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Thor fic: Proximity Alarm (1/2)

March 15th, 2014 (01:43 pm)
full

feeling: full

Title: Proximity Alarm

Disclaimer: I do not own Thor or the Avengers.

A/N: Random fic because I wanted to write Thor/Jane. So, here is Thor/Jane, set at the end of TDW when Thor comes back to Earth. I blame lena7142. Beta by sockie1000.

Summary: Thor comes back to Earth. Jane thinks it’s great. Except all the times it isn’t.



-o-

It was unbelievable.

Like, entirely. Not that the last few years of her life hadn’t been lived in a prolonged state of suspended belief. Because she was a woman of science! She knew what she could prove and she had these theories and these models and there were aliens and other realms and for three amazing days, it had all made sense.

Then, for two years, it had been not amazing. Sometimes she’d wondered if she’d imagined it. Made the whole thing up. And then he came back.

Of course, the end of the world had nearly followed along with near-galactic obliteration, but they’d stopped that. Jane had gone to Asgard, and she’d used her science to save the entire universe.

Which was all pretty awesome.

If somewhat hard to believe.

Even with all that, as incredible as it was, that wasn’t what was tripping her up this time. No, she could take the aliens and the near collapse of the universe. But what she couldn’t quite wrap her mind around was that Thor had come back.

Not just to save the world, but to stay. On Earth. With her.

She had half expected him to disappear into the sky and never come back, to flit in and out after a few years, just enough to still her heart and keep her wondering and hoping. But this time, he’d come back. This time, he’d stayed.

This time, Thor was hers.

No amount of science could make any sense of that.

-o-

“So, um, you’re going to stay?” Jane asked.

They had spent the first while kissing. And then they had eating. And then they had kissed again and Jane wasn’t complaining about any of that but it seemed like there had to be time to actually, well, talk.

Thor nodded. “I am.”

She smiled but then tried not to look so girlish. “And do what?”

It was a reasonable question, and she didn’t ask it like an expectant girlfriend because she wasn’t. She couldn’t be. They hadn’t been together for two years and, really, all the time they’d spent together was no more than two weeks with two years of waiting between.

It was just that his biceps were so intimidating.

And she wanted to be polite.

That was it.

He took a breath, looking thoughtful. “I thought I would get in contact with your SHIELD Agency,” he said.

“They’re not my agency,” she said quickly.

Thor smiled lightly. “All the same, they seem to be the closest thing this planet has to an authoritative defense,” he said. “I would offer my services.”

“Oh,” she said, nodding a little. She chewed her lip. “So you would, um, move?”

He looked at her, and he understood. Reaching toward her face, he cupped her cheek in his hand (his large hand -- it was so large). “Not unless you wished it,” he said.

She blinked rapidly, trying not to appear as flustered as she felt. “Well, you’re free to do what you want.”

“I came to this realm for many reasons,” Thor said. “To serve, to protect, to be a part of something I deem worthy. But, not least among these reasons, is you.”

Her heart fluttered. She smiled.

“That is, if you would have me,” he said.

She couldn’t help it; she laughed. If she would have him. How could she not have him? How did anyone say no? When he gave up the throne of Asgard and moved to Earth and asked her that?

“Yeah,” she said, nodding with an awkward laugh. “Yeah.”

His smile was warm and wide, and with nothing else to say, she kissed him again.

-o-

It was great.

He was an powerful alien with flowing golden locks and bulging biceps. Jane had never considered herself a shallow person -- it was what was on the inside that counted -- but damn, she certainly wasn’t complaining. He was fun to look at.

And fun to be with. Sure, he was a little awkward in social situations and introducing him to anyone was always something close to disaster with his grand posturing and their starstruck disbelief. But he had an appetite for adventure, and fortunately he found everything fascinating on Earth. He enjoyed reading cookbooks and making a mess of the kitchen. He liked playing video games and found sports fascinating. He wanted to visit cities and mountains and his method of worldwide travel was decidedly faster and less expensive than anything Jane had experienced before.

So they saw the world. So they tried new things. And old things. And thing things. For one week, two weeks, three. Two years apart, three weeks together.

And it was great.

-o-

“Tomorrow you may pick our destination,” Thor announced at dinner one night. She’d gotten tired of cooking and picked up some Indian food instead. He’d inhaled it so she’d ordered a pizza, too.

“Oh,” she said. “Well, I was thinking maybe of going back to work.”

Thor cocked his head. “Of course,” he said. “I had not realized you had pressing matters to attend to.”

Pressing was a bit of an exaggeration probably if only because, thanks to her success in London, she was kind of the premier authority on astrophysics. She still had plenty of money left on her current grant, and from the texts she’d gotten from Darcy, they had other offers to consider.

Lots of offers.

Which was sort of the point. There were things to do, and she liked time off but she couldn’t take forever off -- even if they’d just saved the world.

Unless she wanted to go crazy.

Or, crazier.

“It’s been great,” she said. “Sort of like a vacation. A small perk from saving the world.”

Thor smiled at her. “You do not give yourself enough credit,” he said. “Your work helped saved all the realms and the very essence of the universe itself. You are a hero, Jane Foster, and you deserve all the accolades in this realm and beyond.”

She blushed stupidly because, really, what else was she going to do after a compliment like that. “Yeah,” she said. “Still. I like to work. I mean, it’s work! Before you came along, it was sort of my entire life.”

Thor nodded, seemingly satisfied. “Then tomorrow we will go to work.”

She opened her mouth. “Oh,” she said, starting to protest.

He looked at her, at first earnest.

And then discerning. “You do not wish me to come?”

“It’s not that,” she said. “Of course I wish you to come. I just don’t want you to, you know, be bored.”

“Nothing you do is boring,” Thor declared, and the thing was, he probably meant it. He had spent one night tasting everything in her cupboard and then had sat in utter fascination while she showed him all the trending videos on youtube.

He had been enthralled by sorting her laundry, even if the sight of her underwear made them both blush.

“I know,” Jane said. “I just...never really thought of it before.”

That wasn’t entirely true. She had thought it back in New Mexico, when Thor was just some crazy guy with crazy theories doing crazy things. Back when she’d hit him with her car and he’d thrown cups in the diner. She’d thought it then, around the campfire, when she’d thought for the first time in her life that she’d found something better than work, more important than work.

But then he’d turned out to be a god and he’d been murdered by his brother and brought back to life by a mythological hammer before disappearing into the sunset for two years and coming back just in time to save her life, save the world and stop the destruction of the galaxy.

Thor, in her mind, was associated with incredible, fantastical, almost impossible things.

He wasn’t associated with doing laundry and going to work.

It hardly even parsed.

But he was watching her, his blue eyes eager and ready. He was here. He was here for her.

At this point, what was she going to tell him.

She shrugged, grinning. “Yeah, okay,” she said. “You can come to work.”

“Excellent!” Thor said with a hardy grin. “Now, what is there for dessert?”

-o-

It was also kind of hard.

Thor was generally good natured, but impulsive. She’d managed to talk him out of coming to work with her every day, but leaving him alone in her mother’s house was an increasingly dangerous prospect. Not that anything could actually happen to Thor, but Thor could happen to just about anything in the universe. One day, she came back from work and found that he had spent all the extra cash she’d left with him on home decor. Unattractive home decor at that.

He also ate everything in sight. They had to go to the grocery store every other day, and even that didn’t seem to be enough. And tried as he may, his sense of humor just wasn’t quite in tune with the rest of the world, although Jane wasn’t sure if that was him or her, because she’d been around Darcy too long to really know what was actually funny and what wasn’t.

And of course it didn’t help that SHIELD seemed to show up whenever they wanted, and while no one tried to take her stuff, she didn’t feel comfortable with them poking around her mother’s London home.

To be fair, they didn’t seem comfortable with an alien turned superhero living domestically in London, so maybe they all had a point.

Even so.

It had its weird moments.

-o-

She woke to the sound of a roar.

Her eyes popped open and she wondered what could possibly be wrong. She considered a robbery, a terrorist attack, another alien invasion.

And then there was a cheer.

Perplexed, Jane got up, dragging her feet across the floor sleepily as she went to her bedroom door. She opened it, inching out into the living room when there was another roar.

Of approval.

It was Thor, of course. No one else on Earth could make a noise like that. And as she stepped into the main living area, she quickly realized why.

He was watching soccer.

On a Saturday morning.

And cheering vivaciously.

She watched him for a moment, somewhat dumbfounded while he whooped again. He had probably only seen a handful of games, but he already seemed to know every rule and understand every nuance. He was intent, watching as though it were the most important thing in the world. He was so focused, in fact, that he did not see her until she came in and plucked the remote from his lap, turning it down.

“Jane!” he rumbled. “What are you doing?”

“Turning it down,” she said, pushing it down a few more notches to make herself feel vindicated.

“But I would assume that a higher noise level better replicates the actual experience,” he said.

“Well, sure,” she said. “Which is fine. If you’re at a game.”

“I am merely trying to recreate--”

“Yeah, fine,” Jane said. “But you can’t recreate it before 9 AM on a Saturday morning.”

He blinked at her.

“It’s Saturday, Thor,” she said. “The one day I don’t have to work.”

“Certainly,” he said. “A day of leisure is important.”

She waited for him to continue.

He shook his head. “You are upset.”

“I’m tired,” she said. “I like to sleep in on Saturdays.”

“Slothfulness is a trait of the weak,” he said, almost as if reciting it.

“It’s a trait for Saturday!” she said, throwing her hands up.

“I did not mean to wake you,” Thor said, as innocently as possible. He was telling the truth. He was always telling the truth. He was honest and sincere and open and suddenly she felt terrible for yelling at him.

She groaned. “Look,” she said. “By all means, watch the game. Watch games all day! Have a ball! Go play a game! But please -- for the love of all that is good in this universe -- do it quieter.

He nodded, resolute. “Of course,” he said solemnly. And then his blue eyes twinkled. “Anything for you.”

It was tempting, then, to curl up next to him, to melt beside him and let him envelope her. It was easy to follow Thor; it was easy to be excited about the things he was excited about. His passion was contagious, and there was a good reason he’d managed to woe the entire galaxy.

But he’d been here for a month now.

And it was Saturday.

Jane went back to bed.

-o-

And sometimes it didn’t work at all.

Because it wasn’t like Jane was all that great with relationships to begin with. Sure, she had dated Donald and she’d tried to date other people, but each relationship had made her realize how well suited she was to single life. She didn’t live well with other people; she wasn’t good at sharing the sink and sometimes she randomly got inspiration and wanted to do science in the middle of night. Significant others found that annoying. She found them annoying for being annoyed.

So suddenly having a boyfriend from another planet was, actually, a whole lot harder. Culturally, he was just different, and different wasn’t bad but it was different. He wanted to get up with the sun. He wanted to do exercises in her living room. When he got too excited, he literally threw his hammer through her window.

Her window.

He was loud and he ate too much and he could drink and drink and drink. And he followed her -- everywhere. He’d probably follow her to the bathroom until he realized what the bathroom was actually for and then he had made himself comfortable waiting for her right outside the door.

It had been cute, at first.

But then he kept doing it.

And doing it.

And doing it.

She’d gone from pining to instant live-in boyfriend. She didn’t even know if that was what they were, because apparently Asgardians didn’t make those kind of distinctions. They were together, and they kissed, but they didn’t sleep together. And they didn’t split the bills and Thor tried to help with the chores but he’d reorganized her closet before she’d realized that maybe it was better if he didn’t help sometimes.

He was sweet, of course. He smiled a lot and he was so considerate. He tried hard -- he really, really did -- but that just made it harder. Because he was always there. Every moment of every day, and he showed no signs of changing in the future.

The future.

They didn’t talk about the future. Was there an Asgardian mating ritual? Maybe this was courtship? Maybe they didn’t bother with that stuff? If not, when would there be sex? Did she want to have sex with him? What if his sperm were scientifically stronger than human sperm? What if human contraception didn’t work?

What if she suddenly became pregnant with a half-Asgardian baby who was stronger than her and lived for centuries? What would happen then?

What was happening at all?

Jane didn’t know.

And she was starting to worry about finding out.

-o-

She couldn’t quite say what started it.

One minute, Thor had been doing the dishes.

The next, Jane just couldn’t take it.

“I read about some of the ancient sites in the lands you call Norway and Finland,” Thor said. “I thought perhaps we could travel there on your next weekend.”

“Um, I don’t know,” Jane said, putting a plate away with a clatter.

“Have you been there?” he asked. “Is it not as spectacular as it seems?”

“Um, yeah, I don’t know that either,” Jane admitted, drying a cup.

“Well, then I should very much like to show it to you,” Thor said. “I have heard stories from my father about such lands, and--”

She shook her head. “You know, probably not this weekend.”

“Then another--”

“You could go by yourself,” she suggested suddenly.

He stopped, looking at her. “I wanted to share this experience with you.”

He meant it. It wasn’t just a line. He wasn’t putting up airs, trying to be the perfect boyfriend. He actually believed that. He meant it.

Which was what made it so hard.

He wanted to do everything with her.

She sighed. “I think a solo trip could be good for you.”

He frowned, though. “You do not wish to come with me?”

“It’s not that--”

“Then we will go,” Thor said decidedly.

“No,” Jane said.

“But you said--”

“I don’t want to go!” Jane finally exploded.

Thor stopped, mouth still open.

She wanted to take it back, but then she really didn’t. She couldn’t. “I don’t want to go,” she said. “I want a quiet weekend, at home, doing nothing. I want to sleep late. I want to eat cereal straight from the box. I want to take a ten minute shower and sing. I want to read journals in my underwear.”

Thor’s eyes were narrowed in obvious concentration. “I do not understand.”

“I want some time alone!” she said, throwing her hands up. “I need some time alone.”

“If you wish me to go to the other room--”

“Ugh,” she said. “Thor. For two years, I didn’t see you. You were just this idea up in my head that I probably could have imagined. And then you came back and I went on this trip around the galaxy and we all almost died and then you came back.”

His brow was deeply furrowed. “And you wish that I had not?”

“No!” she said. “I mean, not really. But we went from zero to sixty, just like that. I mean, we barely even know each other and now you’re living with me!”

The consternation darkened, and Thor took a steadying breath. “I did not realize I was such an imposition,” he said. “I will take my leave in the morning--”

Her shoulders fell, her anger deflating somewhat. “Thor,” she said. “It’s not like that.”

“It is what you wish, though?” he posited knowingly.

She fumbled, trying to deny it. “I just...need some space,” she said. “That doesn’t mean, I don’t know, that I want to break up, but I don’t even know if we’re dating. I mean, what are we?”

“I do not understand these distinctions on human relationships,” Thor replied.

She groaned. “I know,” she said. “And that’s part of the problem. We don’t know what we’re doing and we don’t really know why we’re doing it. And every time I think I could figure it out, you’re always there and I can’t even think! I have a job! I have a life! Or I used to, before you came back. Now it’s just...you.”

She trailed off, regretting the words but not taking them back. She didn’t mean it, not like that, but she did. She didn’t even know. It was complicated -- too damn complicated -- and she couldn’t even start to explain it.

And Thor wasn’t close to understanding. He dropped his head, his posture stiffening in obvious discomfort. She had hurt him. He was a strong, superhuman being who could level planets, and she had hurt him.

Which made her feel like she had kicked a puppy.

“Very well,” he said. “I will contact my friends in New York--”

“Thor--”

“Jane, I did not come here interrupt your life,” he said, looking up at her, his blue eyes obscured by emotion. “I realize now that I have failed to appreciate the status of our relationship and have failed to take into account your needs sufficiently.”

“It’s not even that,” she said. “I mean, this is new for both of us, I think. For anyone. You’re from Asgard. I’m from Earth. I don’t know how they date over there -- if they date at all. It’s just...on Earth, most couples date first, spend time together before they even think about moving in together.”

“I should have spent more time understanding your customs,” he said, as stolidly as he could. “I should have better anticipated such things.”

He was being polite about this, but that was Thor. He was deferential to her, almost to an insane degree. She wanted to know what he was feeling and thinking. She wanted to know his dreams and fears. She wanted to know what he wanted. Not just for the weekend, but for the next month, the next year, the next ten years. She wanted to know if he intended to stay on Earth, what they would do if he had to leave, if he was truly okay with giving up the throne of Asgard.

“Thor,” she said, because she wanted to talk this through. She wanted to understand, and she wanted him to understand. She wanted to make it work.

He smiled, though. Calm and reassuring, his composure regained. “Fear not,” he said. “I understand that this has all been very sudden. We will do as you wish, and give it time.” His lips twitched faintly. “And space.”

-o-

It was kind of sad.

Not that she could actually regret anything she said -- because it was true, all of it -- but she hated the way she’d said it. That she’d blurted it all out in anger and frustration, that she hadn’t told him earlier when all this started. It wouldn’t have been so hard, she reflected. She could have just said weeks ago that they needed to look for a place for him. She could have encouraged him to talk to SHIELD about getting some sort of consulting work for a small salary. She could have done a lot of things.

Thor would have listened to that. He probably would have agreed with her. He would have loved looking at apartments, and he probably would have liked doing something useful.

But now, he was curled up on her couch, sleeping. She’d heard him on the phone -- with Stark, she could only guess -- and how polite he’d been, his voice a low rumble when he thanked Stark for his hospitality. There hadn’t been any joy, though.

There should have been joy. That was what she’d loved about Thor from the start -- that he was so damn optimistic. Indefatigable.

That was what she’d loved.

She closed her eyes, bringing her pillow over her face.

Did she love him? Was that even possible? Was she picking fights and sending him away because she didn’t even know how to recognize what love was? The last person she’d loved was Donald and that just hadn’t gone well. With all her dating, she’d pretty much written off every guy on Earth and focused on her work instead.

But now she had the only guy not from Earth, and she was screwing that up, too.

Maybe the problem was her.

Sighing, she took the pillow off and stared at the ceiling.

Jane was about the little things.

Thor was grand gestures.

Somehow, there had to be middle ground. She just didn’t know how to find it.

Or worse, that it might already be too late.

-o-

She heard him at dawn, padding silently down her hallway. She listened as he cleared his throat with a grumble before climbing into the shower.

Quietly, she went out to the living room where his bag was already packed and neatly sitting by the couch. He’d come to Earth with nothing, but he’d managed to accumulate a few things during their time together. Thor, it turned out, had a penchant for knickknacks. A t-shirt from the Grand Canyon. A tiki statue from Hawaii. A shot glass from Rome.

All of it neatly packed away with the clothes he’d bought for himself in one tiny bag.

To make her feel even worse, he’d folded and arranged his bedding, leaving her mother’s house looking better than when he’d first come.

She heard a noise behind her, and startled at a sneeze.

Turning, she laughed. “Thor,” she said. “Hi.”

His hair was damp, and he was in a t-shirt and jeans, his feet bare. He dabbed at his nose. “I did not mean to wake you.”

“No,” she said quickly. “I was up already.”

He regarded her uncertainly. It was his nature to take things at face value, but he was clearly still a bit thrown off by the night before.

He cleared his throat again, moving forward past Jane to the couch. “I will leave shortly,” he said, his voice sounded hoarse as he sat down on the couch, reaching for his shoes.

“You don’t have to do that,” Jane said.

Thor looked at her, his socks half on.

“I mean,” she fumbled. “You can stay for breakfast.”

Thor grunted into his hand, tying his laces. “I believe it is best if I leave promptly,” he said. “My friend Tony Stark is expecting me.”

With that, he got to his feet, pulling his bag up with him.

He wavered, though. Just slightly, face paling before he sneezed three times.

She tilted her head, suddenly curious. “Are you sick?”

He swallowed with some obvious discomfort, shouldering his pack. “The Aesir to not fall prey to illness often,” he announced with all due authority and respect.

He would have pulled it off, too, if a cough hadn’t punctuated a counterpoint for him.

She stepped forward, noting that his forehead was glistening -- not from the shower, she realized. “Do you have a fever?”

Squaring his shoulders, he seemed offended by the suggestion. “I am fine.”

With that, he made to move past her, his large biceps brushing against her. Surprised, she grabbed his arm, turning him and lifting a hand to his cheek. “No, you’re not,” she said. “You’re burning up.”

“I am fine,” Thor said, a bit more gruffly this time, his eyes narrowing in disdain.

“No, you’re not,” she said, more insistently now as she looked at him again. His detachment wasn’t just hurt feelings. No, he wasn’t feeling well. His eyes were brighter than usual and his posture just slightly slouched. There were bags under his eyes, and the sneezing and coughing were no coincidence. “Do you have the flu on Asgard?”

“I do not know what the flu is,” Thor said crossly, pulling his arm away. “Now, please. I must go.”

“No,” Jane said. “You must get better.”

“I am not sick,” Thor growled.

“Um, yes,” Jane said. “I mean, I don’t know exactly what your resting metabolic rates are, but I’ve been around you enough to know that you’re not that hot. I mean, you’re hot, but not hot like that.”

He looked confused.

She shook her head. “I just mean that you’re sick,” she said.

“Then I will get better,” he told her. “My people have advanced healing capabilities.”

She knew that. The medics who’d first come to their aid after the attack on London had been deeply concerned about Thor’s condition, given the strain on his body. After three harrowing hours of unconsciousness, though, he’d woken up and asked for a hamburger. When they’d tried to run more tests, he’d merely ripped the equipment out of the wall and left.

Even so, she didn’t like the idea of letting Thor out with a fever. “Fine,” she said. “So you’ll be ready to go by this afternoon.”

“My decisions are no concern of yours,” he said, with an edge to his voice.

“You want to go fly through the sky when you’ve got a fever?” she asked, incredulous. “That doesn’t sound like a good idea.”

“And staying here when you clearly do not wish it sounds even worse,” he snapped.

She blinked, startled by his tone. The words hurt.

His shoulders slumped, his anger giving way to what appeared to be genuine exhaustion. “Forgive me,” he murmured. “Perhaps I am more tired than I allowed myself to admit.”

She shifted on her feet. “I never said you had to go,” she said quietly.

His mouth lifted in a small smile. “And yet you never asked me to stay,” he said.

“Well, for now I am,” she replied, with an eager shrug. “Just until you’re feeling better. I--”

She stopped short, not sure what she wanted to say.

I was wrong last night.

I wish things could be different.

I don’t know how to fix this.

I want to start again.

I love you.

She wet her lips, forcing a smile. “I care about you.”

The rest of his anger faded, and the uncertainty dimmed in his eyes. The look he gave her -- one of such focus and understanding -- was why she’d never been able to say no to him in the first place.

“Okay,” he agreed, nodding in deference to her. “But only as you wish.”

-o-

It was still good.

That was the thing, the part that was so easy to forget when it was annoying or frustrating. She didn’t want him everywhere, but she still wanted him. Those two years without him had been empty and long. To lose him now, after having him so closely--

She wasn’t sure she wanted to know.

The doubts aside, she didn’t know what to say. Thor was docile at breakfast, and though he offered to help, she insisted on doing it herself. She started by making him tea, then busied herself by making eggs and bacon. He downed the first helping, and she was quickly making the second when she came back to find him asleep on the couch.

The mighty god of thunder.

Asleep on her couch.

She sighed, putting his plate down and snagging a blanket to throw over him.

She should have told him, she realized. Not just the bad, but the good. She should have told him that she didn’t know what she was doing, and that that was part of the problem. They had to figure this out together.

Sitting down in a chair close to him, she picked up the plate and started to eat.

-o-

She hadn’t actually counted on Thor staying asleep, especially since he was still passed out sitting up, his head lolled back against the couch with his perfect blonde hair spilling over the back.

He did have perfect hair. Far too perfect. She considered stealing a strand to have it analyzed because she was convinced it had to have anatomical properties that differentiated it from human hair. Because her hair never looked like that, even when she bothered to blow dry and use product.

But, not now.

Whether or not they were breaking up (whether or not they were actually together), Thor was clearly unable to take care of himself for the moment. Which meant it was up to Jane.

She didn’t even know what that meant, but when Thor’s phone rang, she flushed. The ringer was loud and obnoxious -- some rock tune Jane had insisted he settle on after hearing him play through the entire list of options fifteen times. She hadn’t even told him that he could download is own. Her sanity couldn’t have handled that.

Scrambling, she half tripped, jarring her leg on the coffee table. She snatched the pack off the couch, riffling through it while muttering to herself.

“Please don’t wake up, please don’t wake up, please don’t wake up--”

When she finally extricated the device, the blaring was even louder and she winced as she hit the silent button and glanced at Thor.

Who merely snuffled in his sleep and started to snore wetly.

She made a face, looking down at the number.

TONY STARK.

That made sense, at least. Thor didn’t have a lot of casual acquaintances yet, and SHIELD usually just dropped by if they wanted to see him. She’d never actually met the Avengers, though she’d heard about them, and Tony Stark’s scientific abilities had always vaguely impressed her.

It wasn’t her fault that she was turned on by science.

She glanced again at Thor.

Or large Asgardian prince warriors.

Huffing, she hit answer and put the phone to her ear as she ducked out of the room. As she made it to the hallway, she said, “Hello?”

There was a brief pause. Then a muffled click of a tongue. “I’m going out on a limb and guessing that you’re not Thor.”

Jane made a face, closing the bedroom door behind her. “No, this is Jane.”

“Right,” came the reply. Tony Stark hadn’t introduced himself, but then, he didn’t really have to. “So the girlfriend who dumped him.”

Her jaw dropped open. “Did he say that?”

“The big guy? Nah. But it was pretty easy to infer.”

“No,” she said, shaking her head. “No, it’s really not.”

“He asked if he could come stay with me in New York. Indefinitely,” Tony said. “When I asked about you, he got real quiet, real fast.”

“Well, maybe it’s none of your business,” she said haughtily.

“Uh huh. Putting up an Asgardian on the spur of the moment makes it my business.”

“You know, you’re more attractive in press conferences,” she said.

“So you think I’m attractive?” Tony asked hopefully.

“I did,” she muttered.

“Hey,” Tony protested. “I’m doing him a favor. You’re the one with trouble in paradise.”

“You don’t even know what you’re talking about,” Jane said defensively.

“Sure I do,” he said. “Thor’s a good guy, but he’s not even really a guy, is he? He’s from another planet, and there he is, hanging around your house all day, driving you crazy. I mean, I know girls go all crazy for the old school charm, but admit it, it gets old, doesn’t it?”

She huffed. “I personally find it refreshing.”

“So refreshing that he’s leaving for New York?”

Her brow furrowed. “Well, about that,” she said. “He’s not coming today. At least, not now.”

“Oh,” Tony said, sounding a bit surprised. “So you two mended fences?”

“No,” she said. “I mean, there are no fences! He’s just sick, is all.”

“Sick?” he asked, and for the first time during the whole call he didn’t sound contrived.

“Apparently it happens,” she said. “I mean, his immune system has to be entirely different than ours and with limited exposure to our germs--”

“Yeah, yeah,” Tony said. “The guy just seems invincible.”

Jane glanced toward the door, stomach churning guiltily as she remembered the hurt look on his face the night before. “Not as much as you might think,” she said softly.

“So not even the vulnerable thing will get you to change your mind,” Tony said.

“What?” she asked.

“Strong and vulnerable,” Tony said. “Girls usually go for that, but you still plan on packing him up--”

“He made the choice,” she insisted.

“Can hardly blame the guy,” Tony said. “Going from prince to domestic issues.”

“Look,” Jane said, feeling annoyed now. “What are you--”

“I’m just saying, you shouldn’t blame yourself,” he said. “A human and an alien. I’m pretty sure this is the plot of, like, a dozen movies and a few bad television shows.”

Jane groaned. “We are working things out.”

“While you’re in London,” Tony said, matter of fact. “And he’s in New York.”

She reddened, suddenly very thankful this was a phone call. “Long distance relationships work,” she said. “You have one, don’t you?”

“Only some of the time, yes,” he said. “And when we’re apart, we have private jets and a suit that literally flies me through the air.”

“Well,” she said, indignant and spluttering. “We have a hammer.”

“Sounds a bit one-sided to me,” Tony commented.

Angry, she pursed her lips. “He’ll call you when he’s awake, okay?”

“Okay,” Tony said. “Just remember--”

“Uh huh,” Jane said, killing the call before Tony get another word in. “Got to go.”

-o-

It was confusing.

Not just because she had a god lying sick on her couch, but because she wasn’t even sure what she was going to say to him when he woke up. She didn’t want him to leave -- she had waited two horrible years, waiting for him and now he was here. He was here, and she loved that.

But she didn’t want him to stay. As in, stay here. There had to be a happy medium, something in between, but it seemed that Thor didn’t do things by half measures.

She looked at him, slumped over on the couch, breathing noisily. His congestion sounded worse, and she could make out a faint flush in his cheeks that normally wasn’t there. She’d just never expected this. Maybe she’d never expected him to come back; maybe she’d never expected him to stay. It was easier when he was some larger than life ideal; it was so much simpler when he was just this wonderful abstract notion to keep her inspired.

It was one thing to want something. It was another to figure out what to do with it when you had it. Maybe she didn’t know what she wanted; maybe that was the problem.

And even then, when she figured out what she wanted, there was still Thor.

Why had he really given up the throne? Why had he come here? What did he see his future being with Jane? Had he even grieved for Loki? Thor didn’t talk about that, and Jane’s memories were hazy, but all that had mattered. Losing Loki, the toll of the battle -- these weren’t easy thing and yet Thor hadn’t even talked about them. He’d barely talked about abdicating his place as crowned prince except to say it was the right choice, and he knew that now.

She believed him, but she knew there was more to it than that. There were feelings he wasn’t talking about, and as good natured as he was, there was a lingering sadness deep within him that hadn’t been there when they first met. He’d grown up, somehow. He’d changed, and she doubted he understood it any better than she did.

He needed to deal with that.

They needed to deal with that.

It all came back to time.

Time and space.

After all, he could take months and years in the blink of an eye, but that kind of time mattered on Earth. Did he have any idea what he was going to do on Earth? Was he going to work for SHIELD? If so, what was she going to do?

What did she want?

What did he want?

Jane was a scientist, she was supposed to look for answers, but this time, she wasn’t even sure where to start.

Instead, she started some soup on the stove and watched him sleep.

-o-

Thor woke up for lunch.

Actually, Thor woke up when she dropped a pan in the kitchen, but it was really all the same since the soup was ready. He attempted to get up and come to the dining area, but she shushed him and brought the bowl and set it in his lap.

“Careful,” she warned. “It’s--”

He took a large bite, swallowing quickly before taking another.

“--hot,” she concluded, picking up her own bowl and blowing off the steam. “But I guess that’s relative.”

“The heat feels good,” he said, swallowing again with a wince.

“Sore throat?” she asked.

His brow darkened. “A minor inconvenience,” he said, taking another heaping spoonful for good measure.

She hummed slightly, taking a small sip of her own. “Do you use medicine on Asgard?”

He grumbled, the noise intensified by the congestion in his sinuses. “We have healing stones, but nothing as antiquated as your medicines.”

“Uh huh,” she said. “Well, if you want to try to take something…”

He took a few more bites, downing the bowl in almost two minutes flat. “I am fine,” he said, putting his bowl down on the coffee table. “Your concern is appreciated but unnecessary. I have overstayed my welcome long enough. I shall--”

He moved to stand, but he only got about half way before he faltered. His face went blank for a moment, his eyes distant before he sat back heavily on the couch.

Eyes wide, Jane was on her feet. “Thor?” she asked, putting her own bowl down and crossing toward his seat. “Thor?”

He blinked a few times, head lolling slightly before he turned toward Jane’s voice. His expression was dazed as he looked at her. “I am fine.”

She rolled her eyes. “You almost passed out.”

“I do not get sick,” he said, harsher this time. As if to prove his point, he grunted and got to his feet again. This time making it several feet before his knees started to buckle and he started a hard descent toward the floor.

Jane yelped, almost tripping as she rushed forward to catch him. As his body fell into hers, she realized her mistake, and if he hadn’t caught himself, they both would have ended up splattered on the floor. “You were saying?” she asked.

His nose wrinkled, and he looked at her, thoroughly confused. “I do not understand.”

She snorted, tugging his arm back toward the couch. “You’re the god of thunder and you don’t understand a cold,” she mused, stumbling a little as he leaned into her some.

“I have faced countless enemies,” he murmured, coughing heartily into his hand. “And fought throughout the realms. I do not ail.”

“Well, these aren’t enemies,” she said, helping him back onto the couch. “This is a cold. Maybe a flu with your fever but since I don’t know your resting temperature, it’s really hard to say--”

He was looking at her, blue eyes clouded and confused, a faint line between his eyes. He looked young.

He looked like a damn puppy.

Flustered, she smiled, a hand flitting through the air. “Germs,” she blurted. “That’s what I’m trying to say. I mean, who knows how your antibodies are responding to the sudden influx of foreign bodies. And you’ve traveled the realms but you haven’t spent much time on Earth and with the drastic change and other emotional factors, your immune system could be working worse than usual and--”

He smiled.

She stopped, feeling self conscious. “What?”

“You are beautiful,” he said.

Her mouth opened but nothing came out.

Then, he coughed again, the force of it bending him over before he trailed off with a vicious sneeze that shook the room.

“I’m going to get more soup,” she said, scurrying away to the kitchen. “And tea. Lots and lots of tea.”

-o-

It was work.

Jane was used to work. She often got lost for hours in her own research, sometimes accidentally spending the night at the lab. (Which was another problem when it came to living with Thor; he worried about her and once ripped a door of its hinges just to find her utterly absorbed in a complex equation to map out her latest theory.)

That kind of work was easy. It was second nature. It was sort of her favorite thing.

This kind of work, though. She had to get him food; make him tea. She found the remotes stuck in the couch cushions and ran to the store to buy all the Kleenex available. (And then some. She had them raid their stockroom in the back.)

She took his temperature and gave him a cold compress, trying not to be grossed out when he sneezed hard enough to spray her through multiple tissues. His fever climbed throughout the day, leaving him sweaty and glassy-eyed and utterly compliant.

When he went to the bathroom, she walked with him pace for pace. She fetched him blankets when he was cold and helped unbury him when the fever left him burning up.

By the afternoon, she was exhausted. She was used to work, but not work like this. Science was easy; people were hard.

She couldn’t help but think that was the point that she’d been missing all along.

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