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One Day (you'll have given more of yourself than is meant to be taken)

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A very long time ago, Odin sits Thor upon his knee and says, “You’re going to grow up to be such a strong warrior.” Still so small and awkward, all chubby cheeks and pudgy fingers and clumsy limbs, Thor grasps Odin’s sleeve and stares up at him.

“You’ll be an honourable, formidable man everyone will respect.” Odin lays a large hand upon Thor’s narrow little shoulder and squeezes just a bit too tight, smile small and terrible.

“One day, son,” he says. “One day.”

Little Thor nods shakily, tummy knotted and queasy. Forces an awful smile, says, “Yes, father,” and that is that.

So Thor grows into manhood reluctantly, fiercely, with all the fervor of a child who desperately wishes to be loved but doesn’t exactly know what they’re doing. Or why. Or even if they should.

But she does it anyway.

The thing is, Thor knows she will never be a real man.

When she’s little it doesn’t really matter. Mother is Queen and father is King but gender doesn’t matter beyond that. Everyone’s just a person and Thor doesn’t see a difference between playing with any of the servants’ daughters or sons. It certainly doesn’t matter with Loki who changes between boy and girl with nary a breath or faltered word. Thor readily calls them sister or brother with each change, doesn’t even think to question it. That’s just how it is. Sometimes Loki feels like a girl and sometimes Loki doesn’t. Sometimes Loki doesn’t even feel like anything at all and why would Thor mind in the slightest? Loki is Thor’s beloved sibling. Sure, they may be a pain and annoying at the best of times, but Thor loves her sibling more than anything. Knows she’ll always have them.

But then Odin sits her down and says, “One day, son. One day,” and suddenly she’s aware of the early broadness of her shoulders. The width of her palms, the stubbiness of her fingers.

The space between her legs.

And she thinks:

Oh.

It’s the worst feeling she’ll ever experience. Worse than being banished to earth. Worse than her brother’s betrayal. Worse than her mother’s death.

Thor will never feel more awful than this, and she’ll keep on feeling it year after year after year.

I have to be a man, she thinks. I can’t be anything but. My father needs a son who can rule. A son worthy of the throne and the people’s respect. No one will love me like this. No one will want me like this.

Even if there are people like Loki who aren’t constrained to one gender, Thor can’t be anything but because her father expects it. Everyone expects it. No one looks at her and thinks anything other than man.

There’s no other option.

So she takes up a sword and never lets go. From then on, she watches the warriors around her and does her best to copy them. She speaks from her gut so her voices booms just a bit too loud. She tears meat from the bone with her teeth and laughs with her mouth full and wipes her greasy hands on her pants.

Tyr doesn’t even have to pull her into the arena to train. Instead, she’s there before the sun peaks above the horizon, before her brother has even stirred from where he’s fallen asleep atop his books in the library. She works until her hands are blistered and bloody. Every time she’s kicked down she gets back up, spitting dirt and blood and goes at it again. She lifts more than her scrawny arms can carry and does it again and again and again until she aches all the way down to the bone, trembling with exhaustion. And then does it some more. Does that until her muscles build up and she can no longer fit into Loki’s clothes.

Loki is good with magic and books and Thor- Thor is good at this. She knows she is, just from the way her father looks at her, from the way she lasts far longer in the ring than any other warrior in training.

She knows it from the way people begin to whisper about her.

There’s nothing else Thor is meant for but this.

Thor has always been a bit too hot-headed but she embraces it fully. Leaps into things without thinking, says things without considering how they’ll sound. Well- that’s not entirely true. She listens to the warriors around her, lingering on the edges of conversation. She notices that women tend to be careful about what they say. Her own mother carefully plots out her words, slipping them into the cracks left behind by her father. Frigga is a master of forethought and manipulation. Thor admires her mother for this, and her brother who so carefully takes after her.

But Thor can’t be like her mother no matter how much she loves her. If she was, then people would know. They’d know something is wrong with her, they’d dig deeper, they’d find out. So she leaves it to her brother. Her beautiful brother who slips so eloquently into womanhood whenever he wants. Who slips into the cracks left behind by Thor’s own careless words.

I can do this, she thinks. Because Loki is there for her. He’ll be the flipside to her coin like mother is to father. He makes it easier for her to take on the role laid out for her. Easier to accept what she must be. She sees him and thinks: He is who I must never be.

As long as Loki is here, she knows she’ll be okay.

So she leaps into things without thinking. Says things without considering how they’ll sound. She laughs too loud and belches too long. Days go by between picking up a book because she needs to train train train. There is no time for anything else. If she isn’t getting kicked around the arena, she’s practicing her forms. If she isn’t running laps around the palace then she’s in the forge learning the intricacies of each weapon that comes to life in the smith’s hands. There are no more quiet afternoons in the gardens. No more exciting trips to the market. No more falling asleep with a tome propped in her lap because she’s unconscious before she even hits the mattress.

If Loki begins to pull away, then that’s okay. If her jokes leave everyone laughing but him, then it’ll be all right. If Loki stops sneaking into her room at night so they can lay next to each other and whisper secrets they won’t share with anyone else, then- then Thor will have to bear it. Because this is how she must act if she’s going to be the perfect son. Loki is different from her anyway. It was destined for them to pull apart even if it leaves her shaking at night, too wound up to do more than just breathe. Just breathe.

Everything is going to be okay.

Sometimes in the dead of night when she’s curled up in bed, she pities herself. Resents the position she’s in. Because why does it have to be Thor? Thor who her father relies upon? Thor who must be the warrior prince? The perfect son?

But then she watches Loki suffer ridicule from everyone around him. Her beautiful, bright, clever little brother who learns not to flinch in the face of cruel jests. Who holes himself up in the library learning magic so he’s just as lethal as their agemates with their swords. He may be allowed to be a woman whenever he wishes but that doesn’t mean that everyone understands. That doesn’t mean that father approves of Loki running around in skirts.

Thor watches her brother with bated breath. Wants to take him by the shoulders and just give him a good shake and demand: Why are you doing this? Fear clogs up her throat. Why do you let them do this to you? Why can’t you just- just be—

And then she hates herself. Because she loves her brother but she’s so afraid for him. Afraid of what more people will do to him given the chance. Her brother may be strange but she’s strange, too, even if she can’t show it. And he’s still good. He’s still her brother. Her sister. Her beloved sibling.

She doesn’t want to force him to be something he’s not, even if it’ll keep him safe. She thinks of the awful emptiness in her heart. The constant fear nestled in the base of her neck. The terrible knot her stomach has become. Because in those moments far away from ridicule, when Loki lights up the room with his magic and flicks his long, dark hair over his shoulder with elegant fingers—

He’s at his happiest.

And Thor just can’t take that away from him.

So she bottles up her anxiety. Packs it away into the deep dark recesses of her mind where everything else she can’t confront lurks. She does her best to support him even though she messes up. A lot. It’s difficult trying to be the ideal man when her brother is anything but. She does her best, though, even if it’s not as good as she wishes she could be.

(in those awful moments when she feels more alone than ever, she wonders what would have happened if she’d shaken her head all those years ago as she sat upon her father’s knee. if she’d said no. if she’d said father I am not who you want me to be. or father I can’t be who you want me to be. in those awful moments when she feels more alone than ever and wants to cry like she hasn’t let herself in years, she wonders what would have happened if she’d just told Loki)

(she knows they would still be hiding beneath the covers at night and sharing their deepest secrets)

(she knows they would train together instead of apart)

(she knows Loki would braid her hair and fix her skirts and laugh at her when she tried to talk to the boy she liked)

(Loki would have her back and never leave)

But sometimes still, late at night when it’s just her in her gigantic bed feeling more alone than ever. More lost than ever. She pities herself in a way she’ll never pity anyone else.

Then she meets Sif and promptly wants to swallow her tongue because here is a girl facing a never-ending struggle just to prove herself. Thor is handed everything. She knows this. She knows she’s privileged. At least people don’t bat an eye at her. Sif, they narrow their eyes at. Sif, they turn away from when she falls and skins her knees. Sif, they expect to burst into tears when she breaks her arm. Instead, Sif adopts a fierce, stony expression and learns not to blink when she gets hurt. She even punches another boy out for daring to tell her that if she is going to roughhouse, she should just chop all her golden hair off.

Thor watches Sif train for hours and hour and hours long after any other boy gives up. The sweat drips off her brow, her hands blistered and raw, but she keeps on going.

Thor wants to reach out, to comfort. To say: I understand. But she can’t because how can Thor understand when she was born a boy in all the ways that seem to matter?

So instead Thor crooks a grin over her cheeks and steps forward to offer herself as an opponent. When Sif narrows her ice blue eyes on Thor it’s all she can do not to shiver, because here- here is someone more like Thor than anyone else even if she can’t acknowledge it. Her shield sister in all but blood.

(when Loki carelessly chops Sif’s hair off, Thor becomes everything she’s ever feared. she punishes him, ridicules him, fractures the trust they’ve shared since they were born because when Thor sees Sif with her ugly shorn head and how her hands shake, the swollen redness of her eyes, Thor sees herself. it’s the first time Thor will ever feel so betrayed by Loki, because how can she possibly forgive him for what he’s done? for taking away something so vital to Sif’s identity? for squandering the very thing that Thor has wanted more than anything else? she trusted him to understand and perhaps he trusted her to understand, too)

(in the end they never do salvage what’s been lost)

And so Thor grows. She learns to act like a man. Learns to ignore the changes in her body by avoiding the mirror altogether. Doesn’t cry when bristles begin to grow along her jaw. Forces herself to learn to love herself as a man because what other option is there? Men look at her with envy and women with want. She can’t ignore it, so she embraces it, instead.

She brawls and drinks and takes women into her bed.

She earns a name for herself.

Earns Mjolnir.

Wonders how she can possibly be worthy of it.

On the day of her coronation it’s as if she’s been gutted. All of her true self has ripped out and replaced with an emptiness she’s vaguely worried she’ll never recover from.

It’s all been leading up to this. She’s finally going to be King.

(she’s accomplished the complete and utter desecration of her entire being)

She wonders if she’ll live the rest of her life as a brittle husk.

And then it’s ripped away and what’s left is this ugly, hungry want. This rage. Her gut becomes this terrible black hole that wants to wreak havoc and destruction and swallow everything whole because how dare they. She sacrificed everything for this and now it’s going to be taken away?

She can’t let that happen.

But then it does and she’s left banished and worthless and what was the point of all this if she’s left with just the manhood she never wanted in the first place?

A man is all she is.

It’s a wonder she doesn’t die when her father rips her prince-hood from her.

It’s a wonder she doesn’t just kill herself.

Too many things happen after that. As always, it’s too much for her to handle but she does it anyway. She falls just a bit in love and loses the only stability in her life. The only person she thought would always be there.

She hates her brother for being everything she couldn’t. For being brave enough to do everything she couldn’t. Even kill himself.

And then she hates herself more because how could she think that.

(when she learns Loki isn’t really her brother she wonders why am I so different what is wrong with me if it is not in my blood and this is it for me if there is no place in the universe for my brother and if he cannot accept himself then how can I?)

She bites it down and swallows it back. She has never been so uncomfortable in her body before and there is no hope for claiming any pride in it as she tried to before.

She screams herself to sleep every night until she learns Loki’s alive and then every night after that because she’s failed him. Her sweet little brother is as mad as any raving tyrant and Thor- she can’t- she doesn’t even know how to touch that without coming away raw and bleeding and unfulfilled.

(sometimes she thinks she loves Jane just because Jane is a master of her field and yet no one ridicules her for being a woman. Jane can be who she wants to be and be content in her own skin)

Thor wasn’t there for her brother. If she had, then maybe he would have trusted her. Maybe he wouldn’t have tried to kill himself. Maybe he wouldn’t be further away from her now than he’s even been, even though the only thing separating them is a cell wall. If she hadn’t been so focused on protecting herself, then maybe she could have saved him.

Thor becomes quieter. She thinks before she speaks. She asks questions before she raises her hammer. She doesn’t make the tasteless jokes she used to and takes to sequestering herself on her balcony late at night to watch the stars and revel in the silence of the night.

She even ventures into her brother’s rooms, something she hasn’t dared do since his supposed death. She sits on his bed, runs her hand over the soft blankets and remembers crawling under them when they were very young to share all her deepest darkest secrets but the one that mattered most.

She even works her way through his carefully kept shelves, reading his most beloved tomes though she doesn’t understand half of them.

(she stands at his open wardrobe and stares at the elegant gowns sweeping the floor. reaches out. touches the delicate lace of one collar. catches sight of her broad, scarred hand. a warrior’s hand. closes the door)

The violent desperation that’s writhed in her belly all her life has calmed into a tightened anxiety. She knows she’s better for it. For taking the time to be thoughtful. To care more about how her actions affect others rather than just herself.

The desperation retreats, thrumming and awful, to the back of her mind. But even with her brother kept in the bowels of the palace, she thinks everything might be okay. Eventually.

Then her mother dies and she thinks: there is no hope left for me. I must be King. There is no choice. I am the avenging son.

(and there is a lot to be said about her mother. her mother who was so understanding and intelligent and there’s no way Frigga didn’t know. there’s no way she didn’t. but Thor didn’t say anything and neither did her mother so it’s too late now. it’s too late to know and hear her mother say: I know, my love, and I love you no matter what. my dear sweet daughter)

Loki dies just when she thinks everything will mend between them. He has always been her support. The spear to her shield, the wisdom to her brawn. The spark of hope in all that is dark and fathomless in the night.

When she comes home and stands before her father. When he tells her how proud he is of her. When he looks upon her as if she is the son he’s always wanted and never knew he needed, it’s with an overwhelming, absolutely consuming, awful shattering grief that she smiles up at him.

This is all she ever wanted. All she ever thought she needed.

And it is so very, very hollow.

(that night she sinks into bed but does not sleep)

(nor does she sleep the next night. nor the next. nor the next)

She lives her life as her father’s righthand man. A title. An empty vessel. An arrow waiting to be drawn, a shield battered with blow after blow, dented and scuffed but ready and willing to protect until it fractures shatters falls apart.

(if she grows her hair longer than she’s ever kept it, if she braids it occasionally and takes more care of it than even Mjolnir, then it’s just this one little indulgence. she’s earned herself that much at least)

Of course, she should have known there was more to it than that.

Her brother has always been too clever by half and it has always been his downfall.

When she realizes he’s been masquerading as King it’s like her old persona shutters over her eyes, tenses her limbs, floods her veins with anxietyanxietyanxiety.

Thor is so very tired.

But all she’s ever done is betray those around her (for not being there for her brother, not saving her mother, not realizing her father was gone, for lying to her people about being someone she is not, for slowly killing the woman she knows she’s always been). So of course she lets it wash over her with a weary acceptance.

Being betrayed in kind is not new to Thor.

This is all she’s ever deserved.

So when she finds her father upon that cliff edge looking out onto the endless sea, she suddenly feels more unsure than she’s ever felt.

“Father?” she manages, voice so tentative, heart trembling in her throat. Look at me, she doesn’t say. Help me, she doesn’t plead.

“Look at this place,” he says instead. “It’s beautiful.”

Then: “My sons, I’ve been waiting for you.”

And of course, even in his final moments, her father never truly sees her. She’s spent her entire life chasing after his approval, hardening her spirit, twisting and breaking and gouging out her heart just to conform to the son he’s always needed.

The son he’s always wanted.

And it will never be enough.

In those final moments upon that cliff in some forgotten countryside, Thor shatters one last time with the knowledge that she has an older sister.

Hela is the first born. The woman who ruled how she wished. Who spoke as she wished. Who dressed as she wished.

Something in Thor shrivels and dies because if she’d known she had an older sister- if she’d known she was allowed to be who she wanted to be-

Then she wouldn’t be like this.

But no.

That’s not true.

Hela spoke out of turn, acted beyond the Allfather’s wishes.

Hela was banished for being who she was (never mind how power-hungry Odin claims).

And suddenly- suddenly Thor knows with every fibre of her being that all those years ago when she sat upon her father’s knee and listened as he said: “You’re going to grow up to be such a strong warrior. An honourable, formidable man everyone will respect,” if she’d said No. If she’d slipped from his knee in defiance and instead said That is not who I am. Father, I am not who you want me to be. I am your daughter—

Then Odin would have locked her away, too.

Thor’s father dies and she knows there is no going back.

For Thor, warrior, lover, God of Thunder, can be either be a King or nothing at all.

(a failure, always)

It’s with a chilling numbness that Hela emerges from the swirling darkness to shatter Mjolnir and Thor’s already cracked soul.

Everything is a blur after that. If Thor never emerged from the suction of desolate space, she thinks she’d be all right with that. At least she’d find some peace.

(she knows she’ll never earn her place in Valhalla)

But it’s not the end.

Because it turns out that the woman who found him on Sakaar and threw him into slavery is actually—

“My God,” she whispers, the words stolen from her shaky breath. She stares as the woman swigs down her ale. Stares at the emblem branded upon her arm. “You’re a Valkyrie.”

Suddenly she’s tiny and oh so young again. All clumsy limbs and chubby cheeks. Newly desperate for her father’s affection and not yet good enough for his pride.

“You’re going to grow up to be such a strong warrior,” rattles in her ears, haunts her every dream. “An honourable, formidable man everyone will respect.” Because of course no one will respect her unless she is formidable. Unless she kills every enemy she lays eyes on. Unless she cuts every soft part of her away until all that’s left is a hardened man with no hopes or dreams and only one purpose.

He tells her the same thing every day but in different words. Always manages finds new ways to gut her, to rip her open, to tear out her ugly beating heart with his aged hands.

“Soon you’ll have the callouses you’ll need to wield that sword without bleeding.”

“One day that shield will be easy to carry.”

“The ladies won’t be able to keep their hands off you.”

“You mustn’t shave, a beard becomes a man.”

With every word he utters she’s equally delighted and nauseated. She wants to make him proud. Wants him to say: “Yes, yes. This is my darling, darling Thor. My eldest, my—”

When Thor is young and trying not to throw up and trying to be better and just trying trying trying

When Thor doesn’t really know whether she is a boy or girl, doesn’t know that is something she can even question, is allowed to question (and there were so many things at that age that Thor didn’t know she could want)—

Her mother slips the practice sword from her bloody fingers, coaxes her from the training arena, pulls her close and says:

“Have you heard of the Valkyrie?”

Maybe even then her mother knew.

Maybe even then her mother was the one person Thor never knew she needed. Because of course every daughter needs their mother, but does every daughter truly know that? Doesn’t every daughter take their mother for granted?

Thor certainly did.

And then her mother died and took part of Thor with her and Thor is never getting either back ever ever ever.

But now Thor looks at the Valkyrie and says, “You know, I used to want to be a Valkyrie when I was younger,” because it’s true.

Her mother had pulled her close as she whispered to Thor about the Valkyrie. Bone weary and soul aching, Thor listened in rapture as Frigga spoke of the women fiercer than any warrior in the universe. Her eyes hungrily roamed across the open pages of the book in her lap. Traced the round lines of the Valkyrie’s cheekbones, the sharp edges of her sword, the sweep of the horse’s wings.

Here was a woman undoubtedly feared by all.

Respected by all.

No one could tell her how to act or what to do or what to say. No one dared.

Even the King accepted them.

When Thor was young and aching and more lost than she’ll be in many, many, many years, she thought:

I want to be a Valkyrie.

She went to bed that night thrumming with excitement. Maybe she could become one. Maybe maybe maybe.

Just maybe.

The next morning she all but ran to the training ground and practically tackled Sif, babbling about the Valkyrie and how they can be one. Sif! We can be Valkyrie!

But Sif just shook her head, eyes narrowed and shoulders drawn and said:

“The Valkyrie are long gone. They were killed years before we were even born.”

She said:

“Even if they were still alive you can’t be one, Thor. You’re a boy. A Valkyrie can only be a woman.”

Thor knows now her mother only wanted to give her hope. Frigga only ever wished the best for her children. She didn’t mean to break Thor’s heart, just wanted to give her encouragement. Maybe even in her own way, Frigga was trying to tell Thor that she loved and accepted her for who she was.

But Thor was too young and foolish and could only think that this was her final salvation snatched from her bloody fingertips.

Thor couldn’t even be a Valkyrie.

(for years afterward she dreamed of riding atop flying horses, elegant sword in hand, glimmering armour cupping curves she’d never have and every morning she’d wake with tears streaming down her cheeks from happiness or grief she’ll never know)

So it’s true when Thor says, “You know, I used to want to be a Valkyrie,” because for one terribly short day she thought she could be one and for many terribly long years afterwards she’d go to bed at night and desperately wish she’d wake up worthy of becoming one.

But the universe is cruel and Thor learned this from far too young an age.

As Valkyrie rolls her eyes and Thor tries not to throw up from the desperation and fear and awful hope clawing their way up her throat, she babbles words she hardly hears. Then when Valkyrie dismisses her and begins to turn away Thor desperately says, “Please, help me! I need your help!”

But she does not listen.

Terror and the awful desperate need to be accepted wanted finally claws its way out her mouth, bloodying it with words she means more than she wishes she did:

“Then you must be a traitor or a coward because the Valkyrie is sworn to protect the throne!”

Shame immediately heats her face as the Valkyrie bears down on her.

It’s equally as awful that Thor notices the Valkyrie is even more beautiful when angry.

“Listen closely, Your Majesty,” she snarls, baring her teeth. “This is Sakaar not Asgard. And I’m a scrapper, not a Valkyrie.”

Pain skips like lightning through Thor’s veins, burning and plundering and she folds to the ground.

Valkyrie’s smirk reminds Thor uncomfortably of Loki. “And no one escapes this place. So you’re gonna die anyway.”

Thor is dragged away reeling and her carefully kept hair is shorn from her head (and isn’t that just the salt in the wound, she’s Sif’s worst memory and her own worst nightmare brought to life). Everything has been stripped from her. She’s just a man. A tool. Worthless except for her ability to fight and even then she’s so easily thrown away.

The reality of her entire life is exposed for all to see.

She’s only ever been a tool.

She’s only existed at the behest of others.

Her entire self-worth revolves around her identity as a man.

She can be nothing but a man.

He can be nothing but a man.

(if only she’d died all those years ago, by Loki’s hand or some nameless enemy’s or when her father told her she must become someone she can’t)

(if she’d died at birth that’d be fine, too. then she’ll never have had to slowly kill herself over the years in the worst way possible)

But then.

But then.

Hulk.

Hulk.

She can’t believe her luck.

Except maybe she’s not so lucky and the universe is once more reminding her how unworthy she is of it.

At one point during the fight she thinks maybe she’s reached him. She thinks of Natasha and the soft way she always spoke to Hulk despite her early uneasiness. Natasha confronted that fear within herself in order to reach out and help a dear friend.

Thor can do the same.

So she holds out a gentle hand, pitches her voice soft, reaches deep inside herself and touches something she’s never allowed herself to confront.

“Hey, Big Guy,” she murmurs. The sun’s getting’ real low.”

The Hulk rumbles, shaking his head, face unsure and eyes round with confusion.

“I won’t hurt you, anymore.” I don’t want to. “No one will.” I promise.

But Thor’s never been good enough and she certainly is no Natasha.

Hulk hits her.

And hits her.

And hits her.

And hits her.

And just when she thinks that maybe this is how she’s going to go. Maybe this is a blessing in disguise because finally finally she’s going to be done, this will all be over—

She sees her father on that cliff edge. He stares at her the way she’s always hated. Like she’s weak and worthless. Like she’ll never be enough.

You’ll never be a man, that eye say.

And fine. You know what? Maybe she never will be. She’ll never be a man and you know what? That’s fine with her. That’s just fine. She doesn’t need the ghost of her father haunting her in all the worst ways. She’s not a prince anymore and she’s certainly never been her own man. Here’s she’s nothing. Just a body waiting to die. A punching bag. A thing.

When it gets down to it that’s all she’s really ever been and she doesn’t need this she’s never wanted this.

Odin’s gone and she doesn’t have to prove herself to him any longer.

Lightning sparks along her fingertips, blinds her eyes until suddenly everything is in sharp focus and she can see.

Finally.

She can see.

Before she even knows it her knuckles strike Hulk’s cheek and he’s flying back back back. She climbs to her feet as electricity crackles along her bruised skin, spikes along her tongue. It fills her with a warmth she’s never felt, a comfort she never thought she’d ever get. It tumbles in her belly like a tumultuous storm, ready to escape through her open mouth, through every pore in her body—

It’s like she doesn’t even have a body. It doesn’t matter whether she’s man or woman she’s just lightning and the storm and the taste of ozone in the air.

This-

This is who she’s meant to be.

It’s ripped from her far too soon with a numbing shock to her neck.

Long after she’s woken up, she manages to escape with Hulk then Banner on her heels. She furls a cloth about her head and for one inane moment she thinks, At least no one will look at me this way. No one cares when they can’t see my face. I’m nothing nothing nothing to them.

It’s a relieving thought.

Then she wants to throw up when Banner says he’s been trapped for two years and he’s terrified he’ll never come back once the Hulk come out again.

Yet another person terrifyingly like her.

Yet another person she’s betrayed (because yes she does need the Hulk and yes she is using Banner and just thinking about it now makes her want to die over and over and over—).

And then and then and then

Valkyrie.

Once more.

She comes back into Thor’s wildlife like an avenging spirit, bright and furious and oh so deadly.

“If I’m gonna die,” Valkyrie says, “it may as well be driving my sword through the heart of that murderous hag.”

And this- this is what Thor needs.

Valkyrie was one of the fiercest warriors once upon a time before her sisters were slaughtered and she somehow survived. She was brought down low, homeless and hopeless. No one wanted her. She was nothing.

But she kept on living. Made a name for herself. Kept fighting fighting fighting and sure maybe she lost a bit more of herself along the way but here she is.

She’s a Valkyrie, but it doesn’t define her completely. She’s who she wants to be. She does what she wants and she can choose to be the better person.

Right now, she looks every bit as fearsome as Thor always imagined the Valkyrie to be.

(Thor looks at her and falls in love just a bit)

When she and Loki run off to find a ship, she lets herself believe it’s just like old times. They’re simply Thor and Loki off to conquer the world and leave everyone chasing their own tails. Back when they trusted each other so wholeheartedly it was almost like they were two halves of the same being.

Loki fiddles with a door’s control panel as Thor leans against the wall. Suddenly, in the silence she feels intensely awkward.

This isn’t Thor and Loki off to the conquer the world. They’ve changed since then. Too much. Loki likely has an ulterior motive up his sleeve because Thor knows her brother and he hasn’t changed quite that much.

Suddenly it’s- it’s a lot.

This is a lot.

Everything has happened since that fateful coronation day so many years ago. Things Thor didn’t think she’d recover from. Things she still thinks she can’t recover from. She’s changed, but she’s a better person, she thinks. Probably.

Maybe.

She’s trying.

And Loki, he’s-

He may know his true parentage now, but that doesn’t erase his childhood. It doesn’t erase the family he once had (still has, if he’ll let her), no matter how betrayed he may still feel.

Loki is Thor’s brother. Her sister. Her beloved sibling. And knowing that he’s a Jötunn makes no Goddamned difference to her.

And Thor…she worries this might be the last time she’ll see him.

She can’t let this chance pass her by.

“Hey, so, listen,” she starts, self-consciously crossing her arms across her body. “We, uh- we should talk.”

There’s a quiet pause. Thor carefully doesn’t bite her lip or even glance at her brother’s expression.

“I disagree,” Loki says despite Thor’s sinking heart. “Open communication was never our family’s forte.”

A rueful laugh bubbles from Thor’s lips. “Ah, you have no idea.” Heart sore, she follows Loki through the door. “Been quite the revelation since we last spoke.”

When they lift their blasters it’s in sync, and when they greet Grandmaster’s men Thor can’t help but smile. Even though it’s not like old times. Even though Loki’s just working with her to achieve his own ends—

Hope sparks in her chest, fondness blooms warm in her gut.

Even if this is the last day she ever sees her brother, at least she knows it’s them against the universe.

At least it can end like this.

They step forward as one.

They fight as one.

“Odin brought us together,” Loki says over the roar of blaster fire. “It’s almost poetic that his death should split us apart.”

They rush across the room and Thor fends off the remaining guards while Loki hacks his way into the door control system. “We might as well be strangers now.” He flashes a lackluster smile at Thor. “Two sons of the crown set adrift.”

The unexpected sting in her eyes catches her by surprise. But then a guard rushes out of the elevator and Thor thinks, No. Not my brother. Not this time. She knocks the weapon from the guard’s hands and they both watch as he flies upward from the power of the resulting blast.

“I thought you didn’t want to talk about it,” Thor quips, bitterness raw in her throat, eyes hot and itchy. She stalks into the elevator before Loki can even say a word.

“Here’s the thing,” Loki starts as he follows her through the doors.

Gritting her teeth, she clutches her hands and stands firm with her back to the window. Trains her eyes on the steel of the doors. The control panel lights flicker harsh and crimson but she doesn’t blink. Lets the colour bleed into her vision until it’s just a haze of flashing lights and the hotness behind her eyes is just a reaction to it.

Loki settles by her side like he always has. But there’s a rift there that she must acknowledge. She knows what he’s going to say before he even parts his lips.

“I’m probably I’m better off staying here on Sakaar.”

She barely bites back a bark of grief. Can’t help but spit out a cruel, “That’s exactly what I was thinking.” She tosses her head in his direction and can’t bear to look at him any longer than she must. She knew she’d probably lose her brother again, but-

She’d rather not.

The thing is, her brother has always been a free and fickle creature. She can’t tie him down and she can’t guilt him into anything. He does what he wants when he pleases, and he’ll always be the same. Asgard isn’t his home, not any longer. He’s denied it with his entire being. Masquerading as King just proved how uncomfortable he is with just living as himself there. He doesn’t think anyone will accept him and as much as Thor wants to deny it, she’s worried…he may be right. After everything, how can they accept Loki?

(they certainly can’t accept her)

She knows he’s looking for an argument. Loki expects her to beg for him to come home. He’s become far too used to a well-worn script and Thor is tired. She can’t take it anymore.

The constant disappointment and betrayal.

She’s sick of it.

She’s not going to play this game. She’s played it enough to last a thousand lifetimes.

Thor’s done with people expecting everything she just can’t give.

“Did you just agree with me?” She can tell he just barely manages not to stutter. Knows his mind is racing a mile a minute, struggling to find his queue, his next line.

She won’t give it to him.

“Come on, this place is perfect for you,” Thor continues, eyes blurred but that’s just the lights, heart pounding so loud she can hardly hear her own words. “It’s savage, chaotic, lawless…Brother, you’re gonna do great here.”

The awful part is that it’s probably true. Except Loki excels in any environment. He’s clever and resourceful and he’ll always be the last one standing. It’s a true strength of his she’s always admired.

Just…she hopes he won’t settle here.

He’s meant for far better than this.

“Do you truly think so little of me?” There’s uncertainty in his voice. A hidden layer of hurt and resignation.

Her lips part to say—

No. She can’t.

This is her brother.

Her sister.

Her sibling.

This may be the last day she’ll ever see him.

She can’t leave him like this.

“Loki, I thought the world of you,” Thor says, voice hoarse as she bites back her tears. Her brother’s startled stare bores into her soul and she knows she’s baring more than she has in a long time. “I thought we were going fight side by side forever.” Her breath hitches imperceptibly. “But at the end of the day, you’re you and I’m me.” She glances away from him, shrugging awkwardly. “I don’t know, maybe there’s still good in you, but let’s be honest our paths diverged a long time ago.”

There’s a long stretch of silence in which she doesn’t dare breath. Loki’s own breath stutters and he struggles to find a response.

“Yeah.” It’s as ineloquent as she’s ever heard him. “It’s probably for the best we never see each other again.”

In another life she might say: “It’s what you’ve always wanted,” and leave it at that. But Thor is wearier than she’s ever been. Everything has been stripped from her. Her title, her father, her home—

She’s about to lose her brother, too.

And she knows it’s not what he’s always wanted.

What he’s wanted is love and acceptance and a father who’s proud of him.

She can at least give him two of these things.

“You know it isn’t,” Thor chokes, hot tears finally spilling down her cheeks. She stares ahead at nothing. She won’t be able to see his expression if she turned to him anyway, not through her tears.

She wonders distantly when she last cried. Probably the last time she thought Loki died. She’d knelt in the dust and clutched his body to her chest and wept and wept and wept.

“You’re my brother,” she says, voice thick. “My sister. My sibling.

His breath hitches.

“We may not be of the same blood but that matters not to me.” She doesn’t reach out to take his hand no matter how she wishes to. She knows he needs his space. “I love you more than anything, Loki. Even if this is the last day I see you, even if you betray me once we reach the hangar, I will love you still. Nothing will change that. I have always loved you and I wish I could have been better. I should have been better. But I wasn’t.”

She takes a moment to sniffle breath through her clogged nose. With a trembling hand she wipes at the dampness, beneath it. She doesn’t flinch at the feel of her beard. It’s been years since she has.

She lets out a shaky breath. Glances down at the glossy floor. “I wasn’t there for you when you needed me. I thought only of myself and I- I cannot undo that. I cannot undo the hurt and betrayal I’ve caused you.” Her gaze drifts over to his boots. She can’t bring herself to raise it.

“I have been in the wrong much of my life and I hate myself for it.” Loki recoils from the sheer vehemence in her voice.

She knows her face is twisted. Knows it’s blotched and ugly with tears, but she can’t bring herself to care.

“You are a Jötunn,” she says. He flinches once more but she says it again, this time stronger. “You are a Jötunn and maybe you hate yourself for it and maybe without knowing you, once upon a time I would have, too. But you are more than people make of you. You always have been. Jötunn, Asgardian, Prince it doesn’t matter. You are a child of both worlds and I love you for it.”

He doesn’t say anything as she takes another moment to breathe through her tears. She clears her throat, scratches at her running nose.

“There’s so much I wish I had time to say,” she murmurs after she’s found her voice once more. “Too much. Everything I never told you and more. But I know this isn’t the place and the universe won’t give us the time.” She pauses to take a deep breath. Then crosses her arms tight against her body, restlessly tapping her fingers along her bicep. Struggles not to jiggle her leg. Dares not peak at her brother’s face.

“I’m not going to drag you ho-” She chokes. Swallows. Starts over. “I’m not going to drag you back to Asgard. I won’t let you be imprisoned and I can’t watch you force yourself to be someone you’re not.” Thor smiles, lips wobbly and weak. “You’re too brilliant for them anyway. They don’t deserve you. No one does, least of all me.”

Her breath shudders her shoulders, rattles in her lungs. Just say it. Just say it.

“If I didn’t think this might be the last time I’ll ever see you, I wouldn’t even bring it up.”

Loki tenses beside her, eerily silent and still.

“But I can’t—” She chokes again. Swallows. Swallows again. Her throat’s too dry and her next words are a near whisper. “I can’t keep living a lie. I need you to know. I need—”

A sob bursts from her lips before she can choke it down like she’s been doing since she was young enough to sit on her father’s knee and listen to him tell her that she’ll grow into an honourable man.

There is nothing honourable about her.

Especially not in this moment.

She just wants to be good.

(that’s all she’s ever wanted)

She breathes through her sob, nails digging bloody into her own skin. Silent grief and fear shudder through her hunched form. She digs her nails in deeper until she can focus on the pain of it. Until she can uncurl her spine and stand as tall as she dares and says:

“I’m a woman.”

There’s awful silence.

Awful, awful silence.

Then:

“How long?”

Thor flinches, darting a glance at Loki’s motionless boots. “For- for as long as I can remember.”

Another beat of silence, then:

“You never told me.” Loki’s voice is oh so carefully neutral. She can’t read him at all.

(Gods, if Loki can’t accept her then she is well and truly alone in this universe)

“I’ve never told anyone,” Thor admits, an aborted, shamed laugh convulsing her throat.

“Why?”

“You think I could?” she snorts through a thick sob. “I was the eldest, or at least I thought I was. I needed to be the perfect son. The perfect warrior. There was no other option.” Then she shakes her head. “Nothing father would approve of, anyway. And I—” She squeezes her eyes shut.

Thor almost swallows down the admission. Almost doesn’t reveal this last horrible part of herself.

But she remembers nights hidden away in the safety of her brother’s blankets. Nights in which they would share their deepest, darkest secrets and not be fearful of ridicule.

“I just wanted father to love me,” she whispers.

There’s a hitch of breath, an abortive movement.

“Why—” Loki coughs, trying to cover the crack in his voice. But Thor heard it. She heard it. “Why didn’t you let the responsibility fall to me? You didn’t have to become King.” He’s near rambling and they both know it. But he’s trying. Gods, somehow, Loki is trying. It’s a small comfort that Loki is still Loki. Doing his best to make sense of everything before jumping to any conclusions. “It was expected, yes,” he continues, “but it didn’t have to be you.”

“How could I possibly let that happen?” Before Loki can take offense, Thor plunges on with her deadened heart in her throat. “You weren’t like everyone else. At least I could pretend. At least I could spare you! You’re my little brother and I love you. I couldn’t see them rip you apart and piece you back together in the worst way imaginable. I could not, I would not let them do that to you. At least I- At least with me—”

Thor, inexplicably, can’t find any words left. They’re caught deep in her belly, twisted and broken and stuck. They rattle in her lungs, rot between her ribs. There’s too much too say, and it’s far too late for any of it.

Cold fingers brush her own. She can’t help her flinch. But they’re insistent. Gentle. They pry her bloody fingers from her arms and cradle her hands like the most delicate of things. The most precious of possessions.

“What a pair of fools we make,” Loki murmurs, voice wobbly and wet.

Incredulous and far too used to heartbreak, Thor opens her aching eyes to find her brother’s boots facing her own, toes nearly touching. Hesitant, she lifts her gaze. His narrow face is just bare inches from her own. He leans in, breath fanning her cheek. Loki examines their hands. A flush blots high on his cheeks, a raw redness lines his damp eyes. His mouth is twisted in that awful, constipated look he sometimes gets when he’s overwhelmed and floundering but doesn’t want to admit it. His brows furrow into deep, painful creases.

From one breath to the next he meets her eyes. Pale green and lovely. Filled with genuine tears she hasn’t seen in a very, very long time.

“Sister,” he says hesitantly, tasting it upon his tongue. The word flushes hot and painful along her nerves. It lights up her veins like nothing else ever has, burning and cleansing everything she’s ever bottled up inside of her in its wake. Convulsively, her hands squeeze his in a grip that has broken everything she’s ever touched (and most of all herself). But her brother does not flinch. Heat builds behind her eyes, spills down her cheeks.

His eyes flicker between her own, as if looking for something she doesn’t know how to give. Whatever it is, he must find it because his lips relax then curl into a very familiar grin. “We really must do something about your hair.”

And can you really blame her for the broken laughter that sobs its way past her lips?

(isn’t that just like her brother: excelling in any situation thrown at him)

(she’s never been more proud)

(or more grateful)

--

They steal a ship.

Technically, they steal two ships.

After many precious minutes spent just leaning against each other in a silence only broken by Thor’s sobs and Loki’s discreet sniffles, they make their way to the hangar only to find Korg and his fellow revolutionaries have beaten them there.

They interrupt what seems to be an impassioned speech, except—

No one is better with words than Loki.

“I’m- still not quite sure how you did it,” Thor says haltingly, glancing at her brother as they blast out of the Grandmaster’s palace.

Loki grins in that particularly infuriating way he’s always had. “They’re revolutionaries, sister. How could they possibly refuse a plea for help from an oppressed people?”

“I’m not quite comfortable—”

“Yes,” Loki drawls, looking her up and down, “that much is clear.”

Thor reddens and falls silent. A moment later a gentle hand squeezes her shoulder.

“Sister,” Loki murmurs and Gods does that fill her with such nervous joy that she could burst into tears once more. “It will be all right. Despite their…questionable intellect, they are good people. Certainly far better than I. They won’t refuse a person in need. Especially not when you’ve helped them so. You gave them hope when there was none to be found. It’s the very least they can do, at any rate.”

Thor ducks her head, then glances at the display showing the gigantic ship lumbering after them.

“You’re pretty all right yourself,” Thor grins. “You certainly smell better than them.”

Loki smacks her shoulder. “Of course I do. I care about my hygiene. I’m not a heathen.

Thor snorts. “I remember a time when you’d run and hide from your baths. Mother would get so angry she’d turn you into a frog just so she could dunk you into the water with the hope you’d learn to like it.”

Loki rolls his eyes. “Like you were any better.”

--

They make it through the Devil’s Anus.

(somehow)

But Loki is furious that Thor could possibly want to face Hela on her own.

“I will not leave you to die on your own, sister!”

Beyond Loki’s shoulder, Banner echoes a faint, “Sister?” and Valkyrie frowns, realization dawning in her eyes.

“You know this is the only way,” Thor insists. “And I won’t die.” Probably.

Loki’s scowl could send children into fits of fearful sobs. As it is, Thor is not swayed one bit.

“You never could accept help. You always go in swinging without taking a second to just think, you imbecile—”

“I won’t lose you again.” Thor grabs onto Loki’s flailing hands and doesn’t let go. Squeezes them tight enough to feel the bones creak. “I won’t.”

Loki stares at her all defiant and startled and far too wide-eyed.

“And if I do die,” Thor continues softly, “they’ll need a leader. Our people have lost too much these last few years and if they lose their home—” She pauses, sighs, then can’t help her small smile. “You’ll make a good ruler. I’ve always thought you would. You’re intelligent and compassionate no matter what you say, and you can talk anyone into anything—”

“Except you.”

She laughs at his mulish expression. “Except me.” She falls silent, trying to put everything she’s feeling into her face, into the strength of her hands. “You’ll make a good ruler.” Her grin quirks crooked. “If you get past certain…tendencies.”

Loki gawks, then snatches his hands from her grip. “Excuse me?”

Thor laughs and turns on her heel.

“What tendencies?” Loki practically screeches.

She can’t help but glance over her shoulder at her fuming sibling. “I love you, brother.”

Loki quiets, lowering his hands to his sides. He stares at her a moment, uncharacteristically solemn. “I love you, too, sister.” His fists clench. “You take that useless hag of an older sister down, you hear me? The one I have already is enough for me.”

Thor’s smile widens into a gleaming grin. “You can count on it.”

--

Thor walks into the throne room completely different from when she was there last.

She stands amidst the ruins of her old life and stares into a face she doesn’t recognize. He stares back up at her, eyes vacant and sightless. Gold shimmers about his sunlit head, beard full and dark upon his bronzed face.

Thor.

Odinson.

Prince of Asgard.

She doesn’t know this person.

She never has.

The shattered mural gives with a satisfying crack beneath her boot as she walks over it.

Hela’s visage looms above her, Mjolnir held aloft in her painted grip.

Every step up to the gilded throne is a thudding heartbeat in her ears. When she reaches the top of the dais she pauses. So easily can she imagine her father sitting here, single eye watching her with contempt.

She’s never been able to imagine herself here, no matter how hard she tried.

Thor twists on her heel. Gungir is cool and heavy in her hand. It weighs far more than Mjolnir ever did. She lowers herself onto the throne. Plants her feet wide. Lays a delicate, careful hand on the arm.

She lifts the Allfather’s spear, the King’s spear—

And calls her sister home.

--

Hela is by far the strongest opponent Thor has ever fought.

It’s more than a bit terrifying.

“Here’s the difference between us,” she taunts. “I’m Odin’s first born, the rightful heir, the savior of Asgard. And you’re nothing.

Losing her eye is just—

It really is just the worst.

At the end of the day, she doesn’t need any more reason to be reminded of her father, and she certainly doesn’t need any more reason to hate her own body.

They twist and turn and soon enough they’re outside and Hela has her by the throat. The smirk twisting Hela’s face is crueler than most other things Thor has seen. The woman flips her over, pins her down, leans in close enough that Hela’s sweet, cloying breath fans across her face.

“Valiant effort, but you never stood a chance,” Hela practically sighs. Her nails dig into the curve of Thor’s throat. Her face blurs across Thor’s hindered vision. “You see…I’m not a queen or a monster. I’m the Goddess of Death. What were you the God of, again?”

With every thundering heartbeat her father flashes before her eyes. The rumble of the sea echoes in her ears. The wind cuts across her face, speckling her skin with salt and sea spray. The grass ripples beneath her feet, as pale and startling as the colour of Loki’s eyes.

Thor falls to her knees atop that cliffside.

“Even when you had two eyes, you’d see only half the picture.”

Her father stands before her, just as she last saw him. He should look weak in the human clothes he wears, but he looks just as intimidating as always.

“And you aren’t the same?” she laughs bitterly.

Her father frowns, darkening storm clouds loom above him.

“Have you already given up, my son? Are you useless without your hammer?”

Thor grits her teeth and narrows her remaining eye at her father. Her ruined eye burns like a hot coal lodged in her socket.

“I will not. She may be stronger than me, but I have always been ready to die for my people.”

Her father’s brow raises in disbelief. “And what happens when you die? Will they not be left to her mercy?”

Thor can’t help the snarl that twists her face. “Loki will lead them to safety.”

Her father scoffs. “As if they will follow him. As if they will trust him. Thor, you mustn’t die. You mustn’t let her win. Are you Thor, God of Hammers? Hm? That hammer was to help you control your power, to focus it. It was never your source of strength. Will you deny who you truly are?”

“And what am I?”

Bones aching, muscles screaming, Thor rises to her feet and does not falter. “I have spent my entire life denying who I am! I’ve gutted myself so thoroughly that I maybe even started to believe that I am who you made me to be.” She steps closer, fists clenched, teeth bared. “But I am not. I will not.”

She stands tall and proud. Thunder rumbles in her ears and her heart. Lightning sparks along her veins but she does not burn with it.

“You have handicapped me. You have made me believe that my worth was tied to something I had no control over. I am done playing your ruthless games. I am done believing that I am nothing unless I am the man you told me I must become.”

Odin takes a step back, eye wide, face gaunt.

She’s never seen him look so feeble.

“I am no son of yours and you are no father of mine.”

Light flashes across her vision and Hela’s rotting odour fills her lungs.

“Tell me, brother. What were you the God of again?”

Lightning fills her breath and thunder bursts across her tongue.

She is the riotous clouds above, the biting wind below, the scent of ozone in the air. She is—

“Thor. Goddess of Thunder.”

--

“I could…find a spell.”

Thor looks up from where she’s been nursing her wounds. The battle with Hela still tremors in the back of her mind, fading echoes that will linger through the years. Loki fiddles with the bedspread beneath his fingertips. The ship hums around them. Beyond the doors, Thor can hear the distant murmurs of their people still in shock after watching their home razed to the ground.

“If you want.”

Thor stares uncomprehendingly.

“My magic allows me to…change shape as I wish. It’s in my nature.” Loki shrugs, expression genuinely remorseful. “It’s not something I can permanently change for you right now. We would have to find some other way.”

Thor drops the cloth she’s holding. Her hands are shaking far too much.

“I…” She swallows thickly, throat clicking. “What would I do without you, brother?”

Loki grins that infuriating grin of his. It’s softer along the edges though, and maybe just a tad fond. “Wallow, I should think.”

(he is entirely correct)

(but she won’t tell him that)

--

After everything is said and done—

After Thanos, that is.

Thor discovers there is a word for people like her.

The revelation comes in the form of young Peter Parker.

It’s early in the morning in the Avengers Compound. Thor is quietly frying sausage in a pan, eggs whisked and ready to be poured once the meat is cooked. Popping and sizzling fills Thor’s ears. She’s the first one awake, the sun barely burning up the horizon.

It’ll be just a few days until she must return to her people, but she’s grateful for this opportunity to spend time with her ragtag little family.

Even so, she cherishes these quiet moments when she’s alone with her thoughts. Now that she can freely be herself, she doesn’t fear the silence and the darkness of her mind. They don’t bleed acidic through her heart and make her question her every move, her very being.

Instead, with each passing day she’s becoming more comfortable with herself.

She still…she still hates her body. Even now, after a millennium, it isn’t hers. Nor will it be in another thousand years. Nor a thousand after that.

Loki has used magic to coax her hair into long, braided tresses that make her want to weep. Hair is easy, he explained. It’s just encouraging growth of something she already possesses. He’s still researching spells that will permanently give her the body she was always meant to have but never got. She’s confident her brother will find a way. He always does.

As she nudges the sausage to tend to its pinkness, she can’t help but smile at her brightly coloured nails. She’s not sure if she’ll try it again, but Loki and Tony had looked so hopeful when they brought it up last night. Tony owns hundreds of bottles of nail polish and once Loki found out, well…

Last night had been one of the most relaxing nights in Thor’s life. With Loki and Tony tucked into either side of her on the couch, each with a captured hand, they’d fed her mouthfuls of popcorn in between brushstrokes.

“You’ll never feel more confident than with a bombshell set of nails. Trust me,” Tony had informed her quite seriously.

Loki had raised a brow but didn’t look up from where he was delicately swirling a design on Thor’s pinky. “Spoken from experience, I presume?”

Tony winked at Thor then. “You’re damn right I am.”

“Ah,” Loki hummed. “I knew we had more in common than the poor company we keep.”

Tony ended up spluttering and threw an entire bottle of polish at Loki’s head. They’d gotten smears of glittery colour all over the couch and each other, but no one really cared. Not when they got to spend a quiet evening together, a movie on low in the background, safe from the terrors of the universe.

“Nice nails.”

Thor startles, pan jackknifing over the stove, heart spastic in her throat.

“Oops. Sorry.”

Glancing over her shoulder, Thor desperately tries to force her heart to calm as she smiles at young Peter. She’s gotten a little complacent. The Compound feels so far removed from the rest of the world. It’s difficult to imagine that it can ever be touched by conflict. (she knows she’s privileged in this feeling. she was one of the only ones not involved in what the media has dubbed as the Avengers’ ‘Civil War’)

“It’s quite alright, little spider. You are even quieter on your feet than Natasha.” Grin wicked, she leans towards him and adopts a conspiratorial whisper. “I’ve heard word that she is quite jealous.”

Adorably, the boy turns beet red. “I-I’m sure that’s not true.” He rubs the back of his neck, eyes fixed on his bare toes. They peek out from beneath a pair of fluffy pink pajama pants. They’re covered in dozens of drawings of a white cat with a red bow.

Perplexed but amused (as she so often is around her human friends), she doesn’t comment on Peter’s curious choice, instead watching as he shuffles towards the fridge to peer inside. Then her eyes slip to his tight tank top. It’s unusual. Besides his Spider-Man suit, Peter typically wears loose fitting clothing. She hasn’t known him for very long, but she understands he’s more comfortable as Spider-Man than he is just regular old Peter Parker.

Abruptly, she realizes she’s always seen Peter fully clothed. It shouldn’t be unusual, but in her line of work it is. She’s seen all the Avengers in some state of undress whether it was getting patched up in the infirmary or just general comfortable laziness around the Compound. Of course, on Asgard it was completely different. It was never out of the ordinary to see men and women alike dipping into the sea in the nude, and on the battlefield there are no boundaries.

“Hey, Thor,” Peter says, tilting back on his heels to look at her, “do you want some—” But then he catches sight of her studying his tank top and immediately falls silent. An awkward flush blotches his cheeks. After a moment he opens his mouth again, words tumbling over one another.

“Oh, uh- my- my binder. It’s my binder. I’m not gonna get top surgery for another couple of years. It’s expensive and I know he’d pay for it without me even asking but- but this is something I wanna do myself, you know? And I’m going through hormone therapy still. My body’s growing and I gotta adjust with it. So Mr. Stark made it for me in the meantime. It’s not perfect but, well, it’s a lot better than everything out there. Still can’t wear it to bed. Aunt May won’t let me and Mr. Stark got angry with me when I did that one time so- uh. Yeah.”

The boy drums the fingers of one hand along the fridge door as he uses the other to absentmindedly fiddle with the hem of his shirt. “I think Mr. Stark’s gonna end up making a line of them. I mean, I’m pretty sure. They’re really breathable and insanely durable and he says he can do it at half the cost as everyone else and that kids like me should have access to this stuff. He doesn’t really talk about it, but I know he’s done a lot of research and become super invested in all these organizations and, really, it’s embarrassing but he’s- I dunno what I’d do without him. And Aunt May. I dunno I’d even be brave enough to- to be this way.”

The redness of Peter’s cheeks has crept up into his ears and down his throat to play along his collarbone.

Thor still has no idea what he’s talking about.

“I’m sorry, Peter,” Thor says slowly, turning the burner on low. “I’m not quite sure I’m well-versed in what you speak of. You wear a…binder? Because you are undergoing surgery in a few years? Is this- are you wounded? Does it prevent it from getting infected?”

“Oh.” Peter’s eyes go so wide Thor is more than a bit concerned. “You- do you not—” He stumbles for a second. Clearly struggling to find the right words. “You don’t know. I thought you knew. Especially you. Doesn’t- doesn’t everyone?” The boy’s face twists in confusion.

“It appears I don not,” Thor says kindly.

“I just kinda thought—” Peter frowns. “I don’t know what I thought.” He sounds at a loss.

Thor turns fully to face him. “If it is not something you wish to share, I will not be offended. There are many things that are too private to share. Still more of which we cannot admit even to ourselves.” She offers a reassuring smile. “Though you should know that I would gladly share your burden with you, if it will help lighten the load.”

Peter stares up at her, mouth pursed and eyes wide. He looks so young standing there in the middle of the kitchen. His feet pale and bare, pants soft and well-worn, hair tousled with sleep. But his eyes have always been far older than the youth of his face. They’ve always struck some desolate cord deep within her. When she looks at him, she can’t help but be equally proud and so very sad.

She can’t imagine how Tony feels when he looks at Peter.

“I’m trans.”

Thor blinks.

“Transgender, I mean.” Peter has adopted a determined look upon his face, but a nervous kind of hope flickers at the edges of his mouth.

“Transgender,” Thor repeats slowly.

When it’s clear Thor still has no idea what he’s saying, Peter looks a bit startled for a second. Then it’s like he’s falling into some well-rehearsed script. “I was born female. My body is female but I’m male. I’ve always been male. It’s just- I wasn’t born with the right body. The binder helps me look like a boy. It’s- easier. Not seeing breasts where they shouldn’t be anyway. I feel better with it on.”

Peter pauses, clearly letting this sink in.

Thor is-

She can’t—

“There’s surgery that can remove my breasts and there’s another that can give me the right parts.” Peter shrugs. “Well, it’s more complicated than that. But that’s the gist of it. I’ve just got to take hormones beforehand to help my body adjust. It’s a big deal. A lot of surgeons don’t even perform it on minors, but a few do with parental consent. They just don’t want you making a decision you aren’t ready for, since it’s irreversible. Honestly, I’d do it now if I could. It’s just- we never had a lot of money and then by the time I met Mr. Stark I was already doing the whole Spider-Man thing and a surgery like that will put me out of commission for ages and I just don’t have the time- I certainly didn’t just a few months ago.” Then he flinches because Thanos is still awful and raw in all their minds, but maybe Peter most of all.

(no one else can boast feeling their cells dying and regenerating so quickly that they faded into a slow and unspeakably painful death)

(no one else can say they died lightyears away from the only home they’ve ever known, chasing after a losing battle simply because it was the right thing to do)

(“With great power,” Tony murmured into the dark a few nights ago. Thor had watched as her friend stared sightlessly at the wall, a nightmare, no a memory, no one else could see on loop before his eyes. “That goddamned kid. He’s far too good for any of us.”  Thor couldn’t disagree there, and all she could do was lay a steady hand on his shoulder and sit with him ‘til morning came.)

“You- chose to be male.”

Peter’s brows furrow. “It’s not really choosing. I just am. I mean, I guess some people can be kinda like that. But it’s less choosing and more...being. It’s how you feel. My friend is genderfluid. Some days they feel like presenting as a boy, other days a girl, but a lot of the time they don’t feel like either, so they usually use they pronouns.”

That’s not what I meant, Thor doesn’t say.

That’s entirely what I meant, Thor also doesn’t say.

“You chose to present as you are,” Thor says instead, voice distant in her ears, like she isn’t quite there. You’re braver than I ever was. “You chose to be your true self despite what others might say. No matter what everyone else wanted, you stayed true to yourself.” She pauses, feeling like the whole world is tilting and finally, finally, she’s tilting along with it. “You’re honest, Peter Parker. More honest than any other man I have ever met.”

The particular shade of crimson Peter turns probably shouldn’t be humanly possible, but what else is new concerning one Peter Benjamin Parker?

“Well I definitely wouldn’t call myself honest considering I’m a vigilante superhero who frequently breaks the law and lies to everyone about who he is…”

“No.” She takes a step forward and lays a hand on Peter’s narrow shoulder. “You are good and honest and true. Spider-Man is just a representation of the qualities that you already possess. Do not sell yourself short. Own it, like you have everything else, it seems.”

She knows he won’t. Not now, at least, when he’s still so young. He’s always been humble and one of Peter’s greatest faults is that he can’t see how good of a person he is. He puts all the darkness of the world upon his shoulders and has the nerve to think he’s responsible for a good portion of it.

She hopes one day he’ll understand.

She wants him to.

(she hopes she’s there to see it when he grows into the great man she knows he’ll become)

Peter ducks his head, eyes suspiciously wet, and nods.

Thor takes a few moments to consider the word lingering in her head before trying it again.

“Transgender,” she says slow. It tastes odd but sweet on her tongue. It rolls off it like she was always mean to say it. Like it was always meant for her. “I’m transgender.”

Peter looks up at her, eyes wide and earnest, encouragement clear on his face.

Thor meets his gaze with a surety she’s never felt. There are more people like her. She’s not alone. There’s a word for people like her because she’s not alone.

Thor smiles wide and bright and when she laughs it’s with tears in her eyes but she doesn’t think he minds because he’s wrapping his arms about her middle and squeezing her tight.

She can’t help but hug him back.

(she’s burns the sausage, but Peter helps her fry the eggs so it’s all right in the end)