Continuing Tales

Overlapping Spaces

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by Khilari

Part 22 of 37

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Overlapping Spacesl

Jane woke in the dark, and ravenous. Thor's bulk weighed down the mattress just to her left, and their hands were nested together. She was rather puzzled by finding herself in bed - she was expecting, somehow, to be sitting up. The last thing she remembered was listening to Thor and Loki and their friends... but then, she did remember being very tired.

The memory of Malekith crashed down on her suddenly, obscuring the otherwise pleasant memory of the afternoon, and she rolled over and buried her face in her pillow. How she hadn't had nightmares after that, she didn't know. She hoped Alflyse flayed him.

...Er. No. That would be disturbing, not least because it sounded like something he'd have come up with. She tried poking around at her own thoughts a bit, but she was mostly going to have to take it on faith that he'd been thoroughly scoured out. Having that idea come from her wasn't entirely a happy thought, but the idea of Malekith still having any kind of hold on her was not one she wanted to entertain.

She felt Thor move - roll - and a large warm hand came to rest on her back. 'Jane?'

Jane shifted sideways a bit, closer against him. 'Please tell me Malekith's unusual.'

Thor kissed the back of her head. 'Malekith is Queen Alflyse's main rival, and he is... very charming and very unpleasant. Most of the elves I have met are better company, and very few have tried to assassinate anyone.'

She choked out a small laugh. 'Well, that's sort of comforting.' Thor was warm and solid and straightforward, and did not make appalling suggestions inside her head or gloat about his ability to force her to do things, factors which were all very comforting right now. And she would rather think about something else. 'So... I fell asleep on you in the middle of a conversation, didn't I?'

Thor snorted. 'No one begrudged it, I assure you.'

She smiled a little and turned on her side to face him. 'Did I miss anything interesting?'

Thor was silent for a few moments, and Jane picked up her head to try to see his expression better. 'Loki and I spoke, after the others left. He no longer believes I sought his death. He seemed... surprised, that I missed him, after he sought mine.'

Jane winced a bit. That was one of the more understandable parts of Loki's thought processes, but she was pretty sure that would be the wrong thing to say at the moment.

'I would I had realised he was unhappy sooner.'

'I'm pretty sure all of you wish somebody had noticed that. Or that he'd said something instead of doing something drastic.'

'I don't know if I would have listened,' said Thor, then, 'I am not listening very well now, am I?'

'I don't want to talk,' Jane blurted, then buried her face against his chest for a moment, shaking her head. 'I mean, just... not right now. I asked you what happened. Answering me is listening. Sort of.' A shudder of laughter ran through her, and Thor made a worried noise. She took a deep breath and wrapped an arm over his waist, snuggling closer. 'Anyway, I'm pretty sure if changing the past was practical somebody would have done it before now, so... at least you're getting somewhere. And there's the ride... sometime today. If we're still doing that.'

'Ah,' said Thor. 'I am... not coming. We are more reconciled than we were, but Loki is still not comfortable with me.'

Jane was silent for a moment and then hugged him harder.

'I hope you will still go,' Thor said after a moment. 'If you wish to be distracted, I think that would provide admirably.'

She sighed a little. 'Right now I'm not sure if I have the energy for riding a horse. And if you still find that confusing,' she added, 'don't tell me. But maybe I'll feel more like it after breakfast.'

'If you're hungry now, you need not wait,' Thor said, brushing her hair back from her face. 'And if you dislike asking the night cooks for anything, Midgard is not the only world to have invented food storage.'

This was delivered almost entirely deadpan, but there was the faintest teasing lilt in his voice and when she looked up, she could see the flash of teeth in a smile. 'Well, since I already woke you up...'

It ended up being less of a midnight snack than a full meal, partly because of Asgardian ideas of what constituted a snack and partly because Jane had after all slept through dinner. It was nice.

And as the morning brightened and it started to really feel like daytime, Odin called them to the throne room, where Jane stopped short as abruptly as when she'd seen Loki the previous day, mind going blank.

Malekith was there.

She stepped back into Thor, who was less insistent than the messenger had been yesterday, and heard him say, 'Allfather, you could have been more specific. And did you not declare to Queen Alflyse that if he set foot in Asgard again, his life was forfeit?'

Odin grimaced. 'I believe that is why his feet have not touched the floor.'

Jane made herself focus. Malekith was, in fact, floating just over the floor. There was a strange, dull metallic lacework at his neck, and at his wrists and ankles. And he wasn't smiling. 'Is he here as a prisoner?'

Odin gave her a startled look. 'He is.' Maybe he'd thought that was obvious. 'Nine of Queen Alflyse's guards delivered him at first light, as -' His gaze moved past her. 'Ah, Loki.'

Loki bowed to him and then turned to Malekith, expression furious. For a moment. Then his gaze flicked over the latticework and he was suddenly composed. 'May I ask the terms under which he has been sent?' he asked, still regarding Malekith like a cat looking at a canary.

Odin held up a small rolled parchment and let it unfurl. 'To simplify somewhat,' he said, 'as penalty for treason against his queen, betrayal of an alliance, the attempted enchantment of a mortal guest, and the attempted assassination of a prince of Asgard - Queen Alflyse sentences him to serve either Jane Foster or Loki Odinson for a term of seven years, to be placed again at her disposal with no irreparable injury at the end of that time.' A brief pause. 'She also offers to marry you, Loki, and claims you would make a good elf.'

'I'm flattered, but must regretfully decline her proposal,' Loki answered sardonically. He looked at Jane. 'Did you want him? Irreparable is fairly broad when applied to an elf, and he did you the most harm.'

Jane opened her mouth to say that no, she did not want him, there were very few things she wanted less than to have anything more to do with Malekith ever - and then she reviewed irreparable is fairly broad when applied to an elf and the hair gradually stood up on the back of her neck. 'I don't think I'd know what to do with him,' she said, trying not to sound as shaken as she felt.

'I have suggestions.' Loki was smiling, a grin that contained no trace of humour and a lot of anticipation. 'For instance, skin grows back. And he's bound thoroughly enough you wouldn't even have to get your own hands dirty.' He was still watching Malekith, the words vengeance in themselves. 'Or magnets. Did you know magnetism is painful to elves? It does something to their heads.'

The back of Jane's throat felt tight and tasted bitter. She swallowed hard and managed not to choke. She didn't want to be sick in front of Malekith. Or in general. She didn't want to know Loki was thinking that way, especially when he didn't look crazyright now, not out of control in any way or confused, just avid. She wasn't sure she wanted to know why Thor didn't seem so much as tense behind her, or why Odin and Frigga only looked mildly concerned.

She especially didn't want there to be a little part of her that said yes, Malekith should suffer, and maybe she should just let Loki deal with him and try not to think about it.

'N-' Her voice gave out on her. She tried again. 'No, I didn't know that.' Was that where the folklore about iron came from?

'Would you like a demonstration?'

'No!' she yelped. Loki and Malekith both looked rather startled.

'Loki,' Odin said, somewhat to her relief, 'This does not become you.'

Loki stepped away from Malekith, looking suddenly solemn, as if his feelings had been switched off somehow, or drawn back inside him. He bowed to Odin again. 'Does he not deserve some punishment?'

'Aye, as those he sought to harm deserve recompense,' Odin replied evenly. 'But my son, I hope, knows how to treat those placed at his mercy.'

'And which son would that be? I am no son of yours.' The words were quiet and cold.

Odin's jaw tightened. 'You are.'

Malekith looked fascinated. Jane seriously considered telling him to stop listening to them, but that seemed like asking for trouble somehow.

'I am not.' Loki's voice was tight, controlled.

'Loki,' said Thor, sounding pained. Odin looked... deeply weary. Jane really wished they would have this conversation more productively and not in front of anybody who actively didn't like them.

Loki shot a sharp look at Thor. 'This is not for you to decide. If I say I am not your brother, then I am not.'

'You cannot simply declare yourself no longer part of the family,' Thor said testily.

Jane stepped on his foot, hard enough she hoped he could actually feel it, although from the complete lack of give in his boot she wasn't too sure. 'This doesn't seem like a good time for it, anyway.'

Loki looked at Malekith as if he'd forgotten he was there. 'True. Assign him to someone and be done with it.'

Jane gave Loki a rather worried look, then looked up at Odin. 'Would I have to take him home with me if I...?'

'I don't believe that would be necessary,' said Odin. 'Although I would advise giving him some new instruction no less often than once a year.'

'And make them highly specific if you're leaving him unsupervised that long,' Loki added, which was both better and less worrying advice than any of his earlier suggestions.

Slightly less worrying, anyway. 'Sounds like I should be going through anything I say with a legal team first,' she muttered.

'Or a magic user,' Loki told her. 'Precision of phrasing comes up often enough there are lessons in it.'

Jane glanced at him. 'Are you offering?'

'Of course.' Loki looked rather pleased about the idea.

Jane bit her lip, meeting his eyes. 'Keeping in mind that torturing him would just end up making me feel worse about the whole thing?'

'I don't see why it would,' Loki began, but then broke off. 'Yes. Keeping that in mind.'

'Thanks, then.' She managed a small smile at him, despite still feeling completely unnerved.

Loki took a step back from Malekith. 'Pace around him widdershins and say, "I, Jane Foster, do bind you to my service. Do neither me nor others harm without my word." That will take possession of him,' he told Jane, still looking a bit put out that he wasn't going to get Malekith himself and Jane wasn't intending to do anything dreadful to him.

'Those instructions are standard,' Odin added, 'and are not altered by Queen Alflyse's letter.'

Take possession of him left Jane more than a little worried, and she wasn't happy about the whole thing anyway. But she wasn't sure there was a better or more ethical option. She made a careful counterclockwise circle around Malekith and repeated the words - and Malekith, expression unchanged, sank smoothly to one knee.

Jane stopped and stared at him, arms folded, and tried to stop wondering what would happen if she told him to put his feet down.

Malekith smiled at her, and she nearly stepped back right then. 'What would you have of me, Jane Foster?' he asked silkily.

She tried not to shudder. 'Just - don't do anything until I get back to you.'

Loki smiled with something like approval. 'Unless Jane wished to ask me anything else, I don't think I need to remain here. If you will excuse me?'

'If you don't wish to advise her,' Odin said dryly.

Jane looked between the two of them suspiciously, then back at Malekith's extremely still form, and bit back the urge to swear because who knew what that might cause him to do. '...Cancel that for now.'

Malekith inhaled sharply, but looked amused enough that for a fleeting moment she considered putting him back.

'You might prefer to find an empty room and confine him to it. That way you'll know where he is, and he will be able to move around the room but not affect anything outside it. If you insist on being nice about it,' Loki told her.

'Thank you,' Jane said, trying to keep her temper with both of them - Malekith for being horrible and Loki for being disturbing again, and not warning her. And maybe Odin for being cryptic. And Queen Alflyse for putting her in this position in the first place, although as Jane rather suspected Alflyse would be less tolerant of her getting upset about it than either Odin or Loki, it was probably just as well she wasn't around.

Loki nodded. 'I expect you can manage from there. Will you be coming riding later?'

Jane rubbed her forehead. She had almost forgotten about that. Thor sighed very quietly behind her, and she suspected Loki had asked in front of him on purpose. It might not have been completely kind of her to reply, 'I think so. Thor suggested it would be distracting and at this point that sounds like a very good idea.'

Loki smiled at her. 'I'll see you later then.'

'See you.' She smiled back, a little faintly, and gave Malekith a doubtful look. 'Okay. Time to find somewhere to put you.'

Overlapping Spaces

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by Khilari

Part 22 of 37

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