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"Into the blue
And faded world of my daydreams
I feel I'm falling deeper everyday
Melting away down a dark and endless abyss
I'm grasping at straws and I'm chasing the wind
As I fall on my face over and over again…"
-Into the Blue, Sara Jackson Holman
Loki's eyes snapped open. He sucked in a gasping breath—it tore through his chest. His vision would not focus, no matter how hard he blinked. Blurred, dark shapes punctuated by brilliant dots passed over him in a blur. Panic grabbed him. He took another breath. It snagged.
He exhaled a sharp cry of pain. His voice sounded like a slap—raw and close in the silence. He ground his teeth as needles of pain danced across the ribs of the right side of his chest and back. He screwed his eyes shut, forcing himself to take quick, shallow breaths, even as faintness threatened to take him.
Sensation began working its way down through his limbs again, like water through frozen pipes. There—he could feel his arms, now his fingers. They clawed downward into dusty sand. His legs lay crooked, a large stone between his feet. His green cape draped halfway across him, like a blanket haphazardly thrown over a prisoner. He opened his eyes again.
His vision cleared. Black sky replaced the dark blur. And stars—sharp points of white—replaced the flickering lights.
Loki frowned hard, his brow twisting, as he stared upward. The sky looked wrong; it looked—
Another wave of throbbing washed through him, and his hands came up without his consent to press against his chest. Again, he made his throat unlock, he closed his eyes, and forced his mind and breathing to calm so he could retrace what had just happened.
He had fought with his brother. His brother Thor, the master of thunder. They had clashed on the bridge leading to the gate—Thor had broken the bridge with his awesome hammer, severing the lethal hold the Bifrost had on Jotunheim, the realm of the Frost Giants. The severance had caused a colossal explosion that had nearly ripped all of them to shreds. Both he and Thor had tumbled helplessly over the edge. Loki had caught hold of the All Father's staff—Thor had grabbed the other end. And, at the last instant, Thor's feet had been snatched by Odin.
And as they hung there, dangling over the abyss and the pulling tide of the receding wormhole, Loki had looked up into the eye of the one he had called "Father" all his life. He had expected to see rage, condemnation, displeasure in that limitless blue gaze.
But instead, all he had seen was disappointment.
It shook him to the core—and before he knew he was drawing a breath, he had cried upward in a voice like a little boy.
"I could have done it, Father!" he had shouted, almost pleading, as his hand slipped on the staff. "I could have done it! For you!" His voice had caught. "For all of us!"
Odin had paused. And then, he shook his head once.
"No, Loki," he had whispered.
The word had broken him more completely than one of Thor's hammerfells.
And so he let go.
As he tumbled down, yanked toward the wormhole with mighty force, he heard Thor roar a heartbroken denial. And then the whirling blue chaos swallowed Loki.
The throb of his broken soul was instantly overpowered by the frantic need to survive. He had no weapons, and as he fell he tumbled and whirled and spun through the blazing white fire and penetrating dark, so dizzy and sick he could not right himself.
And so he reached down, down into the place within him that no one of his family or friends could ever understand—that place where he held the secrets of his intuition—the treasure store of his magic.
He wrenched that inner power loose and wielded it before him as a sword. Instantly, the chaos of the wormhole transformed into a logic puzzle—a slowly spinning tunnel of doors and gates—and the answers to the riddles opened up before him. He steadied, and slowed, and stood upright. He could not stop his descent. But he could change his direction.
He knew he could not keep plunging down as he had been—for down that path lay Jotunheim, a vast, freezing wreckage of a place now, filled with his enemies. And he could not head for the realms to his left, for he did not have the strength. His only hope was to try for one of the nearby doors. And so, using all his willpower, he had twisted and shoved off, and dove through the closest gate.
After that, he had suddenly lost control. The path was dissolving—perhaps due to the shattering of the Asgard gate. He pitched sideways, and lost his balance, then plummeted, having no idea whether or not he was heading the right direction.
Then, he had been enveloped by fire and heat, and a crushing pressure—
And the ground had come up to strike him like Thor's fist. Dirt had rippled like the surface of a pond—then heaved like the swells of the ocean.
And now he lay there in silence, wracked with agony, staring up at foreign constellations, and blinking away cold tears that ran down his temples.
He had tried to deny it—had tried so vehemently to prove himself worthy of both of them, to show that he was not a monster like those Giants, those who shared his blood. To prove that he could rule Asgard both wisely and swiftly, dealing out justice with vigor and cunning, with no loss of Asgardian blood.
And what had they done in response, this brother, this father?
To Thor, Loki had become an enemy. And to Odin, he had become a disgrace.
And now, bereft of everything he had once loved—for such things had proved only to be hollow dreams—hatred burned in his heart, and water scalded his eyes, casting a fog over the strange constellations—the stars that Loki knew hung over the realm he scorned most: Midgard. Or, to use its other name—the one the little primitive natives called Earth.
"Darcy! Darcy, Darcy, quick!"
"What, what? I was almost asleep…" Darcy groaned. Jane Foster grabbed her arm and dragged the drowsy girl off her chair and across the diner-turned-lab and practically flung her at a large computer screen. Jane swept her own long brown hair out of her face with her graceful fingers as her chocolate eyes lit up in the screen's glow.
"Look at that! It happened again!"
"What did?" Darcy frowned, squinting.
"The same anomaly—the same tornado-like storm that brought Thor!" Jane cried. "And it was right there—it's almost exactly in the same place!"
Jane tried to calm her racing heartbeat, but it was impossible. She had almost been nodding off over a stack of star charts a few minutes ago—now her entire being lit up. She straightened, spun around, and snatched her blue jacket off the back of her chair.
"Where are you going?" Darcy demanded, almost fully awake now.
"To go find him!" Jane shot back, picking up her purse from her desk and throwing the strap over her shoulder.
"It's the middle of the night," Darcy pointed out.
"Yeah?" Jane said distractedly as she fished for her van keys.
"It might not be him," Darcy said.
"Yes, but it might be," Jane looked up and gave her a brilliant grin.
"Erik isn't here," Darcy said sternly. "He's on his way to talk to SHIELD—and you're not supposed to go anywhere without him—"
"Darcy," Jane stopped, and looked at the other woman squarely. "I am not going to just sit here. He promised he'd come back—I'm going to go pick him up so he doesn't have to walk in the dark." She turned on her heel and started toward the door.
"Jane, the dude can fly," Darcy tried. But Jane wasn't listening. Darcy threw back her head and groaned. "Fine, I'll come with you…"