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Stay Loyal to the People You Hold Dear

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***
Dwelling on your mortality won’t change the inevitable. Live for each day and appreciate the time you’re given.

Thor breathed in scorched metal and dirt, climbed and leaped over fresh craters. Blood pounded in his eardrums as he destroyed his enemies.

It should taste sweet; it should feel glorious -- it should have filled the hole inside him.

But it didn’t. Wouldn’t. And the emptiness that had consumed him, made him drink the days away, drove him onward. Over bodies and into the very air exploding all round him.

Everything, everyone was just an obstacle between him and Thanos. He’d remove his skull from his shoulders and shove it on a spike for all to see. Like he should have all those days and weeks and years ago.

As the bodies piled up and the ground filled with the battle cries of his friends, Thor swung Stormbreaker until all he could see and breathe was ash.

Ash.

Again.

“You should have gone for the head.”

Running, wielding the power of a star, Thor brought Stormbreaker down to bear—only to watch Thanos disintegrate before his eyes.

“No!” Boots skidding to a stop, Thor watched as the remains of his enemy drifted up into the air.

The emptiness inside grew larger. Shaking, Thor searched for the next fight, listening for the signs of struggle and only hearing the soft sounds of sobbing. Of pain and horrible grief.

His chest squeezed against his lungs.

“Mr. Stark, we won, we won Mr. Stark,” Spider-boy cried.

The War Machine helped pull the boy away and Mrs. Stark told her husband it was time to rest now.

Even Captain Rogers stood by and did nothing.

Kneeling beside Stark, Thor watched as his friend’s eyes slid shut, his breath stilling.

No. Not this time.

“Why aren’t we doing anything?” Thor whirled on Rogers. “Get medical.”

“Thor,” War Machine whispered. “He’s gone.”

“No, he’s right here!” Thor glared at Captain Rogers. “Where is the Wizard?”

“Behind you.”

“Cast a spell,” Thor demanded.

“I can’t heal him.”

“Then stop his soul from leaving his body.”

“I can’t do that either.”

“I grew up with the God of Mischief,” Thor growled. “I know when someone is deceitful.”

The Wizard narrowed his eyes. “This is the only possible outcome, this is--”

“King of Wakanda!” Thor shouted. He did not have time for philosophy. “Your Lord, please heed my call.”

The King of Wakanda and his Warriors appeared alongside him.

“Your land has healing machines,” Thor said.

The King looked over at Stark. “We do, but I don’t think even our technology can—”

“We are wasting time. We have a Wizard and we have the best knowledge and we have…,” Thor glanced at Banner. “We have The Hulk.”

“Could you do it?” Banner asked the Wizard. “Can you…?”

“This isn’t how this timeline plays out, this isn’t ---“

“We just committed a Time-Heist,” Rogers interrupted. “If there are a million other ways this goes down, one more won’t hurt.”

Doubt flickered across the Wizard’s face.

“Failure is better than not trying at all.” Thor locked eye with Rogers then Banner. “Stark is our Kinsman. Kinsmen to kinsmen should be true.”

“Tony has the Extremis armor,” Banner said. “The nano tech was advanced enough to create the gauntlet in the first place, not to mention going again Thanos toe-to-toe.”

There was too much talk of doubt when moments were slipping away like grains of sand.

“We are wasting time. Are we not brothers and sisters? Are we not the Avengers?” Thor stared at the Wizard.

“I’m not an Aven—“

“Yeah, you are,” Rogers growled. “Now get to work.”

The Wizard bowed his head. Standing over Stark, he began an incantation.

Pepper held onto the Spider-boy’s shoulders as War Machine held onto to hers.

“Fear not death for the hour of your doom is set and none may escape it.”

His father was wise and knowing, but he was also wrong sometimes. Thor had watched people die and he had also watched them to return to fight in the field of battle. Fate was a thread that could be cut and weaved into other patterns.

***

Better to fight and fall than to live without hope.

Thor excelled at war. He’d fought for his father and in the name of his home for his entire life. He was skilled in combat and occasionally words. School was not his favorite thing growing up, but some of its teachings had been a source of comfort late.

He didn’t know much about technology and medicine, but Thor knew about loss.

Helping the Warriors of Wakanda occupied his hands and mind during the day. Sitting with his friend at his sick bed gave him a sense of duty at night.

“You know he has not woken up yet?” One of the healers asked.

“Yes, I know.”

“And yet every night you sit there for hours.”

Did she not understand about the soul?

“Even in the sheath the sword must be sharp – so, too, must the mind and the spirit be within the body.”

The healer left and Thor went back to sitting, to keeping watch.

“I didn’t know you and Tony were that close?”

“Captain,” Thor greeted.

Rogers walked into the healing room. “You know this is the sixth day in a row you’ve kept vigil.”

“Night. During the day I train with the Warriors.”

“Don’t you sleep?”

“I did a lot of that the last five years.”

Moving toward the bed, Rogers stared at the miracle machines and the screens, at the bandages and sheets covering Stark’s body. “They said he’s doing well physically. Given everything.”

Stark’s chest still rose and fell and that was all that mattered. Thor nodded in confidence. “His will is strong.”

“That’s what I’m counting on.”

“Do you doubt it?”

“The best technology can repair the body, even enhance it.” Rogers glanced at Thor. “But it can only do so much for the spirit.”

“The stones held great power. It will take time.”

“He’s in a coma. Do you know what that means?”

“It means that Stark is not in Valhalla and we must tend to him as he resides with us here.”

***

The great land of Wakanda did not have beer or mead. They did keep wine for special occasions; Thor’s desire for it was a constant fight.

Sparring with the Warriors was a good workout and he spoke with Banner and Rogers regarding the Earth and how it coped with all her returning citizens.

Banner’s snap did not return the people of Asgard; it only brought back those who were taken away the first time Thanos had used the gauntlet.

Occasionally, he thought he heard his brother’s laughter in the hallways. When the darkness threatened to engulf him, Thor thought back to those precious minutes with his mother. A gift from the time stone.

“Tough times are going to happen, but there’s a light at the end of every tunnel,” she would tell him when he was upset as a boy.

It was late, the sun had set hours ago, but Thor went toward Stark’s room for his nightly duty.

***

“You won’t believe how much school I have left, Mr. Stark. I mean, at least everyone else I know went away when I did. Which kind sucks for their families, but it doesn’t make me feel so alone.”

Thor played with the new phone Banner had given him. The Pac-Man 2000 game was thrilling.

When the kid sat in silence for a long time, Thor stood and clapped him on the back. “You should keep talking to him Spider-boy. He hears you.”

“It’s um, Peter. Peter Parker, Mr. Thor.”

“Yes, of course.”

“You know, it’s been like, two weeks and he still hasn’t woken up. My Aunt May told me that I should prepare myself for—“

“We do not abandon our brothers.” Thor took a shaky breath, pressing a hand to his chest as it constricted. “It is our duty to stand guard when they cannot.”

”Of course. It’s just, well…I don’t know what to do. Mrs. Stark brought Morgan and he didn’t respond to her voice either. And I don’t know what to do. I mean, I tried looking up shock and comas and there just isn’t anything about being overwhelmed by an inter-galactic force that can ---“

“Breathe.” Thor commanded as a vice squeezed his lungs.

“I am breathing, Mr. Thor. What about you? Are you breathing?” The boy reached over and touched his arm. “Are you feeling all right?”

“Of course. I am fine.” Thor grinned to prove it. “Healthy as a dragon.”

When Peter, Peter Parker left the room, Thor wondered about one of those wine bottles.

***

Not every cloud which darkens the day brings rain.

The Wizard walked into Stark’s room one night and watched him. Thor had learned he went by Dr. Strange. A very peculiar name, but Thor did not judge.

“Do you know where he is?” Thor asked. Because while Stark was ill, his spirit did not reside in this room.

“Yes, but it’s far away,” Strange answered. “He’s…hiding.”

Anger flared inside Thor’s chest. “Are you talking to him?”

“He’s in a place where he can’t hear me.”

“Then maybe you should use more powerful magic.”

***

Thor woke up in the chair beside Stark’s bed, gasping for breath as images of Asgard in flames disappeared.

Wiping at his eyes, he sat up straighter and watched the squiggling lines of one of the machines above Stark’s head. The line did not move much.

“It’s time to wake up, Tony.” Maybe if he used Stark’s first name, he would know Thor was serious. “You have slept long enough.”

But Stark didn’t respond. The healers had to come in every day and move him so he would not become too weak. His beard was longer now and needed a trim. Thor brushed his hand over his own thick scruff.

“What is it that you want? What do you need?”

Thor stood over the bed now, placed a hand on Stark’s arm; the skin was cold. He snatched his fingers away. “You are being very stubborn.”

This time, Thor took Tony’s hand. Nothing.

“Asgard it’s not a place, it’s a people.”

Thor missed his father every day.

 

***

Thor handed everyone a stone. Rogers, Mrs. Stark, Peter, War Machine, Banner, The King, everyone still living who had helped kill Thanos, who worked to help their friend.

Rogers held up one of the stones. “What are these?”

“Rune stones,” Thor said. “My Father hung himself from a branch of Yggdrasil and pierced himself with his spear in order to gain the knowledge how to use them.”

“These stones?” Banner asked. “Really?”

“Well, no. I took these from a museum, but they still have the right markings. “

“What do they do?” Peter asked.

“They hold the knowledge about the thread separating us from life and death.”

“Thor…,” Pepper looked away. “Please….”

“Tony is caught between two realms; it is up to use to guide him home,” Thor explained.

“How?” Rogers asked.

“By asking him to return…. By telling him that we are here. Waiting.”

Rogers glanced down at the rune in his hands, but it was Peter who spoke first. Squeezing his eyes tight, he spoke in a stuttering rush. “Mr. Stark, please Mr. Stark, I need you, I mean, I want you to come back. There’s so much to tell you, so much…please, sir, please. I’m so sorry, I….”

Each person added this voice one after the other. “Tony,” Rogers began. “We need you here. I know you’re tired, I know what it feels like to carry so much weight, but it’s okay now….”

“You should see the world right now, Tony,” Banner said in awe. “There’s so much…work to be done. But so much goodness, too….”

“I love you.” Pepper took Stark’s good hand and rubbed her thumb over the knuckles. “I miss you. Morgan misses her father. Please, Tony, please come home….”

Thor watched and listened and held his rune. He listened to words of love and need, of desperation, of regret and guilt…and….

Looking up, he watched Strange stand in the back of the room with his head bowed.

Thor listened to those around him; a deep throbbing ache took over when it was finally his time to speak. Rubbing his thumb against the inscription, he spoke to his friend. “Tony, I know what it’s like to be asked to lead over and over and over again and to feel…lost.” Sucking in a breath, Thor squeezed the rune. “The Wizard told me that you’re scared, that you’re hiding. Everyone here knows that the great Tony Stark doesn’t hide, but sometimes that’s okay.”

Warmth spread into his palm and into his skin, but Thor continued holding it. “I know what it’s like to be scared…I know what it feels like to overwhelmed. If you come back…maybe, we can be scared together. And if we’re scared together, tired together, maybe we can help each walk again….”

Moisture filled Thor’s eyes. He wiped at the wetness on his face, looked at the sad expressions of those in the room, at the stillness of the man on the bed.

As silence stretched onward without Tony waking up, one by one, people left the room. Pepper kissed Tony’s cheek, Rogers squeezed his wrist, and Peter hung his head low as he walked out.

Banner laid a giant had on Thor’s shoulder. “If you ever want to talk….”

But Thor watched as Strange opened his eyes and looked up at Thor. “Who would have thought…one in five hundred-billion?”

Confused, Thor opened his mouth to inquire further when he heard a whisper behind him.

“Hey, Point Break…do me a solid…and bring everyone back to sing my accolades….”

***

After another day of training, this time with magical spears, Thor walked down familiar halls and went toward the room he’d spent the last twenty nights in a row.

He saw Peter jog out in a hurry, his face beaming in happiness. “Hey, Mr. Thor,” he waved. “I’ve got to do my homework. I have to go back to New York this weekend and Mr. Stark said he’d help me with these new calculations, so I don’t get too far behind during the summer.”

Entering inside, Thor nodded at Pepper who shook a drink box and poured the consents into a glass. “Tony, you can’t eat real food yet. Please, just take your time.”

“You’re making me drink baby food, do you see this?” Tony pointed at the glass. “It’s grey. Who drinks grey gook?”

Rolling her eyes, Pepper patted Thor on the arm. “He’s all yours; I’ve got a conference call with the West Coast. Make sure he drinks his dinner.”

“Of course,” Thor promised.

“If someone had told me about my cool new arm, I might have woken up earlier.”

Thor grinned at Tony rotated his metallic wrist and wiggled shiny fingers. “It is a very strong arm. Banner said stronger than even Mr. Barnes.”

“Yes, well, mine is made with Marc 85 tech. Very sophisticated, although I don’t recognize some of the modifications, must be Wakandian in design. I’ll figure it out.”

“I’m sure you will.” Thor took the same chair he had all month and pulled out the phone with Pac Man.

“So, I heard you’ve been like guard dog watching me as I sleep, singing me lullabies, holding séances. It’s kind of creepy if you ask me.”

“You needed guidance between the realms.”

Tony paused in thought, his face with a faraway look before he set his sights on his drink. Metal fingers wrapped around the glass before shattering it into pieces. “Damn it. This thing definitely needs some nuances.”

Thor began picking up the shards.

“Hey, buddy, you don’t have to do that. I’m sure there are maids or staff or….”

But there were too many pieces and Thor stared at the floor in confusion. His chest began aching.

“Thor?”

“Yes, Tony.”

“Thanks for the séance. Pepper says I need to voice my emotions more, says it encourage healing and all that mumbo-jumbo.”

Standing, Thor looked at Tony, at the heavy beard across his face, at hair still growing back on one side of his head. “You are welcome.”

But the hollowness was still there despite this victory.

Undaunted, he needed to clear-up the glass before anyone stepped on it, he needed a broom. Thor reached for the door handle.

“Anything can be told to a friend,” Tony called out.

Thor froze and turned his head toward Tony. He walked back toward the bed. “Where did you hear that phrase from?”

“Probably a fortune cookie, but I think they stole it from the Vikings, your people, right?”

“My people.”

“I might not wield an ax or drink mead, or have long flowing hair, but I think, well, I hope…I’m one of your people? And the Avengers, too, even everyone here in this lovely land.” Tony wet his lips his voice quiet. “We’re your people, buddy. If you let us.”

A spike of melancholy went through his heart and Thor released a stuttering breath. “Of course.”

“And, if you don’t mind me suggesting,” a voice said behind him. ”I run this group back in New York. I think it was helpful. You can talk about anything.”

Rogers stood off to the side, his hands stuffed into his pockets. “I invited Tony to come, too. It doesn’t have to be run by me, there’s plenty of people who need someone to listen to them and who are willing to listen in return.”

What would his father say?

Thor held his head high. “I think it wise for a man to seek counsel from his kinsmen.”

Rogers started picking up the glass shards off the floor. “Sounds like a yes to me.”

Thor bent down and grabbed the largest pieces. Rogers found an empty water pitcher and the two of them disposed of the remains of the glass.

“Then we are all in agreement,” Thor announced, brushing his hands clean.

“Can we also agree about getting me a cheeseburger with fries, because grey gook? Is not going to make me heal faster.” Thor stared at Tony. “What? Is that a no on the burger?”

Looking away, Tony played with the strings to his gown, one side of his neck and face was still a bright pink. “Are we talking about the last five years? Pre-snap, post-snap, or the time before that, or are we talking about childhood and beyond? In Steve’s case that’s a lot of time….”

Thor rested a hand on Tony’s good one; it felt warm and pulsing with life. A lump formed in the back of throat, his voice cracking with unshed emotion. “I don’t care where we start.”

Tony squeezed Thor’s hand. “Yeah, I know what you mean, big guy.”

Another hand rested on the back of Thor’s shoulder; Roger’s voice was thick. “Kinsmen to kinsmen should be true.”

Releasing a heavy sigh, Thor swallowed, the slightest weight releasing from his shoulders. “Yes, we should.”

***
Fini-
All quotes are from Norse mythology.
I’ve never written anything in the Marvel fandom except Daredevil, I hope I did this justice.