Chapter 1: Let's Start Things Off with a Bang!
"Oh man! Oh man oh man oh man!"
She heard the voice, though it sounded strange and distant over the vicious throbbing in her head. Darcy's inflection, which never seemed to rise more than a few octaves above a sleepy monotone, sounded high and panicked. The last time she'd sounded like that, Jane thought, they had been driving straight into a mysterious storm.
"Please don't be hurt bad, okay? Oh shit, oh shit! She's bleeding! She's bleeding a lot, would you do something already!"
"Head wounds always bleed like that." Another voice, less familiar and less comforting than the squeaky falsetto of her assistant, came with the terrifying feeling of being moved. Light seared her vision suddenly, disorienting her as she made a failing attempt to understand what was happening around her. "She's lucky she didn't get worse than a little cut."
"Little? Little?" Darcy squealed, sending shocks of pain across through Jane's skull. "Look at her face! She looks like a victim from Halloween! Oh man, Thor is going to be so seriously pissed about this."
The portal… the portal had worked, had opened, and she had seen him. For a moment, she was certain she had looked right into his eyes, and then something had happened, something had gone drastically wrong.
Awareness began to cut through the pain and Jane struggled to be able to piece together what was happening around her. She was aware that she was lying on her back, and suspected strongly that her head might be resting on someone's lap. Something was prodding her shoulder, sending shockwaves of pain and nausea straight through her.
"Looks dislocated," the unfamiliar voice, possibly a medic, muttered over her.
"I'm doomed. Thor's going to kill me for this, I just know it." Darcy moaned,
"Let's get this shoulder set, hold her… like that, yeah."
"Sure, why not? It's not like he can kill me twice."
Searing white-hot pain exploded through her body and she struggled instinctively away from it. Her previous nausea returned with great force as she fought the hands that held her down. Time seemed to stop, trapping her in the storm of pain and sickness and confining hands until oblivion finally consumed her.
It was mercifully quiet when her mind surfaced once more. She had a sense of pain artificially dulled by medication, and the irritating pull of adhesive on her forehead. She heard Darcy murmur something intelligible from somewhere nearby, and Jane was grateful that her assistant's voice had returned to its normal tones again.
The sight of Darcy looming wide eyed and anxious over her was what greeted her tired eyes when managed to force them open. The younger woman's face was scraped, smoke-smudged, and tear-tracked. Her dark hair was a tangled mess around her shoulders, her jacket had a jagged rip at the sleeve and her hat was missing entirely.
"Are you okay?" Jane asked, alarm rushing over her. She wasn't sure what had happened, yet, but it had obviously been very bad. The air was foul with the acrid scent of burning plastic, and Jane's own injuries were not trifling.
"Alive." Darcy laughed, lifting a begrimed hand to smear she soot impossibly over her face, "Bruised. Sore. I'm a lot better off that you are. You seriously freaked me out, Jane. I thought you were dead."
A fresh batch of tears glimmered in her eyes and Jane reached over carefully to squeeze Darcy's hand. "I'm okay, I'm fine."
Different as they were, she and Darcy had forged a strong bond in the wake of Thor's departure. While she wouldn't go so far as to say that Darcy really understood her (or she Darcy), the astrophysicist would say that the younger girl was her closest friend. It was a friendship that she had come to value as pressure from S.H.I.E.L.D increased.
Jane repressed the urge to sit up, suspecting strongly that it would not be a good idea just at the moment. It wouldn't do her any good anyway, seeing as the medical bay was nowhere near the Portal Hangar. She wanted badly to know what had happened, and how much they would have to rebuild.
But it had worked. For a moment, the portal had worked.
"I saw him." She murmured, looking up at Darcy.
"I did too." was the reply, "I think… he might have seen us but, you know, things started catching fire and exploding. So I'm not really sure."
"Do you know- can you tell me what happened? I don't… it's fuzzy."
Darcy gave her a quick grin, "Fuzzy my ass. You were too into tall, blond, and ripped to pay attention to anything else. It happened really fast, Jane. It's like, the Stargate opened, and then one of the geek squad starts yelling because his computer is sparking and smoking and… then… I don't really understand what happened, but something outside the control room just went boom."
Jane closed her eyes, trying to bring her memories into focus. She recalled, with painful clarity, the Portal opening and the sight of Thor striding toward them. Someone had shouted, she remembered now, and she had turned and she had seen the smoking computer. After that it had been lights out.
"The control room door flew open and they think that's what dislocated your shoulder, that you caught the edge of it as it came inward. You were, like, thrown into me, and there was fire everywhere and everyone was yelling and you were… you were bleeding, like, all over me."
"Sorry." Jane murmured apologetically. "I don't even remember the explosion just… waking up and hearing you."
"Yeah, well, you're lucky you don't remember. Freakiest thing I've ever seen. It was like being in a Matrix movie, you know, and everyone is flying around and crashing into the wall and the fire is whooshing in over us, but it's all happening in slow motion. Anyway, you'll be glad to know that the Stargate is fine, no damage from the fireball."
"Don't call it that." Jane winced, despite her portal's uncanny resemblance to such.
Darcy made a face at her and grinned, "I did hear someone say that Stark was flying in to analyze what happened."
Jane sighed, closing her eyes as she contemplated that fact. While she worked closely with S.H.I.E.L.D, her research was actually being funded by STARK Enterprise. She had few complaints about it so far, her work had made incredible leaps with the funding, equipment, and manpower Stark had provided.
Her salary wasn't anything to sneeze at either. Not only had she been able to move out of her cramped little camp trailer, but she had completely furnished her new house in a very short amount of time. Darcy had benefitted greatly too, finding herself in a paid position as Jane's assistant, and with a full college scholarship.
Stark himself, though rarely on site in person, had been instrumental in the Portal's design and construction. Taking her calculations and ideas and refining them almost to perfection, it was only with his help that they had been able to start testing her theory so quickly. She respected his brilliance, and had no doubt that he would be able to quickly pinpoint what had happened and why.
But that wasn't the reason he was coming to New Mexico.
In the two years since Thor's return to Asgard, they had been plagued with a series of strange events. Equipment had been tampered with, moved, broken. Key cards had been re-coded or erased entirely, and an entire vehicle had disappeared for three days.
Two weeks ago all the wires in the Portal's mainframe had been detached and the panel replaced. Three months prior, the freezer in the mess hall had been mysteriously disconnected and all the food inside it grotesquely spoiled.
Up until now all the incident had been annoying and inconvenient, but relatively harmless. The staff generally thought that it was only a series of immature but extremely well done practical jokes. Jane had begun to worry, though, as the pranks seemed to slowly escalate as time progressed.
It wasn't until the Portal's first test run that she had really seen what was happening in a clear light. An essential wire had vanished out of the Portal's main computer terminal and had stalled the machine's first boot up cold for nearly six hours while the tech squad had rooted out the problem.
Jane had stood in the control room with Stark and Darcy, discussing the bizarre events and security's inability to uncover the prankster. During a momentary lull in the conversation, it had been Darcy to give voice to a small niggling thought that Jane herself had only just begun to examine as she had said,
"It's almost like someone's trying to stall Thor's return. Like they don't think they can really stop it, but they're trying to hold it off for as long as they can. Slow things up, keep everyone on edge."
It was a chilling thought.
The fact that the prankster had drawn blood today, the day they had fired up the Portal at full power, had only seemed to cement Darcy's words into hard fact. The pranks were deliberate attempts to stall or prevent Thor's return to earth.
That was why Iron Man was coming to New Mexico.
Iron Man was coming because this person, whoever he or she was, had not just drawnblood. He had drawn Jane's blood; the blood of the woman that Thor had almost given his life to protect. Perhaps it had been just a coincidence that Jane had been grazed by the door when it had blown open, but she doubted it.
Anyone who was at the test openings knew that Jane always stood close to the door so that if and when they were able to bring Thor through, she would be the first out to greet him. There was no way it wasn't deliberate and Tony, rather like Agent Coulson, seemed to have some concern for what the blond giant might do if he returned only to discover that Jane had been killed mysteriously.
Today's events also meant that she would have S.H.I.E.L.D agents loitering outside her house and indiscreetly shadowing her, as they had done for nearly six months after the truck had vanished. That really sucked.
"Was anyone else hurt?" She finally asked, and felt a little guilty that she hadn't thought of is sooner.
"You were the worst, I think, because you were so near the door but there was one guy, I don't know his name, he got burned some. I don't think it was that bad. It could have been a lot worse, I guess."
"It was bad enough. Ugh, this will put us back weeks, maybe months."
"Your arm will have time to heal, at least. Doc Gantz says that you'll have to keep it really still for at least a week, and then he'll give you a checkup and talk about physical therapy."
"Great. Just great. That's just what I needed." She sighed, moving her good arm up to gingerly poke at her forehead, "What about my face? How bad is it?"
"It's not as bad now that it isn't, like, covered in blood. I don't know how it happened, exactly, but you have a really gnarly cut on your forehead and a black eye. So, really, a little downtime is a good thing. You wouldn't want to jump your Viking hunk with your face all black and blue, right?"
She didn't care about that, actually. She just wanted him back.
Had Thor seen her in the portal, she wondered? Had he glimpsed the explosion? Had he seen the gateway at all? Did something prevent him from returning or… had he simply forgotten about her and his promise? She sighed, fighting back the wave of panic.
"Do I have to stay here all night?" She asked with more bite than she'd meant to. She wanted to go home and shower. Then she wanted to sulk into a gallon of double fudge chocolate ice cream and cry.
"Well, no, you don't… but it has been strongly recommended that I stay with you for a while. At least until you've got some mobility back in that arm. It won't be that bad, Jane, come on. It'll like a slumber party."
In spite of her darkening mood, Jane laughed. Darcy still drove her nuts sometimes, but she always seemed to know when Jane needed distracting, or a break, or just to talk. She couldn't have asked for a better friend. She would need the help, she knew, and was glad that Darcy seemed so willing to provide it.
"Sure, okay, you can hang out until I'm not completely helpless."
First things first: The title of the story is derived from Fushigi Yuugi: Eikoden. Now, it's been a very long time since I've watched Fushigi Yuugi in any of its forms, but the internet tells me it's this is the theme from OVA 3. I rediscovered it on a CD while scrounging around for music to write to.
It's a very pretty song, and has chosen to make itself something of a main theme for the story as I have constantly returned to it while writing. I highly recommend checking it out here: watch?v=PXz2MAVLV1U
I'm enormously pleased with this so far. Especially since I've re-written this first chapter twice and I just know that I haven't found all the typos (please be kind, I did try).
I find that the more I write for Darcy, the more I like her. She makes a great sidekick for Jane, and I think that the two of them will have bonded greatly after their time with Thor. She'll have more of a Spotlight later, but for now it's all about Jane and Thor.
On a side note, I did some research about dislocated limbs, and I have to say OUCH! My shoulder hurt just reading about them, and I almost didn't have the heart to do that to Jane. However, I did anyway.
Update : Big thanks to Lcsaf for being my beta. This chapter has been upgraded to chapter 1.2. No major changes, just some errors found and corrected and a few word selection alterations. Cookie for you if you can find them.