A/N: Oh hai, Loki/Jane/Thor Love Triangle College!AU that was supposed to be a drabble and seems to be barreling towards 10k words! Because reasons! Apparently!
Multi-part due to length but still drabble-style, which means minimal research, spit-shine edits, and form over substance. Inaccurate inaccuracies are inaccurate. Also, apologies to bluepixystyx, whose request prompted this idea even though it bears absolutely no relationship whatsoever to what she asked for. Oops.
Angst Threat Level is Orange. Repeat, Orange. And, as always, embrace ALL the tropes.
On Each Other's Teams
Jane meets them both on the same day, though she doesn't realize the significance until much later.
The first meeting comes in Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics, a class that would have been considered ridiculous at Stanford but comes as a requirement here because the English seem unnecessarily obsessed with a 'well-rounded education'. Which, fine, but Jane doesn't see how it matters whether or not Newton's discoveries preclude the possibility of free will. Truth is data and data is truth. The rest is window dressing.
She says it aloud, because she does that.
The look on the professor's face makes her realize this will be a very long semester abroad.
For reasons passing understanding — she had been serious — several of her classmates chuckle. And the loudest laugh comes from the back of the room, where a guy with black hair and sharp cheekbones doesn't flinch even a little when Jane turns in her seat to glare at him. All he does is grin wider.
And not in a nice way. Yes, the grin says, I'm laughing at you, not with you, and I dare you to stop me.
She doesn't, of course. She just takes notes for the rest of the hour, sometimes writing so hard that her pencil scratches through the paper, steaming the whole while.
As though the world isn't governed by natural law.
The second meeting comes when she hits someone in the parking lot.
"You're going to jail." The hospital's waiting room is equipped with a vending machine, and Darcy is steadily working her way through each of the unfamiliar snacks. The crunching of the bags makes Jane's teeth grind. "Third day here, and you run over a dude."
"I didn't run him over. I grazed him."
"You knocked him over and he whacked his head on the pavement, so I don't think the police are going to care whether you call it a graze. Do we have diplomatic immunity or anything?"
"He tripped, okay? Basically he just tripped. And anyway, you were distracting me."
"Yeah, 'cause there was a guy in the crosswalk. The guy you ran over."
"I had right of way! The sign said so!"
"But there was a guy in the crosswalk. Which I told you."
"You didn't tell me, you screamed."
Jane puts her head in her hands. If living with Darcy Lewis — whom she hadn't even met until the exchange program assigned them to the same apartment, or flat, whatever — is going to be like this, the semester won't just be long. It will be brutal.
Unless she goes to jail.
Then there is a bag of candy being shook under her nose. "Try one," says Darcy. "I think it's M&Ms or something. Just don't spaz out on me, all right?"
Friendships are built on less than the sharing of chocolate.
Relationships are built on less than hitting someone with a car.
An hour later, when they let Jane in to see the guy — no broken bones, but a decent concussion — and she explains that, really, the signs said she had right of way, and she's not going to admit liability, and really a concussion isn't that big of a deal, right? And he's fine now! No harm done.
He winds up apologizing to her.
Jane's stunned by this, because if she's being honest it was probably at least a little bit her fault. And furthermore, the guy doesn't seem like the apologizing type… until he announces that not pressing charges is conditional on whether she'll have a pint with him.
"You've just suffered a head injury," the nurse says, all starched severity. "You'll not be drinking for at least forty-eight hours."
Jane should have known then, when he grins at the nurse in the exact same way she'd seen only hours before. Yes, I heard you, I'm doing what I want anyway, and I dare you to stop me.
They go out for drinks that evening. He kisses her hand goodnight.
And this is how Jane begins dating Thor Odinson.
Every time Jane goes to philosophy class, the guy in the back is smiling.
No, really. Every time.
It drives her more than a little crazy, because she can find nothing at all to smile about in this idiotic course. Jane isn't a total stranger to less-than-perfect grades — she'd had to scrape for a B in Global Lit back in freshman year — but those were just general ed requirements. They didn't matter. Not really.
But she's never, ever had trouble in hard science.
If a combination of quantum mechanics and philosophy can even be called hard science.
How dare anyone look amused at a time like this.
It comes to a head three weeks into the semester, during the first test, when Jane has to fight her way through an essay on Eddington's absurd, insulting, painful take on the Uncertainty Principle. After thirty minutes of suffering, she peeks around the room, checking to see if anyone else is on the verge of either tears or a temper tantrum. She can't be the only one, right? Someone else must hate this as much as she does.
But, no. All the other students are scribbling away diligently, as though indeterminism makes sense. Even the guy in back is…
…reading something out of his hand.
He is reading something out of his hand.
He is cheating on the test.
And he glances up in that very moment, as though he can feel her mounting fury from twenty feet away. Does his expression turn to panic? Does it turn to shame? Does it at least turn sheepish?
He looks right at her, raises his hand, reveals a scrap of paper hidden in his palm — and, with a quick flick of his wrist, somehow makes the note vanish into thin air.
And he grins again.
Yes, I'm cheating, you saw it, and I dare you to stop me.
Jane knows, right then and there, that she will fail this test. And it will be his fault.
Afterward she finds him waiting in the hallway, leaning casually against the wall as though nothing is wrong. "Is displeasure your natural state of being," he asks, "or is it only between the hours of nine and eleven AM?"
All she wants in the world is to punch him right in his smug face. But she's already managed to avoid arrest once this month, so it's probably better not to tempt fate. "You were cheating," she hisses.
"You'll find that difficult to prove."
"You think? It'll give away your little game when the professor asks you to actually tell him the answers. You can't fake an oral exam, you jerk."
And the guy, this fucking guy, proceeds to explain to her every detail of Eddington's idealist conclusions. And he does it in a way that actually makes sense to Jane's ears.
By the end Jane can barely speak. "You… you… but…"
"Ah, Americans. Always so articulate."
"You're telling me you knew all of this stuff?"
"Then why did you cheat?"
He shrugs. "Why not?"
She stares at him for a solid minute — a solid minute in which he doesn't seem inclined to go anywhere, or do anything, except bask in her impotent rage. "I hate you," she says finally.
"I'm Loki," he replies. "And I believe you're in need of a tutor."