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The Familiar Face Of A Stranger

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The Familiar Face Of A Stranger

 

A ring of light fell down to earth and as the brightness dissipated, a man was revealed.

The wind rustled his hair but he did not move. Thor closed his eyes, and sighed.

After a quiet moment he looked at the sky and wondered where the others were, if Valkyrie had made it far, far away from Thanos and the corpses floating in space. He hoped they had.

Slowly but steadily, the skies began graying. With a deep breath he tried to calm the storms inside him. He needed to find the others. He needed… he didn't know what he needed.

Thor rolled his shoulders and tried to arrange his short spiked hair in an orderly fashion to no avail. He looked around until his eyes found the last fortress of his comrades, with heavy feet, he walked towards it.


Web swinging was a wild and unpredictable affair, a slight change in movement or speed made all the difference in the power and trajectory of the swing. Today Peter was finding it extra difficult as every time he raised his right arm he felt his muscles twinge.

It was a good feeling though, it was the cost it took in order to protect and help ordinary people. But that's why he wanted to be a hero. To keep them safe.

Even if it did make things a little harder.

With every swing Peter felt as if now would be the time his pain flourished from mangable to excruciating. And every time he managed to keep himself from crying out.

"Almost there!" He muttered to himself, remembering the line from that one movie where some pilot was flying down a trench in space. "Almost there."

That guy had gotten shot down or blown up. One or the other. But the momentary distraction helped him, as Peter Parker stretched out his injured arm and once more fired a web line.

Mr. Stark wasn't answering his calls which meant he was either away or busy with something else. Peter wasn't bothered by that, well not too much, but Ironman had insisted that if ever he found himself hurt after a fight he was to come straight to the Avengers base and get checked out.

Peter was guilty of ignoring this advice several times now but today, after going several rounds with a guy dressed up as a Rhino, he decided that now would be the perfect time to get some of that first class medical treatment Mr. Stark had been boasting about.


As Thor approached the building something flickered in the corner of his eyes. His brow furrowed. Some form or shadow had closed in on the building, it didn't seem to be anything or anyone he recognized though. He clenched his fists and took a breath to calm the lightning already dancing over his fingers and hands.

He was not in the mood for this.

With furious purpose, he walked towards the shadow of a form that had disappeared on the side of the building. After the absolutely miserable series of weeks he'd had and everyone he'd lost and everything that was at stake, Thor was not about to let anyone even come close to his mortal allies. His friends.

The more he approached, the more he let go of the thunder and lightning inside his belly, the grass scorching at its ends as he passed by. He could feel the electricity escaping through his eye and the hole where his other eye had once been.

The sky cracked with the sharp whip of lightning.

When he turned a corner his eye meet a body of red. For a moment he was confused and thought this might be someone from another planet, but his confusion quickly faded, his friends on earth had taught him how people often disguised themselves. "Just like Cap or I do." Thor remembered Anthony saying.

"You are trespassing stranger." Thor's voice boomed and it was not like his own at all as the thunder inside him took over his vocal chords, deepening like an other worldly drum.

"Oh man…" The creature whispered with a note of high pitched terror in his voice.


To blindly associate one thing with another was a dangerous mentality to have. Basic common sense teaches you this. Put your faith into a routine, a universal law and you will be quickly disappointed. And very possibly betrayed by expectation.

Natasha Romanoff therefore had taught herself to not think of Thor whenever she heard the roar of thunder. It wasn't easy, the Asgardian was equipped with a larger than life personality and actually had the ability to back up his hype.

But thunder clouds rolled overhead often and Thor so rarely visited Earth. So Natasha was wise to dissociate the two. If the God of Thunder was to suddenly arrive from the heavens then so much the better they were for it, but unlike Wanda or Vision she wouldn't scramble to the window like a child every time the sky erupted with a brilliant flash of lightning.

But today the weather was promised to be sunny and mild. And yet Nat could feel the polished concrete beneath her feet shudder as the sky clapped and roared with an unnatural fury. To blindly associate one thing with another was a dangerous mentality to have, but Natasha was already running towards the doors as the sky flashed white as another bolt of lightning plummeted towards the earth.

Pushing open the double doors that led to the outside world Natasha could taste the difference immediately. The storm was not natural. The entire air seemed to be charged with power and it made the hair on the back of her neck stand to attention.

Thor. It had to be him.

But there was no beaming God striding towards her with his arms open wide, ready to regal another grand and almost impossible to swallow story of heroism and adventure. There was just a grey ocean of clouds slowly building in strength above her head.

Running blind, Natasha sought out the God as another boom of thunder caused the entire building to tremble.

Turning a corner she found not the God of thunder but Tony's latest pet project facing down… something new.

She had watched the clumsily shot footage of Spider-Man fighting the Rhino and was impressed with how the boy had kept his head when facing a much larger opponent but the stranger that he was facing now was different.

While not having the Rhino's bulk, the creature was still larger than the boy and seemed to radiate anger and ferocity. Built like a Greek statue, the figure looked as if he had gone several rounds with the Hulk, and won. Blood and debris caked his muscles and clothing and yet if the injuries he had gained were affecting him in the slightest the new threat hid the discomfort well.

"Look buddy I don't wanna hurt you." Spider-Man began but Natasha could tell this was a bad idea, the kid liked to talk, a coping mechanism when in the field, but while his quick wit might have irritated and kept off balance some of the enemies he had faced, the stranger wasn't some guy running around in a large animal costume. He was a threat.

The sky agreed with this fact as once more the thunder deafened them. A second later the stranger began to glow and bright energy began to dance over his body. Reaching for her side arm Natasha knew she only had one advantage and that was surprise. Once she began shooting, it was likely that all hell would break loose.

"This is your last chance." The stranger boomed and his single eye turned a beautiful ice blue, glowing with the same energy that continued to jump and dance off his body.

Moving quickly Natasha began to flank the stranger who's focus remained on the kid. But the second she raised her gun, his head snapped towards her and Nat got a good look at the latest threat to walk into their lives.

With only one eye, he still managed to recognise her before she did him. "Natasha!"

Spider-Man immediately saw her, and without hesitation he jumped straight towards her in a valiant but misguided effort to save her.

Slamming into her with more force than he probably intended Natasha focused on regulating her breathing as the air was knocked from her lungs as Spider-Man tried to pull himself out of his torpedo move while keeping her shielded behind him. The result was a messy blur with Natasha struggling to find her voice.

"I've got you lady. Ma'am? Miss?"

Thor seeing this, misinterpreted the child's clumsy actions as a kidnapping or possible attack. The energy that danced over his body sharpened and Natasha could actually feel the air around her crackle with the power. Advancing on Spider-Man the spy realised she had never seen Thor ever demonstrate this kind of ability.

Before he had been a bash bro with Cap, either swinging his hammer or his fists at the problem and usually felling it in a single blow. Now Thor looked as if he was about to turn Spider-Man into ash with the lightning that he seemed to be generating himself.

"No, Thor, wait!" She shouted, her heart beating a desperate rhythm when the God suddenly got the same idea as Peter, believing the kid was a threat to her. He stopped just short of sending Spider-Man an angry bolt he would not survive even with his enhanced body and sharp reflexes.

"He's a friend." Natasha said almost breathless, dread griping at her chest at what could've been.

Thor's understanding was immediately reflected on his face. He understood when he looked at Natasha and her own protective movements towards the stranger. The dancing lightning in his eyes dimmed slowly as did the angry rumbling of the sky.

Soon, everything was quiet, but the storm did not go away. The gray clouds still rolled above them, they seemed to shudder with bodies full of water, ready to burst. Thunder no longer made the walls of the compound shake and the ground tremble with the markings of otherworldliness. Natasha let go a silent sigh of relief as she got her bearings together.

Standing up she walked towards the blond, her insides filling with a multitude of conflicting emotions. Happiness to finally see him again; dread, for he looked just fresh out of hell; and a ball of anxiety from the recently avoided disaster that she was trying to squish down.

When she reached Thor's side she smiled a faint smile and placed a hand over his buff arm; the tips of her fingers brushed dried blood and many other things as she did so. Her smile fell when she looked at the maroon mess over his skin.

She looked up at his face, it was tried and drawn. The assassin took note of his body for a second and the God let her. Her face filled with concern.

"Thor…" Natasha breathed out "What happened?" She asked, her eyes landed on his hair and was immediately displeased. Whomever had cut it had done a terrible job at it or it had been an unwilling change.

Thor sighed deeply and a tremor reached Natasha through her palm, if she didn't know any better she'd say he looked about ready to collapse. He looked down at her and it seemed as if he was trying to muster the energy to answer her. She stopped him with a light squeeze to his arm. He didn't need to answer her now.

He smiled the weakest smile she had ever seen on his face in thanks and Natasha was suddenly struck with the immense sadness that swimmed inside his lonely eye.

What had happened to him?

Thor turned to the other banged up person in front of them. The short stranger was roughed up, their red and blue suit colored brown with dirt and slashed up in small places

"I apologize friend." The God said with a slight bow of the head. "It was not my intent to attack an ally. I mistakenly thought you an intruder."

"It's okay man." Said a high pitched voice that had Thor blinking a few times, either this person was a woman or a child "Happens to the best of us." The voice was a bit shaky from the leftover scare of nearly being electrocuted to death, but upbeat and laid back.

"Spider-Man, you look awful:" Natasha scolded slightly.

The blond God raised his eyebrow at the name but said nothing.

"It's worse than it looks!" He defended himself but quickly realised his words "I mean! It's better! I meant to say better, I swear!"

The assassin gave him an unamused but fond look.

"Tony won't like it either way."

The young hero looked for another excuse but couldn't find any before Natasha was talking again.

"You look worse than him, Thor." She added as she looked over him again, getting a single nod from the other "Come on, let's get inside before it starts raining." She sent Thor a side glance that he received in stride as they walked inside.

"Wait, what?" Peter said dumbfounded as he watched them go.


Sitting Peter down, Natasha called upon her years of first aid training and quickly took in the kid's hurt arm. It was clear that it wasn't as bad as it could have been, but the high schooler might want to wear long sleeved shirts for the next week or so to hide the nasty bruise that was beginning to show.

Thor stood away from them, taking in the empty living space with his single eye.

"Sit still" Nat instructed Peter who was gawking over his shoulder at the silent God in awe. "I'm going to get some ice."

"That's Thor!" Spider-Man whispered before she had even taken her first step towards the freezer.

"Observant." Natasha deadpanned opening the freezer and picked up a small pack of ice. Turning back to the injured teen the Black Widow once again watched Thor, who seemed agitated, turning his head towards her, she once more took in his injured face and wondered what terrible nightmare could possibly have been dangerous enough to cause him such wounds.

"Are the others away?" He asked, a bright false smile appearing on his face.

Closing the freezer door Natasha moved back towards Peter and pressed the bag of ice hard on his bruise making the boy whine out, the Black Widow took advantage of this and answered as diplomatically as she could. "Some things happened. Steve and the others had to leave. We're giving each other space."

She watched the Thunder God's face, hoping she could read him but the new Thor was more adept at keeping things hidden. A silent nod of understanding is all she received.

"So like..." Peter began, prying the small bag of ice still being held by Natasha from his bruised arm. "What happened to you?"

So much like Tony, the Black Widow thought, open mouth, insert foot.

"Things." Thor replied.

Pushing the ice back onto his bruised arm in an attempt to silence the boy's boundless curiosity. Natasha busied herself by checking the wall crawler for any other injuries that he might have sustained during the fight with the Rhino.

"Take off your top." She instructed.

Used to having her orders obeyed instantly by Sam, Wanda and Vision Natasha was surprised when Spider-Man responded with a "What, no!"

It might have been a cough or a soft chuckle, but Natasha was certain that gauged some sort of noise from the Thunder God.

"You have nothing that I haven't seen before." She tried to explain but the teenager was quite adamant in his answer, well as adamant as a rambling teenager could.

"I can't, like you're you and I'm not you. No of course I am not you, but you're not that pretty- wait no. You are, I mean I'm not and you are really pretty some people say the prettiest in the world..."

"Thor?" Natasha turned away from the child who continued digging his own grave, "could you take a look at the spider-baby while I make a quick call to his babysitter?"

Thor gave her a nod and Natasha turned and began to leave, causing Peter to loudly speak in rushed sentences.

"Are you calling Mr. Stark? Because he doesn't have to know about this. It's just a bruise."

Thor's close proximity silenced Peter as once more the teenager began to take the Thunder God in with awe.

"Hi." He managed.


Natasha walked through the compound and took the moment of silence to gather her thoughts and analyzed them more thoroughly.

Tony's baby was here, a little wreck as always. It'd made her wonder more and more about Tony and was actually one of the reasons that had made her return. The billionaire had always been a wreck himself, sometimes not even Pepper could control him or bring him out of his dark moods.

After the fiasco that was their so called "Civil War" it had been worse. He'd taken an emotional swan dive that made her scared for him. Without the Avengers and with Bruce gone, the whole world was burning around them and the backlash of the media had all falling onto him. It had scared her. She could see the cracks just waiting to break under the pressure.

But Peter… Peter had made it better; he'd given Tony a purpose other than just surviving for the day. She'd sighed with relief then.

And now Thor was here, after so long. How much time had it been? Two years? Three?

He was here and he looked worse than anything she could've imagined happening to him. He had always seemed so unmovable, a constant of fluxing power but never changing. Goofy but wise. On his face an easy smile more often than not. Catastrophe didn't seem to be able to touch his sunshine personality.

Now he didn't look like himself at all, he didn't seem like himself either. No, there was a rawness to him, a feeling like an exposed nerve or a bomb just about to detonate. The word melancholy touched her mind too.

Where was his hammer? What had happened to his eye?

Natasha had always thought it was the tool that granted him his natural power but that had changed today. Had it always been like that?

The air had crackled with power and the hairs on her arms had stood up. And Thor had just stood there without moving a single inch but the angry frown on his face as the sky darkened and thundered with the same anger… a deeper anger.

Something terrible had happened and she didn't know what. There was a downing feeling in her chest, like whatever this was, it wasn't over yet.

She reached Tony's lab and found him on the slim couch with papers over the coffee table, a half drunk cup, his upper body squeezing in the tight space and his lower all but falling in to the ground. Despite herself she chuckled lightly.

"Tony, wake up." She called him as she approached.

The mechanic turned around to face the couch and buried his face in the fabric, determined to ignore her.

"Tony, wake up." Natasha insisted when she reached his side "Your stray is here."

The breathing of the man stilled for a second then he freed his face to look at her with beady eyes.

"Peter?" He asked, life returning to his sleepy eyes "What's the kid doing here?"

"He got beat up. Again." Tony closed his eyes and let out a controlled sigh of frustration.

The assassin was quiet for a moment, but added a moment later.

"He's not the only one here." Natasha said, her arms crossed under her breasts.

Sitting up on the couch, Tony looked at her with confusion.

"Thor came back." She said quietly.

Tony's eyes widened in surprise.


"So…" Peter started, having no idea where this sentence was going as he tried his hardest to maintain eye contact with Thor's single eye.

"Come, let's see the damage." The towering thunder God nodded at Spider-Man's top. The web swinger shook his masked head.

"It's no big deal."

Thor smiled, "I've known warriors larger and more seasoned than you to say such things during battle and do you know what happened to them?"

"They got… knighted?"

"No. They died."

"Oh." Peter mumbled.

"Take care of yourself whenever you can, because when the time of hardship arrives you will likely find no opportunity to do so, and that's when you need to be at your best."

Finding little to argue against in that train of thought, Peter slowly reached down and began to pull off his costume.

It was a very awkward moment in the young boy's life. At school Peter would try and cover as much of his body as he could, for fear of any of his fellow students noticing his bruises and bumps from the latest super villain battle.

Now he wished he could do the same here, because while he didn't feel fantastic, he felt a sense of shame as he exposed his injuries when faced with the damaged thunder God, a bruise here, a slight ache in his ribs when he stretched, those were couple of baby injuries, nothing to worry about.

How do you compare that to a missing eye?

Just how many times had Thor taken a big hit and gotten back up and continued to do his job?

Peter had seen videos of the thunder God in action from the battle of New York and Sokovia. The guy was unstoppable.

Sitting there in silence, Peter struggled to read the thunder God's face as he was examined. Unlike Mr. Stark who would keep the energy of the moment alive with a quirky comment or a quick one liner, Thor was silent and still.

Clearing his throat Peter began swinging his legs, his head turned away as he slowly looked for something, anything to take his mind off the situation he was trapped in.

Eventually Thor moved away and Peter took a sigh of relief as he was freed from the scrutinising stare of the God. Picking up the first aid box on a far wall, Thor quickly returned and placed it down on the countertop.

"What's that for?" Peter chuckled nervously, watching as the thunderer began to take out the box's various contents with more familiarity than the wall crawler would have expected from a nigh invincible being.

"To help you." Thor replied, unscrewing the cap of a clear bottle.

Peter clenched his teeth together and screwed his eyes tightly shut as a small cloth dipped in iodine moved towards him.

"Okay, okay, okay." He rambled, sensing that contact was imminent "Tell me when okay?"

"When." Thor said, pressing the cloth against a small cut on Peter' upper chest.

It wasn't quite a shriek but it certainly wasn't a yell. All Peter knew was that he had thoroughly embarrassed himself in front of the mighty Thor before he had even a chance to feel the sting of the iodine now soaking into his exposed flesh.

"It didn't hurt that much." Thor scolded, lightly dabbing the cloth against the wound before moving onto the next one.

Peter said nothing in response for fear he would only make his situation worse.

With a gentle touch, Thor took care of the worst of Spider-Man's injuries, all while trying his best not to smile at the boy's refusal to look.

The child was strong, more so than a regular human, his injuries were light and while they might prove bothersome to him over the next few days, he was at little risk of having even a light scar by the time he had healed. Still, it was important that his wounds be cleaned properly.

"Ow, owowowow."

"I'm almost done, honestly you squirm more than Loki does."

It was a nice second, where Loki, Asgard and all that he had once loved and called home still existed in his mind and was just out of sight among the stars. But then Thor remembered everything that had happened and the moment of happy recollection was gone.

"Loki? Wasn't that your evil brother?" Spider-Man asked, daring to open a single eye as Thor continued dabbing the now drying cloth against a small cut focusing only on his work. "Mr Thor?"

"There all done." The thunder God said, straightening up and throwing the now soiled piece of cloth aside.


"What do you mean?" Tony asked, passing his hands repeatedly through his hair in an effort to tame it as they walked through the halls of the compound towards the common room.

"He… kind of looks like he went a few rounds with Hulk… and then some more."

She wanted to tell him to be prepared, that she wasn't kidding when she said Thor looked different. But she didn't quite know how to lay it down without alarming Tony too much. She couldn't just tell him 'Oh, by the way, Thor lost an eye too!' and be done with it.

"Thor lost an eye too." She added.

Tony stumbled as he turned around to face her.

"He what now?"

Well done Miss Romanov.


Tony and Natasha walked into the common room just in time to catch a dazed look on Thor's face. The God and Peter looked at them from what seemed to be the interruption of an awkward moment.

Thor straightened and plastered a small pleasant smile on his face that was mostly shadowed by sorrow.

"Friends, greetings. Worry not, the child will make a swift recovery." He said, nodding at Peter.

"Child?" The high schooler shrieked indignantly. "I'm SEVENTEEN years old! I'm not-!"

"Yeah, shut it pipsqueak, you're barely out of diapers." Tony approached with a frown on his brows.

An insulted sound left the teen as he tried to defend himself.

"And when you're as old as Goldie-locks here, everyone else is simply a child." Tony gazed momentarily at Peter who was still shirtless and leaning tiredly on the couch. When the teen caught a look at Natasha coming behind the mechanic he quickly grabbed a pillow to cover his chest from her humoring gaze, burying his head in the fabric as he turned bright red.

Tony lifted his brown eyes to Thor, who looked back at him.

Beneath the heavy feeling all around the God, a glimmer of happiness touched his face when the other stood in front of him. Beside the raven haired man Thor looked like a mountain, it was almost ridiculous how they contrast standing side by side.

After a quiet moment of assessing each other, Tony lunged himself at Thor and hugged him with force, thinking if the guy could handle all the possible crap he'd been through, he could handle a bit more pressure over his injuries.

"S'good to see you." Tony said against the broad blonde's chest, his voice slightly muffled as he pressed himself to the other.

With heavy hands Thor gently returned the embrace and with a heavy sigh he rested his cheek on the mechanics hair and leaned lightly against him.

"Likewise my friend, it's been too long." Underneath Tony's body he felt the rumble of the Gods words and the subtle untensing of tightly wound muscles.

"You-" Tony stifled a sniff as he began pushing away "You stink like three days dead body."

Thor looked down to himself and the shadow of sorrow returned to him.

"That is true, though there is not much I have been able to do about it."

Tony choked back a distressed noise at his words but kept his composure.

"So you've been on a bender I gather?" Tony said.

"Wait, you're not kidding?"

Everyone turned to look at Peter, whose eyes were as big as plates.

"You've actually, actually have dead person on you?" He very nearly shouted.

"Aye." Thor blinked at the energy of the teen.

"Oh my God, I've raised a monster." Tony said. "Um, kid, didn't your Aunt tell you to never ask people if they have dead body on them. She will be so disappointed."

"But Mr. Stark! Sir-"

"It's quite alright Anthony. Stop teasing the boy." As Thor said this, he stumbled suddenly.

Natasha and Tony rushed to him.

"Okay, lay down, man." The mechanic guided the other onto the long couch where Peter was sitting. Natasha knelt beside him and looked him over.

"How bad is it?" She asked serious.

Thor sighed tiredly and sunk further into the couch.

"I am… not good." Thor finally said "But I'll heal. I just haven't rested for a long time." he closed his eye and leaned back.

"Thor. What's going on? What happened" The assassin asked with worry in her eyes.

Tony looked at the raged blond and the fear that always hid itself in the back of his mind stirred.


"Thanos, his name is Thanos." The assembled heroes stood in silence, each unable to offer any comment on Thor's cryptic statement. "He's the one, the infinity stones, Loki's army, the tesseract, it's all been part of his game."

Tony tried to calm the horror that raced through him. He'd thought, wanted there to be a name, a face to the series of events that had slowly unbalanced his mind and brought him closer than he ever thought possible to the horror and reality of total war. Now, after so many years of preparing, waiting and fearing he finally had his answer.

"Thanos." He tried the name, finding it had no more power than any other name he had ever uttered. "Doesn't sound local." Turning to Natasha he nodded his head. "Probably European."

"He's already got the power and the space stone," Thor began to sit up, annoyed that Tony was acting the fool. "If he finds the others he will become unstoppable."

"Well that's not good." The engineer muttered, moving away from the group, silently pondering his dreaded destiny.

"We need to find Vision." Natasha said, following Stark as he drifted away from the group and deeper into his own mindscape.

"Thanos." He whispered. He had no face, Tony had never had a consistent mental image in his mind when he thought about the one behind it all, but the name alone connected him to the dreaded being who had been manipulating them all. Tony was ready for this, he had been preparing for this day ever since New York. Every suit, every upgrade, every misstep, every improvement was all in preparation for when the man behind the curtain finally revealed himself.

"Tony?" Natasha asked.

"He'll be coming here." Tony concluded, more to himself than the others.

"Stark where is Vision and the mind stone?"

Turning Tony saw that he had captivated the room and that all eyes were now on him. "Oh I'm sorry did you say something?" He grinned, masking the fear from all the world.

"Where is Vision?"

"Tell you what." The engineer said, walking towards the thunder God, then at Natasha. "You go clean up, you go find some sexy catsuit, leather thing to put on and I will try and dial up our good friend Vision. Meet back here in ten?" he finished clapping his hands together.

As Thor looked at Tony the fight drained from him; his shoulders slumped down with the weight of his years. With a jerky nod he accepted the convoluted proposal and began walking away.

Tony swallowed when the blond's head disappeared down the corridor and was prepared to begin shrieking but he spotted a sneaky red form trying to be inconspicuous. .

He could hold his shriek until Peter was gone though.


Before they knew it, the day's bright lights began fading into black beneath the horizon line. The rolling clouds of gray stayed though, constant and ominous.

"Peter, you have to go home." Tony sighed as he was forced to repeat himself.

"But Mr. Stark!" Peter tried desperately to argument his stay, but as per usual, Tony seemed to always have the final say when it came to him.

The teen was already in civilian clothes that were storied for him in the compound for emergencies.

"No, kid. Your aunt is going to get worried, and you know who's gonna get blamed?" The mechanic already resembled the boy's aunt with his hands over his hips as it was.

"I want to help." The kid finally said dejectedly and Tony looked at the sky letting out an exasperated sigh.

"I know you do, kid. And believe me, you do it every day, but this isn't something you can help with." For a moment Tony thought he might place a comforting hand on Peter's shoulder but he squished the urge "Besides, I don't think Thor's all that great. I need you to leave so he can talk to us freely. He needs us right now. At least I think he does." The man added as an afterthought.

The kids demeanor flopped down like a sad balloon and Tony knew he'd won.

"Will you…" Peter grabbed at his hair nervously "Will you at least tell me how it goes?"

"I will Peter, now go." Tony said hiding how endearing he found the teen.

Before he knew it, the mechanic had a set of gangly arms clinging to his middle and a mop of hair under his nose. Discreetly he spat out a bit of hair and returned the hug as halfheartedly as he could pretend.

"Yeah, yeah. I love you too and all that." Mumbled Tony as the boy stepped back. "You got all you stuff? You know Happy's not turning back if you forget anything."

"It's fine Mr. Stark. He shrugged as he let go and slowly walked to the compound gates where Happy was waiting for him.

"Quit stalling Peter!" Tony shouted the kid into a trot. When the sound of the cars closing door reached him the Mechanic sighed and walked back inside.


In the common room Tony found Natasha in the kitchen brewing coffee on the French press.

"Thor?" He asked.

"Still showering." She answered without looking as she poured the hot water in slow circular motions over the pulverized grains.

Tony leaned on the bar over his elbows and let his head fall down.

"You better put on more water because that little pot is not going to be enough."

"I know." She placed her hand on his shoulder and rubbed gentle circles with her tumb on the back of his neck.

"It's like everyday just keeps getting worse and worse, you know?" Natasha squeezed harder when his voice wavered.

"It's going to be okay, Tony." She whispered.

"Is it though?" He looked up at her, a sardonic smile on his lips "We keep jumping from catastrophe to catastrophe." He passed his hands over his tousled hair "We keep losing more and more friends every time I turn around."

"Tony…" Nat breathed.

"I keep losing friends." He looks at her eyes and holds her gaze "Don't try to deny it I know you keep in touch with Rogers and the rest of his merry gang."

Tony looks away and Natasha keeps silent. She grabs his face then, bringing his eyes back to hers.

"I'm still here." She simply says.

Tony nods, not trusting his voice. He takes her hands from his face but holds onto her. They wait.


Standing in the shower stall in one of the compound's many guest rooms, Thor felt the thousands of perfectly heated water droplets rain down on him, slowly removing the dirt, blood and grime from his skin.

Watching the mess he had accumulated over his harrowing journey collect at the base of the drain before vanishing out of sight, struck the one eyed God with a sense of irony. Soon he would be clean again, but the scars, both the ones that marked his flesh and his heart would still remain, so what was the actual point in making himself presentable?

His people, Asgard were gone. Whatever few remained were scattered to deep space in the few lucky escape pods that had slipped by Thanos, alone, lost, without a direction or future. It would be impossible to unite them again, and even if he could, to what end? How had things gone wrong so quickly? Why, after sacrificing everything, enduring hardships and loss had the cosmos rewarded him with only more pain and death?

Thor was no king, in that he had failed utterly. Revenge was all he had left, and a desire to see that the people of Earth, his friends, did not share the same fate that had befallen Asgard. The thunder God did not know how Thanos would choose to come to Earth, but if the ship and resources that Thor had already witnessed were any indication, then the army that had been gifted to Loki would pale in comparison.

Loki.

Thor closed his single eye in regret.

He had watched his brother die, and while this hadn't been the first or even second time he had witnessed Loki's death the pain was still as fresh and consuming as it had been before. It wasn't right. If anyone should have been able to escape Thanos and live to fabricate the tale in their favor, surely it was his brother, the trickster, the schemer, the one who had led him astray time after time with simple misdirection and manipulation.

But Loki hadn't been able to out scheme this, he had tried, but Thanos was too powerful, too cold to be swayed by honeyed words and Loki, Loki had fallen into the trap he had never been able to see. He believed in his own smarts, his own Godhood that he hadn't recognised the danger until all the doors had been closed and he had become trapped.

No one would mourn him.

The few in the galaxy that had met his brother had only ever seen his worst qualities, they saw the trickster, the liar, the would be conqueror.

Even among Thor's allies and friends none would be able to conjure a single word of kindness towards him.

Asgard and her people would go unmourned, and the universe would carry on as it ever did.

Reaching for the shower dial, Thor ceased the downpour of warm water and stood for a long minute wishing that things had gone differently, that he could change the fates of those he had failed. Finally he wished he could have been what they all thought he was. A king. Someone who could have protected them from the darkness in the universe.

Someone who could have made the sun shine upon Asgard once again.


The sound of heavy footfalls reached Tony and Natasha. They raised their heads as the God of thunder walked into the room.

"Well, you look presentable." Said Tony "S'much as you can I suppose."

Thor raised his hand and traced the hollow of his eye self-consciously. A moment later he took out his eyepatch and covered it up.

"What's up with that anyway?" The mechanic asked as he gestured vaguely towards Thor's face.

The blond walked closer to the kitchen.

"Coffee?" Natasha asked raising a filled cup.

"If you would be so kind." He took it and downed half the contents in one go. "If you must know Anthony, it was cut out by my eldest sister. I imagine she thought it would be amusing that I inherit my father's vision.

"There's another one?" Tony choked into his own coffee, horrified.

"Not anymore I'm afraid." Thor smiled grimly and downed the second half of his cup. He looked down slightly displeased at the development.

"There's another pot coming up." Natasha tells him and he nods.

"There are no more offspring of Odin in the nine realms. Just me now." Thor continues solemn.

"That's… very dark." Said Tony awkwardly "are you okay or, you know, whatever?"

"What Tony's trying to say is that we're worried about you, Thor. You seem…" Nat tried to find the right words but the mechanic opened his mouth first.

"Like a corpse that's been rolled around for a few weeks now." The assassin glared at him but Tony was nonplussed.

A strangled laugh escaped Thor as he rubbed a calloused hand over his face.

"It does feel that way, yes. This past few weeks have been… absolute shit." He said bluntly.

The coffee was ready then and Tony served everyone a second filling.

"My sister's resurgence and consecutive death are not important at the moment. Nor are the many tragedies that have recently come to pass... " He stumbled on his last words and swallowed a sound like an irregular breath. The blond gathered himself and continued "There are… more pressing matters."

Tony and Natasha looked at him worryingly but nodded.

"We called Vision." Natasha said crossing her arms "He's far away right now but he'll be back as soon as possible. Probably tomorrow by midday."

"Good. We'll need him." Thor looked outside and sighed. A beat of thunder followed far away. "There is much we need to discuss."

"Can it wait for tomorrow?" The assassin asked despite the severity of the situation "Vision's not here yet and… you look tired."

The God closed his eyes and took a lungful of air.

"Tomorrow then." Tony patted his bicep and the three of them moved to the lounge.

They sat together on the same couch and leaned back in silence. Night had fallen.

Thor slid down a bit until his head rested on the back of the couch; he closed his eye and let out a heavy breath. The Avengers heard the beginning of a gentle rain falling outside, constant and lulling.

Tony and Natasha leaned slightly into Thor and enjoyed the quiet music of the droplets. After a few minutes, the God made a contemplative sound at the back of his throat.

"Say, where are Steven and the rest of our friends?" He asked.

The mechanic and the assassin looked at one another for an awkward moment until Thor opened his eye to look at them.

"Oh, boy," Mumbled Tony under his breath "You see, about that…"

It was a long night that followed. So much for tomorrow.