Snap Back to the Past AKA the Infinity Stones Decide to Adopt Tony Stark Chapter Eight: Hold Me Like A Grudge

Story Summary: The Infinity Stones decide that they don’t appreciate being snapped to destruction and that it isn’t time for their favorite human to rest quite yet. An unlikely group of six is sent back in time to fix the universe before Thanos gets a chance to break it.

Note: This is chapter eight, but you should start with the prologue! Make sure you start with Snap Back to the Past AKA the Infinity Stones Adopt Tony Stark Prologue: The Infinity Stones Adopt Tony Stark. Happy Reading!

Chapter Summary:

I guess somehow we made it back
And with a few dreams of ours still intact
I am a diamond on the inside, just add the pressure
Know it’s inside me, but I got no map, to my own treasure

Notes: WOW. I cannot emphasize enough how much I appreciate y’alls love for this story and the support everyone has shown. This much attention has been kind of intimidating ngl, honestly a large part of the delay has been my anxiety about the attention people have shown this! (Another large part has been my slight obsession with Parkner fics, but that is neither here nor there.) But I am BACK besties, so I hope you are ready for this chapter, because I have packed a lot into this bad boy. Please leave comments letting me know what you think, they honestly make my day! Note also that I am going to be making references to The Marvels in this fic going forward because I adored that movie. It’s events after the snap won’t be referenced since Carol traveled back at the same time that Tony did, but there are some scenes that take place in the past that I will definitely be referencing. That said, much of  Secret Invasion will likely be discarded. I may or may not include some elements from the Loki series for additional flavor, but that won’t be for a while. Revelations about how a certain character was replaced by a Skrull and just how long that had gone on will be ignored completely because the sheer AUDACITY has me upset to the highest degree. iykyk.

Chapter Eight: Hold Me Like A Grudge

“Thor said that the last time he came to Earth with Loki you found him almost immediately.” 

Tony did his best to keep the accusatory tone out of his voice, but he was not entirely certain that he succeeded. They were in the living room of his Malibu mansion — he was doing his best to speed things up, but the tower was still in the beginning stages of development. 

“Well yes, but that was under entirely different circumstances.” Stephen pinched the bridge of his nose in irritation. It was more for show than anything else, as he was well used to Tony at this point, but the other man nevertheless got on his nerves.

“Okay, then how do we replicate said circumstances?” Tony insisted as he paced around the room. 

Stephen sighed wearily from his position on the couch. “Last time I was sorcerer supreme, and I had energy samples of Loki’s presence on earth from the 2012 invasion. Whoever landed here has scrambled their energy signature, and I do not have the power behind me that I did as sorcerer supreme.”

Tony stopped his pacing to look at Stephen curiously. “What does it mean to be sorcerer supreme, anyway? Like what kind of power-up does that even grant you? I thought that the whole point of getting the title was that they gave it to the most powerful wizard?” Tony finally sat down on the couch across from Stephen, and Stephen was thankful that he had only one place to look instead of having to track Tony’s movements around the room.

“Well, it’s true that the title does go to a powerful sorcerer. But the position itself grants the holder access to a deeper connection with the ley lines of the earth and its inherent dimensional folds. As sorcerer supreme, I had a stronger connection with the energy flow of the planet, which made it easier to track threats across dimensional planes of both the extraterrestrial and magical variety.”

“Hmmm. So do you think that Galadriel would be able to help us track down whoever it was? Surely we can pick up something of his energy signature from the landing point, even if it’s not as strong as when Loki invaded in 2012.” Tony pointed out.

Stephen hummed. “Perhaps. Though the scrambling spell was very effective. Whoever it was, they were a practitioner of immense power. Considering the fact that this did not happen in the previous timeline, we can assume that at least one of the champions we are looking for is Asgardian. Now let’s think, who do we know that is a powerful mage, an Asgardian, and has a connection to an infinity stone?” Stephen raised an eyebrow at Tony, who looked contemplative for a moment before he grimaced.

“On the bright side, Thor did say that Reindeer Games had gone through some kind of redemption arc before Thanos killed him?”

Loki yawned as she stretched herself awake. It was her first morning of what she expected to be many more on Midgard, and she had a lot to get done that day. Honestly, she would prefer to sleep in, but the time for relaxation was over. She and mother had several different potential plans in place, but there were a number of significant factors at play that they simply could not predict. Namely, they did not know if they were alone in their journey backwards in time. Until they had determined the truth of the matter, no real plans could be put in place. 

Still, she took her time going through her morning routine and preparing for the day. When she finally left her room to enter the kitchen and make herself breakfast she was amused to find Thor sitting at the table looking utterly confused. 

“Is something the matter, brother?” Loki asked.

“I—” Thor cleared his throat. “I find myself at a loss, as I do not fully understand what I am meant to do for meals.” His brow furrowed. “This kitchen is very unlike what we have at the palace and the food is unfamiliar to me. We have no servants to cook for us. What am I meant to do?” Thor looked lost, and Loki pitied him, just a little bit. Thor did have a small amount of experience cooking, but that was mostly while they were on extended hunts, and cooking in the wild on a fire was very different from using a modern Midgardian kitchen. 

She had been planning on going to seek out the Man of Iron today, but it seemed like instead she was going to have to teach her brother how to use a microwave instead.

Thor had never felt so lost as when his father exiled him to Midgard. He had never deceived himself into thinking that he knew everything. He knew that once he was king he would need advisors, and he had counted on the support of his sister, the support of his mother and father to fill in the gaps, to keep learning from them. He never thought that he was invincible. Though, perhaps, he was more arrogant than he thought, and more proud than he realized, when he arrived on Midgard and realized that he had no plan. He had nowhere to go, no one to rely on, no place to lay his head.

Except, of course, Loki was there. Because she was always there. Loki was a trickster. She could be mean, and she would not hesitate to turn into a snake and stab him when he least expected it. But she would always cast a healing spell immediately afterwards. And she would not hesitate to slit the throat of anyone else who drew his blood.

When Thor was exiled and Loki was offered the position of King of Asgard in Thor’s place she said no. Loki instead joined Thor in exile. She made sure that Thor had a place to stay that was safe, a warm bed to sleep in at night. After she skywalked them away from where the bifrost had dropped them onto Midgard and to her home she gave him a brief tour before leaving him at his rooms and promptly going to hers, warning him not to disturb her unless war was on their doorstep. 

The whole house absolutely screamed Loki. It was decorated in green and gold. Fit for royalty, but also… comfortable. It felt like a home, like someone lived here. Thor felt like he was intruding, almost. He peeked into the kitchen, and saw many metal appliances that he did not understand at all. The food was all in odd packaging that he did not understand either. But he did not want to disturb Loki, and he truly was not hungry. Thor only felt sick as he longed for home. He went back to the door that Loki had said was his quarters, and was startled at what he saw when he entered.

Unlike the rest of the house, it was not at all decorated to Loki’s tastes. Instead, it looked almost identical to Thor’s quarters in the palace. Thor had expected that Loki would have simply given him generic guest quarters, but it appeared that, despite the fact that Thor had never visited his sister at her home, she had an entire room that was entirely his. There was no way that she could have set this up that day, which means that she had already had it prepared. There was a space for him in her life. Thor was incredibly touched, and it dawned on him, how rarely he told his sister how much he appreciated her. She was doing — had always done — so much for him. And he had treated her terribly. 

He sat heavily on the bed and felt the soft furs, which did indeed feel identical to those he had in the golden realm. He had ten years of exile on Midgard, which Loki had vowed to spend with him. And he vowed that he would make that time with his little sister count.

Loki was surprised at how thoughtful Thor was as he listened attentively to all of Loki’s instructions. He had even asked her if she could procure for him a notebook where he could write things down so that he would not have to ask her to repeat herself. 

She was flabbergasted at this apparent change of heart in her brother. It was less than a day on Midgard — what could have possibly been the catalyst? But she supposed that she had not truly spent very much time with him since returning to the past. She spent almost all of her time with their mother, plotting what they might do to change the timeline. Perhaps their actions in Asgard and on Vanaheim had also affected him in ways that she had not realized?

“So this stove operates using electricity, instead of fire?” Thor looked thoughtfully at the appliance Loki was attempting to explain. He seemed mystified by the flat surface, and dubious about how it could cook food without flames.

“Yes. Each of the four circles is controlled by a different dial. You twist the dial and depending on where you leave it, the circle heats up to a different temperature. You have to be careful, though, because even when you turn the dial off, the circle stays hot for a certain amount of time. If that light—” Loki pointed to a small light on the stove. “Is on, at least one of the circles is still hot enough to cause a potential fire and/or burn something, so you have to be careful about what you leave on here. Plenty of Midgardians have started house fires because they didn’t realize that their stoves were still on.” 

Thor nodded thoughtfully. “Thank you for explaining. Now what is this object?”

Loki sighed. “This is called a toaster…”

Once Loki finally got through explaining all of the different items in the kitchen, she decided to do a practical demonstration by showing Thor how to make scrambled eggs, bacon, waffles, and tea. Truthfully, she preferred to make her waffle mix from scratch, but Thor was not ready for that stage, so she used boxed waffle mix combined with milk. She carefully showed him how much batter to pour into the waffle iron and gave him strict instructions about watching the timer and taking the waffles out on time. 

Thor was very proud that they came out only slightly burnt. He did a fairly good job with the bacon as well, since it was very similar to campfire cooking, and only needed minimal instruction on how to use the stove as he proved to remember her previous tutorial. She took over when it came to the eggs as he utterly failed to crack them in a way that did not get shells mixed in with the whites and yolk, though she was able to use seidr to remove them. Making tea was a complete failure, but that was fine, as she simply re-made it herself. 

Overall it was a surprisingly nice breakfast, though it ended up being more like brunch by the time they finished the entire tutorial. After they ate, Loki taught Thor how to rinse dishes and load the dishwasher, explaining that using spells to wash the dishes every time she ate was a waste of seidr, and washing things by hand was a waste of time. That said, certain things could not go in the dishwasher and had to be washed by hand, such as wooden spoons and cutting boards, knives, certain kinds of pots and pans, and delicate dishware.

At this point Thor looked slightly dizzy, and so Loki simply told him to ask her if he was unsure, to wash by hand when in doubt, and check that the dishwasher didn’t have any forbidden items before running it, to which he agreed readily.

Loki decided that the next order of business would be to get Thor caught up on Midgardian culture and establish an identity for him. Since Thor knew next to nothing about Midgardian culture, he would not know what he would want to do on Midgard, so she decided that they should watch some videos to help him learn. Videos were not as common on Asgard as they were on Midgard, though Loki wished they were. She had a sneaking suspicion that Thor would have paid more attention to his lessons if he could have learned them through watching instead of reading.

“Tony, I know you hate meetings, but if you want to have this go through you’re going to need to explain to the board that— oh.” Pepper cut herself off as she looked up from her tablet to actually take in what was going on in the lab. Namely the fact that Tony was not alone, but rather tangled up with Stephen Strange on the lab couch. They were both asleep, and a movie was being projected onto one of JARVIS’s holographic monitors. Tony was curled up and using Stephen’s lap as a pillow, and Stephen’s left hand was tangled in Tony’s hair. A red cloak was draped over Tony like a blanket, and Stephen’s legs were propped up on a soft ottoman that Pepper had not seen before. 

Stephen’s eyes opened slightly and Pepper realized that he was not actually as asleep as she thought when he met her gaze and winked, looking pointedly at where Tony was still asleep. Pepper nodded and backed out of the lab. She knew that Tony had not been sleeping particularly well since Afghanistan and especially since Stane had nearly killed them both. His manic energy only seemed to be calmed by Stephen’s presence. Pepper was fuzzy on the details of how the two of them got so close so quickly, but Stephen seemed to be a good influence on Tony, and had quickly found his place among them, despite the fact that he lived on the other side of the country. Well, for now.

Stark Industries had always had offices on both coasts, but one of Tony’s new ideas in the past year had been for them to move their main offices to New York, building a hi-rise tower in Manhattan with another satellite office in Queens. He was throwing dozens of ideas and products towards her every day, and she feared for whoever his next assistant would be. And there would be a next one, because Pepper was being transitioned into the COO role that Stane had left vacant, taking over from the interim COO who had only taken on the role with the understanding that it would be temporary. 

Pepper was not unaware that there were people who assumed she had slept her way to the top, and she could not deny that there had been a mutual attraction, for a short time. But ever since Tony had officially announced his role as Iron Man and begun taking on more and more, that had cooled. He had also grown close with Stephen in that time, and while in another world that might have disappointed her, she was not particularly upset by it in this instance. Tony and Stephen were good for each other. Almost too good. Certainly a force to be reckoned with. 

Pepper, Rhodey, and Happy had all privately discussed with each other how Stephen and Tony getting together was probably the best and most terrifying thing that could have happened. Because while Stephen did manage miracles like getting Tony to sleep and eat and do his paperwork, there was also a wildness to the doctor that, while generally contained, Tony seemed to let loose.

In any case, Pepper would leave them to spend their evening together. It was already past six, but with Tony not at the office today she had come by the mansion after work. Sighing, she was pondering whether she should go home to eat or raid Tony’s kitchen when JARVIS broke through her thoughts.

“Ms. Potts, I believe you should check your email. Both you and Sir have been sent an email that I believe should be opened immediately.”

Pepper sighed as she made her way to the kitchen, opening her email on the tablet along the way. If there was more nonsense to deal with, she wanted to make sure that she was at least well fed before dealing with it all.

She popped some leftover pasta in the microwave before settling herself on one of the barstools at the kitchen and finding the email in question. Tony had been talking with astrophysicists and was planning on funding their research? Did he intend for Stark Industries to open a space division as well? Pepper massaged her temples as the microwave dinged. This was a morning Pepper problem. 

As she tucked into her pasta she mused that she might just stay at the mansion tonight. Her apartment was nice— the salary Tony paid her ensured that— but the bathtub in the ensuite of the guest room that was unofficially hers had a jacuzzi function and she would be able to go for an early morning swim in the pool, which was more private than the one at her complex. After all that Tony was putting her through, she deserved this.

Darcy was not sure what she was doing here. Her major was ostensibly in political science, but she was spending her semester interning for an astrophysicist. And now she was out in New Mexico, despite the fact that her university was in Virginia, studying weird patterns on the ground. They had appeared mysteriously the day before, in the exact spot that Jane had been tracking anomalies in the sky. She had Darcy taking as many pictures as possible, citing that they would need evidence if they were to ever publish their findings. 

Jane was plenty weird, but Darcy tended to like that about her. She would not be staying in this internship if she didn’t like the woman. And Jane’s single-minded focus could be entertaining if not infectious. The work she did was fascinating, and had Darcy seriously considering a change to her major, even though that would add to the number of years she was in school. 

All the same, Darcy was not exactly enamored by the desert. Though she could not deny that the lack of light pollution made the stars more spectacular that she was aware they could be. Then there was also the call that Jane had gotten yesterday. 

A call from Tony Stark. 

Neither Jane nor Darcy nor Erik were particularly impressed with Stark and his history as an arms dealer. However, it could not be denied that Stark had been making a shift since he got back from where he had been held prisoner in Afghanistan. Apparently his latest shift was into the realm of outer space, and since Jane was the foremost in her field and the person he felt would be most likely to entertain the prospect of communicating with other worlds, she had deserved a call.

After they finished gathering their data, the plan was to make a visit to Stark and work with him to analyze the data in his advanced lab. Erik had said it was too good to be true, however all of the paperwork Stark had sent over seemed above board according to Jane’s cousin, who was just wrapping up law school. And they needed the funding, plus Darcy had always wanted to fly in a private jet.

Tony woke up slowly. As he came to consciousness, he realized that he had fallen asleep on the lab couch again, and that his blanket was moving. Opening his eyes, he noticed that his blanket was not a blanket at all, but Levi, who had somehow grown in length and width to cover him completely, wrapping him up in a blanket burrito. Both Levi and his pillow were unusually warm, and he gradually realized that his pillow was not a pillow at all, but the lap of Stephen Strange. Furthermore, Stephen’s hand was resting gently on Tony’s head, one of his hands tangled up in Tony’s hair.

“Good morning.” Stephen’s tone was light, but there was an undercurrent of… something, which Tony could not quite decipher under it. A book had been hovering in front of Stephen’s face, held up by magic, which Tony still wrinkled his nose at occasionally, though after all he had been though, denying the existence of magic was pointless.

“What time is it?” Tony yawned, sitting up. Levi released him, albeit reluctantly. Tony did not know why Levi had grown so attached to him, but he had also grown attached to the relic. Stephen often complained that the two of them liked each other more than him, which Tony found hilarious.

“It is 6:17 AM, Sir. You have been asleep for approximately eleven hours.” JARVIS answered. 

Tony blinked in surprise. He almost never slept that long. He would almost suspect that Stephen had done some kind of magic to cause him to sleep more as it had been so surprisingly peaceful, but he knew the other man would never do that. They had spoken at length about how Tony felt about spells being cast on him, after all that he had gone through with Wanda.

“It is a good thing you are awake, Sir. Ms. Potts stayed over last night, and wants to speak with you over breakfast about your contact with and promise of funding to Dr. Foster and her associates.”

Tony made a face. He was not looking forward to that conversation.

“Additionally, Colonel Rhodes has let me know that he will be here this afternoon. He has received leave for the next three weeks and has told me that the two of you need to have a ‘Talk’ about recent events.”

“Ah, so I am to be ganged up on today. Stephie, promise me you will stay?” Tony looked up with pleading eyes.

“Unfortunately I have a shift today starting at 10am eastern time, which means I need to be at the hospital within the hour. You’re on your own, I’m afraid.”

Tony pulled away from Stephen, stretching as he adjusted to being upright again. “Fine, if you insist on abandoning me and fleeing to the other side of the country.”

Stephen rolled his eyes. “You know I’ll be back soon, we still need to figure out where the Asgardians ended up.”

“True, true. Hence my meeting with Doctor Foster tomorrow. I’ll need to prep for explaining that to Pepper.” Tony wrinkled his nose. “That is not going to be a fun conversation.”

“How are things between you, by the way?” Stephen asked, standing up and stretching himself, Levi moving away from Tony to settle themself in their usual position on Stephen’s shoulders.

Tony shrugged noncommittally. “Fine.”

“Fine?” Stephen repeated with a raised eyebrow.

“What can I say? She’s not the Pepper I married. She’s not the mother of my child. And as much as it hurts I know she won’t ever be. Does it break my heart every time I think about it? Yes. Everyday without Morgan and my Pepper feels like one where I’m being stabbed in the chest, like my arc reactor has been ripped out of my chest. But I can’t focus on that. I can’t. There is too much at stake. The Morgan of the universe we left is better off without me.”

Stephen looked at Tony with something that could have been pity if he did not know that Tony would despise the thought of it, and so it was only compassion and empathy. Tony still looked away, unable to meet Stephen’s eyes, which were a little bit too understanding. Tony did not know all that had transpired in the billions of futures that Stephen had viewed, but Stephen knew him very well for someone who he had only known for half a day. He also seemed to know about Pepper’s quirks in a way that only extended familiarity brought forth, and knew facts about Morgan that seemed impossible for even Tony to know. Tony refused to ask too much about it all though— there were things that he felt he was better off not knowing. If Stephen wanted him to know he would have shared long before this.

“Tony, you know if there was any other way—”

“Yeah, but there isn’t, so let’s focus on what we can do, here.”

Loki was surprised to find that the entire day had gone by once she finished giving Thor his crash course on Midgard. She would have preferred to go straight to meeting with the Man of Iron anyway, but she also knew that it would be difficult to do so outright, and she needed her own plan. Instead, she devoted the evening to research. 

Much to her delight, Loki discovered that Stark Industries was hiring, specifically for the position of assistant to Stark himself. She knew that acting as an assistant was likely beneath her, but needs must, and she needed to at least come to an agreement with him. Loki grimaced as she read more articles. It seemed as though Stark was in close company with one Stephen Strange. The same sorcerer who had trapped Loki in a ceaseless fall for half an hour. Part of her soured at the thought of having to get along with the sorcerer, especially given how she had spent the majority of those thirty minutes revisiting her time in the void, but at the same time she had respect for a mortal who could hold a god captive. 

Now all she had to do was draw on one of the many identities she had set up for herself and find a way to make her the perfect candidate for a position at Stark Industries.

“Dr. Foster! We meet at last.” Tony held out his hand to shake as he welcomed Jane and Darcy into the mansion. “And you must be Darcy Lewis! Wonderful to meet you both.

“Thank you for inviting us, Dr. Stark.” Jane replied, a polite smile on her face. 

“Yeah, I didn’t know you cared so much about outer space, I thought your field was more making things blow up?” Darcy said flopping down onto the couch. “This is nice, perfect for a cat nap with the sunny window.”

Darcy.” Jane hissed. Tony only laughed, this was the Darcy he remembered. Laughing in the face of a billionaire.

“Well, my PhD in physics does help me with that, but I pay attention to the sky as well. There are worlds beyond what we can currently conceptualize. Dr. Foster is at the top of her field and leagues ahead of anyone else. I’d be a fool to not try and recruit her.”

“Hence sending the fancy plane. Nice jet by the way. But what do you really want us here for? It seems like a lot of effort to go through.” Darcy replied pointedly. 

“Well isn’t the political science major just shining out of you right now? Though between you and me, I bet you could just as easily get a PhD in astrophysics within the next ten years.” Tony winked. “Do either of you want something to drink?”

Seeing Darcy was both healing and hurtful. He had come to see the girl as almost like a daughter during the five years after the snap. Both of her parents had been dusted, along with Jane and the majority of her friends. The charm and the sarcasm had remained, but this Darcy was free and unencumbered by grief in a way that the Darcy he knew had not been. More like the person he had known before everything ended, though they had not truly gotten to know each other until they had both lost everything. 

“Darcy is only nineteen,” Jane replied sharply. Tony’s brow furrowed. 

“I know, I’ve read her file. I’m not the playboy alcoholic I used to be. I was going to offer you water, orange juice, coffee, or tea. Nothing else in the house right now I’m afraid.”

“Water would be fine.” Darcy said quickly, shooting Jane her own glare. 

“Uh, yeah, water is good.” Jane said, now sounding slightly unsure.

“Right,” Tony clapped his hands, and hoped his smile wasn’t too obviously forced. “Two glasses of water coming up. I’ll be back in a jiffy, and we can get down to the science.” As he sped out of the room he heard Darcy’s mystified “Did he just say jiffy? Who says that anymore?” 

Tony took the time that he was collecting the water to compose himself. Every time that he met someone again for the first time it was like he had been shocked, and he wondered if it would ever get better. He knew on some level it would never. Grief, as his therapist had often told him, was just love with nowhere to go. It was a pain that never went away. And so he grieved for the people he had lost, and the people he had found again despite the odds. But still he grieved, because they would never be the people he remembered, and that was something he had to live with every day.

Officially, Pepper Potts was no longer Tony Stark’s personal assistant. But Tony was CEO of a Fortune 500 company, Iron Man, and a genius inventor whose mind ran at over 100 miles a minute and would not take a break until forced to do so. Pepper, Stephen, Happy, and Rhodey were doing what they could, but they all had other jobs, and Stephen lived on the other side of the country (though he spent enough time in Malibu that Pepper quite frankly worried for how much he was spending on airline tickets.)

This was all to say that Tony needed a new personal assistant. And it was down to Pepper to hire one, because Tony was never going to make a decision himself that he could pass along to her. His new PA had to be up to the challenge and more. In the end, it came down to two candidates. Natalie Rushman, whose qualifications were nothing if not impressive. She was twenty-six years old and had a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Southern California, where she had been on the gymnastics team. She had attended law school at Harvard, and was fluent in French, Italian, Russian, and Latin. She also had modeling experience, which Pepper assumed she had done to help pay for school, as she mentioned in her interview that she grew up poor with a foster family in rural Ohio, which is what taught her to be frugal and exact with funding. She was a bit too perfect, and slightly over-qualified. If anything she should be applying for a position in legal as opposed to as a personal assistant for Tony. 

The other primary candidate was Lois Fredrickson. She was twenty-eight years old, and a graduate of Tufts University twice over, where she had received both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics. She was also a dual minor in philosophy and applied mathematics. She had spent the last several years working as a personal assistant for her father, Ludwig Fredrickson II, who Pepper had actually met on a few occasions. Ludwig was a reclusive and eccentric billionaire who was primarily based in England, though his children, Ludwig III and Lois, had dual American citizenship. Lois clearly had experience in wrangling eccentric billionaires, and had experience making appearances and excuses for her father and older brother, which would be crucial for working with Tony. 

There was, of course, corporate espionage to worry about, but Lois had indicated that she was perfectly comfortable renouncing her shares in her father’s company to come work for Stark Industries, as it was her brother who would be taking over for their father, and Lois had no interest in continuing with their family business. Furthermore, there would be significant benefit in hiring Lois, as it could help with trade deals in the future should Stark Industries choose to expand. She was also fluent in Spanish, Italian, Mandarin, Greek, and Norwegian. 

Lois was also enormously overqualified, but seemed sincere in her desire for the job. Of the two, Lois was certainly better suited to a personal assistant position, and would allow them further advantages. Pepper hated to engage in any kind of nepotism, but the truth was that sometimes it was the way that business worked. And Natalie would do well in legal. From their interviews, Pepper had gotten the sense that Lois was a much better personality match than Natalie, who was a bit more reserved that Pepper thought Tony would like. Lois had a much more mischievous spark, though she would clearly be able to keep to a schedule.

Confident that she had made the right decision, Pepper wrote quick emails to the HR department to let them know about her decision to hire Lois in the PA position, pending her meeting with Tony. 

“It’s been weeks. How do we not have more information on the space Viking problem? It’s like they have simply disappeared. Would they not want to make contact in some way by now? What did Galadriel have to say?” Tony asked Stephen impatiently.

“She said that whoever it was is entirely cloaked from her sight. But she agrees with me that they will likely show themselves soon. The champions will be drawn closer together, it’s inevitable.” Stephen shrugged, taking a bite of his sandwich. Tony rolled his eyes at Stephen’s nonchalance, though he knew from the tightness in Stephen’s shoulders that he was not as calm as he pretended.

“Sir, might I remind you that Ms. Potts has scheduled for your new PA to arrive today?” JARVIS interjected before Tony could say anything else.

“Yeah, when is she going to get here?” Tony asked distractedly, still focused on how he was going to contradict Stephen’s annoyingly valid point.

“She is about to knock on the front door, sir,” JARVIS replied pointedly. 

“And you couldn’t have told me sooner!?” Tony exclaimed. “This is very sudden.”

“JARVIS mentioned it at least five times already. You were just zoned out.” Stephen replied before taking another bite out of his sandwich.

“Traitors! The both of you!” Tony shouted towards them before taking the steps out of the lab two at a time. He arrived in the living room just as the doorbell rang. Tony ran a hand through his hair, which he knew was a mess, and he honestly assumed he was making it worse. Quickly he ran through everything he remembered about his new assistant in his head. It would be annoying having someone around in his business, the unfamiliarity, the need to keep secrets. But it would not be the first time that he had needed to keep secrets from someone close to him, and he knew it would not be the last. 

“Hello, you must be Lois! Please come in. Can I offer you anything to drink?” Tony knew that he had a reputation for being an asshole, but he did try to be nice to his employees and guests. Also, from what Pepper told him, Lois was not only his new assistant but also part of the Fredrickson family, who he knew to be a prominent family in England and a potential trading partner. In other words don’t fuck this up.

“Thank you, just water please.” 

Tony observed the woman carefully as he cheerfully directed her to the kitchen, babbling details about the house. Truthfully, Tony was well experienced in letting his mouth run while his brain made other evaluations. He had seen her picture of course, the woman was beautiful. Her dark hair was pulled back in a bun, but he knew from her background check that when it was loose her hair was long and curly. She wore large black glasses, behind which she had olive green eyes. She was wearing black heels and a belted black dress with three-quarter sleeves. All of her clothes were top quality and spoke of expensive, yet functional taste. She carried a slim laptop bag that he knew could also be transitioned into a backpack. Everything about her looked poised, perfect, and professional. She also felt familiar, which was most likely due to the fact that he had most definitely seen her at expensive parties before. What on earth was this woman doing being his assistant?

After they settled into the kitchen, her with water, him drinking his fifth cup of coffee for the day, Tony opened his mouth to continue speaking, but was startled when she placed a finger on his lips and tilted her head to the side.

“You have a spectacular talent of saying a great deal without saying anything at all. It’s fascinating. Shall we get to working out our schedule, then? Ms. Potts indicated that she wanted me to work it out with you one-on-one so that we can make something new just for ourselves, rather than rely on what came before.”

“Oh?” Tony asked, amused despite himself as he brushed her finger away, surprisingly carefully. He normally did not like people touching him, especially strangers, politically important or not.

“Yes. You wish to move beyond your past, do you not? To build a better future? You did not become Iron Man on a whim. You see what is wrong with the world and seek to change it. We are the same that way, and if we are to be aligned, we need to make sure that we make a battle plan so to speak.”

Tony was startled, for a brief moment, over how sincere Lois seemed to be. She had intensity to her that could not be explained away in a form he knew how. Not in a way that scared or intimidated him, but one that felt intensely familiar. He stared at her contemplatively, and the two of them shared eye contact for a long moment before Tony broke her gaze to take another sip of coffee.

“Well, let’s get to work shall we?”

Sometimes Carol was not sure that she knew how not to be a fighter anymore. In all her remembered years of life, traveling through space and now time, she had always been a fighter. It was hard to be anything else. To be anyone else. She knew that she needed to go to Terra, back to Earth, her home planet, but she also knew that there was much to accomplish away from there, She had done a great deal in her time as Captain Marvel, and there was still so much more to do. Nevertheless, Terra was not a place she could avoid forever. Not if they wanted to stop Thanos. Not if she wanted to save Gamora. 

She knew that she had loved Maria, though their time had passed. She had made her peace with Maria’s death, and though Maria was alive again, Carol knew that it would not be the same. It could never be the same with so many of her memories still missing. And she had loved Yan, if only as a friend. Their marriage was one of convenience, but they still loved each other in their own way. Though the relationship was much less developed from his perspective, she supposed. According to her internal timeline, she had left Aladna a few weeks ago. She wondered if Gamora had also done the math and reviewed her memories to realize that their waking up together in the new timeline was the result of make-up sex to resolve Gamora’s irritation at Carol marrying someone else. 

Still, now was not the time to be fixated on her relationships. Now was the time to set course for Earth, and to find out what her home world had in store for her.

Author’s Note 2: Because I’m probably not going to get into it for a few more chapters and I don’t want to lose readers b/c of people accusing me of making Thor OOC; basically Thor in this story is not dumb and does listen to Loki’s advice and let it get through his thick skull sometimes, so he realizes that he really fucked up bad with the being a dignitary, and he really is trying to make things better and be a good king, and spent the month that Frigga and Loki were gone basically trying to play catch up but it’s very much a case of “too little too late” and no one trusts him so he gets exiled to Earth, sorry my man. He got really upset about it obviously but there is not much he can do.

End Note: 

I know I have no idea where that tangent about teaching Thor how to use a kitchen came from. It just sort of… happened lol. I know that there are a lot more characters in the tags that I haven’t included as thoroughly or at all yet, but I please ask that y’all trust the process to get there!! The story is only just beginning!

Next chapter: Questions are asked and miracles occur.
I feel like I’m falling, but I’m trying to fly
Where does all the good go?
We’re looking for answers in the highest of highs
But will we ever, ever know?