Continuing Tales

Fallen Star

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by Alydia Rackham

Part 13 of 27

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Loki hesitated in the doorway of the feasting hall, his legs weak. It was loud inside—the voices and clanging of goblets and plates echoed against the alabaster. The hall was packed with as many people as it could hold, for it was Balder's Coming-of-Age celebration, and no one wished to miss it.

Loki swallowed hard, ducked his head and stepped inside, weaving through the courtiers and avoiding eye contact. He smoothed the front of his formal black tunic and adjusted his cuffs, feigning being busy, until he came to the end of the table where his mother sat. Balder's usual seat next to her was empty. Loki glanced up to the head of the table, and saw what he had been completely expecting.

Odin sat at the opposite end, Thor to his right—and Balder to Thor's right, in Loki's usual place. The blond brothers—one beauty and one brawn—laughed heartily together as Odin smiled upon them. Loki watched, feeling disconnected, and slipped down to sit next to his mother.

"Hello, Sweetheart!" Frigg said brightly as soon as he sat. She scooted closer to him, stroked his hair back at the temple and kissed his cheek. "I didn't know you were coming to see me."

He glanced at her and faked a smile, then returned his attention to the far end of the table.

"I missed you," Loki answered with complete honesty—he could spare no strength at the moment to be more trivial. His mother said something in reply, but he did not hear it. Nor did he hear the raucous Volstaag entertaining all the noisy guests with a thrilling tale of recent battle. Loki's eyes were fixed on his brothers.

Thor ate and joked with his father and Balder, his blue eyes sparkling with open affection. Often, he would slap Balder's shoulder, put his arm around him, muss his hair, or lean in to tell him confidential that would make the younger man burst out laughing. Balder's countenance was shining and innocent as ever—enchanting and warm.

But then he turned his golden head, once, and looked right at Loki.

Memories, freshly made, flashed through Loki's mind.

A dark corridor, filled with strange, metallic noises and dim flashes...

A caught glimpse in the night of a short, silver sword, harder than any armor of the Aesir...

A knife pressed to the skin of Loki's throat, ramming up underneath his jaw…

A hissed threat close to his ear…

"Stay silent, fool, and stay out of my way—or I will tell Father how you have learned to hide yourself from Heimdall…"

Hammering horror and disbelief pulsing through his veins as he realized the truth…

Choked questions filled with "why"…

A voice like a summer breeze…words like the bite of acid…

"No one would believe a word you said if you spoke of this. But if you do not interfere, I will remember you, when others do not. I will lift you high, instead of burying you here where you are. For as long as the present things remain, you will barely remain a prince. Though you ought to be next in line, you would never be king. For know what you are, Loki. What you truly are…"

Now, Loki blinked as Balder turned back to the others. Loki swallowed hard, beginning to breathe again, his brow tight.

"Sweetheart," Frigg murmured softly. "Are you all right? You keep looking at Thor and Balder—you are not worried that Balder has taken your place at the table, are you? I promise, it is just for tonight."

Loki only absently heard her. For just then, Thor glanced down the way and met Loki's eyes, and gave him a broad, happy grin. Loki lifted his chin in reply, unable to summon a smile. Instead, his heart twisted with sudden, fearful pain.

Balder replacing him at the table?

That was the least of his worries.


Loki stood outside in the back parking with Jane, the side of his right arm touching her shoulder. He put his hands in his pockets, his jaw tense as he watched the headlights approach. Stark, Erik and Darcy also stood nearby, waiting. For once, none of them said anything in remark. The night wind tossed their hair and clothes.

The black car rumbled up to them and stopped. Its headlamps switched off. Then, in the orange light of the parking lot lamp, Nick Fury and Agent Coulson stepped out of the car and strode up to them. Their shoes crunched on the gravel.

"Mr. Stark, may I politely inquire as to where in the world you've been all day?" Agent Coulson said without preamble.

"Uh, visiting these guys," Stark gestured to the rest of them.

"You should have been at the bunker," Coulson said. "We could have used your help today."

"What did you discover?" Erik asked from Loki's other side. Loki watched both new men. Coulson fell silent, and glanced to Fury. The tall man drew himself up, brushed his coat back and put his hands in his pockets.

"We have discovered—at least theoretically—what the Cube can do," Fury said.

"Were we right?" Jane asked, taking a step toward him. "Can it affect space and time? Can it reorder matter? Can it—"

"It can do everything we imagined, and more," Fury answered. "At the command of whoever holds it."

Loki went still as ice.

"What the heck are you talking about?" Stark asked, coming up to stand on Loki's left. "That this is some sort of remote control to change how things are made and put together?"

"More like a genii in a bottle," Fury corrected, his eye glittering in the dark. "Our theories have been confirmed by new evidence we just uncovered: previously hidden research done on this object more than half a century ago. Apparently, our little discovery is called the Cosmic Cube—and it can do anything. Its only limit is the strength, skill and imagination of the one who uses it."

Silence fell.

"Um…that sounds bad," Darcy murmured.

"Bad? Are you kidding? This is…This is incredible!" Jane crowed, turning a beaming smile to Darcy, Erik, then Loki. "We can rebuild the bridge to Asgard! From there, we could travel anywhere, see anything in the universe! Think of what we could discover, what we could create if we didn't have to worry about the distance or the boundaries or the—"

"I'm pleased to hear how pure your intentions are, Miss Foster," Fury interrupted. "However, SHIELD tends to share Darcy's opinion."

The smile fell from Jane's face and she looked at Darcy, then back at Fury.

"What do you mean?"

"He means that this Cube, in the wrong hands, could be an unstoppable force for destruction," Coulson stated. Loki felt himself swallow, and he tried to take a deep breath. It didn't come.

"Which is why we're moving it," Fury said. Loki's head came up. Jane started.

"Moving it? Moving it where?"

Loki studied Coulson and Fury like a hawk. But their faces showed nothing.

"We're not revealing that information at this time," Fury told her. All of Jane's humor left her bearing. Her eyes became dangerous.

"You're not revealing that information?" she snapped. "What? What are you talking about? Do you not remember who this is you're talking to?"

"Jane, perhaps we can reach a compromise—" Erik tried. She ignored him.

"am the one who detected the astral anomalies that led you to Thor!" she shouted, pointing to herself. "Proving that there are other realms in other galaxies belonging to superior, practically-immortal races that could teach us thousands of years worth of valuable information!" Jane's voice rose and she waved her arms in rage. "You invited me to consult on this Cube project because of that, but every single time something important happens with it, you shut me out like I'm some intern! Andnow you're going to take that Cube someplace and hide it from me just when we've made the biggest breakthrough of all?"

Loki's heart began to speed up as nausea invaded his gut. He ducked his head, trying to calm himself. Jane caught his movement.

"And what about Fenris?" she demanded, gesturing to him. "Have you forgotten about him? Have you forgotten how he got stranded here because Thor was trying to protect us from his brother who was killing everyone? He has no way to get home if we don't figure something out."

"Jane…" Loki tried, but he couldn't summon much volume.

"Really, Nick—you're not going to send the guy home?" Stark asked. Loki's gaze flicked to him for an instant, but Stark was frowning at Fury, his arms crossed. Fury finally met Loki's gaze.

"Who knows what we'd be sending him home to," he said.

"What do you mean?" Erik wondered. Fury glanced at Jane's mentor.

"We have no idea if Thor survived the encounter with his brother," Fury said. "For all we know, Asgard is under Loki's control."

"That would be bad, too," Darcy muttered, prodding a rock with the toe of her shoe.

"So, what, we're not even going to try?" Jane cried, her voice suddenly unsteady. Loki's gaze flashed to her, and lingered on the lines between her eyebrows, and the brightness in her eyes.

"Miss Foster, you misunderstand me," Fury held up a hand. "We came to tell you that the Cube is being moved because we want you to be prepared to travel in the near future to its location. We want you to continue studying it, and we want to be able to use its power for just the sort of discoveries you're talking about." Fury looked to Loki again. "We also want to be able to repay our debt to Thor for stopping at least one threat that his brother posed, and we will certainly try to return our friend Fenris to his home."

"But we know how extremely dangerous it is now. That's why we just don't feel comfortable speaking out loud about the Cube's destination at this point," Coulson added. "But we certainly will once it's been safely transported. To you, anyway."

Loki watched Jane take a deep breath, then another. Finally, she swallowed and nodded.

"Good," she muttered, glancing away. Loki's heart panged, and he stepped closer to her. She wrapped her arms around herself. Coulson gave her a rare smile.

"We do value your input, Miss Foster," he assured her. "More than you know."

She gave a quick nod. Loki could tell she was embarrassed by her outburst—she wouldn't look at them.

"Stark," Fury clipped.

"Yep?" Stark stood up straight.

"You brought your suit, I presume?"

"Travel size," Stark answered. "Nothing fancy."

"I'd appreciate it if you would get it and come with us," Fury motioned to him. "We'd like some firepower and some eyes in the sky while we move this thing."

"Am I going to get to sleep at all tonight?" Stark muttered, turning back toward the door.

"Hey, you would have gotten a few hours' sleep if you'd been where you were supposed to," Fury answered back.

"Oh, yeah right," Stark said as he opened the door and went inside. Fury turned back to Erik, Darcy, Jane and Loki.

"We'll be in contact," he said, then headed to the passenger side door of the car, while Coulson headed to the driver's side. Loki turned when the lab door opened again and Stark came out, carrying his suit-case.

"Well," he sighed, stopping in front of Erik. "It's been too quick for my taste, but duty calls." He stuck out his hand and shook hands with Darcy and Erik, then came over and took Jane's hand.

"You're a genius," he told her, looking at her solemnly and keeping hold of her fingers. "And just 'cause these jerks tell you that you can't do something, it should never stop you. It's your research, it's your goal, it's your dream." He lowered his head and raised his eyebrows. "Remember that, okay?"

"Thanks," Jane said, managing an oddly shaky smile. Stark then let go of her and turned to Loki.

"It's been an honor and a privilege," he said, holding out his hand. Loki took it, his stomach tightening.

"Thank you," Loki said, and meant it.

"And between you and me," Stark said. "I don't make friends very easily. But I think I did tonight." He smiled. "I'll be here if any of you need me. Ciao." And he turned and strode to the car and got in the back seat, after giving a lazy salute back to Loki. The car doors slammed, the engine turned on, the lights blinded them. Loki flinched away to protect his sight, and the car pulled back, turned and drove away, its rear lights glowing red as it headed into the distance.


Loki sat on his couch, still dressed, staring at the pile of books in front of him without seeing anything. He leaned his elbows on his knees, and threaded his fingers together. He breathed shallowly, and did not move.

He could feel the Cube—feel its agitation as people moved and things shifted all around it. His insides flinched as hands touched it, as the strands that connected him to it vibrated uneasily. The binding between them had strengthened—strengthened the instant Loki knew what it truly was, what it could do.

Unlimited power. Immeasurable, infinite, limitless power. Right at his fingertips. He could take himself back to Asgard without any of the usual effort—he could have Asgard. All of it. And no one would be able to lift a finger against him.

And he was completely healed. He no longer felt any twinges in his side, nor any weakness in his muscles. And it did not matter where they took that Cube—Loki could find it like a light in the dark. It would be so easy. If he got up, put on his armor and left now, he could catch the convoy unawares and snatch the Cube from them before they knew what was happening…

The door opened. Loki lifted his head, his brow furrowing.

Jane, her dark hair hanging loose around her face, walked in quietly, wearing a soft pink sweater and loose fleece pants. Her arms were wrapped around herself, her head was lowered, and tension marked her forehead. Her long-lashed eyes followed her feet.

"Is something wrong?" Loki asked softly, hoping not to startle her. She looked up at him before shrugging and heading to the counter.

"Couldn't sleep. It's four in the morning, I'm exhausted, but I can't sleep."

Loki sat up, watching her as she stopped in front of the counter and began pulling things down to make tea.

"Any particular reason?" he asked. "Or just the usual—about your father?"

Jane heaved a sigh and shook her head.

"I'm actually…just really embarrassed," she said, giving a crooked smile. "I chewed out those guys for leaving me out of the project when they were actually trying to include me."

"In your defense," Loki said. "It didn't sound that way at first."

"Doesn't matter," Jane said, putting a kettle on the stove and heating up the water. "I didn't even let them finish. I just got it into my head that I was going to get shafted again, so I threw a fit."

"Shafted?" Loki wondered, eyebrows coming together. She glanced up at him—he could see the brown of her eyes in the counter light. She sighed again and started getting two cups and saucers down.

"My whole life—ever since I formed the bridge theory, really—people in the scientific community have written me off," she said. "The nicer ones say I'm just following rabbit trails. The more critical ones say I've lost my mind."

"But you haven't," Loki protested. "You're right."

"Well, now I know that, and so do they," Jane said over the sound of the kettle whistling. She poured the water into the teapot. "But for a long time my theories were just called craziness—so I didn't get called for conferences or experiments or any sort of exploration, NASA wouldn't have anything to do with me, and neither would any of the satellite or telescope people. Why do you think I had to make all of my equipment myself?"

Loki paused, glancing down at his hands.

"You were right, you were clever—and they ignored you."

"Yep," she said, getting out the sugar. "Shafted."

"I think I understand that," Loki murmured. For a while, neither of them said anything, the silence filled with the clinking of the white tea set. Then, as Jane poured the tea, she spoke.

"So what are you doing awake? You're not even in your pajamas."

"I'm not able to sleep, either," he admitted. He sensed her come nearer with a cup of tea.

"Thinking about home?" she asked. His hands tightened.


She handed him the tea, and he took it. The saucer felt so delicate between his fingers. She sat down on his left side on the couch and curled her feet up underneath her. He glanced at her.

"Are you cold?"

"No, I'm perfect," she said, taking a sip.

"Because you may use that blanket," he pointed to a folded blue fleece blanket at the end of the couch.

"No, I'm fine," she shook her head. She peered over the titles of the sprawled books. "What have you been reading?"

Loki sighed, put his tea down, reached out and pushed a few books off of a few others.

"Nothing really—although I was curious about this one." He picked up a broad but thin book with a large picture of a bearded man in a chariot pulled by huge goats. "Stolen Thunder," Loki said. "'It says it is about Thor, and his hammer being taken by the Frost Giants. But as I recall, that has never happened. Ever."

Jane leaned closer and frowned at it.

"So what happens?"

Loki held out the book to her.

"Oh, no, I'm not reading anything right now," Jane said, rubbing her eyes. "You read it."

"Then how will you know what happens?" Loki asked.

"Read it to me," Jane said. Loki's eyebrows went up.

"To you?"

Jane nodded.

"Maybe it'll make me sleepy."

Loki lifted an eyebrow.

"Are you implying that my storytelling will put you to sleep?"

Jane grinned and leaned back in the couch.

"It's worth a try."

He stifled his smile and then opened the book. He flipped past the introduction, found the beginning, and cleared his throat.

"'Where's Mjolnir?' roared Thor. He flung off his bearskin cover, tipped up his bed, and peered under it, but found only a frightened mouse. Thor tugged at his beard in disbelief. 'A hammer cannot walk on one leg. Mjolnir cannot fly by itself. It cannot vanish unless…unless…Rascal!' Thor shouted. 'Robber!'

Loki thrust his head in the doorway.

'Whatever happened,' he said, 'I'm not to blame.'"

Both Loki and Jane paused a moment, then burst out laughing.

"He doesn't have a guilty conscience!" Jane snickered.

"He just knows who gets blamed for everything, regardless of what's happened," Loki grinned, shaking his head.

"That's probably not unreasonable, though," Jane ventured.

"Um, no," Loki admitted, chuckling. "You're right."

Jane scooted closer, casting her gaze across the pages. Loki leaned the book away from her and half closed it.

"Don't read over my shoulder," he said. "I detest that."

"I'm not," she promised. "I'm just looking at the pictures."

"You can look at the pictures later," he said. "Unless you really are not tired and can read it for yourself."

"Fine!" Jane huffed, putting her tea down and leaning back in the couch. "Keep going."

Again, Loki suppressed a smile, reopened the book and continued.

"'Mjolnir has disappeared!' Thor bellowed. 'And you took it!'

'I was asleep, minding my own dreams, until your shouts woke me,' protested Loki. 'I didn't touch your fiery hammer.' He wriggled his fingers. 'Look! My hands aren't even red.'"

This elicited another giggle from Jane, and Loki shook his head again, thoroughly amused. And his amusement only grew as he kept reading. For in this story, Thor's hammer had been stolen by a Frost Giant who demanded Freya, the goddess of love, as his bride in return for the hammer. And Loki went on to suggest that Thor disguise himself as Freya and go to the wedding instead.

And so Loki shaved Thor's beard and put him in a dress.

Frankly, this soon had both Jane and Loki in stitches. They could not help it. Loki was laughing so hard he could barely breathe enough to keep reading, and Jane swiped away tears from her eyes. At one turn in the story, Loki and Jane shot a startled glance at each other, their laughter bottled up—and both saw in the other's face that they were thinking of the Thor they knew—all broad-shouldered seven feet of him—squeezed into a bridal gown and veil and being hefted over the threshold by a slightly dismayed Frost Giant—and the fit of laughter that caused lasted nearly a minute. Loki thought he'd broken another rib. Jane was gasping for air.

Finally, after both were completely worn out and lightheaded, and their joviality had faded to giddy chuckles, Loki swiped at his own eyes and leaned back in the couch next to Jane, not caring if she looked at the pictures now. He had to clear his throat several times, and resist laughing again as Jane fought back her giggles. At last, he composed himself enough to start reading the details of the wedding feast, and the trade for Mjollnir. Absently, Loki felt Jane's warmth nestled close to him, but he assumed she just wanted a better look at the illustrations of the blue, towering Frost Giants and their vast meal.

At last, Thor got his hammer back, and split all the sculls of the offending Frost Giants, fairly destroying the place. Then, he put his foot on the leader's chair and started a grand speech. Loki took a breath, sighing with slight irritation, but he knew Jane was listening and wanted to hear it, so he read on.

"'Then Thor strode over to Thrym's throne, placed a foot upon it, and declared,

'I am the god Thor

I am the Thunderer.

Here among icebergs

Rule I the nations.

This is my hammer,

Mjolnir the mighty;

Giants and sorcerers

Cannot withstand it!

Strength is—'"

Heavy softness lay down on his shoulder. Loki froze. Then he risked a glance.

Jane's dark hair cascaded down his shoulder and chest. Her head nestled in the crook of his neck and rested on his shoulder. Loki's heartbeat sped up to racing as he realized that she had pressed her whole body up against his side, and her hand rested on the bend of his arm. His breath caught and held. He could hear her breathing—deep and steady—he could feel it wash through him. She had fallen asleep. Here. And she had put her head on his shoulder.

Loki swallowed hard, his brow twisting, his heartbeat uneven.

Carefully, he closed the book and set it aside. Then, he let himself sink back into the cushion of the couch. Jane stirred, taking hold of his arm and nuzzling closer to him. For a moment, her nose touched his cheek near his lips. Then she eased her head back down, and let out a long sigh.

Loki's throat felt thick. His eyelashes fluttered, and he could not take his eyes from her fingers up on his arm. Slowly, he leaned his head to the side and rested his cheek against her hair. She stayed where she was. Loki closed his eyes tightly, and listened to the rhythm of every breath she took in time with his own.

Fallen Star

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by Alydia Rackham

Part 13 of 27

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