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Freefall

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It is more upsetting to see Loki so despondent on Midgard than it was at home. Thor was not expecting this.

When he had been on Midgard himself not so long ago, even in the midst of his own confusion and turmoil, he had been fascinated by the strangeness around him. Many times he had thought to himself of how Loki would enjoy a situation, or be amused by a custom, or turn a quirk to his tricky advantage. He had known, before leaving Asgard, that Loki was badly wounded. He had hoped that relocation to Midgard would begin to help Loki as quickly as it had changed Thor.

That is not the case. Loki does not improve. He does not get noticeably worse, which is something, but Thor finds himself growing increasingly frustrated. Whatever spark Frigga managed to ignite before their departure from Asgard appears to have gone out.

The day they arrive, Jane sends Darcy out in the car for provisions. She returns with Midgardian clothing in appropriate sizes and two devices which turn out to be inflatable beds. Thor is delighted by them - they are comfortable as well as amusing - but Loki does not react.

He does not react to his first experience with Midgardian food, or the drink called coffee. When the son of Coul arrives, in suspiciously short order following Erik’s phone call, Loki appears not to notice. The son of Coul sits across from Loki for nearly an hour and stares at him patiently with no result, finally getting up with a shrug and moving on to other matters.

The others are as good as their word when it comes to helping Thor with his brother. Erik treats him with a wary but conscientious detachment. Jane uses him as a sounding board, explaining her theories and the results of her various tests, which Thor knows Loki would find fascinating under other circumstances. Darcy takes her ‘Loki-sitting’ as an excuse to indulge in loud, colorful entertainment which Erik tells Thor is intended for Midgardian children.

“Nobody can be depressed around the Muppets,” Darcy insists, but it would appear that Loki, as ever, is a law unto himself.

Thor himself spends every possible moment with his brother. Frigga had been able to coax Loki to action by trading on his affections for his brother, and Thor hopes that his presence and the clear reflection of that love will be able to help Loki return to himself. He talks to Loki, asks his opinion, reads to him from Jane’s scholarly tomes, and when his voice and his heart have given out, sits silently and frets.

He finds the inaction distressing. He finds Loki’s apathy frustrating. But he has learned much of patience and understanding since his banishment, and so he pushes his feelings aside and does what he can.

He worries, sometimes, that Jane feels slighted by his preoccupation with his brother, but she reassures him that this is not the case.

“I have plenty of my own work to do, Thor,” she reminds him, smiling. “I’m grateful for the help you’re giving me on the Einstein-Rosen bridge, but honestly, I’d probably be annoyed if you hovered all the time. Loki needs you now, that’s not something to be ashamed of.”

Jane is quite wonderful. Also, she is a marvelous kisser.

From time to time, the son of Coul comes to collect Thor and take him to SHIELD’s scientific facility, where they look at him with Midgardian technology and ask him to perform feats of strength. Erik usually accompanies them, scowling at the son of Coul’s people in a threatening manner and making occasional comments about men in black, which the son of Coul merely smiles at.

“You know, you can just call me ‘Coulson’, Thor,” he says pleasantly. He does many things pleasantly, Thor has noticed - he is as deliberately unassuming as Loki used to be deliberately enigmatic.

“Coulsson,” Thor repeats obediently.

“See? That wasn’t so hard.” As with Loki, it can sometimes be difficult for Thor to tell when Coulsson is teasing. “Could I have a moment of your time? I want to talk to you about the Avengers.”

He hands Thor a file. It contains documents, which Thor mostly ignores, and photographs. There is a man with a mighty shield, and another in full armor. There is a woman with Sif’s assessing, deadly gaze, and an archer and a fearsome green beast.

“We’re putting together a team,” Coulsson says. “People like yourself who can work together to protect us from particularly dangerous or unusual threats. It’s based out of New York. I’d like you to give it some thought, if you don’t mind.”

“A questing party,” Thor says, throat tight.

“Sure, we can call it that.”

It suddenly feels hard to breathe. This, this is what Thor is good at. This is what he does. He rides forth with steadfast companions, slaying enemies and battling foes, Mjolnir humming in his hand, reveling in the tense and stretch of muscles. He is Thor Thunderer, god of lightning. It could be like before - it could be like it was in Asgard, before Jotunheim and his banishment, when all that mattered was the next battle and the next impressive feat. Coulsson is a thoughtful man - these companions will be mighty warriors, capable and steely-eyed. He could ride forth with them, like he rode forth with Lady Sif and the Warriors Three and -

And... Loki.

Remembering his obligation to his brother feels like being forced back into a small box after revelling in free air and sunshine. Thor’s shoulders twitch.

“I cannot,” Thor says. “My brother needs me. I am sorry.”

Coulsson is disappointed, although he covers it well. “Of course. I understand. Take some time to think about it - if you change your mind, you know where to find me.”