- Death-Major Character
- Action Adventure
- Established Relationship
A few days had passed by the time Thor entered the diner he’d first drank in with Jane and Darcy. It had been refurbished since the last time he’d been there, having been destroyed in the Warriors Three’s clash with the Destroyer. The layout was mostly the same, but the colour or position of a few of the furnishings were off slightly.
A waitress walked out from a back room. Her black hair was pulled back in two short braids, and a pen was tucked behind her left ear. She looked young — essentially a child. The badge on her shirt read “Sophie”.
Walking to the counter, he asked for a cup of coffee, pulling the Midgardian money Tony had shoved into his hand before he left from his pocket.
Sophie tilted her head, her eyes narrowed. ‘Just, like, don’t smash any of our glasses this time.’
He shuffled in place. Jane and Darcy had since shown him how inappropriate that had been. ‘How do you know about that?’
‘There’s a photo of you out back. Isabel said you’re always welcome here after what you did for this town, but she wants us to remind you of Earth’s drinking customs.’ Sophie grinned. ‘And that if another battle is to break out, our biggest competitor is a few streets over, so aim for them next time.’
That startled a laugh from him. ‘I will not mishandle any breakables.’
As he went over to a table to wait, passing a greying couple eating pancakes, he thought back to what Jane had said. His father would not care if any of these people died. Sophie, the greying couple, and even the people he’d passed on his way there could have disappeared, and Odin would not notice.
Before Thor had been banished to Midgard, he wouldn’t have noticed or cared, either.
Sophie walked over and placed a cup of coffee down on the table. ‘Don’t forget,’ she said over her shoulder as she walked away.
‘I shall endeavour not to.’
Her jest was cute. Yet this child, and so many others like her, could die without Odin caring.
Were his friends right? Would Asgard be in the wrong for not getting more involved? But how could they sustain that level of involvement with every realm? Odin would argue it would be unfair to favour Midgardians due to Thor’s partiality towards them.
Thor had changed so much over the last few years. The worst of his old traits — his arrogance, his short-sightedness, his entitlement — had been shaken by his time on Midgard, and if he were to meet his past self now, they would disagree on several major points.
Was he betraying his friends?
He took a sip of coffee, considering.
Asgard brought out the worst in him — the most uncaring parts of his nature.
Going back wasn’t an option. One day, he might be ready to return to Asgard and take his rightful place as its next king, but not yet. He needed to be elsewhere first. He was better, more noble, more selfless here.
Perhaps he should request leave to travel. Loki was right; their father would not allow him to return to Midgard. Somewhere else, however…
But what about Loki? Once again, he had to admit that his brother was correct. While their father might forgive Thor, he would never do the same for Loki. There was some justice to that, but it was devastating nonetheless.
Not for the reasons Loki would expect, either.
Just as Asgard was unhealthy for Thor, so too did it bring out the worst in his brother. Redemption could theoretically happen anywhere, but Thor doubted Loki would change in that environment, surrounded by the very people, places and problems that had helped shape who he’d become in the first place.
All his brother needed was to find a place that stirred his soul enough for him to long for it and its protection.
By the time he finished his coffee, he had made his decision. Leaving the distinctly unbroken glass on the table, he left the diner with a brief wave to Sophie, who was cleaning a different table.
For centuries, Odin had pitted Thor and Loki against one another in their quest to be worthy of the crown. It had constantly underlain their dynamic, even when neither of them was focused on it.
It was time to take the crown out of the equation. It was time for Thor to choose his brother.
Jane was eating lunch at the kitchen counter, lost in her thoughts, when Thor walked into the room. His beard had begun to grow out, and there were bags under his eyes, but other than that, he looked well-kept.
She started at the sight. It had been four days since he’d left, and she’d spent much of that time planning and thinking. Seeing him in front of her now felt like she was in a dream.
‘I must apologise. I should not have left as I did.’
‘We both needed some space to think,’ she said.
‘Indeed, we did.’ Thor took an apple from the bowl of fruit sitting on the counter and sat down beside her. ‘My plan is not to return to Asgard immediately. If Loki agrees, we will travel the realms together.’
‘What about your father?’
‘We will deal with that when the issue arises.’
Jane couldn’t see how it would work, but it was clear that didn’t matter. Successful or not, Thor wouldn’t be able to rest until he tried. ‘I think that’s a good idea. How long will you be gone?’
‘A few years, if we can keep free that long.’
The words twisted her insides. It was what she’d been expecting, but there was a difference between knowing it and hearing it.
‘I hope that, when I return, you will still be here.’
‘I can’t.’ While she cared about their relationship, if it could be called that, she couldn’t go through a prolonged absence again. ‘What if it takes longer than that? What if you never come back?’
She thought she could love him, if she didn’t already, but she wasn’t willing to wait several years sustained by hope alone.
Surprise flickered across Thor’s face. Her response, apparently, was not the one he was expecting. ‘A few years is a blink of an eye to an Asgardian.’
‘I’m not Asgardian,’ she pointed out.
‘You could be one day.’
That had been a source of great contemplation for her since he left. It was tempting beyond belief. The things she could see, learn, and discover would be limitless. There would be no need to choose between theses or juggle paltry research grants. Decades could be spent on each question with time to spare.
Longitudinal studies would have an entirely new meaning.
‘I can’t,’ she said again, looking away to avoid the pain in his eyes.
It might be the perfect life for some, but for her, the downsides would outweigh the positives.
Solitude had always appealed to her. Since childhood, she had been a loner, cutting herself off from others without even noticing what she was doing.
What was it she had said to Frigga? Asgard was stunning but untouchable. Distant. That description only felt more apt after the last few days, which she, Tony and Bruce had spent discussing the threat and the probability of Odin getting involved.
Having such a long lifespan, coupled with life on Asgard, would only send her further into herself.
‘I don’t think I would like who I would become if I did.’ Jane sighed. ‘And I don’t think I could live in a place where I would be bound to follow a king who makes decisions like Odin does.’
Before Thor could respond, she added: ‘Asgard is amazing, and I can see why you love it, but I don’t want to be its queen. My first allegiance needs to be to my friends here on Earth.’
‘I understand.’ Thor’s voice was shaky.
‘I told Tony and Bruce to let me know if they ever need an astrophysicist. Most of it would be over the phone, but there’s a chance I’ll need to visit in person. If you want, if you let them know before you return, I can make sure I’m not here at the time.’
‘No. No, if you are fine with it, I am.’
There was a chance, she knew, that things might change in the future. If they were both single when he returned and the threat Tony had foreseen was gone, maybe she would be in a different place and would be interested in that kind of life. But she doubted that it would happen.
Thor stood, putting the uneaten apple back in the fruit bowl. ‘I should leave.’
‘I hope you manage to get through to Loki,’ she said softly.
‘I do too.’
The moment he left, Jane pulled out the phone Darcy had insisted she take with her and dialled her friend’s number.
‘Jane? Is everything alright?’
‘No.’ The word came out as a sob. She knew she had made the right choice for herself, but it didn’t take away the ache.
When Thor entered the suite for the first time in days, he looked terrible. His face was paler than usual, and his eyes were ringed with faint red.
‘Is Midgard in danger again?’ Loki asked glibly.
‘Not imminently.’ Thor let out a slow breath. ‘Jane and I are no longer together.’
‘She does not wish to become Asgardian.’ His gaze shooting up, Thor’s voice was a warning as he added, ‘Don’t even think about it, Loki.’
‘I wasn’t going to.’ Loki might like pushing Thor, but even he had his limits. ‘I… might have had something to do with her decision.’
Thor took a step forward, and Loki raised his hands in a gesture of surrender. ‘It was neither malicious nor strategic. I merely told her she had to want the crown, and she came in to ask me about what ruling involved a few times while you were gone. What she did with that information is her decision.’
The anger seeped from Thor, his shoulders loosening and scowl going slack. ‘You’re right. I suppose it is better for her to work it out now than later.’
Thor’s gaze flicked to the diary sitting on the coffee table beside him.
‘It isn’t a history book,’ Loki admitted. ‘It’s our mother’s journal. She gave it to me the day we left Asgard.’
‘I wasn’t aware she kept one.’
‘Neither was I.’ Loki swallowed the lump that had emerged in his throat. Trying to keep his words bland, he said, ‘It’s quite an interesting read. She wrote about everything, from her friends to her ideas to us.’
From the way Thor’s eyebrows raised at his words, Loki suspected he hadn’t kept his tone as neutral as he’d hoped.
Ever since he’d reached the point he and Thor came into the diary, it had been difficult to keep his emotions in check. Frigga wrote about them both often and fondly.
When she’d started talking about Odin bringing him back from Jotunheim, he had wanted to abandon the book altogether. Only boredom had compelled him to read further. However, he had soon been glad he had. Even then, she had written about him with as much care and love as she did Thor’s birth.
She had even recorded moments when Odin had been a good father.
‘Apparently, we used to be close,’ Loki said wryly. ‘Imagine that.’
‘I don’t have to imagine it. I remember it clearly.’
Once, Loki had too, thinking about their childhood with fondness even when they were at odds. But after his fall off the Bifrost, the memories had become warped — tainted. At the time, he’d believed he was finally seeing the truth, rose-coloured glasses removed. Now…
It was as if he could remember the past, but not clearly. A haze hovered over it, twisting everything. Why was that?
It had all started with the Chitauri and the sceptre.
Was there truth to what Banner had said? Had Loki been under the influence of the Tesseract? It was the question he had been running from over the past few days.
‘Do you remember Aximili’s Law?’
The words jolted Loki from his thoughts. ‘Of course. It allows members of the royal family to take suspected lawbreakers into their custody.’
Thor nodded. ‘As a prince of Asgard, I hereby take you into my custody until such a time as we can return to Asgard.’
‘Didn’t you already do that?’ Loki asked bitterly.
‘Unfortunately,’ Thor replied, continuing as though he had never spoken, ‘I am afraid I will not be returning to Asgard in the near future. I intend to send a message to the Allfather to inform him of these developments.’
‘Aximili’s Law was not intended to allow someone to steal the king’s prisoner,’ Loki pointed out.
‘That is true, but it does not need to. It is merely to give Odin an excuse to exonerate us if he wishes. He will not want both of his heirs under house arrest, and it will allow him to avoid that without losing face.’
‘And if he decides not to?’
‘Then we will handle that when it comes.’
Hope flickered in his chest like a candle, the flame light and wispy. ‘I am not welcome here on Midgard,’ he reminded him.
‘There are more cities on Earth than New York, and more planets in Midgard than Earth, and more realms in existence than Midgard. Tony has aircraft that is space-compatible and has agreed to let me borrow one.’
The offer was touching. ‘I suppose compensation will be required. What is it? My assistance on this issue Banner has been asking me about?’
The idea wasn’t repulsive; after everything, something felt fitting about it. Perhaps repaying his past actions on Midgard would be a good start.
‘We could help. We could do anything.’
Anything. Loki knew Thor didn’t mean that literally; there were many things from which Thor would expect him to refrain. But why did the word sound so incredibly freeing?
Perhaps Banner was right.
Perhaps his mother had been, too; whether or not he repented for his actions should have nothing to do with his father’s obstinance.
Perhaps it was time to find out.
‘I suppose it would be amusing, at least.’
Thor beamed and stepped back, opening the door to reveal the hallway beyond. ‘Do you want to choose where to go first, or shall I?’