Chapter 1: Midgard
It wasn't as if this hadn't been a long time coming. That being said, Jane wasn't sure that she would have agreed if she had been able to anticipate all the kerfuffle and complications that went with it. She was beginning to wish that when Thor had asked her to marry him she had suggested that they elope together. She wasn't sure whether princes were supposed to elope. It was probably discouraged, but that didn't change the fact that it would have been much simpler... although they would still have had all the diplomatic negotiating to do when they got back.
She still wasn't sure whether interplanetary diplomacy was better or worse than international. She was no expert, she had never had much of a head for politics. It was all a lot more nebulous than the hard data she much preferred, and it distracted from important things like the fundamentals of the universe. People were complicated and manipulative and there was always give and take and trying to make sure you got the best for your country or your planet or your lab or whatever. There were office politics in university departments too, but if you made good contributions to your field then you could stay out of it to a certain extent because most of the funding would be external and then the applications for university funding became much less pressured.
That being said, Asgard and Midgard didn't have that much of a history (at least as much as Earth was concerned), meaning that they didn't have as much baggage. They may have been less techologically advanced than Asgard, but that didn't really matter so much when Asgard was still trying to make some amends for Loki's crimes.
Jane didn't think about that too much, but when she did she was sort of glad that they were stepping up and taking responsibility, claiming his crimes as their own when he would have been easy to write off as a lone mad terrorist. He was a lone, mad, terrorist, but whatever her feelings on the subject, long hours of discussion with Thor about his brother meant that Asgard's decision to step up and claim him, no matter what he had done, struck a chord.
It was a lot of pressure for someone who had no real background in royalty, in negotiation, in... everything that was beginning to come to light, suddenly having the potential fate of seven billion people on her shoulders. That was more or less what this was. She was like a princess in the olden days, being married off to secure an alliance and a treaty with another state. At least it wasn't as a prize of war, and she and Thor were definitely a love match. Jane was glad about that, although also fairly certain that if it hadn't been a love match, she wouldn't even have made the long list of candidates for betrothal to the crown prince of Asgard.
Through it all she was becoming more and more grateful for the people she had around her. Darcy somehow seemed to thrive off this, and Jane really had no idea how. The girl was a college student who was addicted to her ipod and crappy romance novels - which might actually have contributed to how well she was coping with the whole surreal situation - but she had also proven to have an organisational streak to rival Pepper's, which had taken a lot of the stress off Jane.
Jane made a mental note to get her something really special afterwards, when they got back from the honeymoon.
She had protested several times, pointing out that Darcy really didn't need to be doing all of this, while all the while being immensely grateful that she was allowed to concentrate on analysing the latest data they'd managed to collect. She'd always found it more comforting to hide in numbers.
Darcy's response had been to shrug and point out that she was a poor college student and so this was damn well counting as their wedding present whether Jane liked it or not and so she might as well accept it.
After that argument, Jane had been all too happy to back down, and besides, Darcy seemed to have an innate ability to corral Thor, which was also no mean feat.
It had been Darcy who had called up Pepper and got the name of Tony's tailor, made an appointment, and arranged for Clint to take Thor down there, bribing them both with multiple boxes of poptarts she'd bought at Costco. It had been Darcy who had taken Jane's measurements and gone to speak to the bridal boutiques in town... and then rejected them out of hand and gone back to using Pepper's contacts.
In her words, "You might not care what you look like, but you are representing our entire planet, our entire race of people, and while your betrothed might think you're the most beautiful woman in the history of the whole nine realms while wearing a potato sack, you are going to make a good impression, and you are damn well going to look like a princess. It's for one day only, and besides, if you let me do the leg work then I promise that you will have a dress which doesn't look like a meringue, which you can sit and stand and breathe in comfortably, and which makes you look even more bombshell than you already are. All you have to do is actually turn up when I make you a fitting appointment. Do we have a deal?"
They had a deal.
Jane had never before appreciated how helpful it could be to have a no-nonsense friend on your side when dealing with the amount of bullshit which seemed to accompany most major occasions, due to societal expectation as well as everything else. Luckily, Darcy didn't buy into the wedding-industrial complex a huge amount, so there was still a very down-to-earth and practical plan in place. She may have been a political science major, but there had been points on her resume which had left Jane feeling confident enough to hire her (aside from the fact that she had been the only candidate) and she was seeing those skills come to the fore now.
She had the strangest feeling that SHIELD was watching too, and that her assistant might be about to be stolen away after the wedding in much the same way Coulson had stolen all her equipment when this had first begun several years before. Of course, Darcy's management skills would probably be invaluable as far as SHIELD was concerned, and Jane had been considering moving to New York anyway.
It was true that the potential for observation and data acquisition was much less, but Tony had offered her a research position where he was planning to expand into space missions and satellites, and there was room in that research budget for long term field trips every now and then. She had the feeling that, with Thor's affinity for New Mexico, they were going to end up more or less splitting their time equally between the two places, and that was fine with her. It was quite a nice idea, actually. Peace and quiet and science on one hand... and friendship and whatever dysfunctional family she had somehow ended up joining on the other.
Marrying Thor was a strange experience for a number of reasons, not least the fact that she was effectively joining two families at once. Thor was a member of Asgard's royal family. He had parents, he had a brother, he had a place in society there and the kinds of family legends which always end up coming out when everyone's had too much to drink, although in his family those legends tended to involve more edged weapons than most of the Midgardian ones. On the other hand, he was also an Avenger, and - more through necessity than anything else - the six of them had ended up forming something that they tended to think of as a family too, not least because, other than Thor and possibly Steve, none of them really knew what family felt like.
Jane was immensely glad that Natasha seemed to like her, because she had the feeling that Avengers style hazing of partners they deemed unsuitable or inadequate would not be the kind of thing most people could survive. She had a history with Bruce too, the two of them having met at various conferences, and Clint liked Darcy enough that he wasn't a problem at all. Tony tended to like people who didn't judge him on the basis of what the public saw, and Steve liked everyone until they gave him a reason not to. It was one of the things they all liked best about him.
Really there were many reasons to love Captain America, but there were more reasons to love Steve Rogers as far as the Avengers were concerned.
Still, somehow they had ended up occupying this hotel in the middle of Puente Antiguo. It was the kind of place that Jane had walked past day after day while she had been working near the town. But really, fancy hotels weren't in her budget, and she'd kinda grown fond of the caravan park in the end. It was nice to play a part in the revitalising of the town though, especially after what the Destroyer had done to it. Never had she known something so aptly named. It had been more than a little terrifying to realise that her search among the stars had found life... and that that life was advanced, heavily armed, and had few qualms about destruction when it came down to it. She was just glad that so far the alliance between Midgard and Asgard had grown stronger. She preferred not focussing on her part in that though, it was easier that way.
Tony was bankrolling the hotel, though the Asgardian delegation had insisted on contributing something to the costs. That had been a sticking point in the negotiation for a while, until Thor had convinced his parents that their organising of the Asgardian ceremony would be enough of a contribution. And begged his mother to stop his father from turning it into a competition. Jane wasn't holding her breath as far as that was concerned. Odin had a stubborn streak, and while Frigga was one of the few who knew how to handle him, it was more harmless to let him get out some of his more competetive urges on something like a wedding ceremony than any kind of war.
That had, of course, been the first mention of any kind of Asgardian ceremony, and they had effectively taken several steps back while Jane had a slight panic attack about everything she was getting herself into before she would agree.
She could see the sense in it. They had the ceremony here - which Odin and Frigga had generously conceded to being first, for her comfort if not for any other reason - and that saw to it that everything was settled on Earth, and then they had the ceremony on Asgard so that she could be presented to the people and officially recognised as a part of the royal family. Again, something not worth dwelling on, though they had been very generous in accepting quite a large Midgardian delegation which meant that she wouldn't be facing this on her own. She could remember stories of princesses being despatched to foreign lands with maybe a lady-in-waiting or two, and nobody else to keep them company.
This time, she would be going home to settle in her own world, in her own place, and accompanied by the entirety of the Avengers, top ranking SHIELD personnel, an airforce colonel, a CEO, Darcy and Erik Selvig. It was an eclectic group of people, to be sure. Fortunately, as far as diplomacy was concerned, eccentricity didn't seem to be a problem. That made life a lot easier, and privately Jane was hoping that there might be something on Asgard which could help Erik, who was still dealing with the aftermath of Loki and New York.
Loki himself could not attend the ceremony on Earth, for obvious reasons, but Thor had requested that his brother be allowed to attend the Asgardian ceremony on the condition that he was concealed to avoid distress to Agent Barton and Erik. Jane had agreed, knowing that it would mean a lot to Thor and hopefully aid his brother's recovery. Since everything that had happened, she had learned more about the brainwashing he had undergone. Her sympathy was limited, but she did have sympathy now, and if Clint and Erik weren't being blamed or tormented for what they had done while under another's influence, then it seemed unfair not to extend the same courtesy to Loki, even when he had so much more blood on his hands.
It felt a bit like the guest list had been growing and growing, but that was one of the many things Darcy had come through to do. She had limited it very firmly, putting restrictions on colleagues and SHIELD personnel who had expected or otherwise demanded to come. It was under three hundred people, and to be honest, that felt like an achievement.
Despite the hours of hard labour (mainly Darcy's) which had gone into it, everything seemed to be running eerily smoothly. Any doubts she might have had had been assuaged by talking things through with Bruce, who could always be counted on for a reasonable viewpoint, and with Thor, who had been alarmed to hear her concerns at first, but very understanding.
Frigga had more than done her part to make Jane feel at home too, and while it could sometimes be hard to forget that she was in the presence of a queen, Frigga had a way about her that somehow made even that feel normal.
Finally though, everything was coming to a head, and she was standing in the hotel suite from which Thor had been temporarily evacuated, while Darcy and Pepper fussed around her, making sure that the dress was fitting properly and helping position her veil. Natasha had done her makeup, Sif had done her hair, and privately confessed to Jane that she was relieved that Thor had found her. Odin had always liked the idea of one of his foremost warriors marrying his son. It would have strengthened the line, and the descendants would have been fearsome indeed, but Sif liked Thor as a brother, or occasionally an overlarge pet, as much as she respected him as her prince, and any kind of romantic relationship would have felt very awkward between the two of them.
Thor's exile to Earth, and the romance which had blossomed from it had taken that pressure away from Sif, and she was now quite happily pursuing a courtship of her own with one of Midgard's finest. Jane was fairly certain that wouldn't end in a wedding, Maria Hill didn't seem the marrying kind, but as long as the two of them were happy then that was the main thing.
"So is everything ready downstairs? I ask, suddenly realising that I don't know what everything being ready would consist of?"
"Trust me boss, everything is just fine. Everyone is ready and waiting and sober in their finery, nobody is punching each other and I don't think we've had any friendly challenges so far today. I can't vouch for the reception, but at that point I think it's ceased to be your problem."
"You're welcome, just keeping it real. You stress far too much about things when you feel you're responsible for them even when you don't know what's going on and wouldn't have the first clue how to organise them."
"I don't know what's going on because you wouldn't tell me."
"Did you really want to deal with picking out fonts and sorting out the seating charts and spending hours at florists?"
"...No, not really."
"Well, there you go. You owe me big time."
"I thought you said this was our wedding present?"
"I said that before I had to spend several hours sorting out the seating charts. That, that was not fun. I don't do diplomacy for a very good reason. I am just now discovering what that reason is. A successful diplomat needs a much higher tolerance for bullshit than I have."
"I do not know," Sif decided to join the discussion, glancing at Darcy as she attempted to get Jane's tiara on straight among the intricate braids, "I feel like you have done a wonderful job."
"Thank you," Darcy bowed with a smug grin, and her clipboard, "finally my skills are properly appreciated."
"I've always appreciated your skills! Half the time you didn't even have any skills but I still appreciated them!"
"That was uncalled for. After everything I've done for you. I've been a fabulous assistant. And I've more than earned that damn college credit that was the reason I signed up for doing this."
"Yes, yes, okay, okay, thank you, I owe you a lot, I'm just under a spectacular amount of pressure right now. You've organised everything and now you get to step back and watch it all unfold like a glorious production while I try not to forget my lines or screw up the choreography."
"You make it sound like a ballet."
"Well, isn't it?"
"No, it's really not. You walk down the aisle, you repeat words after the good Captain, who is of course qualified to perform a wedding ceremony-"
"I thought that was only ship's captains?"
"Apparently not. Either way. Irrelevant. He'll speak slowly so you can follow on. This is not a ballet, it's seriously simple, and the payoff will be worth it. Meanwhile I get to do crisis management for a group of Asgardians, SHIELD, and the Avengers."
Pepper gently touched Darcy's shoulder.
"If it helps, I'm backing you up with the crisis management side of things? I mean, I'm sure nothing will arise given your stellar organisational skills. But just in case. You have an experienced Tony wrangler on side and I'm fairly sure that prepares me for anything."
"..." Darcy pointed her pen at the redhead after a moment's consideration, "You may be right."
"Good. Now that that's settled, shall we get the blushing bride downstairs?"
"I'm blushing because this dress is too hot!"
"Are you, really?"
"No, not really," Jane admitted, glancing down, "It actually fits me perfectly and is incredibly comfortable."
Darcy crowed in victory, punching the air in an undignified ceremony which was very reminiscent of Clint.
"Yes! See, I told you all that 'beauty is pain' stuff was bullshit. Now, you look awesome, go distract prince charming so he gets that distant entranced look on his face that he always gets when he sees you. I'm fairly sure he'll be at least twice as clueless as usual when he sees you in that dress."
Jane looked around at her friends who were surrounding her, all of whom wore reassuring smiles, and nodded, gathering up the skirt a little, revealing the low heels that she had underneath so that, in Darcy's words, Thor could kiss her without back problems, and she wouldn't break her ankle or get stuck walking down the aisle.
"Alright. Let's do this."
The music started up. It was a harpist. Idly Jane wondered where Darcy had managed to find a harpist, what had made her decide that it was a good choice to walk down the aisle to delicate string music which stood no chance of concealing any crashes or bangs or the sound of her falling over... she analysed every possibility, letting her feet carry her forward because it was easier to think about the current situation in a detached way than let herself feel part of the moment, at least for this walk up the aisle between rows of staring eyes and smiling, murmuring people.
She had never really been one for public exposure, and being in the limelight was more likely to make her want to throw up than anything else. At the realisation that she was about to technically become a princess, it was all she could do not to start giggling at the thought of Mia Thermopolis in the Princess Diaries throwing up in front of her entire debate class when forced to stand up and make a speech.
She couldn't look around, she had to stay looking straight ahead. It would be really weird for a bride to be walking down the aisle looking around at her surroundings like she was completely unsure where she was. The rehearsal had only been the night before and that had been completely fine, but now she was here wearing this ridiculous dress, carrying these ridiculous flowers and walking through a scene which, by rights ought to have been out of a fairy tale.
Half the room was dressed in variations on ceremonial armour carrying traditional weapons, and right at the head of the room were a king and queen on two glorious thrones, or, at least, as glorious as it was possible to procure on relatively short notice.
Steve was standing in front of them, and his reassuring smile settled her stomach a little, grounding her. It was impossible to be nervous with Captain America smiling at you like that... and there was Thor, dressed just like he had been at the beginning of their relationship. She remembered the first time she'd seen him dressed like that and felt her heart skip a beat, a smile beginning to grow on her lips... and then suddenly, she was there, standing next to Thor, in front of Steve and below the gaze of Odin and Frigga, every inch the regal couple they had been for millenia.
She glanced back over her shoulder to see Darcy and Natasha wearing their own dresses, and... it was all she could do not to laugh. The ring bearer had not been present at the rehearsal last night, and when she had asked about it, Darcy had simply said that it was a surprise and refused to say another word on the matter. Knowing how stubborn her friend could be, Jane had decided that it wasn't worth the effort of arguing with her about it, and so she had simply let it be.
Squeaking slightly on his wheels, making his way steadily up the aisle, shamelessly glancing from side to side with the occasional little whir and a box in his claw, came Dummy.
She'd always had a weakness for Tony's bots. Technology was not her area, but some of his work bore some resemblance to the equipment she used, and the principles were often held in common. Besides, it was practically impossible not to love them, especially Dummy, when you had the chance to spend any amount of time in the tower.
Coulson stepped up in his suit, acting as Thor's best man, and held out his hand for the box.
Dummy whirred and looked him up and down, inspecting him, judging whether or not he was suitable, and then shook his head, claw still clamped on the box.
Everyone chuckled softly, and Coulson sighed, rubbing his forehead, and holding out his hand again.
"Come on Dummy, we practised this. Give me the rings."
Coulson withdrew a small oil can from his pocket, which Jane couldn't help noticing had a bow tied around it.
Dummy perked up instantly, leaning towards the oil, which Coulson slowly withdrew.
"No. You give me the rings, I give you the oil."
Dummy hesitated, looking between the oil can and Coulson's face several times before finally drooping and releasing the box into Coulson's hand.
There was a soft 'aww' and Tony was hiding his face in Bruce's shoulder, torn between laughing and crying at his erstwhile 'son's' actions.
Coulson handed Dummy the oil can.
"Thank you. Go to Clint, he'll oil you properly. Good boy."
Steve's eyes were dancing as he tried not to laugh.
"...Can we proceed?"
"I think so, at long last. With their majesties' permission, of course."
Odin gave a regal nod, and Frigga covered her mouth with her hand, taking a moment to regain her composure before she echoed her husband's assertion.
Steve's smile was rather brilliant as he turned back to the couple in front of him, glancing between them.
"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today in the sight of... gods, to celebrate the union, not only of two worlds, two realms, two cultures... but most importantly, two people. I have known both of them for a couple of years now, and I have to say that... I have learned more about love, and healthy relationships, and what it means to be willing to work with your partner and love them for who they are rather than who you feel they have the potential to be from these two people than from anyone else. So, while this day has a lot of ceremonial and symbolic weight from a diplomatic point of view, from a political point of view, I just want to ask that we don't lose sight of what's most important here, and that is Thor and Jane."
There was a murmuring of assent from the assembled congregation as Steve smiled that brilliant smile again.
"Please would you all be seated?"
There was the usual rustle and rumble of movement inherent in any large group of people performing some semi-synchronised action, and Steve glanced up.
"Who brings this woman to be married to this man?"
Jane glanced up, and smiled as Erik stepped up, taking her hand and passing it to Steve, who linked her with Thor. Erik had long been a father figure to her, both academically and, as their relationship had grown closer, in a more personal sense too. Her own father had died just as she started her first postdoctoral position, and her mother had passed a couple of years later. She was always grateful for having grown up with them and shared the beginnings of her success with them, and she didn't doubt that they would be proud of her now. Even if she had a sneaking suspicion that her mother might have made a couple of inappropriate comments about certain aspects of Thor's physicality over the Thanksgiving table most years. Apparently that was now Darcy's job, and she tended to do it in language which was just as colourful as Jane could imagine having emerged from her mother's mouth if they had been able to share that celebration.
"Now, firstly I am required by law to ask either of you if you know a reason why you cannot be married?"
Jane glanced up, sharing a look with Thor, and she couldn't fight back the smile any longer at the sight of his blue eyes sparkling with mirth.
"...No, no I don't think so?"
"And now I have to ask whether anyone here present knows of any reason why these two cannot be married."
The hall was silent, and Steve waited an impossibly long heartbeat before grinning back at them both again.
"Alright. You're good."
The laughter was such a blessed release of tension that it was all Jane could do to rein it in again. Now that the ceremony was finally underway, it was so much less bad than she had feared. There was laughter, there was solemnity, but it wasn't so pressured that she was running the risk of breaking into giggles simply from terror. She could feel Thor's warm, familiar hand around hers, and knowing that he was so close took away a lot of the fear. It was happening, but while she would be in no hurry to do it again, it certainly could have been a lot worse. Nobody was stopping them, nobody was dead, there had been no major faux pas and she hadn't twisted her ankle walking up the aisle. All things considered, she was almost happy.
Steve led them through the vows. The ceremony had been structured in such a way as to be as non denominational as possible, while still being respectful of the very real gods who were present in the room, and getting the most important bits out of the way as quickly as possible. They were always very aware of the possibility of an attack, especially at such a big event, and they'd wanted to take steps to ensure safeguards were put in place so that even if the ceremony were interrupted, the actual marriage would have been official.
Jane knew that Thor had been worried about the threat of Amora in particular, but Darcy, Thor and SHIELD had conspired on some unspecified steps to keep her distracted, or at least away, and while there was a risk she could interrupt the Asgardian ceremony, this first one would be complete.
Jane still wasn't sure when it had become normal for her to accept that there was a psychotic sorceress who had an unhealthy obsession with her boyf-... fiancé... husband, who might be out for her blood. She tried not to dwell on it most days. It was a lot easier that way, and she had to believe that Thor loved her and only her. Some of the horror stories she had heard about Amora and the lengths she had gone to made it quite easy to believe that.
It was time for the rings, and Coulson stepped forward, a soft laugh echoing around the hall as Dummy mirrored his movement perfectly, evidently so invested in the formal duty he had been assigned that he wasn't about to give up his stake in it just yet.
Steve took the rings, trying not to laugh, and turned, bowing to the royal couple who were looking on.
Odin and Frigga gave their blessings, and Steve turned back to the couple.
It was Thor who slid his ring onto Jane's finger first, and she would not deny that she shivered at the feeling of it, smiling. It sent a thrill through her to have this bond to him, this link that couldn't be broken. Marriage had never been a part of her plan. Her road map for her life had always been very definite and never had a whole lot of room in it for romance (not that she was against it, it was just that most men weren't willing to show an interest in her work or deal with the odd hours it necessitated). That being said, there had never been any mention in it of hitting a ridiculously handsome Norse god with a truck. Twice. That was just how the Norns had spun their fate, and she was glad of it, no matter what kind of other fortune they had in store for her.
The idea of a reciprocal gesture had been the cause of some confusion at first, but at the explanation of the egalitarian nature of it, Thor had very much insisted that Jane give him a ring in return. As far as he was concerned, they were tokens of love and the promises that were being made, rather than marks of ownership. He had been quite confused by that argument, but his enthusiasm had raised the interesting question of the sourcing of a metal for a ring which would not melt when he was on Avengers business drawing down lightning. The sheer amount of energy and the heat that could course through him at those times made it difficult to achieve, but it had given Tony the chance to collaborate with Asgardian metalworkers, and there had been several weeks when they weren't entirely sure that he would ever come back.
He'd missed the bots too much eventually though, and come back bubbling with new ideas which had left him sequestered in the workshop until Steve got thoroughly fed up with the whole situation and carried him off forcibly to eat, sleep, and see the rest of his team.
The result had at least been worth the wait. It was a metal which could withstand the temperatures and energy surges which Thor was regularly exposed to, and Tony had learned some more decorative skills during his time there, resulting in an elegant ring with a motif of stylised thunderbolts.
Jane felt the pattern under her fingertips as she slid the ring onto Thor's finger, repeating the promises after Steve.
It still felt a bit like this was all a school play, or like someone was about to leap out and yell April fool... but they were several months off from that, and somehow this was all really happening.
When he bent her back gently to kiss her, Jane smiled, Thor's hair falling around their faces to give the illusion of a moment's privacy which was all theirs. It was difficult to be faced with such a public future and they had to be 'on' for the rest of the day, interacting with the guests and being polite... but the wedding night would be just theirs, and Darcy had promised Jane that everything would be handled and they would be able to escape early. She had never been more thankful in her life than she was for the knowledge that the Asgardian ceremony was the better part of a week away. They apparently needed time to make preparations, and while that time would be spent in Asgard, it wouldn't be time that she needed to be performing for. Being a princess felt a lot like playing a part, like a kind of waking dream, but being with Thor... well, that was something she would happily do for forever.
They walked out of the hall together, arm in arm, and when they were finally out from under everyone's scrutiny, Thor drew her close and kissed her again, and she laughed for sheer joy, cupping his cheek, her fingers going into his hair.
"Alright love birds, let's go... sorry to split you up, but Jane, if you come with us there's a change of clothes upstairs..."
"I thought you said I wasn't allowed jeans today."
"You're not allowed jeans, but you do get to take some of the frippery off."
"There were a lot of photos during the ceremony, dumbass. I'm guessing that fact completely escaped your notice."
Jane blushed and ducked her head.
"Yeah, well, anyone would be distracted if they were walking up the aisle to tall, blond and handsome here..."
Darcy nudged Thor with her elbow and a cheeky grin, which he returned, mimicking the gesture with a care not to hurt her. He'd had a couple of lessons in the tower about the general delicacy of Midgardian physiology in comparison to the strength of Norse demigods. He'd paid close attention to those, but, it had to be said, he had never hurt Jane, not even leaving a bruise.
"Besides, you've always coped so well with publicity..."
There was the dry sarcasm which Jane had come to recognise as a hallmark of her friend and assistant's communication style.
"My lady Jane..." Thor interrupted himself with a bright smile, his eyes fixed solely on hers, "And now truly I can call you my lady... I am sorry to have put you through such a stressful event, and for the stress which is yet to come... but I am deeply honoured that, despite your discomfort, you felt me worthy enough to walk down the aisle and bind yourself to me."
She was blushing now, she couldn't help it. It was very much a real blush, rather than any wizardry with the cosmetics which had been so masterfully applied, and she shrugged wordlessly, throat seemingly blocked for a moment before she swallowed and shrugged again.
"Oh my god you're adorable."
Jane turned enough to glare daggers at Darcy, who merely grinned innocently, shrugged, and headed off towards the reception room, whistling.
"...I should go change..." Jane murmured reluctantly, glancing between their linked hands and Thor's eyes, so blue but yet so warm, like a summer sky.
"I suppose if you would be more comfortable... but I must say that I feel that dress suits you well. You are... very beautiful. Truth be told I do not think there has ever been a moment when I have not thought you beautiful."
"Not even that time we were planning to have a romantic weekend and I got food poisoning and spent it with my head in the toilet, puking my guts out?"
"You were still beautiful. In sight, if perhaps temporarily less so in scent."
"...You see, this, this is why I love you. I have never known anyone love anyone as completely as you love me. And sometimes, most of the time, I still have to pinch myself to see if it's real, but every time, it still is. And I will never understand why, really, I won't, even if I live till the end of the world, I will never understand it. But I'm not going to argue with it either. I love you, Thor."
"As I love you, Jane. Now, please... go and make yourself more comfortable..."
"But don't forget your bouquet when you come back down!" Darcy exhorted from the vague direction of their reception.
"...Do I really need to throw the bouquet?"
"Are we sure there aren't knives in it?"
"I promise. I didn't let Natasha near the florist."
Lingering for one last brush of skin, one last look, one last kiss, Jane hurried back upstairs, wondering what the others had laid out for her this time.
She was pleasantly surprised to find a silk top and a long skirt with a slit. It wasn't, perhaps, as comfortable as jeans, but there was enough room in the waistband that she didn't have to worry about how much she ate at the dinner, and it was still flattering, and what Pepper and Natasha would undoubtedly have defined as 'suitable'. She wasn't sure she was so good at 'suitable', but the good thing was that she didn't have to be, at least, not very often.
Thor loved her as she was, and as long as that was the case, which she had the feeling would be forever, then she could get away with ratty sweatshirts and ripped jeans, and things which made her feel comfortable as well as being practical for her work.
She changed, breathing a quiet sigh of relief. The wedding dress had been as comfortable as Darcy had promised, but it was still a nice change, and thank god, there were flats to put on. The heels may have been small, but she didn't think she could stand much longer in them. She never had much practice to build up the stamina, so a change to more familiar shoes, even if they were still fairly feminine, was more than welcome.
By the time she got back downstairs, everyone was in the reception, in their places after Darcy's military style instructions with enforcement from Sif and Natasha, whom Jane suspected had rather enjoyed the task. Thor was still waiting outside, more or less exactly where she had left him, and she blinked, suddenly uncertain.
"...Have you been here the whole time?"
He held out his hand, eyes warm, unable to repress his smile.
"Lady Darcy informed me that it was appropriate for us to enter the party together, and that I should wait here... you are just as ravishing now as you ever have been... though, I must confess I rather have a weakness for you in those flannel shirts and nothing else."
Now she really did feel like her cheeks were on fire and she resisted the urge to close her eyes.
"Thor. Inside voice."
"My apologies? I simply wished everyone to know that you are beautiful in every way."
"...yeah, yeah I'm pretty sure they're getting that, come on, let's just go in and say hi."
When they walked in, Jane could tell who had been listening when Thor had spoken. Frigga was trying not to laugh again, Sif and Natasha had identical very straight faces, and Clint had half fallen off his chair.
"...Well, at least we know there are no secrets here. And I'm fairly sure the best man speeches can't be that embarrassing."
"Well, since you mention it..." Coulson cut in smoothly, handing the two of them glasses of champagne for the toasts, "We felt that it wasn't exactly fair that only the best man's speech was embarrassing. Particularly because Thor is quite hard to embarrass."
"It is true that I have done little for which I feel shame." Thor nodded, smiling, while Frigga let out a barely audible cough.
"And so, the maid of honour and I decided that we would split the duty."
Jane covered her face.
"Oh god. Darcy."
Her friend was grinning and waving at her a little more manically than Jane was comfortable with, and Jane peeked between her fingers for a moment before deciding that no, she really didn't want to look.
"Come beloved, it is well to share stories with those we consider family."
"Family is one thing. Half of SHIELD is not. And it might not lead to making the best impression on your parents."
"Don't worry Jane, I'm sure stories about being falling down drunk won't faze anyone at all..." Darcy's grin was wicked, and for a moment Jane seriously considered throwing something at her. Unfortunately the only thing to hand was the champagne, and she had the feeling that that was far more valuable as alcohol in her possession than it was as a short term weapon.
"...Alright, you go ahead and embarrass me, I'm going to insulate myself with champagne and other drugs."
"What a coincidence! That's exactly how the first story starts..."
A ripple of laughter went around the room, soft, warm, well-meaning, and even though she was very much planning to get Darcy later, possibly in the neck, Jane relaxed a little, cuddling up to Thor and joining in all the toasts.
They had made the decision to cut the cake before the meal began, because Asgardian traditions regarding food meant that if they waited until people wanted dessert, they could well be waiting until not only the next morning but possibly the morning after that as well. The hotel kitchen had been properly briefed, and all the staff were being generously recompensed. That was something that Jane had been very firm on. She remembered working waitress jobs and other similar minimum wage positions during high school and most of college. It was a matter of pride to tip properly, and something that Thor had taken to as well. That was one of the things she liked about Tony, Jane mused - it was safer still to think about anything else rather than the fact that this was her wedding and Darcy was currently telling the one about that nightclub in Alberquerque - he had money to spare, and he was generous with it. Most rich bastards were terrible tippers, but Tony always prided himself on rewarding people in proportion to the service and to his ability to do so. It was only a little thing, but it could make a huge difference....
And now it was time to cut the cake.
She took Thor's arm as they walked over, and he gazed down at her with such love that it was all she could do not to bask in it like sunshine. It felt that warm, that wonderful, and her heart skipped a little as she returned his smile, knowing that she would be able to bask in that love for the rest of her life. That was an incredible thought. The best.
The cake itself was huge, designed to cope with the number of people present and their appetites. The bakery had wanted a lot of notice and a large deposit, but they had really come through. Jane was sure that Darcy was already planning letters to everyone whose services she had engaged who she would have to thank. She also felt a moment of pity for those people whom Darcy felt let down by. That would not be entertaining wrath to be on the receiving end of, and she was still relieved that she'd managed to duck any of it being directed at her. It would have been well meaning wrath, but Darcy was terrifying at the best of times and dating Natasha was only exacerbating that.
Sif passed them a real knife, and the two of them linked hands around the handle, cutting it together... and Thor bent down, kissing her again spontaneously. She leant back into him, luxuriating in his warm strength. That was something she never got tired of, and would never take for granted. He felt amazing.
Anyway, the signal had been given for the food to be served, and soon enough conversation mingled with the happy sounds of satisfied diners.
The feast was nothing to rival Asgardian standards, but it was more than enough, which was no mean feat given that there were two super soldiers and multiple gods present, all of whom had hearty appetites.
Jane was happy at the top table, sat between Thor and Darcy, who had Natasha on her other side. The two of them seemed deeply involved in something which might have been conspiracy, or might have been flirtation. Even at this distance it was impossible to tell, and if she was honest, it might well have been both. The two concepts were not mutually exclusive, particularly not where those two were concerned.
Phil was on Thor's other side, in the position of the best man, and Thor's parents were in the seats of honour behind the top table, on a slightly raised dais.
Everyone had been served at least their first course when Phil got to his feet again, tapping his glass and clearing his throat for attention. The room gradually fell silent, most of the occupants staring at him. Jane looked to Darcy, who was frowning in confusion. Alright, this obviously wasn't part of the official script. She wasn't yet sure if that was a good or a bad thing, but for the moment she would trust Phil. It had worked out pretty well so far after all.
Phil looked around at the assembled populace. At the Avengers, the team he had come to call his own, at the Director's one eyed stare, so similar to Odin's which he could feel resting on his back, at colleagues from SHIELD and Asgardians he had come to call friends... and finally, at Clint, who was sat beside him.
Just to check one final time, he glanced to Natasha, who gave the barest nod, and he took a deep breath and swallowed.
"...Ladies and gentlemen, please forgive me interrupting this joyous occasion. I know that this is Thor and Jane's special day, and I in no way want to take away from that. But I feel the time is right for a major announcement of my own. I've been thinking about this for a long time, debating about how to do it, how to get the timing right, whether to do it in private... but... well, I want the world to know about it. I live in a world of secrets, but there are some things which deserve to be out in the light of day, which deserve to be exposed, which I should be proud to say... and this, this is without question one of those things."
He turned to Clint, and lifted both of the archer's unresisting hands.
"Clint Barton... I have known you for a very long time... and for almost as long I have been lucky enough to call you my boyfriend, my partner. You are... the person I look forward to coming home to at the end of the day. The one who can brighten the acres of paperwork which occasionally threaten to entirely submerge my desk. You are the one who makes life better, and who has made every minute of it worth living for so long... so, it's not that I haven't wanted to do this before, it's that I've been unable to be sure what your reaction would be. Well, now or never, I've decided to take the plunge, because I don't want to die... again... without ever knowing what your answer would have been. This isn't a question which should be hypothetical. It's one that I need to ask. And before you start panicking, no I'm not planning on dying again for as long as humanly possible. But on the other hand it's a contingency I have to face, and death has a way of opening one's eyes and rearranging one's priorities. So. To that end."
He shifted to his knees, his eyes fixed on Clint's which were wide now as he began to understand what Phil was doing.
"...Clint Barton... will you do me the honour of becoming my husband?"
"..." Clint swallowed, his eyes welling up a little, staring at Phil as he tried to wrap his head around the fact that this was real, this was actually happening. It wasn't like he obsessed over the scenario. No way, that would be childish. That was the kind of thing teenage girls did in the privacy of their bedrooms, and he was SHIELD's top sniper and a fearsome agent. But still. Phil's speech had left him... well, speechless.
Phil bit his lip, and all of a sudden they weren't Agent Phil Coulson and Agent Clint Barton, they were just Phil and Clint, the friends who swapped donuts and shared laundry and curled up on the couch together every Friday night with pizza and a shitty movie (and usually the Black Widow lurking somewhere close by out of boredom and some weird form of camaraderie).
"...Yeah. Yeah I will. Fuck, Phil, never thought you'd ask..."
"I never thought you'd say yes..."
Phil countered, with a real smile. It was dry to start with, but the joy bubbling up inside him made it real, so real, so fast, and Clint started laughing.
It was barely the blink of an eye before they were both laughing and hugging each other tightly as Phil fumbled in his pocket for the third ring box, thankful at least that that had been his responsibility from beginning to end. Mixing it up with the others could have been complicated, but no, this one was just for him and Clint and he had spent so long looking for it.
He slipped the ring onto Clint's finger and kissed him as the whole room came to their feet, clapping and stamping and cheering for them loud enough to shake the rafters.
He couldn't stop laughing now, the pressure finally gone being a wonderful release for him.
"...You are perfect. You are incredible. I love you so much, Clint. So much. Thank you."
Clint shook his head, kissing him again, tears still threatening.
"No... no, thank you Phil. Thank you. You don't understand what... you don't understand what you did for me. What this means to me. I've been thinking about asking you but... well..." he brought one shoulder up in the classic awkward shrug which made Phil swoon, "I figured we were both happy with the status quo and... well, you can do better, so I figured that... maybe it was better to leave things as they were so that you didn't... so that you didn't realise you could do better. I was happy to do anything as long as it was with you."
"And now whatever we do it'll be together, just like it always has been." Phil promised, squeezing Clint's hands gently.
"I love you so much, Clint. For so long I've wanted to make you mine but... I don't know why I didn't. I guess I was scared of losing you."
"I guess we were both scared. For all the wrong reasons."
"The right reasons, we just didn't know that we were wrong to be scared."
"Isn't that the same thing?" Clint was laughing now, his eyes dancing with humour as he teased, and Phil felt his heart swell with joy as he shook his head and leant in to steal another kiss.
"Not the same thing... not quite..."
Gradually the cheers subsided and the room was once more filled with happy chatter and the sound of people eating enthusiastically. The Asgardians didn't eat quickly but they packed away all the more for that, and if she didn't know any better, Jane would have said that Thor was deliberately trying to keep his energy up, which was a thought which made her blush slightly.
Eventually it came time for them to make their grand exit. Jane would rather have snuck out quietly, but it would have been rude to disappear without letting people know, and since everyone else was clearly digging themselves in for at least another several hours worth of partying, it made more sense to get out while the going was good and make the most of what was left of their actual wedding "night". She was starting to discover that everyone knowing you were going to get laid was a study in embarrassment, but there was a twinkle in Thor's eye which never failed to make her weak at the knees and she couldn't help being a little excited... plus leaving meant that she would finally be out from under everybody's eye. Just because they were all favourable, didn't make the spotlight any less awkward for her. She had never been good at being the centre of attention, though she had to admit that Darcy had done comparatively well on that front for what was technically a royal wedding. She was a little bit worried about how the Asgardian ceremony would go, but on the other hand the bridal party would be the same (it had been another reason for choosing Natasha as a bridesmaid, quite apart from the fact that Jane liked her, she was at home in any situation and unlikely to cause any kind of diplomatic incident. The same could not be said for Darcy, but both Sif and Frigga seemed to like the dark haired young woman, a thought which Jane tried not to let worry her too much).
Thor took her hand and the two of them left together, perfectly elegant and, fortunately, not the subject of too much comment or scrutiny, given that by this time people tended to be absorbed in one or more of the food, the alcohol, and the dancing.
Once they were out of the room Thor drew her close and kissed her softly, though this one was far more full of promise than the relatively chaste one she had been given by the altar. It was a little known fact about Norse gods that they could kiss. She had it on good authority that Sif was also a good kisser, even if Maria Hill had sworn her to secrecy on that front, and Fandral seemed to have no end of admirers. Still, it wasn't really right to be thinking about so many different things at once when her husband was kissing her... her husband was kissing her. Her /husband/ was kissing her. Jane felt her breath catch in her throat and Thor instantly broke off the kiss, cupping her cheek and stroking her skin with his thumb, frowning worriedly.
"Are you alright, Jane?"
"...Yeah, yeah, I'm fine... sorry, it just kind of hit me that you're... you're my husband. We're married now."
"...There is still time to undo the deed..."
His brow was crinkled in a frown, and Jane threw herself up towards him, balancing just on her tiptoes to kiss him as deeply as she could.
Eventually, much sooner than she would have liked, she had to drop back down to her usual height, but the sparkle was back in Thor's eyes now and she was relieved.
"...I do not think that that is what you want after all."
"No, no I don't. I really don't. It was just... a moment of realisation, that's all."
"I understand. I do not know that I will ever get used to thinking of you as my wife... I will spend the rest of my life wondering what I did to deserve such good fortune, for truly I can think of nothing better, no greater honour than the title of your husband. It means more to me than that of prince, for that was an accident of birth, but this... this is an honour which I won."
"And I made you work hard for it, too..."
He kissed her hand, bringing it to his lips without ever breaking eye contact, his face crinkled slightly with happiness.
"Indeed you did, my lady Jane, indeed you did..."
"...Alright, shall we go to bed now before anyone comes out and sees that we're still down here?"
He chuckled and swept her up in his arms.
"What an astute suggestion... I believe we should hurry, after all, one can never know when we might be interrupted."
"I should hope that we won't be interrupted upstairs." she replied dryly, and he laughed.
"In that case, let us hasten upstairs..."
He carried her to the lift, cradling her close as they shared kisses for the entire journey. When they disembarked on their floor Jane was torn between wishing the journey had been longer and shorter, and at the same time just glad to get into their room.
It was the bridal suite tonight, and it was the first time she had seen it, but it wasn't something she would be paying much attention to when Thor was /right there/ and slowly working on stripping out of his armour.
"...Hey, uh... can you help me with my top? I can't reach the zipper and, well..."
He unfastened it deftly, resting his hands against her back, fingers curled lightly around her sides as he nuzzled into her hair and kissed at the back of her neck.
"...You are beautiful, Jane..."
"...And so are you..."
She turned in his arms, looping her arms around his neck and kissing him deeply. This was the perfect moment which everything had been leading to, and it wasn't in front of everyone. What made it perfect was that it was just theirs, and as she felt herself finally truly relax, Jane smiled at the feeling of her shoulders hitting the pillows.
It would be a good night.
Chapter 2: Asgard
The Asgardian ceremony, and the time between.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Asgard was very different to Earth, and Jane found that a little hard to adjust to every time. It was kind of like going to visit a different country - it always started off with the honeymoon period where everything was blissful and amazing, but it was never too long before something was so dramatically different from what you were used to that it was jarring. She always felt a bit like she'd gotten lost and somehow stepped into a fairytale. Which, of course, was currently a little bit ironic.
Heimdall greeted them with a warm smile, and although Jane shivered slightly at his piercing amber eyes, she returned it with a little wave from where she was tucked under Thor's arm.
Thor was every inch the prince, as usual, although his regal demeanour was detracted from a little bit by the purple rucksack he had over one shoulder. Even though Frigga had been very emphatic that they could and would provide Jane with everything she needed including her wardrobe, Jane still felt that there were some things she wasn't ready to trust to Asgard just yet, including most notably her underwear and her basic hygiene supplies. Some things a girl just needed to be able to count on, and besides, nobody but Thor would see her underwear anyway, so it really shouldn't matter.
"Welcome back to the eternal realm Doctor Foster, and may I congratulate you on your wedding. You are a fine match, and I am sure that you have many long, happy years ahead."
"Thanks Heimdall, that means a lot..."
He inclined his head and his gaze shifted back to the cosmos as Thor guided her out to the Bifrost.
He had explained once how Heimdall could see everything, more or less, although what happened to Loki had confirmed that not even the eternal vigilant's gaze stretched to every corner of the universe. Thor had also mentioned that Heimdall he helped him keep an eye on Jane and know that she was well in the years between their meetings. It had meant a lot, Thor said, and Jane could understand that, and would not have wished it on Thor to have been completely ignorant of her fate (knowing all too well what it was like to be entirely ignorant of his). All the same, it made her a little uncomfortable every time she wondered if Heimdall had seen her naked. He was probably too honourable to say anything about it, or at least respected Thor too much (though Sif had mentioned that Heimdall was her brother, which implied that the guardian had a lot of respect for women in general) to mention it.
The rainbow bridge stretched out before them, and although she had been before, Jane couldn't help but stare around at her surroundings. She could see where Asgard's reputation as the beautiful realm had come from, and it still took her breath away.
The walk seemed impossibly long in front of them, but it was peaceful at least... until trumpets sounded a fanfare and the cheers of the kingdom began to echo through the air. There was a tremendous sense of loyalty and community among Asgardians, and the news that their crown prince had found a wife, albeit a mortal, was greeted with great joy. The ceremony in a week's time would be accompanied by a feast to which the whole kingdom was invited, and the air was already crackling with anticipation.
Jane wondered if there might have been a way to enter the city and the palace without attracting so much attention, but she doubted it had crossed Thor's mind. She would be in residence in the palace though, away from most of the people, and she could grit her teeth and face a little parading for Thor's sake.
It wasn't that big a deal, and it didn't need to be either. Alright, brave face, smile, make it natural... focus on Thor, focus on Thor and that touch of reality with that bag over his shoulder. One foot in front of the other, hold onto his arm that way you won't fall and... walk.
The palace was fast approaching, and they were now weaving through streets thronged with people. All of them were cheering, and Jane noticed a couple of the floating balls which had so excited her on her first visit. That brought a real smile to her lips, and Thor seemed to sense her excitement, gently squeezing her shoulder and bestowing a fond smile and a kiss to her forehead.
Frigga and Odin were standing in front of the palace to greet them, the Warriors three and Sif standing off to one side, all dressed in their finest armour.
Two rows of the royal guard flanked a carpet which was obviously intended to serve as their approach, and as they drew closer blades flashed in the sun, forming an arch of alternated swords and axes for them to walk beneath.
They reached the head, and Jane curtsied low as Thor bowed. She had been coached in that, and was pleased not to let her tutors down. Indeed she caught Sif's approving nod in her peripheral vision as she rose again, and smiled a little. Thus far she hadn't managed any monumental fuck ups, and while it was quite likely that something would happen during the Asgardian ceremony which would make it quite clear how unsuited she was to being a princess, they couldn't go back on it now, and for the moment the immediate goal was getting into the palace and out of sight of the crowds. It drew closer with every breath, every heartbeat, and she was still in the clear so far.
Odin stepped forward and clapped Thor on the shoulder, drawing him into an embrace.
"Welcome home, my son."
Frigga too stepped forward, taking both of Jane's hands and smiling warmly.
"Welcome, daughter. We are glad to bring you into our home."
Jane's throat was dry and she could feel tears prickling in her eyes. Quite apart from the fear of humiliation - she could forget the crowds under Frigga's gaze - it was the woman's sincerity which moved her so comprehensively.
Frigga drew her close and, under the cover of the embrace, murmured in Jane's ear.
"You're doing very well... just a little longer, I promise. Now turn..."
She released the embrace, still holding Jane's hand, and Jane turned as she had been instructed to find a little girl approaching with a bunch of flowers.
Smiling, Jane bent to accept them and thanked the girl.
She stood again, the flowers resting in the crook of her arm, and the cheering increased.
Thor stepped up by her side and took her hand, and the two of them bowed to the crowds too, showing appreciation for their people and the adulation they had received, and then they turned and followed Odin and Frigga inside.
When the doors were shut, the noise disappeared and Jane suddenly realised how loud it had all been when she felt her ears ringing with the silence.
"Welcome Jane, it is good to have you here, as it is good to once more see my son in the realm of his birth."
"Mother, you know that I do important work on Midgard..."
Frigga waved her hand dismissively.
"I know that you fight the good fight, and I would not expect any less of you, however is a mother not allowed to be a little heartsick when it keeps her firstborn so far from home?"
Thor was smiling warmly, unfazed by the gentle, affectionate chastisement, and he bowed his head in acceptance.
"Of course, lady mother. I am sorry if I have done you a disservice."
"You honour me by your deeds if not your presence. Now, come, we have much to discuss and there is food and drink prepared in one of the side chambers so that we might speak in a little more intimacy and relax. I know how it distresses your lady to be too exposed for too long."
Frigga waved her hand dismissively, smiling at Jane.
"It is a hard thing to get used to and one which scholars seldom encounter. It does you no discredit, I simply wanted to make sure that your stay was as comfortable as possible."
"...Thank you, your majesty, that means a lot."
“Please, there is no need for such formality among family.”
“Alright, so what should I call you?”
“Mother will be just fine, if it does not cross a line to request it? If not, Frigga, in private at least.”
“...No... no I think... I think mother will be fine. It will just take a little getting used to that's all, but what part of this doesn't really?”
“Quite so. Please come through...”
Jane followed Frigga and Odin, Thor still by her side with the incredibly incongruous bright purple receptacle hanging off his shoulder.
They walked through the main hall and turned off into a small room which was somewhere behind the thrones of state which they used for giving audiences. There was a small table set up there with several beautiful jugs, a tray of goblets, and several platters of fruit, pastries, and cooked meat. Jane was fairly sure she heard Thor make a small noise of approval, and fought back the urge to roll her eyes. She loved him, she really did, but sometimes it felt like she couldn't take him anywhere, even if that place was his own parents' home.
"So... we are so glad to have you both here, Jane it is always wonderful to see you, and Thor, you do not visit enough, but I've already made my views on that quite clear, so we'll leave it at that for the moment, shall we?"
"Yes mother, and I can only apologise again. It is easy to become absorbed in the life of Earth, and my friends and I keep busy, fighting to defend the planet. I was proud to take it under my protection before, and now I feel prouder still to have such warriors by my side."
She smiled, though her eyes were a little sad.
"I am proud of you for it, my son, truly. Please do not doubt that. But it is hard for you to be away for so long after you were by my side for so many years. I lost you, and then I lost Loki. Both of you have returned, but your brother is still healing and undoubtedly will be for many years to come, and your returns are fleeting visits at best, and usually on business. Would it be so much to ask that you might be able, or willing even to visit socially every so often?"
"...No mother, of course. You are right. I will come back more often now that the Bifrost is healed and passage between worlds is not so consuming. I have been neglecting my duties to Asgard in favour of those to Midgard, and it is hard to find an equilibrium between the two. Yet I shall, as a prince, because that is what I must do."
"Jane, darling. I know that you are not comfortable travelling on your own yet and I do completely understand. Though I'm certain that since you have come to us before you would be able to manage the journey and Heimdall could guide you there is a risk you might be lost which I do not believe any of us would wish to take. However, please know that our door is always open to you. Perhaps not literally open, but you are welcome whenever you have need, or whenever you wish to come."
"Thank you Your Maj-... Fri-... Mother? that's very kind of you. And I really appreciate you hosting us during the preparations. Is there anything I can do?"
Frigga's smile was decidedly more mischevious now, and she poured herself a goblet of nectar, passing the jug around for any of the others who were thirsty.
"...My dear, whilst I thoroughly enjoyed the Midgardian ceremony, and I feel it went very smoothly and very well, I am equally aware that you had almost no hand in it. There is no shame in finding oneself out of one's depth in such a situation. It can be disorientating enough to wed, depending on the time one has to think about it, quite apart from having to organise the whole thing and yours was more complicated than most. Your friends stepped up rather admirably to manage the whole thing, and we have already liased with them for some assistance. I believe they will be returning with the rest of the Asgardian party tomorrow."
Jane blinked slightly, frowning.
"They aren't back already? I assumed..."
"No, we felt it better for the two of you to arrive early so that you had time to settle in and some privacy, Jane, and... well, some of them were feeling a little delicate and elected to remain behind in case there was any assistance needed with the clean up on Midgard."
Thor chuckled, pouring some juice for Jane as well as himself.
"So they found they could not hold their ale so well, then?"
"It seems to have been some of the Midgardians more than others who put our finest warriors to shame, but nonetheless, to shame they were put."
"Which of my compatriots was it?"
"I'm going to lay bets on Steve, Bucky, and Natasha."
Jane replied, before Frigga had a chance to answer, and the queen chuckled.
"Your consort is right, my son."
"I'm a consort?"
"You are. It is an official title, I hope it does not have some offensive Midgardian connotation we were unaware of?"
"No... no not really, I was just... not expecting it? It's kind of a lot to get my head around."
"That is why we thought this week might be for the best. That and the kitchens needed adequate time to prepare for the feast. They are almost ready, and all shall be well, I'm sure. Though we need to discuss dresses."
"Dresses? I can't wear the one I wore before?"
"No, I'm afraid not. You shall have one made by my own hand though, my ladies and I have been crafting it for a while, and I am sure it will be to your liking."
"That's very kind of you... Darcy promised me I'd only have to wear a dress once, but that sounds amazing."
"Well, this is a promise she's going to have to break. She told me... what was it? 'Sorry, not sorry', that was it."
"...You've been... talking to Darcy?"
"Well it seemed a more efficient way of understanding what was going on than speaking to you, since I was fairly sure that you probably wouldn't know the answers to my questions."
"...That is a fair point. I feel I should make some kind of complaint but I actually have no basis at all to complain. So."
"She and Sif and Natasha were very efficient. I was very impressed."
Odin grunted slightly and nodded in agreement, though his one visible eye did have a certain spark of respect in it. Jane wondered if he had tried to disobey, ignore or question one of Darcy's instructions. Her friend had a lot of flexibility built into her plans but there were some things you just didn't argue with, and she wouldn't put it past Darcy to put the fear of god into a god if he had done something to draw her ire.
"They're all acting as part of the bridal party again in this ceremony too, of course. It seemed unfair to expect any changes to be made, that is your prerogative."
"No, I quite like the idea of keeping it the same..."
"And I feel that there is none better suited to being a best man than the Son of Coul. Though I assume this time he will not be proposing to Clint."
"Probably not. Once is usually enough."
"Will Loki be able to attend, mother?"
Odin made a disgruntled noise and glanced away, obviously not happy with the topic of conversation, but Frigga nodded, smiling.
"He will. Obviously he will be concealed, but when I told him how eager and determined you were to have him attend, I believe he was truly touched."
Frigga glanced at Jane hesitantly.
"Did Thor mention this to you?"
"Yes, he did. And I agree that Loki should definitely be invited. I am not... I still have difficulty reconciling everything that happened on Earth with the idea of inviting him to be a part of it, but Thor explained what had happened to him and... I may be many things. I may be impulsive and quick to judge, and incredibly bad at being in the limelight, but I have always striven to be fair rather than hypocritical. If Erik and Clint are forgiven for what they did, then he is too. And he certainly suffered enough. It's complicated because we have people there that he hurt but... he's family. And I don't think he's family to be ashamed of, either. Thor said it might help his healing, and he deserves that. I'm not going to turn around and say he can't come when it means so much to so many people, especially Thor. That's not exactly a good way to join a new family, is it?"
Frigga was beaming, and set her drink down to lean forward and take both of Jane's hands, her eyes shining.
"My son chose well when he chose you. That was a brave speech, and I am honoured to have you as a part of this family. Of this whole family. Would you like to go down and meet Loki later? I don't know if the two of you have ever..."
"It... I'd like a chance to meet him properly, yes. I know Thor would too."
"I have not seen my brother in a long time, it is true. I should go and see him, and remind him that he is still my brother, no matter what might happen. There are certain things which are important, and though he made mistakes, he has been punished for them and I see no need to torture him further."
"You will make a wise king one day, my son." Odin smiled softly.
"I hope so mother, father. I have a great legacy to live up to."
"With such a wise queen by your side, my son, you cannot fail to do well." Odin replied, reaching for Frigga's hand and smiling as she blushed a little.
Jane did her best not to squee at all. It would have been embarrassing and inappropriate in royal company. But on the other hand, it was reassuring to see an older couple who were still so clearly in love, and it gave her hope for what she and Thor could be.
"Still, I suppose it would only be fair for us to talk you through what we have planned for the next week or so, so that hopefully you will be a little less disorientated. it is only fair for the bride to feel part of her celebration rather than excluded for it, after all. This is not some elaborate production with interchangeable parts, there is no one who could stand in for you and have it not matter. This is about the two of you."
"Thank you, I really do appreciate that."
"It's fine, really... so after this we will leave you two to settle in - you do have separate quarters in deference to the fact that you have not yet had your ceremony here but we will of course turn a blind eye to the two of you choosing to... visit is perhaps the right word? I think it might help if... well, you might need the assistance to adjust because although you have stayed here before it is a stressful time and adjustment is never easy."
"I... Yes. Thanks."
Jane knew that her face was on fire but it made a lot of sense. There was a lot of ceremony involved in being royal, she was starting to reailse. Thor had explained some of it before but the scale of it didn't really hit home until it affected you personally at which point it started to verge on the ridiculous.
"Tomorrow we will have your dress fitting, and the rest of your party will arrive. The bridal party will be staying in the same wing as you, and the others will be lodged in the traditional guest quarters. You will of course be able to greet your guests and show them around. Darcy and Natasha might be kept occupied helping me organise things, but I have to say that although there are many details to sort out, our job is made slightly easier by virtue of having a staff. I have become a very good delegator in some matters, and while I oversee the details, I rarely have to do the work. Anyway, I believe that Darcy for one will sincerely enjoy the opportunity to boss some other people around. Which is no bad thing."
"...No, that is... that is a bad thing. Please don't let Darcy boss people around. She already bosses me around. A lot."
"Well now, I'm sure she is not too harsh on you."
"Sometimes it feels that way."
"There are often people who think they know what's best for us, and then there are others who know us well and can see the wood for the trees when we ourselves are having issues with perspective. I do not think it's unfair to say that, at least."
"No, but... Darcy on a power trip is an idea that terrifies me. I think that is an idea that would even make Coulson shake in his boots."
"I do not believe that there are many things which could make the Son of Coul quake," Thor objected, and at a look from Jane he paused for thought, picturing exactly what might ensue as a result of Darcy learning what it was like to command a staff of, if not hundreds, at least several dozen, "Though my beloved may have a point in it being a little concerning. But the Lady Darcy is wise and good,a nd I do not believe she would abuse her power."
"I'm more concerned with the fact that having had a taste of power she might then go out and try to hunt down more of it and I'm really not sure how that would end, and to be fair nor are you. I don't think anyone wants to picture how Darcy going on a hunt for power would end. For some reason everyone thinks she's so innocent and small and fluffy, like a squirrel or something, but let me tell you, squirrels can bite, and squirrels can scratch, and squirrels can give you rabies."
"I think you're overreacting."
"Maybe. I feel like a lot of things are out of my control but at least I have control over my own reactions. I'll take what I can get. What precious, precious little I can get."
Frigga was trying not to laugh, and nodded.
"Alright... I understand, I am sorry if our plotting has distressed you?"
"No, no I'm kind of used to Darcy conspiring against me."
"Be fair, she is at least conspiring on your side."
"...That is true."
"Anyway... there is less to worry about with the betrothal and the proposal, since... well, I think those have already been arranged. Since you are in fact officially married already, though not in Asgardian tradition, I think we can accept that those boxes have been ticked. However, we will present you with a formal gift, and when the feast begins it will be opened by the two of you linking arms and jumping over a fire, and then a broom which will be another ceremonial gift as a start to your wedded life together. It isn't much, but it's traditional. The warriors will then carry you to the bridal couches, and you will be in the position of honour at the feast. I will be sat next to you, and Odin will be sat next to Thor. Your other friends will be arranged around from there, but I hope that will be acceptable?"
"That... that sounds like it makes a lot of sense. And I appreciate you explaining what will be going on. Are you sure there's nothing more to it than that?"
"If anything occurs to me, I'll let you know, I give you my word."
Frigga was smiling softly.
Jane nodded, already feeilng more at ease and she glanced to the food arranged on the table on the other side of the room.
"...Could I possibly?"
"...There is no need to stand on ceremony." Odin reassured her quietly, and Jane glanced at him, half jumping in surprise since he was usually so silent.
He smiled and it softened his face a great deal.
"...My wife knows far more than I about these things and better understands the hearts of youth. I am afraid that even when we were courting I was a grizzled warrior and ill suited to winning her affections, and yet she found it in her heart to love me anyway."
Frigga glanced to him and smiled, squeezing his hand gently.
"You put yourself down too much, my love."
"No, I think not... but please, Jane. I am sorry if our talking has gone on too long that you are hungry. I know that Midgardian eating customs are different to our own but still. Frequency is something it is easy to overlook."
"It's not so much that as... well, I've been too nervous to eat a lot lately and I think it's finally catching up with me."
Thor frowned in concern, turning to her instantly.
"My lady you did not mention this..."
"Well, we were kind of busy and there was never a good time..."
"But still, it is not good that you should have been so afflicated with nerves."
"Please, eat." Frigga said firmly, "I have a tonic which may help calm your nerves a little. We do not want to run the risk of you collapsing, though that would be less of a problem at this ceremony than your own since at least you will be carried to the couch and then allowed to recline here, rather than spending so long on your feet, and having to parade in front of everyone."
"I will freely admit that that is possibly the part that terrified me most."
"As is perfectly reasonable. Thor, I am certain you are hungry too, why not go with your lady and get a plate of food so that she is not eating alone?"
"Certainly mother. Is there anything I can get for you?"
"I will take my turn in a moment, my son. Please, avail yourselves and fear not. There is plenty now and there will be plenty later on."
Thor ushered Jane over to the table, his hand resting gently on her lower back as he passed her a plate, collecting one for himself and gravitating for the platter of meats. There was a wide variety there, and some that he could not find on Earth and had not tasted for a long time. His mouth was almost watering at the sight and smell of them, but he tried to keep himself under control.
Jane on the other hand went straight for the fruit and little cakes. The meat did smell good, but it was about mid afternoon, and that felt like a little too much for right now. A nice snack, on the other hand, sounded more or less perfect. The juice was sweet, though she was starting to find it a little much and hoping there was some water around, and she hoped the food would help settle her stomach back to something which would make the negotiations easier. It wasn't that they were hard as such, just that she was struggling not to feel too nauseous at the thought of being officially made a princess in front of a crowd of people, most of whom she didn't know. Frigga had made it sound very simple, but it... well, it just wasn't. It couldn't be that simple. Marriage maybe, yes, there wasn't a lot that really need overcomplicating about that. It was basically just formal promises, and she understood that there were different ways of formalising them and that it was only polite to respect the traditions of both cultures and repeat the promises she intended to keep in front of Thor's people. Especially since he was a prince. And there was the p word again. No. Not now. Just food for now. Food was good.
She put a little plate together, hoping that it wasn't too much, but was somewhat comforted by Thor settling down beside her with a little pile of his own. Hers was not stacked that high, and that was something.
True to their word, Frigga and Odin went up next, and Jane was torn between watching them and eating the delicacies she had chosen. They were obviously still deeply in love, and while Odin never really let down his guard, he was certainly softer towards Frigga in a way she had not seen before, even to his sons. It was a strange thought, but very in keeping with the warrior which he was, and had been for so long. She could understand that certain ways of life and experiences taught one instincts it was hard to let go of, and he would not have been able to rule Asgard for so long without cunning and compassion, though sometimes she doubted the wisdom he was supposedly renowned for.
In the stories Thor told of Loki she couldn't see it so much, but from what he had said there had at least been some kind of effort to properly assimilate Loki into the Asgardian court rather than leaving him out, as it were, in the cold, or treating him as a prize of war. Odin had been trying to be a good father without really understanding what that meant, or how his actions could be construed when they came to light. It was a lesson that Jane had seen many of the Avengers learn, and one she had taken to heart when it came to the children she was sure they would inevitably have: no matter how hard you hoped or dreamed, your children would always grow up and become independent people, and whatever it was that you did not want to talk about, you would not be able to keep in the dark forever. It didn't just apply to children either, but it was one of the more obvious cases in point.
Jane was glad when the four of them were sat down again and eating together. It felt a lot less formal, and the food somewhat restricted the chance for conversation, meaning that she was less likely to be suddenly put on the spot or feel wary. She knew they had the best of intentions, but even bearing that in mind the two of them were still intimidating. Frigga slightly less so, but only slightly. She had a way of keeping you in mind of her power even when she was being nice.
There was no formal feast that night, and after the gathering where Frigga had talked the two of them through the plans for the rest of the week, Thor and Jane were free to go. Servants escorted them to Jane's chamber, Thor having pointed out that he had grown up here and therefore knew perfectly well where he was going, though he appreciated the gesture.
When they were finally in private, Thor gathered her up in his arms and kissed her, soft, sweet and hot. By the time it broke, Jane was breathless, slightly dazed with lust as she gazed up at him, her brown eyes shining as he smiled, slow and hot, and big hands traced the arch of her back.
"You are beautiful, Jane. And you are handling this incredibly well. I realise that it must be hard, and I am still more grateful than I can say that you are willing to go through this whole ordeal for me."
She blushed and glanced down demurely for a moment.
"It's... really not that big a deal... I mean, and you're worth it obviously, just... most girls dream of being princesses. It's not..."
"You were not one of them, though, your heart lay always with the stars."
"I guess I never really saw the point. And now I am a princess. And I feel like most of the women I know are better qualified to be princesses than me. Darcy for one. Darcy would make an incredible princess. Let's never introduce her to your brother."
That thought made even the mighty Thor blanch a little and he nodded.
"Loki's capacity for chaos would not rival that of little Darcy, I fear."
"I vote we don't find out? Not even in the interests of science? I'm fairly sure destroying worlds is considered ethically dubious."
"It is certainly against the spirit in which we Avengers fight, and I am not comfortable with the idea."
"So Loki and Darcy we keep apart... I would like to meet him though, and I don't know how easy it will be once everyone's here."
"I give you my word that you will have your time to meet with him, and in private too, but I feel tonight is a little much. I know the journey is hard on you, and though you had the chance to refuel a little, if you have been having issues with eating for the last few weeks then it is as well to take it easy while we have the chance, and at least it is comfortable here?"
"Well that's true..."
Jane looked around the spacious chamber with rich fabrics covering the couch and the bed, trying to process it all. She looked back to Thor.
"...The most comfortable thing in here is you, though."
He smiled at that, a slow, bright smile which spread across his face as he leaned down to kiss her again.
"In that case, my lady, I will stay to offer that comfort, if I may?"
"Good... perhaps we should curl up together on the bed? It is far easier for me to hold you like that..."
"That's a good idea, thanks Thor. I'll just wash up first..."
Thor removed his armour, stripping down to a soft shirt and breeches while Jane crossed to the fountain which tinkled delicately in the corner of the room and splashed her face, relieved to find that the water was a pleasant temperature - neither too hot nor too cold. It would serve well for both drinking and washing, and that was a relief because she hated troubling people, but she often drank water throughout the night.
She washed her face and hands more thoroughly, and brushed her teeth, groaning softly as she started to feel more human and freezing as large hands stroked her sides.
She opened her eyes to smile up at Thor again, and he helped her undress, every touch gentle, caring, a lover's caress but not yet too intimate. He was showing her a care and tenderness which so many would find surprising from him, and yet which she knew intimately.
"...Thank you Thor."
"It is my pleasure. You regularly complain of how restrictive you find some of these garments. I do not understand why you continue to wear them."
"Because societal tradition dictates that it's much less awkward for women to wear bras, and they're really not that bad, especially if they fit properly. I know mine fit properly because Darcy's fit properly because they /have/ to and she insisted on dragging me bra shopping last time she went."
"Ah, so it is the lady Darcy I have to thank for some of your newer acquisitions? They are beautiful indeed and I do so love removing them."
"Yes, I've noticed that. You're certainly a lot defter with your fingers than most of the Earth men I've met," Jane paused for thought, "...most of the Earth men I'd met before I met the Avengers. Clint is definitely skilled with his fingers, it goes with the job description, I wouldn't be willing to bet that Coulson wasn't perfectly precise with everything he did, Bruce is a doctor and Tony has had more practice removing bras than most people have had hot dinners. Some of them his own."
"I was not aware that he wore such items."
"It's mainly fancy dress. There are incriminating photos on the internet. Mind you, there are incriminating photos of Tony Stark doing most things on the internet so that's not hugely shocking?"
"I have heard this, but I have never seen the Man of Iron do anything particularly scandalous."
"He'd mostly reformed by the time you met him and unless you actively turn it off, I know for a fact that your internet searches are safe searched. Get Clint to show you when we go home. I think he likes showing off incriminating footage of his teammates. From which I exclude Natasha because I don't think any footage exists, I doubt she'd find it incriminating if it did, and if she did find it incriminating we would soon know about it because Clint would probably not have any balls left."
"You are right that the lady Natasha is fearsome indeed but I do look forward to seeing these films of the Man of Iron. Stark is a great warrior."
"Don't let him hear you say that."
"It is not the same as soldier, though there is no harm in soldier either. However it is different."
"If you say so. He might take some persuading."
"True enough. He is slow to believe many good things about himself."
"I would be too, if I'd spent as long hearing the bad stuff as he has."
Thor paused, and then nodded slowly.
"You speak wisely, but we are attempting to persuade him, especially the good Captain... now my lady, I may be wrong, but I believe you are usually much more comortable in these?"
He held up the pair of soft blue pyjamas she'd packed, and Jane about wept for joy, nodding and reaching out for them.
He lifted them away with a soft smile, and turned her gently, beginning to help her into them with strong hands and gentle movements.
The next morning they woke slowly, and Jane was quick to cuddle back into Thor's arms, overwhelmed with a sudden wave of affection and gratitude that he had decided to stay the night. She knew all the reasons why they shouldn't have done it, and she knew all of those reasons were ceremonial and unimportant, but it still felt a little bit like defiance and Jane had always appreciated a little bit of defiance. Quite apart from that little thrill though, the first night in a strange place was always hard, especially when there were so many other pressures to deal with aside from that. Jane felt she was coping remarkably well, but having the support of her husband - husband! - made it a lot less stressful. It was hard to feel too bad when there was somebody warm and strong wrapped around you like an extra, sheltering blanket.
"...So do we have to get up?"
"I think it would be wise for us to rise, yes sweet. Breakfast does not have a set time, but there is enough to do that it would be better to get up and be doing it. Besides, our friends arrive today, and it would give you a chance to see more of Asgard if we rise now."
"That's true... but you're warm..."
Thor chuckled and Jane smiled to herself, closing her eyes for a moment as it reverberated through her.
"True enough, sweet, but I will still be warm out of bed as I am in it, and I promise that I will hold you if it helps."
"Then I will hold you."
Jane laughed a little in turn, but climbed willingly out of bed, crossing over to her own private fountain to wash a little bit and clean her teeth, generally getting ready for the day. There was probably a lot ahead, even though Frigga had said she would keep the time as free as possible. Thor was right about the others arriving and that had a whole lot of excitement tied up in it. She wondered what Clint would make of Asgard - he hadn't seen it before, and unlike Natasha and Coulson, his wonder tended to show on his face. Jane felt a small spark of happiness at that. At least she wouldn't be the only one wandering around like an open mouthed tourist. She could always count on Clint to keep her company with that.
She looked up when Thor appeared by her side, and the smile he gifted her with made her shiver a little and set a little coil of heat in her belly. They didn't have time to go back to bed now though, and Jane wasn't all too sure how privacy worked in this palace. There was a distinct possibility of there not being any privacy at all. She genuinely wasn't sure. But it was only natural for newly weds to want to consumate their relationship - Frigga had all but said so after all. Still. Night time only. No day sex. That could wait till they were back on Earth and could be a lot more certain about people not breaking in. And for Tony's reinforced bed. Jane was sure the beds on Asgard were probably reinforced too because everyone here was super strong and a little denser than their human counterparts. That and Thor had had, by all accounts, an active adolescence which had only rarely involved broken furniture. It was a conversation she still wanted to avoid though, because telling your new mother in law that you had broken a bed which was probably older than you were and some kind of national treasure was never a conversation that was going to go particularly smoothly.
Jane dressed, surprised to see that her luggage had been unpacked for her by the palace servants, but glad to see it was all there and arranged logically. She felt more normal with her own clothes on, calmer, like it was some kind of armour. She'd felt the same way when Thor had helped her on with her pyjamas the night before and she filed that little bit of information away for the next time she felt like having a panic attack. Earth clothes made her feel normal. It wasn't something that would actively help during the wedding ceremony, but it would still help nonetheless, and she would hold out for that as long as she could.
Thor offered her his arm, and she took it with a smile, leaning up to meet him halfway when he bent to kiss her.
"So which way to breakfast?"
"It's probably this way. I suspect that we will be eating in the same room as yesterday most of the time. It grants a little more privacy and is less intimidating than I believe a feast might be for you at the moment."
"A feast feels a lot like... there are so many people, and because I'm the new... I'm a Midgardian and I'm kind of a princess, I feel like everyone's looking at me like a particularly delicious dish. Like I'm about to be eaten up."
"The only person who is permitted to eat you, my lady, is me." Thor's eyes were sparkling, and Jane felt her cheeks heat up as she closed her eyes and rubbed her temples desperately.
"Thor, that was not the most helpful comment."
"It is true though, and only when you permit it. But on a more serious note, although we will begin as the centre of attention at the bridal feast, with the mead and ale flowing, and the spread which has been prepared, attention will soon be on the food and drink itself rather than on any individual person. Eating can be a very serious pastime, and we tend to approach it as such and give it its due consideration."
"Alright, that makes me feel a little better. Thank you. I don't know why it helps, but it helps."
"It is enough, then, that it helps."
Jane smiled and squeezed his hand, leaning a little against his shoulder as he led her through the corridors back to the little room off the great hall, his parents' thrones cast in shadow at the far end.
Jane pushed open the door and froze stock still in the doorway, staring at the sight that confronted her.
Darcy and Clint were obviously in the middle of some kind of competition, each of them taking a bite out of the middle of a slice of watermelon, giving the effect of some grotesquely oversized, luridly pink, overly enthusiastic smile, with Phil Coulson sat between the two of them with his head resting against his hand, trying not to look while they glared and growled at each other, occasionally shaking their heads, and with them the slightly ridiculous looking fruit.
"...What... what are you doing?"
Jane managed to ask eventually, and the two of them turned to look at her as one person, the watermelon somehow still hanging from their lips.
"We're having a watermelon fight for the dominion of the breakfast table."
Darcy replied, swallowing her bite of fruit and cradling it in her hands in a slightly more normal fashion, while Clint grinned victoriously, his hand shooting out to grab a cinnamon roll.
"...Sorry, did I make you lose?" Jane's eyes were dancing, and Phil looked up with the most depressingly grateful expression Jane thought she'd ever seen in her life.
"No, no, please don't apologise. Or at least not for that. You could apologise for leaving me alone with them for so long but you don't need to apologise for that."
"I'm sorry, we didn't know you were here or we would have gotten up earlier..."
"Oh it's fine," Darcy interrupted loudly, "After all, you were probably tired after a good work out the night before, y'know?"
Jane blushed the colour of the watermelon Clint was still devouring, and shook her head, glancing back to Coulson rather than attempting to have any kind of dialogue on the subject with Darcy, who was obviously sure of herself.
"She's training with Sif. I think she had breakfast earlier. These two are late risers, and if I have Clint attached to me then I am a late riser by association. And they were whining they wouldn't be able to find the food if I ate without them and accusing me of cruelty in advance."
Jane meant it sincerely, though she was smiling as she sat down opposite Phil, Thor climbing with surprising grace into the bench beside her.
"We'll try to make sure it doesn't happen again." she laughed.
"I would appreciate that. I would appreciate that very much."
Phil's tone was one of resigned weariness.
"Could you maybe speak to her Majesty or the servants or something and see if maybe watermelon can not be part of future breakfast spreads? I could claim to be allergic if it would help? To be honest I think after this morning's display it's quite possible I'll develop some kind of watermelon related complex which might count?"
Jane was laughing, but she nodded, reaching for a plate herself and beginning to fill it with food. She smiled shyly up at Thor as he passed her some of her favourites, and leaned up to brush a kiss over his cheek.
"You know, you two are sickening."
Clint said, in a conversational tone.
Darcy rolled her eyes, retorting before Jane could.
"Yeah, like you and Agent Heart-Eyes here are so much better. At least they're married. And didn't get engaged at someone else's wedding."
Phil had the decency to look slightly embarrassed by that and shrugged apologetically at Thor and Jane.
"I did say sorry for that. I was just carried away in the moment and tired of feeling like Clint didn't really understand how much he meant to me. I wanted to do something about that and let him know that I wanted to do that in front of all our friends and colleagues and even people we don't know that well because I'm so proud of him and proud of loving him. I'm not ashamed and I don't feel like we need to hide it. So. It felt like a good time."
Jane's smile was warm and honest as she broke open a warm bread roll, spreading it with butter and honey.
"I think it was the perfect time. All that matters is that the moment is right for you. I mean, for me, Thor proposed out in the desert under a blanket of stars, right near the place where he first came down. So for us that was perfect, because I don't deal well with being a public spectacle, and everyone already knows about us anyway. You're self conscious about feeling like you have to hide your relationship, probably for a whole host of reasons, none of which are that dating Clint is something to be ashamed of," she shot the sniper a warning look before he could get too hangdog, "And so that worked for you. Personally I feel like it made the wedding an even more special occasion and I'm glad we could share it with you. Darcy's just sulking because you disturbed her carefully laid plans. Believe me, I've worked with her, she often sulks when her evil plots are disturbed or otherwise interfered with."
Phil smiled and squeezed Clint's hand gently where he had been holding it ever since Clint had finally let go of the watermelon.
"Thank you Jane. That means a lot. I never meant to cause trouble... I just... you know how it is when you get caught up?"
"Oh, I know. And just because you're not the kind of person other people think gets caught up, doesn't mean it's not allowed. On the contrary, I encourage it. At least off the clock. I think if you started getting caught up in conflict situations it could be awkard for everyone involved and potentially disastrous because if you don't think the whole team would fall apart without you then you haven't been paying attention to them and that is a serious flaw in a commanding officer."
"I'm not the commanding officer. I just... help... keep a bird's eye view of situations."
"No, that's what I do," Clint pointed out good humouredly, "You watch everything, process all the variables and give us all the intel we need to make the right calls. We couldn't do what we do without you, Phil, and if you don't think Steve would fall apart to see his hero of the modern age gone, then you don't know him at all."
Phil was now approaching the colour of a tomato, and Jane reflected that it was a good look on him. Very few men could pull off flustered, but Phil needed to get flustered more often.
"He has a point, son of Coul. The Captain thinks most highly of you. As do we all. You are a brave warrior, and an intelligent man. We need you on our team."
"Alright, can we... change the subject, please? Because I break out in hives if people start over emoting on me."
"You and Tony." Darcy muttered, stacking rashers of bacon happily on her plate.
"Yes, it's one of the few things we have in common, although at least I am endowed with a reasonable sense of shame."
"Phil, I've seen your endowment. It's more than reasonable and you have nothing to be ashamed about."
Clint replied solemnly.
Darcy broke into muffled giggles and Jane hid her face again.
"...Please not at the breakfast table? Please?"
"What?! It's not like we haven't all seen your husband's endowment."
Thor looked around, a spark of amusement in his eyes.
"Is this something to be ashamed of on Midgard?"
"Thor, I don't think you have anything to be ashamed of anywhere."
"No. And he never did. Good morning Jane, Thor..."
Frigga entered elegantly, and Jane honestly thought she had never been more glad to see anybody in her life.
"I think Thor has been aware of that for a long time."
Darcy attempted to muffle sniggers in her breakfast and Phil's expression was one of resignation and uncertainty. It was quickly replaced by his usual equanimity though - not even Asgardian royalty could faze the man who had faced death down, or at least that was how SHIELD junies were beginning to tell the legend.
"Good morning to you all, Agent Coulson it is an honour to have you here, likewise Agent Barton. Clint, if I may call you that," Clint, meanwhile, was staring wide-eyed at the idea that the queen not only knew his name but was asking permission to address him by it, and he nodded, slightly dazed, "Hogun has invited you down to our own archery ranges to show off your skills. He felt that you might enjoy the challenge, as well as making an impression. Your skills will no doubt go down in our own histories after today. I suspect that you make an impression wherever you go."
Eventually Coulson jabbed Clint in the ribs with his elbow, and Clint shook his head slightly as he came back to himself.
"Uh... yeah, yeah, sure, that sounds... that sounds great, thank you. Uh... I didn't bring my bow with-... well I brought her with me, but I left her in my room because Phil has rules about being armed at mealtimes even though I'm like ninety percent sure they don't apply to Tasha and I don't feel that's fair-"
"That's because even if I did search Natasha I wouldn't find half the weapons she had concealed about her person, and I feel strongly that searching Natasha is a violation of her bodily autonomy and privacy that I would not live to regret."
"I knew you were a sensible man."
Natasha emerged from the shadows and sat down as smoothly as if she had always been there while Clint sputtered quietly.
Frigga was smiling at the whole group of them.
"Alright, well, I could ask a servant to take you back to your room and then out to the ranges, if that would be acceptable? If you're able to stay for long enough, I'm sure you might even be able to go on a hunting party if you wished to."
"Yeah, I'd like that. I'd like that a lot. I've seen some of the pelts of things that Thor brings back and it would be pretty sweet to-"
"We do not have room on the wall for a bilgesnipe head."
Frigga hid her laughter behind her hand and shook her head briefly.
"Nevertheless, the invitation stands and you would be most welcome to avail yourself of it, as you are welcome to avail yourself of any of our facilities which you might wish to use during your stay. I particularly recommend the saunas and baths."
Natasha nodded fervently.
"Saunas are a wonderful thing when done properly, and I have no doubt that you do it properly."
"But of course, where do you think your people learned of them?"
Natasha smiled, and Clint shook his head as he backed out of the room slowly muttering about unnatural things like the Black Widow smiling at someone she wasn't about to kill.
Natasha chuckled softly as he left and sipped her juice, glancing around at the others.
"Does anyone other than me feel he's being needlessly paranoid?"
"I don't know, I've often found the prospect of you being friendly intimidates people. Other than Pepper who is a singular woman."
"Yes, she is," Natasha agreed smoothly, and glanced up to Frigga again, "I am terribly sorry to have interrupted your Majesty, please forgive me."
"It is well, Lady Natasha. My son speaks very highly of you, as does the Lady Sif, and your help with the preparations for the Midgardian ceremony was inestimable. Besides which I appreciate good humour in any form and the banter between yourself and Agent Barton certainly meets those criteria. You are an intelligent woman of great wit and sharp mind, and I find those characteristics valuable. I am glad to have you here and to count you among my acquaintances."
"You speak very highly of me," Natasha bowed her head, "I am not certain that I merit everything you have said of me, but I thank you for your kind words nonetheless. Is there anything I can do to assist in preparations here, or is everything set on that front?"
She glanced to Darcy, who winked back and took a rather suggestive bite of the peach she had been holding.
Natasha rolled her eyes but smiled, staying professional for the moment though there was warmth in her features.
"You fight alongside my son and you are a brave warrior who has faced many challenges, both personal and of the more... general kind. You are welcome in the halls of Asgard at any time, as, indeed, are any of your company. I believe that for the moment Lady Darcy and I have everything under control, but if there is anything you can do, I will let you know."
"That will mean a lot to us all, I'm sure. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this."
"The pleasure is ours. Now, I believe I see the Lady Sif waiting for you back out in the great hall. Did you and she have further plans?"
"I think she did offer to show me around the gardens..."
"Then please go, if you have eaten enough. We will see you again later, I hope. Please do enjoy your stay."
Natasha nodded and bowed out, murmuring her thanks again as Frigga moved to sit down opposite Darcy, who was caught in the middle of a slightly awkward chipmunk impression with a cinnamon roll.
"So, Lady Darcy, it is good to have you here but I believe we have some preparations to finalise."
"Just Darcy is fine."
Frigga laughed and nodded.
"Alright then, just Darcy. Would you care to come and have a look at Jane's dress later?"
"Shouldn't I get to see it first?"
"Please, you wouldn't know what looked good on you if it hit you over the head whereas I have impeccable taste as I proved when I arranged your last wedding, so stop flapping at me when you don't know what you're talking about."
"Darcy, has anyone ever given you the talk about respecting your employer?"
"I respect my employer. I have even more respect for my friend, the difference being that between friends I can be harshly honest with you, and sometimes everyone needs that. Besides, where else are you going to get it from? Your other sources are prince charming here and Grampa Selvig who also wouldn't know a flattering dress if it hit him in the face, so make the most of the talent which is on offer to you and let me help."
"I know, but I'm mean in a very effective way and if you minded so much then you could have put a stop to me a long time ago. Oh except then you wouldn't have gotten married."
"...how long does your contract with Jane have to run again?"
Coulson asked, sipping his coffee and frowning a little at Darcy, knowing that what he was about to ask would not end well for anyone but also that he couldn't afford to let her skillset go to waste. And at least at SHIELD she could be contained. Though he had the feeling the Director would hate him for it and probably dump her on his roster. He tended to get the problem cases and while it had worked out with Clint and Natasha, Darcy probably had the potential to cause even more trouble. Particularly because nobody had yet found out where she kept her taser.
"Technically I'm not on contract anymore, Agent Lazarus. I'm just doing this out of the goodness of my heart. I've even got my college credit."
"When are you due to graduate?"
"Sooner than I'd like to think about. It really does not bear thinking about in the current economy there isn't much demand for political science students and Jane can't afford to pay me."
"...Well, I think, and believe me you have no idea how much it pains me to say this, I suspect there would be a place for you and your inestimable skill set at SHIELD. I take pride in not underestimating the potential of people as assets to the organisation, and we need more people like you who can organise. Especially people who can organise scientists, which is no mean feat. SHIELD has a fairly substantial scitech division, and there are some... administrative issues which I believe you could solve very efficiently and which you would undoubtedly take great pride in tackling."
"Oh you read me too well boss man, you read me too well... I could kick butt at that job and we both know it. Where do I sign up?"
"Well, I'll have to check what roles we have available, talk to legal about drawing up a contract and clear your appointment with Director Fury who will probably use the opportunity to once more ask me whether I was definitely stabbed in the chest and not the head because he's fairly sure I've gone crazy. That being said as far as he's concerned I've never made a bad call and I don't intend to start now."
"Sounds awesome. Lemme take a look at the contract and talk it through with Tash and I think we'll probably have a deal."
"I am going to eat my words," Coulson said to nobody in particular, "I am going to regret this forever and I will probably have some reference to it and an early grave on my headstone, but I still feel it's the right thing to do."
"You won't have a headstone because you can't be killed."
Darcy pointed out in her 'helpful' voice, and Phil just collapsed face down onto the table in a vain attempt to escape the consequences of what he had just done.
Frigga chuckled softly.
"It is time for the dress fitting though, and if, perhaps, you would like to attend? I believe the next party of guests has just arrived and Lady Pepper is also looking forward to being able to see it. She does seem to have the most wonderful sense of style."
"Yes, well she can afford it unlike some of us."
"Are you ill compensated for your work?"
"Not really, I do quite well for an academic, but none of us really earn fortunes. We do it for the passion in the research and the benefit to society rather than for financial gain. That's what they tell us anyway."
"Do I detect a hint of bitterness?" Darcy teased.
"No, I mean... Tony's funding a lot of my research now, and he's agreed to give me a place to work at Stark tower so Thor and I can be together. I must admit it's not academia but it's very tempting because there's more freedom and less backstabbing. At least of the figurative kind. Life at the tower can get interesting sometimes. But he... he's a good man and that does make it easier. Truth be told I just don't really know what to do with a lot of money? I keep myself fed and clothed, and keep a roof over my head and after that nothing feels that important?"
"That is an admirable attitude to have and one I'm sure you will continue to hold. Or so I hope, anyway. "
"I will do my best?"
Frigga nodded, and smiled warmly at her as Jane and Darcy trailed after the queen through to another room which was obviously some kind of work room. Jane wasn't sure that it was always used for its current purpose, which seemed to be tailoring, but it was well lit and a pleasant open space.
"This is my personal room... I enjoy reading and working in here, both magic and the more practical side of things. There are few pasttimes which are acceptable for a queen to partake in, not that that has ever stopped me, but I take a joy in creating beautiful things, especially when I can share them with my loved ones. As my daughter in law, you are most certainly among those loved ones, and although your interests are more fixed on the skies than the earth I hope that we will be able to spend time here together talking more and getting to know each other."
"I'd actually really like that, thank you. This is one of the few places I've been here that really feels like home... not that there's anything wrong with the rest! It's a beautiful palace, really, I just-" Jane stammered herself into silence, and Frigga nodded understandingly.
"It's alright. The arts of war are not yours, and sometimes such shows of strength and force can make one feel uncomfortable, that is nothing to be ashamed of. While this may be not your area of work or skill, there is space enough here for your studies too which I would be happy to share with you. Many people find more solace in the ranges, or the sparring courts, but I have always preferred it here and in the gardens. Loki was the same, though Odin never liked that much. I wish he had not reacted so badly to the news that he was not our son by birth, but... well..." she shrugged sadly, "I fear the prejudice against Jotunns was so entrenched in all our legends and sagas that it was all he knew of the race he belonged to and such a discovery made him feel as if he had been second class all his life. There is little that can be done to mend such wounds, and they are beyond my power to heal. But perhaps time, and love and patience will bring him back. He was sorely hurt at the hands of those who captured him."
Frigga's gaze flashed to them and she bowed her head for a moment.
"I'm sorry, I should not have spoken so freely to those who lost so much to him."
"No, I... I heard some of what you said from Thor, and I stand by what I said yesterday. He's my brother now and if Clint and Erik aren't being blamed then he shouldn't either. He deserves as much of a chance to heal as they do and I'm not... not going to take that away or deny him it. I'm just looking forward to meeting him."
Frigga nodded and squeezed her hand gently.
"And that's why I feel like you are a perfect addition to this family."
Darcy cleared her throat.
"Sorry to interrupt the kodak moment but if there's going to be family bonding here then I think I'm going to have to see you later? Not that family bonding isn't great, it's just a kind of awkward thing to witness, that's all."
"I am sorry, I did not mean to exclude you," Frigga was grinning again now, "Of course you are part of the family too. Thor seems to regard you as being like a sister to him."
"Yes, I know. It's very sweet and very frustrating at the same time."
"Oh? Has he behaved improperly towards you?"
"Not towards /me/ strictly speaking but I haven't gotten laid in like six months because he likes to intimidate people he doesn't think are good enough for me which seems to be most of the male population, and while it's sweet, it's also a little overbearing and I could really really do with some good sex every now and again, you know?"
"I thought you were with Natasha?!" Jane interjected, confused.
"I am. But she's away a lot and she doesn't... she views the physical side of things as very mechanical. It's not so much what we're about. So she doesn't mind if I play with other boys, and I don't mind if she plays with other boys, whether it's work or Clint because they're both bored on a mission, because we both know it's just playing and we're happy being us together. That's all there really is to it."
Jane was blushing bright red again, and somehow had the feeling that no matter how long she spent around Darcy she would never ever get used to the other woman's frankness. She could remember reading somewhere that some women were meant to be 'maidens' and some were meant to be 'mothers' and that it wasn't really determined by what you had done so much as who you were at the very core of it. She was very much a maiden when it came to talking about these things, though she had absolutely no problem doing any of them in the privacy of her own bed. Preferably with Thor. Mainly because Thor was very good in bed.
"I do understand," Frigga nodded sympathetically, "I will try to speak to him, but he is protective of those he loves and very aware of what scoundrels men can be, especially when they are young."
"Oh?" That had piqued Darcy's interest, and she was wearing that predatory grin again, "Was he a scoundrel when he was younger then?"
"I wouldn't go so far as to call him a scoundrel. Everyone he bedded knew exactly what they were getting into and I believe a good time was had by all. But he wants to protect your honour."
"He's about five years too late for that."
Frigga chuckled and nodded.
"I understand. I will attempt to remind him, gently of course, that as it was his choice who to bed when he was younger, it is your choice who you bed now and he is not free to deem them unworthy of anything because the only one with the right to do that is you."
Darcy smiled smugly, looking like the cat who'd got the cream, and Jane was very relieved when attention finally turned to the beautiful dress which was on a mannequin before them.
"I understand that white is the most traditional on Midgard, but we do not really have such constraints here, and so I hoped that you might find this acceptable?"
The dress was the colour of the night sky - not quite black, but a deep blue so close it was hard to tell - and it shimmered with little gems all over it, so much so that it might even have been a constellation. Jane found she couldn't quite catch her breath to look at it, and Darcy whistled appreciatively.
Frigga's smile was bright enough to light the room.
"I am so glad you think so. It seemed fitting given how you and Thor met, and your passion for the skies. I think the colour will look well on you too, you have a good skin tone for it. And we tried to make the fit flattering but as comfortable as possible."
"You think of everything." Darcy said, and Jane wasn't sure whether she was admiring, or somehow disappointed that something hadn't been overlooked she could point out. Darcy had, after all, run more or less everything for the other wedding ceremony and there was a chance she was now feeling at a loose end, which of course nobody wanted. When she was at a loose end, Darcy tended to find things to distract herself with and Jane was starting to get premonitions of some innocent Asgardian stableboy or something falling into her clutches.
"So would you be ready to try it on?" Frigga asked, and Jane nodded, still staring at the dress. It didn't feel real, it was another one of those moments in her life which she would be prepared to swear were getting more common, when it felt like a dream or a fairy tale. She'd thought marrying Thor would be the last moment like that since you couldn't really get more fairy tale than marrying a prince but this... now she was talking to a queen in a palace getting ready to marry a prince again.
"...Yes, please... I uh... it wasn't, like... spun by mice or anything like that was it?"
Darcy started laughing and Frigga frowned a little, confused.
"No? I wove the cloth myself... why do you ask?"
"Oh, nothing, nothing... just old stories on Earth... no big deal."
"She was almost but not quite being facetious."
"I see, and what exactly does this facetious mean?"
"Well, it is not a word which is usually applied to our mild mannered scientist over here. It means when you talk about something serious in a really casual way and make stupid jokes."
"I'm sorry," Jane looked back up into Frigga's eyes, contrition clear on her face, "The dress really is beautiful, I think it's the most amazing thing I've ever seen and knowing that you had a part in making it too that's... that's really something special and it means a lot to me. I just... this all feels very much like a dream. I am not the kind of person that stuff like this happens to and suddenly I'm talking to a queen in a castle getting ready to marry a prince and I just..."
"There are a lot of stories on earth about princesses finding their handsome princes in various ways and getting married and quite a few of them involve animal labour because for some reason the guys who made the stories up had a thing for magic and mice. Never really understood it myself, I think the mice are more likely to eat the cloth than spin it, but what do I know."
"I understand now," Frigga nodded, and she was smiling again without any of the confusion which Jane had felt so guilty for causing, "No my dear, this is real. And so, are you ready to try it on? If you wish for some privacy you can step behind the screen and if you run into difficulties I'm sure myself or your good friend here would be happy to help."
"It wouldn't be the first time I've had to dress her," Darcy agreed, and Jane glared daggers at her, stepping towards the screen.
She took a deep breath once she was behind it and began undressing, glad that she tended to wear stuff that was easy to get in and out of. She could imagine the difficulty of stripping out of something fussier, like a dress, and it just wasn't worth it. Jeans were comfortable. Her whole wardrobe tended towards comfortable more than anything else, and even Darcy and Pepper's determination to bring it more upmarket wasn't doing a whole lot for it. Natasha at least tended to leave well enough alone unless it was some kind of formal event, in which case she could be relied upon for something stunning which fit perfectly and had none of the muss and fuss associated with it that other shopping trips could have.
The dress was passed carefully to her, and Jane slipped it over her head, pleasantly surprised by the coolness of the fabric. It felt like water, but once she had it on it was warm. She had the feeling that fabric like this was exactly as cool or warm as you needed it to be depending on the weather and that was a nice thought. It took a lot of the stress out of other things if you didn't have to layer.
The dress fit like a glove, hugging her slim hips but flowing out freely after that so she could walk without worrying about falling over, and she would be able to dance, in theory, if she was actually able to dance. The first dance at the Midgardian wedding had been mainly leaning on Thor and following him around the floor, shuffling neatly in place and glad that nobody could really see her feet.
The neckline scooped quite nicely over her breasts and somehow they seemed lifted, framed comfortably in the material. The sleeves were long and close fitting without restricting the movement of her elbows or shoulders, and they drew attention to her slim wrists, and from there to her hands with the beautiful ring which Thor had given her resting comfortably on the fourth finger of her left hand like it belonged there.
She paused for a moment, wondering about fastenings before realising that there were none and the dress just... did what was necessary to fit her. The appeal of Asgardian clothing was rapidly increasing.
She stepped out from behind the screen and both Frigga and Darcy looked up from where they had been in rapt conversation (something Jane would worry about later) and fell silent, staring at her.
She fiddled awkwardly with the skirt.
"...Is it okay?"
"Okay?" Darcy asked incredulously, "OKAY?!"
"It fits you perfectly, Jane... I think it might look nice with your hair up again, like Sif did it for the other wedding?"
"Maybe with some diamonds in it if you have any like the ones on the dress?" Darcy suggested, and Jane felt her cheeks flush slightly.
"It would enhance the effect of the night sky having the twinkle in your dark hair too, I think that's a wonderful idea."
"Thank you. My wonderful ideas are often underrated."
"Well, your ideas will not be underrated here, I give you my word."
Frigga smiled, and Darcy grinned. Jane just shook her head.
"I know this wedding was meant to be all about cementing alliances and stuff but you two is an alliance that worries me greatly."
"But the dress is comfortable right?" Darcy changed the topic smoothly, crossing over to look more closely at it, feeling the material and the fit, "and you don't need help getting into it, obviously, do you think you'll need help getting out?"
Jane paused, turning to look back over her shoulder and feeling the movement of the dress.
"...Actually, no I don't think so. It seems to... do what I need it to more or less. So that's something?"
"It's a lot easier when it's not a dress you have to fight your way into. I never understood that tradition so much? I mean, it used to just be your best dress, which makes sense, and I know that some people's best dresses were a lot grander than others but a specific dress seems to be a gesture of extravagance almost, and then a dress that you require help with? For one thing, it severely reduces the likelihood of sex being easy and takes some of the fun out of the wedding night, though apparently wedding night sex with your dress still on is meant to be fun. Something I'd rather not dwell on. But obviously if you need help then that means you can afford to have the help I guess."
Darcy shrugged again, stepping back to admire the full picture and glancing admiringly at Frigga.
"It really is great. You did a great job."
"I am glad you approve... and you Jane?"
"Yeah..." Jane glanced down again at the way the fabric fell around her feet and absent mindedly smoothed her hands over the silk that sheathed her hips, "Yeah I really like it... I like it a lot..."
"Good. That is settled then. Would you like to change out of it? It would be a shame for anyone else to see you in it and spoil the surprise. Since you do not object to it overly, then perhaps Lady Natasha and Lady Pepper could see it later? I understand that it also requires their seal of approval."
"It's... just easier to get their opinions on most things I wear because... well, they have taste and style and I don't."
"I don't know, I think there is a lot to be said for more practical garb. Gowns are well enough some times but... well. I have never felt it would be appropriate for me to necessarily try trousers, certainly not in public, but Sif for one would really find them beneficial I think, especially in the winter."
"I'll suggest to Phil that Maria should take Sif jeans shopping."
Darcy grinned and Frigga smiled.
"I was unaware of their relationship, I have to say."
"Well, don't worry about it Your Majesty, I promise Sif could not do any better. Maria Hill is the assistant director of SHIELD and an all round badass lady much like yourself. She doesn't do the whole sword play thing so much, but they both understand each other and it really shows when they're together, trust me. I guess it's a warrior spirit kind of thing."
"From what you say I can indeed see that that would make sense... but what of you and Lady Natasha? Am I wrong in thinking that the two of you are...close?"
"No, you're not wrong, we're... well, yeah. We are close. We're together and we have been for a while now. It's not that it's serious but it's not casual either. I mean, it's my first real serious relationship, which I realise sounds ridiculous since I just said it wasn't serious, but I'm just starting to learn how proper actual adult relationships work and Natasha is being amazingly patient in teaching me. It was a lot to wrap my head around when I first realised I was in love with her. I mean, I think a lot of people fall in love with Natasha, or at least in lust, and it took me forever to pick up the courage to say anything about it, but hey... I guess it was worth it. And I don't know what she gets out of it all the time, but as long as it makes her happy then that's what matters to me. I wouldn't want her to stay if I was fucking her up because Natasha is a complicated person and I get that I might not be the best person to handle that all the time or to empathise or understand. Either way she seems to love me anyway and I'm hardly going to argue with her choice, am I?"
Frigga nodded slowly in understanding, and Jane shrugged slightly. She'd never really heard Darcy talk at length about Natasha. It had been hard to get her to shut up about previous exploits and partners, but Natasha was obviously special to Darcy and she showed that by hardly saying anything. It was a different technique which could be relaxing and concerning all at once.
"I think it's just that you are... kind of the polar opposite to what she's used to, no offence Darce? Just... you don't play games. You're still a little young and innocent, not that innocent, not that that would be a bad thing, but relatively innocent about some things. I think it's nice for her to be able to have a safe place where she can just set all the baggage that goes with being who she is and having seen what she's seen and done what she's done down and just be with someone who she can be sure really cares about her. I don't know if she'd go so far as love necessarily, and I don't know... I don't really know anything, I'm just guessing. Just strikes me that sometimes people look for things in their partners that they can't find in themselves, that's why opposites attract and people can fit so well together and be so complementary because for some people, especially broken people, you need to find the ying to your yang and the other half to you, or at least someone who looks like they have the missing pieces."
Darcy stared at her for a long moment, while Frigga's expression was inscrutable. Eventually the younger woman pointed with a shaking hand.
"You... You... How come you suddenly do girl talk? I mean, what the fuck? I spent years trying to do girl talk with you and unless it involved stars and gas clouds you weren't interested, and then suddenly... you just dump all that on me out of nowhere?! How am I supposed to process that?!"
"I'm sorry?!" Jane blinked, slightly confused by the outburst, but Darcy just shook her head, lowering her hand.
"You are ridiculous. C'mon, you need a hand out of that thing?"
"No, I think I should probably try getting out of it on my own... I mean, it's just... I prefer at least being able to wear clothes that I can get in or out of on my own even when I have to dress up."
"Makes sense... so was the other dress a problem?"
"No, actually Thor helped me out of it."
"Really? I mean, I'm not that surprised, but I guess... it doesn't strike me as the kind of thing he'd be able to do all that smoothly. Big hands and... delicate movements?"
"He was actually really good about it. I'd almost go as far as deft. And I'm... I'm actually really glad that that was a dress that meant he needed to help me out of it because... it was... it was a really nice moment. It was really intimate and gentle and... I'm glad to have shared that with him. And no better time than a wedding night for that, right?"
"I guess not... alright, so the dress fits and everything's good on that front. Are veils an Asgardian thing or not so much?"
"No, everyone can see the bride and groom as they come together," Frigga smiled, "It is an interesting tradition, and although veils can be a part of our wedding traditions, as Thor would undoubtedly tell you, or if he won't then Loki certainly will, I think this time we can dispense with it. It is mostly a formality after all. We respect your binding, it is simply only right for the new princess of Asgard to be formally introduced to her position and her people here."
"I'm still... trying to get used to being a princess. I mean, I never even dreamed of that as a child."
"You were an odd kid."
"Yes, I think we've established that. It's mostly the odd ones who go on to become scientists. Look at Tony and Bruce."
"Not the best examples right there."
"Sue Storm? Reed Richards?"
"Richards is a douchecanoe, not a scientist. Anyway. You may have a point. I think you had one of the healthier home lives out of all the scientists you've named. Not generalising that all scientists come from tragic backgrounds or anything, just saying that maybe our sample size is limited."
Jane leaned around from behind the screen where she was pulling her normal clothes back on.
"See, you did pick up some science while you were working for me, I knew you would."
"Guess it osmosed or something." Darcy replied smugly, causing Jane to lean back around again,
"Osomosis is just-"
"Just with water, yes, I know, it's a specialised case of diffusion which is passive movement along a concentration gradient from an area of high concentration to a low concentration. Incidentally I never thought I'd be picking this up working with an astrophysicist."
"All matter diffuses-"
"But absolute matter diffuses absolutely?" Darcy deadpanned, and Jane rolled her eyes as she stepped back out, smoothing her shirt down.
"Yes, something like that. I get it, science isn't really your thing."
"No, but managing scientists is something I can do and now I have a job doing it which keeps me near all my friends and gives me fresh meat to traumatise with every crop of junies that comes in."
"Natasha is rubbing off on you in the most worrying ways."
"Natasha is rubbing off on me in a lot of ways."
"Was that TMI? I think that was TMI."
Darcy was as smug as the cat who'd got the cream, and she hummed as the three women walked together back towards the main hall.
"I suspect that your remaining friends will have arrived, perhaps we should go and greet them? I look forward to having the Man of Iron stay again, he is so charming. And it's really amazing to watch him work, like having a child around the place again."
"Tony does get very enthusiastic about a lot of things."
"Perhaps after we have greeted your guests, you and Thor might have time to go and visit Loki? I think it would be better sooner than later. Activity will be picking up more in the next few days and it's better to have a modicum of privacy. That and... you may wish to speak to him again. I know that sometimes... when you meet someone new, especially when you have a lot of questions for them anyway, then it can be hard to talk through everything the first time and things may come up later which you didn't think of at the time. It's important to us all, I think, that you feel welcome and a part of this family, and it's important that you understand that for better or worse that means Loki as well. If he bothers you then you do not have to see him often, or even again at all, but do not stop Thor from seeing his brother, I ask that much of you at least. It is so good for Loki, and it does me good to see them as close as brothers again when they were driven apart for so long by each others' desires and behaviour. Thor was not always kind and Loki... well, he did not cope with it as well as he could have."
"No, I understand," Jane reassured her, "I understand, and I'd like to meet Loki. I know I'll probably have a lot of thinking to do once I've met him to reconcile everything I know and so... I think I'd rather have time to do that before the wedding if possible. I mean, it's better to think about it before, right? And easier to think about it here because at least I can ask questions here. That's something."
Frigga nodded, smiling slightly, though it was almost pained and very weary.
"Thank you. It reassures me every time I hear your willingness to accept both my sons. I will make arrangements for the two of you to see him after lunch. The time has rather flown and we must make sure to eat. It would never do for you to be hungry in this house."
"I like it here," Darcy said firmly as they wandered back in the direction of the little room which seemed to have been designated as the Midgardian dining room, "Everyone's really nice and the food is amazing... I mean, a girl could get used to this. Oh wait, Jane, you're going to!"
Jane shot her a look.
"Actually I think Thor and I were planning on just settling on Earth."
"Yeah but I'm just saying you could totally come up here whenever you want. How cool would that be? And then you could invite me and bring me with you. It would be perfect."
"You need to... calm down about this whole thing. It's really... not that big a deal." Jane frowned, a little bemused and almost concerned by the level of enthusiasm.
Darcy glanced at Frigga and hesitated for a moment,
"Excuse me your Majesty, would it be possible for me to just talk to Jane in private for a little bit?"
"I'm sure that would be fine... I will go on ahead to greet your friends, and the two of you can catch up when you're ready?"
"That sounds great, thanks!" Darcy grinned, and Jane shot her a look of confusion. She seemed to spend a lot of time looking at Darcy and wondering what the hell was going on, but she knew without a doubt that the young woman had her best interests at heart and that was something.
"What did you-"
"No, listen," Darcy stepped up and took Jane's hands, looking her in the eyes, "I kid a lot, I know, and I tease the hell out of people I care about because it's how I show affection. I like knowing people well enough to do that, and if everyone gets a laugh out of it then, well hell, what's the problem, right? The thing is that this both is and isn't a big deal. That's kind of hard to parse, I get that, but... look, you're getting married. Technically you've got married already, and the guy you're married to is an absolute sweetheart, smoking hot, and the one that you are head over heels in love with. The fact that he is an alien prince is kind of irrelevant. He makes you happy and you make him happy and celebrating that is at the heart of everything else that's happening. It's a stressful thing for you because suddenly there's a lot of attention on you and it feels like there's a lot of expectation and a lot of pressure. You need to remember though that Thor would do absolutely anything for you. He doesn't want you stressed and upset, none of us want that, and I know that you two can make your relationship work. If I didn't think that I wouldn't be standing here with you helping you organise this shit, because no offence Jane I love you, but your organisational capacity has taken a real dip since you graduated college and didn't have to meet so many deadlines anymore. "
"You're going to settle on Earth? That's great. That's seriously wonderful, because I would miss you. We would all miss you. And I know that there's relocating for your spouse and shit but Thor likes it on Earth and Earth needs him, and the culture shock from moving internationally is probably nothing compared to interplanetary culture shock, not to mention the fact that at least on Earth you're allowed to be a relatively normal person and you can keep that anonymity which you really love. Here you can't do that, and I get that, and I'm glad that you're not choosing to settle here because I don't think it would be good for you. There's no pressure to perform on Earth and you have a better support network here. If you like it here, that's good too, but I think you'll love it a lot more as a holiday destination or a home for the holidays than a full time place to be. And there is nothing wrong with that. You're not being weak for preferring things that way. You are not caving to pressure. You and Thor are compromising and communicating and finding solutions that fit you both, and that is how relationships work. I might not really have much experience personally but I've done a lot of observing, and I know that you two are going to make it and that you are going to be happy together. You love and support each other and make each other feel special, and that's what matters. It's never going to matter what you're wearing or where you are or what you're doing as long as you keep communicating and supporting each other, and I know you'll do that. So yeah, you have another ceremony to get through, but none of the trappings are important. They make other people happy, yeah, and I know I've always preached that your own happiness comes before making other people comfortable. I believe that. But I also think if it doesn't legitimately cost you anything to make other people that little bit happier then there's no reason not to do it. So. Honestly, as your friend, is this too much for you? Because I can't be sure whether you're really okay or if you're faking it and about to throw a nuclear meltdown."
Jane took a deep breath, swallowing slightly where her throat was suddenly blocked and squeezing Darcy's hands, steadying herself.
"...No. You're right. It's... it's not a big deal. It's a week, and Frigga's already gone out of her way to make it as stress free as possible, and made me that beautiful dress. It's not... it's not a big deal. And I have you all here. So... No. I'll do it. I'll follow through with this, not just because I feel like I owe it to people, but because it's something I can do for them that doesn't cost me, and that's... you're right that it's good to do things like that sometimes. And this isn't a big deal. I just keep building it up into one."
"You're building it up into one because that's what society tells us to do and it's easy to get swept up in a tidal wave of excitement, but for someone who spends their life staring at the stars, you honestly have your feet on the ground better than most people I know. Admittedly the people I know include people who can fly, and several gods slash aliens, but you know, that's irrelevant. You can do this, Jane. But if you need help, I'm here."
Jane stared for one more long moment and then hugged Darcy tightly, taking a few deep breaths. She knew she tended to take on stress in situations without looking for support, but Darcy was always good at reminding her that support was there when she couldn't remember herself.
"Alright... alright Darcy, thank you. I don't think I could do this without you."
"We both know you couldn't, but hey, what are friends for?"
Darcy grinned, and Jane smiled, shaking her head and squeezing Darcy's hand again as they moved after Frigga.
"You're welcome, babe. It's good experience for me?"
"You're really taking that job with SHIELD?"
"I'll talk it through with Natasha first, but yeah, I think I will. I can't stay your assistant forever, I need money, and after everything we've seen I don't think I could exactly go back to a normal work environment without getting insanely bored."
"Have I been a terrible influence on you?"
"Maybe. I guess I could always sell the story to a gossip magazine? 'My best friend married an alien!'"
Jane punched her lightly in the arm and her laugh echoed around the hall as they headed back towards lunch and the rest of their friends. She felt lighter already.
Jane still felt light even as she and Thor made their way to Loki's rooms. He was still technically a prisoner but no longer in the cells, since they were working on his rehabilitation. Jane wasn't exactly sure what had happened but Thor had mentioned that his brother's condition had deteriorated significantly, and eventually Frigga had intervened, making the case convincingly enough that even Odin could not deny that he needed the chance to heal properly.
Admission was granted, and their conversation was not monitored. Loki wasn't believed to be a threat anymore, and it was generally thought that Thor could defend himself anyway, having gotten the best of his brother on every occasion they had had to fight since they were children.
Loki was sitting at a table, his long legs crossed, bent over a book. He looked gaunter even than he had in New York, and there were the kind of hollows around his eyes which never really faded. Still, he looked up and smiled to see them, and weary green eyes lit up at the rare sight of his brother.
He put the book aside, moving unsteadily to his feet to greet them. Jane's eyes flicked over him, trying to work out where the injury was that was causing him to be so unsteady on his feet, but she couldn't figure it out.
Thor moved forward, clasping his brother's hand and moving into a long embrace, savouring this reunion. It had been far too long since he had seen his brother, let alone seen him as whole as this.
"Brother, this is Jane..."
He gestured to her as they broke apart, and Loki turned, smiling at her, though it was still pained as though something was troubling him which could not be remedied.
"Of course... it is a pleasure to meet you at last. You have done so much for my brother, and helped him grow into a man and a good king. Asgard will do well to have him at its head."
He brushed his lips over the back of her hand, perfectly proper, while Thor gave a slight grunt of dissatisfaction.
"It would have done better still with the two of us at its head, brother. You would have been the chiefest and most wise of my advisers, and there are none now who would stand to see that."
"No, perhaps, but they need not see it and should the king seek my counsel I would provide it gladly and to the best of my ability. Please, would you mind if I sit?"
"No, not at all..." Jane reassured him, while Thor nodded and dragged a bench over for himself and Jane to settle on.
"So..." Loki looked straight at her and Jane shivered slightly. His eyes were clear and green and she had seen over and over again the proof of the mind control in those blue irises from the footage in New York, but it was still odd to see them, so intelligent, and yet almost dispassionate. She supposed torture had that effect on an individual, "Undoubtedly your new bride has questions for me."
"Not as many as you'd think."
"Oh? So others have told my story have they? Have they painted me as a victim or a villain?"
"More victim than villain but there is no doubt of your own strength. I cannot say that I agree with what you did or that I understand it completely, but I accept that you have your reasons and it isn't my place to judge you for them. We're family now, by bond if not by blood."
"Not by blood on two counts."
"But always in spirit, brother." Thor said softly, and Loki's gaze shifted to him, becoming somehow fearful.
"...And you still call me brother? After all my wrongs?"
"Your wrongs were wrong but you have done righteous deeds alongside and when a man's mind is not his own it is not for others to condemn him but the one who controlled him. I accept that you were driven to what you did in New York, what you did on Earth, and I only wish I had been better able to bring you back rather than to drive you from me. I am glad that you acquiesced at least to return with me where your demons could be driven out and you could be healed, brother."
"It was less acquiescence than you imply, but I will admit that that was the best and perhaps the only chance I had. Midgard would have condemned me and they would have been right to. I would have welcomed death at any hand brother, even yours."
"Do not say such things, Loki. The guilt is not yours."
"No, but the sins of the father are often visited upon the son, and in my case both my fathers committed sins which haunted me and drove me to things I should not have done. Those things bore themselves out as such things always do and I have paid the price. I hope that it is a price I shall pay only once, for I believe if I must continue to pay it there will shortly be nothing left of me."
"I don't think you'll keep paying it." Jane said, and Loki's gaze flashed back to her, intense, but curious somehow.
"Oh? And what makes you so sure?"
"Well, I can't say anything for Midgard, because... there's a lot of people there and even though I'm making some kind of alliance here, I don't speak for all of them. So we've got that clear and that's fine. A lot of people still don't like Clint much, but he redeemed himself, and there's been a lot of discussion about mind control and what constitutes it and where culpability lies in those cases. He's been cleared for active duty and exonerated of all crimes. I mean, the guilt is never going to leave his mind because he's the person who carries it with him and more than anything you robbed him of control and that's what gets to him more than anything. Fewer people are still holding anything against Erik. I don't think many of them realise there's something to be held against him in the first place. But gradually, as time goes on, people are moving towards forgiveness and moving towards making sure they are not held responsible for these things that weren't their fault. Maybe people here don't think the same way but... you aren't responsible. And you've paid your price. I think if people knew the truth about what had happened to you they would be more understanding. But if you don't want them to know that's fine and it would be hard to discuss and open up a lot of old wounds. On the other hand, your mother does not blame you. That's not even forgiveness, that's just not blaming you at all. Your father has forgiven you and I don't know if he's apologised and he probably never will because he doesn't strike me as the kind of person who does that, but he's shown you love over the years because he doesn't know how to say it, and I think he has forgiven you in his heart in the end. Thor doesn't blame you for what happened."
Thor made a small noise of agreement, "I blame myself, brother. I was not as close to you as I should have been when we were children. I should have been kinder to you. I am glad I have learned, though I wish my lessons had not caused you such pain, and that I had not, indirectly, been responsible for your discovery by my own rashness."
"There would have been nothing to discover had Father been open with us for all those years. He made his choice and I still do not know if I believe it to have been right, but my heart is softening towards him and I believe it was not truly out of spite that he hid such things from me. It is hard to know how to handle such matters, but I think it would have been easier had such tales of victory and war with the Jotunns not been so much the stuff of our childhoods."
Thor nodded and clasped his brother's hand, squeezing it gently, while Loki looked back to Jane.
"And you, lady Jane?"
"I don't blame you either. And now I've met you, I believe that you are truly sorry for your crimes. And that's important. I'm not saying I think that you necessarily deserve the blame or all of the blame for what you did, but the fact that you are willing to take responsibility and not shy away from it and place it solely on the forces that controlled you... that takes strength and courage, and I think only from a place where you accept that you were part of something like that, even if you were just following orders, I think when you accept that that is when forgiveness really starts to matter. Really starts to mean something. So, please don't misunderstand, I don't speak for Midgard. I don't speak for anyone but myself. But I forgive you, and I'm a part of this family and I'm looking forward to being a part of it with you and having you at our wedding, even if it can't be in the open."
He smiled, and Jane could see hints of the light-hearted trickster he had once been.
"I thank you for your kind words, and I must say that what Thor has told me of your research fascinates me. If you could stand to return, I would love to discuss it further with you."
Thor chuckled softly.
"Loki has always been fond of his books... much fonder of them than rough and tumble on the courts."
"I found it to be a higher calling."
Jane laughed as she could sense the beginnings of an old argument, so well worn now that it was practically a ceremony, a dance between the two of them, and she held up her hands.
"Boys, boys please. No fighting. Intellectual and physical exertion are both important, neither is better than the other."
"Forgive me if I am wrong, Lady Jane, but I rather had the impression that scientists on Midgard were not so well known for their enthusiastic pursuit of physical activity."
"Yes, well," Jane felt her cheeks flush, "Fortunately for me, your brother sees to that."
Loki smirked, but there was no malice in it, and he nodded.
"I see. Thor has always been skilled in such arenas. I am sure he is a very good teacher."
"Oh yes, " she wasn't sure how she was maintaining a straight face, "the best."
"Brother it has been so good to see you, and far too long since we last spoke, but I believe we must away now. The window we were given is, alas, too short, and we cannot linger lest we draw suspicion, and it would be improper to neglect our guests. I hope you understand."
"Of course, please, go, though I look forward to speaking with you both again soon, and seeing the wedding which I am sure will be a wonderful spectacle. There has been little cause for joy and celebration here on Asgard for a long time now, the last occasion was when Thor was proclaimed the crown prince. It was rather overshadowed by the invasion and the events that followed it, so true joy is welcome indeed."
Loki stood to show them both out, and kissed Jane's hand again, his smile soft, sincere.
"Thank you for coming to meet me, Lady Jane. I look forward to spending more time with my new sister in future, and I feel that for once my brother has chosen wisely. He is not well known for his wisdom. I have many tales to share with you."
"I look forward to hearing them." Jane smiled, and curtsied a little to him, before taking Thor's arm and returning to the palace and the rest of their group.
The rest of the week flew by, and almost before they knew it it was the feast day. Jane was at once relieved and disappointed. It would be nice to get back to a normal life and not have to worry about watching her words or her manners, it would be nice to get back to a planet where she knew what was going on at all times and had a life where she fitted into a community and a system. On the other hand, the week in Asgard had been, rather fittingly, a magical experience, and even though she and Thor weren't meant to have been sharing each other's beds, she had to admit that the nights she had spent here, curled up in his arms, were some of the best she had ever spent with anyone.
Thor had always had a way of calming her down, of making her feel special, and vulnerable in the best way. She knew she could hold her own - she'd been doing it for long enough and it wasn't easy to make your way in a male-dominated area like physics with any kind of respect - but Thor helped her understand all those lines in Darcy's crappy romance novels about feeling sheltered and safe. He didn't take anything away from her, but she quite liked the chance to let her guard down and be taken care of without feeling like it put uncomfortable expectations on her or gave the wrong impression. She knew it would never make Thor respect her less, and after the support he had shown since even before their wedding night on Earth, she knew that she had made the right choice in getting married to him.
It wasn't that all that would change back on Earth, but it wouldn't be the same, and after all the stress had calmed down, Asgard had been quite a nice little holiday from reality. Everyone needed one of those every now and again, she'd just never been able to afford one, and now this was all practically at her beck and call.
She took a deep breath as Sif finished fussing with her hair, and looked into the mirror - Frigga's own - which had been set up in the dressing room, smiling slightly.
"What is it? Do you have gas?"
Darcy asked, and Jane rolled her eyes, not looking away from her reflection just yet, admiring what the dress did for her waist and hips.
"No I do not have gas. Why would I have gas?"
"I don't know, nerves? And you're doing a super awkward smiling thing."
"Since when was just smiling a 'super awkward smiling thing?"
"Since you're getting married and you actually look happy? What's so good about this that I couldn't make you smile when I planned stuff."
"No, Darcy it's not like that..."
Jane turned to look her friend in the eye, knowing that Darcy was almost certainly teasing her but wanting to make sure she let her know how sincerely she appreciated all the effort Darcy had put in to the previous ceremony.
"You did an amazing job, really. It went a lot more smoothly than I could have hoped, and it was actually pretty awesome to see all your talents coming to the fore like that. I hadn't really appreciated the extent of your organisational capacity before you got dragged into the nightmare of wedding planning. I just... I feel a lot more comfortable this time. Even though this is the royal wedding and official ceremony and stuff... I'm not so scared, because I've managed the more formal one? Asgardian ceremonies seem a little heavier on the food and drink and less on the majorly stiff formalities and stuff. I suppose my own traditions and the expectations of a lot of people were weighing on my shoulders and I think they would have crushed me without you. But you and everything you did helped me to... come to terms with it, I guess? You helped me relax, because you're awesome, and now... now I feel like I can do this. And it's not... something that worries me so much because it worked before. And I'm happy, and I'm confident in what I'm doing."
Darcy was blushing a little, and shrugged, the barest of movements just in an attempt to avoid some of the praise which she didn't know how to accept.
"...Look, it's okay. You're my best friend, and yeah, like I said, wedding gift. For what it's worth, I think you look amazing in that dress, and I think that you and Thor make a wonderful couple. Sincerely. I think you're doing the right thing and I think you'll do great. And I'm looking forward to the feast. Natasha said she and Sif would teach me some sword play when things really got going."
Jane blanched a little at the thought of that, and shook her head to rid herself of the mental images.
"...Okay but... just... make sure there's a doctor on hand and there's noone within a safe distance of you, okay?"
"What's a safe distance?"
"For Natasha and Sif probably the length of the sword, for you I'm tempted to say an entire room in case you accidentally let go but I'm not sure how practical that would be."
"I think I resent that?" Darcy inspected her nails carefully, then looked back up again, "I think I resent it, but I'm not completely sure to be fair, so... well, there's that, I guess?"
"Just be safe. I need you too much for you to lose any limbs. Even if you are abandoning me for SHIELD."
Darcy laughed and leant up to give Jane a hug.
"Relax, I'm not abandoning you for anything. You think I can afford to live in New York on SHIELD salary? And I don't do the whole dorm living thing. Haven't since college. No, Tony offered me a place at the tower, so you don't get rid of me that easily. I'll be moving with you. I have to say I'm kind of looking forward to it. It should be good, but anywhere else is going to feel like such a let down after that level of luxury."
Jane laughed, squeezing back tightly, even happier now she knew that Darcy would be nearby. It was good to know that the young woman would be taken care of, even though Darcy could most certainly take care of herself. Jane was more than a little fond of her after the last few years, and she knew Darcy was moving on to make the best of herself.
"Alright... let's do this..." Jane sighed out the breath she'd been holding, smoothing down the dress as best she could and smiling, albeit a little shakily, at Sif, Frigga, Natasha and Darcy who were all standing by. "I know I'm meant to go in first, but I... can I follow someone so I'm completely sure I know where I'm going and don't end up taking a wrong turn please?"
They all smiled, and Frigga chuckled softly, nodding and stepping forward to take the lead as she was accustomed to doing.
"This will be fine... remember? Just linking hands, one little jump, a presentation, then you get carried to where you need to be so you don't even have to worry about whether or not you're going to fall over, one more presentation, and then the feast starts and everyone will be paying much more attention to the food and drink than they will be to you. As long as you don't get carried away and start going at it on the table, which has happened once or twice, though not in royal feasts, I have to say. And since you and Thor... know each other well, I'm sure that you can keep your hands off each other long enough for it to get to the point where everyone is too inebriated to notice you slip off. Which is more or less the traditional thing to do. Nobody will really mind. And the feast will probably still be carrying on when you've finished whatever you go off to do, not that I'm suggesting you're going off solely for that purpose or anything."
"I think, to be perfectly honest," Jane looked up at her mother-in-law, with an open, weary, mischevous smile, "The most we'll be doing is falling into bed together to sleep. Sex can take a lot of energy, especially when you have an enthusiastic partner, and, as skilled a lover as Thor is, and you have no worries on that score he knows how to please a lady, you should be proud, everything that's happened in about the last two weeks or so means that I am so emotionally worn out that I think I'll more or less pass out when my head hits the pillow. I always sleep better with Thor wrapped around me anyway."
The queen smiled, her eyes dancing as she looked favourably down at the diminuitive, fiery woman.
"You have an honest heart, and a witty tongue. I am proud to call you a daughter of mine. And while I had no doubts about Thor's skills, it's good to know, I suppose? It is something a mother can be proud of, to have raised a son who is attentive to a woman's needs and considerate of her desires."
"He's definitely that." Jane could feel the blush rising on her cheekbones now, and it was not helped by Darcy's derisive snort from behind them.
"Yeah, I think anyone who's been in the same building as you two when you've been getting it on knows that."
"Is it bad?" that was Sif's voice, and Natasha's answering snort.
"They even manage to overcome Stark engineered soundproofing, which I think should possibly be an achievement in itself. You were never tempted?"
"Tempted in the most basic sense, I suppose, but never on an emotional level," Sif shrugged, "It would have been too problematic to follow through I think, and as we grew, I came to regard him more as a brother and a comrade in arms. A very handsome comrade in arms, in the same detached way you can appreciate your pigeon's aesthetics."
"Maria on the other hand," Sif continued, and Jane tuned out the conversation for the sake of her sanity, though she was smiling. She was stressed, yes, but this was still... nice and at least her friends' distracting chatter kept her mind off the fact that she was wondering what happened if her dress caught fire when she jumped over the broom.
Frigga stopped, stepping slightly to the side, and Thor emerged from an alcove, his eyes fixed on Jane and only Jane as he moved forward and took her hands.
"My lady... you look radiant, and the stars clothe you well, as well they might. There are few who study them with such intensity and know them as you do."
She blushed, and Thor leant down for the slightest, chastest of kisses.
"In a moment, we must open the doors, and we will take the final steps on this journey to cement our bond. Are you ready?"
She gazed up into those warm blue eyes, and smiled despite herself.
"As ready as I'll ever be..."
Thor smiled, and Natasha and Sif stepped forward in unison to pull the doors wide. They were greeted by cheering, and the most delicious smells Jane thought she had ever encountered.
Thor led her through into the hall, in front of long tables ranged with most of Asgard, as well as a selection of the Midgardian delegation.
True to Frigga's words, a broom was burning on the floor, though as they approached it the flames did not feel hot. Jane noticed that there were no soot marks on the stone, and that, although it flickered, the wood did not char. She felt herself relax. It was a magical fire. In which case, even if she got it on her dress (if such a thing were possible) then at least it wouldn't do any lasting damage to the fabric.
Thor squeezed her hand, and they exchanged one last look of love, before moving forward together, taking a hop... skip... and a jump... to land safely on the other side, where he swept her up into his arms and kissed her soundly, leaning her back to rapturous applause.
It was Frigga who stepped forward, extinguishing the broom and presenting it to them both on open palms.
Jane and Thor reached out together, taking it with a hand at each end, and bowing in thanks.
Odin was walking forwards now, and he smiled on them both. Jane felt warmth curl in her belly at the realisation that this was what he looked like when he wasn't being terrifying. Every time she had encountered him before this week, he hadn't exactly given the best impression of being warm or welcoming but now... there was a kindness in his face which made her happy, made her feel at home.
"Welcome, my son, and you, my new daughter. It is a joyous occasion to welcome another to our family, and you are brave, and a scholar. We could do much worse than to count one such as you among our number. My son has chosen well. In honour of this occasion, as a gesture of welcome, we would like to present you with a gift."
He held out a hand, and an attendant stepped forward, holding what appeared to be a large, beaten metal bowl. Odin took it from him, and held it out to Jane and Thor.
"Lady Jane, please... accept this as your dowry?"
"I am honoured by the gesture, Lord Odin."
Jane bobbed an extra little curtsy and took the bowl in both hands, surprised by how light it was. She blinked slightly and looked inside, unsure whether it would be empty. It was a beautiful thing, and more than enough of a gift on its own, but... she gasped softly, staring at constellations and nebulae moving silently in velvet black.
"We thought it might be of assistance to your studies... and even if not-"
"No, it's perfect. Thank you. It is the most incredible thing I have ever seen."
He smiled, and there was once again warmth in his usually crusty expression.
"You are welcome, Lady Jane. Now, come, join the feast, and let us celebrate your joining."
The Warriors Three stepped forward to lift Thor, and two members of the Royal Guard lifted Jane smoothly in a chair made of linked hands. Jane was quite relieved. Frigga had mentioned being carried, but she wasn't sure how dignified the carrying might be. This was fine. Surreal, but fine. And she couldn't help but laugh a little bit at the sight of the fearsome Warriors Three struggling slightly and bickering with each other under their breath about how to most effectively carry a grinning Thor, who was close to laughter himself.
Finally they were settled on the bridal couches in the middle of the long expanse of table.
Darcy leaned around Frigga and grinned.
"You're looking good, Jane, and you did well. No fires, no trips, slips or other injuries, no verbal accidents..."
Jane returned the smile, feeling as though a great weight had been lifted from her shoulders now she was finally onto this final celebration where she could rely upon not being visible to everyone, and most people becoming distracted and drunk very fast.
"...Yeah, it went well. It went really well. All of this has gone a lot better than I'd hoped, and I know that I really have everyone but myself to thank for that. So. Thank you. And... yeah, just don't expect me to do this for you when you get married. I'm a princess now. I can just buy you something."
"I might not ever get married... but that doesn't mean that you won't get dragged into organising everything anyway. I kinda wanna see your face when you're confronted with having to organise a bachelorette party. For anyone. And you're not allowed to include stargazing."
"I know where to find cheap cocktails. Every scientist knows a good place to drown their sorrows."
Darcy grinned, and Jane returned it, clinking glasses as the feast began in earnest around them.
Jane drained the sweet liquor, reminding herself to move on to water after this first glass. Asgardian mead was only really good for Asgardians and people with enhancements or weird metabolisms. She wasn't sure if Natasha really counted as enhanced or not and it seemed too personal to ask.
She looked around at the celebration a little, smiling to see so many people chattering away, toasting each other and eating enthusiastically... and then her attention turned to the man at her side, the man who was now officially her husband on two worlds... and as their lips met for the first time now this whole ordeal was over, she could have sworn she saw fireworks in the back of her mind's eye, and she smiled. She had never dreamed of being a princess, but this nevertheless felt a lot like a dream come true.
A thousand thousand thanks to flightinflame for beta'ing this monster - I hope the length excuses the delay, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!