The entire compound was on fire, the men and women who ran the science department for this particular HYDRA base had tried to escape before the building came down or had a run in with one of the three Avengers who had come to put an end to their endeavors. Thor dropped into the middle of the inferno, smashing through the roof, intent on making sure it was at least mostly clear. He didn’t wish death by fire on even his worst enemies.
It would take more than the heat of this fire to pose a threat to Æsir physiology, and he registered the flames as a warmth worthy of Muspelheim, but little more. Squinting against the smoke as he moved through the nearby rooms to ensure that they were empty. The third he stepped into was not, a young woman lay crumpled on the floor, white lab coat a stark contrast to the splash of dark hair, turned ebony in the murky light. The sight sent Thor’s heart to pounding, a long ago memory halting the air in his lungs. He scooped her up, carrying the woman’s limp body back the way he’d come, and as he went his eyes kept falling to the familiar curve of her cheek, the angle of her jaw. By the time he got her out to the paramedics, he’d almost convinced himself that he knew this seemingly black-haired woman; that he’d once carried her, broken and bleeding, from a burning battlefield.
Blond brows pulled tightly together, Thor laid her down carefully onto a stretcher, stepping back when she was swarmed by the men and women who would save her life, or would have were there any life left to save. He watched helplessly while their voices rose, and they scurried about her body; watched as they quieted, the sad shake of a head.
“Sif….” He whispered it to himself, little more than a groan, and the use of the name was ridiculous. Despite this mortal’s vague resemblance, she was nothing like the war goddess. He would have brushed it off as an odd occurrence, except this wasn’t the first time he’d caught sight of another and his mind had gone straight to the warrior he left behind.
Still the pain in his chest did not ease and as the paramedics covered her body in a sheet to await the coroner, Thor stepped forward to stop them, raking his eyes over her features and her slight frame, every feature that was not Sif’s. He turned away, his troubled emotions painted clearly upon his face, and looked up to see his teammates striding toward him.
“Hey man, you a’right?” Clint asked, looking past Thor to the covered body. “An innocent?”
Thor shook his head, his sooty mane falling over his shoulders. “No, one of the scientists.” He sighed, unhappy blue eyes moving from the archer to Steve, clad in his fire-damaged suit. “I am finished here.”
“We still have a debriefing to do, you can’t just leave.” The Captain replied, his gaze, too, going to the body. “Did you know him?”
“Her.” He replied irritably. “No, I did not know her.” He started to swing his hammer, preparing to take off. “You may debrief me later.” And took off into the sky.
He let himself back into Jane’s flat, knowing she wouldn’t be home yet, not for hours in fact, as she often worked long into the night. Mjölnir was dropped in the corner of the room on his way to the shower where he stood under the hot water until there was none left and the spray went as cold as a spring pond.
Perhaps it was premonition. He thought as he finally turned off the water, reaching for a towel. Why else would he see her face amongst the crowds? Hear the lilt of her voice in the background noise? It was distracting and confusing, but most of all he was getting tired of the rush of adrenaline it always brought on, the pain that hooked its claws around his ribs, pulling and twisting until his lungs seized in his chest.
Even when he knew beyond a doubt that none of those women could possibly be her. Thor knew his friend well enough that the way he’d left things, she would not seek him out, and she’d never been much interested in Midgard, not since they came when they were young. The memory of that visit, the first time Sif’s deadlier nature had made it itself known, rose in his mind.
He could remember the carnage, the fallen bodies, and scattered weapons, and Sif standing amid them, soaked in blood her teeth flashing as she searched for another victim. She was feral, angry and wild, her linen tunic torn, not cut by weapons, but ripped by hands, and he’d understood. Sif left for the Valkyrie soon after that, and again he had understood. Yet there was so much more that he did not understand, and he worried for the shadows in his mind.
Not least of all that Heimdall had ignored his call. He shouldn’t have been surprised, that his father hadn’t argued his decision to turn away from his birthright should have been warning enough that might happen. It seemed he was no longer welcome in Asgard, but the uneasy feeling that something was wrong could not be assuaged if he had no contact with his home.
Thor dressed in Midgardian attire, a pair of blue jeans and a snug black t-shirt and moved back into the living room. He forced his mind to Jane and the love she offered him, he did not take it for granted as he had the attentions bestowed upon him by others. She was special. The curve of her lips, the sound of her laugh… Never had he wanted to hear anyone’s laugh as he did hers. Mortal lives were painfully fleeting, but he would wait out hers, and if the Allfather would not allow him to return until he had, well, that was the price he would pay for love.
Why then was Sif so on his mind? Her affections for him had never been much of a secret, but neither had she been overt in them, and aside from the occasional feast where too much alcohol had been involved, or a bout of battle lust turned to another sort, he took care not to acknowledge it. He had never wanted to hurt her.
And yet he had. Despite the way she had address him during his goodbye, the careful way she had avoided his eyes without making it look as if she was, he had caught the pain there. The flash of betrayal, and with his mind inadvertently turned back to her, he could recall it with absolute clarity.
Thor had cared about her, of course he had, she was his friend and shieldsister, but she had been a fellow warrior, not a potential lover. He hadn’t loved her, not like that.
He had not loved her.
But he did love her.
The realization was a rude slap to the face, his bare toes curling into the rug, reminding him that he was still standing in the middle of the living room, and he dropped carefully onto the couch, scrubbing his calloused hands over his beard.
Maybe that should have eased his mind, explained the hauntings, instead it only made him recall every recent slight. He could see her every effort to pull him back to Asgard, she had wanted to put him back on his path, but he’d been too deep in the underbrush to see it, too set on his destination.
Thor could see the sin he committed against her, and knew beyond a doubt that this trespass was not the same as the others he had carried out. He had not simply overlooked her for another woman just as he had a thousand times before, he had put her and all his friends at risk to save Jane, and paid them for their loyalty by leaving with little more than a goodbye.
Looking back, he could see that he had been blinded by his grief, the loss of his mother, Loki dying in his arms, he wanted to mourn, needed to feel alive, and Jane offered him that ability. Why did he feel like he’d committed a crime for looking after himself?
Surely Sif could find her own ways to ease her mind, but he already knew she would not. After Loki’s first ‘death’ she’d buried her grief, throwing herself into training…. And trying to draw him out. He hadn’t realized that perhaps she had been looking for someone to mourn with. The only other person who knew how important Loki had been to her. Maybe only the Allmother, beside himself, had an inkling to the complicated relationship that existed between war and mischief, and now, in hindsight, he could remember that Sif had, indeed, spent more time with the Queen in that time than she had since she was only a girl and Frigga had taken it upon herself to ease Sif’s chosen path.
Guilt hung heavily on Thor’s shoulders, foreboding seeping into the very marrow of his bones as he searched his memory for Sif’s face at his mother’s funeral and failing. He could remember only Jane’s presence, Fandral and Volstagg standing nearby, and probably the first indication of a chasm opening between himself and the raven-haired warrior.
And still when he’d asked her assistance in helping him commit treason, she had played her part.
Loki’s face surfaced, almost tangible in its clarity, the brother who had forever striven to be noticed at Thor’s side until hate and anger had perverted the trickster’s love for his brother into something dark and twisted and all too desperate. He had never realized just how far his shadow could extend, but now he could see a turn in himself as well as his brother, just as selfish and no less hurtful even if his own betrayal had not been intentional.
His fingers raked through his hair, tugging at the braids he forgot to take out for his shower. He had taken advantage of his friends, used them as tools, and discarded them just as easily. Temporarily or not, he’d learned how a single action could fester, breaking down bridges long forged. How much damage had he done over the last several years?
With a desperate need to repair what was broken, he rose to his feet, calling Mjölnir to his hand, and swept out onto the balcony.
“Heimdall!” He called, tilting his face to the sky. “Take me home!” A gust of wind was his answer, blowing damp blond hair around him, almost leading him to believe that his call would be answered this time, but the breeze died and silence followed. Only the far off sounds of the city could be heard.
Thor ducked his head, certain that he had the gatekeeper’s attention, even if he could not do as he asked. “Tell her I’m sorry, Heimdall. Tell Sif that I will make it up to her somehow, I’ll not lose another family member to being oblivious.” His voice rumbled low in his chest and he turned away to return inside, not expecting a response.
“Thor?” Jane’s soft intonation made him look up, a gentle smile tugging at his lips, he truly wasn’t sure if he would ever get over the way she made him feel. “What’s wrong?”
“Too much reflecting today.” He hummed and pulled her close, burying his nose in her hair to breathe her in. “It is good that you are here.”