Author's Note: This chapter was roughly edited, and for that I apologize. Sorry if it looks weird.
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Last Suppers and Family
The Avengers relocated to a base located in the northern most reaches of Norway, a mostly underground bunker on the precipice of a cliff that over looked the frigid, turbulent white water of a remote fjord. Jane and Darcy spent much of the flight to the bunker sitting together in silence while Fury, the Avengers, and the X-Men discussed their game plan in tense low tones at the back of the aircraft.
"Want some coffee?" Pepper asked, carrying a steaming carafe and some cups. She settled in across from them without waiting for an answer and set down her burden.
"God yes," Jane said, reaching for a cup. Coffee after days of nothing but mead and ale and water sounded absolutely divine. The Asgard were certainly advanced, but their meager selection of drinks certainly left much to be desired.
Pepper sank into the seat opposite Darcy and Jane and began handing out the cups. Jane filled them all with coffee while Pepper added cream and sugar. They spent a moment in pensive silence, watching the clouds go by, while they drained their coffee.
Jane set her empty cup down carefully. "So what happens now?" she asked, jerking her head back at the group at the back of the plane.
Pepper had a worried and stressed expression lining her face. "You know about the space time rifts, right?"
Jane and Darcy both nodded.
"Filled with zombies wanting to eat our brains," Darcy supplied helpfully.
Pepper allowed a brief tired smile. "That sounds about right. Anyway, while you were gone, techs detected a massive rift beginning to open. We have the technology to keep it from spreading, but we have to keep whatever comes out of it contained, whatever the cost. We can't let people know there are monsters at the door- there'd be widespread panic."
"It sounds like things are finally coming to a head," Jane said quietly.
"Yes," Pepper said, "All the pieces are falling into place. There have been reports that the Skinwalker has been sighted in Europe, as well as Spider Man. Now Loki has started Ragnarok in Asgard. All the major players are on the board. For better or for worse-"
"The end is nigh," Darcy finished.
Jane curled her cold fingers around her coffee, breathing in the steam. "So how have you and Stark been?" she asked.
"Well no one has sued him. That's something," Pepper said dryly. "Essentially we've been very busy. Though he has been watching an insane amount of television."
Darcy laughed. "All girly nerdy stuff right?"
"Yes, how did you know," Pepper asked with a slight frown. "It's odd. He never really cared about that sort of thing before."
Jane rolled her eyes. "He's been catching up on all my favorite things, just so he could lord it over me that he knows the endings and I don't."
"Ah. That explains a lot." Pepper levied a glare at the back of Stark's head. "He missed our date to Emeril's so he could catch the season premiere of Sleepy Hollow."
"Thank god he hasn't ruined that for me," Jane muttered. "I'd have to kill him." She wadded up her napkin and lobbed it at the back of Stark's head. Psylocke caught it in midair before it could strike and shook her head at them in disgust.
"I'm sorry, Pepper." Darcy patted the back of Pepper's hand. "Our nerd-dom has ruined your love life."
Pepper laughed. "Not really. I knew what I was getting into when Stark and I got together. I love him, for better or for worse."
Natasha chose at that point to break off from the Avengers and X-Men huddle at the back of the jet. The Black Widow had dark circles under her eyes along with a nasty cut running from her eyebrow to her hairline. Jane wondered briefly how Natasha had been injured, and suspected that things had not gone well on Earth while they'd been away. Natasha dropped into a cushion by Jane, sprawling out her long legs and taking up most of the room.
"So Psylocke tells me you kicked Sif's ass, punched a few courtiers, and killed a bunch of zombies," Natasha said without preamble.
Jane still felt guilty about beating Sif. She'd never been able to shake the feeling that she had irrevocably destroyed something within Sif that fateful day. "It was just luck," Jane said, quietly. Nothing about her battle had been anything Natasha or Psylocke would have admired. There had been no show of skill on Jane's part. Just pure dumb luck and several mistakes by Sif.
Natasha ignored Jane and looked straight at Darcy. "Is that the truth or a lie?"
"Sif no longer has dibs on Thor because Jane beat her up," Darcy explained. "However she wants to look at it, she still won. And she's smarter," Darcy added.
Darcy stuck her tongue out at Jane, completely unapologetic. "Well it's true. You have a Ph.D in Astrophysics, and now you have a Ph.D in asskicking. Deal with it."
"Hah!" Natasha crowed. "Fury will be happy to hear that.
"Why?" Jane asked suspiciously. Fury had never once been happy about anything that had to do with her relationship with Thor unless he got something out of it.
"Apparently Sif was snooty with him when he asked for an audience with Odin," Natasha said, still laughing.
Jane dropped her head into her hand and groaned. "So he's happy I won because she hurt his feelings?"
"That's the gist of it, yeah."
Darcy primly raised her coffee up to her lips. "It's Fury, what would you expect? I shudder to think of what he must have been like in High School."
Natasha leaned forward, reaching for the coffee. "In all seriousness though, it's nice to have us all back together again. It didn't feel right somehow with you gone."
"Aww," Jane grinned. "You missed us."
Natasha glowered. "A bit."
Darcy brightened. "Awesome! I'll knit us friendship hats!"
Natasha and Jane and Pepper both began to loudly try to dissuade her from that. For all their banter and yelling though, they were friends. A load Jane hadn't known she'd been carrying dropped from her shoulders. She, Natasha, Pepper, and Darcy were an unlikely group but Jane wouldn't trade them for the world.
With them she felt she could face anything.
It did not take Thor and Frey long to find where Loki had breached Asgard's defenses. There was a gaping hole in one of the storage rooms in the bowls of Asgard that reeked of dark magic and the undead. Thor wasn't surprised to find his brother long gone. Loki had never been one for sticking around to own up to his messes. Thor was surprised, however, to find the Norns clustered around the hole like hunched black vultures and using their magic to hide evidence of the rift.
The Norns had definitely supported the prophesy of Ragnarok, but Thor could hardly believe they'd stoop to actually getting their hands dirty. Still, the evidence did not lie. The Norns were in league with Loki.
They let out a collective eerie shriek when they realized they were spotted. The Norns lunged for the gaping hole of the rift, but Thor and Frey were faster. Thor collared one while Frey bashed two over the head with the flat of his broad sword. Frey's targets crumpled to the floor like dirty piles of goth laundry.
The Norn Thor was detaining was snarling and spitting angrily, nothing at all like the refined image she and her sisters once tried to project. It was sad, showing just how far the Asgard had fallen. They were a shadow of their former selves. The galaxy was falling into grave peril because the Asgard could not solve their own crisis. Thor gave her a firm shake. "Behave, or I'll let Frey have you."
The Norn quieted with a reluctant growl, and was relatively still save for the occasional wiggle. The two bodies at Frey's feet were alarmingly still, and for a moment Thor wasn't sure they were even still alive. He stared incredulously at Frey who was poking at the Norns on the floor with flat of his sword. "We need them for questioning, which they can't do if they're unconscious," Thor said.
Frey shrugged. "At least they are detained, and not escaped out of our reach into to midst of our enemies."
"…You hit them fairly hard. Are they still breathing?" Thor asked, still looking uncertainly at Frey's victims.
Frey nudged one of the piles hard with the toe of his boot. The pile made a sluggish growling noise. Frey looked back at Thor. "They're fine."
Peter Parker sat on a rusting green bench in Oslo, Norway, sipping a thermos of tomato soup he'd Macgyvered together in his hostel room, watching people stream past as they went across their daily lives. No one paid any attention to him, but that was how he wanted it. At the Daily Bugle his ability to fade into the background was mainly a curse. Invisible photographers didn't often get work. But as Spider Man's alter ego, the ability to blend in was invaluable. No one noticed the slight, scruffy man sitting on the bus bench sipping soup as the world rushed by. He wasn't a threat, he wasn't even an oddity.
More importantly the sharply dressed business woman across the street did not notice him either. The Skinwalker was wearing a tall strawberry blond with an ample chest, having long ago shed the guise of her old victim. She looked nothing like her previous skin, but Parker would know her anywhere.
His phone buzzed in his pocket, distracting him a moment. He pulled it out and despite the dour situation, smiled. MJ had that effect on him. She was the one bright spot in the dark storm of his life.
How r u? 3
He was unable to stop the goofy grin spreading across his face. Fitn crme. Wht r u doing?
Landry. Nt as cool as crme fiting, lol.
His smile slipped, and he sobered. Id rathr b doing landry w/ u, thn here any day.
Her response was prompt. I love you. Be safe and come home.
He texted back his assent and stuffed his phone back in his pocket. Peter Parker stood and took a deep breath of Oslo's crisp, cool air. He took time to pay attention to the different scents: exhaust from the cars, stone from the buildings, the trees along the sidewalk, and the underlying briny smell of the sea. He committed everything to memory just in case it would be his last.
Then Parker followed the Skinwalker into the law office that was a front for her new lab. One of them wouldn't be walking back out.
Thor didn't wait around to see the Norns' fate. Odin would deal with them as he saw fit, and with the death of so many Asgardians on top of an invasion of a peace conference, the All Father's mercy would be minimal.
Instead he strode briskly to Loki's old room, avoiding the confused mill of soldiers and courtiers. For once he was glad Sif was so prominent now. She would be ensconced with Odin and Asgard's top generals, and not out looking for him. Thor would be free to make his own plans.. He had not had much time to navigate Sleipnir's workings, but the Rainbow bridge was now shut down. Odin was taking no chances that more of Helhiem's creatures could make it into Asgard. Sleipnir was Thor's only chance at reaching Earth.
The machine itself waited in Loki's hidden lab exactly as Thor had left it. The only difference was that it was laid out and ready to be powered up. Sleipnir was huge, faintly resembling a horse. It didn't look like something capable of transversing the worlds but Thor now had little choice. He had hoped never to have to use Sleipnir, for it was an unknown danger created by his brother, but war was coming. He stood before it, carefully checking to make sure that everything was in order.
"Leaving so soon, my son?"
Thor turned. Frigga stood behind him, hands clasped in front of her. She looked worried but resigned, and Thor realized that she had no intention of stopping him from leaving.
"Yes, mother," Thor said softly, "And I do not know when I will return."
"I was afraid of that," Frigga murmured. "Sif will be sorry, and the Warriors Three will be bitter that they could not accompany you."
"They are needed here," Thor said firmly. "I believe Loki's attack on Asgard was meant as a distraction so that Asgard would not come to Earth's aid were Loki to attack. I could be wrong, but they must remain behind to protect the city should my suspicions prove true."
"So this is goodbye?" Frigga asked finally, coming to stand in front of him. She had been a pillar of strength and support his entire life, but now his mother seemed oddly small.
Thor nodded, unsure of what he should say to his her. Goodbye seemed wrong, somehow.
"Come back when you are finished," she said. "And bring Jane with you."
That surprised him. He hadn't had a chance to discuss his relationship with Jane with his parents, really. His status with her had remained confusing up until her arrival in Asgard. Odin had voiced his disapproval and Thor had figured that his mother had generally supported his father, as she did with most things.
Frigga smiled, as though she knew the rout that Thor's thoughts had taken. "You've chosen well. Dr. Foster will make a good life companion for you. I look forward to seeing her take her place in Asgard."
Thor could only nod. He wasn't sure Jane would want to move to Asgard, and he had carefully avoided the subject with her. He wanted her with him for the rest of his life, and he knew she wanted the same, but he wasn't sure she wanted that life to be in Asgard. He didn't tell Frigga that, though. He merely kissed his mother on the cheek with a murmured apology for leaving. Then he turned to his brother's machine.
Thor straddled Sleipnir. Once it registered a rider, Sleipnir powered to life with a low rumbling roar.
Frigga retreated to the doorway where she waited, face creased with worry. Thor didn't blame her. Her last son was about to ride an unknown contraption built by her psychotic other son into the dark unknown. He raised his hand in farewell.
Sleipnir seemed to sense its rider's desire to leave. A force-field boiled up around the craft, churned up by its eight spinning engines. Through the bright green light created by the energy, Thor could see his mother's white face. Moment of truth time. Thor closed his eyes and pictured Earth, shining like a green and blue jewel alone in a sea of black.
Sleipnir's low roar changed to a hair raising scream and then Thor had the uncomfortable sensation of being pulled in several different directions at once before he disappeared into the ether.
Loki stood with Hel, watching from a safe distance as Surt and his forces battered down the gates of Asgard. Though they were well out of range, Loki could smell the acrid scent of smoke and charred metal. The screams and yells of soldiers mixed with the angry roars of Surt's army.
It was absolutely glorious.
"Look at them all," Loki murmured softly. "So desperately afraid."
Hel glanced at him. "We should leave. Fenrir is almost within Earth's orbit, and Jormungandr is waking. Why do you tarry?"
"Because a little carnage is healthy for the soul," Loki replied with absolutely no remorse.
Hel scanned Asgard's army, frowning. "I do not see Thor. Frey has taken his place at the front lines to challenge Surt, instead. I wonder why?"
Loki's smile was a slightly feral and quite mad one. "Because he could not resist leaving poor, dear sweet Jane alone. Thor has correctly guessed that Baldr's death and the invasion of Surt is a front, and that Midgard is next. So, so predictable, dear brother."
Hel stood quietly, letting her father rant. Oftentimes she enjoyed his presence, feeling she belonged where she had never had before. Sometimes, though, she was slightly afraid of him. Loki had a dark streak simmering just under the surface, hidden carefully by his genteel veneer. Whenever it came out to play Hel had the urge to run screaming in the opposite direction.
Not for the first time, she wondered just what she had gotten herself into. It was too late, though. She was in deep. Besides, if she did not stay, she would not get to meet her mother.
Loki tapped his staff on the ground and offered his daughter a chilling smile. "Come, Hel, we have a planet to burn."
Hel followed him wordlessly into the abyss.
Sleipnir scorched a small crater the size of a minivan when Thor landed it just outside the Avenger's small base in Norway. Not knowing if the incoming ball of lighting and fire was friend or foe, a small contingent of an Avengers hit squad waited for him, their laser sites steadily pointed at his chest.
Thor ignored them. "Jane!" he bellowed. "Darcy?"
Several of the hit squad looked at each other, confused. A few rolled their eyes.
"Well, well, well. If it isn't the guest of honor." A huge black man wearing an eye patch and a scowl shouldered his way out of the crowd of Avengers, followed by a slender balding man in a suit. Behind him, a man in a wheel chair baring a strong resemblance to Captain Picard waited along with a fierce looking woman with coffee and cream skin and a striking shock of white hair. All of them sported rather grim and stressed expressions.
Thor crossed his arms. He had never met Director Nick Fury, but he had heard a lot about him from Jane and Heimdall. Not really any of it was pleasant though whilst Fury was not exactly known for his people skills, Thor had to commend him on his ability to lead.
"You know me," Thor said flatly.
Fury shrugged. "The whole the Avengers know who you are, mate. The question is, do-"
Jane came barreling out of the crowed, shouldering soldiers out of the way. Darcy was right behind her along with a man clad in odd red and gold armor and a woman in a black body suit. The woman was scowling, muttering something about "shoulda made sure the situation was secure before rushing in like a moron."
Jane did not hesitate but rushed straight up to him and Thor swung her up and into a bone crushing hug.
"Hey Coulson?" Fury said, watching the reunion. "Why do I even bother?"
"Because someone has to follow procedure, Sir," Coulson replied. "I assume we're conscripting Thor into our ranks?"
Fury watched as the Thunder God was quickly enveloped by the small crowed consisting of Jane, Darcy, Iron Man, Natasha, and a newly arrived Jarvis.
"You're damn right."
To be continued...Please review!