Inspired by Artemis Day's (iamartemisday on tumblr) post about the possibility of a Lokane soulmark fic. I don't think it's quite what she had in mind, but I hope I did the idea justice. Enjoy!
Jane Foster was, simply put, an anomaly.
By age five she knew the names of the constellations, and a year later she could point them out in the sky. By seven she had memorized the names and coordinates of nearly every star in the northern hemisphere.
But, even stranger, was that in a world full of soulmarks, Jane Foster was born without a single word on her skin.
The birth was long and hard, and after, her mother allowed her head to hit the pillow. Her father ran trembling fingers through his hair. Doctors checked the baby over and a nurse cooed- a girl. Jane, her mother decided.
The cooing stopped. Jane's father raised his head from his hands.
"There's no mark."
Her mother covered her face.
It wasn't unheard of, the doctors reassured them, especially if a person's soulmate hadn't been born yet.
But as each checkup and developmental milestone passed with no sign of a mark, the doctors' worry grew. Jane was small for her age but incredibly intelligent, yet all they cared for was her unblemished skin.
Her parents held their daughter close and swore that they would love her always, though they couldn't imagine that no one would care for her, already intelligent and charmingly awkward. Non-soulmate relationships were rare but not unheard of, and Jane's parents just hoped their daughter would find happiness.
On Jane's third birthday, on the way to her Uncle Erik's house, a distracted driver t-boned their small Honda.
Jane would never remember the twisting, screeching metal dangling above her, nor the glass embedded in her skin, nor the cloying, smothering smoke.
A fireman lifted her, screaming and kicking, from the wreckage. Jane was scarred but alive.
Her parents were not as lucky.
Uncle Erik took her in. She missed them, in the abstract way a person missed someone they couldn't remember, but Uncle Erik loved her, and she loved him. They were alright.
Jane grew. The doctors rubbed their foreheads and brainstormed with experts, but no one could understand why she remained unmarked.
She never told anyone, but Jane did have a mark. It just wasn't a soulmark. Hidden under her right arm, where no one but her ever saw, a curling scar covered her side. If she squinted her eyes and tilted her head just right, in the mirror it looked like the tree of life she had read about in Uncle Erik's Norse mythology books. The world tree with its all-encompassing branches, and leaves of starlight.
"Perhaps it will darken with puberty," one nurse told her uncle when she thought Jane wasn't listening.
Jane didn't care for the doctors and their predictions. She grew and fell in love with the stars instead.
Puberty came and went with no soulmark. Jane spent her summer nights sketching star charts. In the day, when she wasn't rereading her mythology books, she napped beneath the open sky.
Her time outside tanned her skin, and Jane burned more often than she would like to admit, teenage girl that she was. But when the sunburns faded to freckles, Uncle Erik smiled.
"They're skin stars, Jane." She never complained of a sunburn again.
Her friend Sara Hendley discovered her soulmate the summer before high school began, which, of course, called for an increase in the number of slumber parties.
Jane laid out her sleeping bag in the spot her friends had designated as hers, a familiar ache already perched behind her ribs. She needed the sky. Sara's bedroom had several large windows on each wall, but Jane liked to sleep beneath the south-facing one, where she could watch Cygnus's seasonal trek across the sky.
She settled atop the bedding and searched the clouds for Venus. It was a relief to see it, but the tightness in her chest did not dissipate until she had spotted the first ten stars of the night.
Jane reclined against her pillow and relaxed. To her left, the rest of the girls huddled together, Sara their sole focus.
"What was it like?" Debbie asked. Jane could picture Sara's easy smile and kind eyes, and she wondered- not for the first time- what discovering one's soulmate would feel like.
"When he said it- I was always worried I wouldn't recognize the line, but the moment he finished that cheesy pick up line, it was like all my fears had been erased. Nothing could touch me in that moment." Sara paused, and Jane wondered if she was done or simply searching for the right words. "I guess I could put it this way: it was the strongest sense of relief I had ever felt."
Jane closed her eyes and brushed a finger over her scar. Sara's description matched how she felt each night, waiting for the stars. Jane's heart clenched and she laughed through her quiet tears.
Her first real relationship was with Donald Blake, and it was nothing more than a farce.
They met late one night, right before finals, when Jane was pursuing her doctorate. She hurried through the dark streets to get a cup of coffee before her favorite café closed, folders tucked under her arm, and slammed right into his chest.
She should have known that such a cliché beginning could only mean trouble.
Papers flew everywhere, and it was the start of a long love-hate relationship.
For a long time Jane ignored other people's advice, because what would matched couples know about a pair like them? But the longer they were together, the more Jane realized that you don't have to be soulmates to deal with all sorts of relationship issues.
And she definitely wasn't his soulmate. Donald had a mark, but he kept it covered with an adhesive pad at all times. They- as a pair- were only temporary and they both knew it, but Jane did care for him.
At first, Jane didn't mind. She had someone to coexist with, someone who could share her meals and bed. But as time went by and Donald transitioned into his residency, things changed.
He was rarely home. More nights than not, Jane ate at an empty table and slept in a cold bed. She cursed the city for blocking the light of her stars, and she began to neglect her charts.
One day, she woke up to an empty bed and laid there, staring at the ceiling. What was the point, she wondered, of loving someone who didn't- couldn't- love you back? What was the point of having someone to pay for half the rent if you still lived alone?
Within a week she had her belongings packed. The only thing she left was a note, painstakingly torn from her favorite notebook, telling Donald she had paid her part of the rent for the next month, and wishing him luck in his residency.
She never heard from him.
Jane graduated with her doctorate as a pariah in the scientific community. Her research on Einstein-Rosen Bridges had been enough to ensure that she would graduate, but it did not gain her any favors. Half of the scientific community (at least, half of those who knew of her) believed her to be nothing more than an attention seeking little girl, too obsessed with the idea of science-fiction intergalactic travel to see sense. The other half ignored her entirely.
Uncle Erik was there to cheer for her- though he insisted she simply call him Erik, now that they were colleagues- and took her out to dinner after.
Jane cut into her steak and listened in on the next table over. The one woman thought her husband was having an affair- they weren't soulmates, after all. Jane wondered if the other woman sounded guilty, or if she was imagining things.
"Jane." Uncle Erik's soft voice drew her back to herself, and she put a piece of steak in her mouth. She chewed and tried to enjoy it. "I was offered a teaching position in Oslo. I leave in six weeks."
She stopped chewing. Erik sighed.
"It's only for a year, and I'll be back to visit for Christmas."
Jane remembered the last time he promised something similar. He had ended up in one of his obsessive states and worked through her high school graduation.
She swallowed the half-chewed piece of steak and tried not to gag as the combination of the meat and her emotions threatened to choke her. "Okay."
She cut another piece so she wouldn't have to talk anymore.
Seven weeks later, she was living in a tiny trailer in a tiny town called Puente Antiguo, with an intern who had no idea what astrophysics even was.
"Do me a favor and don't be dead."
That's what she had said after hitting the man- Thor- with her van, right? Or had she said something else?
She must've said something else, because there was no way the supposed god of thunder had her words on his chest.
Jane had watched him exit the bathroom, shirt in hand. She'd caught a glimpse of words on his chest before turning away. It was incredibly impolite to look at someone's mark without permission, and she did try to be polite, most of the time.
But then Thor had picked up a piece of her equipment and Jane swooped in to rescue it. When she turned around, she was eye level with his soulmark, settled in the soft spot between his shoulder and collarbone.
"I did not wish for you to discover the truth in this manner," Thor said, voice solemn and so deep that she imagined, for a moment, that she could feel its rumble in her bones.
Jane blinked, eyes feeling comically wide at the idea that someone bore her words. She stared, and realized that his mark matched her own chicken scratch handwriting. She'd never heard that detail before.
"But," He continued, voice still deep but much brighter, "this is still an occasion worthy of celebrating!"
When Jane refused to go to the bar with him- despite how cute he was when he grinned like that- Thor shrugged and asked Darcy.
"She was quite the worthy drinking partner," Thor laughed. He laid back on one of the ugly patio chairs. Jane perched on the edge of the other, smiling at his story but counting the stars.
He cleared his throat and Jane reluctantly pulled her eyes down from Rigel. He was smiling at her again. He reminded her of a golden retriever whose tail never stopped wagging.
She clutched her newly returned notebook to her chest, sighed, and leaned back against the seat cushion. Thor continued his story and she tried to relax, but even with the star shining brightly Jane still felt tense.
Half listening as Thor listed every drink they had consumed (an impressive amount, even she could admit), Jane flipped through her notebook and sighed again. The diagrams and equations lessened her unease somewhat.
"I cannot recall what it was I first said to you," he said. Jane froze on her drawing of the nearby galaxies. "No matter. You shall tell me when you are ready."
She stared at the diagram without truly seeing it. How could she tell Thor, who bore his mark with pride, that she wore no words?
Jane wondered if Asgardians- if Thor truly was who he claimed to be- ever had cases of unrequited soulbonds. She wondered if they allowed unmatched couples.
She closed her eyes briefly. Would it hurt to give him a chance? Jane peeked at Thor. He was attractive and kind, and gave her butterflies. She hadn't had butterflies even with Donald, who was more of the solid, steady type of partner. He would treat her well, butterflies or no, of that she had no doubt.
He leaned forward then, and peered at the page she was on. Jane looked down too. It was just the arrangement of the galaxies, something she had memorized when she was a child. She started to close it. Thor's large, warm hand covered hers, halting the motion.
"I know this shape." His brow furrowed and one finger traced the Milky Way. Recognition lit in his eyes. "Yggdrasil!"
Jane listened and watched as he sketched and explained Asgard and Jotunheim and all the others. Her heart sped.
Yggdrasil- the world tree- the nine realms- her galaxies. They were one and the same.
Jane curled her fingers over her scar- after all these years it hadn't faded, though it should have- and looked to the stars. She hardened her resolve.
Thor may have been a god, and a good man besides, and he may have borne her words, but Jane wore the universe on her skin. She would not abandon it.
Months later, Jane and Darcy sat on the ugly patio chairs on the roof and counted the stars together.
"Do you think he'll ever come back?" Jane didn't know what prompted her to ask, but the stars shone brightly, the fire crackled, and she was content. Thoughts of Thor no longer bothered her. She was curious.
Jane's eyes struggled to stay open, and she rolled her head to the side to look at her intern and her only friend in this town.
"Darcy, do you know who your soulmate is?"
Darcy looked back at her and snorted. "That's enough s'mores for you," she said, gathering up the (already abandoned) supplies.
Jane didn't challenge the diversion. It was a very personal question. She would have worried about her lack of manners, but Jane found she was too tired to care much.
The fire was just a pile of embers when Darcy finally responded.
"I was sixteen. It was the pizza delivery person." Jane twisted her neck and squinted to make out her friend's shape. "She made some sort of awful joke about cheesy pizza. I was so stunned I couldn't say anything."
Jane watched Darcy's shadowy shoulders shrug, and assumed it was the end of the story.
"My family moved the next week and I never saw her again."
They sat in silence for a time, and Jane found that she was blinking back tears. How awful, to know your soulmate was out there somewhere- to have met them even- but not be able to find them again. It seemed worse than not having a soulmate at all.
"How about you, Jane? Is Thor your soulmate?"
Jane reached her left hand for Darcy to take and laid her right on her ribs.
"No," she said. "My soulmate is more powerful than Thor could ever hope to be."
Jane and Darcy watched together as Thor and the Avengers fought for New York. They gripped each other's hands and hoped that Loki- whoever he was, though that armor looked incredibly familiar to Jane- wouldn't win.
Jane watched through the television as Thor took his brother- his brother- back to Asgard.
He didn't visit her.
Jane crept toward the glowing red light. She knew it was a bad idea, but she couldn't help the curiosity that drove her forward. She wondered if this is how the characters in a horror film felt.
She reached out to the stone and the light flew at her.
She woke to a burning pulse in her side. Jane sat up- she was still here, in this unknown place- and tried to lift her shirt up. She got distracted by the red glow traveling through her veins. She didn't know whether to be terrified or curious.
Refocusing, she tugged at the hem of her shirt and looked down. She gasped.
Her mark was glowing. Light flickered through its curls, giving the appearance that it was a tree swaying in the breeze.
Jane clenched her jaw and stood, determined to get home, if only so she could figure out what was happening.
The next time Jane saw Thor, she was soaked through from rain and thoroughly miserable, so she did the first thing that came to mind and slapped him. Twice.
And when Odin took one look at her on the Soul Forge examination table and proclaimed that she and Thor could not be together- soulmarks and their own wishes aside- Jane wanted to slap him as well. She likely would have attempted it if Thor hadn't placed one of his large hands on her shoulder.
After the battle- and poor Frigga's murder- she sat in a small side room, glaring daggers at the guards' helmets, and plotted. The indignation of Odin policing his grown son's love life had long since faded into pure fury. She wanted to rebel, soulmate or not.
If it weren't for the guards she likely would have already done something rash, like kick the grieving Allfather in the shins a few times or outright propose to Thor. Perhaps it was a good thing she was locked away for the time being.
The guards smirked as her glare lessened and she changed her mind. They could go to hell, right after their king.
When Sif charged in and knocked them out, Jane wanted to tell their unconscious bodies that they were lucky she hadn't started them. One look at the warrior before her subdued her thoughts, but she still stuck out her tongue when Sif's back was turned.
They wove through hallway after hallway until she could see blond hair and a red cape. Thor. She almost smiled.
Then she saw who he had with him.
Jane Foster stalked forward, ignoring Thor.
Loki smirked at her. "I'm Loki. You may have heard of me-"
She hit him. With all of the slapping (real and imagined) that had been occurring, her hand was beginning to hurt.
"That was for New York!"
From the corner of her eye Jane saw Thor still. Loki's head, which had swung around from the force of her slap, tilted back in her direction, and this time, he smirk was feral.
"Oh, now this is interesting."
Jane tried not to look confused. She probably failed. Behind her Sif banged her staff on the ground.
"Is this another of your tricks, Loki?"
The God of Lies and Mischief didn't take his eyes from Jane as he held his bound hands out to her. "Here, take a look." When Jane didn't move, he sighed rather dramatically. "The left wrist, if you please. We haven't all day."
She reached out and pulled up the sleeve on his left arm. All she saw was blank skin and for a moment she was relieved, but then she pulled it up a little bit higher. Jane saw her chicken scratch for the second time in two years.
She clenched her jaw and stared up at Loki, her fingers still on his arm. He stared back, and though his smirk remained his eyes were inscrutable.
The sounds of armored people running their way broke the moment. Thor grabbed her arm in one hand and Loki's in the other and they took off sprinting.
He didn't look at her through the entire escape, and when she collapsed he didn't make his way to her side.
It wasn't until much later- after Svartalheim, Loki's death, and vanquishing Malekith once and for all- that she and Thor were able to talk.
He had to leave soon, to talk things over with his father, but for a few moments they stole off to the roof of her building in London, the scene so reminiscent of their time in Puente Antiguo that she almost smiled. Thor's emotionless face stopped her. She stepped toward him, but when she reached out a hand he flinched away.
"Jane," he said, and his voice was deep and sad. "Do you wear his words?"
She stared at his chest, where she knew her first words to him were, and hated how his shoulders curled in on themselves. She hated whoever had put them in this position, with no regard for anyone's feelings.
Now that Loki was dead, she would never know how he had felt about all this.
With a deep breath, Jane prepared to do what she hadn't done since she was with Donald. She let the air out through her nose and pulled her t-shirt off.
She didn't look at Thor's face as she spun around, arms held away from her sides so he could see every piece of her skin, save for what was covered by her bra.
"I don't understand…" Jane finally glanced at him. Thor's brow was furrowed and he stared at the scar on her side. "Did the scar make your mark illegible?"
She'd never considered that before, and for a heart wrenching second, she wondered if she would be somewhat like Darcy, having met her soulmate, only not knowing it. But no, the stars were her destiny. Uncle Erik had told her that she hadn't had a mark, even before the accident that took her parents from her.
"No, Thor." His eyes didn't lift to meet hers and she wanted to cry. "This is my mark."
His brow didn't unfurrow as he lowered himself to his knees before her. She kept her arm outstretched and he lifted his hand toward the scar. He stopped before he touched her skin.
"What does it mean?"
His hand was so close she could feel the heat of it against her side, and she hoped he would close that final gap. She hoped he wouldn't care that she didn't wear his words- whatever they had been. She hoped he would try anyway.
"I always took it to mean that the stars were my fate."
His hand hovered and he closed his eyes. When he opened them again they were cold and filled with a sort of suffering she thought she understood. His hand clenched into a fist and he lowered it back to his side.
Thor stood and walked away from her, and Jane let him. It wasn't until the Bifrost carried him away that she closed her eyes and allowed her tears to escape.
That night, she woke to silence. Jane listened carefully, trying to figure out what had woken her up in the first place.
She wasn't sure what it was until she realized she was holding her breath and she could still hear breathing.
Jane sat upright in her bed. She turned on the lamp and nearly screamed.
Odin Allfather was in her bedroom, smiling in a way that reminded her of his younger son.
Jane pulled the covers up around her shoulders as if they could protect her. Then she remembered that this was the man who had dared to make decisions for Thor, and dropped the blankets and her fear. In their place she picked up her dormant anger.
"What the hell are you doing in my bedroom?"
Odin threw his head back and laughed. It gave her chills, cloaked as he was in the shadows of the corner he stood in.
"It seems my son has finally decided to take the throne." For a horrible moment she thought he meant Loki was now seated on the throne of Asgard. But she remembered Svartalheim, and the multiple times he had saved her at the expense of himself. How he had given his life for Thor.
It only made her angrier.
"So, Miss Foster, it seems I find myself without a throne or a wife to distract me."
The fear crept back in. He couldn't possibly mean to-
The smile slid from Odin's face. "I wonder what Thor has done to you, to illicit such a response."
"He's done nothing!"
Odin nodded and stepped forward, shadows still clinging to him. Jane glanced to the side, trying to remember where she had put her baseball bat. He stepped forward again, and Jane's gaze was drawn back to him. With his third step, a soft golden light wrapped from his head to his feet.
By the time he stood at the foot of her bed, he was not Odin Allfather. He was Loki.
Jane stared. How?
Loki stared back and the pieces fit together.
"You tricked us."
He laughed. "How quick of you." Loki glanced at the scepter in his hands. "I was rather looking forward to ruling Asgard for a few years, at least until you died, so imagine my surprise when Thor comes skulking back and accepts my offer to take the throne." He sneered. "I couldn't imagine why he would give up a pretty little mortal like yourself, so I decided to see for myself."
Jane wondered if that was the only reason he was here, or if the words on his wrist had played a part as well. She contemplated what to do for a heartbeat.
"Thor left because I don't wear his words."
Loki's eyes gleamed and he took a half step forward.
"I don't wear yours either."
He stopped, mouth curving downward in confusion. Jane tried to decide if what she was about to do was a smart idea, then decided she was going to do it anyway.
She lifted the hem of her night shirt to just below her breast, choosing to not completely disrobe like she had for Thor. She trusted Loki much less. His eyes traced the curling tendrils of her scar.
"I wear the universe, Loki."
He glanced up at her, his mouth hard but the skin around his eyes soft. Without breaking eye contact, he stepped around the edge of the bed until he stood before her, left hand half raised.
She wondered if he would touch her when Thor would not, if he would accept that she would always love the stars before anything or anyone else. If he even could. Then she wondered if it was wise to allow the man who tried to conquer her world to touch her at all.
His fingers feathered over her skin, and when she looked down his thumb pressed into the thickest part of the scar. Her eyes flicked back up to his and stayed there.
Loki grinned, and its savage nature didn't frighten her. "Jane Foster, would you like to see the stars?"
I was originally going to write this with a more ambiguous ending, but I just couldn't leave it where it was. And I wasn't going for the love triangle trope so much as the opportunity for Jane to chose her own fate. Whether or not that included Thor, Loki, neither, or both was irrelevant when this began (I'm just enamored with the idea of Jane having the greatest forces in the universe before her, and being able to do what she wishes).
Hope you enjoyed it! Reviews are always welcome!