Continuing Tales

Overlapping Spaces

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by Khilari

Part 3 of 37

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Overlapping Spacesl

The library was one of the parts of the palace which remained open to Loki practically always, unless he was believed to be a danger to others. Other parts might be opened and closed depending on how his handlers believed he was doing. Those handlers were always present, of course, and he resented them almost as much for the reassurance he took from that as for imprisoning their rightful king.

Books had always been something of a refuge, focus on mastering some new object of study could be a distraction from just about anything. After the incident with Jane he had been afraid that they would refuse to let him go back there, and at first unsure he wanted to go back there. It was embarrassing, to have lost control so thoroughly. But with a little time he had returned to studying there again, rather than in his new rooms, enjoying the age old familiarity of the bookshelves and the quiet noises of other people studying in other alcoves.

It was as he was entering it one day, with three books to return under his arm, that the sight of Jane looking at star maps made him duck his head, the movement sharp and jittery enough that it probably stood more chance of drawing her attention than deflecting it. The idea that she would see him was horribly embarrassing — he wasn't sure whether it would be worse if she fled from him or pitied him.

And sure enough, she looked over at him. A bit wide-eyed. Loki stared fixedly ahead of himself as he surrendered the books, sought out the new ones, and went to his favoured table. Currently favoured. Less private than he used to choose, because it only put them all on edge if his handlers had to crowd him to keep him in sight. Spacious, though, which had its own advantages. Perhaps he should leave instead, but he did live here. He would not be run out of the library by Thor's mortal lover. Let her go, if she would.

Jane... went back to her star maps? She neither stared nor rose to her feet, anyway. He glanced over after a few minutes of poor concentration, to make certain she wasn't staring, only to find her head coming up at the same moment. Loki dropped his eyes back to his book, feeling his cheeks heat faintly. He had no need to worry about a mortal's opinion or reactions.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her look up and off to the side where one of his handlers stood, then carefully reduce the map to its storage size - so she'd started learning the other tricks of the library - and pick it up, along with a large book he recognized about the process of cataloguing the stars. So it was to be a controlled retreat, not a disorderly flight -

- She came toward him. Halted on the far side of the table, but propped her side against it. It would have been her hip if she weren't so improbably short. 'Hi.' A pause. 'How've you been?'

Loki looked down at his book, the words making no more sense to him now than the runescript that was their default had made to Jane. What could he really say to that? Did she mean it as a thoughtless formality, or was she asking how his treatment was progressing? Whether he'd recovered from being knocked unconscious after trying to attack her, or whether he was likely to attack her again?

'Better,' he settled on, unsure whether it was a lie, but attempting to reassure her he wasn't going to jump at her. 'And yourself?'

He wanted to ask if he'd hurt her, but that would mean bringing up precisely what he was trying to avoid. She didn't look hurt. When she'd been looking at star maps she'd looked more comfortable than anyone in a world of people bigger, stronger and more advanced than them had any right to, as if she could belong here. Now she looked less comfortable, but only because of him.

'Pretty well. It's fascinating here.' She did look a bit more relaxed. Animated. 'I've been watching some of the Bif-' She broke off suddenly, looking wary, and then apparently decided it would be more awkward to stop and finished, 'Bifrost repair. My God, I just keep sticking my foot in my mouth around you, don't I?'

Loki swallowed, remembering the stars around him as he fell, the shimmering, shattered, Bifrost above. Thor standing there, watching as Loki fell. Odin — Odin had been there too, but Loki could not remember his expression. Whether he had been sad at seeing Loki cast into the abyss, or angry with Thor — no, Loki did not remember anger — for his attempt on Loki's life. Perhaps he had been too far away to make out.

'All Asgard is full of memories,' he said. 'I cannot avoid them.'

'A lot of memories, I guess. Still.' She was watching him, but the wariness, surprisingly, had eased. Was that pity? She looked at his books and then at the table, but not directly in front of her, and added, 'Mind if I join you?'

That was unexpected. Most people avoided him, more out of embarrassment, he thought, at seeing one of their princes reduced to this state than fear. His family were the exception and he didn't want to see them, couldn't understand Thor's attitude towards him or bear the shame he must have caused his parents. Loneliness was something he hadn't even been aware of until someone showed signs of wanting to spend time with him.

'If you wish,' he said. Then, uncertainly wishing to counter the coldness of that response by making conversation, 'Did you find anything interesting in those maps?'

'All of it,' Jane replied promptly, sitting down where she could expand the map again without running it into his books. 'Although I admit I'm still working up to the more technical stuff. The translation thing is brilliant, but just because it shows up basically in English doesn't mean the terminology is all familiar.'

Loki nodded. 'Some of the stars that can be seen from the Bifrost are not visible from elsewhere in Asgard,' he said. A scrap of knowledge that might interest her enough to keep her here. It had once interested him enough that he'd learned to navigate by those stars. 'If you were wondering what the term askreisa meant.'

Jane did look interested. Jane looked fascinated. 'I haven't been able to get very far into the mathematics of it,' she said, 'but that... isn't just the angle, is it? The solid part of the bridge is already not fully in the same space as the rest of Asgard?'

'Yes. Askreisa are the stars that can be seen when the two spaces start to overlap. The mathematics are extremely complex.' She was mortal, he wondered whether she even had the capacity to understand the mathematics. Or the time to learn. 'They will be used in the Bifrost repairs, most likely, to line it up.'

He wished for a moment that he could see those repairs, even as he wondered whether he'd dare to even tread near the Bifrost again. No one would let him out among crowds of spectators or people doing delicate work, though, so the point was moot.

Jane was staring at the map as if she could will the askreisa to explain themselves to her. She took a pad of thin paper out from under the book and started writing... something... on it. Not words. Loki rubbed his fingers together, trying to banish the memory of how odd Midgardian paper felt and wondering what had possessed Jane to bring it with her. 'Transition region of an Einstein-Rosen bridge,' she muttered under her breath, then looked up a bit sheepishly. 'Ah, sorry.'

'You do understand the mathematics,' said Loki, realising too late that he'd sounded exactly as surprised by that as he felt. He leant over to look at her pad. The notation was not Asgardian standard, but it was clear the maths was correct. What Jane lacked was knowledge and, with access to the same information any Asgardian would have, she wouldn't lack it for long.

Jane grinned, apparently unoffended, and turned the pad to face him. 'I've been working with wormhole theory for a few years now. Although not with actual navigation in mind. Not with any confirmed observations for most of that time, actually. The transition region resolves some questions.'

'You spent years studying something you weren't sure anyone had ever seen?' Loki asked. That, he felt, took a special kind of dedication.

'Yes. Well-' She took her pad back and started writing again. 'I had some data that matched... a portion of the theories. There were some other predictions that didn't quite work out. But there wasn't another good explanation for the observations, either, so I was looking for more of them.'

At which point Thor had fallen out of the sky. 'I see.' Loki stood up. 'One moment,' he told her. It took a little longer than that, but not much, before he returned with a book about the mathematics of different types of space interacting. It wasn't specific to the Bifrost, although it was mostly based on observations made there. He slid it across the table to her as he sat back down. 'This is a good place to start, if you want to focus on space transitions. It also has a glossary.'

'Ooh.' She opened it, added, 'English, please,' and grinned as she watched the text transform, then looked back up at Loki. The smile faded, and his stomach dropped with it, until she said, 'Thank you.'

'It's fine,' he said. 'I hope it's helpful to you.' He looked back down at his own books, assuming Jane would want time to study the one he'd brought her.

She did. She was still there three hours later, in fact, and still taking notes on that ridiculous paper. His handlers had found various things to do without taking their attention fully off him - Loki occasionally wondered if they'd been selected for being able to put up with long periods in the library.

None of them spoke until Loki's stomach growled violently. Jane looked up, a bit startled. 'Getting late, I guess?'

'I suppose it is.' It probably wasn't actually past dinner time. Loki's handlers tended to be insistent about regular meals, and Thor would probably have come to find Jane if she was about to miss a meal. He glanced across at Birla, feeling a rush of pride that she was actually reading a book instead of watching him and then embarrassment at being proud that he was trusted in semi-public as if that was an accomplishment.

Birla looked up at him. 'It's nearly dinner time. Another ten minutes and I would have said so,' she told him, voice professional as always.

'I guess I should go,' said Jane.

'We both should.' Loki gathered his books together and stood up. 'It's been a pleasure.' He didn't ask whether she'd be in the library again soon - and not just because the answer was rather obviously yes.

Overlapping Spaces

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by Khilari

Part 3 of 37

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