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Flying Monkeys, or Five Times Thor Engaged in Cultural Exchange

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1. stories

The first few days Thor is back on Midgard, he assists his fellow Avengers in the fight against a purple-skinned madman from another world, and there is much to do; but eventually their foe is overcome, and they return to Stark's tower for rest, which is when Thor makes an uncomfortable discovery: exhausted as he is, he cannot sleep. Perhaps it's the light and noise of the city outside. Perhaps Thor's body remembers day on Asgard. Whatever the cause, Thor finds no rest.

When he takes to the darkened halls, he hears music in the distance, and when he follows it he discovers Stark, Banner, and the Captain sitting together on a couch, watching a play on a large screen. Thor blinks and comes into the room. On the screen, a figure in black armor and a figure in robes battle one another with glowing swords.

Thor settles in on the floor by the arm of the couch. Stark doesn't notice, but both the Captain and Banner glance over; Banner favors Thor with a lopsided smile, and the Captain gives Thor a nod before turning his attention back to the screen. Doing so as well, Thor attempts to follow the play as well as he can. It seems a good tale, though he does not feel all the sadness at the old man Kenobi's death he might have felt had he come to the story sooner, and he thinks the Empire is not so formidable a foe, given the foolish vulnerability of their space fortress.

The heroes are given medals of honor, the music swells, and words appear on the darkened screen. "Well," the Captain says. "That was pretty good. Flash Gordon never really looked like it took place on other planets."

"There's more where that came from," Stark tells him, pleased. "This one's fun, but the other two are quality cinema, not to mention pop culture gold."

"I should like to see them," Thor says.

"Whoa!" Stark yelps, giving Thor a startled look. "Where'd you come from?"

"My room. I could not sleep." Thor favors Stark with a grin. "I hadn't thought to distract myself with stories. Do you do so often?"

"Sometimes." Stark stretches, and beside him Banner gives a heavy yawn. "We figured, two birds, one stone. Cap seriously needs to get caught up on -- well, a lot of stuff, but Star Wars seemed like a good start."

Thor risks a swift glance at the Captain, who seems less smugly satisfied with Stark's plan than Stark is, but at least is not actively rolling his eyes. "I too would like to get caught up on Midgard's -- pop culture," Thor says. The Captain's shoulders fractionally relax. "At, perhaps, not so late an hour."

"Sounds good to me," Banner puts in, the words only somewhat garbled by a second yawn. "Though maybe we could make movie night be, uh, movie evening. It's three in the morning, Tony."

"Wow, three?" Stark grins around at them. "Sounds like a plan, guys."

They disband, and Thor sleeps soundly that night. No more is spoken of that meeting for some days, between sparring and speaking with SHIELD and the fighting of further battles, but in time a quiet evening comes, and Stark summons them all to a room with a screen and a fair number of couches. Barton and Lady Natasha are present also, looking entirely neutral, though Thor senses skepticism.

"So," Stark says, "we're getting Steve and Thor caught up on basically everything, so next time I say something hilarious it won't go over their heads. I figured we'd start with the rest of Star Wars, and obviously after that we'll do Lord of the Rings, and then the house is open to suggestions. Questions?"

Barton raises his hand. "Is this mandatory?"

"Will you stay if I promise to be good and lay off the archery jokes?" Stark shoots back. Barton shrugs. Stark rolls his eyes. "Moving on."

They watch the Star Wars movies over two evenings, fortifying themselves with popcorn and beer, both of which Thor finds most pleasant. By the end of the second night everyone has a chosen spot in the room: Lady Natasha and Barton share an armchair, Barton perching above; Stark sprawls, taking up most of a couch with his head on Banner's lap; Thor and the Captain take a couch together also, the better to exchange baffled or excited looks during the story unfolding on the screen.

Miss Potts visits on the night they begin Lord of the Rings, settling on the couch with Stark and Banner after expertly moving Stark's feet out of the way. "You'll find this more accessible than Star Wars," she tells Thor, an apologetic edge to her voice, so that Thor hastens to say, "There was no offense; I enjoyed the tale of the triumph of the Jedi very much indeed," and sees Miss Potts bite back a pleased little smile.

She does, it turns out, speak true: Lord of the Rings reminds Thor of home, not in its landscape but in its attitudes. Rivendell is not Alfheim, but every speech by Gimli the dwarf makes Thor laugh in delighted recognition; he finds Aragorn a worthy warrior indeed, and the fall of Boromir breaks his heart. Long after the first movie is done and the Avengers have disbanded for bed, Thor lies awake, thinking on the tale and feeling strangely comforted by its familiarity.

In the morning, while they breakfast together (Miss Potts and Banner are both excellent cooks; Thor thinks that Stark is a lucky man), Thor and the Captain speculate on the fates of the Fellowship while the others listen in. The Captain is adamant in his belief that Frodo and Sam will succeed on their quest, and "Of course Sam's your favorite," Stark says to him, "is anyone surprised that Sam's Cap's favorite? Hey, Thor, how 'bout you?"

"All are worthy and noble," Thor says, but Stark looks unimpressed, so Thor says, "But Aragorn is particularly admirable," and the conversation moves on to Barton's love for the younger hobbits.

By the end of the second movie, Thor has changed his mind.

"I fear for Faramir," he tells the Captain as the credits roll. "Allowing the hobbits to continue on their quest was the right thing to do, but what if his father doesn't see it? He has lived always in Boromir's shadow. If Denethor rejects him now ..."

"I'm sure it'll be fine," the Captain says, but he has an indecipherable look on his face, almost like pity.

Thor has tears in his eyes through most of the third movie. At the end he turns to Stark with a feeling of deepest satisfaction and asks, "Does Midgard have more movies such as these?"

"Not quite." Stark gives him a lopsided smile. "I'm sort of showing you guys the best stuff first. I think if you go to Netflix with this, it'll tell you that if you liked Lord of the Rings you'll be really into superhero films, but I thought that might be like taking your work home with you."

"Perhaps." Thor looks around the room at his team and feels a swell of affection. "If I may, on our next movie night I could tell some tale that is recited in our feast halls at home."

"But we were doing this to get you caught up on pop cul --" Stark says, cut off when Banner elbows him in the ribs.

"Yes," Thor says. Lady Natasha has uncurled in her armchair and looks attentive; in fact everyone is watching him, and they all look interested, even Stark. Thor grins. "And this way you will understand my references as well."


2. sorrow

Thor had not thought it worth remark -- after all, he had not been alone in his tears at the end of Lord of the Rings -- but he realizes there is something he has missed on the afternoon that Banner approaches him and says, with delicacy, "Is, uh, is something wrong?"

Thor blinks the tears from his eyes. They splash hot upon his hand, and he smiles up at Banner. "Nothing worthy of this concern."

"Okay," Banner says, heavy with skepticism. After a moment he sits down beside Thor. This balcony, like many others in Stark's tower, affords a magnificent view of New York City laid out shining below them. Smoke is still visible, curling up from some of the nearby streets, each dark column a monument to the mortals the Avengers were not in time to save during this latest attack. Thor takes a shivery breath and lets fall another tear. Banner clears his throat. "Do you ... want to talk about it?"

"There is not much to say," Thor says, turning to Banner. Banner looks desperately confused. "I did not know the fallen," Thor explains, "but it is good to remember them, and to grieve, so that next time we might do better."

"You're ... crying over a bunch of people you don't know," Banner says. "Is that what you're telling me?"

"Of course." Thor reviews what he knows, and realizes for the first time that, movie endings aside, he has not seen the others cry. He hadn't thought to find it strange -- after all, Lady Natasha is guarded, Barton defaults to dry sarcasm, and Stark jests his way out of every possible vulnerability -- but Banner and the Captain too remain surprisingly impassive in moments of strong emotion. Thor gropes for an answer. "Do you fear the Hulk will come unbidden if you feel too strongly?"

"What? No, I wouldn't trigger the other guy by crying over civilians." Banner frowns. "You're honestly doing okay? I mean, I ... think it's really sweet, actually. Taking the time to remember the people we couldn't get to. I just didn't think you'd cry unless it was something really serious." He winces. "Obviously. That some people are dead, that's serious. I just meant, something really personal and bad."

"Your concern is appreciated," Thor tells him warmly. "Banner. Is that how it is on Midgard now? Does a warrior weep only for something that is personal and bad?"

"Well," Banner says, wry, "sometimes not even then, or not where anyone can see."

Thor nods. "On Asgard it is no weakness to show emotion. But I would not want to cause discomfort --"

"No, no." Banner scrubs his face, leaving his hair in disarray. "It's fine. I just wanted to make sure it was fine. Cry away."

They sit together in silence. Thor allows the rest of his tears, and slowly the weight of grief is lifted from his heart, washed clean. He wipes the moisture from under his eyes and gives Banner a smile. "Thank you for sitting with me."

"No problem." Banner gives him a smile in return, while managing to frown thoughtfully at the same time. It is peculiar and endearing. "It's not a bad idea, you know. Letting yourself feel like that. I don't know if anyone else around here's ready to do that, but it's -- not a bad idea at all."

"We all have ... some darkness to deal with, I think," Thor agrees. "Perhaps it is easier for me and you, because ours have already been brought to light."

"Could be." Banner hesitates before reaching out awkwardly to clap Thor on the shoulder. "Hey, it's good to have you back."

"It is good to be here," Thor says, and laughs when Bruce takes him inside and explains the uses of Kleenex.


3. sparring

Lady Natasha tends to keep to herself. She comes to movie nights, she stays when a room becomes the impromptu gathering for a meal, and Thor never doubts that she will have his back in battle, but she does all with swift quiet efficiency, and will not often be drawn into conversation with anyone but Barton. Thor has come to enjoy the rapport he shares with Stark and Bruce and the Captain, and he would like to have such a rapport with Barton and Lady Natasha as well, but Barton -- might be difficult, given their history; and Thor thinks he may know where to begin with Lady Natasha.

He takes the first opening he can find, when he comes down to one of Stark's training rooms and finds Lady Natasha alone, stretching in preparation. "I should like to spar with you," Thor tells her, once they've exchanged greetings. "Would you do me the honor?"

Lady Natasha looks him over appraisingly. "I don't know how useful that'd be," she says. "We're in completely different weight classes."

"Exactly." Thor unclasps his chest plate and sets it against the wall; Steve insists that they spar out of armor, and he would like to extend Lady Natasha the same courtesy. "So far my practice bouts have been solely with Captain Rogers. It is good to have an opponent against whom I need not hold back lest I hurt him, but it is very -- straightforward."

Lady Natasha's eyebrows go up.

"Not all opponents attack head-on," Thor explains. "I should like to learn how to fight back against someone fast and clever."

Lady Natasha regards him for a moment with calculating appraisal -- for Thor as an opponent, or for his motivation in this request, Thor does not know. Whatever Lady Natasha sees, though, it must satisfy her; she smiles and unfolds from the floor, all dangerous grace. "So where would you like to start?"

They begin with Thor's preferred attacks: with Mjolnir out of his hands, Thor will still go in low and heavy, using his weight and strength to knock down resistance. Lady Natasha shows him the places he is leaving himself vulnerable -- "Your face," she tells him. "Anyone fighting dirty is going to go straight for your eyes, so pay attention and don't give them the chance" -- and the places where even she cannot find leverage -- "Your stance is excellent," she tells him, breathing hard with exertion; "I don't think I could knock you down even if I caught you off guard." Thor does allow her to, shifting his weight to his toes for a moment before Lady Natasha makes a sudden striking movement and he finds himself flipped onto the mat, landing hard on his back and laughing with surprise. She offers him a hand up and tries to flip him down again halfway, but Thor was anticipating this and resists her.

"Good," Natasha says, respect in her voice. She goes back a step, pushing sweaty hair out of her face, and Thor does the same. "I wasn't really expecting this," she says. "Given the macho warrior culture you keep telling us about."

Thor wonders briefly why that would make her think that he would place less value in a warrior's skill because that skill came in a woman's body; but then he thinks of all Sif had to endure when they were growing up, and he thinks of the tales he has told on movie nights, and he thinks of the only other Asgardian Natasha has yet encountered, and Thor thinks he understands. "Then perhaps next time I should tell a story from my own life," Thor says. "One of my finest companions in battle is the Lady Sif; she has many a glorious victory to her name. I did not consider for a moment that you might be less formidable in battle than she."

Natasha smiles a fleeting satisfied smile and moves in for a series of strikes.

When they are done sparring, they leave the tower together to buy smoothies and take a walk through Central Park. "I'd like to meet Sif," Natasha tells Thor. "Any word on when Dr. Foster's dimensional portal will be open for regular transit?"

"I doubt SHIELD will allow it," Thor says, slurping at his smoothie. His favorite kind has strawberries, though Stark's told him in no uncertain terms that he must never offer them to Miss Potts. "And there is no need to go fishing for information; you know as much as I do." Natasha shrugs, conceding the hit. "Once the Bifrost is rebuilt from Asgard, though, it would be my honor to introduce you to Lady Sif."

"Good." Natasha finds a park bench and sits down, one leg hooked over the other and the sunlight catching her hair. Thor sits down beside her.

"If I offer to spar with Barton as I have done with you," he says, "will the offer be taken in good spirit?"

Natasha gazes into the distance, her face unreadable. "He doesn't blame you for what happened any more than I do," she says at length. "But he won't care about training with you." She looks over at Thor. "He likes your stories," she says, quite gently for Natasha. "Just give him time."

Thor breathes out slowly. "Thank you," he says.

They finish their smoothies. Before they return to the tower, Natasha teaches Thor how to feed the ducks.


4. science

Jane visits.

She is spending most of her time in Albuquerque, working on her bridge with Erik Selvig, but she takes a weekend off and flies to New York. Thor wants to meet her at the airport, but Stark convinces him that it's better to avoid the inevitable paparazzi, so Thor contents himself with waiting on the ground floor of the tower and running to her the moment she comes inside. Jane laughs in delight as Thor envelopes her in a hug, and when she pulls his head down for a kiss Thor lights up with happiness and relief.

"Would you like me to show you around?" Thor asks, and basks in Jane's beam of enthusiasm at the offer. He deems it acceptable to introduce her to the other Avengers as quickly as possible and take her to his rooms until dinner, but this plan is for naught the moment he takes Jane to meet Tony and Bruce.

"Oh my God," Jane breathes, staring around Stark's laboratory in awe.

"Do you like it?" Bruce asks, emerging from behind a computer screen. "That's more or less the face I made, the first time Tony brought me in here."

"I love it," Jane says, and collects herself. "Dr. Banner. It's wonderful to finally meet you."

"Bruce, please," Bruce says, shaking her hand. His touch lingers a moment beyond Midgardian normal, and Jane flushes happily. Thor grins to himself, unsurprised; Tony and Bruce acted so when they first met. When Tony emerges to greet Jane it is much the same, though Tony, more conscious of the impression he makes, is less obvious about his interest. Still, within moments the three of them are talking in terms Thor cannot follow, and he settles against the doorway, happy in his friends' happiness.

"Hey, Thor!" Jane calls. "Come over here?" Thor readily goes. Jane, with Tony's help, is calling up a holographic display above a table. "I was just explaining, I've been trying to map Yggdrasil -- the lines of energy where a bridge is more likely to naturally form," Jane says. "Well, I mean, I say naturally but it might actually be a sort of energy imprint from repeated use of the Bifrost, but either way it's detectable, which is amazing, and -- Thor, I've been meaning to check my data against what you know. How does it look so far?"

"Impressive," Thor says, circling the display. "You have Asgard, I see, and Jotunheim; this is Nidavellir, and Vanaheim." For a moment he thinks of glorious boyhood adventures in those realms; but he swallows those words. This is neither the time nor the company for such stories. "It makes sense that you would find these worlds first. There has been much travel between them and Midgard."

"So how do you detect the energy, then?" Tony asks, and Jane's answer is back in terms Thor does not have the knowledge to follow, though both Tony and Bruce seem to understand her well. Thor listens, and answers as best he can the questions they pose him about various realms.

"Sir," the voice of Tony's disembodied servant JARVIS comes on overhead. "Thor, Dr. Banner, Dr. Foster. Captain Rogers has asked me to remind you that dinner is starting."

"Sure, sure, give us a few minutes," Tony says.

"Now, sir," JARVIS says snippily. Thor stifles a laugh. Tony rolls his eyes, but only says, "C'mon, then, gang, I don't want to deal with Steve and my AI being pissy tonight."

Dinner is wonderful, both for the food and the company. Pepper is present too, and seeing that Jane looks somewhat overwhelmed by the other Avengers, soon draws her into conversation. Thor leaves Jane and Pepper to their talk, confident they will be friends; eventually Tony and Bruce join in. Down the table, Natasha, Barton, and Steve are discussing battle tactics. Thor leans closer, adding his thoughts, and without meaning to catches Barton's eye. For a moment they look at one another, and then Barton's mouth curves into a slow wry smile, and Thor smiles back, immeasurably relieved that they are all here together.

When the dishes have been cleared, Thor and Jane retreat to Thor's quarters, Jane nearly glowing with happiness. They sit down together, and Jane leans into Thor, laughing. "Your friends are amazing."

"I am glad you approve of them." Thor kisses Jane's knuckles. "You know you are welcome here any time, though I think it would be best if you stayed away when the city is under attack."

"That's the plan." Jane tilts her head up for a kiss. They end up sprawled together on the bed, kissing gently while Jane goes slowly flushed. Thor holds the curve of her waist in his hand and thinks of what he can offer her, and of what Tony and Bruce can offer her; he thinks of Natasha's hair in the sunlight, and of the way Steve and Tony still argue, but without cruelty in the heat of their tones, and he thinks of Clint's slow smile at dinner; and Thor wonders whether any of them know. He wonders if like tears without shame it is something Midgardians do not do, or if it is rare, like the tale of the Rings of Power, or if it is something that needs only be asked for as Thor asked Natasha to spar with him.

"Jane," Thor says. Jane blinks up at him. "If you desired to be with another, and all parties knew of each other, would it be a shameful thing? At home, on Asgard, sometimes it is done, but I do not know ..."

"Um." Jane props herself up on an elbow. "It depends on the people. But -- no, not necessarily shameful, I guess." She bites her lip. "Who did you have in mind?"

"Everyone," Thor says, and laughs because saying it aloud sounds absurd and obvious at once.

"Oh." Jane merely looks thoughtful. Then her eyes begin to sparkle. "I'm, uh, pretty sure Pepper and Tony and Bruce are way ahead of you there. If you. Wanted to get on that." She's going very pink. "I wouldn't mind."

"I have heard Tony say that scientists must be open-minded," Thor says solemnly. "I thank you for it," and he laughs again into Jane's enthusiastic kiss.


5. sex

Of course it is not as easy as all that. Six Avengers, it seems, can reliably save the world, but cannot be relied upon to find a satisfactory bed until Pepper hears of their difficulty and sets up an orgy room, which seems entirely reasonable to Thor until he sees the looks on the others' faces and fully appreciates the discipline it took Pepper to say those words with a straight face. "Thank you," he tells her, low-voiced, while everyone heads for the appointed room. "I would not want to misstep here."

"It's no trouble," Pepper says. "Once you've scheduled Tony's sex life around Bruce Banner and Captain America, another four people don't seem that daunting." But she smiles up at Thor with a happy crease beside her mouth, and Thor thinks that his thanks was well-placed.

The room Pepper has appointed is well-equipped, containing nothing but a number of chairs and mattresses. Despite the obvious comfort of the room, there is a momentary awkwardness when they all assemble. Jane hugs herself self-consciously, Clint hovers back with some skepticism, and Bruce appears to be having serious doubts about logistics. Thor looks around, considering, and realizes that Bruce is his best angle: if he relaxes, it will comfort everyone else, and show them that this can be done. Thor goes to him. Bruce looks up with his habitual wry half-smile, and reaches out first.

The kiss is good, gentle and exploratory. Thor pulls Bruce flush against him, and Bruce huffs a laugh into his mouth, deepening the kiss. After a moment someone steps up behind Thor, sliding small hands up his back -- Jane, perhaps, but when Thor breaks the kiss and turns, he finds that it is Natasha.

She gives him a beautiful curved smile and pulls him into a kiss, confident and demanding. Thor sets his hands on her waist, and is about to lift her up, slight as she is, when Natasha makes a sudden swift move and knocks Thor's legs out from under him. Thor goes down hard onto a mattress, laughing even as the breath is knocked from his body; before he can regain it, Natasha is on him again, kissing him dizzy. She doesn't release him until dark spots are dancing before his eyes and he's more than half hard, and then she pulls away to leave Thor gasping at the ceiling. When he regains focus he sees that Natasha, still settled atop him, has drawn Jane to her and is kissing her, gentle and sweet.

Thor props himself up on his elbows. On a nearby mattress Pepper is down to her lacy underthings and Tony is down to nothing at all; he sees Thor looking and grins. "Get with the program, Thor," he says, and may be about to say more, but a shirtless Bruce grabs him by the hair and tugs him back for a kiss, so the rest is lost in a sort of happy "mmf!" noise. Pepper laughs, though it turns to a gasp when Steve slides up behind her and touches her through her bra.

Clint is sitting on a chair, still dressed, watching everyone with quiet satisfaction. "Clint," Thor says, "would you like --?"

"Just watching," Clint says, "this time," and his eyes when he meets Thor's are warm.

Jane's plaid shirt sails past Thor's face. He turns his attention back to Jane and Natasha. Natasha is kissing her way between Jane's breasts and down her belly, and Jane gives Thor a look of wide-eyed, stunned happiness. "Best idea ever," she breathes.

Natasha pauses unbuttoning Jane's jeans to glance over at Thor and add, "Take your clothes off."

Thor does, gladly. By the time he is done, however, Natasha has her face buried between Jane's thighs, and though Jane gives Thor an appreciative smile, her eyes are glassy and Thor is loath to interrupt. He brushes damp hair from her eyes and looks about the room. On the mattress Tony is kissing Pepper, flushed all over and making soft helpless noises while Bruce rocks slowly into him. Bruce catches Thor's eye and, without losing his rhythm at all, smiles that familiar wry half-smile; it catches Thor off-guard, and his fingers dig deep into his own thighs in surprised lust.

"Hey Cap," Clint says conversationally, "your eyes in the sky say there's a Norse god who needs some attention."

The Captain, Thor sees with some amusement, has been checking on the condoms and lube and water bottles wisely provided by Pepper. "I am sure there's more than enough for all," Thor tells him. "Perhaps we can put some of those to use?"

Steve blinks and smiles. "Sure," he says. "I've done stranger things."

In short order Steve is braced, a flush creeping slowly up his neck, while Thor twists slick fingers inside him. "Next time," Thor says, one warrior to another, "you may do the same to me," but Steve hardly seems to hear. "Sure, buddy," he mumbles, rocking back against Thor, and Thor chooses to take that as a compliment. He kisses the back of Steve's neck, removing his fingers, and relishes the soft groan Steve makes when Thor pushes into him. "Good?" he asks, but Steve only says something very like "uungh," and nods vigorously.

"My God," Thor hears Tony say softly. He goes still -- Steve gives a whimper of protest -- and sees that everyone is watching: in various states of naked disarray, they're staring at Thor and Steve, stunned. Experimentally Thor snaps his hips, and not only Steve but Tony and Jane make soft noises of pleasure. Thor laughs, in surprise more than anything else; Steve shudders under him and gasps, "Fucking move, will you?"

Thor does. It is wonderful, Steve moving in counterpoint under him, and the weight of everyone's eyes on them, like heat, like touch. It is a support and a strength; across stars he has found these mortals who will make love with him. Thor shudders under a sudden rush of joy, holding hard to Steve's hips and staring down at the shining curve of his back, unable for a moment to meet any of the eyes upon them.

"Um," Jane says. "Thor?"

He looks up. She brushes the hair from his face, kneeling beside them glowing and flushed with the same joy. Jane smiles and leans forward and kisses Thor gently, and Thor willingly comes apart.

In time they are all sprawled together, naked and satiated. Jane is curled up at Thor's side; Tony sprawls on the other. ("I get your dick next time," Tony tells him sleepily, burrowing against Thor's shoulder. "And you cuddle better than Bruce.") Pepper is snuggled up against Tony; Steve has an arm around her. On Jane's other side, Natasha is wrapped in similar attitude, and Clint has her back. Even Bruce remains, a little ways apart, his eyes shut and a smile on his face. Everyone is asleep, or nearly.

Thor remains awake, watching sunlight slide down the opposite wall. It is a strange sun, in a strange sky; but Thor does not feel like a stranger here.