They were in the country of Mexico when the goings on of the Avengers first caught up with Thor. Since returning to Midgard, it had not been his plan to avoid his friends in New York, but with the Realms at peace in the few months since the Convergence there had seemed to be no need to interrupt his time with Jane. Not when she had so willingly folded him into her life, making space for him not only in her bed but between the hours she spent hard at work.
It was that work that had brought them to Mexico. Different, he had learned, to New Mexico. Indeed, instead of staying in the midst of the desert they were in a coastal city named Cancun. Jane, he suspected, would have preferred the quiet of Puente Antiguo, but Darcy was very much pleased with the arrangements, including the small apartment they’d rented near to a beautiful beach and many bars and other drinking establishments.
The month of February was winter, but the winter in Cancun was unlike any he’d experienced on Asgard. He’d half forgotten what the seasons could be on a realm the size and shape of this one, it having been some years since he’d spent long periods away from home. The weather was warm and the sea, blue and inviting. Darcy took to sitting around on the small terrace of their apartment in beachwear, and even Jane abandoned some of her typical layered clothes in favour of garments more suited to the heat. Thor too experimented with different Midgardian clothes, enjoying the comfort and ease of movement that came with softer fabrics, as well as some of the brighter patterns that were available and seemed acceptable for wear here where they weren’t in London.
When the text message arrived they were all on the terrace. Jane had buried her nose in her work. Thor, on the seat beside her, rested his arm around her shoulders and gently played with her hair, occasionally stroking the softness of her exposed skin. Once or twice, Jane shot him a smile to indicate she did not find his presence intrusive, which never failed to stoke the warmth in his heart. Darcy had made them all cocktails - a drink she called a mojito, which Thor found pleasing - and was leaning back in her chair filing her nails, keeping one eye on Jane’s laptop.
It was Jane’s phone which lit and vibrated. Jane ignored it, as was her habit, and Darcy picked it up to read. She frowned, then her eyebrows rose.
‘Woah, dude, this is for you,’ she said, tossing the phone to Thor.
He caught it and read the message, Jane leaning over his shoulder to do the same. It was from an unknown number but the content was concerning.
Thor delicately pressed the screen to play the video message.
Doc F - this is Natasha Romanoff. I think you might be able to contact Thor. If he’s still on Earth, please forward him this. Secure channels only. It’s urgent. Thanks!
‘Thor,’ said Natasha, ‘there’s a problem at SHIELD and Rogers is in trouble. Don’t come. You’ll draw too much attention. I’ve just received word of a manhunt and I’m pretty sure we should be siding with Rogers because it’s Rogers. Can you do anything to distract Twitter? Rainstorm in the Sahara or level a building or something. Thanks.’
The message ended as abruptly as it had begun and Thor frowned.
‘What the hell…?’ muttered Jane.
‘Twitter’s an internet thing,’ said Darcy.
‘I am aware of Twitter,’ said Thor.
‘You might be,’ said Darcy. ‘But is Jane?’
‘Haha,’ said Jane. ‘I know what Twitter is. I got one so I could follow the Curiosity Rover.’
‘Such a nerd,’ said Darcy cheerfully.
Thor got to his feet. ‘I must see what I can do to assist,’ he said.
Darcy grinned. ‘I,’ she said, ‘have an idea.’
Something in her smile was not entirely comforting and he exchanged wary glances with Jane. ‘Fully informed consent, please, Darcy,’ Jane said. Thor was not sure that was a comfort, but supposed that Darcy was wiser in the ways of Twitter than he himself was.
That was how he found himself on the beach - wearing nought but a pair of garish and ill fitting shorts - taking the three young dogs that belonged to one of their neighbours for a walk. Darcy took pictures on her phone to share publicly.
Try as he might, Thor could not reason his way out of it. What little he knew of the internet told him that this would be a sufficient distraction, absurd as the scene was. And the dogs were most definitely enjoyable companions - they rushed around him in joyful circles, ran to collect sticks, and scrambled all over him when he sat down with Jane and Darcy.
‘Oh yeah, you’re trending,’ said Darcy cheerfully, checking her phone. ‘And Iron Man and Patriot have just released a video of them explosively sparring which is also doing pretty well. Although is less cute.’
Jane patted one of the pups absent-mindedly. She had stayed out of the pictures but while she had appeared to find the whole thing entirely amusing, he was not totally blind to the one or two admiring glances she had sent his way. It seemed there were in fact some advantages to ill-fitting beachwear and puppies.
One of the dogs clambered gracelessly onto his lap and licked his nose, and Thor smiled, petting its ears and scratching its neck. ‘Perhaps we should get some of our own,’ he suggested idly. While he’d never had a ‘pet’ before, in the sense that was meant on Midgard, he was used to the presence of more animals, from his horses to his father’s ravens to the cats that roamed the palace - far larger than their Midgardian counterparts he’d learned.
‘Ugh, don’t tempt me,’ said Jane, leaning over to rest on his shoulder as she tossed a stick, which all three of the dogs instantly dashed for. ‘It wouldn’t work with my job. Would it?’ She sounded slightly wistful.
‘Not really,’ said Darcy. ‘But if you like I’ll do some research into quarantine periods for transporting pets just so you know. I would totally look after a puppy for you while you’re doing science.’
Thor grinned, wrapped an arm around Jane, and leaned into her too as they watched the descending sun. There were, he decided, worse ways to assist his friends.
Days later, in New York, when the Avengers assembled once more in Stark’s tower (this time accompanied by a small number of trusted friends), there seemed less reason to feel that same uncomplicated happiness. Steven was still battered and bruised and only just allowed leave from Midgard’s healing rooms. The depth of SHIELD’s infiltration and betrayal was a difficult pill to swallow, not least because the Prince of Asgard should have been more careful with whom he formed alliances. Jane had explained Nazism and Hydra’s history to him (and told him of those in her family who had perished at the time) and Steven’s own personal history filled in many holes in the story.
He introduced Jane to the others and found she vaguely knew Banner and Stark. Steven had brought a new friend named Sam Wilson who had helped fight Hydra, and Stark was accompanied by Pepper Potts and Colonel James Rhodes. Sam kept close to Steven, watching him with the same protectiveness that Thor remembered from Jane’s face when he himself had been hurt.
‘Damn, though, Nazis,’ said Stark, as he passed around some drinks. ‘You should have said, Romanoff. If I’d known it was Nazi big, I’d’ve done something better on Twitter. Released another sex tape maybe.’ Thor would have sworn he’d misheard or that the Alltongue had failed to translate but for the looks on everyone’s faces.
‘Ahem,’ said Pepper Potts, not looking entirely thrilled at the suggestion.
‘A fake sex tape,’ said Stark, as though that explained all. ‘Jarvis could knock one together from existing footage I’m sure. And photoshop a fake woman in.’
Colonel Rhodes glanced at the ceiling. ‘The things Jarvis sees,’ he muttered under his breath.
‘We didn’t actually know it was Nazis at the time I sent the message,’ said Natasha. ‘I just knew SHIELD were hunting Steve, and I knew they’d use the internet. So the best bet seemed to be to break the gossip websites. Buzzfeed actually went down over Thor and his puppies.’
Thor grinned. ‘Truly it was an exhausting labour,’ he said, earning himself a swat in the arm from Jane and a roll of the eyes from Steven.
‘Ugh whatever,’ said Stark. ‘I don’t know why I even try any more. Anyway, the main question is: are we going to do this Avengers thing or not?’
‘I think someone has to,’ said Steven. ‘There’s a lot of Hydra left out there, and a lot of people who’ve been fooled. We need to stop them.’ He glanced around the room. ‘We saved the world before, as a team. Think we can do it again?’
Those in the room considered each other for a second. Thor thought of the fight with Loki: not only were his allies here worthy, but there was much he owed the people of Midgard for the actions of his brother. And re-obtaining Loki’s sceptre was an an objective of some import. He looked over to Jane, who briefly tightened the fingers that held his, although sent him a small smile of understanding. He felt a rush of relief as she did that she seemed to understand the importance of this, for all that he’d promised her his company.
It was Sam who spoke first, breaking the tension. ‘Hey, man, you know I’m in,’ he said. ‘Gonna need some new wings though.’
Steven grinned and glanced at Stark, whose face had lit up.
‘Give me two days,’ Stark said.
And that seemed to be that.
Hydra did not require Thor’s constant attention, much to his relief. There were periods of time in which all of the Avengers’ Intelligence seemed to desert them, and they were left searching and scanning for encrypted signals and hidden buildings with no further hints. On a realm the size of Midgard, that was no mean feat. Hydra protected its technology and knowledge well, so during those times where there was no further fighting to be done, Thor would fly to Jane.
These were the times when Thor was most content. All his life, battle had been his relief, and in truth he still enjoyed a good fight, but it was with Jane that he found his home and a level of quiet domesticity he’d never before appreciated. He learned to cook, and to file her notes, and how to drive and cycle and the basics of operating Midgardian aircraft. In his free time he ran and searched out the local gyms with the heaviest equipment (causing consternation amongst the regulars) and made friends in bars and volunteered at animal shelters (he had developed a fondness for Midgardian dogs and cats alike). Then, in the quiet moments, he would curl up with Jane on whatever couch or bed was available within their current accommodation and watch the increasingly baffling science fiction television shows that she adored, until one of them distracted the other with kisses. It was so far from the life of the heir to the throne of Asgard and it was utterly perfect.
In early May, they returned to Culver University, the institution which Jane officially worked for. She’d grumbled a little about being summoned home by the leader of the Physics department, but once they arrived she seemed both busy and happy to see friends and colleagues, so their short stay quickly extended by several weeks. They rented a small apartment, as was their custom, but as Darcy had friends still at the university, she was not to stay with them. Thor did not mind this arrangement. He enjoyed Darcy’s company, but far more than that he liked to be alone with Jane.
Eventually, a mission with the Avengers called him away to the north. A Hydra base had been discovered, but they found it abandoned. Still, they did not finish their work until well into the night and a weary Stark reminded him of his rooms in the Tower. Thor was tempted to accept, but the thought of Jane alone in their apartment gave him the energy to fly back.
It was the second hour past midnight when he arrived, and he kept his landing quiet and in shadows to avoid disturbing the other residents of the building. Jane was up, but in her nightclothes as she sat beside the window with her books in her lap. It was a frequent enough habit of hers that he could not be surprised at it.
When he entered, she jumped, and then beamed at him: wide smile and bright eyes making his return to her well worth it. She pushed aside her books and stood, and he enveloped her in his arms and kissed her. Even after a relatively minor mission with the Avengers, it was always a relief to return to find her safe.
Whatever Jane had been working on, she was clearly happy to cease, for she pushed him backwards towards the bed (their bed, he reminded himself fondly) and he willingly followed her directions, toppling them both and receiving a happy giggle from her.
‘Hi,’ she murmured, pulling back to stroke her fingers down his cheek and then through his hair. ‘I take it everything went well?’
‘Hello, Jane,’ he replied. He smoothed his hands slowly up and down her back, sliding them beneath the shirt of her pyjamas. ‘It did. The base was abandoned and no injuries were sustained.’
‘Good,’ she said firmly. ‘We can talk more tomorrow.’
With that, she pressed his lips to his once more. Thor hummed with contentment and called upon his magic to vanish his armour, pulling her closer to fill the gap that had opened between them. Talking, indeed, could be saved until later.
Later, in the quiet of the pre-dawn hours, Thor roused himself from their bed, in need of sustenance after both his mission and the more pleasurable activities that followed. Jane did not move as he slid from her arms, but grumbled something which sounded like ‘coffee’. Knowing her unpredictable sleeping patterns, Thor made enough for two. He had not thought to dress but, in deference to the hot oil from the frying pan, he put on an apron, humming as he cooked.
Shortly, Jane appeared, disappointingly wearing her nightwear and a dressing gown. She was squinting a little in the light.
‘You should go back to bed,’ he suggested. ‘I shall make you a proper breakfast later when the hour is more reasonable.’
‘’S’fine,’ she said with a sleepy smile. ‘Can’t sleep in an apartment that smells of breakfast.’ As her eyes accustomed to the light, she then seemed to catch sight of his lack of clothes for the first time and she grinned more openly. He smirked back. The lack of Darcy definitely presented certain definite advantages, after all.
He had just handed her some coffee (and received and open-mouthed kiss which promised far more in exchange for his endeavours) when there was a knock at the door.
‘Ugh that had better not be Viv,’ muttered Jane. ‘I told her she can interrupt my sleep for science when you’re not in town.’ She then bit her lip and grinned. ‘I will give you ten dollars if you answer the door dressed like that,’ she said.
He glanced down at his apron and raised a very deliberate eyebrow at Jane. ‘I cannot pretend I wish to appear almost entirely nude to your friends and then on their Facebook pages,’ he said, ‘but if my lady has issued a challenge, then-’
‘OK, OK,’ said Jane, laughing and getting to her feet, ‘I’ll go. I’ll take her into the living room, so keep it down, and keep the apron on.’ She swatted him on the arse as she went and Thor grinned after her.
What happened next gave him no cause to grin. In fact, there was a sudden silence that fell after the opening of the door. The unexpectedness made his senses prick up, and he thought he heard some muffled bumps.
Treading lightly, he hurried to the kitchen door. Before he reached it, it was pushed open by a young man in full combat gear, wielding an assault rifle lowered and ready to fire.
He froze and stared at Thor, gaze taking in the whole of him.
Without hesitation, Thor thrust forward with his fist, knocked out the intruder and catching his falling body to silently lower it to the ground. He gave a grim smile, thinking that perhaps the advantage of nude combat would be that of surprise. He did not summon Mjolnir yet, for he could hear the sounds of further intruders in the living room and thought to keep that as his advantage. As he drew closer to the living room he heard a yelp.
‘If you touch that laptop I’ll fucking kill you!’ yelled Jane suddenly.
‘She bit me!’ he heard a male voice protest.
‘I’ll do more than that if you- Ow! Let me go you b-’
Heart suddenly flooding with panic that she might be hurt, Thor threw open the door. ‘I would advise you do as she says,’ he instructed, his voice very low. He could feel the thunder that rumbled outside coursing through his veins but he did not pull it, or the lightning, closer, not with the room so small.
Instantly he took in his enemies. There were five men, dressed as their fellow soldier had been for combat. With only six, they could not possibly have been expecting him, and the way their faces paled at his entrance seemed to confirm that.
Two held Jane, her arms behind her back indicating she’d been restrained. Two of the remaining three were separated in the room: one at her laptop and the other frozen with his hands on her books. The man whose uniform indicated he was their leader, closest to Thor, was the only one with his weapon still held ready and waiting. At Thor’s entry, he’d swung it around to point towards the door, and that was perhaps his biggest mistake. Thor could survive a bullet wound, or several. Only the presence of Jane made him hesitate.
‘I said stop touching my stuff!’ demanded Jane. The man holding her books dropped them and their leader hissed a curse in his direction.
Realising Jane would not be keeping the peace and needing to keep the weaponry aimed at himself and not her, Thor dived forward, ducking to the side as he went. Frantically, the leader shot: once- twice- and Thor registered a sudden spike of pain at his shoulder before he snatched the gun from the man’s hands. Bending the barrel with one hand, he clicked on the safety catch and dropped the weapon onto the couch.
He then turned back to the man he’d attacked, glancing about the room once more as he did. No further weapons had been raised despite all four men wielding them - they were simply staring at him. He had definitely not been expected. And that they had sent six highly armed men to attack Jane was no small concern.
Lightning struck a nearby building and one of the men holding Jane flinched.
Though unarmed now, the men’s leader made to move - a brave man, perhaps the only one of the lot - and Thor jabbed him in the nose.
The man crumpled. There was very little sport to be had in fighting ill-prepared Midgardians.
‘Anyone else?’ he offered to the others in the room, keeping his tone as casually threatening as he could in the face of Jane still held prisoner. Their leader down, he did not anticipate trouble, but he did not wish for further fighting.
Jane forced the other two men to let go of her by shoving one and stamping on the toes of the other. There was little fight in them and they backed away, their eyes on Thor. The man who’d dropped the books already had his hands in the air and the others were soon to follow.
‘Weapons to the floor,’ he ordered sharply as Jane hurried towards him. He pressed her behind him, wary of the still-armed intruders. As he did so, he reached behind her, found her to be wearing handcuffs, and snapped the chain.
‘You’re hurt,’ she said softly, ignoring her protected position and stepping around him, her fingers rising to his shoulder to inspect the damage. He probably should have summoned both Mjolnir and his armour, but he had been only focussed on ensuring the situation did not escalate to cause harm to Jane.
‘It’s nothing,’ he said, not taking his eyes off the men as they slowly lowered their guns. The pain in his shoulder did sting, but his body was already healing itself. ‘Jane would you please collect the weapons and stow them in the bathroom? There’s another of their compatriots unconscious in the kitchen. Perhaps keep one of their weapons for yourself.’
To his relief, she gave a nervous nod and then did as he asked.
He assembled the men, tied them up using bedsheets and, with Jane stood stiffly to guard, fetched the sixth to be added to the group. Only then did he put on a pair of jeans and call the Avengers.
A few hours later, Steve, Stark, Natasha and Rhodes descended on their apartment. Jane still held the assault rifle, although she’d spent more of the intervening time fussing over Thor and cleaning his bullet wound - by now nothing but a reddened mark on his shoulder - than she had looking at the men. He’d pried open the manacles of the cuffs she’d been stuck in, but otherwise not dropped his eyes from the six men, keeping Mjolnir next to his hand. He was not worried now, but he could see from the way Jane’s eyes flicked to their prisoners that she was, and he could only hope to ease her fears with his vigilance.
‘What sort of idiot sends six men with only assault rifles to take out you?’ demanded Rhodes. ‘Even though they did get a shot in, how did they expect this to end?’
Thor pressed his lips together. ‘I do not believe they expected me,’ he said. ‘My arrival last night was quiet. They must have thought I remained in Canada or New York. They were here for Jane’s work.’ And Jane herself.
Jane shivered and he, relieved of his guard duty, pulled her towards him, rubbing one hand up and down her back. Hydra noticing her and her work was perhaps no surprise, but it was not a development he was pleased with.
‘And how did you even get shot?’ asked Natasha. ‘Surely your armour would have…?’
At that point Jane let out a nervous giggle and Thor grinned at her and kissed her nose. ‘I was… somewhat underdressed for the situation,’ he admitted as Jane laughed into his shoulder.
‘That’s one way of putting it,’ she muttered. ‘I’m surprised you left the apron on.’
‘It’s not the first time I’ve rushed into battle unclothed,’ said Thor cheerfully. ‘Although the ability to magically summon my armour has cut down on the need.’
‘Oh dear god,’ muttered Stark. ‘That’s it. I’m done. We’re going.’
Steve laughed. ‘I’ve had to take some guys out in my pyjamas before,’ he said, ‘that was fun.’
Rhodes shook his head. ‘Sometimes I think to myself: I’m a guy in a suit,’ he said. ‘But then I remember I’ve got in a firefight in my boxers.’
‘You boys have it easy,’ said Natasha. ‘With me it’s always been uncomfortable lingerie.’
‘Really?’ said Stark. ‘You’ve all got war stories like this?’
‘Oh, because you don’t have any stories about not being appropriately dressed,’ said Rhodes, deeply sarcastic, to grins all around.
The immediate outcome of Hydra’s attack on Jane was that she and Darcy, somewhat reluctantly on Jane’s part, temporarily relocated to New York.
‘Just until you guys get Hydra a bit more under control,’ Jane had said. Then she’d backtracked adorably. ‘It’s not that I don’t want to live with you! I do! I really do! I just don’t like… this.’
‘I know,’ Thor had said quietly, tugging her into his side. ‘The city is not where you would have us live. One day, when the sceptre has been found and Hydra are nought but dust, we shall travel Midgard together, sleeping in your car and going wherever your work takes you.’ She’d beamed broadly at that, eyes brightening and cupping his face with her hands. It was these smiles that he lived for.
‘Not always in the car,’ she’d told him before she’d kissed him, voice teasing. ‘Sometimes there’d be tents or roach-infested motels.’
Jane did adjust to New York, though, making the most of Tony Stark’s laboratories and facilities to assist her work. Darcy loved New York, and counted living amongst the Avengers as a personal victory. Thor himself could be nothing but glad that Jane was housed somewhere so secure, and that he could spend more time with her without having to cross half the realm to do so.
What he perhaps had not considered was that the more time Jane spent with Stark and Banner in their laboratories, the more intimately involved with the affairs of the Avengers she became. She had always offered her knowledge to them freely when asked, but her proximity made this far more frequent.
They became most grateful for this when a series of magnetic and gravitational anomalies struck the city of Ankara and Jane threw herself and significant quantities of her equipment into the Quinjet only just before take off.
‘I think I can stop it,’ she said, panting slightly from the effort of what she’d been carrying.
Thor smiled at Jane, despite the flip of nerves in his stomach and helped her fasten down her things. ‘Like London?’ he asked, seeing some of her equipment.
‘A little,’ she said breathlessly. ‘I’ve calculated these four points around the city - this triangle and then the centre - where if I can set up a perfect magnetic oscillation I should be able to cancel out the effects.’
‘Jane, your stuff is taped together,’ said Stark, picking through her equipment. ‘Still. Here in the land of real budget, we have things like welding and soldering.’
Jane snatched back the item Stark was holding. ‘If I weld things together, I can’t rebuild them in the twenty goddamn minutes it takes this plane to circumnavigate the globe.’
Stark, still looking through the pile, groaned. ‘Foster, is that my destabilising sonic cannon? That’s a half million dollar piece of equipment and you’ve pulled it apart and put duct tape on it.’
‘Shut up, Stark: you can afford another thousand if you want. Sit down and help me realign the frequencies.’
Thor grinned and sat next to Jane, ready to assist in pulling whatever metals apart she needed a stronger set of hands for.
On arrival in Ankara, Steve dispatched Thor, Sam and Rhodes with the outer points to Jane’s triangular defense. Once the items were positioned, they each flew back into the city to help the civilians caught in the action. Jane’s design - the central part of it - was not yet complete, and she remained right in the middle of the action. She was, however, assisted by Stark and Banner and with that Thor had to remain content. They would protect her if needed, and much as he desired to be there doing so himself, they would be more helpful with her work.
He, on the other hand, could be more use in the city, where a panicking population ran amidst smoke from fires caused by crushed and malfunctioning technology.
‘Um, Thor, buddy?’
Stark spoke into the comms for the first time in a long while. Thor, testing his strength and the might of Mjolnir against that of a gravity well which threatened to swallow a bus, gritted his teeth.
‘Yes?’ he grunted out.
‘Can we borrow you?’
‘Is fine. We just need you. To stop this thing. When you’re ready.’
‘I shall be… with you… shortly…’
Thor dug his heels in and let out a mighty roar, straining against the pull behind him. He could feel his grip loosening, hear the shouts of fear of the bus passengers as it was pulled further and further towards the singularity.
‘I… am… losing…’
Suddenly the pressure lessened, just slightly. ‘I got you,’ said Rhodes, and Thor opened his eyes to see War Machine’s grip on the front of the bus.
Slowly, inch by torturous inch, they began to ease the bus away from the gravity well and back to safety.
At last, once final push from them both sent the bus screeching away on its wheels, far enough to be safe. The back end had been entirely crushed by the gravitational forces, but as Thor winced at the feeling rushing back to his arms, he was relieved to see passengers beginning to rush from the front doors. With a flood of relief, he wiped the sweat from his brow and smiled at Rhodes.
‘In your own time,’ said Stark, sounding impatient in his ear.
Thor clapped War Machine on the shoulder before spinning Mjolnir to take off. ‘My thanks,’ he said, and then he was gone.
He found Stark and Banner where they had been left, in one of the central squares of the city. Jane’s familiar boots stuck out from beneath her equipment and he grinned.
‘Is that him?’ he heard her ask.
‘At last,’ said Stark, as Jane began to wriggle out.
‘Well let’s get going then!’ she called impatiently.
Stark looked at Banner.
Banner gestured at Stark.
Stark sighed and pinched his nose. ‘I can’t believe this is my life,’ he said. ‘Thor, take your top off: we need your armour.’
Jane at this point had wriggled into view and scrambled to her feet. ‘Hey,’ she said, bouncing up to kiss his chin and, as she did, tugging open at the fastenings on his breastplate which by now she was thoroughly familiar with. Thor, ever acquiescent when it came to Jane removing his clothes, assisted in the process. ‘Sorry, but we need a strong - like, really strong - electrical current. And we need something that can stand up to it as part of the circuit. That means you and your magic armour.’
‘Not my idea,’ said Stark.
Jane let out an ‘oof’ as the weight of the breastplate fell into her arms, and her gaze flipped approvingly downwards, making Thor grin. But then she spun away and hurried back to her work, bolting it in place and connecting parts, including caging some of the equipment to protect it.
Thor waited patiently. In the aftermath of his effort with the bus, it was almost a relief to be able to remove his clothes. Already he could feel himself cooling in the light breeze, however warm the air itself was. Had the climate been more suited to it, he might have summoned some rain, but the effort would be more than the relief provided.
‘Right,’ said Jane. ‘We need a massive electrical current to jumpstart this.’ Thor stepped forward and she pointed him briefly through her design.
He nodded. ‘I understand. Stark, are there any civilians nearby?’
‘Nope, buildings all cleared.’
‘Very well, please get Jane and Dr Banner to safety,’ he said. ‘It will be easier if I don’t need to restrain myself to a certain area.’
Jane and Bruce looked at each other.
‘Oh no you d-’
But before the protest could be finished, Stark had flown through them both, grabbing each around the waist before soaring upwards. Thor watched the outline of the three of them as it retreated, listening to expletives and threats from both Jane and Banner over the comms.
‘We’re good and clear,’ said Stark at last.
Thor grinned down at Mjolnir, closed his eyes and felt for the storm and out it poured.
Later they sat in a small cafe at the edge of the damage, eating and drinking to recover their strength. Shawarma, Thor learned, was also available in Turkey.
Civilian casualties were low, but not nothing, and both the energy required in the rescues and the sheer exhaustion of the size of the storm required by Jane’s devices had left him drained and still feeling the tug of the lightning under his skin.
When she’d first touched him, Jane had received a small electrical shock, surprising them both. Normally he had more control. Jane had regarded this as a mere annoyance though and had settled into his arms like she belonged there, saying that if she just didn’t let go she wouldn’t get shocked again. He’d already accidentally dropped some of his food on her lap, for he was ravenous and hardly in a state to eat politely, but she’d just laughed and cuddled into him.
None of this had made him inclined to summon back his armour, a fact which has caused most of the other Avengers to roll their eyes.
‘I wouldn’t mind,’ said Stark, ‘but-’
‘But you’re at nipple height when you’re both standing?’ said Rhodes.
Jane snickered. ‘You should feel privileged, Stark,’ she said. ‘This is the sort of view some people would kill for.’
‘Pepper says she’s jealous, by the way,’ said Natasha, who was on her phone.
‘Er, stop texting my girlfriend about Thor,’ said Stark, ‘or I’ll get Jarvis to block your phone signal.’
Thor ignored them. He was tired and hungry enough that baiting Stark had little appeal. Instead he wished only to eat, to bathe and to sleep, preferably with Jane. He felt her arms around him tighten and realised she must have guessed something of his feelings.
Eventually, at long last, they returned to the Quinjet and then the Tower, and, with Jane curled up in his arms, he was finally able to rest.
After the Ankara mission, Thor’s next few months were mostly occupied in continuing to despatch the remainder of Hydra’s forces. Soon they were so weakened that Jane felt comfortable enough to leave the Tower’s safety and resume her touring of the world. The Avengers kept Thor busy though, and while he flew to her when he could, that was not as often as he wished.
Then came the Ultron incident and everything changed once more.
On Asgard and beyond, Thor began to realise the size of the task he had set himself. Whispers of the Infinity Stones spanned the whole galaxy, and the more he learned, the more he was certain that Midgard was at the very centre. Even the stone guarded by Xandar had not escaped the touch of a Midgardian. But something too bubbled under the surface on Asgard - he was blind to its true nature but knew he would not be forever - and that meant he could not remain on Midgard as its protector as he would like.
He could, however, return there to pass on what he had learned and to sneak away for stolen moments with Jane. And occasionally too, rejoin his friends in the Avengers, new though the team was.
This was why he found himself in a warehouse overstocked with advanced technology of other Realms and a significant quantity of explosives, accompanying Steve, Natasha and their new team.
‘My information indicates this room will explode in ten minutes,’ said the Vision.
Steve sighed. ‘Anyone else getting a little bored of explosions?’
Beside him, Sam grinned. ‘I assumed it was the bad guys’ way of saying hello.’
‘No civilians,’ said Natasha, looking at her computer. ‘Not in this building. How contained is the explosion likely to be? If some alien disease gets unleashed...’
Thor stepped closer to the devices piling the room, taking in as much as he could, before hefting up one of the larger pieces and peering down the barrel. The others winced. Thor laughed as he realised what he was holding.
‘My friends, this device… I believe the closest equivalent is from a game you would call laser tag.’ He shot the floor in front of him. The gun in his arms let out an anxious beep and briefly lit the floor with a puff of green.
The others stared.
Dropping the weapon, Thor turned back to the Vision. ‘This room is too big for me to inspect in the time available, but can you detect any biological, chemical or radioactive elements?’
‘I do not believe so.’
‘So the good news is, this is probably just a trap for us?’ said Sam, glancing around, eyes taking in darkened corners.
‘No,’ said Natasha, ‘the really good news is this bomb is amazing and I can’t defuse it.’
‘So… we just cut and run?’ said Sam.
‘Not a word of this to Stark or Jane,’ said Steve. ‘You all remember how much they complained the last time we didn’t perfectly preserve every alien molecule at a site.’
Thor’s grin broadened and he reached for some of the closest small pieces of technology without much heed for what they were. Jane would find them interesting regardless.
‘We’re sure no life signs?’ said Steve.
‘Nobody,’ said Natasha.
‘Actually-’ began the Vision, and everyone froze. ‘There are no humans excepting yourselves, but I can detect the lifesigns of approximately thirty cats.’
They all stared at each other.
‘No way am I doing a press conference to the world saying the Avengers let a bunch of kittens die,’ said Steve.
Natasha sighed. ‘We’ve got about six minutes before we need to run.’
Vision directed them to the corners of the room, and away they went.
Midgard’s cats, Thor had learned from his work at various animal shelters, were neither as large or as intelligent as those on Asgard, but they resisted being herded and corralled with equal determination. They could, however, be encouraged, and in the corner where he found a mother and her children, he summoned a small rainstorm behind them. The tiny, indoor scale of it required his concentration, but had the mother cat mewling irritably and eyeing him warily to work out which was the bigger danger.
‘Four minutes!’ he heard Natasha in his ear.
He pulled off his breastplate and lined it with his cloak and coaxed the cat family inside. Then, swiftly, he whipped his cloak across the entrance, picked up the armour and ran, as gently as he could.
As the warehouse behind them lit up the sky with an almighty explosion, Thor surveyed the Avengers with some amusement. He was not the only one who had not had the easiest time completing this rescue. Steve appeared to have captured his cat family in his shield and held them against himself as he ran, suffering scratches to his face for his efforts. Wanda and the Vision had successfully filled his cloak like a bag, which angrily mewled at them. Rhodes had stepped out of his suit and put some cats in there for the escape (and already looked unimpressed by the smell), whereas Natasha appeared to have tranquilised hers.
Sam, on the other hand, had two purring adults - one held in each arm - and three kittens around his shoulders as if they were a scarf. The others all stared at him.
‘How?’ demanded Steve incredulously.
Sam shrugged with a grin. ‘I like cats, man. And cats like me.’
‘Well that’s good,’ said Natasha. ‘Because the Avengers now own thirty cats.’
The group surveyed each other once more.
‘Fine,’ said Steve at last. ‘But next time Stark shows up nobody say a word. Act like it’s always been this way and see how long it takes him to notice.’
‘And someone get a spare shirt for Thor,’ said Rhodey. ‘I’m beginning to agree with Tony: you definitely do this on purpose,’ he added. Thor grinned.
The door was locked.
Thor pulled back Mjolnir, reached into himself for the waiting storm and-
‘No! Thor! Don’t!’
To trust Steve’s order was instinctive, but reigning in his power less so. Thor let out a shout of frustration and forced the hammer to the ground as gently as he could, screwing his eyes shut and pushing away the forces that came so easily.
‘Wait a minute, why shouldn’t he?’ demanded Sam, next to him.
They were the two stuck inside this silo. Steve and the others were all outside. Grimacing, Thor opened his eyes and inhaled deeply. It would have been far easier to strike.
‘Any sort of jolt with that much power could set off the core,’ replied Steve. There was a terseness to his voice that wasn’t normally present. ‘We’ve got to unlock it properly. Nat’s working on it and we’re getting Stark on the line.’
‘Yeah, OK, fine,’ said Sam, ‘except it’s getting a little warm in here.’ Sweat already sheened on his forehead and he pulled at the collar of his clothes. Thor considered rain to cool the room, but given the closed environment and the way he was still forcing his power to dissipate, it did not seem sensible to try.
‘It’ll be fine,’ said Steve. ‘We’ll get you two out.’
Thor inspected the silo. The interior walls were metal, but they didn’t budge when he pressed his hand against them, so he guessed they were reinforced. The whole thing was a hundred feet high, the door they’d walked through before it locked behind them almost seemlessly part of the walls. The only breaks to the monotony of the room were reinforced vents every ten feet or so.
‘I assume you do not wish me to force a hole in the ceiling,’ he asked. 'With this much distance, I could hit it at quite a substantial speed.'
‘No,’ said Steve firmly. ‘This whole operation is delicate. If something breaks in here and the reactor goes critical, thousands of people in the surrounding area will be killed.’
Thor nodded and Sam gritted his teeth.
‘Steve, what’s wrong?’ he said.
‘Just… trust Nat.’
‘Don’t give me that,’ said Sam. ‘I can tell.’
Thor hadn’t particularly noticed, but he trusted Sam’s judgement on Steve’s tone, and stopped in his inspection to wait for an answer.
Steve sighed. ‘The- the reactor core’s going to vent. Through there. In ten minutes. If we can’t stop it.’ He paused for a second. ‘It’s going to hit about four thousand degrees.’
Something in Sam’s face told Thor that this was severe even before he did the mental arithmetic required to convert the temperature into something he understood.
‘Right,’ said Sam quietly, voice cracking. ‘Good to know.’
'We'll get you out,' said Steve.
Silence fell, then stretched on uncomfortably. Clenching and unclenching his hands, reminding himself to be patient, Thor resumed his inspection of the room, hunting for weak points. He heard Sam doing the same, taking flight to look at the vents. Thor himself remained on the ground. Wide as the Falcon's wingspan was, Sam’s flight was much more restrained than his own and seemed far less likely to damage anything.
‘These things are already pouring out heat!’ called Sam, before gracefully dropping to the floor once more. ‘This is not good.’
Thor nodded thinly. ‘It seems we must wait,’ he said.
The temperature continued to rise.
Thor leaned against the wall beside the door. Patience in the face of danger had been one of his hardest learned lessons, but hundreds of years of wars in which waiting was the one common thread had forced it upon him. Sam too was a veteran of Midgard’s more typical conflicts so had this same patience. Unlike Thor, however, he did not lean.
Instead he gingerly touched the wall and hissed in discomfort. ‘How are you not feeling this?’ he asked.
‘The heat. Dude, you’re not even sweating. No offense, but I kinda hate you a little bit right now.’
Giving a shrug and a grin, Thor continued to wait.
After a few minutes more, the communication device in his ear fuzzed into life again, but this time any message was drowned out by white noise.
‘Hey, we can’t hear you!’ said Sam, tapping his ear vaguely. ‘Must be the heat. Comms are down. I repeat: comms are down.’
‘... problem… Natasha can’t… Stark’s… doesn’t know… minutes… Sam... I don’t know what to do.’
Steve’s stark admission faded into white noise once more.
‘Right,’ said Sam, into the silence that followed. ‘You sure you can’t bust out of here without us nuking the mid west?’
Thor levered himself up. ‘I am confident that if Steve says I cannot, then that is the case.’
‘Point,’ said Sam. ‘Well, at least I’m not gonna go being shot at. Never much fancied that after Afghanistan.’
‘Do not give up all hope yet, Sam,’ said Thor, as he began to swiftly remove his armour.
‘Er, this better not be some Asgardian tradition about dying naked.’
At that, Thor laughed. ‘No, have no fear,’ he said. ‘Take off your wings and put this on.’ Sam stared, but reached to undo his armour and wings at Thor’s further urging.
‘Is this going to… help?’ he asked, sounding both sceptical and hopeful.
‘This armour can withstand those temperatures easily,’ said Thor. He moved forward to help Sam with the mail sleeves and his gauntlets. ‘I am afraid I do not know if this will be enough,’ he admitted.
‘What about you?’ demanded Sam. ‘There’s no way I’m taking this if you-’
Thor smiled. ‘What’s four thousand degrees compared to lightning?’ he said, with a shrug.
‘Seriously?’ said Sam. ‘You’re just gonna take this half naked and you’re not even worried and you didn’t mention this before?’
‘I assumed Natasha and Stark would prevail,’ replied Thor, reaching around Sam to position the breastplate and begin to buckle it. ‘The security here must be strong if they have not.’
He summoned his helm for the first time in some years. Mostly ceremonial it might be, but that did not mean it would not help protect Sam.
‘What the-? Does that have wings?’
Cheerfully, Thor dumped it onto Sam’s head. ‘It suits you.’
‘Funny,’ said Sam, looking down and surveying himself. The armour, shaped for Thor’s body, did not fit as it should, but Thor judged that it would do the job. Dressed such, there was much more chance that Sam would survive. ‘If I survive this, I want a photo of this for Facebook.’
Thor laughed. ‘I should be pleased to volunteer my armour for such a feat.’
The heat burned.
He had not lied to Sam. Four thousand degrees was nought compared to lightning, but lightning was his own, written right through his bones. Even storms he did not summon were a part of him, bending to his will and rushing through him, not against him. This heat was not that. Instead it was a rush of pain, ripping across his bare back and forcing a shout from him before he had time to suppress it.
He’d pulled Sam into his chest, wrapped them both as much as he could in his cloak - which provided some protection but not enough - and even with that and his armour he knew if this went on too long Sam would not live. Clinging to his friend, he felt for water in the atmosphere, but knew instantly that no rain could survive this.
Gritting his teeth and keeping his face buried in his own cloak and Sam’s shoulder for protection, he forced his mind to Jane. Jane, who was soft and comfortable and who never brought pain in her wake. Jane, who would hold him and protect him and help him heal when all this was over. (Jane, who would be awake and waiting and worried, who he should have told Steve to reassure, but there was nothing he could do about that.)
In his arms, Sam was shouting. The words barely comprehensible but Thor could feel his hands digging into his chest. More pain, but pain he could endure, for as long as it remained it meant Sam was still conscious.
There was a change in the air. Something in the rushing wind quietened.
Then a pause - a long count to sixty-five before the scrape of metal accompanied by swearing.
‘-Don’t care if I burn ali- shit that’s hot. Sam! Sam, are you there?!’
Thor groaned and released his grip with a sigh of relief, realising for the first time that the temperature had dropped significantly. ‘We’re here. We live.’
‘Thor? Sam?’ Steve rushed over, accompanied by the Vision. ‘Is he-?’
‘I’m fine,’ croaked out Sam, as Thor gently pulled away the cape. Steve snatched at Sam’s hand. Sam’s breaths came short and uneven as he tried to move his own limbs. Even as he did, Thor saw his face screw up in pain.
‘We need to get him back to base,’ said Steve, face pale despite the still dissipating heat. ‘Vision, can you-?’
Thor watched as they carefully lifted Sam for transport. It was only then, once they were free of his immediate area, that he felt comfortable staggering to his feet, pushing up against Mjolnir as he did and swaying. His plan had been to fly himself back to base - enjoying the coolness of the cloud layer - but now he was on his feet and swaying that did not seem sensible.
‘You’re such a fucking liar,’ muttered Sam.
‘You insult my honour,’ said Thor, with half a smile. ‘We both live, do we not?’
The trip back, Steve neither left Sam’s side nor let go of his hand. On return, Sam was ushered into the care of Helen Cho, Steve following close behind.
‘Shouldn’t you go?’ suggested Natasha. ‘It’s not often I see you with actual physical damage.’
‘It’ll heal,’ said Thor absently, looking around him, hoping for Jane.
‘We said you were injured on the comms,’ said Rhodey, apparently reading his mind. ‘Where do you think she is?’
Lips twitching slightly, Thor decided to head to the healing rooms after all, following Steve, Sam and Helen at a reasonable distance. He did not need to distract Helen from her work on Sam since his own skin would heal from the burns in a matter of hours.
‘Thor!’ Jane waited in the lobby of the healing rooms and he smiled in greeting. She did not smile in return. ‘They said you were hurt!’
He took her hands. ‘Some superficial burns,’ he agreed, leaning down to kiss her nose. ‘Sam needed my armour more than I, but I will soon heal.’
‘Hmm,’ muttered Jane, frowning as she surveyed him and then walking around him. He winced at her intake of breath. He had no wish for her to worry: painful though it was, it was already healing.
‘Will you help me?’ he asked, knowing Jane had not his patience for his own healing and that she would worry if left to sit idle. ‘I believe there will be creams or ointments for burns to aid my healing.’
She squeezed his hand very gently and led him into one of the healing rooms. There he sat cross-legged at the end of the bed and allowed her to treat him. She first fetched a sponge and some cool water to wash the dust from his body, which he lazily allowed himself to enjoy when she washed those parts of him that were unburned. Next she applied ointment for burns to a large part of his back and the backs of his arms. For all her care, he did wince once or twice, but the cool of the cream was a surprisingly effective relief. The motions seemed to sooth her shaking hands as much they did his pain, and for that alone it was worth it.
‘Your hair’s got a bit burned at the edges,’ she said at last. ‘Shall I even it out?’
Thor tutted and reached up to inspect the ends of his hair. One side was only slightly singed, but the other appeared to have lost an inch and a half of length and he frowned. He liked his longer hair.
‘Stop pouting,’ said Jane as she found some scissors. ‘You’re lucky to be alive.’
‘No I’m not,’ he argued. ‘My skin will be healed within a day. My hair, however, will take at least a month to return.’
Jane laughed softly, a sound that delighted him as it meant her fears were receding. Then she ran her fingers through his hair gently and he allowed his eyes to flutter shut. ‘Now stay still,’ she said. ‘Or this’ll go wonky and I’ll have to cut it even shorter.’
‘My dignity is in your hands, Beloved,’ he said.
That won him another laugh and he smiled to himself, liking the feel of her hands smoothing his hair.
Later, when Sam and Steve entered - Sam in a wheelchair pushed by Steve - Jane was still fussing over his split ends. Thor frowned at the men. ‘Are you-?’ he asked Sam.
‘Helen says I’ll be fine,’ said Sam, voice still rough. ‘Just gotta take it easy for a few days. Legs were the worst burned. You need more better armour.’
Thor smiled. ‘My sincere apologies,’ he said. ‘I shall look into it when I return to Asgard.’
‘Damn right,’ said Sam. ‘You told Jane she ought to be jealous, yet?’
Jane frowned even as Thor laughed. ‘Only as jealous as Steve should be,’ he replied cheerfully.
‘Do I want to know?’ said Jane.
‘Apparently Thor’s patented help-a-human-survive-a-heatstorm technique involves getting naked and cuddling,’ said Steve drily.
‘Hey man, Thunder God nipple in the face worked,’ said Sam.
Grinning, Thor turned to Jane who snorted. ‘Sometimes I’m surprised you even bother putting your armour on in the morning,’ she said.
‘Whatever, you won’t find me complaining,’ said Sam. ‘It worked. Thanks, Thor, I owe you one.’
‘And Thor, are you all right?’ asked Steve. ‘I didn’t ask, back in the silo- but you looked pretty bad.’ He shuffled on his feet, scratching the back of his neck, apparently guilty that he had not asked before. Thor, sympathetic of his concerns for Sam, was not offended by such a minor lapse.
‘My hair has not survived intact,’ he bemoaned, preferring to ignore his already-healing back in favour of the more long-lasting problem.
‘Really?’ replied Steve sarcastically. ‘Well if I’d known that, I’d have been far more worried.’
‘I hate superheroes,’ said Sam, shutting his eyes. ‘But I’m keeping your hat. Wings are my thing, not yours.’
And the one time he doesn’t
‘Thor!’ Her voice was the first thing he heard when he landed on Midgard, to his relief. He’d worried the Bifrost would go off course at such a time as this.
‘Jane!’ He caught her in his arms and embraced her, holding her tightly to him and trying to memorise every part of this moment: from the way her body curved against his to the soapy smell of her skin and, when he kissed her, the way she tasted like her morning coffee. He could not run from the reality of what he faced, but having Jane in his arms was one final small comfort.
‘Thor, what- what is it?’ she asked, pulling back, running her fingers down his face and over his beard. ‘Why…?’
Steadying his hands by running them up and down her back and sides, he smiled sadly. ‘Jane, I fear what we face is beyond all hope. Ragnarok approaches and I cannot stop it.’
‘Oh,’ said Jane quietly. ‘OK. Right.’ He felt her inhale shakily. ‘Ragnarok with the world ending and the serpent and you- and you…?’
‘Oh,’ she said again, her fingers curling more tightly through his hair, pulling as though she had no plans to let go. ‘That sorta makes sense. There’ve been atmospheric variations recently, plus some anomalies in the- anyway, that’s not important. I need to get my equipment.’
‘Jane, this is not something we can-’
‘Don’t you dare, buddy. I’ve been looking up how to kill snakes since I met you. I am not accepting the end of the world and neither are you.’
Thor smiled faintly. ‘I love you,’ he said.
‘Good,’ she said. ‘I mean, I do too. I love you, I mean. But we’re still going snake hunting.’ Then she frowned at him. ‘Also, not that I don’t appreciate it, but why are you shirtless? Where’s your armour? I know it’s warm out but the literal end of the world needs a bit more protection than just your cape.’
‘My magic… and Mjolnir… in the face of Ragnarok both are unpredictable and my armour is tied to that. There is nought I can do but hope that when we face this my full powers are behind me.’
Jane studied him for a moment before clucking her tongue, shaking her head and pulling her phone from her pocket. ‘Tony! Hi! I need armour. Made to fit Thor. And I need it now. And tell Steve I need his shield. The world is ending.’ She paused. ‘Yes, again. Armour. Soon. Vibranium if possible. Go beg T’Challa if you have to. Actual end of the world for real from Norse mythology and my boyfriend is half naked.’ She paused once more. ‘Yes, again. That’s why I’m talking to you. Go make some armour or we’re all going to die. Also maybe make some for someone who’s five-three if you get a minute. OK, bye, we’ll be there soon.’
‘Jane...’ said Thor softly, when she hung up.
‘Hey, you get bashed about a lot on a good day,’ she said running her hands up his arms. ‘If you think you’re going into Ragnarok in anything short of perfect condition you’ve got another thing coming. Oh, and did you know mongooses can kill snakes? Does Asgard have massive mongooses you haven’t mentioned, because if so, now would be a really good time to mention it.’
Thor took her hand. ‘You mean to fight destiny with mongooses?’ he asked.
‘You got any better ideas? This is not my area of expertise. Or is it more like a Basilisk because if so we need weasels. Or the sword of Gryffindor but that’s not really a sensible suggestion. Do you think we can collect some venom because then we can make some antidote? Maybe I’ll get Helen on the line. She probably knows someone who can help with that.’
Tugging her forward once more into his embrace, Thor felt the corner of his lips twitching upwards almost on their own accord.
Jane gave him a small, tight smile and leaned up to softly press her lips to his. ‘We’re not going to just let this happen,’ she said.
‘Jane, however we fight this fate, be it small land mammals, fictional weaponry, or complicated science, know that I would not believe it possible from anyone but you.’
At that, her smile became genuine, and for the first time in a long time, Thor felt the tiniest flickering of hope.