Continuing Tales

Overlapping Spaces

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by Khilari

Part 4 of 37

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Overlapping Spacesl

That had gone... surprisingly well. Jane wasn't sure she remembered ever being more nervous than when she'd gone over to Loki's table, even if she'd gotten a nod from one of his minders first. Thor was startled and delighted when she mentioned it and insisted on telling Frigga about it. Frigga's smile was encouraging and hopeful and the faintest bit shadowed.

After that, Jane felt uncertain in a different way about the whole thing, but the next time she happened across Loki, she went to sit at his table anyway. And if they passed the next few hours in total silence, well, they were in a library.

The time after that, she was absorbed in her own studies until she heard a throat cleared, almost inaudibly, and looked up to find Loki standing there. She smiled and gestured to the table. His tiny answering smile and the tension that released between his eyebrows felt like victory.

There had been several days between each meeting. Thor was busily introducing Jane to wonders of Asgard other than the library, with periodic input from his various friends - which led to a remarkable variety of activities ranging from stargazing (at the best locations other than the Bifrost) to the Asgardian equivalent of a rodeo, which proved to involve pigs, goats, and the occasional giant cat for extra challenge. She politely but flatly declined a second day at the latter.

'I don't mind if you want to go,' she added, as all five of them looked disappointed. 'I have plenty to do. Study the Bifrost, go to the library...'

'You might want to be careful there,' Fandral said with unwonted seriousness. 'I assume Thor told you about Loki - that's always been one of his haunts.'

'I know,' said Jane. 'We've talked a few times.'

There was a general pause. Then Sif said, 'You've been talking to Loki?'

'Well, briefly...' Jane trailed off. 'Haven't you?'

'Not much, after everything,' Volstagg said with a sigh. 'He sees us as traitors, and there... seems to be little to say that won't make things worse.'

'Oh.' Jane looked down. 'He found me a book on the mathematics of spatial overlaps.'

There was a slightly different pause, which Sif broke again. 'I take it that's a good thing?'

Jane burst out laughing. 'Yes. Yes it was.'

'I for one am glad to see them getting on well,' Thor said firmly. Jane shot him a grateful look.

'It's probably good for him,' Hogun said unexpectedly. 'Just be careful.'

On that mildly ominous note, Thor and his adventuring party set off for the rodeo again. Jane chuckled and went out to the Bifrost instead - by this time, she'd been back and forth enough times to ride a calm and surefooted horse there, although it was just as well for her that the stable hands did not believe in letting anyone but an expert saddle the horses. She spent a nice morning with Heimdall and eventually went back, arriving windblown and hungry.

The palace's customs for mealtimes other than feasts were, she had been assured, flexible. Certainly it was impossible for everyone to eat at once. Odin tended to preside intermittently and eat in his study or privately with Frigga otherwise. There was an extended period where staff ate in shifts and courtiers in stages, or something like that. At any rate, Jane had known she would arrive a little too late for the meal at table when she met Heimdall's lunch delivery on her way back.

She asked instead if it would be a problem to take something out to the gardens and was, rather to her surprise, presented with a package already prepared for just that purpose. She was wandering out through the paths, looking for a good spot, when she saw a familiar person inspecting a green lily while he ate.

Jane turned and went through the open gate into that garden, and Loki looked up at her in surprise.

'You're eating alone?' he asked, noting the package in her hand.

'Possibly not anymore?' she said with a shrug. 'If you don't mind the company, anyway.'

'You're welcome to join me,' he said.

'Thank you.' She settled cross-legged on the ground and started to open the package, which promptly took over the process and unfolded itself into a small table with a golden tablecloth and considerably more food than ought to have fit into it, including two roast chickens. 'That... is more food than I was expecting.'

'Weren't you hungry?' Loki asked, attention seeming to be back on the lily.

Jane blinked. 'Yes, very, but I... can't actually eat this much. I'm pretty sure Asgardian digestion is operating by a different set of spatial physics than I'm used to,' she added, only half joking, 'but that's further than I want to go in interdisciplinary research.' Loki, she noticed, had what appeared to be a similar table, but with about half as many plates, folded back down on itself.

She looked around at his minders - one or two of them caught her eye and nodded or waved a small greeting, but most didn't react, even though she had no doubt they were aware of every move she made. She was never quite sure how to act toward them. Ignoring them seemed rude, but acknowledging and talking to them seemed strange when they were assiduously fading into the background. Like clapping for the stagehands at a play. They had lunches of their own, mostly eaten and folded neatly flat again, and most of them larger than hers. 'Weren't you?'

'No.' The word was clipped and very flat. One of Loki's hands came to rest palm down on the ground, as if he might need reassurance that it was there.

Jane paused, blinking at him. 'Okay.'

Loki relaxed slightly, hand curling into a more natural position. 'Have you been enjoying Asgard?'

'Very much.' Daunting as her lunch might be, she was hungry and it looked delicious. She wasn't going to finish it, but she might as well start. 'But I have to admit - one day of the hog rodeo was enough for me.'

Loki let out a rather startled laugh. 'I salute you for your patience in enduring it at all.'

'It was interesting. You know... once.' She grinned at him, even though the reasons not to hovered at the edges of her mind. 'So what is it you've been doing? -Studying,' she clarified hastily. She didn't want him or anyone else to think she was prying into... anything else.

'Poisons. The library has a surprising number of books on the subject.'

Jane looked at him for a long moment and wondered if he was pulling her leg. She didn't quite think so. Of course, he'd said it in front of his minders and none of them seemed the least bit alarmed. 'Well, no wonder you don't have much appetite.'

Loki looked almost put out by the answer, as if he'd been hoping for more of a reaction. 'Not all poisons are administered internally.'

At this point unwilling to give him one, Jane just nodded amiably. 'I know. Even my required chemistry classes were pretty toxic.'

Loki subsided. 'I'm sure your life has been more interesting than mine, lately,' he said after a pause. 'Or has it all been rodeos and sparring rings as Thor mistakes his interests for everyone's?'

'The rodeo was yesterday,' she said. 'In the past week alone I've been taken to three wildly different restaurants, two plays, an extremely loud concert, a mock battle that I'm pretty sure was quieter than the concert, a fox hunt with a talking fox who was apparently raised by one of the hounds and came to fall asleep on her afterward, four museums,' two of them devoted strictly to events that took place before recorded human history, 'and about a dozen mountaintops because Thor had to pickexactly the best one for stargazing in each compass direction. That's aside from the Bifrost stuff and my own studies.' And then she could have bitten her tongue, because she'd thought only about defending Thor and she hadn't meant to be unkind by listing that whirlwind for someone who was, however gently, imprisoned.

A bleak look swept across Loki's face. For a moment he looked as if he was going to answer her but couldn't find the words.

Jane couldn't quite bring herself to look at any of his minders, and... maybe it was better not to, really. She let out a quiet sigh through her teeth and then said, almost as quietly, 'Foot in mouth again. Sorry. Maybe I should stick to reading in your general vicinity.' She thought about offering to go, except that he wouldn't have any trouble making it clear, if he wanted her to leave - but he probably wouldn't want to ask her not to, either.

'He said you'd changed him. At least your pretty face has beguiled him into some civilized pursuits.' It was said with an air of dismissal, condescension aimed at her as much as Thor.

Jane shot him an annoyed look. Back to insults, fine. 'I don't know what he's talking about, then. He seems pretty much the same as when I met him, it's just now I know he isn't delusional.'

'What did you do with him when you thought he was delusional?' Loki asked, looking amused at the thought.

'Took him to the hospital. Um, at the time we also thought he was probably concussed.' Or drunk. But probably concussed anyway. She was not interested enough in cheering up Loki to explain about hitting Thor with her car. Twice.

'And,' Loki added with a glance at his minders. 'What did they do with him?'

Maybe she shouldn't have brought that one up. 'Routine treatment I guess. I wasn't there. He, uh... he left.'

Loki sighed. 'Either they decided he wasn't delusional remarkably quickly or Midgardian security is terrible.'

They hadn't told the hospital he was delusional, or for that matter drunk. They'd said he'd been hit by a car and tasered. Which was true. 'You know, I'd say I was telling the story badly, but I'm not sure it makes any more sense the other way,' Jane muttered.

'It would be interesting to know what happened to Thor on Midgard, to turn him so violently to your cause.' Loki was starting to look a little twitchy in a way that his minders apparently recognised as a reason to look more alert.

Jane frowned, not sure what to say to that and starting to feel skittish herself. 'So - what, you don't think he'd have objected to you trying to conquer us before?'

Birla stepped forward, not between Jane and Loki but to a point equidistant from both of them. 'Perhaps you should finish your lunch elsewhere, Jane Foster,' she said.

Loki looked at her with a distinct air of annoyance. 'We're having a conversation here.'

'One which is agitating you, my prince, and it is my duty to prevent that. You will see Jane again.'

'I am perfectly calm,' Loki snapped. ' And I wish to talk to Jane.'

Jane wondered if somebody would have time to tell her how to fold her lunch back up before she went. She'd probably eaten enough and could pick up a plate without much trouble anyway, but she hated to leave it for somebody else to clean up. She shifted to get her feet under her a bit, lifting the plate she'd had balanced on her knee, and looked at Birla and then at Loki again. 'We should probably at minimum change the subject.'

She'd leave if Birla asked her to again, but she wasn't sure if they had a policy for Loki calming down.

Loki looked at Birla again. 'I suppose the alternative to that is unconsciousness.'

'The alternative to that is us asking Jane to leave, because her presence is upsetting you,' said Birla calmly. 'I don't anticipate having to do any more than that.'

'Fine,' Loki bit out. He looked back at Jane. 'My circumstances at present don't lend themselves to interesting topics of conversation.'

Okay. Jane wouldn't exactly call this calm, but it struck her more as grouchy than menacing. She settled back on her heels again. 'Well, I'm afraid the poisons are out. I refuse to ask you about anything gruesome while I'm eating; that's one of the reasons I'm not dating a doctor anymore.'

'Tell me about the Bifrost repairs, since you've found time to watch them.'

Jane sighed a bit at that, though not unhappily. 'It is really hard not to pester people with questions when they're trying to work,' she said ruefully. 'I think it's going well. They've finished building the crystallised light onto the end, and are working on the control chamber, which is a little more comprehensible for me. And, yes, aligning it by the askreisa, like you said.'

'It would be an interesting thing to witness,' said Loki. He looked at Jane with a slight smile, apparently letting go of his bad mood. 'If you tell me what you saw I'll tell you why it was happening. Probably.'

'How long would it take for you to explain about crystallised light?' Jane asked, perking up even though it was entirely possible that the answer would be measured in years. 'Or maybe we could start with the- ack.' The wind picked up and blew a leaf into her mouth, and she coughed and broke off to pull it out.

'You do realise that used magic and that you neither know even the basics nor have any way of using anything you learn?' Loki told her.

'I assume all of it used magic,' Jane said, making a face at the leaf and discarding it on the ground, where it promptly skittered away on the wind again. She pushed her hair back absently; loose strands drifted into her face again. 'That's no reason not to ask.'

'If you're willing to study something you won't be able to use...' Loki said with a shrug. He held his hand out into a beam of sunlight and then let it fall, trying to make the gesture look natural.

Jane watched, puzzled, and then realised he'd probably intended a demonstration that he couldn't currently perform. She opened her mouth to suggest a different question, but before she could get the words out, the wind gusted straight downward, followed by Thor descending from the sky.

'Jane!' he said, then looked around at Loki, who was leaning back farther under his tree and probably hadn't been visible from the air. 'Brother,' he said, sounding just as pleased but slightly less exuberant. A hint of appeal, rather than confidence, that Loki would be happy to see him.

Loki shrank back beneath the trees, eyes flickering to his attendants, to Thor, to Jane. 'I am not your brother,' he said, voice low and vehement. He stood up, looking off balance in a way that went beyond the metaphorical, as if the ground was not quite steady under him.

'Loki...' Thor said, sounding pained and floundering, so that Jane's heart went out to him. He'd hung the hammer back on his belt, and his hands were spread, almost pleading. There was nothing in his body language to account for Loki looking like he expected to be hit. 'I am still yours.'

'And if I had either my knife or my magic I would show you how little that matters to me.'

Birla stepped forward, between Thor and Loki, and for all Loki had been the one making threats he looked relieved. 'Please, Prince Thor,' she said. 'I know you mean well, but I must ask you to leave.'

Thor looked wounded and a little mutinous, like he was going to be stubborn about it. Jane sucked a breath in between her teeth, then stood up abruptly and handed him the second, untouched chicken. He still looked miserable, but at least distracted. 'Help me out with this?' He stooped down and did something that caused the remains of her lunch to pack itself, and she tugged a little at his arm, toward the exit. This just hurt to watch. 'So. What did you want to ask me?'

Overlapping Spaces

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by Khilari

Part 4 of 37

<< Previous     Home     Next >>