Chapter 50: A Fairytale Ending
In the Throne Room of Asgard, the Avengers threw the beaten and bruised Loki onto the ground. Slowly, Loki lifted his head, gasping when he saw who was sitting upon it. Odin, once more awakened from the Odin Sleep, with Frigga by his side. Jane, Ant-Man, Panther, and Rick were all standing triumphantly to the side, the former giving Loki a cheeky wave. When Loki attempted to get back up, Thor stepped forward, planting his boot on his brother's back and keeping him on his knees.
"Nay, Loki. It is your turn to kneel."
Loki rolled his eyes before turning back to Odin.
"I… believe we all can agree things got out of hand near the end."
"Is that your defense?" Odin asked. "You attacked Midgard to manipulate your way into imprisonment here, meddled with forces beyond your control, plundered the great vault, and nearly brought ruin to the Nine Realms."
Loki swallowed hard.
"Well… when you put it like that, it all sounds bad."
"All this death, destruction, and ruin… because Loki desires a throne."
"It is my birthright!" Loki snapped, trying to rise again, only to be forced back down by Thor.
"Your birthright!" Odin spat, standing up and slamming his spear on the ground. "Was to die! Alone. Cast out onto a frozen rock. This is your birthright, one I rescued you from. Had I not done so… you would not be here to hate me."
"And what of me now? Will you finally finish what Laufey started?" This time when he rose, Thor didn't stop him. "Will you finally end this farce, quit pretending that I was never anything more than another stolen relic? Because let's face it, no matter how much you claimed to love me, I was never going to be anything more than second fiddle to your true son..."
There was a moment of silence, all eyes on Loki and Odin. The Allfather seemed so much older than he was as he let out a long sigh.
"You should count yourself fortunate there are still those who care for you. Frigga has insisted that I let you live, but know that your actions will be condemned. Loki of Jotunheim, for your acts of treason against Asgard, I hereby sentence you to eternal exile on the Isle of Silence, where no more may hear your lies."
Odin summoned some of his magic and struck Loki with it, teleporting him away.
When Loki rematerialized, he was on a small, floating island made from the roots and branches of a dead tree. It was surrounded by clouds, with nothing else to be seen for miles in any direction. Everything was grey, and he could hear nothing around him. Not the wind he felt across his skin, nor the caw of the crows that lurked in the branches. He tried to speak, but found that no sounds came out of his mouth. Nothing but unbroken silence, even as he screamed to the heavens.
Back in Asgard, its warriors and the Avengers stood before Odin as Thor approached his father, bowing down before him.
"Thor, my son," Odin began. "You return to Asgard in its darkest hour. You have saved us all."
"No, Father," Thor spoke up. "In truth, I myself was saved. By the Avengers."
He gestured to his fellow heroes, Jan giving a small wave as he did. Odin raised an eyebrow, genuinely surprised.
"Mere mortals?" he questioned.
"Nay," Thor replied. "While mortal they may be, the Avengers have saved all of the Nine Realms. They have earned our respect."
He then turned to his allies, and bowed before them.
"My friends, I cannot thank you enough for all you have done for my kingdom, and my people. I am honored to count myself among you."
After a moment, Sif bowed as well, along with the Warriors Three. Then, all of the Asgardian warriors began bowing before the Avengers in respect. Finally, even Frigga and Odin bowed.
"Avengers," Frigga declared. "You have the thanks of all of Asgard."
"You truly are Midgard's mightest," Odin decreed, rising once more. "Hail Avengers!"
Soon, the entire hall started changing "Hail Avengers", much to the team's delight.
"The respect of Asgard?" Tony noted. "Not too bad."
"Not too bad yourself, Iron Man," Cap replied.
Soon the chanting died down and Thor turned back to his father. As if sensing what he was about to do, Jane came over, taking his hand.
"Father," Thor spoke. "There is something else. During my time on Earth, Jane Foster and I have grown closer. And now…" he put a hand over hers, "I wish to make her my bride."
There were a collection of gasps from the crowd, though Sif and the Warriors three did not seem surprised. Volstagg was even smiling, as if happy for his companion. Frigga too seemed more than happy at the announcement, but Odin's face was unreadable.
"Thor," Odin spoke up. "While your affection for Jane Foster is well known, she is a mortal. I recognize that there is more to them than I ever gave them credit for, but the laws of Asgard must be upheld. You cannot marry a mortal."
"What?" Thor let out. "Father, she is worthy of Mjolnir! She has withstood the power of the Aether and lived! She has taken up arms for allies not yet made and has been willing to give her life in service of another! Mortal or not, I love Jane, and I will marry her!"
Odin waited for Thor to finish his rant, his eye glistening slightly and a small smirk on his face.
"And because of all that, I have decided to allow her to undergo the process of becoming a Valkyrie."
Now everyone was shocked, Asgardian and Midgardian. Jane's jaw hit the floor at the announcement, and Odin rose to his feet.
"I have witnessed Jane Foster's courage and fortitude, through the eyes of my ravens. She has the heart and soul of a Valkyrie, and has more than earned a place among them."
Sif stepped forward, smiling.
"I believe I speak for all my sisters when I say that I am happy to count Jane Foster as one of us."
The Valkyries all cheered, raising their swords into the air. Jane was overwhelmed by the prospect, but soon regained control of herself. She turned to Odin, bowing to him.
"Thank you," she said, her voice breathy and full of excitement. "I swear to live up to the expectations you have bestowed upon me, and will not forget this wonderful chance I have been granted."
"All I ask of you is that you continue to be the amazing woman my son fell in love with," Odin replied with a smile.
"Indeed," Fandral agreed. "Now, if no one minds my saying so, I believe a celebration is in order!"
"Here here!" Volstagg agreed.
Not much later, a massive celebration was underway. Everyone was enjoying themselves, Avengers mingling with Asgardians, swapping stories and just laughing and being merry. Tony found himself sitting amongst a swath of Valkyries, who were quite taken by his armor.
"An entire suit of armor from Uru," one spoke up. "Most impressive. And you claim Eitri himself aided you in its construction."
"Right after I bested some freak called Ulik. Let me tell you, that guy was tough, but I've dealt with worse foes than him. Just ask the Mandarin."
"Who is he?" another Valkyrie questioned. "A sorcerer?"
"Close enough," Tony replied, revelling in the attention.
Off in a far corner of the Grand Hall, Bucky was sitting by himself, a single mug in his hand and a loaf of bread in the other. He didn't look like he'd touched either, something that didn't go unnoticed by Steve. Slipping out from his seat, he went to join his oldest friend.
"You okay Buck?"
Bucky didn't answer, just turning to look at the laughing Tony.
"He looks like him..."
"Howard… a spitting image. Even acts like him."
Steve laughed slightly.
"Don't let him hear you say that. Tony never got along with his father apparently."
That made Bucky perk.
"Yeah. Long after we went into the ice though. I don't think we ever even met his wife. I think her name was-"
"Maria," Bucky finished. "Her name was Maria."
This time it was Steve's turn to perk up.
"How… how'd you know that?"
"... later," Bucky promised, turning back to look at Tony. "He deserves to be happy. Let him have this."
Reluctantly, Steve nodded as Fandral walked past, heading towards Tony. At the moment, the armored avenger was attempting to sweet talk his way into their armor, but was getting thoroughly shot down. They began filing off, one even throwing their wine in Tony's face.
"Hey!" Tony exclaimed. "This suit's a rental!"
"I should have warned you," Fandral told him. "The Valkyrie are not to be trifled with."
"Speaking from personal experience, are we?" Tony asked, wiping the wine off his face.
"Let's just say I… bear more than a passing resemblance to their archery targets."
"Is that so? I'm pretty sure my face is pinned to many a dart board back on earth."
That made them both laugh. Across the hall, Faradei was conversing with Natasha and Clint, all three sharing a pint.
"And that's what happened in Budapest," Clint finished, polishing off his mug.
"Astounding," Faradei remarked. "No wonder you both work together so well. To have forged such a bond in such hardships, tis truly a feat worthy of the scribes of Alfheim."
"Eh, it was a job," Nat shrugged, chugging more of her own ale. "Still, I am glad things ended the way they did. Even if my partner is a manchild who forgets basic hygiene without me there."
"Oh, like you're much better off, miss closes off to everyone," Clint remarked.
"At least I shower and don't purposely remove my hearing aid to avoid human contact."
"That's because you don't have them. But you would if you did, and you know it."
The two continued jabbing at one another, Faradei laughing at their antics the entire time. Across the hall, Spider-Man sat with Hulk and Rick, all of them enjoying the feast. Spider-Man had his mask rolled up so only his mouth and nose were showing, much to Rick's amusement.
"Dude, all the Avengers have seen your face, and I highly doubt the warriors of Asgard are gonna blab to the Bugle about who you really are. Take that thing off and enjoy yourself."
"Eh, call me overly cautious," Spidey replied. "Besides, I'd feel weird having my face exposed to this many people in costume. It took me forever to get used to having you guys know who I am."
"Leave him alone, Rick," Hulk told his companion.
"I was, I was. He made his point and I respect that."
"Thank you. Both of you."
"Fought good, bug," Hulk told him.
At that moment, Volstagg came over, several pints of ale in his hand with one much bigger than the rest.
"Drink up my friends!" he declared, passing the biggest pint to Hulk before giving the other two to Rick and Spidey. "Asgards finest ale for some of the finest warriors of Midgard!"
"Sweet," Rick replied, taking his.
"Uh… thanks," Spider-Man replied, setting his aside. "But I'm good."
"Come now, lad! Drink up! Every man deserves it after a well fought battle."
"Yeah, well, I'm 16, so i'm not 'technically' a man yet. Well, I'm Spider-Man, but that's because Spider-Boy just sounded juvenile."
"Oh." Volstagg then proceeded to add his own mug to the one in front of Spidey. "You're a growing lad. Why didn't you say so! Drink up!"
Hulk started laughing, and so did Rick.
"Uh…" Spidey replied, handing his drinks to them. "You guys want mine?"
Both were too busy laughing to answer, Rick wheezing into his mug as Spidey got up to find something else to drink. Meanwhile, Hank just looked down at his glass, his helmet off to the side. Jan came and sat down by him, smiling a bit.
"Clint told me about you figuring out how to save the big tree," she said. "You saved everyone, not just here, but across the nine realms."
"Yeah… I guess I did."
She leaned against him.
"You're a hero, Hank. I know you're still upset, but we're all really glad you came back. Me especially. I owe you my life. So please… stay?"
"I… I can't… not right now at least. I just need time to figure things out." He placed his hand over hers. "But I promise, if you ever need me, no matter what it's for, I'll be there. You can count on that."
Jan smiled, then turned and kissed him on the cheek.
"I'm gonna hold you to that."
Later on, Jane was kneeling before Sif as all of the Valkyries were gathered around her. She was dressed in Asgardian armor identical to the other Valkyries, save for a helm and vanguards.
"Jane Foster of Earth," Sif spoke up. "The honor that we are about to bestow is granted only to a select few in all the nine realms. It requires courage, strength, and a willingness to put the lives of others before your own. Do you understand the obligation you are about to undertake?"
"I do," Jane answered.
"Sisters, do you accept Jane Foster as a member of our righteous guild?!"
"We do!" All of the Valkyries declared in unison, raising their swords high.
Sif then stepped forward, carrying a pair of vambraces. She held them out to Jane, who slid them onto her wrists. Once they were one, Sif drew her blade and lifted it into the air.
"From this day forth, thou art a Valkyrie!"
All of the Valkyries let out a lourd warcry, their blades glowing with golden light that focused on Jane. It flooded through her body, her eyes glowing a massive golden wings seemed to sprout from her back. She hovered several feet in the air for a moment, then the light faded and her wings folded up, vanishing from sight. As she touched back down, Thor was there to catch her, smiling from ear to ear. Jane smiled in kind, slowly standing back up.
"I feel… strange."
"You'll get used to it," Thor promised.
Thor then leaned in and kissed Jane, an action the newly appointed Valkyrie returned in kind.
Not long after that, both Thor and Jane kissed once more beneath the majesty of Yggdrasil, this time after completing their wedding vows. Thor was in shining silver armor and Jane was in a gorgeous white asgardian robe, white ribbon entwined in her hair. The entire palace was full of cheering people, including Darcy and Erik, who had been summoned for the occasion. Many happy tears were shed, including a few from Darcy.
"Way to go, Jane," Erik said softly, wiping his eyes. "Way to go."
After the ceremony was over, the Avengers all gathered in the Bifrost, with Tony now in a simple Asgardian robe rather than the Uru armor.
"I can't believe the Dwarf King took your armor," Spider-Man declared. "I mean, it's your armor."
"Eh, I get why he did," Tony replied. "That stuff is powerful, and definitely not meant for mere mortals. At least I know this time, it's in the hands of someone who won't reverse engineer it for evil."
"Agreed," Thor concurred. "My thanks again for all you have done for me this day, Avengers. I wish you the best of luck on Earth."
"Sounds like you're not coming back with us," Cap noted.
"Nay. Jane and I are staying behind to help repair the damage Loki has done."
"And maybe take some time for a well deserved honeymoon," Clint added.
"Well, that's the hope," Jane admitted.
"Ooh," Jan responded. "Think you can take some photos? It'd be nice to see one of the places that's not covered in ice."
"I'll see what I can do," Jane told her.
"I just hope this doesn't mean you're gone for good," Falcon spoke up. "I mean, you leave some pretty big shoes to fill."
"Worry not. Both Jane and I will return in time. Midgard is as much our home as Asgard, and once matters are settled, we will gladly return to fight alongside you once more."
"Well, until then," Cap responded, holding out his hand.
Thor took it in kind, shaking it. Once they parted, Heimdall stepped forward, his sword raised as he plunged it into the mechanism to activate the Bifrost. The swirling portal opened, and one by one, the Avengers stepped through.
The Bifrost opened up on the lawn of the Avengers Mansion. Once they did, all of the Avengers ID cards immediately connected.
"Welcome back, Avengers," JARVIS greeted.
"Thanks, JARVIS," Tony greeted, stretching and taking a breath. "Man I've missed New York."
Hank turned to Jan, planting a small kiss on her cheek before shrinking and flying off on an ant. She watched him go, waving goodbye. As she did this, Clint and Natasha turned to Bucky.
"Y'know, we can give you a head start if you want," Clint offered. "We all know you weren't yourself when you did what you did. With your training, you could disappear, start fresh somewhere."
"No," Bucky declined. "I know I need to face justice for my actions."
"That wasn't you doing it, Buck," Steve insisted. "That was HYDRA."
"Maybe… but I still did it." He then looked up at Tony, seemingly gathering his courage. "But before I go… there's something I need to do."
He approached Tony, standing before him like a man resigned to the gallows. Tony looked confused, eying the former soldier.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
"December 16, 1991," Bucky replied. "Do you know this date?"
Tony's blood froze cold, taking a step back.
"How do you know that date?"
"I was assigned a mission to collect samples of a recreation of the Super Soldier serum from Howard Stark. He was traveling to the airport with his wife to deliver the samples to Washington..." Bucky swallowed hard, clenched his fists, and continued. "I blew out the front passenger tire so they swerved into a tree, then collected the evidence. I was ordered not to leave any witnesses and to make it look like an accident… so I murdered Howard and Maria Stark."
Tony just stood in complete silence. The story washing over as a flood of long buried emotions began to surface.
"I know it can't even begin to make up for what I did, but I'm sorry."
Tony moved to attack, but Cap quickly held him back.
"Easy, Tony," he insisted.
Tony was breathing hard, everyone just watching the scene in stunned silence. After a moment, Tony pulled himself free of Steve's grip, turning away.
"Get him out of here..." he muttered.
Natasha and Clint began ushering Bucky away, the former soldier calling over his shoulder.
"You deserved to know the truth. Your father was a good man, Tony."
Tony just turned away, preparing to walk off when Cap stopped him.
"Did you know?"
"Of course not."
"Would you have told me if you did?"
Cap stayed silent, honestly unsure how to answer that. Having heard enough, Tony pulled himself free and walked off, leaving everyone behind to process everything.
In Helheim, Hela observed the entire exchange, smirking to herself.
"Interesting indeed," she mused.
Elsewhere, in the deepest reaches of space, Nebula arrived on the floating throne of her father, the case with the Tesseract in her hand.
"Father," she greeted, offering up the case. "It is done. The Tesseract is ours."
"Well done," her father replied, taking the case and opening it up.
He took out the Tesseract and held it in his hand. He marveled at it for a few moments, before squeezing it tight. Finally, the Tesseract shattered in his hand, much to Nebula's surprise. Spreading his fingers, the pieces of the cube scattered, leaving only a small, pulsating blue gem in its place.
"One down… five to go."