Author's Note: The rating has been changed. Sorry to some of you who wished it to stay the way it was, but the peeps for changing it far outweighed the ones who didn't want it changed, I'm sorry. There was also one last person to weigh in on the decision: me. I am much more comfortable with it as 'M'. If you've read any of my other work, you'll get why. This way I won't have to go back through it as much to make sure my language is clean and acceptable enough before I post. Anyway, hope this works out.

Sorry for the wait! School is hectic, and there is drama everywhere, and it took me forever to edit this chapter. And I probably missed something, let me know if I did.

Please read and review! I love hearing from you! Thanks for all the thoughts you guys have shared, I love reading them!

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

.

.

.

Chapter 18: Hope and Snooping

.

.

Thor glowered at the brightly clad nobleman in front of him, wondering whether he should bother with popping the man's head off with his bare hands or just throw him out the nearby window.

He debated, weighing the pros and cons. Throttling him here and now would not be as messy, though someone would probably happen along and stop him. Throwing him out the window would burn off steam, and while it would be a horrendous splatter right in the middle of the courtyard, he'd make it someone else's problem. That was the nice thing about being an heir to the throne: you didn't have to scurry around on your hands and knees pulling entrails out of the decorative bushes and making sure there were no eyeballs in the koi pond.

"…I said, was the human wench any good?" the man asked jovially, clapping Thor on the shoulder, "She had to have been at least memorable to have had you in dispirits these many days."

There was no higher function sparking in the Thunder God's brain at that. How dare he speak of Jane that way? That smarmy smile would be his last. Thor growled unintelligibly and reached forward and grabbed the courtier's golden breastplate. He yanked and rammed his forehead into the unfortunate nobleman's, hard, leaving him cross eyed and weaving, no doubt seeing four pissed off Thunder Gods instead of just one.

The poor man squeaked and stumbled back, clutching his bruised noggin. Thor stalked after him, almost wishing he had his hammer on hand, but then again, it wouldn't do to be constantly beating up one's own courtiers.

"You're Modir never taught you respect towards the fairer sex, it seems," Thor growled, "It is a sad day indeed when your liege must be the one to administer the first lesson. I warn you, if I must do it again, the next one will be far more painful."

He gave the man a shove, and the courtier stumbled away before regaining his balance and fairly sprinting down the hall in his effort to get away.

Thor rolled his shoulders, feeling the tension pinch at his muscles, and sighed. It seemed like his mood stayed ever dark these days, and the ribbing didn't help any. He unclenched his fists and tried to dispel the tension. He spent his days scuttling around the castle, snapping at his subjects and hiding from Sif. It wasn't what he wanted, wasn't the man he wanted to be. He laid a palm against the wall. Depictions of his forefathers in battle with the Jotuns were carved into the golden plates, and he gritted his teeth. Asgard was once concerned with the sanctity of the realms. They were more concerned now with whether he'd father sons with Sif, than look to their borders. They couldn't see that if Loki prevailed in his vendetta and Midgard fell, the rest of the realms would follow. Midgard was the gateway to which all of the nine worlds were connected, and if the Terrans were defeated by his brother, chaos would ensue.

Thor found himself following the familiar path that led to his former brother's room. It was a path he had not walked since they were friends, since before Thor had led them on that fateful journey to Jotunheim.

For some reason his heart was pounding in his chest, like he was about to do battle with an entire army of Jotuns. He half expected to see Loki come charging out of his room down the corridor towards him, anxious to tell him about a prank he just pulled.

Thor pushed open the doors to Loki's chambers, pausing briefly to shake his head at the door's design: a wolf and and some kind of snake thing doing battle with a man. Huh. His brother had always been a weird one.

Loki's room was disturbingly dark, and for a moment Thor wondered if something was going to pop out and bite him. His brother had always had an unhealthy obsession with booby traps. As he took a few tentative steps into the darkness, torches flickered to life on the wall. Thor chuckled. They were green. It was as if Loki had never left: there were touches of his brother everywhere, from the black and green bedspread to the entire wall covered floor to ceiling with Loki's magical grimoires.

Thor halfheartedly poked through the heavy leather books. Memories of he and his brother seemed to be in everything he touched.

He wandered over to the four poster bed lurking in the center of the room. When they were twelve, they'd built a spaceship out of blankets and spears from the armory and pretended to sail the stars. Thor had all been for burning the Jotuns out of Jotunheim, and sacking Svartalfaheim. Loki had been more interested in exploring, wanting to see the realms that extended beyond the nine branches of Yggdrasil. Thor had ended that argument with a well placed noogie, though Loki had turned of his formal armor pink in retaliation.

"Bastard," Thor said fondly, ramming a closed fist into one of the nearer bed posts.

There was a click.

Loki's bed slid back silently, revealing a yawning square hole in the floor. Thor stared, a growing excitement filling him. He felt like he was ten again, squealing in delight over secret chambers. Never in his wildest dreams would he have guessed that this was here.

He crept down the stairs that slid silently into place in front of them from the walls. The darkness made the trek seem longer than it actually was, and Thor wondered briefly if Loki had ever tripped and fallen on his face on those sliding death traps, not that Loki would ever admit it. Loki had never been anything but cool and unflappable.

Once Thor reached the bottom, which he knew because the surface was flat and he hadn't tripped and mashed his face into anything, he wondered whether he should wait for something to happen or just blunder off into the dark. Before he could decide on either choice, the lights flickered on.

Thor rolled his eyes. The torches were burning green. Again.

Loki had supply selves completely lining one wall. The dark wooden racks were filled with every thing imaginable, and they seemed to be Loki's various pranks that were in different stages of development. Everything imaginable was on those shelves, from potions and eyeballs floating in green goo to piles of mechanical parts. Loki had different little white tags labeling his creations: success, failure, or in progress. Thor poked at a metal jaw with hinges and it snapped closed, nearly taking off his finger.

Next to snapping jaws was a huge glass bottle filled with a sluggish dark liquid that smelled like peaches. Stamped across the tag in Loki's spidery handwriting were the bold words SUCCESS.

Thor picked it up, feeling the pocked glass under his fingertips and chuckled. Loki had put this stuff in Sif's shampoo when they were thirteen. Sif used to have long luxurious blond hair, and she had been very proud of it. Loki had dyed it black as a practical joke. Unfortunately for Sif, it was now years and years later and it was still a glossy raven's wing black. He shook his head. Poor Sif. Oh well, at least she'd adapted well.

He moved on, looking through the various contraptions and potions that his brother had been in the process of creating before he fell.

Thor stopped at a box marked 'FOR THOR'S UNDERGARMETS/CODPIECE'. Oh dear god. Thor closed his eyes and shuddered. He did NOT want to know.

But curiosity got the better of him. He closed his eyes, and when he opened them his blue irises crackled with lightning. If there was anything weird or creepy in that damn box, he was going to fry the ever loving dickens out of it. Thor pried the lid open with Mjolnir's heavy blunt edge and peered inside, and was greeted by the sight of hundreds of tiny mechanized crabs crawling and creeping around the confines of the box and each other.

Thor imagined the little bastards creeping around his nether parts and shuddered. Ew.

He closed the box before any of its occupants could escape and then bonked the lid with his hammer. The box flattened into a squarish Mjolnir shaped crater, and Thor felt better to see that all of the little crab things had been flattened into one large metal pancake. A metal pancake that neither creeped nor crawled, or threatened anything sensitive with pinching.

Thor moved on through what was unmistakably Loki's lab. Half of the stuff he didn't recognize, and what he did recognize gave him the creeps.

Towards the back of the room stood more of Loki's completed projects. Loki had carefully displayed his finished creations on lighted pedestals in a shadow imitation of Odin's own Vault of Conquest items. Thor moved along the display, rather in awe.

His brother may have been a master of mischief and trickery, but there was no denying that Loki was a genius. Any one of the marvels in itself would have been spectacular, but to think that he'd accomplished all of them was slightly unsettling.

The last item in the line up was different than the others. For one thing it was huge, standing a few feet higher than Thor's six foot three. Its shape was sleek and slightly equine. Eight circular engines, four on either side, lined its sides. There was a carefully detailed manual lying next to it, more of extolling Loki's brilliance rather than explaining anything, but it still got the point across. The metal contraption was an interdimensional ship, capable of traveling to any one of the nine realms. He could have sung he was so happy. Seeing Jane again was once again possible, and the reality of it hit him like a giants punch.

Thor stooped to grab the booklet for later perusal, and noticed something engraved into the shiny metal: Sleipneir.


.x.

"DOCTOR FOSTER!"

The door of Jane's trailer flew open with a bang, hinges creaking like a symphony of ghouls. The shiny chrome handle left a dent in the dull metal wall. Nick Fury stood silhouetted in the doorway like an avenging warrior about to bring down a world of hurt on the evil doers of the world. It was impressive, or at least it would have been if anyone had been around to see it.

Silence greeted him, and he would not have been surprised at all to hear crickets. Jane Foster's trailer was empty. Fury could almost feel the steam coming out of his ears. She was gone. Again. If the time he spent hunting down his various assistants and scientists actually equaled the time he spent ridding the world of villains, than the earth as people knew it would be a pretty damn peaceful place all things considered.

He wanted to go find a heavy surface to go bang his forehead into.

They were never around when he needed them, and when he didn't need them and was making important conference calls at 5 AM, they'd stumble into his office looking for the coffee pot. He looked around again at the empty trailer. This was ridiculous. Jane and Stark and Darcy had played hooky for the fourth time in one week, doing God knew what. He didn't want to know. He didn't even care, so long as they got their shit done.

'And,' he thought, looking around the interior of Jane's trailer, 'This was most definitely not getting shit done. This didn't even hit the faded gray area of progress.'

Jane's trailer was an absolute train wreck. It always irked him that the geniuses he employed were never known along with their Pine-sol skills as well as their brains. Dr. Foster had dirty dishes piled up in the sink, and the blankets on her bed were not neatly made, but were trailing across the linoleum as though she'd preferred to use momentum to get herself untangled from the bed covers instead of doing it the neat way.

Her fold out table was literally invisible under the heavy weight of all the scraps of paper and Excel printouts. One gloved finger poked at the empty tubs of cake batter ice cream lying under and on top of all of her notes. He casually read her research while tossing the empty ice cream containers into the already over flowing garbage. Most of her figures were on wormhole algorithms, but they were not applicable to a large scale wormhole capable of allowing a human being passage. Fury chewed his bottom lip, wondering just how much he should tell her to get her ass in gear.

Jane Foster had had it rough, there was no denying that. Loki had gone after her like a dog went after a pheasant. There was no telling what would have happened to her if Stark hadn't figured out how to break into the trickster's pocket wormhole. For a while, she was scared and driven. Then Jane had started training with Natasha, and became more confident in herself. That was all well and good, but what she didn't understand, was that while she was certainly learning new skills, she was still a target.

Loki had by no means stopped hunting her.

It was taking everything Nick Fury had to make sure that the villain with daddy issues didn't yank her into the abyss again and scramble her brains. Jane Foster thought she was safe, but it was all just luck and good agents watching her twenty four seven. Coulson hadn't had a straight night sleep in weeks.

He rubbed at his temples, feeling a headache coming on.

She certainly wasn't helping matters any by scuttling off from the compound -where he couldn't really protect her- every chance she got. At least Stark was with her. The man was a flamboyant dandy, but he was certainly no pushover.

Fury wandered over to the massive chalk board she had set up at the foot of her bed and crossed his arms. It was covered in her spidery handwriting, along with the sweeping diagram of a sword. He glowered at it and bent closer. As he read her notes, his eyes widened. He had preferred to get his degree in making people cry, rather than physics and science, but he was by no means retarded. He new enough to recognize a plan when he saw one.

There was merit in the design, but lower down, where she'd listed out possible materials, she'd drawn angry stick figures and rampaging monsters and tornadoes. Every single material was crossed out in deep powdery white chalk lines, belying her frustration. Underneath the sword's design she'd scrawled the words: Godslayer.

Godslayer. Fury couldn't help himself and threw back his head and laughed, fairly rattling the trailer windows with his glee. This was perfect. It might just be the break he needed to draw the little Norse asshole out of hiding. Loki was already gunning for her, sure, but now Fury had the means to give him the target he wanted.

"You want a sword, Ms. Foster," he murmured, grinning, "I'll give you a freaking sword."

The chalk board didn't say anything, though he half expected it would. Fury shook his head. "COULSON!" he bellowed.

Phil Coulson came scrambling into the trailer, straightening his suit and tie from his mad dash. "You called?"

"Pack up all of Foster's notes," Nick Fury said, pointing at the chalkboard, "Everything pertaining to that thing there."

Coulson hesitated. "You sure, Sir? She didn't handle it too well the last time we 'borrowed' her research."

Fury snorted. "I own her research. Besides ownership is 9/10ths of the law. Finders keepers, if you will."

"...If you say so, Sir."


.x.

To be continued...