Continuing Tales

Overlapping Spaces

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by Khilari

Part 36 of 37

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Overlapping Spacesl

Jane walked onto the plane to New Mexico keenly aware that the SHIELD agents filling it had to find her relationship with Loki deeply peculiar at best and possibly treasonous, and rather glad to have Birla to sit next to. She was expecting the flight to be quiet and awkward, or perhaps full of talk that didn't involve them; rather to her surprise, Birla decided to be sociable and the agents responded. She gave the absolute basics of her job and made it clear she wasn't discussing details, which they took... probably unsurprisingly well. Still, Jane decided to personally stay out of it.

The SHIELD plane stopped in Roswell - Jane made no jokes but determined she was going to ask about that later - and they were driven to Puente Antiguo, where Jane insisted on finding a restroom and impulsively bought both a very late lunch and a tomato. She still habitually carried her wallet, which was usually silly, but on reflection she was relieved to learn that her credit card hadn't been demagnetised by all the high-energy shenanigans. Then on out into the desert to the Bifrost site, a shout to Heimdall, a whirling storm and rainbow light and home.

Jane's thoughts tripped over themselves when she realised what she'd just thought. This wasn't her home. Puente Antiguo was more like it. Still, she'd been living here for weeks and it was easy to slip into thinking of even a hotel room as a provisional home if you travelled enough.

When they reached the palace, they were conducted to see Odin and Frigga - privately, not an audience. Birla, with some visible chagrin, handed over the silver bracelets. Odin raised an eyebrow and Jane blurted, 'There really wasn't a good time.'

Odin accepted the bracelets. 'Loki has been sleeping essentially since he arrived and I expect him to continue about as long. Birla, you may refresh yourself and resume your duties.' As Birla left, he turned his eye to Jane and her tomato. 'I would like to hear your version of events.'

So she explained. And apologised profusely for taking Loki to see Malekith and screwing everything up, until Frigga stepped in to agree that she shouldn't have but they were glad he hadn't tried going alone, which silenced her for a long moment.

Speaking of their stopped-halfway journey with the tesseract made Frigga go pale and Odin look greyer, and she chewed her tongue to stop herself from babbling speculations or questions about where they might actually have been. And then, finally, they insisted on feeding her again and she gratefully got some sleep as well.

She woke up grabbing for a pen because she had dreamt she was forgetting everything the tesseract had shown her. Thor accepted her absent-minded explanation and coaxed her as far as a robe and desk before leaving. Jane spent the morning galvanised into a fever of writing. Most of the afternoon as well, as she discovered when a knock on her door was followed by Loki's voice saying in exasperation, 'I cannot believe you left her to her own devices after-!'

At this point she interrupted him by opening the door. 'I realise we're comparatively fragile but I'm not going to starve to death in a day.'

Thor chuckled and stepped past Loki, who didn't flinch, to kiss her. 'You should dress and eat, though.'

She shot her notes a longing look, but her stomach growled. 'Okay, okay. I got through the visions and into theorising a couple of hours ago anyway.'

'That can definitely be left for later, then,' Loki told her.

'I'll just get dressed then. Be with you in a minute. Oh! Hang on.' She whirled to scoop up the tomato and handed it to Loki. 'This is the base ingredient of the, ah, red ooze.'

Loki took the tomato and looked at it suspiciously. 'Thank you,' he said dubiously. 'Am I meant to eat it?'

Jane couldn't help giggling at his expression. 'I just thought you might like to see it. They are edible raw but I'd recommend slicing it rather than just biting in, the juice will run. I'll be right back.' She shut the door on Thor suggesting they could share it out for curiosity's sake so she wouldn't feel alone while she ate her late lunch. The mental image of Thor, Loki, and presumably Loki's minders all solemnly trying a slice of tomato to keep her company while she worked her way through Asgard's enormous idea of a picnic lunch nearly incapacitated her for a minute with what she hoped was silent laughter.

Once she got control of herself, she was able to emerge fully dressed in a matter of minutes, only to find several of Loki's minders inspecting the tomato, which nearly set her off again.

'We sent to the kitchen for your meal already,' Thor told her, rescuing her from the incipient fit of laughter. 'The choice was clear, as you missed the mammoth roast at lunch. It was excellent.'

...That didn't completely help. 'Well that should be interesting,' she said, her thoughts abandoning spatial anomalies to wrestle with the idea of eating mammoth. The mammoths weren't extinct here; they were domesticated. And apparently delicious. This wasn't any stranger than wearing one.

'I should have realised you would not send for food,' Thor said ruefully.

Loki gave him an exasperated look that expressed yes you should without actually saying it.

'It's very nice of you both to check on me,' Jane said, managing to get the whole sentence out without giggling at them. Apparently the mix of hunger and tesseract-related euphoria was making her giddy instead of grouchy, although she had a feeling Thor's joy about being companionable with Loki was probably bubbling contagiously just under the surface. Oh dear, that sounded peculiar. 'Maybe we could go outside?' She turned back for her notes.

'I'm, ah, only allowed in a few parts of the garden. At present,' Loki told her, sounding a bit embarrassed about it. 'But we can go outside, as long as we don't go far.'

'Oh.' She paused. Yesterday. Right. That did kind of make sense, after yesterday. 'Okay... you lead the way, then?'

Loki took them to the part of the garden they'd first eaten together in, the time Thor had arrived looking for her. Whether he was thinking of that, though, she couldn't tell. 'I owe you an apology,' he told her as they walked. 'For kidnapping you. I've been told to find appropriate gifts to recompense my attendants. I'd offer you a gift, too, if I knew what you wanted besides knowledge I'd give you already.'

'I, um...' Jane shook her head, briefly unable to call to mind any thoughts other than my life has gotten so weird and I bet somebody makes a parody greeting card for this situation. 'I have no idea. Although if it helps any, if you had let go of me, I suspect I'd have chased you.'

'Possibly. I would certainly have been in a great deal of trouble without you.' He smiled guiltily at her.

'Glad I could help. Just please don't ever do that again.' It was exactly the same garden; the green lilies were still blooming, and Thor, who'd flown to it rather than walked before, was at last looking around in recognition. 'And - thank you for...' Not killing anybody. 'Being reasonable. On Earth.'

'I think I can promise never to try that again.' Loki sat down by the lilies and gestured to a space beside him. 'And they were quite reasonable as well. Or perhaps it would have been more reasonable to treat me as more of a threat and have the Hulk attack me.'

Jane sat down. Thor cast himself to the ground on her other side and unfolded her lunch, which did smell delicious, with a flourish. 'You did strike only at their weapons rather than their persons,' he pointed out to Loki. 'They were circumspect in return.'

'Bruce doesn't actually like transforming, either,' Jane said. She swallowed a grape, then attacked the slice of mammoth. 'And it's not the greatest move to prod him into it against his will.'

'I'd imagine not,' said Loki. 'You may be due to receive something from Queen Alflyse, too. Odin made it clear we do not want Malekith back, and she can find some other form of compensation. You were an injured party.'

'I am so glad she's not just sending him here again,' Jane said. 'Although I admit I'm a little worried what she might come up with this time.'

'I think Odin included some fairly strict guidelines. And explicitly requested no live animals.' Loki leant back against the tree they were under. 'I could pick some things out for you which are absolutely safe and unmagical.'

'I'd appreciate that.' She paused. She could imagine there might be a lot of guidelines, but the specific one named left her curious. 'Live animals?'

'Alfheim has several valuable animals that are best avoided. Unicorns for instance. Or firebirds.'

'Unicorns are real?' Jane asked, absurdly delighted to hear this. 'And dangerous, yes, I got that part, what are they actually like?'

'About as tall as a horse, but more like a deer in body although they have horselike heads. With metre long horns and enough strength to ram it through a tree if they miss ramming it through you.'

That actually did sound familiar. Which might not be surprising, given the shadow-overlap included Earth. 'I can see why having one delivered could be a bit too exciting.'

'Just a bit. Their horns are valuable for purifying water, but it's preferable to not have them arrive still attached to the unicorns. Besides I can do that with runes. Or at least make sure any liquid placed in them becomes pure water.' He grinned. 'Useful for both camping and really annoying everyone at banquets.'

Jane burst out laughing. 'Now that one would be useful for me at banquets, especially once it gets noisy. I've had to ask for water three times before anybody believed they'd heard me correctly.'

Loki smiled happily at her. 'I know what to give you as a present then. I have spares.'

'Well, thank you,' Jane said.

Thor put in cheerfully, 'Just make sure you don't pick one that turns it into serpents instead.'

'I shall be careful,' Loki told him, sounding quite cheerful too. Jane wondered if he really did keep drinking horns on hand to turn wine into serpents. He turned to Jane. 'How are you enjoying the mammoth?'

'Delicious,' she said, after chewing and swallowing, 'and still a little surreal.'

'Maybe I should try the tomato, and then both of us can be puzzled by our food,' Loki offered with a smile.

'I'll slice it, if you like,' Thor offered. Loki surrendered the tomato; Jane consolidated her grapes with her bread to provide a plate, which turned out to be just as well since it was a juicy one. Watching the Asgardians pass around the tomato slices was almost as funny as she'd imagined it.

'...It's still strange,' Loki pronounced, after eating his slice.

'It is interesting,' Thor said reflectively. 'This is the raw form of ketchup? I believe I prefer it this way.'

'Oh, I forgot you'd had that. Yes, it is.'

Loki's minders - attendants - received their slices with varying reactions. One whose name Jane hadn't caught laid her seeds out in a short row and asked if they were difficult to grow. Jane told her she didn't think so, but this one was probably a hybrid and there was no telling if the seeds would turn out well.

'I will have to show you some of the farms,' Thor said, amused. Then, a little wistfully, 'In the few days you have left with us...'

Loki looked up sharply. 'When are you going?' he asked, sounding reluctant to put words to it.

'Ah-' Jane stopped to make sure she still had the count right, after yesterday's jumping around. 'Nine days from now.'

'Oh.' Loki sounded relieved, if still a bit sad at the thought of her going. 'I'll be able to see you off.'

She blinked, then smiled at him. The increased restriction of his movement apparently had a scheduled end. 'That will be nice. And-' She was going back by Bifrost. Seeing her off, if the timing mattered at all, meant he was planning to go out to the Bifrost, with Thor at that. She hesitated over saying it, but he had appreciated the assurance that someone else was seeing his progress, before. 'Not something I'd have expected, even a few weeks ago.'

'I made it back over the Bifrost, with Thor, and without my magic restricted,' he told her, sounding proud of himself. 'I think I can manage it again.'

'We will both be glad to have you there,' Thor told him warmly.

Loki looked down and smiled.

They all made the most of the next eight days.

Jane didn't get a lot of time alone to think, which was just as well since during the longest stretch she spent working on her own, she caught herself contemplating whether she could get another chance at the tesseract to answer one of the questions. (She picked up all her work and went to find Loki instead. He didn't know the answer, but they figured it out a couple of hours later, and that was more satisfying anyway.) She talked to Birchta about that, too, and she asked for and received a letter for Earth psychologists about the mental effects of certain types of magic.

After the Bifrost's official reopening, Thor resumed a whirlwind schedule of events, suggesting one or two per day - including a mammoth farm, where she witnessed the delightful spectacle of a very happy woolly mammoth having its undercoat removed in enormous sections with a large rake. And trumpeting. (He also informed her in passing that Jotunheim had made off with its own population of them and there had for a period of several millennia been a problem with recipe smuggling.)

They also - individually and with the warriors four - made a point of still spending time with Loki. Once, as she was walking through the palace to the library with him, Jane saw servants setting up two statues of dogs, facing one another. They didn't exactly look out of place, being gold and stylised like everything else in the palace, but she wasn't sure why they were being put in an otherwise unremarkable corridor.

'Magnetic field,' Loki told her quietly.

She looked at the statues again. 'Oh. There's an elf path there?'

'Yes. I told Odin where they all were. They are leaving one, though, so the elves can't accuse us of hostility in keeping them all out.' He smiled. 'In front of the throne room. Not a good place for sneaking in.'

'But perfect for official visits,' said Jane. 'I assume you're going to tactfully not remind them you can still get through.'

He rubbed two fingers over the bracelet on his right wrist, but didn't pull at it. 'Eventually.'

They walked on.

Within a week, there were two vehement arguments among the larger group, one about a point of literary interpretation (Jane was left rather stunned by the whole thing) and the second rather more serious; it started with verbal grievances past and ongoing and exploded into shouting about betrayal and broken oaths. After everyone else but her and Thor stalked off, Loki's stiff outrage suddenly melted into pale horror, and even though she'd thought he was in the wrong about half the time Jane rested a hand on his back and felt him shudder.

When they came back the next afternoon, Loki said, 'I wasn't expecting you,' as if he wasn't sure whether to be pleased or not.

'Loki,' said Volstagg patiently, 'sometimes you don't take nearly enough for granted.' Which appeared to give Loki food for thought.

The day arrived, and everyone came to see her off - even some of the Bifrost repair technicians and engineers she'd pestered. They wished her luck. Odin and Frigga wished her well, and Frigga clasped her hands and told her to return soon. She got hugs from Sif, Fandral, Hogun, Volstagg and two of his children, and Loki - and a kiss goodbye from Thor, which broke up in laughter when Loki remarked that he really thought they should just get married.

Heimdall looked at her with subtly amused golden eyes and said, 'I believe the Midgardian phrase is "Be seeing you."' He fixed his sword into the pedestal, and light and wind took her while she was still grinning delightedly. When the storm subsided she stood under the blazing desert sun, and it felt almost like waking from a dream.


She dragged her luggage out of the Bifrost mark and rubbed her fingers over the bound-together heavy paper from her Asgardian notepads. Nowshe had work to do.

Overlapping Spaces

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by Khilari

Part 36 of 37

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