When Happy Hogun vanished in a cloud of dust Pepper knew that something had gone horribly wrong. She still couldn’t contact Tony, which Friday informed her was due to his being “out of range.”
“STARK Industries has satellites all over Earth,” Pepper said. “If he were on Earth then we’d be able to reach him.”
“That is correct.”
“So what do we do?” Pepper asked, staring at the newsfeed. It was muted but she still got the gist of it, complete pandemonium caused by people dissolving. She’d shut down the company, ordered everybody to stay where they were and asked them to not be making phone calls except in cases of absolute emergency. The emergency responders were out in full force and the UN was in complete panic. The Avengers were nowhere to be found and nobody could really say anything for sure, and yet Pepper knew that this was somehow related to Tony calling her and cancelling their reservations.
Something was very, very wrong. People were just gone, crumbling into dust, and Pepper found it very difficult to breathe when she could be breathing pieces of Happy.
“Okay, what would Tony do?” she told herself, taking a deep breath and closing her eyes. “He’d… he’d…” Apparently he’d jump on an alien ship and leave the earth, since…
Her eyes flew open as she thought of something. Aliens. I can ask SHIELD. Of course, SHIELD wasn’t exactly around anymore, but she was fairly certain that she still had Nick’s contact information.
She pulled out her cellphone and had opened up her contacts when she remembered that if Nick Fury was still around he’d probably be hard at work right now. Same went for the rest of her ex SHIELD contacts. As much as she wanted answers she didn’t want to interrupt the people who were probably trying to fix this right now.
“FRIDAY, when was the last time earth had an alien invasion?” she asked, and FRIDAY helpfully brought up a screen with a news report from London.
“The Dark Elf Incursion,” FRIDAY said, and Pepper scrolled through the report. Thor was out of the question, but…
“FRIDAY, what’s Jane Foster’s phone number?”
Jane had plenty of things happen to her in the past twenty four hours that she was unprepared for. First, Darcy and Erik had dissolved into dust. No warning, no reason, they were just there one moment and crumbling away the next. The entire town had been panicking, and Jane very quickly found out that she was not the only person who’d lost people, although she appeared to be the only person who had lost everybody.
Then her ex dropped in, as in literally dropped from the sky. He had a haircut and one of his eyes was the wrong colour but it was still Thor, and since she lost her best friend and almost father Jane would take whatever comfort she could get, no matter what form it came in.
After letting her cry on him for several minutes Thor apologized, and when Jane asked what for he said “letting this happen,” as if that explained anything.
“What do you mean?” she’d demanded, and Thor had said something about the Avengers and Thanos and some group named the Revengers that she didn’t really didn’t understand, but before he was finished talking Jane’s phone rang.
There weren’t many people who had her phone number. With Erik and Darcy gone, the number of people she wanted to talk to was even smaller. But when the caller ID read “STARK Industries” she almost broke the screen from the force of her finger pressing the accept call button.
“This is Jane Foster,” she said, and a woman answered from the other end. A Pepper Potts who was one of the most powerful women in the world, and who had also had people vanish into dust before her eyes. A Pepper Potts who had offered to send a private jet out to get Jane to New York, and Jane still wasn’t certain if it was only because Thor was with her and refusing to let her out of his sight.
Now they were sitting together in a jet that had more room in it than Jane had in her lab, with a fully stocked bar that Thor was making a worryingly extensive use of and a television that Jane was too afraid to turn on. She settled for staring at it, sitting at the edge of the couch with her arms wrapped around her as she desperately tried to think of something to say to her ex boyfriend.
“How’s Asgard?” she finally asked, breaking the awkward silence between them. She heard a bottle thunking down on the bar behind her and didn’t look over to see how many he’d already emptied.
“Asgard is gone,” he said, and Jane couldn’t really say anything to that. She heard the clinking of glasses and the pouring of a drink, and Thor sat down next to her and held out a shot glass with some amber liquid inside. Jane shook her head and Thor downed it in one go along with his own, and made to head back to the bar before Jane put her hand on his arm.
“I’m sorry,” she said, because it was the sort of thing she was supposed to say and she was sorry but it did absolutely no good.
“I was their king,” Thor said. “I was the one who told Loki to destroy the city, and then I couldn’t save any of them.”
“Loki?” Jane asked, sitting up straighter. “Isn’t he-”
“No,” Thor said, his expression darkening. “Or at least, he wasn’t killed on Svartálfheim. He was masquerading as my father, and then helped me destroy Asgard to defeat my older sister, who was evil and trapped for a thousand years in another dimension. Loki might be dead now, though.”
That story was a good deal more complicated than Jane was expecting and yet she highly suspected that it was the simplified version, but in the end did it really matter? Here she was, broken up because she lost Erik and Darcy, and Thor had apparently lost his brother (again), his estranged sister, his father, his home, and his entire people.
“Oh,” Jane said, unsure what else to say. What comfort could she give somebody who had lost absolutely everything?
“I’m sorry,” Thor said, so quietly Jane thought that she might have imagined it. “Thanos was my fault, this is all my fault.”
“Of course this isn’t your fault,” Jane said, squeezing his arm a little only for him to pull it away.
“There was a moment when we almost won,” Thor said. “I had a shot at Thanos, and I hit him in the chest. He didn’t die quickly enough, and he had all the infinity stones. He’s the reason why half the galaxy is gone, why Lady Darcy and Sir Erik are dead.”
“Thor, look at me,” Jane said, waiting until he turned to meet her eyes. “Here on earth we have this thing called ‘victim blaming’, where we blame the victim instead of blaming the criminal. This is Thanos’ fault, and hell, anybody would think a shot to the chest would be enough to finish somebody off. You did everything you could. And we’re going to fix this.”
“How?” Thor asked, his voice cracking a little at the end. Jane shrugged.
“We’ll figure it out,” she said. “That’s why we’re going to see Pepper, right? And we still have allies, still have resources. We can do this.”
Thor looked at her like he couldn’t believe her and Jane didn’t let her expression waver, staring him down and trying to convince him that they could and would undo everything that had gone wrong.
“I want to believe you,” Thor said. “But I don’t think I can.”
“That’s fine,” Jane said. “I’ll just tell you that I told you so after we win.” Thor gave her a half smile and she smiled back, refusing to let any of her doubts show. The rest of the plane ride passed in silence, and Jane counted it as a victory that Thor didn’t return to the bar.
I really hope Pepper has some ideas.