Five Months Later
Jane hugged Erik goodnight as he left the main lab area. Looking over to the wall clock, she sighed; 11:48 PM. Jane tiredly set down her mug of coffee on the lab table and rubbed her eyes with the heels of her hands as her thoughts floated to memories of months past.
When Jane had returned to Earth with the others, Tony had called Pepper and asked for someone to come and pick them up. They were met with a convoy of black cars and immediately taken back to base to be debriefed. Jane had been numb throughout the entire meeting. Her focus was occupied with the goodbye.
She had later come to find out that Director Fury was not particularly happy with the turn of events in Asgard and Jotunheim, especially since Thor and Loki had not returned with them, but Tony was quick to defend their actions.
After much argument and deliberation, Fury had eventually agreed release everyone now that the threat was gone. Each went their separate ways, but promised to keep in touch with Jane. Tony told her to call every day, worried for how she would react to being back home and thrown back into a normal lifestyle. Pepper offered to fly her to Malibu to stay with them whenever she needed to get away, but Jane politely declined. Pepper reinforced her offer, and Jane said she would consider it if the need ever arose.
Barton and Romanov had said goodbye to everyone without disclosing where they were headed. In a way, Jane had known that the two of them would always stay together.
Banner decided to stay close to Puente Antiguo, as did Steve. Banner explained that he liked the open space, and Steve admitted that he didn't have anywhere else to stay, being seventy years in the future. Jane offered to let them both bunk up in her lab; now that Darcy had gone back to university, she had two open rooms. When she'd asked Erik, he consented, welcoming them warmly.
To keep her time occupied and her thoughts away from Loki, Jane had begun to assist Bruce with his theory of how to recreate the serum used to create the super soldier. Although she really specialized in astrophysics, she welcomed the challenge. Having Steve around was helpful sometimes, but most of the time he did not understand what they discussed.
Jane spent a lot of time with Steve too; whenever Banner was too engrossed in his work, they just talked. Jane helped to acclimate Steve to the twenty-first century, and he told her about how different it was back in the forties. In truth, Steve had become one of her closest friends since returning to Midgard; with Darcy off to university and Erik hardly around, she needed someone to confide in. He was like the big brother she'd always wanted but never had; he looked out for her and been her source of support when she needed it.
Jane was brought back to reality by the sound of a door opening and closing. She turned toward the hallway and saw Steve walking down the hallway, rubbing his eyes and yawning as he made his way to the kitchen area. He was dressed in a white form fitting tee and grey sweatpants, feet bare.
"What are you doing?" Jane asked, a smile growing on her lips.
"Getting some water. Did anyone ever tell you it's really dry out here?"
She laughed. "I have in fact heard that one before. But thanks for reminding me."
"Anytime." He reached into one of the overhead cabinets and pulled down a glass, filling it with tap water from the kitchen sink. He took several big gulps before he finished the glass. Once it was refilled, he walked over to Jane.
"You need some sleep, Jane. Staying up this late every night isn't good for you."
"I know, but I would rather stay awake than sleep and face the nightmares I know will come," she replied. Steve sighed.
"What if you talked through them?"
"That's the thing; it's always the same one. It's always the one with Loki," she explained. Steve nodded sympathetically. "I know it's because I miss him."
"Do you wanna go outside? It looks really clear out tonight." His suggestion brought a smile to her lips; he always knew just what to say when she was upset. Jane nodded.
"Alright. Lemme just get some shoes."
Jane and Steve spent the next hour or so walking around outside, sometimes talking, sometimes silent. The cool desert air soothed her occupied mind and restless heart. They eventually came to a spot outside, somewhat far from the lab, and laid down facing the sky. Steve, having the forethought to bring his leather jacket, gave it to Jane to prop her head up. She took it gratefully; Steve rested his head on his hands.
"I just…miss him. I always find myself wondering what would have happened if I had said yes, if I had stayed with him. Things would be so different." Steve said nothing, only listened.
"Everything is just different from when Thor left. When Thor left, I was frustrated, but I got over it. I had Loki to help distract me from waiting on him. And everything just changed. I realized it wasn't just because I didn't miss Thor anymore; it was because I loved Loki. And now he's gone. I lost him because I didn't have the courage to say yes."
Jane sighed. "I'm sorry. I don't want to bore you. This is just dumb stuff."
"No, don't be sorry, Jane. Who else are you gonna talk about this with? I don't know that Banner would exactly have the best advice," he joked. "But in all seriousness, you may have been right to come back here; you said you weren't ready, and maybe he wasn't either," he finished with a shrug.
"You're probably right. It doesn't make it any better though. Having to go to sleep each night thinking about what could have been."
Steve paused. "Well, maybe he'll come back. The bridge was rebuilt, so why not?"
"Well if that's true, why wouldn't he have come back earlier?"
"Jane, there could be a million reasons I could list right now, but we'll never know for sure."
The both of them lay down in silence for the next couple of minutes, staring up at the stars. Jane sat up and rested her chin on her knees. Steve followed suit and squeezed her arm in assurance. Looking at the stars brought tears to her eyes, and she swiped them away quickly. Steve scooted closer to her and picked up his leather jacket from off of the ground and covered her shoulders. Jane rested her head on her knees and cried. Steve pulled her close and rubbed her back.
"Aw, Jane, it'll be okay. Don't worry."
"I miss him."
"I know. I know it's hard, but everything gets better. You'll see."
Jane wiped her eyes with the back of her hands and turned to look at him, resting her temple on her arms.
"How did you do it?"
"How did you handle coming back after seventy years and know that you wouldn't see Peggy again?"
Steve let out a big breath, and smiled sadly. Right for the heart.
"It's been…difficult. I miss her every day. It's not necessarily the big things that I miss, but it's the little things. Like the way she used to walk, or talk. I miss the way that she used to smile. It wasn't just her entire face that it lit up, but her eyes. Her eyes would smile too.
"I guess I always try to remember how much I love her, and how much I miss her. It's the little things like her smile that keep the memory of her alive," he finished, giving her a lopsided smile. Jane listened, her eyelids starting to droop.
"C'mon, what do you say we head back, and you get some sleep? You could use it."
Jane rolled her eyes and lightly punched his arm. He stood up first and held out his hand, pulling her up as soon as she grabbed it.
Jane walked up the steps to her trailer sluggishly. Sleeping was a bittersweet affair; she would always see Loki behind closed eyelids, but she would only be reminded of how much she missed him and how much she couldn't bear to lose him.
She turned on the fan when she walked inside, trying to circulate the air within the stuffy trailer. She pulled her tee over her head and walked toward the bed, reaching for her nightshirt. When she was dressed and ready for sleep, she flopped down on the mattress, hardly remembering her head hitting the pillow.
The next day, Jane was rudely awakened by loud banging on her trailer door. Turning over on her side, she stretched and looked up at the wall clock. 8:07 AM. Jane groaned and willed herself out of bed.
The pounding continued, and Jane sat up. "Just a second!" she called. Slipping on a pair of jeans and socks, Jane made her way over to the door. She swung it open to come face to face with Erik.
"Morning, Jane. Just wanted to say goodbye before I'm off," he said with a smile. The sun was hidden behind a cloud cover, subduing the usual bright morning light. Nevertheless, she squinted from confusion.
"Wait, what do you mean? I thought you were staying the rest of the week?"
"I was, but the university asked me to come back early and give a few seminars on astrophysics. They have a heavy influx of foreign exchange students, and no one to fill the position of teaching the classes until next week," he explained. Jane pressed her lips together and nodded, letting out a sigh. Erik shrugged.
"I'm sorry, Jane. I wish I could stay longer. Don't be afraid to call me though, okay?"
Jane nodded again.
"Good. Come here and give me a proper hug before I go," he requested with a smile. Jane stepped down from the trailer and wrapped her arms around her friend's neck. He hugged her tightly and kissed the top of her head.
"Call me when you get in, okay?" she mumbled into his shirt.
"I will. I'll see you in a month or so. I'll have more details when I get there." Erik released her and smiled.
"See you, Jane."
Jane watched as her friend and mentor walked toward the taxicab that waited for him in front of the lab. She waved as the cab drove away, leaving a cloud of thick dust in its wake.
Jane sighed and walked back into her trailer. She slammed the door shut behind her and flipped on the lights. She hadn't realized how messy it was, and she immediately set out to clean it. She couldn't fathom what made her want to clean it so much, but she felt the need to occupy herself, to find a sort of distraction.
Nearly an hour later, Jane had finished cleaning everything and organizing her belongings. For the first time since she had returned to Earth, she could see the floor on her trailer.
She ran a hand through her hair and paused. Now that she thought of it, she felt grimy. Before too long, the water in the tiny shower was running down her skin and soaking her completely. She let the lukewarm water wash over her body as she thought about the day. She knew she couldn't look at her research, knowing that she would only be reminded of him.
Pull yourself together, Jane. It's been five months; you need to move on.
Shutting the water off, Jane stepped out of the shower and dried off. She chose a pair of clean pants and a flannel shirt, pulling it over her head. As she was drying her hair, she heard a loud knock on her door.
"Jane? You up yet?"
"Yeah, hold on."
Jane walked toward the door and swung it open. Banner stood there with a tired smile on his face.
"Hey, Bruce. What's up?"
"I think I may have found something important, you know, with the research. I was wondering if you would look it over just to make sure that it's sound."
"Yeah, no problem. Be right out."
The majority of the day was spent going over notes and research, getting it ready to be sent off to a few universities for review. Erik called as soon as 7:00 PM hit, letting her know he landed and was on the way to the university.
They finally stopped when she saw Steve walk into the room.
"Hey guys, how about some dinner?" As soon as he mentioned it, Jane's stomach growled. She nodded.
"Do you want me to make something or do you wanna go down to the bar?"
Both Banner and Steve looked at each other and shrugged. Jane knew they both liked her cooking, so she headed over to the kitchen. As she began to pull food out of the pantry and fridge, her cell phone rang. Steve picked it up and looked at the caller ID, tossing it to Jane.
"It's Darcy." At this, Jane immediately picked up.
"Hi, Jane! What's going on?"
"Oh nothing exciting. Just gonna make some dinner here really quick. What's up?"
She heard a knock on the glass doors at the front of the lab. Jane turned and nearly dropped her phone; there stood Darcy with a grin on her face, flanked by none other than Pepper Potts and Tony Stark.
She hung up and ran to the doors. Darcy met her with a big hug.
"Hey, Jane! Missed you! I ran into these guys at the airport and they offered me a ride here," she explained with a grin, jabbing her thumb in their direction.
"I thought you weren't coming back for another few months! What's going on?" Jane asked, happy yet confused. Darcy shrugged.
"Thought you could use a friend."
"Hey, quit stealing my thunder, Lewis," Tony admonished playfully. He held his arms open expectantly for Jane, and she hugged him, followed by Pepper. Banner and Steve shook hands with Tony, and Jane introduced them to Darcy.
Heading back to the kitchen area, Jane began making dinner again.
"So what's the story with you and Pepper, Tony? What made you decide to drop by?" Banner asked. Tony shrugged.
"Needed a vacation."
He began to explain more, but Jane started to tune him out, focused on what she was doing. Every once in a while she would catch something he said and smile to herself. It was good to have them back.
As she was stirring the vegetables in the skillet, Jane felt a cool breeze on the back of her neck, causing goose bumps to rise on her skin. She froze, and closed her eyes. The sensation radiated through the scar on her back, sending a tingle through her fingertips. The cold seemed to encase her entire hand.
She sighed, willing the tightness in her chest to go away. After a few moments, her breathing returned to normal and she resumed cooking, although her thoughts remained distant.
Taking down a stack of plates from the cupboard, Jane served up the stir-fry and called everyone over. Pepper acutely picked up on Jane's change in countenance, but didn't say anything. She knew the reason, and felt it best to leave her alone.
"Eat up," Jane said with a weak smile.
Loki opened his eyes. His breathing hitched, and he raised a hand to his neck, just at the collarbone. He sat cross-legged on the floor of the observatory in the palace, the dim light of the blue torches illuminating his pale face.
His hands shook with exhaustion; he knew he should not have reached out for her, but he had to. He needed to feel her skin, her touch, even if it meant her only feeling a whisper of wind on the back of her neck. He knew how much energy it took to reach Midgard solely with magic, and he felt utterly drained.
But it doesn't matter. I would give anything to see her.
Loki's thoughts were interrupted by heavy footfalls approaching slowly.
"Good evening, Thor," Loki greeted dully. Thor paused, but proceeded to walk toward Loki.
"Will you not join us downstairs? Mother has asked after you."
Loki shook his head. "I am not well. I do not want to dampen the mood."
Thor paused and thought about his brother's words.
"You miss her," he stated bluntly, to which Loki only remained silent.
"I should not have let her go," he mumbled. Thor sat down next to his brother and looked up to the stars.
"This place makes you think of her, does it not?" Loki nodded.
"Very much." He sighed mutely. "Every star is the sky is a reflection of her eyes, of her spirit. I miss the easy sound of her voice, the sureness of her stride. All of it. I was wrong not to tell her how much she means to me, not to plead with her to stay."
"She knows, brother. Believe me." He paused. "Do you speak with Heimdall?"
"No. I am never near the BiFrost; you know I use my own means of travel between the realms."
Thor was silent as he thought about what he would say next. "You know, I do not see why you should not go to Midgard and see her. You have the means. Why haven't you?"
Loki shook his head. "Because she has no doubt moved on. Why bring about memories that would only be painful for the both of us?" The look in his eyes was distant. "I would not wish that for her."
"I am here to tell you that what you say cannot possibly be true." Loki looked over to Thor in confusion. "I have asked after Jane a few times. She misses you. I have never seen the light in her eyes as dim as they are now."
Loki met his older brother's cerulean gaze. He searched his eyes and knew he spoke the truth.
Thor could see a glimmer of hope spark in Loki's eyes. He stood and faced him, hand outstretched. Loki took it, standing slowly.
"I do not doubt you will find one another again."
Loki spent yet another sleepless night in the palace observatory. After Thor had left, he pored over astronomical journals, many of them filled with his own handwriting. He had not noticed the night had slipped past him until a palace guard had come to retrieve him.
He bowed. "My prince, the Allfather has requested that you meet with him in the throne room immediately." Once the message had been delivered, the guard bowed once again and turned away from him.
Loki sighed and transported himself from the observatory to the hallway before the throne room. Once he was ready, he stepped forward through the doorway.
Odin stood with his hands behind his back as Loki walked toward him, bowing when he reached the throne.
"You asked to see me?"
"You are needed this evening in Jotunheim. Skadi has called upon you to discuss matters which I can only assume relate to peace mediations," Odin explained. Loki dreaded the words that fell from Odin's mouth. Every time Loki had visited Jotunheim in hopes of reestablishing peace, Skadi always had some other plan, which usually meant ceaseless attempts at seduction.
Odin sensed the change in his son's countenance almost immediately. "What weighs on your mind, my son?"
Loki shook his head. "Nothing, Allfather. I am simply tired," he lied seamlessly. Odin gave him a wary glance, but did not press the issue.
"I wish you a successful trip. I hope that peace between Jotunheim and Asgard can finally be achieved. Best of luck."
With that, Odin dismissed Loki and left the throne room. Loki scowled, and within a small flash, was gone.
Loki appeared in front of the ice palace that evening and stood still. Seeing it always brought his mind to Jane, the reason why he stood there now. He shivered at the thought. Taking a deep breath, he made his way to the front entrance, met by new palace guards.
"I have been sent for by Skadi," he explained coolly. The guards nodded, turned, and escorted Loki to the council chambers. One there, they opened the door, and Skadi stood at the end of the room. With a wave of her hand, she dismissed the guards, leaving the two of them alone. Both bowed their heads toward each other, and Skadi spoke first.
"Thank you for coming on such short notice, Prince," she purred.
"What is it you called me for, Skadi?" Loki returned. Skadi was taken by surprise by his icy tone of voice. Nevertheless, she approached him slowly, a slight predatory smile on her lips. Loki gave her a bored look, and Skadi ran a finger across his shoulders. He shuddered at her touch, despite the thick layer of cloth and leather that separated them.
"If this meeting was not called to discuss diplomatic matters between Asgard and Jotunheim, I have no business being here."
"Who said I did not call you to discuss diplomatic matters?"
"Make your point known, Skadi, and quickly," Loki demanded.
"If you insist on being so cold, so be it. As it turns out, I have a…proposition for you. For the Allfather," she said vaguely. "I believe that the best way to achieve peace for both realms is through a union."
"I assume you mean a union between you and myself."
"Naturally. And who better to rule at my side than you? We both know who and what you are." Loki remained silent. Skadi frowned at the lack of response.
"Answer me, Prince."
"I would not enter into such an agreement. I do not wish to rule," he said carefully. He almost added with you, but decided against it. He knew he had to maintain a detached demeanor.
"And why ever not? After all, you are its rightful king, Laufeyson," she replied, adding emphasis on his true surname. His jaw clenched, but he did not respond. Skadi reached out a hand and brushed his cheek, but he smacked it away, turning angrily.
"Enough of your games, Skadi," he spat, taking hold of her wrist tightly. "I grow tired of your schemes. I have tried, for months, to work with you to achieve some sort of truce between our realms, but you are determined to try my patience. Up until now, I have overlooked your senseless advances for I refuse to be made the fool by you, and I certainly will not enter into such a union with you." His skin changed at her touch, his green eyes turning to a menacing scarlet.
Skadi snarled, baring her teeth. "It's because of that mortal woman, isn't it?" Loki's gaze momentarily flickered, and a malicious grin grew on the giantess' face. "So it is! Do not look at me that way; I knew she was here, that day you all came for her. Every one of the Nine Realms knows about your little human plaything. Pretty face, small frame. I wonder, after all of this time, that you haven't gone to her? Surely she must have forgotten you by now, moved on."
Loki's grip on her wrist tightened, making her wince, but she did not stop there. "Why would you choose her, a mortal woman? Her life will have gone in the blink of an eye. Bah, mortality. How feeble. And, I must say, how feeble minded you have become. Here, I had thought you were the God of Mischief and Mayhem, but I see all of that has changed. Because of a mere mortal. Pity."
Loki pushed her away, putting distance between the two of them, and turned his back. His skin and eyes returned to their original shades. Skadi stood up a little straighter and began to circle him as a predator would.
"Tell me, Loki, what has she to offer to you? What does she have to offer that I cannot? I can provide you with a realm to rule, ready for the taking. I can provide you with the love you never received. I can be the lover that she cannot. I can provide the peace that you so earnestly seek on behalf of the Allfather," she said with a hungry smile. He turned around to face her. Despite the disgust and contempt written on his heart for the giantess, he was careful to keep his emotions hidden and not react to her words.
"Our business here is finished," he stated calmly. He stepped closer to her, making her involuntarily shrink back. Her reaction made him smirk. "Now, I do not want to hear from you again unless you have some worthwhile business to discuss. I should not like to waste my time idly rejecting you. If I am to return here, it will be because the Allfather has sent me with an ultimatum, and nothing more. If you ever make off-handed remarks again, I will see to it that your lips be sewn shut. Believe me when I say that is not something you want," he threatened harshly. He tilted his head to the side, his green eyes meeting her red ones. "Do I make myself clear?"
Skadi contemplated his threat, searching his face for any hesitation. As she stared back, she decided his threat was not empty and shut her mouth. She wasn't about to further challenge the God of Mischief.
Loki stepped back and left Jotunheim without another word.
Jane awoke the next morning with a throbbing headache. Sitting up on her mattress, she pressed a palm to her forehead. She forced herself to breathe deeply, helping the pain gradually subside to a dull ache. Her thoughts drifted to the previous night, of the surprise visit of her best friend and guests.
Then, she thought of the strange feeling that Loki had briefly stood behind her in the kitchen.
Don't be stupid, Jane. He wouldn't waste his energy on you after all this time. He's probably forgotten about you. Time to get a move on.
Jane reluctantly pulled herself out from under the sheets. The light drizzle from the previous evening had turned into rain this morning, and the prospect of staying in bed the entire day sounded appealing.
You can't be lazy anymore, Jane. There's work to be done.
Swinging her legs over the bed, she pulled on a comfortable pair of pants and a sweatshirt. Jane gave herself a once-over and pulled her hood over her head before leaving the trailer. It was a little warm despite the downpour, but not something she wanted to stick around for nonetheless. Darcy had seen her come out of the trailer while she was in the kitchen and she opened the door for her friend.
"Mornin'," Darcy said sleepily.
"Morning, Darcy. Is Bruce up yet?"
"Yeah, actually. He mentioned something about needing to talk to you." Jane looked at her friend expectantly, but the latter only shrugged.
"I dunno what it's about, but he's in his room. Have some coffee first, though." In Jane's clouded mind, coffee was a beautiful idea. She followed her dark-haired companion into the kitchen area and patiently waited for a steaming mug of black coffee.
As she waited for it, Bruce walked in from the back rooms, dressed and ready to go for the day. His eyes landed on Jane and he smiled.
"Hey, Jane. Sleep okay?"
She shrugged. "As well as I could. How about you?"
"Pretty good. Listen, I got a call from Fury last night, and he received a copy of the research we've been doing with the super soldier serum. He asked Steve and me to fly over, and I wanted you to come as well. Do you think you're up for it?" At Jane's hesitation, he added, "You don't have to decide now; the flight isn't for another two days. I just thought you might want to get away, and New York has plenty of distractions."
He gave Jane a sweet smile. "I'll think about it."
The day passed by quickly, the rain not letting up at all. The day turned into night, and night into morning. She had spent the better part of the night contemplating Bruce's offer. So far, the pros outweighed the cons. She could have a good distraction. She knew she needed time away from Puente Antiguo. Steeling her resolve, she began to pack a suitcase and told Bruce she wanted to go soon after.
The three of them spent nearly two weeks in New York. It proved to be a welcome distraction for Jane, and when she wasn't talking to Fury with Banner, she was out on the town with Steve. Although he didn't know New York as it was now, he still knew the streets pretty well, so they found their way around the bustling city fairly easily. Jane couldn't remember the last time she was in a city so busy; her mind hardly had any time to think about him.
After two weeks in New York had come to an end, the three of them flew back to New Mexico, returning to the daily life they had once known.
The plane had touched down at about 9:30 PM, and Jane, Bruce, and Steve proceeded sluggishly through the terminal to baggage claim to the taxi. Jane fell asleep on the car ride home, head leaning against the window. It didn't feel like much longer before they reached Puente Antiguo and Jane found herself being shaken awake by Banner.
Stepping out of the taxi, Jane breathed in the warm desert air; it smelled like home to her. She walked around to the back of the taxi to find that Steve had already unloaded her luggage from the trunk. Taking her wallet out of her back pocket, Jane proceeded to pay the taxi driver before heading toward her trailer.
Opening the door, Jane dragged her suitcase through the tiny trailer, not bothering to unpack. She swapped her jeans for sweats and sneakers for sandals, only keeping her thin tee. After all, it was still warm outside.
Despite the exhaustion that threatened to envelop her that very moment, the stars had a stronger calling than sleep did. She walked out of her trailer and to the lab. The lab was dark and the only light came from the blinking of sleeping computer monitors. Jane quietly made her way to the stairs that led to the rooftop.
Tonight was especially dark, but it only made the stars appear brighter. She lay down on a lawn chair and curled her legs up to her stomach. She supported her head with her forearm and silently began to name the stars that she knew by heart.
"You know, I find that the stars are more beautiful from farther away."
A cool breeze tickled her nose, carrying with it the familiar scent she had come to love. She sat up and looked straight ahead. There, sitting on the ledge of the roof, was Loki.
He stood up slowly, not taking his eyes from hers. Jane stood as well, meeting him halfway. Her hand rose to her mouth as she searched his face, unable to tell if he was real or just a product of her worn out mind. She looked closer, studied him more carefully. He did not stand as he once did; his lack of posture and dark circles under his eyes were strong indicators of how tired he was. Though his exhaustion appeared clear to her, there was a certain restlessness in his eyes that she couldn't explain.
Loki reached out and tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear. He began to think of what he wanted to say, but no words could be sufficient enough to convey the thoughts in his mind or the feeling in his heart.
The expression in Jane's eyes was enough to melt any type of resolve he would have had. Loki immediately pulled her closer; he buried his face in the crook of her neck and breathed her in. Valhalla, how I've missed her.
Jane rested her cheek on his chest, her mind racing. Neither of them said anything; truthfully, neither of them could find the right words to say. Loki stepped back and met her warm eyes. He felt her confusion, her desire to ask questions, to understand what was happening, but most of all, he saw love shining brightly in her gaze.
In that moment, he knew that she needed him just as much as he needed her.
Loki's lips met hers, almost of their own volition; it was as if that's where they knew they belonged. At first, the kiss was gentle, almost chaste, but the desire arose, as did the want. Jane stood on her toes and wrapped her arms around his neck, bringing him as close as she could. Her fingers laced through his raven hair, and his hands cupped her face. Her strong insistence had caused him to slightly stumble, his hands moving from her face to her waist to keep his balance. His taste for her felt insatiable; it was as if his body had only just reawakened itself at her touch and couldn't be satisfied with the mere thought of her.
When it got to the point where neither could breathe, Loki reluctantly broke away from her sweet embrace. They both stared at each other breathlessly.
"I waited for you," Jane blurted. Loki's breathing hitched.
"I knew since the moment I left that I was leaving my heart behind."
Loki leaned his forehead against Jane's. "You're all I've thought about. The second you left, I did as you suggested and became royal liaison. I knew that if all else failed, I would at least be able to have an excuse to see you whenever I could." He laughed shakily. "Little did I know how taxing it is trying to fix broken peace." Jane laughed, and Loki relaxed. Her laugh was one of the most beautiful things he had ever heard; it always put him at ease. Jane took his hand in hers and led them both to the lawn chair, and they sat down side by side.
"We both know that you're the only one that could handle anything like that and still have their sanity intact," she supplied, giving his hand a squeeze.
"Believe me when I say I almost lost my sanity a few times," he replied, thinking of Skadi. Pushing the thought from his mind, he turned the conversation to her.
"How have you been? What have you done these past months since I last saw you?" he asked softly. Jane looked at their clasped hands and exhaled.
"Well, I've actually been helping Bruce with his super soldier serum research. Not really something I'm an expert in, but I think I've got the hang of it." She paused. "Bruce and Steve both live here in the lab now. Steve didn't really have a place to go, and Bruce liked the open desert, just in case, you know, the other guy makes an appearance. Darcy went back to school, and Erik's teaching at university. It's nice to have some company," she said with a content grin. It faltered. "It's been difficult though."
He moved to sit on the ground in front of Jane on his knees. He inhaled sharply before looking her in the eye. "Jane, these past few months have been some of the most trying months I have ever been through. Not only have I had to deal with the process of rebuilding, but I have had to find a way to will myself out of bed even though I know I would not see you. I saw you everywhere, especially in the evening sky. I could not get away from you. I knew that I didn't want to be away from you, and that letting you go was one of the most regrettable things I have ever done. I know that at the time it was what was best for the both of us, but now, I'm not entirely sure that's true. I am so sorry for letting you go. I was so utterly wrong, and I'm sorry." He started to stumble over his words, unable to find precisely what needed to be said. His effort made Jane's giddy heart beat quickly. A playful smirk began to form.
"What's this? Loki Silvertongue at a loss for words?" Jane said jokingly. Loki brought one of her hands to his lips and smiled, looking up at her with glittering green eyes.
"Only with you, my love." Jane blushed. Joke's on you, Jane, she thought to herself.
Loki sighed. "I never want to be away from you again. I apologize that I could not have had enough courage to tell you that in the first place. To tell you that I needed you the most. I'm sorry I could not have been the man you deserved all those months ago." Jane shook her head and placed her palm against his cheek.
"You know, you apologize a lot for someone who does nothing wrong," Jane said with a lopsided smile. Loki grinned at the memory. Jane continued. "Please don't think like that Loki. We both made that decision. It was just as much my decision as it was yours." She smiled ruefully. "I still find myself living with the consequences of that choice six months later."
Loki's eyes met hers, the humor in his gaze replaced by earnest. He removed Jane's hand from his cheek and held it tightly, doing the same with her other hand.
"I will not dance around this subject any longer. The entire truth is that I want you. I want you to be at my side always. I refuse to believe the lie that I could live without that, without you. It is not possible. I want to spend every moment with you, awake or asleep." He inhaled shakily and Jane squeezed his hands, giving him the courage he needed to continue. "Jane Foster, I love you with every fiber in my being, and I want to know if you feel the same. I want to know if you want the same."
Jane froze. She searched his eyes and found the real question that he did not voice: will you marry me? He gave her a small and sincere smile, knowing she knew what he was alluding to. She brought a hand up to her mouth in shock. His smile faltered at her silence, and Jane momentarily panicked; she didn't want to leave him without an answer. Since she could not find her voice, she settled for a nod. Loki visibly relaxed, and rested his head in Jane's lap.
Jane lifted Loki's head from her lap. She brought her lips to his and kissed him sweetly. This kiss was not like the one they had shared moments before; it was loving and kind. It was the sole confirmation for him that Jane was his and his alone; that she agreed wholeheartedly to be his wife and never leave his side. She stroked his cheek with her thumb, wiping away the stray tear that had fallen.
Jane proceeded to tug at Loki's arm gently, inviting him to sit up on the lawn chair. He stood and moved to sit next to her, but she shifted so that he sat behind her. He leaned back against the chair and pulled Jane onto his chest.
"I strongly believe that there could not possibly be another being in all of the Nine Realms that is as happy as you've just made me."
Loki kissed the top of her head and traced the outline of her scar until she fell asleep in his arms.
"Tony! Jesus, watch where you're driving! You're gonna hit someone one day!"
"Relax, Nat. I got everything under control. And besides," he continued, "it's not like I was the one to pick a late flight time. I have to drive fast if we're going to get there on time."
Tony weaved in and out of traffic. Pepper was growing nervous in the passenger seat; he really was going to kill someone, if not everyone in the car.
"Anthony Stark! Slow down! You're going to miss the off ramp!" Pepper admonished. Tony cut across four lanes of traffic, narrowly making the exit.
"Jesus, Stark," Barton muttered under his breath. Ignoring everyone's protests, he stepped on the gas. Puente Antiguo was about an hour drive from the airport, but he was about to cut that in half.
"Trust me guys. We'll be there in no time."
Jane saw the black SUV drive up the road just in time. She exhaled in relief. Finally. Pepper and Tony jumped out of the car, Barton and Natasha still remaining. Pepper opened the lab door.
"You guys ready to go?"
Jane nodded and headed for the door, followed by Erik, Bruce, and Steve. They all piled in the SUV and Tony sped off.
They reached the BiFrost within minutes. Jane jumped out of the car and ran to the center of it.
"Let's hope this works," she muttered under her breath. "Heimdall? Can we come through the BiFrost? Please?"
Not a moment later, dark clouds began to swirl overhead before surrounding them in white light. The BiFrost room appeared before them, its Gatekeeper standing diligently at the center, sword in hand.
"Welcome to Asgard, Lady Foster and friends." Heimdall turned to face Jane. "Frigga waits for you in her quarters. As for the rest of you, once you reach the palace you will be escorted to the main hall."
Without another word, Heimdall led them out of the BiFrost room. The group quickly made their way to the palace. Once at the open doors, Jane turned to face her friends.
"This is it," she said nervously. Pepper hugged her quickly.
"We'll see you in a little while," she said. Tony gave her a wink before turning away with the escorts. Jane turned around to find a pageboy waiting for her.
"Are you Lady Foster?" Jane nodded. He bowed his head.
"Please follow me. Lady Frigga awaits."
The pageboy led Jane through several hallways until he reached the entrance to Frigga's chambers. He bowed and left. Jane nervously stepped forward and knocked.
"Come in," came a soft and familiar voice. Jane swung the heavy door open and found Frigga standing by a tall armoire. She wore a soft pink dress with long sleeves and floor length skirt.
Frigga smiled and approached Jane. "Just in time. I thought I would help you prepare. Did you have anything in particular you wanted to wear today?"
"No. I haven't had much time, ma'am. Everything has happened so quickly," Jane explained lamely.
"That is almost a blessing in disguise. I had some dresses made for you to choose from," Frigga replied with a warm smile. She turned and opened the armoire to reveal a series of four dresses. Frigga took each of them down from their hangers and laid them out individually on her bed. The first one was a simple white with blue embroidery. The second one was deep blue with silvery embroidery, and the third one was a forest green with gold trim. The fourth one, and by far Jane's favorite, was a cream coloured dress with green embroidery and gold accents.
"You may choose whichever one you like," she continued. "Although, the last one is my personal favorite."
Jane smiled. "Mine too."
Frigga lifted the dress from off of the bed and turned it over. Jane gasped. The back was completely open; it didn't connect at the top and the bottom of the opening would sit at the small of her back. She shook her head.
"I don't think I can wear it."
"Why ever not?"
"Because…because my scar would show," she explained in a small voice. Frigga walked over to where Jane stood and took hold of her hands.
"Jane, that does not matter. You will look beautiful."
"But it covers my entire back. The back of the dress would reveal it completely."
Frigga smiled sympathetically. "Why don't you try it on and decide then? You never know."
Jane nodded and reluctantly allowed Frigga to undress and dress her. The dress fit unlike anything Jane had ever worn, and it was comfortable. Frigga moved her in front of a mirror, allowing Jane to see the dress on herself. Jane turned, dreading what she would look like. She saw the large sunburst scar that spread all over her back and winced.
"This may a strange thing to say, but that scar is a beautiful thing." Jane turned to face Frigga, confused. "If anything," she continued, "it is a symbol of the strength of the love you have for Loki. The strength to step in front of Death and take the place of another person."
Jane had never really thought about it that way; it was always just a reminder of a dark time she never wanted to revisit. She swept her hair away from the scar and stared at it in the mirror. Strangely enough, it did look beautiful. Jane smiled to herself and faced Frigga.
"This is it."
Jane could hardly focus. Everything overwhelmed her. The enormous crowd, the seemingly endless path toward the throne, the friends that stood close by, grins on their faces. Jane could swear she saw Erik cry.
His eyes were on her the entire time; they never left her face. His hands shook as they held hers for the binding rites. They still shook as the rune of the wedding knot was etched on both of their wrists.
Even as the ceremony came to a close, Jane was all he could see. All he would ever see.
Epilogue: Two months later
Jane looked at herself in the bathroom mirror and covered her smile with her hand. She had woken up with the strangest feeling; she had snuck out of their bedroom to talk with the healers about it.
Opening the bathroom door quietly, Jane peeked her head out. Loki still lay in bed, sheets wrapped around him. One arm rested above his head on the pillow and the other was thrown across his stomach. She could tell by the rhythmic rise and fall of his chest that he was still asleep.
Jane walked over to the bed and carefully climbed in next to him. He looked so peaceful; Jane debated whether or not she should really wake him up.
Loki, feeling the weight beside him, inhaled deeply and stretched. He opened his eyes and smiled at his wife.
"Well, this is unusual. I am always the one waking you up," he said with a smile. He turned on his side and propped his head up on his hand. Jane, unable to sit still, sat up and crossed her legs, facing him. He raised an eyebrow.
"Is there something you wish to tell me?"
Jane shrugged. "It's not that important. It can wait."
Loki grabbed Jane's waist and pulled her on top of him. "Oh, no you don't. You always do that, and it's always important. Now tell me," he growled.
Jane grinned and rolled off his chest, sitting on her knees. "I'm pregnant."
Loki's eyes went wide and he sat bolt upright. "Jane you—you're pregnant?" Jane nodded, biting back her grin. His gaze lowered to her abdomen and back to her eyes. He suddenly pulled her onto his lap and kissed her, hard. Jane laughed against his lips, and his hands cradled her face. He pulled away from her, unable to stop grinning.
"I talked with the healers before you woke up this morning. They're the only ones who know. I made them promise not to say anything until we make the announcement," she explained, giddy.
Loki's expression grew serious. "Then we have no time to waste!"
"We can wait a few minutes; you just woke up," Jane reasoned. He kissed her lips briefly.
"My love, I want everyone to know now, even if I have to shout it from the rooftops. I've waited this long; I will not wait another moment."
Jane climbed off of his lap and watched as he hurriedly dressed. She laughed to herself, shaking her head. When Loki finished dressing, he pulled Jane from off the bed and into his arms.
"Jane, my darling wife," he said between kisses, "you've no idea how happy this makes me."
She laughed. "I think I have a pretty good idea."