveness for me, no last good bye? Nothing? You are the heartless one, you, who saved me and made me curse my own blood! I grew up with your stories and your enemies were my enemies, your monsters were my monsters. Why didn't you tell me I was a monster for you? You caged my soul with your lies and now you cast me out and let me fall!'

'Oh, Father! You, who are the greatest lie of my life, say you will pray for my hopeless soul, say you will mourn over my lifeless body! '

The slow pulse of his breathing is the only sound that fills the deafening silence and Loki focuses on its steady rhythm. He refuses to think of his father, but his thoughts keep drifting back to him, even as he tries so hard to shut him out. For his sons, Odin has always been a God and a hero, and Loki knows he can hate him all he wants, curse him all he pleases but he will never cease to admire him. Until the end of time, he is cursed to crave for his approval.

It was love, all along, that made him do what he did. That, and an enormous, burning need to prove himself worthy of his father's throne, despite being a Frost Giant and an outcast.

Strangely, he can barely remember living all those things and feeling all that love. As he falls, Loki hates Odin – truly hates him, almost as much as he hates himself.

The hatred, hot and fiery, thunders through his veins and devours his soul until nothing else remains. Finally, death doesn't seem like such a bad idea and it starts looking like salvation. Loki embraces it and a strange peace befalls him.

At that precise moment, after making peace with himself, he finally hits the earth.

\\\~+~/

The force of the impact shatters his thoughts to pieces and an excruciating pain explodes through his body, blinding him for a moment. Eyes wide open, Loki fights for breathing and cries as the first gulp of air fills his lungs with hot acid that spreads through his veins like a wildfire. Never in his life had he felt such an intense, soul-consuming pain. Not when Thor beat him to a pulp, not when he got his lips sewn together for seducing a certain maiden and not even when the Hulk crushed his bones to the ground. It's like his whole body has been instantly torn to dust and he is allowed to live only to feel that blinding, fierce pain, drilling mercilessly through his entire self.

It takes him two hours to move without going insane with pain and another two to start walking, staggering like a drunken man, but, in the end, he feels rather proud of himself. If Odin had intended to kill him, he should have done it on the spot. By letting him live after humiliating him like that, the old man had made the biggest mistake of his life.

One step on the road and Loki starts to concoct a new plan.

"I shall find a way to contact the Chitauri."

Another step.

"I shall convince them to lend me an army to invade Asgard."

The next step is followed by an incredibly intense pain that races mercilessly through his shoulder. It hurts like hell, but at least it kind of helps him clear his head.

The Chitauri are not his friends anymore. In fact, he will be in serious trouble if they find him in his current state.

"Or maybe I shall not contact them," he decides, forcing himself to move on.

The salvation, when it finally comes, has the shape of an old Ford, parked outside a gas station with the keys still in the ignition. It looks all dusty and rusted and doesn't quite fit his tastes, but Loki does not intend to turn down the gift. Assuming he is on Midgard, he has to get to the place called "hospital", and he has to get there fast.

Turning the car on, Loki wishes he would have paid more attention to driving during his last visit on Midgard, but he was pretty busy that time, trying to use the Chitauri to take over the world while planning to cheat the dumb beasts and keep the Tesseract for himself. A hectic schedule even for someone used to pulling the strings of the Universe like himself.

However, he is on a primitive planet, how difficult can it be?

As the car moves forward, he feels rather confident, so he pushes the acceleration as far as it can go, ignoring the revolted screams of the owner, who walks out of the gas station just in time to see his car being stolen.

After a few miles, Loki is so proud of himself he doesn't even bother to notice a little man, all dressed in blue and black, waiving his hand at him. A few more miles and a white, very noisy car overtakes his old Ford and stops in the middle of the road, forcing Loki to discover the brakes.

Anger boiling in his chest, he gets out of the car and sees a little bald man coming his way. He stares for a moment at the man's weapon and quickly decides against any attempt to snatch it – he is so weak that even a child can knock him down.

"May I see your driver's license?" the man asks, measuring him from head to toe like he is some kind of an alien. Well, technically speaking he is one, but he is quite positive he looks humanoid enough to pass for a Midgardian.

That, of course, in case Odin didn't suddenly discover his sense of humor and made him look like a bilge-snipe. He fights against the sudden urge to touch his head in search for horns and smiles instead.

"But of course you can," he answers, trying to talk his way out of the incident. "However, I am not familiar with that term. Would you mind explaining to me what a driver's license might be?"

The police officer - a middle-aged man with very thick eyebrows that seem to compensate for his baldness - sneers at him and starts writing something in his notebook.

"You think you're funny, huh?" he asks.

What an impertinent bug. Were Loki able to use his magic, the man would have been instantly vaporized. As he isn't, he forces himself a faint smile and tries to keep his composure.

"No, I do not think of myself as being particularly funny. You see, I am not from here-"

"Right. Listen, son. I might have been born at night, but it wasn't last night.* And you're not the first punk I've seen smoking shit, stealing cars and trying to fool the ol' man. But I ain't no fool, boy! And, unless you can show me some ID, you are coming with me."

"No, I am not," Loki refuses, too outraged to find a better line. "And you should consider yourself lucky for-"

"If I were lucky, I wouldn't have to work my ass off for eight dollars per hour, risking my fucking life to protect punks like you from being killed on the streets!" the man cuts him short, obviously losing his temper.

On the other hand, Loki's patience starts to run thin as well. "As a matter of fact-"

"As a matter of fact, get in the fucking car!"

Grabbing his shoulder, the man pushes him toward the police car. Wincing at the sharp ache that shoots through his shoulder, Loki yanks his shoulder free and hisses in pain.

"Get your hands off me!"

The police officer stops abruptly and turns to him, finally noticing his condition. However, the sight of his wounds doesn't have the effect Loki was hoping for.

"Oh, so you like fighting as well! You make your parents really proud, now, don't cha!"

Surprisingly enough, the reference to his family renders him speechless and Loki quietly follows the policeman to his car.

'I failed to make you proud, Father, but the same goes for you now. My fall... is your fall. '

Chapter Text

"Sorry, what did you say your name was?"

In an impatient gesture, the young police officer sitting across the table puts his hands together and taps the tips of his fingers. Looking at him, Loki lets a faint smile dance across his lips and leans forward.

"As a matter of fact, I did not introduce myself. This reminds me that neither did you," he says in the most intimidating, soft voice he can muster. To his great pleasure, the other man hesitates for a second and starts babbling.

"I'm sorry. I'm Police Officer John Sanders and... I presume my colleague has informed you about your rights?"

"My... rights."

Loki nods and an amused smile touches his lips. "You have any idea how hypocritical you are?" He smiles again - the same thin, deceiving smile that never reaches his eyes. He had enough of this parody of morality.

"You stay here, preaching about my rights, giving me insurances about how fair your system will treat me, yet you refuse me a visit to one of your... how do you call it? Hospital? That... that institution where injured people are taken care of-"

"Yes, hospital," the young man – Sanders, his mind supplies – hurries to assure him. "Look, we don't have any intention of keeping you here longer than necessary. Unless you stole the car or something, as soon as we have your declaration and you pay the fine, you're good to go."

"And if I stole it... or something?"

Sanders tenses and moves in his chair as if uncomfortable. It is obvious he doesn't have experience in dealing with prisoners – it gives the impression that Loki is interrogating him and not the other way round. "Then you remain in detention and a doctor will see you here. I can assure you-"

"You can assure me of nothing," Loki cuts him short and takes a deep, painful breath.

He can lie to the man. He looks too young, too inexperienced and far too dumb to be seriously dangerous for him, but at the same time, Loki is no coward. He lied thousands of times, deceived countless people, double-crossed his allies, but never hid his identity.

Besides, letting them know who he is might end up working in his favor, as he really needs to get closer to Nick Fury and the Avengers if he wants to have a chance in hell to get back to Asgard.

"Listen to me, and listen to me closely," he whispers. His voice is pure velvet – persuading, sensual and so dark it makes Sanders shiver against his will.

"Right now, I shall tell you who I am, and you will run out that door and repeat my name to your superiors. Soon, several guys in black suits will start showing up, asking questions and fighting each other to see what agency gets its hands on me first. However, this is nothing of your concern. Your job... will be to get all the credits for being the first who interrogated me and convinced me to tell him my name."

He stops for a moment, taking his time to study the guy. During his speech, the man stopped tapping his fingers and leaned over the table so much that Loki can literally count the hair in his nose. No doubt, he got his attention.

What a moron.

"I am Loki," he whispers as he leans back on his chair.

\\\~+~/

As John Sanders soon noticed, at least Loki didn't lie about one thing. True, he didn't get the promotion, but the part about the black suits was very much as Loki predicted.

Even if the shit was going down Russian style, the place still shouldn't look like a freaking alphabetic cluster fuck. CIA, FBI, KGB, NSA, NCIS, MI6, they were all there, looking at each other like cowboy ijits, ready to blow up the goddamn police station. To make things worse, simple details like jurisdiction didn't make them get their heads out of their asses and thinking like professionals.

Regarding the former Norse God, he seems to enjoy the disaster he helped create and even flourish in the middle of it. Like a true master of chaos, he orchestrates the scandal, making the agents jump at each others' throats and then letting them fight while he waits.

One week goes by and they are still fighting over him. Aspects like jurisdiction, national security, competent body, and even Loki's status in the United States as an expelled alien are giving them nightmares. Not to mention the paperwork. They nearly pass out when an insignificant clerk mentions that Loki has no ID card, no driver's license or social insurance and they have no idea what his full name is. Without his full name and address, they cannot fill the extradition forms and that is a major problem for all of them.

"Mr. Loki, you surely understand we need your full name and address!" one of the agents insists. He is the tenth person who puts him the same question, so he wonders if all Midgardians are just as dense.

"It must really hurt," he smiles. "To get so close to me and be unable to take me in custody... torture me... force me to tell you the secrets of the universe... or whatever secrets you think I might know. What a shame. I almost feel pity for you."

"You declared your father's name was Laufey," the agent continues, completely undisturbed. He is no fun.

"Yes?"

"And you're a former Norse... God?

"If it is all the same for you, you may still consider me one. Only my magic is gone."

"Then I am correct to presume your first name should be formed by adding "son" to your father's name?"

"As I already mentioned, my real father never assumed the paternity."

"Then, would it be acceptable for you to be called after your foster father?"

"He raised me."

The agent consults his papers and Loki raises an amused eyebrow. He knows exactly what the man is going to say, but it is just as hilarious as the first time he heard it.

"We still have a problem. Odin... Your adoptive father? He should have signed an adoption form for this to be legal."

Loki smiles and shrugs. What an exotic, brainless species of humanoids the Midgardians are.

"Send him the form then. I do warn you it might take a while to get there."

\\\~+~/

He knows things are about to change when they stop asking stupid questions and Nick Fury arrives in person to settle the dispute. It looks like his fate is already sealed and, when the guard comes for him, Loki half-expects to see the big, black guy, whose infirmity somehow reminds him of his father. However, the interrogation room is empty and nothing seems different. Except for the guard.

"You have a special visitor," Sanders informs him with a strange simile on his lips, as he checks his handcuffs with much more attention than usually. "Although, I wouldn't enjoy it too much if I were you."

"Oh, why, I love to receive guests," Loki retorts, throwing a quick glance at his cuffed hands. "Still, I might not be in the condition to welcome them properly."

"Good for you, then. And good luck."

"What?"

"With your guest. You'll need it."

It strikes him as strange that Sanders never warned him before an interrogation. Not like that.

Surprised, he raises his head and gives the man an inquiring look, but Sanders just shrugs and quietly walks out of the room.

After a moment of silence, Loki decides he cannot possibly have serious reasons to worry and leans back on his chair, allowing his stiff body to relax. Although the Asgardian prisons were not exactly five stars accommodations, at least they had decent beds and functional heating systems.

Fortunately, he doesn't have to wait long before someone comes in. To his great surprise, this time it is no agent. It is no man either.

The "visitor" who enters the room is perhaps the most elegant woman he had seen up to date. Dressed in a belted, black dress that flatters her silhouette, she walks in with the air of a queen, looking him straight in the eye as she closes the distance between them. Her dark hair is done up in a bun, with strands falling around her oval face, contrasting with her white skin and her stunning green eyes that match his own.

As she pulls the chair on the other side of the table, Loki cannot help noticing the soft line of her breasts and the sensual shape of her mouth and swallows hard. Then, he sees the look in her eyes and two undeniable truths hit him in the face.

First, she hates him for some reason.

Second, he wants her. Badly.

Chapter Text

Having just finished his dinner with Pepper, Tony decides there was only one way to make his evening even better – and that was to convince her to stay overnight. So, he raises his glass, full of very expensive champagne and looks her deep in the eyes, trying to remain serious at least for the couple of minutes he needs to make the proposal.

"I know that look, Tony," she warns and that unique, sexy smile of hers plays on her lips, making him wonder again at how well she actually knows him. Not that knowing him is such a bad thing, but...

"And what does that look tell you?" he asks her, making what he already knows to be an unsuccessful attempt to catch her on the wrong foot.

Pepper sighs, then put her glass aside and grabs the cell phone.

"Are you calling your mom, Pepper? Because-"

"It will be even worse if I don't."

"All right, then. Tell her I say hi. Or, wait, better don't say anything."

Nervously, he finishes his glass of champagne in one gulp and pours himself another one. Ever since they started dating, a few months ago, Pepper's mother became surprisingly suspicious of his intentions. Okay, so maybe his reputation might have something to do with the old lady not wanting him around her daughter in anything other than a professional position, but he'll find a way to charm her over eventually. After all, he does have a reputation.

Pepper is still explaining to her that they have a lot of paperwork to go through for the press conference scheduled for next Thursday when Jarvis cuts in.

"Sir, Captain Steve Rogers wants to talk to you."

"Tell him I'm out," he answers automatically, throwing a quick glance at Pepper as she moves her sexy body toward the balcony. "Or better, tell him I left town for, a couple of weeks. Took Pepper away to Paris where we're busy having lots of kinky sex."

This earns him a dirty look from the redhead still busy talking her mum out of hiring her a chaperone. "You're not helping!" she hisses at him, covering the speaker.

"Sir, I'm afraid that is not possible. Mr. Rogers is already in the elevator."

"How the hell did he get in there in the first place? Jarvis, the security protocols in this house must be updated."

"Sir, you've updated them recently."

"And it seems I didn't do such a good job," he retorts and makes a mental note to remove any member of S.H.I.E.L.D. and any Avenger from the very short list of persons having access in his sanctuary. At least, he has to make them a visiting program or something.

Covering the phone's receiver, Pepper makes an impatient gesture for him to open the door, which he does, without trying to hide his annoyance. It is... 8:30 p.m., what the hell could have happened? Not that he is dying to find out; he would rather enjoy his evening with Pepper than be debriefed.

"Mr. Stark," Steve salutes as he enters the room.

Wearing a T-shirt and what seems to be a pair of Calvin Klein jeans, he almost looks trendy. That is, if you don't count the haircut. For Tony, the very existence of a salon where they could make you look like your grandfather is a continuous surprise. He always had a sneaking suspicion Rogers was cutting his own hair. Or maybe Fury had a weird fetish for it and did it himself.

"Captain," Tony nods. "If you came for that shawarma, I've already had dinner."

"No, I..."

"Captain Rogers, welcome!" Pepper is finally done talking to her mom. She puts the cell phone on the table and walks over. "Nice to see you."

"Nice to see you too, Miss Potts," he answers and kisses her hand reverently. Pepper smiles, obviously flattered by his old-fashioned charms.

"Really now? Who the hell does that in this century?" Tony mutters for himself and frowns in annoyance. Who was he, his grandpa?

"I'm sorry for interrupting your dinner," Rogers says and makes a few steps inside. "Fury sent me. Your phone was out of range and he couldn't contact you for the whole week."

Pepper looks at him - the same disapproving, questioning glance she always has when she wants to scold him for not taking his responsibilities seriously. He shrugs and turns to Rogers, who is scanning suspiciously the various devices that fill the place.

"And he just couldn't live another day without hearing my sweet voice."

As expected, his attitude ends up annoying Rogers. Seriously, the guy needs to loosen up a bit.

"Look, Stark, I'm not here because I want to or because-"

"Guys, please," Pepper intervenes, taking Tony's hand and pulling him closer to her. "Would you mind not acting like a jerk?" she whispers in his year, her sweet smile never leaving her lips. "I might change my mind about staying over tonight."

Tony gives her a worried look – she is serious, he can tell, although she looks as calm and innocent as usual. Sweet mother of Jesus, she can be actually scary sometimes.

"All right then, what happened?" he asks Rogers. "And, please, don't touch that!" he adds, pointing to a strange looking device with a few buttons on it. "That is a beta prototype of a magnetic sensor device with a field generator and sensor element and it still needs some-"

"English, please?"

Cautiously, the captain moves away from the little device without waiting the answer.

"It detects magnetic particles." Tony explains briefly. "So, what happened?"

"Loki happened."

"You mean Loki – God of Mischief, son of Odin and brother of Thor, who recently led an army of monsters and tried to invade Earth? That Loki?" Pepper jumps in, shrugging when both men turn to her. "I thought he went back home to face Asgardian justice."

"He probably had a good lawyer." Tony cannot help it. "What, they're everywhere, why not in Asgard?" he adds.

"Stark, this is serious. Loki's back and apparently, he lost all his powers."

That is news indeed. "So now he's what? Harry Potter without his wand?"

The mental image of a Loki without his magical power is so incredible he has to drink something, so he walks to the small bar and takes out a bottle of brandy.

"Want some?" he asks Rogers who, predictably, refuses.

"You lose." He pours a drink for himself and puts the bottle back in the bar. "I'm all ears."

"Well, looks like he was arrested a week ago, in Carolina. Carlson, the agent acting on behalf of S.H.I.E.L.D. couldn't take him into custody, so Fury decided to go there in person."

Tony takes a sip of his brandy and paces the room in total silence, trying to think. It just has to be more than that. Otherwise, Fury wouldn't bother to inform him that Loki has been arrested somewhere in the United States.

Rogers is here because Fury needs him. And Fury doesn't need him to take care of Loki, since he is already in charge of his godly ass. Rogers' silence can also be a hint, unless...

The sound of laughter reaches his ears. It looks like Pepper and the good captain were having a great time together. What a prick. Taking another sip of brandy, he walks straight to them.

"So let me see if I got this right," he says, frowning. "Somehow, Loki has escaped Asgard and he's back on Earth. He got busted by the cops in Carolina and claims he doesn't have any magical powers. Fury went there to escort him to a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility. I fail to see how Tony Stark fits in this picture."

"There's one more thing," Rogers says. Of course it is.

"I knew it." He turns to Pepper. "I knew it. They never give you information just for the sake of it."

Rogers takes a paper out of his pocket and hands it to him. It is covered with numbers – coordinates, his brain supplies. Space coordinates. He freezes.

"What is it? What is out there to make Fury ask me to check?" he asks, looking at Rogers. The captain doesn't even try to hide his uneasiness.

"He said something about hundreds of unidentified objects heading towards Earth with an impossible speed. He needs you to use your telescope to take a look at them."

Pepper gasps and covers her mouth with her hands. "If that's true..."

"The telescope is on top of the building," says Tony, shoving the paper in his back pocket. "Let's take the elevator."

\\\~+~/

A few minutes later, all three of them are on top of Stark Tower and Tony re-calibrates his telescope to fit the coordinates Rogers gave him. Once he finishes, he watches through the eyepiece, frowns and verifies all the coordinates again then watches for the second time. It is worse than Fury's darkest nightmares. "Sweet mother of-"

"What is it, Tony?" Pepper asks, a little crease appearing between her brows.

"-fuck!"

Tony looks at them in disbelief, the piece of paper still in his hand. "If these reading are correct - and I'm sure they are," he says, taking a deep breath, "then we have an entire armada heading straight to us. I can tell that because those things look just like the mother-bee I nuked when I entered the other side."