“I still don't see why you gave Foster the weekend off. Don't you maybe think he should get...I don't know....acclimated to these people if he's going to be living among them?”
Stark squinted at the screen before him. Maybe it was time to give in to the modern convenience of Lasik...or maybe Pepper was right; he was simply getting old. He shook his head, swiping a graph table out of his view to sit at the far right corner of the screen.
“He'll have plenty of time to acclimate when he's there. What I don't see is the need to scare him more than he already is. We need him on board with this project. Say Simon meets Destructo who just happens to be in a bad mood rare as that may be and he has one of his panic attacks...see where I'm going with this? It'll just be that much harder with him when it's go time.”
Bruce shrugged, “I can't say as I want to be here either but here I am...”
“And I know why. Because you love it. You love seeing Loki play nice because if he doesn't he'll have to answer to his wife. You enjoy seeing him under the influence of a weapon far more powerful than anything we could dream up.”
“What would that be?”
“Yeah right,” Bruce adjusted his screen, tapping the model of a small cube which began to rotate, “I'm here because you made me an offer I'd be a fool to refuse. I'm just saying if I were Simon, I'd rather know what I was facing.”
Stark glanced up at the video feed from the tower parking garage. Still quiet.
“If there's anything I've learned from New York it's that you can't prepare for every contingency.”
Loki peered through the open door into the interior of the long black car where sat a heavyset man with curly salt and pepper hair. He was dressed in a dark blue suit. Upon the right lapel was pinned a badge which read “Stark Industries” with his picture underneath next to a bar code. He sported a pair of dark glasses that reflected the ivory rope lights lining the interior of the limousine.
“Mister Stark sends his apologies that he couldn't be here to accompany you upon the ride to the lab. He's been extremely busy lately with the new...project but he awaits your arrival most eagerly.”
“Papa,” Fen hurried forward, practically leaping into the limo to settle in to the leather seats, “If we do not hurry, we will not have time to see the city later!”
Eidra leaned into the limo nodding at the man, “Greetings, Mister Hogan. 'Tis lovely to see you again.”
“Happy, please. The pleasure is all mine.”
Eidra fixed Fen with the most serious mien she could muster, “Be sure to thank Mister Stark for allowing you to go with your father. I still believe you should come with us. If your suit fits you ill, 'twill be no fault but your own.”
“Rest assured ma'am Mister Stark's tailor is a miracle worker. His measurements will be enough,” Happy nodded to the eager young man, “Now if you'll excuse us, Mister Stark has a very strict schedule and he's a bear when we deviate from it.”
Eidra kissed her fingertips and planted them on Fen's cheek before retreating to allow Loki access.
“Have fun Papa,” Brenna waved at them before trotting off to the second limo in line behind the first where Pepper was standing at the open door talking to the chauffeur.
Before Loki could lower himself inside to take the seat beside Fen however, Eidra had his hand in hers, her lips pressed to his ear, “Please, show Fen what it is to be a true prince. Lead by example.”
Loki squeezed her hand, trying to drive the edge from his voice, “I will be on my best behavior.”
“I know you shall. We will see you at the evening meal.”
Loki watched her to Brenna's side before he at last sank into the seat beside Fen and the door shut behind him.
“The city is so noisy,” Fen stared out the window behind his head, “The horseless carriages and their horns, the people...everyone trying at once to be heard..”
“ 'Tis no different in Asgard...,” Loki muttered, “Save for the horrendous fumes which pollute the air from those metal monsters.”
Loki cast a glance toward Happy waiting for a reaction but the man sat there, hands folded in his lap, regarding them, his eyes unreadable behind dark sunglasses.
But for Fen's constant chatter, the ride would have settled into an uncomfortable silence.
“Papa, might we travel to the island with the statue of the lady upon it this time?”
“Papa, look at the man playing the fiddle just there..”
“Papa, Mama said we might go to one of the marketplaces to find a memento of our adventure..”
“So she did...”
At last Happy spoke up, “How old are you, son?”
“I am eleven seasons.....well nearly so.”
Loki glared at Happy though Fen was oblivious to the caustic remark.
“I will be a man soon when I am turned twelve.”
Happy looked over the tops of his sunglasses first at Fen then at Loki, “You don't say. Twelve years old?”
“Yes,” Fen sat straighter in the seat, “After my rite of passage I will be allowed to participate in rituals with my father and the rest of the elders. I can join in the wild hunt, purifications in the sweat lodge, I may attend the High Council meetings and lend my voice to the proceedings...”
“You're pretty well spoken for a kid,” Happy grunted, “You sure you ain't twelve already?”
Fen giggled at the jibe but Loki was far from amused.
“We school our children well on Asgard, Mister Hogan! We are far from barbarous savages contrary to what you might have been led to believe.”
Happy held up his hand, “Honestly, I don't know jack about Asgard, sir. All's I am is the head of security at Stark Industries. The only thing I gotta know is how to do my job properly.”
“Indeed,” Loki spat, arms crossed in front of his chest, “And does not doing your job properly require you to know the charges you are securing?”
At this Happy gave a slow smile, “Now that's where you got me wrong, sir. I know all about you.”
The limousine took a right hand turn into a parking garage leaving the frantic noisy city streets behind as it descended into the bowels of Stark Tower, through a gate and past a gatehouse in which stood a serious looking young man sporting a bulletproof vest over a dark blue security officer's uniform. At last the limo rolled to a stop outside a set of green elevator doors.
“Here we are,” Happy nodded as the limousine door swung open, “Home sweet home.”