I wrote this about a year ago as part of the Lokane Deck the Halls gift exchange on tumblr under the title of The Missing Half.
Standard disclaimer applies.
The Key: To Dance an Ellipse
A young girl sits, staring at a tiny, glittering object - a key, pristine and elegant. Yet it looks so fragile that Jane cannot help but hold it with the exaggerated care of a child afraid to break a precious token. It is so lovely that she loses herself for hours in its silver whorls, in the tiny emerald embedded in its handle. She wonders, not for the first time and certainly not for the last, what manner of person has a heart with such a key. It makes her think of a stately princess or delicate prince. She hopes she can meet them soon.
The key is simple, unadorned steel. Unassuming and uninteresting. Seeing his brother's regal key shining in the sunlight, the boy is crestfallen. He hides it away and shows it to no one. For days he is quieter than normal, sulking about his lot. It is his mother who finally speaks to him, expertly wheedling the story from her boy. After he finishes, she smiles a secret smile and bestows upon him the wisdom of mothers. "A strong heart is nothing to be ashamed of, Loki. You may find beauty where you least expect it." He is dubious, but cautiously dares to hope. By starlight, the key glows with the light of a dozen constellations.
She is nine years old and reveling in her second favorite place in the world – the library (her first is the roof, but only at night). The scent of ink on paper fills her nose and the happy weight of knowledge leadens her arms. Eager as she is to fill her head with that knowledge, something else catches her attention. A boy, small and dark of hair, sits at a table not so very far away. She cannot see what he holds in his hand, but the way he stares at it with such wonder makes her forget all about her books. It is only when her parents call her away that she realizes she has been gawping at him. Blushing, she gives a guilty start and checks to see if anyone had noticed her staring. Not a soul. She is safe. Her eyes dart to him one last time as she leaves.
He is ten years old and utterly fascinated by his key. It remains safely hidden from the eyes of others, but his reasons have changed. In a fit of possessiveness, he has decided that this one thing will be his alone. No one else will be allowed to unravel its hidden mysteries. In his free time, he reads of key lore and stars and wonders how long he must wait to meet his Match.
She's twelve when she sees him again. Her book bag is slung over her shoulder and her hair falls over her eyes. He's much taller, now, and lanky with fast-growing youth, but she remembers those emerald eyes. They are unmistakable. He laughs with a golden-haired boy, carefree and joyous. While the other is as radiant as the sun, her dark-haired boy reminds Jane of the moon. His is a quieter luster, but no less captivating. She wonders whether her key could match his heart.
Later, she turns a corner and slams into someone. Her papers go flying. She looks up into those emerald eyes and is stricken when he snarls at her and hurries off. No, she thinks. It's impossible.
He's thirteen. Thor and his friends have finally caught sight of Loki's key – an oversight on his part. One he will not repeat. They laugh and mock it, cruel as the young can be. "So that's why you've been hiding it all this time! I'll bet they're so boring you'll never find them." Thor filches the key before Loki can stop him. "Maybe we should just get rid of it. Spare you the misery of such a Match." Though Loki might be growing, Thor is still taller and bigger. It is dangled just out of his reach. His eyes narrow and fists clench. It is their first serious fight.
His fury does not easily dim. Hours later, after the principle is done with him and he runs into someone, he does not even stop to look at them. All that matters is finding a better way to keep his key safe.
She's fifteen and her life has turned inside out. Her parents were gone, taken from her in a car crash. The police said the other driver had been drunk, but their words were just noise to her. The details don't matter. They're all dead just the same. She has been living with Uncle Eric for a year and she's trying to put the pieces back together. The routine of school helps, gives her something to cling to. A bit of reliability in a world that is suddenly unpredictable.
Advanced as she is in science, Jane shares a class with Thor this year – the beautiful, older golden boy. He sits right behind her. Whatever one might expect, he is kind to her. He makes her laugh and part of her is a little in love with him for that. Fleetingly, she wishes he could be her Match. Behind that, there is a treacherous whisper that wishes his brother would be half as kind to her. Or even acknowledge her existence.
He's sixteen the first time he really sees her. Unflattering fluorescent light catches on long, brown waves, bringing red-gold highlights to the surface. The remnants of strain in the shadows of her eyes go unnoticed; the way she worries her lip as she frowns over whatever assignment the teacher has set before her does not. There is something inexplicably compelling about her. For a moment, he wonders whether she could be the one…
But then he notices his brother sitting behind her. Watches as Thor leans over his desk and says something to her, as she turns and shares a smile with him. Loki's lip curls in disgust. No, he thinks. It's impossible.
She's eighteen. There is enough of a fuss about it that even though they have not seen each other in a couple of years, Jane hears about Thor's Match. It does not really surprise her that it was Sif all along. She doubts that the dark-haired beauty is any less formidable now than she had been in school. She will doubtless be able to keep Thor's wilder ideas in check. The death of a passing daydream leaves Jane wistful, but she does not linger on it too long. After all, she has an ambition to strive for and her studies will require her full commitment.
He's nineteen. Thor basks in an undeservedly charmed life while Loki falls into chaos. His life has been a bald-faced lie, one conceived and perpetuated by those he should be able to trust the most. Tainted blood flows through his veins. The blood of a murderer. Every moment – perceived or otherwise – when Thor has outshone him springs to the forefront of his mind. Every moment when his father has dismissed him is thrown into stark relief. He cannot look upon the faces of these strangers he once called family and retain his sanity. He turns his back on them and walks away.
She's twenty-one. Darcy is a whirlwind of vivacity, a contradictory mix of frivolity and well-grounded reality. She has kept Jane afloat in academia, saved her from drowning herself in tests and theses and all-night study sessions. "Come on, Jane. There are parties to crash and hotties to ogle. Wormhole theory will still be here when you get back." It comes as a shock to everyone when she finds her Match upon her very first meeting with the flashy, quick-witted Fandral.
Witnessing their passion firsthand forces Jane to take a proper look at her key once more. It had been drifting quietly deeper into the recesses of her mind for some time, now. A gradual departure to limbo. What she sees offers her no comfort. Its brilliance is dulled; its smooth finish is now battered and dinged; the little emerald at its center, scratched. Her Match is surely suffering. If she could but find him...
He's twenty-two and he hasn't looked back. For a while, he ran wild, but that lost its lure quickly enough. He is looking at his life and wondering what path to take next when Thor finds him. It is an unwelcome intrusion, but that has never stopped his dear brother before. The golden-haired man implores him. He begs and bargains. Tells him to think of their mother. Loki meets his every thrust with parries from a vitriolic tongue. When Thor finally asks after the key he had so mocked when they were boys, Loki has one last attack. "I threw it away, just like you suggested, brother." To these horrific words, Thor has no reply.
It is a lie, of course. He cannot bear to part with that last bit of hope. Not even as its stars begin to fade.
She's twenty-four and her career is well underway. Though her ideas are radical, her brilliance is undeniable. She calls a well-funded university home and indulges in as much fieldwork as she can manage. The work is all-consuming, and Jane does not hesitate to dive into it, heedless of the rest of the world. If there is a certain emptiness in her life, she only has time to notice it in the minutes spent lying in bed waiting to fall asleep each night. Instead, she drives herself to exhaustion and falls asleep as soon as her head hits the pillow.
He's twenty-five. Thor's visit had done one good thing. Where before, Loki had been searching for a goal, he had instead found renewed purpose. If for nothing other than spite, Loki has crafted such a life for himself as anyone would be envious of. He shrouds himself in finery, walks in gilded halls, has all but conquered the stars and laid them at his feet simply because he can. He has everything and it means nothing. His heart is hollow.
She's just hitting the sidewalk, a late dinner with Darcy still warming her belly. Her head is bowed as she digs through her purse for her car keys. Her elbow collides with someone's hand. Something falls to the ground with a metallic clink. Her intended apology dies on her lips as she looks up into a pair of emerald eyes. Impossible. Yet there he is, her dark-haired boy now a man.
Her eyes are drawn to a quiet glow on the ground – the object he had dropped. A key. She cannot help but stare, entranced. Just there! She recognizes that pattern. The constellation Cygnus. And there. Cassiopeia. She reaches for it, her heart hammering in her chest.
He's on his way to the empty place he calls home when fate takes pity on him. A jolt of desperate fear shocks him as the key is knocked from his fingers – the first genuine emotion to stir in his apathetic existence since he had last seen Thor. Yet what he sees stills his tongue, for it defies probability. There she is again. That girl he had noticed, however briefly, in school. Then he sees something that defies all sense. The constellations, which had been growing fainter these past few years, flare to inexplicable life. He grabs the key before her fingers can do more than brush its cool metal, but it does not deter her.
Jane fishes a chain from beneath her shirt and the emerald atop her key flashes. Impossible.
Hardly aware of his own actions, Loki reaches a tentative hand to touch her cheek, but as she leans into the caress, a dam of emotion brakes. Abruptly, he jerks away. "No." She had been right there all those years ago. Why had they not seen the truth right before them? He rages. Denials and condemnations flow from his lips. Yet as he paces in tight, short lines, Jane is taken by a Zen-like calm.
Her shock had quickly turned to contemplation. Her awe at the sight of the key to her heart had taken her straight back to the first time she had ever seen Loki. Straight back to that look of wonder on his face. What she had so quickly dismissed when confronted with teenaged disillusionment suddenly makes perfect sense. It feels right. It is a dormant thing that has always been there and it is finally waking up.
So she half-listens for a time as he gives voice to years of bitter loneliness, then stills him with a petite hand on his arm. "Loki," she says. "Shut up and kiss me."
She speaks with such assurance that he can think of no reason to disobey. He pours his chaotic heart into that kiss. Each brush of lips is a silent entreaty. Each voiceless breath, a whispered promise. The first swipe of his tongue is a declaration. A touch of tooth is a challenge. A steely arm around her waist is his commitment. He will not be parted from her. Not so long as she will have him. When he pulls back and rests his forehead against hers, he knows. At long last, he is home.