Fandoms: The Avengers (film)/Marvel Cinematic Universe
Characters/Relationships: Jarvis, Tony Stark/Pepper Potts, Thor, Clint Barton, Avengers team, Loki, Odin, Frigga
Word count: 17,069
Spoilers: Avengers movie, some background elements from Thor 2
Content Advisory: Violence, manipulative bastards
Disclaimer: Not mine, just playing.
A/N: Thanks to brighteyed_jill for betaing! Written for journeystory. Part 11 of my Being Human series.
Art Link: Monkiainen’s awesome wallpaper!
Summary: When the Avengers are called to Asgard to testify at Loki’s trial, Jarvis has a chance to confront the man who caused so much change in all their lives. What he learns is something no one expected.
“Stark, if you were any more smug you’d be sickening,” Natasha said.
Tony only grinned and flung his hands out in a grand gestures of, Oh yeah, I’m really just that good. “Bruce has not been out of his suite in a week, and no Hulk alarms have sounded, so I have every right to be as smug as it as possible for me to be.”
“Which might be epically smug,” Clint said, flinging a bagel with his usually accuracy to land squarely on Natasha’s plate.
Tony just gave him a look. “Epically smug could be written on my tombstone, Barton. ‘Here lies Tony Stark – He saved the world and was epically smug.’”
“Shall I log that with the other fifty-seven suggestions for your epitaph, sir?” Jarvis asked.
“Wait, I’m up to fifty-seven?”
“Fifty-eight, now, sir.”
Clint snorted and plucked the last pumpernickel bagel out of the box. “Should I even ask what he wants his tombstone to look like?”
“I believe initial ideas included carving his face into the side of a mountain, erecting a duplicate of the Washington Monument with the Stark Industries logo on it, and having a sixty-foot replica of Iron Man commissioned.”
“Don’t forget that time I wanted to laser my signature into the moon!”
“I believe that was more of a drunken whim than a legacy plan, sir.”
Natasha was laughing softly, her wide smile showing she was holding back the true extent of her mirth. There was a lot of that going around the Tower recently, since one Dr. Betty Ross had successfully smuggled herself in without her father’s knowledge and (with Natasha and Tony’s benevolent conspiracy) gotten herself into Bruce’s lab. They’d counted themselves privileged to have seen the reunion between the two, holding each other like they’d never let go.
Then Betty had managed to pull herself away enough to thank them and ask the direction of Bruce’s room in a single breath. Tony had just grinned, pointed, and gotten the hell out of their way. He would admit to a few tense hours just immediately afterward, but, well, everyone in New York was aware of the possible danger, and what the Hulk was capable of.
The Avengers, and Betty, also believed in what Bruce Banner was capable of.
He deserved it; they all deserved that high point after the attack on the Tower three months ago. Betty had shown them more trust than some of the papers said they deserved, having arrived barely after the paint had dried on the final repairs.
At least no one else had been stupid enough to try a repeat performance. Probably the rumor that a squad of two dozen highly trained and experienced mercenaries had been taken out by the two “weakest” Avengers without them breaking a sweat had had a lot to do with that. There had been no point in revealing Jarvis’ or Pepper’s participation in their own rescue, indeed, every reason not to reveal it. Underestimating someone was a strategy so classic no one had even thought to argue against it.
Besides, being known for physical badassery wasn’t either of their styles.
“When’s Thor coming back? If Bruce is going to keep himself mewed up in his room, we better have a relief pitcher if someone decides to go on a world-breaking spree or something,” Tony said.
“Later this evening; he did not leave a precise hour,” Jarvis said. The moment the words left his lips, there were flashes of light outside, and Tony got up with a grin on his face.
“Speak of the god,” he said, as thunder roared overhead. After several long minutes of electrical foreplay, Thor finally dropped down from the sky onto the balcony outside, fully armored, cape flowing in the breeze, every hair looking ruggedly handsome. Tony had to admit, it was a very good entrance. Thor opened the door as if it were a delicate thing and stepped inside, dropping his hammer on the ground with a heavy thud.
Tony heard a faint sound behind him, and turned enough to see Bruce and Betty had finally emerged from their floor, undoubtedly drawn by Thor’s firework show. He gave them both a thumbs-up, but Bruce shook his head and shot his eyes over to Thor.
A second glance at Thor, at the tense way he was holding himself, did not promise good news.
“My friends, I am glad I found you all here.” Thor caught sight of Betty and Bruce together and gave them a nod and small smile. “Congratulations to you both; your union is well-deserved and well-matched.” Then Thor’s smile faded as he faced the Avengers as a whole. “It is time.”
Tony felt a chill at that statement. Those words, combined with Thor’s determinedly stoic expression, could only lead to one rather unwelcome conclusion. All the joy in the room was suddenly sucked out.
“My brother Loki is being tried for his crimes. I have come to ask you to be witnesses as to the deeds he committed on Midgard, so that all may know everything he did in full measure. I would consider it a duty well done if you would accompany me.”
Steve stood up from where he’d been reading on the couch, and crossed over to clasp Thor’s hand and arm in a warrior’s greeting, solemn and formal. It was an affirmation of Thor’s request no one contradicted, though everyone was looking grim. “I think we all knew this was coming someday.”
Some of the tension left Thor’s shoulders in relief.
“Most of my people do not know the extent of his crimes, and for me to speak of everything that happened on Midgard would be considered a conflict of interest, as I have shown my care for your world since I came here. People must know so they can move from their shock to justice, not just for my realm, but for your own. Most of Asgard do not often think of Earth, and Loki… he must pay for all that he has done. My father’s court must know the facts out of your own mouths. All must know and understand so what has happened will never be repeated.”
“Out of our own mouths?” Clint repeated, his voice a dry rasp.
“Yes. Anything to be considered must be spoken out loud, and from the heart.”
A beat of silence from everyone.
“Yeah,” Clint said, nodding, his voice cracking like a bowstring snapping. “I’m in.”
“He killed hundreds of people, Thor,” Natasha said pointedly. “We wouldn’t just be talking about what he did to us, but about every person who died or was hurt when he came here.”
There wasn’t the tiniest bit of irony in her statement, she who had so much red in her ledger.
Thor nodded sadly.
“Good, fine, we’ll get them all written down for the court, every last one of them, and tell them every gruesome detail,” Tony said decisively.
“Tony-,” Bruce began, when Thor interrupted.
“From the heart, Tony. They must be spoken of from the heart. Immortalized in memory,” Thor said, shaking his head.
“We have to memorize every death and injury of every person or Loki doesn’t get charged with the crimes?” Bruce said, pinching the bridge of his nose. Betty put her arm tight around him, and murmured something in his ear, pressing her lips to his temple. What Loki had done to each of them would be said – they were going to get an outlet for what had happened to them under his hands, and long past time too, that was never in doubt. But as much as some of them had suffered, they were not Loki’s only victims. And they would be pretty piss-poor Avengers if they didn’t attempt to avenge all the people who’d died or been hurt for Loki’s ambition.
“He must answer for all his wrongdoing,” Thor said. “I have already begun the task myself, and the list is heartbreakingly long, but as I learned upon my exile here, one cannot simply hope someone will change without giving them a thorough reason and lesson. My lesson was through despair, humility, and betrayal, and continues even today. Loki’s will come another way, and it must be complete and thorough for the crimes on all worlds, lest he bring more misfortune down upon us all by debts left unpaid. The Chitauri war stemmed from one unpaid debt. Your world can ill-afford another so soon.”
Tony could see Natasha swallow from across the room, and Clint gripped her hand hard.
“Then we can all take a part of the list-,” Natasha began, when Jarvis interrupted.
“There is no need, Agent Romanov. The list is already in my memory.”
Tony’s heart sank somewhere in the vicinity of his stomach. Somehow he’d known this was coming.
“My memory is perfect, Mr. Odinson. I am well aware of each and every individual killed or injured by Loki’s attacks, as well as those harmed and property destroyed during the Chitauri attacks, and those under treatment for after-effects of mind control.”
Thor was quiet, staring at Jarvis like he’d never seen him before.
“Use me,” Jarvis requested softly. “I am able to serve as a database quite ably.”
“I had hesitated in asking you to come. Loki is no friend to any of you, but he will be present, and on his home ground.”
“Locked up, of course.” Jarvis’ voice was sharp.
“Of course.” Thor looked incredibly weary, some of his true age showing in the lines around his eyes. Tony wondered exactly what had been going down during Thor’s last few months on Asgard.
“Fifteen months, two weeks, and three-point-six days ago you had a conversation with Master Stark that is quite relevant to your hesitancy. You said Loki would be unable to banish me to the walls again. That he would not be able to disembody me because of the laws of magic run counter to discorporation. With that reassurance, I do not fear the loss of my form in confronting him. My fear is that of everyone else here: that his presence reminds us of traumas he perpetrated on us. And I have to right to speak of his crimes in my own voice, and would be very willing to speak for those who otherwise cannot go.”
Jarvis looked over at Tony, who valiantly tried to hide his worry. He didn’t want Jarvis anywhere near Loki, and definitely not on his home ground, Thor’s reassurances or no. Loki was a master of powers Thor didn’t even possess, and most of what he could do was right beyond Tony’s ways of measuring, let alone countering. But… Jarvis had suffered as much as any of them, and Tony would be damned before he let Loki off the hook for what he’d done. Jarvis had the right to talk about what Loki had done to him on his own.
And Natasha, Bruce, everyone else was right. Loki didn’t get a pass for anything he’d done, not for the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents he killed outright or ended up burying alive when he’d arrived on Earth, not the people he’d mind-whammied into helping him, not the “inconvenient” people who’d been in his way or those he’d destroyed as a distraction in his grand plan. Not the people on the Helicarrier who’d fallen to their deaths or been shot by his minions, and not the hundreds in New York who couldn’t get out of the way fast enough when he dropped an alien army in Manhattan.
“Then we can ill-afford to do without you,” Thor said. “A week’s time from now, Central Park, where Loki and I returned the last time, Heimdall will open the Bifrost for us.”
For a team of superheroes, training wasn’t just a way to keep ahead of celebratory meals of shwarma or burgers, it was vital to the survival of the planet. At any given time, one or more of the Avengers could be found in the gym, either doing individual workouts or sparring with one another. Between odd metabolisms, strange hours, and a wide variety of sleep habits (with the bouts with insomnia and nightmares that were part and parcel of being who they were), there was usually someone there at any given hour of the day.
Steve was used to that. The serum had made his sleep more efficient, and seventy years in suspended animation had apparently made up for quite a few of those hours. If he was unconscious for four hours in seventy-two, he considered himself quite the slug. He used those waking hours to catch up on decades of history, when he wasn’t using them to try to quiet his mind through strengthening his body. He had spent over half of his waking life being too weak to stand up to the world. Now he wanted to make sure he could stand up for others, and if it managed to disengage his overactive mind at the same time… Steve pushed open the door to the gym and paused right at the threshold.
Apparently he hadn’t been the only one to consider a workout to be the ideal antidote to Thor’s news.
The slender figure in gray sweatpants and hooded shirt, currently punching and kicking at Natasha as she danced in circles around him, could only be Jarvis. Though rough-edged, the lower stance and snappy movements were definitely more in Natasha’s style than the boxing Steve had been teaching him. Jarvis wasn’t quite as well-suited to Natasha’s moves, being longer-limbed and usually taller than his opponents, but Natasha kept calling out reminders for him to check his levels, keeping his punches where the vital areas would be on a shorter opponent. Assassins’ moves, not the more broad-stroke stuff Steve had learned. Then again, Steve had been so much stronger than most of his opponents after the serum that he hadn’t needed to learn nerve-cluster targeting.
Maybe he should ask her for tips, if Thor had let any slip about what worked against Asgardians. Steve had been luckier than the rest of his team in regards to Loki. He had only faced him on relatively even terms, when Loki had been angling to get on the Helicarrier and was more interested in putting on a show than killing him, like he had tried with Tony. Other than the aura from the scepter that had sawed at all of their tempers, Steve hadn’t had his mind played with like Clint or even Bruce. He’d never been on the receiving end of Loki’s manipulative lies, like Natasha, nor his betrayal, like Thor. Steve could only speak of Loki’s attempted murder in Germany, and what he’d felt on the Helicarrier, and even some of that could be chalked up to genuine friction, as opposed to alien technology.
He would talk about the chaos of New York with all the passion he felt for his home city, and the moment Thor had said everyone’s story had to be memorized, Steve had been ready to volunteer himself. His memory was excellent, already generally good, and then serum-enhanced to a level he hadn’t had a lot of time to appreciate until recently. But he had a feeling that even if he had volunteered, Jarvis might insist on doing his part anyway.
Jarvis had all that information at his fingertips, engraved on his mind even more firmly than Steve ever could, and he could not forget it. And all that information Loki had left with him when he’d made Jarvis human. Apparently Jarvis had Tony’s appreciation for irony – in trying to disable Tony, the Avengers, and S.H.I.E.L.D., Jarvis might instead prove to hold the greatest amount of information for Loki’s punishment.
And that wasn’t even mentioning what pain Jarvis had gone through in Loki’s hands. They all had their own ways of coping, and this could be Jarvis’.
Steve waited until Natasha had nipped in under Jarvis’ guard to throw him to the mat before clearing his throat. They both looked up at him, and Steve raised his wrapped hands.
“Is there room for me?”
Natasha gave him a quiet little smile as Jarvis got himself back upright. “Of course, Captain Rogers.”
She set Steve and Jarvis against each other, Steve checking his speed and strength, Jarvis testing out new combinations Natasha called out for him. This wasn’t the no-holds-barred sort of training Steve was used to, but Jarvis did not need to accidentally get his face broken because Steve had come at him like he was an experienced fighter.
Besides, this wasn’t strictly for practice.
In the controlled motions that were more of a dance than a fight, Steve could concentrate on his moves, on countering what Natasha threw at him via Jarvis.
“High!” Natasha called, and Jarvis switched from the lower gut-shots to the higher, somewhat dirtier ones meant to batter at someone’s head, cause temporary blindness and confusion, and get them vulnerable. Steve blocked them almost absently, absorbing Jarvis’ full force as his mind worked. With his body moving, his thoughts starting falling into line, and Steve involuntarily shuddered. He might not have had as much of a direct, personal beef with Loki, not like the two people he was fighting, but he was the leader of the Avengers, which meant he was going to be the one Thor’s people were watching. He’d have to be the big-picture guy and talk about what Loki had done to their people as a whole. He’d end up being one of the direct voices of Earth.
That was enough to give even the bravest men pause. Steve had played the icon since Dr. Erskine had told him he believed in him, had told him to be a good man, and it was a role he’d grown comfortable with, but this was higher stakes than even the war he’d tried so hard to fight. He had to be up to the task; he could take the burden of eyes off of everyone else, even if the others were taking the burden of words.
They all would have their own crosses to bear.
At Natasha’s call, Steve and Jarvis backed down, Jarvis going to take a drink. His hand drifted over the AR monocle and earpiece he had lying on the sidelines, as if by merely touching them they could connect them with the virtual world he used as his connection to his old life, and his buffer to this one. He was rarely without them, and Steve had never seen him without them since he started using them, barring times like these. Jarvis nearly picked them up, and stopped himself.
There wouldn’t be any internet access on Asgard. No buffers.
“Jarvis, you don’t have to do this alone if you don’t want to,” Steve said quietly. He hadn’t even broken a sweat yet, but wiped his face with a towel anyway, just for the familiarity of it. That and it sometimes made the others feel a little less annoyed at his endurance.
“Thank you,” Jarvis said very softly, and pulled his hood down. His hair was damp with sweat, showing he must have been working with Natasha since shortly after Thor had broken his news. And that… wasn’t like him. Like Tony, Jarvis was more often than not found in the workshops when he had something that needed thinking about. “I appreciate the offer, Captain, but I would rather do this myself. You will have your own things to concentrate on.”
“Even so, the offer is open.”
“Captain, Agent, in your experience, have you gained anything in speaking with your enemies? Any insight as to their motivation, any emotional catharsis by attempting to divine their reasoning?” Jarvis asked abruptly.
Steve thought back to his encounters with fanatical HYDRA agents, with the cowardly but devastating Zola, with Schmidt and his grandiose posturing over an arrogance strong enough to keep him going through what should have burned him up, and shook his head. “I’ll be honest with you; the guys I fought really didn’t have a lot to say that didn’t come out of a playbook. The only thing I ever learned from them was their party line, and that wasn’t exactly very sane. I didn’t learn a thing talking to them privately that I didn’t learn when I was punching their faces.”
“I did,” Natasha said, her voice as quiet as Jarvis’ as she worked her way through a series of lithe stretches. “But that’s what I do. I get information out of people. If you’re willing to put up with them trying to bury and manipulate you, how they try to do it can tell you a lot.” She paused as her back arched, arms following in a ballet dancer’s stretch. “It takes time to figure out what you really want to know.” She dropped her arms and turned to face Jarvis fully. “It’s tempting, I know it is, but don’t talk to Loki.”
Jarvis stood and bowed to Natasha, then Steve, and walked straight out of the room.
“Damn,” she said, shaking her head.
“That wasn’t what he wanted to hear?” Steve surmised.
“You know it’s not. Would you have stayed quiet when Schmidt was grandstanding?”
“…No.” Steve sighed. This was one of those lessons that only tended to stick when experienced personally. He was tempted to go after Jarvis, to talk to him like he had Bucky, like Colonel Phillips and Peggy Carter had talked to him. Jarvis was one of them, one of the Avengers, whether he was physically present on the battlefield or not, and Steve was used to taking care of his people. But he’d also learned that sometimes, no matter how you felt, how good you were, it wasn’t possible for one man to do everything.
Clint set his bow down before backing away from the range where he had been mindlessly putting arrow after arrow into a target. It wasn’t even exercise for him, not at this stage of his life, but he thought better with a bow in his hands. The empty magazines in Jarvis’ hand told Clint he had been doing his own sort of thinking. Funny how concentration worked; Clint hadn’t even heard him firing.
Jarvis hesitated a long moment before abruptly pulling away his earpiece and AR monocle, giving Clint his complete and undivided attention. “Will you speak for Dr. Selvig, or shall I?”
Clint’s hand tightened on the bowstock; he knew this question was coming. Natasha had asked him months before, assuming Thor was going to want someone’s perspective on Loki’s mind control eventually. Selvig was… not doing well. Clint thanked whatever higher power who looked out for fools that he had had Natasha in the aftermath. He’d been able to fight Loki directly, to get immediate revenge and payback, to put the man at the point of his bow and see him being torn down. That, and Natasha’s unswerving support, the other Avengers, Fury’s understanding, and a shitload of help from his therapist at S.H.I.E.L.D., all had given him a platform to recover. It hadn’t stopped the nightmares, or the guilt, but it had helped.
Selvig didn’t exactly have anyone around him who could talk about what it had been like under alien mind control. Seeing Clint just made things worse, and after a half-dozen attempts to try to commiserate, the last of which had ended in Selvig needing sedation, Clint had stayed away. As brilliant as Selvig was, Loki wasn’t something he’d ever been trained for either. He hadn’t even had the cushion of Clint’s school of hard knocks to help him, let alone someone like Natasha.
Dr. Foster had been trying her best for him, for someone she knew and respected, but Clint had been there. Clint had seen the man twist his scientific expertise into a world-ending portal, his conscience suppressed, turned into an inadvertent Dr. Oppenheimer without being able to care about the consequences.
“You’ve got enough on your plate, Jarvis.” Clint dropped his arm to his side, relaxing his grip a fraction. “I knew him. Saw him. Saw him after, too. I’ll do it.”
“I would have very much liked to have shot at Loki, myself. I envy your privilege of having done so. I occasionally replay that battle file with satisfaction.”
Clint’s mouth quirked in a half-smile, imagining Jarvis watching that shot (probably from Stark’s suit cameras) over and over again.
“Send me the gif. I want to use it as a screen saver.”
“Of course.” Jarvis waited a few more shots, and abruptly cocked his head. “Agent Baron… I would, if you wanted me to, speak for you about Loki’s mind control of you,” Jarvis said.
Clint froze, bow at full extension, and remained that way for three long breaths. “Why would you?” he asked, his voice a little rough. There was a feeling of tension behind him, and Clint had the impression the whole reason for Jarvis’ visit was about to be revealed.
“I am… uncertain of my standing with you, Agent Barton.”
Clint let his string go slack and unknocked the arrow, turning to face Jarvis with surprise.
“Your standing?” he asked.
Jarvis was silent for a moment, looking past Clint’s head before reengaging. “I have never been entirely certain of how you view me and the… origins of my current state. I understood you might have found the breach of security distressing, and have doubts. I certainly found it so.”
For a second Clint was angry, the reflexive anger he’d been feeling that people were just waiting for him to fall apart ever since the Battle of New York, and made himself quash it as he took a quick review of Jarvis’ behavior around him. He had a dry sense of humor, sure, but was never less than polite with anyone that wasn’t attacking him. Yet he had always been very careful to compliment Clint on a job well done, and to do that first and often before anyone else had a chance to. Sometimes even before he complimented Tony. Hell, Jarvis had been essentially tip-toeing around Clint in his stiff, polite way.
“No,” Clint said, shaking his head. “No, we’re cool.”
“It was my responsibility-.”
Clint cut Jarvis off before he could even go down that road, hearing the guilt starting to crest, the real reason he’d offered to speak for Clint: because he’d felt that Loki being in the Tower, doing what he did, was his problem. And that was something he was all-too familiar with. With them going to Asgard, this had gone from “nagging problem” to “potential multi-plane disaster,” at least in Jarvis’ mind.
“Fuck no,” Clint said without hesitation. “I had that bastard straight in my sights with plenty of time to react and he still got me.” He laughed suddenly; Suzie from Psych was going to be so fucking proud of him in their next session. “You know what they billed me as in the circus?”
“Hawkeye, the World’s Greatest Marksman.”
“And you’re Jarvis, Tony Stark’s AI, the most advanced on the planet,” he shot back. “Lemme do you a favor; don’t believe your own hype. Because the World’s Greatest Marksman doesn’t miss, ever, and he wouldn’t let anyone get the drop on him. Thinking you were responsible for everything Loki did? That’s Stark levels of arrogance.” Clint felt a little unmoored in his chest as he talked, like he’d just missed catching someone’s hands in a trapeze act. He knew that was the right thing to say, but he was still learning to believe it himself.
But better that than nightmares of blue.
Jarvis looked taken aback, and Clint pressed on before he could chicken out on himself.
“Look, I was a tool Loki chose to use. I was shiny, visible, and not one of the eight guys he’d just killed. You’ve seen the recordings from that day, right?”
Jarvis closed his eyes, and Clint knew he was probably reviewing the footage in internal hi-def. Suzie had made him watch it himself, really watch what had happened that day, rather than just what he remembered. Loki had shown up, killed most of the people in the room, and claimed everyone within easy reach, him, Sims, and Dr. Selvig, to give him a hand. Not because they were the best for the job, but because they’d happened to survive his initial temper tantrum. He’d been confident enough between the Tesseract and the scepter’s ability to subvert whoever he wanted that he could find someone to do what he required. If Clint hadn’t happened to have a useful skill set, Loki would have just had him find someone who did. Clint had been utterly incidental.
So why the fuck would Clint spend his time brooding that Loki had picked and subverted him, when it could have just as easily been anyone else? That was what Suzie had challenged him to think about.
It was sort of working, between that and Natasha being his rock. At least he no longer wanted to do criminally stupid things as self-inflicted penance more than once a week.
“Then you are saying the responsibility lies with Loki, and no other?” Jarvis asked, brows furrowed as he worked things through.
“Yeah. ‘Cause he’s a self-absorbed emo dickwad.”
Jarvis was startled into laughter before managing to get himself under control, and Clint grinned back at him.
“I’m talking for myself. You have plenty to do.”
“Very good, Agent Barton. Very good.”
Jarvis nodded and left, and Clint put his bow down, leaning against the rail and closing his eyes, breathing out slowly and carefully. They hadn’t even talked about Coulson, but someone was going to have to do it. And Thor had been the only witness to Coulson’s death. He better make sure someone- he talked to Thor before they left. Thor hadn’t known Coulson like Clint had. He’d been a friend as well as a handler, Fury’s good eye and the single unifying force amongst the Avengers. He’d trusted Clint and Clint’s judgment when he’d brought in Natasha and to lose that… But Thor had seen Phil die at Loki’s hand. That was one burden on Loki directly. Better Thor deal with that. Clint wasn’t sure he’d be able to do it without something happening a lot of people would regret.
If he talked about Selvig, it delayed having to talk about himself. He could keep the fear from creeping up on him if he talked about another person. Being strong for Selvig would give him time to figure out what he was going to say about Loki to Odin’s face in a way that wasn’t going to get a target painted on his back.
Clint looked back at the door where Jarvis had gone. He was going to talk about a couple hundred people in front of the Asgardian court.
He must need a hell of a lot of time to think.
Clint put up his bow again and reached for his arrows, the steady rhythm calming him back down again.
Thor’s head came up from his brooding over the city. He’d been concentrating hard on both not raining a deluge down over New York as well as his darkening thoughts since yesterday. The title- he had not heard anyone address him thus since he’d left Asgard. The Avengers were his friends and he held no dominion over the realms of Earth; to insist on formality seemed pointless. Though perhaps not unless you wished to make a subtle point. Thor met Jarvis’ eyes as he crossed the lawns of the rooftop terrace.
“I am no lord of yours.”
“While we are your guests, that will be otherwise. I would not care to seem less than respectful in front of any of your friends or subjects.”
“My friends would understand, but not everyone in my father’s court is a friend. You are wise to be cautious.”
“Not wise as such. Prudent, perhaps, though what prudence I may claim when going to another realm-.” Jarvis cut himself off, and Thor finished the thought he was too polite to voice.
“A realm where the man who tortured you resides, the man who gave you human form and whom you fear could wrest it away from you.”
“He is your brother, and I did not mean to remind of you the pain.”
“The man who grew up beside him, fought at my back, the clever younger brother whose wit I adored, he is not the same man who tried to kill my father, who attempted to obliterate Jotunheim, who attacked Earth many times with no regard for its people, who spread cruelty and murder… who forced you into a new and vulnerable state purely to torture you as a means for revenge upon me and those with me… I do not know that man.” Thor looked out over the city, thunder rumbling ominously.
“But you knew who he once was,” Jarvis prompted.
Thor looked up, a brief pattern of rain making his cheeks like tears. “I am reluctant to speak of my love for Loki. He has rejected all attempts at reconciliation, and there have been many. How can I even think of guiding Asgard after my father if I cannot learn to calm my heart and listen to the truth? The violations he perpetuated on Erik, on Clinton, on Natasha, on Bruce, and on you were all heinous. His attempted murder of both Anthony and Steven is only a shade less so, and those are only a tiny fraction of his crimes.”
“Then you are thinking like a lord, fair though it is painful. There is no awkwardness to call you by your title in your home, even though I am not one of your subjects.”
“Jarvis, I do not have Tony’s history with you, but I believe I know something of you after all this time. You wish to confront Loki. You wish solid facts, reasons behind the harm done to you. I will tell you Loki is known as the Silvertongue because of his skill with words and lies. You have the memory of some of the things he said while on Earth. I will tell you what I told to Natasha and Clinton – Loki will lie to you, and he will do so very skillfully with tiny grains of truth sprinkled through to lend credence to his story. Whatever he tells you will try to manipulate you into doing something you would not otherwise do, just to hurt you. He now revels in the pain of others, in the tangles he makes of their lives. Since imprisoned, that has become his only amusement.” That confession was like stabbing knives into his own heart, but Thor had to speak it. He could not let Jarvis remain ignorant, not and consider himself any kind of decent man. Steve had told him of Jarvis’ strange comment during their sparring.
Jarvis paused, and then bowed his head. “I will keep that in mind. Thank you for your warning.”
Thor closed his eyes. “It pains me beyond measure to tell you this. Loki was…”
Jarvis kept quiet and Thor did not say another word. Thor had a lifetime, hundreds of human lifetimes’ worth of good memories of Loki to painfully contrast against the short, sharp years of vindictive betrayal. Jarvis’ experience with him was purely of humiliation, violation, and pain. Even manners would not let Jarvis empathize, and Thor knew it.
“Loki was otherwise with you for most of your life,” Jarvis said neutrally. The simple recitation of fact gave Thor the release he needed.
“Thank you… for saying so.”
Next Chapter - Chapter 2