Continuing Tales

Fallen Star

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by Alydia Rackham

Part 23 of 27

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"Something always brings me back to you.

It never takes too long.

No matter what I say or do,

I still feel you here, till the moment I've gone.

You hold me without touch—

You keep me without chains."


Jane drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly, taking in the scent of roses carried by the warm breeze. Slowly, she opened her eyes and glanced upward through her lashes at the pale blue sky.

She lay on her back on a cushioned couch on a stretch of grass in the sunshine, in the side grounds of the palace. She wore a loose white cotton gown, and a thin floral blanket with ruffled edges draped over her legs. A pillow propped up her head, and the servants had staked a tall, cloth umbrella into the ground just behind her, so that it shaded her upper body.

Going outside today had been Eir's idea. Ever since she had woken up to Thor sitting by her bed, Jane had felt as if a gray cloud hung over her, and she couldn't quite get rid of it. But Eir had finally declared that attitude unacceptable, and had ordered that Jane be bundled out of doors.

It was the perfect temperature out here on the lawn, and the birds twittered and chirped and fluttered through the yellow-blooming gorse row on Jane's right. She could not see the towers of the palace, because the umbrella obstructed them, but off to her left, she had a full view.

Her couch rested on the top of a gently-sloping hill, and a winding, descending path marked that hillside, and low-growing, blooming pink flowers bordered the path. At the end of the path stood a stone wall that meandered on out of sight in both directions, parallel to her—and beyond that stretched a great wide, sunlit green field crowded with wooden and metal training engines, and racks of weapons.

Jane sighed again and turned to look there, reaching up and sliding her right hand under her head and resting her elbow against the back of the couch.

Thor was out there, shirtless and wearing rugged trousers and boots. He was with Fandral, a strikingly-handsome young man with hair shorter, but just as golden, as Thor's. Fandral wasn't wearing a shirt either. The two of them circled, each holding broadswords in their hands, watching each other closely.

They lunged, their arms and backs rippling, and the swords clanged and hissed as they tangled. Thor and Fandral roared and laughed and taunted each other as they sparred, and they whirled and clashed faster than lightning.

Sif had come out, too. She stood off to the side, garbed in black, and fitted leather. Her hair was bound up close to her head. She faced the weapons rack with folded arms, and stared up and down at first an axe, then a sword, then a mace, then a club.

Jane's gaze wandered, trailing back toward the sky ahead of her, in the far distance. Her brow furrowed. She could almost swear that she could see the ocean on the edge of the horizon—and maybe one or two stars. The sky was certainly darker, there.

She wished it was night. Then, she would move the umbrella, and gaze straight up into the cool, limitless sky, and finally be able to see the spectacular Asgardian constellations—the ones Fenris had told her about…

She stopped.

The cloud in her heart darkened.


Jane twitched, and she turned her face toward the sound of Thor's bellow. He and Fandral had paused, panting and covered with sweat. Thor beckoned to Sif with a gloved hand.

"Come on already," he urged. "You've had time enough to choose a weapon."

Sif didn't answer. She just snatched a long, wicked-looking sword off the rack, spun and strode toward him.

"Oooh," Fandral said, backing up and eyeing her. "Enjoy yourself, Thor. I'm…going to get a drink of water." And he turned on his heel and headed toward the large water barrels.

Thor grinned at Sif. She glared at him. He raised his weapon—

And she jumped at him faster than Jane could track.

They struck each other with titanic force.

For several minutes, the two of them struggled and danced, their swords singing, as they spun and dodged with expert rhythm, their movements so precise that if they missed by a hair, either of them would receive a deadly blow.

Then something happened.

Sif faltered. One of her blocks was too weak, and then her heel caught on the grass—

Thor couldn't stop his swing in time—he hit her in the face with the butt of his sword.

She crashed to the ground.

"Sif!" Thor yelped, dropping his sword and falling to his knees beside her. He took hold of her shoulders, leaning down to try and see her face.

"Are you all right?"

"I'm fine," she muttered, so Jane barely heard her. She sat up, wincing. Thor would not relent. He pulled off his gloves and cradled her face with both hands, earnestly studying the welt he had just made on her cheekbone.

"I am so sorry," he told her.

"It's not your fault—it's mine," she said, not looking at him, trying to pull away. He let go of her face but took hold of her arms.

"Sif, wait," Thor protested.

"I'm fine!" she snapped.

"Are you angry with me?" Thor asked.

Sif paused, then finally met his eyes. They looked at each other for a moment.

"No," she finally stated. "I'm angry at myself."

She twisted out of his grasp and stumbled to her feet, marching toward the wall and the path that led up to where Jane was. Thor stood up and watched her go.

Jane's hand closed around the blanket, and her brow tightened. Sif climbed the hill, head down, and almost stormed right past her.

"Lady Sif?" Jane called.

Sif jerked to a stop and turned to look at Jane, as if she hadn't realized she was there. "Do you remember me?" Jane asked, managing to halfway sit up—though the movement felt like it was tearing her stomach muscles in half. Sif's frown deepened.

"Of course I remember you," she answered. "You are the mortal Thor spent three days with during his banishment on Midgard."

"Ha…" Jane smiled, succeeding in sitting up a little more. "Was it only three days? Seemed like longer than that."

"I've heard that a mortal's perception of time is different than an Aesir's," Sif answered flatly. Jane watched her for a moment, glancing over her bright eyes and angular face. Her face that bore a deepening bruise.

"Do you want to sit down and rest?" Jane asked, gesturing to the end of the couch. "I haven't really seen anybody all day—it would be nice to have some company."

Sif hesitated, then glanced down at the end of the couch.

"Just for a little bit," Jane added. "I know you have things to do."

Sif stood there stiffly for a long while. Then, all of a sudden, she sighed, turned and sat down on the armrest, facing the sparring green. She tucked both feet up on the couch near Jane's and looked out over the field.

Jane paused, and took that moment of quiet to really look at Sif—she'd never had the opportunity before.

She looked fierce, forbidding. She was tall, she had pulled her hair up into a severe fashion, the clothes she wore were utilitarian and no-nonsense, and her expression and posture stayed hard.

On the other hand, she had a strong, graceful form, perfectly-proportioned features, long eyelashes, a comely mouth, brilliant eyes and a flawless complexion. If she would let herself be, Sif was beautiful.

But there was nothing soft about her—nothing inviting. It was like she had put up a shield, and not even a physical injury could penetrate it.

"I'm sorry you got hit in the face," Jane ventured, breaking the silence. "Are you all right?"

"It's happened before. Often," Sif answered. Jane glanced out to see that Thor and Fandral had begun to spar again. The clang of their weapons rang through the morning.

"You seem very good at it, though," Jane observed.

"Thor and I have been practicing that routine for a thousand years," Sif said, still watching the men. "I don't know what's wrong with me today." She looked down and flicked a piece of grass off her trouser leg. "I was fine earlier—even with Loki out here."

Something thudded against Jane's chest. Her mind stopped working.

"Loki?" Jane finally managed. "He was here?"

It was Sif's turn to scrutinize Jane. Her piercing gaze went right through her.

"You just turned white," she said. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," Jane rasped, shaking her head and looking down.

Sif paused.

"Are you afraid of him?"

Jane's chest locked. Her mouth opened and closed a few times, but all she could do was shake her head.

"He certainly came in with a great deal of your blood all over him…" Sif remembered pointedly.

"No," Jane finally choked out. "No, he didn't do that to me."

Jane could feel Sif's curiosity like a literal pressure, but Jane's eyes wouldn't even focus.

"What…What was he doing out here?" Jane finally asked.

Sif shrugged.

"Sparring. With Fandral, Hogun, Volstaag, Thor and me." Sif faced the green and adjusted so she could lean back against the couch.

"And…What happened?" Jane ventured. "When Loki came, I mean."

Sif took a deep, tight breath. Two birds flitted by overhead, and Sif glanced up and watched them pass.

"The second he and Thor walked up to us," Sif began. "Thor stood us in a line and told us that Loki had returned, that was the end of it—and if we didn't treat him like the prince that he is, Thor would pound us into little pieces of sand." Sif arched an eyebrow. "There's not much to say to that."

Jane slowly sat up even further, hardly believing what she was hearing.

"You mean…You mean Thor forgave him?"

"Apparently," Sif muttered. "Though when that happened, I don't know. Must have been last night some time, because yesterday they still weren't speaking, and Loki was skulking around in the corners like he was afraid of getting speared." Sif rolled up her cuffs. "But today they both acted as if nothing happened."

Jane's pulse hammered in her ears as bafflement spun through her head. She sat up all the way, pressing her hand to her abdomen.

"Did Thor give you any reasons?" she asked. "Did he tell you what they talked about?"

Sif shook her head.

"No. He isn't talkative about things like that," she admitted. She glanced down. "I have one, very personal reason for disliking Loki. But of anyone in all the realms, Loki wronged Thor the deepest. So if Thor can forgive him…" Sif's jaw tightened. "Then I have to try."

"You do?" Jane whispered, baffled.

"Yes," Sif said sharply, glancing at her. "Thor is my prince, and I…And he is my friend. I trust him with my life. So I trust him with this."

Sif didn't say anything more. But her eyes had blazed for a second—which made Jane stop.

Neither of them spoke for several minutes, and Jane's brow furrowed as she studied Sif's profile. But before she could think of the right question to ask, Sif ducked her head and squeezed her hands together.

"So," she lifted her chin, and her voice gained an edge. "Are we soon to be hearing wedding bells and getting out the bridal crown? Or do I have a few days yet to have a new gown made?"

Jane's thoughts lurched to a halt. Her mouth fell open.


Sif turned her penetrating gaze on Jane again.

"You are marrying him, aren't you?" she asked. "You're marrying Thor."

Jane stared at her. It suddenly felt like Sif was speaking a foreign language.


Sif frowned.

"Everyone knows," she said. "You do not have to hide it."

"How can everyone know?" Jane protested. "He hasn't even proposed to me—"

"Does he have to?" Sif said indignantly. Then her gaze darted all over Jane's features. "And why are youso red in the face now?" She canted her head and narrowed her eyes. Her voice quieted. "Do you object to marrying Thor?"

"No," Jane said, though she felt out of breath. "I just…I haven't really thought about it."

"You haven't?"

Jane gazed back at the warrior woman for a long while, though she desperately wanted to look away. Sif's scrutiny was unbearable.

"No, I haven't," Jane finally confessed.

Fandral barked something in another language. Both women blinked and turned to see. Fandral had dropped his sword and was holding onto his right wrist. Thor was laughing, and came up to him to clap him on the shoulder. Sif took a breath.

"You're running out of time, you know."

"What?" Jane said, turning her attention back to Sif.

"There's an Asgardian law about this. I'm surprised Thor hasn't told you," Sif said, folding her arms over her chest. "No mortal can stay in Asgard longer than a fortnight. And the only way he or she can become an Aesir, and stay here forever, is by being bound in marriage to an Aesir."

Jane's heart pounded, and she stared unseeingly down at her blanket.

"Oh…" she whispered, lightheaded. For a long time, she did not move or speak.

"You're fighting like a girl!" Thor's mockery shook Jane's attention. She dragged her gaze back to the two men as they withdrew from each other, breathing hard.

"Worse than a girl," Thor went on.

"Is that meant to be an insult?" Fandral countered, swiping sweat out of his face. "On a better day, Sif could topple you—and you know it!"

Jane bit her lip, suddenly realizing that the men must not understand how far their voices carried. But they kept bantering.

"What?" Thor cried. "Sif? Sif's not a girl."

"What do you think she is, halfwit?" Fandral shot at him.

"Well, she's…I don't think of her like that," Thor answered. "How could I? None of us do."

"She'd probably knock you down and impale you if you suggested it," Fandral joked.

Worried, Jane glanced at Sif.

Sif's expression had transformed.

It had gone soft, brilliance in her eyes. And then, when Thor laughed, pain flashed across her face, vivid and unchecked. Her hands started to shake. She swallowed hard and clamped them together in her lap, staring at them.

Jane's heart twisted.

"Excuse me, Lady Jane," Sif said, her voice unsteady. "I do not feel well."

And she got up, turned and strode away toward the palace.

Jane released her breath in a rush and fell back onto the pillow. She pressed her hand to her heart—her pulse raced, and she fought to steady her breathing. She squeezed her eyes shut.

She knew she was already tired, and still recovering—but now she felt like she'd been beaten within an inch of her life. She covered her face with her hand and stifled tears as a bird landed on her umbrella and began to twitter, and the clanging of swords continued to ring through the broad morning sun.


"Would you like me to open the curtains?"

Jane turned to answer Frigg's smile as the gold-headed queen strode across Jane's room.

"Yes, thank you," Jane nodded. Frigg, wearing a long, elegant blue gown, swept across the soft green carpet toward the east side of the room, moved around the bed, and reached up to grasp the towering silver curtains. With one swift flourish, Frigg parted them, and sunlight flooded the room. Jane blinked and squinted for a moment, and when her eyes adjusted, she smiled again as she glanced around.

A wide four-poster bed, its headboard against the eastern wall, dominated the room. Dark green curtains with silver embroidered Celtic knots hung from its rods, and the mattress bore a dozen matching pillows and a feather comforter. The curtains Frigg had opened actually led to a small balcony, and through it Jane glimpsed the clear, cloudless sky and the bold sunlight. Against the north wall stood a broad, intricately-carved wooden vanity with a crystal-clear mirror, and against the south wall towered a double-doored black wardrobe. The high walls were silvery green, and the ceiling…

"Oh…" Jane breathed as tilted her head back to look. The ceiling was pitch black—and more than fifty constellations had been painted there in brilliant silver. They sparkled against their dark background—lovely patterns, yet completely unfamiliar to her.

"What a beautiful room!" Jane exclaimed quietly, carefully stepping forward toward the bed. Still gazing at the ceiling, she turned around and leaned back against the foot of the bed, absently pressing her hands to her middle, where she still felt sore. She wore another very loose, white, floor-length gown today, and no shoes—it was still a little hard for her to move around, and she got easily winded, but she felt much better than a day ago.

"So glad you like it," Frigg said, tying one curtain back with a cord. "A fairy told me you would like this guest room for your stay."

Jane thought a moment—then realized this must be the Asgardian phrase equivalent to "a little bird told me."

"Oh!" Jane said. "Thor?"

"No," Frigg said lightly, tying back the other curtain. Jane waited, but Frigg didn't elaborate. Jane frowned.

"Do you like flowers?" Frigg asked, turning a bright look on her.

"I…Yes," Jane answered, thrown. Frigg stepped toward her.

"Any particular kind?"

Jane laughed and shook her head.

"I don't know," she shrugged. "I like them all."

"All right," Frigg inclined her head, smiling. "I'll go out to the gardens myself and choose some for this room—it needs a little something in here to brighten it up."

"Thank you, ma'am," Jane said, feeling warm all over. Frigg smiled at her again, then turned and glided out through the open double doors.

Jane sighed, glancing around her again, listening to a lark outside twitter quietly.

She straightened, pushing away from the bed, and shuffled to the threshold of the balcony and grasped the curtain. She could see all of the gardens below, like an intricate puzzle of stone walls, fountains, hedges and colorful garden plots.

"Are you enjoying your view?"

Jane spun around at the sound of the low, masculine voice.

A tall, white-haired, bearded man wearing a patch over his right eye stood smiling at her in the doorway, his long red robes draping to the floor, his hands clasped behind his back.

"Odin!" Jane gasped, then blushed. "I mean…um…"

"You may address me as All-Father, or sir," he said, then glanced around. "May I come in?"

"Yes. Yes, sir," Jane said quickly, nodding. Odin stepped inside and further assessed the chamber.

"I wasn't sure you would enjoy this room—it is decorated in rather masculine colors," Odin commented. "But my wife seemed certain it would suit you."

"It does, sir," Jane smiled. "I love the ceiling."

"Ah, yes," Odin glanced up. "Elementary astronomy lessons. This is called the Cosmos Room because of it." Odin paused in the middle of the floor. "We have a thousand guest rooms in this palace. My wife and I decorated most of them, but this entire wing was undone when we ran out of inspiration. So, we left it in the charge of our two sons." Odin chuckled. "They have turned into some of my favorite chambers."

Jane rubbed her thumb against the soft curtain, suddenly uneasy. However, Odin turned back toward the door and changed the subject.

"I have brought something you left behind at the healing rooms," he said, and snapped his fingers. Immediately, a red-garbed servant entered—

Holding the curved-horned helmet in both hands, still stained with Jane's blood. Sunlight from the balcony caught it, and the metal flashed the light back into her eyes.

"I…I didn't leave it…" she tried, staring at it as she servant strode to her vanity and set it down on the smooth wooden surface, then departed.

"It was left it with you," Odin reminded her.

"But…But shouldn't it be returned?" Jane asked, still unable to look away from it.

"That is Loki's helmet," Odin chuckled. "And he will do whatever he wants with it, whenever he wants—as he has so often told the master at arms. He's left it in your care for now. I am certain that when he decides to, he will come and retrieve it."

Jane bit her lip, but had no idea how to protest. Then, Odin stepped toward her, and his blue gaze caught hers.

"Take my arm? We will go out onto the balcony and you can see the view—and I can ask you about a few things that have had me curious these past few days."

Jane swallowed, but nodded, and reached up to take Odin's proffered arm. Carefully, he led her over the threshold of the balcony and out into the sun. The wind tousled Jane's hair, and the tile felt warm on her bare feet. They reached the high, broad stone railing and Odin let her go, and she leaned her elbows on it. She could see even further now—even to the rolling green foothills, and the hulking shadows of the mountains in the far distance.

"Now, Lady Jane," Odin said, turning a solemn gaze upon her. "Please tell me what happened to my son after he fell from the Asbru Bridge."


At first, talking was like pulling a long splinter out of her hand. She couldn't bring herself to say his name—either of them—and she couldn't form sentences any longer than four or five words. But Odin asked pointed questions, and she got the sense that he was interested in fact rather than feelings, so Jane managed to start at the beginning.

She told him how she and Darcy had thought Thor was returning, and gone out into the desert to run across a dark-haired man instead—one who had called himself Fenris. Jane told Odin about his injuries, and how he would not eat—and how she finally succeeded in feeding him. She told him in detail about the skirmish in the bar, when his hands had turned blue—and about their riddle challenge under the stars.

Odin listened closely all the while, but his gaze intensified when she told him that he had given her one of the Lokistones, and that Tony Stark had come visiting and they had talked until the wee hours—and then the Cube was stolen. Jane could see the questions in the king's face as her story lengthened, but he didn't interrupt her.

And as she spoke, memories began rising up.

The look of his sharp, dark figure and pale countenance against the sky as they walked down a dirt road in the desert…

How the firelight flickered against his face and black hair as he had gazed at the night sky, studying Taurus and Orion…

The way his solemn expression and emerald eyes had lit up with a warm smile and a sudden laugh mere moments after he had re-conjured that table spoon for her…

The warmth that had spread through her when he had set his chin on the crown of her head, and they watched the stars streak through the silver clouds…

How his hand had entwined with hers as they had walked through the dark, snowy forest…

She had to admit, the telling got easier as she went—

Until she got to the point when she was seized in the hallway by one of Doom's men.

Then everything crumbled into pain.

She stared down at her hands, which rested on the stone railing, and spoke haltingly. She tried, as best she could—though she still couldn't understand it—to describe the way her companion had transformed from a quiet, reserved, brooding wolf to a cocky, confident, smooth-talking snake. How he and Doom had faced off in the center of the vast cavern while she was shuffled to the side.

How Doom had brought out the helmet, and with a metallic rattle and a few sharp flashes, her friend had transformed into Prince Loki.

"After that, it's all kind of blurry," she confessed, feeling nauseated. "But I remember…I remember being shot." She swallowed, then nodded. "I remember that. And I remember…" she took a deep breath to steady herself. "I remember him coming down next to me, taking hold of my hands…and telling me to breathe. Telling me he could fix it. And then…Nothing." She bit her lip and shook her head. "Nothing. Until I woke up and saw Thor sitting next to me."

She glanced up at Odin.

The king's weathered brow furrowed, and he watched her closely.

"Yes," he said quietly. "Loki feared he could not handle the tesseract's power well enough to heal you with it—but he knew had the ability. So he brought you here, even though he had been as good as exiled." Odin gazed at her deeply. "He must care for you very much."

Jane jerked away, her jaw clenching.

"You don't believe he does?" Odin asked.

"He lied to me," she gritted. "I'm sorry, but…He did. He lied."

"About what?"

"About who he was!" she burst out, unable to look at him. "His name, his history—everything."

"From the bits you have told me," Odin began. "It sounds as if the history he recounted to you was true. He just altered the names."

"The names are the most important part," Jane snapped, realizing she was being disrespectful but unable to help it. Her eyes were burning with tears.

"There is a simple reason for that, you know," Odin said.

Jane steeled herself, and stared down at her fingers as she rubbed them back and forth on the stone.

"What's that?" she asked.

"A wise prince," Odin said. "Stranded in a foreign realm, should never reveal his identity to the first people he meets."

"Thor did," Jane answered.

"Ah," Odin turned toward her fully. "And what happened to him?"

Jane glanced up at him, uncertain.

"Well, my…My friend tasered him, and we took him to the hospital…" she said slowly. "And then he got in a fight, so they put him in restraints and…" Jane trailed off. Odin raised his eyebrows. Jane looked away.

"I see your point," she muttered. Odin was silent. Jane's chest clenched.

"But he kept lying to me," she bit out. "In all that time, he never told me the truth."

Odin set his elbow on the railing.

"If I may ask," Odin said. "What was your opinion of the prince Loki?"

Jane looked at him, startled. He smiled quietly.

"Don't worry. You may speak your mind. Believe me, I have heard it all."

Jane hesitated, and glanced out over the gardens.

"I knew he was the one who sent the Destroyer after us," Jane said. "He tried to kill Thor and his friends—and my friends." She met Odin's eye. "I was afraid of him."

"So tell me, Lady Jane," Odin said. "When my son was wounded, and at your mercy, why would he reveal to you that he was the enemy of your dear Asgardian friend—an enemy who had lain waste to your village and nearly killed your companions?"

Jane couldn't think of anything to say. Odin turned to face the grounds.

"And after his initial deception, I'm afraid his only choice was to maintain this charade—especially after he became desirous of your friendship," he said. "For he had to know that the truth would ruin everything between you. And when is ever the perfect time to ruin everything?"

Jane was glad Odin wasn't looking at her. Two furious tears fell from her eyes, and she quickly reached up and dashed them away. She wrapped her arms around her midsection and tried to catch her breath, as the gentle silence stretched between them.

Finally, she risked a glance up at the ancient king. She could only see his rugged profile, and the edge of his limitless eye. He rested his beaten hands on the railing as well, then turned his head slightly away from her, to the south.

"I saw my sons walking together yesterday, early in the morning, down in a lane in the orchard. Just there," he said softly, pointing. Jane tilted her head and looked around him, and caught sight of a small cherry orchard in a shallow valley. The trees were in full, pinkish-white bloom, and a broad path meandered through the midst of them.

"They were just walking, and talking, side by side," Odin went on. "Thor was barefoot, and still in his nightclothes. And they spoke and listened to each other carefully, attentively. I could not hear what they said—but I thought to myself 'When did my two little boys become men? And when did those men become, not just brothers, but friends?'" Odin shook his head. "I tried to remember a time when I had seen them both so companionable, and I almost could not. Not since they were very small children. Before either had picked up a weapon. Before they knew that everyone expected them to be rivals." Odin glanced down. "For when they were small, you could not find one without the other, nor could you find two dearer or more innocent friends."

Jane swallowed, as sadness settled on the old monarch.

"What happened?" Jane wondered.

Odin heaved a heavy sigh, then faced her again.

"Loki is my son," he said. "But he is not of my body, nor Frigg's."

Jane stared at him, her brow tensing. Odin spoke.

"He is a Frost Giant," he told her. "Which is why his hands changed when he protected you."

Jane's lips parted, but she couldn't form words. Odin went on.

"Long ago, after the great defeat of the Frost Giants, I wandered through the ruins of the city with a handful of my best men, putting down the last pockets of resistance. We came upon a large temple, and we were certain it was a stronghold for several giants who did not mean to surrender. But when we entered, we found no one, and heard nothing. Nothing except the cries of an infant."

Jane's gaze sharpened, and she watched every movement of his face. Odin's expression gained a deep sorrow.

"There, on a pile of broken stones near the sacrificial altar, I found a very little baby. The king's son."

"What?" Jane gasped. "Where was his mother? Were his parents dead?"

"No," Odin shook his head. "His father Laufey, until recently, was very much alive."

Jane's hand absently came up and pressed against her heart.

"They just left him there?" she breathed.

"Yes," Odin murmured. "I believe it was because they thought he was too small."

Jane swallowed hard, and it hurt.

"I used magic to make his appearance more similar to an Aesir's—though he seemed to insist upon having very dark hair," Odin half smiled. "I took him home, and raised him alongside Thor." His voice lowered. "But Loki did not know what he was—so he was confused by his magical abilities, and hurt that others seemed to treat him differently for no reason. And the child's tastes and habits were a mystery to me. Though, he was always loving to me and Frigg and Thor."

"Why didn't you tell him the truth?" Jane wondered. Odin met her eyes.

"Perhaps the same reason he did not tell you the truth."

Jane's fingers closed.

"Despite my best intentions, however, he found out on his own," Odin said darkly, his voice growing very soft. "The day of the coronation. Just before Thor was banished."

They stood without talking for several minutes, each lost in thought. Jane measured her breathing and closed her eyes, trying to work through the knot of pain and bafflement in her chest.

"I am quite jealous of you, Lady Jane," Odin finally said. She opened her eyes, and gazed once more at the wizened king.

"Why?" she asked quietly.

"Because you were given an impossible opportunity," he answered. "A chance to see my son unmasked, unfettered by the opinions and prejudices that have long clung to him. I know my son because I have spent centuries trying to study his manner and habits and feelings—and even so, he sometimes leaves me bewildered." Odin leaned toward her, his gaze burning. "You know my son because, by concealing his name, he did not have to hide behind the façade he had spent centuries building. He could show you his heart, without the fear that you had already judged him. The lie that has so offended you, in truth allowed him to trust you as he has never trusted anyone." Odin sighed, and glanced out at the gardens again. "But now I am certain that he fears you will hate him—or at least despise him, on Thor's account."

Jane felt as if she had been hit—though Odin couldn't have said it gentler. Without waiting for her to answer—she couldn't have, anyway—Odin turned and stepped back into the room.

"Oh, I almost forgot my reason for coming in the first place," he said, in a completely different tone. "My firstborn wished me to ask you, if you are feeling well enough tomorrow, he would like to escort you through any parts of Asgard you wish to see." He paused and turned to her. She managed to nod.

"Good!" he declared. "I will tell him. And I will order a meal to be brought up to you in half an hour."

Jane watched as Odin crossed the threshold, and turned to leave.

Then, he stopped, and faced her again.

"Do you still wear the Lokistone?" he asked, as if in afterthought.

Jane's hand flew to her breastbone. Her fingertips rested on the cold bump beneath her dress.

"Yes," she managed.

Odin smiled, then nodded.

And the king departed.

Fallen Star

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by Alydia Rackham

Part 23 of 27

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