There had been a snowstorm the day before. It had been the weirdest thing that had happened in the whole century, because as a rule, Asgard did not get snowstorms. Or any other kind of weather that went beyond a few white and fluffy clouds, really.
Needless to say, all of Asgard was a mess now. Tony actually thought it was kind of fun.
At home, his father was busy helping to rebuild what the storm had destroyed. He was an engineer, just like Tony would be one day, and he would be spectacularly angry when he learned that his son had sneaked away into the woods instead of staying in the city to help.
Tony just hadn’t been able to resist. He planned on returning home in a few hours, so he still had time to come up with a story that might make his father a little less furious. The thing was, Tony had never even seen snow before, and now all of Asgard was covered in it. He knew pretty much every corner of the realm, but it all looked so new now. New, and also - so Anthony thought now, standing ankle-deep in snow in the middle of the forest - beautiful.
He plodded through the snow, fascinated by the footprints he left. Fascinated by the complete silence, too; it was like the whole forest had simply forgotten how to make sounds. It was still snowing a little, and Tony couldn’t help but catch the flakes and watch them turn to water on his fingertips. He left food here and there, bags of grains and roots and dried meat, hoping that the animals would find it. They had never seen snow before, either, and Tony felt like just letting them freeze to death was very unfair.
There were other footprints than his own in the snow, here and there. That was a hare, and there were a few wolves, that might have been a bilgesnipe, and that -
What in Hel was that?
Tony stopped in his tracks. Something big had poached up the snow right here, and there were odd imprints leading away from the clearing Tony had found himself in. Four feet, it looked like, with prints far bigger than Tony’s hand, and a longish impress following a bit after the hind feet. Tony crouched and traced it with his fingers. A tail?
More than just a few droplets of blood had dyed the snow red.
Tony stood up again and started following the trail. It wound its way between the trees, and the creature had trampled quite a few plants on its way. Whatever it exactly was, it was bigger than a bilgesnipe. Suddenly, Tony was glad that he hadn’t come unarmed.
Eventually, he found himself standing in front of a cave. Tony squinted, but he couldn’t make out anything in the darkness he was looking into. Knowing better than to simply march into a possibly inhabited cave, he moved just slightly closer to the entrance.
“Uh. Hello? Somebody home?”
He didn’t get a reply, but he did hear something. A little bit of rustling; something was moving in there.
“I’m not here to hurt you,” Tony promised. “So please don’t eat me. I have food. Do you want food?”
This time, he got a reply. A reply in the form of a roar and then something whitish-blue and very, very cold just shooting toward and nearly killing him; thank the Norns for his quick reflexes.
Tony had thrown himself to the side and was now leaning against the outer stone wall of the cave, catching his breath. His blood was still rushing in his ears. Ice, he thought. That thing was spitting ice.
He’d gotten his answer as to what that creature was. Bigger than a bilgesnipe, yes, and much, much more dangerous.
It looked like Tony had found a dragon.
Tony kept returning to the cave in the next days. It also kept snowing, a steady falling of those crystals from the sky, and it didn’t take long until Tony figured out that it was the dragon’s fault. The whole snow storm had been the dragon’s fault.
Tony knew that there were different kinds of dragons in the Nine Realms. Some spat fire, some spat poison, some spat nothing, and some spat ice. The ice dragons of Jötunheimr had been ruling the planet ever since the Jötnar had been beaten in war by the Aesir, and they were dangerous enough that they were left alone by the other realms. Tony had no idea how this one had ended up in a cave in Asgard, but he knew that it could be a problem. He also believed that it was injured and that, if he told anybody else about it, a few Aesir would make their way to the cave and kill the dragon, just like that.
Tony felt like letting that happen would be very unfair, too, so he told nobody about it.
What he did was make himself comfortable in front of the cave every day for a few hours. Or, well, as comfortable as one could be when being killed by ice breath was a very possible possibility. Thankfully, the dragon’s spitting got less and less every day - Tony didn’t know whether it was because the dragon got weaker or because he was getting the message that Tony wasn’t about to try and hurt him. He had the feeling it was the former.
After a week - Asgard was still covered in a thick blanket of snow - Tony brought a bag with medicine along with his usual bag of food, and also a torch.
“Hello, dragon,” he called into the cave. “I’d like to come in. I have food and medicine. I, uh, also have a sword. Just a small one, though, and I promise I won’t use it. Please don’t spit anything at me, alright?”
The dragon didn’t answer, but Tony hadn’t expected it to. He waited a few seconds, then lit the torch and walked into the cave. It was deep enough that the torch was necessary, but the way to the dragon wasn’t long. Tony found it soon enough.
The red eyes were the first thing he saw. Red like rubies, like freshly spilled blood glinting in sunlight. Tony swallowed and stopped walking, holding up his torch so that he could see the dragon in its entire, slightly frightening but certainly amazing glory.
Its scales were a deep blue. They glistened here and there like ice, and it looked like snow crystals were glowing right under the scales of the dragon’s chest, which probably meant that he was preparing to spit ice. It had horns that were curling up from his temples; their tips looked like they had been dipped into the night sky. Tony could see a long tail, flickering nervously in the dim light of the torch. And it had wings, made of thin and icy membranes that looked oddly strong, except -
“Oh,” Tony breathed out. “Oh gods. I -”
The dragon let out a sound that was very nearly a hiss, but Tony didn’t move. He felt frozen in place, staring at what was left of the dragon’s right wing, chest filling with sympathy.
The dragon couldn’t fly anymore, not with one wing torn like that. That was the reason it was even still here. Tony wondered how it had happened, but it wasn’t like he could just ask. So he swallowed his both that sympathy and his curiosity down.
“Hello,” he said again. “I’m Tony. Well, Anthony, really, but - Tony. Tony works, right?”
Another low grumble. The red eyes narrowed.
Tony held up his hands. “I come in peace, okay? No ice, please, I just want to -” He swallowed and took the bag with the food. “There’s food in here, okay? I can’t imagine you’ve gotten anything to eat this last week, and frankly you look like you need it. I’m just gonna -”
He motioned setting the bag down in front of the dragon, and when it neither made a sound nor killed him, Tony very carefully moved and put the bag down. He opened it and showed the dragon what was inside; lots of meat for it to feed on.
“I also brought bandages and stuff,” Tony said quietly. “But I think - I think that’s not enough, huh?” He glanced at the dragon’s wing, wincing. It looked like the dragon had covered the wounds with ice. “I wish - I wish I could do something.”
The dragon just stayed where it was, covering on the ground in a position that was very likely hostile. After a few seconds, it started growling.
“Okay,” Tony said, already backing away. “Okay, I’m leaving, but - eat, okay? I’ll bring more tomorrow.”
So he left the cave, and when he returned the coming day, the bag he’d offered the dragon was empty. Thankfully, Tony had brought a new one.
Tony wasn’t exactly sure how it happened, but somehow he and the dragon became… Well, not friends. That would be a little far-fetched, given that the dragon still puffed icy clouds at him sometimes. Business partners, maybe? The icy clouds didn’t actually hurt , they were just cold, so Tony felt safe to say that the dragon didn’t want to harm him. And you wouldn’t want to harm a business partner, right? Then again, business partners usually were business partners because they both got something out of it, and Tony didn’t actually get anything out of this. Well, apart from practicing his inventing and smithing skills, and also his please-don’t-kill-me-look-I-even-brought-food skills.
Maybe they were just acquaintances. Acquaintances who both were a little fascinated by each other.
The dragon had stayed in the cave for almost two weeks. Then, one day, Tony had found it outside of the cave, sniffing at snow-covered trees, and since then they often roamed around the forest together. Tony had taken to rambling to the dragon about whatever was on his mind at the moment, and he felt like the dragon actually listened to him. ´Tony had long accepted that the dragon wasn’t just a dumb animal, that it actually understood what Tony said. Now and then it even made odd noises that sounded like they would have been a snarky reply if the dragon had had vocal cords.
The dragon’s wing had mostly healed, but there was no way it would be able to use it again. Tony believed that it had crash-landed in the forest and gotten his wing ruined by a tree, but why it had crash-landed and how it had gotten to Asgard in the first place, Tony couldn’t say. The dragon was a mystery, and Tony had always liked mysteries.
He knew that the dragon couldn’t stay in Asgard forever, though. Which was why Tony had been working on something for several weeks, and as he now carried his invention into the forest, he was almost a little sad.
He still smiled when the dragon found him, though. The dragon always found him when he was in the forest, and it always seemed happy to see him. If the way it nudged Tony with its snout was any indication, that is.
“Hey,” Tony greeted his friend, reaching out to pat the dragon’s temple, right beneath one of his horns. The dragon even angled his head to give him better access. Tony smiled. “Look what I brought.”
The dragon huffed, cold air puffing out from his nostrils. Tony set his invention down and let the dragon prod at it.
“It’s for your wing,” he explained. “Well, actually it’s a new wing. For you. What do you think?”
The dragon looked at him with big, red eyes. It inclined his head, thinking, and after a long moment nodded.
“Great!” Tony said, grinning. “Then let’s get started.”
They did get started, and it was a mess. The remains of the dragon’s wing still seemed to hurt, and it wasn’t very happy to have a bunch of metal and leather attached to it. In the end, Tony needed to make a few adjustments - make the new wing lighter, first of all -, and it took a few more weeks until it actually worked. Tony found himself laughing when the dragon flew for the first time, actually flew - its wings whirled up the snow and made wind whoosh around them both, and the dragon made excited sounds that had Tony beaming.
But then the dragon left, flying away over the snowy crowns of trees, and Tony stood on the clearing for a very long time, feeling very alone.
He started working in the smithy. It was good work, and fun, and he figured that nothing could stop him from being both an engineer and a smith if he wanted to. His father had started like this, too.
A few months after the dragon had left, everything in Asgard was back to normal, no snow to be seen in the whole realm. Tony tried not to miss it too much.
He was busy working on a shield when the smith called to him. Tony was reluctant to leave his project, but he did, and found a stranger standing next to the smith. The older Aesir told Tony to take a breath and then disappeared into his smithy, leaving him alone with the man. Well, it wasn’t a man, really - not anymore than Tony was, at least; they seemed to be about the same age. He was taller than Tony, though, and very pale, with black hair and striking green eyes.
“Hello,” he greeted Tony, with a smirk that seemed oddly sharp. “Could I speak to you for a moment?”
Tony frowned. The stranger spoke with an accent Tony had never heard before. “Sure.”
“In private?” The other boy added, lips twitching into an even sharper smile.
Tony shrugged and led the stranger out of the smithy, into a side alley. “That’s as private as it gets here,” Tony said with a smirk of his own. “So, what can I do for you?”
The other’s smile became softer. “You already did more than enough for me. Actually, I came only to thank you.”
Tony blinked. “Thank me? For what?”
“For helping me, of course.”
“Uh. Look, I don’t know you. And I’m very sure you don’t know me, either, so -”
The stranger interrupted him with a sigh. “You Aesir are so blind. We spent weeks together, and you don’t recognize me?”
Tony continued staring at him. “Uh.”
With another sigh and an eye-roll, the stranger - shifted. It wasn’t a big difference, the only thing that changed were his eyes. The green faded and turned into a ruby red that spread out until there wasn’t any white left, only black pupils in the middle. Tony recognized them immediately.
“Oh,” he said.
“Yes,” the not-anymore stranger replied, eyes shifting back to green. “Hello, Anthony.”
“You’re - you’re the dragon.”
The dragon let out a soft hissing sound. “I am a jotunn. ”
Tony’s mouth fell open. “But the - the jötnar are - okay, first of all, they’re frost giants -”
“You have seen what I am,” the dragon (jotunn?) interrupted, rolling his eyes again. “Of course we are called frost giants.” He frowned. “Well, admittedly I am a little small, but -”
“Second, they’re dead, so you can’t be -”
“I assure you, I am,” the jotunn said. “It’s not our fault that your people are too stupid to understand that the jötnar and the ice dragons are one and the same. ”
“Hey,” Tony replied, halfheartedly protesting against the insult. “That’s - we’re not - shit, that’s awesome. ”
The jotunn blinked. “Is it? I thought you might be disappointed.”
“Disa - are you kidding? That’s the most amazing thing I’ve heard in literally forever! You have to tell me everything! So the jötnar still live, right, what about -”
“Shh,” the jotunn interrupted him, again, glancing around a little nervously. “Please, don’t - if you tell anybody about this, I will be in great trouble. My parents would quite literally kill me if they knew that I ever came to Asgard at all.”
Tony winced in sympathy. “Yeah, I get that”, he said. “I won’t, promise.”
The other boy eyed him a little warily, but nodded. “Good. Thank you.”
Tony tried to stop his racing brain from asking anymore questions regarding the jötnar. Instead, he asked, “How’s your wing?”
The jotunn’s face brightened. “Fine. It works very well.” He hesitated, then added, “I honestly don’t know what I would have done without you. I was just fooling around when I entered Asgard, and when I realized where I was I… panicked a little.”
“Hence the crash-landing,” Tony realized, and his friend nodded. Tony smiled. “I’m glad I could help. Hey, what’s your name?”
“Loki. I’m Loki.”
“It’s very nice to see you again, Loki.”
“Likewise,” Loki said with another one of those sharp smiles, and Tony felt his heart skip a beat.
Oh shit, he thought, and could just imagine his best friend James say, a dragon , Tony? Really?
“Come on,” Tony said, grabbing his friend’s arm. “Let’s go somewhere we can talk. Into the forest?”
Loki frowned, but followed after Tony. “Don’t you have to work?”
“Yeah, but you know what? You’re much more interesting right now.”
“Oh,” Loki said. He actually blushed a little. “Alright, then. If you’re certain.”
“I am,” Tony replied firmly. “This is the start of something great, I can tell.”
He was right.