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Sympathy for Monsters

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There’s a teenage girl arguing with Sarah at the front desk.

 

Normally, that wouldn’t be enough to make Clint stop on his way back into the tower - he’d just bought himself a box of donuts from the bakery a few blocks away and he was planning to enjoy them - but something told him to stop. Like, seriously; his instincts were screaming at him that this girl was off. So now he was lurking in the lobby instead of finding the comfiest air vent and snacking.

 

Problem was, he couldn’t figure out what was giving him pause. Yes, the girl did have some sort of punk vibe going on - with the leather trench coat, and the left side of her hair being silver-grey, and the too-much-eyeliner - but Avengers tower got all sorts of weirdos. It was in New York, of all places. And yes, the girl did have some impressive vitiligo - the left half of her face was death-pale and sort of mottled - but Clint wasn’t about to judge someone for a skin condition. Still, it wasn’t enough to have all of his battle instincts on alert. Whoever the kid was, she was just a teenage girl; no older than sixteen and - judging by her eye shape - of mixed Asian descent.

 

Huh, she really did have a left-right dichotomy going on. Her left eye was cloudier - cataracts, maybe? - than the right.

 

In any case, both the girl and Sarah were getting more and more frustrated. Sarah had that whole I’m-at-work-so-I-can’t-strangle-you-even-though-I’d-like-to expression, and the girl was approaching fucking pissed.

 

“Miss, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” Damn, how long had the kid been there to make Sarah use that tone of voice? “If you need to speak to someone, you can file a formal request—”

 

“Damn it!” the girl exclaimed, slamming her hand down on the desk. “I’ve told you, I’m here to see my uncle. It’s urgent—”

 

“All right, that’s enough. Security, please escort this young lady off the premises.”

 

“Come on, miss, move along—” a security guard went to lay a hand on the girl’s shoulder. The girl’s eyes went wide.

 

“Do not touch me!” A field of cackling, dark-green energy billowed out from her, tossing the guard back into the wall. Clint - and all the other security guards in the lobby - instantly had his gun trained on her. Dammit, he really should never go anywhere without his bow.

 

The girl looked stunned, as if her own actions had caught her off guard. She swore, then sighed, and then straightened to her full height. Admittedly, it wasn’t terribly much, but man, the girl had a presence.

 

“I am Hela, Goddess of the Dead. My uncle is Thor Odinson, Crown Prince of Asgard, and I am here to see him,” her eyes gleamed with challenge. “Now, let me through.”

 

Fuck, Clint really hoped Thor had another brother. Or a sister. Anything but fucking Loki having fucking kids. In the meantime, however, it fell to him to wrangle the probable-Loki-spawn. That’s what he got for being the only Avenger in the room. Damn it.

 

“Hela,” he called, and her gaze snapped to him. Her eyes were green, and Clint appeared to have been right about the left-eye cataracts. Regardless, her gaze was intense, and fuck, he really didn’t want to be doing this. He could live a lifetime without any reminders of Loki, thank you very much. “My name is Clint Barton; I’m a—a shieldbrother of your uncle’s. I’m gonna have Sarah here call up and have him come down, okay?”

 

Well, Thor and the rest of the team were probably on their way down anyways after Hela’s little magic show, but it was probably better to actively let her know they’d heard her. Pretenses of compliance keeping the situation de-escalated and all that; Fury would be proud.

 

No need to tell her the team would be coming armed and ready for a fight either. If she was at all clever, she’d be expecting that.

 

“Thank you, Clint Barton. My apologies for—”

 

“NIECE!” Well, there was Thor in the emergency elevator—and Tony, and Steve, and Nat behind him, all ready for a fight. Bruce was probably upstairs, waiting to see if a code green was necessary. The team, sans Thor, moved to encircle Hela. “Are you to tell me the cause of the disturbance?”

 

“Uncle!” Okay, wow, if Hela didn’t just do a complete one-eighty from commanding presence to anxious teenager. “My apologies, Uncle, I was startled and—”

 

“Woah, woah,” Tony interrupted, voice distorted through the Iron Man suit’s speakers. “Niece? Uncle? Please don’t - oh my god - please don’t tell me Reindeer Games actually has kids. I don’t even want to think about mini-chaos gods running around trying be like dad and conquer the planet.”

 

Of all things, Hela seemed to wilt.

 

“...I...understand that Father is a war criminal.” Well, there went all hope of Hela not being Loki-spawn. “I saw the influx of souls into my realm after his siege on Midgard - I heard their wailing, I did the paperwork - and I—I would not be here, on the grounds he laid siege to, if I were not desperate. There is—the titan Thanos has set his sights on me, and in his crazed attempts to woo me he has been sending me...gifts.”

 

“The Mad Titan?” Thor looked simultaneously incredulous and furious. “But he—”

 

“Is much older than I? Believe me, I know. Then there’s the matter of his gifts. Entire planets slaughtered, Uncle, O Esteemed Avengers, and I know from his messages that he is planning something massive; destruction on a scale yet unfathomed. And as for me, I do not feel safe even past the gates of my own realm.” Hela drew in a shaky breath, and to Clint’s absolute shock, kneeled with her arms outstretched in surrender. “So I come with a warning, and seeking sanctuary, and—please, do not abandon me to his unwanted attentions.”

 

Oh god, she was just a teenage girl trying to escape some pervy old man. A pervy old man with apocalypse-causing powers. Clint cast his gaze around to his teammates faces, and apart from the impassivity of Tony’s faceplate, found what he was thinking in each of their faces.

 

They’d be monsters to turn the poor kid away.

 

And now he was thinking of Loki’s daughter as a “poor kid.”

 

Shit.

 

“...Okay!” Tony’s faceplate snapped up after a pause. “So, I’m all for not letting creepy apocalypse-pedophiles get their hands on teenage death-goddesses, and I’m sure you all feel the same, so I vote we let her stay. And by ‘I vote’ I mean that this is my tower, so the kid’s staying.”

 

Over on the floor, Hela sagged in relief.

 

“That being said,” Tony continued. “After that little display of magic, I’m gonna have to suggest you waiting in a secure room for a bit. Sorry kid.”

 

“That’s fair.” Hela shrugged, almost embarrassed. “I’d be suspicious of me too, after Father’s...everything.”

 

Clint snorted, almost smiling despite himself. That was one way of putting it.

 

“I’m also going to have to insist on you handing over your coat and belongings, Hela.” Nat walked over to Hela, rational as ever and with a healthy side of caution, bless her. How much help it would be with magic in the equation was up in the air, but it was better than nothing. Hela nodded and shucked her coat, turning it, four knives, an individually wrapped candy, and a keychain canister of mace.

 

“If that’s all, you can follow me,” Natasha said.

 

Hela smiled.

 

“Lead the way.”

 


 

 

Avengers tower had a number of secure rooms - security level one for testing out experiments or tech that might explode, security level two for housing 084s or whatever weird shit the team found in the field, and security level three that could house an assailant (or a stressed hulk) for a period of time. Clint was sure Tony had funnier names for each security level, but he hadn’t gotten around to asking yet.

 

He should really do that. Tony’s nicknames were hilarious, when they weren’t targeted at him.

 

In any case, Hela was in the most secure of the security level three rooms, looking for all the world quite comfortable as she lay sprawled on the floor, and the team - that is, the original six - were crowded into the adjacent observation room. Of course, the rest of the team was present in a little more than spirit - video calls had been set up both to Rhodes and the Compound, the latter of which displayed a stock-still Barnes, Sam, Wanda, and Vision, not to mention a Pietro who was fidgeting so quickly his outline seemed to blur. Aside from that, no one moved.

 

“So we’re giving Loki’s daughter sanctuary in the tower.” Bruce broke the stillness, taking off his glasses to rub at the bridge of his nose.

 

“Is there a problem, my friend?”

 

“What? Oh no—Thor no. What kind of person do you think I am? I’m just—I’m just processing. There’s a lot of new information being thrown at me right now, including: confirmation that Loki is a parent,” Wait, what? “And the threat another potential apocalypse, apparently. The later of which I think should be our first line of concern.”

 

Confirmation that Loki is a parent?” Clint blurted before he could stop his mouth.

 

“Well yeah,” Bruce blinked at him. “Legends say he has a minimum of six - or eight, if some interpretations are right? - kids minimum. Possibly more.”

 

Holy Shit.

 

“Aye,” Thor nodded. “Loki has eight children, to my knowledge.”

 

HOLY SHIT.

 

“Did the rest of you - not you, Thor - not know?”

 

“Of course we knew! Not all of us are human disasters, Bruce.”

 

“Hey! Fuck you, Sam.”

 

“Hey, I hate to defend Clint here—”

 

“‘Hate to defend…?’ Hey Tony! Why do you hate to defend me?”

 

What was it, pick on Clint Barton day? Eh, he’d get Tony back for it.

 

“—But aside from Thor and Vision, who are exempt on the basis that they’re technically not human, and maybe Rhodey, on the fact that he’s Rhodey, none of us can be exempt from human disaster status.”

 

“Thanks, Tones.”

 

“Oh my god, guys.” Everyone present, physically or otherwise, turned to look at Natasha. “You heard Bruce. Apocalypse threat first, petty fighting after.”

 

“But we can do the petty fighting later, right?” Pietro joked, having retrieved a bag of popcorn in the blink of an eye. “This is pretty entertai—OW!”

 

Wanda glared at her twin, hand at the ready to poke him again.

 

“Natasha is correct.” The room took a dive toward solemnity at Thor’s tone. “The mention of Thanos is concerning to me. Earlier, when I questioned Hela of his involvement...she assumed I was incredulous about his age and predatory nature, and while that is certainly true, I was and am more enraged at that than anything else. My shock came from another source”

 

Tony raised an eyebrow.

 

“Explain, Thor.”

“Thanos is a legend, even to Asgard. Confirmation of his existence is concerning - he is called the ‘Mad Titan’ for a reason - and Hela is not the kind to lie about such things. To think he has targeted my niece...”

 

“So you’re saying Hela’s in a lot more danger than the rest of us thought,” Steve cut in. Thor nodded, and there was a collective sympathetic wince. Steve straightened up. “I say we talk to Hela. We barely have any information as it is, and she’s the only one who knows more. Better to have information to verify than talking in circles here and trying to fight Thanos blind.”

 

Barnes snorted.

 

“That’s rich coming from the guy who broke into the POW camp where I was being held alone…

 

“Seriously, Bucky?”

 

“Guys!” Rhodey cut in. “Focus! And in this case, Steve’s right; we need to talk to Hela. That being said - Thor, what can you tell us about this guy?”

 

“Less than I would like to be able to. As I said, Thanos is more of a legend than anything else to my people - wakes of destruction, whispers of a name, rumors of children taken and of an army building. What I can tell you is that Hela’s claim of whole planets being slaughtered is not out of line with what evidence we have seen of him.”

 

Well, fuck.

 

“Thor, if this guy is as bad as you say he is, I’ve gotta ask: why’d Hela come to us?” Thank you, Barnes. That was a damn good point. “I mean, you guys are good - earth’s mightiest defenders and all that - but for the most part you’re a bunch of humans. Wouldn’t it have made more sense for Hela to go straight to your dad? Asgard has a whole army, and there’s, well, eleven of you. Twelve, if you count me”

 

Out of the corner of his eye, Clint saw Bruce wince. Directly in front of him, he saw Thor grow tense. Interesting.

 

“Hela cannot go to Asgard for aid.” God, Thor looked so sad. “My father...does not look kindly upon my nieces and nephews, and they and their mothers have often faced harsh judgement at his hand. Hela is banished from Asgard.”

 

“I’d really been hoping that part wasn’t real,” Bruce whispered.

 

“And you didn’t fight this?” Tony was incensed.

   

“I tried, Anthony!” Oh shit, was Thor crying? “This is one place where I have never seen eye to eye with my father, but his word is law. Any pleas either my brother or I offered fell on deaf ears, for my mother had foreseen that Hela and her brothers Jormungandr and Fenrir would have a hand in Ragnarok, and the Allfather would not risk such events coming to pass.”

 

“...Did you ever try to help them? After they were…?”

 

“Aye, Wanda; I did. Loki and I endeavored to undo their sentences, but luck was not with us. As punishment for our actions, two other of Loki’s sons Vali and Narfi, as well as their mother Sigyn who was at the time Loki’s wife, were banished as well.”

 

Shit, Clint was starting to feel bad for Loki, of all people. Like, fuck that guy, he still wanted to put an arrow in his face, but objectively no one deserved to have that happen to their kids. God damn it, Clint didn’t want to feel bad for Loki. He’d feel bad for the kids instead.

 

“Wait, Vali and Narfi were banished?” Bruce interjected. “They’re alive?”

 

“...Yes, why?”

 

“Let’s just say that’s not what the myths say.”

 

Clint opened his mouth to ask, but shut it when Natasha shook her head at him. He’d google it later. Judging by Bruce’s...entire demeanor, it probably wasn’t pretty and there was no need to make Thor hear it.

 

“Honestly, I think this is all the more reason we should talk to Hela,” Steve cut in. “Not only do we need information, but we need to let her know somebody’s in her corner.”

 

Clint turned to look through the observation window at the goddess in question; he wasn’t entirely sure, but it looked like she might have fallen asleep. Steve was right; they really did.