Continuing Tales

Fallen Star

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by Alydia Rackham

Part 22 of 27

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"He is my most beloved friend and my bitterest rival,

My confidant and my betrayer,

My sustainer and my dependant,

And scariest of all,

My equal."

Gregg Levoy

Thor strode barefoot through the silent halls, counting the torches that hung from iron sconces. It was past midnight, on the third night since Loki had brought Jane to Asgard. The first night, Thor had sat by Jane's bedside the whole time. He had come to visit her often during the day, but she had mostly slept—Eir had given her a sleeping draft to calm her after being so agitated. And the second night, Thor had returned to his own room, convinced Jane was in good hands. But all the things that his father had told him about Loki prevented him from sleeping.

During the second day, Thor had called in on Jane and again found her resting, but Eir said she was doing very well. So Thor had gone outside with the Warriors Three and done weapons training—though Sif declined joining them on account of a headache, which Thor thought was strange. Even stranger: he had not seen Loki at all since that first morning when he arrived, though this evening, both parents had insisted to Thor that he was still in Asgard.

Tonight, Thor still could not sleep. He had tried, and succeeded fitfully for a while. He just did not feel tired. So, finally, he had gotten up, thrown a long maroon robe over his loose white nightclothes, and swept out into the hall. He did not know where he was going on this long, quiet walk—but eventually he decided he would end up in the healing rooms to check in on Jane once more. Having a destination checked his restlessness, and he knew that if he walked all the way there and all the way back, he had a better chance of sleeping comfortably.

He turned several corners, passing half a dozen tall, open balconies where the night wind wandered in, brushing through his hair and the hems of his clothes. Finally, he arrived at the healing room doors, carved with a design of the World Tree—and stopped.

The left hand door hung slightly ajar.

Thor frowned. Eir never did that. She always closed the door to make certain none of her patients were disturbed by passing noise…

Very slowly, Thor pulled the door toward himself. The wood felt cool in his hand. The hinges stayed silent. He slipped inside, and hid in the deep shadows. He neared a wide pillar, his eyes searching the mostly-dark room—and his footsteps faltered. He halted behind the pillar, concealed, his eyes focusing on the other end of the room. And what he saw made his breath slow down, and hold.

Jane lay on her back, a small candelabra standing on this side of the bed, behind her head. It cast a soft glow over all of her, softening her features. She was draped in perfect white linens, and her smooth, brown, brushed hair hung over her right shoulder and draped over her chest. She had healthy color in her cheeks and lips now, and she breathed deeply, evenly, and her eyes did not move beneath her eyelids. She was deeply asleep.

And at the foot of her bed, like a waiting shadow, stood Loki.

He wore clothes as black as night—a tunic whose sleeves came down to near the middle of his hands, a high collar; a long, sleeveless coat that hung down to the back of his knees, black trousers and soft-soled boots.

His elbows were bent, his hands loosely clasped, his left hand thumb pressed to the palm of his right hand. His unguarded eyes—lit by the flames—watched Jane.

For a very long time, Thor just stood there, transfixed, wondering what—if anything—he should do. For Loki was looking at her that way again. The way he had while Odin was healing her. Almost as if he…

Very slowly, Loki stepped around the bed, and eased down to sit on the mattress near Jane's knees. His body angled toward her, but he did not touch her. He turned his head, and ran his gaze over her whole form, as if memorizing the shape of her.

Jane took a deep breath—deeper than usual—and her brow tightened. Loki's attention flew to her face. She shifted slightly, tilting her face toward the light…

All of Loki's features softened. He swallowed, and reflexively edged closer to her, his own brow tensing. But then his eyes flashed, he sucked in a breath and he retreated the same distance he had come.

Jane's forehead relaxed.

Long stillness and silence reigned, and Jane regained that perfectly-peaceful look she had before.

Loki glanced down at her graceful right hand, which lay on the sheet. For several moments, he studied it in the flicker of the candlelight.

Then, he stretched out his pale fingers and lightly touched the back of her thumb. His fingertips moved, very slowly, over her smooth skin, until he reached the end of her hand. He withdrew. And when he lifted his eyes to her face again, such a deep, penetrating ache marked his bright eyes that Thor felt it.

Loki stood up.

He turned away from her, his head lowered. His hands flexed open and closed, then clenched into fists. His gaze rapidly searched the floor, as if he was looking for something he had lost, and his brow twisted. Then, he turned and swept out the back door of the room without making a single sound.

Thor strode into the center of the room, staring after him. He stopped, and glanced down at sleeping Jane. But an invisible hook had lodged inside his chest, and now it pulled on him—and he had to obey. He stepped around the bed, lengthened his strides, and followed Loki.


Thor traced Loki's steps through the shadowed hallways, down spiral staircases, his hand sliding on the wall to guide him. He tried to keep his feet quiet, but he had to walk quickly—Loki had always moved easily and swiftly in the dark, and Thor feared to lose him.

Finally, he came to a short door that led to the grounds. He hesitated, then pulled it open and stepped out.

He glanced around. He had entered a garden—one of the walled gardens only meant for the royal family. Vines formed an arch overhead, and beyond it, the winding dirt pathways and tangled rosebushes were lit by the bluish-silver of the full moonlight. Thor strode out, following the flicker of a shadow to his left.

He hurried down several narrow, meandering paths as he listened and watched, and the night breeze murmured through the leaves of the pomegranate trees and carried the light scent of laurel and rose. In the distance, he could hear the soft tumble of a waterfall.

He swung around a corner—a stone wall covered in ivy—and halted.

Loki sat in a little moonlit plaza on a black rock. One leg was drawn up, his arm draped over his knee. He sat motionless, and stared at Thor.

"You breathe much too loudly," Loki remarked, his voice low, his eyes fixed on him. "Then again, subterfuge has never been your strong suit."

Thor shifted, his jaw tightening.

"What are you doing here?" he demanded.

"Waiting for you to stop following me," Loki said coolly.

"I mean in Asgard," Thor gestured toward the palace—the towering monolith behind him that twinkled with only a handful of lights. Loki's gaze flicked upward, then returned to Thor.

"Jane was injured too badly for my skills to be of any use," Loki replied. "I had to bring her here."

"She's healed now," Thor said. "So why are you still here?"

Loki did not move.

"You want me to leave?"

"No, I want some answers," Thor snapped, stepping toward him. "What were you just doing up in Jane's room?"

"It isn't her room—it's the healing rooms, and they are not exclusive," Loki countered.

"You know what I meant," Thor snarled, pointing at him. "I saw you."

Loki's face betrayed nothing. Thor's fists clenched.

"What is it…exactly…" he ventured. "That you feel for her?"

Loki's eyes narrowed.

"Why should I tell you anything?" he asked. "You've already made up your mind."

"It's impossible for me to have made up my mind!" Thor shouted. "I don't understand any of this!"

"You will wake everyone up," Loki muttered.

"I do not care," Thor retorted, stepping toward him again. "What happened to you? I demand to know."

Loki frowned.

"What happened to me?"


Loki's eyes flickered.

"Which time?" he asked.

Thor wanted to scream. He turned aside, took two deep breaths, then faced Loki again.

"All right, let us start at the beginning, shall we?"

Loki raised his eyebrows.

"The Great Beginning?"

"You're not clever," Thor barked. "No—the beginning. When you started acting like someone I don't know."

Loki waited for a moment.

"When are you assuming that was?" he asked.

"My coronation day," Thor answered. "You let those Frost Giants into the weapons vault, didn't you? Didn't you?"

For a long while, Loki did not answer, but Thor held his gaze. At last, Loki nodded.

"I did."

"That's treason!" Thor declared.

"Oh, it is not," Loki sighed, glancing away.

"Then why did you do it?" Thor wanted to know.

"To interrupt your coronation," Loki said, with more force than before. He met Thor's eyes. "Because I wanted Father to see your reaction."

Thor straightened.

"My reaction?"

"Yes—and it was exactly what I feared it would be." Loki put his leg down and folded his arms over his chest. "You offered your usual solution when presented with a problem, delicate or not, which is: 'Why don't we just try hitting it really hard?'"

"And what was your purpose?" Thor pressed. Loki leaned toward him.

"To show Father what an idiot you were," Loki hissed, his eyes flashing. "To illustrate something I had seen for a long time, but he had ignored: you were not ready to be king."

Thor paused, watching him.

"Is that why you told me to go to Jotunheim?"

Loki looked at him indignantly.

"I never told you to go to Jotunheim."

"You suggested it."

"No, I didn't."

"You said that you agreed with me—and the only way to do anything about it was to defy Father!" Thor pointed out.

"No," Loki held up a finger. "I said 'but the only way is to defy Father.'"

"You put the idea into my head!" Thor accused.

"It wasn't very hard, was it?" Loki cried. "Like filling an empty jar with rocks or water or sawdust. Really, it was just another test to see if you'd fall for it—and I was genuinely grieved to find it was that easy."

"So you admit that's what you were trying to do," Thor said. Loki rolled his eyes.

"I regretted it the instant I said it. But I knew there would be no dissuading you once you'd decided, and I had to go with you to see that you didn't get yourself killed," He folded his hands and lifted an eyebrow. "I tried to prevent the fight with the giants. But you wouldn't let it go."

"Did you tell Father where we'd gone?" Thor asked, knowing the truth already, but waiting to see what Loki said. Loki took a breath and nodded.

"I did," he admitted, rubbing his palm with his thumb. "And during the entire battle I feared for all our lives, because I couldn't fathom where he was—why he wasn't coming."

Thor lowered his head, watching Loki closely as he switched angles.

"Did you mean for me to be banished?"

"No." Loki stared at the ground, then met Thor's eyes. "No. In fact, I was stunned that Father would do that. To you."

Thor was silent a long moment, then nodded once.

"You were right, though."

Loki's head came up. His eyebrows drew together.


"You were right," Thor repeated. "About me. That I was not ready to be king."

Loki stared at him as if he had never seen him before. He swallowed, and did not answer. Thor took another step toward him.

"You were right, and Father's punishment was just. It is what happened after that which troubles me."

"What do you mean?" Loki asked, eyes flickering.

"You told me Father was dead," Thor stated.

Loki looked away.

"Why did you do that?" Thor demanded. "You stood there, looked me in the face and broke my heart—and for what?"

Loki shifted—and Thor saw something change in his bearing. An aspect he had learned to recognize in an instant: Loki was hiding something.

"I was buying time," Loki replied, avoiding him.

"Time for what?" Thor pressed.

"Father was in the Odinsleep and you were banished, which left me in command," Loki answered. "Mother said that Father had laid out a plan for your return. I couldn't have you coming back and taking up the mantle of king so soon—not until I had done what I needed to do."

"What?" Thor said impatiently.

"I had to destroy Jotunheim," Loki shot back, finally looking at him. "And kill Laufey."

Thor's brow furrowed.


"Because they are our enemies—they have been for centuries," Loki said. "I saw what Laufey planned to do if he could. I knew, if he ever found the means, he would destroy us all. Starting with Father." Loki shook his head. "I was not going to let that happen."

"So you told me Father was dead?" Thor cried.

"I knew he would awaken," Loki said firmly. "I never doubted that. Never. And I knew that as soon as he did, he would bring you back home and you would learn he was alive."

"And how did you imagine I would feel about that?" Thor asked. Loki glanced away and lifted an eyebrow.


Thor weighed his words, studying him. Loki was telling the truth.

Some of it.

And the rest, he still hid.

Thor narrowed his eyes.

"So after you had destroyed Jotunheim…what were your plans for Asgard?"

Loki blinked, and frowned at him.

"My plans?"

"Yes—what were you going to do with it, with its people?" Thor clarified. Loki's frown deepened and he shook his head.

"Nothing," he said simply. "Maintain it until Father awakened."

"Then why did the Three and Sif come to find me?" Thor pointed back behind him. "Why did they think Asgard was in danger?"

"I doubt they thought it was in danger," Loki said flatly. "More like they hated its new king."

"Hated?" Thor objected. "What do you mean? They didn't hate you!"

"Are you completely blind?" Loki scoffed.

"No, I am not blind!" Thor answered.

"Then why can't you see it?" Loki cried, standing up and facing him. "Why have you never seen it?" He pointed to himself. "I have been hated and despised in this place ever since I was a child."

"That is not true," Thor gritted.

"It is!" Loki insisted. "All the court became suspicious of me when I started to show more magical talent than the masters when I was a fraction of their age—they wouldn't let their children play with me after I burned Freya—"

"That was an accident," Thor protested.

"And that matters?" Loki countered, holding his hands out to the sides. "It didn't matter to them! And after that, I would shape-shift to look like you or one of the other boys so I could play with the others until Eir's sister caught me and branded me a two-face and a liar—"


"And then when Balder…When Balder…" All at once, Loki choked and looked away from Thor, gulping and fighting with his breaths.

The fire in Thor's chest extinguished.

And then pain hollowed him out.

"You sent the Destroyer to Midgard after me."

Loki would not look at him.

"I know you did," Thor told him. "You commanded it to kill me."

"I told it to make sure you did not come back," Loki said hoarsely. "I was in the middle of luring Laufey in to kill him, and I was afraid you would—"

"As the king, you controlled the Destroyer's actions," Thor cut him off. "You broke my neck."

"That was your idea," Loki said unsteadily. "You walked up and asked for it."

"You broke my neck," Thor repeated.

"Father told Mjollnir to return to the hand of someone who was worthy," Loki

protested. "I knew a self-sacrifice like that would restore your power to you—"

"You broke my neck."

"I'm sorry," Loki said in a rush, as if in surrender. "I'm sorry. I was a hurt dog, and I bit you." He turned away. "I'm so sorry."

Thor gazed at him a very long time. An owl hooted in a nearby tree. The cool breeze rustled through the leaves of the bushes, and the boughs of the oaks all around them.

Suddenly, Thor could not find it in himself to be angry. He had charged out here into these gardens prepared for a fight—perhaps even a physical one—but he had not expected this. He had not expected Loki to be so dislocated, so raw. So resigned.

And still hiding something.

At last, Thor took a careful breath.

"Well…" he said quietly. "I never hated you."

Loki's head tilted toward him, and Thor caught the sheen of tears in his eyes. Thor gave a crooked smile.

"I actually thought your shapeshift into Tyr was fairly clever. I'll never forget the look on his face."

Loki snorted softly and almost smiled, then swallowed and shook his head, his brow tight.

And he waited. Waited for the last heavy question. The one Thor had to have answered—but the one he could do the least about.

"What about her?" Thor asked softly. "What about Jane?"

Loki's brow twitched. His hands closed. He did not look at Thor. Thor summoned a breath and raised his eyebrows.

"You care for her."

Loki swallowed.

"More than my life," he whispered.

Stunned, Thor could not speak for a long time.

"Was that…" he finally managed. "Was that in your plan?"

Loki looked at him—stark and cold.

"Was it in yours?"

Thor shifted his weight, glancing off into the forest. Silence lay heavy between them.

"So…" Loki murmured. "What are you going to do?"

Thor met his eyes. He knew what he meant.

"Why would anything be up to me?" Thor wondered. Loki gestured halfheartedly.

"You loved her first. And she…She loves you."

"She hasn't told me that," Thor said. Loki's face hardened.

"Do not play with me."

"I am not," Thor vowed. "But, aside from Father and Mother, I trust Jane's judgment the most."

Loki hesitated, studying him.

"What are you saying?"

Thor glanced back up at the palace, toward the balcony of the healing rooms.

"She will decide," Thor said.

"She has," Loki murmured. "I never had a chance with her."

Thor turned back and frowned at him.

"Why not?" he asked.

Loki motioned to him.

"Look at yourself! You will be king of Asgard!" he said. "And I…I am…"

"And you are the king of Jotunheim," Thor finished. "We are more than equal."

Loki stood paralyzed. His eyes locked with Thor's. His face went ash white.

And everything Loki had just been trying to hide suddenly bared like bones in the sand, for both of them to see.

The truth.

Loki was a Frost Giant.

He had never been Thor's brother, never Frigg and Odin's son. He had never been an Aesir, never been in line for the throne, never truly part of the royal court.

He was Laufey's son—the son of the enemy. An ice-breathing, savage-living monster that populated stories meant to frighten children.

That was why he wanted to kill Laufey. That was why he wanted to destroy Jotunheim. He did not want to be a pawn to bring about peace—he did not want to be a trophy brought home from battle.

He wanted to be a son.

A brother.

But he feared he never could.

And there, in Loki's unearthly-green eyes and white face, was written all of that, clear as the sky.

But Thor already knew. Odin had told him months ago.

And so, even as he stood there, Thor's heart stayed strangely quiet.

The battle had already been fought.

It had been fought in the solitude and silence of Thor's own soul, during the sleepless nights and thin, quiet days of Loki's absence—and tonight, this moment, the outcome had finally cleared like fog with the coming of dawn.

All the things Thor had so long raged against no longer mattered.

And for all these centuries, he had neglected the one thing that truly did.

With burning eyes, Thor stepped toward Loki. Loki took a step back—

And Thor caught him.

He put his arms around Loki and pulled him near, and entwined his fingers through the back of the chain around Loki's neck. Thor felt Loki go stiff, his breath catching.

"No matter what happens," Thor murmured fervently in his ear. "For as long as the East stands across from the West, you will be my brother."

Loki gasped, and shuddered.

And he lifted his arms and wrapped them tight around Thor's chest, and pressed his face into his brother's warm collar.

"There is a little boy inside the man who is my brother.

Oh, how I hated that little boy.

And how I love him, too."

Anna Quindlan

Fallen Star

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by Alydia Rackham

Part 22 of 27

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