A New Player

Odin was about to start Loki's trial when there was a commotion outside the doors. Guards were shouting, and then they fell silent, and the doors to the throne room opened, revealing a woman wearing Midgardian attire. Loki noticed Thor staring at her in shock, and wondered what that was about. "What is the meaning of this?" Odin barked.

The woman walked straight up to the dais, and stopped, then said calmly, "I could ask you the same question, Odin Allfather. According to your laws, people who have committed crimes are allowed to speak in their own defense. However, as you clearly intend to ignore the laws surrounding a proper trial, it seems I will have to step in."

"Exactly who do you think you are?" Odin snarled.

The woman began to glow with a golden light, and her form shifted to that of a tall woman with golden hair and golden eyes, dressed in Asgardian attire. "I am Syn, the Goddess of Defense. And I am here to defend Loki from you and your idiocy," she said with an icy calm. She waved a hand, and Odin, Frigga, and Thor froze in place. Looking at Odin's Council, she asked, "Have any of you objections to me leading the trial?"

Forseti, the leader of the Council, shook his head. "Proceed, Lady Syn," he said.

Syn took the muzzle off of Loki's mouth, and then said, "Loki Laufeyson. You stand accused of attempting to subjugate the realm of Midgard, attempting to destroy the realm of Jotunheim, and treason against the realm of Asgard. However, due to the fact you were under the control of another during your attempt to subjugate Midgard, and Odin was well aware of this fact, the blame for that should fall to him, as he did not see fit to inform Thor before sending him off to stop you."

She looked from Loki to the Council, and said, "I ask of you, should Loki be blamed for something beyond his control?"

Most of the Council members responded 'No', though one asked, "Perhaps it would be clearer if we knew who was controlling Prince Loki."

Syn looked at Loki expectantly, and he replied, "Thanos."

"Was Odin aware of this?" Forseti asked.

"He was," Syn said. "He was also aware that Thanos was holding Loki captive, as was Heimdall. They told no one else, and Heimdall was under orders not to help Loki in any way or disseminate information on his whereabouts."

"Odin knew I was being tortured…. And forbade Heimdall to tell anyone or even help me?" Loki asked quietly.

Syn looked at him with sympathy. "Yes," she said. "Unlike Odin, I have no intention of hiding the truth from you."

She turned back to Forseti and asked, "May we move on?"

"Certainly," Forseti replied.

Syn turned back to Loki and said, "Loki, you are accused of attempting to destroy Jotunheim. However, you will be given the chance to defend your actions, and I and the Council would like a truthful answer. Why did you attempt to destroy Jotunheim?"

"I have been told my entire life that the Jotnar are bloodthirsty monsters deserving of nothing but death," Loki said. "Then Odin informed me that I was the son of their king, and at that point, I stopped thinking clearly. I do not even remember at this point why I thought it was a good idea to destroy Jotunheim, or if I even wanted to. I am not normally one for wanton destruction; my only defense is that I had essentially gone crazy. Perhaps I should have figured out that I was a monster sooner; it would certainly explain why all in Asgard despise me so."

"The Jotnar are not monsters, and nor are you," Syn said sternly. "Do not blame yourself for what happened to you."

Loki was silent, and Syn continued, "Now, as to the matter of treason. I do not believe that you have done anything to warrant this charge; however, I am not fully informed of the situation regarding Thor's interrupted coronation or the events after. Lord Forseti, could you elaborate on what Odin meant by treason?"

"I believe he was referring to the Jotnar who interrupted Prince Thor's coronation," Forseti said. "He believes this was Loki's fault."

"Loki, is this true?" Syn asked.

"Yes," Loki said. "I showed the Jotnar a path into the weapons vault, and two of them tried to reclaim the Casket of Ancient Winters."

"Why did you do this?" Syn asked.

"Queen Frigga and I knew that Thor was far from ready to be a good king, and while we remonstrated with Odin over this several times, he refused to be swayed," Loki said. "By the time the coronation day arrived, I was desperate; I did not want to see Asgard fall or worse, which is what both Queen Frigga and I were certain would happen should Thor become king at that time. So I let the Jotnar in, hoping to interrupt the coronation and show Odin that Thor was not ready to be king. I did not expect Thor to try to start a war with Jotunheim; I truly thought he was smarter than that. I did not expect things to get so out of control, but I at least tried to convince Thor not to go to Jotunheim. As usual, however, he did not listen, and I was left to clean up the mess again. I knew that the Jotnar I let into the weapons vault would be unlikely to succeed in their endeavor; I merely needed enough time to get it through Odin's head that Thor becoming king at that juncture would be a very bad thing."

"How exactly does that constitute treason?" Syn asked. "It was perhaps unadvisable, but it does not go against a direct order from Odin, who was still king at the time."

"I do not know," Loki said.

Syn looked at Forseti, who replied, "I do not know either; perhaps it was simply a ploy by Odin to make Prince Loki sound worse to us. Regardless, we should discuss this, as we have not decided on a verdict yet. I am in agreement that Prince Loki should not be punished for acts done while not in his right mind, but he knew what he was doing when he let the Jotnar into the weapons vault."

"Very well," Syn said. She went over to the Council, and they removed themselves to an antechamber. Loki was left to wait, since Syn hadn't unfrozen Odin, Frigga, and Thor yet.

About forty-five minutes later, Loki was bored out of his mind, when the Council and Syn came back. Syn stopped in front of him, the Council behind her, and said, "Loki Odinson, it is the decision of this court that you will be allowed to go free; however, you will be asked to return to Midgard and apologize to the group known as the Avengers. Do not give me that look; I will be coming as well, to explain and hopefully go back to my life."

"You live on Midgard?" Loki asked.

"I got tired of Odin's idiocy about three centuries ago, and mortals are interesting," Syn said. "Do you accept these terms?"

"I accept, Lady Syn," Loki said. He knew it could have been a lot worse.

Syn smiled and waved a hand. The chains binding Loki vanished, and Syn waved a hand again, freeing Odin, Frigga, and Thor from her spell. Then she turned to Loki and asked, "Shall we leave?"

"Very well," Loki said, offering his arm to her. She smiled and took it, and they left, ignoring Odin's snarling.

Syn took Loki back to the Bifrost, and told Heimdall, "Send us to the residence of the one known as Anthony Stark, Heimdall."

Heimdall inclined his head, and opened the Bifrost. Loki and Syn were transported to the balcony of Stark Tower, and Syn sighed. "This isn't going to be an easy conversation," she commented, and then shifted back to the form she had had when she came into the throne room. She walked into the room, and asked, "JARVIS, where's Tony?"

"He is bringing the other Avengers here, Ms. Potts," JARVIS said, causing Loki to jump. "Director Fury has asked that the team live here, and Sir agreed to it. May I ask why you have Loki with you?"

"It's a long story; I only want to say this once," Syn said. "For now, just know that Virginia Potts never actually existed."

"Are either of you a danger to Sir?" JARVIS asked.

"No," Syn said. "Loki is here to apologize, and I'm here to explain. I kept my identity secret in an attempt to protect Tony; if Odin ever found out one of the members of his Council was dating a mortal, he would first kill the mortal in question, and then kill me. He's worse than Fury, I swear."

"I really want to get drunk…." Loki moaned. "You are making my brain overload."

"Get drunk later," Syn said. "And just a warning; Midgardian alcohol won't do you much good."

Loki sighed.

An hour later, JARVIS said, "Ms. Potts, Sir and the rest of the Avengers, sans Mr. Odinson, have arrived."

"Showtime," Syn sighed, and got up, followed by Loki.

Tony led the other Avengers into the room a minute later, and stopped dead. "Pepper?" he asked. "I thought you went on a business trip, and why is LOKI back?"

"I did go on a business trip, just not the kind you're thinking of, and Loki has something to say to all of you," Syn said- then added, "And I've got some explaining to do."

Tony was actually speechless, and finally asked, "Uh…. you're not cheating on me with him, are you?"

Syn started laughing. "Of course not," she giggled. Then she turned to Loki. "What did you have to say to these people?" she asked pointedly.

Loki sighed and said to the Avengers, "I came to apologize. I am very sorry for what I did while under mind control. May I get drunk now?"

"I already told you, the alcohol here isn't strong enough for you to get drunk," Syn sighed.

"I think I need to get drunk too," Tony grumbled.

"Ugh, fine," Syn said. "Tony, why don't you get everyone some alcohol? My story is probably going to require it."

"Who wants what?" Tony asked, perking up a bit.

"Whatever you have that's strong," Loki deadpanned.

"Same here," Clint said.

Bruce and Steve declined, but Natasha asked for some scotch.

Once they were all settled with drinks, Syn said, "I guess the first thing you need to know is that Virginia Potts is not my real name, and Pepper is a nickname Tony came up with."

"So….. who are you then?" Tony asked, keeping his face carefully neutral.

"I am Syn, the Norse Goddess of Defense," Syn said. "My story starts about three centuries ago, when I was what you would consider to be about 24 years old. I had been selected a century before to be part of Odin's Council, and during that century, I began to realize that Odin was a complete idiot. What finally cemented that realization was when I met Loki. The first time I saw him, he was spiking the punch at a court ball, but he ran for it when he saw I noticed him. Decades later, I met him after one of Odin's punishments- for something I knew for a fact Thor was responsible for. Loki shrugged it off when I asked him why Odin had punished him rather than Thor, but I started doing some investigating after that, and discovered that Loki was punished for almost all Thor's misdeeds as well as his own. Put simply, Odin blamed him for everything that went wrong in Asgard, and was abusive as well. Odin also encouraged others to ridicule and shun Loki because of his mastery at the art of magic. And as Odin was King, there was nothing that I could do about his treatment of Loki; I was the youngest member of the Council, and not as well-respected as the more experienced members. And to be honest, the more well-respected members wouldn't have had much luck either; Odin is considered infallible by all but his General and his Council members."

She paused, then continued, "Eventually I grew tired of Odin's idiocy, and left Asgard. I settled here on Midgard a little over three centuries ago, and made it my home. I eventually got bored of hiding out and or changing my identity every few decades, and turned myself into a small child. I was adopted by the Potts family, and they named me Virginia. And up until now, I have remained in that role. I received word from my sister in Asgard right before I told everyone here I was going on a business trip, though, and I had to go back."

"Why?" Tony asked.

"My sister was told by Queen Frigga that Odin knew Loki was under mind control and did not see fit to tell Thor or any of you that," Syn said. "Odin also knew Loki had survived his fall from the Bifrost, and was aware that he was being tortured and coerced into attacking Midgard by a being called Thanos, the Mad Titan, yet he did nothing. Queen Frigga sent word through my sister that I was needed on Asgard to interfere with Loki's trial. Odin had broken the laws that his grandfather set out about trials; he was not going to allow Loki to speak in his own defense. Therefore, as the Goddess of Defense, I took over the trial with the help of the Council, and deemed Loki innocent. Hopefully the rest of the Council will do something about Odin before the Norns get involved; his kidnapping of Loki and subsequent abuse of him was bad enough. I imagine it won't be long before the Norns curse Asgard if Odin keeps this up."

The others were silent for a few minutes, before Tony asked quietly, "Why didn't you tell me?"

"I was going to," Syn said. "I was actually going to tell you that night Phil showed up, but then Phil came, and things got crazy. I was shocked that Loki would attack Midgard, but since I got my sister's message, it makes more sense. Loki would never attack Midgard of his own accord; it's the only place where he can get away from Odin."

"I'm right here, you know," Loki grumbled. "But you're right, Midgard is my favorite of the realms. Lady Syn, do you know whether or not I was really abandoned?"

"On Jotunheim?" Syn asked. Loki nodded, and she said, "You weren't abandoned. Small children are prized on Jotunheim; it generally means the child will be exceptionally good at magic. The Jotnar are still mourning your loss; they think you were killed. I believe your real mother is still alive, as are two of your brothers. You were put in the temple for safekeeping when the palace was attacked; both Laufey and Farbauti were devastated when Odin took you- though neither of them knew that was what happened."

"They'd probably hate me anyways," Loki said gloomily.

"Odin was manipulating you," Syn said firmly. "If things were explained to them properly, they would be far more likely to want to destroy Odin than you."

"Just out of curiosity, who's your sister?" Loki asked, deciding to change the subject.

"Fulla; Queen Frigga's handmaiden," Syn said. "We still keep in touch, but rarely. And our parents died a while ago; that was the last time I returned to Asgard, for their funeral. Fulla's older than me."

"Is that your actual appearance?" Tony asked.

"No; my actual appearance is too noticeable, so I took this form when I came to Earth the first time," Syn replied. She smirked. "I'm actually taller than you," she said.

"How tall?" Tony asked.

"Want me to show you?" Syn asked.

Tony perked up, and Syn smiled before getting up. She began to glow, and reverted to her Asgardian form, which was only a little shorter than Loki. Tony looked at her in awe. "Wow," he said. "Uh…. can I still call you Pepper?"

Syn giggled. "That's my name here, so yes," she said. "Honestly, I'm not really used to being called Syn anymore."

"So I take it you're also not actually 30 years old?" Tony asked.

"Actually, in mortal terms, I am," Pepper said. (A/N: I'll be using Pepper from here on out.) "I'm actually older than both Thor and Loki; Thor is the human equivalent of 22, and Loki turned 20 a while back. We don't generally celebrate our birthdays every year, since we age more slowly than humans. My actual age is about 1,213. Thor is 1,133, and Loki is 1,113."

"So you age about every fifty years?" Bruce asked, curious.

"Give or take, yes," Pepper said. "That's why I'm so tolerant of Tony forgetting the date; I'm not used to celebrating every year." She looked over at Loki, and asked, "Loki, what do you want to do now?"

"I do not want to go back to Asgard," Loki said. "As long is Odin is King, I do not want to be there. Other than that, I do not know."

"Why not stay here then?" Tony suggested.

"You would let me?" Loki asked.

"I don't see why not," Tony said. "You're not under mind control anymore and as long as you're not attacking us, there's no reason why you can't stay here."

"I would be pleased to accept, then," Loki said after a minute's contemplation.

"Great!" Tony said happily. "We're going to have so much fun!"

Loki smiled slightly, and Pepper smiled at both him and Tony.

Pepper is awesome, in my opinion, so I decided to make her even more awesome. Let me know what you think!