CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

Until the day I die

Epilogue

Clouds gathered in the deep blue sky above and a light drizzle misted the manicured grass of the cemetery. As the rain began to increase, umbrellas were pulled out and people huddled together. Somber faces observed the funeral through the curtain of pouring rain. Those that had arrived late and were in the back of the considerable crowd stayed for a few minutes to pay silent respects before turning and leaving largely unnoticed. The mourning mob of downtrodden people stood around three open graves. Those that knew the deceased the closest were at the forefront of everyone, all dressed in black suits, even Thor had shed his typical Asgardian wear in his attendance. Now was a time for quiet bereavement, not boasting power and showing off shiny armor. The city around them was in shambles; buildings were crumbling and the streets were crowded with rubble, dead bodies, and abandoned cars. The cleanup that had been started was extensive, but it seemed that for just one day the whole city of New York had taken the time to come pay their respects to those that had fallen to bring back some semblance of moral order to the world. While everyone felt the loss of the two fallen Agents, no one quite understood the pain that shattered Thor's heart with every subsequent beat in grief for the grave marked for Jane Foster.

It'd only been three days since the end of the War and her death and already Thor wanted it all to stop. He knew that time healed all wounds, but he believed that this pain would go on until the end of his own life. He had mourned the loss of Sif, but not the way he was mourning the loss of Jane right now. Sif had been a longtime friend, a close ally, a fierce warrior, and a formidably loyal friend to Thor, but Jane had been something that he did not believe anyone could replace. She was someone whom he respected deeply, for a human she was incredibly sharp. She did not fight in wars nor did she have any battle training but she had the heart of a warrior and fought for what she believed in. Her compassion had been what he had loved about her most, and in the end it had been her inability to distinguish the truly unchangeable from those that had a chance at redemption that had inevitably, and literally, stabbed her in the back and led her to her untimely death. However, Thor did not hate her for her empathy, he cherished it and in a way he found light in the tragedy, but there was still the residual pain. She shouldn't have been one of the countless souls added to the death toll count that had reached up into the millions world-wide.

As always, the resilience of the human race astounded Thor. From their depressed and depleted state of slaves beneath the fierce and terrible hand of Loki and his Operi army, they bounced back with undeterred determination to make the best of their new lives. Many realms looked down upon Midgard as a home to weak-minded, uncultured, uncivilized creatures. However they had not spent as much time on Earth as he did, and they did not get to witness their spirit the way he did. They were a curious race indeed, but one that was a force to be reckoned with; even if they needed a little help every now and again when it came to defending themselves. For that, Thor would gladly return to Earth without hesitation. They deserved to live on without the constant threat of outside forces invading them and trying to turn them into just another planet of slaves. They had potential, they had hope and until he could no longer fight, Thor would rise to their defense to ensure a brighter future for them.

Above the sound of the rain pounding down on the many opened umbrellas, the preacher's voice droned on. He spoke of life after death, of hope and lightness in darker times. He spoke of all the things good in the lives of the three fallen people and acknowledged the many other lives that had been put on the line to bring them the momentary peace they found themselves in today. Tears were prevalent on most everyone's faces throughout the sermon and finally as the rain started to die down, so did the preacher's voice and eventually he blessed the graves and threw in the first handful of dirt into the two graves of Natasha Romanoff and Clint Barton. Ceremoniously, many other people threw handfuls of earth down onto the coffins that had been lowered into the six foot holes, but the grave of Jane foster stood untouched. Through the dirt tossing process, the crowd of people began to thin and the people that had been standing to the side next to the pile of dirt that'd been dug up began to fill in the graves.

After a few minutes, it seemed that all that was left was Thor, Tony, Bruce, and Steve. They all stared with sad stares at the graves before them; however after a while of their silent vigil, Tony excused himself and shortly after he left, so did Bruce. Once more, it was just Thor and Steve. They stood side-by-side, looking down into Jane's grave. Finally Steve looked up at Thor and asked, "would you like help?"

Swallowing, Thor looked down and shook his head, smiling sadly, "no, I said that I would bury her myself. I do not want to bring that burden onto you as well."

Steve looked to where Natasha and Clint's graves were and walked to grab a shovel and offered Thor a kind smile as he walked back over, "well maybe I'd like to help."

Thor offered Steve a small, dark chuckle at his determination and grabbed the shovel that had been left for him to use but said nothing as he dug the spade into the soft, wet earth and tossed the first pile of dirt onto the mahogany wood coffin below. It felt so strange to be burying someone like this. He had been used to the grand fires of a funeral pyre on Asgard. There, the ashes of the fallen warrior were free to blow in the wind and their spirit was released; but here it was like he was literally burying years of memories and emotions. He knew that the humans found this as their preferred way of honoring their dead and he had honored the wishes of Jane's friends and saw to it that she had a decent ceremony and burial. Still, with each and every continuous piling of dirt into the deep grave, the lines on his face grew. It felt wrong; however regardless of his own discomfort, he continued to shovel dirt in.

The two men worked for some time without a break, but by the time they were done, they were completely alone in the cemetery and the lives of the people in New York had begun to move forward again. The sounds of cleanup and repair rang through the city like church bells on a wedding day; a signal of a new life being created. The sun had made an appearance out from behind the heavy rainclouds that had gathered hours before and the wet grass glistened in the light. Finally, Steve patted Thor on the top of his arm and gave his respects to Jane before dismissing himself. As he walked off, Thor lifted his chin and called, "thank you."

Steve half-turned back to offer the Asgardian a smile and a salute before disappearing from view. And now, as it would be for the rest of his life, it was just Thor. He was completely alone and the silence pressed in around him like a fierce wave. Not exactly sure what to do now, as he'd never had a grave to allow him a place to visit someone that had passed, he fiddled with the edge of his suit jacket before clearing his throat and spoke down at the marble slab grave marker and freshly piled dirt that hid the coffin in which his deceased love laid,

"Jane Foster…had I known that our continued interest in one another would have led to a tragedy such as this, perhaps I would have left you well enough alone. However, the power of foresight is not something that is mine to control. Blindly, we walked through life together without any notion of the heartbreak that was to come. I can only hope that as time passes, I will remember not your last few days and all of the mistakes we made, but rather I will cherish the good things in your life and will fondly remember how you could always read me regardless of how hard I tried to hide myself from you. I will remember with joy of how we first met –even if that day there was a brief moment of disaster. Perhaps I should thank you now for hitting me with your car twice. You showed me not only how to love a people I had always thought was below me, but you also taught me humility; a lesson I sorely needed to grasp. I came to Earth in exile, alone and without a friend. You, though you denied it every time I brought it up, saved me from myself. I was an arrogant Prince with a clouded mind and guarded heart. I had no place on the throne of Asgard, even though I thought I deserved it. The lesson my father had been trying to teach me might not have come so quickly had I not met you. You were no warrior, but I have told my father and my friends time and time again that had you been born on Asgard, you might have even matched my own strength; not because you would have physically outmatched me, because you were tiny," he paused to chuckle at himself and brought light to his face in the momentary break of morose speech before continuing, "but because of your heart. It is not strength that just makes up a good fighter, for a man can have all the power in the universe, but it is no good if he has no drive. You loved your work and it was indeed your favorite subject. You never realized it, but you used to light up so brightly whenever I, or anyone, got you talking about your work. I never truly grasped your complex theories and thoughts, but that didn't matter because you cared about what you were doing. The world needs more people like you, Jane."

For a moment, Thor fell silent and simply looked down at the ground. He no longer knew what to say other than a quiet, "please remember that I will always love you." Finally, he began to slowly back away from the grave and turned and left. As he walked away, he could not remember ever having done something so hard in his life. He wanted to sit by her grave for the rest of the day, to talk to her –but he could not. He had duties back on Asgard. For all his heartache and sorrow, he was still a King and he still had a kingdom to rule.

With no one in the cemetery now, there was no one to witness the flash of light and tiny 'pop' as Loki appeared before Jane's fresh grave. He worse his 'civilian' dress: a simple black suit and his oddly patterned green and gold scarf. While one hand desperately clutched Vildir, in the other hand he gently held a white rose. He looked down at the fresh dirt and squinted at the epitaph on her gravestone. Scoffing slightly at the hopeful and uplifting words he mimicked Thor's actions and spoke,

"It seems that I missed the ceremony, though perhaps that was for the best; I cannot imagine I would have been one of the more welcomed guests among the crowd. I may have promised that I would not return to Earth on your behalf, but as you and I are both well aware, you are dead. However, I suppose I have you to thank for my freedom."

Loki fell quiet; he was not one for sentiment. Yet he felt like he should be here, apologizing for his actions. Jane had started to prove to him that there was more to his live than just the delusional sprint for power. She had proven to him that it would be possible for someone to find comfort in his presence and cherish him as something worthwhile to the world. Maybe the truly did love her, but Loki could not find the words to explain the tumultuous emotions that raged in his heart. Once or twice he opened his mouth to say something, but each time he closed it, unable to voice what he wished to voice. The hand holding the rose gripped the stem in frustration before he shifted his stance and squatted down to bring himself closer to her grave. Gently placing the rose on the wet dirt he sighed and quietly spoke with a softer expression,

"I regret that you had to die for my continued survival. It is unlikely that there will be anyone else like you, and for that I am sorry. I-"

Loki cut himself off as the sound of approaching feet cutting across the wet grass caused him to grow rigid. Standing up, he prepared himself to fight, but glancing down at Jane's grave he decided against bloodshed and in another burst of light and boom, he was gone. Jane was the only person that had seen Loki in a different light and she had tried her best to change him, to move him. He was like a rock she broke herself against. She had been the one thing left close to Thor's heart that Loki could use in his immortal battle against Thor. While her actions were noble, her compassion sincere, but in the end she paid the ultimate price for her vision.

Author's Notes: And here we are at the absolute end of Bad Company. This chapter is bitter sweet for me; I've had far too much fun writing this. It would be lying if I said that I am dissatisfied with how this particular epilogue ends, but I have sat here for the better half of an hour trying to think of something else; but I suppose that's just my brain saying 'Legion, just give up, it's over'. When I first saw the Avengers, I did not think that I would be so moved to write something about it; and look at where I am now! I have no further comments on the story itself, so now I'm going to let you all know that I have dedicated this story to my friend Ani. Her ~fangirling~ and kind comments about this story have really kept me going (along with everyone else's support); and thank you, Ani, for letting me talk characterization with you even though when I was usually doing it it was like 1 AM your time. You saint. You even got into it too -I couldn't have asked for more from someone I was babbling about my story to, lol! Thank you everyone that has added this story to your favorites and alerts! Thank you PredictionPickle, Courvoisier, xxBeautifulThief, soleillunalover, GNCasanova, Aurora Marija, Christina-Furvito, GRuth, talk-ape, mou, Shaida01, DelilahUnknown (I am glad that you found the ending satisfactory! Thank you so much for your review!), DivineNemesis (I am so glad that you found the end to this story a break from the 'usual' plots that tend to end with Loki loving someone. As for my ~mistakes~, I am well aware they are in there. When I started writing this I would go back and re-read each chapter...and then I got lazy xD But fixing those small things are definitely next on my list of things to do~ Thank you so much for reading), and Viyola (though you only recently reviewed, and it was chapter 12 that you reviewed, I hope that you finish the story and find the ending to be good enough for your expectations! I agree that Jane is truly a spectacular character. She definitely blows me away, especially when I was writing her). I cannot thank you all enough for reviewing; every last one of you made me smile! On another note, I have another fiction that I'll be starting soon, and a couple one-shots in my mind. So while this is my first Avengers/Marvel fiction, I can promise you that it is not my last! As always, thank you for reading. I cannot say that enough. Seriously, thanks for sticking with me guys!

I do not own any Marvel characters, only the ideas and story are mine.

Story title/chapter titles (c) Five Finger Death Punch (Bad Company)