Chapter 12: The Boyfriend's Back, Part 2


Puente Antiguo: A few Minutes earlier

"I love you, Janie." Donald Blake tried not to put too much emphasis in the words, tried to make them sound factual, effortless, but it still made her shoulders tighten defensively and her mouth pinch with tension. It had been that way since before she had moved out; each declaration of love and commitment seemed to make her withdraw into herself more and more. "You can't just tell me it's over and expect me to just accept it, not without even telling me why!"

"Yes," she replied shortly, not so much as glancing his way "I can."

"Give me something, Jane, please" he insisted, following close behind. Where his estranged fiancée was concerned; it was not reason that won the day, but persistence. He simply could not and would not believe that she meant the things she was saying. If she didn't want to be with him again, why had she only gone as far as Puente Antiguo where she was easily accessible? Why hadn't she gone to stay with her father, or Erik? If she truly didn't entertain romantic feelings for him, why did she get so worked up over his visits? "If you don't tell me what I did, how can I fix it?" He ran a hand through his hair, irritated at the emotion that broke through his voice. Restraining the frustration and desperation he felt took more effort, more strength than he cared to admit and Jane's imperious attitude was fast wearing him thin.

"We've been through the whys already, again and again. I've-"

"-moved on, yes, the fabled boyfriend." Donald took a deep breath, struggled to calm down. Why was she fighting him like this? She had to know how much he loved her. The fact that he was here now, that he kept coming back despite her insolent and childish behavior, surely that demonstrated how committed he was. Everything he did was to show her how much he valued her; taking time off of work to drive out to this tiny dump of a town, approaching her only at home or when she wasn't 'working'.

And the gifts he brought her! Artisan flower bouquets, jewelry from Tiffany's, perfumes from France and Italy.

Actions taken to court her again, certainly, but also to remind her how he could take care of her not only in comfort but in luxury; if she would just come home! Unfortunately Jane Foster was a stubborn woman, and always had been. Intelligence and passion might be her best attributes, but obstinacy and impulsiveness were her worst. Regrettably they were flaws that he had never been able to correct, though not for lack of trying.

If it were true, if she was in an established and serious relationship as she claimed, where were the signs of it? While he didn't have access to her phone records and hadn't found an opportunity to peek into her cell phone, she did still maintain the same email address as when they'd lived together. Surely if she were in a steady relationship there would have been some mention of it to Selvig or any one of the college friends she retained contact with. Even emails exchanged with her assistant lacked any mention of 'him'. There were no photographs of her with any unfamiliar men in any of the rooms of her house he had been in so far, neither were there any in her lab or her wallet. The only thing she had was her word and that of a girl who would doubtlessly say anything her employer told her to. There just weren't any facts to lend credence to her story.

Regarding her lack of interest in renewing their relationship, well he didn't believe she was serious about it. Women tended to say anything to have the last word in an argument; even if it meant denying themselves something they really wanted. Yet still, despite his firm doubts, there was this… apprehensive feeling creeping over him. The more they stood there talking, the more anxious he felt.

Was it Jane? There did seem to be something different about her today. He had noticed it on and off in the grocery store, and it struck him again now as she unlocked the back of her van and slid the first bag inside. What was it? She didn't lookmuch different than when she had walked out on him; her hair was a bit longer and the ends needed trimming, she had lost some weight too but it wasn't enough to look unhealthy. The blue cotton button-up was new, but the thin black and grey tank tops beneath it were not. Her penchant for too many layers remained, as did his distaste for it.

The necklace was new; some kind of stone, an agate, wrapped in silver wire and hanging on a chain just above the neckline of her shirts. It hadn't been among the things she had brought with her into their house, and he was fairly sure that he hadn't seen it before today.

Agate jewelry was common, cheap and cliché. You could find it everywhere, and most of it was hideous. This piece was clearly the exception to the rule. The stone was like nothing he had ever seen; it had this sheen of color, similar to a moonstone except that it kept its hue no matter what angle you saw it from and seemed to catch and reflect even the softest light. It wasn't smooth, didn't look polished, but still shone almost like a gem. The setting and chain were equally impressive; appearing to be made from a very high grade silver or white gold.

Looking at it made him uneasy. It didn't belong. It wasn't natural, not for her. Always Jane had been uncomfortable with the pretty necklaces and bracelets he bought her. She had said once, when they had argued about it in Boston before their engagement party, that she didn't like the weight on her neck and wrists. That she felt like a dog wearing a leash. In fact she had only worn her engagement ring for fifteen minutes before claiming that it abraded her skin.

So why was she wearing that?

Why had she moved into that big house and have brand new computer equipment in her lab that she should never have been able to afford?

Questions, why were there where always questions and never answers?

Jane lifted another bag out of the cart, this one crested with plastic bags of fruit. The sight of it made irritation coil around his spine like a snake on a branch. He couldn't explain why it bothered him so much, the reaction was utterly irrational. After all it was better, healthier to have balanced home cooked meals. Except… why so much? She had enough food for at least five people but her assistant was unlikely to be back in town until the following weekend at the earliest, and she had no one else staying with her.

"That's an awful lot of groceries for one person."

Bare hands hesitated over the brown paper, retreating slowly as that soft face finally turned up toward his. Her expression was calm and nearly blank, but for the eyes. Those eyes were calculating, sharp and inquisitive and he realized that she wasn't so much seeing him as she was studying him, rather like he were one of her star charts. Funny, there had been many a day, back when they had lived together, that he had been desperate for her to look at him with the same intensity, the same earnest interest that she gave to those pointless maps. Having all that keen scrutiny turned on him now though, made him feel transparent and vulnerable, like she were seeing inside of him and he wanted nothing more than for her to look away.

"Three people," she said softly, after what seemed like an eternity "Me, Darcy and…Kain."

Oh, of course she named him now that he had called her out, he thought bitterly. All of this was probably some sort of payback for getting her assistant so upset the other day. It wasn't like he had stepped on her glasses on purpose, it had been an accident. He had only wanted to examine her hand; he hadn't been going to hurt her. The glasses had fallen because she had stumbled away from him so wildly and he hadn't seen. That probably wasn't what the little pestilence had told Jane. She had probably grossly exaggerated their discussion and twisted it into something obscene. He knew her type.

But Jane… Jane wasn't like Darcy.

Jane was lovely; bright, stable, and warm. She had her faults, of course, but he knew she could overcome them with time. If she would only… if she would just listen to him they could be so happy. Like before. If she wanted to study the stars, that was fine. He had never told her not to, only that her hobbies shouldn't distract her from her other responsibilities. He would buy her the best telescope on the market and she could study from home and write her papers, or whatever it was she wanted to do. And if she wanted to live outside the city, well, there was nothing wrong with a vacation home. His parents had taken weekends at the lake house now and then.

They could work it out. He was willing to compromise.

Staring down at the emptying cart, Donald began to get a peculiar sense of loss. He knew that this fight had gone on too long and that Jane usually saw reason before now. There was also the fact that while her story remained vague, it was always consistent. Not chapter-and-verse consistent either, like she was keeping a story straight. Had three years really passed since they had shared a home? Yes, it had. That meant that it had been about two years since the gas-main explosion that had nearly destroyed the town. Two years since he had begun to… observe her. Honestly it didn't seem like that much time.

The year between when she had left and when he had found her again was hazy at best. He had been devastated of course but, as his father had always said, the world didn't stop simply because you had a bad day. Heeding that advice, Donald had continued to live his life; he had tended to his patients, maintained his exercise regiment and attended social functions.

But life had been empty.

Hollow.

And then, before work one morning, he had turned on the news to see coverage of a tragic accident in Puente Antiguo. The clips had shown broken, burning buildings and the garish figure of Tony Stark in his Ironman contraption helping to search the wreckage for survivors. How could he stay away after that? Seeing her again, after spending hours trapped in the thought that she was either dead or trapped beneath the rubble, it had been like a drug. At first he had only checked on her once a month, and then twice, and then once a week or more.

He had been so certain that the time was right to approach her, to reconcile. He was so certain that she still loved him and all of this was just one of those cruel games that women liked to play. Yet he knew, in the deepest part of himself, that something was off. Why weren't they together yet? All this fighting, all this quarreling… she shouldn't have… by now they should be together. That is how it was supposed to happen. It should never have stretched on like this, day after day. Jane wasn't supposed to have a boyfriend or a snarky quasi live-in assistant, or strange new jewelry.

Neither was she supposed to have a big, airy house or research funding. Or tell him to leave her alone. She should have said that she was sorry and could she please come back home. That she realized how they really had something amazing, and she missed their calm, ordered life that she would now appreciate and be grateful for. And then she would come back with him, and they would have dinner together and she would wear the dresses he had bought for her and put on the perfume he liked and everything would be perfect.

Had he been wrong all this time? Had he been wrong about her?

Light blossomed behind his eyes suddenly, followed by a short moment of dizziness. Donald steeled himself against it, forced his body to remain still and his breathing to stay even. These… episodes had been happening since his late adolescence, but they had quit almost completely when Jane had lived with him, like she had kept them away. These days they were happening more and more frequently and were becoming difficult to hide. As a doctor he knew what the symptoms could represent and what steps he should be taking, the tests he needed to undergo. Yet, after each event, everything would become so much clearer.

He saw now all the things that he had missed. All the details his distress had blinded him to. Women were manipulative by nature and though Jane was a clever girl indeed, he was smarter. He saw her through her charade now; Ms. Lewis' taunts, the groceries and even the jewelry… it all made sense. It was a good play, a creative weave of fact and fiction, but there was distinctive pattern: "Erik's come for a visit, hasn't he? Of course, you always make those strange meatball things when he stays with you."

Naturally she would wear something her father figure had give her, at least while he was around.

The woman beside him rolled her eyes, but did not comment. When it became clear that she was not going to respond, Donald moved to fill the silence. He told her about Grace Brown, their next door neighbor who had moved out the month before and about Robert Goods, a man who had belonged to their gym and his recent marriage. He then realized that bringing up weddings might put her off and switched tracks quickly, but his several attempts to ask about Erik's trip were met with silence. Finally he turned to hospital gossip, struggling to recall which nurses she had been friendly with.

The slam of the van door made him trail off, snapping to himself like he'd been in a momentary trance. Jane was walking briskly toward the cart return. He admired the sway of her hips and the way her hair looked in the sunlight. An older man walked by with a small bag in one hand and a case of beer in the other. He nodded to Donald as he passed in a friendly, if somewhat vacant manner. How was she able to stand this little backwater town? He hated it. From the first and only breakfast with her at the diner just a month before she had tried to schlep away in the night to the shitty flea-infested hotel he endured two-to-three nights a week.

The blue truck beside the van started up with a wheezing sort of putter, exhaust spewing foully and it backed out slowly and blocked his view of Jane. Not that it mattered overly much; in a moment she would run on home to that big house and her surrogate father. As much as he hated to, he ought stay in town tonight and try to see her in the morning before he went home. It would be rude of him not to pay his respects to Erik, after all. Without her shadow around to stir things up, she might be in a more placid mood. They might have coffee together before he had to go, and talk civilly for once.

Movement at the corner of his eye caused him to glance over briefly; a tall blond man making his way between the cars. Donald didn't pay him any heed; it was just another local. Business was really picking up from when Jane had stepped out, it must be social hour. Lord, but he hated this town. Every brick and board, every pane of glass and faded truck and he strongly resented Tony Stark for helping to put it all back together. If he had left it in bits, Jane might be more amenable to leaving, rather than digging her heels in like a mule.

Speaking of Jane, he could see her again, walking toward him. She seemed distracted, thoughtful. If he said goodbye first, let her feel as though she had the last word, it might settle her feathers a little and she might be more apt to talk with him peacefully in the morning. He opened his mouth just as she abruptly altered her course, charging to the driver's side door without as much as a by-your-leave. Before he could move out of the path of the van (lest she run him over), Jane was storming back into view with eyes blazing and cheeks flushed unappealingly with anger.

Thrusting something in his face she snapped "I told you not to bring me gifts anymore!"

Putting his hands up in a defensive gesture seemed to be the theme of the day he thought sourly as he assumed the position. "That wasn't from me, I swear, I-" Well, here was thin ice. Probably the box had been left by Selvig, but there was always the possibility that it was a gift from some lovelorn local. If it was the latter, he had little enough to worry about as the set of French aromatherapy bath salts undoubtedly outclassed whatever bauble was tucked into that little velvet case. If it was the former, however, Jane would likely shout at him for upstaging her mentor. Or for not listening to her, or any one of the other dozen reasons she came up with to be cross with him. "That is, I did bring you something. It's in the car if you'd like me to go get it."

The anger calmed, but the suspicions in her eyes only increased as she stepped away. "If it isn't from you, then who?" Frowning she turned the case over in her hands once. There was that look again, he sighed, rolling his eyes skyward and shaking his head. She couldn't just open the damn thing; she had to study it, shake it like a child with a Christmas present and theorize about what it was. Probably had some equation in her head about who was most likely to have left it. He nearly laughed aloud when she did finally lift the lid and he saw what was inside: A keychain of a fancy beer mug trussed up like a pair of silly German pants? Trite, stupid and exactly something Erik would give her.

A little backward to give her the good gift first and save the novelty crap as a surprise. "I'm beginning to think that Erik does all his shopping for you in the airport on the way out. Honestly, the novelty gifts get worse and- Jane?"

The unsettling, cold sensation of something being out of place formed like a hard knot in the pit of his stomach. Why did she keep looking at the keychain like it was some puzzle that needed solving when it had clearly come from Selvig? The man always brought her little trinkets from Germany or Norway or wherever the hell the old man's family lived. Every few years he went to visit and would send her knickknacks that she would coo over for weeks on end. There was no mystery here, just a cute game from her mentor. That was all.

She had spun away from him without a word, but now stood still staring at something straight ahead. Staring, he realized, at where the blond man he had noticed a few moments before now stood. With white teeth gleaming out from a neatly trimmed beard, the man leaned against the back door of a dusty gray minivan. In a deep, faintly accented voice that set Donald's nerves on edge he called out, "Ho, Jane Foster, how goes the day?"

Ho, how goes the day? Who in their right mind-

When she moved, Donald couldn't say. He had been so focused on the man he had not noticed Jane's reactions. It only seemed like, very suddenly, she was throwing herself at the newcomer with an enthusiasm that caused and embarrassed flush to rush up Donald's neck. He watched in disgusted, fascinated horror as the two laughed and kissed in a way that was anything but platonic. The blond giant's hand slid up her back until it curved against the back of her head, and there was a level of… of possession in the gesture that Donald could almost feel.

Didn't they have any decorum? Intimate contact had a time and place, it was not for public display! Did they not realize they were being stared at? Gawked at like animals in a zoo? Laughed at? How could this man allow Jane to turn them into a spectacle? Despite his own sense of mortification, and the attention of the passersby, Donald found that he couldn't look away from the pair and the careless affection that passed between them.

The seconds ticked on like hours as they stood there; the man holding the woman aloft as they murmured softly to one another as the physician looked on. There was a strange rushing sound in his ears, and it felt as though he had been shoved out of his body somehow, and was watching the whole thing from a distance.

The fair-haired mammoth lowered her to her feet but they remained close, speaking just quietly enough that Donald could only hear a word or two. When Jane rose to her toes to accept another heated kiss, Donald found that he still couldn't look away. His head was spinning; whirling too many thoughts and emotions to name. He felt sick; his stomach clenched and twisted violently and bile stung the back of his throat. The mammoth released her at last, only to tuck her hand into the crook of his arm and say in that detestable raucous voice, "Shall we bid your friend farewell before we return to the comfort of our home? I am eager to continue our reunion in more private surroundings."

The casual, flippant comment struck as it had been intended and revulsion poured through the doctor, followed by pain and rage and so much hate it was like being burned from the inside out. As though poison had been injected into his veins and he could feel it spreading through his body until his limbs weakened and each breath was a struggle.

He stood paralyzed as the couple began to move forward, as Jane's eyes slid from the man at her side and turned all that shrewd intensity onto him. He feared what she might see beneath his broken composure. He feared what he might do, how he might react, when confronted with the man Jane had chosen over him; he was lost, adrift. Then, for the second time in less than an hour, light burst behind his eyes and the rigorous self-control that was his pride and his salvation snapped back into place and he was Dr. Donald Blake, MD once again; ready with a smile to greet his patients.

Only now, with the rampant jealousy in check, he was able to observe his… replacement with a more clinical eye.

"Donald, this is… um… Kain, my… inamorato," Patient is a well-nourished, well-developed Caucasian male in his late twenties to early thirties. Roughly six-three, blond and blue. Athletic build. Pet names, he thought sourly, how cute. Inamorato meant 'a man who loves or is loved' or 'a man with whom one is in love'. And to make absolutely certain that he knew where he stood in her eyes, she added; "Kain, this is Donald Blake, my ex."

Her ex, was all he was now? Ex housemate, boyfriend, lover… fiancée. Despair swelled through his chest, but did not break through his voice as he offered his hand and said, "Doctor Blake. It's nice to meet you, Kain…"

"Saether." Donald managed not to grimace as the hand was accepted and shaken firmly. Patients grip is firm, skin is cool and dry. There was something weird about the way this Kain moved, though he couldn't exactly put his finger on what it was. "I am always pleased to meet Jane's acquaintances, and I have heard much about you these last few days."

"Yes, I've been hearing a lot about you as well. I understand you've been away on… family business, I believe it was?"

"Family business," He repeated, covering Jane's hand where it rested on his bicep and looking down at her with an expression that Donald did not understand, "Indeed, that would be an accurate assessment of affairs."

"Th-aiee-I have groceries in the car, um, Kain, so we should probably get going." Jane murmured, running her free hand up and down his arm. "So, Donald… ah… bye."

"As you wish, min Elskede." Kain replied easily, allowing Jane's hand to slip from his arm and then following her toward the driver's door, motioning Donald to follow him as he said, "Forgive us our abrupt departure, we would tarry here longer did circumstances allow."

"Of course," the doctor replied tightly, "I understand. I have to get going myself. Early shift at the hospital tomorrow."

The giant didn't make any acknowledgement as he reached Jane's door and opened it for her. There was some kind of exchange between them then; laughter and a short half-murmured conversation as Saether reached in to lift something from the floorboards before helping Jane into the cab with one large hand at her elbow. He moved too smoothly. That was what had seemed so out of place before; Saether's motions were too smooth. Though clearly an athletic man, there was an ease and grace to his mobility that just wasn't normal, even to trained athletes. Watching him now, Donald couldn't help but feel as though there were something… inhuman about him. It was in his eyes, too, there was something wrong with his eyes.

Caught up in that realization he was startled by the sound of the door snapping shut, and came to himself just as Saether turned and, resting a palm flat against the window, extended his right hand. "This has been an auspicious meeting, Doctor Blake. I am most pleased by the opportunity to meet you." Reluctantly (and only because breeding and manners demanded it) did Donald accept the offered appendage; which almost instantly tightened firmly around his own. Before the physician could offer the standard reply, Saether added: "I had been prepared to seek you out myself. Fortune has well favored me this day."

He knew something was very wrong. Not by the blond behemoth's infuriatingly pleasant tone or his vaguely threatening words. It was something baser than that; an innate survival instinct shared by all prey-type-animals. Or, possibly, it was the fact that while Kain Saether's grasp was not painful, it was proving impossible to break. No matter how Donald pulled or twisted, the man did not move. He didn't even bat an eye and, eerily enough, it almost seemed as though he didn't notice Blake's efforts to free himself. Not a man that believed in the spiritual, supernatural or extraterrestrial world; the good doctor was left to stare uncertainly at the form holding him captive and say "What… are you?"

Because he knew, on some incomprehensible level, that those were not human eyes staring back at him.

"More than you may comprehend. No, I have dreamed too often of causing you harm, do not tempt me to do so by speaking further." The accent seemed thicker now, the voice deeper and held a note of something that sent a cold shiver down Donald's spine. "For months now I have heard of your conduct regarding Jane; how you have unceasingly forced your attentions on her, knowing they were unwanted, laying in wait for her at her home, her place of work, with no regard for her wishes."

"I was just-"

"So also have I been informed how you treat Darcy Lewis, whom I hold in great esteem, with disrespect and hostility."

"But I was only— Jane and I were engaged and… and with Darcy it's just-"

"You will be silent!" The baritone voice cracked out like a whip; uncompromising in the command for obedience and unspoken promises of retribution. "That you and Jane were once betrothed does not give you absolution to impose your will upon her. As to Darcy, no excuse you could give would acquit you your actions against her, and I will not tolerate for one under my protection to be treated as an object of scorn." Saether paused then, surveying his entrapped prey with open disgust before adding, almost grudgingly "Were your mortal body not so fragile I would deal with you more harshly. However, I find that it would be… dishonorable to vent my wrath on a creature so much weaker than myself."

"Creature—" Donald sputtered in indignation, but was cut off as the behemoth continued over him.

"Exile is more than you deserve but, I believe, adequate enough. By sunset you will leave this province, and you will not return."

"I'll what?" he balked "Who the hell do you think you are? You have no authority to—" the words broke off in a cry of pain as Saether's grip tightened unexpectedly; the pressure of it building so rapidly that the doctor was positive the man, or whatever he was, intended to crush his hand then and there. Just before fissures began to form in his bones, however, the pressure suddenly eased. Donald ground his teeth together, clawing with all his might at the pale, unremarkable-looking hand that still grasped his. He had never considered himself an incapable man before but, in comparison to the great strength of the… monster in front of him he was nothing. Absolutely nothing. The thought was terrifying.

"I am in deadly earnest, little man. Should I lay eyes upon you again or learn that you have dared to impose so much as a finger on Jane—or Darcy— even once more, know that I will hunt you to the ends of the earth and I will shatter every bone in your pathetic little body. On my father's life, I swear it."


Neither remarked upon the incident during the drive home; Jane did not question why Thor had placed Mjolnir in her lap and held the van door closed, and he did not question the conversation he had overheard. Both chose not to point out how pale and shaken the physician had looked as they left. The silence was not uncomfortable, however. It was peaceful, companionable. Thor's hand would stray often to the back of Jane's neck; as though to reassure both of them that they were indeed together again.

And this time, Thor determined, the only thing that would pry him from her side would be for the gates of Niflheim to open up at his feet.

The matter was far from their minds as the pair carried in the multitude of brown paper sacks into the house. Laughter and light banter flowed out from the kitchen as the Asgardian prince tried to reacquaint himself with the human contraptions or 'appliances' as Jane called them, which he had been so briefly met years before. With great amusement in her voice, Jane insisted that he would manage to blow up the microwave within the week, and proceeded to place the 'fire extinguisher' on the counter within easy reach. He had no idea how it worked.

They explored the house next. With Jane trailing along behind to answer the outpouring of questions Thor discovered the TV den that lay through an archway in the family room, the laundry room just off the kitchen and the yet-to-be-used dining room. Jane preferred the smaller table in the kitchen nook when she had time to sit for a meal, or the table outside. The second floor held more wonder; he was fascinated by Jane's in-home office with its floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and the cluttered desk in the corner. There was a heavy, leather armchair by the terrace window that would be comfortable for his use should he wish to sit with her as she worked.

The smaller guest room held no interest for the prince, but the larger one was significant for the fact that it was the room that Darcy preferred when staying overnight. As that was a frequent occurrence, Jane had encouraged the girl to personalize it as she wished. To that end, Thor was pleased to see that Darcy had done so; there were photographs attached to the dresser's mirror, a scattering of jewelry across its surface and a scarf trailing from where it had been tossed onto a nearby chair.

"Darcy isn't really close with her family, so I usually invite her to stay with me when she's on break. It's a lot more comfortable now than when I was in the trailer and she had to sleep on a cot in the lab." She had faltered then, as though a thought had just occurred to her, "I hope you don't mind if she stays with us—"

"I would be glad of it. Such things are common in Asgard; Sif and the warriors three all reside within my hall. Our repast was taken together and the evenings spent in camaraderie."

"So having Darcy, Erik and maybe an Avenger or two around the house would be good with you?"

"It would" he assured, with absolute sincerity. With the possibility of an unknown magician, it would very much be his preference to keep both Darcy and Jane close to hand as much as he could.

They made supper together that night. Or, more accurately, Jane made supper and Thor did his best to distract her into burning it. He would steal bits of stir-fry out of the pan with bare fingers, or encircle her waist with his arms and press his long body to hers, kissing the top of her head or the side of her neck. When he wasn't distracting her, he was prowling around the kitchen poking into cupboards and asking questions about this thing or that. They continued to avoid touching on the more serious topics, not just the events of the afternoon but what had transpired during his 'campout' and why it had ended early.

An hour before sunset, a S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent appeared at the door. Jane recognized him as one of her guardsmen, though she couldn't recall his name off the top of her head. He and Thor spoke outside very briefly, in low tones that made it impossible for the curious astrophysicist to overhear before the suit-clad young man left as unobtrusively as he had come. It was right about then that Jane realized how her outbuildings would finally be clear and she might actually begin to seriously consider the idea she'd had for them a few weeks ago. When Thor returned he wore a distinctly satisfied expression and a little strut to his step that had Jane laughing; he made her think of the winning tomcat after an alley fight.

Thor didn't find the comparison terribly flattering, but had to feign insult around a growing smirk as he said, "What of the lady cat after the fight, my Jane? Does the winner take all?" With that he took his smirking self upstairs, leaving a blushing Jane to wonder if she had ever been turned on by a cat analogy before.

While the human put the finishing touches on the meal, the Asgardian was up to something. She could hear his footsteps going up and down the stairs, and the faint clatter of the back door screen. Twice she called to him, asking if he was looking for something specific, and twice he answered in the negative. The prince, looking even more pleased with himself than before, appeared just as she was taking a bottle of wine down from the cupboard and wordlessly took up the two stoneware plates in one hand and the two glasses in the other. He was grinning now, which was Jane's only clue that he had done something other than re-explore the house with his time.

"Hold on, Thor, I want to grab a jacket."

"I have seen to it," He replied, with a grin that fairly stopped her heart, "Come, our meal will grow cold."

When human an alien stepped outside onto a porch alight with flickering firelight, Jane realized that he had seen to a great deal more than just her jacket. Blazing cheerfully on the tabletop, porch railing and down the wide wooden patio steps were about eighteen candle lanterns; old fashioned brass-and-glass lamps that had belonged to her mother. Her father had sent them shortly after she had called to give him her new address; a surprising gesture considering he tended to hoard her mother's belongings and only reluctantly doled them out. At the time they had arrived, Jane had been so focused on the Portal that she had been unable to set aside enough focus to unpack and arrange the collection that had been a focal point of many of her childhood memories.

Darcy was undoubtedly involved in this somehow.

Beyond the patio, the chairs that encircled the currently lit fireplace had been cleared away to make room for a blanket nest surrounded by pillows. As she came closer, Jane could recognize the shape of the chair cushions beneath the pile of spare blankets. Her favorite sweatshirt and the green fleece throw form the end of their bed were both folded neatly at one end of the little arena.

"You did all of this? You were gone for, what, fifteen minutes?"

"Darcy was… enthusiastic in her suggestions."

"How… when?"

"When I was informed that you had spent the day in the village I bade one of the agents assigned to guard our home in our absence for aid in working the communication device issued me. Does it please you?"

"Yeah… it really does." Delighted beyond words, Jane toed off her shoes and settled into the next without another word. Thor followed suit and they balanced plates on knees and glasses on the stone lip of the pit. The wine was weak to an Asgardian palate, but not unpleasant in flavor. The meal was satisfying as much for the fact that Jane had made it as for the vibrant variety in tastes. They spoke little at first; with Thor admiring Jane and Jane altering between casting almost shy glances at Thor and admiring the lovely atmosphere he had created.

When the plates were scraped clean and the glasses refilled and set aside, the couple reclined against the scattering of cushions. Jane's head pillowed on his shoulder, her warm body tucked snugly to his own. He had caught one of her hands and was idly exploring it; learning its contours, the fragile webs between her small fingers, and the small white scar on her middle knuckle. A fight, she explained, with an older cousin when she had been a child.

Far above them the heavens were heavy with stars and he was reminded of another night, long ago, when they two had lain side by side beneath the open sky. It hadn't been quite this pleasant, however. More like sweet torture. Having her so close, small brushes of her skin to his when their hands would meet over her little book, the scent of her hair when she would lean close, that lovely smile shining for him and him alone. Wanting her as he did, knowing that she wanted him in return. Ah, but the timing had not been right, not then. Not when she had done so much for him and he so little in return.

Long had he considered the heart to be the most treacherous of organs; ever ready to betray, to deceive. And love? Love, if it existed beyond the old tales, was child's game. It made strong men weak, vulnerable. He was Thor, son of Odin, future king of Asgard the greatest of all the Realms; he would not tolerate such weaknesses in himself. He'd had little thought for the women who vied for a place in his bed. They were there for his pleasure and while he had enough respect for the female sex in general to treat them well, he little thought of them outside his chambers. Indeed only one, in all his long life, had ever interested him longer than a few nights.

And then there was Jane.

Jane who, from the moment he had opened his eyes to find her staring back at him, had been set apart from all the women he had ever known.

Through her compassion, courage and intellect, this young human woman had done something that all, even he, had thought impossible; she had returned his stone heart to flesh and blood. Not with seduction, though he had burned for her. Not through magic, for she had none. It was just her. The woman who had risked retribution for herself and her small family in order to free him from imprisonment by S.H.I.E.L.D., though he was no more than a stranger to her. Though she had been almost certain he was mad. The woman who had stayed by his side, despite the oncoming danger, to aid in the evacuation of people she barely knew and surely had little care for.

The one who had knelt by his side as he lay dying; seeking to sooth, to reassure, to encourage even though she must have known his injuries were fatal. That he was fading.

This woman, this feisty little human, was his redemption. She was his second self, most assuredly his better half. No one and nothing was more important to him than she, and he would give her anything and everything. He would give up anything and everything for her. With Jane Foster, it was all or it was nothing.

And he would give her all.

He turned in to her slowly and kissed the top of her head, her brow, curling his fingers beneath her chin to tilt her mouth to his and take her lips softly, chastely. He could feel her heartbeat against his breast, the quickening of her breath, her lithe hands fisted into the fabric over his chest. "Am I too forward?" he murmured against her soft lips, and felt her smile.

"I wouldn't mind," she breathed, "if you were a little more forward." She was trembling, just a little, and when he ran his hand down her side to her knee and pulled her leg over his hip he felt a shudder, like a current, pass through her. Her eyes were dark with passion, her cheeks flushed and her lips parted in irresistible invitation. This time the kiss was not chaste; it was hungry and desperate such as their first had been. Indeed, the flames that danced at their feet were nothing in comparison to the fire that ignited between them. Lips and tongues met and danced again and again as the pair clung to one another.

The hand whose immense strength had terrorized an unfortunate rival mere hours before was now the definition of gentle as it sampled the tantalizingly soft skin of Jane's back. His senses were filled with her; the scent and feel of her skin, the delicious little sounds she made. His eyes, when he pulled back, saw only her. "Is it too much, min elskede?" he asked, and bent to tease her neck and shoulder.

At her word, at the slightest flicker of fear in her eyes, and Thor would release her without asperity. He adored this woman and her ease was not merely important to him; it was everything to him. If Jane feared their union, even more a moment, then he did not yet deserve to be her lover. If she were simply not yet ready to cross that boundary, he would respect her decision. But there was no fear in her. Instead she smiled softly, sliding her hands over his chest, tracing fingers against his jaw as she said breathily "I still don't know what that means."

He grinned back at her, shook his head. Trust a woman to focus on the most insignificant portion of a sentence. Or the most significant at the least opportune time, as it were. "You do not know?" He asked, pushing strands of hair away from his face, tried to control his breathing and think past the fierce desire clouding his mind. He had expected her clever mind would have deduced the translation already, but he saw uncertainty in her eyes. Ah, he understood, that was the problem. She thought she knew, perhaps suspected, yet did not trust her assessment enough to voice it aloud. And also, perhaps, too unfamiliar with the sentiment to fully recognize it.

Which only made them all the more suited to one another; Fandral had fairly needed to beat the realization into him and his courtyard had suffered greatly for his ignorance.

"I know you came back for me, because you promised but— never mind, it's not really important. You don't have to—"

"Min Elskede, in the language that my people taught to yours, to the ancestors of our Erik Selvig, means My Love." He palmed her cheek, kept her eyes on his and hoped that she could see the depth of feeling in his eyes. Hoped that she saw and understood that it was no simple endearment but barren truth; and as vulnerable as it truly made him, so too did it fill him with strength. Her eyes widened and, yes, she saw it. She knew. And he saw it in her as well, felt it in her touch and knew that he had her heart.

And then she pulled him to her again and attacked his mouth with an intensity that nearly equaled his own, and guided him with impatient tugs at his shirt to shift his body atop hers. Her legs cradled him as they had that afternoon, her arms encircled; clever hands sliding beneath the thin fabric over his torso to caress and explore his back and flanks. The fires of passion between them arced and raced; currents of energy that coursed between the two of them. Thor turned his face into the tender skin of her throat; nipping gently and nuzzling in. She could not hurt him, but the feel of her nails scraping down his back had him arching, growling. Sent tongues of heat shooting down his body and had him slamming his mouth to hers; had him nipping not so gently at her swollen lips.

It had been his intention to take her slowly, cautiously this first time but the little human wench was making it impossible for him to think. Not since his first visits to the concubine houses as an adolescent had he been so overcome. Her mouth was at his neck now, tongue dipping into the hollow of his throat and boldly trailing up. When those curious hands pulled at the hem of his shirt he quickly pushed himself to his knees and dragged the offending thing over his head.

He enjoyed the desire that clouded her eyes as she beheld him. Leaning forward he braced his hands on either side of her head, held himself over her. "I am yours, Jane Foster. I belong to you from now until the stars fall from the heavens and the branches of Yggdrasil wither and die. So also do you belong to me: deal?"

"Deal."

Galaxies away in a hazy world of azure waters and golden spires; a lone figure stood on the jagged edge of a broken bridge. Though Heimdall had averted his eyes from Midgard, his ears yet rang with the Prince's vow, and an approving smirk lit about his normally solemn visage.

It was about damn time.


Author's Comments:

Update: This chapter has been edited by lcsaf. Hip hip hooray for better grammar and the removal of embarrassing typos.

As per the usual, I try hard to catch all the typos/grammatical issues but they always slip through the cracks. Especially after the third pass, so please let me know if you catch any so I can correct it.

Big thank you to my translators for their work and patience.

So you can say that this chapter fits comfortably in the T rating that the story has been in since chapter 1. However, I bumped it up to M anyway for two reasons: One; because I never know what is going to go on chapter-to-chapter. I have my outline and the general flow of the story, but some of the details get filled in as I go. So while this was pretty mild, next time might be more intense. Two: Not really sure just what the line is. The ratings guide isn't terribly helpful so it's a lot of guesswork.

So if and when I decide to write out Jane's first night, or any subsequent smutty scenes, I will not be able to post them there, not the way I want to write them, without risking the webmasters wrath. I know I've talked about this before but it bears repeating because it's annoying.

So while I will continue to post Terrestrial Constellations on , I will post the very smutty bits on a smut-friendly fiction site I have not chosen yet. I've had several good recommendations and I will be looking into it shortly (and because I cannot procrastinate anymore). That being said, when I get that sorted I'll post a notice about in on my profile. I'll also note which chapters contain extended scenes.