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Thor roars. He brings Stormbreaker down, sinking the metal deep into Thanos’ skull, slicing through one eye. The effect is immediate. The Mad Titan’s limbs go slack, his remaining eye unfocused. Thanos crumples to the ground, and Thor yanks once— twice— thrice— and Stormbreaker slides out of the remains of Thanos’ head.

“I told you, you would pay for that,” he snarls, and brings Stormbreaker down again, cleaving through Thanos’ shoulder. He pulls it out, strikes again. And again. And again. Dark blood splatters against his face, the crunching of breaking bone and the squelching of ruined flesh the only audible sound beyond the Scarlet Witch's pained cries.

“You ought never have set your eyes on Asgard! You ought never have come to Midgard! You ought never have thought yourself a God!”

Thanos does not answer, largely because Thanos is dead. And in several bloody pieces.

He did not suffer enough, Thor thinks, raising Stormbreaker above his head again. Thanos did not suffer enough. 

“I think he’s gone now, big guy,” Rocket calls, jerking Thor from his thoughts. Rocket hops into view, looking as exhausted as a rabbit can, smeared with mud and blood, dragging his gun behind him. He looks past Thor, to the thicket of trees to his left. "Hey, Groot, you still alive? Oh, great! No, don't take out that stupid game again!"

Thor lowers Stormbreaker, breathing heavily from the exertion of the battle, and his loss of composure.

Now comes the hardest part of any battle: picking up the pieces of what is left. Tending to wounded warriors, paying respect to those that lost their lives. Organising relief efforts, rebuilding what was broken. Thor has not seen much of this country, this 'Wakanda', but he hopes that the majority of its people and its infrastructures are all right.

More survivors appear, gathering at this final battlefield: War Machine can be seen, his helmet vanishing as he stares, shocked, at Thanos' ruined corpse, cooling rapidly at Thor's feet. The Captain's allies, the one with the metal arm and the one with the mechanical wings. The incredible female warriors of this land, still clutching their spears. Even Doctor Banner arrives, still clad in Stark's Hulkbuster armour.

“Wanda?” the Captain’s voice can be heard, as can the Scarlet Witch’s desperate sobbing. Then, panicked: “Vision!”

Vision must be dead, Thor thinks, gaze falling on the gauntlet upon Thanos’ hand. Thor only caught a glimpse of a caved-in head, of a limp body, and he thinks that perhaps he does not want to see what Thanos’ greed wrought upon his worthy friend.

Thanos has taken and broken and destroyed so many lives. The meagre remains of Asgard, dropping their scant three thousand survivors to something even more microscopic. The billions of innocents upon Xandar. Most, if not all, of those unlucky enough to be in Knowhere. The entirety of Nidavellir, save Eitri. And those are only the ones Thor knows about, those that happened recently. He does not want to consider the numbers he does not know about. 

Except… perhaps all is not lost.

Thor leans forward, pulling the gauntlet from Thanos’ hand. It slides off easily, now that he is dead.

“What are you doing with that?” one of the warriors, someone Thor hasn’t formally met yet, asks sharply. Her dark eyes are ablaze with fire, even after the gruelling battle. She points her spear at him. She is brave. Brave is good.

"Put the gauntlet down!" another fierce warrior demands.

“I shall return forthwith,” Thor promises, raising Stormbreaker once more, summoning the Bifrost. “You have my word that all shall be restored. I swear it, on the throne of Asgard.”

“Wait!” someone yells. The Scarlet Witch. Perhaps she wants the Mind Stone, to get her beloved Vision back. She will have to wait, as much as he'd like to give the Witch her lover immediately. The Infinity Gauntlet will be useless until it is resized, and there's only one living being capable of that, for now. 

The last thing Thor hears before the Bifrost opens is Rocket:

“Uh, wasn’t Asgard destroyed?”

 

Chapter Text

The forges of Nidavellir are just as bleak and dark as they had been when Thor had left with the Tree and Rocket perhaps a half-hour beforehand. Eitri looks up from his cleaning, a piece of Stormbreaker’s mould held between his forearms. The piece slips from Eitri’s grasp, clattering to the floor at the sight before him: Thor, stepping from the Bifrost, bloodied but alive.

“What have you done?” Eitri whispers. "Is it over?"

“I have killed Thanos and thus avenged all who suffered his onslaught,” Thor replies. He sets Stormbreaker down gently, and holds up his prize: the Infinity Gauntlet, all six stones attached. “I have a small favour to ask of you.”

“No,” Eitri says, quickly, shaking his head. “I’m not doing it.”

“I can give you your hands back,” Thor promises, smiling brightly, stepping forward. “I can bring back your brothers, I can relight the forge, give you unimaginable treasures. I just need this resized, so it’ll fit me.”

Eitri looks at Thor, defiance in his eyes. His jaw sets, lip curled.

“I won’t swap one madman with absolute power for another,” he says, stepping back.

“I’m not mad,” Thor replies, frowning. “I’ve had a terrible week, but I’m certainly not mad.”

“Not yet,” Eitri says. “But if I do that, you soon will be. You may be a god, but even gods are not infallible.”

“I’m pretty sure we are,” Thor mutters. “That’s the meaning of the word.”

Eitri completely ignores the interruption, continuing as though Thor hadn’t spoken.

“They are called Infinity Stones for a reason. They contain infinite power which would drive even you to madness.”

Thor shakes his head, hoping to somehow dispel Eitri’s concerns.

“It’ll be fine, I’ve given this a lot of thought. I just need to be very quick, and then everything is going to be all right.”

“You obviously came straight from the battlefield on Midgard,” Eitri counters. “Thanos’ blood is still wet upon your face. You haven’t given anything a thought, much less considered the consequences of your actions. Your arrogance is astounding.”

“Consequences?” Thor stifles a laugh. “What consequences could there possibly be? I’ll only be changing everything to how it was meant to be.”

“How will you decide that?” Eitri demands. “How will you decide what was meant to be and what was not?”

Thor can hear the unspoken question: what gives you the right to decide who lives and who dies? You are the god of Thunder, not Life or Death.

Thor thinks for a moment. It is, annoyingly enough, a very good question.

“I shall ask,” he replies. “I shall respect the wishes of those who survived Thanos’ onslaught, and then I shall swiftly move onto the next world, then the one after that, and so on.” Thor gives Eitri a sunny smile. “I told you that I’d thought it through.”

Eitri crosses his arms, not yet appeased.

“And what will you do once you’ve finished?”

That’s an easy question.

“I’ll disassemble the Gauntlet,” Thor says. “Hide the Stones again— no, I’ll entrust them to others to hide. Nobody ought to have that much power.”

Eitri considers him for several long moments, but does not speak.

Thor feels his stomach sink. He is being judged, and found wanting. Even though he is sure he answered correctly, it's not enough.

“Look,” Thor tries again. “We are both kings, are we not? We must do what is right for our people. Now that I have the means to rebuild Asgard, it is my solemn duty to do so. Is it not your duty to do the same for your fallen brothers? To bring Nidavellir back from ruin?”

Eitri crosses his arms. He does not need to speak— the anger in his eyes says enough. You abandoned us. We fell because you did not protect us.

Thor continues: one last plea. He’ll find another way, if Eitri doesn’t help. There must be someone else in the cosmos who can do as Thor needs. There has to be- he's so close to seeing Loki and Heimdall and Valkyrie again, to once more celebrating with Lady Sif and the Warriors Three, so close to rebuilding Asgard's golden spire, so close to making everything right again, after all the destruction Hela caused, after all the lives Thanos took. He's so close.

“What will you do, if not help me? Will you stay forever in this rotting forge, among the corpses of your brethren? Will you turn your back on all those who need your aid?” Thor sighs. “I know I ask a lot. I know that Asgard has failed you beyond words, although it was not our intention. I know that I have no right to demand your compliance. So I ask, instead. Please— from one man to another— please give me the aid I desire. Help me to help my people, and yours.”

Eitri is silent for several long seconds. He sighs.

“Put on the gauntlet,” Eitri says, sounding defeated.

Thor looks at said gauntlet, heavy in his arms. It’s very big. Thanos’ hands must be at least four or five times the size of Thor’s own.

“How?” Thor asks. “Why?”

“Just try,” Eitri replies. “I cannot simply resize the Infinity Gauntlet for you, nor make a new one. I still have no hands. If you want to save your people, this is the best way.”

Thor tries, to little avail.

The gauntlet is so large that he can scarcely touch the finger-holes within it, even stretching his hand as far as he can. His thumb cramps, painfully, at the ridiculous angle it has to bend at just to give his other fingers a chance to line up with the gauntlet.

It’s frustrating.

“It’s not working!” Thor snaps, eventually. “Can’t we just go to the nearest realm and get some prosthetics? Or perhaps you have some lying around here?”

“Why would I have prosthetic hands for myself lying around when, until a week ago, I did not think I would ever need any?” Eitri asks, shooting Thor a dirty glare. “And if we went elsewhere, with what currency could we buy such things? Thanos stole everything of worth from Nidavellir, and if what you’ve told me is true, the entire treasury of Asgard was destroyed along with the planet. No, this is the only way.”

Thor rolls his eyes, and grits his teeth, and tries once again. It doesn’t work— the gauntlet is simply too big.

“Have you got your hand lined up in there yet?” Eitri demands.

“I’m trying!”

“Use your other hand to curl the gauntlet into a fist,” Eitri says, ignoring Thor’s protests. “Will it to fit you correctly, imagine how it ought to be. Now that it’s fully assembled, it’ll listen to you.”

Thor manages to force the fingers of the gauntlet somewhat closed, forcing the thumb into position by pressing it awkwardly against his stomach.

Please, let this work, he thinks, trying to imagine with all his might how the gauntlet ought to fit. Please let this stupid dwarf’s ridiculous plan work. Please let me save everybody.

For several seconds, nothing happens, save a slight jolt of static running up Thor's arm.

And then there’s a flash of light.

Chapter Text

When the light fades, the Infinity Gauntlet has changed significantly. It is no longer the cumbersome, oversized glove it once was. The metal now extends up over Thor’s bicep, covering his shoulder with a heavy pauldron. While the gauntlet is still bulky, its reduced size means that the stones now run up the vambrace, the Mind Stone alone keeping its original position on the hand.

“I wasn’t expecting that to work,” Thor admits, flexing his hand, then his wrist. The fit is excellent, as though custom-made for Thor himself. Which is theoretically true, he supposes.

“Neither was I,” Eitri murmurs. He looks up, fixing Thor with a steely glare. “Now, Odinson, will you honour your word?”

“Of course,” Thor replies. He lifts his hand, and pauses. “I simply… will it?”

“You need to gesture,” Eitri says. “It’s a failsafe. Otherwise any errant thoughts could manifest themselves in reality.”

“Very sensible,” Thor nods. He closes his eyes, tries to remember how Nidavellir was when it was full of life. How bright and noisy and lively the forge was, how there was always something happening, some new discovery, some new invention. In his younger days, Thor had loved visiting Nidavellir almost as much as he'd loved battle and feasting. It had been fascinating to witness the unmatched craftsmanship of the dwarves. He tries to remember Eitri’s hands, strong but nimble, capable of creating so much, from endlessly intricate treasures to unfathomably strong weapons.

Thor clicks his fingers, the metal of the gauntlet making more of clinking sound than anything else.

There's a strange, not-quite-electric feeling in Thor's fingers, and then the air is suddenly much warmer, light seeping past his closed eyelids. Thor can hear the rings of the forge slowly turning, hear a choked gasping noise, hear the low murmur of distant voices, their surprised shouts. He opens his eyes, hissing at the sudden brightness. The forge is once more clean and whole, bodies no longer strewn carelessly around, complex equipment no longer broken. Even the shattered pieces of Stormbreaker's mould are gone, presumably also restored to their original state.

Eitri himself looks as the Dwarf King ought to: his hair and beard are braided neatly as they used to be, his clothes are once more fine and well looked after. His hands— no longer painful metal-coated stumps— tremble, eyes brimming with unshed tears as he looks at the restored Nidavellir around them. He turns slowly, apparently overwhelmed at the sight of his home once more whole and alive. Even Thor, used to the incredible beauty of the late Asgard, can't help but marvel at the glorious sight of Nidavellir renewed, golden light spilling across the workshop.

Thor turns as he hears footsteps: a resurrected dwarf, shock mingled with delight on his face.

“My liege,” the dwarf addresses Eitri, breathing heavily. “We… somehow survived Thanos?”

“Not quite,” Eitri replies, sounding strangled.

“I don’t understand, sir,” the dwarf says, taking a step forward. His eyes fall upon Thor, and the gauntlet on his arm, and he stops in his tracks, suddenly looking quite terrified.

“I’ll explain,” Eitri promises, wiping his eyes hurriedly. “Gather the others, please.”

“Yes, sir,” the dwarf bows, fleeing as fast as his legs will carry him. He does not look at Thor, keeping his eyes fixed to the ground.

Eitri looks at Thor, inclining his head respectfully.

“Thank you.”

“I have one last favour to ask,” Thor says. “I’ll need containers for the Stones, for when I give them away. I already have a container for the Mind Stone, but the others…”

“The Soul Stone has its own secret container,” Eitri says. “But the others we’ll make for you.”

“Good,” Thor sighs, relieved. That’s one less job he’ll have to do. “Then I’ll return in…  a day?”

“Three days,” Eitri says. “There may be several hundred of us now, but we still need time to do as you ask.”

“Three days it is,” Thor nods. A firm time limit. Good. If Eitri is right about the power of the gauntlet being 'too much'— although Thor seriously doubts it, after all, his will is mighty and his self-control is ironclad— then a time limit will help him to stay focused. “Farewell, for now."

Thor picks up Stormbreaker again, summoning the Bifrost. 

“Be careful!” Eitri yells. “Do not lose your senses!”

And then the warmth and ambient noise of Nidavellir is gone, replaced by cold silence and the wreckage of Asgard’s ill-fated refugee ship.

Chapter Text

The sight of the wreckage of the Statesman is worse than Thor remembers, even with it mostly-obscured by the darkness of space. Then again, he hadn’t been in the best state of mind last time he’d seen the ship.

After Loki— after Thanos left, Thor had been utterly consumed by grief at the loss of his people and his dearest friends and remaining family. He’d been able to do naught but cry like a child as the life support failed and the remaining pieces of the Statesman broke apart around him. Then he had floated, oh-so-slowly suffocating, vaguely hoping that somehow this would be the end of his trials. And then the Morons had come across him, and… well, things had gotten better, even if there’s still much left to do.

Thor brings the gauntlet forward, calling forth his memories of seeing the remains of Asgard fleeing into its temporary refuge, of being cooped up in the surprisingly cramped quarters of the ship in the aftermath of Asgard-the-place's destruction. The bodies ought to be laid inside, he thinks. Respectfully laid side-by-side. It’ll be easier to figure out who survived, be easier to account for all of Asgard-the-people— nobody will be left dead or afraid or alone, not if this is done right.

Thor clenches his fist, and the Statesman reassembles itself around him, the dead of Asgard gently laid upon the floor. There’s a popping in his ears as the life support kicks in, and the ship repressurises.

Thor takes a deep breath, ignoring the stench that comes with death, steps carefully over one body, then another, and another. The guilt weighs heavy in his stomach, the shame of a king who failed to protect his own people. It’s all right, he tells himself. They will live again. This is a second chance.

He picks his way through the corpses on the bridge. Loki and Heimdall are stretched out near the captain’s chair. Valkyrie is nowhere in sight, so she must have managed to get into one of the escape pods after all. She must have listened to Thor's final, desperate order: "Lead Asgard to safety!" Korg and Miek aren’t around either, so they’re probably with Valkyrie. At least, Thor hopes that's the case.

They're safe, at least for now.

Thor steps up, onto the dais. He sets Stormbreaker down, leaning it against the captain's chair. He will not need it, not for this.

Heimdall could almost be sleeping, if not for the gaping wound where his heart ought to be. Loki, unfortunately, looks exactly as he did when Thor saw him last: blood-filled eyes, ruddy face, bruised neck at an impossible angle.

Thor swallows, nausea rising in his throat. Seeing his people broken and destroyed is bad enough, but he hadn’t personally known most of the refugees beyond whatever conversation had been stolen in the hours between Asgard’s destruction and Thanos’ ship descending. There is an element of depersonalisation, the dead citizens of Asgard his failure as king. His close friend and his brother are different, they are his failure as a man.

Thor squeezes his eyes shut. As much as he’d like to resurrect all of Asgard right now, he’s acutely aware of how ill-equipped this ship is for even a hundred refugees, let alone the three thousand that had originally been stuffed onboard. He needs to find those who escaped Thanos’ attack. He needs to know if anybody else escaped Hela’s onslaught.

He needs a plan. He needs his friends. He needs his brother.

Thor clicks his fingers, the sound of metal clinking almost deafening in the still silence of the Statesman.

Chapter Text

There’s a small jolt of energy running through the gauntlet. Then silence for a moment, a long, terrible moment. Then there’s choking, coughing, a desperate gasping of air.

“Brother?” Loki’s voice— hoarse but unmistakable— rings through the air, breaking the awful quiet.

Thor opens his eyes, and— and they’re alive again. Heimdall and Loki are alive.

Loki is whole and unharmed and just as he is meant to be. One hand is at his throat, where the skin is smooth and unblemished, the other supports his weight as he scrambles to his feet. Heimdall rises, gingerly touching the place Thanos had stabbed him, just off his sternum. Thor’s eyes prickle with heat, relief flooding his veins.

“Your majesty,” Heimdall says, the faintest trace of worry in his voice betraying his calm demeanour. “I assume Thanos has been dealt with?”

Thor nods, unable to bring himself to speak. They’re alive. Asgard is not lost, not anymore.

“It worked,” Thor manages. He draws Loki and Heimdall into a hug, burying his face in their shoulders as a few unbidden tears leak from his eyes. His breath hitches uncomfortably, his shoulders shaking, but he can’t bring himself to care, not when his best friend and dear brother are right there, alive. 

Loki lets out a nervous laugh, clearly uncomfortable. Still, he doesn’t move, not even to stab Thor, and that can only be a good sign. Heimdall puts his hand on Thor’s shoulder, a reassuring weight grounding him to this moment.

“I… suppose this means I was really…?” Loki begins, somewhat hesitantly. He lightly taps the pauldron of the gauntlet, eyes narrowed.

Thor releases his hold and takes a step back, wiping his eyes hurriedly as he takes several deep breaths.

“I’m sorry,” he says, looking away, toward the window. His voice falters. “I couldn’t— he was too powerful.”

“How long has it been?” Heimdall asks. His all-seeing eyes aren’t focused on Thor, but on the sea of bodies behind him.

“I’m not sure,” Thor admits. “One day, or perhaps two. I passed out after the ship was destroyed. And then I was picked up by a passing vessel. Afterwards, I went to Nidavellir and battled Thanos and his forces on Midgard.”

“And then you killed Thanos and took the Infinity Gauntlet,” Heimdall finishes the story. Thor nods.

“Now I plan to travel the cosmic realms, setting right Thanos’ wrongs.”

“Well, brother,” Loki starts, a decidedly smug smile creeping across his features. “I hope you’ll permit me to offer you sage advice where needed?”

“Of course,” Thor agrees. He’d like to think that Loki’s intentions are wholly pure, but that would be hopelessly naive. Nonetheless, his brother always was the smarter one, and his advice would be invaluable. He turns to Heimdall. “I was hoping that you might be able to assist me in my endeavour.

“Of course,” Heimdall nods, the barest hint of a smile at his lips.

“I’ll help you,” Loki interjects, quickly. Thor wonders, briefly, if this is out of a need for attention, or because Loki wants something. It’s probably both, if he knows his brother as he thinks he does. “I know all kinds of secrets and have access to knowledge you won’t find elsewhere. I worked with Thanos for a significant portion of time, don’t forget.”

“I could not forget if I tried, brother,” Thor replies. And then, in case his remark sounded too harsh: “thank you.”

“What will you do with Asgard?” Heimdall asks, drawing Thor’s attention back to the matter at hand. “I trust you’re not planning to leave them like this?”

“Of course not,” Thor replies. He sighs. “I honestly have no idea where to begin. I don’t want to risk accidentally resurrecting Hela by remaking our home. But our people will need a place to live, and I’d rather not have them suffer needlessly on an ill-suited ship for months on end.”

“Perhaps you could place a petition at Xandar,” Heimdall suggests. “You said that you plan to undo Thanos’ misdeeds, which would surely add credence to our plight. In the meantime, Midgard, Alfheim or Vanaheim may provide a temporary refuge.”

“I do need to speak with my friends on Midgard,” Thor muses. He’d left so suddenly with the gauntlet, he can’t imagine what they must think. It’ll be fine once Thor explains himself, but in the meantime…

There is silence for a moment.

“Or you could create a new planet, in the likeness of the old one,” Loki says. “You are essentially omnipotent as long as the Infinity Stones are within your grasp.”

Thor pauses. He hadn’t thought of that. The idea of creating an idyllic paradise for his people, somewhere they can thrive and be safe, is alluring to say the least. He can imagine it now: golden spires and bountiful trees, majestic mountains and endless sparkling oceans. Like the old Asgard, but better. Not built on blood and conquest.

“I… shall think about it,” Thor says, somewhat hesitantly. Could he manage such a feat? If so, he could bring back all those who died during Hela’s brief reign, not only those slaughtered by Thanos. Asgard would once more be a proud, shining beacon of hope to the universe, rather than the scattered dregs of a once-great civilisation. And if he could do that, then perhaps those slaughtered by the Dark Elves…

“Those who were spared by Thanos are still alive, although uncomfortable,” Heimdall interrupts Thor’s train of thought. His face and voice are neutral as ever, but Thor knows him too well: Heimdall’s first priority is, and always will be, the people of Asgard. He wants to ensure their safety and protection before deciding on any kind of plan. “The pods are drifting toward Midgard, very slowly.”

“Then we’ll go to Midgard. My allies do not know where I am, and I’m sure they’ll want to help us once we explain the situation,” Thor says, decisively.

“Ugh,” Loki rolls his eyes.

“Stop pouting, brother,” Thor claps a hand to Loki’s back. “Everything will be perfectly fine.”

Chapter Text

It isn’t hard to find the survivors. Even if Heimdall weren’t able to see all in the Nine Realms, the escape pods don’t travel very quickly. They’re designed to preserve whatever life remains in them, rather than to reach a destination. There are ten, slowly drifting, crammed with twice the number of survivors they were designed for. Time is not a luxury these people have. Half of Asgard will have to live with the memory of their own painful demise. Thor would prefer that no more suffer the same.

Heimdall hails them: Thor may be their king, but Heimdall is the one who provided a temporary refuge from Hela’s wrath. He is the constantly-vigilant guardian of Asgard. Heimdall brings hope, even more so than the warrior-king and his trickster brother. Heimdall confirms the numbers of survivors, of the sick and the wounded and the dead. He answers some of their frantic questions: yes, the king lives, yes, there are others that survived, no, Thanos is no more. He passes along Thor’s instructions to halt their journey and wait patiently, adding a few small tasks to keep the survivors busy in the meantime: taking stock of all the supplies on board the pod, making lists of each survivor and their occupation. 

Loki, having volunteered in a burst of manic energy, steers the Statesman toward the pods. He seems to be enjoying himself, playing a hero to his destitute people once again. Thor himself sits in the captain’s chair, his makeshift throne, trying to develop his plans. He sighs, rubbing his eyes tiredly. He has the beginnings of a headache, just behind his eyes, and a low buzzing in his ears that definitely isn’t helping— ambient noise of the Statesman’s engines, probably. 

The plan, so far, is as follows: when they reach the escape pods, Thor will open a portal to Midgard, where he can provide temporary shelter for his people. The pods should go to the Avengers Facility, where somebody will undoubtedly be able to help Thor contact the world governments and plead his case. The dead aboard the Statesman can be resurrected once Thor has secured some kind of provision for his people. The money earned during Thor’s last stint on Midgard should pay for Asgard’s needs for the day or two they’ll be there, and if not…  well, Thor is popular, and Midgardians are generous.

Once everybody is alive, and cared for, he can start rebuilding Asgard— Heimdall’s proposal of petitioning Xandar after assisting them seems like the best option so far. And while Xandar decides how best to help, Thor can ask the rabbit and the tree for information on Thanos’ movements prior to his attack on Xandar: they are friends with Gamora, daughter of Thanos. The sooner Thor can get in touch with her, the better. She’s likely to know even more about Thanos’ actions and plans than Loki, helpful as his brother might be. She’ll be able to guide Thor through his quest, and she’ll likely do so happily.

“We’re approaching the pods now, brother,” Loki calls. “I’d say they’re about one vika to the left.”

“It's port, you should know that,” Thor mutters as he stands, wincing at the protests of his body— even after being partially healed by Stormbreaker in Nidavellir, he’d still fought a vicious battle in the plains of Wakanda. There will be time to properly rest later.

“One vika portside, then,” Loki replies, tongue-in-cheek. “How could I forget? Perhaps it’s because I’m not a barbarian who spends all my time swanning about the Nine Realms?”

“Better a barbarian than a snake,” Thor snorts, getting a surprising chuckle from Loki in return. Thor ignores the lingering aches of earlier battles, and makes his way over to Heimdall, who is still hailing the pods.

“Please remain calm, and secure yourselves to the best of your abilities. We will be approaching Midgard shortly,” Heimdall says into a microphone, sounding as calm as ever. Only the tightness in his jaw and the clenching of his knuckles gives away his anxiety. “The landing may be rough.”

“Let me know when I can transport us,” Thor says. Heimdall nods.

“There aren’t enough seatbelts,” Heimdall says. “The children and the vulnerable have priority, but it’s not enough.”

“A gentle landing, then,” Thor scratches his beard. He doesn't want to see any more of his people hurt, even if he can undo any damage done. “I'll do my best.”

He thrusts his hand out before him, calling up the last memory he has of the Avengers Facility; in particular, the lush grassland and forests surrounding the complex. The stones in the gauntlet make a strange kind of humming, and a spark of inspiration strikes Thor. If he opens the portal in just the right position, at just the right angle, the pods will not crash. The landing won’t be enjoyable by any means, but nobody will be seriously hurt.

Yes… If he opens the portal beneath the pods, and moves the portal up and around them, they should fall mere centimetres onto the vast lawn, not far from where he’d let Midgard after that terrible ordeal with Ultron. The Statesman, being more functional than the pods, can enter Midgard at a greater height, perhaps ten or twenty metres.

“They are as prepared as they can be,” Heimdall says. “Now, your Majesty.”

“Loki, get ready to land us,” Thor shouts. Loki yells something in return that might have been either an insult or an affirmation. Probably both, knowing him. 

Thor clicks his fingers, and there’s a gentle ripple of energy running through his arm. The view through the window of the bridge is no longer the dark, star-spotted expanse of space. Instead, there’s endless, overwhelming blue and white and green.

Chapter Text

Loki takes the initiative, quickly landing the Statesman in the facility’s nigh-empty parking lot. Annoyingly, he’s just as good a pilot as Thor remembers— the impact is barely noticeable, hardly disturbing the bodies at all.

“Good work,” Heimdall says, once the engines have been shut off.

“Is that aimed at me or him?” Loki asks, hopping into view once more.

“Both.”

Thor looks at the scene visible from the bridge window: the escape pods are lying on the lawn near the Avengers Facility. The survivors slowly file out, Valkyrie and Korg guiding everybody into one large group. And yet…something is wrong.

When Thor last saw the facility, it bustled with life: it was unfinished, with Stark’s employees arranging the interior, bringing new weaponry and scientific equipment. There had been engineers and guards and cleaners, gardeners and builders and even nurses. Stark had rambled proudly about a ‘shortlist’ of candidates for a position on the Avengers roster. The facility is more vast than Thor remembers, several new buildings adorning the site, new trees planted around the carefully-sculpted land. And yet, other than the remnants of Asgard and Sakaar, there is nobody here.

Granted, most of the Avengers had been at Wakanda’s battlefield, but Thor can’t recall seeing Iron Man or Hawkeye there. They’d talked about retiring after Sokovia, but surely, even if all the active Avengers had been dispatched, there would have been a servant or two left behind at the facility, a cleaner or a secretary or… or something. Right?

Thor steps out into the cool air, leaving Heimdall and Loki to their banter. He heads over to Valkyrie and Korg. The survivors glance over, whispering amongst themselves. Nobody appears seriously hurt, which means that his portal idea worked. Thor can’t help but smile at that.

“How fare our people?” he asks.

“They’re as well as can be, all things considered,” Valkyrie replies. A small smile plays at the corner of her mouth. “Thanks for not dying.”

“What’s that thing on your arm, bro?” Korg asks. Miek makes a weird trilling noise, and Korg nods in agreement. “Yeah, looks like some kind of crazy magic thing, doesn’t it?”

“This is the Infinity Gauntlet,” Thor replies, raising his arm so that Korg can get a better view. “An incredibly powerful artefact that—“

“It’s cool,” Korg interrupts, poking at the elbow joint. “Not sure about all the gold, bro, kinda clashes with your armour. All the black makes you look washed out, you know. Bad for your complexion."

“—is going to help me remake Asgard,” Thor finishes, lamely. He glances around: Heimdall is nearby, speaking to several men and women, most likely those he hailed earlier. There's no sign of Loki. Valkyrie frowns, crossing her arms as she tilts her head.

“Infinity Gauntlet?” she murmurs. “Didn’t Odin…?”

“Commission a prototype for his vault? Yes, many centuries ago,” Thor says. “I can’t tell you how many times Loki and I broke it while we played as children. And adults.”

“Those were wonderful times,” Loki chuckles, and Thor turns. There’s naught but empty air where his brother’s voice had come from. He must be invisible, under some kind of cloaking glamour. Given what happened during Loki's second-to-last trip to Midgard, it's probably for the best.

“Good thinking, brother,” Thor says. “Though I don’t think it’ll help you if Strange appears.”

“I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve in case that second-rate hack shows up. Let it never be said that I’m not prepared,” Loki replies, and Thor can hear the self-satisfied smirk undoubtedly gracing his brother’s face. Thor has to suppress a laugh. He almost hopes that Loki does attempt to battle the sorcerer again, if only to see some of these tricks for himself. Loki's pettiness is matched only by his creativity.

“Shall we continue with our business?” Heimdall asks, approaching in long strides. Thor nods, and addresses Valkyrie.

“Can you stay here for now? Help will be arriving shortly.”

“All right. But we need water and medical supplies now,” Valkyrie says. “It’s been a long day.”

“You’ll have it,” Thor promises. Had it only been a day since Thanos attacked? It felt like so much longer. “I need to inform the Midgardians of our troubles. I’ll be as fast as I can.”

Valkyrie nods, solemnly.

“Good luck.”

Heimdall gestures to several of the more healthy-looking survivors, who follow them to the main building. The door is unlocked. Like the rest of the facility, there is nobody in sight.

“Hello?” Thor calls.

There is no answer. He turns to Heimdall.

“There’s a kitchen and a medical office on the next floor. Take whatever you think we need, and I’ll handle the rest.”

Heimdall leads the handful of survivors up the flight of stairs to the right, while Thor heads through a maze of corridors toward the conference room on the ground floor. There will be some way to communicate with the others and with the leaders of Midgard. What had Rogers called them? The UN?

“Good afternoon, Point Break,” a familiar female voice says, startling him. “I wasn’t expecting to see you.”

Thor glances around— nobody is in sight. And then he remembers: Stark’s replacement AI, FRIDAY. Odd, Thor had thought her confined to Stark’s Iron Man armour.

“You did not reside here last I visited,” Thor replies. “It seems as though many things have changed in my absence.”

“More than you know,” FRIDAY sighs. A pause. “Dare I ask why there are alien ships on the lawn?”

“Asgard was destroyed, and the people within those ships are all that remains of my homeworld. I was hoping to seek refuge in this realm for a short time,” Thor says, turning another corner. The conference room is, blessedly, precisely where he remembers. He opens the door and slips inside. The conference room shows signs of life— a half-drunk cup of cold coffee, various papers littering the desk and table. And yet nobody is here.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” FRIDAY replies. “By the way, I’ve told the facility’s security that there is no need to investigate the Asgardian vessels, and I've relayed a similar message to my military contacts."

“Thank you,” Thor says. He hadn't even thought of potential clashes with security forces. Nobody would question Thor's presence at the facility, but of course a thousand refugees and several ships would raise suspicion. FRIDAY is a truly valuable ally. He'll have to thank Stark for programming her so well. “I must speak with your world’s leaders immediately."

“I can arrange that,” FRIDAY says. “But first, Secretary Ross will want to speak to you. It’s about the Accords.”

“Who is Secretary Ross?” Thor frowns. “What are these Accords?”

“It’s a long story,” FRIDAY replies.

And then she begins to explain.

Chapter Text

FRIDAY’s story is complex, but she tells it well. The entire situation is bizarre— Thor hasn’t been offworld that long— two and a half years if one doesn’t count that brief holiday in Australia— but the Midgardian portion of his life has almost completely fallen apart in that short a time.

The Sokovia incident had apparently prompted dissatisfaction amongst the politicians of this world, a shift in public opinion. Then, an incident in Nigeria had sparked outright hostility: the Avengers were beyond reproach, could not be trusted to keep the world safe. The UN had drawn up a contract, the Sokovia Accords, designed to address issues of responsibility and control, which had been divisive amongst the Avengers. Captain Rogers had outright refused to sign, while Stark had argued that it was a necessary evil and planned to negotiate the terms of the Accords after signing. During the signing ceremony, a terrorist had attacked the UN, killing the then-King of Wakanda, T’Chaka. The terrorist had been quickly identified as one James Buchanan Barnes, once a beloved friend of Rogers.

And then everything, somehow, devolved even further into chaos.

“Barnes killed Stark’s parents? Really?” Thor asks, pausing in his perusal of the Sokovia Accords. The document so far is essentially an agreement to act as a living weapon at the behest of the UN. That in itself is not a problem— that seems fairly close to what the Avengers were doing anyway under the remains of SHIELD— but nobody involved in drafting the Accords seems to have remembered that Thor is not actually a citizen of Midgard, with no caveats allowing for his royal duties. Thor will need to negotiate that before he can consider signing.

“Unfortunately, yes,” FRIDAY replies sounding mournful. “Although he wasn’t exactly Barnes at the time.”

“Because of the…” Thor pauses. From Roger’s occasional mentions of the Winter Soldier, it’s obvious that Barnes is no longer the same man Rogers knew half a century ago thanks to HYDRA’s cruelty. “…The mind control?”

“We’re not sure what they did to him, but yes.” FRIDAY says. “Anyway, after the confrontation in Siberia, Barnes and Rogers became fugitives, along with those who had been imprisoned after the battle in Germany. The boss hasn’t heard from either of them since, though Rogers did send a burner phone to him in case of a catastrophe.”

Thor nods. It’s probably best not to mention that he saw both men a little over an hour ago in Wakanda. Stark and Rogers no longer being on speaking terms explains why Stark was not there too, though not why War Machine had been present. Surely Thanos arriving on Midgard would count as a catastrophe?

“Where is Stark now?”

“His current whereabouts are unknown,” FRIDAY says. “His last known location was at the edge of Earth’s atmosphere. Last I heard from him, he was on board the ship that attacked New York. A similar ship was spotted in Edinburgh around the same time.”

If Thanos’ forces had been in New York, they were most likely trying to get the Time Stone and the Mind Stone. And obviously they had succeeded— so where is Strange? Vision had been in Wakanda, probably visiting Wanda, but what had happened in Edinburgh? More importantly, where is Stark now? Even with Thanos dead and with his armour, Stark is a mere mortal and Thanos’ children are both powerful and cruel.

“Do you know where Strange might be?”

“Would this be Doctor Strange of Bleecker Street, New York?”

“Yes.”

“His whereabouts are also unknown, but he was on the same ship as the boss when it left Earth’s atmosphere.”

“I’ll ask Heimdall to look for them,” Thor promises. “He can see everything in the universe.”

“That’s impressive,” FRIDAY says, sounding almost awe-struck. “How—“

An insistent bleeping fills the air, and FRIDAY pauses.

“Secretary Ross is calling,” she says. “My contact must have informed him.”

“Very well, let me speak with him,” Thor replies.

“No problem,” FRIDAY replies, and a holographic image appears at the head of the conference table. It’s a severe-looking man with a moustache and short, neatly combed hair.

“Hello,” the man says, smiling warmly. “I’m Secretary Ross. I don’t believe we’ve met.”

“Thor Odinson, Allfather and King of Asgard,” Thor replies. “It is an honour to make your acquaintance.”

“I’ve been informed that you’ve brought a number of refugees to our planet, your highness. I’d like to know more.”

Thor ignores the titling error. America, being a Midgardian republic, probably doesn’t have much information on the proper ways to address an Asgardian monarch. In any case, it doesn’t matter right now— providing for Asgard is infinitely more important.

“Asgard has been destroyed, so I sought to bring my people to a safe realm until we can rebuild our civilisation,” Thor says. “Midgard has always held a special place in my heart, and I hoped that perhaps you might host us a short time.”

“I see,” Ross replies. “Have you been informed about the Sokovia Accords?”

“Stark’s wondrous assistant FRIDAY has given me a copy,” Thor gestures to the papers before him.

“What are your thoughts so far?” Ross asks, cheerfully.

“Well,” Thor begins. “I understand their necessity, but there are some details that I find somewhat lacking.”

“In what way?” Ross asks, a little less cheerfully.

“There are no clauses detailing how the Accords ought to apply to my person,” Thor says. “I am not a citizen of this realm. I am the head of state of an alien nation— I cannot simply pledge my loyalty to a foreign power, especially not when I am almost certain to outlive it. The constitutional crisis that would cause for us... I can't risk it.”

“Oh?” Ross leans forward, one eyebrow raised.

“I am not unwilling to sign the Accords,” Thor adds. “I simply cannot sign this particular version.”

“You want to negotiate?” Ross asks. Thor nods.

“Yes,” he says.

“And your people?” Ross asks.

“My people?”

“Will they sign the Accords as they are?”

“My people are civilians,” Thor says. While Asgardians are generally well-versed in self-defence, the Accords are clearly meant for warriors. With the exception of Thor, Heimdall, Valkyrie and Loki, the Einharjar are all gone.

“Your people are Asgardian, no?” Ross asks. The warmth that had been in his voice is gone. “You are far stronger than we are, with greater stamina and all kinds of abilities.”

“I’m the most powerful Asgardian there is,” Thor says. “My people are strong, yes, but they don’t have special powers, like I do. That’s only for royalty.”

“Compared to a human, you’re practically gods,” Ross replies, sounding colder. “You were literally worshipped. Anybody with significantly enhanced abilities must sign the Accords— we have to keep the people of Earth safe.

“I fully agree with you that keeping Earth safe is a priority. I’m sure we can come up with a solution,” Thor says, feeling his stomach sink. Ross is much more stubborn than he looks. But surely he won’t be so stubborn as to refuse the obvious solution: compromise.

“I’m sure we can,” Ross replies. “Starting with an Asgardian commitment to the protection of the world they wish to settle in.”

Ah— that’s why Ross is being so stubborn. He thinks they want a permanent home here.

“We don’t want to settle. We’ll be here only a few days,” Thor corrects. And then, just to be safe:  “Perhaps a week.”

“A week?” Ross frowns. “How so?”

“If I can get word to Xandar, I can arrange for us to colonise an uninhabited planet in their system,” Thor explains. “The journey will be long and unpleasant if I take all of my people with me, and our ships simply cannot support us for that long— if I go alone, I can get there faster, and my people will not suffer needlessly.”

There’s silence for a moment.

“Tell me, how did Asgard get destroyed?” Ross asks. “I was under the impression that it was an incredibly advanced civilisation of millions.”

“It was,” Thor replies. “There was… a prisoner sealed away with my father’s life force. He recently died of old age, and she was freed. She went on a murderous rampage immediately, and it took the complete destruction of Asgard itself to stop her.”

Ross’s facial expression is unreadable.

“You destroyed Asgard yourselves?”

“She drew her power from Asgard itself. It was the only way to stop her from trying to conquer all Nine Realms and beyond— even Midgard would not have been safe from her.” Thor shakes his head. “And now, of a population numbering several million, there are a little over a thousand currently living.”

Ross laughs. It is not a pleasant laugh.

“So you destroyed your homeworld, and expect us to provide you with a refuge? Without any kind of assurance that you won’t destroy our world too?”

“Midgard is one of the Nine Realms,” Thor protests. “I am sworn to protect it.”

“Like you protected Sokovia?” Ross shakes his head. “That brother of yours, Loki, was Asgardian too— don’t think we’ve forgotten the New York incident.”

“Loki was not of sound mind,” Thor argues. “Besides, he died several years ago. He cannot harm you any longer.”

“And you think that destroying your own planet counts as ‘of sound mind’?”

“We had no choice!” Thor exclaims. “Hela would have come after you next!”

“We can protect ourselves,” Ross replies.

“Not against something as ancient and powerful as her. If Asgard couldn’t—”

“Contrary to what you seem to think, Earth is not helpless,” Ross interrupts. “We are perfectly capable of keeping ourselves safe. We don’t need your protection.”

Thor stops. Surely Ross isn’t that stupid. Surely he must know— at least have an inkling— of the sheer number of threats in the rest of the universe. Alliances between worlds are absolutely necessary for survival, for growth.

“Sign the Accords as they are for yourself and on behalf of your people. Then we can talk refuge.”

There's a very large problem with that, potential constitutional crisis aside. The Accords as they are have no provisions for civilians— to sign on behalf of all of his people would mean that they, including the children, would essentially be conscripted by all the nations of Midgard. He can’t do that, not when his people have already lost so much. They will not lose their freedom too.

“I can’t do that,” Thor says, through gritted teeth.

“Then we can’t help you,” Ross says. “You are no longer welcome on United States soil, nor anywhere else on Earth. If you do not leave of your own volition, we will resort to force.”

"Please, let us negotiate,” Thor tries, desperately. 

“The United States does not negotiate with terrorists,” Ross says. There's a nasty smile at the edge of his mouth. “Neither does the United Nations. Goodbye.”

The hologram flickers, and vanishes. A cold pit of dread opens in Thor’s stomach. He closes his eyes.

How did that go so badly, so quickly?

Chapter Text

There is naught but silence for a few scant moments.

“I’m sorry,” FRIDAY says. “I should have warned you— Secretary Ross is an exceptionally stubborn man.”

“Will he attack immediately?” Thor forces himself to stand, to try to remain calm. Asgard’s people are not safe here. There must be somewhere— if no refuge can be found on Midgard, perhaps Vanaheim will provide. And if not them, perhaps Alfheim or Nornheim?

“No, he’ll most likely command the Avengers to either take you into custody, or banish you from Earth,” FRIDAY replies. “He doesn’t actually have the authority to declare war on Asgard, but he’s a powerful man with a lot of influence.”

“Then I must speak with the Avengers immediately,” Thor says.

“Shall I call Colonel Rhodes for you?” FRIDAY offers. "I can't seem to get a hold of Vision or the boss."

Rhodes is a good man and a good friend, and his military career makes him a valuable source of information. And in the unlikely event that Rhodes somehow cannot help, then Banner and his seven PhDs are also in Wakanda, as is Black Widow and her vast number of secrets- one of which must surely be useful.

Thor is not alone. He has friends and allies, who are surely willing to help. 

“No, thank you," Thor says. "I shall speak to him in person. Farewell, FRIDAY, and thank you for your help.”

"No problem, " FRIDAY chirps. "Slán go fóill."

Thor leaves the room, heading outside to where Heimdall and his assistants are distributing water and dried foods to the refugees. A small team of healers work to help the wounded, armed with gauze and antiseptic. Nevertheless, there’s a stillness in the air, a suffocating quiet despite the fact that the crowd numbers well over a thousand. It is not a pleasant kind of quiet, brought on by such things as awe or respect or peacefulness. This is a quietness borne of trauma and suffering. The faces of the Asgardians are drawn and still. The people huddle together, those that have remaining loved ones holding them tightly. Even the children do not cry, having run out of tears hours ago.

“That didn’t go very well,” Loki mutters, right into Thor’s ear. Thor yelps in surprise, swatting Loki’s invisible form away.

“Were you there the entire time?” he demands.

“Of course I was. I’m quite impressed, you know. You almost seemed to know what you were doing. I wouldn’t have told them that we destroyed Asgard, but then again, I’ve always been the clever one.”

“I thought that honesty would be the best policy,” Thor replies.

“A pathetically human ideal, was it Stark who taught you that? Or maybe it was the Captain?”

“Amongst others.”

Loki sighs.

“I did miss those friends of yours.” There’s a condescending pat on Thor’s shoulder. “I can’t wait to see them all again.”

Thor pointedly ignores him, and continues to Heimdall.

“How fare our people?” he asks, as soon as he’s within earshot.

“About as well as can be expected, given everything that’s happened. There are few physical injuries, but…” Heimdall shakes his head, golden eyes sorrowful. “They need stability. Shelter. Hope.”

Thor nods, solemnly. Just as he’d thought. The situation is dire, but it will not be so for long.

“How goes your request for aid?” Heimdall asks, hopefully.

“Aren’t you supposed to see everything?” Loki mutters.

“Perhaps I have better things to do than spy on our king,” Heimdall replies, just a hint of coldness in his voice.

“It didn’t go as well as I’d hoped,” Thor says, cutting both men off. “But I’m going to speak to a friend of mine now.”

“They wanted to declare war on us,” Loki adds. Thor attempts to elbow him in the ribs, but misses— it’s hard to hit someone who can’t be seen.

“Then I’ll keep watch,” Heimdall says. “If there’s an attack on Asgard, you’ll know in advance. I trust you know what you’re doing?”

“Of course,” Thor replies, more to boost his confidence than Heimdall’s. “My friends are good people. And if we cannot find refuge on Midgard… I have plans.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” Heimdall says. “Valkyrie and I will continue to safeguard our people in your absence. Be swift, your majesty.”

Thor nods, and clenches his fist, willing a doorway to Wakanda into existence. 

He steps through. 

Chapter Text

The forests of Wakanda are almost as Thor left them— Thanos’ corpse is still lying on the floor, in a pool of its own blood and viscera. Vision’s body has gone, as has the Scarlet Witch and the Captain’s closest allies.

Thor closes the doorway behind him and glances around, hoping to see Rhodes. Most of the warriors who had been present earlier have vanished, presumably having returned to the city— even Tree and Rocket have gone. Near Thanos’ remains, War Machine speaks urgently with Banner and the black-suited warrior who had lead the battle.

Thor takes a few steps forward, raising one hand in greetings. The warrior turns his helmet-less head, a frown spreading across his regal features as he spots Thor.

“Hello,” Thor says. “I apologise for making you wait for so long. I was delayed in Nidavellir and New York.”

“Good to see you too!” Banner replies, a grin stretching across his face as he catches Thor in a hug. "I thought for sure you were dead until you appeared during the fight. Really cool entrance, by the way."

"It'd take more than a little thing like Thanos to kill me. And your bravery on the battlefield was most astounding— you are indeed powerful and useful, my friend," Thor ruffles Banner's hair before stepping back, briefly laying his hand on Rhodes' shoulder by way of greeting. He nods respectfully to the warrior, who returns the nod as he gracefully crosses his arms.

"Glad to see you're alive and well. Where'd you vanish to, after the battle?" Rhodes asks. Straight to the point— that's one of the things Thor likes most about Rhodes. 

"I had to go to Nidavellir, where Thanos got the gauntlet in the first place. They're making new containers for the Infinity Stones as we speak. Then I had to deal with Asgard— there's a problem with that, actually."

“Oh?” Banner asks, worry plastered across his face. “What kind of problem? You don’t have another evil relative I have to fight, do you?”

“No, no, nothing like that,” Thor raises his palms in what he hopes is a soothing gesture— the last thing he needs is for the Hulk to appear and start smashing. “I went to the Avengers Facility and spoke with Secretary Ross about possibly providing shelter to my people while I deal with rebuilding Asgard, but he was… unhelpful. He threatened war on us.”

Rhodes winces.

“Yeah, that sounds like Ross, overstepping boundaries like always. I guess that’s why he’s been calling.”

“I fear that he wants you to arrest or banish me.”

“I’m not going to do either of those things. Looks like another court-martial for me,” Rhodes sighs. “Tony’s a hell of a lot better at dealing with him than I am. Mostly because Tony doesn’t have a career to lose. You haven’t seen him, have you?”

“No, but FRIDAY informed me that Stark is off-world,” Thor says. “He and the wizard were both on the ship that left New York earlier.”

“That’s… not good,” Banner says, looking deflated. “That’s really, really not good. Those guys on the ship were strong.”

“I’m sure it’ll be fine,” Thor says. “Stark is clever, and a formidable opponent. So is the wizard— he once bested Loki, you know. In any case, Heimdall will be able to find them. There is a limit even to the amount of trouble Stark can get himself into.”

“You really don’t know Tony,” Rhodes mutters, as an invisible elbow jabs Thor in the ribs. Thor fights the urge to roll his eyes. Of course Loki would follow him. He must be planning some kind of mischief.

“Heimdall? He’s okay?” Bruce brightens, visibly. The warrior taps his fingers against his bicep, deep in thought.

“He is now," Thor says, as reassuringly as he can. "He’s taking care of the surviving Asgardians as we speak.”

"Finally, some good news," Banner mutters, clearly relieved. Thor smiles at that. Yes, things are looking up. 

“So… Bruce told us that your planet was totalled. I guess that means you’re all on Earth right now?” Rhodes asks.

Thor nods.

Rhodes sighs.

“Must be why Ross is so antsy.”

“I tried to tell him that my people were no threat, but he would not listen. He simply demanded that we all sign his Accords without any kind of negotiation, even though all but four or five of us are civilians,” Thor explains. “And then he threatened to attack us if we failed to leave. He is incapable of reason.”

“If that isn’t Ross in a nutshell,” Rhodes mutters. He crosses his arms and looks Thor in the eye. “I’m not going to lie to you— Ross is a very powerful man. But he can’t actually wage war on Asgard, he doesn’t have the political power to do that. He has friends in high places, but so do I. So do you.”

“You’ll help me?” Thor asks. Rhodes nods. It’s as though a weight Thor did not realise he carried has fallen from his shoulders.

The warrior, who has not yet spoken, finally breaks his silence. His voice is measured, authoritative, but not unkind.

“How many do your people number?”

Chapter Text

“You’d help us?” Thor asks, surprised.

“If I am able,” the warrior replies. “If not for the timely arrival of you and your allies, the battle against Thanos and his forces would have gone very differently. Outsiders coming to Wakanda’s aid is a rare occasion, and not one we take lightly.”

“Thank you,” Thor says. “We will not forget your kindness.”

“I have done nothing yet,” the warrior replies. “Tell me, how many Asgardians need shelter? Have you supplies and provisions?”

“We haven’t had time to count, but it’s around one and a half thousand, not counting the ship of our dead. The few supplies we had were destroyed when Thanos arrived, but I can buy more.”

“I see. How long do you expect to be here on Earth?”

“Less than a week. Three days, if that.”

The warrior nods, deep in thought.

“Then I believe we can help each other,” he says. “Perhaps once Asgard is restored, our nations will have much to offer each other.”

“I’m sure they will,” Thor replies. He smiles. Yes, the futures of their nations look much brighter already. Asgard will no longer be so cold and distant toward the rest of the Nine Realms, and Wakanda has proven itself a valuable ally. The possibilities are endless... 

“Ross is gonna be in so much trouble,” Rhodes mutters, under his breath. He looks almost happy at the prospect.

“I must speak to the Council,” the warrior says. “As you can see, we have lost many good men and women today, and I worry that some of my people may be reluctant to assist Asgard as a result."

"Will they refuse to help us?"

The warrior shakes his head.

"I am the king. The tribes of Wakanda are sworn to obey me, even if they disagree with my decisions.”

“My apologies, your majesty,” Thor hastily drops to one knee, cursing internally. If he’d known that the warrior were king of this land, he would have taken care to address him properly. "I did not realise-"

“Ah, we do not do that here,” the king grimaces. “And you have no need to call me by title— just T’Challa will suffice.”

“Then you have no need to use my titles either,” Thor replies, rising once more. T’Challa smiles, a small quirk at the corner of his mouth.

“We will have shelter ready for your people by sunset,” T’Challa says. “Bring them to the palace then, and tonight we shall celebrate our victory.”

“Asgard will not forget your kindness,” Thor promises.

“As we will not forget your prowess in battle,” T’Challa replies. He nods politely to Thor, then Rhodes and Bruce. “I must take my leave and speak to the council. I hope to see you all tonight.”

“You bet,” Rhodes grins. Banner nods enthusiastically, as T’Challa turns and walks gracefully toward the other end of the clearing.

“I shall return to my people and inform them of the good news,” Thor says. He re-opens the doorway, and Rhodes’ eyebrows shoot up. Banner frowns. Thor steps through, catching a fragment of conversation before the portal closes behind him.

“Okay, that’s pretty cool.”

“I don’t remember Asgard having anything like that…”

Chapter Text

Heimdall is more or less exactly where Thor left him, now speaking with Valkyrie and a few people Thor vaguely recognises— one man had sat on an agricultural committee, another had worked under Eir the healer. Thor remembers seeing a few of the women in and around the palace: craftswomen, teachers, community leaders. They bow when they catch sight of their king, hurrying back to their groups.

“You were fast,” Heimdall says, turning to face him. Thor grins.

“I told you, my friends are good people. When the sun sets in Wakanda, there will be shelter ready for us there. Their king has even invited us as guests to a feast celebrating the defeat of Thanos.” 

“A feast…” Valkyrie looks thoughtful, tapping at the glass bottle she holds in one hand. “I take it there’ll be better drinks there?”

“Well, I suppose…” Thor begins, before his brain catches up with his eyes and ears. “Er— have you been drinking Stark’s whiskey?”

“It’s not very strong,” Valkyrie shrugs. “But at least he has a lot of it to make up for that. Or he did.”

“…I’ll apologise to him later,” Thor mutters. He pauses, remembering the promise he’s made twice now. “Actually, Heimdall— can you see Stark? His friends are worried about him.”

Heimdall pauses for a moment, looking through the cosmos.

“As they should be,” Heimdall says, after what seems like an age. “He’s been stabbed.”

“What?!”

“He’s in no danger of dying,” Heimdall replies, nonchalantly. “There’s a sorcerer healing him.”

“Where are they? I must go to his aid!” Thor demands. The sorceror must be Strange, ex-keeper of the Time stone. Thanos must have encountered them, they were on his ship after all, and the Time stone now sits on Thor’s forearm— is he the one that stabbed Stark?

“They are on Titan,” Heimdall says. “But as I said, he is in no danger of dying. The only living creatures on the planet are Stark and his allies—three humans and several beings from worlds I have not seen before.”

“Worlds you haven’t seen?” Loki’s disembodied voice is as venomous as ever. Valkyrie rolls her eyes. “Dear gatekeeper, I thought your eyes could see the entire universe?”

“It happens,” Heimdall replies, shifting his gaze precisely three inches to Thor’s left. “I usually focus upon the worlds in our galaxy.”

“Heimdall, the other beings…” Thor begins, thoughtfully. It’s a long shot, but fate has been generous the last few hours. Fate drew him to Rabbit’s ship and crew, fate allowed him to survive the forges of Nidavellir, fate guided Stormbreaker to Thanos’ skull, and drew Thor to the gauntlet. If Thanos really was on Titan, then perhaps Gamora would have found him there. “The beings you speak of, those you have not seen before… by any chance, would one happen to be a woman with green skin?”

“Yes,” Heimdall replies. “Another friend of yours?”

“I think so,” Thor says. “Let the people know that we have shelter, and that they ought to prepare for a feast— there must be poets and musicians among our number, perhaps they could organise a brief performance of thanks for our hosts?”

“You’re not telling them? Should I assume that you’re leaving again?” Heimdall looks mildly surprised.

“The woman with Stark is the daughter of Thanos,” Thor explains. “She can help me. And the sorcerer is the one who once held the Time stone.”

“Don’t even think about it,” Loki snaps. “That second-rate hack couldn’t magic his way out of a wet paper bag, let alone actually help you.”

“Didn’t he stick you in a bottomless pit the last time you met?” Valkyrie asks.

“He cheated," Loki hisses. "He used a cheap trick.”

“And you’re the god of… what, exactly?” Valkyrie cocks her head to one side, voice sugar-sweet.

“Stop it, both of you,” Thor says, interjecting before they can escalate their petty feud any further, before any blood can be spilled. “You’re not helping anyone, behaving like children. I’m going to speak with Gamora. I’ll be back before we’re due in Wakanda."

“Very well,” Heimdall nods.

“Do you want me to come with you?” Valkyrie asks.

“No, I’ll be fine alone,” Thor replies. “It’s best if you stay here. Asgard needs a beacon of hope.”

Valkyrie nods, quickly plastering a bright smile over her face.

“Loki, you’re staying here too,” Thor adds. “I’ll not have you fighting the wizard.”

Loki doesn’t reply.

Thor trudges back to the Statesman and retrieves Stormbreaker from its place near the captain’s chair. He won’t need to use it as an actual weapon, but so far travelling by Bifrost is a much nicer experience than travelling via gauntlet. Flying through the rainbow light of the wormhole makes it easy to forget that Asgard is naught but ash and detritus, a stark contrast to the gaping void in reality created by the gauntlet.

Thor leaves the ship, and finds a clear patch of lawn to travel from. The sun shines brightly overhead, the earlier gloom lifting slightly as news of Wakanda’s kindness spreads through the crowds. Where there had been silence earlier, there is now a quiet murmuring. He sees Valkyrie kneel, speaking to wide-eyed children. There are smiles scattered among the exhausted faces of Asgard. The situation is improving— slowly, so slowly, but it’s better nevertheless.

Thor summons the Bifrost.

Chapter Text

The first thing Thor notices about Titan is the sheer number of ruins that surround him, innumerable  husks of buildings and sprawling plazas, coated in debris and dust. It’s as if the entire world fell apart overnight, many decades beforehand. The things that have fallen apart have largely done so out of age and exposure to the elements— there are few, if any, signs of battle.

The second thing he notices is the absolute silence, a stillness in the air that’s utterly devoid of life. This is worrying— Stark and Strange must be somewhere nearby, otherwise the Bifrost would not have deposited him here. But in his experience, both men like the sound of their own voices, and the Morons are prone to squabbling amongst themselves. Just how dire is the situation?

Thor turns slowly, surveying the ruined plaza he stands in. There's a large indentation nearby which could have been a pool, and a wide set of stairs leading upward, toward what probably used to be buildings. There are a few husks of dessicated wood littering the plaza, as well as the rusted-apart remains of vehicles and no small amount of sun-bleached trash. Nothing living, just as Heimdall said.

“Oh my god, did you see that?!” a young voice breaks the silence, echoing through the ruins, shrill with excitement. “There was this crazy rainbow light! What was that?!”

A small figure leaps into view, easily somersaulting over rubble before skidding to a stop mere metres from Thor. It’s a human boy, wild hair sticking up in all directions, brown eyes open wide.

“Hey! Kid!” Stark’s voice rings through the ruined plaza. He sounds exhausted. “You can’t just go running off like that, we’re on an alien planet!”

The boy looks a lot like Stark, with his dark hair and eyes and pale skin. A son, perhaps? Being the child of Stark would explain his form-fitting armour.

“Ooh! It’s the god-man!” Mantis appears, bouncing cheerfully in the low gravity of Titan. She waves, Drax appearing beside her. “Hi, Thor!”

Thor beams, waving back. So the Morons are here, after all. It feels good to be right, after the endless horror of the past week.

“You’re Thor? Do I have to pray or something? There’s a Korean church in my neighbourhood, and they pray to you, I think,” the boy blurts, hardly pausing for breath. “I don’t really know, ‘cause I’ve never been, but Michelle said the sign on the door says ‘Church of Asgard’, so…"

“You don’t have to pray to anyone. Relax, Peter,” Stark interrupts, coming into view. He walks slowly, Strange trailing after him, clearly concerned. Stark sits on a nearby rock, breathing heavily. “Good to see you, Thor.”

“And you, Stark.” Thor nods at the sorcerer. “Strange.”

“I wasn’t expecting to see you here,” Strange replies, frowning. “Aren’t you supposed to be on Asgard?”

“It was destroyed,” Thor explains. “Turns out I had an evil sister that Father never told me about. She tried to kill me in Norway and then she followed us off-world and annihilated most of Asgard before being stopped.”

“Okay, now the readings make sense,” Strange rubs his jaw, clearly deep in thought. “Still doesn’t explain why you’re here.”

“You missed the super awesome fight against Thanos,” Star-Lord says, taking a seat on the stairs leading up to the largest ruin. There's a small tremor in his voice and he looks miserable, eyes red, mouth pressed into a thin line. “Wasn’t that why you took off with Rocket and Groot? Where are they, anyway?"

So Thor had been right about that as well. Thanos had been here.

“It’s all right, I was in time to fight him on Mid— on Earth,” Thor replies. “Your crewmates are there with the other Avengers.”

“You fought Thanos? How’d that go?” Stark asks. “I mean, you’re in one piece, but so are we. And we lost. Big time.”

“I killed him,” Thor replies. Star-Lord, for some reason, looks even more miserable at that. The boy, Peter, on the other hand, looks utterly awe-struck.

“Oh my god,” he says, excitedly. He starts rambling again, speaking at a breakneck pace that rivals even Stark. “That’s so cool! How did you do that? Thanos was so tough! We could barely keep him still! Did you use your hammer? Or that gigantic axe? Or was it your awesome lightning powers? Please tell me it was the lightning!”

“The axe,” Thor replies. “The lightning helped.”

“Oh, it’s still got blood on it! That’s so gross!” Peter continues, sounding more delighted than disgusted. He reaches a hand out, pointing at Stormbreaker. “Can I hold it, please, sir? Or is it like Mjolnir, and I have to be worthy and stuff?"

“Stormbreaker cannot be wielded by mortals,” Thor warns him. “You should not touch it, lest you lose your mind, and your limb besides.”

“Oh,” says Peter, snatching his hand back, clearly downcast. “Sorry, I just get excited, sir, I didn’t mean any offence or anything.”

“Do not be sorry, young Starkson,” Thor replies, trying to smile reassuringly. “Stormbreaker is simply too much of a strain for a mortal mind or body to handle, and I would hate to see you harmed.”

“Oh— uh—“ Peter stammers, pink tinging his cheeks and ears. He glances over his shoulder at Stark, then back to Thor. “I’m— I’m not—“

“Seriously? It’s barely been three years.” Stark rolls his eyes. “Kid’s sixteen. Just how short-lived do you think we are?”

“Well, now that you mention it—“ Thor begins.

“That was a rhetorical question. He’s not my son,” Stark says, firmly. He quickly gestures at Peter, addressing him. “But I am very proud of you and everything you’ve accomplished, especially today. Although I’m still mad that you snuck onto the ship, and we're going to talk about that later.”

“Thanks, Mr Stark,” Peter rubs his neck, awkwardly. "And, uh, sorry." 

“Are we done?” Strange asks, pointedly. He’s still frowning, eyes fixed on Thor. “Okay, you said you used your axe to kill Thanos. How?”

“I threw it really hard and destroyed his skull. Why do you ask?”

“Because before we fought Thanos, I looked through more than fourteen million possible futures for one where Thanos was defeated, and found exactly one.”

“And? Thanos has been defeated,” Thor replies, confused.

“And… you aren’t supposed to appear on Titan. Not in any of the futures I saw, and definitely not in the winning future. For us to win, Thanos has to win first.”

“Is that why you gave him the stone?” Drax asks. He snorts, disgusted. “That is stupid. Losing to win. Bah!”

“You gave the stone to Thanos?” Thor asks, dumbfounded. “But you are its keeper!”

“It was part of a carefully-calculated plan that was going perfectly,” Strange replies. “Except that nobody is vanishing like they're supposed to, and you’ve shown up. That’s not a bad thing, but I need to know why this is different.”

“Perhaps this is the fifteen-millionth future?” Thor hazards a guess. “It was sheer luck that I was able to hit Thanos in the head. This prosthetic eye really isn’t working very well.”

“You lost an eye?!” Peter exclaims, looking distraught. “Did you lose it at the same time you lost your hair? What happened with that, anyway? The long hair was so cool! Which eye is the fake one?”

“Er— a creepy old man cut my hair off, and then my long-lost sister cut my eye out,” Thor taps just below his scarred eye socket. “Anyway, that’s not important right now.”

“If it was sheer luck you defeated Thanos, that might explain it,” Strange mutters. Thor bristles.

“Well, there was a lot of skill involved, too,” he corrects himself, hurriedly. “I am the strongest Avenger for a reason. Not Banner,” he adds, looking at Stark.

Stark merely shrugs, entirely unconcerned.

“Bruce is totally stronger than you. Or the Other Guy is, anyway.”

“He’s not,” Thor mutters. “I beat him in a gladiator tourney. Fair and square.”

“Can we not do this?” Strange asks. He sighs. “Okay, tell me about the battle you had with Thanos.”

“It was in Wakanda,” Thor says, slowly. He really hadn’t really paid that much attention to anything outside of killing the largest amount of Thanos’ minions possible, and killing Thanos himself. “There were many warriors, including the Avengers. Thanos had all but one Infinity Stone when he arrived, and I killed him just after he gained the Mind Stone and completed the gauntlet."

“Vision…” Stark murmurs, immediately understanding the implications of Thor's testimony.

“Right,” Strange nods, Thor’s story apparently confirming some theory of his. “And where is the gauntlet now?”

Thor blinks. Is Strange blind?

“I’m wearing—“ Thor begins, and it’s at that precise moment that Loki appears from thin air, aiming an intricately-carved dagger at Strange’s throat.

Chapter Text

Strange’s cloak moves instantly, wrapping itself around Loki, jerking his arm back.

“—it now…” Thor trails off. Loki isn’t supposed to be here.

Strange whirls round to face Loki, gesturing wildly. He summons a blast of bright light that throws Loki backward, past Mantis, toward the building near the top of the plaza stairs. Mantis yelps in shock, stepping away from the pair as Loki somersaults, re-balancing himself easily.

“Isn’t he supposed to be dead?” Stark yelps, moving to put himself between Peter and the fight. His armour— what little is left of it— re-assembles itself around his hands and his vital organs. Drax draws his daggers, observing the fight intently. Loki grins, summoning long, writhing snakes from the dusty ground, ensnaring Strange for a moment.

“Have you any last words?” Loki croons, flipping his dagger one-handedly as he steps forward.

“Don’t kill the wizard, brother,” Thor sighs. He shifts his weight, ready to dart forward if Strange really needs assistance. Fortunately, he doesn’t: the snakes return to dust and Strange stands.

“Loki of Asgard,” he says. “I’d say ‘nice to see you again’, but… well. It’s not.”

Strange makes another quick gesture, and there are eight more of him surrounding Loki in a wide circle.

“Likewise,” Loki replies, a nasty grin stretching across his face. He waves an arm, gesturing at the doubles. “This is terribly unoriginal of you, by the way.”

“Duly noted,” the Stranges reply, looking bored. One rolls his eyes, another crosses his arms.

“Shouldn’t we stop them?” Peter asks, anxiously. Loki summons his own doubles, engaging all versions of Strange in hand-to-hand.

“It’s probably best to let Loki get this out of his system,” Thor replies. The Morons pick their way around the battle, Star-Lord readying his blasters.

“Great plan. Except what’s to stop him murdering the rest of us after he’s through with Strange?” Stark demands. Several of the doubles vanish, having been fatally struck by their phantom opponents.

“Strange will not be defeated so easily. He dealt with Loki very quickly last time we met…” Thor pauses. That’s probably why Loki showed up, then. He really is the worst. All this melodrama, over Strange’s show of skill in New York?

“Gosh, that makes me feel so much better,” Stark says, through gritted teeth.

“I’ll step in if I have to,” Thor adds. “You have my word— I will not allow any of you to come to harm.”

“Thank you, Mr Thor,” Peter says, awestruck. There’s a blast of red energy— the doubles vanish, leaving only the real Loki and Strange. Strange pulls a golden whip from the air, striking at Loki, who dodges rapidly.

“Okay,” Stark says. “Your word. Like the word you gave us that Loki was dead?”

“I thought he was dead!” Thor protests. “He’s very good at illusions. I only found out that he was alive last week.”

“Of course. Of course Loki would—“ Stark bites his lip, stopping himself from speaking. He looks… defeated.

Loki breaks the ground underneath Strange into pieces, then starts encasing Strange in the rocks. The cloak has other ideas, flinging itself forward without its wearer, apparently trying to suffocate Loki. The golden whip falls to the floor and fizzles into nothingness.

“Loki? That guy is Loki? The guy who tried to destroy New York?” Peter asks, pointing at the battle.

“Invade,” Stark says. “He tried to invade us. The government tried to destroy New York.”

“What?” Peter looks horrified.

“Okay, World Security Council,” Stark corrects himself. “Almost the same thing.”

“That’s messed up,” Star-Lord says, jumping down from a nearby ledge. He gestures at the still-ongoing battle between the sorcerers. Strange has freed himself from the rubble, now engaging Loki with a series of portals— Loki seems too busy evading them to actively attempt to murder Strange. “What are we doing about that?”

“Thor wants to let them keep going,” Stark replies.

“That doesn’t seem like a good idea…” Mantis says.

“Um…” Peter says, quietly. “I think the bug lady is right. Someone’s going to get hurt.”

“If we let them keep going, we can join the battle,” Drax replies. “You mentioned that your brother worked for Thanos, did you not?”

“It’s complicated,” Thor says, at the exact moment Stark says “Yes.”

“Then I shall kill him,” Drax nods. “If Thanos is gone—“

“Come on! That doesn’t even make sense!” Star-Lord interrupts. “You can’t just kill everyone who ever worked for Thanos!”

“Why not?” Drax asks.

“Because—“ Star-Lord splutters. “Because you’re going to run out of people to kill!”

“Thanos was within our grasp,” Drax argues. “If not for your lack of self-control, I could have had my revenge! Who will answer for the deaths of my wife and daughter now?”

“We killed Ronan, like, four years ago!” Star-Lord counters. “I get that I fucked up, I do. But you’ve already avenged them. Killing what’s-his-name isn’t going to help you any.”

“Nobody is killing my brother,” Thor says, firmly. “I will protect his life at all costs. Are we clear?”

Drax scowls. He looks at the battle— Loki rains literal fire upon Strange, who deflects the inferno with an intricate shielding spell, gathering pure energy in his hands— and then back to Thor and Star-Lord. Drax nods, reluctantly.

“…I shall interrogate your brother and find a more suitable target.”

There’s a loud boom, dust clouds briefly obscuring all sight. Then the air clears, Loki condensing the dust into bolts of stone. Strange deflects the bolts, turning them back against Loki— one hits him in the heart, and he dissolves into a shower of gold sparks. The real Loki is nowhere to be seen for a moment, until he appears beside Strange, dagger aimed at his heart.

Strange gestures, and Loki vanishes. His cloak returns to his shoulders, now battered and dirty. Strange takes a moment to catch his breath, before glaring at Thor and the others.

“Thanks for the help.”

“You seemed to be doing pretty well,” Stark says.

“What happened to Loki? Did you put him in another bottomless pit?” Thor asks.

“No— well, kind of,” Strange says. “It’s complicated. He’s in a pocket dimension.”

Thor opens his mouth.

“You can have him back when we leave Titan,” Strange says.

“Good,” Thor replies. And then, because one can never be too polite around wizards: “thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” Strange replies. “Now— where were we?”

“Oh, yes,” Thor says. “The gauntlet. I’m wearing it.”

Chapter Text

There’s silence, for an odd moment. Then two. Even young Peter cannot seem to find anything to say.

Strange tilts his head to one side, eyes narrowed. Star-Lord’s helmet retracts, revealing a very worried expression. Perhaps they doubt his intentions. They do not know Thor very well— and though Thor is loathe to admit it, perhaps taking food from the Moron’s ship was slightly dishonourable. Just a teeny, tiny bit.

“…Right,” Stark says, that defeated look returning full-force once more. “Okay.”

“Oh, no…” Mantis whispers, black eyes brimming with tears.

“He has been driven mad!” Drax proclaims, pointing an accusing finger in Thor’s direction. “This is your fault, Quill!”

“How’d you figure that?!” Star-Lord says, indignantly.

“Everything usually is!”

“He’s right!” Mantis adds. “Except for when it’s Rocket’s fault. Or—“

“You can’t just pin this stuff on me like I’m some kind of… stuff-ruiner!” Star-Lord interrupts, indignant.

“I can and I will!” Drax bellows. “Was it not your fault Thanos got away at Knowhere?”

That seems to hit a nerve. Star-Lord stops, grits his teeth, and clenches his fists. When he speaks again, it is in the wobbly manner of one on the verge of weeping.

“Yeah,” he says. “I guess it was.”

Thor hesitates for a moment.

This is very odd behaviour, even for the Morons. And, for that matter, Strange and Stark. He should not have needed to point out that he was wearing the gauntlet at all. For that matter, nobody on Midgard seemed to care that he wore it at all, even though they had been shocked when he left with it in the first place.

Realisation strikes.

Loki.

Thor turns to Strange, whose eyes still upon him, narrowed in deep thought. One hand is gesturing at his side, golden lines forming patterns, twisting, then un-forming.

“I’m afraid I’ll need my brother back.”

“No can do,” Strange replies. “I’m not fighting him again. He’s exhausting.”

“I swear upon all the realms that I shall prevent my brother from causing you harm, by any means necessary.”

“Yeah, I don’t really buy that,” Strange replies. “What’s with the illusion spell, by the way?"

Illusion? Was that what Loki had done? Hidden the gauntlet from plain sight with magic?

“I don’t know,” Thor confesses. “But I fear it is part of my brother’s machinations. He’s always up to something.”

“Sounds about right,” Strange mutters.

A moment passes. Thor glances back at the Morons: they have huddled together, no longer arguing. Peter simply sits on a nearby rock, appearing unsure of what to do. Strange sighs, and speaks again.

“I can’t seem to break it.”

“I am not surprised,” Thor says. “My brother is considered a prodigy, even by Asgardian standards. If not for his scheming and his hot-headedness, he’d likely be one of the most powerful beings in the universe.”

“Right,” replies Strange, clearly unconvinced.

“Sorry to break up your party, but there’s a couple more pressing matters than how great your brother is,” Stark says. He still has that exhausted, saddened look upon his face. It does not suit him. “Number one: how are we getting home?”

“I have my sling ring, I can create a portal,” Strange says, at the exact moment Thor offers: “I have use of the Bifrost and the Space Stone.”

“Okay, glad we got that out of the way,” Stark says, unenthusiastically. “Number two: what are you doing here, Thor?”

Oh. Yes. In all the excitement with Loki’s sudden appearance, Thor had almost forgotten.

“I wanted to speak with Lady Gamora,” Thor says. Stark’s face somehow manages to fall even further. Even Strange looks grim. 

“Well, you can’t,” a new voice comes from behind Thor. He turns his head. A blue-skinned woman, snarling in anger. “She’s dead."