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Jane breathed deeply. Her throat was constricted and she could feel her eyes fill with tears. Her face buried tightly in her hands as everything in the last few hours hit her.

Asgardians died in droves against the Dark Elves. Yet, it had seemed that in the excitement of the moment, of victory and becoming a Valkyrie, it had been brushed away. It was hard to feel grief for people she didn't know.

Did it make her a bad person? She didn't think so but that guilt was eating at her now.

But she had never lost someone close to her, someone that she considered a friend.

Jane had gotten lucky in New Mexico. Darcy and Eric lived. Even Thor was pulled from the brink of death.

No disrespect to Thor or his sacrifice, but after what had just happened, that seemed more like a fairytale now.

Because she expected something like that to happen in New York with Percy. Where he'd breathe deeply and pull himself up, free from his injuries and then berate her for something she forgot from her training.

It seemed that this was a wake-up call. The real world did not work that way. That even someone as strong as Percy was still, at the end of the day…mortal.

It was both ironic and horrifying that her mentor's most vulnerable and human side of him, was when he lay dying.

It was burned into her mind and Jane would never forget it.

Percy was terrified. His body was broken, the way he labored and fought for every single breath. He knew he was going to die.

And yet, as terrified as he was, he seemed to accept and come to terms with it. Not comfortable with it, his terrified expression betrayed that notion, but he accepted it all the same. He had, after all, taken those few precious moments that remained to him to hand over his sword and bracelet to Sif.

Jane had long discarded her helmet, after applying a weak dose of the Mist, of course. Percy would have never let her hear the end of it if she forgot something so simple.

She wiped her face clear of the tears that continued to pool.

"Lady Valkyrie, are you in need of any assistance?" JARVIS asked sincerely, his manicured tone eased her mind somewhat. Tony had requested his suit about ten minutes ago. Jane was about to follow after a few minutes of no contact, an excuse to distract herself really, but was then stopped when JARVIS told her that the situation had been handled, even if the assailants had escaped.

"No…no…I'm fine. Just…letting it all out, I guess."

JARVIS continued. "They will be returning momentarily, Lady Valkyrie."

Jane was tired and she really didn't want to put her helmet back on.

So she didn't.

It wasn't like the Mist wouldn't work right?

And if it didn't, Tony did swear an oath to keep what he learned to himself.

If she learned anything about the Immortal Realm, was that they loved their promises and secrets. Sif, the witch and even that silver hunter lady would ensure that Tony didn't blab to the world who she really was.

She hoped it wasn't just a bluff at least but she doubted it. Sif had a terrible poker face.

Besides, now that she had Asgardian strength, she was sure her slaps could dish a lot more damage than before.

She didn't really have any experience or examples to draw from. She had only sparred with Percy and Sif, and she didn't think she could even call getting her ass handed to her repeatedly 'sparring.'

Jane grimaced.

Sif was the first to enter the hold, cleaning her armor of ash and soot with a piece of red cloth, while her sword's hilt dangled at her waist. Jane had almost forgotten that her blade was retractable…or was it summoned by magic? She didn't know the exact specifics.

Sif's helm was gone and her face was tight. She didn't appear entirely displeased, frustrated, seemed the more apt term. The Asgardian woman sat beside her, wiping and polishing her bracer clean of what looked like a black handprint.

"Stark's enemies are everywhere it seems," Sif announced to her as she continued to clean what soot was on her armor.

Sif either didn't notice or didn't care that Jane was without her helmet.

It was probably the latter if Jane had to guess. Sif wasn't the kind of person to miss something like that.

"Are you two alright?" A little worry crept into her voice.

Sif shrugged. "They will be no match for either of us but, of Stark, I do not know. He has his suit of armor so I am assuming he is fine."

Jane bit her lip. Was Sif really that confident in her abilities? She had been training for only a couple of months. She may have gone out on a limb and…stopped robbers but…that wasn't really fighting, was it?

And Percy had been thorough in his explanation of what they were doing, recounting it nearly every training session.

They weren't preparing her to fight. They were training her to kill. 'It's a huge difference.' He would say. 'It's one thing to fight, it is another to end it.'

They weren't doubting her ability even if compared to them she was still an amateur. Hell, she still felt like one. She didn't think she could fight Steve Rogers or Tony Stark, even with her wings and Asgardian strength.

That was the question she was always asking herself though. Was she ready to take a life or not?

Jane wiped at her eyes, clearing the remaining tears and sniffing sharply as Tony clambered into view and up the ramp of the Quinjet, a manila folder in his gauntlet. His suit peeled away from him and then reformed, moving towards the service table that it was originally at, the folder still in its metal hand.

He blinked and yawned, rubbing at his own baggy eyes. He looked ragged as if he hadn't slept well…or at all in the last couple of days.

Tony looked around.

Glanced at them.

Nodded to himself.

Took a few steps.

And then looked back to them.

More specifically, staring right at her with a bewildered and gaping look plastered across his face. Like a fish out of water.

Well, the Mist was worth a shot. Jane thought to herself. It wasn't how she imagined she would reveal herself. Most of what she thought would be at the side of Thor. Other times, at Percy's. Then there were the rare nightmare scenarios that would sometimes filter through her mind, where SHIELD managed to capture her somehow and experiment on her.

A small internal shiver ran up her spine at that thought.

Sif didn't even look up nor did she stop cleaning her armor. "You swore an oath to keep whatever you learned a secret, Stark."

"Ho-how?!" He stammered. Half-formed words and sounds came from him.

"Long story short, Thor's dad, King Odin made me Asgardian." That was their cover story and something she had spent a considerable amount of time rehearsing to make it sound convincing.

"Yeah, no I've let a lot of things slide lately but this…I'm going to need specifics." Tony said as he sat on a nearby table. "So what is it? They dump you in a steaming cauldron? Three-day gig in a basement? Maybe some weird Viking ritual?"

Jane was about to respond but was headed off by the woman beside her.

"The specifics are not yours to learn." Sif retorted from her spot. "Besides, the King forbade her from speaking of it."

Jane tried to speak but was cut off by Tony.

"Odin ain't here lady, she can talk if she wants." This time Sif did look up from her work.

"But I am here, Stark." She emphasized with a dangerous edge. "She knows she is forbidden from speaking of what occurred."

Tony looked at her.

Jane nodded slowly. "That's about as much as I'm allowed to tell anyone. It was a one-off thing. Od-" She corrected herself quickly. "King Odin was clear that no one else would receive it…and seeing as how he's the only one that can do it…" Jane trailed off. Sif seemingly satisfied that she wasn't about to spill the beans about the ancient rock that could destroy the universe, returned to cleaning her armor.

Tony sighed from his spot. "You shouldn't be hanging out with them." As an immediate afterthought, he added. "Or us, really."

"I can take care of myself." She retorted.

"Well, now you can." He gestured vaguely at her. "Not assuming anything here but Thor? If you're all Asgardian now, I'd think that he'd want to be here, or you…there." He looked to Sif and then her again. "On second thought, what is Thor doing?"

Sif shrugged

Jane shrugged as well. How the hell do you tell someone that their friend is off waging an intergalactic war? She disregarded that but did answer his first prodding statement. "I still have work here, can't just drop being an astrophysicist and disappear. Besides, P-" Sif immediately kicked her. "The Gold-" Jane frustratingly corrected herself. "Apollyon is-was keeping an eye on me as a favor to Thor."

Tony raised an eyebrow at her mistakes but didn't comment on them. "Didn't know he and Thor were buddies."

Jane shared a glance with Sif.

"They're not." Sif relented. "They…tolerate each other."

"Gee, I wonder why." Tony muttered sarcastically. "And he's okay with this?"

"What he wants and what was commanded are two different things." Sif bit out, growing irritated. "We are bound by our King, Thor may be a prince but he is no different."

It was something that even Jane still needed to get used to. She was raised as an American after all. She wasn't a history nerd, far from it, but even she knew the time of empire and monarchs had practically ended after the Second World War.

It was kind of hard to adapt to a system of government when it was at the opposite end of democracy But for them…it worked. She guessed it might've helped that their culture revolved around it and it seemed that their kings each held a lifespan that was measured in millions of years rather than thousands that relatively normal Asgardians held.

There was a pause before Tony sighed in exasperation. But it could have been in exhaustion as well given how disheveled the billionaire looked.

"Well get comfortable, I'm going to go through this file for any leads."

They sat in silence for a long moment before Sif hummed as she finished cleaning her armor, reclining in her seat and crossing her arms in relaxation. She closed her eyes. "You should get some sleep." The Asgardian woman suggested after a moment of silence.

Jane glanced sideways at her before turning her attention back to the Iron Man armor sitting on the workbench. It was just about the only interesting thing on the jet. "I'm not tired." Barring the wired state that she was in, she didn't exactly want to relive seeing Percy on his deathbed. It was such a vivid thing that Jane could almost guarantee she'd have nightmares from it for a long while.

"Suit yourself," Sif said. There was another moment of silence before Sif spoke again. "You do know that this is something he has long accepted, correct?"

Jane looked back at her. Sif's eyes were still closed. "What're you talking about?"

"His death is not on your hands. So do not guilt yourself into thinking so." Sif elaborated. "It is something that all warriors must come to terms with."

"Even you?"

Sif nodded and answered. "And you will as well, in time."

Jane thought for a moment as she looked to the deck of the jet, casting a look to Tony who was busy rifling through the folder in the cockpit, surrounded by multiple screens of data, pictures and videos. "It's not even that. He was terrified." She whispered.

Sif was silent for a long moment. Her eyes finally opened as she regarded her. The raven-haired woman swallowed slowly. "To come to terms with it is not the same as being comfortable." Sif finally conceded. "As guardians to the Throne of Asgard, our lives must be put first and foremost to protect whoever sits upon it and to carry out their will…" Sif glanced over to Tony. "Apollyon was no different. Whatever task he set out to do, was his own and he carried with it the threat of his life. Yet he still did it."

Jane didn't nod or acknowledge her words. Instead, turning her eyes back to the Iron Man armor and then to the deck of the plane. "I know that… it's still not that easy, though." She finally said. "To watch a friend die." The words were a near whisper that even Jane wasn't sure if it was said using her voice or in her mind.

Sif inclined her head slightly, her features schooled and tight as she looked away from her. "No." A short pause. "No, it's not and for your sake, pray that it never is. Otherwise, it will end up being you that people like him and I kill."

A chill went down her spine at those words.

Their conversation was broken when JARVIS spoke up. "Sir, incoming call from Doctor Richards. It sounds urgent." Sif and Jane looked at him. Probably for different reasons.

For Sif, it was probably because it cut into their conversation. If Jane knew anyone that didn't like being interrupted, it was Sif.

For Jane, there was only one that made any sense for Tony to be talking to. Doctor Reed Richards, a literal genius to anything he put his mind to. If the rumors in the astrophysics community held even a modicum of truth to them, the guy got a master's degree in less than two months of study and held a doctorate in the field in less than six months.

He made her feel like small potatoes in comparison.

"Richards, how's Pepper?"

"Hello to you too." The man's voice sounded tired but still deep. "Ms. Potts is fine. She's staying with us until this all blows over."

A sigh of relief came from him. "Thank you."

"It isn't an issue. Besides, it isn't why I called. I have a Ms. Hanson here that was adamant that she speak with you."

"Hanson?" Stark quickly rifled through the file in front of him and swiped at a holographic display. "Put her on."


"Mind telling how AIM is making supersoldiers using your research?" He said, cutting straight to the chase.

One could hear a pin drop.

Both the Asgardians stood and made their way over to the cockpit. Even Jane knew supersoldiers were a bad idea. Well, except Captain America.

There was a pause. "…make implies that it works."

"People are dead, Maya!" Stark near shouted. He breathed sharply and clutched tightly at his chest. "Your boss is giving literal human bombs to the Mandarin!"

"That's why I went to your mansion! I've been trying to get ahold of you to tell you!" She shouted back. "I need you to finish the formula to stabilize it so that those people don't explode!"

"And what gave you a change of heart, huh?" Tony bit out. "These guys have been blowing up all across the world for months now! You should've known what was going on!"

Another silence. "No excuse."

"That's not good enough." Tony finished. "Where's the Mandarin?"

"He's at Killian's mansion in Miami."

"Thank you." Jane could tell that Tony was still frustrated as he palmed his face. "Put Richards back on the line."

After a moment, the voice changed to the initial one. "We'll keep her here, Stark. No sense in letting her go until the Mandarin is dealt with."

"How long will it take you to synthesize a cure?"

There was silence before Richards answered, some competitiveness in his voice. "How long did it take you?"

"I stabilized the formula in a couple of hours drunk out of my mind and hungover." The savant bragged. Jane knew that if she was drunk that working on her projects was decidedly off the table. Not that it would probably stop Drunk Jane, nothing stopped Drunk Jane.

"That's not even possible." Richards retorted with a scoff.

"Apparently, it is."

"Considering your reputation, I don't doubt it." Another pause. "Stabilize the compound? A couple of hours, if that. Longer to synthesize large quantities. Maybe an aerosol delivery system? Could wo-"

"Think you can bring it to Miami?" Tony cut him off. "Because I have an Asgardian that has a score to settle and another that needs a distraction. There'll only be pockmarks left." Sif and Jane shared looks at the descriptions. Sif looked a little offended while Jane didn't visibly react. Mostly, because she agreed.

"Yeah, we'll meet you down there. I'll contact you again when we're on our way."

The line disconnected.

"Looks like we have a lead."

"That we do." Sif agreed, and then upturned her nose to Tony. "And I do not have a score to settle."

"You seemed pretty miffed that the Lava Girl got away."

Sif scowled before turning to her. "Be cautious, Jane. These beings are cunning. Remember your training and stay close to me and you will be fine."

"Stay close? On the ground?" That wasn't really in her training. Percy and Sif had only been drilling her to use her flight, speed and her lance's ranged capability to her advantage. Stay up in the air and shoot them from afar. She wasn't the best shot but it didn't really matter if she could just fly away and try again. Plus, Percy had said it would divide the attention of whoever she was fighting.

While she could certainly stay on the ground, Percy had impressed on her to never fight where she held no advantage.

Sif pulled her back, while not out of earshot, demanded a sense of privacy. The Sword of Asgard spoke in a quiet voice, one that betrayed her usual stoic and determined attitude. "I will not lose another under my watch. I ask that should you join us in the battle ahead, remain by my side."

Jane nodded slowly. The eagerness and need to do something dying away slowly. Sif's words, while a suggestion, was more of a demand than looking for any sort of answer. She would either stay at her side or be sidelined.

And Jane didn't want to be watching from the bleachers.

Not anymore.

Tony breathed deeply.

He knew that the regeneration of those people was familiar. He couldn't exactly place his finger on it while fighting one of them and, with him being as wired as he was, he didn't initially connect the dots.

And then Maya was mentioned.

Suddenly, it all clicked into place. Hanson's research and her appearance in Malibu. Tony wasn't a conspiracy theorist. He had some of the usual ones like Big Foot and Loch Ness; that was just a bit of fun really, but with everything clicking into place, she had to have been there with an ulterior motive. It certainly walked the line between coincidence and convenience.

She was trying to get him out of there. So she must've known about the attack, which she had apparently decided against warning.

Most ex-flings don't tend to have a personal vendetta against him. Sure there were the few crazies but even then, they didn't resort to almost killing him. Tony liked to think that they knew what they were getting into. It was him they were getting involved in. Any expectations they may have had was entirely on them.

He digressed. She had to have known what AIM was doing with her research. The Mandarin attacks weren't exactly known for their restraint or their subtlety. Someone like her should've immediately made the connection to their work.

I'm not buying it. Tony thought.

Tabling that for now, he spoke up. "JARVIS, how long till we're in Miami?"

"A severe tropical storm is developing off the coast of Florida and moving into the area. The ORACLE Cloud is currently working on an estimate of duration until it is clear enough to enter."

"I'm assuming that this is even in the Quinjet." Tony rhetorically said. "Get us to Tallahassee. We'll land and loiter in the outskirts until the storm passes."

"Flight plan to Tallahassee, Florida uploaded. Estimated time of arrival; three hours. Might I recommend you rest, sir?"

Tony seriously considered the suggestion.

But decided against it. "No, 42 still needs repairs. I'll be working on that."

There was a pause from JARVIS before he spoke up. "Very well. I recommend repairing either the power or flight systems."

Tony sucked in a breath. He only had those three hours to work on the suit. "I'll work on flight." He had a spare arc reactor. While it wouldn't fully charge the suit and would be inefficient as all hell since the power systems were practically shot, it could give it a decent boost in a pinch. Kind of like injecting someone with adrenaline or drinking an energy drink.

God, I can go for one of those right now.

Tony fished out what he needed from the crate and then, with a breath of preparation, began his work.

It was peaceful. It kept his mind busy and distracted. Working on his suits brought a sense of calm to him that he's needed since this whole debacle started. The quiet hissing of the soldering pen, the cranking of pistons and hydraulics, and the joining of metal plates.

The two Asgardians sat in the hold—well one Asgardian and one Jane Foster— Sif was running a sharpening stone across her sword. The metal clinking and scraping against it molding well with his own work. Jane was asleep, seemingly at ease with the work or too tired to care. She had since turned her armor into a silver mist which revealed human clothing, a button-up with a loose brown jacket over and black pants.

He still didn't know what to make of her and decided against pressing that train of thought further.

Tony really wanted to tell someone though. He definitely would've, had it not been for that damn promise.

That's not to say he never broke a promise. Tony had his fair share of promises that he had knowingly and quite happily broken and something this big would have at least been shared with the rest of the team.

But…he had no incentive to. Sif had saved his ass back in Rose Hill. Jane had given him no reason to do so and they were technically speaking…friends…through Thor and allies as Asgardians.

Tony didn't want to alienate the people that could bring some serious muscle to a party if the Avengers needed it.

Which reminded him of a couple of things.

Were the two even part of the team? If they were did that make, by extension, the Golden Warrior an Avenger?

He felt his bones chill at the idea. Working with that guy was the last thing he ever wanted to do if it was even on the list. Which it wasn't.

Tony was absolutely sure that putting someone named Apollyon and who put the literal fear of God into everyone around him onto the Avengers was not a good idea. It was the very opposite of a good idea.

This was probably one of the very few times that Tony was very glad someone was dead. It left a bad taste in his mouth considering who he was currently with but also a feeling of relief that he didn't have to deal with him anymore.

Which brought him to his second point.

Tony made it a point to never fight fair. Considering the types of threats he was expected to face as Iron Man; fighting fair meant he would die in the first minutes.

Even with Sif and Jane, Tony was not above further hedging his bets.

"JARVIS, what's the status on the vault?"

"Construction crews have begun excavating the cellar area. ETA six hours."

"Give me hourly updates on that."

"Sir." Tony continued his work.

It was only another hour or so did JARVIS announce that they were arriving in Tallahassee.

And Tony was exhausted. His eyes were heavy and he was drenched in sweat. There were a number of things on his mind. Sleep and a shower were starters followed quickly by food.

His stomach grumbled and he yawned.

"Might I suggest some rest, sir?"

Tony resisted the urge to bite out an expletive.

"JARVIS find the nearest motel." He grumbled out.

"Yes, sir." Tony noted the small amount of joy in his UI's voice.

Tony could sleep on the Quinjet, he's done it a few times but right now he wanted an actual bed and he was sure that the Asgardians would at least appreciate it.

It didn't take long for them to land near an out-of-the-way motel. It wasn't a Hilton but from its looks, it didn't seem to be a health code violation either.

Jane checked in for them since Tony didn't want to make a scene.

Sif and Jane went to their room while Tony went to his own, bringing 42 with him as security just in case.

Tony crashed just about immediately after he exited the shower.

He felt his stomach lurch upward and then downward. A vacuum as he was pulled deeper underwater.

Around him, sinking rebar and concrete. A whirlpool of water dragged him further downwards and thick cabling wrapped around him. He felt the Iron Man suit contort and squeeze him as if it was just a suit of rubber.

Then it all stilled.

The falling rebar and concrete froze in their descent. Even the massive discs that were once the balcony and roof of his mansion were frozen in the water, not moving an inch deeper into the water.

Pillars of bubbles began to flow upwards, like stacks of smoke from chimneys. Scant sparks and frying electronics still burst in the water and were the only sources of light in the dark water.

A red tendril of energy snaked through the water and grasped at his leg. Whatever that snake of energy touched, be it a piece of concrete or a line of cabling, seemed to dissolve and burn into red liquid as it was added to the tentacle.

And then the scene seemed to shift as he was dragged and abruptly thrown upwards and out of the water. He saw his armored gauntlets bracing himself against the ground as he pushed himself up from the remnants of his home.

Around him, it looked as if a war was being fought. A fury of amber bolts arced across the foundation and golems of concrete and stone lumbered forward, their fists covered in holographic green runes.

Tony stilled as he coughed and gasped for air. On the other side was the Golden Warrior. Or rather someone that was much more…evil than the one he encountered before. About him, instead of tendrils and spires of water, were tendrils of red liquid, not of blood but coagulation and lopping of…something

Whatever that wasn't gold or black was blood red and his eyes exuded such maroon energy that they looked to be more like pits of lava. In his arm, resting just above his wrist and embedded into the warrior's bracer was a brightly shining gem of red, where the streams of red liquid seemed to seep from.

That silver sword was held in the hand where the gem was kept, its green ribbons shining, melding and wrapping across and between the streams of red.

A deft wave of a golden arm and the bolts of amber flittered with red energy before turning into globules of gold and fell to the ground.

His eyes flicked to him before turning back to the golems and beyond.

Tony lifted and flew into the air and fired several repulsor beams at the being. The moment Tony did, the being looked towards him and raised his sword.

And the moment he did, a dozen and more streams of that red liquid struck towards him, faster than even the water tendrils he had fought and fled from.

They grasped him.

Tony blasted at them with his repulsors but they did nothing.

They began to engulf him, his entire armor and body began being encased in that red liquid. It crept up his neck, and onto his face.

It almost covered his vision.

And Tony blinked.

Tony gasped for air and his eyes shot open. 42 was standing at the side of his bed, looking down at him in a seemingly concerned manner but didn't outright attempt to wake him.

What the hell was that? The wormhole and the whole Battle of New York was its own can of nightmare worms. He didn't want to sleep already. Now he had more of an excuse to not do so if that one was going to become a frequent flier.

He looked at the clock. Almost noon. He pulled himself up while JARVIS' voice emanated from 42. "Sir, Lady Sif and Ms. Foster are outside, awaiting an order of pizza and checking out."

"Pizza for breakfast? Damn it's been a while since I pulled one of those." Tony wiped the tiredness from his face and refreshed himself in the restroom as much as he could. "Any idea on when we can hit Miami?"

"Yes sir. The tropical storm has since dispersed. Miami skies are nearly completely clear. However, I recommend finishing the repairs on Mark 42 before you proceed." Tony gathered what few things he brought with him, which wasn't much. 42 followed him out. It was a bit chilly outside but for the most part, it was nice, near-perfect weather with puffs of clouds about and blue skies as far as the eye could see. Jane was speaking and paying a pizza delivery guy while Sif was outside in her more civilian clothing, her hands tucked into the pockets of her leather jacket.

The two looked like bikers with how they dressed. Moreso in Sif's case than Janes who just looked like a college student.

They had gotten a rather large stack of pizza, six in total.

"The Mandarin can't wait. I'll finish up flight systems on the way." Tony said in a low voice.

"And the power systems, sir?" JARVIS' mimicked his volume.

"I'll make do."

"As you say, sir."

Jane handed off the pizza to Sif, who carried them with ease.

"You guys are going to eat all that?" Tony couldn't help but quip. Thor had his own appetite. Their one-time Shawarma trip showed it when he put away enough food that even Steve was impressed if a little horrified.

Jane flushed and Sif stared blankly at him, unamused.

"Turns out being an Asgardian means we eat more." Jane looked at the tower of pizza and Tony did as well. Tony didn't comment further. He knew when to stop, especially when it concerned that particular line of conversation.

It didn't take them long to get settled into the Quinjet and the two Asgardians ate their fill in relative silence while Tony worked and ate.

Though without his suite of specialized equipment, there was only so much he could do to fix the suit. The tech-savant was good but time had a tendency to be his worst enemy.

"JARVIS, how far out are we?" He asked as he was just finishing replacing 42's arc reactor. While it was a brand new one, given the damage the suit has it would be a miracle if there were even a handful of problems.

Following the old adage since his boxing match with Obadiah Stane, some armor was better than no armor.

"Three minutes, sir."

"Timed with change to spare," Tony said aloud and with a slight smile though more as a way to break the uncomfortable silence that had taken over since they initially got aboard. He backed into the suit, the plates interlocking and the faceplate clamping down. The HUD scrambling and fizzing on. Having previously summoned their armor from thin air, the two others in the hold were conversing quietly with each other.

"What is it that you require of us?" Sif approached Tony, her hand clasped around a wooden polished hilt. The Golden Warrior's sword was still in its black sheath though instead of at her waist, it was strapped to her back.

"Well, we're going to storm a building housing the most dangerous terrorist since bin Laden." Tony began casually as he stepped forward and onto the ramp of the Quinjet. "If the Mandarin is anything like him, expect a whole lot of radicals who would die to protect their glorious leader."

Jane seemed torn between horror and cracking a smile at his humor.

Sif was unamused. Talking to her was like talking to a wall.

"And should we have to kill your kind?" Sif pressed from her place. "Will that not anger some of your people?"

"I'll handle that." He waved his hand in dismissal. Tony and by extension, the Avengers had the best lawyers that money could buy. The Avengers made every attempt to minimize casualties where possible. Rules of engagement as Steve had put it and Tony agreed.

He wasn't a bloodthirsty individual, far from it. Not even during his weapon contracting days. He had put those days of ignorant neglect behind him and strove for peace where possible, but Tony had a grudge to settle with the Ten Rings and he was determined to see them rooted out, once and for all.

Sif nodded as she looked at Jane. "You have your earpiece?" Jane nodded, tapping the side of her helmet. Sif nodded and then grasped Jane's helmet by a wing as if it were an ear. "Keep close to me and do not hesitate."

"Okay, mom!" Jane rolled her eyes as she pulled herself away.

Sif remained unamused.

"Two minutes, sir."

"Keep her running dear! We shan't be long!" Tony called out into the otherwise empty hold.

"Sixty seconds, sir."

Jane and Sif formed shields and swords. Sif's sword erupted from that hilt she carried while her shield seemed to form from amber mist and into her hand, the bands of the shield etched in what Tony assumed to be Asgardian runes. Jane's weapons on the other hand were, while near-exact copies of Sif's sword and shield, seemed to be formed from sparking silver fire.

Tony couldn't help himself as he reached out and prodded the sword with a metal finger.

And to his surprise, the sword while being made of fire, was as solid as his suit. His sensors quickly indicated that it was as cold as steel.

"Does that burn you?" Jane asked, looking between his finger and her sword.

"Should it?"

"…To be completely honest, I don't know." She trailed off, embarrassed.

Tony's heart may have just failed right then and there with how much of a rookie Jane was. Tony leaned forward to look at Sif, the ramp lowering as he did so. "Are you sure she's ready?" He shouted. He wasn't one to turn down help but at this revelation sending Jane into the frying pan probably wasn't the best idea.

In answer, Sif placed a hand on Jane's back and pushed her forward, and followed closely behind.

Tony shook his head in exasperation and followed suit.

The Quinjet pulled away from the mansion and into the clear skies of Miami, Florida.

Sif fell past Jane like a missile, leaving a shallow crater at her point of impact, shield and sword at the ready. The dull thump was surprisingly quiet in the otherwise peaceful atmosphere.

Jane was surprisingly the more graceful of the two, her wings springing to their full length when she was just above the ground, allowing her to land far less aggressively before her wings disappeared.

It took her a moment longer to ready her own sword and shield.

Tony, on the other hand, did his signature landing. It was habit at this point, he built the dampeners for it and it was a stylish way to make an entrance.

There was no reason not to do it.

Tony looked around as he stood to his full height, his HUD taking in all the information of Killian's mansion. Save for the running water in a fountain and the lone chirping bird, the mansion that was supposedly playing host to the Mandarin was oddly quiet.

"Are we just going to stand around?" It was Jane who asked.

"It's too quiet…" Sif muttered as she looked around. "Guard coming up on the balcony."

They all ducked behind a hedgerow.

Tony, within the confines of his helmet, spoke to JARVIS. "JARVIS, anything you can tell me?"

"Thermal imaging indicates no EXTREMIS-enhanced individuals. However, there does appear to be a gathering of individuals in the structure of the master suite. I can discern seven armed guards from your current position towards that location."

"Give me specifics, JARVIS." He said before looking at Sif. "Sif, second floor, fourth door on the left. That's our target. They start shooting, they're all yours. Draw them out and I'll hit the room from the window."

Sif nodded and with one look towards Jane, "Stay behind me." Sif leapt out of her cover, shield up. Jane only a moment later.

Immediately, there was automatic gunfire and shouting but judging from the sound of a crashing door, further gunfire, screaming and shouting, the Asgardians were doing alright.

Tony leapt into the air, his boosters sparking and one even giving out intermittently, he then crashed into the window.

To their credit, the two guards inside did manage to whirl around and get off a pair of shots each before his repulsors sent them flying into the walls.

Another, two guards came in but were subsequently sent back out through a swinging door, breaking it off its hinges and into the wall of the hallway. There was still gunfire and shouting though being abruptly cut off.

Tony assumed it was the Asgardians or rather Sif's doing. He honestly didn't think that Jane was cut out for this.

Still, the Iron Man turned to face who he was after. The Mandarin.

Who, through all the gunfire, shouting, and shattering glass, was passed out on a lavish bed. There were two women clutching sheets close to their bodies in the corner. Empty beer cans were littered throughout the room and Tony was sure that was a brick of cocaine resting on the dresser along with all sorts of other narcotics. On a stand, there were the infamous robes and clothing of the Mandarin that always appeared on TV. If it wasn't for his obnoxious snoring, Tony would've thought he was dead.

Sif and Jane ran in a moment later, Sif spattered with blood across her armor, sword and face. Jane wasn't as disheveled, but from what Tony could see was extremely pale and looked like she was about to throw up.

Sif didn't waste a moment more as she strode into the room, pulling a red cloth from somewhere and wiping her sword clean. "Is this the warlord?" She gestured with an inclined head.

"Yeah." Tony wasn't impressed at all and he hadn't even talked to the dude. "Valkyrie, take these ladies out of here."

In all his experience with terrorists, which was, unfortunately, quite a lot, they never seemed like…slobs for lack of a better term. Ill-equipped and disorganized, but there was still a sense that they at the very least tried to be feared.

The guy sleeping on the bed didn't convey that image.

Jane did as he said escorting the two ladies to a different room. A few horrified gasps came from them but a lock and click later, Jane returned. Only to rush to the attached restroom to puke.

Tony and Sif didn't pay her any mind.

The Iron Man immediately went to work.

"Hey, Ringo!" Tony grabbed the shoulder of the Mandarin and yanked him into a sitting position. The man blearily blinked awake.

"Oh, blimey! You're Iron Man!" A distinctly pitched English accent came from him. His previous sleepiness seemingly forgotten. "I must say I'm a huge fan!" Too stunned at his excitement, lack of fear and…hygiene, neither Sif nor Tony moved to stop him as he reached over to his bedside and picked up a used lipstick and what looked to be a napkin. "Would you mind if I asked you for an autograph?" He shoved the two things into his armored gauntlets. "If you could make that out to Trevor Slattery, Actor Extraordinaire, that would be just lovely! Oh, where are my manners!? Would you fancy a beer?" The man pulled an undoubtedly warm beer from his bed stand and gestured good-naturedly to them both.

Tony had never felt so played in his life.

"What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are."

-C.S. Lewis, The Magician's Nephew

Just a little characterization for Sif, Jane and Tony. Probably not what's wanted but oh well. Next, one will be mostly just Percy. We'll be ending this arc in the next chapter as well so look forward to that!

On that note, (and as always), you can find me on the Emerald Library Discord! It's a fantastic place to interact with other writers and readers where we just chill and chat about ideas, future works and generally just have a good time! You can also find an update schedule for Of Water and Salt on there!

The link to that is on my profile!