Title: Unwanted Feedback
Author: Saydria Wolfe
Series Order: 5
Genre: Rule 63 (Clint Barton)
Relationship: Clint Barton/Tony Stark
Warnings: Discussion of past non-con, Discussion of past child abuse
Author’s Note: Yeah, I forgot Thor the Dark World happened in the MCU. I’ll figure it out later. Also, I threw a casting collage for the High Council in the middle down there.
Word Count: 4,964
Summary: Thor finds out what happened.
“Welcome home, my Prince,” Heimdall greeted as always. As if the entire universe hadn’t changed.
Thor hit his knees. He could not stand under this new weight even a moment longer “Heimdall.” He felt foolish in a way he hadn’t since he was a child. Soul-crushingly, mind-breakingly foolish. “What do I do, Heimdall?”
Heimdall stared at him, patient behind his all-seeing eyes. Heimdall offered his hand. They gripped forearms and his oldest, truest friend once again proved himself worthy of the distinction. “You speak with him, ask questions. And listen to the answers.”
Even when his advice sucked, as Lord Stark would say, Thor trusted it would be effective.
“You cannot tell me?”
“Your brother is beyond my sight.” Thor was familiar enough with the Watchman that could see a trace of bitterness behind Heimdall’s passive face. “He always has been.”
Thor nodded. Such had always been the case, ever the source of distrust between his dearest friend and his only brother. “I will. I will learn the truth and justice will fall where it has been earned.”
“Invite your mother,” Heimdall advised as firmly as he ever did as Thor quit the Bifrost Chamber. “She sees with more than eyes.”
“Well, to what do I owe the honor?” Loki drawled as they came to a stop before his cell. He glanced up and made a show of his amusement. “My, my, the whole family is here.”
Thor shifted uncomfortably at his brother’s tone. It was bitter, as though to taste it would be enough to kill.
He glanced at his father on his left and his mother beyond him.
“We have learned most disturbing news, my son,” Frigga offered. “About Thor’s companions on Midgard.”
“Oh, of course!” Loki set aside his book and stood, mockingly earnest. “I am at your disposal! Allow me to lend you mine ear.”
“It is in regards to the archer,” Thor growled, his patience thin. Loki froze. “And about the son she bore with your features.”
“No,” Loki denied.
“Your features—one red eye, patches of blue skin. Your scent. Your magic.”
“No.” Loki stepped back, shaking his head somewhere between terrified and earnest. “That was a nightmare. A vision sent by—”
“Yes?” their mother urged when Loki stopped.
“No!” Loki shouted it this time. He turned from them, paced. A hand went to his forehead, then his mouth. His agitation but grew until he kicked the small fine table, sending his collected books flying.
He turned back to them sharply. No, he turned back to face the All Father.
“I demand trial by the Norns.”
“Loki!” Thor objected. The Norns would slay even Odin should justice demanded it.
“The Norns will force the truth,” Loki said, eyes locked on Odin. “Not even I can evade their grasp.”
“Father, please, just order the truth,” Thor pleaded with his father but he was ignored.
Odin only had eyes for Loki and Loki for Odin.
“Very well,” his father said at long last. “I will petition the Norns and the Council that we may settle this with all due speed and true judgment.”
“Father, no, please.” Thor knew it was pointless but there had to be better options than the Norns. The Norns.
Loki turned away. “Thank you.”
A month and a day, that was how long it took for it all to be arranged.
They gathered at the Roots of Yggdrasil, a ringed circle of tall stone plinths. The most sacred site on Asgard.
All who came to participate or witness dressed plainly, undyed linen and wool. No rich furs, no layers of gold, no sparkling gems. No boots, no weapons. Not even the Allfather’s crown. They all stood equal before the Norns.
“Who has brought the petition?” one of the maidens asked, her voice the rasp of fallen leaves across the ground as she left their loom to stand before the Well of Fate.
“It is I, Odin, son of Bors. My son, Loki, has been accused of crimes most high and has requested true judgement.”
“Hmmmm,” the one at the loom ran her fingers over a gold-shot green string. There was much length left to weave and Thor tried to find comfort in that but he could not trace his brother’s line back through the tapestry.
When he tried the colors whirled and left him weak in a way no physical exertion ever had. It was disconcerting.
“Loki, son of Odin,” the third called.
Loki stepped forward. “I believe son of Laufey would be more appropriate.”
“You are son of Laufey and son of Odin in equal measure,” the first spoke again. “Both created you. Both destroyed you. You would pick on over the other?”
Loki considered that. “Son of Frigga, then.”
This time the second Norn’s hum sounded pleased to Thor’s ear.
“Come,” spoke the third. “Place a limb within the Well. Know that should you attempt to lie, you will lose it.”
Loki stepped into to Well with both feet. Then he sat and Thor had to cover his eyes. Loki hadn’t spoken the full truth since they were children, he was going to lose his brother.
The three Norns exchanged a look. They seemed…surprised.
They gathered at the loom and each touched Loki’s thread. The Hands of Fate would compel the truth beyond the Well’s ability to ensure it.
“Tell us, son of Frigga, what happened after Thor destroyed the Bifrost Bridge?”
“The explosion threw me. Thor caught Gungnir and Odin caught him. I had attempted to complete Odin’s work of long ago. I thought it would finally please him.” Loki went quiet.
“I was wrong.
“I knew in that moment that I would never please my father, so I released the spear, relinquishing my Regency to Thor who I knew would return it to our father.”
“How did you come to be Regent?”
“My father had banished my brother, the intended regent, after he led a small band to Jotunheim to investigate the disturbance at his coronation. On the mission, I began to suspect I was not trueborn of Odin and Frigga. After the incursion into Jotunheim, I confronted my father after about it, but the Odinsleep captured him. My mother assured me that my father wanted me to have the crown and named me Regent.”
“You took up the Spear of the King?”
“Was your Regency opposed?”
“You were disobeyed? While wielding the Spear of the King?”
Hisses broke the silence, the Spear carried the right to rule. One without the previous King’s blessings upon their rule would not be able to find the Spear muchless hold it. Disobeying someone holding the Spear was effectively spitting on all the kings that had come before them as well.
“We call Heimdall, Lady Sif and the Warriors Three.”
Thor watched in horror as his dearest friends all obeyed the call of the Norns.
“You will be next,” the third Norn promised his companions.
Thor felt shame take root in his soul. While he had been learning the true meaning of leadership and sacrifice, his friends had been, what? Committing treason? And they had never been punished? While Loki rotted away in a one-room cell for years?
“Tell us what happened after you fell.”
“I was found…” Loki swallowed. “By the Black Order of Thanos.”
Gasps ran through the crowd.
“I was…broken. Tortured by Nebula Thanosbane, Supergiant the Leech, and Ebony Maw. They made me a Thrall of Thanos.”
“They armed you with a scepter and sent you to Midgard,” the first Norn whom Thor assumed was Urdr—past—prompted. “To what end.”
“Continued exposure to the scepter ensured Ebony Maw would not lose control of my mind. It took me three years to release his hold on me and yet I can still hear him. He haunts my dreams,” Loki admitted. “The Invasion was but a diversion. A method to return me to my father’s house in a way that would not draw further investigation.”
“To what end?”
“The Infinity Gauntlet.”
“The Infinity Gauntlet is secure,” Father protested. “It remains within the Weapon’s Vault.”
“Silence!” The Third Norn roared, rocking even Odin back on his heels.
“It is but a duplicate,” Loki told the gathered throng. “Made by Eitri himself. Thanos holds the remaining dwarves in surety of Eitri’s compliance.”
Gasps and shouts for fury filled the air. Thor felt sick. The dwarves were beholden to Asgard for protection and guidance. Asgard had failed them.
Urdr glared them all into silence this time rather than force her sister to shout again.
“Which Stones does Thanos have?” the third sister—Verdani, the present—asked.
“The Mind Stone was contained within the Specter. The scepter remains on Midgard but the Stone answers to Ebony Maw and Ebony Maw alone.
“The Space Stone remains within the Weapons Vault. Father kept it personally for many years to study and I was able to corrupt my connection to Ebony Maw so the he could not find Asgard again before my father placed the cube within the Vault.
“The Reality and Time Stones remain hidden but the Power Stone is in a vault on Xandarr, and last I knew Gamora the Favored was seeking the Soul Stone for her adopted father. I know not if she has found it but she has never failed a mission for her father.”
“And these accusations?” Urdr asked. “The charge of rape against one of the Guardians of Midgard.”
“I thought it was a dream, a nightmare,” Loki admitted. “A vision sent to me by Ebony Maw to break my will once again.”
“Did you violate the archer’s will in any fashion?”
“I chose her. Of all those present when I arrived on Midgard, I felt a kinship with her. I knew that if she could not break his control, she would comply subversively. All those I chose met this criteria but mind control is not within my magic. I did not subvert anyone’s will.”
“But you chose them?”
“Yes. I could not not choose when ordered to, but every choice I made was done to thwart Thanos and protect Midgard.”
“How much were you aware of during your time on Earth?”
“I cannot be sure.” Loki looked away, shoulders hunching. “Ebony Maw sent me many visions. Pain. Heat. Past torture, future conquest. I know not what is truth and what is fantasy.”
“Lay back,” the second sister—who could only be Skuld, future—ordered and his brother complied.
The Maidens of Fate released his string and stepped into the pool with Loki. They bathed him with their hands and the Waters of Fate. Though his brother was physically clean—all who came to this place had to be—the water ran black from his body. The black of ink and the green of poison and the purple of a dead star.
They bathed him for what felt to Thor like hours.
When the water finally ran clear more, Skuld put her hands on Loki’s shoulders, stared into his face and said, “You are forgiven, Loki of Asgard. You are reborn in the Well of Fate. Release past grievances and let none hold past grievances against you.
“Know that your son is the Guardian of Asgard and Heir to the Odinforce. He is the key to the future and the Hand of Fate, the only one that may save us all from Ragnarok. On Asgard, he shall be known as Balder, the Shining One. And his mother shall be Skadi, Goddess of the Hunt. Fierce as the winter wind and twice as deadly.”
“He needs you, Loki, son of Frigga,” said Verdani. “But you’re going to have to earn your place in his life.”
It was Urdr that helped Loki to his feet. “Good luck.”
“Well, well, well,” a beautiful, powerful aesir Thor had never seen before approached the Allfather as Sigyn, his brother’s ever faithful handmaiden, helped him out of the Well and bundled him in warm clothes to get him back to the palace. “It seems you do understand justice after all.”
“And who are you, to speak to my father so hatefully?” Thor asked.
The aesir raised an eyebrow at him, “I am Tyr, god of War and Justice, Thor, god of Thunder.
“Meet the rest of your father’s high council. Bragi the Bard; his wife Idunn, Guardian of Immortality; and his younger brother Magni the Craftsman. Freya, goddess of Magic. Eir, goddess of Healing. Lofn, goddess of Peace. And finally Aegir, god of Ocean and Wind.”
The Allfather did not argue this Tyr’s words which threw Thor for a loop. The only member of this extended High Council Thor had known in his life was Lofn—and Odin had always dismissed her words in his council sessions without discussion.
“Heimdall is no longer part of the Council?” Thor asked.
“Clearly.” The one named Freya did not look impressed with him. It was a strange feeling. “To deny the Spear of the King is to deny the King. It begs the question of whether he is Asgardian at all at this point.”
Thor choked. Heimdall? Not an Asgardian? It…as Clint would say blew his mind.
“I will bind these traitors to Asgard until the Norns are prepared to deal with them,” Freya promised.
“I will see to Prince Loki,” Eir volunteered. “I will ensure he is fit before we vote regarding our new member.”
“It seems most fitting to me that Prince Loki replace a man that committed treason against him,” Lofn agreed. “Perhaps our newest goddess will join us as well.”
“I shall ready the apples,” Idunn assured her fellow council members. “The Norns have spoken, it is not my place to deny a rightful goddess the fullness of her true self.” She looked at Odin. “Will you be explaining to her the truth of Loki’s so-called crimes?”
“My wife has already requested this task,” Odin told them. “And I agree the…common ground of motherhood will facilitate a fuller dialog between them.”
The Council Thor has never known nodded their agreement.
“I will go to Midgard this first time, Thor will accompany me. We will introduce Frigga to Skadi and begin discussion of reparations. Though, I do not expect our presence will be well tolerated.”
“I will send forward scouts to learn the current status of the dwarves.” Tyr told the Allfather. “We will have a plan to free them and retake Myrkheim by the time you return.”
“I assume the days of chain proxies are over?” Odin asked delicately.
The entire Council smirked with varying degrees of smug or vindictive pride.
“For now,” Tyr agreed. “We have many issues to resolve. It is best the entire Council see to these matters and return Asgard to its intended state.”
Odin had a look on his face not unlike the time Loki pranked the wrong plate and the Allfather had accidentally received roasted bilgesnipe for his evening repast. “Come, Thor. Tyr is correct, there is much to do.”
Their first stop after leaving the Roots of Yggdrasil was the palace to regain the regalia their statuses demanded of them. Thor did as his father and King ordered but sought out his brother at the first opportunity. He found him on one of the couches in his quarters, layered with warm furs with the braziers stoked to the highest.
“Brother,” Loki nodded to him but did not rise as most in the palace would have.
“Brother,” he returned the greeting but…Thor was at a loss. “Why did you not request a trial sooner? You wasted years in unjust imprisonment…why?”
“I was not safe,” Loki told him. “While Ebony Maw maintained his grip upon me, my cell was the safest place I could remain. Once I had shaken his hold, I knew I would request Trial by the Norns the first time I was asked about my crimes. I admit that I did not expect it to take a further two years but it is done.”
Thor nodded. There wasn’t much he could say to that other than to apologize and Loki never took that well. “Did you know father’s High Council includes a further six memebers I had never met before today?”
“Of course,” Loki frowned at him. “There have been several books written about the High Council in the Library. One of them even speculates—very gently, mind you—as to why they have chained their proxies down to just Lofn and Heimdall. The supposition is that Odin perhaps failed to fulfill a duty or broke an oath and they refused to work with him because of it. No one knows what this mysterious wrong could have been, but he is king. No one will know what it is until he is prepared to discuss it.”
“Perhaps that time will come soon,” Thor offered. “They approached father after your trial. Several of them volunteered for various tasks, including healing you. I believe they want you on the Council.”
“Gross,” Loki pulled a face.
Thor laughed. “It is good to see you in better spirits, brother.”
“It is good to be in better spirits,” Loki agreed. “I feel as though a great weight has been lifted…though, another has been gained.”
“You are the father of a child of prophecy.” Thor grimaced. “That is a terrible burden.”
“More for the child than myself,” Loki sighed. “I am tired.”
“Then I will take my leave,” Thor stood. “I will do all I can to aid you and your son, you know this.”
“I do know this,” Loki agreed and closed his eyes, he let his head fall back as if it was too heavy to hold up a moment longer. “I do.”
Thor travelled to Midgard with his parents with the vague idea that he would be responsible for introducing two very separate sides of his life.
He couldn’t have been more wrong.
When they landed on the balcony Stark had reinforced just for him, Clint was in the small dining area directly on the other side of the clear wall with his nephew and Tony. His nephew saw them first and said something to his mother. Clint nodded and smiled at her son.
Then she turned to them. The smile faded from her face faster than one of Loki’s illusions. The eyebrow she raised when he hesitated felt about as friendly as a knife to the jugular.
“Perhaps I should stay out here,” Thor offered.
“Perhaps,” his mother snorted.
The Allmother waved a hand at her own clothing, transforming her gold, gems, and gown into something more similar to Clint’s current attire. Ragged jeans and an oversized button up. Where Clint’s blouse was purple, Frigga’s blouse was a tasteful white and pink stripe.
Frigga entered Stark’s Tower alone. When she opened the door, they could hear Tony and the child clapping about a magic trick only to have the sound cut off when the door closed.
They waited for his mother to get Clint out of the room before he and his father approached the door.
Tony had the child on his hip before they made it inside. “J, get the team up here.”
“Lord Stark,” he greeted, swallowing his grimace at proof his brother in arms no longer trusted him. “I offer my sincerest apologies for my…inappropriate behavior upon my past visit.”
“Thor,” Tony rolled his eyes. “I’d keep the apologies for Clint. Assuming your mom can talk her into taking them.”
Thor nodded and focused on his brother’s son. “Young one, I am Thor. This is my father, Odin.”
“I’m PJ!” The child grinned then ducked his head to hide in Tony’s shoulder. “Misser Stark said I could call him papa!”
“It is my honor to meet you, PJ.”
The team tumbled out of the elevator together. All of them were armed to the teeth. The one Clint had called Lefty even had her bow and a quiver in his offhand and Thor had to breathe through his shame before he could manage introductions.
As he worked through the introductions and was himself introduced to the new team members, he noticed Stark and the child were smoothly absorbed into the group. It was almost an absent, thoughtless behavior, except for how they were kept in the middle of the group—in the safest location—even when members broke off to make more food or serve drinks to the gathered throng.
He had to remind himself that he had earned this by overreacting. He had earned it by scaring a child and hurting his mother even in an emotional way.
He would prove his remorse and perhaps one day he would even be allowed to hug his nephew.
Tension in the room skyrocketed a moment before he saw Clint shooting her way across the space, headed straight for Odin. She was holding her upper body in a strange posture he thought might be a fighting stance. It didn’t make any sense until she punched his father in the face.
Then she did it again. Then she started shouting.
“How.” Punch. “Could.” Punch. “You.” Punch. “Be.” Punch. “Such.” Punch. “A.” Punch. “Shit.” Punch. “Father?”
Then she punched him three more times before Captain Rogers was there to pull her off his reeling father.
“Goddammit, Steve!” she growled as he gently lifted her off the target of her ire. The angle of his grip made the neat little belly bump her shirt was hiding painfully obvious.
“You know that kind of strain isn’t good for the baby,” the captain gently chided. “We’ll ask Bucky to do the punching from here out. Okay?”
“Only if he does it with his left fist,” Clint grumbled.
“And your shield.”
“Whatever you want,” Rogers promised.
“Chocolate ice cream.”
“For the baby.” Clint huffed. “And peanut butter, right out of the jar.”
“After dinner, I’ll get you the spoons myself.” Rogers sat her down gently on the couch. “You get to explain what’s going on.”
“Momma?” PJ was crawling into Clint’s lap as soon as Steve was out of the way. “Is he a bad man, momma?”
“He’s a…busy man, baby. He was so busy he didn’t talk to his son and let us think really bad things about him for a very long time. He left him in jail for five years when he hadn’t done anything bad.”
“That’s older than me!”
“Yes, it is, baby.”
“That’s not very nice,” PJ frowned. “Me and you talk all the time!”
“You and I—and yes, we do.
“PJ, I have to ask you a serious question, okay?”
“Do you feel like you have too much energy in you, sometimes? Like your mind is too fast to stop or like your tummy’s all fuzzy?”
The child was quiet for a while before he said, “Yes, momma,” very softly.
“What do you do when you feel like that? How do you stop it?”
“Don’t be mad!” The kid pleaded. “I didn’t want it to do bad things!”
“Oh, baby, I could never be mad at you.” She pulled his nephew close and rocked him a bit. “It’s okay, I promise. Please tell me.”
“When I have too much…I make my toys talk to me. Like Mr. JARVIS and Miss Fri.”
“Because you’re lonely?” Clint closed her eyes in shame. This was her fault. Her baby’s pain was all her fault.
“…I would like to have friends, momma.”
“Okay.” Clint took a deep breath. “Okay.” She leaned back and met her son’s gaze. “Here’s what we’re going to do. This is Frigga, she’s your father’s momma.”
“Really?” PJ looked excitedly at Tony.
“Not me, baby,” Tony cupped PJ’s cheek. “Your biological father’s momma.”
“…You’re still my papa, right?”
“Of course, baby. I’ll always be your papa.”
PJ beamed at him.
“Frigga is going to train you to use your energy, to use your magic. Once we have that under control, we can see about putting you in school where you can make friends. How does that sound?”
PJ looked weary. “What about…my eye?”
Clint tilted his face up to where she could see it. “What’s wrong with your eye?”
“The cleaning lady said I was the devil.” PJ’s little face was heartbreakingly sad. “She called me a monster! She said I belong in Hell!”
“Devils don’t exist like she thinks, baby, and they aren’t monsters. It doesn’t matter what the mean people say. Devils are just another species in our great big galaxy, okay? They’re not bad, just different. Okay?”
“Okay, momma.” PJ collapsed on her chest.
No wonder Tony had suddenly fired the cleaning company that handled the whole building yesterday. She couldn’t blame him, not really. He really should have said something to her, though.
“I mean it. You should see the devil over on the west side of Manhattan.” Like hell she was going to call it Hell’s Kitchen right then. “He stopped a bank robbery yesterday. Kept a little boy from being kidnapped the day before. That’s not so bad, right?” She gave PJ a little tickle. “Right?”
“Right!” He giggled. “Momma, stop!”
“Okay, okay. I’ll stop.” She shifted him around a bit in her lap. “If you want, we can ask your Uncle Thor to get you a bracelet, okay? Grandma Frigga told me about a magic bracelet that will make you look however you want. Will that make you feel better?”
PJ gave her wide eyes. “Can I look like you, momma?”
“If you want.”
“Yes, yes, yes. Momma, yes!”
“Okay. Are you okay if Wanda sits in on your first magic lesson after we eat?”
“Momma, momma, am I a wizard?”
“You’re so much more special than that.” She rubbed her nose against PJ’s. He giggled and did it back. “But if you want to be a wizard, we can go with that for now.”
“Now, are you hungry?”
PJ nodded his whole body and gave a cheer.
Clint shared a commiserating look with Tony. At some point, they would get to have a family meal. Some day. Maybe. Hopefully.
Thor watched his mother led his nephew from the room with the witch called Wanda holding his free hand. Bruce went with them and—remembering the man’s large alter ego, Thor was unsure—but since Clint was not only comfortable with but had suggested the arrangement, Thor let it go.
Tony moved closer to Clint and Bucky—the one colloquially called Lefty—settled into his former place at the table the immediate family had taken their meal at. Thor wasn’t sure what that meant that Bucky inserted himself so easily into Clint’s family when he was fairly certain Bucky was romantically involved with Steve. Perhaps he had misunderstood? And yet Rogers hovered at the other man’s shoulder.
Thor dismissed the thought as irrelevant, especially when his father leaned forward and said, “Did my wife have the opportunity to discuss the reparations you are owed by Asgard?”
“She mentioned it,” Clint confirmed. “She also mentioned it was complicated because of my place in your family?”
Odin inclined his head. “As you have borne my son a child, you are legally considered Loki’s consort and Princess of Asgard.”
“I mean, that’s…interesting?” Clint offered.
“Indeed,” his father agreed before she could continue. “The Norns have declared you Skadi, Goddess of the Hunt.”
“But I was born on Earth, I live on Earth, and I am human.”
“The declaration of the Norns entitles you to eat of the Apples of Immortality. Doing so will make you a full Asgardian with the longevity and powers to remain with your son long after all you have known has faded from this Realm.”
“That’s kind of terrible,” Clint decided which threw Thor for a loop. “This is my reparations? This thing I don’t want that people I don’t even know decided?”
“No, this is a possibility for your future.” Odin corrected which Thor felt was less than honest. The Norns would not have declared such a thing if it wasn’t going to happen but perhaps leaving Clint the illusion of choice was wise. “Idunn, Guardian of the Grove informed me it would be best to wait for advanced age before you take a bite of an Apple but, should you become catastrophically injured, the Apples will heal you.
“You simply have more options.”
Clint squinted like she didn’t trust his father’s words, which was wise. Most forget because of Loki’s existence but Odin was a trickster too, in his youth. “I’m still marrying Tony after I push out this kid.”
“Of course, that is proper. Marriages are only allowed between couples that have proven their fertility on Asgard.”
“Earth marriages don’t count on Asgard,” Clint guessed correctly.
His father did not respond which Thor figured was his best option.
Clint sighed. “What are my reparations, then?”
“As a member of the Asgardian Royal Family, you are entitled to assistance, such as the magical cuff you requested to glamour your son. You are also entitled to armor and other finery. A place to stay, food to eat.”
“Weapons?” Clint asked.
“Special weapons would be considered part of your reparations,” Odin tipped his head.
Clint stared at Odin—held direct, aggressive eye contact with him—for longer than anyone Thor could name had ever managed. “I want a weapon that will kill a god.”
Odin nodded and moved like he was about to stand.
“There is the matter of your son,” Thor offered since it seemed like his father was just going to leave it out. Based on Clint’s reaction to the Norns, he could understand what drove his father, but it still felt dishonest. “There is a prophecy.”
“No,” Clint held up a hand. “No prophecies. We make our own destiny in this house. My son is a boy, and everyone will treat him as such.
“Fate can take care of herself.”
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