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A Glimmer in the Darkness

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Diana pulled out a chair next to Thor and sat down, placing the basin of warm water on the table.

He didn't look up.

In the absence of any acknowledgment that he was aware of her presence, she let her gaze travel across his body, taking stock of the myriad of scrapes and bruises that covered his bare torso, of the slash across his round belly, and the torn edges of claw marks that were etched into his shoulder.

It had been a surprise to find him passed out on his bed from too much drink and grief the week before. The last time she had crossed to his universe, he'd been on his way to Muspelheim to stop Ragnarok – a self-assured warrior in his prime, a little cocky, but warm-hearted and full of purpose.

It had grieved her to see him brought so low, but it wasn't until he'd told her– or rather slurred – the whole story of what had happened in her absence that she'd questioned whether or not asking him for help was a burden she should place on him.

But no sooner had she made her plea that Thor had lurched to his feet and agreed to accompany her. His almost pathetically grateful reaction to her offer to take him away from his own universe still lingered with her days later, wrapping around her chest like a vice and squeezing her heart.

He had thrown himself into battle, going where she pointed, fighting whatever monsters had thrown themselves into their path, and sleeping like the dead whenever they'd been able to grab a moment's rest.

However, now that the fighting was over, he'd slumped back into himself, his first action reaching for a bottle of wine, even though his wounds were still untended.

Diana picked up the washcloth from the bottom of the bowl and wrung it out. Warm water flowed over her hands.

Thor didn't make a move as she scooted closer and gently began to clean the claw marks on his shoulder. It wasn't until she applied an antiseptic that he flinched and looked up at her with bleary eyes.

"You don't have to do that," he said hoarsely.

She kept her tone light, excising the worry she felt from her voice. "Who else would do it then?"

"It's no matter. I heal quickly."

"Do you?"

His brow furrowed at her question, but he did not reply. Instead, his gaze flicked briefly to her lasso, which she'd draped across the backrest of her chair.

"Would you like to stay here for a while?"

Again, his eyes strayed to her lasso, but he didn't answer immediately. Instead, he took a swig from the neck of the wine bottle he had liberated from her cellar.

"Don't think it will make a difference."

"Then what do you want?"

A mirthless laugh was his only reply. She patched up his shoulder and gestured for him to lean back so she could tend to the cut on his stomach.

"You're injured, too," he exclaimed softly, and for the first time that evening, his eyes seemed to clear. Reaching out, he brushed his fingertips against the bruise on her collarbone.

She flinched a little. She knew the bone wasn't broken, but the skin stretching above it was purple and sensitive.

Thor gave her an apologetic look. Unexpectedly, he leaned forward and brushed a kiss on the unmarred skin above it. He did not withdraw afterward, but exhaled wearily and rested his forehead against her shoulder. He was careful not to touch her bruise. "I'm sorry."

"You have nothing to be sorry about."

Her hands still rested against the unfamiliar softness of his abdomen, and she caressed him for a moment, rubbing her thumb back and forth before she pushed her fingers into the hair at the back of his neck and held him to her.

A shudder went through his body. She could feel his trembling breath against her skin.

"Tell me what you want;" she asked again.

"I don't know," he mumbled. "Another bottle of wine. Sleep. A place to hide. Whichever is more convenient."

Her throat was too tight for words. She could feel his overwhelming grief wash over her, a dark shadow that dimmed the light in her kitchen to flickering twilight.

She reached behind her and picked up her lasso.

Thor's head came up. His eyes fixed on the shining, golden cord. Though his face remained blank, there was a hungry look in his eyes that did not escape her notice.

"Do you need this?" she asked.

He didn't answer. He appeared transfixed.

Diana reached out and took the bottle from his unresisting fingers.

"Do you want this?" she asked again.

Swallowing hard, he nodded.

Diana stood and offered him her hand. "Then come."

She led him to her bed and bade him stretch out on his back. Winding her lasso around his wrists and ankles, she watched as a steady calm seeped into him, relaxing his muscles one by one, draining the tension from his body the way no amount of rest had done before.

"I am going to bandage the wound on your stomach. You will not move until I'm done."

"I won't," he promised. His gaze remained riveted on the restraints around his wrist instead of her.

Diana breathed in deeply. He needs this, she reminded herself. And she could give him what he needed.

She worked in silence, tending to the large wound on his stomach before she turned her attention to his minor injuries. When she was done, she sat beside him and stroked his brow.

"Tell me what you want," she said, making it an order instead of a question this time.

The lasso glowed, and Thor's face turned into a grimace. He struggled against the magic in the cord, tried to dominate it, tried to deny her and himself.

"A mission," he finally ground out. "A purpose. I want to be needed."

"What else?"

"My family. Loki. My people. My friends. Heimdall. I want them back. I need them back. They were taken from me and it's not fair. It's not fair," he shouted, his voice rising. His face had turned red, and his fists clenched around empty air.

Diana settled herself against his side and waited until he'd calmed down.

"What about the people who survived?"

His voice hitched. "There are so few of them."

"All the more reason that they need their king."

Tears collecting in the corner of his eyes, Thor turned away from her. "Look at me," he whispered, his voice rough. "I'm not fit to be anyone's king."

"Not if you let your grief consume you and crowd out the grief of your people."

Thor blinked up at her.

Diana placed her hand across his heart, a consoling gesture to take away the sting of her words. "Did you expect me to pity you? To indulge and comfort you without reservation? You chose to lead your people. They are grieving as you are. They are angry and lost and hurting just as much as you are, but your grief, your anger, and your loss are not more important than theirs. You are their king. They look to you for guidance. Instead, you abandoned them."

Thor stared at her for a long moment, and though she didn't let any of the emotions that roiled through her show on her face, she wondered if she was doing the right thing. Could harshness make him crawl out of the darkness when liquor and friendship had not? But she had seen the way he had thrown himself into battle, had seen the anger that simmered below the hopelessness. If her words could rouse him, could fan that spark into a flame...

He had a good heart. This, she had always known about him. She had faith that he would channel that anger into rebuilding rather than destroying.

The silence stretched between them until Diana hardly dared to breathe. She could see the conflict inside him, see the war raging between the parts of him that wanted to give in and those that wanted to get up.

Darkness had fallen outside her window before he relaxed beside her. He blinked.

"Will you help me? I'm not sure I can do this alone."

Diana smiled. Rolling over, she draped herself across his side and pressed a tender kiss to his mouth. "Of course, I will."

Thor briefly closed his eyes to hide the emotions shining inside them, but Diana had seen the spark inside his soul. She smiled and let her fingers wander across his chest.

After a moment, Thor tugged tentatively at his restraints. "Ah, are going to untie me?"

"Would you like me to?"

"Ye-- ngh." Her lasso glowed. Thor sighed. "No, not really."

Diana's smile turned wicked. "Good."