Venite, venite in Bethlehem.
Natum videte Regem Angelorum,
Venite adoremus Dominum!
I have been contemplating writing fan fiction for a long time, readers. Until recently, I was reluctant to put any sort of creative writing up on my blog. But masterleiaofasgard’s first foray into fan fiction inspired me to try my hand at it. The result is this story about the Avengers, which takes place a little while before Christmas.
Set in the MCU – or Marvel Cinematic Universe – it takes place before Avengers: Age of Ultron. For this reason, the Maximoff twins and Vision are not in the story. There are also a few winks and nods in my story to masterleia’s first fan fiction piece, which you can find and read here: https://superherofactsandtrivia.wordpress.com/2015/11/14/yes-my-first-fan-fic/.
If you enjoy my story and would like to copy it to your computer for yourself, then I would ask that you request permission of me first. Masterleiaofasgard gets first dibs on it, if she wants it, since it was her story that got this ball rolling in the first place. 😉
Enjoy, readers – and Merry Christmas!
The Mithril Guardian
An Avengers’ Snow Day
by The Mithril Guardian
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters.
Natasha Romanoff poured herself a cup of coffee. “So, what are your plans for Christmas, Steve?” she asked.
Steve Rogers leaned back in his chair, tossing the latest issue of the Daily Bugle onto the table as he moved. “I’m not sure,” he admitted. “Maybe some research.”
She raised an eyebrow at him. When Steve said “research,” he was referring to his hunt for his old friend, Bucky Barnes, otherwise known as the Winter Soldier, once one of the deadliest assassins of all time.
Natasha suppressed a shudder. The man was aptly named; the only person she had ever seen that cold and unfeeling had been herself. And even she had had some fears when she worked for the KGB, some insecurities.
The Winter Soldier had none of that.
Still, he had saved Steve’s life. Maybe there was something of his old self buried under those years of HYDRA programming after all. She knew that Steve certainly believed there was. Even while working for the Avengers, he made as much time as he could to search for Barnes. Sam had been helping him, running down leads or talking to sources when Steve was engaged elsewhere.
Lately, they had been very busy elsewhere. HYDRA was more active than ever. The Avengers had tackled five different bases in the last two weeks, all within days of each other. Today was one of their first real chances to relax and get some down time.
Steve shrugged. “We’ll see.”
“Did I hear someone say Christmas?” Tony Stark asked as he entered the room.
Natasha hid a wry smile. Tony had been holed up in the lab with Bruce for the past few hours, working on some project the two had dubbed “Veronica.” It figured that he would show up right in the middle of what she had been hoping would be a private, productive conversation with Steve. “Because I am throwing a Christmas party in a couple of days, Pepper will be here, and you’re all – naturally – invited.”
“I won’t mind coming.” Steve looked at her. “What about you, Nat?”
“It’s free food. Who could turn that down?” she asked, sipping her coffee. She would have to pay a visit to her nephew and niece before the party, or after it. Clint would help her work something out. “Where’s Bruce?”
“Still in the lab,” Tony replied. He grabbed a mug and headed for the coffee maker. Natasha moved a little so that he could get to the machine. She took another sip as he went on, pouring his coffee. “He wants to double check some of Veronica’s systems.” Tony looked around. “Where are Barton and Thor?”
“Landing pad.” Natasha took another sip. “They were having some kind of a discussion – ”
She stopped when she saw Steve and Tony share a look. “I’ll go check on them,” Steve said, standing up. As he left the room, Natasha gave Tony one of her most irritated frowns.
He ignored it, as usual. “He’s not stupid, you know,” she said, “Clint’s not going to get Thor angry just for the heck of it.”
“He’s Barton. He can get someone angry just by looking at them,” Tony retorted.
Natasha shook her head, rolling her eyes. “Have you invited Jane Foster to the party?”
“No, because she invited Thor to her latest research lab for Christmas.” Tony glowered as he drank his coffee. “He’s skipping the event. Think Clint will stay?”
Natasha shrugged. The answer was no, Clint was going home to his wife and children for Christmas. But she was the only Avenger who knew about his family. He had agreed to work for SHIELD only as long as Fury kept his family out of the agency’s files and never told anyone that they existed. Laura and the kids had subsequently been erased from reality – digitally and on paper – and no one, not even Hill or Coulson, had ever known that Clint was not a bachelor.
Clint and Natasha had both been grateful for that after HYDRA was revealed to be within SHIELD’s ranks. Clint had had three assassin teams chasing him down while Natasha and Cap were working to stop Project Insight. “It’s extremely flattering that they decided you were so threatening they needed to send three teams to kill you,” she had teased him.
“You’re the only one who would think three teams, composed of fifteen assassins each, hunting you for a week, was a compliment,” he had shot back, holding an ice pack to his twisted knee. One of the HYDRA assassins had managed to throw him before Clint had taken him down. Natasha and Steve had arrived just as he put an arrow through the last standing assassin. “What kept you?” he had asked as they had approached, rolling onto his back with a tired huff.
Natasha hated to think of what would have happened if Clint’s family had been on SHIELD’s files. Some agents who hadn’t taken Clint’s precautions had lost their families in HYDRA’s uprising.
She knew Clint disliked keeping his family a secret from everyone on the team; but at the same time, telling them was a risk. Steve could keep that kind of a secret – Natasha knew that risking lives, especially the lives of children, was one of the last things he would do. Bruce could probably keep from mentioning them, too.
Thor… Well, if he were to know, he would do his best not to let the secret out. But Thor could not be guaranteed to keep a secret. He tried, but Earth wasn’t his home. He had given away a couple of other secrets when asking questions meant to clarify something he didn’t understand, to Tony’s and Natasha’s embarrassment. Tony made himself feel better about the no-longer secret drawer full of his kiddie toys – thanks to Thor – by picking on Natasha’s craving for yogurt with pistachios, which Thor had also accidentally revealed.
A bout in the training room two weeks later had made Tony shut up about her culinary preference.
Of them all, Tony was the worst at keeping secrets. Unless they were his secrets – like his secret drawer full of childhood mementos, or the fact that his first arc reactor design had been killing him. The only reason any of the Avengers knew about Veronica (whatever it was) was because Bruce had told them about it. It was supposed to be some kind of a countermeasure if he should lose control of the Hulk. So far, though, they still didn’t know whether Veronica was a program or a cage.
“So,” Natasha asked. “What’s Veronica?”
“Ah, ah, ah!” Tony said from behind his mug. He finished his coffee and set the mug on the counter. “All will be revealed at the Christmas Party, grasshopper! Don’t get your stingers in a knot, Natasha!”
“If you don’t at least give me a hint, I might tangle them in you,” she retorted in a tone of mock injury. Tony was being his usual annoying self, she could see. Veronica was something he desperately wanted to keep under wraps, and he had either convinced Bruce to keep his mouth shut about the project or coerced him into silence. Natasha would not put either tactic past him.
“All right, one hint,” he said. “It’s red.”
“That’s helpful,” she sniffed.
Suddenly, a loud crash sounded from the direction of the landing pad. Natasha shot Tony a look, meeting his own worried glance as she did. Then they were both running in the direction the sound had come from.
Natasha heard the laughter first. Or at least, upon hearing it, she was the first to slow down. Tony kept running. So when a snowball flew through the broken window and hit him in the chest, he went flying back toward her.
Dropping to the floor, Natasha rolled forward and came up on one knee as Tony crash landed behind her. She heard him gasp as he hit the floor, grunted, and then rolled over.
Out on the landing pad, which was covered with snow, Steve and Clint were both in battle positions, each with a snowball in one hand. Clint was dressed warmly – he was even wearing gloves – while Steve was still in his short sleeved shirt and jeans. Clint’s clothes were dusted with snow but Steve’s were soaking wet.
Some distance ahead and facing them was Thor, his hammer raised. Steve and Clint were looking over their shoulders and into the Tower. All three men were staring past Natasha into the room behind her, where Tony was getting to his feet, wearing the expressions of naughty children who had just been caught pilfering cookies from the cookie jar. Actually, she thought, Steve just looked surprised. Clint and Thor both had faces that said uh-oh.
Clint spoke first, pointing at Thor with his free hand. “It was his fault!”
“You threw the ball of snow!” the Asgardian retorted.
“You’re the one who broke the window! And sent the next snowball through it!”
“This game was your idea!”
“Yeah – “
Natasha heard the distinctive sound of repulsors powering up somewhere behind her and threw herself to the floor, ignoring the bits of broken glass that lay under her. At the same time, Steve dropped his snowball and leapt over to push Clint out of the line of fire. He fell into the snow with a yelp, Steve jumping past him, as Tony’s repulsor blasts took Thor in the chest and sent him flying to land in the snow halfway down the landing pad.
Iron Man flew out onto the landing pad. He descended, leaned over, and picked up some snow, packing it into a ball. “Why don’t you guys invite me to these parties?” he asked testily.
Thor stood up and wiped some snow out of his beard. He grinned the smile Natasha had privately dubbed his battle smirk, which he only put on when he was getting ready to enjoy a coming fight. Then he let Mjolnir’s handle drop from his hand, so he could swing it by its unbreakable thong. Tony threw his snowball at him, but Thor hit it with the hammer and sent it flying back to the armored Avenger, post haste.
The self-described genius, playboy, billionaire, philanthropist obliterated the snowball with a single repulsor blast. But Thor’s next snowball, drummed up by his hammer, caught Tony in the helmet.
“Consider yourself cordially invited to our battle of snow!” Thor shouted.
Tony shook his head, clearing most of the snowball residue from his mask. Then he took off and flew at Thor, who sent a number of other snowballs at his teammate from the hammer wind-milling in his hand.
Now that she wasn’t dodging snowballs and irked Avengers, Natasha could see that the snow on the landing pad, which had been as clean and unmarred as new paper this morning, was a slushy mess. Thor, Steve, and Clint’s antics had clearly ranged over the half of the landing pad closest to the Tower. Understandably, the snow on the overhang of the landing pad was relatively untouched. Since Steve and Clint couldn’t fly, it made sense that they would keep the Tower to their back and not court fate by going too close to the edge.
“You okay?” Steve asked. Natasha looked up to see him watching her, concern in his expression. Clint hauled himself out of the snow and began dusting his coat off with his free right hand. He still had a snowball in his left.
“Fine,” she said, sitting up cautiously. “What started all this?”
Steve looked at Clint, who shot them a glance that was just too innocent. “I asked Thor what they do in Asgard this time of year, and that led to him asking what we do for fun here on Earth in the winter.”
“And you suggested a snowball fight?”
“Well, I knew he wouldn’t be interested in snowmen or snow angels,” Clint replied somewhat defensively. “And I don’t think we could get him on a ski slope without risking an avalanche. All I said was ‘fight,’ and he asked what I meant. It was all perfectly calm until Cap showed up.”
“Ha,” Steve replied. “Thor was getting fed up with Clint hitting him all the time and dodging every third snowball thrown at him.”
“Hey, he can kill someone with one of those things, at the velocity he throws ‘em!” the archer retorted.
“So I got in on the action,” Steve went on, unperturbed. “And one of our snowballs ended up through the window.” He gestured to the now-empty window frame. “I told Tony it was a bad idea to have so many windows in this place.”
“It was already built by then,” Clint said. His eyes went to Tony and Thor. Tony was taking a lot of hits, but he occasionally managed to catch one of Thor’s snowballs and throw it back at him. “Shell Head’s getting the worst of it, Cap.”
“He shouldn’t have shot Thor. Reminds him too much of that fight they had in the woods when we were bringing Loki back to the Helicarrier.”
“One of the few things I wish I had been able to see during those three mind-controlled days,” the archer growled. “Anyway, do you think we should even things up a little?”
Natasha fully expected Steve to say no. To her surprise, though, Steve cocked his head and asked, “Who do you want?”
“Stark,” Clint said at once. “Thor’s mad at me, remember?”
“And having Tony angry at you is better?”
“Well, at the worst, he’ll have me sing Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” Her teammates had only recently discovered that Clint could sing. Tony liked to push him into games where he was forced to do whatever anyone asked him, and Tony’s particular joy was tormenting Clint by having him sing any number of songs. Some Clint liked (though he never told Tony which ones those were), others he hated. “Thor might sit on me – or throw me out a window as a way of getting some exercise. He won’t do that to you.”
“All right.” Steve bent down, scooped up a handful of snow, and packed it into a ball. “One, two – “
“Three!” Clint let his snowball fly as he spoke. It hit Tony in the side of his helmet as Steve’s snowball, a few seconds behind the archer’s, splattered on Thor’s shoulder.
Both turned toward Clint and Steve, who were already packing new snowballs together as they ran in separate directions.
Natasha watched the two snowball teams start an all-out snowball war, her mouth hanging open. Earth’s mightiest heroes, they were called, and here they were acting like schoolboys!
She closed her mouth and shook her head. She couldn’t pretend to understand that. Her childhood, such as it was, didn’t include snowball fights, snowmen, or snow angels. She had done all of those things since she had become Cooper and Lila’s “aunt,” but doing them with other adults… Something about it made her feel self-conscious. She despised that feeling.
“It looks like they’re having fun.”
Natasha turned when she heard Bruce, surprised. He met her gaze and smiled a little. “I’d join them, but I think they’d just get scared.” He held his hand out to her. “Need some help?”
She didn’t. She could get up on her own. But for some reason she took his proffered hand and let him help her up. “You wouldn’t turn green?” she asked, dusting glass powder from her clothes.
He shrugged. “Maybe if I fell over the side, or if someone did something mean, like sit on me –” He flashed another smile at the reference to Clint’s last statement. “But I think I could handle a little snowball fight.”
He looked back out at the landing pad. Natasha followed his gaze and was just in time to see Clint pull Tony out of the sky by his boots. Whatever dignity Iron Man had left went out the window as he somersaulted in midair and landed on his head in a pile of snow. Clint grinned at his handiwork, then had to duck as a snowball Steve had thrown at Thor was deflected over his head. He kicked the Prince of Thunder’s legs out from under him and Steve seized the opportunity to shove snow onto the Thunderer’s chest. “They work together better than Thor and Tony do.”
“No, not just in this snowball fight,” Bruce said. He paused as they watched Tony pull himself out of the snow pile, grab Clint by the shoulders, and throw him into a different drift of the white stuff. “And not just Steve and Clint. I mean, Thor and Steve work together better in a battle than Tony and Thor do. Clint can work with any of us – I think.”
Natasha guessed he was referring to the battles where he turned into the Hulk. She could remember a few instances when Clint had worked with the Hulk, but sometimes Bruce’s memories of his time as Big Green were sketchy, so he wouldn’t remember everything he and the others did in a battle very well. “But Steve’s the only one who doesn’t seem to have trouble working with Tony.”
“Well, Stark’s a bit of a showboat,” Natasha explained. “He’s hard to work with because you’re never quite sure just what he’s going to do or say. Steve’s adaptable – more so than I once gave him credit for,” she admitted, “so whatever Tony does, he can roll with it. But there are times Stark does or says something that distracts the rest of us. It makes him hard to work with.”
Clint got his revenge on Tony by flinging snowballs at his helmet. One covered the facemask’s eyes and forced Tony to land. Clint used the moment it took Tony to clean the snow off his mask to run toward him, then fell into a sliding-skid, stopping behind him. He threw a snowball to Steve, who grabbed it and threw it at Tony.
Before the billionaire could react, the snowball hit him in the chest – and with Clint on his hands and knees behind him, Tony didn’t have a prayer of staying upright. He tumbled over Clint and landed on the floor with a loud clunk Natasha and Bruce could hear clearly from inside. “How did you know about the snowball fight?” Natasha asked.
“J.A.R.V.I.S. told me about it,” Bruce answered.
“He didn’t tell us.”
“The window broke before he could. Or so he said. Personally,” Bruce smiled at her again. “I think he was hoping you and Tony would get in on the fight.”
“Moi?” Natasha asked, faux haughtily. “Join in that?” Thor was whirling Mjolnir again, peppering Tony, Clint, and Steve with snowballs. Most of the snowballs, though, were aimed at Tony.
Bruce shrugged, still smiling. “So what’s Veronica?”
“Tony wants it to be a surprise. I can’t tell you.”
“Is it a cage?” For some reason, Natasha was really hoping it wasn’t. The idea of Bruce being locked up in a cage, even when he was the Hulk – once the image would have given her comfort. Now, it just frightened her.
“A cage would be kind of useless in the middle of a city, wouldn’t it?” he asked. His smile softened. “No, Natasha, it’s not a cage. But I really can’t tell you what it is just yet. I don’t want you to have to fake surprise when Tony unveils it.”
“I can fake surprise really well,” she told him.
“I know. But I’d rather you didn’t have to.”
Tony fired his repulsors again, but this time Thor leapt over the twin blasts and pointed Mjolnir at the billionaire genius. A huge glop of snow, conjured out of thin air by the weather warping hammer, landed on Iron Man’s head. He fell to the landing pad, completely covered in snow except for his boots. “Ding-dong, the Witch is dead!” Clint began to sing, raising his voice to imitate a Munchkin’s. Even Steve doubled over with laughter at the jibe.
“He just avenged himself on Tony,” Bruce chuckled. Natasha giggled. Tony had begun calling Clint ‘Katniss’ every now and again. Some bright spark on the Internet had started the trend and Tony, naturally, had picked up on it and begun using it on Clint. In response, Clint had given Tony the nickname ‘Shell Head,’ also gleaned from the Internet somewhere. Natasha wasn’t sure who got more of a kick out of which taunt.
Tony struggled out of the pile, growling and gasping. Thor dropped the hammer and hauled him the rest of the way out, then threw him back into the snow. “Yield!”
“Nope!” Tony replied, throwing snow at his face. Thor blocked most of the snow, but that left him open to Tony’s lunge. The armored Avenger caught the Prince of Asgard around the waist and knocked him to the landing pad. Steve and Clint discretely retreated to make more snowballs as Thor, taking two handfuls of snow, clapped both hands and their contents to the sides of Tony’s helmet. “Tony says it’s red.”
“Hmm?” Bruce asked.
“Ha. Yes, it is.” Steve and Clint began pelting their teammates, still struggling on the landing pad, with snowballs. “Think we should call the kids in?”
“Nah,” she said. “They’ll come in when they’re ready. Or when they’re cold enough.”
They watched as Thor summoned his hammer. Once it was in his hand a snowstorm, localized to the landing pad, erupted. Steve and Clint both cried out in surprise. “Okay, okay!” they heard Clint shout. “Uncle! Uncle! We give up!”
The miniature blizzard stopped. Steve and Clint were both covered with a fine layer of frost and snow while Tony, who had been at the epicenter of the small storm, was almost completely encrusted in ice. Thor had shoved him off him at some point and was now standing beside the prone Stark frosticle. “Do you yield now?”
There was a muffled answer; the ice had shorted out Tony’s armor.
Natasha burst into giggles as Bruce smiled widely. Thor leaned down and broke the ice covering the lever that would open Tony’s flaps. He pulled the lever and the flaps opened. A minute later, the armor rebooted and Tony tottered to his feet. He pulled his helmet off, coughing and gasping. “Best two out of three?”
“If you’re ready for another bout,” Thor said, tossing and catching his hammer.
Tony nodded, then shook his head. “Hey, Nat, is there any coffee in there?” Clint called.
“There is!” she answered.
“Great!” he called as he jogged up to the broken window. He stepped in and began shrugging off his jacket. “’Cause I could use something warm to drink.”
“Come on, then, you big baby!” She took his wrist and began leading him toward the kitchen. You’d think that, since you were raised in Iowa, you would have a higher tolerance for the cold, she teased him mentally. In truth he did. That he should claim to be cold implied Thor’s localized snowstorm was colder than it had appeared.
Her suspicion was confirmed when Steve joined them in the kitchen, accepting the cup of Joe she handed him without a word. But then, maybe being in the snow had reminded him of his seventy year suspension in the ice in Greenland. “J.A.R.V.I.S., when can we get that window fixed?” she asked.
“I am already working on it, Miss Romanoff,” the AI responded calmly. Tony clunked into the room, still in his armor, Bruce beside him. Thor was following them, brushing snow off his cloak.
A wicked notion entered Natasha’s mind. “J.A.R.V.I.S.,” she looked at the ceiling. “Did you get any of that on film?” Tony looked up at her, utterly aghast.
The AI generally managed to maintain his butler-style professionalism with the Avengers, though he had demonstrated a sarcastic side a number of times. This time, Natasha detected a definite note of smugness in his response. “There are a large number of cameras that look out onto the landing pad, Miss Romanoff.”
“Hmm.” Clint was watching her, his eyes lighting mischievously. Steve was looking into his coffee, but there was a definite upturn to the corners of his mouth as he drank. Bruce was grinning, too. Thor was the only one who seemed a little puzzled. He still wasn’t that at home with the Internet.
“J.A.R.V.I.S., don’t you dare!” Tony barked. He was pulling off his armor piece by piece. Natasha heard her phone ding and began fishing it out of her pocket. “If you put that on Youtube –“
“I wouldn’t dream of it, sir,” J.A.R.V.I.S. responded very, very innocently as Natasha looked at her email.
She smiled as she worked on her phone. “But I would,” she said, turning the phone around. The boys were treated to a brief clip of their snowball fight, now free for viewing on the Youtube channel Tony maintained for the Avengers.
Tony spluttered with rage as the others burst out laughing. “Relax, Tony,” Steve managed through his chuckles. “It’s not exactly a bad image.”
“Yeah, it proves we’re human,” Clint agreed. He took another pull of his coffee, then set the mug on the counter. “Which reminds me, I have some stuff to take care of over Christmas. Need to check up on some old SHIELD contacts, make sure they’re still – “ He searched for a word that would express things gently, then shrugged and gave up. “You know, on our side.”
“Need any help with that?” Natasha asked immediately. Clint probably did want to see if any of their friends from SHIELD were still alive, but most of what he would be doing was spending Christmas with Laura and the kids. This was his way of letting her know what his plans were for getting home. And as it was, she could think of a few people she wanted to check on from SHIELD, too: her old friends Melinda May and Bobbi Morse, not to mention that kid, Tripp…
Clint shot her a furtive glance. “I may have to call you in,” he admitted slowly. “But I wouldn’t want to drag you away from the party.”
Natasha waved a hand airily. “So call me after. It’s no big deal.” Only Cooper and Lila would think it was a very big deal when she arrived on Christmas morning, specially delivered by Santa Claus. At least, last Christmas Lila had still believed in old St. Nick. Natasha wondered if that had changed yet.
Tony moaned. “Are you staying for Christmas?” he asked Bruce.
“Where would I go?” the other asked, spreading his hands. “It sounds like it’ll be a great party. And Natasha can always tell Clint about Veronica after she gets the details at the party.”
“Yeah, yeah, okay,” Tony muttered.
“Oh, Bruce, I just remembered,” Clint sat up suddenly and began rummaging around in his jacket, which he had dropped in the chair beside him. “Since I won’t be staying, I thought I’d give you your Christmas gift early.” He pulled a package about the size of his hand from his jacket and tossed it to Bruce.
Bruce caught it and looked at it. “It has your name on it.”
“Yeah, I ordered it. It’s for you. Open it up.”
Bruce tore off the paper wrapping on the box and looked at it. “A survival kit?” he asked.
“In case you somehow get separated from us when we’re out on a job,” Clint explained. He reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a small container, which he held up for Bruce to see. “Never go anywhere without one myself. I didn’t know what else you could use,” he admitted sheepishly.
“No, this is good,” Bruce took the rest of the wrapping off. “Comes with most of the stuff I’d need, too. Wait, it’s got bug spray? And a bandana?”
“If you ever find yourself in the middle of Afghanistan, that bandana will be a life saver,” Clint said immediately. He went on as he returned his own survival kit to his pocket. “And the bugs in Thailand are enough to kill you just by irritation. Seriously, I thought I was going to lose my mind when I went sloshing through the jungle out there. That spray should kill most anything – it even works on palmetto bugs.”
Natasha shuddered. “I didn’t think they could make anything strong enough to kill those overgrown roaches.”
“I thought I’d test it out, see how effective it was,” Clint explained. “I don’t know if it will work on tarantulas or scorpions, but it kills palmetto bugs. If it can do that, then it’s pretty damn potent stuff.”
“Oh, that reminds me!” Natasha ducked below the counter and came back up with a bottle of wine. “This is for you, Steve,” she handed it to him. “Made in Brooklyn, 1918.”
“Three years before the Prohibition Era,” he said, hefting the bottle. “Thanks, Nat. Anyone want a drink?”
“Perhaps later on,” Thor broke in. “Since I am not going to be able to attend your party and you are all giving gifts, I realize that it might now be a good time to give you mine.”
“Gold statues celebrating our greatness?” Tony asked hopefully as he stepped out of his armored boots, which promptly fell over due to ice build-up. Natasha sighed and Steve rubbed his eyes tiredly.
“A trip to Asgard?” Bruce asked excitedly. Clint groaned.
Thor chuckled. “No, not that, my friends. Come!” He gestured back the way they had come. “To the landing pad! We will need some room for this!”
“Please tell me we’re not going to Asgard,” Clint said, getting out of his chair. Steve left Natasha’s gift on the counter and got out of his own chair. They all followed Thor down the hall back to the landing pad, Clint pulling on his jacket as they went. “No offense, but I’m still not sure Loki’s dead, and I’d rather not run into him on his home turf.”
“We will be going to Asgard only briefly,” Thor explained.
Natasha thought he sounded very patient and understanding. Clint had been suspicious of the circumstances surrounding Loki’s death, and Natasha had to admit that, since Thor had not brought his body back to Asgard for a funeral, she was inclined to agree with the archer. Never believe someone was dead unless you could confirm the dead body in front of you was theirs – that was what they believed. Clint had spent most of his adult life in SHIELD, and Natasha had been raised to be a spy. They both knew how easy it was for humans to fake their deaths. For a master of magic like Loki, feigning death would probably have been a walk in the park.
Despite the fact that Thor did not share Clint’s or her concerns, he had kept his anger in check. Maybe he figured it was better to leave them with their own suspicions than to start a feud with them. Or maybe he just thought it was better to humor them. Natasha could not decide which it was.
Thor continued, “But our true destination is Alfheim. I think you will enjoy it.” He smiled at Clint over his shoulder. Natasha guessed he had chosen Alfheim with Clint in mind. Wonder why? She thought. “The portion of Alfheim we will be visiting has mild winters. You may not need that coat where we are going, but should it prove otherwise, they can furnish warmer attire.”
“So what’s in Alfheim that we can’t live without seeing?” Tony asked.
“The Festival of Lights,” Thor said. “It is – well,” he stopped as he pushed open the door and stepped out on the landing pad. “If I were to describe it to you, we would not need to go. And it is something better seen than told!”
They walked out onto the landing pad and Thor got them bunched together as closely as possible. “Heimdall!” he shouted, looking up at the sky. “Open the Bifrost!”
The Rainbow Bridge, as it was known in Norse mythology, struck the landing pad briefly. Then it vanished, leaving an Asgardian symbol imprinted on the metal beneath it. It would be a few hours before the team returned, flushed with excitement (and a little Alfheim ale), ready to continue handing out gifts.
But for now, J.A.R.V.I.S. would keep Avengers’ Tower warm and safe until they returned. Just to amuse himself while they were gone, J.A.R.V.I.S. began flashing the words “Merry Christmas!” on the roll across under the giant A on the Tower’s face. Then he started playing music throughout the Tower. It was music performed by his favorite Christmas artist, Manheim Steamroller. With Tony on another world, he could not complain about the music and J.A.R.V.I.S. could have a little time to himself.
Way back in the past I put up a post about my favorite TV intro songs and music. One of the shows that got top billing was Donald Bellisario’s JAG, a series that focused on Navy lawyers and was the predecessor of NCIS. (Unfortunately, the video in that post which showed the introduction theme for JAG is no longer operable.)
One of the great things about the JAG series was that the season would include a Christmas episode, a tradition NCIS continues to this day.
A particular Christmas episode from season seven of JAG caught the attention of one of my friends. This was due to a sermon given by actor Bill Cobbs, who played a Navy chaplain in this episode. Here is that sermon from JAG’s “Answered Prayers”:
Chaplain Turner’s Christmas Eve Sermon
When God revealed himself to us, he did so through a family; which is why I speak to you tonight of Joseph… the forgotten man of the Christmas story. We know much about Mary and, of course, the Christ child. But the Bible makes few references to the life of Joseph. Therefore, he remains somewhat of a mystery, much as many of our own fathers do. But we do know that Joseph was a gentle father and a courageous man. He saved his family from Herod by taking them on a dangerous journey to Egypt. He taught his son his own trade, as fathers do even today. Joseph died before Jesus grew up to become a man and begin his ministry. Yet, Joseph still believed ‘blessed are those who believe that he will bind up the brokenhearted and free the captives.’ At best, a father is the solid foundation of a house, his support taken for granted. At other times, he may need shoring up himself. He may be tired, he may be impatient, he may be mired in his own problems, but always a father looks beyond the here and now. He keeps one eye trained on the next generation. Of necessity, he is a man filled with hope – Hope that a knowing God watches over the universe; hope that justice will prevail; hope that we will be reunited with our loved ones. As Saint Paul said, “Abide by these three: faith, hope, and love. The greatest of these is love.” So when we give thanks to the Father for our blessings, let us not forget Joseph, or our own fathers, that they may not be forgotten this Christmas. May God bless you and Merry Christmas.
Merry Christmas, readers.
The Mithril Guardian
by Edgar Allan Poe
Sancta Maria! turn thine eyes –
Upon the sinner’s sacrifice,
Of fervent prayer and humble love,
From thy holy throne above.
At morn – at noon – at twilight dim –
Maria! thou hast heard my hymn!
In joy and wo – in good and ill –
Mother of God, be with me still!
When the Hours flew brightly by,
And not a cloud obscured the sky,
My soul, lest it should truant be,
Thy grace did guide to thine and thee;
Now, when storms of Fate o’ercast
Darkly my Present and my Past,
Let my Future radiant shine
With sweet hopes of thee and thine!