Continuing Tales

Overlapping Spaces

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by Khilari

Part 12 of 37

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Overlapping Spacesl

'When he wakes up,' Jane said to Holda, a little uncertainly, 'would you tell him... I hope he feels better?' They had reached the palace again, Holda leading Loki's horse from atop her own and Jane rather clinging to hers. It had been a little startling to watch the slender Asgardian woman decline assistance and put the sleeping Loki on his horse as easily as lifting a child.

She wasn't entirely satisfied with the message, but she wasn't sure what to change it to. Holda let her think for a moment. Jane contemplated Loki's persistent uncertainty and added, 'And maybe let him know I'll be glad to see him when he's up for it?'

'I'll tell him,' said Holda. 'Thank you for coming with us today, Jane Foster.'

'You can just call me Jane, you know. And thank you.'

Thor had not said a word against the trip, but he had stressed that he would like to know how it went soon afterward, in a way that made his anxiety clear. Jane took a guess how to find him and went to her room, since he wouldn't wait at the library due to the risk of encountering Loki and potentially spoiling an otherwise successful and therapeutic morning.

He was there. 'What happened?' he asked, wrapping her in a hug that Jane wasn't sure was entirely meant for her.

'Well, he made it to the control room,' said Jane, hugging him back firmly. 'Then he asked what Heimdall was watching and he said Thanos.'

Thor looked down at her. 'I'd have expected him to watch the elves, at the moment. But he has been watching Thanos for some time.' His lips tightened. 'Loki took it poorly?'

Jane sighed. 'He took that part better than Heimdall trying to tell him about the rescue plans. He made a grab for the sword...'

'Oh, Loki,' Thor groaned. 'I am surprised Heimdall insisted on telling him. He must know what Loki thinks of me.'

Jane shrugged a bit helplessly. 'I wasn't expecting it to go that way either. When he started, I guess I hoped...' She stopped speaking as Thor lifted his head, and turned to see one of the palace messengers. (There was, she understood, something sort of like an intercom for use when necessary. The corridors would pass words along to a recipient indicated in the right sort of tone. But the personal touch of having someone within normal earshot come and repeat the message was considered preferable.)

The young woman bowed to Thor, but said, 'Dr Jane Foster. Holda Birchtudottir tells you that Prince Loki is awake and willing to see you at your leisure.'

'That's sooner than I expected,' Jane said, startled. There was no reason to keep him sleeping long, and there had been a worrying moment when he'd stirred on the Bifrost, so she wasn't surprised he'd naturally awakened quickly. But she hadn't expected to be called.

She glanced up at Thor's pained face, and he said, 'You should go.'

Jane went.

The messenger delivered her to Birla, who looked extremely serious, to the point that Jane wondered if something had managed to go wrong in the interim. 'Birla. How are you?' Jane paused. 'Has something else happened?'

'No,' Birla assured her. 'But Prince Loki is insisting we ask whether you'll speak to him alone.'

Jane blinked. 'Without any of you there.' Just to clarify. Even if it did leave room for a certain amount of sarcasm. 'I didn't think that was allowed.'

'We wouldn't be far - out of earshot of casual conversation only. Even so, it's not usual, and you are more than entitled to refuse.'

Jane pushed back her impulsive tendencies and gave that a little real thought. She wasn't in the reckless nothing-left-to-lose sort of mood in which, notably against Erik's advice, she'd driven a near stranger fifty miles into the desert to break into a government camp. Loki had done far worse than bellow a bit and break mugs. Loki, even like this, could probably overpower her before she could raise her voice, if he wanted to.

She didn't really believe he would. 'I'll do it.'

Birla nodded, still looking serious, and led her through the corridors to Loki's suite.

The room Jane was ushered into was a living room, furnished in warm colours with a few chairs and tables with books on them. Loki was sitting in one chair, looking rather pale and worn down, but sitting up very straight. It would have looked more natural, somehow, if he'd curled up in it.

'Hello, Jane,' he said listlessly, offering her a smile that didn't look anything like a real one.

'Hey.' She had a sudden and impractical impulse to pass along Thor's hug. Instead she smiled gently back and took the nearest chair. She did draw her feet up, curling to the side, partly to look at him and partly because the furniture was really ideal for somebody about a foot taller than her. 'So, you made it out there...' Hell of a way to get out of the ride back, though. Not the best time to tease him.

'Yes,' he did look a little more animated for a moment.

'Which is more impressive than you're probably telling yourself,' she added, with a little quirk of her lips.

He did smile back, a small one but more real this time. 'Considering how much time you spend out at the control chamber you're the last person who should be impressed.'

'I don't have any actual reason to be afraid of going.'

'I suppose not.' He shifted around to look at her more easily. 'It would have been nice if it had ended better.'

'Well. Yes.' A rueful smile. 'I wasn't expecting all of that to come up.' Thanos in general. She'd mentioned the rescue first, worried about where Loki's thoughts were going when Heimdall only spoke of watching him. Perhaps she should have thought it through more.

'You already knew about it.'

She nodded. 'Some of it, anyway.'

'I suppose it's obvious why you didn't tell me before,' he said bitterly.

She drummed her fingers on the arm of the chair, then folded her other arm over them and leaned on it to still them. 'It obviously didn't work out. And it didn't seem likely to cheer you up much if you think one of the main people involved wants you dead.'

'At least I would have heard about it at a better time.' A sigh. 'Maybe.'

'I'm sorry. Even when I first heard about it, it came across kind of... hopeless and after the fact. But I wish I'd said something anyway.' She thought his parents would have, this time, if they'd had the chance.

'It's been weeks since they last put me to sleep,' he said, sounding frustrated, although mostly with himself. 'Holda will probably make me write poetry again.'

Jane blinked and looked around the room as if it might contain some explanation of this statement, which seemed unlikely. 'Poetry?'

Loki groaned. 'It's not as therapeutic as she thinks it is.'

'Oh,' said Jane. 'One of those express your feelings approaches?' She thought writing them down was a fairly common suggestion, and poetry sort of suited that, but... poetry?

'Yes. It's somewhat traditional. Which doesn't stop it from being a confounded nuisance.'

Therapeutic poetry was traditional. 'Is... the nuisance more the expression part or the poetry part?'

'Mostly the poetry part.' Loki actually looked a little embarrassed about that, although still more grumpy than anything.

'How many times have you ended up writing about how much you hate writing poetry?' Jane asked, not entirely seriously.

'Actually more than once.' It was hard to tell how serious the response was, either.

'Under the circumstances I'm not sure I should wish you inspiration, but good luck with it anyway?'

Loki seemed to have relaxed a little talking about poetry, however much of the conversation had been complaining about having to write it. Now he tensed up again, seeming to be nerving himself up to something. 'There really isn't any way to gather that much dark energy in two days.' He stood up, pacing back and forth across the floor. 'I couldn't understand Thor on Midgard. He seemed to have forgotten he'd ever attacked me.'

Jane turned to watch him. This might very well be what he'd wanted privacy for. (She declined to dwell on the possibility that he was leading up to some sort of vengeance on Thor. He sounded like he was trying to sort something out. She tried not to hope too hard about that, too.) 'I can imagine where that might be confusing.' He knew how she'd explain Thor acting that way...

'I tried to kill him in New Mexico. Didn't I?' It was a genuine question, as if opening himself to the possibility of one memory being wrong had left him doubting all of them.

'Ah-' Jane's breath left her for a moment. What Loki had done on Earth was, perhaps, easier not to think about than it should be when she wasn't there. When she wasn't around Erik. By contrast, it was easier to overlook what he'd done to Thor when Thor was right there, in perfect health and very much ready to forgive. But the question momentarily brought back up the vivid, horrible moment between when she forgot to be scared of the giant robot because Thor was on the ground and when she was warned out of Mjolnir's returning path. 'For several seconds there I was pretty sure you had killed him.'

'Then it makes more sense that he'd try to kill me. He was eager enough for revenge on Jotunheim.' Loki looked almost as if he hoped Thor had tried to kill him.

'He was very angry with you at the time,' Jane admitted. 'It was strange; he was very cheerful and friendly with everyone who was actually there, but it was still obvious. Although I don't think most of it was for trying to kill him. He kind of told you to.' Words carried on the wind. Thor's maybe farther than normal. 'It was... disturbing.'

He looked at her as if suddenly aware that this was rather personal to her, that she wasn't just someone for him to check his memories against. 'Are you angry with me?'

Jane gestured a bit helplessly and let her hand flop back onto the arm of the chair. 'You attacked the place I was living to get to him.' That... might apply to his invading Earth later, too, but it might have been more complicated than that. 'So sometimes, yes. But it's hard to be angry with you on Thor's account when he isn't.'

'He was angry with me though, as you admitted.' Loki rubbed at his forehead as if it might jog something inside loose. 'Why would that change?'

'I really don't think,' Jane said slowly, 'that he ever wanted to kill you. He wanted to stop you. You'd lied to him about your father being dead, you'd just attacked a town... I know I didn't see the fight,' she really didn't want to have seen the fight, 'but from everything else he's said to me and done, he's really been worried about you.'

Loki closed his eyes, expression pained. 'That sounds like Thor. There were times when it felt like he wasn't leaving me space to breathe, just being near someone like him. But he never tried to hurt me - until the Bifrost. I remember it so clearly, but everything around it is dark and the edges don't fit together. Odin was there, and I don't remember his face, or his voice.'

Thor had complained, somewhat guiltily, about Odin's choice of when exactly to argue with Loki's wrongheaded view of things. Was it possible that Loki had unconsciously chosen the notion of Thor trying to kill him as less painful than what he'd taken as Odin's rejection? 'Odin was there,' Jane agreed quietly. Her heartbeat was throbbing in her ears; Loki was actually considering this... 'He tried to catch you both.'

'I don't remember,' Loki repeated, before opening his eyes and looking at Jane, expression haunted. 'Did I really throw myself into the void for Thanos to find?'

Jane choked a little. 'I am... pretty sure that wasn't what you had in mind!' She swallowed. 'But - according to Thor and Odin and Heimdall - you did let go.'

'Obviously I didn't intend it, I had no idea he was there. But - according to them - it was my own fault he found me.' Loki sat down, and this time he did draw his knees up, curling around himself as if he was cold.

'No,' Jane said, instinctively and a little too fast, and then floundered for a moment when Loki's eyes flicked toward her. 'No. They didn't want you to let go. But being found by somebody horrible wasn't your fault.'

Loki smiled wanly at her, not as if he entirely believed her reassurance, but with a sort of gratitude for her offering it. 'It's bad enough not being able to trust my mind in the present, without the past becoming unreliable.'

Jane winced. 'That does sound awful. I'm sorry.'

'I don't want to believe things that aren't true.' He was rubbing at his wrists again, tugging the bracelets there. 'I want to get better. I just - don't know what that is, or who I can trust to tell me.'

'And you're worried just about anybody has ulterior motives for what they'll tell you.' Jane let out a sigh. Including her, although she supposed he might rate her more likely to be fooling herself than lying. 'Although, it's probably safe to start by ruling out the Chitauri.'

That got a rather painful laugh. 'Everything they said seemed so reasonable, at the time.'

'I guess that's... not surprising. But not anymore, I hope.'

'It's disturbingly hard to separate what they told me from what I thought myself. But that I have been working on with Holda. I'm at least sure no one wants me agreeing with the Chitauri here.'

'No. I...' Jane debated a moment before continuing, 'I got the impression from Erik that with or without the tesseract's influence, some of the Chitauri stuff did not make a lot of sense. Or the generous interpretation was that it made sense to a hive mind psychology and translated... poorly.'

'It made sense to me. That if a race was doing - poorly - looking after itself, someone else should step in and take away the freedom they were misusing.'

Jane eyed him, then grimaced. 'I'll admit, that one's made sense to an alarming number of humans over the years, too.'

Loki looked back at her. 'I'm guessing it usually doesn't end well?'

She shook her head. 'Not really.'

'I'm sorry.' Loki let his head fall back against the chair, gazing at the ceiling. 'Whether my aims made sense or not, all I actually succeeded in doing was destroying most of a city. It wasn't my intention to make things worse.'

Jane couldn't exactly accept an apology on behalf of New York City. She was silent for a moment, not sure what she reasonably could say. 'Well, I guess that's better than if it had been.' She covered her eyes. 'And I do not actually set out to be tactless. Although I think I'm impressed that you're this calm about it.'

Loki snorted. 'I'm both exhausted and thoroughly drugged, or I don't think they'd have let me see you like this.'

It was not at this point exactly a surprise that Asgard had psychiatric drugs and that Loki was on them. It had just somehow never crossed Jane's mind before. 'You do look pretty wiped out,' she admitted. Although even now, he looked far better than in the images from Earth. (Erik had snorted at those and said Loki obviously photographed well.) 'But even just since I've known you, it seems like your self-control and... ability to look at things calmly, have improved a lot.'

'Do you really think I'm getting better?' Loki asked, turning to her with tentative hope in his eyes. Behind it she could see the fear that this gentle imprisonment and struggle for self-control was going to last the rest of his very long life.

'I really do,' Jane said, quietly but emphatically. 'I don't think there's any question.'

He looked down, blinking hard, tension going out of him slightly leaving him looking less huddled but even more tired. 'That's good to know,' he said softly.

'I guess it's hard to tell from inside,' she said sympathetically. 'But it's... honestly pretty dramatic.'

Loki smiled and then yawned, covering his mouth apologetically. 'Sorry. I wished to talk to you as soon as possible. But I may have to get some more natural sleep soon.'

'Don't apologise, I can totally understand that...' She unfolded from the chair; Loki, with what seemed to be automatic courtesy, rose to walk her the few steps to the door. 'I hope you sleep well.'

'Thank you,' Loki said, and it sounded like thanks for more than the sentiment.

Overlapping Spaces

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by Khilari

Part 12 of 37

<< Previous     Home     Next >>