Continuing Tales

Fallen Star

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by Alydia Rackham

Part 6 of 27

<< Previous     Home     Next >>

"Guess you really did it this time
Left yourself in your war path

Lost your balance on a tightrope
Lost your mind trying to get it back

Wasn't it beautiful
When you believed in everything
And everybody believed in you?"


Jane stared into the dancing flames, feeling the heat of them against her fingers, her cheeks and her nose. She sat forward, resting her elbows on her knees, listening to the crackle of the embers. Erik sat next to her on a lawn chair. Jane lifted her eyes, and looked out over the blackness beyond. The town behind her glowed, fading out the sky, but far above that hung the deepest stars. She tipped her head back, and watched the smoke curl upward and vanish. She had always loved sitting on the roof—it was like a giant front porch and a backyard at the same time. But now, all she could think of was a pencil drawing in a book, and the firelight shining in a pair of warm eyes, and the sound of a deep, hearty laugh.

"Are you all right?" Erik asked. Jane sighed and rubbed her hands together.

"I don't know," she confessed. Then she shrugged one shoulder. "I mean, I'm thrilled with the progress we're making on the Cube—it's the most fascinating thing I've ever had the chance to look at. But I…" She trailed off, and held out her hands palms up. "I feel like I'm waiting for something. Or that I should be doing something that I'm not. Or I'm missing something."

Erik scooted his chair closer.

"He told you he'd come back," he soothed. "He will."

Jane glanced over at her friend's rugged face. He gazed back at her steadily, and gave her a small smile. Her brow tightened.

"He can't, Erik," she murmured. "Fenris said the bridge broke, remember?"

"Ah, Fenris," Erik sighed, leaning back and folding his arms. Jane hung her head, feeling her stomach muscles clamp as a soft breeze brushed through her hair.

"I don't know what to do about him."

"He's not eating?" Erik asked.

"He's not eating anything!" Jane cried, sitting up and slapping her hands down on her thighs. "I'm at a complete loss. I make three meals every day for him, set them down on that table, and then throw away whole plates of food because he won't even try it. I've seen him take a few sips of water once in a while, but other than that…" She shook her head and flopped back in the chair. "I don't know what to do. It's been a week and a half—how long does he expect to survive without eating?"

"I've heard a person can go quite a while," Erik said.

"Not when he's injured," Jane countered. She bit her lip. "And not when he's been bleeding."

Erik paused.

"Why do you think he won't eat?"

Jane hesitated, then shook her head again.

"Not sure. At first I thought was because he was in too much pain. I know he got hurt somewhere in his midsection, but I might as well try to doctor a rabid dog." Jane snapped a twig in half and threw it on the fire. She paused. "But then I think hedecided to stop eating."

Erik frowned, considering.

"It's emotional, then."

Jane glanced at him.

"Maybe. I mean, if Thor can't get here, then Fenris can't get back there. He's stranded."

Erik thought for a long moment.

"You think he's given up?"

Jane's brow tightened as she stared over the flames.

"I don't know. When he first came, there was a little fight in him, and he almost seemed interested when we'd talk about the Cube, or whatever else was going on. I knew he was listening, especially when he'd say something irritating just to remind us he was there. But ever since we had that conversation about Asgard…" Jane glanced down at her thumbs, rubbing one against the other. Her jaw tensed. "He won't talk. I mean it, Erik, he doesn't say a word. He just sits there on that couch and stares at the wall. I've asked him how he's doing, I've told him I'd get him anything he needs, I've gone over and put books on the table, and board games and anything I can think of to try and get him to re-engage even a little bit, and it's like I don't exist." She picked up another stick and held it in her hands a moment, frustration stinging the back of her throat. "Whether it's on purpose or not, I don't know…" she let out a tight breath. "But he's going to kill himself. I just wish I knew what I could do about it."

"You're a brilliant woman, Jane," Erik said. "But it's possible you're treating him like a problem you have to solve."

Jane looked at him and frowned.

"What do you mean?"

Erik just chuckled, shook his head, and tossed a twig on the fire, leaving her to contemplate that on her own.


It rained. The water poured down in sheets, blackening the evening sky and racing across the windows in streaks. Loki sat sideways on the couch, leaning back into the crook, his legs propped up on the seat cushions. He laid his head sideways onto the back cushion of the couch, and concentrated on drawing in and exhaling even breaths, so he would retain consciousness.

His ribs were still cracked. Earlier, he had been taking pains every night to stitch them back together, but the nights had become thin and hard, and offered him no rest, so his strength had petered off and he had abandoned the effort. He just stared at the blank ceiling, restless and sore. The heaviness in his blood got worse with every passing day. He did not sleep. And he had no interest in eating. He had swallowed a bit of water now and then, but the idea of chewing repulsed him. His skin had gone cold, his lips parched. And today, he had not moved from his couch once.

The others had come and gone and walked and talked all around him, discussing the Cube and the upcoming meteor shower just like every day before. He sensed Erik shoot him narrow glances, and Jane give him lingering gazes. They wondered what was wrong with him—wondered why he stayed so still. But he didn't return their looks anymore. He watched the few vehicles drive by through the windows; watched a handful of pedestrians go from one door to another, all distant and soundless, shielded by the glass.

He still sensed that glowing box, far away—the tendrils of magic connecting him to it hummed uneasily, reminding him of the raw power that waited there at the other end—waited like an open electrical socket. Knowing what he knew about it now—even the little bit—spun his mind sideways. He knew what he could do with it, what he wanted to do.

Yet he couldn't bear to think of it. None of it.

It had been a mistake in telling Jane about Asgard. The images he had dredged up had been like swallowing a cocktail of slow-acting hemlock—it spread through him like a black river, turning his insides to water.

"No, Loki…"

His muscles felt like lead, his heart splintered and the pieces lost. A vision of the golden city hung in the air before him, as thunder snarled over his head and he methodically counted his scars.


"I heard a voice, that cried,
'Balder the Beautiful
Is dead, is dead!'
And through the misty air
Passed like the mournful cry
Of sunward sailing cranes."

It was evening again, and they had gathered in the laboratory to wind down after

spending the day studying the Cube—though their research had been admittedly fruitless the past two days. Jane now sat next to Darcy at a long table covered in star charts. Darcy, tucked back in her chair, was busy sketching a dark, detailed picture of her cat from back home. Jane had a current satellite map of the Milky Way laid out in front of her, which she marked with a silver pen. However, both of them were listening to Erik, who held a book of Norse-related poetry—and at the moment, he read to them in his deep voice a poem by Longfellow.

"I saw the pallid corpse
Of the dead sun
Borne through the Northern sky," Erik went on.
"Blasts from Niffelheim
Lifted the sheeted mists
Around him as he passed.

And the voice forever cried,
'Balder the Beautiful
Is dead, is dead!'
And died away
Through the dreary night,
In accents of despair."

Jane's pen paused, and she lifted her eyes to Erik. Darcy kept sketching. Erik glanced up, smiled at her, then continued reading.

"Balder the Beautiful,
God of the summer sun,
Fairest of all the Gods!
Light from his forehead beamed,
Runes were upon his tongue,
As on the warrior's sword.

All things in earth and air
Bound were by magic spell
Never to do him harm;
Even the plants and stones;
All save the mistletoe,
The sacred mistletoe!"

"Mistletoe," Darcy murmured. "That's interesting."

Jane put the cap on her pen, rested her elbows on the chart, and listened intently to Erik


"Hoeder, the blind old God,
Whose feet are shod with silence,
Pierced through that gentle breast
With his sharp spear, by fraud,
Made of the mistletoe!
The accursed mistletoe!

They laid him in his ship,
With horse and harness,
As on a funeral pyre.
Odin placed
A ring upon his finger,
And whispered in his ear.

They launched the burning ship!
It floated far away
Over the misty sea,
Till like the sun it seemed,
Sinking beneath the waves.
Balder returned no more!"

"Wait," Darcy sat up as Erik opened his mouth to continue. He looked at her. She frowned, and flicked her pencil back and forth.

"Did you say something about the guy who did it being blind?"

"Yes," Erik nodded, then pointed to a line on the page. "'Hoeder, the blind old God, Whose feet are shod with silence, Pierced through that gentle breast With his sharp spear, by fraud—"

"How did he do that?" Jane asked. "He's blind."

Erik closed the book, leaving his thumb in between the pages.

"It was Loki," he explained. "He disguised himself and went to Frigg, who had cast the spell to protect Balder. Loki found out from her which plant had not been put under the spell—the one that could hurt Balder. Then he made a spear out of it, and gave it to Hoeder. You see, the other gods were enjoying themselves by throwing things at Balder, because nothing could hurt him. Hoeder just thought he was joining in on the joke. Loki helped him aim, since he was blind. And the spear of mistletoe went right through Balder. Killed him."

"What the heck?" Darcy said, putting her sketchbook down. "Why did Loki do that? Did he have a problem with this Balder, or what?"

Erik shrugged.

"Didn't seem to."

"I don't understand," Jane said, frowning. "Loki knew he was going to hurt him—kill him probably—and he was going to do it anyway and let somebody else take the blame?"

"Loki is like that," Erik sighed. "An agent of chaos, of thoughtless mischief, regardless of consequences. He likes to find ways to twist things, exploit the loopholes, set something on fire and laugh in the other room while people scream."

"So he killed somebody?" Jane protested. "For fun?"

"Not just somebody," Erik said. "It was Thor's brother."

Jane's face drained of heat. Darcy's mouth fell open.

"Holy crap," she whispered.

Jane sat back, suddenly feeling sick to her stomach.

"So what happened to this creep?" Darcy kept on. "Did anybody find out he was the one who did it? What did they do to him?"

"Oh, yes, they caught him," Erik nodded. "He tried to escape—turned himself into a fish for a while, I think—but yes, they got him."

"And?" Darcy pressed.

"They chained him up underneath a waterfall of venom," Erik said. "And his wife had to stand in front of him and catch the venom in a bowl, over his head, then turn around and empty it out. But while she was turning and emptying it out, the venom would drip down on Loki's shoulders—it made him shiver so hard the earth shook."

"Good," Jane said through her teeth, her eyes unfocused, her knuckles pressed to her lips.

"I'm surprised Thor didn't beat him up," Darcy muttered, sitting back again. "Kick him right to Mars."

"He could have, I suppose," Erik said. "Though Loki is Thor's brother, too."

There was a long pause as Jane stared at Erik.

"What the freaking heck?" Darcy exclaimed. "What is wrong with these people? And who decided that convoluted punishment, huh? That venom thing? Not good enough."

"No," Jane decided, still cold all over. "If he likes killing people for fun, he'd do it again. Odin should have had him executed."

"That's what I think," Darcy agreed. "I mean, the freak killed his brother."

"You…have no idea what you are talking about."

The voice hissed out from the corner, slithering through the air like chains against stone. Jane spun around, her heart jerking. Fenris, who sat on the couch, had turned his white face toward them—and his green eyes, with dark circles around them, burned the distance between them.

"You pathetic little mortals—tiny nobodies spinning around on a primitive rock," he spat, his lips like snow, his voice hoarse. "Passing judgment on princes thousands of years older than you, and basing those judgments on second-hand accounts written by sentimental poets who never saw what happened, nor stood inside the halls of mourning nor watched the pyre flames burning the long hair from a prince's head." Fenris dragged his legs off the couch, and with his jaw clenching hard, he stood up. The end of his cape tumbled to his ankles. He pressed his left hand to his right side, but it was in reflex—his stark eyes struck them silent.

"You talk about Asgard as if you know it, as if you could possibly understand the depths and heights of it, and the people who have lived there for longer than you can imagine," he snarled like a wolf, his shoulders tight. "As if you'd have the faintest idea how Odin passes a verdict, or how Frigg tries to protect her children, or how a mistake can be made when a spell is cast wrongly." He stopped, and swayed. He forcibly straightened himself, a snarl looming between his eyebrows. "What do you know about punishments, and their severity, or mislaid blame?" He bared his teeth, and his voice rose. "Think, you idiots! Why would Loki kill his brother for no reason? And how could a woman hold a wide bowl full of venom so long and high over his head?" He gestured wildly with his right hand. "Why not his other brother, the one with thunder in his arms, hm? The one who was itching for revenge, the one who wanted him to suffer?" Fenris' eyes blazed—gleamed with unshed tears. "Especially since such a woman never existed—and it all was an accident, and when they finally realized it, Loki was unchained from the rocks—but not before it had almost killed him!" He bent and slapped the tall glass of water on the coffee table. It flew through the air and shattered on the floor. Jane leaped to her feet, her heart pounding.

Fenris' terrible gaze fell on her. His hands shook.

"You know nothing," he hissed. "So you should say nothing."

Darcy threw back her chair and got up. She shot a wide-eyed look at Jane, then turned and hurried out the door. Erik followed her, calling her name. Jane, trembling all over, pushed around Darcy's abandoned chair and caught the door before it closed—

But before she hurried after her friends, she saw Fenris sink down onto the couch, his hands in fists, and close his eyes.


"He's a psychopath," Darcy stated as she rammed unfolded clothes into her suitcase. "Completely crazy and violent. And I'm not staying here to see when he decides to explode."

"But Darcy, you can't leave!" Jane cried, pushing herself back against a cabinet in Darcy's crowded trailer as the college student hurried past her. "This Cube is going to change everything! We're on the brink of one of the greatest breakthroughs in scientific history—"

"No, I'm not," Darcy paused, pointing at her, then at Erik, who stood hunched in the kitchenette. "You guys are. I've been glad to help with that, and get extra credit or whatever, but this is getting stupid." She pulled open another drawer and began packing its contents. "I've had a bad feeling about this Fenris guy ever since you almost ran him over. He's not like Thor. He's bad news. And I'm getting out of his way."

"Darcy…" Jane pleaded.

"Jane, don't look at me like that," Darcy sighed, finally facing her friend. "If you ever get a handle on him, figure out what's the matter—or just wind up shooting him—let me know and I'll be back. I just can't ignore my gut anymore, okay?"

Jane's heart fell into her shoes. She turned to Erik, looking for help, but his dark, furrowed gaze offered none.

"Okay," Jane murmured. "We'll get out of your way so you can pack."

Darcy looked at her for a second, then stepped up and gave her a tight hug. Jane swallowed hard. Darcy backed up and took her by the shoulders. She raised her eyebrows.

"There's an extra bedroom at my mom's house if you decide you need to escape too. Okay?"

"Okay," Jane gave her a weak smile, then turned to hide the fact that she was about to cry. She pushed open the trailer door and stumbled down the stairs, hearing Erik follow. The door banged shut. Jane stopped, taking deep breaths. Erik came up to stand beside her.

"You all right?" he asked. Jane stared back toward the lab, and the dim white light she could see through the windows. She nodded once. Erik let out a heavy breath.

"You don't think he's crazy," he muttered. Jane's eyes flickered, and she wrapped her arms around herself.

"No, Erik," she confessed. "That was something else."


Jane sat on the edge of her bed, listening to the wind beat against the walls of her trailer. It was past midnight, but she was still dressed—her thoughts fixated on that shattered glass of water. Erik had gone to his own trailer about an hour ago, and the light had gone off in Darcy's place—she would leave in the morning. Jane sat, motionless, waiting for the rain to return and lull her to sleep.

But it didn't. The restless gusts just kept rocking her trailer back and forth. Her eyebrows came together as her head hung low.

"It's possible you're treating him like a problem you have to solve…"

Jane's jaw tightened. Then, she stood up, grabbed her jacket, and stepped outside.

The wind whipped her hair, and she zipped her jacket up to her throat. She ducked her head and quickly made for the door of the lab. Taking a bracing breath, she unlocked it, stuffed her keys back in her pocket, pulled the silent door open and stepped inside. She glanced up. She paused.

Fenris sat in the bend of the couch, as always, lit by a light near the counter. He was leaned back, his left arm in its usual spot across his middle. But in his other hand, he held a book open on his knee—it was the Norse Mythology book Erik had gotten at the library. He stared, unseeing, at the west glass wall. And tears ran down his face.

Jane stopped breathing.

His expression was blank—pale and absent—but crystal drops trailed from his glistening eyes down his cheeks, wetting his long black eyelashes, and running down his neck. She almost could not distinguish the clarity of his eyes—they looked like pools of emerald and silver. She watched as two, three heavy teardrops tumbled from his chin and hit the bronze of his chest armor, striking away the dust and sending a sparkle through the room. Jane shifted just an inch closer.

Her feet crunched on broken glass. She winced.

Fenris cleared his throat, and reached up with a shaking left hand to swipe at his face. His pale fingers wiped away his tears, but when his hand dropped, his eyes still gleamed. He ducked his head away from her, and his right hand squeezed the book shut.

Biting her lip, Jane righted herself and stepped forward, deciding to pretend as if she hadn't seen anything. She watched him out of the corner of her eye, but he didn't turn to her. She came up to the counter and flipped on a light, then opened a cupboard and got the kettle down. Then, she reached over and flipped on a burner, and started filling up the kettle with water.

She took a breath, trying to stay calm and casual as the water hissed. Then, a thought hit her, and she took another breath.

Quietly, she began humming a tune that had been a favorite of her mother's a very long time ago. Jane remembered hearing her hum it while she worked in the kitchen. She hadn't known until years later that it was the melody of the old hymn "Nearer My God to Thee"—Jane had just always found it soothing. It reminded her of home.

Jane's voice felt far weaker than her mother's, but she forced the tune out, and tried to keep it soft and easy. She set the kettle on the burner, then plucked a tea bag of English Breakfast tea out of its box, then dug in another cabinet for the tea pot and set.

As she waited for the water to boil, she found the sugar, and got the creamer out of the refrigerator. When the kettle whistled, she put the tea bag in the pot, and poured the hot water in. Then, she found a small tray, and piled the tea pot, two cups with saucers, and the cream and sugar all on it, picked it up and carried it to the coffee table near Fenris. He did not look at her. She set the tray down amidst the piles of books, then, mentally bracing herself, she came around and sat on the couch next to him.

She kept a bit of distance between them, but she tucked her feet up under her in a cross-legged position and sighed comfortably, then pulled the tea tray a little closer.

"My parents got this tea set as a wedding present. There are four more cups," Jane said. "Mom liked it particularly because it's plain white—she thought it was 'elegant.'" She smiled. "After she died, though, my dad thought it was a little too elegant, so we just kept it in the china cabinet." Jane lifted the lid off the sugar bowl and put three scoops into her cup, then three in the other. "My dad died in a car accident when I was seventeen. We were in Sweden—he was teaching at a university. I was a really sound sleeper back then, and I'd gone to bed early. When he…When it happened, the hospital called our house, and so did Erik—lots of times—but I slept right through it. So when I woke up…" Jane shrugged one shoulder and picked up the creamer. "He'd already been gone for five hours."

She risked a glance up at Fenris.

He was looking at her like he'd never seen her before. His glittering emerald eyes penetrated her, watched her—captured her. His brow furrowed. He was listening.

Jane gave him a small smile. His look flickered, and he swallowed. She turned back and picked up the tea pot and poured into the two cups.

"It's why I have trouble sleeping sometimes now. But it's also why I decided to actually use this tea set. Sometimes, when I come out here and drink tea, it's like I'm with them. Makes me feel a little better." She stirred both cups, put a little creamer in each, then picked up a cup and saucer and held it out to him, without looking at him.

An instant passed.

Then, she felt careful hands take it from her—soft fingers brushed hers. As soon as she was sure he wouldn't drop it, she let go, and took up her own tea. She brought it to her lips and pulled in a sip, and swallowed, letting the hot liquid soothe her throat.

"Actually," she said, canting her head at the things on the table. "A lot of these books were my mom's, too. Dad wasn't in to reading much—unless it was astronomy journals. Mom was a big reader, though. Liked old stories." Jane set her cup down and pulled one of the books out from the middle of the pile. It had a battered green cover, with faded gold writing. "The Fellowship of the Ring," she said, running her finger on the spine. "Ha—I think…Well, if I remember right, the beginning of this one is kind of funny…" She opened it and set it on her lap, flipping through the introductory pages. She grinned. "Yeah, here it is. 'Concerning Hobbits." She cleared her throat, and started to read. "'This book is largely concerned with Hobbits, and from its pages a reader may discover much of their character and a little of their history. Further information will also be found in the selection from the Red Book of Westmarch that has already been published, under the title of The Hobbit. That story was derived from the earlier chapters of the Red Book, composed by Bilbo himself, the first Hobbit to become famous in the world at large…'"

And then, out of the corner of her eye, she saw Fenris take a deep, long drink of tea.

Jane almost stammered, but quickly kept reading as if she had not noticed.

"…and called by him There and Back Again, since they told of his journey into the East and his return: an adventure which later involved all the Hobbits in the great events of that Age that are here related…"

She kept reading aloud, attempting to do the voices of Gandalf and Bilbo and other characters as she came to them, and trying not to laugh at herself or stumble in nervousness. Finally, she fell into a comfortable rhythm, getting lost in the story herself, as her tea got cold.

"'The Road goes ever on and on

Down from the door where it began.

Now far ahead the Road has gone,

And I must follow, if I can,

Pursuing it with eager feet,

Until it joins some larger way

Where many paths and errands meet.

And whither then? I cannot say.'" Jane paused, and dared a glance to her right.

Fenris had laid his head back into the couch, and his eyes were closed. His tea cup sat empty on the table. He breathed deeply, evenly. He was asleep.

Carefully, Jane shut the book and set it down. Trying to stay silent, she got up, picked up a blue fleece blanket from the other end of the couch, unfolded it, and spread it over him.

As she tucked it up near his shoulders, hoping he wouldn't wake up, she gazed for a moment at his still, pale face. The lines between his eyebrows had smoothed, his mouth had softened, and a tear still glistened in the corner of his eye.

Jane withdrew, watched him for another moment, then headed back to her trailer, making a mental note to sweep up the broken glass first thing in the morning.

Fallen Star

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by Alydia Rackham

Part 6 of 27

<< Previous     Home     Next >>