More questions than answers will pop up after this. Crucify me later for it. Right now, please enjoy the last installment of this story! PLEASE read my ending note! This was shorter than I thought it would be, but any more, and I would give away major key elements I will address in the sequel.
P.S. a MASSIVE thank-you goes out to Imogen74, without whom this chapter would have never been published! I dedicate this to you!
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Towards the Sun by Rihanna
Turn your face towards the sun
Let the shadows fall behind you
Tell a prayer, just carry on
And the shadows will never find you
Lost in the rock and roll
Got lost in a promise of a love I never know
Shadows chase me far from home
I remember when my heart was filled with gold
Lost my faith and trust
You and I know gold don't turn to rust
I still swear that we can reign
Like the kings and queens of better yesterday
Turn your face towards the sun
Let the shadows fall behind you
Tell a prayer, just carry on
And the shadows will never find you
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When her mind edged closely to the tiniest corners of her memory, Jane could see fragments.
But only when she tried hard enough.
Yet, trying hard enough was close to impossible with all the open wounds and cuts over her body.
It had been a lifetime since the human scientist felt much of anything.
It had been about three days since she first woke up.
Every hour she had counted while awake.
Every second sprang loudly at each space in her mind.
Every breath was measure with alarming accuracy. They became her tick as her blinks became her tock.
All she recalled was a name: her name.
How had she gotten to this point?
Why had plunged so far down into the depths of a runaway train to hell.
Maybe she was there already.
Either way, Jane didn't know why whispers called out to her through a tiny crack in the wrinkles of time.
The first fragment was experiencing the fear at her belly upon uttering the name that started it all: "Thanos."
The second, and most simple and ardent, fragment was feeling the large object pierce through her body and having it quickly ripped from her.
And, when her conscious really desired to torture her in a most pure form, she would hear a voice without words.
See a face without features.
Feel a touch without senses.
There was a presence lingering over her everywhere that could not be contacted...not that she could hope to utter even a cry of pain for the moment.
Her vision half-tolerated her command to survey the thirty degree radius her head could pivot against the hard, uneven textured surface she was thrown on. Fear was no fiend to feel. Her mind couldn't register how to be afraid.
Every fiber of marrow embedded in her bones yearned to shout a name she could not recall.
The third fragment, however, was the name that clung to the shadows of her brain: Gamora.
Something brushed her face. Not that she felt much.
Her eyes acknowledged a bright green hue in her peripheral vision.
Gamora...had green skin. Or so she thought she remembered.
Something was caught in her throat...mucus?
Jane wanted nothing more than to clear her throat.
A face emerged from the vast unknown.
"Jane Foster," a soft voice cooed, "I am pleased you live."
If any string of dialect forged on her tongue, she was sure she would have said something. It was better to accept than the harsh vision of the levity of her current situation.
"It took much time to find you, but no one more than I could find you," the voice continued. After a moment, Jane throughout she heard another voice. Gamora's voice was louder when she spoke. "...you have been a great help, friend. I could never have found her without you."
Someone else was blemished in the color green in some way.
Jane wanted to say the name that was caught at her chest.
As her vision cleared when she blinked roughly, Jane attempted to move her head to get a better view of her murderer.
Gamora shook her head, "Of all evil I have committed, you shall be my saving grace. You alone shall guide me to the end of all suffering in every timeline."
She couldn't move.
In fact, her vision failed her again.
Someone shook her.
But the darkness won Jane over again...
Where she would be blanketed in the color green...
In the place where only the featureless face existed...
The only corner of the universe where true peace existed.
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— — — — — — — — — — — — — —
Unknown years later
"Father!" Thor shouted as he fought off more dark elves and a variety of renegades from different realms. When Odin threw his attention at his heir, the younger Aesir continued, "Where is mother?"
Odin raised his staff and most of the vagrants and elves fell to the ground either killed or mortally injured. He rushed toward his son and reached for his shoulder, gripping onto it tightly. "Your mother is gifted with magic. She is able to protect herself."
"Father none of this makes sense. I will search for her if you will it," Thor countered.
Odin appeared distant. "Thor, son of Odin, there are times when you will be called to make choices. The choices we are offered are simple: save our people or save your mother."
"No, Thor. Your people need you."
Thor's brows knit together, "I cannot accept either as a final choice. I will save our people and my mother." He prepared his hammer for flight before saying, "Those may be your choices, but I cannot stand down. For anyone's sake."
The prince flew off in the direction of the palace, where he'd last seen his mother.
As he flew in a rush over his home, Thor surveyed the many people slaughtered on the golden floors of Asgard. The dark elves had come as a surprise. Asgard was absolutely defenseless due to lack of preparation.
But it absolutely had something to do with the Convergence.
There had been too many family tragedies as of late. Loki was imprisioned and the family was banished from visiting him, although her knew of his mother's frequent contacts with his brother.
All of this terror was Loki's doing. If the Frost Giant hadn't played with the tesseract and the staff, the realms would be a bit more at peace. As per usual, Thor was charged with cleaning up his mess.
A more personal tragedy surfaced in the corners of his mind as he landed at his mother's quarters. A specific mortal's face faded into his memory. A normal, hollow kick at his heart stirred as his hammer paved its way through the thicket of dark elves.
He roared and his hammer returned to his strong hand.
Jane Foster was gone. And he must exist in a world without her.
Despite how things occurred, Thor still cared for her ever so vibrantly. He feared he always would.
He avoided a glowing shot directed toward him.
It was easy to slay the two creatures in his path.
As he made his way through the rooms, Thor shouted for the queen.
When no reply was echoed, Thor began to panic. His cries became more and more desperate.
"She's safe," called the voice of a ghost lingering in his memory.
When the heir turned, a figure in the shape of one Jane Foster stood before him.
"Jane?" he lamented as he stepped toward her.
But instantly, he noticed her eyes were green and her height not quite right. She was...taller than he remembered. Instantly, he became defensive. "You're not Jane Foster."
The woman mused with a slight chuckle, "I can't conclusively answer that."
"What are you saying?"
A dark elf entered the room behind Thor. But the heir realized it was too late. He would be struck.
Yet, as he turned around, Jane fused transparently through a red, smokey solid texture. Immediately, she snapped the creature's neck and turned around. "I've got a lot of explaining to do, but we don't have time."
"How can I trust you?"
The woman stepped away from him and began to walk, "It's up to you, but right now there's no time. We can waste time and fight, or we can try to save your home."
Thor paused, but righted himself, "Where is my mother?"
Jane directed her gaze to something behind him, "Look behind you."
Frigga immediately rushed to her son's side and embraced him.
Jane began to talk with her hand by her ear softly, and Thor missed the exact string of words exchanged over the COM she no doubtfully wore.
The woman looked back to him. "I'm going to help you and your people, but first, you must agree to allow my allies to aid us, too."
Frigga spoke up, "We are in no state to refuse help, child."
"Mother, I do not think this is a wise course of action."
Frigga smiled. Only then did he notate the open scars on her face. His blood boiled. "She saved me from Malekith and a larger creature."
"Is this true?" he asked the mysterious woman.
But she was already out of the door in the hall combating against other vagrants and elves. She fought with lethal precision he'd never witnessed. In a matter of seconds, Jane took down eleven enemies altogether. "There's no time for this, Thor."
Her hand moved back to her ear, "Release the hounds."
After a moment, "Right, the whole human phrase thing. You aliens will never learn will you? Anyway, come out. I need you in positions."
She looked back to the two Asgardians. "We need to move. Now. Take me to the dungeons."
Without looking back, she raced forward and cleared their path. When elves would try to attack them, she would quickly dispose of them. Thor led them to the dungeons. "What business do you have in the dungeon?"
The woman joined him by his side, "Business would be more pleasant."
Thor was careful to pace himself so that the queen would keep up at a safe distance. Every now and then, she used her magic to assist with clearing the way from a distance.
"Jane!" someone called from the left hall.
"Gamora, how are we doing?" Jane acknowledged.
Another woman clad in a tight, black leather suit and bright green flesh matched Jane's pacing perfectly. Thor's immediate response was to inquire, but when he did, both woman ignored his inquiry as if he were not there.
"All are where they should be. We just need to follow through with the plan, and we'll be able to secure the area," the Zen-Whoberian reported.
Jane stoically nodded, "Perfect."
"The dungeons are through the throne hall. Travel down the door to the left and it is then that you will arrive at the dungeons," Frigga directed.
All of a sudden, the pair of women halted. Gamora placed her fingers to her mouth and made a loud whistling noise, which provoked many guards to show themselves.
"Father is still somewhere in the city. Go to him at once!" Thor ordered his guards.
But, they all shifted in green lights to many ghosts of his past.
To his left, he saw Loki clad in his armor. Immediately, he charged toward him, but he went through a projection.
The god of thunder readied his hammer and followed a shape in his peripherals to another form of a more youthful version of his broken brother. "How have you escaped?"
The form chuckled maniacally, "What crime have I committed, brother?"
"You were sentenced for your crimes against Midgard. Can you not recall?" Thor barked, his chest heaving wildly.
When Loki readied his magic at his hands, Jane held out her hand and a red stream of solid particles flowed from behind her, snaking around Thor's boot. When she pulled, he was thrusted to the floor and forced toward her.
His body became enveloped in vines of the red stream as he was pried upright towering over Jane held tightly in the vine-like bindings. Instantly, Thor's brows knitted as he panted, "What did they do to you, Jane?"
When it was clear that she would not reply, Loki laughed. "It is nice to see that I am indeed well received in this timeline, too."
"Laufey. Loki. We're close to our target," Jane briefed monotonously. Her steps were calculated, precise, accurate. Methodical. Slow, yet swift in grace.
She moved differently...acted differently.
"Laufey?" Thor seethed. "Guards!"
Immediately, Gamora pulled the queen before her and held a blade to her throat. "I don't think so, Hammer. You cannot not stop this."
Jane rolled her eyes, but did not do anything. Casually, she stepped forward, and the Jotun and Loki both followed closely behind her. "Gamora, you have the subtlety of a comet."
"I understand that reference," Gamora commented. "Finally," she added bitterly.
Jane withdrew her bindings over Thor in a quick movement. "Loki, disguise Laufey," she ordered.
He instantly complied.
Thor followed them closely behind and began raising questions that went ignored. His eyes never left his mother.
Down in the dark, damp corridors of the dungeons, Jane quickly surveyed the cells. Before walking, she held up her hands and removed the long glove from one hand, exposing her arm up to her elbow. Briefly, she glanced back, "Stay away from me."
She passed many cells filled with shouting inmates. She glanced at them without much care.
Until she arrived to the cell with a cowering woman in the corner. She glanced behind her. "Loki..."
Before the younger looking version of the traitor prince acted, Jane placed her hand to the barrier containing the woman. Instantly, the barrier rippled a shade of dark red and eventually, it shrank until it was absorbed by Jane's exposed hand. Her whole body shook for a small while.
Meanwhile, the woman immediately stood and was illuminated by a hazy green. When the green dissipated, Natasha Romanoff was exposed.
"What is going on?" Thor shouted.
Jane closed her eyes for a brief second as a voice called from a few cells away, "What is all this racket? Can a man not enjoy his eternity within his confinement?"
Jane Foster's body bolted upright. When Gamora nearly dropped her guard to aid her, Jane held out her exposed hand. "No. I'm fine. It still just takes...getting used to..."
When her head stopped ringing, Jane stumbled over to a wall and took several deep breaths before she stood alone. She closed her eyes twice, but opened them back up.
"I am pleased that the plan was successful," the disguised Laufey stated, holding his ground away from Jane and the others.
"Thor," Jane stammered.
"Who else is down here?"
He did not answer. Nor did she need one.
Instead, he glanced away and cleared his throat.
An exhausted Jane rolled her eyes and slightly slid down the wall before her knees caught her weight from under her. After taking more than a few deep breaths, Jane pushed away from the wall.
Her legs trembled as she traversed the short distance between her and the group.
Natasha moved closer to Jane and placed an arm underneath Jane's shoulders, "You need to rest."
Jane only replied with a shake to her head, but the woman made no move away from Romanoff.
Thor shifted and moved toward the two women, "Natasha, how is it possible that you are here?"
Bright eyes met his and Natasha blinked three times. Her brows knit closer together, and she said, "Do you know anything about Bruce? What happened to him?"
Jane coughed, breaking the flow of conversation. Within a second, Romanoff redirected her full attention back to Jane.
Labored breaths stole short seconds from Jane's lungs, but eventually, her attention fell to her green-skinned comrade. "Gamora, for God's sake...just let her go."
"You are weak. I advise against that request."
Jane straightened and moved away from Natasha. Her eyes were stern when they settled over Gamora, "It wasn't a request."
A slight breeze danced in the air of the dark, cold dungeon. Gravity tugged on her curiosity, pulling her away from the group and to where the voice had stirred. Her steps were heavy, and her posture was straight.
Jane didn't need to move further from where she halted to know it was him. She remained in the blind spot and closed her eyes for a moment.
"To whom am I speaking?" the voice cooed a bit closer.
Her breath was stunted, but she exhaled anyway as she moved slowly to where he would see her. Left foot first, right step second. Her steps were gentle against the stone floor. Her head moved downward and for a brief second, her eyes narrowed before she slipped into her thick mask. Her loose hair fell in front of her face, but his silence spoke volumes.
"It...can't...be..." Loki Laufeyson uttered desperately.
"I am pleased to see you survived," Jane spoke, her words calculatingly cold.
When she lifted up her head, she watched him behind the containment barrier. His features were bare, raw, and fragile. He saw a ghost when he looked down at her. And she knew it. "You're not her...your eyes...your form..."
"She was easy enough to kill...being a weak, insufferable human."
His eyes widened. His voice cracked, "Do not speak of her, you..."
"Monster?" Jane chuckled, "Is that not what you are?"
His exhaled was labored, his eyes flared wildly. His expression fir to that of a snarl. His eyes dulled, but filled with moisture, "Do not fool yourself to believe we are alike."
"I kill a pet of yours, while you kill the loved ones of others," she tsked, "We are precisely the same."
"Then, I shall see you in hell."
Jane narrowed her eyes and chuckled, "What I find to be curious is that you left her to die, Loki."
Then, everything went still. As they stared into the other's empty gaze, Loki's hues avidly searched her eyes while his lips soundlessly muttered her name...over and over again.
He staggered closer to the barrier, almost touching it. His features shattered like a deluge of emotion. A tear dragged over his pale, sunken cheek, "Oh, Jane..."
"I didn't know that you would be such a blubbering mess," she said coldly. Her brows stretched downward with confusion and worry, however.
"Only my Jane would know that I left! You said, 'left her to die!' How can you know that if you are not her?" he agonized. He moved his arm as if to reach out toward her, but lowered his gaze to pay attention to the barrier.
Her path up the three steps we painfully slowed. She nearly kissed the barrier, too, when she whispered, "I'm not her anymore."
For a moment, Jane lingered only inches away from the man she used to know. He'd transformed into this: a caged wreck. He probably agonized, thinking her dead. She imagined the pain he had to have endured for her sake, but she sobered with the reality of the heavy price she'd paid in order to keep him safe. She'd lost herself.
And with her, he too had forgotten who he was.
She raised her hand to the barrier, hovering an inch or so away from it. He mimicked her action and their breathing labored as they feasted on each other's hues. She swallowed and he said her name again.
And the misery swept back in over her bones. Her heart began to beat an alarming rate. A shrill, echoing shriek thrusted about the large space, causing her to wince and grab her head with both hands.
Gamora rushed to her side and shook her by the shoulders. One of her hands cupped Jane's cheek. The ringing noise clamored in Jane's head, but her eyes settled on her green-skinned partner.
"Jane! Look at me," Gamora chanted. Her features were void of emotion, acute focus, instead, filled the gaps. She shook her head, "Don't do this." Her voice was steady and entrancing, injected with a definitive calm, "The people of this world need you to save them. Think of only me. Get rid of what you feel."
"It hurts!" she howled.
Suddenly, Jane's skin radiated a red cold, Gamora's hand burned with the frosty effects. Before any permanent damage could take, Gamora seized her hand from Jane and backed away, shouting, "JANE! Go now!"
Her whole body began to glow an orange-red as her eyes turned blood red. Jane threw her right hand out and tore through time, entering the portal. A loud, haunting scream emerged before a bright orange explosion; however, before it could reach the wormhole, the portal sealed.
"What the hell was that?" Thor raged.
"WHERE IS SHE?" Loki fumed.
Gamora turned around and sadness infected her features, "Jane possess greater power than anything in any universe."
"What kind of power?" Frigga raised.
Gamora hesitantly spared a glance at the younger Loki, who nodded in reply. "I am not the same version you saw in this time. A few different timelines fused together after the events of...the place York of New. The effects of the aftermath sparked an early Convergence due to the Tesseract's power. Thanos of a different timeline saw it as an opportunity to strike."
"Do you belong to this timeline?" Thor questioned.
Gamora nodded, "I do. The one who fought you alongside the Thanos that devastated your earth belonged to another...as did the body this timeline's Jane uses as a host."
"She rarely mentions it, but her soul resides in the woman who killed her," Natasha clarified.
"H-How is any of this possible?" Thor questioned. He glanced to his mother, but she simply shook her head.
Natasha shook her head, "We all have different theories, but all of them have one common denominator."
"Which is?" the imprisioned Loki seethed.
Gamora swallowed firmly before answering, "The Tesseract and the Aether."
Abruptly, a portal opened above the group, but only an arm fell through. Frigga shrieked and turned away, but Thor stared at the limb. "No," he cried.
All fell silent.
A crimson liquid oozed from the arm until it became a pool. The large puddle of liquid contracted into the shape of a body. Swiftly, the shiny liquid nearest the arm crystallized, hardening into the shape of an arm. The shape continued to forge a body until the last toe.
The crimson crystalline brightened until it was dyed to a familiar shade of tanned-skin. The skin formed over the body until the crystalline formed hair, clothes and eventually, the features of Jane's face.
She returned to normal. For a moment, she remained lifeless until her eyes shot open and her chest heaved violently. She curled into a tight ball on the ground and coughed wildly.
Her whole body violently shook against the floor. Gamora kneeled down beside her and aided her to sit upright.
Jane pointed at the barrier encaging Loki.
"Do you think it wise to uncage him after what just occurred?" Gamora warned.
The exhausted creature shook her head weakly and muttered, "Need...energy..."
Her hand limply uncoiled and her fingertips glowed a dull red. Jane winced as she scrunched her features as she tried to focus. The barrier began to flicker, but it remained in tact. Jane threw up her other hand and closed her eyes, her fingers fanning out toward the barrier. Finally, the barrier was drawn toward her. Jane's body bolted upright as she feasted on the barrier's energy.
Once complete, Jane breathed quickly and her left hand settled over her chest. Loki rushed from his cell toward her. He fell to the ground and caught her hand, but immediately, she plucked it from him.
When she glanced away from him, Gamora stripped off her gloves and gave them to Jane.
Jane slowly stood with the help of only Gamora. Jane limped as Gamora steadied her with slow steps toward the entrance of the dungeons, but distant footsteps approached.
"What now?" Jane sighed.
Help! I'm sinking under this ship called Lokane! I have SOOO many ideas...too many! Now that Dark Paradise is completed, I am able to work on other projects. Mind, my other projects will completed at some point. It's just time I focus on stories I actually have all of my notes still. I'm reworking a few things on Afterlife, so that will (likely) be my next project to complete.
Titanium, unfortunately, is a sinking story of mine. By far my most popular story, Titanium does not hold the same appeal as these newer plots do to me right now, but I do plan on revisiting that story once I find the voice again.
I have two, specifically, to thank for this project's close:
Without you two, this story would be dead!
Thank you to all who shared this experience with me. I've let a lot of you down, but many of you stuck with me. I thank you for that. Be on the hunt for a short one-shot I may be posting of a few scenes I edited out of this story due to pacing, too! It'll be of Wolf!Loki, so be excited!
Finally, as to when the second installment of this story will be published, I honestly have to say...I don't know. It won't be terribly long, though, so keep your panties straight! I want to take this time to revisit other stories and new ones, too!
THANK YOU, ALL!