?

Log in

No account? Create an account
do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Thor fic: The Measure of a Man (1/15)

December 30th, 2014 (08:34 am)
blah

feeling: blah

Notes and other parts in the Master Post.



-o-

For Thor, it had always started with the hammer. As a boy, he’d danced around it, daring to touch the hilt when his father wasn’t looking. He’d dreamed of holding it, hoisting it aloft to vanquish all his foes.

The first time he held it; the first time he was worthy; Thor had changed.

No longer was he a child. Now, he would be a warrior. Now, he would be a warrior to bring glory to Asgard. Now, he would be suited to raise up and ascend the throne.

It had been confidence and power. It had been pride and might. It had been his worth.

For Thor, it had always started with the hammer.

He should have realized it would end with it, too.

-o-

Thor tumbled through the realms, falling hard and falling fast. The bifrost always took some getting used to, but this journey was unlike any other. When he finally tumbled free, he hit the ground hard, staggering and looking up--

Like a flash of lightning, and thunder rolling in his ears.

-o-

This was no Asgard, nor was it any realm Thor remembered well. The people were small and perplexing, using a vernacular that he could not exactly place. They used small weapons and talked of simple things. He might enjoy a foray into their territory under other circumstances, but not today.

Not after starting a war and being banished.

Definitely not today.

When the youngest one pulled her gun, Thor could barely tolerate it. For he was Thor, and this place was far from home and his father would send for him. Heimdall would see him. He would go home.

Until the gun hit him in the chest and Thor was falling once again.

-o-

The first few hours were confusing. The next day or so had been an adventure in uncertainty. Stuck on Midgard with no apparent power or any means of travel, he was lost and adrift. They asked him for his identification and to explain his presence, but Thor did not have satisfactory answers. When they deemed him fit, he was allowed to leave, and he had one purpose.

To find his way back home.

Thor was alone and adrift, with no viable means of survival, but Thor was not stupid. Nor was Thor weak of heart. If Heimdall would not call him home, Thor would make his own way.

For Asgard was his realm, and he would not be kept from it. His father would see his worth upon his return, and all would be made well.

Thor would fight against the Frost Giants and bring victory to the realms.

All would be right again.

-o-

The people were strange, but kind. Jane Foster was curious, and looked at him in that keen way that Thor had seen in Loki so many times. Erik Selvig was more cautious, as though he suspected Thor was a threat. Darcy Lewis, however, seemed merely amused.

Thor figured they were all right.

-o-

Then he heard of the object in the desert, too strong to be moved by mortal hands.

He knew.

For Mjolnir would always call to him.

And Mjolnir would always take him home.

-o-

When Thor found his hammer, he smiled. Tired and weary, soaked to the bone and sore, he was so close now. This would fix everything. His hammer was everything to him; it was his power and his strength. It defined him.

It would take him home.

Reaching down, he felt the anticipation surge. The skies had opened for him, the torrential rain like a blessing. Nothing could stop him now. Nothing would.

His fingers clasped around the familiar handle, and the callouses on his hands were perfectly contoured. This was fate; this was destiny. This was salvation.

The storm flashed; Thor clenched his teeth and lifted.

-o-

He’d seen it before. He’d seen countless people try to lift his hammer. Foes on the battlefield, attempting to slay him with his own weapon. Even his friends had tried to take it, straining against the inevitability of their failure. Loki tried once, and had walked away, red faced and chin up, as he muttered, “I have no need for it anyway.”

Thor had laughed at their failures; relished it. It always seemed so foolish, those thinking themselves worthy enough to wield it.

But as he pulled at Mjolnir, it was dead to him. It stayed firm in the rock, still beneath his touch. He fought and strained, but it defied him.

He understood now, the rejection that this was. He understood now, just what had changed.

The hammer was Thor’s no longer, and he was no longer in it. The power imbued to him had been forfeit and stripped, and he was nothing now. For the Prince of Asgard was nothing but a mortal, and this hammer stood before him as a testament to his failure.

He should have known. He should have recognized the gift when it was still his to hold. He should have realized the consequences of his vices, and saved himself from this bereft humiliation.

It mattered not, though, even as the storm rages and the men surround him. For it was done now, it was over. He was on Midgard, and the hammer would lie vacant before him as a monument to his foolishness.

For Thor, son of Odin, Prince of Asgard, was not worthy.

-o-

He no longer fought. These people, they put him in a room and ask him questions. They talk and talk, asking who he was and where he came from. Thor felt nothing of defiance, but in truth, he knew not what to say.

For where he had come from no longer mattered. Asgard was lost to him, tucked up amongst the stars. His family was beyond him, and his friends would fight battles he can only imagine. He would never know what threats of war existed, and he would never again bring glory to his father’s house or protect his people.

For they were no longer his people. He was no longer their golden son. In fact, Thor scarcely knew who he was. He was a stranger to himself, a mere wisp of who he used to be. He was finite, now, laid low and meager, and all the comforts he craved were denied to him. He would never hear his father’s stories; he would never feel his mother’s touch. He would never celebrate with his companions or share a laugh with his brother.

Thor was nothing. He would be but a footnote in the history books, a cautionary tale mothers told their children. “Don’t forfeit your worth, dear. Not like Thor, the once Prince of Asgard.”

He is cold and he was lonely. He had nothing.

In the plain, bleak room, they asked him, “Why are you here?”

Thor looked away, refusing to cry before them. “It was a mistake,” he said finally, voice raw and wavering. “One I am afraid I will never undo.”

They asked him more questions, but Thor said nothing. To him, there was nothing left to say.


-o-

They came, and they went. They offered him food and drink, but Thor declined. He was their captive, and he knew not what their intentions were. The idea of incarceration was bleak, but Thor found himself indifferent.

A small cell; a small planet.

They were much the same, he thought, for they were so very, very far from home.

-o-

The hours passed with agonizing slowness.

He wondered if someone will come, if Heimdall could see him here. Maybe the All Father would take pity on him; perhaps his friends would sneak out on his behalf. Even Loki might come for him, for they had never been far apart.

In his desperation, Thor dared to hope.

But no one came.

No one was ever coming.

Thor bowed his head and accepted this fate.

-o-

The loneliness was heavy. The failure was paralyzing.

The knowledge that it as all his own doing, though--

It was the bitterest of all.

-o-

Thor barely glanced up when the door opened, but when he caught sight, it gave him pause.

It was Erik Selvig, the friend of Jane Foster. Their conversations had always been amicable, if restrained.

Until now.

Now, he crossed the threshold with a smile. “Oh, Donny, Donny, Donny,” he says, wrapping a hand around Thor’s bicep. “It’s all right now.”

Selvig was strange, but he was not stupid either. He knew Thor’s name, which meant such an obvious mistake was decidedly intentional. If Selvig had secured his safe passage, it had been by some form of trickery.

Thor knew enough not to contradict him, but he did not know exactly what to say.

He said nothing, allowing himself to be lifted from the chair as Selvig rambled. “I’m taking you home now,” he promised.

It was not the rescue Thor had yearned for.

He was not above taking it, nonetheless.

-o-

Clothes stiff from the dried mud, Thor felt painfully self conscious. He was not used to being told what to do, nor was he used to being forced to listen. Yet, he realized that without the benefits of his birth, he had few other assets. Thor was conceited and egocentric, as had been proven, but he was not stupid.

Cautiously, he followed the Son of Coul, eyeing the guards warily. Their weapons were archaic but effective, and Thor realized now just how foolish he’d been to breach their security. A single shot could be the death of him.

It was not a common feeling, that pang of fear. Thor had never felt stricken with thoughts of mortality. He had never approached battle with uncertainty of his survival. He was never one to leave a fight, to use baser means to obfuscate his goal.

Deception had been Loki’s domain, and Thor had seen it to be lesser.

It was his only salvation now.

Then, he saw the book.

Jane’s book, the one with her notes. She had lost much, and Thor had promised her everything. He had no means to fulfill those promises, but with a furtive glance at those around him, he thought maybe he could fulfill this much.

“Dr. Selvig,” a voice called, and Thor did not turn but he recognized it as the Son of Coul.

Next to him, Selvig went stiff, but he did not turn either. Thor tensed, fingers tight around the book, wondering what should come of him if this did turn to blows. He had bested them once, but if they used their weapons, Thor would be at a stark disadvantage. He did not wish to hurt them, and Erik Selvig was doing him a service in his escape. He dared not risk his life.

Consequences, Thor knew now. He had to be wary of the consequences

“Just keep him away from the bars,” the Son of Coul concluded, and the pressure in Thor’s chest unfurled slightly as Selvig let out a breath.

“I will!” Selvig called back, pulling Thor forward again.

As they gained distance, Thor kept his voice low. “Where are we going?”

Selvig did not look back; he did not look at Thor. His face was strained and he grimaced. “To get a drink.”

Anonymity, Thor realized as he tucked the book behind him and kept pace with Selvig, might just have its perks.

-o-

The moment they were in Selvig’s transport, Thor was overcome with relief. Back in the small, white room, he’d been given to despair. He’d thought his existence to be meaningless; he’d seen no hope.

Even now, he was in a car with a man he hardly knew and an identity that was not his own. And yet, there was something of hope.

No hope of Asgard, of course. No hope of his family or his friends. No hope of reclaiming his hammer.

But hope.

Thor’s foolishness and short-sighted nature had bested him on Jotunheim. He could ill afford to be so cavalier now. Every decision mattered, from the big to the small. He had done this to himself, and if he could not change it, he would at the very least not repeat it. For things could be worse.

He looked to the sky, and thought about war among the realms. He wondered if peace had faltered, and if his father had summoned his army to fight the fronts on Jotunheim. He wondered how many would fall, and who would protect his friends and his brother when the battle turned hard?

Here, on Midgard, there was no war. On Midgard, there were just simple people living simple lives. The worked and they toiled; they ate and they laughed. If this was a prison cell, then it was better than he deserved.

There were people. Good people with plans and hopes and dreams. The landscape was scenic, and the stars were vast. The inventions were limited, but satisfactory. The people laughed and worked, much the same as on Asgard.

There were no golden streets. There was no rainbow bridge. The ancient courts of his father’s palace were nothing but a memory here. But for all that Midgard lacked, at least there was still mead.

Selvig called it a bar, and the strange appearance looked primitive to Thor. But when he was handed a bottle of something Selvig called beer, Thor saw his prospects rise.

It was a small solace, but the weight of Mjolnir was fresh on his mind, and he would take it.

He would take any solace there was to find.

-o-

Selvig watched him with the first bottle. When Selvig ordered a second, he gave Thor a curious look, as if trying to decide something. Finally, he asked what exactly Thor was thinking.

Who was he? Why was he here? What did he intend to do?

The same questions of Coulson, but Erik Selvig was as much a friend as Thor had on this planet. There was no benefit of lying.

Even so, the answers were elusive.

“For the first time in my life,” Thor admitted, “I have no idea what I’m supposed to do.”

This did not surprise Selvig, as though such trials were common. For all Thor knew, they were common. The mortals had far fewer years to learn their lessons, far fewer chances to get it right. On Asgard, they thought that was their limitation.

Sitting in the bar, Thor wondered if it was their strength.

-o-

Selvig had just one request: to leave. To depart this town, to leave Jane Foster alone.

Thor had lost much already -- a home, a family, a birthright and a destiny -- giving this up seemed no harder.

He was a burden to these people, and he had no right to ask anything of them.

In truth, Thor had no rights at all.

So Thor took the mead, and gave his word -- for it was all he had left to offer.

-o-

Being cast out and rejected was not an easy thing, but the mead certainly did help. Thor was not accustomed to defeat, but among the mortals, he found he could still find a certain kind of solace. Selvig seemed put out that Thor was able to finish his drink first, so he bought him another. By the time they were on their third, someone crowed and thumped Thor on the back, asking to make it four.

Selvig talked to him of science and magic, gods and myths. They talked of ancient civilizations and the pathways amongst the stars.

Five and six and seven, and then Thor was asked to demonstrate his prowess in other areas as well. The games were foreign to him, but darts was something like knife throwing and the game they called pool was about concentration and aim. Ask Thor struggled to master these tasks, he could only think how much better Loki would be at them.

Still, his present companions did not seem to notice any such struggling. They bought him several more drinks, and with each victory, Thor roared with laughter as they clapped in approval. “Thor!” they called, for they had asked his name. “The god of thunder!”

It was not a title he knew of, but it was not one he could deny. When Thor told them of Asgard and other realms, they cheered and raised their drinks.

They were compromised intellectually by the drink, but it mattered not to Thor. The hearty approval of these people was a far cry from the cheers of his people back on Asgard, but it was all he had.

“Come!” he called, raising his drink aloft. “Let us make our ancestors proud!”

One last night to be a god among men.

-o-

It was not until Selvig laughed so hard that he fell out of his chair, Thor realized that perhaps he was the only man left standing.

Indeed, the bar was clearing out, and Selvig was quite intoxicated.

“Good show, buddy,” the man behind the counter said. “But it’s time to close up.”

“Thank you,” Thor said, downing the last of his drink. He looked down, where Selvig was fumbling to sit up. Thor had failed to realize the effect of the drink. While his own senses were pleasantly dulled, he had full control of his faculties. The mead here was not as powerful as back on Asgard, and though he was mortal, Thor’s tolerance was still something to be reckoned with.

It was just as well, Thor supposed. For if Selvig was incapacitated, then Thor had no choice but to assist the man. After all, Erik Selvig had been kind to him and helped Thor when he had no means to help himself. He had listened to Thor’s troubles and made no judgments. He had requested that Thor depart and leave Jane alone, terms he had readily acquiesced to.

However, leaving a man so vulnerable was not in his nature. Indeed, Selvig was here for him, and Thor owed him the decency of safe passage home.

“Come,” he said, reaching down to help pull Selvig to his feet. Selvig swayed wildly, and Thor braced them both. “We should be off.”

Selvig worked hard to steady himself, bringing his gaze up to meet Thor’s with wide eyed wonder. “Are you really the god of thunder?” he asked, the words slurred together.

Thor’s stomach twisted, and he had to work to keep smiling. It was a simple question, and one Thor could understand. These mortals knew nothing of the realms; they had no verifiable contact with the rest of Yggdrasil. The All Father had insisted on keeping distance, to let the lesser races develop as they would without any interference. Their science was limited, and though they had the imagination to dream, they were skeptical to their core. Always asking why.

Thor had rarely asked why, he had always assumed. He’d taken much for granted, from his station to his family, to his friends to his hammer. Worth was not gained from a long lived existence or advance science. Worth was gained from making the most of what was put before you.

These mortals, they had a fraction of the gifts Thor had been granted. Yet, they lived with so much more veracity.

“In a way,” Thor finally answered, helping Selvig to the door. Selvig hiccuped and stumbled as Thor kept him upright. His throat was tight, but he forced the words to come. “At least, I used to be.”

-o-

They had arrived at this establishment in Selvig’s transport. However, since Selvig was currently incapacitated, it did not seem wise to ask him to operate the car. In his limited time on Midgard, Thor had been in these vehicles several times and the technology seemed fairly rudimentary. However, the laws on Midgard were strangely restrictive, and after being locked in one facility for the evening, Thor did not relish the thought of having it happen again.

After his failure to retrieve his hammer, Thor’s precarious position was made painfully known to him. He was not Thor, of Asgard. No, he was as much of Midgard as Selvig or any of the other mortals. He could not defy their rules, and they had the means to bring punitive actions against him as he saw fit. Thor had to be careful; he had to be respectful.

If being banished would teach him anything, it would be that his actions had consequences.

Thus decided, Thor attempted to find alternative means of transportation. His efforts were confounded until the man behind the bar finally came out and offered to call him a cab.

“Is this a means of transportation?” Thor asked.

The man raised his eyebrows. “Sure, man,” he said. “Though, next time, you should two should think about a designated driver.”

Next time. Thor wet his lips, nodding as he kept Selvig steady. “Indeed,” he agreed. “Next time.”

-o-

Though Selvig was intoxicated, he was able to recite the address of Jane’s laboratory, which was sufficient. Thor made a mental note of the numbers and the words, for even if he was never to return to this place, it was good to know how such things were identified.

“So your planet,” Selvig slurred. “It’s called what?”

“Asgard,” Thor supplied. “It is a golden kingdom, and we see it as our duty to watch over the realms.”

“And the people there,” Selvig said. “They are all like you?”

Thor chuckled. “Many are similar, yes,” he said. “We are a culture of warriors, but we have those who are dedicated to science and art and music. We understood millennia ago that victory is not only found on a battlefield.”

Selvig raised his eyebrows. “So you’re like that?” he asked. “Science and art and music…”

“I studied them all, yes,” Thor said. Then he looked away. “Though I am afraid I never paid them as much attention as I should have. I took it for granted--”

And now it would never be his again. He would not hear the songs of celebration in the courts of his father’s palace. He would never hear the stories of old, recited as a testament to the ages past. There was more than battle; there was more than honor.

At least, there had been.

Thor had been blind to sacrifice it all so willingly, charging into Jotunheim to prove his point. Now the realms might be at war, and Thor started a battle he would never finish.

Selvig laughed. “Well, if I were the god of thunder, I wouldn’t study either,” he hiccuped.

“I was foolish, perhaps,” Thor said.

Selvig laughed, cutting off with a groan as he slumped against the seat. “Aren’t we all.”

-o-

They arrived at Jane’s laboratory, but when Thor found it empty, he found himself somewhat vexed. Selvig had mostly passed out, and Thor was fairly certain that there would be laws against unlawful entry on this planet.

“She’s probably in the trailer,” Selvig said, staggering as he took a step and nearly falling into the wall.

“What is the trailer?” Thor asked.

Selvig turned. “A mobile home,” he said before promptly walking into the wall and crumpling toward the ground.

Thor moved quickly, catching him and pulling him up. That was when he looked across the street and saw the large vehicle not far away. Mobile implied a means of transportation. Yet this vehicle was large enough to fit inside, if not comfortably then acceptably.

Mobile home. Trailer.

Thor nodded, hoisting Selvig over his shoulder. “Very well, then,” he said. “Let us get you home.”

-o-

Jane’s home was small and messy. After spending a lifetime in the spacious halls of the All Father’s castle, it was something of a contrast Thor could hardly understand. Except there was no kingdom here. What Jane had, she had made for herself.

Besides, he reminded himself, at least she had a home, be it small, messy or otherwise. It was more than Thor had.

Jane was embarrassed and awkward, as though his presence befuddled her. It was a strangely endearing trait, and somewhat perplexing consider that he was nothing to her. Midgardians had a much less structured society, and though they were probably prone to violence and certain vices, they were also surprisingly good natured. Most had been nothing if not kind to him, even when he had nothing to offer in return.

Jane more than most.

Perhaps her kindness was curiosity. Maybe it was guilt for hitting him with her transport. Or maybe there was genuine affection.

It mattered not, for Thor had promised to leave.

She did not wish him to go, however. Her concern was genuine, even when Thor’s promises had proven themselves to be fallacies. She wanted him to stay.

And standing there, in her small mobile home, Thor realized he wanted to stay, too. No one else wanted him in the realms, but her.

For tonight, he had to wonder if that was enough.

-o-

The roof of Jane’s laboratory was not particularly impressive. The view was minimal and the grandeur was somewhat lacking. The furniture was paltry, and the flame she roused to warm them left much to be desired.

Even so, Thor found himself smitten.

It was something to watch her, to see her as he had never taken the time to before. She had been a means to an end before, and though he’d been companionable, he’d never designed to imagine her as anything but a lesser being. She was mortal, after all, and her life was fleeting. Her science was limited, and her skills were rudimentary.

Thor had been polite, but he’d never looked twice at her. He’d never expected to have such need.

Now, though, their positions were reversed. This was her land and this was her home; he was a meager trespasser with nothing to offer her. For all his knowledge and skill, he was no better than her now.

Though in truth, he was beginning to suspect he never was.

The way she talked; the way she looked. She had no hopes of grandeur -- surely, not like he had. Yet, she persisted, almost unrelenting, to pursue her endeavors. She did not rely upon her status or birth; she did not think to deem herself worthy. No, Jane Foster did the best she could and expected no accolades. Her life would be short and would never amount to anything beyond the sphere of her limited influence, and yet she approached her existence with wonder and tenacity.

It was remarkable.

She was remarkable.

He had had little time for her before, but now, he had nothing but time -- limited though his life may be. If he could accomplish nothing, he could do right by her.

-o-

She was far too grateful for the book. His meager offering was accepted with grace and excitement. Though it felt good to see her smile, he realized how much more he wished he could give. But as she talked of the stars, he realized perhaps he had more to offer.

He was no expert in science on Asgard, but he knew enough.

As he talked, explaining Yggdrasil as best he could, she naturally filled in the blanks. She was bright and astute, and when she looked at him, her eyes were bright.

“Tell me more,” she said, a plaintive, eager demand.

Thor smiled and readily acquiesced.

-o-

That night, they talked of the stars. They talked of planets and galaxies, realms and homes. She listened attentively, eyes on him before he pointed up at the sky. He would talk all night to see the wonder alight in her eyes.

When she finally dozed off, he found himself restless. It was hard to understand, the wonder and joy of creatures so small and meaningless. Perhaps, though, meaning was not what one offered to the universe. Maybe it was what one gained from the universe.

Thor wasn’t sure, but as he adjusted the blanket about her shoulders, he almost dared to hope.

-o-

While Jane slept, Thor watched the stars. They were static, and he could see nothing in them. He wondered if Heimdall could see him, if the gatekeeper cared at all of his plight. He wondered if Odin was poised upon his throne, making declarations of war and sending his troops into battle. Would the warriors fight without him? Would Sif stand strong without his leadership? Would Loki lead the charge in his stead?

Did his mother weep for him? Did his father have regrets? Did Loki look up at the sky and wonder about him, the same as Thor was now?

Thor would never know.

The sense of loss was crushing, and Thor turned his eyes away. He glanced again at Jane before surrendering to a fitful sleep until the dawn broke.

-o-

When Jane roused, Thor had barely slept. Still, when she looked over at him, he smiled.

She laughed awkwardly, hastingly smoothing her hair behind her ears. “You stayed here all night?”

Thor shrugged. “It was surprisingly comfortable,” he said, and if it wasn’t the truth, it also wasn’t an outright lie.

Hastily sitting up, she blushed. “I just never meant--” she started and then faltered. She laughed again. “You didn’t have to stay.”

Thor didn’t have the heart to say that he had no place else to go.

-o-

With no duties to perform and no warriors to lead, Thor took his cues from those around him. Jane made sure the fire was out before going back downstairs. There, she checked some equipment, busying herself with readings before offering to let Thor take a shower.

There was no reason to disagree, so Thor politely asked for more clothing.

“Oh, yeah,” she said, nodding toward the closet. “Whatever’s in there, you can have. Though you’ll probably want to get some of your own if you plan on staying.”

Thor considered that, both the clothing and the staying. He remembered his promise to Selvig and turned away. “Yes, of course,” he said, ducking toward the bathroom with some urgency.

-o-

In the shower, he contemplated his situation. He had no clothes. He had no possession. He had no viable form of currency. He had no identification, which seemed to be a concern for Midgardians, and he had no means of transportation.

All he had was borrowed garments and a promise to a friend that he would depart with due haste.

That, and the sudden and overwhelming desire to stay.

-o-

Despite his promises, there seemed to be no pressing need to leave immediately. When he got out of the shower, Jane was bent over her work, muttering to herself. She was so deep in thought that she barely noticed him. Indeed, when he asked, “Do you need assistance?” she startled badly.

“Oh!” she said. “I, um. No. I mean, yes. I mean, I was just thinking about what you told me last night and trying to decide if it made as much sense now as it did then, and I thought if I could get some calculations to confirm it, then you know, you wouldn’t be crazy.”

Thor raised his eyebrows. “And?”

“And I think we’re both crazy,” she said, laughing nervously.

Thor laughed with her. “Perhaps things will seem more clear after you have prepared yourself for the day.”

“Oh,” she said. She glanced down at herself. “Oh, yeah. I’ll, um. Just be a few minutes.”

Thor inclined his head. “Take your time,” he said. “And then we can partake in a meal together.”

“Right,” she said, ducking back toward the bathroom. “And then I may have some questions. Just...don’t go anywhere.”

Thor had promised Selvig, but he had promised Jane as well. One meal would not be too much.

Thor turned to the kitchen. He had a few other things he wished to accomplish anyway.

-o-

It was not hard, thinking of the people he wronged. Giving Jane the journal was an appropriate start, but if this was to be his home, then these people were his people. They deserved his respect, and he had to accept their customs as his own. After his behavior the days prior, he needed to make amends if he planned on being part of this community.

Through the bathroom door, he asked Jane’s permission to take a short leave.

“You’ll be back, though, right?” she asked as the water ran in the background.

“If that is your desire,” Thor replied.

“Yes!” Jane said. “I mean, yeah.”

“Very well then,” Thor said. “I shall return shortly. Also, may I have a coffee mug for my own purposes?”

-o-

After securing an adequate mug -- though not the best mug, since it was not his -- he returned to the diner and offered it up as a token of peace. When it was readily accepted, he ventured onward to the pet store, where he apologized for his assumptions regarding the nature of the beasts cared for on the premises. He made a point to pet the small creatures, and assured the man that he meant the animals no ill will.

Security nearly stopped him at the hospital, but Thor did not fight them.

“I merely wish to extend my gratitude,” he said, palms up as they scanned him with what appeared to be a detector of precious metals. “For these people helped me when I was unable to help myself, and I treated them with anger and contempt. It is a good service, they perform, to help those who are insensate and ungrateful. I believed I fared better thanks to their interventions, even if I could not see it then.”

“Sure, buddy,” the guard said. “Next time, try not to break anyone’s nose, okay?”

Thor nodded sagely. “Verily,” he promised. “You have my word.”

-o-

On his way back to Jane’s laboratory, he carefully minded the street signs, making note of the measured means of navigation. The light system by which traffic was directed seemed primitive, but mostly effective.

At any rate, he was not hit by any more vehicles.

Progress, he told himself.

It was someplace to start.

-o-

Back at the laboratory, he found Jane pouring a cup of coffee. She smiled. “Hey!” she said. “Get your stuff done?”

“I have made the majority of my amends as best I can,” Thor said. “Many of your people are quite gracious.”

“Well, people like an apology,” Jane said.

“I feel as though I still owe you an apology,” he said.

She flitted a hand through the air, sipping her coffee. “I told you last night, we’re even.”

“Not hardly,” he said, knitting his brow together. “I may have taken one of your coffee cups.”

“Well, sure--”

“And you will not be getting it back,” Thor announced.

Jane closed her mouth. “Oh--”

“I have no means to purchase my own, and I felt as though I needed to give one to the diner to replace the one I destroyed in my excitement,” Thor said.

“Right,” she said. “Well, I am glad you’re past the stage of breaking dishes.”

“Still,” Thor said. “I feel inadequate that I have no means to repay you fully.”

“Well,” Jane said. “I still want to know how you ended up in the desert in the middle of that anomaly. I mean, that’s sort of my entire life’s work, and you’re at the center of it. You.

“I fear I will not be as helpful as you want me to be,” Thor said. “Not for a lack of desire, of course. But the situation is...complicated.”

Jane laughed. “I’m an astrophysicist. It’s all complicated.”

Thor smiled. “I will do everything I can,” he promised.

“Good,” Jane said, starting to smile, taking another hasty sip while she reached for her notebook. “Because I totally have some questions I want to ask you--”

“Of course,” Thor said. “But first, I must ask, do you not require sustenance?”

Jane slurped, glancing back at him. “Sustenance?”

“Food,” Thor said. “Nourishment.”

Jane rummaged through her papers. “Um, there’s coffee?”

Thor looked at the coffee pot. The smell was alluring, but his stomach grumbled. “I was thinking of something more substantive.”

“Oh,” Jane said. “You can look in the fridge.”

Thor turned, trying to make sense of the direction. The kitchen was easy enough to discern, and he could only assume that food would be stored in the largest appliance. “Do you have any fresh meat?” Thor asked, making his way over to it. “Is hunting permitted in this area?”

“Wait, hunting?” Jane asked. “There might be fruit.”

“That is by no means a sufficient morning meal,” Thor said.

Jane looked perplexed. “Um--”

“Come,” Thor said, opening the appliance called a fridge to look inside. “Let us come up with something together.”

Jane came back over, chuckling. “As long as it doesn’t involve hunting.”

Thor looked at her, starting to smile. “A compromise, then?”

Easing next to him to look inside, Jane nodded. “I think I can live with a compromise.”

-o-

Growing up in the palace, Thor had never had much need to cook for himself. He had been in the kitchens -- he had even stolen some of the delicacies before the bakers had a chance to serve them -- but he’d never taken the time to appreciate the act.

Accordingly, he knew very little of cooking. In truth, he had very few life skills. Though he could survive any battle, he knew nothing of cooking and cleaning. His mother had badgered him, but he had always been dismissive, calling such tasks irrelevant to his existence.

They were not so irrelevant now.

Indeed, he was very much at Jane’s mercy. He watched intently at her actions, the quick manner she cracked the eggs and the way she positioned the pan on top of the cooking device before starting what he could only assume was a power source. Interested, he noticed the way she mixed the eggs, keeping the mixing utensil out of the pan and separate from other items on the counter.

He was so intent, he didn’t realize she was watching him in return.

“Something wrong?” she asked, picking up her coffee again.

Thor felt himself flush inexplicably. “No,” he said. “I am just taking in the full extent of your expertise.”

Jane nearly choked. “I’m not an expert,” she said. “I mean, not at cooking.”

“You seem quite adept--”

Jane laughed, shaking her head as she eyed him. “You really aren’t from around here, are you?”

“I have been rude and foolish,” Thor said. “But I have never intentionally lied to you.”

Smiling, and nodded. “I still don’t know how it’s possible,” she said. “But we’ll get there.”

He brightened.

“First, though,” she said, picking up the mixing utensil once more. “You’re going to learn how to make eggs.”

-o-

Selvig did not look well when he came in. Face unshaven and hair disheveled, he looked positively miserable.

“Erik Selvig!” Thor boomed. “Are you quite recovered from our antics?”

Selvig winced, then paled.

Then he ran for the bathroom.

Jane nodded sympathetically after him. “Might want to lower your voice a bit.”

Thor frowned. “I do not understand.”

“He’s hungover,” Jane said, matter of fact.

“Hungover?” Thor repeated.

“Have you ever drunk too much alcohol?” Jane asked quizzically.

Thor considered this. “No,” he said frankly.

Jane raised her eyebrows. “So you’re sober?”

“No, I drink plenty of mead,” Thor said. “But it has never given me such an adverse reaction.”

“Well,” Jane said with a low chuckle. “Maybe you really are a god after all.”

-o-

Darcy appeared a short time later with much fanfare. She was not quiet, a trait which Thor could understand and respect. Her disposition was a bit darker, but she embraced life with a different kind of abandon. She did not live for science as Jane and Selvig. That gave Thor hope that there was a place for him yet.

“So where did you guys all end up last night?” Darcy asked. “I mean, I waited up for a while but none of you came back until, like, after midnight.”

“You waited up?” Jane asked.

“We live in a small town in the middle of the desert,” Darcy said pointedly. “What else was I going to do?”

“You always find something,” Jane muttered.

“That may or may not be true, but you’re avoiding the question,” Darcy said. She looked from Jane to Thor to Selvig.

Selvig groaned. Jane looked away.

“Come on!” Darcy insisted.

Thor gathered a breath. “I took Jane to the site in the desert where the mighty hammer Mjolnir is stuck in the rock,” he said.

“Wait, mew-mew?” she asked. “Like, from the book?”

“It was nothing,” Jane said dismissively.

“It was folly,” Thor said instead. “Mjolnir cannot be lifted by a mere mortal.”

Darcy narrowed her eyes. “So, wait,” she said. “Are you a god or--”

“We’re really not going to talk about it,” Jane said hurriedly.

“Whatever I might have been, I am no longer anymore,” Thor said. “My humiliation last night has convinced me well enough of my status, and I will no longer speak of things that are always to be beyond me.”

“So, you’re saying what exactly?” Darcy asked.

“That what happened last night is over,” Jane said, putting a fresh plate down for herself. She sat down noisily and looked at Thor. “Today’s a new day.”

A new day. Thor almost smiled as he ate his breakfast. A better day.

-o-

Breakfast was a simple affair, but Thor found that it was pleasing. That he had had a part in making and serving it made it all the better. Jane said it was his first real skill. A viable, practical skill that would make his life easier on Midgard.

But as Thor served the breakfast to his new companions, he had to think that making eggs wasn’t the first skill. He smiled politely as he set another plate down. It wasn’t even the most important skill.

-o-

The previous night, Thor had despaired. In a storm he could not control, the emotions had been overwhelming. Even though the desolation lingered, and his sense of failure was profound, Thor could not help but look on the new day as a challenge. If there was no going back, he would forge forward. He had never shied away from any task in his life. He had always been victorious.

True, this was not battle with metal, but it was a war all the same. A war for his existence, and he would prevail.

Which meant it was time to learn.

True, Thor had never been a thorough student in most topics, but when he applied himself, he had found himself quite adept. Usually his preferred topics were of fighting and warfare, but today his task was to learn Midgardian culture and mannerisms.

Indeed, he already knew they were more understated. Breaking things was not an appropriate means of celebration. They were ordered and regulated,, imposing strange measures to ensure their own safety. This was perhaps logical considering their lesser healing capabilities.

But Thor needed to know how to be a part of their society. He had to discover what it meant to work and prosper here. He needed to earn money and to learn cultural lingo in order to be well acclimated to his current conditions.

Thor had to learn how to be human.

-o-

Loki had always been one to study. He read books and memorized texts.

Thor, however, had always been tactile learner. He mastered concepts by doing them.

Therefore, if he was going to be human, he would have to do what his new human companions would do. It was an interesting challenge, for they were each quite particular. From Darcy to Selvig to Jane, Thor could only conclude he had an apt cross section of Midgardian culture, which would help him better adapt to a wide range of situations. He would need to study them first in turn.

He started, however, with Jane.

Although Selvig was older, this seemed to be Jane’s project. She had been the one bold enough to accompany him on his foolish journey out to Mjolnir, and she had still accepted his presence after his failure. Those were valid reasons to start with Jane.

If he enjoyed watching her and relished the sound of her voice, that was entirely coincidental.

-o-

After breakfast, Jane seemed to have little desire to clean, which was acceptable with Thor. They deposited their dishes into a device she called a dishwasher. When he inquired about it, she simply told him that they’d deal with it later.

Though she was entirely earnest, Thor suspected her desire to put things off was less about the practical need and more about her desire to do other tasks. Given that Thor had never had to clean up after him, this did not seem objectionable.

“So,” he said, rubbing his hands together as Jane went back to where the her equipment used to be. “What will we do next?”

Jane looked up at him, surprised. “We?”

“Of course,” he said. “You desired my assistance last night.”

“Well, sure,” Jane said. “But some of this is pretty technical. I don’t suppose you’re really good with machines?”

Thor frowned. “I have a rudimentary knowledge--”

“I can do this part myself, really,” Jane assured him. “Darcy and Erik are going to help--”

Erik burped, disappearing toward the bathroom again. Darcy was tapping on her communication device. “Um, I know less about your stupid machines than I do about your stupid stars,” she said.

Jane looked vexed. “Well,” she said. “It’s probably best if I do it myself--”

“Please,” Thor said. “I may not have all the knowledge you possess, but I want to help you.”

He approached gently.

“Well,” she said, wavering a bit.

He smiled at her.

She smiled back. “I guess there’s no harm in that.”

-o-

Jane’s work was precise and technical -- and strangely chaotic. Thor hovered close, trying to anticipate her needs, but finding himself woefully lacking. The names she assigned for tools were foreign to him, although some glimpses of the circuitry she was attempting to manipulate made some sense to him.

“The basics,” she told him. “We need to start with the basics. Right now, I don’t even have a way to measure the atmospheric conditions, much less anything attuned to the specialized frequencies. If we’re going to make any progress on my theory, we need to at least get something basic rigged up.”

“Very well,” Thor said. “That sounds like a reasonable goal.”

It sounded reasonable, but Thor quickly determined that it was far loftier than Jane intended it to be. Her workspace was sparse and stripped. The remaining items seemed like nothing more than scraps, and Thor did his best to organize the items as Jane tinkered away obsessively.

After an hour of labor, they had the basic components for a monitoring device, though it seemed unduly crude and when Jane tried to test it, it made strange noises at her. Thor was going to recommend reworking some of the relay systems, but she was so focused on her task that he dared not disturb her. She worked with a certain madness that Thor recognized in the very brilliant and the very dedicated. He reminded him vaguely of Loki.

He wondered about his brother, how he fared. If he missed Thor, or if he was prepared to fill the gap Thor had left. Someone would have to be the crowned prince. Loki would be well suited for a coronation, all lack of battle prowess aside. Loki was smart and determined; he would not fail.

Somehow, that gave him comfort. He liked to think of Asgard in good hands.

Though it did him little good on Midgard.

Jane muttered a curse, putting her tools down. “This is ridiculous,” she said. “They even took my spare parts. I need wires and conductors and--”

“Then I shall get you some,” Thor said. “Tell me where I may find these items.”

“I had them in my work station,” Jane said mournfully. “But SHIELD was thorough. I mean, if I didn’t have the notebook, I’d be better off picking a new project entirely.”
Thor shook his head resolutely. “You cannot quit,” he said. “You are smart, capable and dedicated. I know this appears to be a devastating loss, but I do not doubt your tenacity. You can do this. You will.”

She stopped, eyes wide as she watched him.

Feeling resolved, Thor nodded at her. “Now tell me what you need.”

“We’ll need to go to the store…,” Jane began.

“Oh!” Darcy chimed in from the couch. “Shopping trip! Let me! Let me!”

“I don’t know,” Jane hesitated.

“Please,” Thor said, keeping his gaze steadily on her. “You said I could help you. Even if this is not what you intended, let me help you. Lady Darcy and I will venture out to acquire your tools. You and Selvig may stay here and take full stock of everything you have and devise a formalized plan of attack. When we return, we can embark on our task with newfound organization and foresight.”

Jane stared at him.

Darcy whined, “You can’t object to organization and foresight. I mean, organization and foresight, Jane! All things geeky and science!”

Jane didn’t look away from Thor.

Thor was undeterred.

Finally, Jane sighed. “Oh, okay,” she said. “Let me make a list.”

-o-

List in hand, Thor departed proudly with Darcy. It was just as well, he thought, to be working with Darcy for a period. He could attune himself to her unique skills.

“So,” he said, looking uncertainly at the list. “What type of vendor will carry these items?”

“Um,” Darcy said. “That list is mostly gibberish, and this town basically has three stores. Since I’m pretty sure that’s not food or clothes, we’ll go to the hardware store.”

“Hardware?” Thor asked.

“Like, tools and stuff,” Darcy said. “You like hammers, right?”

Thor did his best not to show any emotions. “I have some skill with a hammer, yes.”

Darcy smiled broadly. “Then a hardware store is right up your alley.”

-o-

Darcy was most peculiar. She was unduly fond of her communication device, which Thor could only assume was used to transmit written messages since she hardly spoke into it. Her choice of conversation was far more diverse than Jane’s, though no less confounding. With Jane, he could at least make sense of her science with some of his own teaching back on Asgard, but Darcy was simply nonsensical.

“I’m serious, though,” she said. “Project Runway. We should completely send them your picture because you would be a unique design challenge. I mean, the size of your arms alone would blow their minds, and plus, for the record, I think you would look really good in some custom clothing. Not that you wouldn’t look good in anything, but also -- free clothes. I’m also looking for free clothes, and maybe they’d even pay for you to go to New York, which would be awesome.”

Thor watched her. He had no idea what she was talking about, except for the clothing and the fact that he needed some. “I would be open to any such endeavors,” he said. “Perhaps you could assist me in acquiring clothing at a later time after we have helped Jane with her work.”

Darcy brightened. “Oh, I can do that,” she said. “I mean, some people might take you for a jock look, but I think we could pull of something else. Goth, maybe? How do you feel about eyeliner?”

Thor tilted his head. “I feel as though I would be open to anything your culture deems relevant,” he said. “Tell me more.”

“Oh, I will,” Darcy said, grinning with a disconcertingly familiar mischievous glint in her eyes. “Don’t worry about that.”

-o-

By the time they were finished at the hardware store, Darcy had told Thor about popular music, how to use a pick-up line in a bar and the function of democracy.

“That is unheard of!” Thor said. “How does anything get done?”

“Well, right now, things really don’t get done,” Darcy admitted, letting Thor carry the large bags of supplies while she accepted Jane’s credit card back from the cashier. (“Electronic money,” Darcy had concluded. “Great to have, as long as someone else gets the bill.”)

“Then why is such mundane posturing permitted?” Thor asked incredulously. “Do you not have a mighty force to quell it?”

“Well, that would sort of go against the whole purpose of democracy,” Darcy said.

Thor shook his head, following Darcy out the door. “You live in a strange land.”

Darcy laughed. “Just wait until I explain reality TV.”

-o-

It was fascinating. The picture Darcy provided of the culture was vast and surprising. He had always known Midgard to be less developed, but the tales of idiocy for entertainment was a bit staggering. Clearly, Midgard was especially diverse, as was to be expected from a society much younger than his own. They lacked a coherent voice, and it would likely be millennia before they learned enough from their differences to forge a braver, stronger unity.

Yet even with the strange feats of nonsense Darcy seemed to extol, there was a simple virtue exemplified in the day to day interaction. Indeed, everyone had been straightforward and cordial, and there had been no posturing. In fact, not one incident of violence had broken out in his time amongst the people, save for his own misdeeds while trying to secure Mjolnir.

The stories had always painted Midgard to be not just simple, but somewhat barbaric. Thor had loved the stories, where the brutes had fallen before them in honor like they would a god, stayed from their own violent failings to realize they had been saved from their own inadequacies.

If some things seemed foolish from afar, they were far more practical in the day to day realities. Their government suggested an evolution toward idealism. It was written that Asgard had tried a similar form of government, lifetimes before Thor’s grandfather had taken the throne to unite the people and protect the realms. Considering the small scope on Midgard, perhaps it was not such a daunting task.

And what was entertainment except one preference over another? Loki devoured books, loving solitary pleasures. Volstagg wanted nothing more than a feast. Fandral craved the company of beautiful maids, and Sif and himself were often loathe to leave the training fields.

Thor also found their limitations to be overstate. True, their science was not as advanced, but they wanted to learn. The strove to know more. The insatiable curiosity was a point in their favor, and it was a skill Thor had always lacked. Indeed, he’d been so taken with his insular world view that he’d failed to see reason from any side. He was the one who had charged blindly into Jotunheim and started a war before demeaning his father and earning the rejection of his birthright.

Thor had no place speaking of lesser beings.

For he was the least among his people. He was the least among these people.

But that was the inherent power afforded to all on Midgard. For if they were lesser, then they still had a chance to grow. Their potential was untapped and unrealized -- with enough effort, they might ascend still to the higher realms.

Thor had to believe that.

For himself as much as anything.

-o-

When they returned, Selvig was out of the bathroom and upright. Though he still appeared ill, he was assisting Jane with what appeared to be an organizational task.

“Hey!” Jane said excitedly. “You’ll never guess what I found!”

Most certainly, Thor would not. Unless she found a way to get him back to Asgard without Heimdall’s sight and against Odin’s explicit orders.

Oblivious, Jane continued. “One of my scanners!” She held up a device. “I mean, it’s smaller and older, but it still works. Honestly, I don’t even know why it’s still here other than the fact that someone stuffed it down one of the recliners. Like, literally, down the side. We wouldn’t have found it except that we were shifting the furniture and the thing just fell out--”

Thor put the bag on the table, attuned to her enthusiasm.

Darcy flounced over to one of the chairs. “Wait, was it in the green chair?”

“Yeah!” Jane said. “It’s such a stroke of luck!”

“Or, you know, laziness,” Darcy said.

“What?” Jane asked. “Wait, you put it there, didn’t you?”

Darcy shrugged, pulling out her phone. “It’s entirely possible.”

“You told me that you always put the equipment back where it belongs!” Jane said.

“And I thought it belonged in the chair,” Darcy said with a shrug.

Jane’s mouth fell open in indignation. “This equipment is hand built--”

“And it was beeping all the way through my favorite show,” Darcy said. “I tried to turn it off, but you disabled the off button!”

“Because I need 24 hours readings, Darcy,” Jane lectured.

“Well, that doesn’t do you much good when the batteries die,” Darcy countered.

“Because you put it down a chair!”

“I know!” Darcy replied. “So you’re welcome! Thanks to me, you have one working monitor. If you ask me, I more than earned my paycheck this week.”

Jane snorted.

Selvig rubbed his head.

Thor smiled, for the banter was familiar. Though there was disdain and indifference apparent, it was laden with a deeper affection. Thor knew this well, for it was often how he and Loki had been. Many things on Midgard were different, but the understated means of affection could be expressed in much the same way.

Moving forward, Thor nodded. “This is all well, then,” he said. “You have some equipment and we have brought the parts to build more. Surely we will have you research station functional in no time.”

Jane gave Darcy one last withering look. She took a breath, and nodded back at Thor. “It certainly is an optimistic turn of events.”

Being banished on Midgard, Thor thought an optimistic turn of events was very much the best news possible.