Continuing Tales

Overlapping Spaces

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by Khilari

Part 16 of 37

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Overlapping Spacesl

Jane didn't think it was unreasonable to be a little disappointed about Thor's unexpected diplomatic mission, as long as she acknowledged it was a legitimate part of his job, so to speak - and it was genuinely a little worrying, given what everybody kept saying about the complex political situation with Alfheim. But she really didn't think it should be leaving her this out of sorts.

Odin and Frigga made her continued welcome clear. Heimdall was nice to her. The Bifrost repairs were continued with a new urgency in the hope of eliminating Asgard's transportation disadvantage, and Jane - who didn't say it often, but entertained dreams of working out how to create a controlled Einstein-Rosen bridge entirely with nonmagical technology - spent as much time as ever watching them but tried not to interrupt. A few times she spotted Birla off-duty at lunch, and they ate together and actually talked. She spent most of the rest of the time with Sif, Hogun, and Volstagg or with Loki, and sometimes wished she could get them to join each other, but she didn't push it.

But even though nothing except Thor's presence had changed, she felt weirdly adrift and on edge. She didn't remember her dreams, but she woke up feeling inexplicably uneasy. Her temper soured, especially with Loki, sometimes whether he'd done anything new to deserve it or not. (On the other hand, he'd done an awful lot already. And getting suddenly passive-aggressive about her upcoming departure or her missing Thor was just not on.) She started experimenting with Asgardian dress in the vague hope of feeling more settled or at least distracting herself - nobody pushed her to, outside of the feast for the elves, but she'd been offered a couple of outfits for their greater durability or to make sure she didn't feel out of place. The casual gown was surprisingly comfortable, but the long skirts made her feel overdressed and got in her way. The tunic and trousers feltalmost normal. The utilitarian knife that everybody assumed was a standard accessory just felt strange, and she left it off more than half the time. She picked it up almost absent-mindedly on the way to the library to meet Loki one afternoon, though.

Loki was sitting at their usual table, flicking between an open book and a dictionary with a frequency and frustration that suggested he didn't actually understand what he was reading. When he saw her he looked relieved at the thought of a distraction and gestured her to a chair with a smile.

'Dare I ask what you're reading this time?' Jane asked as she sat down - which might not be that much of a distraction, but she was curious.

'The last of the books we found on false memory. I did make it through the others, at least the relevant parts, although there wasn't that much of use.' He pushed the book away from him and stretched. 'Holda says this one is meant for people who've been studying the field for a century or so. But it contains far more detail than the others. Just not detail I understand.'

'It does sound very advanced.' That was an understatement. What would it be like, to be able to study your chosen field for centuries? 'Have you asked her what she thinks about it?'

'About my memories or my studying them?' He didn't wait for an answer. 'That it's often not possible to tell after the fact how something like that happened. It's more important to deal with the implications in the present, especially since most of the ways it could have happened suggest I'll never recover my memory fully.'

'I meant about the book,' said Jane, 'but I guess that was pretty comprehensive.'

'If not precisely useful,' Loki answered. 'She doesn't like my wanting all the information before I'm willing to make decisions.'

'Maybe she thinks you're procrastinating,' Jane suggested, a bit more flippantly than the subject probably deserved. 'Do you want to wait a century or so to decide?'

'I was hoping maybe I could pick up the gist at least without it taking that long. Possibly wrongly.'

'Some people really don't like simplifying their field,' Jane said. 'Maybe if you started with a lower-level book?'

Loki sighed. 'She did explain some of it. The problem is that putting it in simple terms means...losing all the detail and coming back to what I'd found out from the others, mostly. Starting with lower level books might not be a bad idea. Even if it doesn't deal with false memories maybe I'd understand a little more.'

That was a pitfall. Usually there was a reason for the specialised jargon. Usually. 'At least it should be interesting?'

'Hopefully. I can't say it's a field I'd ever considered studying before.' He stacked the book on top of the dictionary, in an apparently final rejection of his attempts to read it for the present. 'How about your studies? Did you manage to match the Midgard and Asgardian stars?'

'Hah-' It came out somewhere between triumphant and exasperated. 'At this point I'm almost sure we can barely see any of the same ones. Heimdall excepted, of course. But I think I might have a start on the reference frame. I've been paying more attention to the Bifrost technology lately, though.'

'If you weren't going back to Midgard you wouldn't need to match them. You could just look for the, where we already have the relations with the askreisa mapped out,' Loki suggested.

Jane leaned her forehead on her hand, shutting her eyes for a moment. It wouldn't actually be a bad thing to try, to check whether she could find the same or similar features here. But still. 'But I am going back to Midgard,' she said a bit testily. 'And all my instruments are there anyway. I just got them recalibrated from when SHIELD swiped them all to look for you.'

'You could bring your instruments here more easily than you could replicate all the knowledge we have on Midgard,' Loki protested. '...and I don't think I'm enough like a path through the void that instruments for looking for them would have helped.'

Jane buried her face in her hands, torn between laughter and exasperation. 'To look for the tesseract. Stop nitpicking.'

'Does SHIELD make a habit of stealing your things?' Loki sounded sympathetic, but also like he might be working up to another argument for why staying on Midgard just wasn't worth the hassle.

'Twice,' Jane admitted grouchily, 'but that time was your fault. I guess I'd have said yes anyway, but they manufactured an invitation to Tromsø in case you came after me, so I wasn't there.'

'I didn't force them to look for me using stolen equipment. I wasn't even terribly hard to find.' He tilted his head to one side. 'What else did they steal?'

'All of it.' The old irritation with SHIELD stirred again, but Loki obviously meant it to so she ended up wanting to growl at him instead. 'Equipment, records, backups...'

'That's rather more than I was expecting. What were they doing with it?'

'I don't know. Trying to keep the whole thing a secret, I think,' Jane aid with a sigh. 'They took my notebook. Thor stole it back for me.'

'So this was back when Thor arrived?' Loki asked. 'Was it his arrival they were trying to cover up?'

'What? Yes.' Hadn't she said that? Was he being patient at her? She eyed him suspiciously. 'Probably. Or Mjolnir's. Although that might've been a lost cause by then.'

'It doesn't really sound like an organisation you'd enjoy working for,' Loki said after a pause. 'Discovering things only to hide them from other people seeking the same answers. Did you get a choice about joining them?'

'They lured me in with data on the New York City wormhole,' Jane muttered. Which was also his fault. Well, the data wasn't a fault, but the damage the Chitauri had done certainly was. And he was trying to put down SHIELD to her when they'd been defending Earth against him. She felt anger catch and smolder under her breastbone. 'Loki, Earth is still home. I'm still going back. You can quit trying to talk me out of it.'

'What do you have on Midgard that you couldn't have here?' he asked plaintively.

'I have family there,' she hissed, suddenly furious. How dare he try to take that from her after everything else he'd done. 'Friends. My entire career, which I will note, is finally starting to look up despite a bizarre infestation of aliens and spies.' As Thor's arrival had actually been the definitive proof of her arguments, the aliens part wasn't entirely fair, but Jane was too incensed to care. 'I am not abandoning my life just because you think it's too trivially short to matter!'

Loki looked wide eyed and rather stunned at her outburst.

His shock only made her angrier. He knew what he'd done. He knew what he'd tried to do. Jane's temples throbbed, a red-hot pulse beating behind her eyes, and her hands were shaking. If she was fast enough she could pull out the knife; she was close enough to bury it in his throat before the minders could move. She could practically feel the blood gush like red ice over her hands, see his expression still shocked and bewildered as she twisted it free-

-And what was she thinking?! Jane knotted her hands in her lap, still shaking, now with terrified reaction. She was angry - she was still angry - but she didn't stab people. She was not a violent person! She wanted to vomit. (Not on the library table. Maybe on Loki - what was the matter with her?)

Nothing. Nothing was. He'd tried to conquer her home, had brought his own tormentors swarming down on it. Of course she was angry.

She still didn't stab people. She'd had violent impulses before, probably everybody did, but not that kind of vivid, gory fantasy. And not to someone who was trying to do better. Someone who was her friend.

She ought to. What did trying matter? How would Erik feel about this? Hadn't she as good as stabbed him in the heart by doing this, shouldn't she avenge him?

Jane told herself a little desperately that this was idiotic, Erik might be upset but he would hardly want her to do something so horrific and so stupidinstead. She obviously needed to... to go somewhere and calm down. Maybe find somebody to talk to herself. Holda couldn't be the only - therapist, counselor, whatever - in Asgard.

But no. No. That would be mortifying, and possibly dangerous. You couldn't go around in an absolute monarchy saying excuse me, I really want to kill the prince and I think I need some emotional help. Maybe if she, if she... just went somewhere to calm down. No, she should pretend everything was normal. Her eyes, why did her eyes hurt? She felt like she'd been looking into a bright light...

This was not normal. (I know this is not normal, books and Asgard's strange heavy notepaper scattered on the floor.) Her decisions weren't supposed to shatter and scatter like this. She wasn't supposed to want to stab people. Being out of temper was one thing but this was something else entirely, she did not think like this...

She did not, in fact, think like this. Jane turned her thoughts inward, not entirely sure she could describe how, and felt with a sudden clarity the web of shimmering grey-silk shadows just as they tightened down to strangle her. She opened her mouth, wanting to scream, wanting to explain or apologise or warn Loki, but she barely parted her lips before they closed again.

Kill him. The voice was Malekith's, musical and cruel.

No. Her own thought sounded feeble inside her head. I don't want to and I'm not like that.

Oh yes you are. Do it for love of me.

I don't love you. Her body and thoughts were on fire for him suddenly, but that wasn't love, and she wondered hazily if Malekith thought it was.

Do it. She felt her hand shift toward the knife, wrap around the hilt, sheltered from view by the table. There was just time -


Silence inside her head. She felt like she was choking, like there were cobwebs in her throat and brain, silk-soft monofilament slicing into the edges of her mind. She sat hunched over a little, trembling, and surely someone had to notice-

She straightened, because it was only courtesy and she had to pretend nothing was wrong, and wanted to scream inside. I shall have my will of you yet, Malekith's voice said again in her thoughts. You will hold your tongue, about me. You will give no apology, no warning; you will give no hints. Go if you must. Flee if you must. Delay if you insist, but time is always on my side.

'I have to go,' Jane choked out, finally, and the grip on her limbs released so she could run.

Overlapping Spaces

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by Khilari

Part 16 of 37

<< Previous     Home     Next >>