So…I've lurked in the Thor fandom forever and a day, and am super excited about the Avengers movie. This little plot bunny sprang on me while I was washing dishes, and since I am in the middle of avoiding writing my literature review for my Master's thesis, I decided to indulge in some fanfic.
It's dark; but then again, I enjoy fanfiction that explores what happens when you don't get the happy-ever-after. And don't ask me where poor Jane is going to end up, as Thor is one of those rare fandoms where I ship hero/heroine and hero/villain (my usual favorite) with just about equal frequency.
I hope you enjoy!
When Thor disappeared from Earth (Midgard, she supposed it was, too) Jane Foster threw herself back into her work. Every night, she tracked down the pressure differentials that heralded an approaching storm and recorded the night skies underneath them, hoping and praying that the strange constellations that had attracted her to the phenomena would reappear.
They did not.
Darcy stayed with her until the end of the summer, driving the van while she recorded, measured, and photographed. While she continued to complain bitterly about the safety of driving a van into the whirling heart of a storm, she never refused to come with Jane, nor did she go to bed early when Jane stayed awake, developing and analyzing the masses of information taken from these storms.
SHIELD had been surprisingly helpful as well, offering equipment (even some spectrometers that Jane hadn't known to be in existence), vehicles, and extra research personnel. She refused. Not that she carried a grudge, but she didn't trust them. Even Agent Coulson showed a squirrely kind of urgency in her presence. They wanted Thor back just as badly as she did, but Jane knew that they didn't want him back for the same reasons.
Something bad was either on its way, or coming soon.
She couldn't think about that. She just wanted him back…whatever had sparked between them during the three days they had spent together, she didn't feel whole without it, and she wanted it back. Sometimes it felt as though she were crawling around under her own skin, searching for something that should have been there, but wasn't.
She wondered if he felt the same. She alternately hoped that he did, and hoped that he didn't. If she was this miserable, it was hardly fair to hope that someone else was too. Then again…
She tried not to think about it.
Three months went by, and eventually Jane conceded defeat…sort of. She turned her concentration on the Einstein-Rosen Bridge. If the bridge was not going to open from Asgard on its own, then she would find a way to open it. Her theoretical models grew to frightening levels of perplexity—even Erik had to shake his head after a while and leave her to her speculations—but no matter how she tried to make it work, she was short one massive power source.
Theoretically though, her pathways were a beautiful quantum roadmap to the stars. The information Thor had given her, anecdotal as it was, had pushed her mind onto entirely new pathways, and with entirely different premises about the nature of energy and the universe, she had come to some impressive conclusions.
SHIELD agreed with her. One month after she started her theoretical research, she got a call from the infamous Tony Stark, who was apparently also affiliated with SHIELD, and he brought her to New York City, where SHIELD finally introduced her to the Cosmic Cube, the strange item that had stolen Erik from her for so many weeks during the past four months.
Jane forgot to be angry with him in her fascination over the Cube. It took her 48 hours to read through all the accumulated research that SHIELD gave her access to, and on the morning of day three she marched into the lab, flashing her newly-laminated ID card, and told everyone to stand back.
This was the key. This was the energy source and the manipulation potential both. Jane took measures and consulted with Tony—the Cube's foremost specialist, despite Erik's important contributions—and laid a proposal in front of Nick Fury one week later.
When the notoriously difficult-to-please SHIELD headman okayed her project, Jane felt another thrum of worry. After four months of being left on her own, out of the loop, away from the tremendous discover that the Cube represented…
Something big was happening. They would never have brought her in otherwise.
The night before the activation of the portal, Jane did not sleep. She wandered down to the lounge, which was always open, and found Tony Stark and Pepper Potts curled into each other on one of the wrap-around sofas that overlooked the city's gleaming skyline. They separated when she entered—Pepper tightening her neat bun, Tony fumbling with the buttons on his shirt—and Jane felt her worry fade as her heart gave a knifelike expansion, gutting her with its sudden movement.
She wanted him back. Nothing else mattered.
Which was why, when morning dawned and black-suited agents that she had never seen before came to collect her and transport her out of the city, she screamed and lashed out and swore like she never had in her life before.
When she saw Erik waiting for her on the runway next to a nondescript private jet, she spat vitriol with all the strength she could muster and almost took out one of his eyes with a swiping fist.
Afterwards, she would look back on those passionate hours and wonder if she had ever felt so strongly about anything in her life before. She would wonder how such words came to her lips, how she could have behaved so to someone who had done nothing but love her damn near all her life.
Then she thought of Thor and their almost-had, their never-was, and she did not wonder anymore.
When he landed on the planet, drawn down the pathway opened by her research, she was not there. She knew that he had arrived, but had no idea if SHIELD had told him of her existence. She wondered if he thought of her, or if the threat that suddenly crashed down on them all had wiped her from his mind.
The thought of intergalactic war terrified her. Every morning when she woke up, she stared at the concrete wall of her room in the SHIELD compound in Uppsala, Sweden, and felt a dull blankness settle over her, blunting all emotions except fear.
That fear made her hands tremble when she washed her hair in the shower, made her feet uncertain when she trudged to the research laboratory to study the temporal holes ripped in the fabric of her world by the portals opening all over the planet, and made her heart lurch and stutter in her chest as she watched the media reports of the strange worldwide events.
Jane Foster was afraid. But what made it even worse was not knowing if he even thought about her, if he feared for her safety, if he had asked to see her…or not.
They did not tell her. She did not ask.
At the start of the Avengers War—which was what the newsrooms had started to call it, before they all went dark—Jane Foster merely continued the research she and Erik had been assigned. They could not fight, but they could try and help the Avengers (help Thor, her mind insisted) by finding predictors that could keep them from being outflanked by Loki's movements.
Eventually, despite Erik's less-than-enthusiastic nature, Jane did manage to find certain anomalies—in atmospheric pressure, go figure—that appeared every time Loki was about to launch a magically-dependent assault.
She did not know if Thor knew of her contribution, if he knew that she had helped turn the tide of their battle…she hoped he did. She couldn't fire arrows, or fly, or turn into a green rage monster (oh, Tony) but she could help him fight.
But two weeks after her discovery, none of it mattered.
Because Loki won.
Stockholm was far enough away from Uppsala to be a decent hiding spot. The Swedish government had surrendered early to Loki after the breaking of the Avengers Initiative, and even though Jane knew that he had issued orders that any members of the SHIELD research facility were to be turned over to him, she did not think they would find her.
The two SHIELD agents who had stayed behind when the evacuation command had been given must have done their jobs and wiped all computer records, because to Jane's knowledge, no warrants had been issued for her, Erik, or any of the other researchers or security on staff.
Jane stuffed her chilly fingers into the pocket of her gray jacket and walked faster. She wondered what had happened to those agents—just as she wondered what had happened to Tony, and Pepper, and Steve Rogers, and Clint , Thor, Thor—but she stopped herself.
There was no use in wondering. There was nothing she could do.
She ran up the four flights of stairs to the apartment she shared with Erik. Everyone around them seemed to share the tacit assumption that the two of them were in some sort of illicit relationship—the older Swedish man and the young American—but no one asked any questions.
No one seemed to be curious anymore. Everyone seemed to be waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the war still raging in other countries on the planet to be over, and for someone to tell them that it was okay to think and feel again. The prevailing opinion in Sweden seemed to be that it didn't matter who won…just as long as stability could reappear.
Jane thought sometimes that she might hate everyone in Sweden. And Finland, and India, and all the countries in Africa, and Argentina, Brazil…she couldn't even remember all the countries that had surrendered thus far. She hated them all.
She slammed the door behind her and dropped her backpack onto the kitchen table with a thud. Erik didn't even turn his head; he was used to her moods. Besides, he was busy listening to the one radio station (government run, overseen by the Kree-Skrull enforcers Loki had deployed in every conquered nation) still left in existence.
Jane still did not speak Swedish beyond the basics, but she didn't need to; she heard the announcer's timid, warbling voice and knew that he was spewing the same garbage that he had been for the past six weeks. Loki would bring the war to a swift close and bring the peace and strong rule that everyone on Midgard required….blah, blah, blah.
"I don't know how you can listen to that crap," she gritted out, yanking the zippers on her bag open and starting to unload the groceries. "It's the same old stuff."
Erik did not answer. Jane shrugged her shoulders and plopped the canned fish and soup onto the pantry shelves. This last run had taken nearly all their savings—inflation was through the roof and most of the neighboring countries were embroiled in fighting and not able to think about exporting—and she had no idea what they would do when this two-week supply ran out.
The possibility of starving to death no longer made her afraid. It pissed her the hell off.
She picked up a can of herring and hurled it at the radio. It spat sparks and lurched sideways off the coffee table.
Erik did not answer. He did not even move. Jane's rage faded as concern rushed to take its place. Running to the living room, she grasped her old friend by his shoulders and gave him a gentle shake.
"Erik?" she murmured, trying to catch his eyes, "can you hear me?"
It was like talking to a puppet. His head rolled gently on his shoulders when she moved him, but his eyes remained focused on some sort of middle-distance, not registering anything, and not blinking, even when she snapped her fingers. Jane started to panic; she didn't speak Swedish…how could she call an ambulance?
As she turned to go for the phone, she felt fingers close around her wrist, and nearly screamed.
"I'm all right, Jane," the words were precise, almost annoyed.
"You were not!" she insisted, closing her hand over his fingers, "I came in, and you didn't say a word, and you wouldn't look at me even when I was—"
"I am fine." Each word was as precise as a note on a scale. He stared at her, the corners of his lips turned down in an expression of disapproval she could never remember seeing from him.
Jane let out a shaky breath and collapsed onto the sofa next to him. "I'm sorry," she said, burying her face in her hands, "it's just," she breathed again and tried to get a hold of her riotous emotions, "we're out of money and running out of food, and I have no idea where anyone is and you're not talking to me! And we can't get information about how…how anyone's doing because of this stupid government administered stuff!"
Erik did not answer. Jane grasped one of his hands in both her own, seeing streaks of her tears drying on the wrinkled skin of his wrist and she went on, "Why can't we try to get over the border? We could go west, head towards Oslo—Norway hasn't surrendered yet!—and then we could try and join up with…with everyone else. We could help them!"
"Jane," his voice was flat, reproving, "there's no getting out of this. We would never make it across the border; the Kree-Skrull are everywhere."
She drew back, slowing drawing her hands away from him. "You don't even want to try?" she asked, quietly. "You just want to sit here and eat soup and listen to the radio and wait for our world to end?"
He didn't even flinch. "There's no sense in trying. We'd both get killed."
Jane stood up, feeling as though she were standing in front of a stranger. Those eyes were not Erik's eyes. She had no idea where he had gone—who was she to judge how someone dealt with these crazy circumstances?—but she could not stay here.
"I have to try."
The expression on Erik's face hardened suddenly, and turned sharp. She felt as though he were actually looking at her, as he had not looked at anything for the last few months, but rather than feeling relieved at his sudden awareness, she felt a sudden lance of panic.
Her lips twitched, but other than that, she kept still. She spoke quietly.
"I won't take much of the food; just enough to make it to the border crossing," she backed off towards the kitchen and started to put some of the cans back into her bag, "and you can keep all the money. Somehow I don't think those monsters will accept bribes."
Her not-joke made no impression. Erik's eyes stayed with her, sharp and calculating. Her stomach felt full of lead. How had she not noticed that she was living with a stranger?
"I'll leave tomorrow morning," she finished, zipping up the bag and leaving it on the floor next to the kitchen counter, "so if you change your mind, you can come with me."
He said nothing. She walked past him and had to fight her gut instinct to keep her eyes on him at all times. It was only when she shut her bedroom door behind her that she felt the cold sweat of horror break out over her forehead, and she pressed her shaking fingers to her mouth to keep from screaming.
That night, like many others before, was spent in sleepless restlessness. Jane moved quietly around the room, packing her warmest, smallest clothes—two outfits was the most she wanted to bring—as well as rolling her printouts of research into tight tubes and packing the bottom of her bag with them. She made two electronic copies of her hard drive and secreted one in the most unnoticeable pocket on her backpack, and hung the other USB drive on a chain around her neck.
The rest of the night, she spent studying maps of the possible areas she might try to cross the border. Internet communication had been down since the surrender, but there were a few old almanacs left in the apartment by the previous tenant, and Jane traced the faded pictures with her finger, committing the strange names of the towns and hamlets on either side of the crossing to memory.
Not once did she discern a noise from the other side of the door. Not a sigh, a snore, a footfall, or a door closing. For all she knew, Erik was still sitting on the couch like a puppet without its master, staring at a radio that was long silent. Jane shivered.
When dawn finally peeked around the blackout curtains in her window, she shouldered her bag and eased the door open, breathing a silent sigh of relief when she did not see Erik in the living room, or the kitchen beyond. His bedroom door was shut, and she considered knocking…but no. Whatever had happened to him, this Erik was not the one she loved and depended on. Until he was that way again, she could not trust him.
Her feet were silent as she crossed the apartment. Everyone had learned how to walk silently over the last few weeks, but if Jane had not been so focused on her feet, she might have been able to grapple with the shape that lunged at her from behind the kitchen counter and clapped a cloyingly-sweet rag over her mouth.
Her vision tunneled and went dark, but what frightened her most was the voice that was at the same time Erik's and not Erik's, hissing at her:
"Oh, no, darling. You'll not go running back to him."
Jane's memory of the trip was a haze of fuzzy images punctuated by jabs from a needle.
She saw the inside of a ship, but not the kind of ship she knew; one that was piloted by the nightmare Skrull who hissed and chattered at each other as they walked deftly between the consoles. As soon as she opened her parched mouth to scream, Erik's hand was pressing down on her arm with enough pressure to bruise bone, and her vision went dark.
Then she was on a boat—a small one, for she felt the spray from the ocean—and she had enough time to sit up, though her stomach heaved as she did it. Jane thought she was going mad, for there, right above her, was the golden torch of the Statue of Liberty. The torch was there, while the head was nothing more than a crumpled, smoking ruin. She gasped and felt a wrenching in her heart. The pain in her chest drowned out the one in her elbow as someone drugged her again.
The third time she woke, Jane did not stop to take stock of her surroundings. She launched herself upright from the medical gurney—they had not strapped her down—and scattered nurses right and left as she bolted through the open doorway, her IV ripping a bloody line down the crux of her elbow and the back of her hand as she ran.
Her legs were so weak that she was not really running; she was simply delaying her fall. Eventually, her own exhaustion caught up with her and she crashed to her knees, and the doctors were able to drag her backwards without too much resistance; she could not even yell for help.
Back on the bed, looking at the faces around her, she realized that yelling would do no good. These people were human, but what deals they had made with Loki she could not know. She only knew that they looked at her with eyes that were stripped of emotion.
Jane couldn't help herself; she was too frightened to be angry.
"Please," she whispered, as the needle came down once more, "please."
They did not say a word.
Her eyes fluttered open.
She was lying on a white sectional sofa, her head propped up on one of the armrests, and there was light coming through the windows. It was a gray light—pale, as though the sun had abandoned all efforts to get through the cloud cover. It was February, but she was not cold, even though she wore only a t-shirt and some cotton pants; this place, unlike all the others she had found herself in since the start of the war, clearly had enough money to be adequately heated.
Jane blinked, and shifted, trying to take discreet account of her body.
Her arm hurt, and a glance from the corner of her eye showed a thick bandage wrapped around her palm and one around her elbow. Otherwise, from her toes to the top of her head, she felt all right. There were a few bruises here and there, and her knees were sore, but she felt all right. She must not have been unconscious for too long…but then, how long does it take to travel from Stockholm to New York?
She sat up, slowly. The sedatives in her system made for a slightly woozy feeling behind her eyes, and her stomach warned her not to try running again, but her feet had enough strength to flex underneath her and get her upright.
Jane looked around the room and wondered at her overwhelming sense of déjà-vu.
Kidnapped, dragged halfway across the world…and here she was, in Tony Stark's penthouse lounge! There was the dartboard where Clint had beaten them hollow, even after four shots…and the bar where Tony had insisted on juggling bottles of vodka until they all shattered…and the pool table, where she and Erik had talked string theory until the wee hours…and the sofa—she turned around and stared at it—where Pepper and Tony had cuddled and made her weep with jealousy.
That unbelievable bastard.
Her anger threatened to swamp her; her stomach roiled and her feet fumbled for purchase as her vision blurred with fury, but she hugged it to her. For whatever reason, she had been brought here, to the epicenter of the conflict, and whatever lay ahead, she would need all her anger to get her through.
"May I offer you a drink, Miss Foster?"
Damn her, but she flinched at the sound of that smooth voice. How many times had she heard it, flowing from that eerily beautiful face broadcast on TV, and felt sick with hatred or sorrow as she listened to its lies about truces and peace and then watched her world blown apart?
Loki. She turned, and raised her eyes.
He stood by the bar, at ease in a high collared dark green tunic and black pants. Runes stitched in silver ran around the collar and in two columns down the front of his shirt, and Jane picked out meanings here and there—spells of protection and summoning, mostly—before she looked up and met his eyes.
The even tone of her voice shocked her, but she noticed that his eyes widened momentarily as well. Clearly, she wasn't just astonishing herself; but she kept her smile of triumph on the inside.
Suck on that, creep.
His expression of surprise vanished in an instant, and he inclined his head towards her in a mocking half-bow.
"As my lady wishes," he said, and summoned an emerald-studded silver goblet out of empty air, offering it to her. His still posture told her that he had no intention of being enough of a gentleman to carry it to her; if she wanted it—and her body screamed for hydration—she would have to go to him.
Jane had no experience dealing with warlords. Or villains. Or psychopathic madmen. But she had the distinct sense that playing along would probably be safer all around. Her sore knees creaked as she moved, and she reached out with her right hand before remembering it was bandaged. The goblet was too heavy for the injured arm, and she grabbed at it with her left hand, a quiet "ow" escaping her mouth before she steadied the cup.
She took a deep swig of the water before forcing herself to lower the cup and breathe deeply. Drinking too fast after dehydrating would give her indigestion, or worse…she counted fifteen before raising the goblet again and taking two shorter pulls of water. Between her lashes, she could see Loki's vibrant green eyes studying her actions, and almost choked on her swallow.
She breathed again, and set the goblet down. There was a long moment of silence.
"Thank you," she said. The words were reflexive, not heartfelt, and she stepped backwards, placing another two paces between herself and his stolid countenance. Her eyes dropped to the carpet, and she focused on trying to sort out her riot of emotions.
"Look at me," the command was soft, but no less a command for that. She almost felt the strands of magical influence he was rumored to wield plucking at her skin, wheedling her to do as he said.
She felt her heart beat sharply, twice. She took a quick breath.
The silence was awful; she waited through it, somehow not caring if he killed her, because if she were here, then her life was done anyway…
"Miss Foster," the smooth voice was rough now around the edges, and she gritted her teeth and kept her knees from shaking, "look at me."
She bit the inside of her lip; her knees were shaking now. "No."
He lunged forward, faster than she could react, and her chin was between his long fingers, biting bruises through the tender flesh. Her eyes met his, brown against the green, and she felt his power tearing through the borders of her mind, ripping through memories as easy as he might tear the physical neural tissue.
Images passed before her eyes as he dragged them up: her hands, soldering a piece of equipment, Erik's face, smiling at her, Darcy sticking her tongue out behind her iPhone, Thor smiling, Thor laying his coat over her, the night sky and Thor's hands, sketching the branches of the World Tree…
Jane yelled, both her hands coming up to push his forearms away from her, and she lurched backwards, breaking the connection between the two of them.
"Those are mine," she gasped, left arm grabbing at a barstool to keep herself upright, "how dare you?"
He laughed. It turned her stomach, the callous cruelty of the sound, the high pitch, the edge of hysteria that danced the periphery.
"How dare I?" He asked her, parroting her words in her breathy, offended tone, "Why should I not? You," he snarled, the mirth of his voice turning instantly to disgust and malice, "are nothing. Your kind used to worship me as a god. Gods owe their supplicants no explanations."
Jane stared at him, anger rising to meet his. "You aren't a god. You're just a pathetic little boy, lashing out at everyone that never did you any harm. An entire race that never did anything to hurt you. Your brother, when all he did was love you—"
His hand rose, and she felt the impact of the slap even though he did not touch her. Her head whipped to one side and her skin burned.
"You know nothing of me. Or of Thor. Or of anything beyond your pathetic store of mortal knowledge." He drew closer to her, and she could not move, even when he laid his cold palm over her lips. "You know nothing," his voice was soft, though his eyes were deadly, "so you should say nothing."
And when he took his hand away, Jane found that she could say nothing. She opened her mouth and tried to speak, and then tried to scream, but not the slightest whisper came out. She touched her throat and could not even feel her vocal chords responding; he had paralyzed them. She looked up at him and bared her teeth in an animal snarl.
"Yes," he nodded in satisfaction, "until you can learn to speak with humility and respect, I think you will stay silent. Now," he smiled, the grin nearly splitting his face in two, "isn't this a pleasant scene? A beneficent ruler and a…properly discreet supplicant, sharing a friendly drink in comfortable surroundings. Don't you agree, Jane?"
Though she had no idea whether he would understand the gesture, Jane flipped him off.
He laughed again, but the sound was not so urgent as before. It was lazy, mocking.
"I must say, I had expected more of the erudite Miss Jane Foster. Everyone I have spoken to thus far has nothing but the highest praise for you. And your mentor, Erik Selvig…" he sighed, shaking his head, "he thought the world of you."
At the mention of Erik, Jane flipped him off with both hands.
Loki stopped smiling. "Do that again, and I will cut those fingers off."
Angry as she was, she did not doubt his word. She closed her hands into fists and ground her nails into her palms. He picked up where he had left off.
"Yes indeed, everyone has the highest opinion of you, Jane," he took his glass of wine and sat on the sofa, staring at her still where she stood next to the bar, "the man of iron, his little redheaded lover, the archer, and the assassin…once the screaming stopped, that is, they all had nothing but good things to say of you."
Jane did not look at him. She closed her eyes, feeling as though she might faint, throw up, or both. Tony…Pepper…Clint…Natasha…oh God, half of the Avengers! It couldn't be true, she thought quickly, he was just saying it to throw her off, to get what he needed from her. She had to be tough; she had to hang in there. She opened her eyes and faced him, doing her best to keep her face nonchalant.
She lifted one shoulder in a so what? gesture.
He laughed again, the sound now full of genuine amusement.
"You know, I didn't think you'd be worth keeping around, Jane Foster," he said, eyes sparkling—Jane was struck by how truly happy he seemed—and grin boyish, "not after I'd used you as bait for Thor, that is. But now," he stood and took her face in his two hands again, "I think I may have to keep you. You have no idea how quickly one can get bored with peons."
Lost fingers or not, Jane struggled to get away from him. But his hands merely slid from her face to her shoulders, and her body froze in place. She bit the inside of her lip to get some control; if he tried to invade her mind again, she would have to beat him back, somehow. He could not ransack her memories like this…they were hers, they were all she had left of the world he'd destroyed…she would not let him do it.
But that was not his intention this time. He only studied her face, taking in every feature; then patted her shoulder with one hand and broke the holding enchantment. Jane stumbled two steps backwards and almost fell; this time, it was her weak right arm that stopped her. Though her cry made no sound, he still saw the expression of pain.
He snapped his fingers, and two Skrulls entered the room. He motioned with his head and they crossed the space to take each one of Jane's arms.
"Take her back to the doctors and have them do something about that arm. Then take her to her room."
They started to drag Jane away—she could no more resist them than a rag doll—but Loki's voice stopped them once more.
She turned, and stared at him.
"I think next time I will let you speak. But do remember what I said about respect and humility, hmm?"
She clenched her fists, took a deep breath, and gave a sharp nod.
Please review if you enjoyed. This is not a threat, but I honestly have very little time for writing fanfic, so timely updates are almost entirely dependent on the interest I see in the story.