Pulling into the driveway, she smelled ozone. She left everything in the car—including her keys—and ran through the kitchen and living room straight to the backyard.

There was no letter waiting for her.

Thor was.


The world stopped. There was no time, no motion. The breeze on Jane's face disappeared. Every leaf on every tree was still. The waves were silent. No birds sang. Even the air in her lungs was stale; she couldn't breathe. She stood staring at him, watching him stare at her.

She had eternity to look at him, study his features—his longer hair, braided back from his face—to remember just how big, how physically intimidating he was. Looking at him, their surroundings faded to utter insignificance. The greens, blues, and whites of the world were pale in comparison to him, vivid in gold and red and gray. He was the only thing in focus, so sharp she saw every detail, down to the tiny new scar that puckered just under his left temple. Jane had all the time in the world to recall all the words they'd spoken, each time they'd touched, every smile they'd exchanged.

Then her body remembered how his felt, and suddenly all she wanted to do was feel him again.

He didn't move as she stepped forward. He didn't flinch as her hand came up to rest on the soft stubble of his cheek. All she felt was a momentary flex of muscle in his jaw as she trailed her hand down—to his chin, to his neck. Then she felt his heartbeat and the warm surge of blood under the skin.

"Thor," she breathed. "Thor."

His hand came up, rested on hers. Her bones felt hollow under the strength of his grip; her skin felt like paper. But his strength was always tempered to her weakness. The pressure of his hand was warm and insistent, but not painful. His fingers slipped between hers, and her whole body shivered.

One pull, and he had her resting against him. The arms enfolding her were warm; the bare skin of them was soft. Her cheek rested against a smooth, cold metal disk on his chest. Jane's eyes closed, but that somehow brought the reality of him even closer. She remembered how he smelled—warm leather, cold metal, sharp spices, clean sweat—and she pulled it all in. The tension that had braced her against the idea that this wasn't really happening, that it was all just a dream, disappeared. He was here, he was real.

She breathed. It came out like a sob. His arms tightened around her, and for a moment, the pressure of his arms was too much. Then she heard his own breaths coming short and ragged, like hers.

"Jane," she felt the word rumbling deep in his chest, buried under his armor.

She held him in silence for a moment longer, before her brain reminded her of the last time they'd spoken face-to-face. A laugh built inside her, silent at first but then shaking her shoulders as it spilled from her mouth.

So much for romance. "I'm so glad I don't have to hit you," she said, the words gasping out between her breathless laughter. "I'd've done it, of course, but it would've hurt me way more than you."

Thor chuckled too. "I think your precise words were, "smack me upside the head". In truth, I am glad you are not considering that either." He smiled. "Though, of course, for your sake and not mine. No true warrior fears a blow dealt in justice."

The world resumed its normal pace; the spell of finding a god in her backyard was broken. Now Jane was only taken aback by the sheer oddity of it. Thor didn't belong in this tropical hole-in-the-wall town, any more than he'd belonged in Puente Antiguo. She took a step back, pushing a loose wave of hair behind her ear and hoping her hand could shield her trembling mouth from him. His presence, welcome as it was, was also overwhelming.

"So…" she felt unaccountably shy, "what brings you here? Last I heard you weren't much closer to completing the Bifrost and Odin wasn't entirely on board with the idea of me going to Asgard even if it were. And…" she looked down, noting the unburnt grass beneath Thor's feet, "I don't see a mark."

Thor hesitated. It was so unlike his usual forthright nature that Jane felt herself move from shy to anxious in a heartbeat.

"It is true. The Bifrost is still several weeks from completion; I used Tesseract energy for my journey. However, circumstances made it necessary that I come for you sooner."

Now she was curious. "You need me? For what?" She doubted she could be much help in constructing a machine capable of opening a stable wormhole—the physics of it were far beyond any human alive—and beyond that…what could Asgard possibly require from a mortal?

He stiffened, hand caressing Mjolnir's handle where it hung from his belt. "I would rather tell you that when we are beyond the reach of eavesdroppers."

"Wha—" her question snapped off as a sudden gust of stormy air rippled the bushes and trees around them. Cleverly concealed in the greenery were no fewer than six SHIELD agents. And she recognized one receding hairline in particular.

"Coulson!" she cried, angry enough to stamp her foot like a toddler, "For God's sake!"

He made his way out from a thicket of three palm trees, nonchalantly patting his hair into place. He nodded at the two of them, inscrutable behind the ubiquitous sunglasses every agent insisted on sporting. "Miss Foster. Thor." His gaze lingered on the god and Jane could have sworn she saw his jaw tighten to hold back a grin. "Good to see you again."

"Son of Coul," he replied, "I thought I told you not to harry my Jane."

Jane had a moment to blush at the possessive pronoun before she answered him herself. "SHIELD embraces technicalities. You told them to return my equipment, and they did. The "leave her alone" subtext, they chose to ignore. And with no one here to make them, well…"

"Strange bursts of Tesseract energy manifesting in your backyard wasn't something we could ignore, even if we wanted to," he replied placidly. "They might have been a threat to Miss Foster."

"Asgard has been guarding the Tesseract faithfully since it left Midgard. No one who wishes Jane harm could have gained access to it."

"You must forgive us for being skeptical," Coulson shrugged, "but we had to see for ourselves. Being Aesir is no guarantee of peaceful intentions towards Earth. And we couldn't take the chance that your prisoner hadn't gained access to the Cube either, especially since you didn't tell us how he would be guarded. Or about anything else, for that matter."

Thor frowned and the skies darkened, quiet thunder rumbling in from the sea. "Loki has not left his dungeon cell since my father put him in it. Though your technologies are incapable of restraining him, ours are not."

"Are you sure about that? Maybe that's what he wants you to think. He enjoyed making us think so, many times over."

Jane was very tired of this Midgard/Asgard pissing contest. She sighed. "What are you doing here, Coulson?"

"Besides responding to a Level 3 energy discharge that left an alien signature on our planet? We have monitored enough of your correspondence to know that you intend to travel to Asgard. Director Fury cannot allow a lone civilian to leave the planet, especially with so many unexplained incidences happening worldwide. You may not like it, Miss Foster," he finished, shrugging, "but you are an asset, and one we don't intend to lose. You may be one of the only people who can help us save the world."

She felt Thor stir beside her, ready to leap into the fray in her defense. But her courage was more than equal to Coulson's pale threats. "I already did that once," she replied, torn between burgeoning anger and a tiny streak of preening pride at his flattery. After so many years being a laughingstock, it was refreshing to have someone acknowledge her skills. "I don't think SHIELD has any claim on me in the event of another apocalypse. And there's no way you can stop me leaving the planet if I want to."

"So you just intend to abandon Earth?"

Coulson's displeasure was icy, but Jane remembered SHIELD's various entreaties and threats after the war had ended, and steeled herself against remorse. "I don't intend to abandon anything or anybody. What I do intend to do is live my life without being dictated to by a bunch of goose-stepping soldiers in black suits."

Jane stepped back and hooked her arm around Thor's elbow. "You wanted to talk somewhere private? Then let's go." She tugged him towards the house, pointedly ignoring Coulson and his flanking agents.

"Jane," Thor said doubtfully, once inside the flimsy protection of the sliding door, "they must surely have the means to monitor you concealed somewhere in your house."

She scoffed. "Of course they do," she crossed the room and picked up her ready-packed bag. Her smile when she turned back to him was wicked. "But not in yours."

He caught her meaning. His smile broadened and he laughed. Jane stepped back under the shelter of his arm and let her smile show to Coulson, looking in at the window.

"Heimdall!" the cry broke through the clouds and Jane could imagine it rippling through space. She had a moment to feel panic, vertigo, and a sense of I shouldn't have done that, oh no; but Thor's arm was tight around her and they were already tunneling through space, clear blue energy wrapping them in a bubble of breathable air and manageable pressure.

The fear of the moment vanished. Jane laughed and didn't stop as their journey ricocheted them past planets, through nebulae, and beyond phenomena she had no names for. The images flashed by almost too quickly to be seen, but she felt no sensation of speed; no g-force, no pressure, no difficulty breathing. Was space moving, or were they?

Six hundred ninety-seven light years, she thought, and her feet slammed hard against a crystalline path vibrant with flickering rainbow shades. Her brain reeled, trying to reconcile three things: having just moments ago been in Hilo, Hawaii; rocketing through more space than any human had ever dreamed of doing; and then having Asgard right in front of her.

She was still laughing. Hysteria threatened to swamp her, but she pulled back on it hard, and managed to croak, "I'd give anything to see Coulson's face!"

"It is quite worth seeing," a deep voice interposed, shocking away Jane's lingering chuckles, "I wish I could share the sight."

Jane turned, looking up into the brilliant eyes of a golden giant. Those eyes…she had known him by name only, but those eyes…they looked through her and beyond her, as though they could read the secrets of stars and lives on planets that no one else knew.

Not "as though", Jane reminded herself, he can really do that.

"Heimdall," she said, nodding respectfully, "It's…it's nice to meet you." Unease prickled in her stomach at her inadequate words. What if Thor's father was right, and she had no place in Asgard? She didn't speak well, didn't know etiquette—if the etiquette here was anywhere near what it was on Earth—couldn't make small talk…what kind of representative would she be?

The guardian smiled, a tiny expression that regardless broke the still solemnity of his endless gaze. "The pleasure is mine also, Jane Foster," he returned her nod. His smile grew wider as she nibbled her lip and wondered what else to say. "Do not fear. Anyone who comes to know you will recognize your worth. Even our King."

Jane swallowed. "Can you read minds, too?" she wouldn't put it beyond the power of those penetrating eyes.

"Every erring boy once thought so," Thor murmured, a rueful smile twisting his mouth. Heimdall merely glanced at his prince and Thor grew even more bashful. "But no. Heimdall has the gift of sight; not of foresight or mindsight."

"I have stood watch over the Nine Realms for centuries uncounted, Miss Foster," his face grew solemn again and Jane felt the terrible truth in his words, "but sight alone is worthless without the power to observe."

Very Holmesian, she thought. "Well," she swallowed for her bone-dry throat and to get rid of the thousand million questions she wanted to ask about the exact scope of his power, "I'll have to trust you on that, then." Though she wasn't sure how much faith she put in a man with magical telescope eyes. However, if she trusted a magical energy cube that had launched her through nearly seven hundred million light years' worth of space, she might as well just go ahead and permanently suspend all her disbelief.

"You need not trust me, Miss Foster," Heimdall replied, still serious. Every word he spoke seemed etched in stone. "Merely trust yourself."

She nodded, feeling her mouth tremble again. "I'll try." It was all she could give either of them, at the moment. She managed a weak smile. "But I'd rather Odin trusted me."

Heimdall frowned. "You have not told her?"

"There was no chance," Thor said, shaking his head, "as I'm sure you saw. I judged it best that Earth at large not know of our troubles until we have a chance to know the full extent of them ourselves."

"Thor," Jane said, touching his arm. His face as he looked at her was far more grim than she'd thought to see. All the wonder—from their incredible journey, from the incredible sight before her—leeched away from her in a cold, sickening rush. "What is it? What's wrong?"

He hesitated again. "I would rather have my mother's assistance in telling you."

She felt her face go cold. Her lips were dry and she had to swallow twice before the words would come. "Is it Loki? Is something wrong with him?" The possibility seemed too terrible for her weak little words. Time seemed to slow before she finally heard Thor's response.

"No," he said, gently. "No. Nothing has changed in my brother's condition."

"Or disposition," Heimdall added. Jane was so caught up in her relief that she almost missed the sour look Thor gave his subject, or the apologetic bow Heimdall gave in return. Jane turned away for a moment, knowing that her face must be flushing red in the aftermath of her fear. She knew Thor knew at least part of what she felt for his brother, but now was not the time for either of them to think of it. Especially if the troubles Thor hinted at were as grave as both he and Heimdall seemed to think.

Jane busied herself in picking up her bag. One of the seams had split—probably on contact with the broken Bifrost—and a few pens and pencils had leaked out. She took longer than necessary to find a safe pouch to stow them in…long enough to ensure the blush was gone from her face. When she stood up, Heimdall had returned to his post near the construction at the edge of the bridge, and Thor was looking down at her with a small, resigned smile.

She took his hand to get back to her feet, turning red again at the touch of his hand.

"You needn't hide from me, Jane," he said, taking her bag and slinging it over one shoulder. "You are not the only one to feel affection for Loki. And I am aware that it was not for love of me that he abandoned his schemes on Midgard."

Though it was a relief to hear Thor address it so openly, it was still a subject Jane could barely puzzle out in the privacy of her own mind. Did Thor really think Loki loved her? If so, that just made everything worse. "Can we…just not talk about that, right now? After all," she shrugged and tried to smile at him, "I get the feeling we'll have much bigger things to worry about."

He nodded. "True enough," he said, "and the sooner you know all, the sooner we may work to a solution. There will be time for you to see the city later. My mother waits for us. Should you like to fly once more, Jane?"

This time she didn't have to struggle to return his grin. She cuddled under his arm and said, like a child sharing a secret, "I have dreams about it all the time. Almost as often as I dream about you."

"Wicked woman," he growled, hugging her tighter and spinning Mjolnir. Jane's heartbeat quickened at the familiar rise of power in the air, the lightness she felt spreading from the soles of her feet through the tips of her fingers. "I believe," he threw his arm forward and the Bifrost became a true rainbow underneath them, all colors blurring together in brilliant bands of light, "if you could fly," he turned them upside down, and Jane screamed, "you would give not another thought to me."

She was laughing too hard to reply. The very air in Asgard seemed designed to intoxicate, expanding in her lungs like helium and making her lightheaded. Upside-down or right-side up, she would never close her eyes. The stars above them blended with rising sunlight; the city below shimmered gold, red, and blue between night and day.

Asgard was beautiful; breathtakingly, staggeringly beautiful. She had never seen anything like it, nothing that even came close. The streets below seemed paved with silver. In the starlight, the cobblestones sparkled with flashes and rivulets of brilliant light. The buildings were pearlescent marble, gleaming gold, or gray granite pure as a cloud. Each one reached for the heavens, so high and close their spires seemed to touch the stars. Between them, patches of garden with tall dark trees or fragrant, flower-dotted bushes gave children and their parents places to play or rest.

Thor skillfully wound between the buildings, and Jane gaped as they passed. Wide windows gave her flashes of Aesir life; families sitting to dine together, a pair of children sparring with wooden swords, a lone woman in a dress the color of old blood reclining on a sofa looking out over the city.

Jane would never have eyes wide enough to take it all in. She didn't ever want to. The moment she saw everything, the moment she understood the curiosities of life in this vast, mysterious, beautiful city, would be the moment the universe had nothing more to offer her.

Thor was looking down at her, his smile only slightly smaller than hers. "How does the city please you, Jane?" he asked, deep voice cutting through the rushing wind effortlessly.

In comparison, Jane had to shout to be heard. "It's amazing!" she cried, almost resenting Thor from taking her attention away from two kids playing with a fascinating levitating ball. "Now I get why New Mexico was such a disappointment for you!"

"No place you called home could ever be disappointing," he replied. She had a moment to be thankful that her cheeks were already red from the wind. He was such a sweet-talker, that one. "We will be at the palace in another moment."

And indeed, before them rose Thor's home. Its fluted turrets were three times as high as any others in the city. If the others looked like they touched the sky, these looked as though they rested betwixt and between the stars themselves. The night sky was deeper here than at the Bifrost, and the golden towers backed by inky darkness and crystalline twinkling stars looked almost too perfect to be real. Jane thought that if she put her hand out the entire vision would disappear like a mirage.

The palace was fringed by a variety of gardens; some almost like miniature wildernesses, full of tangled bushes and brambles, while others had geometric flowerbeds that bloomed with every color in the rainbow, and some that were outside its bounds. Each garden connected in some way with the others through a labyrinthine network of paths and walkways. She also saw broad training grounds, dotted with racks of wooden and real spears, swords, shields, and other equipment.

They flew behind the palace. The city was thinner there, the buildings dwindling in size and density in the face of a vast grassy plain beyond. Fringing the plain were steep, jagged mountains, nothing more than flat silhouettes in the shadow of oncoming night. The constellations above shimmered; the starlight was far more intense than on earth. Though it was nearly night here, the plain was illuminated as though by a drizzle of liquid silver. There was no moon.

The starlit plain was hidden from sight behind the shorter buildings at the edge of the great city as they dropped lower. Jane had only a moment to see the tall, blonde figure draped in elegant blue and silver—and feel a sick sensation of terror in her heart over the introduction to come—before her feet softly touched the springy grass in the garden. It took a moment to get used to the pull of gravity again, and by then, Frigga, Queen of Asgard and Mother of Thor, was in front of her.

"Jane Foster, may I present Frigga, Queen of Asgard and Mother of the Aesir."

Jane felt too shaky to attempt a curtsey, so she dipped her head respectfully and said, "It's a pleasure to meet you."

Frigga returned the nod, amused good grace lurking around her eyes and mouth as she saw Jane's awkwardness. "Likewise, Jane Foster. I have long been curious about the woman whom both my sons owe such a debt. I hope our hospitality here may be the first of many payments on the obligation we owe." She moved forward gracefully and extended her hand. "I believe on Midgard it is customary to shake hands when meeting. Welcome to Asgard."

They shook, and Jane felt a little of her shyness evaporate at this kind attempt to make her feel at home. "Thank you. But please," she laughed a bit breathlessly, "there's no obligation. If I did anything to help Thor, he repaid that by saving the world."

"I do have two sons," Frigga's smile dimmed, "though one no longer admits having a mother in me. Still, I heard enough from my son and my Gatekeeper that you did much in securing his safe return. A mother's gratitude in such a matter is endless. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to make your stay more comfortable."

"Thank you…um," she darted a glance at Thor, "is "your Majesty" the right term?"

"My husband would insist on such formalities," Frigga answered for him, mouth settling in a thin line, "but if you will allow me the liberty, I will call you Jane and you may call me Lady Frigga."

There was no way she could comfortably jump to a first name basis with Thor's mother and a practical goddess, but Jane just nodded and said, "I prefer being called Jane anyway. But…do you think I could get some details about my stay? Thor told me…" she looked between the pair of them, trying to understand the grim looks that passed between mother and son, "well, he didn't tell me much of anything."

"Of course," Frigga said, motioning the two of them to join her along the path. "You must naturally be very curious in the face of all this mystery. While it would likely be more prudent to wait until our scientists and sorcerers could give you a more complete picture of our troubles, I will not keep you in suspense. Let me take you to our library, however. There are texts that can help me explain."

"A library?" Jane had to stop herself rushing ahead. Of course in a palace this grand there must be one, but her heart beat faster at the bare thought of what wonders such a room might hold. Although, she reminded herself, probably nothing's in English. Or German…if I remember enough scientific German from school to do me any good.

"I have already told the guards that you are to have unimpeded access to that room at any time," Thor said, long strides curtailed to his mother's slow pace. He smiled down on her. "Though I should warn you that I will come fetch you if you go missing for more than a day."

"It's a safe bet that you'd find me there," she replied, "What kind of astronomical section do you have?"

He looked a bit chagrined. "I am afraid that my knowledge of the collection is…cursory at best. Though those who understand these matters say that my father's library cover every subject in unparalleled depth."

"As well they should," Frigga nodded at two armored guards who quickly opened the doors for them, "Generations of Aesir kings have contributed to it."

Passing into the palace was such an everyday affair to Thor and Frigga that Jane had to stifle her excitement and awe at the beauties that emerged from every corner. The elegantly carved silver and gold knotwork on the pillars, the inlaid stonework of the floor, and the wide open corridors that brought in the smells of the garden and the ocean that fell off the edge of the world all encouraged Jane to linger in stunned astonishment. Despite her best intentions to look as though all of this were matter-of-fact to her, her feet still faltered and her eyes opened so wide she thought they would pop out of her head.

Frigga noticed. Jane thought there was very little that woman would fail to see. There was something in her narrow smile and sidewise gaze that seemed familiar—it gave Jane an uncomfortable feeling—but her voice was perfectly cordial when she said, "Would you care to see the view?"

Jane bit her lip and shook her head. "I think if I stopped to look now we'd never get to the library. Besides, business before pleasure."

"Very well," she said, leading the way again, "Thor, you will be sure to show Jane anything in the palace she cares to see."

"I had planned the tour for right after breakfast tomorrow, Mother," Thor assured her, trading an amused glance with Jane over this reminder of his duty. "If you are not too tired for it, of course?"

It was going to be very odd dealing with Thor in the context of his family. Frigga seemed so welcoming, but there was an edge to her looks at the two of them that didn't seem entirely friendly. It wasn't hostile, not by any means, just…wary. Jane realized with a start that she was being judged. If Thor had spoken of her to his family in the same warm way he'd spoken to her—well, she couldn't blame Frigga for being concerned that his son had given his affection to someone unworthy.

In the same moment, Jane also realized why Frigga's expressions—far more sly and concealed that Thor's wide smiles—were so familiar. Despite her golden hair and blue eyes, her finer, sharper features resembled the adopted rather than natural son's. Her expressions were Loki's, too.

It was hard, after having that revelation, to treat Frigga's kind gestures as wholly honest. Something of Loki's mischievous spirit danced around her eyes and mouth, and Jane could not bring herself to trust her. It was too difficult, overwhelmed with everything else as she was, to separate her feelings for the son from her feelings about the mother. Jane decided not to try until she'd had a decent night's sleep.

After about a fifteen minute walk—during which they crossed more ballrooms, drawing rooms, music rooms, indoor courtyards and other little spots of beauty than Jane could remember—they reached a tall pair of wooden doors, bound in silver filigree. Two guards stood here as well, but when they saw Frigga they merely stood straight and made no move to open the door. She nodded to them and gestured sharply with an outstretched left hand. Slowly, the great doors unlatched, creaked, and opened wide.

Jane's stomach flip-flopped. Frigga resembled Loki in more ways than one, then. Rather, Loki resembled her. A tension headache—familiar to her after many long, frustrating days analyzing storm data—started to pound behind her eyes. This was definitely something to think about later.

Her unease melted away the moment she stepped through the door.

"Oh, my…" she gasped, "this is—this is incredible."

She knew now why the doors were so high. The library stretched three stories up, marble spiral staircases running like spiderwebs between each level, and stepstools and ladders available every few paces. Wide tables were spaced over the floor, positioned in front of two huge windows that looked out over the darkening city on the right. Several people looked up as they entered, even stared at her odd clothes and obvious excitement, but a look from Thor sent them all back to their books.

Jane didn't notice. The smell of books—leather, wood, vellum, glue, and paper old and new—was intoxicating. Jane had never considered herself a bibliophile (except for her scientific textbooks, she actually preferred eBooks for recreational reading) but the smell alone was enough to make her believe she could live quite happily in this room the rest of her life.

She trailed her fingers over the closest bookcase; actually, it was a scroll rack, with tiny pigeonholes each a home for a carefully rolled ream of vellum, papyrus, or paper. Tiny runes were cut in the wood below and above each niche. They each made a unique pattern under her wandering fingertips. Somehow this little detail became more significant to Jane than all the wonders she'd seen that day; she had no idea why that should be so.

"Jane?" Frigga drew her attention to where she and Thor stood by an open book. The illuminated volume's illustrations actually moved—Jane frowned in confusion at scenes of masked men worshipping a floating, amorphous cloud—before Frigga turned to the important page.

"This is one of the first texts we have that identifies the Convergence by its essential nature," Frigga said, pointing to an astronomical type map that seemed to show the nine Realms in alignment. "It is an occurrence of every five thousand years, when the planets of each realm align in their orbit around Midgard."

"Midgard is the center of Yggdrasil?" Jane almost smiled. Who knew that the oldest views of the universe would turn out to be correct? The Earth really was the center of the universe.

"It is," Thor said, "and each of the other Realms orbit it much in the same way the planets in your solar system orbit your sun. Every five thousand years, the planets align, and the Convergence occurs."

"So what is it, besides an alignment? Does it have anything to do with the strange things happening on Earth? We've had things and people disappear and reappear. Stars that aren't in the sky one moment are there the next. And some people who have managed to find their way home tell some pretty crazy stories. Others haven't shown up at all."

Frigga nodded. "These are all symptoms of the Convergence. The alignment of the Realms weakens the barriers of space and time between the worlds, creating stable—if unpredictable—tunnels between the planets. Through our entire history, we have never been able to successfully predict or locate these wormholes where they manifest. This makes our problem a difficult one to solve."

"And…" Jane looked from one to the other, wondering why they were being so very cagey with her. Surely if they were willing to break Odin's rules in bringing her there—and waste the Tesseract's energy to do it—she deserved the whole truth from them. "What is that problem, exactly?"

"Asgard is not immune to the problems brought by the Convergence. Our own citizens have been disappearing as well, and as the event draws closer the effects will only grow more severe."

"So you brought me here to figure out how to fix it?" Jane was flattered, but immediately daunted by the enormity of the task. "I…you guys have a lot more faith in me than I have in myself, I'll tell you." Frigga's brow puckered—probably in confusion over her being called a "guy"—and Jane bit her tongue before turning to her son. "Thor, this is…this is way too big for me to figure out on my own. Besides which, there are teams of SHIELD scientists working on this very problem. You'd be better off bringing Nick Fury here."

"That is not it," Frigga cut her off before Thor could contradict her. "There is a person in Asgard who understands better than anyone the balance between Realms and the wormholes that form between them."

"So why not ask him? Or her?"

"We have. He is…uncooperative."

Suddenly everything made sense, and Jane felt even more overwhelmed than before. "You didn't bring me here to manage Loki, did you? What," she couldn't get a deep breath, "what on earth makes you think he'd tell me anything? I've asked him questions through you a bunch of times. Nothing."

They merely looked at her. She shook her head and shrugged.

"Well, I'll try, but I really hope you have a backup plan. Because I don't think this is going to work."

"You must try to make him speak to us, Jane. There is too much at stake to fail."

Great. Because a little more pressure was exactly what I needed.

"But you're not telling me," she felt desperate now, "what exactly is at stake?"

"My husband," Frigga's face lost its gentle humor and settled into lines as grave as carven stone. "Odin has disappeared. If we do not wish the nine Realms to fall into chaos during an already chaotic time, you must help us find him. You must make Loki help us find him."


Hello everyone, and welcome to the beginning of our adventure! Some of you have asked whether this story will be a rewrite of The Dark World. The answer to that is…it's complicated! Since Iron Man 3 and The Winter Soldier have come out as well since beginning World Under Siege, this story will incorporate information from all those movies. Quite frankly, I was disappointed by The Dark World, and want to write the story I wanted to see. So it'll be similar to WUS…a little bit of everything!

Some logistics: I'll still be saying Skrull instead of Chitauri, as I don't feel like retrofitting WUS to conform. I think this story will be around 20 chapters long and I want to finish it before Avengers 2 comes out. So we'll be together for about a year!

I hope to be on a bimonthly updating schedule with this and I do have a few reserve chapters written already. At least through May there shouldn't be any delays. As usual, a reviewed story means a happy writer, and I appreciate any encouragement you throw my way.

Always know you have a grateful author who is dying to hear from you!