Continuing Tales

Overlapping Spaces

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by Khilari

Part 14 of 37

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Overlapping Spacesl

Jane was still shaken from the end of her conversation with Loki when the elves showed up for breakfast the next morning - fewer of them this time, but with a request for Thor to join them in Alfheim on a diplomatic visit.

'And his lovely mortal lady is naturally welcome too,' said Ambassador Malekith, smiling brightly at Jane from the handsomest face she'd seen any of the elves take. She couldn't help smiling back. 'Dr Jane Foster, is it not? It has been too long since we hosted a representative of Midgard, let alone one so illustrious.'

'Oh, I-' Shadows merit little consideration. Illustrious? Even if many elves were kind, or this one flattering, Jane was fairly sure she wasn't equipped for a visit among them just now. She gathered her focus, which seemed inordinately hard. She must not have slept well. 'I am not exactly a representative of Midgard,' she said carefully.

'No matter,' Malekith said gallantly. 'You are a fine example.'

'Jane Foster is our guest in Asgard,' said Frigga, rising and coming around the table to set a hand briefly on Jane's shoulder.

'Indeed.' Odin bowed shallowly from his seat. 'Prince Thor will attend your court as my representative, in all honour - but you must not shame our hospitality by taking Jane from us.'

It struck Jane as a strange argument, but Malekith conceded the point as gracefully as he did everything else. He offered her another glittering smile; somehow, this time, it made her head hurt.

The elves didn't stay long. They left that morning with Thor - who had packed rapidly, with an apology to her that he whispered even in the privacy of his own rooms. Odin did not exactly apologise, but he told her that of course, she must understand Thor's duties to Asgard, even if it sometimes led to personal disappointment. Frigga explained a little more, mostly about the etiquette involved.

Jane did understand, mostly, but she was still left feeling rather restless and at loose ends even though most of her normal morning activities here were still available. She could have gone to the Bifrost; she could have done any number of things. What she actually did was go to the library and turn back to the star maps, which held her attention until Loki startled her out of it.

'Good morning, Jane.' Loki clearly hadn't meant to startle her, he was standing some distance away and had spoken softly.

She still jumped. 'Oh. Hi. Good morning.' She waved a hand slightly at the empty chairs, nearly an automatic gesture by now, and resolved to leave Loki's alarming attitude toward mind control to people with some idea how to address it. He couldn't do it now, anyway. 'How are you?'

Loki smiled at her, looking relieved at the welcome, and sat down across from her. 'Well enough. I went riding again and Atorka may finally believe I'm not going to vanish. How are you?'

'All right. A little thrown off track for the day-' Her eyes had drifted back to the map, but she looked up abruptly as it occurred to her that no one would have had a chance to tell him. 'Thor's making a diplomatic visit to Alfheim.'

'By himself?' Loki's reaction was alarmed and plainly instinctive, whatever he currently thought about Thor's role in his fall from the Bifrost he wasn't thinking about it now.

'Fandral went with him. And two magicians, but I didn't catch their names.'

'At least he took magic users, then,' said Loki, alarm fading. 'Did anyone mention why they suddenly want a diplomatic visit?'

'Not that I heard.' Jane shot him an apologetic look. 'The whole thing seemed very strange to me; maybe it would've made more sense to you if you were there. Malekith tried to invite me, too.'

'That would have been bad,' Loki said dryly. 'But he can't have expected anyone to consider allowing it.'

Jane rubbed her eyes. 'I don't know what he meant to do. Maybe he was just being polite.'

Loki gave her a look that said he doubted her intelligence, at least where this was concerned. 'No.'

Jane blinked and ran back over what she'd just said. 'That didn't make a lot of sense either, did it? I mean... maybe it was a way to worry people without doing anything they could actually object to.' She shook her head. 'Anyway, your parents argued that it would be improper to send their guest on to somebody else, and he gave in.'

'That is more likely. Worrying people is the least of what Malekith does, but he does enjoy doing it.'

'Can't say I'm fond of the hobby.' She sighed a little. 'Anyway, I'd tell you more if I knew.'

'He spent a lot of time trying to practise it on me while he was here,' said Loki. He shrugged. 'So, I suppose you're continuing your visit here without Thor for the moment?'

'Yes.' She glanced at her watch, then toward the windows. It was later than she'd realised. 'I suppose if I want to look for the meteors, I should head outside before long.' A quick look over at Loki, and around at his minders. 'Are you going to watch?'

'Yes.' Loki hesitated. 'If we're both going to watch, we could go together?'

Jane smiled and condensed the map, then stood. 'I was going to suggest that.'

Loki stood as well. 'I know a good viewing point,' he offered.

'Lead on, then. Do you get a lot of meteor showers?'

'Every twenty years or so.'

Jane blinked. 'Perspective shift,' she said, laughing a little. 'I guess that would be often enough for you to have a favourite spot.'

'If we start comparing ages I'm going to wind up thinking of you as a baby,' Loki warned with a grin.

'I know!' Getting outdoors did lift her mood. 'I'm still trying to make sense of how that translates, you know. Sometimes Thor says or does something that reminds me he has centuries of experience... and then other times I feel like I'm dating a college student.'

'Maturity and experience aren't quite the same thing. I'm not an expert, but I believe it's a question of when the brain has fully developed not what it learns in the meantime.' Loki lead her out of the city, to where a tor was rising from the fields. It was quite big enough to be comfortable on top, although it might be a bit of a scramble to get up there. Especially for someone who didn't have Loki's height.

'Fair point...' Jane surveyed the rocks, then started up where the rock had flaked horizontally, leaving something like very steep steps. She didn't quite catch how Loki chose to climb, but his boots appeared at eye level and he crouched down to offer her a hand - and for all he still looked a little worn down, he lifted her with as little apparent effort as Thor ever did. 'For us... I think I read somewhere that brain maturity is actually around twenty-five years, but we're generally considered adult enoughstarting at eighteen or so.'

'I have no idea with us. We reach adulthood at a thousand, officially. If I ever heard when our brains are fully mature I don't remember it now.'

Jane paused. The war with Jotunheim had been about a thousand years ago, so... 'How old are you, anyway?'

'...One thousand and one.'

'I... had not guessed it was that close.' She paused. 'What about Thor?'

'One thousand and ten,' Loki answered. He reached down to help her up again. They were nearly at the top now, the broad, slightly curved, plateau of rock just above Jane's head.

'-Thanks.' She turned abruptly, putting a hand out to the rock, at the first flare of light in the sky. 'And, that may explain some things.'

Loki pulled her onto the plateau properly, so she wouldn't be clinging to the side of the tor to watch the meteor shower, and sat down beside her. 'Do I want to know what?'

'General attitude, I guess?' Little things that she wasn't sure she could sum up in words. 'Basically everything that went into the college student comment. Eighteen to twenty-two...ish.'

'Ah.' Loki was silent for a while, watching the lights above them. 'If Thor seems that age to old do I seem?'

Several bolts of orange-white streaked across the blue sky as she thought about that. If they were really both considered just barely grown up, she suspected he was hoping she'd say older. And if that was the case, somehow everything he'd been through and much of what he'd done seemed worse for it. 'I'm not sure. I'm not sure what you're usually like, either. Mostly you just seem less relaxed.'

'I sometimes think it would be hard to be more relaxed than Thor.' Loki was still looking up, orange lights reflecting in his eyes.

Jane tried and failed to imagine him making the attempt. 'Have you tried it?'

'I wasn't really intending to suggest it was a state to aspire to,' said Loki, drawing himself up.

'Well, he seems to enjoy it,' Jane said, amused. She lay back flat against the stone, possibly just to be contrary. It was warm from the sun. 'I was just curious.'

Loki remained upright and dignified in a way that made him look rather like an affronted cat.

Jane turned her eyes to the sky, determined not to laugh at him. 'I'm thirty-one,' she said, which was not quite a non sequitur but perhaps only on a technicality. 'I first heard about Einstein-Rosen bridges when I was eighteen. As a theoretical possibility. Before that I thought wormholes were just a fictional convenience.'

'So you decided to look for one?' Loki's pose relaxed slightly as he turned to glance at her.

'Not immediately.' Jane said automatically, thinking of the years of schooling before she'd been able to take up her own research, then paused. Was that really true? 'Or... maybe so. It was a few years longer before I had the background to figure outhow to look for one. But as soon as I could pick my own research...' A wry grin. 'I promptly convinced everybody I was astrophysics' youngest total crackpot.'

'Did you mind? Having people think that about your research?'

She blinked and turned her head toward him. 'Of course.'

'I suppose - you just don't seem very upset about it now,' Loki said, almost apologetically.

'Oh. Well, no. At this point I'm kind of obviously right, although I'd be happier if so much of it wasn't classified.'

'It must be nice to be vindicated.' Loki smiled at her, but he looked wistful.

'...Well. Yeah.' She wasn't sure how to reply, other than that. She couldn't claim to want Loki being vindicated on most of the unusual views she was aware he'd ever proclaimed, and wasn't sure he wanted it in some cases.

'Magic in Asgard is not highly regarded.' Loki was watching the sky again, face composed but voice bitter. 'It is seen as quite useful, in a mundane sort of way, should you want some special effects or a back up plan. A lot of people have a few spells; Thor has his thunder, Odin has spells that enforce his will as king. But it's skill on the battlefield that is remembered. Magic fascinated me.' Wonder crept into his expression, whether at the memory or the beauty of the meteor shower, now in full flow and filling the sky with vivid streaks, brilliant against the faded blue of the sky. 'But specialising in it just meant being relegated to a living back up plan, something to turn to when better methods had failed.'

Jane tore her eyes from the meteors and looked over at him, honestly a little bewildered. Nearly everything in Asgard seemed to rely on magic at one level or another. Although... she supposed that might be where it ended up seeming mundane. You didn't get a lot of superstar scientists or engineers, Tony Stark aside. 'That sounds very frustrating,' she said. 'It seems fascinating to me.' A pause. 'As you probably concluded from all the questions about it.'

'Yes. I wish you could use it, you deserve that more than many who can.' He rested a hand on the rock and leant back on it, to tilt his head back further. 'To devote one's life to magic is not a fit study for a Prince. But I was not prevented. I thought, at the time, that maybe I could prove magic did not have to be secondary to swinging weapons. That maybe Fa - maybe Odin even agreed, to allow it.'

'He's never stopped calling you his son, you know,' she said. It wasn't as dramatic as the rescue plans, but she honestly wasn't sure he did know.

'Pointless. To keep pretending when the truth is known.'

Jane lifted her head. 'Is adoption an alien concept here or something?' Surely it couldn't be? Thor didn't seem to have any trouble with the idea.

'Adopting a Jotun is.' Loki still wasn't looking at her.

'Okay, so you're literally an alien. But you seem to be the only one who thinks that means it doesn't count.'

'You don't understand. I told you I believed, then, that they thought my studies worthwhile. The truth is that they knew it would never matter. They call me a son, but I was never a prince to them. Just - just back up, like always, in case Thor might need me for a little while.'

Jane sighed and propped herself up on her elbows. 'Loki, they love you. And maybe I'm missing something here, but as you seem to have spent half your time running around as part of some sort of halfway recreational elite combat unit, I have trouble buying that they thought you were not being martial enough. Are you actually complaining that they didn't interfere with you doing something you loved?'

Loki turned away from her. 'Maybe I would have prefered that to being allowed to do as I pleased because I'd been written off as worthless from the start.'

'They don't think you're worthless!'

He laughed. 'Why not? They've been proven right.'

'Okay, what the hell?' Jane asked, then actually shut her eyes - they were sore from gazing at the brilliance of the sky and not blinking - and pressed her fingertips to her forehead. Take it easy. He's probably depressed and dealing with PTSD or something like that. She wasn't supposed to be impatient with him, even if she'd been suddenly thrown into the position of defending the self-worth of somebody who thought destroying or conquering planets was a good idea and couldn't figure out mind control was wrong. 'Your parents,' she said, with a certain amount of emphasis, 'do not think you're worthless. I don't think you're worthless and I don't have nearly as much reason to be attached to you as they do.'

'I'm useful to you. All you want are answers.' Loki went still and turned to look at her rather suddenly. 'Sorry, that's not what I meant. You've been kind.'

Jane opened her eyes and met his for a moment, then flopped back against the rock, grimacing a little as she misjudged and bumped her head. 'You wouldn't be the first person to tell me I'm a little too obsessed with research at the expense of interpersonal relations. Thor doesn't, but I only gave him a second thought after we dumped him at the hospital because Darcy found a picture showing him in the bridge. I do actually like you.' Even if sometimes that made her wonder what she was thinking.

'Thank you.' He seemed unwilling to say more, as if that slip had made him aware of how much he was throwing at her after the way things had ended yesterday.

'You're welcome.' She wanted it to be a relief to leave it there, but it wasn't. 'I wish you'd talk to them,' she said abruptly. 'It's... you shouldn't only hear these things secondhand.'

'I don't know what I'd say. I still don't know if I can trust my memories of the Bifrost, and the last time I really spoke to Odin I thought I'd killed him.' Loki looked shocked at his own words, as if he hadn't known he was going to say that until it was said.

Jane was also a little shocked and mostly confused. 'You thought you'd killed Odin at some point?'

'The Odinsleep doesn't usually start with him collapsing. We'd been arguing, I thought - I don't know. He just passed out. And then Frigga wasn't sure he'd get better, said it wasn't a normal sleep.' He sounded rather choked at the memory. 'She stayed by him. I think, if she hadn't really been scared, she would have tried to advise me. But she couldn't leave him.'

'Your entire family is plagued by horrible timing,' Jane muttered, although this probably wasn't really fair. 'I really don't think that would happen again.'

'No,' Loki agreed. 'It just makes it a little unnerving.'

'That's... understandable,' Jane admitted.

'I know I can't avoid them forever. I'd just like...some kind of plan, before speaking to them, and I don't have a good one yet.'

Jane wanted to say he shouldn't need a plan for this, but he sounded so plaintive about it. 'What about your friends?' she asked instead.

'They betrayed me when I should have been their king.' There was something almost automatic about the words, as if he'd been repeating it to himself. When Jane had asked about his parents he'd been thinking about the answers he gave her, this seemed rehearsed.

Jane sighed. 'Okay, I guess that's basically what they were expecting.'

'They should have been.'

'What were you expecting?' Jane asked, suddenly annoyed. 'Didn't you betray them first?'

'What do you mean? I didn't do anything to them.'

'Didn't you let enemies into Asgard? What exactly did you think was going to happen there?'

'That the Jotuns would be caught and destroyed without those at the coronation having time to get involved. Which I was right about. I thought Thor would go and yell at Odin about needing to take revenge on Jotunheim, not try to do it himself with six people.' Loki sounded exasperated, as if blaming Thor for the situation was reasonable despite his own larger role in it.

'Which I will admit was stupid, although that seems kind of superfluous considering it's what everybody else told him at the time...'

'His friends didn't object. Not much, anyway.'

'Really? As they remember it, Fandral argued the point more than you did.' After a moment's consideration, Jane added, 'I don't think that one's really suspect, though, a lot of times people leave a conversation with different impressions of who was trying harder, or whatever.'

'No. I mean, I do remember that, that they argued. I didn't because they'd all already agreed and Thor didn't even ask, really, he just thought I'd come.' Loki did sound a little sheepish, there. 'It's not easy to argue with Thor.'

Jane pinched the bridge of her nose, then dropped her hand so she could see the meteors. 'So you try to set him up to do something stupid instead, and then go with him? And you start it by facilitating an attack on your own people? Loki, did it ever occur to you that this was a terrible plan?'

'I told you I didn't intend him to go to Jotunheim! I didn't mean for him to get banished either! I thought Odin would tell him he was a fool and rethink the coronation, not send him away.'

'That is not where it started being a terrible plan!'

'How else was I meant to stop him becoming king?' Loki said hotly, as if it was beyond doubt that he had to do something to stop Thor being king and the problem was just with how he'd gone about it.

Jane finally sat up again and ran her hands through her hair. 'Why were you doing it at all?'

'I...' Loki's eyes went wide, as if he was seeing through the meteor display rather than seeing it. 'I never wanted the throne,' he said slowly. 'All I ever wanted was to be his equal. I - I told him that. On the Bifrost. I don't remember...'

Jane gave him a doubtful look. He'd apparently decided he did want a throne - or possibly that Midgard had to be rescued from either itself or the Chitauri, but it seemed to boil down to wanting a throne. 'Don't remember what?' she asked, after he'd trailed off for long enough she wasn't sure he remembered what he'd been saying.

'What happened next. But - I think that was real, and I didn't remember it before. Or maybe it wasn't.' Loki threw himself down, finally lying down completely to gaze up at the sky in frustration. The meteors were starting to thin out, and Jane wasn't sure Loki was really watching them anymore. He might be watching something inside his own head.

She tilted her own head back, not wanting to miss the remaining ones. 'You didn't remember... telling him that before?'

'Yes. I'm not sure I remembered thinking it. But I never expected to be handed the throne, I do know that.' He shifted restlessly. 'I didn't want Thor to have everything. Everyone favoured him already, and I was enough in his shadow without being eclipsed by him as king.'

'You did say it. He was arguing with your friends over whether to believe it or not, one day.'

'What did they decide?'

'They didn't. But Thor believes you meant it.'

Loki was quiet for a moment, watching the last few meteors gleam across the sky. 'Do you?'

That was actually a good question. 'I don't know, you did try to take over my planet.' She sighed. 'On the other hand, you sound very little-brothery about it, and you spent months in between with... yeah.'

Loki sat up, looking offended. 'There's no need to make it sound so trivial.'

Jane blinked at him past the remaining meteor afterimages. 'What? The little-brothery part? Sorry, but you do.'

'I attempted to kill him. We fought a war. This is not some fight over toys!'

'Don't remind me,' Jane shot back without thinking. 'You still sound like a brat!' She stopped, fingers going to her mouth. Where had that come from? When he said he'd been overshadowed, she'd felt sorry for him.

'If you're still angry about yesterday then I can leave,' Loki said stiffly. 'The meteor shower is over, anyway.'

'What?' Jane gave him a completely blank look for a moment, then shook her head, rubbing her eyes. 'Yesterday. Right. I'm not... I wasn't angry about yesterday. I was creeped out beyond all belief and still am. And I don't know why I said that and I'm sorry.'

'I accept your apology,' said Loki. 'And I did not intend to be creepy.'

'I didn't think you did,' Jane told him. 'That's part of why it is.'

'I'm sorry?' He looked a bit confused as to whether being creepy by accident called for an apology.

'It's the not seeing anything wrong with mind control, on you or other people, that shook me up,' Jane said. 'And if you don't see it then I don't think it makes sense to apologise for it.' Or maybe he'd just been expressing confusion, she wasn't sure. Her vision still seemed a little strange, maybe from staring at the daylit sky so long. The sun was getting pretty high. Anyway, it threw her thoughts off.

'I won't apologise then.' Loki stood up and held out a hand to her. 'Lunch?'

Jane blinked at him for a moment, then took it and got up. Why not? 'Sure.'

Overlapping Spaces

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by Khilari

Part 14 of 37

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