It was a fine, crisp morning. Thor was enjoying his fifth cup of coffee and third helping of breakfast, and Jane, meantime, was buried behind her laptop. In all, an ordinary start to what looked to be an ordinary day.
But then, Darcy's voice rang through the flat--how did the woman manage to sound both cheerful and dour in the same two syllables?--to let them know that their privacy was fully and irretrievably invaded.
"Helloo," Darcy chirped, sitting to the breakfast table and moving Jane's untouched plate before her. She reached for Thor's great pile of bacon as well, but stopped short as Thor's face promised destruction.
"Good morning, Darcy," Thor greeted her. Jane echoed his greeting, albeit the words half-spoken as she made the numbers tell their tale to her.
"I didn't expect to see you so beardy this morning," Darcy said, her expression unutterably smug.
"I don't understand."
"The jig's up," Darcy said. "Everyone knows you're a girl."
Had a man spoken such words, Thor would have parted head from body right then. However, his upbringing stayed his hand, and he settled for thundering with his voice alone. "How dare you speak so to me?"
Jane looked up in alarm. "What the hell? Darcy?"
"Hey, take it down from eleven, Thor." Darcy covered her ears. "It's not me saying it. It's the comic-book people."
"Hold on," Jane interrupted. "What comic-book people? And when did you get here, and why are you eating my eggs?"
Darcy took a great forkful of eggs before answering. "Well," she said.
"God, you're gross."
"Seafood," Darcy smiled. "Anyway, you know how you licensed those comic-book people to do stories about you like Captain America and stuff?"
"I remember many such," Thor said, trying to suppress his annoyance.
"You said Marvel could do it," Jane reminded him. "DC wanted to do it like you and Loki were boyfriends."
Thor shuddered. "My own brother, no less. What is wrong with these people?"
"Anyway," Darcy repeated. "Marvel just announced that they're going to give you a makeover. And a sex change. Because they want a girl in the Avengers. They think you're not appealing enough as a man."
Thor felt his blood pressure climb, and he almost summoned Mjolnir to him. "They may come and try to make me a woman," he growled. "And I will return the favour."
"But you're a really cute girl. See?" She took out her eye-phone and showed him an image. Then she snatched it back quickly, lest he crush it in his grasp. "Slow down there. At least they're giving you a full shirt. Most of the girls they draw are, like, in bikinis."
"Misogynists," Jane muttered.
"Who is responsible for this?" Thor demanded. "I will have words with him."
"No," Jane said sharply.
"Because when you say 'words', you really mean 'beat the living hell out of'."
"That's illegal, Thor."
"Then how do you settle matters of honour?" he asked.
"I don't know, write petitions, arrange boycotts--"
"Smash their car windshields," Darcy added.
"No," Jane said quickly. "Thor, you can't just go fight people because they insult you."
Thor shook his head. "You permit people to insult one another and do not allow them to avenge themselves. And you say Asgardians are barbaric."
"Well, you might be able to fight the guy behind this," Darcy said. When the other two looked to her, she smiled. "You'll never guess what I found while I was reading up on this."
"Please, enlighten us," Jane said impatiently.
Darcy pushed a few more buttons. "It looks like someone isn't as dead as you thought he was."
Thor took the eye-phone from her and nearly dropped it. "Loki...?"
"He is alive..." Thor felt, in rapid succession, confusion, elation at his brother's survival, confusion again, and then hurt. "And he set this in motion?"
"Why would he do this to me? What did I do to him?"
"Oh, who knows with him? He's such a bit--" Darcy stopped short as Thor looked to her again. "--ter, angry person," she finished lamely.
Thor put down the eye-phone lest he break it, and turned to Jane. "Jane, I must go and find him. This is a debt that must needs be repaid." He rose from the table and declared ominously:
"I will have words with my brother."