Archaic Kinds of Fun

one, two, three

“So, they’re gone, huh?” Skye asked as she dropped onto the stool next to Darcy. Her sister, her twin sister, was sitting on one of the kitchen stools with her chin propped up on her raised fists. She was the perfect picture of desolation, and Skye wanted to cheer her up. She knows that Darcy loves Thor, and Thor loves her, so she knows this isn’t easy for her. Darcy also loves Jo, in some weird mixture of a maternal and older sister way, so she’s worried about her too. Skye’s just starting to warm up to the older woman, and even she’s worried about her. She doesn’t look as healthy as she did in all of Skye’s memories, those memories notwithstanding.

“Gone to the Professor’s school. Jo said he’s the strongest telepath alive, so he should be able to help.” Skye lightly nudged Darcy’s arm with her elbow, and one side of Darcy’s lips twitched. It’s close to a smile.

“Then we don’t have anything to worry about. I give it three days max, and they’ll all be back. It’ll be like they never even left. In the meantime, we should entertain ourselves.” Later, if she can ever catch Natasha alone, she’s gonna ask the female assassin to help her with her new abilities. She saw how Darcy made Jo test her, so that’s what she’ll do too.

“Entertain ourselves how?” Darcy had her fist pressed against her cheek, and it’s hard to tell they’re related sometimes. Sometimes it’s hard to tell that they’re twins. They don’t look much alike, except for maybe their hair.

“Well, Clint escaped into the air vents. We could always go hunt him down.” Darcy’s eyes lit up at the suggestion, and Skye can see the resemblance now. They both love a little mischief.

“I know a back way to his favorite spot. Come on!” Darcy grabbed her hand and started pulling on her, and Skye laughed without questioning why Darcy knew where Clint’s favorite hiding spot was. She’s just glad that Darcy’s smiling again.


“Hey, Bruce?” It’s a little weird to be in a jet without an actual pilot, but she knows that it’s actually JARVIS flying the jet. Not just because there’s a sticker next to the controls that says, JARVIS Is My Co-Pilot.

“Hmm?” He’s leaning back in his seat, with his eyes closed, but Jo knows he’s not asleep. He’s squeezing her hand a little too hard to be asleep.

“I want to talk to Tony, but I want you to listen in too. I’ve never done two of these at once, so let me know if you lose some of the transmission.” His eyes opened at that, and she’ll never get over the way that his eyes seem to light up whenever they meet hers. It makes her stomach tie up in knots and turns her knees into jelly.

“You can do it,” he said quietly. Loki is strapped to a flat surface, like a table, because he’s still unconscious. Thor is sitting at his side, so it’s just her and Bruce on this side of the jet.

“Tony, can you hear me?”

“Loud and clear. Aren’t you on the jet?”

“About halfway there. Bruce is here too, I think.”

“I’m here.” In the back of her mind, it was like both of their doors were wide open. She can see and feel everything, which was almost too much since their genius brains don’t really know how to move at a normal pace, but they’re focusing on her right now which is helping.

“Well, that’s new. Is this just some experimentation, or do I have something else to worry about?” Tony sounds flippant, he always sounds flippant, but she can feel the ripples of worry coming out of his door.

“I’ve been thinking, when I’m actually conscious, that we all need help. I know none of us want it, every member of the team thinks that they can handle themselves, but they can’t. I’ve seen all of you, every part of you, and I know the truth. Without help, we’ll fall apart.” She was a little surprised at the strength of her mental voice, because it’s normally so quiet. Even when she’s in the same room as who she’s talking to telepathically. Maybe the mental links really are making them stronger. Making her stronger.

“What do you suggest?” Bruce asked when Tony stayed quiet. Yeah, Tony needs just as much help as any of them. She’s helped him, been there for him, and loved him in a way that helped him heal…but there’s still so much left unresolved. She might be one kickass best friend, but she’s not a therapist.

“Tony, I want you to talk to Sam. He’s got experience with counseling soldiers with PTSD. Superheroes with PTSD are a little different, but he’s the most qualified among us. If he says no, respect his decision immediately and find someone else. I’ll clear them when I get back. The therapy doesn’t have to be mandatory, but it’s encouraged. Fuck, Tony, you wouldn’t believe half the things I’ve seen. If we don’t get help, we’re going to fall apart. I don’t want that to happen. I want to make our family stronger, don’t you?”

“It couldn’t hurt, and Jo’s right. We’ve all been through…things, that we never learned to accept. The things we bury eventually come back to haunt us,” Bruce added. Jo loved him just a little for that, for backing her up when she knows that the thought of telling someone that he thinks of as a stranger all of his misdeeds scares him. Scares him, but not enough to make him run. Never again. She squeezed his hand a little harder and dropped her head onto his shoulder.

“You’re not wrong, sweetheart. I know about your therapy sessions with Cap, but it’s going to get worse now that Bucky is back. I can’t even imagine what the assassins have been through, because I’m keeping their files as confidential as I can. As for you and Bruce, neither of you ever talked to a professional either. Maria’s been an agent forever, so there’s bound to be some issues there. Darcy and Skye had their entire lives turned upside down, so I’m sure they need someone to really talk it out to. I guess, I guess I could use a good rant from time to time. Especially since the Doc isn’t the best listener.”

“Told you I wasn’t that kind of doctor,” Bruce was quick to defend.

“So you’ll talk to Sam?” It’s best to keep them on track, and she can feel a small headache building in her temples.

“On my way right now. Love you, sweetheart! Love you in a manly way, Brucie Bear!” The door that just felt like Tony, like metal and bubbles oddly enough, closed. Bruce’s door, which felt like warmth and tasted green, closed next.

“So, good idea or recipe for disaster?” she whispered. Thor already looks worried enough; she’ll bring up the idea of therapy to him once they know how everything with Loki is going to go.

“I think it’s a good idea, and I think we can trust Sam.” Coming from Bruce, who has a natural distrust of strangers for some damned good reasons, that’s pretty big.

“If he says yes.”

“I have a feeling that he will.” Bruce smiled down at her, and she leaned up to give him a quick kiss. Then she snuggled down against his chest and daydreamed about their magical morning until she had to face reality again.


“Wilson! Falcon! Samster! Mind if I call you Sam?” He’d been sitting in the library, in a corner table that he thought was hidden, but it looks like Tony Stark found him. He shouldn’t be surprised. This is Stark’s house after all.

“If those are my only options, Sam is just fine.” Sunglasses were peeking out of his wild hair, and this is not the billionaire that Sam has seen plastered all over magazines and grinning in press conferences.

“Sam, I have a proposition for you.” Tony pulled out the only other chair at the table, since there are only two, and Sam slowly laid his book down. So much for a quiet day.

“My price is high, even for you.” Tony’s brown eyes widened, just for a moment, and he threw his head back in a loud laugh. His entire upper body shook with the sound, and it’s a good sound.

This is the Tony Stark that Jo built from the ground up. She waited until there was nothing left of the old Tony Stark, waited until he was more of a ghost than anything else, and then she shattered him. Or, better yet, she let him shatter her. Showed him what he could become, and he broke. Every last piece of him fell apart, and Jo swept up the pieces and glued him back together. She dusted off the broken pieces, smoothed away the edges, and helped him be better. Tony was already trying to be a better man before Jo came along, but he was lost in the darkness. Jo was like a lighthouse; she led him away from the darkness.

“Maybe in my younger years, but I’m a one-woman man now. No, what I need from you is something different. Something even more intimate.” He looks a little dirty. There’s grease in his hair, messing up those no-doubt expensive sunglasses, and a smudge of grease is on his chin and in his goatee. His tee shirt has sweat stains, and there’s holes in his jeans. This isn’t Tony Stark-genius, billionaire, playboy (formerly), philanthropist. This is Tony. Just any other man.

“What do you need?” Sam’s book was turned face-down in front of him, and he leaned his elbows on the table so that he could lean forward.

“It was Jo’s idea, actually, since she’s been in all of our heads. For the record, I believe her. She thinks that we all need help. Counseling. Out of all of us, you’re the most qualified. You can say no, and I’ll look for someone else. Just, stating for the record though, I think people would trust you more.”

“Everyone, everyone?” Sam asked. This house isn’t close to being empty, and he’s sure they’ve got a large range of problems. He saw enough in Jo’s memories, even if those memories are starting to fade a little.

“Well, we all know that my life has been out of the norm. That’s including the stuff out of the news as well. You know Jo’s past. She never saw anyone, never really talked to anyone about what happened. Bruce…he cut himself off from the world, literally, and stayed on the run for years. Clint, Natasha, Maria…they’re all high-ranking SHIELD agents that have both done and seen things. Steve…I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know as much about the guy as I should, but Jo’s worried about him since Bucky came back. Doreen, apparently, hasn’t had it easy and could use some help getting used to being part of a team. Darcy and Skye have had their entire lives turned upside down; they’ve gone from having nothing as humans to discovering family as mutants. I don’t know about Thor; it depends on how things go down at the Professor’s mansion. It’s a lot to take in, and I know it’ll be a big responsibility. If you say no, only Jo and I will know.”

He’s never seen Tony Stark hold such a straight face for such a long time, but the man is completely serious. This isn’t something where he doesn’t care about the answer or the outcome. The people in this house, they’re becoming a family. A team and a family, but they’ll fall apart if they don’t get help. People can only repress and hold back for so long; he learned that the hard way. He’s seen it in veterans that he counseled, and he saw it in himself. He has the ability to help all of these amazing people, and how can he say no? How can he turn them down when they’ve taken him in?

“Yeah, I’ll do it. I’ll work up a schedule, and we can talk to everyone after dinner maybe?” Tony’s smile was real. It wasn’t some slick smirk meant to appease a crowd or make a joke to get everyone to laugh; it was real, and it was raw. Tony’s already willing to drop some walls.

“And if you ever need anything, from any of us, come to us. I know Jo knows everything about you, but we’re all here for you. You’re an Avenger now.” Tony grinned as he stood up, and Sam was just a little surprised at the strength of the older man’s grip on his shoulder. Without a second thought, Sam reached up and grabbed Tony’s wrist.

“I’ll do my best.” Tony looked down at him, looked him right in the eye with his hand still on his shoulder, and nodded.

“That’s all any of us can ask.”


“Josephine, it’s been quite a while since these old eyes have looked at your beauty.” The last time his eyes looked at her, she was starving and couldn’t hide behind the weight of her hair. Her eyes had been angry, and her jaw had been clenched as she fought to keep all the voices out.

“You don’t look a day over thirty, sir.” The Professor laughed, a deep chuckle that reminded her of her home away from home, and she looked past him to see the sprawling grounds of the school. Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. She grew up here, learned who she was here, and she hasn’t been able to come back since that young girl (since she) was killed. Strong hands gently reached forward to grab hers, and she looked down into the Professor’s clear blue eyes. Age might have taken a small toll on his body, but his eyes are just as clear as ever. His mind is just as sharp as ever.

“That girl, the one who walked those halls and played in the fields, she’s still here. She didn’t die, Josephine. She grew up.” Jo knelt so that they were eye-level, and she pressed her forehead against the Professor’s knee. She could feel his hand on the back of her head as tears soaked through his pants leg, and she mourned. Mourned for who she was; mourned for all of her lost dreams of doing her alma mater proud; mourned for that idealistic girl that wanted to save the world.

“Who you were doesn’t matter, Jo. What matters is who you are now, and I like who you are now.” She let Bruce slowly pull her to her feet, and she leaned back against his strong chest. What happened to her was unfair, but it has shaped her into who she is now. She suffered, but she’s starting to believe that it was worth it. She has Tony, Bruce, Darcy (maybe Skye), Logan, Anna Marie (Remy by extension), and everyone else at the mansion. She has a family, and it’s time to help her family now.

“Can you see what happened, sir?” She closed her eyes as she felt the Professor press against her mind, and she brought up what happened just that morning on the rooftop. The Professor pulled back in seconds, and she didn’t like the concerned look on his face.

“Hank!” Dr. McCoy jumped from a high balcony to land behind the Professor, and Jo smiled at one of her old teachers. “Please, escort Thor and Loki to one of the secure labs. Thor, both of you will be safe there and completely unbothered. I want to give Loki a chance to recover before Jo and I try to enter his mind again.”

“Thank you, Professor.” Thor used the title like one would address a king, and he tightened his hold on Loki’s body as he followed after Hank. Once they had disappeared inside of the school’s front doors, the Professor turned to look at her again.

“Please, follow me inside. You’ve just arrived in time for lunch, and I know there are many people waiting to see you again.” Well, that’s not terrifying in the least. Jo reached down to grab Bruce’s hand, and she could breathe a little easier when his fingers laced through hers. The mansion itself was relatively quiet, but that’s because it’s lunchtime. All of the kids are gonna be in the large backyard, eating and gossiping, and some poor senior mutant is going to be trying to keep them all in line. As for the professors, they’ll be gathered in the dining room.

“Jo!” Thin arms wrapped around her neck, and she felt one strong arm wrapping around her back. When she looked over, Remy had his other arm wrapped around Bruce’s back. Anna Marie quickly darted forward to hug Bruce as well, and she asked how their trip went.

“Fast. Apparently, driving a jet without an actual pilot is a lot faster,” Jo said with a quiet laugh.

“Not sure if you remember. Anna Marie, codenamed Rogue, is engaged to Remy LeBeau. Also known as Gambit. She teaches history, ethics, and control. She’s also presiding over the newest team of X-Men, with only a little help from the Senior Staff. Remy teaches target practice for students with projectile-based powers. He’s also mentoring his own squad. Calls them the Chevaliers. Stands for knight. Kinda cool, huh?” She looked over at Bruce once she was done spewing her thoughts at him, and he smiled at her as she squeezed his hand.

“Tell me about the others?” he asked as more people got up from the table. Anna Marie and Remy were forced to move to the side, and Jo smiled as she greeted her old friends for the first time in years.

“Kitty Pryde-Rasputin, or Shadowcat, and her husband Peter Rasputin. Also known as the great Colossus. She teaches French, and she looks after the students that are still too young to join the training squads. Colossus normally just goes where he’s needed, so he’s taking over for Logan right now, who teaches close quarters combat. And is that?!”

“Is that a baby?!” Kitty was holding a small wiggling bundle in her arms, and Peter had an arm slung over her shoulder and a wide smile on his face.

“Yes, it is. I’d like you to meet Evan Joseph Pryde-Rasputin. He just turned eight months last week.” When Jo held her arms out, Kitty carefully placed the baby into her arms. The little guy had his father’s pretty blue eyes, but that light brown hair belonged to his mother. She wondered where his height would come from. Kitty’s five-six, which is pretty average, but Peter’s a whole foot taller than her.

“That’s quite a mouthful,” Jo said and let the little guy pull on her fingers.

“Yeah, well, you are the one that tricked us into getting together,” Kitty said and rolled her eyes.

“I didn’t trick you. I locked you in a room that you couldn’t phase out of, that he couldn’t bust out of, and gave you time to talk. Worked, didn’t it?” It hadn’t been easy, finding a room that neither one of them could break out of.

“Kitty can phase through anything. There’s nothing that she can’t walk through. Wood, steel, all of it. As for Peter, he can cover his entire body in metal. Locking them up took a lot of planning,” Jo thought at Bruce. He was looking down at the baby too, smiling at the little guy, but he flicked his eyes up at her to smile.

“It is our way of honoring you. Accept it, Josephine,” Peter said and placed a large hand on top of her head.

“Accepted. Now take him back before I steal him away.” Jo blew kisses to the baby over Kitty’s shoulder as they walked off, and she squared her shoulders as the next set came up to them.

“Scott Summers, Cyclops, shoots laser beams out of his eyes. Current headmaster even though we all know that the Professor really runs this place, and he also teaches elective leadership and tactics. Also, super douchebag. Jean Grey-Summers, telekinetic among a few other unimpressive things, teaches business and consumer law classes. She also led Logan on for years and then married Scott. We don’t really get along.”

“Josephine, I never thought I’d see you again,” Jean said with a sweet smile. Scott was standing next to her, but he was being as stoic and as much as a douchebag as always.

“Unfortunately dreams don’t always come true.” Her eyes narrowed a little at that, but her face quickly smoothed out.

“We are always happy to host you, Josephine.”

“She said host. That’s her passive aggressive way of saying that I’m not welcome for an extended stay. Which is cool with me. If I had to live under the same roof as these two, I’d rip the roof apart.” Bruce tried not to laugh at her little commentary, even had to reach up with his free hand to cover his mouth and pretend he was coughing, but Jo smiled as the next two reached her.

“Jo! It has been far too long!” Strong arms wrapped around her neck, and Jo breathed in the scent of a strong wind after a rainstorm and fresh grass. The next arms that caught her were a little thinner, a little rougher, but just as comforting.

“Much too long, Jo. You must come visit more.”

“That’s Ororo Munroe, Storm. Like her name suggests, she controls the weather. She teaches computer science classes. She’s a member of the senior staff, and she acts as a student advisor and liaison for the senior staff. In other words, if you’ve got a problem, go to Ororo. Kurt Wagner, Nightcrawler, teaches most of the arts. Music, art, life sciences, and drama. The blue skin keeps him pretty confined to the mansion, but he can teleport to just about anywhere. He’s the sweetest guy, and I love his German accent.”

“I’m going to try to. Ororo, while we’re here, I think you should try to talk to Thor. I’m sure he’d love to see your abilities. Maybe even compare notes?”

“Hmm, it would be nice to show off to a god,” the white haired woman mused.

“And, Kurt? I’ve been knitting this sweater, but I can’t seem to get a cross-stitch just right. Do you think you could help me before I leave?” He bowed his head as he grabbed her hands, and she smiled down at him.

“It would be my honor.” She kept smiling as he took a step back, until only two were left. One was great…the other not so much.

“Warren!” She grabbed the tall blonde man as soon as he got close, and she felt his hands lightly patting against her lower back. Like many mutants, his parents told him that he was an abomination. That he was wrong. Well, Jo thinks they’re all idiots. Warren is one of the best people that she’s ever met.

“It’s good to see you again as well, Jo,” he said quietly as he pulled away.

“No hug for me?” It’s been years, they’re all adults, and she can act like an adult. She opened her arms, and Bobby carefully stepped forward and wrapped his arms high around her back. Good call. He stepped back, and Jo smiled at both of them. Mostly Warren.

“Warren Worthington the Third, Angel. He’s got wings, and they can be used for flight or as weapons. He teaches a class for students with flight powers, and he’s also mentoring the Alpha Squadron. Bobby Drake, Iceman, has a little history with Anna Marie which is why I don’t like him so much. He’s pretty good with his ice powers though, I’ll admit that. He’s a certified public accountant now so he teaches mathematics, finance, and accounting. Hank, or Beast, you remember him? He teaches most of the science classes, and he oversees the curriculum.”

“Am I supposed to remember all of that?” Bruce asked the question as Warren and Bobby stepped away from them, and everyone was sitting at the long dining room table again.

“I’m sure your genius brain can handle it all.”

“Josephine, Bruce, if you’d like to join us.” Jo met the Professor’s eyes and realized that there were two empty seats, and she shrugged as she looked over at Bruce. He copied the gesture, and it was decided. The Professor was sitting at the head of the table, so Jo let Bruce take the seat on his left. She sat between Bruce and Anna Marie, and Kitty was across the table from her.

“Bruce, once the Professor and Jo leave to go assess Loki, you should come with me to meet some of the younger students. Secrets don’t really last here, and they were excited to hear that an Avenger was coming to visit,” Ororo said before taking a bite of something…green. Jo couldn’t tell from this distance.

“As long as the Professor doesn’t mind,” Bruce said and looked over at the man. Jo squeezed his knee under the table, in support, because she’s sure that the kids will love him.

“Of course not, Dr. Banner.”

“If it’s alright, I’d rather Hulk meet them. I think he’d be better with them than I am.” Bruce said it with a quiet laugh, and Jo moved her hand up just a little bit higher on his leg. He caught her hand before it could reach mid-thigh and laced their fingers together, and she smiled innocently at him.

“Even better,” the Professor agreed.

“We’ll go right after lunch,” Ororo said and smiled at him.

“Oh, and Jo?” Jo looked up from the meat that she was happily munching on, because she didn’t realize just how hungry she was until she started eating, and met Peter’s blue eyes.

“Mhmm?” She would have actually answered, but it’s rude to talk with your mouth full.

“My sister, Illyana, is visiting. She graduated last year, and she has been searching for her mentor.” Peter sounded worried, and she doesn’t like it when Peter is worried. He’s normally too chill for that kind of thing.

“A mentor? Another mutant?” No one at the table would meet her eyes, except for Kitty and Peter.

“During the summers, I allowed her to travel with a woman named Jade Howland. She’s human, but she practices magic. True magic. She was a good mentor for Illyana, kept her centered, but she has been missing since early this summer. The last time Illyana heard from her was in April. We fear the worse, but Illyana holds out hope.” She’s pretty sure she’s never heard Peter say so much at one time, but he is talking about his little sister. Her and Peter are the same age, twenty-eight (she’ll be twenty-eight this year anyway), and Illyana just turned nineteen. It’s a big gap, and she knows that Peter looks after his little sister almost as if she was his daughter.

“Why do you think I can find her?” she asked after swallowing another huge bite. Geeze, she sure is hungry. Who know all that mental work would make her ravenous?

“Stark’s one of the smartest people on the planet. You telling me he doesn’t have some kind of facial recognition software?” It was Anna Marie that asked it, and Remy was smiling over her shoulder with his cheeks stuffed full.

“He does have a bad habit of knowing information he shouldn’t, so it wouldn’t surprise me. Make sure Illyana sees me before I leave.” Peter and Kitty both nodded, and that’s good enough for her. She’s not sure if she can actually help the young mutant, but she owes it to Kitty and Peter. They were her closest friends for years, and she completely disappeared on them. Clearly they forgave her, because their little boy has her name. Kind of.

“Come, Josephine. Loki is starting to awaken.” Jo put down her fork with a small pout, and she looked over at Bruce.

“The people here will take care of you. Try to have some fun, okay?” Her fingers tightened in his curls as she pressed a kiss to the top of his head, and she followed after the Professor.

It was strange to hear the school so quiet, but they’re heading deep underground. Down to where the walls are reinforced. When they entered a room, Hank stood up to greet them. The chains were removed from Loki’s wrists and ankles, and he’s just wearing a green…tunic. She’s not really sure how else to describe it; she’s pretty sure both Loki and Thor would take offense if she called it a dress. Wires were attached to his forehead, chest, and forearms. They’re monitoring his brain waves and his vitals. To make sure that her and the Professor don’t go overboard. Thor was sitting in a chair on the far side of the bed, and Jo passed by Hank as she walked over to the sitting god. Hank moved to a chair in the corner of the room and picked up a book, and Jo stopped between Thor and Loki. The Professor moved up to Loki’s other side, so that his head was essentially between the two of them.

“Can you understand me, Loki?” the Professor asked. The silent god slowly nodded his head, and Jo felt Thor lightly grabbing her shoulder. Since he was standing, he gently pushed her into his chair and then stood behind her. His strong hands on her shoulders were a good focusing point, and Jo waited to see what would happen next.

“Josephine has showed me what happened earlier, and I know that it was not your fault. Whoever is controlling your mind, that is who pushed her out. Not you. With your permission, I would like to look inside of your mind. I will not push as hard as Josephine did, so you do not need to worry about the pain.”

“I hurt him?” Jo heard herself whisper. The Professor looked up and met her eyes, and she feels like a student all over again.

“You were trying to help. I merely want to see what, or who, has taken over his mind. Once I know that, we can come up with a plan to free Loki’s mind. If he permits me, of course.” Jo turned down to look at Loki, and the younger god was looking up at Thor.

“I would not have brought you here if I did not trust Jo’s judgment, brother. Let them do what they can to save you,” Thor said quietly. Loki seemed to think it over and then nodded over at the Professor. Unlike her, the Professor didn’t have to touch Loki to enter his mind. Didn’t even have to close his eyes, but Loki’s eyes did close. After a few minutes, a blue light began to swirl around Loki’s head. It must be the same force that literally pushed her out of his mind. The light slowly died down, and the Professor looked over her head to meet Thor’s eyes.

“What can you tell me of the mind stone? Of the scepter?” Jo doesn’t remember ever hearing about a mind stone, and she went through a lot of memories in a lot of days. She does remember Loki’s scepter though. It’s how he was able to brainwash so many people, like Clint and Dr. Selvig, and it was later used to stop the Tesseract and close the giant hole into space.

“The mind stone? It must be one of the six infinity stones; each stone carries great power. Power that mortals were not meant to wield. Do you believe the mind stone was hidden within the scepter?” She really does not like Thor’s tone; that tone doesn’t mean anything good.

“I know that it was. The mind stone is what gave Loki the ability to subjugate the mind of others, to bend their entire consciousness to his will,” the Professor said quietly.

“So, Loki really is the one that tried to take over the Earth?” Jo didn’t want to ask it, for Thor’s sake, but they need to know.

“No, not exactly. I believe that Loki was the first test subject, but we will not know for sure until we go deeper. The stone, the being that first wielded the stone, still has control over his mind. We must dig deeper.” The Professor looked first at Thor and then at her, and Jo nodded her head. Whatever it took to get to the truth.

“What now?” she asked when everyone went silent.

“Loki, it will take all three of us to drive out the presence in your mind. In the process, a mental link will be created between you, Jo, and myself. The only memories you will be able to see are Jo’s. Our link will be more informal; it will be more of an imprint, because I will have to hold back the force on your mind as Jo digs deeper. Since she has already created a mental link with Thor, he can strengthen her. He will see your memories in the process, and vice versa, but I believe it is the only way that we can safely push out the being in your mind. Do you consent?”

“Please, brother, let us help you,” Thor said quietly. Loki looked around at all of them, with eyes that were the wrong color, and slowly nodded his head. The Professor grabbed Loki’s hand and reached his other hand out to press against Loki’s forehead.

“Josephine, grab Loki’s hand and Thor’s. Thor, place your free hand over Loki’s heart. The being in his mind is going to fight us, but we are going to be stronger.”

“Damn straight,” Jo muttered as she laced her fingers through Loki’s. She grabbed Thor’s hand with her free hand, and she smiled reassuringly up at the god as he pressed his palm flat against Loki’s chest.

“Let us begin.”

Jo waited until some of the blue fog cleared before she pressed forward, and she was startled when memories started filtering through. Younger memories, of Loki as a young boy, and some of the memories were familiar. She could also feel Thor’s mind, pressing along next to hers, trying to guide her. She’s already seen the past; she saw so much of Loki in Thor’s memories. It was like the two were never apart when they were younger. Thor pushed her, farther and farther, until the harder memories began to surface. Thor wanted to destroy an entire race, the Frost Giants, and Loki followed him. Followed his headstrong, idiotic brother, because he loved him. Then a hand grabbed his arm, and he watched in horror as his skin turned blue. Blue as a frost giant.

Loki stands in the Vault, and he lifts the Casket of Ancient Winters from its stand by his forearms. Blue spreads from his arms, seeps across his body. He can hear the Destroyer behind him, firing up at the presence of a Frost Giant, and he can feel the coldness spreading all over him. It’s true. He wants to tell Thor, but how could he? His brother was banished for trying to kill all of the Frost Giants, so what would he do in finding out that his own brother is one of the monsters that he sought to kill?

“Stop!” When he turns, Father-no-Odin is hurrying into the room. The sounds from the Destroyer cease, and Odin meets Loki’s red eyes.

“Am I cursed?” He can’t be…he can’t be one of those things!

“No. Put the Casket down.” Once the Casket is resting back on its pedestal, the blue color fades from his skin. He is as he was, but which is the real him? He raises his eyes to Odin’s, and he can feel his heart thundering in his chest. Warm blood is chasing away the cold, but he can still feel the chill.

“What am I?” There comes a time when everyone questions who they are, but Loki never thought that he’d have to ask what he was. Not from his own father.

“You’re my son.” The words burn, because they don’t sound true. Odin is saying what he is meant to say and nothing more. The words may burn, but there is no warmth behind them.

“What more than that?” Odin doesn’t answer him. Instead, he can see just how tired Odin looks. How weary and burdened. As if he’s been carrying a dreadful secret for centuries. “The Casket wasn’t the only thing you took from Jotunheim that day, was it?”

“No.” No more denial. Odin looks him straight in the eye and tells the truth, for once. “In the aftermath of the battle, I went into the Temple, and I found a baby. Small for a giant’s offspring—abandoned, suffering, left to die. Laufey’s son.”

“Laufey’s son…” His words are a mere whisper, but they echo in the vault. He strengthens his voice before continuing. “Why? You were knee-deep in Jotun blood. Why would you take me?”

“You were an innocent child.” Odin answers too quickly, and Loki has heard far too many of Odin’s old war stories. Odin has never once saved a child from a battlefield, so why now?

“You took me for a purpose, what was it?” He already knows the answer. He knows the answer, but he doesn’t want to believe. He wants to believe that Odin took him because, in some twisted way, he thought he could learn to love the child of a monster. Odin, however, refuses to answer him. Which is an answer in and of itself, but he wants to hear the words. “Tell me!”

“I thought we could unite our kingdoms one day, bring about an alliance, bring about a permanent peace…through you. But those plans no longer matter.” He can feel the burn of tears in his eyes, because all of his years spent in this palace are starting to make sense. He has never been a Prince of Asgard.

“So I am no more than another stolen relic, locked up here until you might have use to me.” Odin has always shown favoritism to Thor, which has never truly bothered Loki. Frigga doted on him, and he knew that Thor loved him. His brother loves him unconditionally, but he won’t after he learns this truth.

“Why do you twist my words?” Loki has always had a gift with words, but he has twisted nothing here. Odin said himself that Loki was only taken so that there might one day be peace. What will become of him now?

“You could have told me what I was from the beginning. Why didn’t you?” Why the secrecy? Why raise him as a Prince of Asgard?

“You are my son. My blood. I wanted only to protect you from the truth.” Protect him, until the time was right.

“Because I am the monster that parents tell their children about at night?” He can’t stop the tears on his cheeks, because Odin told him and Thor those same bed stories. Told them both of the horrible Frost Giants. Told them stories about him.

After that, Odin fell into the Odinsleep. Loki did his best to rule Asgard, as the rightful heir, but the people called for Thor. Always for Thor. In his jealousy, he did things that he regretted. All he ever wanted was a chance to prove himself. To prove himself to Thor, to the brother that hated his species. To prove himself to Odin, who only saw him as a bargaining chip. As they hang over the edge of the Bridge, waves of energy bashing against them, Loki realized that he made a mistake. He had a chance, and he messed up.

Thor is holding onto one end of Gungnir, of Odin’s spear that Loki took for his own, and Loki is hanging above open space. He can still feel energy pushing against his body, pushing him to let go, and he tightens his fingers. Thor’s hold suddenly steadies, and Loki raises his eyes. Odin is holding onto Thor’s leg, to keep them both from falling, and Loki searches Odin’s face. Looks for some kind of familial love, possibly redemption, but his face is blank.

“I could have done it, Father. I could have done it. For you. For all of us.”

“No, Loki.” There’s nothing on Odin’s face but disappointment. Regret. Loki failed, so there’s only one thing left to do. He lets his fingers slip off the spear and welcomes the nothingness that’s rising up to greet him. The last thing he hears is Thor’s voice, screaming his name.

“Loki, no! Nooo!”

The right brother was saved. Thor may have still been immature when he decided to invade Jotunheim, but his brother—Thor—has changed since his time on Midgard. In time, he will make a good ruler. A fair ruler. For what felt like centuries, Loki fell through the nothingness. He had time to think, time to view his mistakes, and time to think of amends. Perhaps, Thor would be able to look past his parentage. Maybe, in time, they could be as they were. Loki will never rule Asgard; he is not an Asgardian, and it would not be proper. He’ll find another purpose, or he’ll cease to exist. Either would be preferable at this point.

When he is finally found, he wishes for death. The ruler, Thanos, wishes to rule him. Wishes to use him. He hates that Loki will not break. It does not matter how many times they break his body, how many times they rip into his mind to show him his worst horrors, because he has made peace with the monster that he is. For weeks, months, years…they try to break him. The whole time, he listens. He waits. He plans. Once they believe that he is broken, a plan is struck. He promises them the Tesseract, which he knows is on Earth. Enough time has passed; Thor will have found a way to return to Earth, to return to his Midgardian woman, and they will fail. This Chitauri army that Thanos controls…they will fail.

The scepter they give to him has the mind stone embedded in it, to make sure that he cannot stray from their plans. They need the Tesseract. They need him to get the Tesseract. He needs Thor to make sure that doesn’t happen. Thanos has used the mind stone on him so much that he’s no more than a slave to it, a slave to Thanos himself. Should he even think of telling one of the others that he needs help, that he has been enslaved, he will die. Thanos will crush him without a second thought, the scepter along with the mind stone will be returned to him, and he will find a different way to retrieve the Tesseract. No, it’s up to Loki to make sure that everything goes as planned.

Everything falls into place perfectly. He gets the agents he needs on his side, especially Agent Barton. Agent Barton is essential to his plan succeeding, because he will need Agent Romanoff. Once he has the Tesseract, he sends it off. Makes sure that he does not know its location; he makes it look like a ploy against the forces sent against him, but he does not want to know where it is. He can only hope that it will fall into the right hands. When he is taken aboard the hellicarrier, everything comes together perfectly. Agent Barton gave him detailed reports of the Avengers Initiative, and it all falls together as planned.

He’s interrogated by Agent Romanoff, and he reveals his true plan. The scepter, with the mind stone still within it, does not react well with Dr. Banner’s other half. When Hulk begins tearing through the hellicarrier, he knows that it is almost time. Agent Barton has been deployed, and the hellicarrier is falling. The ones that call themselves Ironman and Captain America care more about civilian casualties, so they’ll rush to keep them in the air. Hulk will escape, because that is what he does. (He will return, because he will want to right his wrongs. The mind stone showed him that much.) Agent Romanoff engages with Agent Barton, which leaves him with Thor. Tricking his brother is only too easy, it always has been, but he does not like the look of his brother locked in a cage. (For weeks, months, years…they locked him in a cage. Tore at his body and at his mind. But Thor will escape. His brother is strong enough to escape.)

Phil Coulson was a distraction, an anomaly, something he didn’t expect. Loki is a god, of Asgardian or Jotunheim doesn’t matter, and this man is a mere mortal. He shoves the spear through Coulson’s chest, buries the sound of his brother’s screams beneath his heart, and sends his brother falling through the sky. The blast that hits him is hot, burns, and clears his mind for the first time in so long. For just a moment, he is himself. Unfortunately, he still has a role to play. After that, it’s all motion. He’s on a jet, moving away from all the destruction, and he waits for the heat to return to his mind. When it doesn’t, he concentrates as hard as he can on Coulson’s fading life force.

The human has been moved to a facility, and he is alone. There are no mourners at his bedside, because a war is about to begin. Loki’s fingers turn blue as he pulls back the white sheet, and he doesn’t stop until the man’s entire chest is uncovered. Loki can see the wound, can see the length of the blade that went through his heart and came out through his chest. Loki never wanted to kill an innocent. (That man, in Germany, the one that lost an eye…he was not an innocent. He deserved an even worse fate, and Loki believes that he got off easy. There were others, many others, but they were all liars. Serpents hidden amongst the masses.) Phil Coulson is a good man, and he is not going to die today. Loki’s magic has been limited by the scepter, by the mind stone, but this is his real body. The projection of his body is with the scepter now. With his blue hands, he reaches towards the man’s chest and feels his magic thickening the veins in his arms and spreading down into his hands. It’s getting harder to fight the stone’s control, but he’s nearly done. When the man’s eyes flutter open, Loki knows that he will live. He tells the man to stay still, he doesn’t have very long now, and his eyes close. Once Loki is sure that the human will live, he returns to the stone.

Tony Stark’s building is…obnoxious, is the word that comes to mind. The palace in Asgard is even larger and more ornate, but it’s meant for so many people. Stark actually wrote his name at the top of this monument. Loki waits, but he doesn’t have to wait long for them to come. The Avengers. It’s a good name. Once the war starts, Loki can breathe a little easier. The Avengers are made up of humans, enhanced and normal, but they can stop the Chitauri army. He believes that. He has to believe that, even as he throws Tony Stark out of a window. As if he didn’t notice the technology on his wrist? Fighting against Thor is somehow the hardest. He wants to scream at his brother, beg to be saved, but he can’t. One wrong word, and he won’t exist anymore. He hasn’t fought this hard, this long, to die now. So when he stabs his brother and is pushed from the platform, he leaves the scepter behind. He knows that one of them will be intelligent enough to know that the scepter is the key to stopping the Tesseract.

In the end, it’s Hulk that destroys him. Slams him into concrete, over and over, and his mind is free again. Goading a beast never seems smart, but Loki wanted his mind to be his own. If only for a moment. When he can finally move again, they’re all there. He can’t help his smile. They’re all there, which means that the invasion failed. The Chitauri failed. The Tesseract will be moved somewhere safe. The scepter will be kept somewhere safe. He knows he will face punishment, and he will face it gladly. He cannot tell the truth, he must stay silent, until the hold on his mind is gone.

He learns that he can speak, as long as he doesn’t allude to anything to do with what happened on Earth. As long as he doesn’t think about Thanos. When Frigga dies, his mind becomes his own for just a little while. His anger is strong enough to fight against Thanos’s hold, and he’s able to help his brother. It is only one small step on the way to penance, but it’s all that he can do. For now.

“I’m a fool. I’m a fool.” Loki says the words as Thor’s hands hold him up, and he can feel the ice of his blood slowly draining from his body. He never should have left his cell. He’s getting weak, which means that Thanos can take him over again. He can’t have that. He can’t.

“Stay with me, okay?”

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” He’s sorry for sending the Destroyer after Thor. Sorry for what happened in Midgard, in New York. Sorry for everything. Sorry for the tears that are gathered in Thor’s eyes and for not telling Frigga that he did love her.

“It’s alright. I’ll tell Father what you did here today.”

“I didn’t do it for him.” He did it for his mother, for the woman who loved him in spite of what he was and never treated him any differently. He did it for Thor, to prove to his brother that he isn’t a monster. He never wanted to be a monster.

Before Thanos can take over his weakening body, he finds a passage back to Asgard. Makes it back into his cell before his mind is once again taken away from him, and he laughs as Thanos roars. Because Loki is back in his cell, where Thanos cannot use him. Where he cannot hurt anyone. When it is over, when Odin reveals that Frigga truly did survive, his mind shuts down. In his paralyzed state, Thanos takes over completely and punishes him. He can no longer talk; he cannot request a report on Frigga’s health or even beg Thor to save him. He stops eating. Stops drinking. Prays that his body gives in so that Thanos can never use him again, because he can feel the other man growing stronger. Loki will no longer be his pawn. He only has two choices now: choose to die as himself or live as a slave. He was born to be a king, and he will not live as some madman’s pawn.

“You have suffered, Josephine Holbrook, much in the way that I have suffered. Do you begrudge my choices? What would you choose?” Loki’s voice was so soft against her mind and so defeated, and she could already tell that her face was drenched with tears.

“I would choose neither. You saw my memories, as well. As much as I wanted to die, all of those times that I begged for them to end me, I held on. I kept holding on, hoping that one day, someone would save me. I was saved. Today is your day to be saved, Loki.”

“You will be saved, brother.” Thor’s voice echoed in both of their minds, and Jo held onto their hands tight enough to break the bones of a mortal. It’s a good thing that they’re both gods.

“On my count, Josephine, I want you to claim Loki Laufeyson as your own. Do you understand? You have to mean it, with your entire being, it is the only way we will force Thanos out.”

“You got it, Professor.”

“One, two, three…”

“Loki Laufeyson is mine, and I command you to get out!”

The roar in her head was deafening, it made her want to scream from the intensity of it all, but she bit her lip and held onto that feeling. After a few moments, all traces of the blue fog was gone. The only thing left in Loki’s mind was memories tinged with green, like the vibrant color of his eyes, and a few memories that were clouded in red. The color of Thor’s cape. She slowly opened her eyes as she pulled out of Loki’s head, and she could feel another door at the back of her mind. This one was cold and tasted like blueberries, but she’s learned not to question the weird things that happen in her mind. The professor had let go of Loki’s hand, and Thor had removed his hand from Loki’s chest. Her and Thor were still holding Loki’s hands though, almost like an afterthought.

“Brother?” Thor’s voice almost seemed to shake, and Jo noticed the way that Loki’s lip twitched.

“Am I still your brother?” His voice sounded a little rough from disuse, but a little bit of water should clear that right up. Jo stood up and stepped back so that Thor could sit on the bed next to his brother, and Thor didn’t hesitate to haul his brother up into a back-breaking hug. She means that too. Something popped.

“Hank, if you could, please escort Jo to a room where she can rest. Then bring Dr. Banner into my office.” Jo raised a brow at that. Yeah, she feels like she’s about to fall over, but why does the Professor want to talk to her Bruce? “I want to let him know that the mental link was a success and then I would like to contact everyone at your home and tell them what we saw. With Loki’s permission.”

“If they’ll believe it,” the god managed to get out in his hoarse voice.

“They will. Food and water will be provided for you, but you both need to rest. Loki, as far as the mental link goes, you can always contact me or Josephine. It does not matter the distance. Call, and we will hear you.”

“Thank you.” Loki’s eyes closed after getting that out, and Jo swayed on her feet.

“This way, Josephine. You’ve earned your rest,” Hank said and gently grabbed her arm.

“But I left my bag on the jet,” she mumbled as they exited the room.

“Me and Bruce will get it.” Hank led her into one of the many guest rooms, and she thanked the older mutant before closing the door. She’s wearing boxer panties, white with little Hulk faces on them, so she stripped out of her jeans. Next off was the button-up shirt, so that she was just left in the black Ironman tank. Now she’s ready for some sleep. She flipped the light off, listened to her feet whisper across the carpet, and collapsed against the mattress. Pulling the sheets and the blanket up her body wasn’t easy, and she buried her face against the fluffy pillow.

“Mind meld was successful. I’m fine, Thor’s fine, Loki’s apparently kind of a good guy, and I’mma take a nap. Professor will talk to you soon. Nothing to worry about. Come cuddle me later.” She pushed against his door lightly, but it was like his door was always cracked and ready to open for her. Kinda like Tony’s.

“Rest, Jo. I’ll be with you soon.” She smacked her lips against the green flavor in her mind and let the warmth seep down from her mind all the way down to her toes. The Professor, her, and Thor saved Loki today. She can rest now, and Bruce will be with her when she wakes up. If that’s not an incentive to go to sleep, she doesn’t know what is.
♠ ♠ ♠
First up is the obvious disclaimer: I don’t own any of the mutants from the school. They all belong to Marvel, and I encourage you to Google them because the X-Men are awesome! (I, personally, don’t hate Jean-Grey or Scott. Jo is just fiercely protective over Logan.)

The Loki flashbacks come from Thor, The Avengers, and Thor: The Dark World. Writing the Loki parts was extremely difficult, because I was trying to find a balance between okay and bad. I really want Loki in the story, but I can’t see the others forgiving him easily. (Not that it’s going to be easy in this story, but he’s got a fighting chance now.) Also, as much as I love Loki, he’s not my favorite Marvel character. Most of my obsessive love is saved for Ironman and Deadpool, surprisingly. You’d think it’d be Hulk, but he’s in the top five. What I’m trying to say is that I hope I didn’t mess Loki’s characterization up too much. If you think I did, please help me improve.