Disclaimer: All characters are © Marvel. No profit is being made from this work.
Author's Notes: For MegaloTro. Also massive thanks to Tro for her amazing beta job, because this would have been made of epic proportions of fail without her input.
This was written because I firmly believe that Tony really needs a hug right now, and I am ignoring anything to do with current Thor canon. I'm also trying to be realistic about what Tony's mental state has to be at this point, because apparently no one at Marvel has any damned clue what severe emotional trauma and abandonment does to an already unstable human being. They're basically hitting a pane of glass repeatedly with a sledgehammer and expecting us to believe that it shouldn't break.
I have also come to the conclusion that if Thor doesn't eventually give Tony emotional support in canon, then no one ever will again. Either that or Marvel now considers the Classic/Original Avengers' relationships to be officially null and void.
Deeper than Bone
Thor has already lost one shield brother. He will not lose another.
Thor is truly not sure what he was expecting, when he ventured to Midgard in the wake of the warfare, but it certainly was not this. He has seen some of what has been happening, since the conclusion of the bloodstained conflict, and none of it pleases him; and a great and terrible sorrow fills him at the thought of Steve's demise.
Although his father has long forbidden it, Thor hopes that Valkyrie nonetheless recognized Steve's great worth and swept him to Valhalla, regardless of his humanity and the circumstances of his death.
Thor cannot think too long of the manner of Steve's passing; the fury that comes from it is almost overwhelming, and surmounted only by the sharp pain of grief. Thor is aware that all humans, by nature, are mortal, and all will perish in time. It does not ease the pain. Sif had grown frustrated with him, in his sorrow. She had tried to be understanding, in the face of his pain, but she has never been able to comprehend his interest in humans; much less his love for that particular human.
Two humans, in fact. One whom Thor is flying to see directly.
Thor has also taken account of Tony's actions, and in some ways, he is still disbelieving of them. He cannot reconcile that traitorous creature with the mortal man he had grown to respect and love; Thor's anger is nearly a consuming thing, and yet he still wishes to hear what Tony has to say. Thor has not forgotten that he is not the only one who loved Steve as much, even if he does not love Steve in quite the same way.
And yet, stepping into Tony's room, even the son of Odin could not have predicted this.
It is not Tony whom he finds—whether the former Avenger or the betrayer—but a fragile shell of a man. He is sitting on the floor with his back to the wall, knees drawn up to his chest. For someone who has known Tony so long, it is easy to ascertain the exhaustion written into his form; a deep, reaching tiredness that Thor has previously seen only in the most world-weary of his fellow immortals.
Tony stares at him for a long moment, blank-faced, as if Thor's presence isn't even
registering. Abruptly, he jerks, gaze clearing, and he stumbles to his feet. Only the wall behind him keeps him from tumbling back down to the floor.
With Tony standing like this, Thor can truly see the terrible depth of his exhaustion; it seems ingrained into the man's very bones, dragging Tony down and crushing him beneath its weight. He appears to be half-dead already, as if a personification of Hel herself: not yet dead, but far from alive.
"Thor," Tony rasps. "You're—god, you're here." He raises one hand to his own face, taking a shaky breath. "Thor, I know—damnit, I—" He bows his head and buries his fingers in his hair, tugging the dull black strands once before dropping his hands back down to his sides and raising his head. "Say it. It's—I should have known to wait until you—until you got the chance to confront me on this, before I ended—before I—" Tony cuts himself off abruptly, swaying lightly on his feet and shaking his head once as if to deny what he had clearly not meant to say. Nonetheless, a terrible sickness fills Thor at Tony's words, shoving even his mighty anger to the side in order to make room for itself.
He lifts a hand, and Tony flinches and drops his gaze, hunching his shoulders as if expecting a blow and resigning himself to it. It pains Thor far more than it should, that Tony should cringe from him, though Thor understands why he does. Tony is reminiscent of an abused animal, beaten so many times that it flinches from even the kindest of hands.
Thor's original intention had been to confront Tony over such an unthinkable betrayal—the kind of betrayal Thor might have expected from his brother, Loki, but not his shield brother. Raw fury, fed by the sting of treachery, had risen in him at the discovery of the murderous replica two of his former Avengers had created; but now, seeing Tony this way, Thor cannot help but set aside his anger. It is far from gone; he will still confront the issue of that botched abomination of science, as it is not something that can be simply forgotten, but now is not the time to do so.
It may not be the time to do so for a long while. For this, though, Thor can wait. He is also beginning to suspect that there is far more to this than he is currently able to see, for Tony in and of himself has never acted with deliberate malice. Thor does not call someone his shield brother lightly, and certainly he has only considered two mortals as such.
Thor reaches out and grips Tony's left shoulder gently, tugging him forward against Thor's chest and enveloping him in a strong embrace. Tony stiffens against him immediately, body so tense that he's trembling. Though Thor waits for long moments, Tony does not relax.
"Such things may be discussed later," Thor says finally, quietly, "and while I will not deny that I am angry, you are my shield brother still, and there is precious little in existence for which I could not forgive you." Even Thor, in spite of his godhood, has made at least one terrible error in judgement in the past; an unthinking blow he himself dealt to Steve, for which he has long been forgiven. "I will not leave you here alone."
At his words, Tony draws in a sharp, gasping breath, and releases it in a soft whimper. The tremors intensify, quickly turning into harsh sobs. Tony's fingers curl into Thor's tunic, more out of a need to hold onto something than anything else.
Thor wishes to ask where the other Avengers are, and why Tony has not drawn upon them for strength in such a difficult time; but not only is now not the occasion for such questions, Thor fears he already knows the answer. The cause of Tony's shattered state can only be
that he has no one left, for the near-desperation with which he holds to Thor's tunic and his reaction to a simple gesture of comfort speaks more truth than words ever could.
It is the other Avengers who spur the anger of the God of Thunder, now. To abandon a fellow warrior like this, in a time of such dire need, is closer to unforgivable than even the foul replica of the son of Odin. Had Thor arrived perhaps an hour later, there would be no forgiveness to be had. He will speak with them of this, even before speaking to Hank—and Reed Richards—alone.
"Thor," Tony chokes out, shaking his head once, the movement hindered by their position. His voice is thick with tears. "I can't do this anymore."
Thor will not – cannot – leave Tony alone, likely not for some time; this he knows, and though it pains him as to why such measures are necessary, Thor has already lost one shield brother. He will not lose another.
"I don't want to be here anymore," Tony whispers, so softly that Thor almost does not hear the words. But hear them he does.
Thor has precious little experience with such a thing as this. Nevertheless, it is a grave understatement to say that Tony is in great need of a friend; and so Thor rubs Tony's back, the way he would comfort a crying child, and waits for the storm to pass.