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Thor fic: The Measure of a Man (9/15)

December 30th, 2014 (09:00 am)
cranky

feeling: cranky

For other parts and notes, check the master post.




A blueprint. Thor needed a blueprint.

He needed a plan.

That made sense, and in truth, Thor should have thought of it before. Instead of trading on well worn Earth cliches, he should have thought about Jane and what she needed and wanted long before this.

The truth was, however, that Thor had never been particularly good at planning. As a child, he had been rash and impetuous, prone to acting out without thinking whatsoever. In the heat of conflict, this had often served him well, but it had made him decidedly short sighted.

His father had told him this. His mother had belabored it. Even Loki had tried to point it out to him, time and again. But Thor had always felt too impatient to plan, and he had much favored trusting his instincts. After all, they had never failed him.

Except all the times they did. Most failures were easy to overlook, and Thor did learn from his mistakes but he had never quite considered that most of them could have been avoided with a little forethought.

And of course, there was the disaster on Jotunheim.

Because Thor hadn’t thought things through. Because he hadn’t planned. Because he had acted rashly and with his instincts and cost himself everything.

It was a cruel fate, and Thor could not bear to have that repeated. Though there was no one to banish him from Earth, he was far too aware how attached he was to Jane Foster. If he should fail to please her, being cast out from her presence or even her confidence would be devastating. He thought he could spend the rest of his mere years on this planet quite happily, as long as he was with her.

He would settle for being her friend. Indeed, he had never aspired for more than that when he first arrived. But after dating Jane these last few months, he found himself ever more displeased with the idea of losing that.

No, he wanted to stay with Jane.

For as long as they both should live.

He wanted a relationship that would last. He wanted it to be intimate and fun and productive.

Which meant, he needed a plan.

-o-

Thor set to brainstorming with a fervor. It consumed his attention and his thoughts. He thought of romantic dates and grand gestures while hammering nails. He considered fantastic destinations and delectable meals during his commute. He watched Jane closely, noting what made her laugh, what made her think, what made her eyes light up.

To Thor, there was no topic more fantastic in the galaxy that Jane Foster. He would never be a king. His days as a warrior were behind him. He would never amount to anything special as a mortal.

But if he could but make her happy, then it would all be worth it.

-o-

Thor timed his efforts for their six month anniversary. It seemed like a paltry number, considering his own parents’ marriage spanned for centuries. However, he could not deny that it felt like a milestone, and he wanted to celebrate it as such.

“A weekend?” Jane asked, obviously hedging. “Are you sure you want to take a whole weekend?”

Thor nodded. “Two days is not so long,” he said.

“Well, it’s kind of long,” Jane said, eyes lingering over on her equipment. “We do have a lot of data coming in right now--”

Thor rolled his eyes with good humor. “There is always a lot of data.”

“And that’s the point,” Jane said. “I really shouldn’t leave--”

“Two days, Jane,” Thor said. “I have already discussed the matter with Darcy, and she will happily stay at the lab to make sure that nothing goes awry in your absence.”

“But Darcy’s--”

“Smart and capable and has been working by your side faithfully for years?” Thor asked pointedly.

Jane’s mouth opened, but she faltered. “But…”

Thor sighed. “Jane, you know I respect your dedication to your work,” he said. “If you do not believe that you can leave it for two days, then I will abide by your decision. However, I would very much enjoy the opportunity to spend time with you. To honor you and celebrate our relationship. What we have together is special to me. I do not wish to take it for granted.”

Her mouth closed. “Wow,” she said, shaking her head. “You are way too good at making your point.”

He shrugged. “I’ve been developing my case all week.”

“I’m not that bad,” she said.

He raised his eyebrows.

“Well,” she said. “I just -- science--”

Smiling, he reached out, cupping her face. “I love your passion for what you do,” he said. “It is part of what makes you so spectacular.”

“Okay, now you’re just going over the top,” she said.

“Do you wish me to stop?” he asked.

Her face brightened as she drew closer to him. “Nah,” she said, standing on her toes to brush her lips against his again. “I think you’re doing great.”

-o-

With Jane’s assurance of participation, Thor grew ever eager for his opportunity. He discovered that planning was a very insightful process. By thinking ahead, not only was he able to come up with a more definitive course of action, but he was better able to think through any possible caveats and make changes accordingly.

As it turned out, Thor was something of a perfectionist in his plans. He took great pains to account for all the details in a way he had never tried before. He made notes in his notebook, mapping out his course and making a checklist for his supplies.

In addition to foreseeing problems, he was also able to come up with superior solutions. It was remarkable how his ideas evolved and changed the more he thought about them. His initial ideas had been adequate, but by the end of his planning sessions, the entire event was nothing short of perfection.

It was a little ridiculous, in all honesty, the amount of time and effort he was spending for one weekend of emotional bonding. He had never spent this much time planning anything, not even as the future king of Asgard. Though, Thor suspected that reflected more poorly on who he had been rather than who he was.

Some things were simply worth it.

-o-

Thor was calm in most times of crisis. He had a remarkable presence in conflict, which was what had helped him excel in his physical training.

Yet, in the time approaching the date, he found himself growing ever more anxious. He was jittery and restless, growing listless in the evenings and distracted at work.

“Dude,” Darcy said when he burned the pancakes at breakfast. “What’s with you?”

Thor scraped the charred pancake off the pan apologetically. “I apologize,” he said. “I have been quite distracted recently.”

“Um, yeah,” Darcy said. “Both I and the badly mauled pancake are aware of that.”

“I just…,” he said, pouring more batter into the pan. “I have been thinking about this weekend.”

“Oh, that’s right,” Darcy said. “The big six month to-do.”

“I just want everything to go right,” he said, watching as the batter started to bubble.

“Why wouldn’t it go right?” Darcy asked.

“I have accounted for a number of variant possibilities,” Thor admitted. “But I keep thinking, what if more than one thing goes wrong, and what if there are miscalculations on my part that impact the outcome? What if I have failed to take into consideration Jane’s interests? What if she finds my efforts tedious?”

“Thor,” Darcy said. “The most effort a guy has ever put into a relationship with me was when I had this boyfriend who remembered to take me out for dinner after two months together.”

“That sounds nice,” Thor said, lifting the pancake and flipping it to the other side.

“He dumped me the next morning,” Darcy said.

“That’s horrible--”

“Well, I hadn’t even realized we’d been dating that long,” Darcy said. “Honestly, he was so boring that I forgot that we were together between every date.

Thor poked at the pancake with consternation, not sure what to say.

“Which is sort of my point,” Darcy said. “You and Jane, you’re making the effort. Isn’t that half the battle?”

Thor flipped the pancake once more before carrying it on the spatula to put it on Darcy’s plate. He paused, thoughtful. “You make it sound rather easy.”

Darcy liberally poured syrup over the pancakes. “Easy?” she asked. “That’s the hard stuff. Which is why it’s for you and for Jane.”

“You think it’ll go okay, then?” Thor asked.

Cutting into her pancake, Darcy skewered it with her fork. “If anyone has a chance,” she said. “It’s a super smart scientist and a golden haired demigod.”

“So that’s a yes?” Thor asked.

“Yes!” Darcy said. “Now keep it coming with the pancakes!”

Thor was smiling as he turned back to the stove.

-o-

Thor could still remember it like yesterday. The day of his coronation, standing behind the doors, just him and Loki. He had been nervous, then, a tight feeling in the pit of his stomach that he could not quite neutralize with familiar joking. Loki had spoken in love and affection, as sincere as his brother ever was. It had been the only boost he needed to approach the crowd with confidence.

Indeed, he had not wavered that day. He had swallowed back his trepidation and cast himself before his people with nothing reserved. He could still hear his own voice, reverberating over the crowds: I swear!

It had been the most important day of Thor’s life.

And yet somehow, his nerves were far worse this day.

He found he could not sleep, turning restless in the bed the day before their trip. At an early hour, he rose to ready himself, listlessly double checking his itinerary and sorting through his supplies for the countless time. Anxious, he glanced at the door, waiting for Jane to rise. He made a pot of coffee to occupy himself, but the caffeine did nothing to settle his nerves.

When Jane finally did arrive, somewhat sleepy-eyed, he did his best not to appear overly eager.

Still, as he half accosted her with questions about her well being and readiness, she gave him a skeptical look. “Are you seriously this nervous?” she asked.

He laughed, too loud and too forced. “No, of course not!”

She looked wholly unconvinced.

Sheepish, he pursed his lips. “Perhaps a little,” he relented. “But mostly, I am ready. How do you fare?”

She took a deep breath, shrugging. “I guess I’m as ready as I’m going to be,” she said. “Unless you’re willing to let me check the data--”

It was his turn to level a look at her.

Holding up her hand, she nodded. “I had to try.”

He came forward, slinging his backpack over his shoulder. “I would expect no less.”

“So just a peek?” she asked.

Shaking his head, he smiled at her fondly. “You have five minutes while I load up the car.”

She clapped her hands. “Thank you!”

“I will afford you five minutes for science,” he said. “But you have promised the rest of the weekend to me.”

With a solemn nod, she said, “You have my word.”

He bent over, kissing her. “And that is all I need.”

-o-

True to her word, Jane was ready when Thor had the car packed.

Of course, she didn’t realize that he took extra time that he did not need, that he spent time leaned over the trunk, rearranging their belongings fruitlessly just to give her ten minutes instead of five.

She didn’t realize, of course.

But her smile was thanks enough.

“Great,” she said, climbing into the passenger’s seat and reaching for her belt buckle. “So are you going to tell me where we’re going?”

“Well, that wouldn’t be a surprise,” he said.

“I already know we’re going hiking,” she said. “I mean, you told me explicitly to wear hiking boots.”

He gave her a sideways glance as he started up the car. “Perhaps that was a trick.”

“You’re not very good at deception,” she countered.

“I have convinced an entire town that my name is Donald Blake but only use a nickname of Thor,” he said. “My entire life here is a deception.”

“That doesn’t count!” Jane said.

“You think me so simple?” Thor asked.

“No,” she replied without missing a beat. “I think you’re too good.”

“Well, then,” he said, starting to pull the car away from the curb. He grinned at her. “All the more reason to trust me.”

-o-

The drive was pleasant, with Jane sipping her coffee and innocuous music on the radio. The day was already bright and clear, with no sign of anything to impede their progress. When Thor pulled off at Chaco Culture National Historicla Park, she made a small, triumphant sound. “I knew it was hiking,” she said.

Thor pulled into a parking spot. “I never disagreed that there was hiking involved.”

“Well, what else would we do?” Jane asked.

Putting the car in park, Thor shrugged. “I guess you will have to find out.”

-o-

Thor spoke with confidence, but the truth was that he was growing more anxious with each passing moment. While it was true that he had not planned this trip solely around hiking, he was beginning to fear that it could be reduced to such simplistic terms. Worse still, what if his ambiguity only made her too much in anticipation? What if the mystery only resulted in a let down?

What if he planned so much just to fail?

In so many regards, it was a miracle Thor had lived so many years and screwed up as little as he did. Maybe it was just good luck or the good graces of his parents. Perhaps he had been nothing but a spoiled brat, in long need of discipline his aging father had been reluctant to dole out.

Needless to say, Thor would have been a horrible king. Too brash by one account but then too afraid by another. If Thor could not even plan a six month anniversary, then how would he have ever expected himself to lead an entire planet? Much less the most powerful planet in all the realm?

That was beside the point, of course. Thor was no longer in line for the throne. The throne would never be his, and in some ways, that was a relief. He had wanted it more than anything, but he could see now just how ill prepared he had been. He could not be trusted with much until he could be successful with little.

Like a six month anniversary.

Thor had no hopes of regaining his title.

But he could hope for a successful weekend -- and a happy girlfriend.

Two things that mattered more than anything else in his newfound life.

-o-

After unloading their supplies, Thor checked his map and cross referenced his itinerary. He looked toward Jane, who was buckling on her own backpack.

“What do you have in here?” she asked, adjusting the straps with a grimace.

“Is it too heavy?” Thor asked.

“No, no,” Jane said. “I mean, I don’t think so.”

“I can take some of your supplies in my own,” Thor offered.

“I’m just, I don’t know, surprised,” Jane said. “This is clearly going to be quite a hike.”

Thor rolled his eyes. “I told you,” he said. “This is going to be more than a hike.”

“Right, right,” Jane said. “I keep forgetting.”

“Very well, then,” Thor said. “It is my task to make sure you remember.”

She regarded him playfully. “You think you’re up to that?”

“There is but one way to find out,” he returned with a wink. “How about you? Are you ready?”

“For a hike?” Jane asked coyly. She gestured. “After you.”

He narrowed his eyes at her, but could not quite contain his smile. “Be sure to keep up.”

-o-

In his research, Thor had discovered that Chaco Culture National Historical Park had many sites to see. Although the idea of a backcountry trail had been appealing, he ultimately decided that well tread paths may be more lenient, since Jane was more inclined toward lab work than outdoor activity. Moreover, the more he read about the park, the more he concluded that the sites had inherent value as one of the few remaining places that preserved ancient human culture.

On Asgard, he would have turned a blind eye to such things. He had struggled through history for the sake of his title, and had had little interest in the educational trips his mother had arranged for Loki and himself. Thor had always thought the past to be immaterial. What had gone before was done and over; Thor had been more focused on the here and now.

At great cost, most certainly. Now he could see the power of the past, and the lessons it could teach. More than that, he found a respect for the things that came before, as building blocks to establish what the future will be. It was only when things were stripped down to their barest elements that truth could be revealed.

The past was the strongest connection with the future.

With his self-guided tour map in hand, he started them on the first trail readily, Jane just a step behind. “I mean,” she said. “Would this be a bad time to say that I don’t even like hiking that much?”

Thor looked back at her with a bemused glare. “Then you are quite fortunate that this is much more than hiking.”

“I know, I know,” Jane said. “You have a plan.”

Thor slowed slightly, keeping his pace with hers. “Did you not enjoy the out of doors much as a child?”

“As a child?” she asked. “I mean, sure. I like the outdoors now. As a kid, I was always climbing trees and finding the highest hill. Anything to get me closer to the stars.”

“These trees and hills,” Thor said. “Were they all in your yard?”

“No, not at all,” Jane said. “Sometimes I would take this shortcut through the forest on the way home from school and try to get lost just so I could stay out after dark without my parents getting mad at me.”

“So, you would say that these exploits, they involved walking?” Thor asked pointedly. “Hiking even?”

She sighed, rolling her eyes. “Okay, you made your point.”

Thor looked out at the trail. “When the destination is worthwhile, we are often willing to endure anything to get there.”

“What about you?” Jane asked after several paces.

Thor glanced at her. “What about me?”

“Did you hike as a kid?” she asked. “I mean, I assume they had hiking on Asgard.”

Thor chuckled. “I spent as much time outside as possible,” he said. “I found it so frustrating to be stuck inside the palace.”

“Oh, poor little Thor, stuck in a palace,” she joked.

“It was quite limiting!” Thor replied. “And my mother was so strict about where we could and could not run. There were rules about everything, the things we could and could not touch.”

“And I’m sure you complied perfectly,” Jane said.

“In my defense, I was never disobedient without cause,” Thor said. “I just never had very good cause, I’m afraid.”

She laughed. “It’s hard to imagine you that way.”

“I was a very brash child,” Thor admitted.

“Well, you have grown up,” Jane said.

Thor nodded, a little somber.

She nudged him. “So what was your favorite thing to do outside?”

“Oh, I enjoyed it all,” Thor said. “I liked to play hide and seek in the forests. There were some beaches that stretched farther than the eye could see, with crystal blue waters that were so clear that you could see down for miles. I, too, climbed trees and swung from the branches.”

“That sounds dangerous,” Jane said.

“The more danger, the better,” Thor said. “I told you, I was brash.”

“So you say,” Jane said.

“But you know the thing I loved most?” he asked. “The storms. When it rained, no matter where I was, I would find my way outside, even if just on my balcony. I craved the rain, and the lightning and thunder mesmerized me. It was like the sky was fighting its own epic battle, warring against itself for the inherent value of the fight in its own right.”

Jane was watching him, curious now. “That makes sense,” she said after a moment. “For the god of thunder.”

“Storms are violent and powerful,” Thor said. “But they are contained and within their own logic. They rage and fight, but always end. If you listen close, you can hear the heavens conversing, as if in a secret language lost to mortals many ages ago.”

He looked down at Jane, feeling his cheek redden.

“At least, that was what I believed as a child,” he said.

She nodded, walking a few more steps. “When I was little, I thought the stars were beacons, set out by aliens in far off lands, inviting people to come visit. I was convinced we could reach them all, or at least put out a beacon of our own, bright enough to shine throughout the universe.”

“That is not so far off,” Thor said. “Many of the stars to represent planets with sentient life.”

“And who knows,” Jane said “Maybe the storms do have a language we just haven’t figured out yet.”

Thor continued walking, stepping over a rut in the ground. “Somehow I find that unlikely.”

“All things are unlikely,” Jane said. “Until we prove them to be true.”

He looked at her, smile widening once more. “Than let me prove this to you,” he said.

She frowned. “Prove what?”

Taking her hand, he broadened their pace. “How much more than a hike this is.”

-o-

Thor had not been certain, given that Jane was an astronomer, that ancient sites would hold much interest to her. However, from growing up with Loki, he had come to understand that an innate curiosity was just what it sounded like. Although Loki had had preferences in his studies, he had devoured all academic pursuits with reckless abandon. During his time with Jane, he had seen many similarities in her, so he could only hope that his conclusion had been valid.

Seeing her face, though, was all it took.

“Seriously,” she said, marveling as they walked through the ruins of the ancient great house at Una Vida. “Can you imagine their structural instincts to be able to do this? I mean, we pay architects tens of thousands of dollars, and these people were able to do it without any delineation of advance mathematics. It’s so impressive.”

Thor nods, trying to envision what life must have been like, where the people would have sat and how they would have interacted. “It does provide insight into the way they lived and thought,” he agreed. He pointed to a row of windows. “They must have placed those so sun would light the room in the afternoon. It would make a wonderful spot for an evening meal.”

Jane cocked her head. “You’re right,” she agreed. “And, I mean the scale of this place. It’s not a single family dwelling.”

“So they were social people,” Thor concluded.

“I’m sure there has been a lot of research,” Jane said. “We’ll have to stop by the information center and pick up some brochures. I can’t believe we didn’t stop there first!”

“There was an element of surprise!” Thor said.

“But I need to know!” Jane exclaimed.

“You can form your own conclusions first,” he said.

“I’m not an archeologist or even an anthropologist,” she said. “Although I have found the star charts from ancient Mediterranean cultures to be fascinating.”

Thor laughed. “You do not always need to be right,” he said. “Sometimes you just need to be imaginative.”

“That’s called story telling,” she said. “Not science.”

“But can you not use your science to tell stories?” he said. “Is not the stories what makes the science worthwhile? When we look up at the stars, you do not just ask me about their names and their planets. You want to know about the people. Your equations are not about numbers, but about connecting two places in the universe.”

She chewed her lip. “I hadn’t thought of it like that,” she said. “Science nerds were never big on the social scene.”

“That point is not important,” Thor said. He gestured out to the great house again. “Look at it. Imagine how it might have been.”

Jane followed his gaze, eying the space thoughtfully for a moment. “It has good flow,” she said. “Modern design is all about open concepts, but if you think about it practically, more walls would mean more materials and time. But I mean, it’s impossible to say--”

Thor shook his head. “Why are they gathering?”

Chewing her lip for a moment, she narrowed her gaze. “Rites of passage, maybe,” she said. “Important holidays, maybe. Celebrations.”

“Celebrations,” Thor said. “What are they celebrating?”

“Uh, achievement,” Jane continued. “I mean, their primary goal would be survival, so if they were hunters, they might celebrate a good hunt.”

“Ah, yes,” Thor said. “I often feasted in the aftermath of a grand hunt.”

“Really?” Jane said. She looked at him with a wrinkled nose. “On a civilized planet, you still got together to have a few beers because you killed some poor defenseless animal?”

Thor scoffed. “Poor defenseless animal?” he asked. “Have you not seen the bilgesnipe? Do you not know what damage they do to the ecosystem in the Northern Shores?”

Jane shrugged.

Thor rolled his eyes. “It was also a means of population control,” he said with a tinge of exasperation. “And bilgesnipe are massive, hideous creatures.”

“Are you sure you just didn’t want a few beers?” Jane asked.

“It was more than a few beers,” Thor said. “When you talk about celebration, I’m not sure you even know the full context of what that word implies.”

“Oh, whatever, Mr. I-Came-From-A-Powerful-Ancient-Planet-of-Perfection,” she said.

He nudged her. “You miss the point.”

“That you were an elitist snob who I probably wouldn’t have liked,” she joked.

“That we are more than we leave behind,” he said. “Your work is great and important, Jane. And someday it may change the fate of your planet and affect the destiny of all the realms, but when you are gone, they will be your relics. People will try to understand you and to reduce you to a series of equations and important events, but you are more than that.”

He paused, reaching out to touch her cheek, fingers lingering in her hair.

“I want you to know that no matter what the relics of my life may entail, I hope people can see my love for you above all else,” he said. “I yearn for no other legacy than that.”

She blinked, a little taken aback by his candor. Then she giggled nervously. “Sort of setting the bar kind of low there.”

“No,” he said. “It is the highest I have ever aimed for.”

With that, he kissed her, and she sighed. “Well, then,” she murmured. “Good job with that.”

-o-

After the first site, Jane was eager to continue on, so Thor was glad he had planned a loop around all the major points of interest in the park. Una Vida had just been the start, and although Pueblo Bonito was the most crowded of the attractions and the most intact, Jane took special interest in the Petroglyph Trail.

Thor countered her speculations, and together they theorized a history for these people and the lives they must have lived. They talked of hunters on long quests; village dwellers battening down the hatches against a violent storm. They wondered about the clarity of the night sky, which offered all the same wonder even so many years in the past.

They told stories, some silly and some serious, and it occurred to Thor they weren’t just telling the stories of what had been, but what could be. They were telling their own story, just as much as they were envisioning the tales of those who had come before.

“It’s funny,” Jane reflected, running her hand along one of the ancient rocks. “How this looks so vacant now, and how full of life it must have been.”

“That is the way time works,” Thor said. “We can reduce a lifetime into a single moment.”

She looked at him. “Is that how you feel sometimes?” she asked. “When you think of Asgard?”

“I have no relics of home,” he confessed. “Except one.”

“The hammer,” she said.

Swallowing, he looked down. “It tells the story well enough,” he said. “The shame.”

She reached out, hand on his arm. “You know what’s funny about relics?” she asked.

He glanced up at her.

“You can study and you can make logical conclusions, but it’s all just speculation,” she said. “The past is behind us. We can learn from it, but we can never go back. And the thing I believe -- the thing I’ve always believed -- is that the best is yet to come.”

A smile pulled at his mouth. “Is that so?”

She nodded. “Totally.”

“Well,” Thor said, inclining his head. “You are the scientist, so who am I to argue?”

Her fingers squeezed, and she returned his smile. “Now,” she said. “What’s next on our itinerary?”


-o-

After completing their hike of the park, Thor took Jane to the campground. Though she offered to help set up, he insisted on doing it alone while letting her peruse the pamphlets she had gathered from the visitor’s center.

“I had no idea,” Jane said in disbelief as she turned to the next pamphlet. “The amount of research on these people--”

“Maybe you should have studied anthropology after all,” Thor quipped while erecting a tent post.

“Ha,” she said. “Not even.”

She paused, watching him for a moment while he levered the tent into an upright position. Her gaze turned upward.

“But they would have had a hell of a view,” she said.

“Ah,” Thor said. “So it all comes back to the stars.”

She blushed, looking at him. “I suppose it always does, doesn’t it?”

With the tent in place, Thor moved to anchor it to the ground. “It is easy to think them to be simple,” he said. “On Asgard, we take it upon ourselves to maintain the well being of all the realms, as though they are incapable of doing it for themselves.”

“To be fair, Earth is kind of a mess,” Jane said.

“I do not doubt the value of keeping peace among the planets,” Thor said. “Nor would I disparage the achievements on Asgard, for even what I have told you does not do it justice. But we think of simple as lesser. It becomes easy to discredit entire civilizations without realizing what they have to teach us.”

“Well, mutual respect and understanding,” she said. “That is the ideal model for interplanetary exploration.”

“We don’t explore on Asgard,” he said. “We don’t make startling discoveries. Time moves slowly; things evolve at what you would call a snail’s pace. Yet with all the vast time we enjoy, we miss so much. Think of the people who lived here so many centuries ago. You said it yourself, they had an innate understanding of architecture.”

She nodded. “Though you have to wonder if the poorly designed houses are just the ones that fell down.”

“But look at the ones that didn’t,” Thor said. “Look at the lives they must have created for themselves. Maybe they knew things we could never hope to understand. The simple calls of nature. The language of the storm.”

“Sometimes it doesn’t take a bunch of degrees,” Jane agreed. “I mean, in science we don’t talk a lot about faith, but sometimes I think that’s all it is. Faith that what we think we know is really what we know. We have to believe it before we can prove it.”

Thor stopped his work to look at her fully. “On this planet, I sometimes think I live by faith.”

“Sometimes?” Jane asked.

“But then I see you,” Thor said. “And I have no more doubts.”

She laughed.

He frowned. “Was is something I said?”

“Yes!” she exclaimed. “It’s everything! It’s everything you said!”

Thor tilted his head.

“If I had any doubts that you weren’t actually who you said you were, I’d have to change my mind now.”

“I’m sorry?”

“No one talks like that,” Jane said. “Not in real life. Not outside movies. But you--”

She shook her head, laughing again.

“You make me want to believe,” she said finally. “I know you say that I’ve done so much for you, but you should know, you’ve done just as much for me.”

He crossed over to her, settling down on the blanket next to her. “I would have to argue against that.”

“And you’d lose,” she said, shifting closer to him. “I’m the scientist, remember?”

He nodded. “And I am apparently the laugh worthy romantic.”

She punched his arm. “I laugh because you make me want to believe.”

“In what?” he asked balefully.

Jane rested her head against his shoulder, snuggling close. “Everything.”

-o-

In their time at the park, Jane seemed quite content.

But Thor was not done yet.

“Wait,” Jane said. “There’s more?”

“I told you it was more than a hike,” he said.

Her face brightened, and she shook her head. “You’re being smug now.”

He tugged her hand. “I have good reason,” he said. “Just wait and see.”

-o-

Chaco Culture National Park was regarded as one of the few places to see the ancient ruins from the early inhabitants of the land in the Southwest. In this, it was of particular scientific curiosity to a great many people. Thor had found all this fascinating when he decided on this as a destination.

None of it, however, was the reason he had chosen this particular park.

No, he had chosen it because when the sun went down, it offered nearly unimpeded views of the sky.

The park had gone to great pains to minimize all lighting in the area, making it a designated dark spot, which made seeing the stars even easier. To further capitalize on the natural good view, the park had erected a fully functional observatory, which was open to the public.

Thor knew it was not the refined equipment Jane used in her lab, but he did hope that the wide open views would inspire her in the difference.

She laughed when she saw the sign. “You’re kidding me, right?”

Thor stepped next to her, a bit concerned. “I wasn’t sure if it would be too much like your day job--”

“You have got to be kidding me,” she said again, even more emphatic than before.

“Is that bad?” he asked.

She turned toward him, half shoving him. “You didn’t just give me a hike or historical ruins or a campsite,” she said. “You gave me the stars.

“So that’s good?” Thor asked, almost daring to feel optimistic.

This time she did shove him. “It’s not good,” she said. “It’s perfect.”

He let out his breath in relief.

“But you know what this means, right?” she asked. “That we’re going to be in here until they kick us out?”

Thor held out his arm, to lead her forward. “I would expect no less.”

-o-

At the observatory, Jane did not wait for a tour. She needed no introductions or guidance. She moved from telescope to telescope, expertly aligning each one to look at different points in the night sky. Pulling on Thor’s hand, she pressed him to each one as she started to explain the constellations and the planets and everything beyond.

He had listened to her before on these things. She had never needed a telescope or an observatory to convey her wonder. But this time, Thor turned the telescope too, focusing on different objects in the night sky and asking her what she called them.

She told him all she knew, but then she told him of the things she’d once thought. She talked of charting the stars, and naming each one for herself. She told stories of ancient warriors emblazoned in the heavens, and how she’d believed she could pull them down to do her bidding as a child.

“Maybe they’re more real than I thought,” she said. “I mean, Thor and Odin and Loki -- that’s all legend, and here you are. Fallen from the sky, just like I’d dreamed.”

Thor smiled. “I would hope you never planned on hitting them with your car as a child.”

She blushed with a small laugh. “I suppose I never considered them actually falling,” she said. “I mean, it sounds nice to have a god in your spare room, but you never think it’s going to happen.”

Thor looked through the telescope again. “And if these other gods -- if Zeus and Hades and all the rest are real -- what do you think they would do?”

“Well, given what I know of Greek mythology, they probably wouldn’t settle happily in Puente Antiguo and work construction,” she said. “They were a bit violent.”

“And the legends of me?” Thor pressed.

Jane paused, somewhat thoughtful. “I never thought about it,” she said.

“We came to this planet in the name of war, but not against you,” Thor said. “We are a people who pride ourselves as warriors.”

“Yeah, a god wielding a massive hammer to destroy things usually doesn’t come across as soft and fuzzy,” Jane agreed. “But you changed.”

“Probably because you hit me with the car,” Thor joked.

She made a face, adjusting the scope again for a new view. “If that’s what you have to tell yourself.”

Thor nodded upward. “I didn’t realize I had such competition.”

“What?” Jane asked coyly. “You think I’d fall for any waxen hair god that fell from the sky?”

“I hadn’t considered that until now,” Thor admitted wryly.

“Well, lucky for you, they all seem to be right where they belong,” she said, looking through the lens again.

She straightened, letting Thor take a look. “Indeed,” Thor said, looking at the stars again. “So much more the loss for them.”

-o-

They were the last ones there, and Jane even managed to stay late, talking to one of the guides as he shut down the observatory for the night. It was quite late when they made their way back to the campsite, but Jane showed no signs of being tired.

Thor prepared a fire, and made them a light meal while Jane talked excitedly. She barely slowed enough to eat, but when Thor made the smores, she paused long enough to take sticky bites.

“I haven’t even helped with anything,” she said, licking her fingers while Thor ate one of his own. “I am probably the worst girlfriend ever.”

“I require nothing but your company,” Thor said.

“Um, you literally planned the most amazing trip in the world,” Jane said.

“No, the most amazing trip would have been to the far north,” he said. “I have read that the views of the sky from Canada or Scandinavia are most impressive.”

“Well, with their proximity to the poles, of course--”

“Sadly, I work construction,” Thor said. “I do not have that much money. Nor did I think I could convince you to make a plane trip when convincing you to take a weekend off was so much work.”

“That’s a fair point,” she said, somewhat sheepish.

“But there is always next year,” Thor told her, finishing another smore and handing it to Jane.

She grinned. “Something to look forward to.”

Thor put another marshmallow on a stick. “Undoubtedly.”

-o-

They ate until the marshmallows were gone, and as the fire died down, Thor drew close to Jane. In the simmering flames, he followed her gaze. “What would you do?” he asked. “If you could go between the stars, anywhere at all.”

She let out a breath. “I couldn’t even know where to start,” she said. “If I could even go to one or two of the places you’ve told me about, I’m sure I’d never want to leave. You make it sound like Earth is one of the more primitive destinations.”

“Of the nine realms, perhaps,” Thor said. “But there are many worlds beyond that.”

“Just think,” Jane said, shaking her head. “The things I could learn. I mean, I’d have to get a baseline of vocabulary to make any of it possible, but I have to think a lot of the scientific principles are universal. So to see how other civilizations have done it, to see where our science can get us someday -- I couldn’t even imagine.”

Thor could.

Thor had.

And he had appreciated so little. The gifts of his birth; the privilege of his title: things Jane would have used to better herself, to better her people, to better the galaxy.

Thor, on the other hand, had squandered it so carelessly.

“Someday I hope you get to see,” he said.

She looked at him. “Someday,” she agreed. “I’m pretty happy where I am for now.”

“Good,” he said. “That makes two of us.”

-o-

When the fire went out, they were the last ones still awake for what seems like miles. “You should sleep,” Thor said.

She sighed, head tucked against the crook of his neck. “Mm,” she murmured. “I don’t want to move.”

He jostled her slightly. “You need your sleep,” he said. “You will feel better for it in the morning.”

“But I’m happy,” she said into his chest. “I’m happy here.”

His stomach fluttered, his chest tightening. “This is just one night,” he said. “Hopefully with many more to come.”

She craned her head up. “But not like this.”

He kissed her forehead. “Some better,” he promised. “Come. The sleeping bag is all set up.”

Moaning, she allowed him to push her into a standing position. She shuffled toward the tent, pausing at the flap. “What about you?”

“I will sleep here,” he said. “I have often spent the night in the open.”

Jane looked toward the tent. “You could stay in here,” she said, eyes on him again. “With me.”

He looked at her, then looked at the tent.

She pulled her arms across her chest. “It’d be warmer.”

“Is that what you wish?” he asked.

“Yeah,” she said. “I wish it very much.”

-o-

It was a tight fit inside the tent, but Thor studiously pulled back the top layer of the sleeping back and helped Jane inside. When she was lying, he moved to cover her again, but she put her hand on his to stop him.

Their eyes met, and Jane inched away, making room for him inside.

Thor hesitated -- they had slept side by side before, a few times even on the couch in each other’s arms. But this intimacy was different. Thor had taken no liberties in the physical part of their relationship, for fear of overstepping his bounds.

But Jane was inviting him.

Thor would never tell her no.

Kicking his boots off, he eased in beside her, pulling the covers up over both of them. Almost instantly, she rolled toward him, burrowing against him as she curled up in a ball. He settled an arm across her, drawing her closer as she let out a breath and settled herself down.

“See,” she whispered without opening her eyes. “It’s so much warmer.”

He looked at her, slipping into sleep, and could only agree.

-o-

Thor woke with the sun, but he did not move. Jane was still tucked against him, her breathing deep and slow in sleep. He watched her, reaching a hand up to gently smooth the hair back from her face.

She thought he had given her so much this weekend.

In the past year and a half, she had given him so much more.

-o-

He was dozing when Jane stirred several hours later. He smiled as she opened her eyes, blinking blearily up at him.

“Hey,” she said. “Have you been watching me sleep this whole time?”

“Not the whole time,” Thor said.

“But some of it,” Jane concluded quizzically.

“Is that weird?” Thor asked.

“Well,” Jane replied. “It’s probably not normal. But given the nature of our relationship, I suppose it’s not the strangest thing.”

He made a mental note of that -- though he doubted he could stop himself from watching her, if given the chance. But he could learn a bit more discretion.

Still, he smiled. “So,” he said. “Was I right?”

Jane sat up a little. “About what?”

“About this being more than a hike,” he said.

She rolled her eyes, groaning. “I’m never going to live that down!”

“I can stop joking,” Thor assured her. “I’m just relieved you enjoyed it.”

Jane gropes from her shoes. “You had doubts?”

“I have never planned such an elaborate date before,” Thor admitted. “I wanted to be sure I got it right.”

“Well, believe me,” she said. “You got it right. You got it very, very right.”

“I hope you see it was more than a gesture,” Thor said. “I want you to see this weekend as a sign of my commitment not only to this relationship, but to you.”

She looked at him. “I’ve never doubted that, Thor.”

“I tried to think of the thing you wanted most,” he said. “And if I could, I would give you the stars. If I still had access to the rainbow bridge, I would take you to Asgard and every other place you wanted. But since I am unable to do that, all I can give you is a promise. That I will stay with you, by your side in all ways, until you claim the stars for yourself.”

She leaned over, pulling him to her. She kissed him. “Damn it,” she said. “How do you manage to be so good?

He smiled. “I have some pretty good inspiration.”

“Ugh,” she said. “I’m going to have to kiss you, just to shut you up.”

“Agreed,” Thor said as she yanked him to her again. “That might be the only possible solution.”

-o-

They were in no particular rush, so they adopted a leisurely pace while cleaning up their campsite. Jane insisted on driving them home, and Thor saw no reason to fight her on that. Instead, he finished loading up the car and climbed into the passenger’s seat, turning on the radio as Jane pulled them out of the parking lot.

“So, six months,” Jane said. “Sort of seems like it’s been longer.”

“It does feel quite natural,” Thor said.

“With Donald, I swear, every month felt like an accomplishment,” Jane said, shaking her head. She looked at him. “What was your longer relationship on Asgard?”

“I had no serious courtships,” Thor reminded her.

“Still,” Jane said. “I find it hard to believe you didn’t have anyone you thought about.”

Thor drew a breath, settling back thoughtfully. “I did consider it, a decade before I was banished.”

“Yeah?” Jane asked. “What was her name?”

“Katrin,” Thor said. “She was from a noble family, and her father provided textiles for an addition to my father’s palace when I was coming of age.”

“Ah,” Jane said, winking at him. “So you two flirted while your dads worked.”

“We did spend quite some time together,” Thor said. “I was just barely old enough to even consider the idea of courtship, so I imagine I found the idea tempting.”

“What happened?” Jane asked.

“Loki persuaded me that my feelings were too ill defined,” he said. “He suggested I go for an extended hunting season and see if I still felt the same upon my return.”

Jane nodded, eyes on the road. “Young love is fickle.”

“Plus, she had moved on to my friend Fandral,” Thor said.

“Well, that would do it,” Jane said. “How long were you two almost, you know--”

“Not long,” Thor said. “Two years, give or take.”

Jane’s eyes bugged a little, and her jaw dropped. “Two years? I only made it nine months with Donald--”

“Well, time had a very different meaning on Asgard,” Thor said.

“But you took two years to decided not to date someone,” Jane said. “This must seem so silly to you -- a six month anniversary.”

“You forget,” Thor reminded her. “It took me two years to decide not to date her. It took me far less than that to decide there would never be anyone else for me in this world for you. Six months matters, Jane. It matters very much.”

She gave him a sideways glance. “Are all of your people like this?”

“Like what?”

“Unendingly perfect,” she said. “I mean, you’re polite. You’re thoughtful. You’re respectful. You listen to me, you go out of your way to make me happy. You put your needs second, like, all the time. I mean, six months and we’ve barely even had a fight. Is that just how your people are?”

“Not particularly,” Thor said. “Nor can I say that it is something I was well known for back on Asgard. Surely you remember how I acted when I first arrived.”

“Okay, yeah,” Jane said. “You were a bit...presumptuous.”

“And arrogant and self entitled,” Thor reminded her.

“And what, it’s all gone now?” Jane asked.

Thor laughed slightly. “I believe I left those things back in the desert with the hammer,” he said. “I was sent here to learn humility. I am brash and easily mistaken, but I do learn, even if it is the hard way.”

Jane nodded, eyes on the road for several long moments. Her eyes darted to Thor, serious. “You know you don’t owe me anything, right?” she asked. “That there is no debt to pay.”

“You think my affection to be born of obligation?” Thor asked.

“I’m just saying, you’re allowed to disagree with me sometimes,” she said. “We’re allowed to fight. You’re allowed to tell me I’m wrong; you’re allowed to be selfish. If you want to know what it is to be human, that’s part of it.”

Thor raised his eyebrows. “You wish me to be petty and pick fights with you?”

“Yes!” Jane said. Then she shrugged. “I mean, I want you to know that’s okay. If you screw up a little, it’s okay. There’s give and take in relationships, and this whole thing isn’t going to end in disaster if you do something a little wrong.”

It was a subtle shift in the conversation, but Thor recognized it well. There was no doubt that Jane was grateful for his devotion, but she could not quite grasp the depth of his dedication. Indeed, perhaps he was too fond too quickly when it came to Jane Foster. But her concern was not for herself, it was for him. She wanted him to be happy, just as much as he wanted her to be happy.

“It has only been six months, Jane,” he said. “I’m sure there will be plenty of time for me to get many things wrong in the coming months and years.”

She glanced at him again, smile just starting to widen. “Months and years, huh?”

Thor shrugged. “Assuming you tolerate me that long.”

Looking at the road ahead, she continued to smile. “I guess we’ll see what happens.”

Thor grinned, because he certainly hoped so.

-o-

Jane stopped for lunch, and when she saw a Dairy Queen, she stopped for that as well, insisting that he buy the biggest Blizzard they had available.

“This is unnecessary,” Thor said, spooning a bite of Oreo ice cream into his mouth.

“Um, you gave me a romantic weekend,” Jane said, nibbling on her dilly bar. “I literally bought you an iTunes gift card.”

“Which I will make good use of,” Thor reminded her. “Darcy has told me of several more bands she thinks I should listen to.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t take all your musical advice from Darcy,” Jane noted.

“I have asked you for input,” Thor said with another generous bite. “But you say that you are often too focused for music.”

“Well, I mean, yeah,” Jane said. “But I think Darcy steals songs from your account.”

“That would be unethical,” Thor said.

“Exactly,” Jane said. “And I didn’t give her an iTunes gift card. I gave it to you. The more times I say that out loud, the more ridiculous I feel.”

“I like the gift card,” he assured her.

“But it’s not even thoughtful,” Jane said. “I mean, you come at me with a I-can’t-give-you-the-stars-but-I’ll-be-here-when-you-find-them-for-yourself. That’s brilliant. Okay, it’s like you walked off the set of a romantic comedy and straight into my life. And I gave you a gift card.

“Would it help if I purchased music that I knew you didn’t like?” Thor asked. “Perhaps something with loud, persistent base.”

“There you go,” Jane said. “That’s perfect. I would hate that.”

Thor smiled. “Sometimes I find relationships confusing.”

Jane took a quick bite as a piece of her ice cream started to fall. “Welcome to my world.”

“Besides,” Thor said, licking his spoon. “You have also given me the honor of your presence for an entire weekend. And I know how valuable your time is.”

“Yeah, I’m not thinking about my research,” Jane said. “Alone. With Darcy.”

“She is quite capable,” Thor reminded her.

Jane looked pained. “It’s just really important,” she said.

“Hence why your time was such a precious gift to me,” Thor said. “Do not think I take it for granted.”

She rolled her eyes, tipping the stick of her dilly bar to take a bite off. “Still,” she said. “A gift card.”

“I still do not see what the problem is.”

“Of course you don’t,” she said with a small laugh. “And that’s another reason why you’re probably the best boyfriend ever.”

Thor beamed at her. “I will gladly accept that compliment.”

“Though, to be fair, you’re being compared to Donald Blake,” Jane said.

“You have said he was quite charming, if somewhat egocentric,” Thor said. “Sometimes such things simply need time to be broken.”

“Uh, yeah, no,” Jane said. “You want to know what he gave me for our six month anniversary?”

“Flowers?” Thor asked.

Jane nodded. “And a gift card.”

Thor laughed. “The reviled gift card. Perhaps I should be insulted, then?”

“No, no,” Jane said, shaking her head quickly. “I just. I’m bad at this stuff.”

“Then you should take comfort,” Thor said. “That I have nothing to compared it against.”

“So you’re a happy boyfriend because you don’t know any better?” Jane asked.

“I didn’t mean--”

Jane held up her hand. “I’ll take it,” she said. “Trust me, I will definitely take it.”

-o-

They arrived back late in the evening. While Thor unloaded the car, Jane tried not to appear hurried as she went back inside.

Of course, by the time Thor had managed to drag as much of their gear inside, Jane was already over at her workstation, grilling Darcy about what had happened in their absence.

“Seriously,” Darcy was saying. “Nothing happened. The equipment ran. There were pictures taken. The numbers got processed. I filed all the new crap and it’s--”

“But did it run the secondary process?” Jane asked, flipping through the sheets.

“Yes,” Darcy said. “Because that was step twenty-nine on the list you left me. I’m not exaggerating, Jane. Step twenty-nine.”

Jane frowned, flipping over another page. “Well, I was just being thorough--”

“Uh huh,” Darcy said. “The real question is really, how was the big weekend?”

Thor smiled, starting to clean out their cooler. “It was quite nice, thank you.”

“Do anything...special?” Darcy asked.

“Most certainly,” Thor said. “We hiked and looked at some ancient artifacts--”

“So nothing special,” Darcy said.

Thor cocked his head. “We did spend some time at the observatory--”

Darcy shook her head. “That’s not really the special I’m talking about--”

“That’s not any of your business,” Jane said quickly, picking up a fresh file folder.

“What’s not any of whose business?” Thor asked.

Darcy rolled her eyes. “You two are impossible,” she said. “You’re telling me that literally all you did was go off and look at the stars?”

“The park was a dark night preserve,” Thor told her. “The views were spectacular.”

“Of the stars,” Darcy concluded, as if she couldn’t quite believe it.

“Jane loves the sky,” Thor said. “I could think of nothing better to suit her.”

“So, wait,” Darcy said. “You guys needed two days to go off and look at the sky. Really? Like that’s not what you do every single day of your lives already?”


Thor considered that. “I hadn’t thought of it like that.”

“It was amazing,” Jane said. “And just because you lack all scientific curiosity and culture and romance--”

“Oh, don’t even go there with romance,” Darcy said. “You two had me sit here and watch the sky, so you two could go off and watch the sky. Am I missing something here?”

Jane put the papers down to glare at Darcy. “It was amazing, okay?”

Darcy snorted. “If you say so.”

“We assure you,” Thor said. “Your assistance is most appreciated. Perhaps you would like a meal to compensate for your efforts?”


Darcy lifted her chin. “Pancakes?”

“Anything you would like,” Thor assured her, for he was grateful to the younger woman.

“Pancakes it is,” Darcy said. “But for the record, you two are still weirdos.”

If that was meant to be an insult, Darcy wasn’t trying very hard.

For his part, however Thor wasn’t inclined to care.

-o-

By the next day, Jane was back at work hard, and Thor had plenty to do at the construction site. In many ways, nothing had changed. An anniversary was just another day, and life had inevitably resumed its course.

There was something, though, in the way Jane looked at him. Something in the way she reached for his hand without looking sometimes. The way her touch was so comfortable now.

Perhaps nothing had changed. Jane had more work than ever, and Thor spent his gift card. Darcy raved about his pancakes, and nothing had changed.

In a world that seemed forever in a state of flux, however, that was the best news Thor could ask for. There was safety in routine; there was comfort in familiarity.

At least, on this planet, Thor had the common sense to recognize a good thing when he had it.

He had the even better sense, he thought, to never let it go.

-o-