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Freefall

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Loki spends much of the next two days napping. Given the excitement of their recent journey, Thor is less concerned about this than he would have been but a few days ago. In any case, it is nice to not be worried about something. Jane’s work has been plagued by a string of recent misfortunes, and everyone is tense as a result. Thor does not understand all the details, but it appears that everything from Jane’s machines to the alignment of the stars themselves have failed to operate as they should.

“There are always days like this,” Jane says disgustedly, tossing down a bundle of papers. “That’s what I tell myself. Days like this make the days when everything goes right seem that much better by comparison. It’s still annoying, though.”

“It wouldn’t hurt to take the day off,” Erik suggests. “It would be nice to have a break and we can come back fresh tomorrow. Nothing here is going to spoil from a few hours of negligence.”

Jane grins tiredly. “True enough. I bow to your superior wisdom.”

“Thor!” Darcy hisses. “Thor Thor Thor Thor!”

Thor sets down the damaged length of metal he was attempting to pry back into shape and whirls, heart in his mouth. “What is it? Is Loki - “

Darcy thrusts a piece of machinery at them. “He fixed it!

They all stare. “What?”

“The - the whatever this is, I took it over to the couch because you guys were seriously cranky and I thought I might be able to mess with it, and I put it down and went to get pop-tarts and when I came back he was fixing it!”

“With magic?” Thor asks.

“No - I mean, kind of, he conjured up some tools and stuff - seriously freaking cool - but otherwise he did it just like a normal person.”

Jane grabs the machinery excitedly. “And it works now?”

Darcy rolls her eyes. “I don’t know, I don’t even know what it is. But he looked like he knew what he was doing.”

Thor leaves them bickering good-naturedly and goes over to his brother. Loki is curled up on the couch, head pillowed on one arm, his eyes half-closed. He looks thoughtful.

Thor kneels down beside him. “Brother, thank you for fixing Jane’s device,” he says. Loki shifts a little, but does not look at him. “Is that - did you enjoy being in the lab with Tony? Is that what you like to do?”

Loki’s creations have ever been constructs of the mind, but as Thor had explained to Jane so long ago on the roof of this very building, Asgardian technology and magic are indistinguishable. Thor supposes it is not surprising that Loki’s magic should choose to manifest itself this way, particularly given his recent interaction with Stark and Banner.

“Brother...” he hesitates. “You didn’t break the device so that you could fix it, did you...?”

Loki’s frown deepens.

“No - of course not. I apologize, that was uncalled for.”

He makes himself more comfortable on the floor next to the couch and places his hand on Loki’s free arm. “Loki. Steve and the others have offered us a place with them in New York. Is that something you would find pleasing? Would that be helpful to you, to be there instead of here?”

Loki’s mouth twists, and then he resolutely closes his eyes.

“I will let you think,” Thor says, withdrawing.

In the back of the room, Jane has determined that the piece of machinery is, indeed, now working. The stars and a number of other things still are not, sadly, but she seems more sanguine about it than she did a moment ago.

“Jane,” Thor says. “If you are still amenable to taking a break, may I have a word with you?”

They withdraw to the roof, a location which Thor is increasingly coming to associate with feelings of contentment and peace.

“What’s up?” Jane asks when they are settled.

Thor casts a momentarily confused glance at the sky before remembering this is a Midgardian saying. “Ah. Yes. Well, I have received... an offer, recently, which I would discuss with you, as my Midgardian guide and as my - well, as my - “

“Honey bunny?” Jane asks, grinning mischievously. “Sweetheart? Love muffin? Special friend?”

Thor chokes. “I do not understand all these phrases, but I am certain you are teasing me,” he says mildly. Jane is clearly unrepentant. “Yes. As my special friend, I would ask for your honest counsel.”

Jane tempers her lighthearted mood accordingly. “Of course, Thor.”

“Agent Coulson - and Steve Rogers - have offered me a place with their team. I would be a warrior again, and pledged to defend this realm, which I find pleasing. I suspect - I hope - that it would also be pleasing to Loki. I think he is developing a friendship with Tony Stark, or at least an interest in his work, and that - “ he stumbles. “Jane, you did not see him - he still did not speak, but he was engaged, he was responding, it - it brought me much hope.”

Jane clasps his hand. “Thor, that’s great!”

“Yes, and while I cannot predict the future I think that it would be a good choice to take them up on it, but...”

Jane frowns. “You can’t possibly be thinking of turning this down just so you can stay here with me.”

Thor gives her an anguished look.

Jane puts her hand soothingly on his face. “Thor, I love you, and I love having you here, but I’ll tell you what I’ve told all my undergrad students - if it comes to a choice between staying with your girlfriend and going somewhere that will improve the rest of your life, then you leave.”

Thor sighs. It still seems... dishonorable, somehow.

“Look, we managed a long-distance relationship with you stranded in another realm, right? What’s a few states? And besides, SHIELD’s been after me to come consult with some of their guys in New York. I could make some business trips.”

Thor beams, then sobers with difficulty. “I would not have you feeling abandoned - “

Jane makes a rude noise. “Give me a little credit, here, Thor. I’m practically kicking you out. If anyone should feel abandoned, it’s you.” She smiles to show that she is joking, and Thor laughs.

“I feel grossly mistreated, Jane! My flower, my petal, my dewdrop - “

Jane cackles. “Oh my god, never say any of that ever again.”

Thor smiles and holds her close. “I shall attempt to get Loki’s opinion on the matter. Thank you, Jane. My love muffin.”

Jane hits him.