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Freefall

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Jane receives a call a few days later. She answers it, frowns a little, and then holds the tiny device out to Thor.

“It’s for you,” she says.

They are seated on the roof of Jane’s headquarters, enjoying a rare moment of companionship. Thor is disappointed to have it interrupted, but intrigued. He takes the device from her and holds it as he has seen the others do.

“Hello?” He says, looking to Jane for reassurance. “This is Thor Odinsson.”

Jane smiles encouragingly.

“Hiya, Thor,” Steve’s voice says. “Listen, I think I have an idea. Are you and Loki doing anything tomorrow?”

“No,” Thor says, surprised. “Are you planning to visit?”

“Actually, I was going to invite you to come visit me. I have a friend I think Loki might like.”

Thor’s protective instincts surge within him. “A friend?” He asks suspiciously.

“Yeah. He’s a scientist - an inventor. From what you’ve told me about your brother I think they’d have some things in common. He was in the file Coulson showed you - Tony Stark? Iron Man?”

“Yes!” Thor says. “He has mighty armor!”

Steve mumbles something that sounds suspiciously like ‘oh god don’t tell him that’. “Yeah, that’s him. How about it? We could spar again,” he adds temptingly.

Thor laughs. “Cease your arguments, friend - it is an excellent idea! When should we be prepared to leave?”

They depart early the next morning. Thor is beside himself with excitement and worry and a cautious feeling that just might be hope. He pesters Darcy until she agrees to attempt to slick Loki’s hair back in his old manner. She accomplishes this admirably with a gelatinous liquid in a large tube, although he has to intervene to keep her from giving Loki something called a mohawk.

“Not even spikes?” Darcy says, disappointed. “Because seriously - he could rock that look. Straight back? Really?”

Thor is firm. He makes Loki wear the nicest of the clothing Darcy procured for them - a dark green shirt of reasonably fine fabric that fastens up the front and approximates Loki’s old Asgardian garments, inasmuch as possible. He himself puts on armor, and then after a brief but emphatic conversation with Jane changes into Midgardian attire and puts the armor in a large bag to bring along instead.

Loki, unconcerned by his brother’s enthusiasm, mostly seems to want to sleep. He curls up into an impossibly small space once they are on the plane and refuses to be drawn into contemplation of the Midgardian conveyance, which Thor finds to be admirably creative. Thor lets him be - the day is bound to be tiring, and he does not begrudge his brother whatever rest he can find.

Steve meets them when they land and escorts them to a large building surrounded by the bustle of a large city - New York, Thor remembers. He promises himself an expedition into this metropolis at a further date and turns his attention to the events at hand.

Steve takes them down to a large room full of machinery and moving parts. The man Thor recognizes as Tony Stark aka Iron Man is there waiting for them.

“So, Thor and Loki, right? Nice to meet you. Tony Stark. Steve here says you’re interested in this stuff, so let’s do the ten-cent tour. Sound good?”

Tony is an amusing character, energetic and quick-spoken. He does not seem to require responses from his audience but supplies all sides of the conversation himself in a long string of chatter that Thor finds marginally comprehensible but engaging nonetheless. Even Loki appears to be paying attention, his arms crossed over his chest and a small frown on his face.

“I only understand about half of what he says, too,” Steve murmurs sheepishly as Tony manipulates a set of glowing schematics that hover in the air. “It’s the pop culture references, he can’t seem to let go of them.”

“ - so that’s basically what that does, I don’t know if you’re up on engineering or programming or anything but it’s an idea, anyway - “

Loki gestures with one hand, and a second set of glowing figures appears in the air. Thor remembers enough from his childhood introductory magic lessons to recognize magical theory when he sees it. He grabs Steve’s arm, breathless with hope.

“Hey, cool - what’s that, like the magic equivalent of engineering? That’s how you make a spell? Steve said you were all ‘abracadabra’.”

Loki’s fingers flick, and a section of text on each of their screens pulses.

“Oh, I see it - yeah, sure. So what’s this section here?”

Thor realizes, belatedly, that his grip on Steve’s arm must be painful. He releases it guiltily, but Steve just smiles at him.

“That’s the first time I’ve seen him use magic since we arrived,” Thor whispers, feeling oddly near tears. “He is actually reacting to Tony, I - “

“Hey, peanut gallery,” Tony’s voice breaks into their conversation. “Look, go up and hit each other or something, okay? You’re harshing my groove. And send Banner down.”

Steve laughs, unoffended, and Thor would forgive Tony many things right now.

“Come on, Thor. I’ll introduce you to everyone else. Jarvis can keep an eye on the mad scientists for a while.”

They have a pleasant sparring session. Steve’s companions are impressive warriors, particularly the woman Natasha who Thor would love to introduce to Sif, and Thor discovers that he can pause and say “Jarvis? Is my brother well?” And a disembodied voice will say from the ceiling “Yes, Thor. They have moved on to a discussion of comparative physics.”

It is a most pleasant day. They retire for sustenance and trade stories of battles won and lost, and then take a break from sparring to bring food down to Tony’s laboratory. He and Loki have been joined by a quiet man in a white coat who is typing intently on a small computer, Loki looking over his shoulder.

“ - swear to God, you sucker him into some soft hard science like chemistry I will never forgive you, Banner, you bastard - oh, hey, lunch!”

Tony, Thor is amused but unsurprised to discover, can eat and talk at the same time.

The afternoon is spent in contests of accuracy. The archer, Clint, would be a formidable ally in battle, and Natasha is as deadly as Loki with throwing knives. Thor only hurls Mjolnir once before they decide it would be best to have Tony design some more resilient targets - and walls - but Clint and Natasha are both willing to share their weapons and the afternoon passes satisfyingly.

Finally, Thor bids his new companions farewell and goes to collect his brother. Steve offers them a place to stay for the night, but when Thor enters the lab he finds Banner gone and Loki asleep with his head on one of Tony’s lab tables.

“Conked out about half an hour ago,” Tony says. “I like him. He’s smart but silent, and that means I can talk a lot. Let it never be said I don’t have a keen eye for my own preferences.”

Thor decides, reluctantly, that it would probably be best to let Loki have some peace and familiarity after what was likely a stressful if enjoyable day, and departs New York with his groggy brother in tow.