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Atonement

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LJim walked in and sat down on the chair.  This was going to be a difficult conversation.  He hadn’t spoken to Namor since...since the battle.

Namor looked a bit thinner.  Unshaven.  Tired.  “I am grateful that you agreed to speak to me,” said Namor.  “I would have understood if yo had not.  However there is one thing I wished to say to you.”

Jim nodded.  “What is it?”

”What I did to you, when I cut your head off, that was wrong.  I betrayed you.  There is no excuse for my actions.”

”Are you apologizing?” Jim asked. 

“An apology would be cheap after what I did.  You have been an honorable comrade and a loyal friend.  While I do not recognize the right of the other surface dwellers to judge and punish me,” Namor said, glaring meaningfully at the security camera, “I owe you a debt of honor.  Any sacrifice you ask me - I cannot ask my people to sacrifice, but anything that is mine to give, up to and including my life, you may demand.”

"Then apologize."

Namor blinked.  “What?”

”Apologize normally.  Like a person.  Don’t make me get Namora and drag one out of you.  If you’re sorry for what you did, apologize right here, right now.”

Namor paused.  “I see.  I am, of course, truly sorry for what I did.  Jim, I apologize.  You deserved better.”

Jim nodded.  “Okay, that’s a good start.”

”If there is anything else you wish of me - if you wish to repay me in kind and take my head, I have informed Atlantis that it is a debt of honor.”

”God, no, don’t say that!”  Jim shuddered.  “I saw you dead once, and it was one of the worst moments of my life!  Don’t even suggest that!”  Not to mention, Jim was pretty sure they would start a war.  Atlantis loved Namor, and it had taken some heavy negotiation with Namora to prevent Namor’s capture from turning into a bigger, bloodier war.

”Exile?”

”Don’t be stupid.”  Jim sighed.  “Namor, I don’t want anything like that.  I don’t want you to suffer.”

”But I wronged you.  I hurt you.  You must be angry.”

Jim was angry, but nowhere near as much as people seemed to expect.  He wanted to yell at Namor, tell him to knock off this foolishness and quit this self-aggrandizing wallowing.  But he didn’t hate Namor.

He didn’t think he could hate Namor.  Not after all they’d been through together.  

“Namor, you remember when I was infected by the Swarm?  They got inside my head and left me full of rage and confusion?  I attacked people.  I attacked you.”

”You...”

”Let me finish,” said Jim.  “You spent months looking for me, and when you came to help me, I burned you.  I hit you with a fireball and knocked you out of the sky.  I thought I’d killed you.”  Jim closed his eyes at the memory, the sickening feeling of horror, seeing Namor engulfed in flames and plummeting like that. “You didn’t insist on punishing me after that.  You didn’t hold it against me at all.  You came back and helped me again, risking your life to make sure I was okay.”

“You were ill.  You said it yourself, the Swarm had infected your brain.  You were not responsible for your choices.  You just needed help.”

And what do you think is going on with you?” 

Namor looked down at the floor, then shook his head.  “That’s different.  I - “

”You have a hallucination that literally told you to make war on the surface world, due a botched telepathic attempt to treat the post-traumatic stress that you also have, plus a chronic medical condition that means you get emotionally unstable when you don’t manage your blood oxygen levels.  Does that sound well to you?”

Namor gave Jim an angry look.  “I knew what I was doing.  I made my choices.  I’m not some madman who knows not what he does!”

“Right,” said Jim.  “You’re the sane man in excellent mental health who’s making perfectly rational choices based on what the hallucination tells you to do.”

Namor sighed.  “I did make choices, though.  Machan, he - he advised me, but I chose what advice to take.  He urged me to kill the Petersons.  He urged me to destroy you completely.  I chose when to heed him and when not to.  I am responsible for what I did.”

Machan.  Poor Tommy’s ghost, raised up in telepathic form to haunt Namor and drive him mad.  “Do you still see him?” Jim asked.  “Machan?”

Namor looked down again.  “Sometimes.”

”You know Tommy wouldn’t have wanted this.  Any of this.”

“I think I know what Tommy would have wanted.”

Jim drew a deep breath.  “Responsibility isn’t an all-or-nothing thing.  You made choices, and also there is something wrong with your head.  We need to deal with both.  You want atonement?”

Namor looked up.

”You’ve told me that I made you a better person.  Let me help you become better.  We’re going to find a telepath who can help fix what happened to your head.  Cooperate.”  Namor had, according to Emma Frost, mental doors like steel when he wasn’t interested in opening up.  Emma wasn’t sure if she could force her way through without causing more damage.  “There will be doctors.  Psychiatrists.  Talk to them.  Tell them the truth.”

”A king does not lie.”

”Except when he needs to,” said Jim.  “I want honesty. Don’t just say things that aren’t lies, tell them the truth.  Tell me the truth.  Tell me when something’s wrong, something hurts, or something has you backed into a corner and all of the choices are bad.  If you have some huge dark secret that you feel like you can’t tell anyone, tell me.”

”Some secrets need to be kept.”

”I know!” Jim sighed and rubbed his temples.  “I’ve fought to protect the world too.  I’m not saying you have to tell everyone your secrets, but tell me.  You can trust me.  And I can help you so you don’t go off the rails again.”  He looked at Namor.  “One more thing.  Your friends are trying to help you.  Steve, Bucky, Namora, me, we are all trying to solve this to save as many people as possible, including you.  That means you’re going to have to sit down and shut up when people stand up in public and say you’re unwell and not responsible for this, even if it offends your royal honor.  That means you’re going to have to apologize and admit weakness in public.  That means you’re going to have to say that you’re ill.”

”I will not lie to save my own skin.”

”I’m not asking you to lie!” Jim shouted.  “I’m asking you to say that a powerful telepath tampered with your mind and gave you a hallucination which urged you to go to war with the world!  For God’s sake, Subby, let us help you.”

Namor blinked.  “I hadn’t expected to hear that again.”

”What?”

”Subby.  It was a nickname of affection.  When I was a child, they called me half-breed, or krada, pale crab.  You and Bucky were the first ones to call me a nickname out of kindness.  I thought I had destroyed our friendship in order to save the world from pollution and endless war.  The sacrifice weighed heavily on me.”

”I don’t give up that easily,” said Jim.  “And I hope you don’t either.  What I’m asking of you is going to be hard, harder than it probably sounds.  Some of it is going to hurt.  I’m going to need you to be strong.  Can you do that for me?”

Namor met Jim’s gaze.  “Of course.”

”I thought so.” Jim smiled.  “You’re the strongest man I know.  We just need to set that strength to the right task.”  Jim stood up.  “I’ll see you again.”  He put his hand up to the security glass.

Namor reached out and touches his hand to the other side of the glass.  “Why are you doing this?  Why, after all that I’ve done, are you still trying to help me?”

Because, you insufferable amphibian, I love you, Jim didn’t say. Now was not the time. They had to get Namor well first.  “Because, Water Rat, you’d do the same for me.”