Continuing Tales

Fallen Star

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by Alydia Rackham

Part 7 of 27

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"Did some things you can't speak of
But at night
You live it all again

You wouldn't be shattered on the floor now
If only you had seen
What you know now then

Wasn't it easier
In your firefly-catching days
When everything out of reach
Someone bigger brought down to you?

Wasn't it beautiful
Running wild till you fell asleep
Before the monsters caught up to you…"



The sunset in the sky over Asgard lit the clouds with a golden sheen, and deepened the heavens above it, lighting the billions of constellations and colorful glowing nebula. The soft, warm breeze wafted through the open windows and across the balconies of the palace. Below, the distant waterfalls whispered, and a flight of white birds twittered as they flitted past the second highest tower. But Thor Odinson, who stood on a broad balcony overlooking the majesty of the mountains and the vastness of the sky, saw nothing, and could not hear the song of the birds or the waters. His eyes had filled with tears, and he was unafraid of letting them fall as he leaned his broad hands on the stone railing. He wore a deep red tunic and trousers embroidered with gold—his usual attire felt too heavy today.

Cloth whispered behind him. He straightened, and tried to gather himself. He turned, expecting to see his mother. Then, his eyebrows went up, and he swiped at his eyes.

"Sif," he said, then cleared his throat to steady it. He forced a smile, but could summon no other words.

Sif, wearing a long blue gown, her hair hanging loose, watched him from the doorway for a moment. Thor found it too difficult to meet her always-intense gaze, so he turned back, and studied the peaks in the distance.

Soft footsteps approached him, and then he saw Sif lean her winsome form against the railing off to his right.

"I cannot believe it," she whispered. "All that time…he was a Frost Giant."

Thor gave a rough laugh—it hurt his throat.

"I cannot believe it either."

"Did the All Father tell you why he kept it a secret?" she asked, gazing at him. Thor ran his thumb along the smooth stone.

"He said he wanted Loki to feel like one of us—like his son. Like my brother."

For a long while, both of them were silent. Thor's hand turned into a fist, and he set it down on the railing.

"I don't know what to think of him, now. Loki," he said, his jaw tighter. "My father gave him mercy—a home—when his father had left him to die. We took him in as one of our family, and raised him as a prince. And he turned around and did…what he did."

"He was a traitor," Sif said. Thor looked at her.

"And he was your friend," he said.

Sif ducked her head, her hair fluttering. She bit her lip.

"I know, Thor," she murmured. "I just couldn't bear what he did to you."

Thor smiled, his heart growing a little warmer.

"Which is why you came to rescue me, right?"

She looked up at him, and returned his small smile. But soon it faded, as she studied his face.

"You truly miss him?"

Thor looked away again, gazing far off into the stars. He did not speak for several minutes. But when he finally did, his chest tensed.

"I ought to hate him," he said. "And I have been so angry with him lately I can't see straight. But today…" he shook his head and swallowed. "All I can think of is what he must have felt when Father told him the truth."

It was a long time before either of them said anything.

"Have you forgiven him, then?" Sif asked softly. Thor's gut tightened painfully, and a cold wave went through him. He gritted his teeth. Too much swirled through his insides—too much for him to even voice to his old friend. So he did not answer.

And then Sif reached out and rested her warm hand on top of his.

Thor straightened, and looked at her. But she did not lift her eyes to him. She just gazed out at the horizon, holding his hand with gentle pressure.

Something pressed against Thor's heart, then, adding to the confusion there—but also somehow soothing it. This was what he liked about Sif: she didn't have to say a word, and he knew she was there, and cared for him. After a moment of studying her sunset-lit profile, he smiled again, stepped a little closer to her, and cast his gaze across the splendor of Asgard, trying to breathe deeply and relieve the knot of pain in his chest.


"Erik! Erik, guess what?" Jane hammered on the door of Erik's trailer, though she kept herself from yelling. It was still early morning, but Jane was already dressed and ready and had been awake for several hours. Erik, however, had clearly not been awake.

"What, what?" he mumbled as he opened the door and stuck his mussed head out. He squinted at her. "Is something wrong?"

"Ha! No!" Jane crowed, then whipped around to make sure she hadn't said that too loud. She turned back to Erik. "Did Darcy leave already?"

"Yeah, I think I heard her drive out around five this morning," Erik rubbed his face. "What's the matter?"

"Erik," Jane said, with hushed excitement. "He ate breakfast."

Erik blinked and looked at her again.

"He what?"

"He ate breakfast," Jane repeated, practically jumping up and down. "I got up and made ham and eggs and set them down in front of him and sat there on the couch and read him some of The Fellowship, and he ate the food. All of it!"

"That's great, Jane," Erik woke up enough to smile. "Very, very good. Congratulations."

Jane gave him a wild grin, hardly able to contain herself.

"I think he's going to be okay," she declared. "At least I won't be so worried about him while we're at the bunker."

"That's very good news. I'm glad to hear it," Erik said sincerely. "Just give me a second and I'll get dressed, and then we can get going."

"Okay," Jane said, stepping back and letting him shut the door, still smiling. She stood for a moment, then turned and faced the bright sunrise—and cast a glance far up into the blue sky. Then, she stuck her hands in her pockets and headed back to the lab to gather her things.


Usually, when Jane studied the Cube with Erik and the other SHIELD scientists, all the rest of the world disappeared, and the research and experiments consumed her.

But today, her mind wasn't there. Yes, the Cube had begun to radiate some sort of energy during the past few days, but it did not fluctuate, and it wasn't causing any abnormal readings on any of the sensors. In fact, it didn't seem to be doing anything other than humming. They checked and re-checked the data on the "hum"—which Jane usually would have still found captivating—but today it seemed tedious, and she actually wished for their two hours to be over so she could go home and see if Fenris had eaten the sandwiches she had made for his lunch.

But of course, today, SHIELD changed the schedule.

Today, Agent Colson decided to give her and Erik a tour of a deeper part of the bunker, where they kept certain artifacts from the Super Soldier project—the one connected with the discovery of a Cube. And he spent the rest of the day debriefing them on the intelligence SHIELD had uncovered concerning the enemies of the first super soldier—those working with the Nazis—and the fact that some researchers were speculating that the Cube might be able to take on some human-like characteristics. How a glowy cube could take on a personality was beyond Jane, though she still did try to absorb everything—but she kept glancing down at her watch so much that Erik finally had to elbow her.

They didn't get back to their revamped service station until six in the evening. Jane pulled up and parked the van, and she and Erik got out. The sun was already casting long shadows across the dirt and pavement, and the town was quiet—everybody was at home for supper. The slam of their car doors echoed.

"Jane, I'm heading to my trailer—I think I'll take a nap," Erik said. "Something about those fluorescent lights in that bunker just murders my head."

"Okay," Jane said. "I might send for a pizza or something. Or if I go out, I'll bring you something back."

"Okay, thanks," Erik muttered. Jane winced as she watched him go—his headache must be really bad if he wasn't interested in keeping her company in the lab, where Fenris was.

The door shut on Erik's trailer, and Jane headed to the station, keeping her strides even, though she wanted to hurry.

She unlocked the door and stepped inside, past the place where she had cleaned up the glass earlier. Fenris looked up.

He sat on a completely different section of the couch, his elbows leaned on his knees, The Fellowship open in his left hand. He raised his eyebrows.

"I was beginning to think you'd abandoned the place," he said. His eyebrows came together. "Which was a distressing thought, considering that there is no more food in the ice box."

Jane tried not to, but she stared at him. He had color in his face again, and the dark circles around his eyes had faded. But mostly what caught her was the glint of light in his eyes—a glint that hadn't been there since the first night she saw him.

"You're feeling better," she managed. The corner of his mouth twitched.

"Slightly. Before, I was death—now I'm merely warmed up a bit."

Jane watched him for a moment, uncertain—and then she saw the tiniest hint of a smile around his eyes. She took a few steps toward him.

"So…you're hungry?"

He canted his head, then thought for a moment.

"I could eat."

Jane grinned, then quickly hid it, and snagged her purse off a chair.

"Well, then—let's go get something."

He shut the book and lifted his right eyebrow.

"You plan on taking me somewhere?"

"Yeah," Jane said quickly, though she had only just decided it. "Some air and exercise will be good for you. Come on."


"So…This is it. Our little town. For a while, anyway," Jane waved her hand to encompass the main street, lit by the twilight. Fenris walked just to her left, his cape fluttering in the breeze, and glanced around him.

"Seems there have been a few accidents," he commented. Jane looked where he did. The smashed cars had been cleared away, but several lamp posts still lay over onto the sidewalks, others did not work, and still others just flickered on and off. Jagged black burn marks lined the street, many of the businesses had boarded their windows, and as Jane and Fenris walked past a building just to their left, glass crunched under their feet.

"The Destroyer did this," Jane said. "At least, that's what Thor called it. It was this big, metal monster that Thor's brother Loki sent to kill him. This used to be Isabella's diner," Jane pointed to the wrecked shell of a building whose glass they walked across. Her voice got softer. "I took Thor there for breakfast once. He smashed a mug on the floor because he wanted more coffee." A sad smile crossed her lips. She felt Fenris watching her now instead of the diner, so she cleared her throat and gazed out ahead. "I'm surprised that thing didn't take out the whole town. It looked like it was going to, before Thor…" Her throat closed. It didn't matter that he had come back to her after that beast had broken his neck. Thinking about it still made her sick.

Fenris carefully stepped around a bent chair that lay in his path.

"I assume you're not taking me to Isabella's, then," Fenris said darkly. Jane chuckled in spite of herself.

"No, we've got to go to the bar. It's the only other food place in town, besides the carry-out pizza place."

Fenris didn't comment—and it was only after she'd said all that that Jane realized he probably had no idea what a "diner" or a "bar" or a "pizza place" was. Mentally, she kicked herself, reminding herself to use plainer terms with him.

They walked in silence for the rest of the way, Fenris studying the almost tornadic damage all around him with furrowed brow. Jane took care not to walk too fast—she didn't want to wear him out. But his feet seemed steady enough, and he only pressed his hand to his chest twice.

Finally, they approached the front of the bar. It was a short, wooden building with neon advertisements in the darkened windows. She could smell the tang of barbeque cooking inside, and suddenly realized she hadn't eaten lunch. However, she hesitated as she put one foot up on the curb, and glanced back at Fenris. He stopped.

"What?" he said. She bit her lip.

"I didn't even think about your…I mean, your…" She gestured to his long green cape, armor, leather trousers and boots.

He smirked.

"I didn't either," he said, and strode up to the door and pushed it open. Startled, Jane followed him into the dimly-lit bar.

Jane blinked, trying to adjust her eyes as she came up beside Fenris. A sturdy, red-headed fifty-something woman with too much lipstick on, standing behind a podium stacked with menus, didn't look up from a list she was writing on—and she loudly chewed her gum.

"Are you guys gonna sit at the bar or at a booth?" she asked. Finally, she lifted her heavily made-up eyes to Fenris. Her mouth gapped open for a moment, and she glanced him up and down. Jane braced herself as the woman took a breath to make some comment…

And then Fenris took on such an icy expression that everyone's blood within ten feet froze. The woman swallowed her gum.

"Booth?" she squeaked. Fenris said nothing.

"Um, yeah. Thanks," Jane nodded quickly, trying to keep her voice from cracking. The lady snatched up two menus, eased around the podium and trotted to the booth nearest the door, then tossed the menus down.

"Your server will be with you in a sec," she said, and hurried back to her station. Jane eyed Fenris, but he didn't say anything—he just sat down on the other side of the wooden booth and slid in, draping his cape over the edge as if this was how he sat down to meals every day. Jane sat down across from him and put her purse on the floor.

"What was that?" she hissed, leaning forward. Fenris raised his eyebrows placidly and glanced down over the menus.

"I don't know what you mean," he said, resting his fingertips on the top of a menu.

"Yes you do," Jane protested. "You don't have to be mean."

His emerald eyes flicked up to hers. In the dim light of the hanging lamp, they glittered.

"I didn't say a word."

"You didn't have to," Jane said. His soft smirk came back—it irritated her. But before she could say anything, a tall, skinny young man with spiky dark hair and glasses came up holding a pencil and notepad. He looked nervously at Fenris, but Fenris had opened the menu and was studying it, so the kid swallowed and turned to Jane.

"What can I get you?" he asked.

"I'll have the Caesar salad and a side of buffalo wings," Jane said. "And a glass of water."

"And I will have this," Fenris said, pointing to the spot on the menu where the steaks were listed.

"How would you like your meat cooked?" the waiter asked as he finished scribbling Jane's order. Fenris glanced at Jane. She mentally winced, then took a guess.

"Rare," she said. The kid nodded.

"That comes with a salad and potatoes," the waiter told him. Fenris didn't say anything, and closed the menu.

"Oooh-kay," the waiter said, gathering up the menus. "We'll have that out as quick as we can." And he hurried off. Jane folded her arms and sat back. She narrowed her eyes at the one across from her.

"You're in a friendly mood."

Fenris rested his forearms on the table and folded his hands together.

"I am not aiming to expend energy at the moment," he said. "So forgive my lack of gab."

Jane took a deep breath, forcing herself to remember the state she'd found him in last night. In comparison, this was a huge improvement. She unfolded her arms, cupped her hands in her lap and glanced around the mostly-empty bar.

"I guess Erik took Thor here one night. Apparently, he can hold his liquor a lot better than Erik can." She couldn't stifle a smile—but when she looked back at Fenris, he was watching her with such intensity that it fell away. "What?" she demanded.

"I can't help but notice that you use the prince's given name," he said. "You had dealings with him while he was banished?"

Jane jolted.

"Oh my gosh," she gasped. "I've been wanting to ask you about that! Why was he banished—do you know?"

"Answer my question first," Fenris said, his voice low.

"Well—yes, yes I had dealings with him," Jane said. "Darcy, Erik and I were out in the country trying to observe an astronomical anomaly, and we came across Thor's…his bridge, or whatever you call it—and I hit him with my car."

Fenris' eyebrows went up, but he didn't interrupt. So Jane went on, ignoring her embarrassment.

"We took him to the hospital, and then he escaped, and we found him again and he came to our lab—and then he tried to get his hammer back," Jane said quickly. "But he couldn't. And then he told me that his father was dead, but that wasn't true. Which was proved when his friends came to find him. His friends from Asgard. And then that Destroyer came, and tore the town apart to find him, so he had to sacrifice himself for us. And he did. But then…Then, he…"

"He raised his hand and his hammer came to him," Fenris finished. "And lightning split the sky."

Jane hesitated, then nodded.


"How would he know whether or not his father was dead?" Fenris asked, tilting his head.

"Thor said his brother, Loki, came and told him that. Lied to him about it," Jane said. She glanced down and fiddled with the edge of her sleeve. "Broke his heart."

Fenris shifted, the skin around his eyes tightening.

"That still doesn't explain why you call him by his given name," he said, finally looking back at her.

"Well, we…We're friends," Jane said, but she felt herself blush. It got worse under Fenris' sharp scrutiny.

"Hm," was all he said, and his eyes narrowed for an instant. Jane felt herself go cold and then hot in a matter of seconds. Then, mercifully, the waiter came with her salad.

Her thoughts about Thor were interrupted during the next few minutes as the waiter scurried back and forth with her food and Fenris', and Fenris started to carve up his meat and eat.

"So are you going to answer my question?" Jane prodded. Fenris finished a bite, swallowed, and wiped his mouth with his napkin. He rested his armor-bound wrists on the edge of the table, and gave her a hawk-like look.

"I will tell you, if you give your word that afterward, you will let me eat without interruption."

Annoyance flashed through her, but she gritted her teeth.

"Fine," she said. Fenris cleared his throat, then began putting butter on his potatoes.

"Apparently—for I can only give you the word that circulated through the palace," he began. "Prince Thor was angered by the fact that several Frost Giants from Jotunheim infiltrated the weapons vault and attempted to steal back their ancient weapon—an ice casket. They were stopped, but Prince Thor wanted to know why and how they had come. So, against the express command of his father the king, he took several of his friends and his brother Prince Loki, and made for Jotunheim. Apparently, the Giants gave him no information there—and in his frustration, Prince Thor started a fight. The All Father came to his sons' rescue, for they were vastly outnumbered, and took them all home. But not before Laufey, the king of the Frost Giants, promised retaliation." Fenris glanced up at her at last, emotionless. "So the All Father banished Prince Thor, for being reckless and foolish with other people's lives, and for seeking a war that could bring ruin to all the realms." He fell silent, held her gaze for a moment, then began eating his steak.

Jane stared at him.


Fenris lifted his forefinger off his knife.

"You promised no interruptions."

"But that…that doesn't make any sense!" Jane cried. "Thor isn't like that—he's got more sense than to run into a situation like that and start a fight that could get innocent people killed. That's the last thing he would do." She shook her head. "No. You've got to have your information wrong."

Fenris' mouth made an almost ugly sneer.

"Perhaps I do," he muttered, and kept eating. Jane clenched her hands hard under the table.

"You said you were a guard on the bridge?"

He glanced up, and frowned.


"So how do you know what goes on behind closed doors between a prince and his father?" Jane demanded. "You don't know any more than any of the other servants or subjects or whoever else lives there—"

"Is that what you think?" Fenris cut in. "Truly—that is what you think?"

"Yes, that's what I think," she snapped.

"Then Thor was banished for no reason at all," Fenris countered, eyes flashing. "In fact, he wasn't even banished—he was here on holiday."

"That's just stupid," Jane shot back. "He nearly died being—"


Shadows swooped across their table as two heavy-set men stumbled—and one crashed all the way to the tile floor.

"Oh, my gosh—oh, my gosh, that was my purse," Jane gasped, reaching down to untangle her purse strap from the man's leathery boot heel. "I'm so sorry—"

The fallen man uttered a stream of obscenities and groans, and the other one staggered sideways, put his hand out and fell against the back of Fenris' booth. Fenris swallowed what he was eating, wiped his mouth again, then turned and watched them. Jane, meanwhile, with a heated face, managed to get her purse up off the floor. The fallen man dragged himself to his feet.

Both men stood over six feet tall, balding, they hadn't shaved their broad faces in a while, and they reeked of liquor.

"What the…What did I trip over?" the one with a darker beard slurred.

"I'm so sorry—it was my purse," Jane tried. "I left it out in the walkway—I'm so sorry."

"Your purse?" the man leaned toward her, peering at her with small dark eyes, his heavy, sweaty forehead wrinkling. "What the heck are you doing leaving it lying around so people can fall over it and break their necks?"

"You could hardly break your neck," Fenris scoffed. Both men swung around to gape at him.

"What'd he say, Chuck?" the first man asked.

"He said you couldn't break your neck on a purse," Chuck answered. The first man roared out another string of foul language and loomed over Jane.

"So you think that means it's okay for me to fall all over your crap?"

Jane started to sweat—but there was no escape. They both towered over her exit.

"Look, I wasn't trying to—"

"Bill, stop bothering my customers! You two have had too much to drink," the hostess called out, sounding a little desperate. "Why don't you guys go on home?"

"Shut up, Tracy," Chuck answered, glowering at Jane.

"I said I was sorry. Leave us alone," Jane said.

And Bill lashed out and grabbed Jane's hair at the back of her neck.

She yelped, snatching at her hair to pull it loose. Her heart banged in her ears.

Fenris leaned back into the booth, and gazed calmly up at Bill.

"Gentlemen, it's clear that neither of you realize how much your thinking has been muddled by drink," Fenris said smoothly. "But see if you can't wrap your little minds around this: You will release her hair this instant, or…" He smiled eerily, never moving his gaze. "You may use your imagination about what might happen to you next."

"Ha," Bill snorted. "You're going to go someplace with this, Tiny?"

Fenris spread his hands out, palms up.

"Last chance," he murmured. Bill jerked Jane's hair.

Fenris moved.

Chuck lashed out with his left hand. It clipped Fenris' chest.

He grabbed their bare forearms.

And they screamed.

A violent hiss issued from their skin where he clamped his fingers down—and Jane watched in fascinated horror as Fenris' hands turned blue—and their assailants' skin turned black.

The men writhed and wailed, trying to break loose, but Fenris held them tight. His jaw clenched and his eyes blazed.

Then, suddenly, he let them go. Bill's hand released Jane's hair, and both the men stumbled backward, cradling their arms and howling. They turned and barreled out of the bar.

The door slammed shut. Tracy, the waitress, gaped at them from a corner. Jane's eyes fixed on Fenris' hands—

As they slowly regained their usual color.

But his face did not. It went white.

Jane's questions died on her lips. Fenris drifted sideways and rested his shoulder on the back of the booth. His left hand came up to his chest.

"Are you okay?" Jane asked, getting up and coming around the table, feeling sick and a little shaken.

"That dog clipped me," Fenris said through his teeth, his eyelids fluttering.

"Are you all right?" Tracy asked, hurrying up to them. Jane's eyes widened—but then she realized that Tracy must not have been in a position to see what Fenris had done to the men's arms. Jane came around, trying to intercept a meeting between the hostess and Fenris—

"Thank you so much, Tracy," Fenris met her eyes and gave her a smile. "I'm afraid I've just aggravated a previous injury. Please forgive us for for all this commotion."

"No, I'm sorry," Tracy said, putting her hands on her hips and shaking her head. "Those guys only come in here once in a while, but when they do they're always looking for trouble." She gave Fenris a different, softer look. "I'm proud of you for standing up for your girl."

Jane flushed, feeling strange. Fenris only gave Tracy a kinder smile.

"I'd never hesitate."

Jane shot him a look. He straightened himself with effort.

"The food was delicious," he said. "But I'm afraid I'm not feeling well. Please excuse us."

"Do you need me to call the hospital?" Tracy asked.

"No, that's not necessary," Fenris shook his head. "But we'll be going."

Jane blinked, then realized what he meant. Quickly, she dug in her purse and put thirty dollars down on the table.

"If that isn't enough, Tracy, I'll come back tomorrow and pay it," Jane said, putting her purse strap over her shoulder.

"Wait, wait!" Tracy said, holding her hands up. "I'll get you to-go boxes and you can take your food with you."

"Um, okay…" Jane said, shooting an uneasy glance at Fenris, who now didn't look very well at all.

"That's kind of you, thank you," Fenris said quietly. Tracy looked at him sympathetically before hurrying to the back room. Jane edged closer to Fenris, watching him.

"You're friendly enough now," she noticed, searching his face. He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye and half smiled, but didn't say anything.

The next minute, Tracy came back and hurriedly put their food into the Styrofoam boxes, then put them in a bag for Jane to carry.

"Thanks so much," Jane said again. "And we're sorry for causing a scene."

"It wasn't you, honey," Tracy said. "And like I said, I'm the one who's sorry."

"Good night," Fenris nodded to her, and stepped out of the booth and up next to Jane. Together, they left the bar, Jane casting glances up at him all the time.

The street was dark now, and the town felt deserted. The only sounds were their footsteps and the swish of the plastic bag.

"Do you need help?" Jane asked him. His jaw tightened, and he shook his head.

They continued back to the lab very slowly, Fenris' right leg hitching once in a while, his eyes locked out in front of him. Jane's worry and frustration built, until, when they reached the lights of the lab, she couldn't stand it anymore.

"Okay, when we get inside," she said firmly. "You are taking off your armor and shirt and cape and stuff and I am going to look at what you did to yourself."

"It is only a bruise," Fenris said, approaching the door.

"Says you," Jane answered. "But it's been bothering you for almost two weeks now, and that's not okay with me."

Fenris' hand rested on the door handle and he turned his head to her.

"You can't do anything about it."

"Maybe I can!" Jane protested. "You never know. But that's the deal—end of discussion."

Fenris held her gaze for another moment, and Jane braced herself for another smooth-tongued excuse. But he didn't say anything. He just turned and pulled the door open, and she followed.

Fenris strode toward his couch, and as Jane watched, he took three deep breaths. Then, he held his hands out to the sides and in front of him, and then shook his arms as if he were shaking water off.

His bracers jingled, rattled—and then they fell into pieces and tumbled off. But before they hit the ground—

They disappeared.

He reached up and brushed his hands across his metal collar and his breastplate. They shattered too, fell, then vanished. His cape twisted, flapped, and in an eyeblink, evaporated.

Now, Fenris stood in a long-sleeved, high collared, intricately decorated, dark leather shirt, dark trousers and boots.

"What…What…Where did it go?" Jane gasped, waving weakly at him.

"I can conjure it if I need it back," Fenris answered.

"Like your blue hands?" Jane said. Fenris glanced at her for an instant, then sank down onto the couch. Jane stepped closer, letting that subject go for now, and setting the bag of food on the counter.

"Okay, off with the shirt," she said, trying to maintain a businesslike air. Fenris reached up to his collar, then paused. His jaw went tight, and he stared down at the coffee table.

"Look, I've seen what an Asgardian looks like with his shirt off," Jane teased, coming to sit next on his right side. "I'm braced."

Still, Fenris didn't move. He swallowed. Jane's smile faded as his fingers stayed hooked around his collar. Jane went still, suddenly sensing that she needed to stop pushing.

His brow tightened. For a moment, Jane thought he was going to refuse again. Then he reached up with his other hand too, and began unfastening his collar.

Slowly, he undid the front of his shirt, and began pulling it open. Wincing, he reached up with his left hand and pulled the shirt off his right shoulder, and withdrew his arm from the clothes. Then, the rest of the shirt fell down onto the couch, and he pulled the sleeve loose from his left hand.

Jane covered her lips with her fingers.

He was paler than Thor, leaner and muscular. But all along his shoulders, down the backs of his arms, and down his shoulder blades ran black branches of vein-like designs—designs that looked more like damage than tattoos. They also marked the back of his neck, and curled around his elbows. They did not touch his forearms, nor did they extend down to his waist or chest. Around his neck, he wore a short silver chain, and from it hung a small gold emblem—an emblem of Mjollnir, Thor's hammer.

"Does…Does that…hurt?" Jane's hand fluttered toward the marks on his shoulder before she pulled back. He leaned forward, his elbows on his knees, strands of his dark hair hanging down in his face.

"No, I've just been pretending to have broken ribs for my own amusement," Fenris muttered. It was only then that Jane's eyes flashed down to his right side to see a black, purple and green bruise the size of both her spread hands that wrapped around the right side of his ribcage.

"Oh, wow," she murmured. "Can you…Can you sit up?"

Fenris' jaw muscles worked, but he took a tight breath and did as she said. Jane bit her lip. She knew what she had to do next—she just needed to make herself.

"Okay, let me see…" she said, and reached out and slid her hand under his right elbow and lifted his arm. His skin shivered at her touch, like a horse's, and she felt him tense. He almost pulled away. But she tightened her grip, just a little, and at last he followed her lead and lifted his arm up and straightened it.

"All right, I will try to be gentle—you tell me what hurts," she said.

"All of it," he said, his black gaze still out in front of him.

"I mean, what hurts worst," she amended. Then she slid a bit closer to him, and laid her left hand on the bruise.

His whole body tightened. Jane kept her hand there, softening her touch. His smooth skin felt very hot there, his muscle swollen. Very slowly, she traced his ribs, pressing down very lightly with her fingertips.

Fenris suddenly hissed through his teeth. The arm she held twitched.

"Aha," Jane murmured. "Yep, right there. I felt it move." She lowered his arm, then let it slide out of her grasp. She sighed and studied the bruise. "There isn't a lot to do for broken ribs—no cast or anything—but I think ice might help the swelling and pain. And I'll give you some more medicine."

He just cleared his throat, and wouldn't look at her. She watched him. It wasn't his injury, then. She hesitated, then tucked her foot under her and turned toward him.

"What happened here?" she asked quietly. "To your back and shoulders?"

He cleared his throat again, and started rubbing a long, thin scar on the thumb of his left hand.

"There's a type of snake in Asgard," he said, his voice uneven. "Its venom does this to your skin. The mark never goes away."

A chilled feeling started in Jane's stomach, and a frown came over her. But then he glanced at her and almost smiled, though his look was cold.

"It's the same snake whose venom was used to punish Prince Loki," he said. "I believe your friend mentioned it in that lovely ballad."

Jane swallowed and ducked her head. Fenris took a breath.

"When I was young, my brother and I were out exploring a portion of the mountains we had never seen—a portion that our father had told us not to go near. I was worried we would get into trouble, but my brother never minded that. I didn't want him to go alone, so I trailed after." He sighed. "We were near some caverns, and the ground was very unstable. I put my foot in the wrong place and fell through, down into a pit. It was then that our father called our names." Fenris' hands went still, and he laced his fingers. "Father was still a long way off, and could only see my brother. So my brother, trying to keep me from getting in trouble, said he would pretend as if I had not been there, and he would return for me later. He left with my father." Fenris' face tightened, his gaze on the stacks of books. "I waited for hours, with no way of getting out. It got dark. And then the snake came. It bit my hand." He lifted his left hand, and closed it to a fist, then took another breath. "I think I would have rather just gotten in trouble."

Jane was quiet for a long moment, running her eyes over the black trails on his skin, trying not to imagine how painful it must have been.

"I'm sure your brother didn't mean for that to happen," Jane finally managed. He lifted an eyebrow and smirked, shrugging once.

"The road to Helheim is paved with good intentions," he whispered. Then his gaze drifted off, and grew distant, as if he was looking somewhere else entirely. Jane fell silent, something behind her breastbone starting to ache. She wanted to ask him so many things: more about Asgard, the way his hands had turned color, the reason he wore Mjollnir around his neck…

But she could see how weary he'd suddenly gotten, as if a weight had just set down on his shoulders. She couldn't make herself prod him anymore.

Then, a voice that sounded very like her mother's whispered to the back of her mind, and she canted her head.

"I think you should take a shower."

Fenris didn't turn, but a line appeared between his eyebrows. Jane nodded in decision.

"I think it would feel good on your muscles, and get you clean besides. You'll sleep better."

Fenris didn't say anything. Jane stood up.

"Come on. I'll show you how the hot and cold water works, and while you're washing, I'll get a wrap ready for you—I think I have some frozen corn and an ace bandage that should work—oh, and that painkiller too. And I'll heat up our food so we can actually eat. Okay?" Jane gave him a bright look, hoping to lift him a bit.

Fenris cast his gaze down again, and his mouth tightened. Then, he got to his feet, picked up his shirt, and followed her wordlessly back toward the washroom.


Loki braced one hand against the cool tile wall of the small shower, leaned forward, and let the steaming water wash over his head and shoulders, drip down his face and race down his arms, back and chest. It carried the dirt and grime from his crash with it. But, as with every time he washed, the water stung those old poison trails—and now it also heated and nipped his bruise.

Yes, a snake had bitten him when he was a boy. But it was not the one that had left these marks.

His throat galled, and he choked. He closed his wet hand into a fist, and shut his eyes.

The Cube thrummed, far away, but just next to his heart. He could feel its power—its immeasurable potential, like a presence in the next room. And he knew that if he could only touch it, hold it in his hands, he could harness all it had.

He gritted his teeth, wishing his mortification could wash away with the dirt. Wishing he could wash the stinging memory away too.

His stomach tightened. It wouldn't—not as things stood now.

But if he had that Cube when he returned to Asgard…

He lifted his face, taking a deep breath of steam.

He would stay here, and listen, until he was completely healed. Then he would move—and none of them would see it coming.

Fallen Star

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by Alydia Rackham

Part 7 of 27

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