Continuing Tales

To Cleave the Stars

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by Hollywithaneye

Part 11 of 19

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To Cleave the Stars

Song(s) of the Chapter: Hurricane, by MS MR & Lover, You Should Have Come Over, by Jeff Buckley

It's never over

She's the tear that hangs inside my soul forever

Jeff Buckley

Change rode in once again on the boiling clouds of the storm to turn Loki's life upside down.

He scarcely noticed the weight of his armor as he strode to the edge of the rooftop, summoned almost without a thought at the first hint that this storm was a less than natural one. His hands felt strangely empty without the scepter he'd been given by the Chitauri, a weakness he was almost embarrassed by. He needed no crutch to face Thor, no alien weapon to compensate for some perceived fault. His magic and wits had been, and always would be, enough.

Like a meteor hurtling to earth Loki saw the crackling streak of Thor plummet from the depths of the thunderheads. Dust and pebbles sprayed into the churning air when he landed, one knee bent to absorb the shock of impact and Mjolnir clutched in his grasp. His scarlet cape and silver armor were saturated with color even in this half-light of night, brilliant despite the curtain of grit as he strode forcefully to the base of the building. He looked magnificent, as always...and Jane's tiny gasp as she crept across the roof was like a thorn in Loki's heart.

"Loki. Brother," Thor called up to him, and his powerful voice carried easily over the collapsing tempest. The stern cast of his features melted into a smile as Jane's dark head appeared by Loki's shoulder, and his voice grew warm. "Jane. I deeply regret that I was not able to see you sooner. You are well, I trust? My brother has not treated you ill?"

Loki steeled his heart against the small smile that had bloomed on Jane's face. "I am," she replied. "He has not."

And it was right there, the moment in which all it would take was a few choice words, and he could lash the joy off of Thor's face with the truth of Jane's duplicity. His mouth was open, the syllables nearly on his tongue, when he felt the clutch of fingers even through his layers of armor - Jane's small hand wrapping reflexively around his arm for balance as she climbed to the very edge of the roof. Reaching for him without thought, with every confidence he'd be there.

And the ruinous phrases were suddenly too large to fit through his throat.

"Thor," Loki inclined his head instead and sneered. "Still clinging to false labels, I see. Do they lighten the burden of your guilt?"

Thor's face fell, and the sparkle faded from his blue eyes as he tore them away from Jane. "You cannot simply wish something to be untrue, Loki. We are brothers in all the ways that matter."

"Pretty words are my specialty, Thor. They suit you ill," he scoffed, arms crossing over his chest. "Why are you here?"

Thor shifted Mjolnir, relaxing his grip upon seeing Loki's momentary willingness to parlay. "To take you home, to Asgard."

"There is no place in Asgard for me, not anymore. You know that as well as I." The words were an irony Loki had been aware of for some time. He would forever consider Asgard his home, regardless of where he was - but it no longer was open to him. He was forever an exile.

With an easy grace he leaped from the roof to stand before Thor, startling a gasp from Jane. He heard as she scrambled over to the ladder bolted to the side of the building and clambered down, glancing over to see her huddling against the building a safe distance away but keeping the two men within view and earshot. Curious as always...but prudent as ever. His lips curled with amusement at her predictability.

He began to circle Thor warily, a wolf eyeing the newcomer. He didn't miss the hateful shackles that swayed and clinked together softly at Thor's waist. It seemed they truly meant to have him back one way or another.

"Whatever spell they've cobbled together to bring you here won't last indefinitely," Loki observed, continuing to pace a measured ring about Thor. He turned to keep Loki in view, but didn't seem eager to offer violence - Mjolnir stayed firmly at his side. "You're wasting time, Thor."

Somehow that got a reaction from Thor. His brows snapped downwards, and worry deepened the lines about his mouth. "Do not make light of the magic that brought me here. I fear it has cost Mother dearly."

Loki narrowed his eyes at Thor, a surge of protective affection for the one Asgardian he still cared about rising in his throat. "How could Odin have let her do such a foolish thing? What can possibly be so important?"

"Eptirmál," Thor said shortly, and Loki blanched at the archaic word. He knew it all too well...a demand for vengeance.

"Who would dare?" He asked hoarsely, but he knew the answer. Had been running from the answer for so very long, across the universe.

"The new queen of the Jotun, Skaldi." Thor's shoulders slumped, and his eyes flattened with despair. "She demands recompense for what you did to Jotunheim. If we do not give you to her, she vows to raze whatever realms you may hide in until you are found."

He would rather die than let Thor see the fear that ran cold claws down his spine. "The Jotun are scattered and decimated. She can scarcely have the resources for such a mad quest," Loki waved a hand dismissively.

Thor shook his head. "Do not be so sure, brother. Thousands were lost, but those remaining have rallied behind her cause. You are more than vengeance to her now - capturing you will solidify her claim to the throne. And we know not what secret passages they can travel between realms."

"So I am to be thrown to the wolves, to save your own hides." Loki's mouth twisted bitterly. "There was a time, not so long ago, in which you would have raised your glass to toast my deeds."

"We decide nothing. Father demands you make the choice yourself. Jotunheim is no threat to Asgard...but what of the other realms?" Thor's hands clenched at his side, as if he fought the urge to throttle sense into Loki. "What of Earth, the people here? You would see them bleed for your crimes? You say that I have changed, and you are right. I no longer have the luxury of being selfish."

It stung, more than he'd ever admit, to have those same words of Jane's thrown in his face by Thor.

"You would set me as Earth's champion then, in a roundabout way?" Loki threw back his head with a bark of humorless laughter. "Someone please save me from the irony." But without permission his eyes slid to the slender form of Jane, drawn in stark relief by the moon against the pale concrete of her building. So very fragile, so very mortal.

He had a moment of madness, the frantic urge to simply snatch her and run. Tear a hole in the universe and hide her away, hide the both of them away until the world made sense once again. The Earth could burn, for all he cared, as long as she was safe.

But she would never forgive him that cowardice.

As if his thoughts had summoned her, Jane drifted closer to the two men. "Thor," she called, arms hugging about her midsection. "There must be some other way." Fear slashed a line between her brows, and her gaze flickered between the both of them.

Thor spared a smile for her, cupping her chin in his wide hand. "You have been most kind Jane, to shelter Loki these past weeks. But this is beyond you. Believe me when I say, I wish there were some other way."

A steady mechanical thrum cut through their conversation, so low that Loki felt it in his chest and through the bones of the earth where he stood. The brilliant sky was marred by the looming silhouette of an airplane, black against the stars like one of Odin's fabled ravens itself. Loki knew that plane - had ridden in that plane, or one just like it. Dread churned his insides, and he was unable to tear his eyes away from its path.

"How has SHIELD found you?" Thor demanded of Loki, his eyes also fixed on the approaching warbird.

How indeed?

He had a nauseating suspicion, one that burned his throat as the bile crept up it and he panted for air, fearing he might truly be sick.

He wrenched his attention from the aircraft and swung in Jane's direction, taking a handful of deliberate steps towards her on legs that had turned wooden. "Oh bravo, Jane." He flung the words at her like droplets of venom and she recoiled from the barrage, staring up at him in confusion.

"What?" she quavered, and Thor grasped her shoulder to steady her as she stumbled back from the fury Loki felt carving itself onto his face.

"Outplayed by an amateur," Loki snarled. "Is this what all your talk of hospitality was about? Just another way to stall, until they showed up someday?" He stalked ever closer to Jane, heedless of the warning arm Thor threw up between them and raked her with a derisive glare, his lip curling in a sneer. "I didn't truly believe you had it in you."

She shoved Thor's arm aside and reached for him. "Loki, you don't think that I-"

He shrank back from her questing fingers. "Don'touch me!" His voice shook even as he shouted at her, and he hated himself for it. Hated himself for faltering at the tears that shimmered in her eyes. This world, this woman...had somehow turned him soft. "Deceiver," he spat, and Jane's breath hitched.

"I didn't!" she protested. "I admit, I planned to at first. But then...then-"

"Enough!" Loki roared, his fingers hooking into claws at his side as if he could tear her words from the air. "I will not listen to your lies!"

He was dimly aware of Thor's fingers squeezing his shoulder. "Have a care how you speak to her, Loki," he warned, voice soft but threaded with steel.

He was drunk on anger now though, reckless and eager for targets. He knocked Thor's hand away and crowded up to his face, their eyes level despite the differences in their build. "You stand up for your ladylove?" Loki drawled the last word, made a mockery of it to spark at the fuse of Thor's temper, knowing better than anyone in the nine realms how to set it off. He slid his eyes in Jane's direction, trailed his gaze lasciviously up and down her exaggeratedly. "It's easy to see how she's wound you around her finger. She does have such sweet lips."

Jane's small cry of dismay carried even over the growing noise of the approaching aircraft, and she pressed a hand to her mouth, as if to hold in the sound. Loki's dark chuckle was cut off by Thor's grip closing about his neck like a steel trap, his face gnarled by barely checked rage as he dragged Loki until they were nose to nose.

"How dare you besmirch her honor with your insinuations?" Thor growled, and shook him for emphasis. "I will wrest an apology from you if I must!"

Loki kindled a crackling sphere of magic between his palms and shoved it against Thor's armored torso where it mushroomed, casting a sickly green glow over the both of their faces that turned them ghoulish in its unearthly light. Thor had time only to glance down before the bubble ruptured explosively, stumbling Loki backwards and throwing Thor to the ground some distance away. He sprang to his feet snarling like a wounded lion, golden hair floating upwards in the wind that began to kick up as he snagged Mjolnir from his waist.

"Do I lie?" Loki called over the rising currents as he righted himself, green fire crackling about his fingertips as he held his power at the ready. For once in their lives he was the one spoiling for a fight - choking on the twisting emotions that filled the empty spaces of his lungs, desperate to distract himself from the feeling that he was drowning. "Do I? Ask her yourself, Thor!"

The silver disc of Mjolnir spinning in Thor's grip faltered, then resumed its circling as he shook his head resolutely. "I will not be poisoned by your games, Loki. And I won't be distracted. You must come home with me." He tensed, the muscles in his legs bunching as he crouched to leap back into the fight.

"He doesn't lie," came Jane's abrupt cry and both men turned in her direction, Thor so suddenly he nearly lost his balance. Her shoulders were rounded in resignation, her lips thin with unhappiness, but her chin was lifted in that tragic pride of hers that Loki knew so well. "It's true. I...I'm sorry, Thor," she finished miserably.

Even the high whine of engines as the airplane set down on the flat expanse of desert couldn't drown out Thor's wordless howl of rage as he hurled Mjolnir at Loki. He saw the weapon coming, the metal glint of it winking promises of agony at him, and rather than dodge he took a step forward.

Into the blow.

It hit him right in the stomach, snatched him from his feet and curled him about the broad head of the hammer until he slammed into the concrete wall of the lab. It stole his breath, turned his guts to fire and his bones to liquid, and he embraced the pain - because it was a far better hurt to feel than the beast that was gnawing at his heart.

Laughter bubbled out his mouth at that, wild humorless mirth with more than an edge of hysteria to it that crushed his chest in its grip. When it had played itself out and he could gasp for air once again he peeled himself from the cracked wall and looked up, to see both Thor and Jane staring at him in dismay.

A woman's voice crackled over a loudspeaker as the belly of the plane cracked open, spilling figures into the night. "Loki of Asgard! Surrender yourself peaceably into SHIELD custody, and we offer you a fair trial."

Like a reoccurring nightmare familiar faces came into focus as floodlights popped on, washing the rocky ground in cold white light. The timeless soldier, his former thrall Clint Barton, the wily redhead. There was no sign of the green cur, which drained some of the tension from Loki's shoulders, but Tony Stark was also conspicuously absent. Until a red and gold streak blasted into the sky from the far side of the airplane and came to hover over the two Asgardians, heat blasting down to ripple both their cloaks.

"Hey, Abel!" Tony's voice sounded odd translated through the metal and speakers of his visor, but clear enough in the now-silent night. "Can't you guys keep Cain here under wraps for more than a month?"

Thor's puzzled look turned into a smile that looked forced, to Loki's familiar eye. "Friends! It is good to see you, but I fear that I cannot allow you to take Loki. This is strictly an Asgardian affair."

"That's funny," chimed in Steve Rogers. "Because from where I stand, you sure look an awful lot like you're on Earth to me."

Thor turned mournful eyes on him. "Do not force my hand on this," he pleaded. "There are events beyond your knowledge at play here."

Anger flared again in Loki's belly, as he watched while they stood around bickering over his fate as if they were fishwives scrabbling for the last turnip at market. At least, in some twisted way, SHIELD wanted him for his own actions. To Thor he was simply what he had always been to the Aesir - a pawn, little better than a bargaining chip in their endless political games.

"I will go nowhere!" he snarled at last, and gathered the sparks of his magic into sizzling bolts he hurled at Thor and the Avengers.

Chaos descended on the desert. An arrow whistled past his cheek as he dodged at the last moment, nicking the ends off a hank of his hair. Hatred gouged deep lines in Barton's face as he reached for a new arrow, and Loki tossed another fragment of energy in his direction, forcing the man to duck. Overhead Thor had knocked Tony off-course with a toss of Mjolnir, the blast he'd been aiming down at Loki sailing wide to tear a chunk from the earth. Pebbles and dirt splashed up to rain down in a hail of missiles, and Jane shrieked as she scrabbled out of the way of the deluge.

"Stop it, all of you!" he heard her cry, but her voice could scarcely dent the din of battle. "Loki, just run away!"

But it too late for that. He'd jabbed the hornet's nest, and he welcomed the oncoming sting.

"Natasha!" Tony called down, pointing at Jane as she tried to skirt the battle and head for the safety of her lab. "Grab her! There's no telling what kind of voodoo mind-trips Loki's put her through."

The redhead nodded sharply and darted across the fight, making a beeline for the physicist and catching her easily. Jane twisted in Natasha's arms, brown hair tangling about her face as she thrashed, but her struggles were useless against the trained agent.

"That hardly seems a courteous way to treat your informant," Loki chided snidely as he threw up a handful of doppelgangers about the battlefield. Steve's shield sliced one into golden wisps and an arrow shredded a second as Loki wove a path across the fight, drawn against his will towards Jane and her captor. From the corner of his eye he saw Thor crash into the side of Captain America, the two tangling on the ground as the blue shield clattered uselessly beside them.

"Oh, please. I figured that one out all on my own, thank you very much," Tony scoffed as he systematically blasted Loki's mirror images back into smoke. "See, your problem is, you think you're so much more clever than humans. And yet somehow we keep figuring you out." He punctuated his jibe with another pulse from his palm that disintegrated the last of Loki's copies.

An icy wash of horror froze Loki mid-step, and his gaze snapped to Jane's like iron to a lodestone. Shame was a cold fist that wrapped tightly about his heart at her bedraggled appearance. Dust coated her delicate features, brown save for the white slashes of tear tracks that traced down her cheeks. Natasha had her nearly at the open belly of the plane now, twisting one of Jane's arms sharply behind her back for control as she frogmarched her to the ramp.

Through it all Jane kept her eyes locked on his, craning her neck to look over her shoulder, sorrow and pain and fear as clear as day in their brown depths despite the distance between them.

Her every emotion scrawled plainly on her face, guileless as ever. The only person who'd always been brutally honest with him, and given the slightest chance he'd doubted her.

A rueful laugh limped from his lips. He'd always thought that stabbing Thor would be the most wretched thing he'd done.

He snatched another of Barton's arrows from the air as it just grazed his cheekbone, drawing a faint line of red over the skin that parted sweetly beneath its keen edge. His fingers tightened compulsively, snapping the fiberglass into shards that dug into his numb palms. Blood welled between his fingers in fat ruby drops that the dry earth eagerly drank, but he felt none of it. He was frantically cobbling together plans, thoughts - some way to free himself and Jane from the snare that had sprung closed around them.

Another blast from Tony gouged a hole in the earth where he'd just stood, cape twitching with the motion of his dodge, and Loki growled with frustration. He couldn't think, too much was going on and his thoughts were buzzing about madly like a swarm of flies. Snarling, he threw up a shield of magic that rippled on the edge of sight and the following white streak of energy from the Iron Man suit bounced off it harmlessly. Hot on its heels, another shaft came whistling from Barton's bow, almost impossible to see against the night sky despite the bright lights. Loki shifted the wall he'd thrown up, trying to angle the arrow back at Captain America, who'd wrestled his way out from under Thor and was readying his shield to toss again.

The arrow skittered off the invisible barrier, but it didn't head in the direction of the blue and red man. He scarcely had time to track its path, to throw his hands up and try flinging a surge of magic at the flying bolt in a desperate attempt to knock it off course when he saw where it was heading - but he was too slow.

Green sparks had just begun to sizzle about his fingers when the feathered end of the arrow sprouted from Jane's chest, like a black flower.

"Jane!" he screamed into the silence that had fallen over the impossibly still night, and it felt as if her name had torn itself free from somewhere deep in his belly, leaving a hole where his stomach had once been. His cry was echoed by Thor, who took off at a dead sprint over the sand toward her slowly sagging body held up only by a horrified Natasha. Loki snatched a handful of reality and tore it asunder, stepping through the gap and coming out at Jane's side in time to catch her limp weight as Natasha wrestled with it.

Blood garbed his hands in scarlet gloves as he lowered Jane to the ground, falling heavily to his knees beside her. Her lashes were dark curves against her pallid skin that hid her eyes from his view, and the pulse in the hollow of her throat fluttered like a crippled bird. Thor skidded to a stop beside him, and his hopeless moan was a blade in Loki's gut.

They'd both fought too many battles to not know the slow creep of death when they saw it.

"You've got ten seconds to get him out of here, Thor," Tony bit out, anger sharpening every syllable. The white circles set in his palms brightened with a low whine as he aimed them both at Loki, and Loki saw his death reflected in the cold, soulless visor of the metal suit.

He was knocked aside by Thor's arm just as the suit loosed its fire, sent sprawling into the dirt by the blow. The dust of the desert coated his face and mouth, turned them as dry as his heart felt in that moment. From the corner of his eye he saw a puddle of red creeping over the hard ground.

Jane's blood. Flowing faster than the parched sand could drink it up.

He tried to roll over but he was trapped by the cage of Thor's arms. Thor's face was pinched as his gaze flickered back and forth between Loki and the prone form of Jane, until with an anguished cry he snatched something small and white from a pouch at his belt and crushed it in one fist. The powder of it sifted down to coat Loki's face, and as the first grains touched his skin the world was swallowed up in an explosion of light and he felt the tug behind his navel of travel between realms.

They crashed, tangled and gasping onto the floor of the throne room, Odin seated in the great shining throne with Frigga beside him. He thrashed blindly beneath the weight of Thor, eyes still wide and fixed by the image of the dry desert earth bejeweled with Jane's blood.

"Let me go, Thor! I have to go back!" Was that his own voice - that high, piteous thing? There was no air in the room, nothing to fill his lungs with save the scalding stench of panic. "I can fix this, I can fix it! I can fix her!" he babbled over and over as he tried to shove Thor away.

He was dimly aware of the hard squares of Thor's armor as he tore his nails upon them, bloodied hands scrabbling slickly against Thor's chainmail as they rolled on the floor. Both too far gone for weapons or magic - just mindless wrestling.

"Brother, please!"Loki's cry cracked at the seams.

Odin and Frigga shot from their seats, the queen pressing one hand to her mouth, and a handful of courtiers gaped at the spectacle. Thor's knee was in his gut and Thor's hands were on his shoulders and he was shaking Loki over and over, rattling Loki's teeth together and jostling loose the tears that pressed hotly against his eyelids. Through his wavering vision he could see Thor's features contort with grief. "They will kill you!" Thor roared and his head fell, chest heaving in great gasping breaths as he pinned Loki to the floor. When Thor lifted his face again, his blue eyes swam with sorrow and his voice was a shadow of itself. "Do not ask this of me, brother. I cannot lose you as well."

All the fight drained from Loki in a rush of tears and he fell limply back against the polished marble of the floor, cool stone soothing against his hot face as his armor melted away. No one stirred, or dared speak. The harsh rasp of his own breath filled his ears, rushing in and out as it had for a thousand years - as it would for thousands more - drowning out every other sound save the muffled sobbing of his mother.

To Cleave the Stars

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by Hollywithaneye

Part 11 of 19

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