Continuing Tales

Overlapping Spaces

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by Khilari

Part 23 of 37

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Overlapping Spacesl

Jane showed up to ride with them without Malekith, and Loki didn't ask what she'd done with him. The others, though, had heard about the elf delivery from palace gossip by that point and got a brief account of the situation from Jane. Annoyingly, they seemed to take it for granted that she'd have to accept if the alternative was Loki, but considering he still wasn't allowed use of his own power Loki could hardly argue the point. Sulking at them didn't last past Fandral challenging him to an impromptu race, even though he lost.

After that they spoke mostly about nothing in particular. Jane could use the distraction as much as he could, so they mostly just — played about, showing off to one another, and ignoring all the things they didn't want to think about. Atorka was delighted to be with the other horses again, the group of them had spent almost as much time together as their riders, and she was welcomed back into the herd with enthusiasm. They arrived home around lunchtime.

Loki opted to return to his own rooms for lunch, he'd enjoyed the company but after so long mostly by himself he found it a little tiring. Besides, he was meant to be talking to Holda after lunch and wanted time to gather his thoughts first. And after that he wandered to the library, thinking about something she'd suggested to him, and sat down without picking up a book, staring at the notebook in front of him.

This was better than the poetry, and Holda had assured him he didn't have to send it, or even consider sending it, and that he didn't even have to show her what he wrote. Just that it might help to write down what he would like to say to Thor. Maybe it would, maybe if he could get it down on paper he could at least stop chewing it over in his head. It seemed impossible to even begin, though. I love you. I hate you. I miss you. He shook his head, thought about it for a few more moments, and set his pen to the paper.

I wanted to be your equal, but now, even if you never become king, I am set irrevocably below you. I can accept my present state, or at least tolerate it, but not when you are around to make everything seem so much worse by comparison. I do not want to feel like this This is not your fault, but it cannot be changed, or if it can I do not know how. I wish I could turn to you for help, I need your strength, but it only makes me realise how little I have of my own. I wish

Loki stopped, holding his pen on the page until the last word was obliterated by a blot of ink and then dropping it. He didn't feel better.

He was still staring at it when Jane's soft "Hi" startled him - more than it should have, but he'd been lost in thoughts he didn't especially like, and he had somehow not expected her to come to the library today. She'd seemed to enjoy the ride, but she'd also looked like she could use a nap afterward. Loki hastily turned the paper over and looked up as she sat down. Actually, she still looked like she could use a nap.

'How are you feeling?' he asked.

Jane looked contemplative for a moment and then said, 'Dazed, I think. At least that's on top right now. How about you?'

'Fine.' He glanced around the library, not entirely sure what to say. 'You look tired. I wasn't really expecting you to be doing research this afternoon.'

She shifted a little restlessly. 'I'm not sure whether I'm going to be. My concentration is shot right now. I mostly came looking for you, but I can stop interrupting.'

'I wasn't expecting that, either. But you're not interrupting, I wasn't doing anything.'

Jane glanced at his flipped paper - it occurred to him belatedly that she couldn't have read it anyway - but didn't ask. Instead she swallowed and asked, 'Are you mad at me about Malekith?'

'What? No, of course not. Disappointed, perhaps, that he won't get what he deserves, but you had the greater claim to him.' He looked Jane in the eyes, hoping she could read there that he'd been angry on her behalf more than his own. And was not angry with her for turning down her own chance at revenge, however inexplicable he found it.

She met his eyes for a moment, then smiled a little and looked down. 'Thanks. Although I admit I'd rather Queen Alflyse had just kept him there.'

'I think Odin would agree with you. If there's a way to negotiate sending him back early it will probably happen.' Perhaps she'd find that thought comforting. Loki doubted it would come into effect before she left, but it wasn't unlikely that Malekith's sentence would wind up being less than seven years.

'That would make future visits more pleasant,' Jane said wryly. 'I mean, I think I sort of appreciate her logic, but even so...'

'It's also a convenient way to get rid of a rival for a while without objections. Not that I know Queen Alflyse that well, despite her stated intention of marrying me.' He paused, distracted by something else she'd said in her letter. ' I wonder if she actually meant it about me making a good elf? I'd assumed it was her version of a compliment, not a suggestion, but...' But he'd already changed species once. In a manner of speaking.

Jane blinked. 'You think she might've been proposing you actually turn into one?' She paused, possibly considering his current situation. 'That can't be done very frequently, I'd think...?'

'I have no idea. I still don't know whether it could be done, but Thor was stripped of his power when he was banished, to a point where I think he was mortal. He felt mortal. And I'm...not sure about myself. If it was just a glamour I think I would havenoticed at some point. But the presence of frost magic seems to strip it away.' It felt strange to talk about his own origins to Jane. But she knew, and she hadn't been horrified. It was sort of a relief to bring it up in a context where it was an interesting point in a theory, not about his own feelings about it.

'That sounds confusing,' Jane said, propping her chin on interlaced fingers. She did not turn it to a question of how he felt about it, which Loki appreciated without being especially surprised that she was focussing on the theory. 'I guess there still seemed to be - at least traces of starting out something else, with Thor as well? At least, when he was trying to get to Mjolnir, a thunderstorm came up out of nowhere in the middle of a desert. And he was expecting it.'

'Interesting. Maybe a type of power that resonates with the original form? Mjolnir's power is similar to Thor's, they enhance one another, its presence could have reawakened something.' He glanced over at the magic section - a part of the library that he hadn't visited in weeks. 'There might be some books on it. Or at least on something similar.'

Jane tilted her head. 'Let's take a look? Or I suppose it's more likely to be "why don't you take a look and I follow you around and ask questions", but that's fun too.'

Loki started them in the section on glamours and illusion. It wasn't quite what they'd been talking about, but probably closer than any other section was likely to be. It was also a section he knew extremely well - he kept seeing favourite titles as he skimmed past them and found himself running a finger over the spines affectionately - but he was looking for texts he hadn't already read. Perhaps he should have tried the rarer transformation magic texts? But they tended to be medical, altering a body in a major way was nearly impossible so mostly it was used to correct damage.

'I think I need to find a librarian and check we're in the right section,' he admitted. 'I'm not entirely sure what I'm looking for.'

'I realise I wouldn't have any grounds to argue with you if you said otherwise,' Jane said, turning toward the front desks, 'but illusion does seem to me like it would break down at some point. Even assuming it covers all the senses and... I don't know, takes care of insulation or something, it seems like disguising your actual physiology if you were hurt or sick would just be a bad idea. And hard to maintain.'

Loki nodded. He wasn't sure how different frost giant physiology was, but he was pretty sure it was different enough that medical issues would have come up. 'Illusion's the first thing I'd think of for looking like another species, I suppose I'd been thinking of it as an enhanced version.' Not the most logical approach, to assume something that had similar looking effects must be done a similar way. He glanced towards one of the librarians and then stopped. 'You realise how it's going to look if Istart asking for books on turning someone into another species?' he said, frustrated. 'Although...I don't know who knows. And my reading material is probably not being monitored.'

Jane frowned. 'I don't know if they were actually paying attention, earlier. If they were, they'd probably think it was a natural thing to wonder about. If they don't know, I suppose they'd have to think you were interested in Thor's...'

'I mean...they'll know I'm thinking about it. If they do know about it, or if Odin hears. And I'm not sure he would believe curiosity.' Loki had been suddenly asking for books on obscure subjects for hundreds of years. The librarians might not find it odd even if they did know.

'It's true, isn't it?' Jane raised her eyebrows. 'We can tell them I'm being nosy, if you like. I'm curious too.'

It was actually true. Which didn't guarantee it being believed. 'I'll ask.'

He did ask, and the librarian seemed completely unsurprised by it. 'I don't think we have anything on that,' he said, sounding apologetic. 'I'd offer something that might be a similar discipline, but I think you'd have a better idea of that than I would.'

Loki considered. 'Something on major physical alterations. Perhaps healing a genetic defect rather than an injury.'

The librarian picked a scroll up from the desk and wrote the requirements on it, the ink fading into the paper before reappearing as a list. He handed it to Loki, who thanked him and returned to Jane. 'Nothing specific. But this might give us a place to start,' he told her.

She nodded, and they returned to the shelves. Loki handed over the list briefly so she could read the titles on it and searched out the first few from memory. 'You know,' she said, 'I know of a couple of "major physical alterations" on Earth, but neither of them is a change of species and apparently nobody's really sure what happened either time. So I don't think that's going to help.'

'That green thing?' Loki asked, with a shudder.

Jane gave him an odd look. 'The Hulk and Captain America, yes.'

'I have no idea what the Hulk is either, but I can say with some certainty that he is stronger than an Asgardian.' And that I don't want to meet him again, even for research purposes. Loki picked up a book on the list called Template Healing and took a look at the contents page. It appeared to be about healing by using another subject as a template, to deal with damage that, due to being genetic, the patient's body wasn't registering as damage. Odin hadn't had a template when altering Thor, but it was possible as a method for altering Loki.

'Bruce is very nice ordinarily,' Jane said a bit absently. 'Common sense is a bit questionable, but who am I to talk?' She tapped at an entry further down the list. 'Environmental and Biological Mimicry - on Earth this would not be about actual transformations, but I assume it is given how it came up.'

'Hmm. That looks useful.' And non-medical, which was a surprise considering what he had wound up asking for, but he guessed the librarian had written down his first criteria as well.

'Adaptive self-transformation?' Jane said speculatively, then glanced up. 'Odin put it, once, that you... changed in his hands.'

He hadn't realised Jane had got the full story, rather than mentions. That part of the story he'd almost forgotten, he had been thinking of the Asgardian form as something Odin had imposed on him even as it still felt like him, but...Odin had told him that too. He walked over to the Fabulous Beasts section to find the book and flipped to the index page. Lizards that could turn to stone, plants that could switch to an ambulant state when threatened. 'I've never heard of frost giants having that sort of instinctive mimicry.'

'Would it have been likely to come up?' Jane asked, looking over his shoulder - or rather, around his arm - at the page despite it being in the wrong language for her. 'Or maybe he was being oblique again and I misunderstood him.'

'I don't know. You'd think it would make infiltration easier, but there's the issue of size.' Changing the mass of things wasn't supposed to work, although after seeing the Hulk he suspected that wasn't a hard and fast rule. 'It doesn't seem a helpful ability in babies. How often is a baby going to get picked up by a member of another bipedal species when only one lives on Jotunheim? I rather doubt baby Jotuns turn into kittens when attacked by snow lions.'

Jane paused. 'That does sound... cute but impractical.'

'I wonder if there are any books on Jotun physiology? If it is a natural Jotun ability I think they'd mention it.'

'How much contact did Asgard have with them before the war?'

'...I have no idea. No one mentioned any.' If there had been contact then it would have been nice if someone had mentioned it to him, in between the war stories.

'What a way to meet,' Jane said under her breath. 'Just wondered. I don't know if it's the sort of thing you'd pick up in the middle of a war.'

'Probably not. If it was a natural transformation...I don't even know if I'm looking at the right thing. Yet Thor's certainly wasn't.' Were the similarities coincidence? He frowned at the book he was holding. 'Maybe it would be easier to concentrate on Thor's? I actually saw that one. And if Alflyse is talking about turning me into an elf then there must be a spell...' Unless he really did have some sort of natural transformation response she intended to set off. That was a bizarre thought.

'That's a point.' Jane gave him a wry look. 'I assume asking Odin to explain is not in the plan just now?'

'Which part? I can't ask about how he banished Thor, that is his magic as King.' A prince could be taught it - Loki wondered if Thor could learn it - in preparation for taking the throne. But that was exactly why Loki couldn't ask now. 'Asking about myself...went badly, last time.'

'Right, sorry.' Jane sighed. 'I was thinking you might both manage to be less awkward about a technical conversation, but that was probably silly.'

'I don't know if it would stay technical,' Loki muttered. He grabbed the last few books on the list and started walking back to their table.

'That's a fair point.' Jane followed him and picked up one of the books, and let the matter drop for a few minutes before asking, very quietly, 'Do you really want to declare yourself not part of the family anymore?'

'I've been declaring it, and no one's inclined to listen.' It was almost a flippant response.

'Yeah, but-' She broke off, shaking her head, and went back to reading.

Loki read through a bit more of his book as well, still the one on animals despite his doubts over its use. At least it would probably give him some idea of the possibilities - if it could be done, an animal somewhere had probably evolved to do it. 'But what?' he asked, after few minutes of silence.

Jane paused for a moment longer before asking, 'But do you actually want them to agree with you?'

That was an unexpectedly difficult question. He'd shouted at Thor that they weren't brothers, but when he imagined Thor agreeing it just hurt. If Odin declared Loki not to be his son - he blinked, hard. Odin would never say that, because Odin believed in taking responsibility. Having picked Loki up he was stuck with him, unless Loki broke the bond between them. 'I don't know,' he whispered, not wanting his attendants to hear. 'It would be an end to all the pretense.'

'Loki,' she said, her eyes... concerned, but maybe just a bit distant, as if she were thinking about other times and places (and people), 'I really don't think they're pretending.'

Loki buried his face in his hands. 'I didn't actually mean that. Exactly. Thor - didn't even know, obviously it was all real to him. But it was based on a lie. Everything I thought I knew about myself and my family was wrong. How do I build on a relationship when the foundations of it never existed? At least being free of it would mean being free of that.'

'Is the genetic part really the foundation?' she asked quietly. 'I mean, yes, I think they should have told you, too. But it's not everything.'

'If Thor hadn't thought I was his brother I doubt we would have even have been friends.' When Thor chose friends for himself they were fellow warriors. Not people like Loki.

'I am... pretty sure that happens a lot with people who are blood relatives,' Jane said a bit wryly.

'But they continue to be blood relatives, if they really are.' Loki stopped. He was confusing himself now. 'Thor only cares about me because he thought I was his brother. But that wasn't - and isn't - true.'

'Except that you are his brother by adoption, and growing up together, and that part all still happened.'

'Adoption is not that common in Asgard.' Loki raised his head. 'You asked before if it was an alien concept - it isn't. But mostly a child will be raised by relatives if their parents are dead or cannot. To be raised by someone without a blood link at all - much less when you are a different species - is unusual.'

Jane nodded, biting her lip. 'I can see how that would make it harder. On Earth I guess it's somewhat more common... although the different species part obviously only comes up in stories.'

Some of those stories had a basis in fact. The elves dumping babies they didn't like the look of in exchange for prettier or healthier mortal babies. The mortals had sometimes tortured the elf children to get their own back, hoping the elf would still care enough for their abandoned child to make the switch. Not a comforting thought. 'I always felt I'd been treated differently. This gave me an answer as to why.'

Jane inhaled, and he thought she would speak, but then she let it all out in a sigh instead and gave him a rueful look. 'I don't have any business arguing with you about what happened or how you felt about it,' she said quietly. 'I'm just... very sure they love you, and miss you, and really do think of you as family. And are trying really hard not to push, but I... don't think they're going to go so far as to actually give up on the idea.'

'As you noticed I don't entirely want them to.' Loki's gaze fell on his notebook and he felt himself blush. 'But I - I didn't really know how to connect with them before. And they're having the same problem, aren't they? There's nothing they actually want to do with me, they just want to know I know they love me.'

She offered him a tiny smile. 'It wasn't entirely a warning, either. And... okay, no, I don't think they know what would help even if they did get to talk to you, and I honestly have no idea what your usual family activities are.'

'Thor and Odin usually argue a lot.' Not always angrily, but often very forcefully. Loki usually kept his head down. 'Frigga is a good person to talk to.' He felt almost more betrayed by her, because at least Odin was usually inexplicable. But probably she would be the easiest of his family to approach. 'We spoke about magic, although her areas of study in it were different from mine. With Thor -' I did very little except study without Thor.

'I have kind of gotten the impression Thor barely did anything without you around,' Jane said, an unconscious echo.

'Not much. I expect that would have changed, after the coronation.'

'Because he wouldn't have time for the things you usually did together?'

'Probably. He would have had duties.' Although no one had been entirely clear on what the duties of a king actually were even while Loki was king himself. Making decisions, obviously. But he hadn't had Odin's abilities, and it was hard to separate the idea of being king from the idea of being Odin - what did the king have to do and what did Odin do because of who he was? Thor certainly didn't have Odin's abilities, although he had some of his own. 'Odin doesn't really...spend time with people.' No, that wasn't right. That made it sound as if Odin spent all his time by himself. 'For fun. I don't expect Thor would have suddenly stopped talking to people, but I'm not sure kings are meant to have friends.'

Jane was giving him an uncertain look. 'I don't think Thor is treating that as a requirement. Being more objective than he usually is, maybe...'

'That wouldn't be difficult.'

A small snort. 'No.'

Loki smiled slightly at her then sighed. 'These days I'm the one that can't do the things we normally did together.'

'I know...' Jane looked rueful, then considering. 'Although - violent adventuring is presumably out, but there are other options...'

Loki shot her an impatient look. 'There's a reason you've never met me anywhere but the library and the gardens.'

'You've gone farther, lately,' Jane pointed out, looking unquelled. 'Riding and watching meteors and out to the Bifrost.'

'Away from people.' Loki said. 'I suppose there are activities that doesn't rule out.' Like the aforementioned riding.

Jane glanced in Birla's direction before looking back at Loki. 'If you decided you were feeling up to it,' she said, 'it might be worth talking about whether it would work to go to - I don't know, poetry recitals, maybe - with your friends.'

Loki followed her gaze, meeting Birla's eyes. Birla shook her head. 'It's not my decision, my prince. I can tell Holda I don't think you'll come to harm from it, but I can't decide to allow it.'

Loki nodded. 'I could ask her,' he said. 'Thank you,' he added, to Birla.

Jane dropped her eyes back to her book, smiling a little. 'I know it's not quite the same as before,' she said, 'but they make a pretty good buffer if they try.'

'I don't want them to look after me!' Loki protested.

She looked a bit chagrined. 'Sorry. I think of Asgardian crowds as a little overwhelming.'

She wasn't wrong, especially when he had been isolated for a while. It was still humiliating, to think he'd need his friends to take care of him. 'I suppose they would be for a mortal.'

Jane rolled her eyes at him. 'I'm sure being a foot taller helps, too.'

'Not unrelated,' Loki answered. He glanced back at his book. It would be worth asking Holda about going places and - much as he hated to admit it - he was more likely to be allowed with people capable of acting as a buffer between him and others. Possibly they could also act as a buffer between him and Thor.

Overlapping Spaces

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by Khilari

Part 23 of 37

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