Seven and a Half Minutes (3,808 words) by LokiOfSassgaard
Fandom: Thor (Movies), Thor (Comics), The Avengers (Marvel Movies), Captain America (Movies)
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: Major Character Death
Relationships: Steve Rogers & Thor
Characters: Steve Rogers, Thor (Marvel)
Summary: Seven and a half minutes. It was a number Steve Rogers would never forget to matter how hard he tried. He could live another hundred years, and still that number would occupy a place in his mind.
Seven and a half minutes. It was a number Steve Rogers would never forget to matter how hard he tried. He could live another hundred years, and still that number would occupy a place in his mind.
New York was always going to be New York. It was still loud and cramped, and the people still treated you like dirt. But it wasn’t right. It wasn’t the New York Steve had grown up in. Before he went in the ice, Steve could sit at a café, minding his own business as he watched the cars roll by.
After, he’d sit at a café and watch a man in a suit of armour fly overhead. It just wasn’t right.
But it was home, and he’d have to get used to it, because what else was there to do? Flying suits of armour were strange, but Steve had seen plenty of strange during the war. Strange, he could get used to.
What he wasn’t prepared for was an alien invasion. Aliens that called themselves gods, and spoke like they belonged in a Shakespearean pastiche. Aliens that came to kill and conquer, and at the end of the day, weren’t very good at it.
After it was over, and crews were cleaning up alien corpses from the streets, everyone wanted to get their hands on Loki. Thor wanted to take him home. SHIELD wanted to interrogate him. SWORD wanted to dissect him. New Yorkers wanted to draw and quarter him. In the end, it was SHIELD that got him. Thor put up a fight, insisting that Earth would have even bigger problems to deal with if Loki weren’t returned to their home planet, and for a few minutes, it almost worked.
Until Loki laughed.
“Who?” he asked. “Who’s coming for me? Sending you here must have drained the Allfather of his last reserves. He’s likely lying comatose in bed as we speak.”
For a moment, everyone standing in the ruined room in Stark Tower thought it was a ploy. But then Thor’s only response was an awkward stammer that died halfway on his tongue. Instead of responding, Thor muzzled Loki, and helped drag him to the elevator.
Nothing Loki said had actually made any sense, and Steve could see the confusion from everyone else, but nobody dared ask questions. Loki had made his way to Earth just fine. Thor had made his way to Earth just fine. So what, exactly, was stopping anyone else from following? It was a question nobody seemed to want to ask out loud, as long as Thor had decided to ignore the whole thing.
It turned out that Thor only had a one-way ticket home. Loki was right. Nobody was following him, because whatever had brought him to Earth had indeed all been used up.
Steve was not going to call it magic. Thankfully, nobody else wanted to call it magic either. Except Thor, though he was at least willing to entertain the idea that magic was just another word for extremely advanced science.
Thor could get home using the Tesseract, which turned out to be so much more than just a source of power. Watching Johann Schmidt evaporate under its power was an image Steve would never forget, and yet Thor handled the cube as if it were a paperweight. A paperweight capable of taking him to the other side of the galaxy, but a paperweight all the same. And yet, he chose to stay, and to let SHIELD hold onto it for safe keeping. With no leverage in taking Loki back home with him, he chose to stay on Earth to be sure that Loki was at least treated properly. And he turned out to be a good asset on the team. He could fly. He could hit like a freight train. He could keep up with the stuff Tony and Bruce rambled on about, when he could actually be bothered to listen. Thor liked to pretend he had nothing but air between his ears, but Steve could see through the disarming tactic. Thor was huge, and more than a little scary when he threw that weight around. Passing himself off as a bit air-headed brought him down to a comfortable level, and Steve appreciated that.
Thor didn’t have anywhere else to go, so he stayed at Stark Tower. When Steve needed to stay in New York, he took up Tony’s offer and stayed at the tower as well. And when he couldn’t sleep, he found Thor wide awake. Every time.
Like everyone else, Asgardians slept. But they didn’t sleep like other people. Like humans. Thor got by on little cat naps; twenty minutes here, ten minutes there. It was all he needed.
And because there was nothing else to do at three o’clock in the morning while everyone else slept, Thor spent Tony’s money on an inhuman amount of food. Half a dozen pizzas, every dish from some unsuspecting Thai restaurant, enough fried chicken to feed an entire grade school. When Steve woke up and found Thor awake, Thor would share his feast without question. And he would talk.
“In truth, Loki is likely correct,” he said over some extremely questionable Chinese noodles. “Our father is likely deep in the Odinsleep even as we speak.”
Steve tried to pretend he knew what that meant, but he decided he didn’t have the energy for it.
“What do you mean?” he asked. “I thought you guys didn’t need a lot of sleep.”
It felt almost intrusive to say out loud, but Thor chuckled, easily brushing the awkwardness off.
“It’s true,” he said. “But as Allfather, he uses a great amount of magic to watch over and protect the realms. Magic which becomes dangerous if he uses too much. So he must sleep before that toll becomes too great. He will sleep for weeks, or even months at times.”
Thor nodded to his own words as something dark fell about him. That light smile that was on his face just moments before was gone completely, replaced by something closer to sorrow.
“Before Loki came here, our father had fallen into the Odinsleep. But he was woken early, and was still weak. Sending me here would have no doubt caused him great harm,” Thor said.
Steve said nothing. He had nothing to say. The thing he refused to call magic was the topic of conversation again, and he was utterly unequipped to even discuss it.
“But he will wake again,” Thor said with a hopefulness on his voice that felt too forced to be real. “And when he does, I will take Loki and the Tesseract from your world, where they will bother your people no more.”
“Good,” Steve said, not quite sure which part he was talking about. “Let’s hope he wakes up soon. For his sake and ours.”
Thor nodded and clapped Steve on the shoulder with a little too much force. “Thank you,” he said.
When Steve finally went back to bed, weighed down by too much pork and rice, he felt no better about Thor’s situation on Earth.
Steve just happened to be at the SHIELD facility when the alarms went off. No announcement told him what was going on, but he knew in his gut what the problem was and immediately ran to the basement. Fury was on site as well, and the two met at the elevator on their way down to deal with the problem.
“Loki?” Steve asked, just to be sure.
Fury looked at him, turning his head to direct the full weight of his disdain and annoyance right at Steve. He just sighed, and that was answer enough.
They rode the elevator down to the holding level, and could hear the shouting as soon as the doors were open. Together, he and Fury ran down the corridor, Steve following Fury’s lead, until they reached the source of the alarm.
Steve had not laid eyes on Loki since the day he was led away from Stark Tower. The immediate situation had been dealt with, Loki subdued and held at gunpoint, but the room he was in had been turned completely upside down. It was such a mess, Steve almost didn’t recognise it as what it was.
He was also surprised to find Loki in cuffs, though he wasn’t sure how long they’d hold. He sat on the floor, tall and stiff, with two M16s pointed straight at his face. Around him, several SHIELD operatives in scrubs and lab coats struggled to find their feet. Steve immediately bent to help the nearest one up, finding her forehead badly cut and bleeding.
“What the hell happened in here?” he asked.
The med tech looked around the room, dazed and unfocused.
“We were—we were ordered to do a blood draw,” she said finally.
Steve looked back at Loki, now openly seething with anger.
In that moment, Steve’s stomach dropped. He had stopped fully trusting SHIELD the moment he’d learned about Phase 2, but this looked even worse than secretly creating weapons.
“You’re experimenting on him?” Steve asked, more accusatory than he meant to.
“No,” the other tech said quickly.
Steve helped the first tech into the care of a medic who ran into the room. Seeing that she’d be taken care of, he turned toward the other.
“Then what’s going on here?” he asked.
“Rogers,” Fury said, warning firm on his voice.
Steve didn’t care. He looked at Fury, and then at the remaining tech.
“Vital baselines,” the tech said. “We need to know what he looks like when he’s healthy, in case someone sneezes on him and gives him a cold.”
Steve turned back to Fury, taking a long moment to make sure the next words out of his mouth wouldn’t be a mistake.
“Are you gonna tell his brother, or should I?” he asked.
Fury said nothing, so Steve turned to help get Loki back in his cell.
Steve couldn’t get drunk. It was a side effect of the serum. His metabolism worked too quickly. Thor also couldn’t get drunk. It was a side effect of not being from Earth. While testing his limits alone had felt almost sad, having a friend to test them with had made it into a game.
Together, they discovered craft beer. Thor called it small beer, and they could drink an entire case each and not even get a buzz, but Steve had to admit that beer had definitely improved while he was in the ice.
Vodka and tequila, despite their reputation, were just miserable. They weren’t fun to drink, and didn’t do the job.
Everclear, something Steve had never even heard of before he went under, almost got the job done. He didn’t feel well after drinking too much, but he also didn’t feel entirely sober.
It was a bottle of this that he passed back and forth with Thor, the two of them standing out on the landing pad as evening fell. Steve couldn’t tell if the stuff had any effect on Thor, but they laughed and joked all the same, content in one another’s company. But the jokes stopped when a pair of large, black dots started flying toward them. At first, Steve couldn’t tell what they were, but Thor’s sudden return to seriousness was enough to tell Steve that whatever was coming toward them was not a joke. As the dots grew closer and manifested into birds, Thor passed the Everclear back to Steve and held his arm up in front of his face, letting both birds perch on him.
Steve watched as he spoke to the birds, muttering quiet words he couldn’t hear. Then, his expression changed, and Steve could tell that whatever silent words the birds had told him was some sort of good news.
“I must return to Asgard,” Thor said, turning to Steve. “I will return shortly. Stand back.”
Steve stepped back off the platform, not entirely sure what was coming next.
“Heimdall!” Thor said, looking toward the sky.
A moment later, a pillar of light cut through the sky and engulfed Thor with a deafening rumble. When it disappeared, Thor was gone, and Steve was left standing below the landing pad gawking up at the sky.
“What the hell was that?” Tony said suddenly.
Steve turned to face him, only able to shrug. If there were words to describe what he had just seen, they were not in is vocabulary. Luckily, Tony was easily distracted.
“Is that Everclear?” he asked, pointing to the bottle still in Steve’s hand. “How are you still breathing?”
Steve looked down at it, and realised that if it was too much for even Tony, then maybe he should put it down.
They were from another planet. Steve had seen and accepted enough impossible things in just a few years that he thought he’d fully come to terms with what it meant to be from another planet.
When Asgard was destroyed, and many of its people relocated to Earth, that too was relatively easy to put into comprehend. Earth existed on a galactic scale and that meant people from all over the galaxy would occasionally come to pay a visit.
But they were still people. Some of them were more friendly than others. Some of them looked a little more human than others. But they all bled (though not always red). They all lived and breathed and died. People from other planets could still be killed, and they still needed protection.
It was all, in a very strange way, incredibly human.
Norway wasn’t big enough for people who were used to having free rein across the stars. They should have seen that coming. Asgardians couldn’t be expected to stay in one spot for the rest of their incomprehensibly long lives. They spread out, and many found their way to New York eventually. Steve had never even heard of a troll market before, but somehow learning that there was one beneath the Brooklyn Bridge was the least surprising thing he’d heard all week. Goblins had learned how to use the dark web, and were selling arcane magic to humans who had no idea what they were doing, and it was all so far above his pay grade that Steve could only sit back and hope someone a little more qualified would know how to deal with that.
Steve’s first mission out of the ice had been an alien invasion, and now he had no idea what alien even meant anymore. Earth had felt alien enough when his biggest struggles were figuring out texting and Starbucks. Aliens had come from the sky, both to harm and to help Earth, and now he was pretty sure the guy two apartments down from him was secretly some sort of squid.
But even a squid, Steve could understand. He could conceptualise a squid. It was strange, and maybe a little bit uncomfortable, but that was Earth in the 21st century, apparently.
He thought he had it figured out. He thought he was okay with this new reality. This new normality. When Thor invited him along to show some friends from Asgard around, Steve went with. He was curious to know what sorts of friends Thor made when he wasn’t on Earth.
It turned out they were a lot like Thor. They hadn’t made much of an effort to blend in, and one even wore a sword on his hip as they explored hot dog vendors and craft beer. It was a perfectly ordinary day in Manhattan.
Unfortunately, the goal posts for perfectly ordinary days in Manhattan had also shifted to include chaos. Someone with a repulsor gauntlet they’d built in their garage had decided to use it to hold up a bank. Unfortunately, the kid hadn’t calibrated it, and like a laser beam, the thing blew a hole straight through the wall.
With Captain America and a handful of Asgardians so close by, it took less than a minute to get the situation under control.
Or so Steve had thought.
The wall was not the only thing damaged by the explosion. A car had been flung into the building across the street, injuring several bystanders, and killing one. While Steve tried to assist with the civilians however he could, he realised that Thor was not concerned even for a moment about the human causalities. One of his Asgardian friends had been hit in the blast. The blond fellow, who wore a sword on his hip. Steve needed only take a few steps closer to see that the man had taken the full force of the blast straight to the chest. There was next to nothing left.
“We have to find it!” Thor shouted, while he and his remaining friends scrambled through the wreckage.
The man couldn’t be helped, but still Thor and the other Asgardians searched frantically for something. Realising that whatever they were searching for was important Steve ran to the group to help.
“What are we looking for?” he asked.
“His heart!” Thor shouted. “We must find it!”
Steve looked back to the man with a hole straight through his chest.
“Thor,” he said, not sure there was anything left to find.
For the first time in a very long time, Steve did not know what to do. He didn’t ask why they needed to find the man’s heart, or what they planned on doing with it, but he helped search anyway, knowing he was of more use here than to the paramedics who were already on the scene. As he searched, Steve kept checking his watch. Thirty seconds passed. A minute. Two minutes. He didn’t know why they were searching, or what they hoped to accomplish if they did find the man’s heart. But he helped look all the same.
Three minutes. Four minutes.
It felt like an eternity. They needed to move the guy off the street. They needed to get him out of view from everyone else, standing and gawking and taking pictures with their phones.
It had to be a religious thing. He’d gathered enough in passing to know that Thor’s people had a religion of their own, despite being seen as gods to many on Earth. They must have needed his heart for some sort of funerary ritual.
One of the Asgardians thought to check around the car that had been flung across the street. He lifted the whole thing up without breaking a sweat, tossing it back to the road with a squealing crunch of metal and fibreglass.
“I found it!” Thor shouted.
He bent to pick the man’s heart from the dirt, and wiped the plaster and concrete rubble from it. “It’s damaged, but not badly!”
Seven and a half minutes. Standing gobsmacked in the middle of the road, Steve realised they meant to try to revive their friend. Their friend with a hole straight through his chest. He said nothing, and offered no help as Thor and the other Asgardians crouched around their friend, who had been lying dead on the ground for the entire duration.
“Come on,” Thor said, desperately doing something Steve couldn’t quite force himself to watch. “Who has healing stones?”
“I have one,” another of his friends said.
While paramedics helped people in the café across the street, a handful of Asgardians huddled around a man who hadn’t stood a chance. They muttered and mumbled to one another, until finally Thor stood, holding his friend in one arm. Without a word, he spun his hammer over his head and flew away into the clouds. One by one, his friends all stood again, saying nothing as they watched the skies.
“I’m sorry,” Steve said, not sure what else to say. “Do you have anywhere to go?”
The remaining three looked at one another, until the big ginger fellow finally nodded.
“To the nearest alehouse, I think,” he said.
Steve nodded, and because it was the only way he could think to help, he pulled out his phone and looked for the nearest bar on the map.
“There’s one about a block that way,” he said, pointing.
He knew he should have probably gone with them. Instead, he turned to help the people who could be helped.
Steve didn’t go home that night. He decided to stay in New York, to be there in case Thor returned. Sleep eluded him, so he stayed on the party deck with all the doors open, letting in the cool breeze and distant drone of traffic from the streets far below, barely audible over the music from the stereo.
The sound of Thor arriving on the landing pad outside was distinct and familiar; a loud whoosh, followed immediately by the heavy thud of his boots on the steel deck. Steve turned to face him, expecting to have to console his friend with a case of beer and late night delivery. But Thor seemed almost cheerful as he walked over and sat heavily down on a sofa across the table.
“You’re still awake,” Thor said, reaching for one of the beers already out on the table.
“Couldn’t get to sleep,” Steve said. He sighed. “Sorry about your friend.”
For a moment, he thought Thor seemed confused. “Fandral?” he asked.
Then he actually laughed, and Steve understood nothing.
“Yes, he gave us quite the scare, didn’t he? He’s always been dramatic like that,” Thor said. “But a few days in the healing room, and he’ll be back in the mead hall in no time.”
“So. He’s okay?” Steve asked, piecing the words together as though they did not want to fit.
Thor laughed again. “Yes, he’s quite well. I’ll be sure to tell him you send your regards.”
“I…” Steve nodded, because not a single word seemed to want to follow. “Yeah, please.”
The man had been on the ground, with his heart outside of his chest for seven and a half minutes, and now Thor was laughing. Thor was insisting the man was fine. Every time Steve thought he had a handle on these people, and the new way of life they’d brought to Earth, he was suddenly and violently reminded just how alien they were. Thor may have learned to blend in and fake voices so he didn’t stand out while buying a slice of pizza, but he was from another planet, completely and totally alien.
And so was Steve. He may have been from Earth, but it was a much different Earth from the one he knew now. Like Thor, he had learned to blend in. He’d got his head around texting and Starbucks, even if it took a bit of time. But this place wasn’t his home. It had become his home, over much time and struggle, but unlike Thor he could never go back to where he came from.