Argh, I said I wouldn't do any Avengers fic, and here I am. But doggone if the idea caught hold of me and wouldn't let go! The title and the chapter titles are taken from the song "Where" by Lisbeth Scott (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe OST).
Disclaimer: If I owned Marvel, I would know a heck of a lot more about the Marvel universe than I actually do, and this story would be the next film. End of disclaimer.
==What Love Can See==
When the Avengers get dumped with the responsibility of rehabbing Loki, it's the long-suffering Pepper who actually handles him. She expects it to be tough, but she didn't expect to pity the psycho godling. Pepperony; sister/brother affection.
On This Half-Lit Day
Virginia "Pepper" Potts was not raising her voice. Nope, not even a little bit. But she was making sure that her displeased surprise absolutely got through to Tony.
To be fair, he looked pretty uncomfortable, and, with Tony Stark, that took some doing. "Look, Pepper, I'm not any happier about it than you are—"
"And, what, you're just rolling over and accepting Fury's decision?"
Tony sighed and raked a hand through his hair. "It was barely even his decision in the first place. The 'all-powerful' Odin decided to punish his oh-so-wayward son by stripping him of his powers and sending him to 'Midgard', and who is Fury to say no? I mean, really."
Pepper sighed, too, and folded her arms. "Hence the Avengers getting dumped with the responsibility of rehabbing a psycho godling."
And, oh, didn't Tony just look thrilled. "Yeah."
"Please help us, Pep?" Good grief, not the puppy eyes. She could take everything else he could dish out, but she just couldn't hold out against the puppy eyes for long—and he knew it, too. "Pleeease?"
She growled and glanced away (even though she knew she wouldn't be able to keep looking away for long). "In case you forgot, Mr. Stark, I have a little something called a job. More specifically, a job as CEO of your company."
She could just feel him grimace. "I know, Pep. But out of the six of us, Steve and Thor are the only ones who don't have lives outside of the Avengers, and I think you can see how having Thor baby-sit his little bro wouldn't be a very good idea."
"Well, I can concede that," Pepper muttered.
"Besides, just think about it: you and Loki have no history with each other. And you've practically written the book on how to deal with hopeless cases—just look at the two of us." Tony grinned hopefully.
She snorted. "Yeah, and look at my success there—you're still as hopeless as ever."
His grin softened. "Yeah, well, at least I got the girl."
It wasn't the words themselves, but how he said them. The warm, genuinely loving tone made them just about the sweetest thing he'd ever said. Definitely better than "twelve percent."
She sighed again. Darn it. "Can I at least meet your hopeless case before I agree to get in over my head?"
There was no need to keep the god of mischief in a Hulk-proof cell this time, since Loki had been reduced to pretty much human status. Harsh, certainly, considering that magic had been a huge part of him all his centuries of life, but it was no less than he deserved. And Pepper did not for one minute forget who had directly killed Phil.
The Director of SHIELD himself let her into Loki's standard-issue cell. The psycho godling-in-question was, for lack of a better word, sulking on his cot. Then again, maybe sulking was a good word for it. He looked up with mild curiosity as she entered, but that quickly faded to haughty disinterest.
"Ah, Miss Potts, CEO of Stark Industries," he said disdainfully. He certainly fulfilled the whole "snobby royalty" thing well, so very unlike Thor. On the other hand, if Thor's admittedly-biased account was to be believed, haughtiness was a recently-acquired trait for Loki. "How may I help you?"
She could practically see the sarcasm dripping from his voice. But sarcasm was home territory for her—she hadn't worked with Tony Incessant Snark Mode Stark all these years for sarcasm not to be home territory. "Somebody's done his homework," she noted mildly. "Mr. Odinson—" his eyes flashed nastily for a moment; okay, bad move—"I'm just here to ask you a few basic questions. And seeing as how you're the god of mischief and lies and all that jazz, I'd appreciate some straight answers."
One dark eyebrow arched elegantly. "I see." Still disdainful, but faint interest, as well.
Probably sees me as a diversion from complete boredom, Pepper decided. I can work with that. And… "My gosh, you're cute," she said under her breath. He really was, in a Dark Side-ish kind of way—and his face registered genuine surprise at her comment. "Okay, let's start with this: why Earth? I mean, unless we really are the center of the universe or something, but it doesn't really make sense. We're technologically inferior to your people, and I doubt we have any resources that you can't get somewhere else. So why Earth?"
Loki cocked both eyebrows momentarily as he leaned back against the wall. "Asgard has always held some sentimentality for Midgard—having lived nearly my entire life in that culture, I was no more immune to that idea than any other Asgardian. More to the point, Thor holds a great deal of affection for this world, and I wanted revenge against him."
Pepper raised an eyebrow. "Okaaay, that makes a disturbing amount of sense. Question number two: why did you want revenge on Thor? What were you avenging?"
The grey-blue eyes narrowed as he leaned forward. "I doubt very much that your mortal—"
"Cut the godly superiority crap," Pepper snapped back. "If I had to make an educated guess, I would say that it was because you grew up in Thor's shadow and you were fed up with it."
"If you knew the answer, why did you ask the question?" Loki hissed.
Pepper bit back her retort and took a deep breath. "You threw the immortal equivalent of a teenage tantrum, Loki—you're no better than us 'mere mortals,' and you're deluded if you think otherwise." He opened his mouth, but she cut him off. "What did those aliens do to you?"
He blinked, obviously caught off-guard. "I beg your pardon?"
"The aliens you let into Midgard. You were acting under their initiative, not the other way around." She leaned forward, her voice lowering and intensifying. "They picked you up after the destruction of the Bifrost, and they tortured you, didn't they?"
He'd actually looked uncomfortable for a moment, then the wall came up and she couldn't see into him any further. "You humans are so arrogant—you think you have all the answers. I may be subject now to your authority, but I will by no means bow to it."
She heaved a sigh and threw up her hands. "Okay. Okay, fine, be that way." She rose to go, then turned back to him. "You know, Loki, it's okay to be vulnerable. You can't really heal from what you've been through until you allow yourself that." Then she rapped on the door, and Nick Fury let her back out.
Tony was slouched against the wall opposite, arms folded, legs crossed—pretending not to look concerned and failing. "Well?"
"Pretty much what I figured after that nice, long conversation with Thor," Pepper replied, straightening her suit jacket. "He's little more than a kid with major issues." She turned to Director Fury. "I'll take the job, sir, but I expect some compensation."
Fury cocked an eyebrow. "If you can accomplish anything with that psychopath, the world itself will owe you a huge debt, Miss Potts."
"Are you sure about this, Pep?" Tony broke in.
"You're the one who asked me in the first place, Tony," she reminded him. "And, actually, I am. I don't know that I can accomplish anything with Mr. Tall, Dark, and Angsty in there, but I'm going to darn well try."
Sorry if anybody seemed OOC there. I'm a very recent convert to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, by virtue of having been completely disinterested in superheroes my entire life. But, a couple of weeks ago, my cousin dragged me to the theater to see The Avengers, and it was love at first sight. Not to mention Thor and Captain America. So… please bear with me. I promise to give this idea my best shot.
Which brings us to the question you're probably thinking right now: why Loki and Pepper, for crying out loud? Well, with all the Avengers-under-one-roof fics out there, often involving Loki in various stages of Chaotic Neutral, I wanted to do my own. I also wanted to do something that nobody else had done yet, and I kinda wanted to do something with Pepper. And then I had the thought that Pepper was probably the perfect person to oversee Loki's rehabilitation, after spending so many years with Tony Stark. There's probably very little that Loki can throw at Pepper that she can't handle.
Anyway, you're going to see all the Avengers in this story, and, like all my stories, it will be very heavily character-centric. I also can't guarantee on the regularity of updates, because I'm getting close to finishing up the first draft of a suspense novel (see my profile for further details). And, in general, I'm just plain busy. But I hope to give these characters the love and attention they deserve.
And reviews do help speed the creative process. Also, requests on things you'd like to see in this fic are welcome.
Next up, Loki moves into the lower part of the Stark Tower just in time for a Steve-instigated pizza-and-movie night. Hey, this may be h/c, but I have to have a little humor in my stories. Stay tuned!