Ambivalence was not the fic that I originally intended to recommend. However, in a recent conversation with Lady Geek Girl, the two of us complained a lot about the abuse-apologist rhetoric that seems to follow Loki’s character around on the internet. As much as I love Loki’s character and do feel for him, it’s always bothered me how many fanfic authors tend to write off and excuse his murderous actions due to his own internal turmoil. And no, that’s not all the Loki-redemption fics out there, but it is enough of them.
I really do love the Loki-redemption stories, but I dislike how many of them tend to minimalize the atrocities he committed in order to redeem him. Thankfully, Ambivalence does not follow that trend.
Tony had built his suit to protect himself and others. He should not have been caught again. He also shouldn’t have to depend on a certain green eyed individual, who happens to be his cellmate, for survival. Tony and Loki whump. No Slash. Rating for scenes of torture.
—summary of Ambivalence
When I first settled down to read this, I really did think that it was going to be a typical “Loki gets hurt badly so the Avengers save him and accept him as one of their own—New York Destruction? Who Cares?” fanfiction. I can say with all certainty that I am happy to have been wrong.
This is certainly one of the better post-Avengers stories I’ve read that attempts to put Loki and an Avenger at an understanding with each other. Loki and Tony end up both being kidnapped by a sadist and tortured. This fic captured my eye, because as I’ve stated before, I like stories in which two people who hate each other are forced to get along. However, at no point in this fic do Tony and Loki become friends per sé. Instead, they bond over the fact that they are both in a shitty situation together and must rely upon each other to survive. They walk a very fine line between trust and friendship—and that’s a line they don’t really cross. Learning to trust each other due to their circumstances hardly means that they like each other.
Additionally, Ambivalence still holds Loki accountable for the destruction of New York. In a lot of the Loki-redemption fics I’ve read, the narrative tends to excuse Loki’s actions in The Avengers after he is tortured for one reason or another—maybe from someone seeking revenge or even as the punishment Odin chooses for unleashing the Chitauri on Midgard. And yes, we can all agree that torture is horrible, evil, and unjustifiable. But I dislike that these stories then neglect to put Loki through any kind of rehabilitative process after his torture, as if somehow that torture exempts him of his crimes.
I also don’t mean “rehabilitative” in the sense of Loki recovering from the torture—which yes, he’ll need that too. I mean it in the sense that his actions dictate that he cannot function in society without lashing out and killing someone and he needs to go to jail until such a time that he’ll no longer be a threat to other people. Torture is not a substitute for rehabilitation.
There is a difference between stories that say “Loki was horrible, but then horrible things happened to him so it’s okay” and stories that say “yeah, Loki went through some horrible things before and after the battle in New York, but all those people are still dead”.
I like that Ambivalence follows the latter mindset. After Tony and Loki are rescued, Loki still ends up in jail. Granted, S.H.I.E.L.D. is also aware of the torture Loki went through and treats him rather humanely as a response. Indeed, Natasha even ends up helping him work through the PTSD while interrogating him. That said, he is still a prisoner. Additionally, the other Avengers and Nick Fury are just a little disturbed that both Tony and Loki have developed a bond with each other, since it’s a little problematic for one of the Earth’s heroes to be emotionally attached to a known supervillain.
However, Ambivalence has surprised me with a lot of other twists as well. Even though the story is about Tony, Loki, and their PTSD, it takes the time to flesh out the other Avengers and expand more on their relationships with each other. Furthermore, while attempting to get Tony back, Natasha is seriously injured and ends up in a wheelchair. She then spends the rest of the story disabled. I can’t say that I was happy when I first read what happened, but as the fic progressed, I really fell in love with the idea. Despite being disabled, Natasha can still function as a productive member of the team, and it’s really enjoyable watching her struggle with her own trauma while also dealing with Loki.
This is definitely a story worth checking out. It can be a little disturbing at times, due to the torture and PTSD Tony and Loki end up suffering—and I should warn you all that some of that torture is sexual—but I still definitely recommend it. You can find it here.
I believe one of the reasons Loki is subject of the abuse apologist rhetoric is because the MCU keeps flip-flopping on Loki’s character development. He’s a traitor in “Thor”, then a straight-out villain in “The Avengers”, then an ally in “Thor: TDW”. As a villain, he’s not a very effective one. We’re constantly told that he killed people but we never see these victims except for Agent Coulson (and it was his death that finally made The Avengers work together, a million is a statistic anyone?). Nothing really goes his way, he lets himself get captured and he gets defeated too easily by all the Avengers that it made me wonder why didn’t they just lock him in a cell with Bruce Banner to begin with, have Bruce Hulk out, then beat Loki up in said cell. It also doesn’t help that Odin is a bigot and the Asgardians are warmongerers, they may have contributed to Loki’s behavior. I could go on and on, but I’ll just stop there.
I totally agree that Loki was pushed into what he became, but at the same time, his hurt feelings don’t excuse his actions. In the first Thor movie, he even goes so far as to attempt genocide against the Jotuns, and I have a hard time believing that no one was killed during that attack. I certainly don’t mind redemption stories, and I am enjoying the new Agent of Asgard comics, but despite all my love for Loki, I just can’t stand the abuse apologia. On some level, I do get it. I mean, Loki is not a typical Asgardian, he doesn’t fit in, has atypical interests, parent issues, is canonically queer, etc. As such, despite all the bad things he does, he ends up being someone that people can easily relate to, and I think that that also helps encourage people to excuse his behavior.
There is a comic called Thor and Loki: Blood Brothers that actually deals with these issues explicitly. It’s told from Loki’s point of view and we do end up seeing a much darker side of Asgard because of it–including Thor straight up physically abusing him. The comic is an AU, but it might be something you might want to check out.
This is true. Also, I read a fiction recently that had the whole redeemed loki after he got captured, but only really by tony. The reasoning behind that is that tony was in a similar situation. He points out how that good people generally want atonement, and he says he isn’t a good person and the reason he forgives loki is because he understands that he changed and is essentially a different person.