Asgard healed. Summer settled into autumn; those crops not damaged were harvested and stored for the oncoming winter. The fallen were ushered into Valhalla with feasting and song.
Odin made the blót in the Hall of Noble Dead as custom and duty dictated, and if it was a more poignant service than before, and if the Lady Sigyn had been forced to leave halfway through, none made comment. Some wounds could be lanced; some, however, were yet too raw. Prince Loki followed her out, vulpine face impassive, but even the least observant could see how his hand remained locked in hers.
It came as no surprise to anyone when the announcement of their betrothal crept through the somber lines of hearsay. Nor was it a surprise that no wedding date was set, for the Æsir were shaken, made to see they were not invulnerable in their floating fortress, and there was little joy to be found. It was a good match, all agreed, both politically and... in temperament, but regardless of the soundness of the arrangement it was ill-luck for a bride to grieve on her wedding day.
Refugees trickled out of the City, accompanied by the disbanded reserve, and both the Einherjar and the Ægirjar were granted much-needed leave. Naught more than a skeleton crew of guards and patrol ships remained to tend the gates, but—and this was the dubious mercy granted to Asgard's people—the Nine Realms, and presumably all the others not within reach of Yggdrasil's branches, had seen the terrible might Asgard held, and despite her weakened position none were bold enough to try her.
As for the source of that caution, it was a small ceremony, hushed and private, that showed the Allfather bestowing the guardianship of Thanos' Hand upon his second son.
Heimdall saw it all. He heard the gossip, smelled the fear, witnessed the toils that had brought them to this point. He saw, then turned away to cast his sight into the void. The walls of the new Observatory, bloodstained and weeping where he caught them out of the corner of his eye, swept to either side. Before him, planets wheeled and stars burned, and the brilliant flares of the nebulae etched their lines across the black.
It was a thrill all its own, to stand at the edge of the world, to see the oceans fall away in thunderous sheets, to smell the crisp ozone stink of the atmospheric barrier and fight vertigo while daring death to claim him. The Watcher of Worlds reveled in every minute, for it gave the touch of life to his long years.
But he did not forget his duty.
He watched, and he searched, for somewhere, hiding beyond his sight, the Mad Titan scented the air. This peace was not true peace; it was but a reprieve, a pause on the battlefield. The war was yet to come. Heimdall steeled himself to watch and be wary, for Thanos did not share the brash impatience of the Chitauri. He would come from the side, sudden as a striking snake, and Asgard could not trust in the naiveté of Lady Sigyn to save them a second time.
The Horn-Blower readied his sword and stood firm in the shadow of the Bifröst.
A/N: Okay, y'all, thank you for sticking with me on this roller-coaster. Barf bags are located in the seat-pockets in front of you, tissues in the courtesy packs the flight-attendants are handing out. You may now use your cell phones and other portable electronic devices.
Thank you to Norway and Iceland for letting me borrow the names of their geographical features, and I apologize for any misuse of Old Norse words that may have occurred. Thank you also to Somastella, who was my guinea pig/beta/comforting shoulder to freak out on. Thank you to all my reviewers, all my story followers, all my author followers, and all you lurkers out there who haven't yet mustered the stones to do any of the above. :)
Thank you for taking the time to read. *less-than-three* to you all.