Aporia (noun): doubt, an internal contradiction
It took Jane an embarrassingly long time to figure out that this wasn’t working. She could have worked it out much earlier if she hadn’t wanted this relationship so badly, been willfully blind to the problems. But they piled up one on top of the other until she was unable to ignore them.
She never saw Thor anymore. It wasn’t his fault, she understood that he was busy with saving Asgard and doing things of cosmic importance, but it didn’t change that the last time she spent more than twenty four hours with her boyfriend it was because aliens were attacking earth and using parasitic mist in her blood to destroy everything.
Even when they did spend time together it was awkward beyond belief. They had almost nothing in common, and talking about the weather wasn’t really an option with a guy who could control it. Their lives were just so radically different, and even Thor tried to be understanding and encouraging his eyes would still glaze over sometimes when she talked about her research, although she was certain that she did the same when he tried to tell her about his latest quest. Jane always ended up feeling like she wasn’t doing anything important next to him, since there was a sizable difference between battling grant boards and interstellar warlords.
It wasn’t Thor’s fault, and it wasn’t her fault either. They came from two different worlds, were two entirely different species. Thor had responsibilities and a life that Jane couldn’t be a part of, and it wasn’t fair to him to keep him washing dishes in her kitchen when he could be stopping a gang of pirates in some distant galaxy. Being a superhero’s girlfriend was a full time job, and it wasn’t for her.
Jane realized this while still in her pyjamas, a blanket draped over her shoulders and her coffee in her hand, staring at the sticky note Thor left her on the fridge. Emergency in Asgard, I’ll be back later.
He used to sign his name with a little heart, Jane thought distantly, and then her eyes began to sting. Because she loved Thor, she loved the way his smile brightened her day and the way his eyes shone when he laughed, she loved the way he took the time to make her coffee in the morning and never failed to help her change a tire on the van even when he had better things to do with his time.
She had no doubt that Thor loved her too, but once she looked at it realistically she knew that this relationship was going nowhere. Thor’s father had made it very clear that he didn’t approve of them, and while Jane was tempted to keep dating Thor out of pure spite she didn’t want to get Thor hurt, didn’t want that to be all that kept them together.
Her vision blurred as she stared at the sticky note and wondered how she was going to break it to him. When she was going to break it to him, because she knew an “emergency in Asgard” could take a few hours or a few weeks, and she wanted to put off this conversation for as long as possible but knew that her conviction would wane with time and didn’t want to lose her nerve.
And that was how Darcy found her, standing in the kitchen with tears sliding down her cheeks and a cold cup of coffee clutched in one hand, Thor’s note held in the other so tightly that the paper was crumpling. She didn’t ask any questions, just took her by the shoulders and guided her to the couch, replacing her coffee with a fresh cup and throwing out the note. The two of them watched The Princess Bride and Darcy made popcorn and talked on and on about nothing of importance, and just for a little bit longer Jane was able to pretend that everything was okay.
I’m not ready, was the first thing that crossed Jane’s mind when Thor came back, the rainbow colours of the Bifrost fading away as her boyfriend turned to her with a smile.
“Jane!” Thor said, holding out his arms, and although he was probably expecting a kiss Jane gave him a hug instead.
“Hey,” she said, stepping back and brushing her hair behind her ear, feeling for all the world like she was a teenager again. “Um, how was your trip?”
“Victory was accomplished,” Thor said with a huge smile. “After a mighty battle with the denizens of Niflheim I… er, I found what I was looking for,” Thor said. “Another hint that may point me towards an infinity stone.”
“That’s good,” Jane said, not missing the way he seemed to… almost diminish, stopping himself from explaining every gory detail and cutting it down to the most simplistic version. She’d done it enough times when explaining some new celestial anomaly that she knew how terrible it felt, trying to omit everything but the most necessary details because you knew you’d bore the other person. This isn’t fair to him, Jane thought, and right on it’s heels it’s not fair to me either. Thor was interested in her talking about her work but only as a way to hear her voice, giving her a condescending smile as she talked about a new theory and then informing her that in Asgard toddlers knew the theory for a fact. They came from two different worlds and when it came down to it they didn’t have enough in common.
“Thor,” Jane said after a few moments of awkward silence, “I wanted to talk to you about… us.”
“Us?” Thor said, and Jane nodded, taking a deep breath.
“I think… we should break up,” she said, and just saying it felt a little like ripping off a bandaid. The wound was exposed for all to see but it was a relief to have it over with, the words finally out in the open after festering inside her mind for weeks.
“Break up?” Thor repeated, and Jane looked down at her hands, her fingers twisting together anxiously.
“Yes,” she said. “I… I don’t think this is working. It’s not your fault,” she said quickly. “I just… don’t think we’re going anywhere.”
“Where do we need to go?” Thor asked, and Jane shrugged.
“I’m not sure,” she said. “Marriage, I guess. A family. Kids. Or at least a dog.”
“Jane, do you want to marry me?” Thor asked, and Jane could feel her throat closing up from tears she was certain she’d run out of.
“I… I don’t… no,” she said finally, miserably, hugging herself and unable to look up at Thor. “You’re… you’re going to be king, Thor, and you’re Asgardian and you’ll live so much longer than I will, and if we’re being honest this was never going to work.”
“That doesn’t matter to me,” Thor started to say, and Jane looked up at him and her heart gave a painful throb at the sight of his expression, lost and confused and hurt. “None of that-”
“It matters to me, ” Jane said. “I won’t… do you know how much longer you’ll live? How much longer you have already lived? I don’t want to make you lose me like that. And Asgard is an entirely different place, with a different culture and different standards and it isn’t fair, to either of us, to continue this. To continue pretending that I could rule there, or that you would give up your throne for me.”
“What if I wanted to?” Thor asked, and Jane shook her head.
“You shouldn’t. You’ll be a great king, Thor.”
“I don’t want to be king,” Thor said, looking down at his hammer and frowning. “Meeting you, all of this… it’s made me realise I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to be king.”
“Usually the best rulers are those who never wanted the power,” Jane said. “You’re kind, Thor. You care about your people. And they care about you.” She remembered how the Warriors Three had looked up to Thor, how the palace guards had bowed to him with admiration in their gazes. “You can’t give up an eternity with them for a century with me.”
Thor said nothing, and Jane looked away. “I’m sorry,” she said, hugging herself against the sudden chill she felt. Sure enough it began to rain, fat drops of water beginning to shower the ground around them.
“I see,” Thor said, and without a word he turned away and Jane staggered back at the force of the Bifrost hitting the ground next to her. In a moment Thor was gone and she was suddenly drenched.
“I’m guessing it didn’t go too well,” Darcy called, jogging up to her holding an umbrella. Jane shook her head wordlessly and stepped under the umbrella’s cover, already beginning to shiver. “It’s okay, we needed the water anyways.”
Darcy leads her back inside and Jane doesn’t say a word.
When Jane wakes up the next morning she has a headache and her eyes are gritty, and she at first wonders if it’s a hangover. But when she rolls over and turns on the lamp next to her bed no tiny daggers stab behind her eyes no she assumes it’s just from crying.
Then she remembers why she was crying and her day is suddenly much worse.
“Jane? You up?” a voice calls, knocking on her trailer door, and Jane forces herself to stand, throw on a housecoat, and stumbles to the door only to find Erik standing in her doorway.
“Erik?” she said, squinting confusedly at him. “What are you doing here?”
“Darcy called,” Erik said. “How are you feeling?”
“Like I just got out of bed,” she said. “Is there a reason I shouldn’t just go back?”
“Mail came early,” Erik said hopefully, holding up two envelopes.
“Erik, we live in a county,” Jane said. “You have to go pick up the mail.” Erik nodded. “Wait, you didn’t drive, did you?” Jane asked, her eyes widening in horror. Erik had his licence revoked after the infamous whipped cream incident, which would have made the paper if Darcy hadn’t made Ian break into the newspaper office and delete the drafts. Bailing the two of them out of jail had been enough of a headache that she’d sworn next time they got themselves arrested they were on their own.
“Nope,” Darcy said, walking around Erik and snatching the mail out of his hand. “I drove.”
“And is the car okay?” Jane asked, and Darcy scoffed, looking through the envelopes.
“Ye of little faith,” she said.
“That wasn’t an answer,” Jane said, and Darcy shrugged.
“Don’t worry about it, Ian said he took auto mechanics in high school.”
“First, that is very worrisome, and second, give me my mail,” Jane said, holding out her hand, and Darcy waved her away.
“In a moment,” she said. “Geez, most of these are flyers. How did you expect to cheer her up with junk mail?” Erik began to protest but Darcy cut him off. “Ah, here’s a good one! But this one first,” she said, pulling a note out of her pocket. Jane couldn’t help but notice it looked slightly crumpled.
“Did you read it?” Jane asked, grabbing it, and Darcy nodded.
“Yeah, it’s my duty to go through all correspondence from your ex,” she said. Jane almost dropped the note.
“It’s from Thor?”
“Read it!” Darcy said, and Jane quickly held it up. It was the standard sort of note she’d expect him to write, his letters spiky and angular and taking up far more of the page than necessary.
“Dear Lady Jane,” he’d started, “I’d like to apologise for my abrupt departure. I was informed by the Lady Darcy that I was not permitted to see you so I hope this note will be enough to convey my contrition over my actions. I regret leaving you in such a manner, and I regret not offering you comfort.
“Given time to reflect on your words I have finally concluded that in the manner of our relationship, as in so many other things, you are correct. Continuing to court you would be dishonest as to my intentions and I would not dishonor you by continuing to pursue a romantic relationship when it is clear that is not what either of us desire nor require.
“Lady Darcy also tells me that on your realm it is not unusual for a male and a female who were formerly courting to remain comrades in arms after the dissolution of said courtship, provided “he didn’t screw things up”. I must confess I do not understand what Lady Darcy meant by this but pray that I have not, as was said, screwed things upwards. I would be honored to be able to call you a comrade no matter what lies in my future, as the loss of you would be something I would gravely mourn.
“You are a remarkable woman, Lady Jane Foster, and regardless of your wishes I extend to you my hopes that your future be bright and laden with many victories.
“All the best,
“Thor Odinson, Prince of Asgard, Wielder of Mjolnir, and Sworn Guardian and Protector of the Nine Realms.”
Thor’s titles were long enough that they ran onto the back of the note, and Jane flipped it over to read them all.
“Not bad, right?” Darcy said. “So no hard feelings on either end. Pretty good, considering this is an ex who could literally level half the planet if you really pissed him off.”
“Oh my gosh, I didn’t even think of that,” Jane said, her stomach dropping, and Erik reached out and grabbed her hand.
“Don’t worry,” he told her. “What’s done is done, and I must tell you that I’m very proud of how maturely you handled the situation.”
“Thanks,” Jane said. “But I still think I’ve earned the right to a week of moping.”
“Au contraire! You’ve still got one more letter,” Darcy said, waving it in the air. This letter was embossed with a Stark logo on the front. Jane grabbed it and carefully opened it, pulling out the letter and finding the official Stark industries logo emblazoned on top.
“What does it say?” Darcy asked, trying to grab the letter back. Jane held it out of her reach and smacked her hand away.
“Something about a grant approval” Jane said. “But I didn’t apply for a grant from Stark Industries.”
“Oh yeah,” Darcy said, and Jane turned on her, eyebrows raised.
“ You applied?” Jane said, and Darcy nodded.
“Well, there should be some benefits to saving the world,” she said. “Plus, I think they still feel guilty about Erik.”
“Hey,” Erik said with a frown, and Darcy waved him off.
“So how much is it?” she asked, and Darcy pointed at the letter.
“Should say in there.” Jane looked at the letter again and her eyes nearly bugged out.
“Maybe they missed a decimal point,” she said weakly, staring at it. She didn’t even know how to spend that much money.
“Does that mean we can finally get a new van?” Darcy asked, and Jane decided that it would be very unwise to mention to Darcy that they could probably afford their own private jet with this amount.
“When did you apply for this?” she asked, and Darcy shrugged and failed to look innocent.
“Maybe a week ago,” she said, and Jane shot her a look.
“You mean, about the time I mentioned I’d be breaking up with Thor,” she said. Jane almost winced at those words, the wound still too raw but bearable. “Are you trying to distract me with science?”
“Is it working?” Darcy said, and Jane rolled her eyes.
“You’re the worst,” she said, pulling Darcy into a hug. Erik hugged both of them and they stayed there for a moment, the three of them holding each other.
“We’ll be here,” Erik said, and Jane nodded and pulled back.
“Thanks,” she said. “I’ll go get dressed, and then we can go for pancakes. Celebration meal, my treat.”
Darcy grinned and pulled Erik away, whispering to him something about the van, and Jane rolled her eyes as she watched them go. She put the Stark letter on her counter, and after a moment of thought put the Thor letter next to it before going to get changed.
The next few days would be hard, but despite knowing that Jane couldn’t help but feel a bit hopeful.