“Do you know why I fell in love with you?” Loki asked Tony late one night as they lay drowsing in each other’s arms. They had been on Jotunheim together for nearly a year.
“I assumed because I’m devastatingly handsome. Or because I’m the second best fuck in the Nine Realms.”
“Second best? I’ll have to try the first best, then.”
“Why masturbate when you have me?”
Loki chuckled and gave his hip a swat. “You are indeed a joy to the eyes and to the prick, but that is not why.”
“Because we’re the same. We’re both sneaky smartasses with a soft marshmallow center.” When Loki only shook his head, Tony said, “Are we going to play this guessing game all night, or are you going to tell me?”
“It’s your mind I fell in love with.”
“It is pretty impressive,” Tony admitted. “Yours isn’t so bad, either.”
“Yours is of a different order,” Loki informed him. “I’m very proud of my own mind. I have spent most of my life studying. I can grasp the discoveries of the sages. I can observe and use what I see to imagine fresh solutions to problems. But you, yours is the sort of mind that founds the sciences which I merely master.”
“Loki, that’s too flattering even for me.”
“I have never created anything like this.” Loki gestured to the arc reactor on its platform, softly illuminating their bedchamber. After the apple had healed Tony’s heart, he still kept the reactor close at hand. “I could never have created the original Bifrost or the Casket. You, however, might one day. You will take your place in history beside Eitri and Ivaldi. Or in human terms, Einstein and Tesla.”
“Who are Eitri and Ivaldi?”
“Eitri created Mjölnir. Ivaldi created Gungnir.”
“You actually think so? Because the suits are pretty impressive, but not quite in that league.”
“You are young yet. I confess, I am looking forward to what you will do when you have absorbed the knowledge of the other realms.”
Tony, who was still not used to fifty being young, laughed. “I’ll try not to disappoint you.”
He laid awake all night, too intrigued by the idea of what he might create that would earn a place in myth to sleep.
Later he would wonder if Loki had planted that seed deliberately.
All the realms were amused at the way Loki Laufeyson, viceroy of Jotunheim, doted upon his pet human. Oh, the man was clever for a human, all would admit. He had even mastered the trick of shifting between human and Jotun form on his own after a decade or so of practice. But sending him to study with the sages of Alfheim and Vanaheim and other realms was frankly silly. Still, the royals of those realms knew, from Loki’s days as prince-diplomat for Asgard, of his resourcefulness, as well as how unpredictable the tides of fortune could be, and deemed it wise to indulge the powerful sorcerer who could claim to be the son of two kings.
“It’s so cute how they think they can intimidate me,” Tony told Loki. A man who had gone to MIT at the age of 15 was not going to be deterred by dismissal and low expectations. Every sorcerer who tutored him began with resignation to obeying the royal command to indulge the favorite of the puppet king of Jotunheim… and moved swiftly to awe at the mind they were privileged to guide.
None of them saw any reason to mention Tony’s true ability to their sovereigns. Some things, kings were better off not knowing.
Over the decades, Tony made friends on other realms. No one took much notice. Loki’s lover was known to be a hedonist despite his hobby of dabbling in magic universally acknowledged to be beyond the scope of humans. Wherever he went he drank and caroused, sampled whatever intoxicants that world had to offer, listened to its most raucous music. The only dissipation from which he abstained was sex; evidently he realized that it was in his best interests to remain faithful to his royal patron. He was charming, everyone conceded that, and loved being the center of attention. The sybarites of Vanaheim, Alfheim, Haragon, Nidavellir, Nornheim all fell to his charisma. He played on all the worlds as he had played on Earth.
No one would waste time scrutinizing the associates of such a playboy. Or eavesdropping on the more private conversations that ensued very late at night after most of the revelry was done and everyone was tired and drunk and most of the celebrants were passed out or having sex. Tony cast his net wide; he had no way of predicting where his solution would have its origins.
A century after coming to Jotunheim, Tony had friends on a dozen worlds, and many of them had one thing in common: a deep and abiding hatred for Odin Allfather.
There was nothing odd in King Loki’s favorite being given gifts. Currying favor was a normal thing to do. He accepted enough fine clothes and works of art that no one needed to suspect that the pocket dimension Loki had secretly taught him to create might contain gifts of a more powerful nature, or books containing explosive knowledge. And if Asgard had suspected this, while they would have confiscated these items as Odin invariably did when he sighted magical relics, they would never have imagined that a human could make significant use of them.
It was a small relic of slight power that gave him the key he had looked for. A gemstone dug out of the mines of Nidavellir. All it did was glow deep purple and give off a faint aura of magic to those who had trained enough to sense it. He was given it as a toy, something to play with as an idle exercise in scientific curiosity.
But somehow, it was exploring the unique magical energy signature of this particular item that unlocked secrets to Tony that none other had ever grasped.
And with it, in a few sleepless galvanized days on the desolate wastes of Niflheim while Loki was occupied with diplomacy to Alfheim on Asgard’s behalf (Odin never failed to find assorted uses for his stolen relic), Tony created Fenrir.
Like the Tesseract and the Casket of Ancient Winters and many other relics, Fenrir was energy leashed into a harness which could contain and direct it. The harness itself was a staggering achievement, enough that Tony gave it a name as well: Gleipnir. When Gleipnir was loosened, Fenrir unfolded and could lift virtually anything, shatter nearly any impediment, fling objects immense distances… or consume objects of great power.
Such as evil elderly sorcerers.
Tony lost his right hand forging Gleipnir, so there was no way to delay. Loki had been oddly uninquisitive about his sorcerous studies for over a decade, perhaps sensing that a breakthrough might be approaching, but he could hardly ignore a missing limb. And Loki was bound by his oath to Odin.
Odin had not considered Tony important enough to demand that he take an oath.
Tony arrived in Asgard as if he had simply gotten bored and come to be with his lover. He had been in the palace many times by now, there to warm Loki’s bed, so neither Heimdall nor the guards noticed anything amiss. None of them had the ability to see through his illusory right hand, but Loki would not be fooled for one instant. And so Tony had to avoid Loki until… until after.
The Norns were with him. Loki was closeted with the Elves in negotiations and Odin was on his throne, surveying his domains. Tony requested an audience and the guards admitted him to the throne room.
Even Tony was apprehensive as he made the walk towards that enormous golden dais. He could feel the throne’s power, the king’s power, thrumming through the immense room. For a mad moment he second-guessed himself, wondered if he was really ready for this, if he had miscalculated, but Fenrir displayed itself in his mind like one of Jarvis’s holograms and he knew that he had it right.
It was time for justice.
When he reached the foot of the dais he did not kneel. Looking up, he could see mild perturbation on Odin’s face.
Tony didn’t wait another instant. He loosed Gleipnir and the next moment Fenrir had Odin enclosed in immense pseudo-jaws.
The guards promptly tried to attack, but Tony had designed a technological replica of Loki’s magical forcefields nearly a century before. The guards ran up against them as if against transparent brick walls.
Odin was trying to fight, even as Fenrir hungrily drew his magic into itself. But Tony had felt that oneness with the cosmos when he had created Fenrir and he knew in his bones who would be the victor here. He watched his creation do its work.
“It didn’t have to be this way,” he told Odin as the man’s magic faltered. “If you’d only played fair with him. Making him king of the realm you taught him to hate, making me share him with Angrboða - I’d have been pissed but I’d have lived with it. But you just had to twist the knife, just for kicks.”
“His birthright was to die,” Odin gasped out as he poured his power into Fenrir, trying to resist it but only draining his own seiðr. “Cast onto a frozen rock.”
“You think being cast onto a frozen rock will kill a frost giant? I’ve spent a lot of time as a frost giant. Frozen rocks are like our briar patch. We love us some frozen rocks.”
“If I had not taken him in he would not be here now to hate me.”
Tony shook his head, disgusted. “You always did underestimate him. Do you think he didn’t foresee this? The moment he came here to beg you for an apple for me he knew this day might come. That I might have to do this. But it was your choices that brought us here.”
Odin was thrashing on his throne, convulsing. Tony gave a grim smile.
“In his heart of hearts he was testing you. Hoping you would be a good dad. That you would save me because you loved him. You’ve could’ve earned his undying loyalty. He’d have cheerfully died for you. What he sacrificed for me? He’d have done the same for you for a pat on the head.”
Odin did not answer. He screamed his last and disappeared into Fenrir’s maw.
Behind him Tony heard a familiar berserker cry. He smirked as he turned to face Thor. Thor could choose between surrender or joining his father, and then Tony would lay Fenrir and Gungnir both at Loki’s feet. The Nine Realms would at last know the rule of a good king.
With Iron Man as his champion and consort.