Steve knows all too well how words and signatures do more than a gun ever could. Seventy years in the ice didn’t erase the memory of Stalin’s strong, but friendly handshake, or the heat of the Iranian sun as Churchill downed another brandy while FDR—call me Frank, my boy, you’ve earned it—leaned heavily on his cane and told of his dog’s latest exploits. They may have been there as entire countries, but they were human before anything, and it was that humanity that they brought to the table.
The men and women who dedicate their lives to the softening of borders and forging of friendships are as heroic and deserving of praise as anyone in costume. Steve firmly believes diplomats should be given every respect and courtesy.
Double goes for the Asgardian ambassador to Earth.
Like Thor, Njord is impossibly good-looking and poised, clad in a bronze something that isn’t armor but isn’t not armor; if a fight or a charity ball breaks out around them, he won’t need to change. And while he doesn’t smile often it’s like watching the sun break over the ocean when he does—everything around him sparkles with mirth and splendor.
“I wish to convey my gratitude again for your time and hospitality, Captain,” Njord says, tilting his head around a smile, the gathering of golden hair at his crown catching the light pouring through the windows, making him appear even more ethereal. His cheekbones could probably sharpen Steve’s shield. “What Midgard has managed to create in so short a time is nothing less than astounding. You must be very proud.”
Steve beams, unable to stop the swell of pride in his gut. “You know something, Njord? I am. My team has made great strides not just in protecting the planet, but in sharing the wealth of our discoveries in science and technology with everyone. It’s important to have a balance in power, you know? We can’t be dictators. This is their planet as much as it is ours.”
“Well-put, Captain.” Njord lifts his glass of whatever he brought with him. It came in a golden barrel and looks like a silver oil spill. Someone named Aegir brewed it specifically for this meeting.
Across the table, Thor lifts his fourth glass—a stein, really—of the stuff and downs it gaily.
“That’s his last one,” Jane mutters at Steve’s right as she picks the mushrooms out of her chicken piccata. “I’m cutting him off.”
Thor had gone to Asgard to announce his intention to marry Jane and came back with Njord to draw up a treaty between Asgard and Earth. The terms were simple: should either of the two come under attack, the other will come to its aid. Pretty straightforward, although Jane slipped a few stipulations about the sharing of technology, to be negotiated by a certain someone who—
As if on cue, the doors to the dining room burst open so suddenly that Steve braces himself for an attack. With enough force, the fork in his hand could do some damage.
“Sorry I’m late,” Tony calls out, the last of the armor sinking into his skin while gilded links limned in blue chase each other down his arms and chest. The fabric that ripples into being makes Steve sigh fondly. Proper attire was required for this meeting, but he should probably be grateful that Tony’s wearing a jacket over his Led Zeppelin shirt. “But I was on my way here when Bohemian Rhapsody came on and I had to listen to it all the way through. It’s the law.”
Jane snorts. “The song’s only like six minutes long. Try again.”
“Yeah, well, then Groove is in the Heart came on, then Hold On, then Straight Up, then Baby One More Time. You can’t skip those songs. They’re classics of a decade defined by Geocities and pencil-thin eyebrows. My shuffle knows what’s up.” Tony catches Steve’s gaze and winks.
Steve tries not to blush and squirm in his seat like a lovesick schoolboy and… pretty much trips right at the starting line. It doesn’t mean anything, really. Tony does it because it never fails to get a reaction and Steve can’t help but give in. Tony makes it too easy—calls him “Captain Handsome” and “beloved,” tosses an arm over his shoulders if they’re next to each other on the couch during movie nights, complements every single move he makes during battle as if they were one body split in two. He shouldn’t like it as much as he does, but can anyone really blame him? Having all of Tony Stark’s attention completely unravels something in his brain.
There’s movement across the table and Steve turns his head to watch Njord stand with none of his usual grace. He’s all flowing metal and golden hair as he walks the few feet to where Tony stands, and when he reaches his destination he reaches for Tony’s hand. His fingers, long and artistic, curl over Tony’s with something almost like reverence; his thumb rubs gently over the oil-stained nails.
“Steve,” Jane murmurs.
“A glorious entrance.” A wide smile unzips on Njord’s beautiful face and he wears it like diamonds. “If we had been on Asgard, you would have stopped the entire Great Hall.”
Steve respects Njord, as both a diplomat and a friend of Thor. He’s not imagining the satisfying thwack! Njord’s skull would make against the shield, but if he were, he’d be taking a vicious sort of pleasure out of it. He’s definitely not, though. He’s not.
Tony blinks, then tosses Thor a look. “One of yours, I take it?”
“This is the great Njord, Sea-Farer and Vessel-Builder,” Thor booms, swinging his stein with a grand sweep of his arm. “Ambassador to Earth and a beloved friend of Odin, himself! Njord, my good man, you hold the hand of Anthony Stark, the Man of Iron.”
Jane nudges Steve’s arm. He barely feels it. “Steve, hey, loosen up.”
“Hey, how’re you doing?” Tony pumps the hand in Njord’s up and down in an affable handshake. “’Vessel-Builder’, huh? Like boats?”
Njord’s smile grows lascivious. “I am a maker of many things, but it is my Sky Ships for which I am known. Imagine grand drekkar slicing through the waves between the boughs of the Great Tree, navigating the stars as open water. Have you ever experienced such a thing, Man of Iron? I would be honored to have you at my helm.”
The fork in Steve’s hand snaps clean in two.
Jane sighs. “Never mind.”
“Viking ships that sail the sky? Okay, now that I’ve gotta see,” Tony says brightly. “I had a dream about that when I was a kid. Except it was a pirate ship and they called me Captain Salty Dog Stark, the Fury of Leonid Loch. My cannons fired nebulae.”
Njord’s completely inappropriate bedroom eyes soften, charmed, and his smile melts until it’s a genuine curve that highlights every aspect of his perfect face. Suddenly all Steve’s fantasies of launching across the table to sock him in the jaw die a quick death as something goes icy cold in his gut. Oh no.
“Perhaps you will accompany me back to Asgard, then. There is much I think you will find worthy of your time. I would also like to know more about the fantastic armor you call forth from your flesh.”
All this time, Steve has been waiting for Tony to find a reason to leave the Avengers and here it is, handed to him on a bronze platter. Tony’s not going to be able to turn down an offer like this, not when he has an opportunity to show off his genius to a god. He’s going to ride the rainbow bridge all the way across space and time and be treated like royalty, clad in crimson and gold, with people scratching each other’s eyes out for the chance to touch his boots, and Njord will probably take him to bed the second they touch down, and he’ll get all of Tony’s time and attention and winks and they’ll have inside jokes and Tony will build him wonders just to see him smile—
“Ow!” Steve hisses, shaking his hand out. Four, bloody dots stare balefully up at him before quickly closing, scarring, and then disappearing altogether.
Jane daintily lowers her fork. “Sorry.”
She doesn’t look particularly sorry. In fact, she sounds like she’s trying not to laugh.
Steve cuts a quick glance at Thor, who grins knowingly back and even raises his stein in commiseration. Steve hopes they’re both enjoying the show.
Across the table, Tony hums thoughtfully, then lightly tugs his hand out of Njord’s. “Tempting, very tempting. But the good Captain and I’ve got a date with Yankee Stadium tomorrow and I never pass up the opportunity to see him trash talk A-Rod where he might actually overhear. Thanks, but no thanks.”
Njord must be able to feel the side of his head start to smoke, because he turns his head just enough to catch Steve’s glare. “The Captain?”
“Yup,” Tony says, popping the ‘P’ with obvious relish. “Already been claimed, as it were. Isn’t that right, buttercup?”
“Yup.” Steve will go nutso about that later in the privacy of his own floor.
Njord holds Steve’s gaze for a long, considering moment, before he blinks and relents with a resigned smile. He steps gracefully out of Tony’s space. “Forgive me. I meant no offense. I think we ought to reconvene another time. I must bring these terms before The King Your Father, Thor, but I do believe this to be a sufficient draft. Perhaps you would be so kind as to guide me to the unfettered gaze of Heimdall Soul-Seer so I may take my leave. ”
“It would be my honor,” Thor rumbles. He stands, throwing his chair back with a great clatter, then totters over to where Njord stands.
“My Lady Jane.” Njord bows a little. “It was lovely to see you. I await your return to Asgard. Perhaps we might revisit the portable Bifrost theory you spoke of last we met.”
She beams and waggles her fingers. “Definitely! I’ll even bring you some cheesecake from that place we went to yesterday.”
“Captain. Man of Iron.” A nod to each of them, although Tony gets a slow once-over, too. “My invitation stands, should you find yourself at loose ends.”
Tony gives him a friendly slap on the arm. “Take it easy, Thranduil. The rougher the skies, the smoother we sail, or whatever.”
Njord mutters something that sounds like 'a great pity’ before he and Thor make their grand exit out of the dining hall, leaving him, Jane, and Tony to stare awkwardly at each other. Well, he stares awkwardly at Tony, who’s giving him a look that sets his belly on fire.
“Well,” Jane chirps brightly, bouncing out of her seat. “I suddenly feel the need to leave the room for no reason. If you’ll excuse me, gentlemen. Tony, please sit down. Spinelli’s catered.”
Tony grins. “You’d better not have skimped on the shrimp balls and stuffed mushrooms, Foster, you philistine.”
“Mushrooms are proof that if there’s a God, He’s a capricious one,” Jane calls over her shoulder as she leaves.
“There is a god and you’re marrying him,” Tony shouts back, but the doors swing shut before he can finish. “You know, I think I liked her better when she stared at me like I had Tesla on speed dial.”
“No you don’t.” Steve is helpless to do anything except grin like a dope. “You like that she doesn’t take any of your crap.”
“Thor doesn’t know how lucky he is,” Tony sighs in agreement, dropping into the seat Njord had been in—directly across from Steve. Almost immediately, he begins helping himself to the glass dishes and bowls that the Spinelli’s stagers had laid out for them. He dumps a pound of mashed sweet potatoes onto Njord’s plate. “So, a new dim sum place opened up not too far from the stadium and it’s been way too long since I last shoved a metric fuckton of sticky pork buns down my gullet. You like dim sum, right? What am I talking about, you like anything. You’re like a human garbage disposal. I bet you’ve got six bags of pretzels on your person right now.”
It takes a minute for Steve to read between the rambling before it occurs to him that diplomacy can work on a much smaller scale. This certainly isn’t any kind of war, but it feels like maybe borders of some kind are relaxing anyway.
“I–uh, yeah. Yeah, dinner sounds… It sounds good, Tony.”
Tony glances up from the dish of juicy, sweetened pork tenderloin and grins. “It’s a date, then.”
At this point, a mutually beneficial alliance is inevitable. Steve’s already drafting up his terms.