Hey Readers! Sorry I've taken so long to post this chapter; I've had the worst writer's block ever.
Pepper looked up at the ceiling as she heard a crack of thunder, pausing as she scooped a slice of lasagna out of the pan. On any other day, it would just be the sign of an approaching thunderstorm, but on a clear winter night in the Tower, that only meant one thing.
"Goldilocks is home," Tony said, taking another bite of his lasagna. "Just in time for family game night."
The Avengers sat scattered around the living room, each cradling their own plate of lasagna and bread sticks. Pepper had decided to take the day off from Stark Industries, choosing instead to cook up a storm in the well-stocked kitchen, tired of constantly eating takeout, which resulted in an Avengers family dinner, complete with mindless arguing, tossed objects, and plates of food. Earth's greatest defenders behaved like a bunch of five year olds most of the time.
"Hey Thor," Clint called as the Norse god descended the steps into the living room, Thor's normally cheerful expression dark.
"Greetings friends," Thor answered morosely, waving a hand in greeting.
"You're just in time for dinner," Pepper said, smiling at him. "There's some lasagna in the kitchen if you're hungry."
"Many thanks, Lady Pepper, but I have no appetite this evening; I shall retire to my room," Thor said, heading down the hallway to the bedrooms.
"But you're always hungry," Tony called out, earning an elbow to his ribs.
"Don't be a jerk, Stark," Natasha muttered, glaring at him. "Can't you see something's bothering him."
"Our golden ray of sunshine does seem to be more of a raincloud today," Tony commented. "Maybe all the inter-dimensional travel's made Pikachu a little queasy."
"Really need to stop with all the nicknames, Tony," Steve said, grabbing another bread stick.
"Are you just jealous that he has more nicknames than you, Capsicle?" Tony retorted, his comment setting off an argument about the necessity of nicknames and the uselessness of the names Tony had given them, forcing Pepper to referee before food was launched across the room.
"It's gonna be a long night," Pepper muttered to herself, wondering how Phil managed to do this during high pressure situations.
Pepper knocked gently on Thor's door, carefully balancing the tray of food with her free hand. The halls were dark; the muted sound of the television could be faintly heard from the living room. Avengers family night had descended into chaos quickly after dinner; they discovered that putting a group of superheroes together to play competitive kids games was an incredibly bad idea. It resulted in Clint throwing his Monopoly piece across the room at Steve, Steve claiming that Natsha was stealing money from the bank, Tony insisting the game would be more fun if they bought up an actual neighborhood and played with real buildings and Bruce nearly Hulking out from all the tension. 'Never again,' Pepper told herself.
"Thor?" she called gently, opening his door a crack. "I brought you some food; I thought you might be hungry since you didn't eat."
"Come in, Lady Pepper," he answered.
Pepper pushed the door open, spotting Thor standing on the balcony. She shut the door behind her, placing the tray of food on the bed before joining him. Pepper stood quietly for a moment, watching as lightning danced across the sky. 'Wonder if Thor caused that?' she thought. "Is everything alright?" she asked, looking up at him. "You seem upset about something."
Thor shook his head, his blonde hair fanning out over his shoulders. "All is not well, Lady Pepper," Thor sighed sadly, his forearms leaning against the railing.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Pepper asked gently, mimicking his movement.
"It is my brother, Loki," he answered.
Pepper felt a chill go down her spine at the name. It had been over a year since Loki's failed invasion of New York, but the demigod definitely left a lasting effect on everyone involved. Tony still had the occasional nightmare about the wormhole closing on him; Clint still worried about losing control of his own mind. While everyone was working past their problem, they weren't out of the woods yet. Loki wasn't her favorite topic of discussion, but she would be there for Thor if he needed someone to listen to him. "Has he done something?" Pepper questioned.
"In a sense, yes," Thor replied. "My brother refuses to speak to anyone. Not me, or father, or mother. Food is brought to him, but he refuses to eat it. He wastes away before my very eyes; I cannot bare to watch it, but I cannot make myself abandon him. I have failed my brother once; I shall not fail him again."
Pepper frowned slightly, resting a comforting hand on his arm. As much as she hated Loki, Thor still considered him family, still wanted to take care of his little brother despite all the destruction he had wrought. "I'm sorry things aren't changing between you and Loki," Pepper answered sincerely. "When you're an older sibling you always feel responsible for your younger siblings. You just want what's best for them, no matter what they do right or wrong."
Thor nodded his head in agreement. "I feel as if I am forever doomed to fail Loki as a brother."
"Oh Thor, that's not true," Pepper replied.
"But it is Lady Pepper," Thor disagreed. "I allowed my pride to blind me to his pain for many years; I was unable to save him when the bridge was broken and he fell through space. I was unable to save him from his descent into madness and prevent the destruction he brought to Earth." Thor hung his head, his shoulders lowered in despair. "Is it any wonder that Loki has denied our brotherhood and forsaken our family?"
"Thor, none of that is your fault," Pepper said firmly. "You have never intentionally hurt Loki; you cannot blame yourself for his actions. He chose to attack New York, he chose to ignore your attempts to end the battle before it escalated as much as it did, and now he chooses to ignore your attempts to reconcile things with him. This is not your fault."
"It feels as if it is," he muttered.
"That just means you're a good big brother," Pepper replied, smiling gently. "Don't beat yourself up too much, alright? Maybe Loki will come around."
Thor turned toward Pepper, a faint smile on his lips. "You are a wonderful advisor, Lady Pepper; Father would be lucky to have one such as you on his council."
"But the Avengers would be a mess without me, but if I ever need a job change I'll apply," Pepper laughed, nodding toward the doors. "Come on, your food is getting cold.