It's night. It's always night when the nightmares come. They've been coming now for so long that Natasha isn't sure anymore she remembers a time without them.
Since she can't just not sleep, it is her habit to sleep up till the nightmares wake her. So far, since staying at Stark Tower, she has managed to wake up before the screams start.
Half sleepy, she's not so stealthy as she usually prides herself, or maybe Clint is just more conscious of her than he usually lets on. He shifts then jolts away as soon as Natasha starts to get up from the bed they're sharing.
"Wha...?" He blinks, then runs a hand across his eyes. Squints, swallows. Manages to say, "What time it is?"
"3am. Go back to sleep."
Clint shakes his head, waking up more as Natasha's body language indicates she will be moving further away from the bed, not closer. "No, now's as good a time for breakfast as any." Clint knows himself well enough to recognise he's awake enough now that lying back in bed will only lead to him thinking of memories of his time as Loki's puppet rather than anything resembling rest or sleep.
Natasha shoots an apologetic expression his way, knowing that she will just need to be more stealthy the next time she leaves the bed.
"So what are we going to do for dinner?"
"We're in Stark Tower," Clint returned. "Pretty much anything we like."
Tony is already standing in the kitchen when Clint and Natasha arrive there. The animosity between Tony and Natasha has faded since they saved the world together. Natasha has spoken to Pepper enough to know that her influence plays a part also.
"What brings you two down here?" Tony asks, as if he doesn't know perfectly well. His own nightmares of the shrapnel creeping its way to his heart have found a second place spot to nightmares of a scenario where he doesn't come back through the portal before Natasha sealed it off. He doesn't wait for an answer really, before extending a drumstick out towards someone appearing behind Natasha and Clint.
Bruce stands there, his brown hair tussled from sleep in a way that's not too different to the way his hair sits on a daily basis. "I see I wasn't the first to have this idea." He shakes his head, then makes his way further into the kitchen. "We really need to stop making a habit of this."
"Says who?" Tony asks. "No rule saying heroes have to be daytime people. A lot of evidence to suggest otherwise, in fact." He takes a big bit of his drumstick with relish. Frankly, Tony was just glad to be a here on Earth type person. Even his relationship with Pepper had been influenced by this most recent near death experience.
Bruce just offers a small smile and shakes his head. Truthfully, for all his words, he's glad that the Avengers have created this habit, rather than going their own separate ways as it looked like they were going to do. This has been the closest he has been to not being angry all of the time since his experiment had gone so horribly wrong. He thinks that even the other guy might agree. Or maybe it's the other guy's disagreement that sees him through largely sleepless nights, caught between memories and dreams of losing control and smashing everything in his path. Thor he knows can handle it. The others...
At first, Bruce had been happy when it looked like it was just going to be he and Tony--with Pepper, of course--sharing Stark Tower. Then, one day, Clint rocked up at the door with Natasha in tow. Steve had not been many days behind, but he at least had offered an explanation.
"Where else do I have to go?"
It brought a very sad and poignant point to the fore. Where did any of them have to go? The closest they had to acceptance was each other. No, he had anything to do with it, the other guy would never make an appearance again.
Steve's often the last person to end up in the kitchen during these night time meets. He offers a quick nod to Tony, who immediately quips, "Alright, movie night. Star Wars. Who's in?"
"Or..." Steve interjects, "we could watch the Wizard of Oz?"
Clint starts walking in the direction of Tony's admittedly extensive entertainment centre. It's one of his jokes that this entertainment centre is the main reason for Thor's delay in going back to Asgard.
That, and popcorn, which is what Thor's eating right now as the rest of the Avengers make their way into the large living room. There are a number of DVDs in Tony's collection. Possibly the entirety of English speaking movies. Somehow, Thor always manages to find movies that either remind him of the relationship he shared with Loki growing up, or the tattered relationship that remains. Either way, he's more than happy to turn it off in favour of whatever movie the others decide is to be put on.
Natasha sits in the next best spot in the room after the place on the couch that Thor's. She doesn't look at Steve as she replies to his earlier statement. "Steve we're not watching that again. Or ever."
Having finished his latest stash of popcorn, Thor decides it's time for a change in diet. "We will need poptarts," he calls to the kitchen, then lifts his hand when Tony throws a packet towards him upon entering the room.
Bruce leans against the arm of the couch. "I'm in... if Cupid's in," he offers, shooting a glance across at Clint.
"I'm in," he says, with a game smile. "There's beer, right?"
With beer and poptarts for all, the Avengers share each others company, marathoning and heckling the light sabre scenes in the Star Wars trilogy until the early morning sun starts to peek its way around the blinds.
Inspired by this prompt: There’s a part of Thor which truly hates being an Avenger...
After the Avengers saved Manhattan, Jane Foster was brought back and debriefed by Erik Selvig. Not that a lot of debriefing was required. Jane had been taken somewhere that still did have the news, after all.
The whole time Erik was talking to her, Jane was none too subtle about trying get a glimpse of Thor somewhere in the facility. So it was that several moments passed before Jane properly realised that Erik had stopped talking. She had the grace to look sheepish after that.
Very indulgently, Erik said in his deep and gentle voice, "Thor is with the others at Stark Towers." He knew very well that these were perhaps the first words Jane had heard him take in.
Jane didn't need to know the street address of Stark Towers to get the first cab that pulled over to take her there. As it was, one of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s cars was made available to her. Jane didn't much care, just so long as she got there quickly.
The pale haired man who opened the door wasn't someone Jane had ever met, but he seemed to know who she was, for he opened the door wider for her and informed her respectfully where she could find Thor.
When Thor first saw her standing there in the living room, close enough to touch, everything else in the room may as well have disappeared. He stood up from the couch, and in five firm steps Jane was enclosed in his arms.
At the front door, Steve might have been respectful of their need for time alone, but Tony coming out for his afternoon snack was nothing of the sort.
"What's going on in there?" he asked, starting to move in the direction of the lounge room.
Steve put up a token resistance, knowing that anything more would stoke Tony's stubbornness to see for himself. Knowing that anything less would probably have the same effect.
So it was that Thor and Jane had less than fifteen minutes of a reunion to themselves before Tony was standing in the doorway. "Aww, isn't this sweet?" he said, while Steve stood sheepish and apologetic behind him. "You must be Jane Foster."
The woman in question looked from Steve to Tony and back up to Thor. "Does everyone know?" she asked.
"Oh no," Tony reassured, his eyebrows drawing down over his nose. "Your secret's quite safe with us." Then he turned his head and called out behind him, "Pepper! We have another person for dinner!"
Pepper's voice could be heard calling back from some other area of the house. "On it!"
"I'd call Natasha to let her know you girls have an extra number to try to equal this battle of the sexes," Tony continued, attention on Jane once again.
Steve shook his head and muttered in an undertone that Jane heard quit clearly, "There is no battle of the sexes."
Tony gave no indication that he'd heard Steve's words. "She and Barton have been at it like 16 year olds ever since we saved the world. Well, you know how it is," he said, as though he was sharing some confidence.
Jane raised her eyebrows. Well, she might know how it is, if a certain person left them alone to their reunion. So this was the famous Tony Stark, then. She would have guessed it from the attitude alone, she thought, even had it not been for the glowing device in the middle of his chest.
With a heaved sigh, Steve walked away from them. Moments later, he came back, having called in Pepper for reinforcement.
"Alright, big guy," she said, offering a smile at both her own man and Jane standing there next to Thor. His arm was still protective around her. "How about we let these two have a little private reunion time?" She began tugging on his arm at the same time as shooting an apologetic look towards Jane.
"But..." Tony looked so affronted it was all Jane could do not to laugh. Within moments, Steve, Tony and Pepper had all cleared away and she turned to Thor.
"So, you saved our world again, did you?" Jane leaned into her beloved. "You seem to be making a bit of a habit of that.
Thor gave her a small smile, but no words. What could he say? Saving Earth once had been enough. That had been time enough to forge ties with Erik Selvig and Jane's friend Darcy, not to mention the love that had formed between himself and Jane Foster. Coming to Earth a second time had ended in branding him one of Earth's Avengers, had created a home for him on Earth even separate to the one he had fought against forming with Jane. Nothing had changed between this and last time. He still had to return to Asgard once it was assured that no further alien attacks would be committed against Earth.
Asgard still came first to his honour, even if Midgard came first in his heart.
Thor gets away with sneaking out of Stark Towers to visit Loki in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s holding cells only three times.
The first time, Thor decides that night time is the best time for covert actions. Sadly, not being completely acquainted with the layout of the building--or rather not allowing for Tony's habit of leaving objects lying around like a child--Thor runs into some piece of foreign machinery and stubs his toe. It doesn't hurt the god of thunder, but the surprise of impact plus the clattering sound of falling machinery brings Bruce out of the lab.
His habitual mussed up hair is compounded by weary eyes as he first looks to Thor, then to the mess on the floor.
"What are you... doing?" he asks.
Thor's first thought is to wonder how long Bruce has been down in the labs with Tony this time, as the slight man seems to have slipped back into being distinctly unused to human interactions.
His second thought is, ".... Poptarts?" He clears his throat. "I was going to make a midnight snack. Do you wish to join me?"
Bruce blinks, then shakes his head. He moves forward and Thor steps aside from the machinery that Bruce is obviously going for.
"I should get this back to the labs," he says, and Thor knows that he's safe because his fellow Avenger's mind has returned back to the research he and Tony do together.
The second time, Jane starts to wake up as he slips back into the bed they share. She's only just gotten used to being in bed with him, and the dipping of the mattress is enough to pull her from her light sleep.
"Thor?" she murmurs sleepily.
"Hush love," he says as he pulls her close. "I am here now."
Jane doesn't resist his embrace, but her waking mind momentarily resists the comfort he offers. "I dreamed..." she started. "I dreamed that you went back to Asgard and never came back again."
Thor doesn't tell her that that will never happen, or not to worry about it. Instead, his lips lightly touch her forehead and he lies awake next to her for the next several hours.
The third time, Thor goes to visiting his brother by light of day, thinking that hiding his plans in plain sight may be the better way to go. This is completely undone when he finds Bruce, Jane, Tony, Steve, Clint and Natasha waiting for him.
"I... um..." Thor looks away, ashamed to be found sneaking around to see his brother; ashamed to feel ashamed over seeing his brother.
Bruce is the first one to step forward, and clasp a hand on Thor's shoulder. In the shorter man's eyes, he sees that Bruce already understands how it is to feel like a monster.
As he looks at the rest of the Avengers, Thor realises one by one that none of them are there to judge or offer censure. They are here so that he knows she doesn't need to sneak around anymore.
Jane simply offers her support with a quick smile and her love shining from her eyes.
Tony gives the quick, manly nod of someone who knows what it's like never to quite measure up.
Steve's eyes have more sorrow in them as he identifies with the feeling of losing one's whole world.
Both Clint and Natasha are there, sharing in the feeling of knowing there's No Going Back.
Thor meets the eyes of each one of the Avengers--his fellow heroes--before passing them all and heading forward to see his brother.
Thor gets away with sneaking out of Stark Towers only three times. He knows what else went unsaid that day. If there can be redemption for Loki, they can believe that it’s not out of their reach either.
After that, Thor doesn't need to sneak around anymore.