Title: Proximity Alarm

Disclaimer: I do not own Thor or the Avengers.

A/N: Random fic because I wanted to write Thor/Jane. So, here is Thor/Jane, set at the end of TDW when Thor comes back to Earth. I blame lena7142. Beta by sockie1000.

Summary: Thor comes back to Earth. Jane thinks it's great. Except all the times it isn't.

-o-

It was unbelievable.

Like, entirely. Not that the last few years of her life hadn't been lived in a prolonged state of suspended belief. Because she was a woman of science! She knew what she could prove and she had these theories and these models and there were aliens and other realms and for three amazing days, it had all made sense.

Then, for two years, it had been not amazing. Sometimes she'd wondered if she'd imagined it. Made the whole thing up. And then he came back.

Of course, the end of the world had nearly followed along with near-galactic obliteration, but they'd stopped that. Jane had gone to Asgard, and she'd used her science to save the entire universe.

Which was all pretty awesome.

If somewhat hard to believe.

Even with all that, as incredible as it was, that wasn't what was tripping her up this time. No, she could take the aliens and the near collapse of the universe. But what she couldn't quite wrap her mind around was that Thor had come back.

Not just to save the world, but to stay. On Earth. With her.

She had half expected him to disappear into the sky and never come back, to flit in and out after a few years, just enough to still her heart and keep her wondering and hoping. But this time, he'd come back. This time, he'd stayed.

This time, Thor was hers.

No amount of science could make any sense of that.

-o-

"So, um, you're going to stay?" Jane asked.

They had spent the first while kissing. And then they had eating. And then they had kissed again and Jane wasn't complaining about any of that but it seemed like there had to be time to actually, well, talk.

Thor nodded. "I am."

She smiled but then tried not to look so girlish. "And do what?"

It was a reasonable question, and she didn't ask it like an expectant girlfriend because she wasn't. She couldn't be. They hadn't been together for two years and, really, all the time they'd spent together was no more than two weeks with two years of waiting between.

It was just that his biceps were so intimidating.

And she wanted to be polite.

That was it.

He took a breath, looking thoughtful. "I thought I would get in contact with your SHIELD Agency," he said.

"They're not my agency," she said quickly.

Thor smiled lightly. "All the same, they seem to be the closest thing this planet has to an authoritative defense," he said. "I would offer my services."

"Oh," she said, nodding a little. She chewed her lip. "So you would, um, move?"

He looked at her, and he understood. Reaching toward her face, he cupped her cheek in his hand (his large hand - it was so large). "Not unless you wished it," he said.

She blinked rapidly, trying not to appear as flustered as she felt. "Well, you're free to do what you want."

"I came to this realm for many reasons," Thor said. "To serve, to protect, to be a part of something I deem worthy. But, not least among these reasons, is you."

Her heart fluttered. She smiled.

"That is, if you would have me," he said.

She couldn't help it; she laughed. If she would have him. How could she not have him? How did anyone say no? When he gave up the throne of Asgard and moved to Earth and asked her that?

"Yeah," she said, nodding with an awkward laugh. "Yeah."

His smile was warm and wide, and with nothing else to say, she kissed him again.

-o-

It was great.

He was an powerful alien with flowing golden locks and bulging biceps. Jane had never considered herself a shallow person - it was what was on the inside that counted - but damn, she certainly wasn't complaining. He was fun to look at.

And fun to be with. Sure, he was a little awkward in social situations and introducing him to anyone was always something close to disaster with his grand posturing and their starstruck disbelief. But he had an appetite for adventure, and fortunately he found everything fascinating on Earth. He enjoyed reading cookbooks and making a mess of the kitchen. He liked playing video games and found sports fascinating. He wanted to visit cities and mountains and his method of worldwide travel was decidedly faster and less expensive than anything Jane had experienced before.

So they saw the world. So they tried new things. And old things. And thing things. For one week, two weeks, three. Two years apart, three weeks together.

And it was great.

-o-

"Tomorrow you may pick our destination," Thor announced at dinner one night. She'd gotten tired of cooking and picked up some Indian food instead. He'd inhaled it so she'd ordered a pizza, too.

"Oh," she said. "Well, I was thinking maybe of going back to work."

Thor cocked his head. "Of course," he said. "I had not realized you had pressing matters to attend to."

Pressing was a bit of an exaggeration probably if only because, thanks to her success in London, she was kind of the premier authority on astrophysics. She still had plenty of money left on her current grant, and from the texts she'd gotten from Darcy, they had other offers to consider.

Lots of offers.

Which was sort of the point. There were things to do, and she liked time off but she couldn't take forever off - even if they'd just saved the world.

Unless she wanted to go crazy.

Or, crazier.

"It's been great," she said. "Sort of like a vacation. A small perk from saving the world."

Thor smiled at her. "You do not give yourself enough credit," he said. "Your work helped saved all the realms and the very essence of the universe itself. You are a hero, Jane Foster, and you deserve all the accolades in this realm and beyond."

She blushed stupidly because, really, what else was she going to do after a compliment like that. "Yeah," she said. "Still. I like to work. I mean, it's work! Before you came along, it was sort of my entire life."

Thor nodded, seemingly satisfied. "Then tomorrow we will go to work."

She opened her mouth. "Oh," she said, starting to protest.

He looked at her, at first earnest.

And then discerning. "You do not wish me to come?"

"It's not that," she said. "Of course I wish you to come. I just don't want you to, you know, be bored."

"Nothing you do is boring," Thor declared, and the thing was, he probably meant it. He had spent one night tasting everything in her cupboard and then had sat in utter fascination while she showed him all the trending videos on youtube.

He had been enthralled by sorting her laundry, even if the sight of her underwear made them both blush.

"I know," Jane said. "I just...never really thought of it before."

That wasn't entirely true. She had thought it back in New Mexico, when Thor was just some crazy guy with crazy theories doing crazy things. Back when she'd hit him with her car and he'd thrown cups in the diner. She'd thought it then, around the campfire, when she'd thought for the first time in her life that she'd found something better than work, more important than work.

But then he'd turned out to be a god and he'd been murdered by his brother and brought back to life by a mythological hammer before disappearing into the sunset for two years and coming back just in time to save her life, save the world and stop the destruction of the galaxy.

Thor, in her mind, was associated with incredible, fantastical, almost impossible things.

He wasn't associated with doing laundry and going to work.

It hardly even parsed.

But he was watching her, his blue eyes eager and ready. He was here. He was here for her.

At this point, what was she going to tell him.

She shrugged, grinning. "Yeah, okay," she said. "You can come to work."

"Excellent!" Thor said with a hardy grin. "Now, what is there for dessert?"

-o-

It was also kind of hard.

Thor was generally good natured, but impulsive. She'd managed to talk him out of coming to work with her every day, but leaving him alone in her mother's house was an increasingly dangerous prospect. Not that anything could actually happen to Thor, but Thor could happen to just about anything in the universe. One day, she came back from work and found that he had spent all the extra cash she'd left with him on home decor. Unattractive home decor at that.

He also ate everything in sight. They had to go to the grocery store every other day, and even that didn't seem to be enough. And tried as he may, his sense of humor just wasn't quite in tune with the rest of the world, although Jane wasn't sure if that was him or her, because she'd been around Darcy too long to really know what was actually funny and what wasn't.

And of course it didn't help that SHIELD seemed to show up whenever they wanted, and while no one tried to take her stuff, she didn't feel comfortable with them poking around her mother's London home.

To be fair, they didn't seem comfortable with an alien turned superhero living domestically in London, so maybe they all had a point.

Even so.

It had its weird moments.

-o-

She woke to the sound of a roar.

Her eyes popped open and she wondered what could possibly be wrong. She considered a robbery, a terrorist attack, another alien invasion.

And then there was a cheer.

Perplexed, Jane got up, dragging her feet across the floor sleepily as she went to her bedroom door. She opened it, inching out into the living room when there was another roar.

Of approval.

It was Thor, of course. No one else on Earth could make a noise like that. And as she stepped into the main living area, she quickly realized why.

He was watching soccer.

On a Saturday morning.

And cheering vivaciously.

She watched him for a moment, somewhat dumbfounded while he whooped again. He had probably only seen a handful of games, but he already seemed to know every rule and understand every nuance. He was intent, watching as though it were the most important thing in the world. He was so focused, in fact, that he did not see her until she came in and plucked the remote from his lap, turning it down.

"Jane!" he rumbled. "What are you doing?"

"Turning it down," she said, pushing it down a few more notches to make herself feel vindicated.

"But I would assume that a higher noise level better replicates the actual experience," he said.

"Well, sure," she said. "Which is fine. If you're at a game."

"I am merely trying to recreate-"

"Yeah, fine," Jane said. "But you can't recreate it before 9 AM on a Saturday morning."

He blinked at her.

"It's Saturday, Thor," she said. "The one day I don't have to work."

"Certainly," he said. "A day of leisure is important."

She waited for him to continue.

He shook his head. "You are upset."

"I'm tired," she said. "I like to sleep in on Saturdays."

"Slothfulness is a trait of the weak," he said, almost as if reciting it.

"It's a trait for Saturday!" she said, throwing her hands up.

"I did not mean to wake you," Thor said, as innocently as possible. He was telling the truth. He was always telling the truth. He was honest and sincere and open and suddenly she felt terrible for yelling at him.

She groaned. "Look," she said. "By all means, watch the game. Watch games all day! Have a ball! Go play a game! But please - for the love of all that is good in this universe - do it quieter."

He nodded, resolute. "Of course," he said solemnly. And then his blue eyes twinkled. "Anything for you."

It was tempting, then, to curl up next to him, to melt beside him and let him envelope her. It was easy to follow Thor; it was easy to be excited about the things he was excited about. His passion was contagious, and there was a good reason he'd managed to woe the entire galaxy.

But he'd been here for a month now.

And it was Saturday.

Jane went back to bed.

-o-

And sometimes it didn't work at all.

Because it wasn't like Jane was all that great with relationships to begin with. Sure, she had dated Donald and she'd tried to date other people, but each relationship had made her realize how well suited she was to single life. She didn't live well with other people; she wasn't good at sharing the sink and sometimes she randomly got inspiration and wanted to do science in the middle of night. Significant others found that annoying. She found them annoying for being annoyed.

So suddenly having a boyfriend from another planet was, actually, a whole lot harder. Culturally, he was just different, and different wasn't bad but it was different. He wanted to get up with the sun. He wanted to do exercises in her living room. When he got too excited, he literally threw his hammer through her window.

Her window.

He was loud and he ate too much and he could drink and drink and drink. And he followed her - everywhere. He'd probably follow her to the bathroom until he realized what the bathroom was actually for and then he had made himself comfortable waiting for her right outside the door.

It had been cute, at first.

But then he kept doing it.

And doing it.

And doing it.

She'd gone from pining to instant live-in boyfriend. She didn't even know if that was what they were, because apparently Asgardians didn't make those kind of distinctions. They were together, and they kissed, but they didn't sleep together. And they didn't split the bills and Thor tried to help with the chores but he'd reorganized her closet before she'd realized that maybe it was better if he didn't help sometimes.

He was sweet, of course. He smiled a lot and he was so considerate. He tried hard - he really, really did - but that just made it harder. Because he was always there. Every moment of every day, and he showed no signs of changing in the future.

The future.

They didn't talk about the future. Was there an Asgardian mating ritual? Maybe this was courtship? Maybe they didn't bother with that stuff? If not, when would there be sex? Did she want to have sex with him? What if his sperm were scientifically stronger than human sperm? What if human contraception didn't work?

What if she suddenly became pregnant with a half-Asgardian baby who was stronger than her and lived for centuries? What would happen then?

What was happening at all?

Jane didn't know.

And she was starting to worry about finding out.

-o-

She couldn't quite say what started it.

One minute, Thor had been doing the dishes.

The next, Jane just couldn't take it.

"I read about some of the ancient sites in the lands you call Norway and Finland," Thor said. "I thought perhaps we could travel there on your next weekend."

"Um, I don't know," Jane said, putting a plate away with a clatter.

"Have you been there?" he asked. "Is it not as spectacular as it seems?"

"Um, yeah, I don't know that either," Jane admitted, drying a cup.

"Well, then I should very much like to show it to you," Thor said. "I have heard stories from my father about such lands, and-"

She shook her head. "You know, probably not this weekend."

"Then another-"

"You could go by yourself," she suggested suddenly.

He stopped, looking at her. "I wanted to share this experience with you."

He meant it. It wasn't just a line. He wasn't putting up airs, trying to be the perfect boyfriend. He actually believed that. He meant it.

Which was what made it so hard.

He wanted to do everything with her.

She sighed. "I think a solo trip could be good for you."

He frowned, though. "You do not wish to come with me?"

"It's not that-"

"Then we will go," Thor said decidedly.

"No," Jane said.

"But you said-"

"I don't want to go!" Jane finally exploded.

Thor stopped, mouth still open.

She wanted to take it back, but then she really didn't. She couldn't. "I don't want to go," she said. "I want a quiet weekend, at home, doing nothing. I want to sleep late. I want to eat cereal straight from the box. I want to take a ten minute shower and sing. I want to read journals in my underwear."

Thor's eyes were narrowed in obvious concentration. "I do not understand."

"I want some time alone!" she said, throwing her hands up. "I need some time alone."

"If you wish me to go to the other room-"

"Ugh," she said. "Thor. For two years, I didn't see you. You were just this idea up in my head that I probably could have imagined. And then you came back and I went on this trip around the galaxy and we all almost died and then you came back."

His brow was deeply furrowed. "And you wish that I had not?"

"No!" she said. "I mean, not really. But we went from zero to sixty, just like that. I mean, we barely even know each other and now you're living with me!"

The consternation darkened, and Thor took a steadying breath. "I did not realize I was such an imposition," he said. "I will take my leave in the morning-"

Her shoulders fell, her anger deflating somewhat. "Thor," she said. "It's not like that."

"It is what you wish, though?" he posited knowingly.

She fumbled, trying to deny it. "I just...need some space," she said. "That doesn't mean, I don't know, that I want to break up, but I don't even know if we're dating. I mean, what are we?"

"I do not understand these distinctions on human relationships," Thor replied.

She groaned. "I know," she said. "And that's part of the problem. We don't know what we're doing and we don't really know why we're doing it. And every time I think I could figure it out, you're always there and I can't even think! I have a job! I have a life! Or I used to, before you came back. Now it's just...you."

She trailed off, regretting the words but not taking them back. She didn't mean it, not like that, but she did. She didn't even know. It was complicated - too damn complicated - and she couldn't even start to explain it.

And Thor wasn't close to understanding. He dropped his head, his posture stiffening in obvious discomfort. She had hurt him. He was a strong, superhuman being who could level planets, and she had hurt him.

Which made her feel like she had kicked a puppy.

"Very well," he said. "I will contact my friends in New York-"

"Thor-"

"Jane, I did not come here interrupt your life," he said, looking up at her, his blue eyes obscured by emotion. "I realize now that I have failed to appreciate the status of our relationship and have failed to take into account your needs sufficiently."

"It's not even that," she said. "I mean, this is new for both of us, I think. For anyone. You're from Asgard. I'm from Earth. I don't know how they date over there - if they date at all. It's just...on Earth, most couples date first, spend time together before they even think about moving in together."

"I should have spent more time understanding your customs," he said, as stolidly as he could. "I should have better anticipated such things."

He was being polite about this, but that was Thor. He was deferential to her, almost to an insane degree. She wanted to know what he was feeling and thinking. She wanted to know his dreams and fears. She wanted to know what he wanted. Not just for the weekend, but for the next month, the next year, the next ten years. She wanted to know if he intended to stay on Earth, what they would do if he had to leave, if he was truly okay with giving up the throne of Asgard.

"Thor," she said, because she wanted to talk this through. She wanted to understand, and she wanted him to understand. She wanted to make it work.

He smiled, though. Calm and reassuring, his composure regained. "Fear not," he said. "I understand that this has all been very sudden. We will do as you wish, and give it time." His lips twitched faintly. "And space."

-o-

It was kind of sad.

Not that she could actually regret anything she said - because it was true, all of it - but she hated the way she'd said it. That she'd blurted it all out in anger and frustration, that she hadn't told him earlier when all this started. It wouldn't have been so hard, she reflected. She could have just said weeks ago that they needed to look for a place for him. She could have encouraged him to talk to SHIELD about getting some sort of consulting work for a small salary. She could have done a lot of things.

Thor would have listened to that. He probably would have agreed with her. He would have loved looking at apartments, and he probably would have liked doing something useful.

But now, he was curled up on her couch, sleeping. She'd heard him on the phone - with Stark, she could only guess - and how polite he'd been, his voice a low rumble when he thanked Stark for his hospitality. There hadn't been any joy, though.

There should have been joy. That was what she'd loved about Thor from the start - that he was so damn optimistic. Indefatigable.

That was what she'd loved.

She closed her eyes, bringing her pillow over her face.

Did she love him? Was that even possible? Was she picking fights and sending him away because she didn't even know how to recognize what love was? The last person she'd loved was Donald and that just hadn't gone well. With all her dating, she'd pretty much written off every guy on Earth and focused on her work instead.

But now she had the only guy not from Earth, and she was screwing that up, too.

Maybe the problem was her.

Sighing, she took the pillow off and stared at the ceiling.

Jane was about the little things.

Thor was grand gestures.

Somehow, there had to be middle ground. She just didn't know how to find it.

Or worse, that it might already be too late.

-o-

She heard him at dawn, padding silently down her hallway. She listened as he cleared his throat with a grumble before climbing into the shower.

Quietly, she went out to the living room where his bag was already packed and neatly sitting by the couch. He'd come to Earth with nothing, but he'd managed to accumulate a few things during their time together. Thor, it turned out, had a penchant for knickknacks. A t-shirt from the Grand Canyon. A tiki statue from Hawaii. A shot glass from Rome.

All of it neatly packed away with the clothes he'd bought for himself in one tiny bag.

To make her feel even worse, he'd folded and arranged his bedding, leaving her mother's house looking better than when he'd first come.

She heard a noise behind her, and startled at a sneeze.

Turning, she laughed. "Thor," she said. "Hi."

His hair was damp, and he was in a t-shirt and jeans, his feet bare. He dabbed at his nose. "I did not mean to wake you."

"No," she said quickly. "I was up already."

He regarded her uncertainly. It was his nature to take things at face value, but he was clearly still a bit thrown off by the night before.

He cleared his throat again, moving forward past Jane to the couch. "I will leave shortly," he said, his voice sounded hoarse as he sat down on the couch, reaching for his shoes.

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

Thor looked at her, his socks half on.

"I mean," she fumbled. "You can stay for breakfast."

Thor grunted into his hand, tying his laces. "I believe it is best if I leave promptly," he said. "My friend Tony Stark is expecting me."

With that, he got to his feet, pulling his bag up with him.

He wavered, though. Just slightly, face paling before he sneezed three times.

She tilted her head, suddenly curious. "Are you sick?"

He swallowed with some obvious discomfort, shouldering his pack. "The Aesir to not fall prey to illness often," he announced with all due authority and respect.

He would have pulled it off, too, if a cough hadn't punctuated a counterpoint for him.

She stepped forward, noting that his forehead was glistening - not from the shower, she realized. "Do you have a fever?"

Squaring his shoulders, he seemed offended by the suggestion. "I am fine."

With that, he made to move past her, his large biceps brushing against her. Surprised, she grabbed his arm, turning him and lifting a hand to his cheek. "No, you're not," she said. "You're burning up."

"I am fine," Thor said, a bit more gruffly this time, his eyes narrowing in disdain.

"No, you're not," she said, more insistently now as she looked at him again. His detachment wasn't just hurt feelings. No, he wasn't feeling well. His eyes were brighter than usual and his posture just slightly slouched. There were bags under his eyes, and the sneezing and coughing were no coincidence. "Do you have the flu on Asgard?"

"I do not know what the flu is," Thor said crossly, pulling his arm away. "Now, please. I must go."

"No," Jane said. "You must get better."

"I am not sick," Thor growled.

"Um, yes," Jane said. "I mean, I don't know exactly what your resting metabolic rates are, but I've been around you enough to know that you're not that hot. I mean, you're hot, but not hot like that."

He looked confused.

She shook her head. "I just mean that you're sick," she said.

"Then I will get better," he told her. "My people have advanced healing capabilities."

She knew that. The medics who'd first come to their aid after the attack on London had been deeply concerned about Thor's condition, given the strain on his body. After three harrowing hours of unconsciousness, though, he'd woken up and asked for a hamburger. When they'd tried to run more tests, he'd merely ripped the equipment out of the wall and left.

Even so, she didn't like the idea of letting Thor out with a fever. "Fine," she said. "So you'll be ready to go by this afternoon."

"My decisions are no concern of yours," he said, with an edge to his voice.

"You want to go fly through the sky when you've got a fever?" she asked, incredulous. "That doesn't sound like a good idea."

"And staying here when you clearly do not wish it sounds even worse," he snapped.

She blinked, startled by his tone. The words hurt.

His shoulders slumped, his anger giving way to what appeared to be genuine exhaustion. "Forgive me," he murmured. "Perhaps I am more tired than I allowed myself to admit."

She shifted on her feet. "I never said you had to go," she said quietly.

His mouth lifted in a small smile. "And yet you never asked me to stay," he said.

"Well, for now I am," she replied, with an eager shrug. "Just until you're feeling better. I-"

She stopped short, not sure what she wanted to say.

I was wrong last night.

I wish things could be different.

I don't know how to fix this.

I want to start again.

I love you.

She wet her lips, forcing a smile. "I care about you."

The rest of his anger faded, and the uncertainty dimmed in his eyes. The look he gave her - one of such focus and understanding - was why she'd never been able to say no to him in the first place.

"Okay," he agreed, nodding in deference to her. "But only as you wish."

-o-

It was still good.

That was the thing, the part that was so easy to forget when it was annoying or frustrating. She didn't want him everywhere, but she still wantedhim. Those two years without him had been empty and long. To lose him now, after having him so closely-

She wasn't sure she wanted to know.

The doubts aside, she didn't know what to say. Thor was docile at breakfast, and though he offered to help, she insisted on doing it herself. She started by making him tea, then busied herself by making eggs and bacon. He downed the first helping, and she was quickly making the second when she came back to find him asleep on the couch.

The mighty god of thunder.

Asleep on her couch.

She sighed, putting his plate down and snagging a blanket to throw over him.

She should have told him, she realized. Not just the bad, but the good. She should have told him that she didn't know what she was doing, and that that was part of the problem. They had to figure this out together.

Sitting down in a chair close to him, she picked up the plate and started to eat.

-o-

She hadn't actually counted on Thor staying asleep, especially since he was still passed out sitting up, his head lolled back against the couch with his perfect blonde hair spilling over the back.

He did have perfect hair. Far too perfect. She considered stealing a strand to have it analyzed because she was convinced it had to have anatomical properties that differentiated it from human hair. Because her hair never looked like that, even when she bothered to blow dry and use product.

But, not now.

Whether or not they were breaking up (whether or not they were actually together), Thor was clearly unable to take care of himself for the moment. Which meant it was up to Jane.

She didn't even know what that meant, but when Thor's phone rang, she flushed. The ringer was loud and obnoxious - some rock tune Jane had insisted he settle on after hearing him play through the entire list of options fifteen times. She hadn't even told him that he could download is own. Her sanity couldn't have handled that.

Scrambling, she half tripped, jarring her leg on the coffee table. She snatched the pack off the couch, riffling through it while muttering to herself.

"Please don't wake up, please don't wake up, please don't wake up-"

When she finally extricated the device, the blaring was even louder and she winced as she hit the silent button and glanced at Thor.

Who merely snuffled in his sleep and started to snore wetly.

She made a face, looking down at the number.

TONY STARK.

That made sense, at least. Thor didn't have a lot of casual acquaintances yet, and SHIELD usually just dropped by if they wanted to see him. She'd never actually met the Avengers, though she'd heard about them, and Tony Stark's scientific abilities had always vaguely impressed her.

It wasn't her fault that she was turned on by science.

She glanced again at Thor.

Or large Asgardian prince warriors.

Huffing, she hit answer and put the phone to her ear as she ducked out of the room. As she made it to the hallway, she said, "Hello?"

There was a brief pause. Then a muffled click of a tongue. "I'm going out on a limb and guessing that you're not Thor."

Jane made a face, closing the bedroom door behind her. "No, this is Jane."

"Right," came the reply. Tony Stark hadn't introduced himself, but then, he didn't really have to. "So the girlfriend who dumped him."

Her jaw dropped open. "Did he say that?"

"The big guy? Nah. But it was pretty easy to infer."

"No," she said, shaking her head. "No, it's really not."

"He asked if he could come stay with me in New York. Indefinitely," Tony said. "When I asked about you, he got real quiet, real fast."

"Well, maybe it's none of your business," she said haughtily.

"Uh huh. Putting up an Asgardian on the spur of the moment makes it my business."

"You know, you're more attractive in press conferences," she said.

"So you think I'm attractive?" Tony asked hopefully.

"I did," she muttered.

"Hey," Tony protested. "I'm doing him a favor. You're the one with trouble in paradise."

"You don't even know what you're talking about," Jane said defensively.

"Sure I do," he said. "Thor's a good guy, but he's not even really a guy, is he? He's from another planet, and there he is, hanging around your house all day, driving you crazy. I mean, I know girls go all crazy for the old school charm, but admit it, it gets old, doesn't it?"

She huffed. "I personally find it refreshing."

"So refreshing that he's leaving for New York?"

Her brow furrowed. "Well, about that," she said. "He's not coming today. At least, not now."

"Oh," Tony said, sounding a bit surprised. "So you two mended fences?"

"No," she said. "I mean, there are no fences! He's just sick, is all."

"Sick?" he asked, and for the first time during the whole call he didn't sound contrived.

"Apparently it happens," she said. "I mean, his immune system has to be entirely different than ours and with limited exposure to our germs-"

"Yeah, yeah," Tony said. "The guy just seems invincible."

Jane glanced toward the door, stomach churning guiltily as she remembered the hurt look on his face the night before. "Not as much as you might think," she said softly.

"So not even the vulnerable thing will get you to change your mind," Tony said.

"What?" she asked.

"Strong and vulnerable," Tony said. "Girls usually go for that, but you still plan on packing him up-"

"He made the choice," she insisted.

"Can hardly blame the guy," Tony said. "Going from prince to domestic issues."

"Look," Jane said, feeling annoyed now. "What are you-"

"I'm just saying, you shouldn't blame yourself," he said. "A human and an alien. I'm pretty sure this is the plot of, like, a dozen movies and a few bad television shows."

Jane groaned. "We are working things out."

"While you're in London," Tony said, matter of fact. "And he's in New York."

She reddened, suddenly very thankful this was a phone call. "Long distance relationships work," she said. "You have one, don't you?"

"Only some of the time, yes," he said. "And when we're apart, we have private jets and a suit that literally flies me through the air."

"Well," she said, indignant and spluttering. "We have a hammer."

"Sounds a bit one-sided to me," Tony commented.

Angry, she pursed her lips. "He'll call you when he's awake, okay?"

"Okay," Tony said. "Just remember-"

"Uh huh," Jane said, killing the call before Tony get another word in. "Got to go."

-o-

It was confusing.

Not just because she had a god lying sick on her couch, but because she wasn't even sure what she was going to say to him when he woke up. She didn't want him to leave - she had waited two horrible years, waiting for him and now he was here. He was here, and she loved that.

But she didn't want him to stay. As in, stay here. There had to be a happy medium, something in between, but it seemed that Thor didn't do things by half measures.

She looked at him, slumped over on the couch, breathing noisily. His congestion sounded worse, and she could make out a faint flush in his cheeks that normally wasn't there. She'd just never expected this. Maybe she'd never expected him to come back; maybe she'd never expected him to stay. It was easier when he was some larger than life ideal; it was so much simpler when he was just this wonderful abstract notion to keep her inspired.

It was one thing to want something. It was another to figure out what to do with it when you had it. Maybe she didn't know what she wanted; maybe that was the problem.

And even then, when she figured out what she wanted, there was still Thor.

Why had he really given up the throne? Why had he come here? What did he see his future being with Jane? Had he even grieved for Loki? Thor didn't talk about that, and Jane's memories were hazy, but all that had mattered. Losing Loki, the toll of the battle - these weren't easy thing and yet Thor hadn't even talked about them. He'd barely talked about abdicating his place as crowned prince except to say it was the right choice, and he knew that now.

She believed him, but she knew there was more to it than that. There were feelings he wasn't talking about, and as good natured as he was, there was a lingering sadness deep within him that hadn't been there when they first met. He'd grown up, somehow. He'd changed, and she doubted he understood it any better than she did.

He needed to deal with that.

They needed to deal with that.

It all came back to time.

Time and space.

After all, he could take months and years in the blink of an eye, but that kind of time mattered on Earth. Did he have any idea what he was going to do on Earth? Was he going to work for SHIELD? If so, what was she going to do?

What did she want?

What did he want?

Jane was a scientist, she was supposed to look for answers, but this time, she wasn't even sure where to start.

Instead, she started some soup on the stove and watched him sleep.

-o-

Thor woke up for lunch.

Actually, Thor woke up when she dropped a pan in the kitchen, but it was really all the same since the soup was ready. He attempted to get up and come to the dining area, but she shushed him and brought the bowl and set it in his lap.

"Careful," she warned. "It's-"

He took a large bite, swallowing quickly before taking another.

"-hot," she concluded, picking up her own bowl and blowing off the steam. "But I guess that's relative."

"The heat feels good," he said, swallowing again with a wince.

"Sore throat?" she asked.

His brow darkened. "A minor inconvenience," he said, taking another heaping spoonful for good measure.

She hummed slightly, taking a small sip of her own. "Do you use medicine on Asgard?"

He grumbled, the noise intensified by the congestion in his sinuses. "We have healing stones, but nothing as antiquated as your medicines."

"Uh huh," she said. "Well, if you want to try to take something…"

He took a few more bites, downing the bowl in almost two minutes flat. "I am fine," he said, putting his bowl down on the coffee table. "Your concern is appreciated but unnecessary. I have overstayed my welcome long enough. I shall-"

He moved to stand, but he only got about half way before he faltered. His face went blank for a moment, his eyes distant before he sat back heavily on the couch.

Eyes wide, Jane was on her feet. "Thor?" she asked, putting her own bowl down and crossing toward his seat. "Thor?"

He blinked a few times, head lolling slightly before he turned toward Jane's voice. His expression was dazed as he looked at her. "I am fine."

She rolled her eyes. "You almost passed out."

"I do not get sick," he said, harsher this time. As if to prove his point, he grunted and got to his feet again. This time making it several feet before his knees started to buckle and he started a hard descent toward the floor.

Jane yelped, almost tripping as she rushed forward to catch him. As his body fell into hers, she realized her mistake, and if he hadn't caught himself, they both would have ended up splattered on the floor. "You were saying?" she asked.

His nose wrinkled, and he looked at her, thoroughly confused. "I do not understand."

She snorted, tugging his arm back toward the couch. "You're the god of thunder and you don't understand a cold," she mused, stumbling a little as he leaned into her some.

"I have faced countless enemies," he murmured, coughing heartily into his hand. "And fought throughout the realms. I do not ail."

"Well, these aren't enemies," she said, helping him back onto the couch. "This is a cold. Maybe a flu with your fever but since I don't know your resting temperature, it's really hard to say-"

He was looking at her, blue eyes clouded and confused, a faint line between his eyes. He looked young.

He looked like a damn puppy.

Flustered, she smiled, a hand flitting through the air. "Germs," she blurted. "That's what I'm trying to say. I mean, who knows how your antibodies are responding to the sudden influx of foreign bodies. And you've traveled the realms but you haven't spent much time on Earth and with the drastic change and other emotional factors, your immune system could be working worse than usual and-"

He smiled.

She stopped, feeling self conscious. "What?"

"You are beautiful," he said.

Her mouth opened but nothing came out.

Then, he coughed again, the force of it bending him over before he trailed off with a vicious sneeze that shook the room.

"I'm going to get more soup," she said, scurrying away to the kitchen. "And tea. Lots and lots of tea."

-o-

It was work.

Jane was used to work. She often got lost for hours in her own research, sometimes accidentally spending the night at the lab. (Which was another problem when it came to living with Thor; he worried about her and once ripped a door of its hinges just to find her utterly absorbed in a complex equation to map out her latest theory.)

That kind of work was easy. It was second nature. It was sort of her favorite thing.

This kind of work, though. She had to get him food; make him tea. She found the remotes stuck in the couch cushions and ran to the store to buy all the Kleenex available. (And then some. She had them raid their stockroom in the back.)

She took his temperature and gave him a cold compress, trying not to be grossed out when he sneezed hard enough to spray her through multiple tissues. His fever climbed throughout the day, leaving him sweaty and glassy-eyed and utterly compliant.

When he went to the bathroom, she walked with him pace for pace. She fetched him blankets when he was cold and helped unbury him when the fever left him burning up.

By the afternoon, she was exhausted. She was used to work, but not work like this. Science was easy; people were hard.

She couldn't help but think that was the point that she'd been missing all along.

-o-

At first, Thor denied his illness.

By the evening, though, his mood had changed.

"I am surely perishing," he moaned, rolling his head against the couch cushions in futility.

Jane glared a bit, trying to adjust the tepid cloth on his forehead. "You're surely not," she said.

He sneezed violently, throwing the cloth to the floor and Jane shied away with a wrinkled nose. He followed up with another sneeze, which was punctuated by a series of hacking coughs that left Thor spent. "This illness must be the worst on all of Midgard."

She did her best not to roll her eyes. "It's the flu," she said. "People get it every year. We have a vaccine for it, at least some strains, but you just don't have any natural immunity-"

He interrupted her with another cough, this one so wrenching that he nearly flopped on his side trying to subdue it. For all his strength, he looked weaker than Jane had ever seen him, even when he was a mere mortal.

Her stomach twisted guiltily, because it was easy to roll her eyes. He wasn't not dying, but he was miserable. His melodrama didn't change the fact that he was sick and hurting - probably in more ways than one.

"Hey," she said, leaning over to pick the cloth up again. She smooths it over his forehead gently. "The good news is that it only lasts a day or two."

He looked up at her through dimmed eyes. "You have suffered this malady?"

"Yeah," she said, smiling a little. "Suffered and overcome. And if I can do it, then I think you can, too."

He nodded, closing his eyes in obvious discomfort as the chills started up again. "But I feel as though I am on fire."

"Just the fever," she assured him.

His teeth chattered and he grimaced. "My body aches in a way I am not accustomed to."

"Again, the fever," she said.

He cracked his eyes open to look at her. "And you are certain I am in no danger of perishing?"

This time, she almost couldn't help herself. "You're not going to perish."

"How can you be sure?"

It was such a simple question, so devoid of pretense or pride that it struck Jane differently than before. This was the Thor she'd been charmed by, the one she'd let into her heart and mind all those years ago. For all that he was strong and noble, he was earnest and open. He could charge into battle with barely a thought of his own well being, but in the simple things, he looked to her for guidance with no hesitation.

He trusted her, completely.

And maybe he didn't need her, but he sure as hell wanted her. Not just for any shallow reasons, but her. Her mind and her opinion and her feelings.

That was amazing.

It was terrifying.

She'd wanted him to come back, but the weight of that…

Even so, it wasn't like she could deny him. Especially not now.

She smiled, as certain as she could. "Have I ever let you down before?"

At that, his lips turned up. "You have not," he said, following it up with a grimace as his tremors intensified. "Yet I cannot recall feeling so weak in my life."

"Well, you've saved the world," she reminded him, with a wry smile. "I think you can handle the flu."

-o-

It was ridiculous.

Sure, Jane was sympathetic. Having the flu wasn't any fun at all, and she didn't really wish it on anyone. She knew he felt terrible - congested, sore, achy, and so on.

But really. He wasn't just a grown man, he was a god. Not that he was immortal or invulnerable, but she'd seen him literally control the weather. He'd stormed into the unknown and survived. He was stronger than any other person - any other being - she'd ever met.

And he was curled upon her coach, moaning like a child.

Though he was stoic under most circumstances, the fever seemed to make him a bit more free with his emotions. Meaning, he freely expressed his unending misery, groaning pitifully, as though he were a small child.

As if he were the only person to ever catch the flu.

Though, she reflected, he might actually be the only Asgardian within the last millenium who caught the flu.

But still. For all his talk of battle, she had thought he could handle pain with a little less melodrama. He had never taken injuries on the battlefield this way.

She wondered how Frigga managed him.

Her heart skipped a beat at the name - she could still remember the woman who had sacrificed her life to save Jane's. More than that, she could still remember the anguish in Thor's face when he'd seen her dead. Thor hadn't cried then.

From the couch, Thor muttered unhappily, whimpering as he shifted and tried to settle back into sleep.

She sighed. Jane couldn't deny him the weakness now.

Even if it was a bit ridiculous.

-o-

"Jane," he called, his eyes still closed as he tossed fretfully. "I feel as though we have been transported to Jotunheim."

She raised her eyebrows. She'd never been to Jotunheim, but knew enough to know that that was probably a good thing. "Um, okay-"

He shifted again, pulling in on himself as his teeth chattered. "I never wish to return to Jotunheim."

"Well, we're not on-"

"Except for Loki," Thor said, trying to burrow under the mountain of blankets. "I would go back for Loki."

She didn't know what to say to that. If she should remind him that Loki was dead; if she should tell him that he was safe; if she should tell him to rest, because things would be better when he woke up.

How many of those things were a lie, though?

What was Jane doing? What did she think she could do?

She couldn't bring Loki back. She didn't know if he was safe. And she certainly wasn't sure if things would be better when he woke up.

All she knew - the only thing she could do - was pull the blankets higher and run a hand through his mussed hair, shushing him gently.

He blinked up at her, a smile just barely pulling at his lips. "I am glad you're here."

"Yeah," she said, emotion panging in her chest. "Me, too."

-o-

It was unnerving.

Jane wasn't great at playing nursemaid, but she could do it. She could pamper and baby and generally take care of someone when she needed to. She fed him and talked to him and watched him sleep. She endured his moaning and his helplessness, offering comfort as best she could.

She cared about him; it was the least she could do.

But then it got worse.

-o-

At first she thought he was just shifting on the couch. It was too small for him, really, and with all the blankets, every movement he made seems gravely exaggerated.

But then he was trying to stand.

Frowning, she crossed from the kitchen table where she'd been going over some data. "Thor?" she asked. "Do you-"

He grunted, trying to keep his footing as the blankets fell away. He teetered, but when he turned toward her, his face was flushed and his eyes overly bright. "I must go."

Jaw dropping open, she found herself without words.

Thor blinked twice, as if trying to clear his vision before taking a clumsy, lumbering step. "I must consult with Heimdall and see that the construction of the Bifrost has begun," he announced, his voice garbled.

It was nonsense, of course. Not that there wasn't a Heimdall and a Bifrost - she had seen both - but they were on Earth. Midgard. Whatever. She shook her head. "Thor, I think you should lie down-"

He shook his head, trying to untangle his foot from the blankets. "We have wasted too much time," he said hotly.

"Um, time for what?" she asked.

He looked at her, his almost welling with tears. "Time to see where Loki fell," he said. "For the Abyss is not just darkness. Heimdall has said there are shadows that move. He might be lost, but perhaps not forever. We can find him, but only if we do not delay any further-"

Loki. The Abyss. Thor hadn't told her everything, but she'd put together enough. That was why Thor hadn't come back for her the first time. Because he'd confronted Loki, which had led to the destruction of the Bifrost and Loki's supposed death. Thor had grieved his brother the first time, which had made the betrayal upon his return even more difficult. Thor had never told her about looking for Loki, but then, there was probably a lot in Thor's life he hadn't shared yet.

Thor successfully pulled his foot free and took another staggering step around the couch. "Loki was not in his right mind," he said, as though in argument. "The shock of his parentage is understandable. I do not care about his crimes, we must look-"

Delirium, Jane realized in a detached revelation. Thor's fever was high enough that it was inducing delirium. Thor's brain was pulling out random thoughts - the strongest thoughts - and trying to fight with them, just like it was trying to fight the fever. Leave it to Thor to tackle the hardest thing.

And not just Loki's death - no, Thor was probably in too much denial about that. Instead, he was focusing on his fall into the Abyss when the grief had been the same but he'd still believed there was a chance to fix it.

That was a terrible thought. Thor was talking about the Abyss, but the same held true now. Even after all Loki had done, Thor wanted to save his brother. After Loki had tried to kill him, had tried to take over a planet and commit genocide, the most important thing - the thing that drove him - was saving Loki.

The worst part was, he couldn't.

Thor could do almost anything, but he couldn't do that.

"Please," Thor said, almost begging. "We must-"

He took another step but faltered, his knees giving way as he pitched to the side. Jane yelped, rushing forward to catch him.

This time, however, he fought her. "No," he said, thrashing to pull away even as they landed in a tangled heap on the floor. "I must find Loki! He cannot be dead!"

Weak as he was, he was still strong - too strong for her. There was nothing she could do to hold him down, and as he lashed out, she finally had to pull away before he accidentally hit her.

"Thor!" she said, trying to get through to him. "You're not there. You're on Earth!"

Thor seethed, shaking his head as his face contorted viciously. "You tell me lies! You wish to keep me from him, though he is as much a part of Asgard as I am!"

"I wouldn't," Jane said. "You're here, though. On Earth - Midgard. With me. With Jane."

His brow furrowed, as if trying to make sense of that.

She inched forward, sensing her opportunity. "You're sick," she said, gentler now. "I'm just trying to take care of you."

He swallowed, the anger visibly fading. "Loki?"

She wasn't about to tell him the truth. Not now. Not like this. "It's okay," she promised instead. "It'll be okay."

He seemed to try very hard to focus, his head tilting. "Jane?"

She smiled, relieved. "Yeah," she said. "It's me."

"But...what are we doing?" he asked, as if suddenly realizing where he was. The clarity in his eyes was still questionable, but there were the faintest traces of recognition to ground him now.

"We're taking care of you for once," she soothed as she coaxed him up off the floor and led him toward the couch again. He didn't fight her; he didn't even try to resist as she held his burning body close and helped him along. "And it's all going to be okay."

Compliantly, he allowed himself to be guided and settled down. He looked at her with nothing but absolute trust. He believed it.

She just wished she believed it, too.

-o-

It was unknown territory.

Jane was a doctor, and she had a good understand of biology. But she wasn't a medical doctor - not even close.

Besides, Thor wasn't human. He was an alien. She didn't know what his resting heart rate was supposed to be; she didn't know what his normal temperature was. She knew he lived centuries, but had no idea what that looked like on a molecular level.

It suddenly seemed outrageous to her. To think, she had willfully shacked up with a non-human without even taking the slightest bit of precaution to know how his body would react to it. She didn't even know how well Earth's atmosphere suited his genetic disposition. For all she knew, there was some elemental property in the environment that could lead to a slow decline in his health.

For all she knew, he was dying.

And she was a scientist. She was supposed to be curious about these things.

But he'd be so strong and confident and so filled with swagger that she hadn't really stopped to consider that he could have any weakness at all. She'd been so preoccupied with figuring out how to live with him that she hadn't paid any attention to how he lived at all.

Her ignorance was stunning.

-o-

"I mean, what if this is more than a flu bug," Jane said, feeling her anxiety ratchet up. "What if there's something going on at a much deeper level we don't know about."

Darcy was busy flitted through Internet sites on her phone, but Erik looked at her seriously. They had made good time when she called. Of course, her frantic message of come now or the world may end had probably been pretty convincing.

"His people have spent time on Earth before," Erik said reasonably.

"But that was centuries ago!" Jane said. "Just consider the drastic environmental changes that have happened since then."

"And I'm not sure we want to take all the legends at face value," Darcy said. "Did you know that Thor is also known as the god of fertility?"

Jane stared at her.

Darcy shrugged, holding up an image on her phone.

Jane shook her head.

"What?" Darcy asked. "I thought you could use it for reference!"

"You're missing the point!" Jane hissed, glancing toward the living room where Thor had fallen into a fitful sleep. "He's sick!"

"Which is perfectly normal for patients who have had no exposure to certain germs before," Erik explained patiently. "There's no indication that this is anything more serious than a human case."

"Well, you know the flu did decimate a bunch of people in the past," Darcy said.

Jane gaped at her.

"Not that that's going to happen," Darcy said, quickly. "Because Thor's also a god of healing."

"You're being ridiculous," Jane said.

"I'm the only one doing research!" Darcy argued.

"It's not helpful!"

"Oh, and you are?" Darcy asked.

Then, from the other room, Thor mumbled, a small cry emerging. He bellowed something, before making a noise of anguish. "Loki, please," he pleaded in his delirium. "Please, brother…"

Darcy pressed her lips together. Erik's face was pinched.

Jane looked to the living room, hoping for an answer.

Thor just got worse.

-o-

It was desperate.

Jane wasn't always the calmest one in the room. In fact, when under scientific duress, she tended to be a bit overly dramatic. She couldn't help it: her emotions were always inspired by academic prowess.

This, though, was a different kind of desperate. This was the kind of desperate of taking a critical test and realizing she didn't know the answer. This was the kind of desperate of finalizing a grant application and figuring out she was missing a few key components. This was the kind of desperate where all the indications were lining up and showing the wrong picture.

This Thor with a temperature so high that it didn't even register on the thermometer. This was Thor, breathing fast and strained. This was Thor, sick and getting worse.

They could no longer rouse him; he was totally unresponsive. Jane threw the blankets on the floor and Darcy helped her strip him to his underwear, with not even one glib remark. His skin was hot, his cheeks burning crimson. He didn't flicker when Erik used a penlight to check his eyes, and he showed no response to the cold ice packs Jane settled under his armpits and between his legs.

Erik reminded her this was just the flu; they had no idea what his immune system was capable of handling. He could be just fine in several hours.

Or he could be dead.

No one said that, of course.

They were all thinking it.

-o-

"We have to," Jane insisted. She flicked her phone screen, scrolling absently and anxiously through the apps.

"If we do this, we have no idea what they'll do," Erik said, his voice drawn and hushed even though Thor was insensate on the couch.

"And they're like crazy super spies!" Darcy said. "I think they were actually interrogating us even though we were the ones saving the world."

"They're the best," Erik said, grave and knowing. "But what happens there…"

"If they can help him, then what does it matter?" she asked. She nodded toward the couch, where Thor was far too still. "I mean, we know nothing about Asgardian physiology-"

"And they do?" Darcy asked.

"If anyone knows, it's them," Erik replied. He hadn't talked much about SHIELD - and he'd talked less about Loki - but he knew the Agency better than all of them. Jane had been surprised to learn he'd agreed to work with SHIELD, and she knew of all of them, her decision to pull them in was hardest on Erik.

But being part of an alien invasion and having your mind played with did that to people. And Erik had started wearing pants more, so normally Jane wouldn't even push it. She didn't trust SHIELD either, not since they'd waltzed in and taken her work. They could be the good guys, but that didn't make them good guys.

It did make them the best, though. That was why they'd recruited Erik. That was why they'd stolen her work. It was why Thor had helped them when Loki tried to take over the Earth.

It was why it was an option Jane wasn't going to take off the table.

Especially now.

"Exactly," Jane said. "I mean, I don't necessarily trust them either, but what else are we going to do? Sit here and watch him die?"

"His dad would probably be pretty pissed if we did that," Darcy said.

Erik worked his jaw, breathing heavily through his nose. "I can't promise you what Fury will do once they get their hands on Thor," he said. "They might do more than treat him."

"That's all they need to do," Jane said.

Erik shook his head. "We don't know that-"

"Because if they can make him better, then he'll be better," Jane said. "That's the point. We need Thor to be able to take care of himself because he can do that better than we can. And he can't do that until he gets better."

Erik looked toward the couch, then back at Jane. He bowed his head, letting out a breath. "Do what you need to do," he said, looking up with grim certainty. Erik had always been there for her.

She looked toward Thor.

Now they had to be there for him.

She nodded, lifting her phone and dialing the number.

-o-

It was sacrifice.

That had been Thor's thing since the day he walked into the street and faced the Destroyer alone. He had been mortal then, nothing more than a man. A man with everything to lose. He'd given up his life, just like he'd given up his only means of coming back for her. He'd given up his brother and the hope of making his family whole again. He'd given up on his father's favor to save her life, and he'd willingly laid his life down to save the galaxies.

And then, he'd given up the throne.

Sacrifice.

That was what he was about. More than a hammer or lightning, more than Asgard or a thirst for battle. Thor wanted to do his best for other people. That was why he was a hero.

Maybe that was why calling SHIELD in wasn't that big of deal in the end. Maybe when they swarmed her mother's house and went through her things, she didn't even look twice. She didn't even hesitate.

This time it was about Thor.

She didn't know for sure if she could live with him, but she was starting to realize that she didn't want to live without him.

-o-

"Excuse me, Ms. Foster," the agent said as she and Erik and Darcy were being herded toward the front door. "I'm going to have to ask you to leave."

Darcy yelped and Erik grumbled. Jane shook her head. "This is my house," she reminded him. She shrugged awkwardly. "Or, my mother's-"

"We need to thoroughly evaluate the scene to look for any abnormalities," the agent explained.

"No, you need to help Thor," she protested, grinding to a halt just outside her door. The hallway had been sectioned off, with a swarm of SHIELD personnel trolling about.

"Exactly," the agent said. She was neatly dressed in a suit with dark sunglasses and dark hair pulled back into a ponytail. Jane didn't know her, but her status as a SHIELD agent was pretty easy to guess from looks alone. "And we need to assess the environment to see if there are external factors at play."

"Fine," Jane said, "but I'm staying with him."

"We'll be moving Thor to a secure facility-"

"And I'm going, too," Jane said.

The woman almost looked sympathetic. At least, she tried to. She couldn't pull it off like Phil Coulson, though. "Ms. Foster-"

"Look," Jane said, because she didn't have time for this. Thor didn't have time for this. And she didn't know what she really wanted, but she knew she didn't want this. "Assess my house. Hell, confiscate all of it, I don't care. But you will get him the help he needs, and I will be there to make sure it happens."

The woman arched an eyebrow behind her dark glasses. "I'm sorry," she said. "But who do you think you are?"

Who was she? The reason he'd left? The reason he'd stayed? His girlfriend? His best friend on Earth?

She lifted her chin. "I'm someone who cares about him," she said. "Which is more than you can say."

The agent pursued her lips, and for a horrible moment, Jane worried it wasn't enough. That her sentimentality would get them nowhere. That she'd made the best choice and it still wouldn't work out. That Thor would be alone.

After everything, he'd be alone.

Finally, the agent put her glasses back on. "Okay," she said. "But stay out of the way. And no questions-"

"Save his life," Jane said, "I don't care what else you do."

-o-

It was frightening.

Jane wasn't often scared. She didn't really have a need to be. Most things in life that people found scary could be explained away in simple and understandable terms. The unknown paralyzed some people; it fascinated her. She was obsessed with it, and she never minded failure because it was just part of success.

Sure, she'd been afraid when a random giant robot from outerspace started blowing up her town. And okay, she'd been pretty scared when the Asgardian healers had told her that she was pretty much screwed. Then there had been traveling through space, defying the All Father, nearly dying and so on and so on.

In all of that, she'd been afraid but not without recourse. She'd still had something she could do. She'd still been able to fight.

Now, though, her fear was in her own futility. SHIELD had whisked Thor away to one of their offsite locations. Jane had been permitted to stay with him, for whatever that was worth. He'd remained motionless, the fever mounting higher, as the team of agents poked and prodded him before finally settling him in a hospital bed and drawing back to confer amongst themselves.

They tried drugs; they took blood samples. They put him through an MRI and took some x-rays just because. They were doing everything they could.

But there was no way of knowing if it would be enough.

Jane was used to being saved by her intellect. In a place where everything she knew wasn't close to enough, she realized that sometimes the greatest strengths were weaknesses. Jane could find answers to any question, but this time she didn't even know what to ask.

Thor could defeat any enemy, but he could win the battles raging inside of him.

Yesterday, she'd been desperate for some space.

Now, she held his hand and didn't dare let go.

-o-

And then he woke up.

This shouldn't probably have been so much of a surprise. After all, this was Thor. He showed up in the desert out of the night and got hit by her car. He appeared on the TV when the world was ending. He somehow found her when she accidentally got transported to another realm. Thor had an innate sense of timing, even if it wasn't always to her choosing.

Thor knew when he was needed.

And he never failed.

She would have thought she'd have figured that out by now. But when she shifted in the chair, blinking blearily past the monitors toward the clock, she didn't even see that his eyes were open until he said, "This is not your home."

Jane startled, blinking in shock as her mouth fell open.

On the bed, Thor stirred a little, wincing as he tried to prop himself up a little before he finally settled on turning his head toward her. "This is not New York, is it?"

"Um," she said. "No."

His confusion deepened and he swallowed with obvious effort. "I am afraid I do not know where I am."

Of course he didn't. Because he'd been near death for the better part of three days. The SHIELD doctors had all been grim and when one of them had asked if she knew of anyway to contact Asgard, she'd feared the worse.

And here he was.

Awake.

Looking at her.

Talking.

"Jane?" he asked, confusion turning to worry. "Is something wrong?"

She tried to remember how to speak, but after several days of sleeping in a chair and living on coffee, she really wasn't at her best.

Thor grimaced as he sat up, easing his legs over the side of the bed with a look of renewed vigor on his pale features. "What peril is there? Has something threatened the Earth? Are you all right?"

He was trying to get up - actually trying to get himself out of the bed that he'd been lying on lifelessly for three days. He swatted in annoyance at the cords and monitors, and she didn't even think he realized just how many wires they were or where all the tubes went.

And suddenly, it was funny.

After three days of watching him die, Thor woke up and was trying to protect her.

She couldn't help it; she laughed.

His brow furrowed. "I...do not understand."

She kept laughing, raising her hand to her mouth to try to stop herself.

She failed.

His worry turned to vexation. "I am afraid that if this is a joke-"

"No," she said, quieting herself a little. "I'm fine. The Earth is fine."

He shook his head. "Then what is wrong?"

"Do you really not remember?" she asked, not that that was probably so unexpected. Given how high his fever was or the depth of his comatose state, memory loss was probably expected. Even so…

He shook his head. "I remember that I was going to go to New York."

"Yeah," she said. "And then you got sick."

He frowned. "I do not get sick."

"Um, I think we've had this conversation," she said. "And trust me, you do get sick."

"Asgardians have advanced healing capabilities-"

She rolled her eyes. "Yeah, and even they can get the flu."

For a moment, Thor looked ready to protest. But then he stopped, sagging back a little. "I do feel somewhat weaker than normal."

"Yeah, that's probably because you've been in the SHIELD medical facility for three days," she said.

"Three days?" he asked, sounding truly surprised.

"Three days," she confirmed, reaching up to put a hand on his shoulder and cajole him back to bed. "And you somehow have recovered, but I think you could still use a little rest."

It was a testament to his exhaustion that he did not fight her. "But I am due in New York."

"I talked to Stark," she assured him.

"But I need to go," he said, and he said it so earnestly that she hated herself for it, even if it was valid.

"Maybe later," Jane said, smiling at him as he settled his head back on the pillow as he watched her with wide, expectant eyes. "But for now, neither of us are going anywhere."

-o-

It was simple.

Well, not all of it. It was a little complicated being stuck in a SHIELD facility, especially since Erik was right. Once they had Thor for one thing, they wanted him for a whole lot more and while he remained good natured for the first few hours of testing, his patience grew thin before he finally demanded to take his leave.

With all that, Jane had learned enough to get a sense of what had actually happened, at least according to the best guess of the doctors there. And that was even more complicated, because it seemed like Thor's blood work upon recovery showed antibodies that hadn't been there when he'd been first admitted. Which meant that his immune system literally synthesized a response to the contagion on its own within three days.

This was all to say that Thor did the hard work, but the medical support from SHIELD had probably made it possible. The fluids and drugs gave Thor's body enough of a stopgap to let his immune system do the heavy lifting.

In short, SHIELD had saved Thor's life.

Jane had saved Thor's life.

In that, it was really very simple. She didn't like being there, and she didn't trust them, but in this case, the ends really did justify the means. Plus, the doctors figured Thor would never get the flu again, and Jane could only think that to be a very good thing.

And even besides the whole almost-dying and miraculously-healing thing, Jane knew that technically nothing had changed. They were still in a relationship they hadn't quite figured out, with boundaries they hadn't defined and expectations they hadn't delineated. She couldn't have him around all the time, and the more she reflected on it, the more she was pretty sure she wasn't ready for a live-in relationship at all.

But, where all that was complicated, her final conclusion was the simple one - and really the only one that mattered.

She cared about him. Jane didn't know if it was possible to be in love after so little time, but she could safely say she didn't want to live a life where he wasn't. She liked spending time with him, and she wanted to see what happened between them. In the end, it was the simple answers that mattered most.

She loved him.

And given the way he looked at her, she was pretty sure he loved her.

They could build the rest from there.

-o-

Thor wanted to fly back, but when she reminded him that Mjolnir was still inside her mother's house, he agreed to wait for Erik to pick them up. Which was a good thing; Jane didn't want to pay for a new exterior wall in addition to everything else.

SHIELD had offered to drive them, of course, but Jane had declined. Thor promised them he'd be in touch. They said thank you, but it was pretty clear they'd already counted on that.

Outside, Jane took a deep breath. The SHIELD facility was actually in London, which was more convenient than she'd figured. But it was still easier to get a ride from Erik.

Besides, there were a few things she wanted to say.

Chewing her lip, she glanced at Thor. He looked mostly recovered now, with just a hint of paleness in his complexion. It was hard to imagine just a day ago he'd been near death's door.

"So," she ventured, rocking back and forth on her feet. "Have you called Stark yet?"

Thor looked at her. "I do not have my phone."

"Oh," Jane said. "Yeah, I guess not."

"But I shall," Thor promised her. He hesitated. "If that is what you wish."

She nodded. "Yeah, I think you should go to New York."

He sighed, shoulders falling. "It would be the best means to afford you the space you need," he said in agreement. "I apologize for not recognizing such things earlier. I have never been one to require much solitude. I have always preferred the company of others to my own thoughts. But I do remember when we were younger, and Loki often complained that I did not respect his silence. I used to laugh away his concerns, but now I realize that I should not have been so flippant."

"Well, I should have said something sooner," Jane said. "It just all happened so fast, you know? Two years apart and then there you were. I let it get away from me."

"I failed to anticipate what my return would mean for you," Thor said, and he was clearly making efforts to be stoic, but while Thor was good at many things, concealing his emotions wasn't one of them. Which just made it all the more meaningful when he straightened with a firm nod of his head. "I will contact Tony as soon as we return back to your quarters. I should be able to leave within the day."

"Good," she said. "That's good."

There was an awkward, strange silence.

Jane swallowed hard to rally her courage. "I won't be able to go today or anything, but I should be there in a week or two," she said. "I'll have to do something about my mother's place, but she should be back in London in a few months, and I can have Darcy pack up the lab-"

Thor's brow creased. "I do not understand."

"I've had an offer to work in New York for a while now, and since the anomalous readings I was tracking in London have mostly disappeared since the realms went out of alignment, there's no better time to go," she explained. "Besides, I've sort of needed a fresh start."

Thor lifted his eyebrows, daring to be hopeful. "In New York?"

"Yeah," she said. "And I mean, I can't afford a place in Stark's neighborhood, but public transit's great there-"

"-and we have Mjolnir," Thor added brightly.

She grinned. "And we do have a hammer," she agreed. "So we won't be in the same apartment but we'll still get to see each other."

"You would have your own space," Thor said, as the idea began to take hold in his mind.

"And so would you," Jane said. "I mean, Stark Tower is huge. Whatever sort of place you get in there, you'd be able to wake up as early as you wanted and cheer as loud as you needed to. And you could decorate it however you wanted."

Thor seemed to consider this. "I have spent my entire life in my father's palace," he said. "Few things have been given to me to decide in this manner."

"Well, now's your chance," Jane said. "I'm pretty sure you'll love it."

"And you would come visit?" Thor asked.

Jane grinned. "Just try to stop me."

"I would like that," Thor said, his own smile widening. "I would like that very much."

They still had their conflicts, and Jane wasn't so naive to think they would have many more. But, in that much, they were in perfect agreement.

-o-

In the end, it was perfect.

Jane liked her new job, and Darcy had somehow talked Ian into coming to New York. There was no money to pay him, but Jane didn't bother to ask questions. Erik had refused to come and instead took a job on the West Coast because he wasn't ready to face New York again yet.

Jane respected that, and she knew all the reasons why. She also knew if he needed something, he'd tell her. And if she needed something, he'd be there. That was how it was with them. That was how it was with family.

Thor was a good boyfriend, as it turned out. He'd taken to wooing her, which had been awkward at first, but he'd clearly gotten some advice that helped him modernize his approach. They did dinner and saw the sights. They had long talks and went to plays off Broadway. She took him to the museums, and he showed her the stars, explaining the magic that filled the gaps in her science. Sometimes he was needed by SHIELD and had to go away; other times Jane had to fly across country for a conference or meeting.

They always came back; they were always waiting. Someday it might be more, Jane thought, but there was no rush on that.

It was a little strange, getting to know the rest of the Avengers. She'd seen them on TV; read about them online; but they were all real and good people. Tony knew how to push buttons, and Bruce made everyone just a touch nervous. Natasha had a quiet, lethal quality, and Clint was sarcastic. Steve was welcoming and genuine - the natural leader of this group of misfits that somehow saved the world.

Thor fit perfectly with them, as though he'd always been meant to be there. And being around his friends was good for him. He had more people to talk to, more things to learn. He thrived in a team setting, and it made him a better person.

This was why he'd left Asgard, Jane realized. Because he belonged here.

Jane wasn't always sure where she fit in, but it was sure going to be an adventure trying to find out.