A Heated Situation

In which Jane takes a foolish risk and everyone almost pays. This is probably my last Jane & Thor installment for a while. They'll be joining Clint & Natasha in privacy for a little while, with the exception of a one-off story currently in the works involving all four of them, by popular demand. Please be warned that this chapter contains some questionably consensual spanking! You have been warned!


There is exactly one thing Jane hates about living with Thor and the rest of the Avengers, and the work she does between Stark Tower and SHIELD Headquarters. The company is excellent. The sex is mind-blowing. The friendship definitely does not suck. Against anything she could ever have predicted, Natasha has become someone she considers very special. She gets to work with her beloved mentor and father figure, and Bruce has rapidly grown to be someone she values for his companionship and wit as well as his devastatingly brilliant mind. She does still wish she could somehow make him happier, but she knows that's beyond her scope. The work is exciting. The technology available to her makes her mind boggle on a regular basis. If Tony doesn't have a tool or computer program or instrument to perform a needed function, he invents one. Coulson has even gone behind Fury's back and let her bring Darcy in as an assistant recently, which is awesome. It's made all the more awesome by the fact that Darcy drives Fury completely batshit. Everybody else adores her for this fact alone, even if she isn't a superhero or a genius of any kind. Tony likes her, she makes Steve smile and agrees to watch old movies with him when he's lonely, Natasha seems to find her amusing, Clint treats her like the little sister he never had. Bruce seems baffled by her, but he doesn't complain. So, except for one thing, Jane's life is completely amazing.

"Avengers! Assemble!"

There it is. The voice comes over the comm system. Bruce's shoulders slump. He has gotten better and better at controlling the Hulk's violent impulses, but every time he's required to manifest the green guy, he's afraid. Still, he gets up and leaves the lab at a run, shedding his lab coat as he goes. She doesn't know where Thor is, or any of the others. Whatever this new danger is, they will all leave to face it without saying goodbye.

This is the one thing she hates.

Darcy and Erik have left, gone out on a Chinese food run. They'll be back soon, but it means that for now she's left alone in the lab with her terror. She never knows if they're going to come back. Thor is well-nigh indestructible. She knows this intellectually, and yet she is also unable to really believe it. She cannot bear the thought that every time he goes out with his team, it may be the time someone discovers something that can kill him. The staying behind and waiting is unbearable. But what choice does she have? She can no more ask him to stop being what he is than she can ask the sun to stop rising and setting. She loves a hero. If the day does come that some foe wields a weapon able to bring him down, he will hurl himself without a second thought into certain death, battle it until he can battle no more, and then meet death as a friend and have no regrets. She is stupidly proud of him, proud to be with him. The man he is sets in motion a resonance in her soul that has filled her from her toes to the roots of her hair with a thrumming energy which makes her feel that she had never lived until he came. Her work shares his purpose, and she strives to understand the terrifying alien technologies they will soon face. If the Chitauri came, others will eventually follow. But oh, she cannot bear the thought of losing him again. She has seen his face still with death, when she only wanted him, and wished to know him better, to have a chance to see what it was between them. The sight was almost more than she could bear, even then. She doesn't think she'd survive it a second time.

She asked him once, to take her with him when they went on a call. He had taken her by her arms, and looked urgently into her eyes.

"You must not, Jane," he'd said fiercely. "My thoughts when we do battle for the safety of Midgard must be only on the fight, and the protection of my brothers. If I had to concern myself also with your safety, I would be distracted, and that could have disastrous results. Would you risk us all, just to satisfy yourself?" When he put it that way, it made her feel stupid for asking. Still, she cannot help wishing, feeling that somehow if she were with him, she could keep him safe, as ridiculous as that sounds.

She can't stand to stay in the lab, so she makes her way to the Operations center to see if anyone there can tell her anything. Agent Hill is there, overseeing the command center. She smiles distractedly at Jane, but takes a moment to brief her. Maria is a dedicated agent, but she is also a woman. She sees the fear in Jane's eyes and understands. So she makes time.

"A cell of Chitauri who escaped the initial battle has been discovered in the waterfront district. Director Fury and Agent Coulson are observing aerially. It's a good-sized cell from the reports we have, but the six of them should be able to handle it. They've handled worse. Don't worry, Dr. Foster, they'll be fine. We have two squads ready if they run into anything unexpected, which I don't foresee. Now please, let me get back to work."

Jane thanks her, and stands up against a wall for a while, making herself as unobtrusive as possible. There's so much going on that she can't really make sense of it. Various technicians are monitoring things like police radios, readouts from Iron Man's suit as reported to them by JARVIS, weather conditions, shipping traffic on the wharfs in the warehouse district, and a huge number of other things that don't make sense to her at all. It only makes her more tense, because it's so chaotic to her mind that her inner turmoil ramps up until she thinks she may just slide to the floor and start to cry. She slips out, and goes to the rooms they share. She thinks maybe she'll just get raging drunk on some of Thor's mead, which should take about two swallows, and pass out until he comes back safe and whole, as, to be honest, he always has.

She's belted back one healthy swig of the stuff, which fills her mouth with an explosion of sweet honey and flowers, and her throat and belly with fire. She's gasping, and feeling it go straight to her head, when she notices his helmet sitting forgotten on the coffee table. Oh god, he's gone off to fight without it. Her stress, and her worry, and the heady fumes of the potent drink, combine to make her forget that he flies off without it all the time. All she can think is that here is something she can do to help him! She's gotten enough out of the barrage of confusing reports in the Operations center to know where they're going. Well, where they already are probably. Fighting bloodthirsty aliens. Without proper head protection! Stupid careless barbarian! What the fuck was he thinking? Certainly not about taking care of himself so he'd be able to come home safe to her. Thinks his stupid hard head is fucking bullet-proof. It's certainly made of rock, that's for sure. She seizes the helmet and storms out, takes the nearest elevator to the basement garage. Everyone in the building is focused on the op going on right now, so nobody notices her or pays attention. She shamelessly appropriates one of the SHIELD's black sedans and floors it out of there. New York traffic is always a pain in the ass, but Jane's on a mission. She wishes this fucking car had a siren, but she turns on the dashboard roller light and the wig wags in the grill and snakes through traffic like a ferret. The black sedan is muscular and powerful, but it handles well too. And pedestrians dive out of her way shouting curses or screaming. She ignores them. None of them would even be here if it weren't for Thor and the rest of the team (even though she's not thinking about any of the rest of them right now). They can just deal with a few skinned knees and sprained ankles.

As she approaches the waterfront warehouse district, it's obvious where the battle is taking place. Traffic is at a standstill as people stop their cars to gawk. She abandons the sedan and starts pushing through the gathering crowd, clutching the helmet to her chest. Black smoke billows up from two of the warehouses. She sees Iron Man shoot into the sky with a flailing alien in his arms. He rises to a point where she can barely see him anymore and then drops the Chitauri into the Hudson River. It hits the water with a terrific splash and does not resurface. Chitauri, apparently, do not swim. From somewhere on the other side of the buildings, she sees a truck fly into the air almost gracefully, then crash back to the ground. The warehouse blocks her view and she doesn't see where it falls. Bruce's work probably. Lightning spears from the sky and lances to the ground with a terrific crack. People scream, but Jane laughs wildly in relief. He's still okay. She knocks someone down in her urgency, apologizes absently, and keeps shoving. Once clear, she sprints for the site of the fighting. Dimly, she hears someone shouting at her to come back, but she pays no attention. She can do this for him, get his helmet to him so he'll be, at least a little, safer. She eases along the long side of one of the warehouses, the sound of otherworldly shrieks and screeching is deafening, as are the explosions and gunfire and the crashing of bodies and metal and who knows what else. She feels heat from the wall of the building she hugs, and knows something inside it is on fire. Hurrying now, she darts to the corner of the building and around it…

She skids to a halt and finds herself in the center of hell.

Two cars, several trucks, and half a dozen forklifts lie scattered about the pavement as though a particularly careless and destructive child has had a temper tantrum and refused to pick up its toys. She can smell gasoline, diesel fuel, and spilled oil. Some of it burns, scattered small fires that dot the violent scene around her. A dead Chitauri lies almost at her feet, its corpse blackened and smoking. What she thinks are brains ooze from its strangely shaped skull and look a little like jellied cottage cheese on the black asphalt. Well, if cottage cheese were green. There's a greenish, yellowish scaly arm draped over a barrel to her left. It doesn't appear to be attached to anything. There's another explosion nearby and Jane looks up and to her right, sees Hawkeye perched on top of a shipping container, firing explosive arrows. There's a bloody smear on the side of his face, and his hair looks wet and matted on one side. Black Widow is crouched at his back, facing the other way, firing two pistols at the same time. There's a tear in her suit, exposing a bloody scratch down her left thigh. AS Jane glances at the two of them, Widow drops both magazines to the roof of the container and reloads smoothly from the belt of extra mags at her waist. She hears and feels the concussion from a blast from Iron Man's propulsion jets, and a big scaly body that somehow seems to have too many limbs goes flying between two other containers, one of which is lying on its side with the doors hanging open. Dimly, she's aware of someone roaring, and turns to see the Hulk seize two Chitauri in his passive paws and slam their heads together. Even over the noise, Jane is sure she hears them crunch. Captain America's shield whizzes past and lands with a sickening thunk in the gut of another Chitauri that is in the process of getting ready to leap atop the container where Hawkeye and the Black Widow perch. It utters a strangled cry that sounds something like a vulture's scream and something like cats mating, and falls to the ground. Jane looks around wildly. She doesn't see Thor, in the air or on the ground. Panic clutches at her throat. Then he sprints out from the dark open doorway of one of the warehouses, Mjolnir cocked back over his shoulder. He's shouting something. The mighty hammer swings through the air, a whistle of sound and a blur of silvery-grey, and another alien invader flies through the air to soar over the containers and into the river. Thor's face and arms are blackened with soot and grease. There are dozens of miniscule cuts on his arms, and one above his eyebrow which bleeds sluggishly down his face. It's obviously already healing, but Jane has a moment of wanting to yell at him in rage, because it wouldn't have happened in the first place if he'd been wearing his FUCKING HELMET!

"THOR!" She shrieks his name at the top of her lungs, almost feels something tear in her throat in her effort to get his attention. It works. Six heads snap around to stare in her direction. Then everything seems to happen in slow motion, as she has plenty of time to observe every terrible thing that occurs. Vaguely, she's aware that isn't really true, it just seems so.

She hears Hawkeye, Black Widow, Captain America and Thor all shouting for her to get back, to get out of the way, to hide.

A Chitauri becomes aware of their focus on her and charges towards her, its gaping maw filled with what seem to be thousands of glittering sharp teeth, its claws outstretched towards her and quivering with eagerness. She screams. She is rooted to the spot and cannot run.

Hawkeye and Natasha aim their weapons but Jane is in the way and neither of them have a clear shot. She hears them, as if from a great distance, shouting something at her that sounds like "Get down!" but her brain is unable to process it.

An enormous green monster bounds over a container and shoves another out of its path, heading towards the alien, but she doesn't think he can reach it in time. For his incredible size, Hulk's surprisingly fast, but the invader is too close.

A blast from Iron Man's repulsor slams into the pavement, and bits of gravel fly up. One hits her cheek and she feels the burn as it cuts her, the warm trickle of blood that feels like tears sliding down her cheek. It misses the Chitauri warrior, which keeps coming.

Thor roars her name in horror and negation, hurling himself into the air and towards them. He's faster than the Hulk, but it takes a few seconds for him to reach full speed, and those are seconds she doesn't have.

A large body skids to a halt beside her, shouldering her to one side, and she staggers a little. Captain America hurls his shield at the Chitauri, using his own body to block hers. She's never been so glad to see anyone in her life. The shield shears off one of the alien's hands like soft cheese. It utters a hideous screech but keeps coming. Unfortunately, it apparently still has three more perfectly good hands, all eager to tear into her tender flesh and rend the Captain limb from limb.

Now they both stand between Hawkeye and Black Widow and their target. Neither spy has a shot that won't endanger Jane or Steve. Iron Man is occupied chasing down another Chitauri who is attempting to flee on its air cycle. She sees Thor, beyond the creature, flying towards them as fast as he can. Out of the corner of her eye she notices there is another Chitauri bearing down on them. Thor stops, his blue eyes frantic as he realizes he now has to choose. Mjolnir spins and the clouds overhead roil as the energies he generates gather. She covers her face with her hands. The lightning bolt takes out the creature as it's about to sink its claws into her. She both feels and sees the other Chitauri slam into Captain America, bearing them both to the ground. Someone screams. She feels sick when she realizes the scream sounds human, and male, and agonized. Thor drags the alien off the Captain by its foot and shoots skyward with it dangling.

A roar of rage ruffles her hair and she turns, in slow motion, to look up at the massive bulk of the Hulk, standing over her. He is covered in blood and soot and gore, and there is nothing remotely sane in his eyes.

"Bruce," she whispers, hopelessly.

He roars again, and inanely she thinks she can still smell the Colgate cinnamon toothpaste Bruce used this morning on the Hulk's breath. He's visibly trembling, and she's aware that it is with the effort it costs him not to hurl her into outer space or rip her in half. She's also aware he could do either.

"Bruce, please," she begs.

Almost casually, he sweeps out his massive arm and swats her away. She is airborne for only a moment, then tumbling bonelessly across the asphalt. She ends up crumpled against the container guarded by Hawkeye and Natasha. Every inch of her hurts. She moans softly. Strong hands grasp her arms and yank her, not very gently, onto the roof of the container. Natasha steadies her a little as Clint lets go and curtly orders her to stay down and out of the way. She collapses onto the metal roof. She's lost the helmet somewhere.

She peers through a curtain of her hair from where she lays, and sees Hulk tearing pieces off the last of the Chitauri. Thor has gathered the Captain into his arms and is carrying him almost tenderly to where one of the big helijets has landed, and handing him carefully inside it, where Agent Coulson and Director Fury guide his motionless body onto one of the back seats. Jane whimpers.

As the smoke clears, two big mobilization units wheel in to take care of cleanup. A SHIELD paramedic is cleaning the cut on Hawkeye's head. The Hulk has disappeared, leaping off to wherever he goes to get himself under control enough to change back into himself. Tony is talking to a couple of the agents, his helmet peeled back to reveal his sweaty face. Natasha stands near Hawkeye and pretends not to be watching anxiously. She sees Jane looking, and turns her back. Jane sits up and pushes her hair out of her face. She's looking around for a way to climb down from the container when Thor lands next to her. His face is expressionless.

"Will he be all right?" she whispers. "Steve?"

"I know not. The creature's claws penetrated his armor. He took a belly wound. It looked deep. I understand, however, that your doctors here can work wonders. I am not certain, but I hope he will live."

She sighs, a deep shuddering breath, and starts to shake. He leans down and picks her up in his arms. She lays her head on his shoulder and starts to cry. He tightens his arms and she feels his body trembling.

"Goddess! Oh Jane, I thought I had lost you," he says. His voice is hoarse with strain.

"I'm so sorry," she cries. He hugs her even tighter, which makes her squeak a little when she feels her lungs threaten to collapse. He eases up a bit.

"Hush now, my love," he says into her hair. "I forgive you. You're safe now. We'll save the rest for later."

With that rather ominous-sounding proclamation, he flies them both gently to the ground and they get into one of the huge SHIELD mobile command centers with everyone else. Bruce hasn't returned yet. Nobody mentions waiting for him, so Jane assumes this is normal. No one looks at her. She feels about two inches tall as they are driven back to headquarters in stony silence. It's the most horrible ride of her life, and it doesn't make it any better that she knows they have every right to be angry with her. Steve is hurt because she was stupid. When the truck pulls to a stop inside the parking level, she clears her throat a little. Natasha is the only one who looks at her.

"I…I just want to say I'm really sorry for what I did. I put everyone in danger. It'll never happen again. I hope you all can forgive me."

Nobody responds, they just file out silently and go their separate ways, leaving her alone and feeling dumber than ever. Thor takes her hand and leads her to their rooms. He's very quiet, his face solemn, and she can tell he's thinking hard. She goes to the kitchen and makes him coffee while he showers and changes into regular clothing. He comes out, the smell of shampoo and soap and clean skin making her shiver, and sits on the couch, still not speaking, and accepts the mug with a nod.

"Thor," she cries desperately when the silence becomes unbearable. "Please, tell me you can forgive me!"

He looks up at her in surprise, the drink partway to his lips.

"Forgive you? I said I did," he says, looking a little confused.

"You aren't acting like it!" she says hotly. He frowns.

"I do forgive you, my heart. I believe I shall love you until your sun falls into the sea, and that is a less idle threat from one such as me than it would be for a mortal man. I can refuse you nothing. You ask for my forgiveness, and you have it."

"Oh thank God," she says fervently, and sits beside him. He puts the mug down on an end table and takes her hand.

"Forgiveness is one thing, Jane," he says broodingly. "Forgetting is another. And…penance…yet another."

Her stomach starts to feel strange.

"What…um…what do you mean?" she asks nervously.

"It is not only me who you hurt today, Jane. You saw how it was with the others on the way back here just now."

"They're very angry," she whispers.

"Are they wrong to be?" he asks gently. She shakes her head. They're not wrong.

"Your actions today endangered everyone. You have a very great deal to make up for, as far as the team is concerned. I am afraid an apology may not suffice. It is ever thus with warriors in my realm as well. When one's actions endanger the lives of others, he must suffer consequences before he is forgiven."

This sounds ominous, and Jane begins to feel a little bit like she may throw up.

"Ah…what kind of consequences?"

His lips twitch a little, as though he wants to smile.

"Hm. Well, perhaps Asgardian consequences might be a bit too severe in this case. His shield brothers may beat him with their fists until he loses consciousness. Or he may be flogged with a whip of knotted rawhide which has bits of metal braided in, until he bleeds freely all over his back."

She makes a strangled sound of horror.

"That's barbaric!" she exclaims.

"Is it? Should he be executed for treason instead, or be treated as an outcast for the rest of his life and lose all the brothers he holds dear, for one moment of indiscretion? Our ways are not yours, Jane. Our men are warriors, not scholars or accountants or teachers, at least not until we grow too old to do battle. A bit of pain is nothing compared to other prices he might pay, compared to what he would lose instead."

"Well, when you put it that way, it almost sounds reasonable."

"I think it is, and so have the men I have known in my life who have suffered those consequences. When I was a boy, I knew of a warrior who refused his just punishment. He was never trusted by any man again. He lost all his friends, and his woman left him, taking his children with her, because she could not bear the shame. He was believed to be a coward and a traitor. He finally left Asgard and was never heard of again. Not long after, a friend of our family's made a mistake during a battle with some dark elves that caused another of his company to be gravely wounded. He accepted the punishment for his carelessness with dignity, and was seen later that same night in a tavern with all his companions, being bought as much mead as he could consume, to drown the pain of his beating. They thought him brave to have accepted responsibility for his actions."

She nods slowly.

"Okay, maybe it's not such a bad way for your people then. Things don't work that way on Earth though. So how do I accept responsibility for being a moron and make it up to everybody?"

He sighs heavily and lets go of her hand, patting it as he stands up. He squares his shoulders and swallows hard, as though preparing himself for something he dreads. His hands go to his belt buckle and unfasten it slowly. Her eyes widen in horror. Oh no he isn't.

"I…gods help me Jane, go to the bedroom and take down your pants. Bend over the edge of the bed and await me there. I…I mean to punish you myself." He withdraws the belt from its loops and holds it, twisting it between his hands.

She presses herself back into the cushions of the sofa and stares at him in openmouthed astonishment.

"You have got to be fucking kidding me," she blurts, aghast.

"Nay, I do not jest with you. Think you this is easy for me? Tis the hardest thing I have ever had to do Jane, and I have done many hard things in my life! It will clear your slate with the rest of the team, and it is the only thing I can think of which will. Do you think I want to beat you?"

She leaps to her feet, glaring at him.

"Yes, I fucking DO think you want you want to, you sadistic bastard," she yells. "What do you think I am, stupid? You get OFF on hurting me, you know you do, and now you're trying to turn this into one more way you can get your fucking rocks off? I won't let you beat me, Thor. I'm not yours to abuse. Fuck that, and fuck YOU!"

His head snaps back as though she has slapped him, and all the color leaches from his face. He stares at her with his mouth open for a few seconds, then he drops the belt on the floor and silently leaves the suite, shutting the door gently behind him.

She walks woodenly to the bedroom and gets out her suitcase. She has to pause every few seconds in her packing to ferociously dash the tears from her face and sniffle, but she gets her clothing packed. She sneaks from the suite and out of the building. She hails a cab and rides to Stark Tower in silence.

The apartment Tony's been keeping for her is nice, though rather spare. She supposes he expected her to decorate it a bit on her own. There's a picture of the desert at sunset over the queen-sized bed. This small show of thoughtfulness on Tony's part makes her fall to pieces. She throws herself face down on the bed, and cries until she can hardly breathe. She has never felt so desolate in her life.

Fury finds her the next morning. He chews her up one side and down the other, which she deserves, and refuses to accept her resignation.

"So you'd risk the safety of the entire human race because you fucked up, Doctor?" he sneers relentlessly. She flinches. "You may think you're not important to our work here, but you are the only goddamned person in the fucking world who has learned anything real about wormhole theory or Einstein-Rosen bridges or whatever the hell it is, and without you, our research comes to a screeching halt. Stark and Banner may be geniuses, but they're an engineer and a nuclear physicist. You are the only one who can do what you do. Do you care so little for everybody else on this planet that you'd walk away because you made a stupid mistake? Do you think you've cornered the goddamn market on screwing up?" He's well and truly pissed now, and she shrinks from him in humiliation.

"No…I…I just don't think any of the rest of them are going to want to work with me anymore," she falters.

"That's too fucking bad," he roars. "They'll do their jobs, and I expect you to do yours too. You messed it up, you fucking FIX IT!" And he jumps to his feet and storms out, slamming the door. His exit is a lot easier to take than Thor's.

So she reports to work the next day as ordered, and when she gets to the lab, Bruce won't look at her. She works for a while on some calculations, and takes some readings from some simulations they've had running. After a while she can't stand the strained silence.

"Bruce," she says desperately. "I am so sorry. Please, forgive me."

He sighs, and takes off his glasses. Cleaning them with his handkerchief, he stares sightlessly at his computer.

"I almost killed you," he says finally. His voice is bleak.

"No! You didn't," she protests. "You hardly hurt me at all, just a couple scrapes and bruises!"

He shakes his head.

"You're not listening, Dr. Foster." This term of address rips at her heart. She has been Jane to him for a long time now. "When I say I almost killed you, I mean I almost couldn't stop….him….from killing you. He didn't recognize you. He wanted to kill you. He would have. It would have been easy. And I almost couldn't stop him."

"But you did," she cries. He looks at her now, and his brown eyes shine with tears at the same time that they burn with anger at her.

"How do you think I would have felt," he grinds out between his teeth, "If I had come back to myself to find I'd hurt you, or worse?"

"Bruce…" she whispers.

"HOW, Jane? HOW DO YOU THINK I'D HAVE FELT?" He roars these words out in agony, then leaps to his feet and runs from the lab. She doesn't see him again that day. The guilt eating at her worms even deeper into her gut.

She wanders down to the eatery where she and Natasha have shared time over coffee and croissants. She gets a mug, and a pastry, and sits down at a table where she lets the coffee get cold and picks the pastry apart. After about an hour, during which she stares sightlessly out the window, the opposite chair is pulled back and Natasha slides into it. Jane looks at her in surprise.

"Steve's going to be fine," she says solemnly. "They repaired a perforation in his small intestine, and his healing abilities are doing the rest. He got out of the infirmary this morning."

"Oh thank God," sighs Jane in relief.

"I thought you'd want to know," says Natasha tonelessly, and starts to get to her feet. Jane grabs her wrist and hangs on desperately. Natasha looks at her hand and raises an eyebrow.

"Natasha," she begs, "what should I do?"

Natasha sighs and sits back down a little reluctantly.

"I don't know, Jane. Everybody's pretty pissed. There's no way to candy coat it. Steve got hurt because of you. Thor had to choose between you and Steve. Nobody blames his choice, because despite the fact we're all pissed, nobody wants you dead, and you would have been. What the fuck were you thinking, anyway, coming there?"

"I wanted to bring Thor his helmet," she whispers in a tiny voice. Natasha looks at her incredulously for several heartbeats and then bursts out laughing. She laughs until she has to dab at her eyes with a napkin.

"Jesus, Jane. Fuck. The man has a skull like titanium! And you wanted to bring him his fucking helmet? What had you been drinking?"

"Thor's mead," she admits. Natasha whoops. She takes Jane's mug and swigs some of her coffee, making a face when she realizes it's cold.

"Ugh, that's nasty. Thor's mead. Well that explains it I guess. That shit could take paint off a helijet. Maybe even dissolve Cap's shield if you left it in long enough. Wanted to bring him his helmet. Oh wow."

"I don't think it's very funny," says Jane sullenly. Natasha can be a real bitch sometimes.

"The sentiment is fucking hilarious," argues Natasha matter-of-factly. "The consequences, not so much."

"So what should I do?"

"Hell Jane. I don't think flowers or chocolates are going to do the job. You made me laugh, and you're my friend, so I seem to find myself a little more inclined to forgive you now. I can probably talk Clint around. He's pretty agreeable when his dick's in my mouth." She smirks, and Jane flushes. "But the rest of them…do you have any idea what Bruce felt like? He really could have killed you."

"I know that now. I have no idea how to make it up to any of them, and Fury won't let me quit."

"Never would have figured you for a coward," says Natasha brutally. Jane winces. "What does Thor say about it?"

Jane stares at her hands and starts shredding the shreds of her croissant. She sighs, and feels her ears reddening with embarrassment.

"He wanted to beat me," she says finally. Natasha sits up straighter.

"He was going to HIT you?" she says, her voice rising an octave in shock.

"Not with his fists," says Jane defensively. She's furious that the man she trusted with her life would want to cause her real pain, but she can't let Natasha think this of him. "With his belt."

"Ohhhhh," says Natasha as realization dawns. "I see. So, what's the problem?"

Jane gapes at her in astonishment.

"I'm not going to just let him abuse me! A little kinky stuff in our sex life is fine. I…I kind of like that…but this isn't the same thing. He meant to really hurt me, I could tell."

"More than it would have hurt Bruce to have killed you?" asks Natasha cruelly. Jane flinches again. "More than the Chitauri hurt Steve?" Jane whimpers, and feels tears well up in her eyes. Natasha hands her a napkin.

"That's not fair," she whispers, blinking back the tears.

"Why is it not," asks Natasha, and her voice is cool. "Why is a blistered ass too high a price to pay for endangering all of us? You did something stupid and selfish, and you got off Scott free as far as the team is concerned. If Thor spanks you, and they hear about it, I think you'll find it makes a huge difference. Like I said earlier Jane. I never figured you for a coward." She gets to her feet and leaves the room. Jane goes back to staring out the window, but she's thinking about what Natasha said.

When she leaves, the goes back to the lab and sends emails to Tony, Steve (who she hopes can make it), Clint, Natasha and Bruce. She asks them all to be in the 17th floor media room in an hour. Then she goes back to Stark Tower and gets her suitcase, which, ok, she hasn't unpacked. She takes a shower and tries to make her knees stop shaking. Tries not to think about the muscles in his arms and shoulders. Tries not to think about what she's going to do if he won't let her in. Or if Bruce never forgives her.

45 minutes later, she knocks on the door to Thor's suite after making sure he's there on the scanners. There's a short pause, then he opens the door. He stares at her wordlessly.

"Can I come in?" she whispers. He nods, then turns his back and walks into the living room. She follows, setting her suitcase down beside the door. He leans up against the wall beside the television, crosses his arms over his chest, and looks at her. She sits down on the couch, wringing her hands a little and staring at the floor.

"Thor," she whispers. "I'm sorry."

"Sorry for what, Jane," he asks bleakly. She hears hoarse pain in his voice and cringes that she put it there.

"Sorry that I left. Sorry that I called you what I did, that I said those things. I was scared, and hurt. You always make me feel so safe. I guess I felt a little betrayed that you'd want to hurt me."

"Want to hurt you?" he cries in horror. "Is that what you think? That because I enjoy making you scream for me when we couple, that because it makes my cock hard as iron to torment you in the bedchamber, that it makes me also such a monster that I would take pleasure from causing you real pain? That I would use this horrible situation as a thinly veiled excuse to live out some sadistic fantasy?"

"No!" she says in consternation. "I didn't mean it that way. I didn't mean want to as in you'd enjoy it. I meant want to as in you'd…really do it."

"Why are you here, Jane?" he asks dully.

"Because I want you to," she says softly. He lifts his head and stares at her in confusion.

"You want me to what?"

"I…want you to…p…punish me," she says in a tiny voice. She's petrified. Her hands are shaking, so she clenches them together and stares fixedly at the carpet. His feet come into view, then he kneels in front of her. His strong fingers raise her chin, make her look at him. His blue eyes are soft.

"Are you sure, Jane?" he asks gently.

"I can't stand the way everyone is acting. It's horrible. Like the man you told me about, who lost all his friends. Will it…do you think it will help?"

"I do not know for certain, but I think so," he says solemnly. "Jane, do you believe this is truly something I wish to do? Can you not believe that I am as horrified by the prospect as you? I mean to hurt you a great deal, my love, and it goes against every fiber of my being!"

She puts her hand on his cheek, and smiles tremulously at him.

"It will be all right," she says softly. He stands up, heaving a huge sigh, and takes her hand. He helps her to her feet and leads her to the bedroom. She pulls free and he eyes her warily as if expecting her to rail at him again, or run away. While her throat is so dry she cannot swallow, she's finished running away. She goes to the wall, to the intercom monitor, and programs in a connection. Thor looks bewildered, but she shakes her head and walks back to him. He takes her in his arms and kisses her gently. She trembles hard, and her uncertainty washes away when she feels the love in his kiss.

She steps back, unbuttons her pants and pulls them down to her knees, along with her underwear. She bends forward and places her hands on the bed, staring at the gold pattern in the deep blue comforter. She hears him unbuckle his belt and the slither of it being pulled free. His breath shudders in a deep sigh, and she feels his warm hand on the small of her back. It's trembling. He clears his throat.

"Are you ready, Jane?" he asks huskily. She nods once, because it's all she can do. She doesn't think she could speak now if her life depended on it, doesn't think she could use words to give him permission to do what he's about to do. A nod is all she can manage.

When the first searing impact of leather on flesh comes, it takes her brain several seconds to process the event. Her body jerks and her knees start to buckle. Right about the time she manages to lock her knees, the sensation registers. She shrieks. She feels as though he has laid a red hot band of iron across both cheeks of her ass and that her skin has peeled back. The hand on the small of her back convulses a little, and this evidence of his turmoil somehow gives her courage. She breathes harshly through her nose, clenching her teeth, and resolves to bear the rest of it bravely, and not to scream anymore. This resolve lasts precisely as long as the next stroke. The pain is monstrous. He doesn't spare her, but applies the heavy strap to her naked backside with resolve and with great force. Was it any other man, she would say he was beating her with all his strength, but of course she knows this is not the case. It does little to comfort her, as she howls in pain when the leather sears her bottom again. Her ass is on fire. She doesn't believe it can possibly hurt any worse, until he lays down another stroke and it does. He paints her ass with blazing agony while she screams and sobs and shudders. When the belt strikes the top of her thighs she thinks they probably don't need the intercom to hear her. There are probably dogs barking in Queens. It's endless. She's bawling like a little girl, and doesn't care who hears her, because it hurts so FUCKING MUCH. When she'd decided to do this, she'd really had no idea how bad it was going to be. Her resolve shatters and she babbles incoherently between shrieks as the belt strikes her over and over.

"I'm sorry! I'm sorry! OWWW! Oh PLEASE no more, I can't! OOOHHH! I'll never NEVER do it again! OOWWW! Thor please! AHH! Nomorenomorenomore NO MORE PLEASE THOR PLEASE!"

He hurls the belt across the room. She dimly hears it hit the wall, then he's sitting beside her and hauls her into his arms and onto his lap. She howls when her bottom makes contact with the rough denim of his jeans, but throws her arms around his neck anyway. She sobs brokenly into his neck, her tears and snot wetting his shirt. She doesn't care. He obviously doesn't either, as he holds her close and rocks her, and murmurs softly to her through her bawling.

"Jane. Jane, I forgive you. I am so sorry, my love. I know, it hurts. Please forgive me Jane, it is all right now, hush. Shh, my heart, you were so brave. Please don't cry anymore."

"I huh…huh…have to," she wails. "It ruh…ruh…really hurrrttss…"

"I know, my brave girl, I know," he whispers, his voice breaking. She pulls back a little and looks at him through her tears. He's weeping silently, silvery tears rolling down his beautiful face. She reaches up and puts her hand against his cheek. She hiccups a little, and throttles down on her crying in her amazement at seeing him so undone.

"It's all right," she whispers in a watery voice. "I forgive you too."

"Well I don't," says Tony's voice crossly over the intercom. "Did you have to half-kill her like that? Jesus Thor, she's just a little thing!" There is no resentment at all in his voice.

"Christ Jane," says Clint's voice in admiration. "I never knew you had such a set of lungs on you!"

"I forgive you Jane." Steve's voice is a little thready and weak, but he is clearly going to be fine.

And oh, best of all…

"Come down to the lab later," she hears Bruce say, and there is warmth in his voice. "There's some anti-inflammatory cream in the first aid kit."

"See?" says Natasha smugly.

Jane presses her forehead against Thor's and laughs. His shoulders are shaking with laughter too. The others laugh as well, and her heart soars when she realizes they're okay now. The sound of their laughter cuts off as someone there turns off the intercom.

Thor kisses her gently and brushes her hair back where strands of it cling wetly to her cheeks.

"Jane," he murmurs against her lips.

"Hmmm?" she sighs, kissing him back.

"Will you think me a horrible bastard if I tell you that your arse is burning through these breeches like a firebrand and I've a terrible cockstand, and that though I know it may make me a villain of the vilest order, I feel if I do not have you now, I shall die?"

His words fire straight to her belly like darts of molten heat, and she becomes abruptly aware that his erection presses urgently against her beaten and aching bottom, and that in reaction to it her pussy drools shamelessly.

"I think I'll kill you if you don't have me now," she gasps out, and he stands up, still holding her. He yanks her pants the rest of the way off and lowers her to the bed gently. She whimpers when her ass comes in contact with the embroidery of the bedspread. A wicked grin flashes across his face as he unfastens his pants and kneels between her legs. He holds himself up on one arm while his other hand pushes his pants down and guides his enormous cock towards her entrance. His eyes seek hers anxiously.

"Jane," he grinds out painfully. "I don't wish to cause you further pain….but Jane…I do not think I can….I am not sure I can…be gentle…" He's breathing hard, and she can see the fine trembling in his muscles with the effort of holding himself back.

"Then don't," she says softly, and reaches for him.

With an almost animal groan, he buries himself inside her to the balls with one brutal thrust. She cries out in pain and delight as her blistered bottom scrapes hard against the rough fabric and her pussy clenches tightly around him at the same time. He fucks into her mindlessly, his blue eyes blind with the primal need to possess her, to claim that which he has conquered. Dimly, on some level, she is aware that she should be outraged at this rather primitive reaction he's having to beating his woman, but her traitorous body is too roused to him to care one whit. It hurts, both inside her where he batters at the entrance to her womb as though he will climb inside her, and where her bottom is ground brutally into the bed and the tiny gold threads scrape at her swollen flesh like sandpaper, but she's already coming, and her fingernails score deep lines into the hard muscle of his back, which makes him snarl at her in rage and pleasure. Fuck, he's just so hot when he's a beast this way. She claws him harder, and he leans down and sinks his teeth into her throat, the growl in his chest almost rattling her teeth. God, she wonders if they're going to survive what they do to each other, but she just doesn't care. Then she's coming AGAIN, and she's sobbing his name and begging, and she doesn't even know what she's begging for. She has no idea if she wants him to stop or to never. Then knows, when he throws his head back and roars his release while he shakes in her arms, that it's never.

"Never stop," she whispers, though she doesn't think he hears her as he's blinded and deafened by his pleasure.

She realizes she was wrong, later, when he holds her close to him, rolls so she is lying on top of him, which is an enormous relief to her abused backside. His big hand slides down and gently pats her ass, which makes her whimper and him chuckle.

"Not until the sun falls into the sea," he says comfortably.