Continuing Tales

Overlapping Spaces

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by Khilari

Part 5 of 37

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Overlapping Spacesl

Loki wondered sometimes whether his handlers knew Thor had tried to kill him. They were sympathetic about his desire not to see Thor and denied any of Thor's requests to see him, but that didn't mean they thought he was being reasonable about it. He hadn't asked them, though, because if Thor and Odin had both lied to them then what chance did he have of being believed? Either they knew, and did nothing about it beyond politely asking Thor to stay away from him, or they were deceived and would remain so.

Thor's sudden appearance left him jumpy, something his handlers accepted as a matter of course. Holda asked him about it later, when he was meant to be talking to her. Loki responded with a stream of invective against Thor which was very satisfying to deliver and gave them nothing to use against him. They did notice, of course, that he didn't ask to go into the gardens again after that.

He did continue going to the library though — it was somewhere there was no chance of running into Thor by accident and he didn't think Thor would seek him out. Poisons had been set aside for now. At first his mentions of which common flowers had poisonous parts or could be poisonous in combination had got him restricted from certain parts of the gardens and kept his handlers on their toes in others. Then someone had actuallyread the books, or possibly asked an expert, and realised how much of his information had been invented.

So he was browsing for another topic of study. Sleight-of-hand? They already knew quite well how good at that he was — which was why they now gave him injections instead of pills.

He went around the end of a shelf and nearly ran into Jane turning away from it. She jumped back a bit with a muttered apology, then looked up, and he realised with some surprise that she hadn't recognised him until then. 'Oh, hi.' She tilted her head. 'So, am I in completely the wrong section for an introductory magic text?'

Loki couldn't help laughing. 'That may be an Alltongue issue. This is the section for false magic, sleight-of-hand.'

Jane smacked her forehead and put the book back on the shelf. 'And when you put it like that, even I can tell that is not the same thing as magical illusions.' She looked up at him again and added, with a hint of self-mockery but surprising cheer despite it, 'Help?'

'It's this way.' Loki put a hand on her shoulder to steer her in the right direction, and it didn't occur to him until he'd already tugged her lightly around that this might be alarming coming from someone who had attacked her once.

She didn't seem very alarmed, though. She caught her breath minutely and glanced up at him in surprise, but she moved under his hand without tensing, most of her attention seeming to go back to the shelves. 'Somehow, I hadn't guessed people who can do actual magic would bother with stage magic...'

'What does it have to do with stages?'

She blinked and tipped her head back to look at him again. 'On Earth, sleight-of-hand and other kinds of fake magic tricks are a... kind of performance art. Done on stage, often, so - stage magic.'

'Ah. Asgard does not usually make even real magic the centre of a show. Although it is used in shows, as you doubtless know if you've been to a concert.' Curious, that Midgard would make more of magic without even having it. Or maybe that was the point, for people to see something they knew to be impossible, in which case it was tricks, not magic, they had more respect for. 'Sleight-of-hand has its uses. For one, another practitioner can usually sense magic being used, so tricks that don't require the real thing can be used more easily without alerting someone. Or it can be used to bluff - to fake a spell that you don't have the skill for, to convince your captor you are more than you seem.'

Jane rubbed at her ear at the mention of the concert, reminding him she had considered it unusually loud, and listened to the rest thoughtfully. 'You have a lot of experience with the practical applications, don't you?'

'Yes. And I haven't even mentioned escapology, although I'm sure you could work out the uses of that.' That came with a memory - he and Thor spending several afternoons tying one another to chairs until they could both get free. At the time he didn't remember it even feeling like an act of trust.

'Yes, I can.' She looked as if she might be about to say something else, then stopped, looking pensive, and picked a book off the shelf. Loki reached up thoughtfully to one that must have been two feet above her head and pulled down one of his favored primers. She laid the first aside to take it. 'Is this your recommendation, then?'

'Yes.' It didn't, as he recalled, contain too many exercises to complete, instead sticking mostly to the theory.

'Thanks. I'd never have found it without a ladder. And possibly not with one.' She looked so pleased that he actually found himself smiling about it. 'I'll go over and, well, stop interrupting your book hunt now...'

'I don't really know what I was looking for,' Loki admitted. 'Studying magic seems pointless at present.' Assuming he'd ever have magic again seemed unwarrantedly optimistic, and he didn't want to study spells he might never put into practise.

'Ah.' Jane actually looked a bit crestfallen. She didn't have magic at all and was presumably used to it, and she could hardly want him to get his own back, all things considered, so he wasn't entirely sure why.

He sighed, scanning the library shelves with considerably less enthusiasm than he usually had for books. There was very little in his life aside from studying at present and he missed...something. Just going somewhere he hadn't been in a while, possibly, instead of an endless round of the library, his rooms, the palace gardens and a few bits of the palace. 'I suppose I'll find something,' he muttered.

Jane started off a few hesitant steps toward their table - Loki checked himself on that possessive; he probably shouldn't be thinking of it as his table, let alone theirs - and then stopped. 'What do you normally do besides magic?'

'Not much,' he answered, wondering why he was telling her this. 'Magic is a very broad field, there was always so much to learn within its bounds. I know the etiquette required of a prince, the politics Odin insisted we both learn. I know how to fight, for practical reasons. But I never studied them for fun.'

She looked dismayed now. 'Oh. ...I see.'

It was embarrassing. 'I'll find something,' he repeated, more firmly. He was not worthless without his magic.

'Of course you will,' said Jane, and she sounded like she actually believed it, even if she was a little subdued. She did go over to their - the table then, where she opened both the magical theory primer and a book of mathematics.

Loki turned back to the library shelves with a renewed determination, as well as less focus on which subject of study would worry his handlers most. In the end it was a mathematics book that he wound up with — just because he usually studied mathematics for its use in magic didn't mean it didn't have other applications. And it was a subject he wouldn't have to start at the beginning with. He carried the book over to the table and sat down across from Jane.

She glanced up at him with a small, distracted smile, then went back to her notes. He gave them a quick look, upside-down, and noticed she'd switched over to an odd hybrid of Midgardian symbols and Asgardian structure in her equations. 'I can recognise just enough of the title now to say that looks interesting.'

Loki smiled at her. 'I hope so. It's not one I've read before.'

'Nothing like a new math book,' Jane said with a grin.

They started out studying silently together, but fell into sporadic conversation as one or other of them shared interesting things from their books. Their level of understanding was actually quite similar, at least where the maths rather than the magic was concerned, but they had both spent most of their time applying it in different ways — Loki to magic and Jane to physics. Once they realised this the conversation became less sporadic, as they offered more comparisons of their different approaches to problems.

They eventually fell into quiet again for a little while, as the afternoon was waning. It crossed Loki's mind that it might be best to make sure he left for dinner early, in case Thor came to look for Jane. That thought distracted him unduly from his studies, so he looked up a little too quickly when Jane said, in a pensive tone, 'Would it be a bad idea to ask you a personal question right now?'

It was a fairly tactful way to ask whether he'd get agitated, as his handlers would put it, if she did. He felt fine, better than he had in a while in all honesty, and perhaps it was because he owed her for that that he answered, 'It would be fine.'

'What is-' She stopped and started over. 'Why are you so determined not to talk to Thor?'

Loki dropped his gaze, everything seeming to crystallise around him, as if the world might shatter if he said the wrong thing. 'Why should I speak to him?'

'Well, from my side of things,' she said slowly, 'He loves you, he misses you, he's worried about you, and it really hurts him that you won't. I... assume you've got reasons not to. I wondered what they were.'

'You have no idea what he did to me.' Loki's voice was rising, a slightly hysterical edge to it, and he clasped his hands together under the table, trying to keep himself under control. 'He should have been pleased to have Jotunheim destroyed! They all should! Instead — to protect it — to be rid of me —'

Jane was sitting very straight, as if she wanted to lean back away from him and wasn't quite allowing herself. Her hands were clenched one around the other on the tabletop, the visible knuckles white. 'He doesn't want to get rid of you,' she blurted, too fast. 'Nobody does.'

'He threw me from the Bifrost!' Loki bellowed. He was on his feet, books and papers scattered on the floor around him, but he didn't remember standing up. 'He wanted me dead rather than on the throne! It's his fault - his fault they found me, that they're still looking for me.' The Chitauri had forged him into something new, given him a purpose when no one else wanted him, but now he had failed them and they would find him. For a moment he could see the Other, standing in the shadow of a bookcase, watching him impassively. 'And now he speaks of returning to how things were!'

Jane hadn't moved. Surprisingly. She sat still and stiff and said, 'He told me you'd accused him of that. Only he didn't think you believed it. He said you tricked him once into trying to help an illusion that you'd fallen, and then at the end he caught you by Gungnir and you - you let go.'

'That's not true.' Loki was breathing fast now, fast enough that he was starting to feel light headed. He put a hand up to his mouth, as if filtering air through it might somehow help. 'I remember him throwing me. I remember him watching me fall. Of course you wouldn't believe me, you're his lover. No one would believe this of their golden prince.'

She was almost as pale as if she did believe it, staring at him with wide brown eyes. 'At least you don't think I believe he tried to murder you and just don't care. I... you're right, I don't believe he did it. But I, I don't think you're lying, either.'

Loki closed his eyes, forced his breathing to something more even. 'You think I am mad. No, I am mad, I know. But I also know what I remember.'

Jane swallowed audibly. 'If he didn't insist you'd never have done... a lot of things... in your right mind, I wouldn't be talking to you. But I wasn't really expecting you to say it.'

Thor might be wrong about that. If Loki had been himself he'd like to think he would have spent less time on emotional outbursts and demands for people to kneel, as if getting them on their knees would somehow ensure their devotion. But Midgard had needed him. If he had been himself he'd like to think he'd be ruling it now. Saying any of that would probably make Jane hate him.

'I am aware that this is not normal,' he said, gesturing unsteadily at the scattered books. 'At least for me. Thor always tended to throw tables over, but I think he did that on purpose.'

Jane looked down at the table. At which she was still sitting. 'I am... glad you didn't do that. And I thought the coffee mug was bad.'

'There was a coffee mug?' asked Loki, wondering if he'd missed something here.

She shook her head and got up - glanced at his handlers - and then came around the table, stooping for the sheet of paper that had gone farthest afield on the way. 'After his first coffee, he threw the mug on the floor. Not like he was angry, like that was just what you do after a drink.'

'Oh,' said Loki. 'That way of asking for more. It's supposedly a compliment to the drink, but it's rather hard on the cups. Usually it's reserved for special brews, ones that the person giving might expect such a compliment for. Thor is both...inclined to be enthusiastic and to smash things, and overuses it.'

Jane's mouth twitched. Just the tiniest bit, but he saw it before she crouched down to pick up some more of his notes. 'It was a pretty ordinary cup of coffee, but I guess the first time is always special.'

Loki laughed, feeling something in his chest release as he did. The world seemed to come back into focus around him, the library as reassuringly mundane as ever, and he bent down to gather up some of the books himself.

It was once he had them in a pile on the desk that one of his handlers said, 'Prince Loki.'

He looked up, feeling somewhat betrayed that they would interfere after he'd regained his equilibrium. 'What is it?'

'It's dinner time,' said the handler who had spoken to him. She sounded almost apologetic about it, but Loki knew there would be no getting around it. After his time with the chitauri he had a hard time remembering that hunger was meant to be dealt with by eating, not ignoring it until it went away, and his body couldn't handle normal meals in any case. This was being dealt with by feeding him on a strict schedule and insisting he stick to it.

'I see,' he said.

'Since even applied math is sadly non-edible,' Jane said, 'maybe we can get back to it later?'

It was both a surprise and a relief that she'd want to see him again. 'I'll be here tomorrow afternoon,' he offered, trying not to look as hopeful as he felt.

'I'll see you then.'

Loki walked out of the library feeling the normal wave of shame that followed those times he lost control and was left aware of his weakness. Usually it would be followed by avoiding the scene of the breakdown for a few days. This time, he realised, he'd made a promise to return to it the very next day to meet the person he'd been shouting at. And he was looking forward to it.

Overlapping Spaces

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by Khilari

Part 5 of 37

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