Actions

Work Header

The Fae of Iron

Chapter Text

            The winter breeze blew open the balcony doors to a large nursery. The baby, barely over seven-months-old gently stirred awake by the sudden cold. A hooded figured appeared on the balcony and only paused a second before she stepped into the room. Two thin arms reached up and lowered the hood. The figure was a woman with glowing brown hair and dark eyes. The dark colors were contrasted by the white almost blue skin she had, almost as if she was winter itself.

            The woman studied the room and glared at the multiple rune covered papers that hung around the room. They were wards, wards to keep her people away, as weak as they were. Whatever power they held over her messengers did not work on her. Wards on paper, she thought bitterly, it was almost like he was wanting to fail.

            She was pulled away from the wards when she heard the baby start to cry. Slowly, she approached the crib and looked down at the child. With a deep breath she reached down and touched its cheek with her index finger. The babe stopped crying and looked up at the woman, then it began to giggle and held its arms up to her, as if asking to be picked up. “Oh, you sweet child,” she spoke as she reached down and picked the babe up, “you recognize your mother.” She cradled the baby and gave soft laughs as the child began to chew on its own hand. “Your father is an idiot to think he can keep me from you.”

            The door leading to the rest of the mansion open and a man in pajamas burst in. “Peggy,” he questioned, taking a few steps closer. Two more forms appeared at the door but neither walked into the room. The woman turned to the man, but still looked at the babe. “He’s a cute thing,” she said, allowing the baby to suck on her free index finger. “He’s such a smart boy already. He knows who his mummy is.” She cooed at the child as he continued to gum her finger. “Peggy, please, put Anthony back.”

            “Howard,” she warned, “I would think that you would know better than to back out of a contract.”

            “He’s my son.”

            “And mine!”

            The wind blew harder and snow began to creep in. “You were to only have him for six months Howard.”

            “But, Maria, I couldn’t do this to her.” The woman he called Peggy scoffed, “I care not Howard Stark. A deal was brokered, six months with you on Earth and six with me in my realm. Our child is well over seven-months-old now and has been with you the whole time. Look at what you did to his room to keep me away.”

            “Peg please,” the man begged. She gave the man a glance and, with the babe in her arms, turned and began to walk to the balcony. “Peggy!”

            “You shall have the babe back when I wish for you to Howard.”

            “But Empress Titania,” one of the forms at the door, a woman spoke. She stepped closer but stood behind the man named Howard. “You told us so yourself, no male must ever be in your court for longer than six months.”

            The Empress stopped and turned her head to them, with a knowing smile she pulled the child closer to her chest. “As I said Ana, he shall have the babe back.”

            Realization struck Howard like a punch to the face. “Peg, no, you can’t be serious. You can’t honestly be serious? He’s our son. Peg why?” He rushed forward with the intent to grab her, only to fall onto his knees where she once stood.

            They were gone, both the woman and the child, leaving only a small bracelet with the boy’s name on it.

Chapter Text

            Tony Stark sucked in a deep breath and looked over at their prisoner, the one that called himself Loki. Annoyed, Tony rubbed his brown hair and tried to listen to the others in the quinjet, only to be get bored with them and look back at the man in green. Loki himself was studying Tony, as if he was trying to figure something out. Something seemed to have clicked and the “god’s” eyes went wide, and he began to open his mouth to speak, only to have the sound of thunder ruin the moment. Tony smirked when Steve asked if Loki was afraid of thunder.

            “I’m not fond of what follows.” The smirk quickly fell from Tony’s face as he realized what it meant. It was too late though, as soon a blond man appeared in the jet, grabbed the prisoner and disappear. With a few curse words in another language, Tony jumped out of the jet and ordered JARVIS to scan for the two men. A few seconds later two blips lit up in his sight and soon Tony found himself slamming into the blond.

With an annoyed mumble Tony stood up and lifted his face plate. “What in the name of my mother are you two doing?” He looked at the blond and waited for an answer, the blond looked confused. “I do not understand man in metal? Who are you to demand such things?”

            “Thor you fool,” Loki spoke joining the two finally. Thor grunted at being called a fool, but still had his eyes on Tony. “Do you not recognize Titania’s daughter?” Thor turned to his brother and laughed, “you cannot be serious brother. This, old man cannot be the maiden Kalina.”

            “I’m only 42,” Tony snapped and took a step towards them. “If anyone is an old man it’s you. You’re what over a thousand?” Loki chuckled and patted his brother on the shoulder. “Trust me brother, it’s Kal. You do remember she’s Tony Stark here, right?”

            “That makes no sense.”

            “The Empress explained it. You really did not pay attention, did you?”

            “Are you surprised brother?” Loki scoffed but said nothing. Tony rolled his eyes and looked at Loki. “No seriously what are you two doing here causing all this trouble?” Thor’s eyes lit up, “Empress Titania has ordered us to make sure that that the ‘Avengers Initiative,’ happens.”

            “There are rumblings of Oberon. Intel tells us that he’s considering making Midgard his own realm. Might I remind you Kal, that would be trouble for us all.” Tony’s breath stopped. Oberon, here? He looked between the two, “are you serious?” Loki shrugged, “most likely rumors. Still, your mother thought it best to get them together, just to get Midgard ready.”

            “Easier said than done,” Tony muttered. “Exactly, so Thor and I were tasked to create an emergency that would force S.H.I.E.L.D. to do so.”

            “What do I need to do?”

            “Keep being Stark,” Thor said and looked at the horizon, then tensed up. Someone was coming up, and Tony could only guess who. Tony tilted his head, waited until the person was within hearing range, then smiled.

            “Doth mother know that you weareth her drapes?”

            “Stark don’t antagonize the people,” Steve Rogers lectured as he walked up, “and what were you thinking leaping out of the quinjet like that?”

            Our wanna-be dictator was taken away from us by someone else. That someone else could have been a lackey.” Confusion grew on the two brothers. “Luckily, that’s not the case it seems. Blondie here is Thor, and he’s come to take, him home.

            “Now I say let’s all go to S.H.I.E.L.D. and we can discuss it like adults. Maybe.” Tony gave Steve a grin and waited for approval. The good captain grinned and shook his head, maybe in shock over all of this. With any hope, Tony though as they waited for the quinjet to land, we can get this over with. It’s gonna be bad if it all goes to pot. With a small sigh he knew better, with the summer brothers, it will all go so wrong.

Intermission

            “I have an army,” Loki informed Tony as he poured the taller man a drink. Loki had broken out of the helicarrier and waited for Tony to arrive at Tony’s own tower.

            The escape was a mess of explosions, brain-controlled agents, and Loki “killing,” Coulson. Loki assured Tony that the man will wake up in a day with no problems. Just another way to keep the Avengers together, Tony thought as he took a long, hard drink of whiskey and slammed the glass down.

            “The army are clay creatures. The Autumn court created them.” Tony nodded and looked at the large windows, then chuckled. They needed to get the ball rolling to finish the job. “So… want to throw me out the window?”

            “Hmm, yes? This sounds like a trick question.” With a nod, Tony approached Loki. “JARVIS. Have the suit meet me as I fall.”

            “If you are sure sir.”

            “Kiddo, I’m very sure.”

Intermission

            It was fine, Tony told himself as the battle continued, it was only a matter of time before Loki would call the battle. It stopped being fine when it was announced over the comms that a nuke was heading for New York. In a panic he pushed the nuke through Loki’s portal, the one that was allowing the clay creatures into the New York. He had enough power to leave the portal, which then the suit died as soon as he reentered New York. A nuke, he thought to himself as he began to fall to Earth. He began to get dizzy, he was going to lose conscious soon, which maybe a good thing, he didn’t want to feel to ground when he impacted.

            As he fell to the ground he felt a ripple effect crawling down his body. Even though he was losing consciousness he knew what this meant. “Shit, no. Not now,” he whispered as he slipped into nothingness.

            The rest of the Avengers made their way to where the Hulk had landed, in his arms was the form of Iron Man. Kneeling, he gently laid the man down and looked at the group. “We need to remove his faceplate,” Natasha said and looked at the Hulk. He nodded and bent down, then ripped the faceplate off. “Where’s Stark,” Clint asked as he looked down at Stark. The group looked at Iron Man, most had a look of confusion, the only exception being Thor who gave a small smile. “I’m contacting Fury,” Natasha said and walked away while she talked into the comm.

            Inside of the suit, where they knew the man called Tony Stark, was a woman. “Am I the only one confused,” Clint asked still looking at the woman, “cause I swear the billionaire Tony Stark was supposed to be in the suit.”

Chapter Text

The Empress slowly lowered herself into her throne, still clutching the small form in her arms. She pushed open the blanket to see her baby and gave a small grin as the babe opened his eyes and giggled as he reached out to her. She lowered her index finger once more and allowed him to chew it.

            “Did you bring him?” The Empress quickly looked up as a blond woman rushed up to the throne. Much like Titania her skin was whitish-blue, but it made her green eyes sparkle and glow brighter. “Freya,” Titania called quietly with a grin. Freya pursed her lips and quietly approached. She leaned over and cooed at the babe who giggled a bit before he suddenly stopped and began to shiver. Titania’s smile turned into a frown, and panic began to rise from her chest. “No,” she whispered, and pulled him close to her chest, trying to keep him warm.

            The woman Freya looked at the throne room door then back at her queen. “Titania,” the pale woman whispered, “the Winter people are due to arrive in less than a day. The garden has already frozen over and the palace is beginning to crystallize.”

            “I know,” she replied, then reached out and touched Freya’s cheek, “you are already cold my dear.”

            “I can feel it climbing.” The Empress gave a bitter laugh. “I should not have brought him then. I was being selfish.”

            “Titania,” the blond whispered as she knelt down, then rested her head on the arm of the seat, “we must not dwell on that. What done is done. However, what do we do now? How long do we intend on keeping the boy?” Titania said nothing but held her shivering child. “Titania?”

            “I’m keeping him for as long as I wish Freya.”

            “I don’t need to remind you-”

            “I know,” she snapped, which caused the babe to make upset noises, but not yet crying. She lowered her child to her lap and removed the blanket. Freya said nothing but watched the child, worried about the poor thing. The Empress looked at her son, then shook her head. “Not son, not anymore,” she whispered to herself. Freya nodded, she understood what her queen was doing.

            With a shaken breath she raised her free hand, then glanced over at Freya. Freya rubbed Titania’s arm in comfort. The Empress closed her eyes then looked back at her child. “Forgive me Anthony,” she whispered and lowered her hand onto the boy’s chest. Her hand glowed briefly as she whispered to herself. The light transferred to the child and was quickly absorbed into the boy. The babe had watched her intently, then as the light entered him he began to show discomfort.

            A few seconds later the babe erupted into shrieks of pain.

Chapter Text

Clint let out a cry of shock when the woman in the Iron Man suit woke up. “Did we win? No one kissed me, right?” Her voice, much like Thor, had that English accent that they guessed all Asgardians had. Her eyes went wide at her own voice and glanced over at Thor who knelt down next to her. “Lady Kalina,” he said, trying to speak in a whisper, it didn’t work. “Lady Kalina, you are no longer Tony Stark. It is nice to hear your voice again though.”

            “Yeah,” she replied making a ‘no shit,’ face, “I think I know that Thor.” A noise from where the faceplate joined with the suit made a loud stuttering noise, which caused her to curse in shock. “Suit is back online,” JARVIS announced as she began to move inside the suit. With a grunt the one that Thor called Kalina slowly stood up, then looked around. The other Avengers stared, Clint himself had loaded his bow, just in case. “JARVIS,” she yelled trying to ignore the others, “can I get a reading on our favorite invader?”

            “Kal.” She raised her hand to quiet Thor. “Sir, Loki seems to be back at your tower.”

            “Because of course he is.” She turned to the blond god, “come-on Pointe Break, let’s collect your brother.” Thor chuckled, “you and your nicknames. I still don’t understand them.”

            “Eh, don’t worry.” She turned to the other Avengers, “anyone need a lift to my tower?”

 

Intermission

 

            The Avengers took a quick break at the destroyed penthouse before they dealt with Fury. The only one not in the room was the Hulk who had gone off to no doubt calm down. Finally, the woman in the declared that she was getting out of the suit. Without waiting for an answer, she began the process of removing the suit.

She was not what they were expecting when she climbed out of the suit. She looked to be at least ten years younger than Tony Stark and stood as tall as Steve. Her hair was a different shade of brown than Stark’s and was tied up into a bun. Her eyes, Natasha noted to herself, was still Tony Stark’s eyes. Kalina looked between them all, waiting for something.

The something ended up being Steve Rogers, who quickly stood up and asked if she needed something. She chuckled and asked for water, “it’s like a hot box in that suit sometimes.”

“Fury is expecting us soon,” Natasha announced as Bruce Banner came wandering in. Without paying much attention he asked for food. “Cookies are actually in the cookie jar.” He waved his hand in thanks and disappeared into the kitchen.

Steve reentered the room with two water bottles in his hands. She opened her hands as if she was planned to catch it. Instead he walked up and handed it too her. She raised an eyebrow, then grabbed it and thanked him. Steve nodded and turned away, he went back to the couch to sit. “I’m,” Kalina said gripping the bottle tightly, “I’m going to get into nicer clothes, and take a shower.” She quickly disappeared, in a vain hope that no one could see the redness that had formed on her cheeks.

 

Intermission

 

            “So, the so-called god of mischief is safely locked up and bound,” Fury announced as he and Agent Hill stepped into the debriefing room in the Helicarrier. “Now, can someone tell me who this is,” he yelled and pointed to Kalina, who had begun to pick at her nails, “and where is Stark? Why is he not here?” Steve opened his mouth to speak but Natasha spoke instead. She gave details about the battle, and informed them that she did call it in. Kalina rubbed the temples on the side of her head, no one was sure if she was in pain or just annoyed. Fury scoffed, “so where is Stark?”

            “She is Man of Iron,” Thor announced loudly. Kalina flinched at the noise and reached for the coffee. “Explain then,” Fury demanded and stared at her. Kalina cradled the mug in her hands and leaned back into her chair. “I can’t.” The one-eyed man raised an eyebrow, she wasn’t sure if it was because of her answer, or he wasn’t expecting the accent. “What do you mean can’t?”

            “I mean I can’t,” she answered, then took a sip of coffee, “I can get someone else to explain though. Someone you know.” She pulled out a phone and began to fiddle with it. “I would like to think that she knows how to work it.”

            “Do I want to know?” She shushed him as she put her phone on speaker and began to tap her nails onto the table. After a few rings the pickup click was heard. “Darling,” a woman on the other end greeted, she sounded a bit worried, “give me a moment. I need to put you on speakerphone. Freya wants to hear you.”

            “Oh, it’s Freya this time,” Kalina asked, more out of interest than to mock. “Can we get this show on the road,” Fury asked as another beep was heard, “we are wasting time.”

            “Nicholas Fury,” the woman on the other end questioned. Even though he trying to hide it, Fury was still showing shock at this woman recognizing him. “Kal,” the woman on the other end said, “what have you done?”

            “Nothing! I actually did nothing.” After a beat Kalina spoke again, “Except throw a nuke into a portal, lose power to my suit. Pass out in said suit, and wake up without-”

            “A nuke,” another woman on the other end yelled, “what? What are they doing? I told you, she doesn’t-”

            “Peace Freya,” the first woman interrupted, “she is fine.”

            “Yeah, I’m fine. Just in trouble with S.H.I.E.L.D., and I’m not allowed to say anything.”

            A loud slap was heard. “I told you,” the Freya said in a lecture tone, “that promise would cause so much trouble.”

            “Well, I blame her father.”

            “Oh, don’t get me started on her father Titania.”

             “Peggy,” Steve Rogers questioned. He leaned into the table with a questioning look. “Peggy Carter?”

            “Steve Rogers,” Titania whispered. Noises were heard on the other end, but no words came out. “Rogers,” Fury spoke looking at him, doubting the good Captain. “I know her voice,” Steve explained, “it was the last thing I heard as I went down.”

            “I know Carter as well,” Fury snapped, “but she’s old now Steve.”

            “Oh, that was a copy,” Kalina replied without being asked, “one that-”

            “Kal,” Freya cautioned, which made the brunette flinch. “Sorry! Almost forgot.”

            “You are released from your promise,” Peggy quickly spoke, “there is no point in keeping it now.” Kalina gave a sigh of relief which annoyed Fury. “What is going on?”

            “Give me a minute Nick,” Titania said, then with a sigh she spoke. “Yes, I am Margaret Carter. However, before Carter, I was and still am Titania, Empress of the Fae.” Kalina shook her head, “I knew there was a reason why you could tell me about Captain America. Why did you not tell me?”

            “It didn’t matter Kal. Plus, it’s not like Howard had never called me Peggy” A scoff made it clear that she didn’t believe her. “We have been informed, by Thor, that your daughter is Tony Stark.”

            “And she is Nick. Howard wanted a son. I gave him a son with the agreement that he stays with Howard for six months of the year, and the other half with me. Howard decided to not share our child and broke our agreement. So, I took our son. However, due to the laws in my court, Tony became Kalina.”

            “I’m confused.”

            “You are always confused Clint,” Natasha noted, to which Clint just nodded in agreement. “If I may,” Thor spoke, “in the realm above there are five courts that watch over Midgard. Four of the courts are those of the seasons, one for each season. The High court, where Kalina hails from is the main protector of Midgard. They make sure that the sun rises, sets, that the moon glows, and they are the keepers of the seasons. Us of the lesser courts must visit the High court for the season to pass on Midgard. While yes, beyond a certain point on this planet the opposite season takes over, the ruling season is based on a spot that was chosen many millennia ago.

            “Many thousand years ago though, a battle raged and the Empress young as she was banished her backstabbing lover and swore that in her court, no man shall live in her presence for longer than half a year. She keeps that promise to this day.”

Chapter Text

The flowers bloomed once more in the palace, the ice had fully melted and the building glowed with new stone that was painted in new murals that praised spring and showed pastoral scenes, those of children playing in flowers, and of lovers enjoying a meal under a tree full of fruit. A blond man laid out a blanket and allowed the two girls that accompanied him to place the food on the blanket and leave.

As they stepped back into the covered walkway they saw a small girl run up to them and skidded to a halt at their feet. “Good afternoon Lady Kalina,” the light brown-haired girl spoke giving a small bow as her black hair companion bowed along with her. The little girl giggled and bowed back. “Oh no my lady,” the brunette quickly said and made sure that the man did not see, “you do not bow to us.”

“But what if I want to?”

“Well,” the black haired one replied, “then we are honored.”

“Kal,” the man called her and approached the trio. The little girl’s eyes went wide, “oh it’s Freyr this month?” The man gave a loud laugh and scooped to girl into his arms. “Does this bother you still my flower?” She shook her head and blushed at the question, then buried her head into his shoulder. “Then I am glad.” He gestured to other two to leave, and they did so, while they giggled at Kalina’s embarrassment.

“Darling,” said as he carried Kalina to the blanket, “your mother will be joining us soon. She has something serious to tell you.” Kalina looked up at the man as he put her down, she had a look of fear and was almost in tears. “Oh no darling, you’re not in trouble.”

“Then what?” Freyr looked away, as if he was watching for something. “That’s for your mother to say.” He knelt down next to her and gently wiped the tears that had formed from her eyes. “We both love you Kal, don’t forget that.”

“This place is a paradise Peg,” a man yelled from the distance. Both Freyr and Kalina looked and watched the loud mouth man as he walked with Titania. Kalina stared at the man, with his slick black hair and his odd clothes, not really sure what to make of him. “It’s spring,” her mother explained to the man, “this is the only time the gardens and the palace looks like this.”

“Well, color me curious. Now Peg onto the-” The man stopped suddenly at the sight of Kalina. His face went through different emotions before he turned to the Empress. “What did you do to my son,” he yelled, “what did you do Peg?”

“Your son? Howard may I remind you what you did? I warned you against breaking it. Edwin and Ana did as well.” Howard took in a deep breath and looked at the girl, who had now made herself small and had hid under Freyr’s arm. The odd man put on a smile that they all knew was fake and approached the blanket, her mother followed from behind.

“Howard behave yourself,” Titania warned as they both sat on the blanket. Howard nodded and looked at the girl, he could see himself in her, and from what Peggy had told him, she was a genius. She had showed him the circuit board the girl had built, it was impressive, but it did not work. Maybe he can get this to work, he reasoned. “Hello,” he said, trying to sound a nice as he could. The girl watched him from under her protector’s arm in fear. “My name is Howard Stark, and I’m your father.”

Chapter Text

            The first thing Kalina did once she got to her penthouse, was to grab all the alcohol. Once she had asked JARVIS to get the window and the floor fixed, she collected as many bottles as she could in her arms. Once satisfied she wandered into the living room to see Natasha on one of the couches. She raised an eyebrow to Kalina, no doubt to question her intention. “Can’t I enjoy one of my favorite pastimes?”

            “Do you get drunk from that?”

            “I don’t know. If I drink them all I might.” Kalina gave her penthouse a glance, “I’m not even gonna ask how you got in.” She walked up to the coffee table and placed the bottles onto it. With a sigh she flopped onto the couch and gestured to the bottles. “Want one?”

            After a pause, the spy nodded and picked up a whiskey bottle, Kalina grabbed one as well. She unscrewed the top and drank from the bottle. Both sat quietly for a moment, it was a nice kind of quiet something that Kalina didn’t get all that often on Earth.

            “I didn’t know Howard was my father until I was five,” she said finally after a few drinks, “He arrived in the garden one day, and told me. Just everything about him, scared me. Hindsight, I was right.”

            “I must ask,” Natasha said as she reached down under the table. She pulled out two glasses and slid one over to Kalina. The brunette took the clue and poured her drink into the glass and sipped it. Natasha poured her own, “your record says that you built your first circuit board at four.” Kalina grinned and took another drink. She cradled the glass in her hands as she spoke. “My mom has a giant library. I was bored one day and found a few books on circuits and computers. I took interest in it, and my mother got what I needed to build it.” Natasha tilted her head, there was a question there but she wasn’t sure if it was needed.

            “I was introduced to Earth as Anthony Stark when I was born. He now had a daughter and to Howard, was a bad thing.”

            “So, you became male here?” Kalina shook her head, “it’s an illusion. I’m still this,” she said and gestured to her body, “under all that.”

            “But you were born a male?”

            “Yes, but it lasted for about eight months, then my mother made me female. I’m not complaining. This would all be easier though if I was able to change genders like a certain man in green.”

            “Loki?” Kalina nodded and they were quiet again for a few more minutes. Kalina spoke again as she looked into the empty glass. “Howard was… trouble. I looked like a boy, but he knew I wasn’t and that was maybe why he treated me, harshly. I didn’t like coming here.”

            “So, what are you going to do now?”

            “I have to still be Tony,” she said shrugging, “at least out in public.”

Chapter Text

            “He needs to work!” Freya flinched at the teenager’s voice. They stood in a small, private room in the library, the door was locked and the older woman watched the teenager get upset over an orb. The girl slammed her fist into the table that the orb was sitting on, she was getting annoyed. “Kal,” Freya spoke, then reached out to touch Kalina’s shoulder. The teen shrugged her off. “I need this to work! I need someone… I want-”

            “I know dear.” Freya moved to unlock the door and suggest that she try another day, when Kalina made an angry noise, picked up the orb, and slammed it down onto the table. She let go of the orb and rubbed her nose, her breath was in short breaths as if she tried not to cry.

            Suddenly, the orb glowed. Kalina’s eyes went wide in awe, and quickly went to confusion. Freya grinned and stood by the door watching what was bound to happen. The orb flickered red, then shone brightly as a voice emerged from it. “Hello,” it asked in the voice of a young man. Kalina stammered a bit then mimicked a hello. “Are-are you making fun of me fae?”

            “No,” she quickly said, “I just didn’t know what else to say.”

            “You sound young.”

            “I’m fourteen,” she countered, “I’m starting M.I.T. in the fall.” The voice chuckled, “fourteen is still young in this realm. Almost a baby.” Kalina crossed her arms and looked away mumbling about how young he sounded as well. “Kalina,” Freya warned coming up from behind and placed her hands on the girl’s shoulders, “Don’t be like that. You’ve summoned a spirit, not many your age would even be allowed near one.”

            “Many my age would not be allowed near complex machinery,” and grumbled. “A prodigy,” the voice said suddenly interested and excited, “I see. Tell me young one, what do you want?”

Chapter Text

Kalina did not expect Steve Rogers to enter her lab, but he wandered in one day and watched her work on a new suit. “So, how much of this,” he asked as he gestured her newest suit, “is magic.” She opened her mouth to explain but was interrupted. “The only magic in the suits is the battery. Well that and she uses magic as a way to unlock the suit.” Kalina glanced up at Steve. Steve for his part looked confused, he knew that the one who was Tony was in front of him, but the new voice was Tony’s voice. Kalina went back to the suit and gave an annoyed click. “Tony,” she announced as she continued to work on the suit, “I was wondering when you would visit. It’s been a few months.”

            “You did ask me to follow Loki’s trial.”

            “That I did,” she said and stood up to stretch, “how are things over there?”

            “Your mother would like a visit.”

            “I’m not due for a few months.”

            “Considering recent events though.”

            “How bad,” she asked then sighed. “Threatening to drag you back. Kicking and screaming, if it comes to it.” Kalina flinched but nodded, “right, I’m sure you can handle this.”

            “Wait,” the voice said, “you’re letting me use the suit?” Kalina nodded, “it’s only for a few months. I’ll let Pepper know.”

            Ton- uh, Kalina.” Kalina turned to Steve, who had finally spoke up and had a confused look. “Oh man Steve,” she yelped. Much to her embarrassment, she had completely forgotten that Cap was there. The voice called Tony chuckled, “you’re still a child Kal.” She waved the air away and approached Steve. “Sorry! When he’s around he usually gets my full attention.” Steve shrugged, most likely unable to say much at the moment. “I think you stunned him Kal.”

            “No,” Steve replied waving his hands to stop an argument, “no. It’s just… talking air. Air that sounds like Tony.”

            “I am Tony. Kal gave me that name. I’m a spirit.” Steve just nodded, he wanted to ask questions but only one came spewing out of his mouth. “May I join you? To your mother’s house.” Kalina’s face went from amusement over Steve’s reaction to Tony, to stunned. It took a few moments for Tony to talk. “Great now she’s stunned. Kal? Do you want me to ask your mother?” The woman just nodded and the voice began to fade away as he told them that he was not able to promise anything.

Chapter Text

The eight-year-old girl stomped through the garden, kicking up the dead leaves that now covered the ground. Titania watched her daughter with a worried face and Kalina approached, with Freyr behind her. Kalina’s arms were crossed and she had a miserable look on her face. What did he do now, the Empress questioned, trying to hide her growing anger that her daughter kept coming back from her Midgard visit in a bad mood.

            When she reached her mother, Kalina looked up at her, her arms still crossed. “Who is Steve Rogers,” she asked as tears began to form. Titania knelt down to face her daughter and rubbed her cheek. “Howard’s been talking about him. When I asked he said you could tell me about him.” Kalina’s lips quivered, and the tears started to flow. “He doesn’t feel that I’m worth his time.” She erupted into a crying fit and collapsed into her mother, who held her daughter, as she used her free hand to brushed it through her dark auburn hair.

            It took a few minutes for the child to relax, her mother then stood up and offered to get her some sweets. The girl gave a small smile and her mother led her away.

            Freyr stood in the faded garden as the Empress and the Princess were having a moment. He thought it was best to let them have alone time. He clamped his cloak for the second time and looked at the faded stone of the palace. Nothing was on the walls anymore, no spring murals, or summer mosaics, just cracked stone with snow and ice starting to form in the open spaces. The Winter people had started their voyage, and with that the Autumn people will leave soon.

            With a sigh, Freyr realized that day of Kalina’s becoming will be soon. Most likely it would be another night with the Winter people. The Winter ones would give her a simple present, and the messengers from the other courts would drop off their own. Otherwise it was bound to be a quiet night, which to Freyr maybe for the best.

            Howard had thrown the girl into a bad mood, which the girl was in that mood every time she came back. While both Titania and Freyr were worried for her, they knew the contract could not broken without repercussions.

            Freyr was taken out of his thoughts by the young red-haired woman that approached. “Lord Freyr,” she greeted and bowed, “forgive me sir. Her majesty has sent me to fetch you.” Freyr chuckled and patted the woman’s shoulder. “It’s fine Virginia.” He took in a deep breath and tried to clear Howard from his mind. “Let us go, I’m sure Kal needs her nanny.”

Chapter Text

“Remind me Pepper, why is Natasha coming?”
“Really Kal. She’s the S.H.I.E.L.D. ambassador. You know Fury demanded it,” Pepper replied as she went over the last bit of paperwork with Kalina before she left. Kalina puffed up her cheeks to show her annoyance before she let the air out and continued to sign papers. “Then why is Steve coming?”
“Kal, he asked you.” The brunette looked up at her with a confused look. “He did? Man, I must be way to tired.”
“Or because Spring is tomorrow.”
“Shit, this maybe a bad idea.”
“No take backs,” Pepper said in a playful tone, “Tony will be here to cover you as he always does.”
“Oh, I’m not worried about here,” she said as Pepper put the papers up, “I’m worried about Amora, over there.”
While not extreme, Natasha noticed the change that happened to Kalina once they had stepped through a non-descript door in the penthouse to reach the palace. Kalina’s hair, usually a dark brown, was now lighter. Kalina giggled a bit then bit one of her knuckles as two women approached. From what Natasha could see, they were in a small room, possibly a foyer.
“Lady Kalina,” the dark-haired woman greeted as both women bowed. “Your mother and Freya apologize for not greeting you.” A brief flash of disappointment appeared on Kalina’s face, then was quickly replaced by a look of understanding. Somehow though, the blonde woman caught it. “Oh, my lady, please don’t think badly of your parents.”
“Amora is coming my lady.”
“She heard you would be here,” the blond finished, “so your mother is trying to keep her distracted long enough for you to tend to your guests.” Kalina made an ah noise and gestured for the two Avengers to follow.
“The rooms are in your wing. They won’t be bothered by the other guests. They are your guests after all.”
“You have your own wing,” Steve questioned, not entirely shocked by this fact. The blonde woman grinned at Steve, “the wing was originally built for Titania’s children. Before the war against Oberon our empress had plans for many children.”
“But after a few hundred years, she bore none, though she had many lovers. However once Kalina was brought into this realm she was just so glad to have one, she gave her the whole wing as she grew older. Some rooms were turned into labs and a library.” The two giggled which made Kalina roll her eyes. “She is also the first child to live in the palace since Freya was brought in as a companion,” the brunette continued, “plus, Kalina came from the Empress herself, so in the eyes of many Kalina is special.”
“And she is rightfully so.” Kalina’s face fell at the voice. “She is such a good child.” Two thin arms wrapped around the woman’s waist from behind and pulled her close to a tall, blonde woman dressed in a knee length sheer dress. Kalina’s face turned red as she struggled to get away from the woman. The woman in the sheer dress giggled, then bent over and gave Kalina’s neck a kiss, which caused her captive to slump against the woman. Breathing heavy, Kalina turned her now glazed eyes up to the blond. “Amora?”
“Such a silly child. You know I can’t stay away.” The trapped woman gave a light struggle but quickly gave up. “I-I brought,” she argued in a struggle to talk, her mind was fogged up with whatever Amora had done. “I brought guests ‘Mora. It would be rude-”
“Nonsense child. I’m sure Rada and Gianna can help them.” Amora looked at the blonde, “isn’t that right Rada?” Rada nodded and Amora led Kalina away, the younger had made minimal arguments as they left.
“The young princess has yet to learn how to keep the seasonal courts from affecting her so much,” Gianna explained, “the High court fae are affected by the seasons. You saw what Amora was able to do to her, it’s the same for every season.”
“I also saw her hair change,” Natasha noted. Gianna nodded, “it’s not just the people. Our palace goes through the change as well.”
“However, for the fae the effect is lessened in your realm.”
“But still enough for, say, someone to feel the need to be touchy and sleep around during the spring?” Both women nodded at Natasha and soon they were at a set of doors. “Is she going to be okay?”
“She shall be fine Captain. The fae are different than us humans, as such their ideas and morals are as well. What they consider okay may not be for us humans.”
“You two are human,” Natasha asked confused. The two women giggled as Gianna looped her arm around Steve’s arm. “Yes, but we have not been on Midgard since we were taken as children.” She led Steve to the first door and opened the door. She let him go and gestured him inside. He stepped in and she followed, the door was pushed shut behind him. Rada opened the second door and led Natasha into the room. “There is a connecting door for you and the Captain the reach each-”
Are you a slave?” Rada’s mouth quickly shut at what she perceived as rudeness on the assassin’s part. She blinked a few times to regain her composure and continued her speech. “next to your bed is your bathroom. We shall fetch you for dinner.” She opened the door to leave, wanting to get away from this woman from S.H.I.E.L.D. “Talk to me. Are you a slave?” Rada glanced over at the woman then slipped through the door and slammed it shut.

Chapter Text

“Mama, where are we going?”

            The Empress chuckled and brushed her daughters almost black hair back as she carried her away from Kalina’s wing. The four-year-old looked around in awe at the ice crystals that had finished climbing the walls. “Kal,” her mother called getting the child’s attention again, “we are going to see your nanny.”

            “Nanny?” Titania nodded as they went out and crossed the dead, snow covered garden. “Yes, a nanny is someone who takes care of a child. They make sure they eat, sleep, bathe, learn, make sure that you don’t get hurt or get into trouble.”

            “But, isn’t that what you and Freyr do?” Her mother sighed as Kalina curled closer to her. “Yes, but we can’t always be there. We do have a kingdom to run.” Kalina gave a loud hiccup, then leaned into her mother in an attempt to make sure her mother did not see her tears. It didn’t work. “Oh, my flower. We still love you, and we’ll still be here. But you’re a big girl, that just built her first circuit board. Knowing you, you will cause all sorts of trouble.” The girl giggled and looked up at her mother. “Are we okay now?”

            “I guess.”

            Titania finally reached a large stone building with an armored woman that stood guard by the door. The fae bowed and Titania tilted her head in greeting. “We have come to see Madam Allium about her nanny.” The woman opened the door and alerted them that Allium was already at the cell. The term cell confused Kalina, she understood a cell as something a prisoner was held in. Why was her nanny in one? She continued to think about it as her mother carried her down a set of spiral stairs.

            Madam Allium was one of the shorter fae of the court, with fiery red hair that was tied up in a high bun that was intertwined in gold. Her skirt was hiked up so it wouldn’t drag along the ground, and her tight sleeves were rolled up to expose her battle-scarred arms. She gave a low bow to them, “Empress, princess.”

            “Madam Allium,” Titania greeted as Allium approached the cell and placed her hand on a large plate, the door made a large thunk noise and Allium slid the cell door open. “it’s a shame that you have chosen this one Empress.”

            “Hm, why is that,” Titania asked as she stepped in. The girl in question had her back facing them, her red hair was drenched and she was under a thin blanket shivering. Kalina wiggled in her mother’s arm, which then she was quickly placed down. “She is chained up right now.”

            “May I ask why?”

            “One of the Winter people did something that she did not like. Next thing we know he’s running around with his eyes burning. According to him, she has slammed one of the small peppers in his eyes and the juices had gotten in.”

            “That does explain so much.” Both women spoke low enough that they thought that Kalina could not hear. The four-year-old, however, walked to the cot and made her way to the girl’s head in an attempt to look at her. “Did you really do that?”

            The girl said nothing but moved her head to look at the princess. “If you did, that was amazing. He’s still crying out the juice. He’s a jerk though and deserved it.” The girl showed confusion at what the princess was talking about. “Do you have a name Pepper? Can I call you Pepper?”

            “Who are you,” she finally spoke, her voice was rough and harsh, “why are you here?”

            “Oh good, you talk Pepper.”

            “My name is not Pepper, it’s Virginia.” The four-year-old grinned, “and I’m Kalina. My momma said that you’re going to be my nanny.”

            “I want to go home,” Virginia whined, “I miss my mother.” Kalina gave her a confused look, she did not understand what was going on. Once Virginia realized this she sighed and closed her eyes to try to sleep.

            Allium called to Kalina, calling the little miss back. Kalina huffed at the term and went back to her mother. Her mother picked her up and told her that it was close to dinner. Allium informed the Empress that the girl should be ready in two days. “She shall be prefect for the little princess.”

            Kalina glanced over at Virginia one last time, the red head turned her body over and now glared at her. The little princess curled into her mother, convinced that she had hid from sight.

Chapter Text

            Dinner was called, and the two Avengers were led to the garden, which gave a view of a large body of water, with a tree on an island a few feet from the shore. Beyond the lake was a thick expansive forest. They were led to the edge of the water, both took in the sight of the carefully arranged flowers and fruit-bearing trees as they walked.

            At the lakes edge was a low sitting table and three backless couches that sat as low as the table. Gianna bowed and quickly left the two to the others at the table. On the right table Kalina laid partly on the couch and partly on Amora, with her head rested on the Spring woman’s chest. Amora was against the arm rest and rubbed Kalina’s head. “Sweet child. Your friends have arrived.” Kalina slowly opened her eyes to look at them, then waved.

            “I do apologize mortals,” Amora said as she continued to rub the woman’s head, “but, I did hear what happened. She needs attention right now. Of course, I used to do this when she would come back after Howard.” Kalina’s face turned sour and she gave a disgusted grunt. “I know, you didn’t have the best relationship with him.”

            “Most didn’t after the war.” Titania stood up from the other couch to greet them. Steve sucked in air in shock. She hadn’t aged, Steve realized, she was still Peggy. “Peg.” Without thinking he approached her and quickly gave her a hug. “You look good Peg.”

            “As do you Steve.” Natasha coughed loudly, and Steve suddenly let go and righted himself. “Sorry your majesty.” Freya, who was sitting on the couch with Titania gave a laugh and grabbed Titania by the arm and pulled her back onto the couch. “I can see why you like him,” she loudly whispered so that Steve could hear. She leaned back and looked at man. “My name is Freya, her companion, and someone’s second mother.”

            “She’s a good parent,” Kalina mumbled before the Spring woman distracted her again. Steve nodded, a bit embarrassed by the ordeal. “Our ideals of companionship and marriage are different than yours,” Freya explained, “if you wish a relationship with the Empress, then I don’t see a problem.” Freya scooted over and patted the empty space on the couch. “Please Captain Rogers.”

            “Go on Steve,” Kalina yelled, “we won’t say anything, right Amora?”

            “Oh of course dear child. He’s free here isn’t he Kal?” Kalina made an agreeable noise and moved to curl up closer to the spring fae. Freya grabbed Steve by the arm and pulled him down between them. Natasha grunted and began to sit in the empty couch. Kalina noticed and groaned out a no. “It’s not fair that you sit alone Tash,” she said as she tried to sit up, “come here.”

            “Kal?”

            “Oh, hush Amora. It’s not fair for her.”

            “I’m fine,” Natasha answered as she stretched out onto the couch. “I get to do this.” Kalina grinned and looked at her mother, then she shook her head as she sat up. Her eyes seemed to be focused again and her movements had improved. “Right. Food and talk.”

            “You’re getting better at shaking me off.”

            “Nah, I just wanted to be spoiled by you for a while.”

Chapter Text

            Amora squealed when she saw Freya with the baby in her arms. They were in the large foyer and Titania was late to greet them, so they hoped that Kalina would distract her. “A little baby,” the fae said as she rushed up to the woman and looked at the bundle in her arms. “She is so cute! May I?” With a nervous nod, Freya slowly handed the child over to the excited fae.

            Titania stopped at one of the corners and took a few breaths to calm herself. She did not mean to be late, but some last-minute problems did rise. She plastered a smile on her face and rounded the corner and began to speak an apology. Only for it to die at the view she had walked into. Freya had leaned against a wall and watched a small group of spring fae. They were huddled on the floor in a tight circle around Amora. Titania caught Freya’s eye and her companion just shrugged at the sight. The Empress took in a deep breath and approached to the group, who talked in low voices.

            “Oh, she’s a gem.”

            “So small.”

            “Is she really her daughter?”

            “It does not matter,” Amora lectured, “our queen calls her daughter, and the babe will call her mother. That is all that matters here.”

            “I guess.”

            “Will she be beautiful?”

            “That is all in the future,” Titania announced. The fae quietly moved away so she could get to her daughter. As they quieted down, laughter was heard from her child. Her child laid in Amora’s lap and giggled as Amora ran her index finger across the girl’s belly. The babe laughed louder as Amora began to run her nails lightly. “Such an innocent child.”

            “Yes,” Titania agreed and knelt in front of Amora. The Spring fae was so entranced with the girl that her Empress had to call her name to get her attention. “If only she could stay like this forever,” Amora whispered.

Chapter Text

Steve woke up as he felt fingers stroke his cheeks. He slowly opened his eyes to find Kalina next to him, with her hand on his face. Kalina watched him with glazed still sleepy eyes. “Kalina?”

            “Hello Steve Rogers.”

            “Are you okay?” She chuckled at the question and leaned into him. “I’m fine,” she answered then yawned and curled closer into him. He did not push back but there was something that had bothered him. “What happened? I don’t remember.” She frowned and moved away from him. She sat up in an attempt the think, while she pulled the sheets up over her chest. “I-I don’t remember how we got her.” She bit her lower lip in thought then spoke again after a beat. “I remember eating at the lake side with my mothers, Amora and Natasha.”

            “Eating,” he replied, “and drinking.”

            “Hmm, and you left one couch, on my mother’s insistence and joined mine.”

            “Amora moved away and went to Natasha’s couch.” It was quiet for a moment as they both tried to remember. Then Kalina leaned over and looked over the edge of the bed to the floor. She gave a sigh of relief and grabbed her nightgown from the floor. “I was in my nightgown?” Steve had finally sat up and looked at her nightgown. At the sight of the gown, he remembered that he removed it then they began a flurry of kisses. Quickly he leaned over his side of the bed to see his shirt and sweatpants on the floor. “Those are my sleeping clothes.”

            “So, you went to your room at least.” She let out a laugh at Steve’s confused face. “This is my room Steve. I should know it.” With a slight blush he looked around the room.

            The room was larger than his guest room, but that made sense, she did live in it. The empty spaces of the walls were painted like the rest of the palace. There was a desk with a rolling chair and both were piled with books, records and random technology along one wall that had enough space for two doors. A few full bookshelves lined the wall that had her doorway to the hallway, and a record player stood by the balcony not that far from the large bed. “Ah, I don’t remember.”

            “I don’t either,” she replied then slid out of the bed with her naked back to Steve. That may have been for the best, since Steve’s face has turned even more red, but he did not look away. He tried to convince himself that he was red with guilt that he lied to her.

            He remembered holding onto Amora as she led him to his room. Natasha had gone to bed ten minutes earlier and Steve was not only tired but for once, drunk. Kalina was still with her parents, they had agreed to take her to bed. Titania explained that she was their host and she would be the last to her wing, it was custom.

            “Captain Rogers,” Amora spoke, “what is your intention with Kalina?” He gave her a confused look, “what?”

            “I saw how you looked and behaved around her. Such a gentleman Captain, but I can tell.” When they reached his door, she bent over and whispered into his ear, “do not hold back Steven Rogers. Here is paradise and this is your chance.” She gave him a gentle kiss on the forehead then left him.

            He should have slept. He was in the bed, in his night clothes. For some reason he felt like he needed to see Kalina. He stepped outside of his room, he was hoping for just a moment to clear his head, but somehow, he ended up in her room. She was playing with a tablet looking over something, but quickly looked up as he shut her bedroom door. “I was wondering if you were coming or not.”

            He tried to remember the rest but Kalina began to talk which distracted him. “But yet, I’m not all that bothered.” She slipped her nightgown on, then took in a deep breath and turned to him. “My, look at that virgin blush.”

            “Is it though?” She tilted her head in thought, then shrugged. “Well not anymore.”

As he slipped on his sweat pants there was a knock on the large door. “Ms. Kalina?”

            “I’m awake,” she called, “and dressed.” In a panic, Steve stammered out that he wasn’t dressed as fast as he could, but the door opened, and two different women entered the room. One took no notice of the shirtless man and began to look around the room, noting anything that caught her eye. Steve was not sure what she was looking for and Kalina took no notice of her. The second woman was pushing a cart with two covered plates and two tall empty glasses. Steve gave the cart a curious glance, “did we miss breakfast?”

            “No Captain,” she answered as she approached the bed. As he slipped his shirt on she took the plates from the cart and gently placed them on the bed. Kalina slowly sat back onto the bed as the woman pulled out a carafe of orange juice from the lower part of the cart and place it near the glasses. “The Empress thought that you two would like to dine alone.” She turned on her heels and joined the first woman at the door. They both bowed and left the room, laughter was heard once the door was shut. “Right, okay,” Steve mumbled and lifted the cover to revel eggs, ham, toast, and berries. He looked at it a moment, almost disappointed that it wasn’t alien food.

            Kalina saw the look on his face, which he quickly noticed. “I expected something else,” he explained, then took a bite of what he hoped was a strawberry. She swallowed the bite of toast that she had been chewing on then asked if he remembered dinner. “No,” he answered, really, he didn’t, that part was a blur. He frowned and looked at the strawberry, why was his memory so fuzzy, so spotty.

            “I should be worried,” he thought out loud as he took another bite of the strawberry. “Oh, don’t worry,” she told him with a humorous tone in her voice, “you will once we get back to the tower.” She picked up a blueberry and popped it in her mouth. Still chewing she continued, “of course you might become so paranoid that you and Fury will become the best of friends.” That got to Steve since he began to laugh at that line, much to Kalina’s amusement.

Chapter Text

            Snow had fallen nonstop since the arrival of the Winter people two weeks ago, and finally the sky was blue. The palace had become crystalized with harsh designs of snow creatures and winter sports. The garden was now dead with ice sculptures formed in random places. The lake had frozen over and bits of the outer wall that stopped at the lake had crumbled into it. The bits of broken wall were now used by the twelve-year-old Kalina and a companion of roughly the same age.

            Kalina laid on one of the blocks with a drawing pad and pencil in her hands. One of the best things about winter she discovered was how much more focus she had. She had learned over time to not let the cold feeling that invaded her body scare her anymore. Her feelings were toned down, which allowed her to focus on other things.

            They weren’t dead, she just didn’t think with them a good portion of the time. She still loved her mothers, loathed Howard to no end, felt joy around her only winter friend Skadi, and was always pleased with herself when her work… worked. Still most of it was numbed, even the ever growing feeling over a dead man was not there at this point.

            Skadi, was two years older than Kalina, and the niece of the Winter King, Laufey. Skadi was rested against the large stone and had used her whitish-blue skin as a contrast to the bowstring that she used to string her bow. After a few minutes of this work she grabbed her braided, dark blond hair and used the frazzled end to brush an exposed piece of Kalina’s arm. She giggled when the dark brunette looked over at her. “That’s what you get when you leave your arm exposed.” Kalina grunted, then closed her pad. With a sigh the girl tucked her pencil into her coat and sat up.

            Both were wearing heavy fur lined hooded coats, Kalina was wearing pants tucked into her boots while Skadi wore a skirt. Their clothes were dark colors in contrast to their skin, it made sense to Kalina she guessed, so they could be seen better.

            “Kal?”

            “Yeah?”

            “Can you tell me about Captain America,” she asked as she plucked the bow string. The princess scoffed and laid back down. “I’m only asking because your diary is just full of stuff about him. ‘I’m such a sap. Why am I getting a crush on a dead man?’ Shall I go on?”

            “Skadi,” Kalina warned and gave her a disgusted look, all the while the blond gave her an evil one. Skadi dropped her bow and turned to face her friend, resting her arms on Kalina’s chest. “So?”

            “According to my mother,” Kalina started as she petted Skadi’s hair. “He was in his twenties, late twenties. Was a twig before they pumped with a serum.”

            “What?” Kalina shrugged, “it’s what my mother said. He was a small man, but he still fought for what he thought was right. He ended up being a blond Adonis, but a gentleman, very nice, and loyal to those he deemed worthy of such things.”

            “In other words, Freyr.” Kalina gave a small, teasing hiss and shoved Skadi off her. Skadi laughed loudly as she stood up to grab her back quiver. “What does a crush feel like?” Kalina sat up the thought about it. She couldn’t describe it exactly right now, the butterflies are not here, and her cheeks were red for a different reason. “I don’t remember right now,” she answered as she rubbed her cheek, “I know cheeks do something.” Skadi’s face fell in disappointment. “Oh,” she replied, her voice sounded sorry, as if she killed the crush. “I wouldn’t worry so much about it,” Kalina said to comfort her, she stood and picked up Skadi’s bow, “it should come back to in the Spring?”

            “Then write about it. Let me know.” Kalina chuckled at that request. “Will do,” she replied then held out the bow to its owner, “now, shall we begin?”

Chapter Text

            Even in the privacy of her private sitting room Titania was nervous, but then she had a good reason, two if she was honest.

            The Black Widow was trouble and a hard read. The S.H.I.E.L.D. agent did not trust the Fae and attempted to use her skills to gather intel. Titania was impressed with how far the spy game had gone on Midgard. However, once intel could no longer be gathered the Widow turned her sights to the servants. She would find different ones and attempt to get them to tell how they got there, and to say that they were slaves. Luckily her attempts were fruitless. Still, if it got back to Fury, there will be problems, nothing the Fae could not handle of course.

            Somehow, Natasha had gotten Steve’s ear about the “slavery.” Steve being Steve, Titania mused on, got upset and confronted both her and Kalina in the throne room. They were not paying much attention to him. Papers were scattered in front of them on the floor and they were both on the steps that lead to the throne. “Excuse me, Peg.” Both looked up, and Kalina knocked her knees together and threw her skirt over her knees. Titania stood up and went back to her throne while she asked Steve what he needed. “Your servants. Are they slaves?” Kalina sucked in air, she did not expect the question.

            “Slaves,” Titania questioned and looked at her daughter. “Are they slaves?” Kalina shrugged, “I’m not sure. They have their own private apartments, food, they get paid and have vacation time. The only way I can think of is that they were young when they began to work.” Titania made a ta-da gesture to her daughter. “You must remember Steve,” Titania lectured, “that we have gone down a different path than humans.”

            “Your morals and ideals are different,” he said. Both women were worried when he accepted it and then changed the subject he asked what Kalina wanted to do tonight.

Once he left Kalina asked if they did to him on the first night was still in effect. Titania shook her head, it had been almost two months and they both knew that Amora’s kiss only lasted a month. That though did not explain why the realm was affecting him much more than it did to the Black Widow.

Still, he and Kalina had bonded during the two months and with any hope that bond will keep on in Midgard. She knew that Kalina felt something, and it would hurt her if Steve began to act cold or paranoid toward her.

Titania was in such deep thought that she did not notice the door open and Freya entered the room. She quietly shut the door and tiptoed behind the couch. Once she reached the couch she bent over and blew into her lover’s ear. Titana gave a short scream as she jumped from the couch. Once she saw the grin on Freya’s face she picked up a pillow and threw it at her. Freya laughed loudly as she dodged the pillow, then rounded the couch to approach the Empress. “A pillow?”

“Only thing I had to throw at you dear,” Titania replied and allowed Freya to lead her back to the couch and once they both were comfortable Freya pulled out a stack of papers from a bag that was recognized as one of Kalina’s. “How much did you plan?”

“I’m sorry,” Titania asked trying to sound upset, “What are you talking about?”

“Kalina insisted on having him tested, to see if there was something wrong with the dear Captain. What was in the serum?” Titania chuckled and slumped into the couch. “Careful lover, the walls have ears.” With a nod Freya dropped the papers into her lap. “Well whatever you did, Rogers has some… interesting pings.” With an interested look Titania began to look through the paper. “Third paper, second paragraph is of much more interest.”

As she read the paper, Titania’s eyes lit up. “Oh! Oh Freya, this is…”

“Yes, my heart.” Titania giggle and bit into one of her knuckles. “This is, brilliant. It explains so much.”

“We can use this yes?”

“Oh yes. Yes, we can.”

Chapter Text

Pillows were laid like a nest in the center of a covered patio. While there were couches out, Titania knew that her three-year-old daughter wanted to nap near the cool stone. The girl was walked to the patio by the queen of summer from the garden. “Look darling,” the summer queen said out loud, “there she is like I promised.” The little girl was allowed to take the lead since she wanted to get to her mother faster.

After a bit of stumbling Kalina climbed over the large pillows and tumbled into her mother’s lap. Both queens laughed as Kalina righted herself. “Did you enjoy your time with Frigga?” The girl nodded and asked for a story.

Frigga who had now moved to one of the couches, suggested that she tell the child about the beginning. Once Kalina heard that she demanded to hear it and laid down in the nest.

“There was nothing. The universe was black, no stars, no planets, nothing.”

“Nothing,” Kalina asked her eyes going wide. Titania nodded, “Then in the darkness a bright light flashed in the nothing and four beings appeared. They looked around and decided that life needed to grow here. ‘But we need more than one race,’ one said, ‘the last one was boring.’

“‘We can’t expand to quickly,’ another argued, ‘we have wasted energy by expanding all at once. Let’s focus on just here.’ An argument broke among the four, then the argument turned to a brawl.”

“That’s dumb,” Kalina announced and made a disgusted face. “That’s how it is,” Frigga explained, “it happens everywhere, for the smallest reasons. Midgard is a constant battlefield.”

“Still dumb.”

“May I continue?” Kalina nodded at her mother and shuffled closer to her mother. “When the fight was over, the world tree, Yggdrasil was created. Even in times of war, great things are created.

“Still, one was unhappy with the tree and announced that he wanted nothing to do with the others anymore. He left the others to deal with the tree and began to wander. In his wandering he found a branch, and he knew it was the branch of Yggdrasil, broken, but still full of power. He took the branch and created Midgard.”

“Is that why the humans are,” she asked sitting up. She tried to find the word for what she meant, and in her anger, she began to wave her hands. “Do you mean ignorant?”

“Loki,” Frigga warned. Titania gave an annoyed sigh at the interruption. Kalina peeked over the pillows to look at the summer son, only to find both men on the patio. Loki was lounging on a low couch with a book resting on his chest. Thor was in an alcove with a woman, his head rested on her lap as she played with his hair.

“Yeah,” Kalina squealed at the word, “ignorant!”

“It’s not their fault,” Titania spoke getting her daughters attention. “The being refused to allow them to see the tree and the other worlds attached with the tree.”

“Because the branch was broken?”

“Born of the tree, yet separated,” Loki said, “connected but never seen.”

“That makes no sense,” Kalina moaned as she gave the youngest soon a look of disbelief, “it’s dead. Why would it be connected?”

“It’s just a story,” Loki explained sitting upright, “much like the cultures of Midgard, stories like this are used to explain what they can’t understand.”

“We know. Right?”

            “Ask the oldest one here,” Loki replied and with a brief glance at Titania he laid back down to read. That seemed to have answered an unasked question since the child spun around quickly and looked at her mother. “Mama?”

            “I was not there at the beginning. I arrived at a later point.”

            “How?” Titania made her daughter lay back down once more and continued the story. “The other creators spend eons creating the realms to their liking, only to find that they took so much energy that they had none left to create anything beyond the deer and the wolf. Distraught they wandered the tree and found Midgard. The wandering creator had given life to a race that the others called humans. Humanity was beginning to thrive, and their creator god was gone. To them, he had gotten bored and went off to continue to create. While surprised, the other creators saw a good opportunity when they saw it.

            “So, they took a few hundred humans and brought them to the realms. From the humans they created three different races. The Trolls, the large hunters of Midgard. The hard working, and brilliant Dwarves. Finally, they turned those they deemed even more worthy were made into the rulers of the realm, the Fae.” Titania looked down at her child then gave at light laugh at the sleeping girl next to her. “She fell sleep about, the deer and the wolf.”

            “I figured she would Frigga. It was close to nap time anyway.” Thor made an odd noise, as if he was holding back a laugh. “I do remember two troublesome boys doing the same at that age.” Loki rolled his eyes but closed his book. “Dear mother, I remember Loki being as small as she and always taking naps like this.”

            “What does one expect from a human child who tried to keep up with his big brother Thor,” Loki snapped, then took in a deep breath and looked at his mother. “You were changing in such a short time, it took quite a lot of energy for someone at that age.” Frigga stood up and approached Loki, as she did he stood up from the couch. She cupped his face in her hands and smiled. “You are my son though.”

            “And you are my mother.”

Chapter Text

The first thing that greeted them once they entered the tower and made their way to the living room was Clint in a yelling match with, visually nothing but vocally Tony. “How can a voice be an Avenger?”

            “I can take over the suit, birdo!”

            “This is so stupid!”

            “Arguing with me over this? I agree.”

            “No! You’re a voice!”

            “As amusing as this is,” Kalina interrupted, “he does have a form. It just takes energy to make one.” Clint scoffed in annoyance at that fact, but still approached the trio. “So how did the trip go?” Natasha shrugged then quickly grabbed Clint’s arm to drag him to elevator. He seemed to know something as he did not argue with her. Once they were gone the room was quiet for a few minutes.

            “Well,” Steve said as he shifted his bag around on his back, “I’d better head down to my floor.”

            “Ok,” Kalina agreed quickly, “um. I’m thinking of pizza for dinner. ‘Cause I missed it so badly. I mean, I ask for it over there and I get-”

            “You’re rambling,” Tony said in a sing-song voice. “Uh right.” She squared her shoulders and looked at Steve’s eyes. “Would you like to have dinner with me later?” Steve gave a small smile and told her that he’ll be up around five. Then, with a small wave he entered the newly arrived elevator.

            “I take it that it went well?”

            “With Steve, yes. With mom, yes. With Fury?”

            “That remains to be seen?” With an exhausted sigh she flopped onto the couch, then asked how it was on Midgard. “Nothing much. Some weird man in metal. Calls him Dr. Doom. He had sent some robots to ‘gauge our abilities.’ He was a bit upset that three members were missing.”

            “So?”

            “Kal, three were missing. Only two were supposed to.” Her eyes went wide and a ‘oh’ left her lips.

            They heard the elevator ding and slide open. “Any word on Oberon,” Pepper asked as she stepped out of the elevator and approached the couches. “My, what a question Pep.”

            “Thor told me.”

            “Of course, he did,” Kalina replied and picked at her hair in annoyance. Only when Pepper coughed did she stop and replied. “Well, nothing yet. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be ready. Even if nothing happens, we would at least be ready for other troubles. I can think of a few things right now. What if I build an android that threatens to destroy mankind. What about Hydra? They might-”

            “You’re rambling,” Tony and Pepper both pointed out. Kalina took in a deep breath and shrugged, “I’m a bit scattered brained now.”

            “Considering that she stuttered an invite to Steve, I’m not all that surprised,” Tony explained to Pepper. Pepper chuckled and made herself comfortable on the couch next to Kalina. She took off her heels and threw them onto the chair nearby, only the have them thrown back at her. A somewhat solid form of Tony Stark flickered into existence in the chair. With a sigh Kalina leaned back into the couch. “Steve is not the problem. It’s Natasha.” She explained to Pepper what happened in the High Court and what her mother said. Pepper tilted her head in thought. “Virginia Potts,” Tony warned, “don’t you dare go and blab to Romanov.”

            “You know that if I say anything, I will be pulled back. No thank you. I’m quite happy to be on this side.” Pepper turned to Kalina and her eyes wandered down to her chest. “How is the reactor?” Kalina shrugged but said nothing.

Chapter Text

            Kalina stood in front of the full-length mirror in her room at her mother’s house. She closed her eyes, and quickly inhaled air and began to remove the layers of clothes that she arrived in. She pursed her lips as she soon as she could see the glow of the arc reactor. Better do it now. Before they come in. She opened her eyes and gave her reflection a long hard look. Seeing the damage was different than looking at it from the scans that JARVIS took.

            They must have been so confused, she thought as she remembered the yelling when she woke up in the cave. The leader of the Ten Rings was yelling orders to the other men, some were yelling with their rifles pointed at her, others were praying. Still after all the drama, she was still ordered to make Jericho. It was even more worrying when one of the men said something to their leader and a perverted smile grew.

            Yinsen never told her what they were talking about, but with the disgusted look on his face when she would ask maybe she didn’t want to know.

            With a groan, she unclasped her bra and allowed it to fall onto the floor, allowing her to look at her chest.

            As Tony Stark, the Arc Reactor sat neatly in his chest, unobstructed. On her body though, it was no doubt a mess. Parts of her had to be removed so the battery was able to sit in there, and now the Arc only made the scars and her disfigured breasts more obvious. Damn.

            While Fae bodies can heal and dispel foreign objects from their bodies, she was not so lucky. She was on using so much of her energy to keep up the veil of Tony. As such her body wasn’t as strong it should have been, and her body did not heal so well in comparison.

            Biting her lower lip to keep back a sob she quickly turned away to focus on something else.

            The door to her room flew open and Amora rushed in. Kalina stared at her in confusion, it was the last two weeks of summer. “Amora?”

            “Get a robe on,” the Spring Fae demanded and looked out to the hallway. “What?”

            “Your mothers are coming.” Amora rushed to the woman and forced her to sit onto her bed, then entered her closet.

            “Quickly Amora,” Loki yelled from the hallway, “I can hear Thor. He can only distract them for so long.”

            “Well then,” Amora yelled as she exited the closet and threw Kalina a night robe, “maybe you should have done it with Thor as lookout.”

            “What the hell is going on,” Kalina yelled. Amora stopped in her tracks, her eyes travelled to the woman’s chest, and her face changed to one of horror. Then she shook her head and looked at Kalina’s face. “Your mother is on the warpath.”

            “It’s not pretty,” Loki continued for Amora, “she just might throw Midgard into chaos over this.”

            “Crap no, that’s bad.” Kalina stood up and quickly slipped on the robe, making sure that the robe covered the reactor. She had only seen her mother cause such chaos before. It was small, and it was to teach Howard a lesson. However, if the blizzard that hit New York in 1982 was small, who knows what else she could do.

            They were distracted by Loki greeting the Empress. “Why do I have a feeling that you two are keeping me from my daughter? Do not cross me, sons of Odin.”

            “Forgive us Empress,” Loki groveled using the tone he usually used for when he had to calm his brother, “we are only giving her time to prepare and relax a bit.”

            “And to have you calm down,” Thor said bluntly which caused Amora to groan. “In such a time of distress, you need to be the calm one. For your child, your majesty.”

            “Nice save,” Kalina whispered which caused Amora to chuckle. Loki asked if it was safe, to which Amora told them that they could all come in.

            Once in her mothers rushed to her bed and Titania grabbed her daughter and pulled her into a hug. She held onto her and began to brush Kalina’s hair with her fingers. Kalina felt a hand rub her back and she figured that it was Freya. Finally, her mother let her go and sat into a chair that Loki had placed near her. She pulled it close and held her daughter’s hands. “What happened? Who needs punished?” She flinched at that question, but still took in a deep breath and told everyone in the room about the Jericho missile, the Ten Rings, the change of Stark Industries, and the bastard Obadiah Stane. She had left out the suit, and did not mention the Arc Reactor, she just wanted her parents to know about the suit.

            Once the story was over she asked Amora to bring her bag to her, then requested Amora and the summer sons to step out. Confused but understanding they left and Thor shut the door behind him. As soon as the door clicked shut she pulled out her tablet and began to look through it. She stopped at something and looked at her mother. “May I show you something?” Interested Freya moved in closer and waited for Titania to answer.

            “Of course.” With a grin she touched her tablet and behind her Freya made a ‘huh,’ noise. Kalina flipped her tablet over and showed her birth mother the schematics to her latest Iron Man suit. Titania’s eyes lit up and she took the tablet. “It works?”

            “The older ones do Freya. I’m in the process of building that one, but yeah. They have all worked so far.” Kalina watched her mother nervously as the woman studied the suit. “I took the Ten Rings and Stane down with other versions.” Freya gave an excited squeak, but the worried look from Titania killed the excitement. “Kal. How is this powered?” With a sigh, Kalina opened her robe and showed the Reactor to them. “Oh, the Norns,” Freya whispered and wrapped her arms around Kalina in comfort. “Palladium.”

            “That would kill a human.”

            “I know mom,” she replied to Titania, “no choice though.”

            “Can’t we remove it,” Freya asked. The Empress reached out and grabbed it. After a beat she shook her head and removed her hand. “The damage is done. Even if I could remove the shrapnel, it would cause more damage. We can replace the poison though.” Kalina exhaled in relief and nodded. She hoped that something would be found. She allowed her mothers to hold her again.

            There was still one more thing that bothered Kalina, enough that she had to say something. “There is something else,” she said slowly, “a man named Nick Fury approached me.” Titania said nothing, but Freya noticed the look of recognition on her face. “Said something about Avengers Initiative.” Titania rolled her eyes but asked her daughter to keep an eye on the situation.

Chapter Text

Doom reared his metal head again not even 24 hours after they had returned. They did not even need to get a call, he had sent his Doombots directly to Stark Tower. Seeing the bots made Kalina excited, with the energy that was leaking from them she couldn’t wait to see what was under the green cloak.

            During the fight, one of the Doombots grabbed the suit by the arm and managed to rip the arm off the suit, leaving her arm exposed. The lack of arm threw off her balance for a moment, enough time that the bot grabbed her arm and pulled her close to land a punch. “Hey now,” she cried, hoping that the voice changer was working. “We just met. No need to get frisky right now. I do need to go on at least two dates before we get like this.”

            “That’s not what I heard.”

            “Swear to God Clint,” she yelled back as she used her other thruster to blast the bot away. As she watched the bot fall, another came from behind and grabbed her around her waist. “Interesting,” the bot said, the voice no doubt belonging Doom. It squeezed harder and a crackling noise was heard. “They can’t hear us now Stark.”

            “Oh good, I’ve always wanted a private moment with a bot.” The bot laughed. “I haven’t felt such power in a long time my lady.” Kalina took in a deep breath in shock, how did he know? The bot laughed again and squeezed harder. “You don’t think that I, Dr. Doom, did not notice the false face? I was raised by my father to know better.”

            “Let me guess, daddy is Oberon.” The bot did not get a chance to reply as an arrow entered the Doombots head and erupted, blowing the robots head off and destroying the creation. “Seriously Clint,” she yelled, but she realized that the comm was still dead. In the end she gestured to Clint that she was heading inside.

 

            She stumbled into her lab after a shower to see parts of a Doombot on a workbench, and the head of the bot was sitting upright with a red bow attached to it. With a roll of her eyes she approached the bench. She picked the head up and looked it over, mentally quoting Hamlet. A small button was found at the base of the ‘skull,’ and with a grin she pushed it. The face popped opened to show machinery, nothing unusual. She frowned though once she saw a crystal that had runes carved in. After she made sure that it was a crystal she asked JARVIS to contact Freya, she needed to inform them but calling her mother would only make things worse.

            After a few tense seconds Freya greeted her and asked her if she had gotten in trouble again. “Depends on the trouble. Had a lovely fight with some robots that were built by a man named Doom. I’m currently looking at the head of one, and it had an energy crystal in it.”

            “Pumped with magic?”

            “Most likely Fae. It feels like it.” She put the head down and sat down onto a stool. “What worries me was the monologue the villain gave. He knew I was a woman. He mentioned that his father raised him to know a false face.”

            “That’s worrying. Research this… Doom on your end. We shall do our own.”

            “Understood.”

            “Don’t alert your team just yet. It maybe nothing for us to worry about.”

            “Of course.”

 

Chapter Text

            Kalina hated the royal family of the Autumn people. They were much different than the other fae courts. The king never talked, and the queen’s red hair was like the arms of an octopus. They were flat, they were almost like super powered dolls. The whole situation with them didn’t sit well with the seven-year-old, but she never said it out loud. The Autumn prince however must have known though, he always gave a look of disgust.

            Still, no time to worry about that now. She wanted to test the robot that she had built with the aid of Loki. She looked over the railing of the second floor that looked down into the dining hall. The adults were enjoying a meal, and luckily, she had built her robot to slide under the seats.

            The plan was simple, her robot was already in the dining room since her mother was showing it off. So, with the remote she held, she was going to move it under one of the seats of the Autumn people and then, the poor sod will be launched into the air.

            The question was, who? Not the king and the queen, by the Norns no, not them. She would be sent back to Howard sooner than she would have liked, and that was not going to happen. Looking again her eyes rested on the scowling figure two seats away from the king. The king’s brother, she suggested to herself with a soft laugh.

            “Maximus will no doubt try to kill you.” She jumped in fright and quickly spun around. The young Autumn prince stood there with his arms crossed in annoyance, and he had a look of a disapproving parent. Taking a deep breath, she sneered at him, “then who do you suggest?”

            “No one.” She dropped her hands to her side giving him a disbelieving look, then suddenly got upset over this boy in front of her. “I’m testing my robot!” A smirk grew on the boy’s face as the dining hall below became quiet. With a quiet curse she slowly turned around and looked at the adults below. They were all looking at her, some with curious expressions on their faces, and her mother showing embarrassment. Blushing and feeling the same as her mother, she yelled an apology then quickly turned around and covered her face with her hands.

            “Don’t expect things to go your way,” the prince lectured, “we don’t pander to you like the other seasons.” She looked up at him, “that’s because you are all backstabbing, uncaring, creatures.” Suddenly the prince gave a yell and charged at her. He slammed her into the railing and proceeded to lift her up as if he was going to throw her over. “Apologize! You brat! Apologize!”

One of the winged Autumn guards flew up to the disturbance and forced the boy to let Kalina go and pulled him away as the boy screamed that she insulted them. “Prince Ahura,” the guard warned. He grunted and fixed his clothes. Kalina righted herself and searched the floor for her remote, which she picked it up from the floor. She thanked the guard for his help and quickly left the walkway, only to run into the other Autumn child. The girl looked at Kalina briefly, then continued past her to get to her cousin.

With a shaken sigh, Kalina rushed her room. She didn’t want to see anyone right now, she was going to get lectured at and she didn’t want to deal with it.

She would never do what her mother wanted her to do, make friends with the Autumn child. Her mother was working to make relations with them better, and her mother thought her making friends would help. She made it sound like Kalina didn’t have friends her own age, which to Kal, she didn’t need. She had Skadi who was only a year or two older, that was close enough. Yes, the summer boys and Amora were much older, but it didn’t matter to her. It did to her mother though, and Kalina wasn’t playing along.

She had decided to not go to dinner that night, and somehow, Pepper knew. Her nanny threw open her door and stormed into her room. “If you do not come out of your room,” Pepper began and ignored the angry pout that her charge was giving her, “then you don’t eat ‘til breakfast.”

“Then I don’t eat.” Pepper gave a groan and approached the girl. “What’s going on Kal?”

“Nothing. I’m just not hungry.”

“That’s a lie and you know it. It’s the Autumn people isn’t it?” Kalina said nothing but flopped onto her bed and curled up on it, facing away from Pepper. The caretaker sighed and held up her hands in defeat. “Fine princess. I’ll alert your mother.” She quickly exited the room and slammed the door behind her.

She was fine, Kalina was just fine, for about twenty minutes. Then out in the garden below her balcony her mother’s voice was heard. “It’s such a nice night. It would be a shame to enjoy our meal indoors.”

“Oh of course Empress,” the Autumn queen replied, “we should take full advantage of the night.” With a groan, Kalina covered her sheets over her head. She knew what her mother was doing, punishing her for not playing nice, by eating at the patio right outside her balcony. She wasn’t going to let her mother win, she vowed to herself and remained under her covers trying to sleep.

She was almost asleep when the smell of grilled meat reached her nose. She rubbed her nose to remove the smell but was fully awake when her stomach gurgled loudly. “That’s it,” she announced out loud to herself as she threw off her sheets. “I’m going to my lab.” She grabbed her key ring form her desk and made her way to her door. She stopped suddenly before she grabbed the door handle, maybe her mom put a guard at the door to keep her in? When her stomach rumbled again, she gained the courage and opened the door.

To her brief disappointment, there was no one at her door. “Well, it’s a good thing yes?” She quickly agreed with herself and made her way to the farthest lab, spinning her keyring while she walked. As she got close to the door she heard voices nearby and she began to panic. She ran to the door and jammed the key into the lock and threw open the door once she heard it unlocked. She ran into the lab and slammed the door shut. Once she relaxed she realized what she did and cursed to herself. “Someone had to have heard it.”

She decided to begin work as soon as possible, but she needed her music. She found her record player under some books and opened it up. Once she started it up and placed the needle at the beginning of whatever record was there. To her surprise “Have a Cigar” began to play, she didn’t remember when she last played Pink Floyd, but she couldn’t complain. Singing along to the song she began to work on her newest creation.

In her tunnel vision she didn’t register anything except for her work until a wrench was thrown into her narrow sight. The clang also pulled her out of her zone. “Your mother is upset with you.” Kalina groaned and looked up at the Autumn prince, who, in keeping with his character, had his arms crossed and had a disapproving look on his face.

She took in a deep breath and looked back at her work. “I figured. It’s not the first time I’ve disappointed a parent.” She slid the wrench away and gave the prince a glance. “I don’t know what you were hoping for coming here and saying this.” Ahura scowled and stormed over to her record player. “Do you even know how to turn it off?” He reached over and pushed the off button, and Pink Floyd slowly stopped playing. He turned to her and crossed his arms again, “do you enjoy being a brat?”

“You came into my private area to just stand there and look like ass. Is this the only way you can feel anything, annoy the hell out of someone?” Ahura showed anger again but did not attack. With a roll of her eyes she turned back to her work.

She could hear her door open, she had hoped that the prince had left but the shuffling of feet told her that it was coming in. “You might as well not come in Luna.”

“She’s still not coming?” The prince grunted, “spoiled baby.”

“Let’s just go Ahura.”

“No.”

“Cousin?” Kalina looked over at the cousins in curiosity.

Ahura was sitting on the floor watching her with a scowl still on his face. Luna was standing over him with her cheeks puffed in annoyance. To Kalina, the whole sight looked absurd and after a failed attempt to keep it in, burst out in a giggle fit.

The cousins, confused by the sudden outburst made their way to the giggling girl, who was now on the floor and was holding her stomach. “What’s so funny,” Ahura demanded which only made the girl laugh harder. “You’re weird,” he noted, then jumped as his cousin began to laugh. “Now what?”

“The image,” Luna vaguely explained before she began to laugh harder.

Chapter Text

            With a sigh, Kalina closed the file on Doom that JARVIS had created. She had a feeling that the intel that he had gathered had come from SHIELD. Sitting not far away from her on the workbench was a stack of papers that came from Freya. She did not want to read them for fear of Oberon.

            She hated that fear, the fear of a man that she had never met and had only heard about through a series of stories. All she knew what that he was power hungry and wanted the high court so that Midgard would be in eternal Autumn. So, he thought the best way was to woo the Empress, and either got her to agree with him, or remove her entirely.

            Still if what Thor and Loki said was true, then they all had reason to worry about the Assassin King.

            With a scowl, she collected her tablet and the papers and left her lab to read in the comfort of her living room, with her bottles.

            Natasha was in her living room, not much of a shock anymore since they have been meeting up every Thursday for about a month. She had a bottle of Khortytsa on the table and two glasses already filled. Kalina sighed and flopped into the couch as Natasha made herself comfortable in her usual armchair. “You hacked SHIELD.”

            “Yup.”

            “You could have asked.” Kalina sighed and picked up her glass. “I asked JARVIS to look him up. I didn’t know that he searched there.”

            “It was the only place to find true information mam.” Kalina waved her A.I. off, “I know J. I’m just explaining.”

            “Yes, throwing me under the proverbial bus is explaining.” Natasha chuckled as Kalina sighed and took a drink. “You hurt me J.” She took another drink and began to think, she noticed that Agent Romanov was looking at the stack of papers. Kalina wondered what she could do with this, she could lie and keep Freya happy, or she can prove her good intentions and tell Natasha what she knew. With a sigh she explained the fight with Doom and what she was worried about. Once done she handed Natasha the papers that Freya sent.

            “I haven’t looked at them. If he is Oberon’s kid-” Unable to finish her thought she looked at the other woman. With a nod the spy grabbed the papers and began to read. Kalina laid down fully onto her couch and looked at the ceiling.

            Finally, Natasha put the papers down after a half and hour of quiet. “Well,” Kalina asked turning her head to look at her. “The first page is Freya letter to you. Reminding you to not tell us.” Kalina shrugged, “she’s not here and we are working together. I only didn’t say anything early one, cause really, I wanted to check before I presented it.” Natasha gave it a brief thought then nodded. “But your people see it as your problem.”

            “They do,” Kalina replied, pointing at the papers, “but they live over there. We live here, as far as I’m concerned-”

            “It’s our problem.” Kalina nodded and looked back up at the ceiling, she hoped that this would keep the group together. She didn’t trust SHIELD, but if it gave her leeway in the eyes of the Avengers, then it was all the better. Tash is the hardest one to convince, I get her then it’s all good.

            “Yeah, but isn’t it what we do? Protect the Earth?”

Chapter Text

            There was a rule that was never allowed to be broken, never. Her mother made sure that this was the one rule that must never be broken. A spirit is never to be asked about itself. As much as they seem like it, spirits have no sense of self, no history, no feelings, nothing it was all empty. Kalina wanted to know that if they were empty then why was that a rule. No one could answer, not even Tony who had heard of that rule.

            Kalina slipped into the water of a gated corner of the lake that we set aside for swimming. Tony was sitting on the covered deck and had his feet in the water. While he didn’t feel the heat or the coolness of the water, Tony did enjoy the sensation of the water. Kalina came back up and wiped the water from her eyes. “So, what are you going to do now that you’ve graduated?”

            “No idea. Right now, I’m going to enjoy the summer.” Tony nodded and looked at the water. “I missed being here,” he said more to himself, “I don’t like being here when you aren’t.” Kalina pulled herself out of the water and sat next to him. “I don’t understand.”

            “I don’t stay here. You don’t give me a job to do while I’m here, so I don’t have a reason to be here. So, I go back.” Tony sounded sad and Kalina was worried that wherever he went to was horrible for him. She had thrown herself into such a fit that she asked without thinking. “Where do you go? Where did you come from? If it’s that bad?”

            Tony gave her a shocked look, and it hit Kalina what she did. “Nevermind, forget I asked.” Still shocked he flickered away from her and was gone. He remained away even as she begged and cried. It hurt, it sucked, part of her was gone and she was miserable the rest of the day. Her parents noticed at dinner, but every time someone asked, she just shrugged them off.

            Once a day for a week she would hold Tony’s orb, his connection to her, his home in this realm. The worse was at night when she would grab it and whispered many times to the orb that she was sorry. She was even more worried the first night when she noticed the bright red light was beginning to dim.

            The night of the seventh day she had fallen asleep holding the almost dark orb. She had made herself exhausted by working all day, barely eating, and crying herself to sleep. She suddenly was awakened by the warmth and the sudden glow of the orb. Once she looked at the orb she realized that it was glowing brighter than it did before. Dropping the orb under her covers, she climbed out of bed and called out for Tony. She looked around her room and called hopefully for him again. “I’m sorry Tony. I didn’t mean to. I wasn’t thinking.”

            “For someone so smart, I should be surprised about that. But it’s you Kal.” Tony sounded like he was on the balcony and with some hope, she made her way out to the balcony.

            Tony was leaning on the railing looking out at the lake. He turned his head and glanced at her for a moment then turned back to the lake. “Do you know why your mother is always getting new girls?”

            “Because they stop being human, they become Fae.”

            “Do you know why that happens?” She shook her head. “Do you know what a soul is Kal?”

            “Yeah,” she replied a bit confused about where this is going, “why?”

            “The Norns,” he started referring to the creators of the universe, “when they created the three kins of the realm, found that the human souls filled a spot in the human and the soul being there would not allow for the ascended humans to receive their ‘gifts.’ They ripped the souls from the bodies and filled the missing parts with iron for the Trolls, fire for the Dwarves, and the Fae got pure magic.” Kalina touched her heart to feel it beat, just for comfort.

            “The souls, the Norns had decided were to be sent to the last created world on the tree. Helheim.” Kalina shivered at the name.

            Helheim from what she understood was a cold, barren place where the eternal people of the realm went they are tired of ‘being.’ They would enter Helhiem and never would come back. It was ruled by the fae Hela, her aunt. Mother told her once that it was by the spinning of a stick that Titania became the Empress. “We were both destined to be queens, but it was luck that gave us our kingdoms.” Kalina remembered meeting her aunt once, and that is how she got Tony’s orb. A gift to celebrate going to MIT.

            “In Helhiem,” Tony continued, “the Norns turned the souls into spirits. Beings that would be of use when summoned.”

            “Or bound,” she said regretfully, and watched the dancing lights on the lone tree. “Without a soul,” he continued ignoring her interruption, “the human body has no morals, does not feel, does not desire. All that is human is gone. The longer a human is here in this world, the more the soul is removed. For the girls, their souls are leaving them over time, and becomes replaced with the pure magic of the fae. That magic comes in a replaces it with its own morals, feelings, needs, everything that makes them fae.”

            “I assume this is important.” Tony shot her a dirty look but said nothing. They were quiet for a few moments then Tony continued. “As for the souls, over time they lose all that made them a soul of that person. Helheim makes them forget everything but the body. Yeah, they still have emotions and felt things. They also still take the form of the person they were. Some get flashes of who they were, some still can recall certain beliefs, or people that they knew.” The spirit took in a deep breath. “I never got any of them. I was a soul for such a short time.”

            “What happened?”

            “Whoever I was, was a baby when I was removed.” He gestured to his shape, “I still aged. This is my only connection to the person anymore. He would look like this.” Kalina looked at the shape, whoever he was, was her age. No one reported to her mother that they had done so, there were no babes created that way when she was born. “How old?”

            “Hela told me that I arrived in the wintertime seventeen years ago. She guessed he would have been over five months old.” Kalina’s eyes went wide and she began to back away. His head followed her confused, then she stood upright and turned to fully face her. “Kal?” She shook her head, “no. That night she said. Mom said.”

            “Kal? What’s wrong?” She bolted into her room and jumped onto her the uncovered part of the bed, then completely covered herself.

            Tony followed her in a few minutes and quietly made his way to the bed. He got to the bed and heard her mumble. While it wasn’t clear he heard enough to hear what she had discovered. His body froze in horror as he began to understand what it meant. “By Hela’s hand. What are the odds?” He shook himself free of the horror and sat on the bed. With a content sigh he placed his hand on the lump under the covers.

            Hela told him one thing when he was first summoned by Kalina, he was meant for her, he replaced something lost. He had thought it was something lost from Howard, now though it made much more sense.

             The soul has come home.

Chapter Text

            The two women of the Avengers presented at an Avenger meeting what they had gathered about Dr. Doom. “So, he’s Fae,” Clint asked once they were done. Kalina pursed her lips in thought as if she was trying to explain it, then shook her head. “I doubt it. There is a fifty-fifty chance of the child taking after the Fae parent. In my case I would have been either born a Fae, or an enhanced human.”

            “Luckily, you were born a Fae,” Thor announced proudly. Kalina glanced at the snickering Tony and smirked, then she took in a nervous breath and nodded. “Right. However, if I was born human, I would have been ‘enhanced.’ They have some sort of magic, but they have something that is enhanced. Strength, intelligence, that kind of stuff. More than likely, that’s him.”

            Steve slowly nodded, as if something just seems odd. He closed his file, “well, what are going to do about it?”

            “Beyond the two attacks, he’s been quiet.”

            “He’s also the ruler of Latveria, so he has some form of diplomatic immunity,” Natasha noted, “so right now S.H.I.E.L.D. is keeping an eye on him. In S.H.I.E.L.D.’s own way.”

 

            Steve arrived at Kalina’s penthouse for their weekly dinner. While Steve told them that all they were doing was discuss Avenger business, they all knew better, and Kalina was not going to tell them otherwise. “Friends with Fury yet,” she questioned as he made his way to the couch. She was in the open kitchen placing the order and collecting two wine glasses. “Nope. I’ve been thinking though.”

            “That’s dangerous Steve,” she joked as she grabbed a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, “but tell me what about.”

            “When you were talking about enhanced humans.” She placed the bottle on the coffee table and handed him a glass. “Let me guess, you were wondering if you were.”

            “Tash said something about how I accepted a lot of the Fae lifestyle over at your mother’s house.” He reached over and grabbed the bottle, then took the opener from Kalina and began to open it. “I have a hypothesis. It might be the serum.”

            “Come again,” Steve asked as the popped open the bottle. She grabbed the bottle and began to fill the glasses up. “My mother told me a story about Erskine. She was vague about what was in the serum, which okay I was nine. Still, she said that Dr. Erskine summoned her and made a deal.” She handed him a glass and he took a sip once he accepted it. “You think that’s what it is?”

            “It explains a lot doesn’t it?” JARVIS alerted the two to the arrival of the pizza. She told Steve to stay and she’ll be back.

            Being alone Steve pondered on the information as little as it was. He wondered if having Fae in him would interfere as an Avenger, as Captain America. He noted that it didn’t affect Kalina, though she was used to walking the fine line between the worlds.

            Kalina thought about the test that she had run back in the palace and decided to not tell him about it. He probably would get upset for doing it without his permission, or he may just shrug it off. Well, she thought as JARVIS alerted her that she was getting close to her floor. I can ‘test’ him the next time I’m-we are in the palace.

            The elevator dinged, and the doors opened. She stepped out and made her way to the couch, only finding him pouring himself a drink. “Slow down boy, the bottle might go empty.” He laughed as she sat down and opened the first box. “Meat lovers,” she announced and dropped it in his lap. She placed hers on the couch and opened the lid. “Thought,” she said as she grabbed her wine glass and taking a sip. He looked over at her as he chewed. “I’m going back to my mother’s house in the winter. Maybe you can come, and we can run a test there to see if Fae does show up. I can’t do it here.”

            “You just want another romp in the bed.”

            “We can do it here,” she offered, “I mean the winter is not a time to… fondue.” He shook his head and rolled his eyes as he stuffed a slice of pizza into his mouth. “It’s always on the table.”

            “Maybe later.” Kalina gave a dramatic sigh and pulled a slice of pizza out of the box. “I’ll hold you to that Steve Rogers.”

            “Oh of course Kalina Stark.” He placed his box next to him on the couch, “but yeah I would like to go and see what’s in me.” With a nod and a content sigh she leaned into the couch. “JARVIS. Play Wall-E.”

            JARVIS turned off the movie once he realized that they had both fallen asleep. Steve was laying on the couch and was using Kalina’s lap as a pillow, with Kalina sitting upright resting her head on a cushion. The A.I. shut off the lights and made a note to himself to start the coffee machine in the early morning.

 

            Titania turned her head to look at Freyr, who was watching the scene over her shoulder. “It’s honestly cute,” he noted to the two Avengers as Titania touched the scene with her fingers. The scene rippled away to dissolve into the water in a silver bowl. “One would think you’d be upset with her for not listening to you Freyr.”

            “Oh, I was,” he replied as he moved away, “she made up for it though.” Titania tilted her head at her companion questioning that sentence. With a chuckle he took her by the hands and led her away from the scrying bowl and out of the throne room. “Come darling,” he begged as a he opened the door to Titania’s bedroom. “It’s late, the world is asleep, our daughter is safe, and your bed is getting cold.” Titania gave a noise of agreement and allowed him to move her into her room.

            “Do you think all of this is a good idea,” she asked as Freyr removed the layer of clothes off her body. “Allowing Kal and-”

            “Kal knows what she’s doing,” he answered, then removed her corset leaving her only in her chemise. “If the human can’t protect Midgard, both her and Thor know what they must do.” Freyr pulled her close and kissed her neck. “Do not fear my queen. While the Avengers must prove themselves, but with Kal and Steve leading the team I see great things.”

            “I hope so for our sake,” she replied as he reached up and cupped her breasts. She gave a sigh of want and he pulled her to bed. “I hope for Kal’s sake that they get along. I only shutter at we would have to do if they fail.”

            “Invasion is a necessary evil if it means protecting them from Oberon.” The Empress gave a nod as he lowered her onto her bed and Freyr gave her one last kiss on the neck. “Now sleep my queen. No more disturbing thoughts to keep you awake like it has for many a night now. I shall be here to watch you.”

 

            The only lights in the High Court once the Empress and her consort slept was the lone giant tree that stood on a small island in the lake. The dancing lights greeted their three hooded visitors as they arrived under the tree. One of the figures held a rather large branch in their arms. Though it was a broken branch and should be dead, green leaves were growing and multicolored flowers began to bloom on the branch. Two of the figures gave cries of joy at the sight of the branch thriving. “It has begun,” the branch holder announced, “The connecting.”