Not even a week had passed since the defeat of Loki and his Chitauri army. Tony Stark had somehow overwhelmed everyone’s objections to moving into his Tower, which wasn’t so ugly now that Steve was used to it, so now Steve was living in a suite larger than every apartment he’d ever had put together.
His head was still spinning from all of this when Fury summoned the team, and they all reported to SHIELD headquarters.
Steve had no idea what he was expecting, but it wasn’t an audience with a queen. They were swiftly instructed by some agent they’d never seen before about how to bow and ushered into a conference room. Queen Frigga, beautiful and regal, was sitting at the head of the table, flanked by four large armored warriors holding swords approximately the size of Tony.
Natasha was the only one who didn’t seem to feel awkward about bowing, but then, Steve didn’t think she was capable of feeling awkward. Or at least, not of showing it.
“Queen Frigga rules Asgard now,” Fury told them after they’d all straightened up. “She’s here to open diplomatic relations.”
“What about Odin?” That was Tony. Probably showing off that he wasn’t intimidated by alien royalty just on principle.
“I killed him,” the queen replied serenely.
The Avengers just stared.
“I guess that’s not our jurisdiction,” Tony said after a minute.
“If that’s how succession works on Asgard, it kind of explains a lot.” Unlike Tony, Clint was intimidated by royalty, at least royalty surrounded by huge guards, but he was also pretty ticked off, and why wouldn’t he be.
“It isn’t.” Frigga’s voice was still serene. “But neither of my sons is currently fit for a throne, and no one else has any claim, nor sufficient sorcery to unseat me.”
Steve had to speak up. “Thor seemed pretty fit to me.”
She turned to him, her expression cold. “One year ago, he did to Jotunheim precisely what Loki did to your world. Only with far less excuse. Thor invaded Jotunheim and murdered hundreds of its citizens because one of them called him a ‘princess’.” She looked around at them all sharply. They took this in silently. They knew almost nothing of Thor. They should have known better than to trust him so easily, just because he had fought at their side once. “Loki invaded your world because he was being tortured by a being more evil than you can even conceive,” Frigga continued, her face grim. “He deliberately sabotaged his invasion so that you mortals could put a stop to it. If he had not, his captor would have come to Midgard and murdered half of the humans on this planet - before using the Tesseract to do the same to the other realms. Loki saved your world.”
“By murdering a few dozen of us.”
“In order to save a few billion of you,” Frigga countered.
“I told you guys Loki was throwing the fight.” Tony smirked at them. It had been his pet theory ever since it was over. He’d shown them all the footage of Loki’s physical condition when he’d first arrived on Earth, the moment during the invasion when he’d suddenly jerked his head like someone invisible had punched him; he’d pointed out the stupidity of the way Loki had let the entire world know what he was up to right off the bat, the fact that he hadn’t killed all the Avengers instantly even though he could have easily, even his letting Erik Selvig put a back door into the Tesseract apparatus. Tony’s case was compelling, but mere days after they’d all been killing aliens in the streets of New York, it was too much to take in.
Bruce spoke up. “Excuse me, um, ma’am. Would you mind telling us why you killed your husband?”
Again her face was cold and resolute. “He was going to murder my younger son. I begged him to spare Loki for my sake and he refused. In the last two years he has nearly cost me both of my sons several times. The Norns know what he might have done had I allowed him to live. He might have caused the deaths of everyone in Asgard.”
“Her Majesty has a request to make of us,” Fury announced. He glanced at her, but she merely waited, so he went on, “After Loki’s had time to heal, she wants to send him here to make reparations.”
The Avengers considered this for a moment. It was Steve who decided to answer. “Ma’am, we do appreciate the offer of reparations, but if it’s all the same to you, we’d rather you sent Thor instead. We’ve worked with him well before and-”
“Thor is making reparations on Jotunheim. Both of my sons harmed that realm, as did their father, but Thor was the one who started the war with them. And you humans persist in coddling him, which is the last thing he needs after the way his father spoiled him. If you accept Loki’s service, I will send Earth a supply of healing stones sufficient to treat those wounded by the invasion he was forced to lead, and Loki’s magic and his sword will be at your service.”
Tony perked up. “Magic? Is it against the Prime Directive for him to tell us how Asgardian magic works?” Bruce’s eyes darted between Tony and Frigga, attentive.
Her gaze turned to him. “You are Tony Stark, are you not? The smith who created enchanted armor for himself?”
Tony gave her a cocky little grin. “That’s me.”
“My sons told me of you. They both said you were strikingly clever for a human.”
“Please, ma’am, I’m going to start blushing.”
“Whatever the Prime Directive is, the sovereign of Asgard is not bound by it. I will instruct Loki that his knowledge is also to be at your disposal.”
“Sold!” Tony pumped his fist, gleeful.
Clint scowled. “You’re going to let that-” He glanced at Frigga and amended what he’d been going to say. “-that menace come here just for your scientific curiosity?”
“Yep!” Tony was unrepentant.
“What we can learn from Loki might be worth it,” Bruce said, mild as usual, but he had the same gleam in his eyes as Tony did. His scientific curiosity was activated too. Steve sighed.
Natasha had been silent, as she sometimes was in large groups, watching others and getting the lay of the land. Now she spoke for the first time. “Still. Maybe we shouldn’t take this offer, given the risks.”
Fury looked dour. “The UN and the World Council want to establish good relations with Asgard. I want those healing stones. This is Queen Frigga’s condition for these things. But you don’t have to be around Loki yourselves if you don’t want to. I suggested it-”
“So that if Loki goes evil overlord again, we can suit up and take him down,” Tony finished. “Or try to, given that we only defeated him last time because he was helping us do it. I’d say that makes him an honorary Avenger already.”
“If Loki’s going to be here, we’ll want him where we can keep an eye on him,” Clint conceded.
Tony grinned. “We can move him into Thor’s suite. I’ll get rid of the red drapes - I hope Thor returned your drapes to you, by the way, your Majesty - and put up green ones.”
“Thor’s suite?” Frigga inquired, ignoring the rest of Tony’s babble. Smart lady.
“Yeah, Stark Tower is now Avengers Tower. An apartment for each of us.”
Frigga stood up and looked down upon Tony. Steve was quietly sympathetic. Being shorter than everyone around you could be rough. Tony was shorter than everyone on the team except for Natasha.
“If any harm befalls my son on Midgard, Tony Stark, my vengeance will make you all wish the Chitauri had returned instead.”
Tony was sensible enough to be quiet, for a change. Steve asked, “And if he goes rogue again?”
“I will see it from Hliðskjálf. If I am not on the throne at the moment, the magical link I have formed with him for this very purpose will alert me. I will immediately come to fetch him, with an army if necessary. But he will not.”
Steve looked around at the others. He didn’t see much choice, but he had to ask them. “Are we accepting these terms?” They all nodded, some after a moment of thought, and he turned to Frigga. “When do you plan to send him here?”
“In one month. He needs to heal, and… I am not quite ready to part with my son just yet. I spent the past year believing he was dead.” Abruptly her beautiful face showed the grief she had been trying to conceal.
“I’m sorry about that, your Majesty,” Natasha said, strategic as always.
Frigga’s regal mask was back in place already. She nodded graciously. “You will receive the healing stones immediately. Now if you will excuse me, there are many people I must meet with before I return to Asgard.”
Having been dismissed, the Avengers filed out. Tony was still gleeful at the prospect of alien magic/science, even after Loki’s mother had put the fear of God(dess) into him. The rest of them were more or less in shock.