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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Thor fic: Proximity Alarm (2/2)

March 15th, 2014 (01:44 pm)
lethargic

feeling: lethargic

Split for LJ’s sake. Part one is here.



At first, Thor denied his illness.

By the evening, though, his mood had changed.

“I am surely perishing,” he moaned, rolling his head against the couch cushions in futility.

Jane glared a bit, trying to adjust the tepid cloth on his forehead. “You’re surely not,” she said.

He sneezed violently, throwing the cloth to the floor and Jane shied away with a wrinkled nose. He followed up with another sneeze, which was punctuated by a series of hacking coughs that left Thor spent. “This illness must be the worst on all of Midgard.”

She did her best not to roll her eyes. “It’s the flu,” she said. “People get it every year. We have a vaccine for it, at least some strains, but you just don’t have any natural immunity--”

He interrupted her with another cough, this one so wrenching that he nearly flopped on his side trying to subdue it. For all his strength, he looked weaker than Jane had ever seen him, even when he was a mere mortal.

Her stomach twisted guiltily, because it was easy to roll her eyes. He wasn’t not dying, but he was miserable. His melodrama didn’t change the fact that he was sick and hurting -- probably in more ways than one.

“Hey,” she said, leaning over to pick the cloth up again. She smooths it over his forehead gently. “The good news is that it only lasts a day or two.”

He looked up at her through dimmed eyes. “You have suffered this malady?”

“Yeah,” she said, smiling a little. “Suffered and overcome. And if I can do it, then I think you can, too.”

He nodded, closing his eyes in obvious discomfort as the chills started up again. “But I feel as though I am on fire.”

“Just the fever,” she assured him.

His teeth chattered and he grimaced. “My body aches in a way I am not accustomed to.”

“Again, the fever,” she said.

He cracked his eyes open to look at her. “And you are certain I am in no danger of perishing?”

This time, she almost couldn’t help herself. “You’re not going to perish.”

“How can you be sure?”

It was such a simple question, so devoid of pretense or pride that it struck Jane differently than before. This was the Thor she’d been charmed by, the one she’d let into her heart and mind all those years ago. For all that he was strong and noble, he was earnest and open. He could charge into battle with barely a thought of his own well being, but in the simple things, he looked to her for guidance with no hesitation.

He trusted her, completely.

And maybe he didn’t need her, but he sure as hell wanted her. Not just for any shallow reasons, but her. Her mind and her opinion and her feelings.

That was amazing.

It was terrifying.

She’d wanted him to come back, but the weight of that…

Even so, it wasn’t like she could deny him. Especially not now.

She smiled, as certain as she could. “Have I ever let you down before?”

At that, his lips turned up. “You have not,” he said, following it up with a grimace as his tremors intensified. “Yet I cannot recall feeling so weak in my life.”

“Well, you’ve saved the world,” she reminded him, with a wry smile. “I think you can handle the flu.”

-o-

It was ridiculous.

Sure, Jane was sympathetic. Having the flu wasn’t any fun at all, and she didn’t really wish it on anyone. She knew he felt terrible -- congested, sore, achy, and so on.

But really. He wasn’t just a grown man, he was a god. Not that he was immortal or invulnerable, but she’d seen him literally control the weather. He’d stormed into the unknown and survived. He was stronger than any other person -- any other being -- she’d ever met.

And he was curled upon her coach, moaning like a child.

Though he was stoic under most circumstances, the fever seemed to make him a bit more free with his emotions. Meaning, he freely expressed his unending misery, groaning pitifully, as though he were a small child.

As if he were the only person to ever catch the flu.

Though, she reflected, he might actually be the only Asgardian within the last millenium who caught the flu.

But still. For all his talk of battle, she had thought he could handle pain with a little less melodrama. He had never taken injuries on the battlefield this way.

She wondered how Frigga managed him.

Her heart skipped a beat at the name -- she could still remember the woman who had sacrificed her life to save Jane’s. More than that, she could still remember the anguish in Thor’s face when he’d seen her dead. Thor hadn’t cried then.

From the couch, Thor muttered unhappily, whimpering as he shifted and tried to settle back into sleep.

She sighed. Jane couldn’t deny him the weakness now.

Even if it was a bit ridiculous.

-o-

“Jane,” he called, his eyes still closed as he tossed fretfully. “I feel as though we have been transported to Jotunheim.”

She raised her eyebrows. She’d never been to Jotunheim, but knew enough to know that that was probably a good thing. “Um, okay--”

He shifted again, pulling in on himself as his teeth chattered. “I never wish to return to Jotunheim.”

“Well, we’re not on--”

“Except for Loki,” Thor said, trying to burrow under the mountain of blankets. “I would go back for Loki.”

She didn’t know what to say to that. If she should remind him that Loki was dead; if she should tell him that he was safe; if she should tell him to rest, because things would be better when he woke up.

How many of those things were a lie, though?

What was Jane doing? What did she think she could do?

She couldn’t bring Loki back. She didn’t know if he was safe. And she certainly wasn’t sure if things would be better when he woke up.

All she knew -- the only thing she could do -- was pull the blankets higher and run a hand through his mussed hair, shushing him gently.

He blinked up at her, a smile just barely pulling at his lips. “I am glad you’re here.”

“Yeah,” she said, emotion panging in her chest. “Me, too.”

-o-

It was unnerving.

Jane wasn’t great at playing nursemaid, but she could do it. She could pamper and baby and generally take care of someone when she needed to. She fed him and talked to him and watched him sleep. She endured his moaning and his helplessness, offering comfort as best she could.

She cared about him; it was the least she could do.

But then it got worse.

-o-

At first she thought he was just shifting on the couch. It was too small for him, really, and with all the blankets, every movement he made seems gravely exaggerated.

But then he was trying to stand.

Frowning, she crossed from the kitchen table where she’d been going over some data. “Thor?” she asked. “Do you--”

He grunted, trying to keep his footing as the blankets fell away. He teetered, but when he turned toward her, his face was flushed and his eyes overly bright. “I must go.”

Jaw dropping open, she found herself without words.

Thor blinked twice, as if trying to clear his vision before taking a clumsy, lumbering step. “I must consult with Heimdall and see that the construction of the Bifrost has begun,” he announced, his voice garbled.

It was nonsense, of course. Not that there wasn’t a Heimdall and a Bifrost -- she had seen both -- but they were on Earth. Midgard. Whatever. She shook her head. “Thor, I think you should lie down--”

He shook his head, trying to untangle his foot from the blankets. “We have wasted too much time,” he said hotly.

“Um, time for what?” she asked.

He looked at her, his almost welling with tears. “Time to see where Loki fell,” he said. “For the Abyss is not just darkness. Heimdall has said there are shadows that move. He might be lost, but perhaps not forever. We can find him, but only if we do not delay any further--”

Loki. The Abyss. Thor hadn’t told her everything, but she’d put together enough. That was why Thor hadn’t come back for her the first time. Because he’d confronted Loki, which had led to the destruction of the Bifrost and Loki’s supposed death. Thor had grieved his brother the first time, which had made the betrayal upon his return even more difficult. Thor had never told her about looking for Loki, but then, there was probably a lot in Thor’s life he hadn’t shared yet.

Thor successfully pulled his foot free and took another staggering step around the couch. “Loki was not in his right mind,” he said, as though in argument. “The shock of his parentage is understandable. I do not care about his crimes, we must look--

Delirium, Jane realized in a detached revelation. Thor’s fever was high enough that it was inducing delirium. Thor’s brain was pulling out random thoughts -- the strongest thoughts -- and trying to fight with them, just like it was trying to fight the fever. Leave it to Thor to tackle the hardest thing.

And not just Loki’s death -- no, Thor was probably in too much denial about that. Instead, he was focusing on his fall into the Abyss when the grief had been the same but he’d still believed there was a chance to fix it.

That was a terrible thought. Thor was talking about the Abyss, but the same held true now. Even after all Loki had done, Thor wanted to save his brother. After Loki had tried to kill him, had tried to take over a planet and commit genocide, the most important thing -- the thing that drove him -- was saving Loki.

The worst part was, he couldn’t.

Thor could do almost anything, but he couldn’t do that.

“Please,” Thor said, almost begging. “We must--”

He took another step but faltered, his knees giving way as he pitched to the side. Jane yelped, rushing forward to catch him.

This time, however, he fought her. “No,” he said, thrashing to pull away even as they landed in a tangled heap on the floor. “I must find Loki! He cannot be dead!”

Weak as he was, he was still strong -- too strong for her. There was nothing she could do to hold him down, and as he lashed out, she finally had to pull away before he accidentally hit her.

“Thor!” she said, trying to get through to him. “You’re not there. You’re on Earth!”

Thor seethed, shaking his head as his face contorted viciously. “You tell me lies! You wish to keep me from him, though he is as much a part of Asgard as I am!”

“I wouldn’t,” Jane said. “You’re here, though. On Earth -- Midgard. With me. With Jane.”

His brow furrowed, as if trying to make sense of that.

She inched forward, sensing her opportunity. “You’re sick,” she said, gentler now. “I’m just trying to take care of you.”

He swallowed, the anger visibly fading. “Loki?”

She wasn’t about to tell him the truth. Not now. Not like this. “It’s okay,” she promised instead. “It’ll be okay.”

He seemed to try very hard to focus, his head tilting. “Jane?”

She smiled, relieved. “Yeah,” she said. “It’s me.”

“But...what are we doing?” he asked, as if suddenly realizing where he was. The clarity in his eyes was still questionable, but there were the faintest traces of recognition to ground him now.

“We’re taking care of you for once,” she soothed as she coaxed him up off the floor and led him toward the couch again. He didn’t fight her; he didn’t even try to resist as she held his burning body close and helped him along. “And it’s all going to be okay.”

Compliantly, he allowed himself to be guided and settled down. He looked at her with nothing but absolute trust. He believed it.

She just wished she believed it, too.

-o-

It was unknown territory.

Jane was a doctor, and she had a good understand of biology. But she wasn’t a medical doctor -- not even close.

Besides, Thor wasn’t human. He was an alien. She didn’t know what his resting heart rate was supposed to be; she didn’t know what his normal temperature was. She knew he lived centuries, but had no idea what that looked like on a molecular level.

It suddenly seemed outrageous to her. To think, she had willfully shacked up with a non-human without even taking the slightest bit of precaution to know how his body would react to it. She didn’t even know how well Earth’s atmosphere suited his genetic disposition. For all she knew, there was some elemental property in the environment that could lead to a slow decline in his health.

For all she knew, he was dying.

And she was a scientist. She was supposed to be curious about these things.

But he’d be so strong and confident and so filled with swagger that she hadn’t really stopped to consider that he could have any weakness at all. She’d been so preoccupied with figuring out how to live with him that she hadn’t paid any attention to how he lived at all.

Her ignorance was stunning.

-o-

“I mean, what if this is more than a flu bug,” Jane said, feeling her anxiety ratchet up. “What if there’s something going on at a much deeper level we don’t know about.”

Darcy was busy flitted through Internet sites on her phone, but Erik looked at her seriously. They had made good time when she called. Of course, her frantic message of come now or the world may end had probably been pretty convincing.

“His people have spent time on Earth before,” Erik said reasonably.

“But that was centuries ago!” Jane said. “Just consider the drastic environmental changes that have happened since then.”

“And I’m not sure we want to take all the legends at face value,” Darcy said. “Did you know that Thor is also known as the god of fertility?”

Jane stared at her.

Darcy shrugged, holding up an image on her phone.

Jane shook her head.

“What?” Darcy asked. “I thought you could use it for reference!”

“You’re missing the point!” Jane hissed, glancing toward the living room where Thor had fallen into a fitful sleep. “He’s sick!”

“Which is perfectly normal for patients who have had no exposure to certain germs before,” Erik explained patiently. “There’s no indication that this is anything more serious than a human case.”

“Well, you know the flu did decimate a bunch of people in the past,” Darcy said.

Jane gaped at her.

“Not that that’s going to happen,” Darcy said, quickly. “Because Thor’s also a god of healing.”

“You’re being ridiculous,” Jane said.

“I’m the only one doing research!” Darcy argued.

“It’s not helpful!”

“Oh, and you are?” Darcy asked.

Then, from the other room, Thor mumbled, a small cry emerging. He bellowed something, before making a noise of anguish. “Loki, please,” he pleaded in his delirium. “Please, brother…”

Darcy pressed her lips together. Erik’s face was pinched.

Jane looked to the living room, hoping for an answer.

Thor just got worse.

-o-

It was desperate.

Jane wasn’t always the calmest one in the room. In fact, when under scientific duress, she tended to be a bit overly dramatic. She couldn’t help it: her emotions were always inspired by academic prowess.

This, though, was a different kind of desperate. This was the kind of desperate of taking a critical test and realizing she didn’t know the answer. This was the kind of desperate of finalizing a grant application and figuring out she was missing a few key components. This was the kind of desperate where all the indications were lining up and showing the wrong picture.

This Thor with a temperature so high that it didn’t even register on the thermometer. This was Thor, breathing fast and strained. This was Thor, sick and getting worse.

They could no longer rouse him; he was totally unresponsive. Jane threw the blankets on the floor and Darcy helped her strip him to his underwear, with not even one glib remark. His skin was hot, his cheeks burning crimson. He didn’t flicker when Erik used a penlight to check his eyes, and he showed no response to the cold ice packs Jane settled under his armpits and between his legs.

Erik reminded her this was just the flu; they had no idea what his immune system was capable of handling. He could be just fine in several hours.

Or he could be dead.

No one said that, of course.

They were all thinking it.

-o-

“We have to,” Jane insisted. She flicked her phone screen, scrolling absently and anxiously through the apps.

“If we do this, we have no idea what they’ll do,” Erik said, his voice drawn and hushed even though Thor was insensate on the couch.

“And they’re like crazy super spies!” Darcy said. “I think they were actually interrogating us even though we were the ones saving the world.”

“They’re the best,” Erik said, grave and knowing. “But what happens there…”

“If they can help him, then what does it matter?” she asked. She nodded toward the couch, where Thor was far too still. “I mean, we know nothing about Asgardian physiology--”

“And they do?” Darcy asked.

“If anyone knows, it’s them,” Erik replied. He hadn’t talked much about SHIELD -- and he’d talked less about Loki -- but he knew the Agency better than all of them. Jane had been surprised to learn he’d agreed to work with SHIELD, and she knew of all of them, her decision to pull them in was hardest on Erik.

But being part of an alien invasion and having your mind played with did that to people. And Erik had started wearing pants more, so normally Jane wouldn’t even push it. She didn’t trust SHIELD either, not since they’d waltzed in and taken her work. They could be the good guys, but that didn’t make them good guys.

It did make them the best, though. That was why they’d recruited Erik. That was why they’d stolen her work. It was why Thor had helped them when Loki tried to take over the Earth.

It was why it was an option Jane wasn’t going to take off the table.

Especially now.

“Exactly,” Jane said. “I mean, I don’t necessarily trust them either, but what else are we going to do? Sit here and watch him die?”

“His dad would probably be pretty pissed if we did that,” Darcy said.

Erik worked his jaw, breathing heavily through his nose. “I can’t promise you what Fury will do once they get their hands on Thor,” he said. “They might do more than treat him.”

“That’s all they need to do,” Jane said.

Erik shook his head. “We don’t know that--”

“Because if they can make him better, then he’ll be better,” Jane said. “That’s the point. We need Thor to be able to take care of himself because he can do that better than we can. And he can’t do that until he gets better.

Erik looked toward the couch, then back at Jane. He bowed his head, letting out a breath. “Do what you need to do,” he said, looking up with grim certainty. Erik had always been there for her.

She looked toward Thor.

Now they had to be there for him.

She nodded, lifting her phone and dialing the number.

-o-

It was sacrifice.

That had been Thor’s thing since the day he walked into the street and faced the Destroyer alone. He had been mortal then, nothing more than a man. A man with everything to lose. He’d given up his life, just like he’d given up his only means of coming back for her. He’d given up his brother and the hope of making his family whole again. He’d given up on his father’s favor to save her life, and he’d willingly laid his life down to save the galaxies.

And then, he’d given up the throne.

Sacrifice.

That was what he was about. More than a hammer or lightning, more than Asgard or a thirst for battle. Thor wanted to do his best for other people. That was why he was a hero.

Maybe that was why calling SHIELD in wasn’t that big of deal in the end. Maybe when they swarmed her mother’s house and went through her things, she didn’t even look twice. She didn’t even hesitate.

This time it was about Thor.

She didn’t know for sure if she could live with him, but she was starting to realize that she didn’t want to live without him.

-o-

“Excuse me, Ms. Foster,” the agent said as she and Erik and Darcy were being herded toward the front door. “I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

Darcy yelped and Erik grumbled. Jane shook her head. “This is my house,” she reminded him. She shrugged awkwardly. “Or, my mother’s--”

“We need to thoroughly evaluate the scene to look for any abnormalities,” the agent explained.

“No, you need to help Thor,” she protested, grinding to a halt just outside her door. The hallway had been sectioned off, with a swarm of SHIELD personnel trolling about.

“Exactly,” the agent said. She was neatly dressed in a suit with dark sunglasses and dark hair pulled back into a ponytail. Jane didn’t know her, but her status as a SHIELD agent was pretty easy to guess from looks alone. “And we need to assess the environment to see if there are external factors at play.”

“Fine,” Jane said, “but I’m staying with him.”

“We’ll be moving Thor to a secure facility--”

“And I’m going, too,” Jane said.

The woman almost looked sympathetic. At least, she tried to. She couldn’t pull it off like Phil Coulson, though. “Ms. Foster--”

“Look,” Jane said, because she didn’t have time for this. Thor didn’t have time for this. And she didn’t know what she really wanted, but she knew she didn’t want this. “Assess my house. Hell, confiscate all of it, I don’t care. But you will get him the help he needs, and I will be there to make sure it happens.”

The woman arched an eyebrow behind her dark glasses. “I’m sorry,” she said. “But who do you think you are?”

Who was she? The reason he’d left? The reason he’d stayed? His girlfriend? His best friend on Earth?

She lifted her chin. “I’m someone who cares about him,” she said. “Which is more than you can say.”

The agent pursued her lips, and for a horrible moment, Jane worried it wasn’t enough. That her sentimentality would get them nowhere. That she’d made the best choice and it still wouldn’t work out. That Thor would be alone.

After everything, he’d be alone.

Finally, the agent put her glasses back on. “Okay,” she said. “But stay out of the way. And no questions--”

“Save his life,” Jane said, “I don’t care what else you do.”

-o-

It was frightening.

Jane wasn’t often scared. She didn’t really have a need to be. Most things in life that people found scary could be explained away in simple and understandable terms. The unknown paralyzed some people; it fascinated her. She was obsessed with it, and she never minded failure because it was just part of success.

Sure, she’d been afraid when a random giant robot from outerspace started blowing up her town. And okay, she’d been pretty scared when the Asgardian healers had told her that she was pretty much screwed. Then there had been traveling through space, defying the All Father, nearly dying and so on and so on.

In all of that, she’d been afraid but not without recourse. She’d still had something she could do. She’d still been able to fight.

Now, though, her fear was in her own futility. SHIELD had whisked Thor away to one of their offsite locations. Jane had been permitted to stay with him, for whatever that was worth. He’d remained motionless, the fever mounting higher, as the team of agents poked and prodded him before finally settling him in a hospital bed and drawing back to confer amongst themselves.

They tried drugs; they took blood samples. They put him through an MRI and took some x-rays just because. They were doing everything they could.

But there was no way of knowing if it would be enough.

Jane was used to being saved by her intellect. In a place where everything she knew wasn’t close to enough, she realized that sometimes the greatest strengths were weaknesses. Jane could find answers to any question, but this time she didn’t even know what to ask.

Thor could defeat any enemy, but he could win the battles raging inside of him.

Yesterday, she’d been desperate for some space.

Now, she held his hand and didn’t dare let go.

-o-

And then he woke up.

This shouldn’t probably have been so much of a surprise. After all, this was Thor. He showed up in the desert out of the night and got hit by her car. He appeared on the TV when the world was ending. He somehow found her when she accidentally got transported to another realm. Thor had an innate sense of timing, even if it wasn’t always to her choosing.

Thor knew when he was needed.

And he never failed.

She would have thought she’d have figured that out by now. But when she shifted in the chair, blinking blearily past the monitors toward the clock, she didn’t even see that his eyes were open until he said, “This is not your home.”

Jane startled, blinking in shock as her mouth fell open.

On the bed, Thor stirred a little, wincing as he tried to prop himself up a little before he finally settled on turning his head toward her. “This is not New York, is it?”

“Um,” she said. “No.”

His confusion deepened and he swallowed with obvious effort. “I am afraid I do not know where I am.”

Of course he didn’t. Because he’d been near death for the better part of three days. The SHIELD doctors had all been grim and when one of them had asked if she knew of anyway to contact Asgard, she’d feared the worse.

And here he was.

Awake.

Looking at her.

Talking.

“Jane?” he asked, confusion turning to worry. “Is something wrong?”

She tried to remember how to speak, but after several days of sleeping in a chair and living on coffee, she really wasn’t at her best.

Thor grimaced as he sat up, easing his legs over the side of the bed with a look of renewed vigor on his pale features. “What peril is there? Has something threatened the Earth? Are you all right?”

He was trying to get up -- actually trying to get himself out of the bed that he’d been lying on lifelessly for three days. He swatted in annoyance at the cords and monitors, and she didn’t even think he realized just how many wires they were or where all the tubes went.

And suddenly, it was funny.

After three days of watching him die, Thor woke up and was trying to protect her.

She couldn’t help it; she laughed.

His brow furrowed. “I...do not understand.”

She kept laughing, raising her hand to her mouth to try to stop herself.

She failed.

His worry turned to vexation. “I am afraid that if this is a joke--”

“No,” she said, quieting herself a little. “I’m fine. The Earth is fine.”

He shook his head. “Then what is wrong?”

“Do you really not remember?” she asked, not that that was probably so unexpected. Given how high his fever was or the depth of his comatose state, memory loss was probably expected. Even so…

He shook his head. “I remember that I was going to go to New York.”

“Yeah,” she said. “And then you got sick.”

He frowned. “I do not get sick.”

“Um, I think we’ve had this conversation,” she said. “And trust me, you do get sick.”

“Asgardians have advanced healing capabilities--”

She rolled her eyes. “Yeah, and even they can get the flu.”

For a moment, Thor looked ready to protest. But then he stopped, sagging back a little. “I do feel somewhat weaker than normal.”

“Yeah, that’s probably because you’ve been in the SHIELD medical facility for three days,” she said.

“Three days?” he asked, sounding truly surprised.

“Three days,” she confirmed, reaching up to put a hand on his shoulder and cajole him back to bed. “And you somehow have recovered, but I think you could still use a little rest.”

It was a testament to his exhaustion that he did not fight her. “But I am due in New York.”

“I talked to Stark,” she assured him.

“But I need to go,” he said, and he said it so earnestly that she hated herself for it, even if it was valid.

“Maybe later,” Jane said, smiling at him as he settled his head back on the pillow as he watched her with wide, expectant eyes. “But for now, neither of us are going anywhere.”

-o-

It was simple.

Well, not all of it. It was a little complicated being stuck in a SHIELD facility, especially since Erik was right. Once they had Thor for one thing, they wanted him for a whole lot more and while he remained good natured for the first few hours of testing, his patience grew thin before he finally demanded to take his leave.

With all that, Jane had learned enough to get a sense of what had actually happened, at least according to the best guess of the doctors there. And that was even more complicated, because it seemed like Thor’s blood work upon recovery showed antibodies that hadn’t been there when he’d been first admitted. Which meant that his immune system literally synthesized a response to the contagion on its own within three days.

This was all to say that Thor did the hard work, but the medical support from SHIELD had probably made it possible. The fluids and drugs gave Thor’s body enough of a stopgap to let his immune system do the heavy lifting.

In short, SHIELD had saved Thor’s life.

Jane had saved Thor’s life.

In that, it was really very simple. She didn’t like being there, and she didn’t trust them, but in this case, the ends really did justify the means. Plus, the doctors figured Thor would never get the flu again, and Jane could only think that to be a very good thing.

And even besides the whole almost-dying and miraculously-healing thing, Jane knew that technically nothing had changed. They were still in a relationship they hadn’t quite figured out, with boundaries they hadn’t defined and expectations they hadn’t delineated. She couldn’t have him around all the time, and the more she reflected on it, the more she was pretty sure she wasn’t ready for a live-in relationship at all.

But, where all that was complicated, her final conclusion was the simple one -- and really the only one that mattered.

She cared about him. Jane didn’t know if it was possible to be in love after so little time, but she could safely say she didn’t want to live a life where he wasn’t. She liked spending time with him, and she wanted to see what happened between them. In the end, it was the simple answers that mattered most.

She loved him.

And given the way he looked at her, she was pretty sure he loved her.

They could build the rest from there.

-o-

Thor wanted to fly back, but when she reminded him that Mjolnir was still inside her mother’s house, he agreed to wait for Erik to pick them up. Which was a good thing; Jane didn’t want to pay for a new exterior wall in addition to everything else.

SHIELD had offered to drive them, of course, but Jane had declined. Thor promised them he’d be in touch. They said thank you, but it was pretty clear they’d already counted on that.

Outside, Jane took a deep breath. The SHIELD facility was actually in London, which was more convenient than she’d figured. But it was still easier to get a ride from Erik.

Besides, there were a few things she wanted to say.

Chewing her lip, she glanced at Thor. He looked mostly recovered now, with just a hint of paleness in his complexion. It was hard to imagine just a day ago he’d been near death’s door.

“So,” she ventured, rocking back and forth on her feet. “Have you called Stark yet?”

Thor looked at her. “I do not have my phone.”

“Oh,” Jane said. “Yeah, I guess not.”

“But I shall,” Thor promised her. He hesitated. “If that is what you wish.”

She nodded. “Yeah, I think you should go to New York.”

He sighed, shoulders falling. “It would be the best means to afford you the space you need,” he said in agreement. “I apologize for not recognizing such things earlier. I have never been one to require much solitude. I have always preferred the company of others to my own thoughts. But I do remember when we were younger, and Loki often complained that I did not respect his silence. I used to laugh away his concerns, but now I realize that I should not have been so flippant.”

“Well, I should have said something sooner,” Jane said. “It just all happened so fast, you know? Two years apart and then there you were. I let it get away from me.”

“I failed to anticipate what my return would mean for you,” Thor said, and he was clearly making efforts to be stoic, but while Thor was good at many things, concealing his emotions wasn’t one of them. Which just made it all the more meaningful when he straightened with a firm nod of his head. “I will contact Tony as soon as we return back to your quarters. I should be able to leave within the day.”

“Good,” she said. “That’s good.”

There was an awkward, strange silence.

Jane swallowed hard to rally her courage. “I won’t be able to go today or anything, but I should be there in a week or two,” she said. “I’ll have to do something about my mother’s place, but she should be back in London in a few months, and I can have Darcy pack up the lab--”

Thor’s brow creased. “I do not understand.”

“I’ve had an offer to work in New York for a while now, and since the anomalous readings I was tracking in London have mostly disappeared since the realms went out of alignment, there’s no better time to go,” she explained. “Besides, I’ve sort of needed a fresh start.”

Thor lifted his eyebrows, daring to be hopeful. “In New York?”

“Yeah,” she said. “And I mean, I can’t afford a place in Stark’s neighborhood, but public transit’s great there--”

“--and we have Mjolnir,” Thor added brightly.

She grinned. “And we do have a hammer,” she agreed. “So we won’t be in the same apartment but we’ll still get to see each other.”

“You would have your own space,” Thor said, as the idea began to take hold in his mind.

“And so would you,” Jane said. “I mean, Stark Tower is huge. Whatever sort of place you get in there, you’d be able to wake up as early as you wanted and cheer as loud as you needed to. And you could decorate it however you wanted.”

Thor seemed to consider this. “I have spent my entire life in my father’s palace,” he said. “Few things have been given to me to decide in this manner.”

“Well, now’s your chance,” Jane said. “I’m pretty sure you’ll love it.”

“And you would come visit?” Thor asked.

Jane grinned. “Just try to stop me.”

“I would like that,” Thor said, his own smile widening. “I would like that very much.”

They still had their conflicts, and Jane wasn’t so naive to think they would have many more. But, in that much, they were in perfect agreement.

-o-

In the end, it was perfect.

Jane liked her new job, and Darcy had somehow talked Ian into coming to New York. There was no money to pay him, but Jane didn’t bother to ask questions. Erik had refused to come and instead took a job on the West Coast because he wasn’t ready to face New York again yet.

Jane respected that, and she knew all the reasons why. She also knew if he needed something, he’d tell her. And if she needed something, he’d be there. That was how it was with them. That was how it was with family.

Thor was a good boyfriend, as it turned out. He’d taken to wooing her, which had been awkward at first, but he’d clearly gotten some advice that helped him modernize his approach. They did dinner and saw the sights. They had long talks and went to plays off Broadway. She took him to the museums, and he showed her the stars, explaining the magic that filled the gaps in her science. Sometimes he was needed by SHIELD and had to go away; other times Jane had to fly across country for a conference or meeting.

They always came back; they were always waiting. Someday it might be more, Jane thought, but there was no rush on that.

It was a little strange, getting to know the rest of the Avengers. She’d seen them on TV; read about them online; but they were all real and good people. Tony knew how to push buttons, and Bruce made everyone just a touch nervous. Natasha had a quiet, lethal quality, and Clint was sarcastic. Steve was welcoming and genuine -- the natural leader of this group of misfits that somehow saved the world.

Thor fit perfectly with them, as though he’d always been meant to be there. And being around his friends was good for him. He had more people to talk to, more things to learn. He thrived in a team setting, and it made him a better person.

This was why he’d left Asgard, Jane realized. Because he belonged here.

Jane wasn’t always sure where she fit in, but it was sure going to be an adventure trying to find out.