A/N: I own nothing at all to do with Marvel, the Avengers or the X-Men. Please don't sue.
"Yeah, no. Bad idea! He loves his ... " Tony started to warn Rogers, only to get cut off by a slam from said hammer that sent him flying. He hit hard enough to rattle his brain in his skull, and it took him a second to clear his vision. What he saw horrified him. Thor was high in the air, hammer swinging, clearly intending to make Rogers a smear in the dirt.
Frantic calculations raced through his mind. He knew vibranium was tough, but Thor's hammer was something else entirely, and Tony had no idea if the shield would survive the blow. He started to lift one hand, trying to track Thor's arc, hoping to cut him off, but the suit was malfunctioning, the power fizzing and sparking unpredictably thanks to that lightning strike earlier. He'd upgraded the suit to deal with energy attacks after Vanko, which was why the suit was still functioning at all, but absorbing and then using that much energy had overstressed some of the systems. In the end, all Tony could do was close his eyes, unwilling to watch as Captain America very probably got smeared into the dirt.
The noise when hammer and shield met defied all description. Tony was fairly sure that if the suit's speakers hadn't cut out as they'd been designed to do if sound got past certain decibels, he'd've gone at least temporarily deaf. The shockwave was strong enough to roll him over, which was more than a little alarming.
The devastation to the surrounding forest when he opened his eyes was breathtaking. Everything in a several-hundred-feet radius had not just been flattened, but also destroyed. Huge old trees had been turned into so many toothpicks and kindling, and the smaller trees and underbrush had simply ceased to exist entirely.
Stunningly, Rogers was not only alive, but apparently unharmed, standing there as calm as you please. Tony stared at him for a moment, a bit dumbfounded.
"Jarvis, do me a favor and scan Rogers, would you?"
"Captain Rogers is entirely unharmed." Jarvis said after a moment.
"Holy shit. That's some shield." Tony breathed as he struggled to his feet, fighting against sluggish joints.
He walked over to the two, braced to hit Thor again if he tried something, but Thor seemed to be as dumbfounded as Tony was. As Rogers was, Tony realized when he got close enough to get a good look at Rogers' eyes.
"Are we done here?" Rogers tried for an authoritative tone, but it came much closer to sounding hopeful.
They were silent a moment longer before Tony had to speak up. "Yeah, I'm definitely done." he said.
Thor gave his head a bit of a shake. "My apologies. I should not have behaved so rashly." he said after a moment. Then he grimaced a bit. "Or so arrogantly. I must collect Loki before he takes advantage of our distraction and departs."
"We need him." Tony said, still braced for a resumption of the fight. "He knows where the Tesseract is. Once he gives it up, you can hang him from a flagpole for all I care, but until then ... "
To his surprise, this time Thor just nodded. "Fair enough, as I must have access to the Tesseract in order to return to Asgard."
"At least we have someplace for the jet to land." Rogers said, eyeing their surroundings.
Tony laughed. "Don't need it. Thor flies, I fly. He carries Loki, I take you."
Rogers didn't look too thrilled by the idea, but eventually agreed to it. It would be easier than the inevitable hassle of landing the jet in a small, clear area at night. A clear area that was covered in rubble, that was.
Thor headed up to the rocks where Loki had settled in to watch the fight. Tony hesitated long enough to mentally compute the best way to get Rogers back up to the plane.
"Rogers, stand behind me and grab my shoulders or my waist, one of the two. I need both hands free." Tony couldn't wait until the suit with the jet pack was finished. Sometimes, needing both hands to fly was a real hassle. Once Steve got in position, Tony switched over to the frequency Romanov was using. "Agent Romanov. We've got Loki back, and are heading up to you." he told her.
"Copy that. We're circling directly over that new clearing you boys made." she told him.
Tony rolled his eyes. "Blame that on Capsicle and Hammer Boy, not me." he told her, before cutting back to Rogers. "Hang on tight, we're heading up."
It was the effort of only a few moments to fly back up to the jet. Tony made a few mental notes, because if the Avengers were actually going to be a thing, carrying someone might become a regular occurrence, and he'd need to make some adjustments to the suit accordingly.
Tony nearly cracked up when Thor solved the problem of ensuring that Loki didn't escape by plonking his hammer in the crazed god's lap. But then things got a bit weird.
Thor had seemed casual enough when he plonked Mjolnir in Loki's lap, but then he suddenly got right in Loki's face. He frowned before reaching out to rub a thumb under one of Loki's eyes.
Tony decided to speak up. "Problem, Thor?"
"I believe so, yes." Thor said, pulling back from Loki. "Loki's eyes are blue. Last I saw him, they were green." He frowned at Loki. "My brother's skill at illusions is great, but they are dispelled by touch. His eyes did not change when I rubbed under his eye."
Rogers frowned. "You think something odd's going on?"
"It is possible. I know not what, precisely, but something is amiss. Now I think on it, his speech to me makes no sense. Either he was deliberately misremembering events or ... "
"Or something's going on." Rogers filled in.
"Nothing to say, Reindeer Games?" Tony asked, having noticed that Loki had stayed silent while they talked it over.
Loki just smirked at him like this was the world's greatest game, and continued to say nothing.
Which made Thor frown even more heavily. "Nay, this is not my brother's normal behavior." he said. "He has ever been one to use words as weapons. Silence is most unlike him."
"We'll figure it out, Thor." Tony told him.
"Could it be mind control of some sort? He managed to subvert two of ours, according to Director Fury. With that stick of his." Romanov finally piped in from the cockpit.
That made Tony turn to look at Loki's glowstick. "He have that before?" he asked Thor.
Thor shook his head.
"Which means he either built it or someone gave it to him." Tony said, mind whirring. "Could he have made it?"
Thor shook his head again. "I do not believe so. Loki's strength lies in trickery and magic, not weapon crafting. There are few in our realm who would have the gift to make such a weapon."
"Which means it was probably given to him." Tony said.
Unfortunately there really wasn't time to hash it out more, as they were approaching the helicarrier. Tony broke off from the rest of them to head for his armor vault and the robots that assembled and removed the armor.
From there, he headed to the bridge. He didn't trust Fury as far as he could throw the bastard. Tony had not forgotten, nor forgiven, the fact that Fury had damn well had a way to extend his lifespan. Fury'd had that crap he had Romanov stab Tony with long before he had Romanov stab him. And had also had the key to Tony's ultimate survival in his hands and had not seen fit to hand it over until Tony was at death's door. Then the bastard had had the gall to break into his house and disable Jarvis.
Tony had pretended to make nice, had pretended to want to play with the big boys. Thankfully, Fury seemed to have forgotten he was dealing with the man who had built an armored, flying suit and *destroyed* the people who had fucked with him. Fury's arrogance was going to be the bastard's downfall. The best part of it was that Fury was handing Tony the means to bring him down on a golden platter.
He was handing Tony the Avengers. And the best part was, if he knew Fury at all, Tony wouldn't actually have to do a damn thing to turn them against Fury. Fury'd do it all on his own, somehow. Tony just hoped that Jarvis got a recording of Fury's reaction when he realized what had happened.
Tony blew onto the bridge, his 'I am an extremely eccentric billionaire' mask firmly in place. It was the work of mere moments to get Jarvis' uplink into the helicarrier's computer in place without anyone the wiser.
He headed for the conference room, only to run into Coulson along the way. His opinion on the man was ... somewhat divided. On the one hand, Coulson had threatened to taze him. On the other, the man had then promptly left Tony the hell alone, and turned a blind eye to Tony leaving the mansion against 'orders'. He had also helped Pepper, back during the Stane thing, which earned the man a lot of points with Tony. It helped that Pepper liked him, and Tony trusted her judgment. So he was willing to play nicely until Coulson either fucked up or stood up to Fury, one of the two.
The first person in the room he headed for was Banner. He'd put Jarvis on not only finding Betty, but also on digging up every scrap of dirt on her old man that Jarvis could find. When things settled down, Tony fully intended to get the woman out of harm's way at the very least. Hire her, if he could manage it. She was every bit as bright as Bruce was, and quite frankly her brilliance was being wasted on the Army projects she was 'permitted' (read: forced, probably) to work on.
He intended to give Bruce his protection as well. Sometimes, being him was a godsend. There really weren't all that many people who were stupid enough to try to cross him, and Bruce would finally be safe under Tony's protection.
Internally, Tony fumed, because Bruce was standing well away from everyone else, and even World War Two's Golden Boy was making no effort to reach out or include the man. It was a petty retaliation, but Tony completely ignored everyone else while he talked science with Bruce. Only when they'd wrapped up their discussion of how the portal could be opened and controlled did he deign to turn his attention to everyone else at the table.
"We need to lock that spear thing somewhere safe." Rogers finally said. "Agent Romanov said something about Loki using it to control two of your people?" He looked over at Fury.
Fury looked very, very sour about admitting that it was the truth.
"If it can do that, we need to be cautious of what else the thing can do." Rogers said. "And the less anyone is around it, the better."
"We need to scan it to make sure we've got the scanners calibrated right, and to have a shot at figuring out how to unscramble the folks that are being controlled, but that won't take more than about five minutes." Tony said. "After that, you can bury the thing wherever." He turned to Bruce, and grinned broadly, impishly. "Shall we, my good doctor?" he asked, holding out one arm like he was going to escort a woman into a party.
Bruce gave him an amused look, and to Tony's surprise, actually went with it, mostly. "We should. Follow me, if you would, good sir." Bruce grinned at Tony, then turned and led the way to the lab he'd been given to use.
Tony dropped his arm with a mock-pout, but headed out right on Bruce's heels.