Disclaimer: I don't own anything, except the plot. Everything else belongs to Marvel. Not done for profit either, seriously.
Summary: Post Avengers. Banished from Asgard and stripped of his powers, Loki falls through time to meet a young Jane Foster who no longer has stars in her eyes.
A/N: Hey everyone, thank you so much for reviewing! You made my Muse sing and she came up with this. Seriously though, it is always lovely to hear what works and even what does not. Writing is always an enjoyable challenge. This chapter has a change in tense and I'm going to make it permanent. For some reason, I had to write it this way. I hope you like this too!
Over the Rainbow
In his dreams, Loki fights on. The gate has opened, his army is streaming down into Earth's atmosphere and as he stands atop Stark Tower, he feels the wind brush his face, a phantom caress as though in approval of all he has wrought. The pieces are falling into places.
Fires light the city, stretch as far as the eye can see and as he digs in his heels and grapples mightily with his brother, Loki laughs. Concrete, flesh, metal, all will burn as an offering unto him, unto a god the likes of which the earthlings have never seen and they will bow to a mind and arm capable of guiding them, of moulding them into a race that will reach dizzying heights of glory. Asgard on earth. This will be his golden kingdom and it will last for an eternity. From beneath, Loki will reach up and steal the ground from under Odin's feet before he even realises what has happened.
And then too quickly, too fast, it all goes wrong. The shadows come, wrapping the city in darkness and he is left in the void, staring helplessly as reality, what had been his to possess is swept away by a black tempest; it simply ceases to be.
There is a sound, soft at first, but it grows in strength and volume until it is all that exists. It maddens him. Loki slams his hands over his ears, tries to run but finds his feet tethered to the ground. He presses so hard that numbness creeps over his fingers and he can feel them no more but the sound keeps growing as it pours over him, gnaws at him and eats him inside out. It is only when he is being consumed alive that Loki realises what the sound is: he has been screaming all this time.
With a start, Jane comes awake, and realises what it is that has startled her. Her otherworldly guest is groaning in his sleep. Pale, fine features contort savagely and although it is bright outside and within the house, the automatic fireplace is doing a fine job of heating up the room, she shivers. Sitting up on the sofa, she tucks in her feet, clutches a cushion like a shield, and studies him. He looks human, but she knows he clearly is not. Her mind flashes to abandoned essays and a half-written thesis, and for an instant, Jane sees in her mind a brilliant star strewn bridge, tunnels that gleam incandescent like the Aurora Borealis against inky space. And then she shuts it all down, seals it away back where it came from.
"Janey, my little star…"
"What matters is that I saved him," she mutters aloud to convince herself. But then he jerks hard and in spite of the pillows and bedspreads she has placed him on, and the thick quilt she has bundled him in after cutting the wet clothes from his body, the impact is loud enough to be heard. She might have saved him from drowning, but the man is trapped somewhere inside his head. She should wake him up, she really should. Instead, she merely sits there and looks at him and wonders whether she has ever looked like that in sleep. He is her perfect portrait of pain and if she cannot bear to see herself, she will find the traces in him.
A solitary clock sits on the mantelpiece and for the first time, she hears its ticking. Both of them have slept the morning away and it is now mid-afternoon. It has become the norm for her, there is a relief, an end of sorts when she closes her eyes and gives in to the tiredness. She doubts he sleeps for the same reason as she does.
He twists, wrapped in a mix of cotton and satin, and his fingers flex with a franticness that is alarming. His bound hands move as though they are searching for something, someone. This time, she notices the perspiration that beads his brow, slicks down the base of his throat and into his hair. She has never seen hair that black. Darker than a raven's sheen, as though it would suck in all light and colour.
'He might have a temperature. You have to check him.' The thought runs through her head repeatedly. He is only a few feet away but Jane finds there is distance. Already the memory of the morning seems unbelievable; she finds it unbelievable that she had even done anything. He is a stranger and they were her parents. Bitterness like a lash lays open old wounds and in that moment, Jane thinks she would trade his life for theirs if she could have saved them.
The decision is taken from her when he surfaces with a gasp, a half cry that dies immediately upon seeing his surroundings. It is a quick reaction, a highly controlled one. There is no confusion, no vulnerable sense of being lost emanating from him. Instead, what greets her is a hard wariness as he finds her at once. It is uncanny and impressive.
"Hello," she whispers because she has no idea what to do or what would be an appropriate reaction under these circumstances.
Loki does not say anything because he does not trust his voice not to break. His mouth is as dry as a desert, his throat burns like fire and he needs to concentrate hard to stop each image from splitting into two. He can still hear the ghost of a scream. In spite of all this, he is alive after falling to Midgard and will survive to tell the tale. As he stares at the girl who has found him, several things—all alarming—make themselves known to him. The first is that his clothes are missing. Beneath the small mountain of blankets, he is keenly aware that he is as naked as the day he was born. The second is that the mask that sealed his mouth is gone, but the chains on his hands are still present.
Curiosity, the need to know which has always been a drug in his veins, drives him to speak. "You removed the mask?" His voice is little more than a raspy growl.
She nods and Loki looks down, mostly to cover up his shock. For all his might and magic, that slight, almost mousy looking creature has done what he could not perform. What sorcery did she possess? Not all earthlings were completely helpless, and he has learnt to his eternal fury that their powers are not as negligible as he originally thought.
And that is when the third and worst thing occurs to Loki. For when he tries to reach out to touch her with his mind, to feel her aura and peer into her secrets, he finds that he cannot. Nothing happens, nothing stirs; it is as though someone has cut his arms off and he is only discovering it now because there is nothing to obey the given command. Coldness that has nothing to do with his Jotunn heritage touches a part inside him so deep that he has no name for it. Without thinking, he casts the net of his will wider in a bid to move beyond the girl, beyond this dwelling and to his horror, he finds he cannot. There is nothing but the four walls and her. There is no life force to be felt, no complicated web that holds all things together which he can pluck, weave and bend to his manipulations. All is barren. No, he is barren for he cannot feel. And for the first time, Loki knows what it is like to truly be imprisoned.
His face has turned even paler, the lips almost white. Those haunting eyes, at first narrowed with effort to do something she could not hope to fathom, now go wide and glaze over. It is when he begins gasping that Jane realises he is going into shock. He can't breathe.
Later she would wonder if it was the scientist in her that would not let an alien die, or the fact that she was her father's daughter and he had been a doctor. He lets out a particularly ghoulish choking sound and that is the push that becomes the shove to get her on her feet. The varnished wooden floor is hard on her knees as she helps him sit up, pulling away the blankets and tugs him forward, setting him on all fours. Pushing his head down slightly, she tells him to breathe, her hand locked on his shoulder, an arm wrapped around his waist as far as it can go because he is stubborn enough to struggle.
His position, literally and figuratively, is humiliating beyond words. But the girl will not release him and he does not have the strength to fight anymore. Then he realises that sweet, sweet air is filling his lungs and nothing else matters.
Jane does not know how little or much time has passed. She is blissfully unaware, even as she continues to support him, that Loki has considered crushing her throat with his manacled hands, simply to vent his rage at Odin who has stolen his power, or that he thinks he should enslave her so that he has something to use even in this helpless state. Her warm hands on his skin are the worst kind of gall because he needs them in order not to collapse and he wants them gone, destroyed so that no one will remind him he is weak.
Eventually, a lifetime of dissembling and plotting wins out, intelligence silences base instinct and Loki draws another trembling breath. The girl beside him will live, because it is the best way to get what he wants, for the moment. He needs someone to look after him. When he is stronger, he will consider if her life is worth giving to her.
"Who are you?" he asks. Names are always useful. They make one feel known. Names, in the right hands, can be used to cut deep inside a person.
Briefly, she debates the wisdom of telling him her name and then decides there is no harm and it is too late to withhold little bits of information when she has gone and taken a gigantic step already. "Jane. Jane Foster." Beneath her hands, he grows still.
It is his brother's woman. The one that changed him, so much so that Mjolnir returned as a sign of favour that the banished prince was full ripe for kingship. She spoiled everything.
This, Loki decides, is perfect.
And then he realises something is not quite right. Jane Foster had been spirited away before he could get his hands on her and with the tesseract occupying all his time, it had not been worth the effort digging out Jane just to torment his brother. He had thought to do that later, when Earth and all it was lay under his heel. He could take his time then, dragging it out because pain could be pleasure and he fully intended to enjoy himself. And no matter where they had taken her, Jane Foster surely must have known why she was being hidden, must have seen the news broadcast as his army ravaged Manhattan, must have seen him. So why had she helped him instead of calling the Avengers?
"What's your name?"
She does not know him. With some effort, he sits up and she is all too glad to help him, to pull the blankets back over in a bid to salvage his modesty, or so she imagines.
"Loki." She looks very young, younger than in the pictures he had kept. She is also thin enough to have lost the beauty of being slender. Dark smudges colour the delicate skin beneath her eyes and there is something in those brown depths that remind him of how he used to feel at times, when he still cared about Asgard and the concept of family.
"Loki as in the Norse god?" God of mischief, god of chaos. The god who ended a world. It can't be. Then again, he had fallen out of the sky. Jane thinks it might be a good time to start backing away now but she can't because even when sitting down, he looms over her and the thought that staying still might be the best defence just will not leave her head. It occurs to her that she is scared, somewhat.
"You are a clever mortal." It never fails to please him. Fear, on other people's faces, is a beautiful thing.
"What do you want?"
The question makes him want to laugh. "Dear Jane, answering that question could take lifetimes that you and this world do not have." Then he leans in closer. "For the moment though, your help will suffice."
She knows he is not asking. He is telling, for that is what gods do. Jane also learns one other thing. In spite of her trembling, there is a curiosity that might become overwhelming if she does not control it. That, and the fact that after months of nothing, she feels a spark. She feels alive.