Disclaimer: Neither Thor nor Buffy the Vampire Slayer belongs to me
As the plane touches down on the tiny Scottish airstrip, he reflects that today it's been exactly a year and a day.
A year and a day since his father, the All-Father, cast him out, exiled him to Midgard, charged him with a quest without monsters to slay or maidens to save (unless one counts saving Darcy from a particularly inquisitive spider). A year and a day. And oh, how he misses them all.
If he thought it would help, he'd gladly get on his knees and beg, but he knows that Loki's right. How would it look, indeed, if Father was to waken and find that his youngest son's first act as king had been to rescind the very last decree he himself had made before falling into the Odinsleep? No, as he had told Sif and the Warriors Three when they had come to Midgard seeking him, better to wait and try to earn his way back the way Odin had intended, and if - by the time Father returns to his throne - if by then he has yet to succeed, then it will be time to consider begging. But not yet.
Ah, but they are good friends, his Asgardian comrades. He hopes that Loki has not punished them too harshly for their trespass - as he told the Son of Coul as they stood next to where the dust was settling after the Bifrost's passage, after they had left, because yes, their actions were strictly speaking treasonous, but they had been born of loyal hearts. He hopes that his brother forgave them.
He thinks he might have - at least, when last he and Loki spoke, he mentioned having sent Fandral off on a diplomatic mission to Alfheim, and surely Loki would not have granted their friend the boon of such a journey unless they had made their peace? Surely...
But oh, Loki had looked so tired that last time, so many months ago - his face had had a hollow look and he had had so little time for Thor, mentioning negotiations with the Vanir, urgent business, I'm sorry, Thor, but I must take my leave - so very tired, quite unlike the first time, three weeks into his exile, when he had ventured into the desert night and called for Heimdall, for Loki, and Loki had come, asking him why he had yet not completed his quest, why he had not yet come home, didn't he realize their mother missed him so?
Sometimes he asks himself the very same questions.
And he knows that he ought to call his brother, knows it's been months and months since last they spoke - and there's the Son of Coul, who has mentioned more than once that the rulers of the Midgardian province of America should very much like the opportunity to send an ambassador to Asgard, to speak with the reigning king - but he keeps putting it off.
Because if he calls and his brother comes and asks - what is he to answer, then?
He has to prove worthy - worthy of being king, worthy of wielding mighty Mjölnir - but how to do so here, in this realm of mortals? Sometimes he spends days sitting cross-legged in front of Mjölnir, pondering this - the hammer is still where it fell, the mortals having given up trying to lift it after an attempt to move it with a digging machine had simply ended with the hammer sitting at the bottom of an even deeper hole, and he can't help taking some small satisfaction from that. It is unworthy of him, perhaps.
But he cannot bear to spend too long in the building they've put up around the hammer - cannot bear sitting in the room as mortal scholars study Mjölnir, his Mjölnir, attaching wires and pointing excitedly at waving lines on screens, and sometimes a dark-haired man will come along to coo at his hammer and try to chip off a piece of the uru metal with yet another strange device, and Thor finds he cannot stand it, cannot stand to see them touching it as they go about their work, even if they are always respectful towards him - well, most of them, anyway.
At the Lady Darcy's suggestion he's been studying, taking lessons in statesmanship and history surrounded by young mortals, reading books of speeches and wars and all the myriad things that mortals somehow manage to do in less than a single Asgardian life. He finds himself fascinated at times, finds himself thinking that the Lady might well be right, that these are fine things for a future king to know - and then he finds himself wondering what Loki would say, seeing him frowning at a piece of paper, Loki whom he ever mocked for his studious habits - and then he finds himself homesick yet again.
Still he is grateful for the Lady Darcy's suggestion, and for the Lady Jane's kindness and hospitality, and for the Son of Coul, who has assisted him with finding gainful employment, for it is one thing to be a guest, to take the gift of food and clothes and a bed - well, bedroll - for a few days, and quite another to impose on the generosity of a lady for an extended period time, and who knows how long it will be? And the Lady Jane might have more funds available since the Son of Coul arranged to have her studies of the Bifrost come to the attention of his superiors, but it would still be unacceptable to impose upon her in such a manner, to expect her to pay his way.
So he is grateful to the Son of Coul, for arranging employment for him, and he is grateful for having the archer Barton and the shieldmaiden Natasha for companions, for they are fierce and skilled and he finds himself longing less for Asgard when they are at their work, hunting monsters with the faces of men or going to the great city of New York in pursuit of not one, but two great ogres which had been sighted there (though sadly, by the time they arrived, one ogre had already been quite thoroughly subdued and the other had long since vanished).
Truly, he has much to be grateful for. He has found good friends here - and yet he finds himself again and again drawn back to the desert and the building with the room with Mjölnir at the very center, gazing wistfully at his only way home - oh, Jane will speak of building her own Bifrost, of finding their own way to Asgard - but even if she succeeds, and she is clever, his Lady Jane, so very clever - even if she succeeds, he cannot go. Not until he's worthy. Oh, she can go - if she finds the way, oh, but she must, she must see the golden towers of Asgard, and he knows that Loki will welcome her, will love her, for is he not his brother and how could he not?
It was when he sighed and turned away that the Son of Coul had addressed him from the corner he had been standing in, had said "I have a mission for you".
Which leads to here and now and him and Barton driving through mountainous terrain - which would make perfect dragon territory if dragons had deigned to frequent Midgard for the last few thousand years - driving towards an old and derelict keep.
The castle gate opens at their approach and in the courtyard they are met by a young, one-eyed man, smiling as he says "Hello" and "Please, call me Xander". Gestures them to come inside, tells them to ignore the madness as a girlish shriek of "Andrew!" is followed by a young man dashing through the room, a furious maiden unclad apart from a towel rapidly sliding off her form in hot pursuit, fist raised in threat.
"You have something for me?" and Thor hands over the manila folder the Son of Coul provided him with, and the wondrous USB trinket, and the young man in turn hands them to a young woman, who takes her time examining both before nodding her satisfaction.
"Right. If you'll just follow me, gentlemen," and they find themselves being led down long, damp corridors, leading down and ever down, past doors of many locks and intricate mechanisms, until they find themselves in what Thor suspects to have been once a dungeon, if the rusty chains set in the wall is any indication.
"Here you go - one MacGuffin, as ordered," and the man opens the chest that stands on the floor and takes a step back to allow them better access in the narrow chamber.
Inside the chest - is a hammer. A war hammer. Large and crude, no ornamentation worth mentioning, but it appears solid - and heavy, as he finds, quite heavy, requiring both his hands to lift it.
He takes an experimental swing and misjudges the distance to the wall in the narrow chamber, and yet, as stone fragments whirl through the air and Barton ducks with an affronted oath, he finds himself grinning, for he can hear the song of this weapon, feel the pulse of uru metal thrumming through his hands and up his arms, beating in time with his heart, a far simpler forging than that of mighty Mjölnir, but nevertheless uru, once more in his hands. And he hears Barton and their good host chatting, hears an offer of supper extended and accepted, hears them begin the long walk back to the inhabited parts of the castle and knows he really ought to follow and he will, he will, in just a moment.
Just as soon as he has had his fill of swinging this glorious new hammer. Mighty Mjölnir it is not, to be sure, but for now? For now, it will do just fine.