Disclaimer: I do not own Thor or Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, nor do I make any profit from this story.
A/N: I finally acquired the entire 'Marvel Cinematic Experience' on DVD, which prompted a marathon. Blame that.
A/N 2: A whole lot of creative license went into Willow's multiverse theories. But that's what happens when you try to reconcile multiple, contradictory canons with actual scientific theories, of which there are many.
A/N 3: This turned out kind of long for a one part story, but it just refused to be broken up. Fair warning.
Major spoilers for Thor, but that should be obvious. Some dialogue borrowed from the movie. Especially the post-credits scene!
Through the Door
Buffy sighed, and brushed her bangs out of her eyes.
She cleared the catalog's previous search results – A Quick Guide to Beowulf [videorecording] – because that English paper was not something she ever wanted to think about again, not even a decade after the fact, and drummed her fingers absently against the keyboard. She was searching for a…for a what? A hobby?
The New York Public Library System had a surprisingly good collection of supernatural resources if you knew what you were looking for, but if Buffy had wanted demonology she would have started with her own bookshelf. She was bored and restless, but she wanted something non-work-related to occupy her time. It was a novel idea, really, spare time; even in the eight years since Sunnydale collapsed, she had found little time for non-slayery activities. If she wasn't actually slaying, she was coordinating field ops, or training the girls, or – and this one was the killer – doing paperwork. There were definitely times when Buffy wished she could go back to the old days of being the 'one girl in all the world' if only it meant no paperwork.
But in the last six months, Buffy's schedule had been bafflingly open, and she was honestly having trouble filling the hours. She was lucky if she dusted one vamp a week, even in New York City. She had moved back to the States because the North American Headquarters had needed another senior Council member on staff, but she was beginning to get the sense that Giles was just trying to get her out of his rapidly greying hair. And after her thirtieth birthday – a debacle of epic proportions that would never be discussed again – she couldn't help but wonder if this was his subtle way of putting her out to pasture.
It was all very concerning.
Buffy's phone pinged softly inside her pocket. She pulled it out and slid her finger across the screen, glancing down at the new text message.
Get extra eggrolls.
She grinned to herself, and typed out a reply.
Is that your way of asking me to pick up dinner?
Her phone pinged again a few seconds later, louder than before now that it wasn't muffled. The librarian working at the station beside her threw her a dirty look, but Buffy ignored it. She'd been ignoring disgruntled librarians for most of her life.
Three eggrolls, at least. And pork fried rice.
Willow! Bad Jew!
Don't sass me. Bring chopsticks.
Buffy bit back a laugh and slipped the phone back into her jacket pocket.
Forty-five minutes later, she stepped out of the elevator onto the R&D level of Council Headquarters, take out back in one hand, two enormous mochachinos balanced in a cardboard tray in the other. Most of the labs and work stations she passed were lit up and buzzing with activity, despite it being well after eight o'clock. This was hardly unusual; half of the Council was nocturnal anyways.
Humming tunelessly as she reached the big laboratory at the back, she smiled and nodded to one of Willow's assistants. "Hey, John. Where's the Wicked Witch?"
He gave a six-fingered wave in response, and pointed towards the closed office door. "She's all riled up," he warned.
"I come prepared," Buffy said, holding the mochachinos aloft.
He blinked two sets of eyelids. "That's not reassuring."
Buffy stuck out her tongue good naturedly, and rapped lightly on the office door before letting herself in. Willow was parked in front of a wall of glowing monitors. She was spinning in slow circles in her swivel chair, eyes rolled up at the ceiling, her phone pressed between her ear and shoulder.
Finally! she mouthed when she caught sight of Buffy. She reached for her mochachino and made grabby motions.
Buffy gave her a look and held it out of reach.
Willow smiled sheepishly. "Sorry," she said out loud. "What? No, I was talking to Buffy." She stuck out her bottom lip and pouted. Buffy snorted, but handed the coffee over and started pulling take out boxes out of the bag.
"No, Giles, I'm not – I'm not suggesting –" Willow made a strangled sound and mimed throttling someone. Buffy snickered softly.
"I know L.A. didn't pick up anything unusual but they're working with completely outdated systems – no, I'm not being petty! Giles! Just listen to me for a minute. I'm not saying we launch a full scale investigation, but I'm telling you –" She fell silent again, listening.
Buffy pulled up another chair and separated a pair of chopsticks. She wished she could hear the other side of the conversation.
"Fine. Yeah, ok. Yes, I get it. I'll talk to you tomorrow." She ended the call and looked at Buffy. "Why is hanging up so unsatisfying on a smartphone?"
Buffy laughed and handed over the eggrolls. "Can't you magic something up?"
Council-issued tech was all heavily modified from what was typically available to the public, but Willow's phone was practically a work of art. What had started out of necessity for their line of work – magic and science were a hairsbreadth apart if you looked at things from the right angle, but certain energies had bafflingly strange effects on electronic equipment – had become something of a passion, prompting her to go so far as to obtain multiple degrees in related fields.
"I've tried," she admitted ruefully. "It kept messing with the autocorrect." She stuffed half an eggroll in her mouth and chewed viciously.
"What's up Giles' butt?" Buffy asked indelicately, toeing off her shoes and propping her feet up on the desk. She sensed that Willow needed to rant.
"He's such a jerk face!" Willow exploded. "He's all, I think you're overstating things, Willow, and Let's not be rash, Willow, and you can't pull a team just to satisfy your idle curiosity, Willow, and he's just so….so British!"
"Comes from being British," Buffy agreed sagely.
"And I am so not overstating things!" Willow continued. "Whatever it was, it was huge! I don't care what L.A. says, they're a bunch of morons. I have all the readings –" she waved a hand at the data on her screens, " – and it's totally worth looking into. He's just punishing me for that little hiccup in Belarus last month," she finished with a pout.
"While I totally and one hundred percent agree with everything you just said," Buffy said emphatically, "what, exactly, are we talking about?"
"There was a massive energy surge in New Mexico last night," Willow explained. "It came out of nowhere."
"Energy, like magical energy?" Buffy guessed. "Bad magical energy?"
Willow shrugged. "I have no idea. Energy's energy – science and magic, those are just different ways of looking at things. Magic is channeling and manipulating energy. You have to have a talent for manipulating it in its raw form, but most people can cast a spell if they follow the proper ritual. Like mixing chemicals to achieve a certain reaction. It's all about the ingredients and the timing." She paused to take a sip of coffee. "An energy spike like this one could have come from anything, that's just it, but that's the problem. It didn't come from anything. Which makes no sense."
"So what's in New Mexico that we don't know about?" Buffy wondered.
"Nothing. A couple of storm chasers. The nearest town is fifty miles away, and it's got a population of like, two thousand people. I tapped into a few satellite feeds, and there's just nothing on the ground."
"Maybe." Willow worried at her bottom lip. "That's what Giles thinks, because there were lightning storms nearby, but…"
"But you think it's something else."
"Maybe," Willow said again. "The basic law of energy conservation states that energy cannot be created or destroyed. It can change from one type of energy to another, but in an isolated system, the total quantity must remain the same over time. This was like…a sudden influx of energy that came out of nowhere. At least, nowhere nearby. And then it was just…gone."
Buffy sat up straighter, chopsticks hovering over her veggie stir fry. "What are you saying?"
"The thing is," Willow said slowly, "we don't live in an entirely isolated system. Sometimes, the door gets left open."
"And things find their way inside," Buffy said, filling in the blank. "Usually nasty, hard-to-kill things."
"Unfortunately, yes," Willow said regretfully.
"You think someone was trying to open a portal? And the energy came from…somewhere else?"
"Well, we know it's possible to travel between dimensions. But it doesn't always work in the same way. I mean, take summoning a demon for example. A lot of demons – the one that require a summons, at any rate – live on different planes of existence. When they're summoned into our dimension, their powers are restricted by the laws of this universe. They don't upset the balance, because they don't count as new energy. It's like…digital data that just has to be converted to a physical form. They were always a part of the same network. But when a dimension isn't part of our network, moving between that one and this can cause a major disruption. This is practically impossible to research, because the potential consequences of tearing through the metaphysical walls are incalculable. We've seen what can happen when someone tries."
"Exactly. And when…and when we brought you back."
Buffy nodded and reached for her own coffee, expecting this. "So, is the balance disrupted?" Her tone was light, but there was a tense set to her posture.
"No," Willow said immediately, shaking her head. "I don't think so. Whatever it was, it's gone. Or changed. Maybe it did come from our network – general relativity theory is open-ended about whether there's a conservation of energy for the entire universe, after all. And I don't think Einstein knew about Arashmahaar or The World Without Shrimp." She sighed, and leaned back in her chair. "It's hard to describe, but it felt more like an echo? I can't make heads or tails of the readings. It's all so inconclusive. If I could take a look around the area of the anomaly, maybe I could pick up some residual energy signatures that could at least point me in the right direction. But Giles won't let me send a team."
Buffy chewed thoughtfully. "Do you really need a team to collect energy signatures?"
Willow looked up in surprise. "Well, no. Not really. But you know how Giles gets about security protocols and potential threats. He wants to do everything by the books."
Buffy rolled her eyes. "And when have we ever done things by the book? Honestly, Giles has been spending way too much time in Tweed Land – he's getting all repressed again."
Willow laughed and snagged the last eggroll. "We definitely need to stage an intervention."
"So, up for a little old school Scooby sleuthing?" Buffy urged, grinning. "I hear New Mexico's nice this time of year. Plus, the fortune cookie wants us to."
She held up the tiny slip of paper.
Go for it.
It became obvious almost immediately that there was a lot more than nothing and storm chasers in New Mexico.
Buffy blinked away the sun spots that Willow's brand of teleportation sometimes brought on, and fell automatically into a fighting stance when she realized they were not alone.
They had materialized in the middle of a muddy enclosure. The ground was wet, but the sky above was clear and bright with stars. Scientist-types wearing ponchos were scurrying all around with notebooks and scanning equipment.
"Who called the welcoming committee?" Buffy hissed sideways at Willow. Willow didn't answer, and Buffy chanced a quick look over her shoulder. Willow's brows were pinched together in concentration, and her eyes were closed. She had one hand extended in front of her like she was feeling around for something in the air. Pale streaks of white stood out against the red of her hair.
"Willow?" Buffy said, a little louder to catch her attention; because judging from all the shouting and the blaring alarm klaxon, they'd been noticed. She put herself between Willow and their welcoming squad, eyes darting from left to right, evaluating their position. It was tight quarters, and with Willow so close, there wasn't room to summon the scythe. So she grabbed the closest – only – thing she could use as a weapon and took up an aggressive position.
It was like throwing a power switch.
Everyone froze, and Buffy felt the uncomfortable prickle that came from having the acute attention of two dozen eyes focused on her with laser precision. Or more accurately, on her makeshift weapon, which was a – she looked down – hammer? She hefted it experimentally. It had a good feel to it. A little on the light side, maybe, but she could deal. Apart from that one failed attempt at construction work, she was good with hammers.
Buffy's gaze snapped upwards. A man in a dark suit had appeared at the railing above them. A white tunnel stretched out behind him. He had a walkie talkie clenched in one hand, and though he wasn't outright glaring, she sensed it was a close thing. Government, was Buffy's first instinct. His hairstyle and tie choice totally gave it away. And since they were standing in the middle of some kind of improvised facility full of scientists and mud and strange hammers that tingled when she held them, Buffy was willing to bet that he belonged to a division that had a fancy acronym for a name. Well, that was kind of shitty luck, but the Council was on mostly good terms with the US government these days. Hopefully, this could all be smoothed over with a few phone calls.
"You first," she called back, stalling. There were men with guns trained on them now. She felt Willow move up to stand by her shoulder.
"You are in no position to be asking questions," the man shot back. "You are trespassing on a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility. Surrender yourselves immediately."
"We're with the WSC," Buffy threw out, testing the waters. If this guy was as top-secret as he seemed, maybe he'd heard the name. "I'm Commander Summers, and my colleague is Dr. Rosenberg. We're not here to fight," she added, somewhat absurdly, considering the enormous hammer she was holding like a billy club. To be fair, the other guys had semi-automatics. And…was that a crossbow? Huh.
"I'm not familiar with that organization," the man replied, his frown deepening. "I don't know how you got past my security, but I will find out."
Willow touched Buffy's arm. Her hair was back to normal, and her eyes were open and calculating. Play along, she said telepathically.
"Tell your men to stand down and we'll cooperate," Buffy said firmly. "We will allow ourselves to be escorted, but no guns."
The man didn't look happy, but after a moment he nodded his assent. "Lower your guns," he said into his walkie talkie. Another nod, and four men in tactical gear dropped into the enclosure. One of them had a black eye, Buffy noted with curiosity, and all of them had mud smears on their uniforms.
"Follow me, Ma'ams," one of them said, leading the way. Two of his teammates flanked them on either side, and the fourth took up the rear. Buffy let the hammer swing casually in time with her stride, and laced her fingers through Willow's when Willow reached out for her other hand. It was a familiar gesture that often gave people the wrong impression about their relationship, but it had served them well in sticky situations before. If the Men In Black tried to pull anything untoward, Willow could teleport them away in the blink of an eye.
They were led along a short, plastic lined corridor, past a room full of scientific equipment and glowing monitors, and pushed inside a holding chamber. The room was bright white and completely empty save for a single chair. Large boot prints littered the floor around it, and the chair was streaked with dried mug. Buffy raised an eyebrow at that, and recalled the battered look of their security detail. Not the first uninvited visitors to drop in, then. And whoever had been there first had put up a fight. Interesting, but where were they now?
The man who seemed to be in charge of the operation appeared in the doorway, and motioned for their escorts to leave.
"My name is Agent Coulson," he began, assuming an authoritative stance. "I represent S.H.I.E.L.D. You will answer my questions. Who are you working for?"
"As Commander Summers said before," Willow spoke up for the first time, "we belong to an organization called the WSC."
The lilt of amusement that entered her voice at the words 'Commander Summers' was subtle, but present. Buffy fought the urge to roll her eyes. She blamed Giles for that one, but it was true enough that she could hardly go around introducing herself as a Vampire Slayer to every Tom, Dick and Harry. They had schemed up a whole gammit of titles and codenames for dealing with the outside world. Buffy usually just went with her name, but the military respected hierarchies and undercover government research operations were just a hop, skip, and a jump away from military.
Agent Coulson paused, and adjusted his earpiece. "My associates have just confirmed that no such organization exists. I repeat, who are you working for?"
"You may know us as the Council," Willow went on, unperturbed. She was using her reasonable voice, but Buffy knew that beneath the pleasantness lurked steely resolve and a you have no idea who you're messing with attitude.
Coulson regarded them silently for a moment, before switching tactics. "I am a reasonable man, Dr. Rosenberg. But I do not take kindly to trespassers. Especially thieves." He looked pointedly at Buffy's new hammer.
Play along, Willow reminded her.
"Oh, I'm so sorry," Buffy said, adopting an apologetic tone. She stepped forward and handed the hammer to Coulson. He reached for it automatically, and pitched forward the second Buffy released the handle. The hammer plummeted to the floor and sat heavily.
"What have you done to it?" Coulson demanded. "How did you remove it from the rock?"
"Just call me Arthur," Buffy quipped. Really, this pulling weapons from rocks business was starting to become a thing with her.
Coulson's eyes narrowed. "Are you working with Donald Blake?"
Buffy bent at the waist and retrieved the hammer. It was still light to her touch, and the metal hummed pleasantly. "I've never heard of Donald Blake," she said truthfully.
"Is that the name of the man who beat up your guards?" Willow pressed, and there was that hint of steel. She had obviously come to the same conclusions that Buffy had.
"You might want to think about tightening up your security," Buffy suggested lightly, tossing the hammer easily over one shoulder. "We breezed right by."
Coulson didn't rise to the bait, but his eyes followed the arc of the hammer. "Tell me why you're after the hammer."
"Why are you so interested in the hammer?" Willow asked, once again turning his question around. "It's obviously useless to you." Her gaze dipped down to the small crater in the floor left in the hammer's wake.
Couslon made a sound of frustration.
"You have no idea what it is," Willow concluded. There was the unspoken implication that she and Buffy did, which was an absolute load of BS. "You're also investigating Einstein-Rosen bridges." She jerked her head towards the glass wall – obviously a two way mirror – and the room full of equipment and scientists on the other side. "Why?"
"How do you know that? Have you been talking to Jane Foster?"
"Who's Jane Foster?" Buffy said, raising an eyebrow.
"Your readings are unmistakable," Willow said dismissively. "Why is S.H.I.E.L.D. interested in wormholes?"
Buffy marveled at the way Willow made it sound like she knew exactly who or what S.H.I.E.L.D. even was.
"Dr. Rosenberg, you are not in any position to be –"
"Agent Coulson," Willow interrupted, cutting him off, "I suggest you contact your superiors. You may be unfamiliar with the WSC, but the Oval Office and the United Nations Security Council are not, and unless you want the international community riding S.H.I.E.L.D.'s collective ass, I suggest you check with them before continuing your…interrogation."
Coulson regarded them for a moment before reaching a decision. "Don't move," he said finally, and left the way he had entered.
Taking the directive as a general command rather than a literal one, Buffy turned to Willow. Willow's eyes flicked upwards towards the ceiling, and Buffy followed her gaze to a security camera. Getting the message, she nodded.
How long will that take him? Buffy thought in Willow's direction.
The corners of Willow's lips twitched upwards, but her mental voice was hesitant. Buffy…
What's wrong? Buffy thought back immediately.
Do you remember what I said about doors?
I think we just walked through one.
Buffy's eyes widened in surprise. You mean…?
There was nothing on the ground in New Mexico. But this isn't our New Mexico.
Okay, not panicking. Definitely not panicking. Should we be panicking?
I can still use magic, Willow replied, shaking her head. Hold off on the panic.
How did this happen?
I have no idea. But we're in a top secret facility that's researching wormholes.
You think it's related?
How could it not be?
You think we should hang around?
Willow nodded. I want to find out what's going on here. If they're looking into the physics behind dimensional travel…
So we sit tight, Buffy concluded, sighing out loud. Oh what fun.
They sat tight for over five hours. Willow spent much of the time meditating, but Buffy was beginning to get seriously antsy. She was about to say fuck it, let's blow this joint when a sudden flurry of activity on the other side if the mirror caught her attention. She couldn't see what was going on, but she could hear the whine of electrical static and equipment malfunctioning, and the shouts of the scientists. She was on her feet in an instant, Willow right behind her.
"What's happening?" she said out loud.
"Another energy flare," Willow said, eyes darting in all directions, half-focused like she was staring at something that wasn't really there. She shook her head. "It's over now, but it was strong. Much stronger than before."
"Here?" Buffy asked.
"Northeast," Willow said, staring through the mirror at the scramble of activity. She looked at Buffy. "Ready to blow this joint?"
Buffy winced. "Did I say that out loud?"
"I was thinking it, too," Willow said. She looked at the security camera, and whispered something under her breath. There was a loud pop of static crackle, and then the camera jerked and started to smoke. "Oops."
She grabbed Buffy's hand, and Buffy scooped up her new hammer, and then there was a familiar squeezing sensation, and they were standing in the middle of the desert, blinking away actual sunspots in the bright morning glare.
Buffy turned around in a complete circle. "What the – there's nothing here?"
"Look." Willow pointed down by their feet. A large circle of hardened earth spread out around them, covered in intricately woven designs. It looked vaguely Celtic.
Buffy spared it a glance, but she was still scanning the horizon. "There!" she said, pointing. In the distance, a small group of people was moving away from them. She squinted, but the sunlight was throwing her vision off. Were they wearing armor? "Follow them?"
Willow nodded eagerly, and off they went.
They followed the foursome for several miles, careful to hang far enough back so they wouldn't be spotted. However, the group seemed completely oblivious to the tail they had picked up, and Willow and Buffy managed to follow them into town without detection. As they drew stealthily closer to their quarry (Willow may or may not have been responsible for a light shielding spell) Buffy confirmed that they were, indeed, wearing armor – and not the kind made out of Kevlar.
There was obviously something very strange going on, but Buffy had to admit that she felt more comfortable with these new players than she had with S.H.I.E.L.D., whoever they were. Medieval weaponry and magical portals were much more familiar territory than semi-automatics and special-ops.
The townsfolk gave the group ahead of them a wide berth, but no one tried to stop them as they headed for the center of town and made a beeline for a building with tall windows and glass doors. They disappeared inside, and Buffy and Willow exchanged glances.
Buffy shrugged. "Might as well." She flipped the hammer up over her shoulder and they crossed the street. As they drew closer, they could hear the conversation inside.
"…but you should not have come," a large blonde man wearing dark plaid addressed the group of knights.
They stared at him in surprise. "We're here to take you home," one of them said, taken aback.
"I'm curious," Willow said loudly, stopping just outside the open doors. "Where is home, exactly?"
They all spun around and stared, and one of the women eeped in surprise.
"Nice axe," Buffy tossed out, nodding politely to one of the knights whose beard reminded her a little of the Cowardly Lion.
"I – thank you?" He blinked at her confusedly.
One of the women not wearing armor (but plaid – it seemed to be one or the other with these people) stepped forward. "Okay, who the heck are you?"
"Mjölnir!" plaid-guy burst out, lunging forward at Buffy.
Buffy took a step back hurriedly. "What?"
"That's Mewmew?" A young woman with dark curls and glasses looked at Buffy skeptically. "I thought it'd be bigger."
"Hey!" Buffy exclaimed. "No short jokes!"
"Mjölnir!" plaid-guy repeated, a little desperately. "How do you carry it?"
"Oh, um, you mean this?" Buffy lifted the hammer off her shoulder. "It's not that heavy."
Everyone stared at her. Buffy rolled her eyes. That was getting really old.
"Mjölnir," Willow repeated suddenly. "You're Thor?"
Buffy startled. "What?"
"The Norse God of Thunder," Willow explained helpfully.
"Yeah, I know who Thor is – that's Thor?!"
"I am Thor," Thor said quickly. "You wield Mjölnir!"
"Well, I wouldn't say wield…"
"No one but Thor can wield the hammer," one of the knights – or were they all gods? Viking gods? – said, sounding awed.
"Look, I'm not trying to steal it," Buffy defended. "I just didn't want to leave it with S.H.I.E.L.D.. Here, have it back." She held it out to Thor, who honestly looked like he was going to cry, and gave it a shake. "Seriously, I've got my own weapons."
"I…cannot," Thor said, his voice cracking. "The Allfather cast me from Asgard, and rendered me mortal. Friends –" he turned back to the Vikings " – I cannot go home. Peace with Jötunheim is contingent upon it. I do not blame Loki for making such a bargain – now that father is dead, he must do what is right for the realm."
"But Thor," the female Viking said, something twisting in her expression, "your father still lives!"
Thor stared at her, open mouthed. "What?" he whispered.
"This is Loki's trickery!" the dark-haired warrior said vehemently.
"No, he would not – he is my brother," Thor said, helplessly.
"Your brother cannot be trusted!"
"Okay, not to break up the family feud, but can someone please tell me what the hell is going on here?" the young woman with glasses finally snapped. "First – who are you and where did you come from?" She pointed at Buffy and Willow, drawing everyone's attention away from Thor.
"I'm Buffy Summers," Buffy introduced herself quickly. "We followed you in from the desert." She glanced down at Thor's muddy boots and put two and two together. "I take it you're the guy who wailed on Agent Coulson's security team?"
"You're with S.H.I.E.L.D.?" the older of the non-Viking women asked quickly. She glared at them accusatorially.
Buffy let Mjölnir fall to the ground with a thunk and held up her hands. "No, no, we were their prisoners. We totally landed on top of them by mistake." She had a feeling Agent Coulson would prefer the term 'detainees' to 'prisoners,' but hey, she called it like she saw it.
"Landed?" This came from the older man who had yet to speak.
"Um, yeah," Buffy said edgily, rubbing the back of her neck. "It's kind of a long story…"
"We're from a different universe," Willow said bluntly.
"Never mind, not that long."
"Excuse me?" His mouth fell open.
"Do you believe in magic?" Willow asked.
The Vikings all nodded, but the others looked unsure.
"I'm beginning to," the older woman said finally.
"What she said," the girl with glasses agreed. "Hi, I'm Darcy. This is Jane." She jerked her thumb at her companion.
"And we are the Lady Sif and the Warriors Three," Red-Beard introduced politely, gesturing to his companions. "You've met Thor."
"And I am Dr. Erik Selvig," the older gentleman added.
"Dr. Willow Rosenberg," Willow introduced, shaking Dr. Selvig's hand.
"You are not from Midgard?" Thor stepped forward hesitantly, a frown marring his features.
"Well, we are from Earth," Willow disagreed. "Just not this Earth. Two nights ago, I detected an energy anomaly in the middle of the New Mexico desert. Buffy and I teleported out there to take a look, but something got tangled up along the way and we accidentally slipped into this universe by mistake. Judging from the data I saw at S.H.I.E.L.D.'s facility, and what I felt this morning, what I thought was an energy spike in our universe was just an echo of whatever's been going on here."
"I'm sorry, did you just say you teleported?" Jane interrupted.
Willow grinned. "I'm a witch."
"Right. Of course you are."
Willow snapped her fingers and the broken coffee mug on the floor put itself back together.
"That was Thor," Darcy said helpfully. "What you felt two nights ago. He fell out of the sky and Jane hit him with the car."
"It was an accident! And you tazed him!"
Jane looked like she wanted to say something else, but a distant rumble caught them all off guard. They all ran to the door to look. Past the edge of town, a tornado touched down to earth.
"Another portal," Willow breathed. Her hair stood out slightly as though from static electricity.
Sunlight gleamed off of something metallic in the distance and there was a huge flare of light, and the sound of a small explosion.
"The Destroyer," Thor said.
"Well, that sounds ominous," Buffy said. She tried to sound dismayed, but it came out more excited than anything. Damn, had it really been that long since she'd had a good fight?
"Loki," the dark-haired warrior spat.
"Jane, you have to leave," Thor told her urgently.
"What are you going to do?"
He stared down the main street. "I'm staying here."
The red-bearded warrior whose axe Buffy had admired beamed. "Thor's going to fight with us!"
Thor rounded on them. "My friends, I'm just a man. I'll only be in the way – or worse, get one of you killed." He looked around the square. "But I can help get these people to safety."
"Well, if you're staying then so am I," Jane said fiercely.
"Count me in," Buffy agreed.
"We'll need some time," said the short-haired blonde.
"You'll have it," promised Thor.
"Okay, move it people!" Darcy yelled as they all scattered.
"Buffy?" Willow asked, teetering on the edge of indecision.
"Help Thor first," Buffy decided. She glanced down the street. The Destroyer was big. And flamey. "I don't want any casualties."
Willow nodded. "Be careful."
Buffy grinned "Always am." She turned and ran. "Hey, guys! Wait up!"
"You stay to battle?" Sif asked in surprise when Buffy fell into step beside her.
"It's what I do," Buffy explained.
"Where is Mjölnir? You cannot fight barehanded!"
"Like I said, I've got my own weapons." Buffy didn't break stride, but gave a sharp twist of her hands and pulled the scythe out of thin air. Well, a pocket dimension. She was relieved that that still worked. The red blade gleamed as brightly as ever.
Sif nodded, and fell back. "Keep it distracted," she commanded them, darting off to the side.
With a roar and a boost from his companions, Red-Beard launched himself at the giant robot of doom. "For Asgaaaaarrrrddddd!"
The Destroyer swatted him down like a fly, and he landed on the crumbled hood of a car. Buffy was about to leap into action, when a movement on the roof caught her eye, and then Sif was launching herself into the air. She landed on the Destroyer's shoulders, and slammed her spear through the back of its neck. Its head dropped down, and the flames flickered out.
"No way is it that easy!" Buffy groused, skidding to a halt. She hadn't even hit anything yet!
Almost in answer to her statement, the flames surged up again, and the links of its metal body rotated so its open visor was face to face with Sif. She yanked her spear free and barely managed to dive to one side as the Destroyer let out a huge burst of flame that would have incinerated her.
"Fall back!" she yelled, scrambling to her feet.
"Fuck that," Buffy said, and darted forward. She swung the scythe around in a whirling arc, aiming for one of its legs. The ancient weapon sliced through the metal like butter, and the Destroyer stumbled. Buffy somersaulted forward to avoid another blast as it went down to one knee. Leaping up again, she spun to face it.
Just as Sif's blow had done little to slow it down, Buffy's attack had only momentarily hindered it. The scattered metal plates that made up its lower left leg vibrated and jumped back into place like they were magnetized. Well, its insides were made of fire, so she supposed she couldn't really expect sharp weapons to do much damage.
It kind of reminded her of the Judge in that way, except she didn't think a rocket launcher was the answer this time. Maybe a freeze-ray? Ooh, what if it –
Shut up, she told her inner Andrew, and scrambled out of the way as it shot another stream of fire in her direction. Tactfully deciding that maybe it was time to fall back, or at least try to lead it away from the main street, Buffy took off running.
She wasn't quick enough to avoid the next sweep of fire, and she found herself suddenly airborne and spiraling. She clenched her eyes tightly shut as her back connected with a pane of glass and she crashed to the floor of a shop in a smoking heap. Ignoring the shards of glass that were cutting through her jeans, she swatted at the hem of her jacket to extinguish the flames. Lurching upwards, she ducked under a twisted metal I-beam and stepped back into the street.
Willow! she thought as loudly as she could. Could use a little help! Weapons are a no-go!
I'm coming! Willow thought back. Hang on!
The Destroyer had moved past her position, and she couldn't see the Warriors or Sif. She raced after the hulking metal monstrosity, leaping over the tangled wrecks of cars and lampposts.
Buffy! Willow's voice entered her mind again. Something in her tone made Buffy skid to a halt. She looked past the Destroyer. Thor was walking down the middle of the street, heading straight for it.
"Is he an idiot?" Buffy said out loud, her mouth falling open in surprise. "Hey you!" she yelled, moving forward again. "Tin can! Yeah, I'm talking to you!"
She didn't know if the Destroyer could hear her – where would its ears even be? – but something made it pause. Slowly, its body rotated to face her.
"Hi!" she chirped, planting herself in front of it. "Why don't you pick on someone your own size?"
It was an absurd insult given the circumstances and the measurements, but tradition was tradition. This time, when the blast came, she didn't dive to the side, but swept her scythe up and out, deflecting it. She tried to angle it back at the Destroyer itself, but the force of the blow was too strong, and she flew backwards with a grunt of pain. Sitting up dazedly, she saw it turn and resume its course towards Thor. Thor was speaking.
"Brother, whatever I have done to wrong you, whatever I have done to lead you to do this, I am truly sorry."
Was he trying to talk it down? More importantly – that thing was Thor's brother?! He went on.
"But these people are innocent. Taking their lives will gain you nothing. So take mine, and end this."
"Crap," Buffy hissed between her teeth. But to her surprise, the flames inside the metal suit were dying down. Had Thor's plea actually worked? The Destroyer halted, and began to turn away, but in a sudden blur of movement, it twisted around and backhanded Thor across the chest and face. Thor let out a cry of pain, and sailed backwards through the air. Oh, that was not good. Jane ran to him even before his body came to a halt, and shit, he wasn't getting up.
The Destroyer turned with a groan of metal, and began to walk in the opposite direction, back towards the desert. It was…leaving? Buffy watched it confusedly, torn. Every instinct told her to go after it, to kill it…but what if reengaging it just started things all over again? Could she even kill it, if she tried? She looked back to where Jane was leaning over Thor's body, and bit her lip.
She had to try, she decided. She couldn't let it get away with this. She looked for Willow across the smoking intersection, and they locked eyes. Buffy twirled the scythe back into a fighting position. Willow nodded, and summoned twin fireballs into her hands. Darcy and Dr. Selvig leapt away from her with shouts of surprise, but Willow ignored them and moved forward.
"We can't let it get away," Buffy told her as they reached one another in the middle of the street. They stood together, staring after the Destroyer.
"Let's take the fight into the desert," Willow said. Her voice was sharp and her eyes gleamed darkly. "I'm feeling a little destructive myself."
"Right," Buffy said, nodding.
"Wait!" Willow let one fireball dissipate and grabbed Buffy's arm. "Do you feel that?"
Buffy stopped. A sharp whistling rose in her ears, and static electricity crackled on the air. "It feels like –"
Her words were cut off, because at that moment, Mjölnir burst through the still-open doors of Jane's place, and lightning forked down from the sky. Dr. Selvig pulled Jane away from Thor's body just in the nick of time. A swirling pool of storm energy built overhead as a column of lightning danced, shrouding the fallen man.
The Destroyer stopped, and turned again, and then the flare of lightning died away, and in its place stood Thor, dressed in full armor and holding the hammer aloft.
"Oh," Buffy said, blinking.
"Well," Willow said, in much the same state. She let her second fire ball fizzle out.
"Wasn't really buying the whole god thing until now," Buffy admitted absently as Thor launched himself straight into the air. "Did you know the hammer could fly?"
Willow shook her head silently.
The wind was picking up from the tornado Thor was somehow stirring up above them, and they were forced to run for cover even as the Destroyer was lifted into the air. What followed was brief, but epic.
"Is this how you normally look?" Jane demanded as Thor touched back down to earth and strode towards them, the Destroyer a crumpled mess in the dust behind him.
He looked at her with a hint of amusement. "More or less."
She nodded appreciatively. "It's a good look."
"I'll say," Willow agreed. "What?" she said when Buffy jabbed her in the ribs with an elbow. "Gay, not blind!"
"We must go to the Bifrost site. I would have words with my brother," Thor announced.
"So, that wasn't your brother?" Buffy confirmed, pointing to the Destroyer. "Or is this another one?"
A car door slammed, and they all turned to see Agent Coulson hurrying towards them. He stopped in front of Thor.
"Donald. I don't think you've been completely honest with me." His eyes slid to Willow, and then to Buffy, who was still clutching her scythe. "Doctor. Commander."
Buffy winced, but was saved from speaking by Thor, who gripped Coulson's shoulder. "Know this, Son of Coul, you and I, we fight for the same cause, the protection of this world. From this day forward you can count me as your ally – if you return the items you have taken from Jane."
"Stolen," Jane butted in.
"Borrowed," Coulson said automatically. "Of course you can have your equipment back. You're going to need it to continue your research. Perhaps Dr. Rosenberg can assist you – she seems to know all about Einstein-Rosen bridges."
Thor smiled at Jane. "Would you like to see the bridge we spoke of?"
He pulled Jane tightly to his side, eliciting a gasp and a giggle. He held Mjölnir aloft, and they rocketed skywards.
"Wait, I need to debrief you!" Coulson yelled after them.
"We must follow on foot to the Bifrost site," Sif said.
Darcy snorted. "Forget that. I've got Jane's keys." She produced Jane's key ring from her pocket.
"I have a quicker way," Willow said. "Everyone needs to be touching."
The Asgardians obediently linked arms with Darcy and Dr. Selvig, and Buffy completed the circle. Willow's eyes flashed white, and they blinked out of existence.
They reappeared in the desert, actually beating Thor and Jane by several seconds. Willow dropped Buffy's and Darcy's hands and took a staggering step forward. Red-Beard (jeez, she still didn't know the guy's proper name!) caught her by the shoulders before she face planted in the dirt.
"Lady Willow!" he said worriedly, holding her upright.
"I'm fine," Willow said, regaining her balance. She wiped the back of her hand across her nose and it came away bloody. "I've just done that one too many times today." She gave Darcy and Dr. Selvig a sheepish look. "Sorry, guys, I guess we're walking back."
Thor landed with Jane a few yards away, and set her down gently.
"My friends, you have beaten me!" he said in surprise upon seeing the group awaiting him.
"Lady Willow is a powerful sorceress," Red-Beard informed him.
"There is another sorcerer with whom I wish to speak," Thor said, remembering the task at hand. He strode forward and stood in the center of the flattened, decorative dirt circle. "Heimdall, open the Bifrost." He waited a moment, but nothing happened. He stared intently up at the clouds. "Heimdall? Heimdall!" Thor swept back to the group. "He doesn't answer!"
"Then we are stranded," the quiet, dark-haired Viking said morosely.
"Heimdall!" Thor yelled once more. "If you can hear me, we need you now. Heimdall, we need you now! HEIMDALL!"
"Wait," Willow said, eyes glued to the heavens. "There's something…"
The clouds began to swirl, and a tornado-like spout opened as it had done before, crackling with electricity.
The Asgardians trotted quickly to the circular landing pad, and Jane approached Thor. Buffy tried not to listen to their hushed conversation, but her Slayer hearing picked up every word. She watched them kiss goodbye and felt something twinge in her chest. She smiled a little sadly. She'd never tried dating a demi-god, but she figured her own sampling of star-crossed relationships with the undead was enough to make her empathetic to the challenges they would face if they tried to make a go of it. Talk about long distance.
They finally broke apart, and Thor joined his companions on the landing pad. The air was practically humming with power, now, and even Buffy could feel it. It was the same as when she'd held Mjölnir, and with a jolt, she realized that her scythe was vibrating in her grip. A metallic ringing echoed in her ears as the vibrations travelled up her arms and into her chest, until her whole body was quivering.
"Buffy!" Willow cried out beside her, but as Buffy opened her mouth to respond, a stray fork of lightning shot out of the wind tunnel and connected with the scythe, and then she was hurtling along a column of rainbow colored lights with a strange wind whistling through her entire body, and in a pulsing flash of light, she was deposited on the floor of a circular observatory along with the five Asgardians.
"Get him to the healing room!" Thor yelled over his shoulder. "Leave my brother to me." He jogged off, not once looking back.
Buffy couldn't really blame the remaining Asgardians for not noticing her, because everything was moving very fast and there was a huge gold guy passed out in the middle of the planetarium who obviously needed a doctor. And Thor was flying off again with that crazy ass hammer of him. Seriously, since when could hammers fly?
The fight was clearly far from over. Buffy spared a glance at the warriors, but they seemed to have their hands full and she didn't feel like sticking around to play twenty questions while Thor went off and tried to play the lone hero.
The sight that greeted her outside of the observatory nearly stopped her in her tracks. A glowing, sparkling bridge that looked like something straight out of The Matrix stretched out before her, and dark waters crested and peaked below. The stars above seemed closer than ever before, and Buffy felt like she could reach out and touch outer space. Ahead, at the end of the bridge, a sprawling city gleamed.
Thor's jet stream was still dissipating above, and there was really only one direction she could go, so she took off at a run. She ran as fast as she could, her blood thrumming in her veins. She felt pure exhilaration as her feet slapped the dazzling path below.
The lightshow ended at the edge of the city, but the bridge opened up into a wide street leading straight in, so Buffy kept running, aiming for the huge golden palace dead ahead. A roar of fury rent the air suddenly, and out of nowhere, a colossal humanoid with blue skin and a six-pack to die for barreled straight into her path. Buffy's eyes widened. She'd been totally kidding about the Judge!
The creature swiped at her with a jagged ice dagger, forcing her to duck and roll to one side. Bouncing back up to her feet, she slashed across his chest with the scythe and sent him stumbling back. He lunged for her again, but she was too quick, and she severed his head with one swipe. Before his body could hit the ground, he exploded into…snow? Okay, that was a new one. This universe was so weird.
She looked up just in time to catch a flash of red cape disappearing through one of the upstairs windows of the palace. The front doors were hanging off their hinges, so she barreled through, and dashed up the enormous staircase. She had no idea where she was going, but having held the hammer once, she could feel its presence guiding her. The scythe vibrated impatiently.
"Yeah, yeah, don't get jealous," she groused in between breaths. "Let's just concentrate on helping Thor."
Her gut led her down a torch lit passageway, and through another set of blasted-apart doors. The entrance opened up into a large chamber, but she didn't have time to look around before she collided with a tall man wearing dark armor and a helmet of golden horns. He grunted in surprise as she knocked them both to the ground, but he regained his breath quickly and pushed her away. She tried to help him up, but he snarled and jabbed forward with his spear. A blast of bright energy hit her in the shoulder and sent her careening backwards. She smacked the wall hard and slid down to the floor. She blinked fuzzily. Why was everything so gold?
"Oh!" A woman in a silvery dress hurried to her side and helped her to sit up. Her hands scrabbled at the front of Buffy's smoking jacket, trying to pull it away. Buffy took a deep breath and pushed her hands gently away.
"I got it," she coughed, undoing her zip and peeling back the leather to check the damage. Her shoulder was a bloody mess, but she couldn't see any bone. The wound had also appeared to have been cauterized by the blast. "Help me up."
The woman dragged her to her feet, and after a moment, the dizziness passed and Buffy could stand on her own.
"You are a mortal!" the woman gasped, her eyes wide and staring.
"I'm tougher than I look," Buffy assured her, scanning the chamber for a sign of Thor. A God of Thunder-sized hole in the wall hinted at where he'd gone. She spared a glance towards the bed that was taking up half of the room. An old guy was lying prone inside a hazy bubble of golden mist. Buffy really hoped he wasn't dead.
"You fight with Thor," the woman said, and it wasn't a question.
"Yeah, we just met but he seems like a good guy," Buffy said. She picked up her scythe from where it had fallen, and spared another glance at the guy on the bed.
"Go now," the woman urged. "My sons. Please, they will kill each other…Help them!"
"I'll do my best," Buffy promised, though she had a feeling she was in totally over her head. She drew another deep breath, and took off running the way she had come. "Why can't you fly?" she hissed to the scythe as she went.
Back down the stairs, out the palace doors, and onto the bridge. The waves were crashing madly below her as she ran, sure-footed and swift. Suddenly, the bridge gave a tremor, and then another. Eyes widening, she spurred herself on faster still. She skidded to a halt twenty yards away from the observatory as she realized what was happening.
Thor was slamming Mjölnir into the bridge for all he was worth, and from the sharp cracking sounds and the shuddering tremors, he was doing a bang up job of things. Ahead of him the observatory was capsuled in a blinding, whirring globe of light.
The man who had blasted her out of the way with his spear – Thor's brother, if what he was yelling was any indication – knelt halfway between Buffy and Thor, but when Thor's hammer rent a mighty crack in the glittering bridge, he was on his feet again and moving forward. Buffy lunged out and grabbed the hem of his cape (and seriously, these guys had a problem right there) and yanked him back. If he had been human, he would have fallen, but he was strong. He whipped his head around to stare at her in obvious shock, and for a split second, their eyes locked. Buffy inhaled sharply, because there was such a torrent of emotions playing across his face that she thought, dizzily, that she might drown. But then Thor delivered another mighty blow to the bridge, and his brother – Loki? – broke free from Buffy's grasp and leapt after him, spear aloft.
"Oh no you don't!" she tried to yell, but in the next second there was a blinding blue-white explosion and an ungodly screech of pure energy, and someone was shoving her backwards. She landed on her ass several yards back, her head pounding and her shoulder aching. She blinked fiercely to clear her vision, and for a moment she panicked, because Thor and Loki are nowhere in sight.
The old guy from the palace (not dead, evidently, and also wearing a cape) stood at the edge of the fractured bridge. He was leaning forward, holding onto something. Buffy realized it was Thor's ankle. She lurched to her feet, struggling against the wind. It whipped fiercely, pushing her back, but she heard every word spoken with crystal clarity.
"I could have done it father!" Loki yelled above the wind, his voice breaking. "I could have done it! For you! For all of us!"
"No, Loki," his father whispered.
"Loki, no!" she heard Thor say, and she didn't have to see to know what happened next. Thor's cry of anguish said it all, and when the old man pulled up Thor alone, her suspicions were confirmed. Loki was gone.
She didn't know the guy, and yeah, he'd pretty much attacked her unprovoked, but staring down into the swirling void of stars and electricity below, Buffy felt her stomach churn. The hot plasma-ash taste of burning dimensions felt as fresh on her tongue as the day she'd thrown herself off of Glory's tower, and she felt sick with the remembered agony.
There were tears in her eyes when she met Thor's anguished gaze, and she didn't know who they were for.
"Buffy," he said brokenly. "You are here – is Jane - ?"
Buffy shook her head, unable to find the words. The howling winds were dying down, now, and the old man guided Thor away from the edge. He stared down at Buffy with his one good eye. His expression was unreadable, but Buffy could see tear tracks on his cheek.
"Come," he told Thor finally, placing his hand on one broad shoulder. "I am Odin Allfather," he said to Buffy. "Come." He swept off in the direction of the palace.
Thor stared unseeingly into the black space beyond the broken Bifrost.
"Come on, big guy," Buffy said quietly, moving forward. She picked up Mjölnir, and pressed it into his hands. "Let's go get cleaned up."
Thor stared down at her, and blinked several times before nodding. Buffy glanced back at the Odin, who had stopped, waiting for them. His eye was focused on the hammer, and Buffy thought she saw a spark of interest behind the beard and weathered face, but he said nothing. They moved towards him, and made their way back to the palace in silence.
"Buffy!" Willow screamed, but it was too late.
The wind tunnel dissipated into the clouds. Buffy and the Asgardians were gone. Willow tried frantically to lock onto the energy signature, to follow it up, but the portal was closed.
"She's gone!" Jane stared at her with wide eyes
"What happened?" Darcy demanded.
"How…?" Dr. Selvig trailed off, bafflement clear in his voice.
Willow didn't respond. She stared up at the sky. Storm clouds were brewing overhead, and she could still feel the sparks of magical current zipping through the atmosphere, but it was like before – just an echo. The door was firmly closed.
But something was happening above, beyond their vision. The clouds still swirled darkly, and there were crashed and booms of unnatural thunder. Willow clenched her hands into tight fists as the energy became wilder and stronger, but always just out of reach. After what seemed an eternity of this, Willow felt an enormous jolt go through her suddenly, and a fork of white-hot lightning hit the earth not twenty yards from where they stood.
"What's happening?" Darcy shrieked.
"I don't know!" Willow yelled back as the wind picked up and another tremor struck. It went on and on, and then suddenly, she felt invisible connections breaking all around her. The thunder abated, and the clouds began to break apart, revealing naught but clear New Mexico sky.
"They're gone," Jane gasped quietly.
"I – I felt something snap," Willow said, closing her eyes as she tried to reach out further with her senses. Nothing. "The gateway is closed."
The walk back into town was silent. When they finally arrived, Agent Coulson was waiting for them, leaning against the hood of his car. His minions were nowhere in sight.
"I was serious about that debriefing," he said as they approached. He scanned their little group; notably smaller than it had been. "Where are the others?"
"Gone," Willow said shortly. "What can I do for you, Agent Coulson?"
"I contacted my superiors, Dr. Rosenberg. The WSC does not exist."
He didn't sound angry, or like he was going to try and arrest her, but he did sound exhausted. And given the events of the day, she was feeling the same. She wondered if he had actually contacted the White House. She took pity on him.
"What do you know about multiple universe theories, Agent Coulson?"
He looked at her sharply. "Go on."
Willow quirked a tired smile. "You might say that Buffy and I come from an alternate Earth. We ended up in this universe by mistake."
"Commander Summers. Where we come from, we work for an international organization that protects humanity from the forces of darkness."
"When you say forces of darkness…" Darcy interrupted.
"Vampires, demons, black magic." Willow shrugged. "You name it, we've probably fought it."
"So you'll be returning to your own world," Coulson said, as cool as a cucumber. Willow had to give the guy credit, because a lot of freaky shit had gone down in the last twenty-four hours.
"Not yet," Willow said resolutely. "Buffy is out there, somewhere – in Asgard, hopefully. I don't even know if I can get home without her – it's complicated."
"Asgard," Coulson repeated. "That's where Donald is from?"
"Who's Donald?" Willow asked, wrinkling her nose.
"Thor," Dr. Selvig corrected sheepishly.
"Well, Dr. Rosenberg, you appear to be stuck. And without an identity, a bank account, or even an e-mail address, I presume. I'm sure S.H.I.E.L.D. –"
"I'm sure S.H.I.E.L.D. would be more than happy to help me set up a Gmail account if I agree to cooperate with them in the future." Willow narrowed her eyes at Coulson. "What does S.H.I.E.L.D. stand for, anyways?"
"Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division," Coulson rattled off.
"Well, that's a mouthful of vagueness."
"What does WSC stand for?" Coulson returned dryly.
Willow smiled. The initials technically stood for two things, but there was no need to bring Watchers and Slayers to Agent Coulson's attention, so she opted for the second meaning. "World Security Council." It was more of a joke than anything else.
Coulson's eyes widened, but Willow was flummoxed as to why. He recovered quickly. "Your friend said it earlier – we fight for the same cause, Dr. Rosenberg. S.H.I.E.L.D. will do what it can to help you with your…situation."
Willow had a feeling she was setting herself up for future coercion and manipulation, but what could she do? There was no point in making an enemy of S.H.I.E.L.D. if they were willing to let her go free. She had a feeling she was going to need their cooperation if she wanted to get Buffy back.
"Call me Willow," she said finally. "Thank you, Agent Coulson." She extended her hand.
He shook it firmly, and handed her a business card. "We'll be in touch."
Buffy watched with a frown as Thor brushed past his mother and left the feasting hall.
Beside her, Sif also saw the exchange, and rose to speak with Frigga. Buffy sighed, and pushed her food around her plate. The rest of the party burst into laughter at the tale Volstagg (she'd finally learnt their names) was spinning about their defeat of the Destroyer. She liked the Asgardians – or the Æsir, as they were properly called – and she was extremely grateful for the kindness they had shown her since she was essentially stranded in their realm, but the raucous feasting seemed at odds with the cloud of grief that hung over the royal family.
When Volstagg began fishing around for Buffy's own battle stories, she excused herself and set out after Thor.
She found him staring silently out across the broken Bifrost. The golden man who guarded the edge stood beside him, armored back straight, sword point down. He was the first to notice her approach, and half turned to gaze down at her with piercing amber eyes.
"Buffy Summers," he said in a deep, rumbly voice. "I have seen your valor."
"Oh," Buffy said, taken aback. "Thanks?" Really, what did you say to that?
"Lady Buffy, this is Heimdall," Thor said.
"Nice to meet you," Buffy said politely, recalling the name as the one Thor had been shouting back on Earth.
"Heimdall sees all," he explained.
"Oh," Buffy said again. She hesitated. "Can you see Willow?"
"Yes," said Heimdall. "She knows much of sorcery."
"That's Willow," Buffy said, cracking a smile. "With Jane's help, she'll probably figure out how to teleport up here by the end of the week."
Heimdall inclined his head. "I shall watch for her."
"Should you not be at the feast?" Thor inquired. "Do you not find the hospitality to your liking?"
"Asgard's great," Buffy assured him quickly. "I love your mom. I just saw you out here and thought you might want some company." Her stomach chose that moment to growl loudly. "Maybe I'm still a little hungry," she admitted.
"I will walk with you," Thor offered, and she nodded, summoning a smile.
"I am truly sorry," he said quietly as they walked.
"For breaking the Bifrost. I know not how you came to travel with us, as Heimdall claims he did not send for you, but now you are trapped. This is my fault."
"Thor," Buffy said, pulling him to a halt. "This isn't your fault. It's just another chapter in the epic saga of Buffy's Misadventures. You did what you had to. Your brother would have destroyed an entire world."
Thor's expression darkened further, and Buffy wanted to kick herself.
"You know that's not your fault, either, right?" she pressed. "From what I've heard, Loki was going through something." Going bat shit crazy, she didn't say. "You were powerless on earth. There was nothing you could do to stop him. And you saved Jötunheim."
She still wasn't clear on the whole Frost Giant thing, but she could dig that genocide = bad news.
"If only I had been quicker," Thor sighed. "If I had not been so foolhardy, everything could have been prevented."
"Don't do that," Buffy advised. "Woulda, coulda, shouldas…they'll eat you alive. You can't change what happened. Your brother was a grown man – god – person – and he made his choices. And you made yours. Focus on the present."
Thor ducked his head and looked sideways at her. "You are very wise, Lady Buffy."
Buffy balked. "What? Nah, I've just been around the block a time or two."
Thor frowned. "The block?"
"Never mind, it's just an expression. What I meant was, I've been doing this for a long, long time."
This pulled a laugh from him. "But you are naught but twenty and five by my reckoning!"
"First off, I'm thirty," Buffy informed him dryly. "Which you totally already knew, because your mother asked me at dinner last night, but I appreciate the compliment anyways. And for the record, most of my predecessors only lasted a few years doing my job. I've been doing it for half my life, which makes me old. And I know you guys live for centuries, but I figure that's like reverse dog years. We're probably the same age."
"Aye," Thor said, grasping the sentiment if not the reference.
"It wasn't your fault," Buffy said again, because it bore repeating. Then Thor's stomach growled, and she cracked a smile. "Come on, before Volstagg eats everything in sight."
Thor laughed again, and a little cheered, they returned to the palace.
"Why is it always a creepy basement?" Willow muttered to her companion as they walked down a dimly lit, industrial hallway. She was getting a major wiggins from S.H.I.E.L.D.'s underground lair.
Dr. Selvig shot her a look, but didn't say anything as they rounded a corner.
"Dr. Selvig. Dr. Rosenberg."
Willow squinted. A dark figure stood at the end of the hallway.
"So you're the man behind all this?" Selvig said. "It's quite a labyrinth." He laughed nervously. "I was thinking, they're taking me down here to kill me."
The man they were meeting moved forward to meet them. He was large and bald and dressed from head to toe in black, right up to the eye patch. Willow felt a pang of homesickness for Xander.
"Director Fury," she greeted coolly.
Fury raised his good eyebrow. "You've done your homework," he commented, but didn't ask how she'd found out his name. He continued. "I've been hearing about the New Mexico situation. Your work has impressed a lot of people who are much smarter than I am."
"We have a lot to work with," said Selvig. "The Foster Theory, a gateway to another dimension…" He glanced at Willow. "Dr. Rosenberg's help has been instrumental to understanding what we're looking at. For us, it's unprecedented. Isn't it?"
Fury led them back to where a metal briefcase laid waiting on a table. "Legend tells us one thing; history, another. But every now and then we find something that belongs to both." He popped the latches, and lifted the lid to reveal a crackling, glowing cube.
Willow inhaled sharply as a buzz of power filled the room
Selvig approached the table curiously. "What is it?"
Fury looked at him directly. "Power, Doctor. If we can figure out how to tap it, maybe unlimited power."
Something tingled at the back of Willow's neck. The cube was still pulsating in front of her, and the energy it was putting off was nearly blinding her senses, but there was something else niggling at the back of her mind.
"Well I guess that's worth a look," someone whispered beside her.
Willow's head snapped to her left. "What?"
The two men looked at her strangely.
"The Tesseract could be a source of unlimited power," Fury repeated.
Selvig leaned over the briefcase. "Well I guess that's worth a look."
Willow frowned, but forced her attention back to the Tesseract . There was something very Hellmouthy going on…
Buffy was having an out of body experience.
She was standing across from herself in a blackened wasteland. Unfamiliar stars winked dimly overhead, millions of miles away. There was no division between ground and sky.
A pulse of power, cube-shaped and floating before her, glowed with an unearthly light. It cast strange shadows across the figure that stood before it. His pale skin was bleached bone-white and blue, and his eyes were red rimmed from crying.
"Listen to it hum," Buffy whispered, leaning forward and closing her eyes to bask in the glow of the strange cube. "Hmmm." Her eyes snapped open and she laughed, too loudly, too brightly. The sound jarred at the edges of the mental landscape and the world shuddered.
Her companion let out a small gasping sound and fell to his knees. She circled around him, trailing her fingers over his throat, but never touching. She stopped behind him and leaned over his armor-clad shoulder, lips ghosting over the curve of his ear. "Come, little god," she murmured. "I know you can feel it singing in your bones."
"I –" He faltered.
"Reach out with your mind. Feel the power. You know you want to. You want to dissect it." She laughed again. "Pure, limitless power. With me by your side, I could give it to you."
"What are you?" he choked out, staring up at her with a naked expression and wide eyes.
Buffy looked up, and caught her own reflection over his shoulder. Her lips curled into a smile that was pure ruination.
"I am the thing the darkness fears."
Buffy sat up with a wrenching gasp.
Her heart was pounding in her chest. She looked around wildly, and it took her a moment to place her surroundings. She was in Asgard, in her borrowed – possibly-permanent-if-the-Bifrost-remained-broken-but-no-Willow-would-come-for-her – chambers, in her borrowed night dress, hands fisted tightly in her borrowed sheets. Her breathing was ragged and loud in the silent room.
She felt aged and bloody, like she'd just gone ten round with a Turok-Han. She hadn't been sleeping well in the weeks since she'd arrived in Asgard, but those nights spent tossing and turning were nothing in comparison to the nightmare she'd just escaped from. The utter desolation of that groundless place.
She closed her eyes and scrubbed at her face with the palms of both hands, trying to banish the memory of Loki's eyes from her mind. The image was replaced with a vision of her own face, and the knowing, treacherous curve of her lips. She recognized that smile, and the words, and not from looking in the mirror.
Not a nightmare – a warning.
She was worlds – literally universes – away from home, in the realm of beings who called themselves gods, but suddenly she felt like she was back on the Hellmouth.
Buffy slumped back against the pillows.
"We are so screwed."
-Cut to black-
Well, now I can admit that this is merely a set up for a much larger and complicated story. As you can tell, events ended up in roughly the same place as they did in Thor, but now Willow and Buffy are in the Marvel!verse, and you can count on major changes going forward.
But on that note...the next installment is very much still in the planning stages, so I would LOVE any and all input you may have for that. Are there any relationships you would particularly enjoy reading about? I'm talking any relationships - friends, enemies, frenemies - not just romantic pairings. In fact, I'm leaning more towards a team!fic than something romance driven.
What I would love even more is if you also included a sentence or two about why you'd like to see character A interacting with character B, or what makes them a good/bad/interesting pair.
Otherwise, what did you love most about The Avengers? What did you hate?
*Willow's explanation of the initials WSC standing for World Security Council (and implied to also stand for Watchers' and Slayers' Council) is definitely not a coincidence. In The Avengers movie!verse, S.H.I.E.L.D. answers to an organization called the World Security Council. Also, it should be remembered that in various comic arcs and basically throughout publication history, S.H.I.E.L.D. has stood for several different things. So call it a little alternate-reality humor.