Chapter 39: Chapter 39
Summary: The rouge Avengers are pardoned under the influence of King T’Challa and it is up to Tony to ‘welcome’ them back. But as he and his new team are at the private airport, an unexpected fight breaks loose and the fate of the whole universe is changed when a wizard places himself as Tony Stark’s protector.
“Will he be alright?” Thor asked after Tony Stark was settled into the best room in the medical wing of the palace that Wakanda had, treated like royalty that Thor often saw in this man. He had often found it silly how Loki had wanted to rule this realm and thought he had no one to challenge for it. Sure, it took Thor until a few months ago to see it, but it was so obvious that Midgard - that Earth was Tony Stark’s kingdom.
Said man was currently lying in as soft a hospital bed as they could arrange, connected to things called nutritions and some other substances that humans used as medicine. He looked quite young, asleep. And it also showed just how exhausted he appeared, as well, since there was now no mask of his own making to hide the lines of stress and lack of sleep. He was surprisingly not injured at all but the blue woman he came with, Nebula, said that he had been stabbed through his left side by Thanos himself. There was no trace of the wound now, the doctors said. He should have bled out or been unable to move or stand for weeks yet, and still Stark was apparently more than moving and standing. He was fighting fit, judging by how easily he took down the Captain, and he had been moving about quite a bit, repairing Nebula’s parts and, apparently, doing magic.
Thor had been quite right, three years ago. Everything had an explanation except Tony Stark.
“He will be fine after he gets some rest. He’s only pushed himself too far.” The doctor assigned to Tony said, looking over the readings Stark’s children were giving since they would not allow anyone else to do anything with their father while he was unconscious. It was good to have JARVIS back. He was the brightest of Stark’s children and he proved that by operating Stark’s new armor - which was a thing of beauty Thor was sure even Eitri would drool over, let alone these mortals - and threatening them when they tried to do a body scan. Princess Shuri had agreed to the request as long as they got regular, half an hour updates on Tony’s condition. The youngest one, KAREN, Thor believed it to be her name, went with the princess and apparently told her what had happened because the young royal refused to leave Stark’s side after hearing what the intelligence currently residing in a metal spider had to say, keeping vigil over the man she practically considered family. The mighty VERONICA had returned to Earth’s atmosphere, to monitor for any incoming threats, after assuring Banner that, should he need her, she will come aid him. Lady FRIDAY, Stark’s other constant helper had left their father’s care in the eldest’s hands, returning to New York to help Susan Storm put the shields back up. And the noble JARVIS had not left his father’s side at all. “I am sure that with a little sleep and some food, Mr Stark will be as good as new.”
“That is a relief to hear,” Thor let out a relieved sigh, speaking the truth. He did not wish to think about what the Sorcerer Supreme of Earth would do to him if something were to happen to Stark under his watch.
“Yes,” agreed Nebula from where she, too, had not left Tony’s side. She had threatened to kill everyone who stood in her way should they try to separate them. Shuri had allowed her to come after the children Stark has made assured her that she was indeed an ally and a close new friend of Stark’s. This was the first time she’d spoken since then. “So, you have spoken with the sorcerer?”
That threw Thor off a little and had Shuri turning around to look at them in interest. The other Avengers had not been allowed to come in until the doctor left and were only now pilling in, stopping dead in their tracks at the conversation they walked in on, interest peaking.
The Asgardian nodded. “Yes. He has went with me to Nivadellir. Had a bargain to strike with the king of dwarfs, Eitri. I’ve never before seen Eitri agree so readily. Then again, he offered to free his hands.” Thor recalled the look on Eitri’s face when Strange told him he could do it, the hope, the readiness to agree.
“What was the bargain about?” Asked the Black Widow, eyes scrutinizing as she looked at him. In many ways, her gaze reminded him of Loki - and a wave of nostalgia, remorse, anger, pain, regret and loss crashed through Thor at the thought of his brother but he shook it off for the moment - but she lacked the intelligence and knowledge his brother possessed and gathered in the many centuries he had lived and the things he had seen or learned. Still, she was trying to analyze him and, seeing how badly she’d misjudged both the Captain and the Man of Iron - it was almost as though she’d switched their personalities - Thor was not impressed with her attempts. Loki had told him not to spend much time around her after they’d come to Earth to build New Asgard and Banner, for all that he had at one point seemingly held some affection for her, had agreed wholeheartedly. She was not a woman to be trusted, as displayed many times over the years, in particular with her interactions with friend Stark.
If she had known of any of the plans made by the good wizard (Sorcerer, he could almost hear Strange correcting him), she would have done everything she could to somehow, in some way, interfere, whether for good or ill is yet to be seen. The only reason Thor answered was because the deed was done and the Avengers deserved to know about Strange’s plan. To the extent that Thor knew of it, at the very least.
“He asked Eitri to make a specific item for him in the forge of Nivadellir. He and Eitri spent many hours as Strange told him what it is he needed and persuading Eitri that it is needed. He was done just before he had to return to Earth abruptly because friend Stark was attacked by that rouge sorcerer. Eitri didn’t tell me what he was expected to make. He took his new freedom of his hands as a chance to avenge his people, to make up for creating the Infinity Gauntlet in the first place-”
"He created the Gauntlet?!” Everyone made a face at Rogers’ hypocritical reaction of half shock, half accusation. Not even Natasha was willing to deal with him. The Dora Milaje guarding him - the only reason he wasn’t locked up or executed was because Shuri had decided he’ll be used as cannon fodder and, if he survives, will later be brought before the world as the one who had allowed this to happen in the first place; Thor liked her. She was a vindictive little thing. And she was very protective of Stark at his most vulnerable - zapped him with a tranquilizer shock stick thing. Thor would normally feel for whatever poor bastard was on the receiving end of such treatment. But not for Rogers. “You left him unsupervised!? He could be making another as we speak!”
"Quiet!” Hissed Okoye as she shoved him to the floor, having gotten fed up with his shit by now. When he went to speak again regardless of her warning, she zapped him again, harder. The Captain was left convulsing on the floor from the strength of the shock. Many in the room looked rightly vindictive.
“As Strange’s plan went along with Eitri’s motives,” Thor continued once that was done. “Eitri had Rabbit, Tree and myself help him restart the forge. We had a few things to fix, which is why we were so late in coming to battle. But I now have Stormbreaker - a Thanos-killing weapon - and that which Strange has ordered from Eitri. Unfortunately,” Thor looked away from the room watching him and his tired eyes - one of which was a fake and brown; he wondered if Loki will hate it, briefly, or if he’ll be indifferent - landed on Stark, still and asleep in the hospital bed. He was prognosed to sleep until late tomorrow afternoon, the rest needed in order for his body to recover from the strain of such a far away trip. He’s really interested in how and when Stark learned magic. “I arrived far too late, for both the delivery and the battle. For a while, I feared all hope was lost. But I have some hope now. Strange has obviously informed Stark of his plan, so there is a chance yet for us to make things right.”
“So we just need to wait for Tony to wake up.” Shuri said with some form of relief.
“We shouldn’t count on their plans so much.” Thor could not believe Rogers was this stupid. No wonder Loki didn’t take the Avengers seriously if Rogers was the first Avenger he met. “Their planning so far hasn’t worked.”
“Because of you.” They all jumped at the new voice and whirled around to face the unimpressed, unamused looking Wong, if Thor remembered Strange’s companion’s name right. The Asian sorcerer took a loot at the room with little interest and instead settled his eyes on the unconscious Tony Stark with Strange’s cape covering him, almost protectively. Definitely protectively. Thor had been on the receiving end of its protectiveness when he had approached Stark earlier. “The magical shielding we put in place protected the satellites from physical damage and kept them from sight while preventing ordinary portals and the Bifrost from entering Earth’s atmosphere. Stark’s satellites had the duty of keeping out anything Infinity Stone related. It was tested. The shielding worked. Had you not messed with it, it would have kept Thanos out. Probably for many years to come, Thanos would not have arrived to Earth. He’d have four infinity Stones but the remaining two would have stayed on Earth, protected.”
“The satellites would eventually stop working.” The blond supersoldier insisted stubbornly, even with his face kissing the floor. “They’d malfunction.”
Captain Marvel snorted, crossing her arms. The gesture was echoed by Rhodes, Banner, Shuri and even Nebula. Natasha looked ashamed to have chosen the man over friend Stark. The Dora Milaje looked insulted on their princess’ behalf. “Stark tech doesn’t malfunction. Ever. I’ve seen it take a beating that would put every army on Earth to shame and come out with nary a scratch.” Rhodes informed the Captain, also insulted on the behalf of Tony. “Tony’s been working on this with the greatest minds in the world. The satellites were designed to be indestructible, incorruptible and unbreakable. Stark tech don’t malfunction.”
“Yes, I’ve seen how well that worked with JARVIS and Ultron. Even Vision-” Steve cut himself off with a gasp as the weapons all charged and shocked him at once.
“Pardon me,” the overly polite, raspy voice of Tony Stark said and they all turned their wide eyes to the very much awake man with his glowing blue eyes on the hospital bed, sarcasm dripping from every word. “But I just ... slipped.” Thor didn’t bother fighting back a grin. The way Stark said it reminded him very much of the way Strange had said it when Thor had returned to the New York Sanctum for the third time, regarding some thing or the other about Strange’s relation to Stark. No wonder they got along so fiercely.
No one seemed to mind Stark’s intervention. Vision’s near loss had been a hard hit to them all. And Stark’s consciousness, while a shock - never a surprise; if you know the Man of Iron as long as they have, then you know to expect the impossible from the man because it was definitely going to happen either way - wad also a great relief.
Wong nodded to Stark, understanding and something like loss on his face when Stark’s remorseful eyes, back to brown, settled on his face. “It was the only way.”
“Then we’ll make it the right way.” Stark said with all the fire that Thor had gotten so familiar with. Stark’s rage was both burning and as icy as Jotenheim. But his will to fight was strong enough a fire to kindle everyone else’s determination as well. His surety that there was a way meant that there will be a way. Even if Stark had to turn the universe onto its head to make it. “How long until we can fight?”
“Wakanda is ready,” Shuri reassured, squeezing the genius’ hand.
“The Avengers are ready, too.” Carol said with a nod. “But we’ll need to bring the fight to Thanos. No one knows where he is but we can’t fight him here again. I am sure I can get the Skrull to help us-”
“No,” Tony interrupted. “This time, Thanos has to come to us. Finding him might take too long. I want this undone now.”
“We can’t fight without backup, Tony.” Romanoff reasoned. Or tried to. It sounded too scolding for Stark to listen to her. And he didn’t, turning to Wong instead.
“The sorcerers are ready to defend the planet.” The Asian man replied to the look. “But we lack the Sorcerer Supreme. Even if only in name, we need to name another, however temporary it may be. The mystic world will not care for the devastation of the material one. The threats will not stop. The lack of a Sorcerer Supreme will only add to our problems.”
Thor could see by the look on the hospitalized billionaire’s face that he didn’t like it, even if he conceded. “Then do it. Name some of the current Masters a temporary Sorcerer Supreme and prepare for a battle.”
But Wong only shook his head. “The new Sorcerer Supreme must be the shining pupil of the last Sorcerer Supreme. For the Ancient One, that was Stephen and the other Masters voted and accepted him. Since he was far from finished with his training, they then took it upon themselves to teach him until he was ready, and so Earth had a new Sorcerer Supreme.”
“Then why not go that way now?” Asked Bruce with a frown of confusion on his face.
“Aside from the fact that it is the end of the universe is still very much hanging over our heads - what Thanos has done is far from creating balance - and the fact that half of the Masters has disappeared with the snap, Stephen’s best student and the only one with enough power to take up his position is you, Tony Stark.” Wong turned to the brunet in question and inclined his head. “The Masters agreed. However undertrained you are, you are currently the strongest sorcerer on Earth. You are the temporary Sorcerer Supreme of Earth.”
Thor didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry at the irony of it all. The Man of Iron, the one man Thor knew who would rather pretend magic doesn’t exist at all, was Earth’s magical protector. The others in the room were not helping with the expressions of disbelief, as though the thought of Tony being entrusted with such an important task was inconceivable.
“Will you accept?”
“I was under the impression that I can’t exactly choose.” Stark, who only snapped out of his own shock at being called Strange’s best student, said tiredly at Wong’s question. Wong just gave him a look.
“You can always decline. But I doubt you would.”
“Of course I wouldn’t,” Tony all but snapped, running a hand through his messy bed head. “But it’s not needed. Because I’m reversing this. I’m getting him back. I’m getting them all back. I promise you that much.”
“The word of the Sorcerer Supreme is not one to take lightly, Stark. It is binding down to your very soul. It must be kept.” The other sorcerer in the room warned and Stark just smiled at that.
“Good. Then that means Stephen hasn’t lost his mind after all.” He nodded and made to leave the bed, startling Bruce and Shuri into action to restrain him but Nebula helped him up. “It’s a good thing I plan on making sure both of us keep our word.”
“How do you plan to do that?” Banner asked curiously, stepping back as the Cloak of Levitation wrapped around Tony’s shoulders to take most of his weight when he’s standing.
“Well, first I’m officially activating Last Dying Breath protocol, in case we need it.” He replied, but it was clear he was talking to his creation, JARVIS, from how he did not expect a reply from them. He just continued talking. “Then I’ll have to find something interesting enough for Thanos to come after. I’m sure Kamar-Taj has some interesting artifacts that would draw Thanos’ attention. Anything that might suggest a possible reversal will have him coming here in a second. Then I need to try and figure out just what Stephen’s plan was. Wong will, of course, help me since he actually knows a lot more than I do.” Thor found that it sounded like half an accusation but Wong gave no reaction. He just nodded his assent.
Thor decided to pipe up, now that plans were being made and discussed. “I may be in the possession of something that is essential to Strange’s plan, friend Stark.” Curious brown eyes turned to him and Thor fidgeted a bit, still very much ashamed for having taken so long to deliver Strange’s order from Nivadellir. “Eitri the dwarf king has made it as a part of a bargain-” Both Tony and Wong snorted at that, making Thor frown but they didn’t elaborate. He ignored it and continued his explanation. “And Strange insisted I bring it to Earth. It’s not complete, Eitri said. Strange had insisted that only you can complete it.”
“What is it?” Friend Stark asked curiously, finally rightening himself on his own two feet without the help of Nebula. She let go of him but stayed close by, ready to catch him should the need arise. It was interesting how so little was needed for them to become so close. Then again, Stark had always done better with machines and Nebula was definitely part machine for a while now.
Thor knew he was not much of a magic user. That was always Loki’s forte. But that did not mean that Thor was a hopeless case. He knew the most basic of spells for storage - and only because Loki had insisted. Thor will admit that he relied on his strength too much but Loki was stubborn and refused to let Thor not learn this much at least. So the trickster god went and taught Thor how to store items in a pocket dimension. Thor rarely used it but it had come in handy when he realized Stark was nowhere on the Wakandan battlefield. So he knew how to store things in the pocket dimension Loki made for him and he reached into it now, grasping the box Eitri had put his creation into, pulling it out and presenting it to Stark now.
Tony took the box - a beautiful thing made of a black metal that Thor did not immediately recognize but knew had to be pretty valuable and probably quite strong for Eitri to use it as a container for Strange’s important order - with cautious, careful fingers, inquisitively tracing the material. A scanner came to life from the other side of the room and most of the people in the room jumped in surprise while Stark’s eyes started glowing blue again. Thor noticed that their color greatly resembled the light in Tony’s chest but he didn’t comment on it. Judging by the raised eyebrow of Earth’s finest blacksmith, Stark was impressed and shocked, at least by the box. Thor didn’t really know what was inside. Eitri hadn’t allowed anyone to see his project.
But Stark now opened it and, for the first time, the contents of the box was up for the world to see. And Thor knows he’s not the only one who was staring in both wonder and confusion at what they were seeing. He glanced at Stark and didn’t know what the man was feeling about the current situation, as his face was expressionless, eyes roving over the item that Strange had ordered of Eitri and sent to him to finish it. The King of New Asgard couldn’t really see what there was to add or do. It looked finished to his eye but he did not doubt that someone a bit smarter than him - not that Thor was stupid; he knew he was oblivious to certain things and this was probably just one of those things - but even Bruce and the Wakandan princess looked stumped as to what else could be done for the piece before them.
Rogers, though, looked ready to comment on something again, having that disapproving look on his face, but the message over the speaker system beat him to it, catching Stark’s attention more firmly than anything else could have.
“Sir, Vision is awake. He asks for you.” JARVIS announced, probably for their benefit so they would leave Tony alone, Thor theorized. Stark was out of the room with the box in hand before anyone could say another word. Leaving behind a room of people who didn’t know how to react to what had just happened. Well, aside from Nebula. She had rushed out with Wong after the Cloak wearing genius. The Avengers all turned to look at Thor before Shuri followed after the engineer, leaving Thor to deal with the questions the others would no doubt ask. Thor felt a headache forming already.
At least the Rabbit had stayed.
Thor definitely needed some intelligent support.