“You always seem to know the right thing to say.”
As soon as the words flew out Jane regretted them. She turned away from Thor and stared down at the churning brown waters of the Thames as though they held the secrets of the universe. An errant breeze picked up her hair and tossed it around, and at that she just had to look at him, and yes, his glorious yellow mane was streaming right in his face. She laughed a bit, and he reached up a hand to tuck the thick strands behind one ear. She wished it had been her hand, doing that.
The clothes he'd picked out for himself looked horrible on him and she couldn't bring herself to care.
“That is a puzzling statement,” he said. “Often my words have been the wrong ones.” The breeze died down, and he was serious and solemn, and crap, probably thinking about, well, all the sad things he had to think about. Things not said to dead loved ones. Crap.
“That's not what I meant,” she explained, because now she had to go through with it. “Maybe you don't have the perfect words all the time but, you always have something to say, right? You never have to, have to stop and think about it, and you never stumble over your words or anything.”
He squinted at her. “I thought such things simply aspects of Midgardian speech, which you know I am not well versed in.”
Jane sighed. “They're not supposed to be.”
He studied her. “I see,” he said at last.
Jane smiled. “I guess you do think about what you say sometimes.”
“When it is important, yes. Shall we continue onwards? We may talk as well walking as standing.”
In response, Jane took his arm, slid her elbow around his impressive muscles, gloriously exposed by the red square-cut tank top. A point in its favor, she thought. She was holding the arm of an alien god, and earlier today she'd bought him an ice cream cone, and later they were going to kiss, and then probably have sex and oh God, Jane, calm down.
“On my world,” Thor began, as they ambled a bit awkwardly across the bridge, “skill in wordplay is considered as essential as skill with a sword. A warrior must be able to take their turn in entertaining the band with tales and poetry. It is also vital for defense. Many are the disputes resolved by a fierce competition of tongues.”
“Wait,” she said, disbelievingly, “you guys have rap battles?”
She looked up at his tilted head.
“Never mind,” she said.
“On my world,” said Thor, the alien, his powerful arm hooked around hers, “I am considered somewhat slow.”
Okay, now or never, Jane thought, and her free hand closed in a nervous fist. “That seems a bit hard,” she said. “On people who have difficulty with talking, or can't talk at all.”
They reached the end of the bridge. The tarmac changed to cobbles. The sounds of people and cars got a bit louder.
“You have such people on your world?” Thor asked. "People who cannot use their tongues?"
Jane's nails pressed painfully into the skin of her palm.
“I didn't talk until I was four,” she said.
He laughed. “Oh, four is nothing! My brother Balder did not speak until he was eight, and now he is considered a great teller of tales.”
“Well,” said Jane, quietly, “that's not the case with me.”
Thor dropped her arm and stopped. His big hands reached out and turned her to face him. She blinked.
“Jane,” he said, “I am a visitor to your world, and I have much to learn about your people and customs. And sometimes I do not take as much care as I should. If I have out of ignorance given offense to you, I am deeply sorry. I ask that you would tell me how the hurt can be remedied.”
“You didn't offend me, exactly,” she said. She stood very still. All she could feel was his warm hands, a solid weight on her shoulders. “I just.”
He continued to look at her with big worried eyes. They were very blue. She thought of dwarf stars, with a sudden feeling of kinship. She too was feeling very compressed.
“I'm not a neurologist,” she said, finally, “but basically, human brains vary a lot. People have things they're good at, and things they're bad at.” Oh no, was her voice going a bit sing-song? It was nerves. “I'm very, very good at math and fashion, but I'm not very good at. People. Words.” She bit her lip. “Relationships.”
“This is a source of pain for you,” he said softly.
Jane wished he would stop looking at her, but she also wished he would never stop. Being in- like, lust, love, whatever this was, it was confusing, very confusing. It hadn't been this way with Donald. He'd been human, though. And here were two aliens, staring at each other. His hands touching her shoulders through the thin fabric of her jacket.
“Well, most of the time I'm okay with my brain, it lets me do very cool things with numbers, but there are problems now and then, because most of the world isn't set up the right way for people like me. And human beings can be real dicks sometimes.” Okay, she hadn't meant to say that last part, she'd just still been thinking about Donald.
“I understand,” Thor said, “and I apologize for my foolishness. All worlds have evils in them, and I am sorry that one has cast its shadow over you. And perhaps what you suggested is right, and my world has a great unfairness of its own.”
“Well,” Jane said (well well well, vary your vocabulary more), “You can forgive me when I mess up, then. Cultural misunderstandings, they're bound to happen in any interspecies rela-” She stopped. “Thor,” she said. Don't cry, Jane, you are being so silly. “I'm pretty sure my autism is what fucked up my last relationship.”
He hugged her then, which was great. Thor hugs were always great. She'd discussed it at length with Darcy one night, when they were both kind of drunk and the scanners had been silent for too long. Big arms. Comfortable chest. The pleasant smell of some kind of weird Asgardian deodorant.
He tucked his head into her shoulder, and said, “You are different from anyone I have ever known, and that is what I like about you.”
It was almost a normal-sounding sentence. Huh.
“But,” he said, putting her down, “now you have intrigued me. Perhaps some time we could look at our minds and compare.”
“That would be awesome,” Jane said. It would be so awesome. She would be the first human ever to see the brain of an alien. Similarities, differences, they would both be amazing. Yesss. “Maybe the university would let us use their MRI scanner. Or,” she said, grinning up at him, tension draining out of her body, “you could take me back to Asgard and we could use that soul forge.”
His smile was so blinding she just had to kiss him. To protect her retinas.
Then he reached up and tucked an errant strand of hair behind her ear and oh no he'd done it to her before she could do it to him, the rotten cheat. His hair had just better watch out.
“You have always sounded eloquent to me,” he said.
She poked his chest, which of course was an absolutely futile action. “You filthy liar.”
“I particularly enjoy it when you speak of science,” he continued.
“Oh, fine,” she said. “Let's go back to the apartment and I'll speak sexy, sexy science to you all night long.”
“An excellent plan.”
“But you have to do it too.”
“A fair deal,” he said, and kissed her again.