Continuing Tales

Overlapping Spaces

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by Khilari

Part 20 of 37

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Overlapping Spacesl

Shut safely back in her room, Jane slid down to sit against the side of the bed, bonelessly, and stared at the wall for a while. She felt relieved and shaken, violated and completely furious, lighter and cleaner and a little bit numb with the shock.

After a few minutes she picked herself up and went to take a bath. She felt less horrible than when she'd known Malekith was there, but she still wished she could scrub out her mind. It felt like it had had spiders in it and some of the sticky webbing was still there. Instead she washed her hair, scrubbing until a sudden sting made her wince and pull her hands away. The soapsuds under her nails were tinged pink with blood, and she slid under the water to rinse a bit more gently.

It didn't altogether surprise her to hear someone knock at the door. She called to them to wait a minute, then dried off and put on a fluffy, only slightly oversized robe.

And then stopped with her hand on the door and leaned her forehead against it, heart beating wildly. Between Loki's stories and the abrupt arrival of the initial elf party, it sounded like the paths to Alfheim were practically everywhere. She seriously doubted there were any in her room. Loki had probably investigated the palace rather thoroughly, and if he'd thought there was any chance of an elf walking directly into her bedroom, she really thought he'd have said something.

But that didn't say anything about outside.

She cleared her throat and asked, 'Who is it?'

'It's Birla,' came the reply. 'Loki told us about what happened and I'm off duty since he's in his rooms. Can I come in?'

Jane let out a breath and swung the door open. 'Please do. Sorry, I'm a little nervous at the moment.'

'That's not surprising,' said Birla, walking in and taking a seat. 'Do you want to talk about it?'

Jane flopped into the next chair. 'I think so, but right now I have no idea what to say.'

'I can't help you there, I'm afraid.'

Jane gave her a wan smile. 'Can I start with, I really didn't mean to keep snapping at people lately?'

'We all thought you were just missing Prince Thor,' said Birla, apologetically.

'So did I,' Jane said with a sigh. 'And I wasn't being forced to say spiteful things, it's just... everything that bothered me seemed worse. Especially about Loki.' She swallowed. 'It worries me, to think Malekith could have gotten so much further if he'd been patient.'

Birla leant over to put a hand on Jane's shoulder. 'If it helps, you could not have harmed Prince Loki. We are there to protect him as well as to protect others, and he is quite capable of defending himself still.'

'It does help some.' The touch, she thought, helped more; she gave Birla a small grateful smile. 'As an assassination effort it was stupid, I can see that now - I just couldn't until the spell was gone. But...' She swallowed and shut her eyes. 'I assume that means that wasn't really the point.'

'Politics is not really my area,' said Birla. 'Elves even less so. It could have caused a scandal, that you'd try. Or...' Birla trailed off thoughtfully.

Jane opened her eyes. 'Or?' She wasn't entirely sure speculation was a healthy distraction, here, but it was at least a distraction.

Birla looked as if she was dubious on this as a distraction too. 'Or it could have been intended to hurt Prince Loki in a different way. When Malekith saw him he still believed Prince Thor had wanted him dead.' She looked as if she wanted to say more for a moment, but was possibly worried about treading over the bounds of patient confidentiality. Or just didn't think Jane needed to hear it right now.

Jane's stomach turned over. 'Seems like a lot of trouble just to hurt somebody's feelings,' she muttered, but it made an awful kind of sense, too. 'But that would be just about the last thing he needed, wouldn't it, if he thought I meant it...'

'Fortunately he's cleverer than Malekith thinks,' said Birla, and she sounded proud of it.

Jane grinned at that; it was easier than she expected. 'He's brilliant. Although I'd think it would be hard to miss.'

'You'd certainly think the elves would have noticed it when he kept seeing through their tricks.' Birla smiled back at her, looking reassured.

'Especially since I gather it's a longstanding habit.'

'So I've heard. But usually with magic,' Birla answered.

'Point. And I know he misses it.' Clearly Loki was just that good anyway. Jane let her head fall back for a moment, then looked over again. 'I admit, I'm still a little shocked he was that determined to come look for me...'

'You have no idea,' said Birla, but she didn't elaborate.

Jane blinked, trying not to be too curious. 'I missed something you can't tell me about, didn't I?'

Birla smiled. 'I'm not really meant to discuss Prince Loki at all. Under the circumstances I think speculation and things you already know might be allowed.'

Jane suspected one of the secondary reasons Odin, Frigga, and Thor appreciated her friendship with Loki was that she was not bound by professional confidentiality (and Loki wouldn't expect her to be). Not that she told them everything, nor was pressed to. 'This would be a very weird conversation if we couldn't mention him at all,' she said with a small smile in return. 'I appreciated it, anyway.'

At that point, there was another knock on her door. 'Who is it?' Jane called, but something about the solid sound of it made her heart jump.

'Me,' said Thor's voice, confirming her hopes, and she gave Birla a faintly apologetic look before half running to the door.

'You're all right,' she said, hugging him hard.

Thor hugged back, nodded to Birla, and gave Jane a rather mystified look. 'Why should I not be?' When this left Jane speechless for a moment, he looked closer, and touched the skin beside her eye with a gentle finger. 'Jane, what's happened here? All I know is that Queen Alflyse sent us all home rather abruptly.'

Jane was still trying to find words when a messenger appeared in the corridor behind Thor. 'Prince Thor. Dr Foster. Prince Loki requests you come to his rooms.'

Thor turned around and stared at the woman. 'He... does?'

'He does.'

Jane took a deep breath and said, 'Malekith enchanted me,' before her ability to explain ran out.

Or possibly she just couldn't hear herself think over Thor's roar of 'What?'

'Loki figured it out,' she said quickly. 'Your parents fixed it. But I... guess it's something to do with that?'

'Well, of course I'm going,' said Thor. He glanced at Birla as she rose to follow them.

He kept hold of Jane's hand on the way, which required a few exasperated tugs backward as his headlong progress grew too fast for her. They arrived at Loki's door at about the same time as the Warriors Four, all of whom looked fairly confused - and more so to find Thor fuming.

Inside Loki was waiting in one of the chairs, looking oddly regal and very angry. Around the walls worried attendants were standing, and Birla took her place among them without a word. Loki looked at Jane, checking her over with a sharp glance, and looked slightly puzzled by the fluffy bathrobe, before looking away apparently satisfied with what he'd seen.

'Welcome,' he said. 'Most of you probably haven't heard, but Malekith enchanted Jane during his visit to Asgard. Odin has removed the enchantment now. But matters with Malekith are not settled.'

Sif swore, and the other three warriors all started talking at once. Now everybody looked angry, which was sort of gratifying but a little disconcerting. Jane curled into a chair, feeling that she didn't have the energy to stand up while they were yelling.

'Enchanted her how?' Thor asked, looking between Jane and Loki. She made a tiny you-go-ahead-please gesture in Loki's direction.

'To kill me,' Loki said, sounding remarkably composed about it. 'A compulsion which she fought strongly enough that I had no idea that was its purpose until it was lifted.'

Thor looked angrier - she hadn't thought it was possible - and thunder cracked overhead, loud enough to make Jane jump. 'Not settled, indeed. He should die for this.'

Loki jumped at the thunder too, even though he had clearly wanted Thor angry, and visibly fought to regain his composure. 'He should,' he agreed.

'To think he was in reach bare hours ago,' Fandral said heatedly.

'You fought Malekith's magic?' Sif asked Jane, not at all as if she didn't believe it. 'He is one of the dark elves' most dangerous and subtle sorcerers. You've shown great courage.'

'He gave up on being subtle somewhere along the way,' Jane said. 'Either that or the rest of them are really bad at it, and that doesn't seem likely.'

'Can we reach him?' Hogun asked.

Volstagg shook his head. 'I wish we could, but I doubt it. The Bifrost isn't yet finished and I doubt the Allfather would let us take the tesseract.'

Loki held up his hands, silver gleaming at his wrists. 'I know the ways there. But I doubt I could do it without magic.'

Jane realized with a sort of bewildered alarm that they were actually talking about going to Alfheim - after all their earlier care - to assassinate somebody.

'None of us can remove those,' Sif pointed out, scowling.

'I might be able to break them,' Thor muttered. 'If I were very careful.' Jane wondered if they'd forgotten the wearers of the companion bracelets were in the room.

'I'd prefer a method that doesn't leave me with broken wrists, but I appreciate the thought,' said Loki. 'There are other magical weapons in Asgard, though, and you have access to the weapons vault.'

'I wouldn't break your wrists.' How Thor proposed to manage that, Jane couldn't begin to guess, but he sounded disconcertingly confident.

'You can't actually be serious about this,' Jane protested weakly.

Sif grimaced and came over to squeeze her shoulder. 'We know. It's less practical even than going to Jotunheim,' she said, with a look at Thor and Loki. 'But damned if I don't wish we could.'

Loki sighed, dropping his hands into his lap and looking rather less imperious suddenly. 'You deserve to see Malekith punished,' he said, not sounding as if he held out any hope for it actually happening.

'He is supposedly an ally, and he has attacked two of our friends,' said Fandral. 'It would have been impolitic, but had I known it this morning, I might have reminded him why we bear steel blades.'

I feel very weird about being touched that people want to go kill somebody for me, Jane thought, but she suspected that would just confuse all of them. 'I'd rather nobody I like get in trouble over it,' she said with a tiny smile.

Loki was giving Fandral a slightly odd look, perhaps because he was being included in the list of people Malekith deserved to die for hurting. 'As well you didn't,' he said, reluctantly. 'That wouldn't have helped with getting you home safely.'

'It might not have been so bad,' Fandral said thoughtfully. 'Queen Alflyse is fond of me and Malekith does openly want her crown.'

'By all means,' said Sif, 'let us rely on your charm and prowess in bed to smoothe over diplomatic incidents.'

'As long as both our princes keep turning her down, who better?' Fandral asked, humour overcoming some of his anger with Malekith.

'I don't think I knew this part,' said Jane, a little amused (and perhaps a tiny bit jealous).

'She's been periodically offering to marry one or the other of us for a while now,' said Thor.

'She's not interested in marrying Fandral because she knows he wouldn't stay interesting that long,' Loki added.

Fandral put a hand to his heart. 'You wound me to the quick,' he said, sounding entirely untroubled. 'I am fascinating... we just happen to share only a single interest.'

'I didn't realise you had more than one.'

'I have many, each as dear as the next,' Fandral said cheerfully.

'And that is why marriage is not in question with any of them,' said Volstagg.

Loki was tugging at his bracelets again. At first he'd hardly seemed to notice them, but they irked him more as he got better and Jane could understand him wanting his magic now (even as she was somewhat glad he didn't have it). But if this continued he was going to wind up with sore wrists.

Fandral and Volstagg were in the throes of a mostly good-natured debate on the respective merits of marriage and enthusiastic philandering, periodically teasing Thor and - more dangerously - Sif, while Hogun looked on in extremely subtle amusement. Appealing at one point to Loki for arbitration merely earned Fandral an elaborate eyeroll. Thor still paced, and Jane heard thunder growl again, softer and lower, for a scattering of restless lightning. Loki tensed a little - at the sound, she thought - and gave the left-hand bracelet a harder tug.

Jane was a little reluctant to draw attention to it, but at that point, impulsively, she got up and went over to put a hand over his wrist. The silver didn't feel warm or cool.

Loki blinked at her, as if not quite sure what she was doing, then apparently realised what he'd been doing and gave her an embarrassed smile. 'Thor's magic is rather evident right now,' he murmured, which didn't serve as much of an explanation. Either he wanted to be able to defend himself against it - although Jane did think he knew at this point that he wouldn't have to - or the presence of someone else's magic was just making him miss his own more.

'Loudly,' she agreed, reminded suddenly of the thunderstorm coming out of a clear sky when Thor had been trying to get to Mjolnir. Had that been the hammer responding to his presence, or had Thor - even as a mortal - been able on some level to call storms? At the time she had been too incredulous and too frightened at what she'd done to really wonder about that. 'Though I really am glad you're all going to stay here and not give me anything new to worry about right now,' she added, as lightly as she could manage.

'I didn't mean to worry you further,' Loki told her, and was echoed by the others.

Jane ducked her head a bit sheepishly. 'I didn't really think that was the plan.'

Thor laughed ruefully and came up to put an arm around her. Jane leaned into his shoulder and tried to keep her eyes open. 'I will hope Fandral guesses aright about Queen Alflyse. If she is angry enough with Malekith, he might wish for our wrath instead.'

'A comforting thought.' Loki was looking up past Jane as he spoke. Due to Jane having been leaning over him when Thor arrived, Thor was now very close and looming over him a bit. He was giving Thor the sort of look he gave the Bifrost, almost, as if he'd forgotten Thor might be watching him watching and was simply testing himself to see how long he could look without fear.

Thor did look back, though, and perhaps decided looming was a bad idea, because he towed Jane with him back to her chair and pulled her into it with him. Fortunately, it was a big chair. 'We can hope.'

The words hung in the air for a little while. Thor's eyes were still on Loki, and Thor tended to unconsciously dominate everyone's attention either himself or with where he put his. With the talk of vengeance stymied and the banter interrupted and forgotten, everyone seemed to pause and remember where they were.

At last Sif said dryly, 'And aside from all that, it nearly feels like a normal afternoon again for once.'

Loki looked a bit flustered at the attention, as if not sure whether to draw himself up under it or shrink back. 'Has it really felt so strange not to have me there?' he asked, at last, sounding like he was mocking the notion. Which didn't stop his gaze on Sif being rather intent.

'Not in the slightest,' said Fandral, airily. 'After all, we'd only had a few centuries to come to expect it. Why would it be strange?'

Sif gave Fandral a withering look and folded her arms. 'Yes, Loki, we've missed you.' It sounded like a challenge, perhaps because of the earlier mockery.

Loki looked around the room. 'Centuries is long enough for anything to become a habit,' he said, apparently more to Fandral than Sif. 'Including calling on you as soon as I need someone on my side. Or on the side of a friend.' He rolled his eyes. 'Sadly, it's probably too late to reconsider that instinct.'

'It does sound quite likely to be hopeless,' Fandral said brightly.

'Perhaps I should stop trying to avoid my fate.' Loki was smiling now, small but real.

'It is easier that way,' Hogun said solemnly.

Perhaps feeling it was his turn, Volstagg suggested, 'Do you want to go riding tomorrow, then?'

Jane wasn't even looking at Thor and she thought she could feel him smile.

'Why not?' Loki answered, sounding pleased and touched and like he might simultaneously be trying to hide it and want to show it.

They talked longer. Jane was pretty sure there was some sort of light wine and herbal tea brought around at some point, because afterward she thought she remembered smelling mint and possibly licorice. But she was so very tired after days being jerked around by Malekith and trying to out-think somebody who could read her mind, and so relieved, and she felt warm and safe, finally, and... must have fallen asleep on Thor in the chair.

Overlapping Spaces

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by Khilari

Part 20 of 37

<< Previous     Home     Next >>