Once There Was A Night
Warnings: Sexual content
Disclaimer: I own nothing
'Once there was a night, beneath a moonless sky,
Too dark to see a thing, too dark to even try.'
'I stole to your side, tormented by my choice.
I couldn't see you face, yet trembled at your voice.'
- Excerpt from 'Beneath A Moonless Sky'
Jane smiled as she watched her son play in the golden warmth of the Asgardian sun.
He was a handsome boy, only ten years old, his light brown, shoulder-length locks bouncing as he chased a bird through the gardens. His quick blue eyes sparkled with laughter, his angular, beautiful face alight with joy, the knees of his breeches already marred by dirt.
Jane sighed at that. Boys will be boys, she supposed.
Suddenly he tripped, and cried out. Immediately, Jane rushed from the shady portico she had been haunting, her amethyst silk skirts flying around her.
"There, sweetheart," she breathed, throwing herself to her knees beside her son, soothing his pain as a tiny scarlet flower bloomed on his dirty knees. "It's alright."
"You should not coddle him so, Jane," her husband's voice boomed behind her, and she turned her head to find Thor, magnificent in his ruby cloak and shining armour, Mjolnir hanging from his belt, striding up behind her, his friends and advisers lingering behind him. "In battle, a small wound such as this cannot be coddled."
"Yes, Thor," she sighed patiently. "But he's not in battle now. And he's only a child."
"Regardless, he is the heir to the throne," the King replied sternly, looking down at the suddenly quiet child, his pale face stoic. "He cannot show weakness."
"He's just a child," Jane repeated firmly, eying him coolly. His golden face hardened, and Jane sighed as she stood, dusting down her skirts. "Luc, are you alright?"
Lucian, Prince of Asgard, nodded, looking to his father questioningly. A slight smile broke out over Thor's harsh features, and he ruffled the boy's hair. Lucian smiled, brightening, before holding out his hand.
A perfectly carved, tiny wooden replica of Mjolnir appeared in his hand. Thor's face stretched into a beaming smile.
"You see Jane, our son already dreams of battle," he chuckled. "Did you carve this yourself, Luc?"
"Yes, Father," he nodded. "With magic."
Jane saw the slight darkening of Thor's eyes, her own wincing as she waited pensively for his reaction. Magic was not encouraged on Asgard, not since the departure of….him, a decade ago.
"Well done, boy," Thor's voice was gruff, nodding once before turning away and striding back to his court. Jane watched him go with a sigh, noting some of the disapproving glances headed their way, and the scornful ones from some of the less cautious of Thor's courtiers.
She had been Queen ten years, and even now there were those who thought her unworthy to be Thor's wife. She had been a mortal, a Midgardian, an inferior in their eyes, and her son even more so as a hybrid.
His growing magical abilities only increased the suspicions of the bitter and the hateful in Asgard, and no matter how much Jane tried to speak to Thor of it, he brushed her concerns aside, claiming no one would dare hate his wife and son.
He was so blind sometimes.
Her eyes wandered back to her son, as he dejectedly hid the wooden hammer, eying his hands as if they were something curious he had found in the garden. She knew Luc wondered where he had inherited such powers from, since Thor could not use magic in that way, and she possessed no powers.
Jane knew where of course, but she could barely think it. She could barely think his name.
He had not been seen in ten years, Heimdall keeping them informed but he had caused no mischief.
Tearing her mind away from the past, Jane smiled and tried to cheer her son up.
"Hey, honey," she sighed, settling herself on the grass of the royal gardens, the sun warming her through her silken dress. "Can you show me something else?"
Luc brightened, and he held out his hand and a pale pink lily blossomed in his palm. Jane laughed and gasped delightedly, as he leaned forward and slid into place behind her ear.
"You look so pretty, mother," he murmured, his icy blue eyes meeting hers, and her breath hitched. Sighing, she looked away until his soft, heart-wrenching question made her glance back in shock. "Mother, why does Father dislike me using magic so? Isn't he proud of me?"
"Oh darling, he-he is," she protested, even though she knew she lied. "In his own way. You are still young, honey, and one day, when you're grown up and strong and powerful, he will tell you how proud he is of you."
"It's ok, Mother," Luc smiled, a self-deprecatingly, almost bitter smile that Jane had hoped never to see on his young face. "You don't have to lie to me."
He rose from his seat on the grass, and walked away, hands in his pockets, head bowed in thought. Jane sighed, closing her eyes.
That evening, Jane readied herself for dinner.
Usually she ate in her chambers, with Luc and occasionally Thor, but tonight Thor had demanded her presence in the feasting hall. She wondered when things had become so strained between them.
Her deep mahogany hair was bound in a long braid down her back, a silver circlet bound across her forehead. The black gown she wore was sleeveless and fitted to her slender form, the lacy skirts flowing around her as if made from spider webs. Black glovelets covered her arms.
She heard footsteps behind her, and turned from her dressing table to find Luc before her, dark brown hair combed, his tunic clean and fresh. She smiled.
"How do I look?" she asked, holding her arms out. He smiled, a slow, cunning smile that made her heart stop.
"Like a Queen, mother," he grinned, before it faded. "Will I see you after the feast?"
"Of course, darling," she hugged him tightly. "I'll come and read to you, if you want. Now go have your dinner, and practice your new spells for me."
"Ok, Mother," he smiled and rushed off. Jane straightened, watching his exuberance with a smile until she felt Thor appear behind her shoulder.
"You spoil our son too much," he began. "The warriors fear he is weak."
"Heaven forbid the opinions of your warriors matter more than the welfare of your son," Jane snapped back, turning to face her husband. "He is a child, Thor. Let him be one, for God's sake."
Thor's face was unyielding. "Soon he will begin his training as a warrior. After that, there will be no more magic," he dictated, holding out his arm. "Come."
Mentally sighing, Jane took his arm and allowed him to lead her to the feasting hall.
As they walked along the many golden corridors of Asgard, Jane wondered when their married life had grown so…stale.
She could honestly say she loved Thor, dearly, else she would not have left Earth to be with him.
But she regretted it. For ten years she'd had to live with the disapproval and contempt of the majority of Asgard, which Thor had just waved away when she pointed it out to them. It only lifted slightly when Luc was born, since the production of a male heir apparently was all-important on Asgard.
Many times Jane had had to fight off the urge to point out the many successful female sovereigns on her home planet. Even on a world where they had woman warriors like Sif, they still treated women as inferior to men.
But even more than that, she missed her research. To Thor, her life now consisted of being his wife and Queen, dutiful and sedate. A trophy for his arm at feasts, a glittering ornament to sit beside him on his throne, and a warm body for his bed. It was not the done thing for a woman, a Queen, to have an occupation, let alone be a scientist like Jane. She supposed she had rushed into it all too soon, but when he had arrived back on Midgard after Lo-…after his brother tried to take over with his Chitauri force, she had embraced him and all he offered with urgency, unsure if it would all be snatched away again.
It had been a mistake. She should have waited, she should have got to know him first.
Jane shook away the regrets of the past, her hand tightening around her husband's arm. It was no use dwelling on yesterday.
She had made her bed, and now she would have to lie in it and make the best of it. As they paused on the threshold of the feasting hall, a hubbub of chatter and laughter echoing from within, she smiled at Thor more warmly than she had done in an age. He smiled back, and they entered, his hot, strong hand tight around hers.
She hated feasts.
All the talk was about fights and adventuring, or alternately, how many boar Volstagg had managed to eat that week.
It usually counted in the twenties by the time they reached midweek.
Jane sat and listened, for there was nothing for her to contribute, and as the meal went on, her determinedly good mood soured, and she longed for Luc and the quietness of her quarters. She longed for intelligent conversation and someone to listen to her who wouldn't scoff and laugh at the opinions of a woman.
Suddenly a servant appeared on Thor's left side, and bent his head to whisper something. Jane caught only one word, but it was enough.
What had happened? Was he hurt? Dead? Causing mischief again?
Before Jane could push down her feelings of concern for someone who did not deserve them, a great booming laugh erupted from Thor's mouth, as he stood, nearly knocking over the table.
He'd been drinking too much again, not that it showed too much. He was an Aesir after all.
"Brother!" he called joyously, holding his hands out wide. "Welcome home!"
Jane looked up, stunned, as the dark figure lingering at the edge of the feasting hall stepped into the light.
Ten years had not changed him, unless it was only to make him even more handsome in her unwilling eyes. His body was clothed in his usual black leather, accented with green and gold armoury, his shoulder-length hair slicked back, darker than the night outside. His step was measured, graceful, tightly reined power in every stride as he moved to greet his foster brother.
His icy blue eyes scanned the hall, flitting from one shocked face to another, before he met Jane's.
Immediately, a shudder of warmth stole down her spine, a reawakened pleasure, and a warning.
That slow, cunning smile she remembered so well from their acquaintance before her marriage to Thor, when he had been incarcerated on Asgard, stripped of his magic by Odin in punishment for his crimes against Earth. Despite knowing he had wanted to kill her, to dominate her home, even after what he had done to Erik…
She hadn't been able to stay away.
Their conversations had been long and varied, unlike her discussions with Thor which mostly centred on his exploits and battles. Slowly, despite his reluctance and the contempt he displayed for mortals, she drew him out of his shell, challenging him, refusing to stand down even when he snarled his worst at her.
And after learning the full story, both from him and from Thor…she could not help but feel for him. Not pity, no never that. Loki would have despised her for that, but her compassion had risen and she longed to comfort him and show him the error of his perceptions. The love that Thor held for his brother, that Odin and Frigga felt for their son, and the knowledge that he did not have to rule a kingdom to be Thor's equal.
Despite everything, they had become something akin to friends.
And seeing him now, tall, graceful, dark Jane's heart fluttered traitorously. She was married to Thor, and Queen of Asgard. She could not think of him like this.
She looked down at her plate, food untouched, and sensed someone's gaze on her. It was the wildfire that Loki's eyes inspired, nor the prickling warmth of Thor's looks, but someone else.
She looked up to find Lady Sif watching her, intently, and yet without judgement. Quelling her inner panic, she turned away, excusing herself before Thor and Loki could return to the table.
As she fled the feasting hall, three pairs of eyes followed her, one with confusion, one with speculation and the other with mischievous desire in his eyes.
Lucian's rooms adjoined her own, since Jane had point blank refused to let Thor house him in the warrior's wing of the palace. Her son deserved his childhood, after all.
He was already asleep when she slipped into his bedchamber, the covers tightly pulled over his little body, as she gently sat down beside him, stroking a loose lock of gilded brown hair from his face.
She had promised to read to him after the feast, but she didn't want to wake him up. He looked so peaceful, so innocent, lying asleep in his bed. Her little Luc, her one real joy since leaving Earth.
"He is a handsome boy," a familiar, dreaded voice murmured behind her, and she froze, her hand hovering in the air above Luc's cheek. "You did well, Jane."
"Loki," she breathed. "Why have you come back?"
"Now, is that any way to greet your brother-in-law and your son's Uncle?" he muttered, almost sulkily, prompting a slight smile to appear on Jane's face. She ruthlessly suppressed it, fear and uncertainty keeping her strong. She felt his hand touch her bare shoulder like a brand on her skin, and she shuddered. "Is it impossible that I wished merely to pay my brother…and the woman I love a visit?"
"Hush! It's been ten years," she replied coolly. "For all I knew, you could have been dead."
"Your concern is touching," came the retort, a slight sneer embodied in his words, and Jane stood, whirling to face him.
"Not here," she hissed angrily, leading him away from Luc and into her chambers.
She felt him follow her into her unlit chambers, and prepared herself to meet his eyes. The gentle breeze whispered through her rooms, making the pale coloured drapes billow slightly between the columns. It cooled her blood, gave her strength.
That strength wilted when she turned. His effect, devastating enough in candlelight, was enthralling in starlight, the silvery beams dappling his pale skin, making his icy eyes flame, lending a blue sheen to his skin.
The words slipped across her mind, but they carried no fear, just potent temptation. She had been frozen since his departure ten years ago, on a night just like this one, the night before her wedding…
Realisation flashed across his eyes, and she quailed, turning away, leaning on her desk for support.
"Do you remember?" his voice curled and wrapped around her, seductive and low. She felt him step up behind her, his body pressing close, but not touching. No, not touching yet.
"If you think to claim me now," she breathed, pained. "It's far too late."
"I did not ask that," his voice dropped an octave, and she bowed her head when she felt his cool breath across the nape of her neck. What should have chilled her only enthralled her. "I asked if you remembered that night, the night I left ten years ago…?"
Yes. It was indelibly inscribed on her mind, her heart. She would never be rid of it.
She felt his hands rise to her bare shoulders, and her trembling only intensified. His strong, slender fingers, fingers that had maimed, that had killed, that wielded power both destructive and fantastical, now weaved a new spell over her, as they slid over her collarbone, possessive, commanding, as his words trickled like poison into her ear.
"The night you came to me, found me in the gardens under the fir trees, at the very edges, secluded, dark," he continued, and she sank against him, her head tilting back against his shoulder.
"Loki, please," she breathed desperately. "I can't do this, I'm married to Thor now, I-"
"You have never belonged to Thor," he told her, amusedly. "You have always been mine. My Jane."
And as those truths settled into her heart, chained fast by a magic far older and far stronger than anything he possessed, anything even the All-Father could command, Jane closed her eyes and remembered…
She rushed through the corridors of the palace, the starlight lending her light, the shadows secrecy.
She was getting married tomorrow. She should have been abed, not racing through the palace corridors like a mad thing, but she needed to see him, and Thor had told her this was where he had gone.
Loki. Her friend, the one person she had really spoken to since coming to Asgard. Oh, she loved Thor with all her heart, but she had a big heart. It had space for him, for the lost, injured Prince.
He was leaving. Thor had told her Odin had given him permission to, now his magic was securely bound, and she had to stop him. She couldn't do this without him.
The corridors gave way to evergreen lawns and silvery flowerbeds, hedged in with towering, ageless firs and oaks, deepening the shadows.
The copse of fir trees on the edge of the gardens, near to the roots of the mountains of Asgard, had become a peaceful, favourite spot of hers, and something in her told her he would be there.
She was breathless by the time she reached her place, and indeed, he was there, standing tall and sylvan in his leather surcoat, hair tightly controlled, hands clasped behind him. She knew he sensed her presence, few could sneak up on the God of Lies, but he did not turn.
"Loki," she breathed his name, those two syllables echoing in the silent air between them. She wondered when they had become so very dear to her, more than just a friend, more than a confidant, more than an anchor in this new and scarifying world she was entering. "I hoped I'd find you here."
"As you see, my lady," he murmured, almost coldly, and she flinched. "Do you come to bid me farewell?"
"No," she replied, regaining her breath and stepping forward determinedly, rounding his statue-like stance, and facing him. His icy eyes were steeped in shadow, but glowed brightly as they met hers. "Why are you going?"
"I do not belong here, my lady," he replied formally. "I have little desire to stay and be permanently reminded of that fact. Accept my congratulations on your nuptials and my word that I shall not again cause any dishonour to the House of Odin."
His words made her heart sink. They were cold, formal, distant.
Desperate, she stepped forward, emboldened by the darkness and the starlight, touching his chest, the space where his heart beat.
It was a mistake. Jane gasped at the chill emanating from him, the racing pulse beneath her palm, but she did not let go. She looked up at him, stepped closer as his rigid stance relaxed.
"Please don't go," she murmured. "I can't do this without you."
One hand covered hers, before curling around her wrist, fingers pressed hand against her pulse, feeling its rhythm beneath their fingertips.
"I know," he breathed, less coldly, his eyes meeting hers. "But I cannot stay to see Thor once again triumph over me."
Jane's heart sank. She knew then, as if by magic, why he was leaving and why she did not want him to leave.
She loved Thor, but she also loved Loki. The two brothers both alike in dignity and power, yet as different as the day and the night. She loved them both.
The pounding beat of his heart beneath her palm seduced her, gave her courage. She stretched up, sliding her hands up his chest, pleadingly. "Please," she whispered, before pressing her lips to his.
It was so wrong. She was to be married tomorrow, to Thor, and named Queen and made immortal and any number of wonderful things. It was the choice she had made.
But she wanted him, Loki, Destroyer of Worlds, killer of thousands of innocents, trickster, Frost Giant, lost prince and broken man. Her choice tormented her, and she wished for the strength to choose, but she had none. She was a coward, and it seemed she only possessed enough strength for this moment.
He did not kiss her back, but his eyes, when she met them as she drew back slightly, were burning, their collective breath strained as her breasts pressed against his leather-clad chest.
The taste of his lips lingered on Jane's, woody, dark, cool but pleasant, like a drink of ice water on a hot day in the deserts of Puente Antiguo.
Their eyes met and locked, a shimmering veil of mingled heat and cold falling around them, and all thoughts of Thor, of the wedding, of the past, all fell beneath the desire rising between them, bittersweet, tainted by the promise of separation in the morning.
"I love you," he told her, low, dark, inescapable. "Let me love you."
She looked up at him, his eyes more open, more vulnerable than she had ever seen them, insidious shivers rushing down her spine as she stepped close.
In that copse, hidden from prying eyes, from the expectations of a world Jane did not understand, cloaked by the night, lit only by the dancing starlight above, she was never more aware of who she was, what she was.
And Loki, tall, dark, forbidding Loki, tormented by jealousy and inner loathing, by the lies of a childhood and a prime spent in the shadow of another, in that moment, she saw his love, sincere, true, shining. The shining glory of his true self.
And he was just a man. A man who loved her.
As their lips met and clung, the world fell away, the stars shone on above, unheeded by the two lovers, words spoken into the shivering air, haunting cries, half anguished, half enraptured.
She told him she loved him when they lay together, bodies entwined, the grass a soft bed beneath them. She clung to him as she succumbed to exhaustion, only to awake, and find herself back in her bed.
She might have dismissed it as a dream, were it not for the single rose lying on her pillow, the petals emerald green, the stem a brilliant gold.
And Loki was gone.
Jane couldn't forget that night, she didn't want to. Even now, with her heart hardened to him, she could not shut him out.
The man she loved, even though she shouldn't. She was Jane, Queen of Asgard, wife of Thor.
The woman he had loved and left had dissipated into the mists of the past. But she remembered, and in her heart of hearts, she mourned her.
Loki's hands slid around her arms, and down to her waist, lingering on the sharp curve of her corset, his hands burning through the heavy leather. Her body continued to sink, limply, into his arms, her hands coming to rest over his, clutching them tightly.
His lips pressed against the pulse hammering under her jaw, the tip of his tongue drawing intricate patterns on her skin, languid desire licking at her veins.
"Do you still love me?" he asked, whispering in her ear. His lips laid a trail of passion down her throat, as she moaned, her eyes fluttering shut, surrendering entirely as his arms tightened around her waist.
He was the Master of Lies, and her body had already betrayed her. Even as the denial lingered on Jane's lips, she rejected it.
The word fell from her lips, a final surrender as she tilted her head back, their lips meeting, inexorably drawn together by some insidious, internal gravity. Jane basked in the fire that the coolness of his mouth, the roughness of his tongue against hers, elicited. She turned in his hold, breaking their kiss, her heart racing.
"Yes, I still love you," she breathed against his lips, his eyes shining with triumph as he bent his head to kiss her voraciously, stealing her breath. Once again, thoughts of Thor, of the disgrace they risked, of Luc sleeping in the next room, disappeared. She reached up, cupping his face, feeling the hard ridge of his cheekbones beneath her palms, the tips of her fingers dipping into his black hair. He pulled her closer, his mouth hungrily devouring her moans as she felt the hardness of his body against her length. He groaned against her mouth as her hand dropped from his cheek to his surcoat, pushing at it insistently.
"There's my Jane," he growled against her mouth. "I had worried ten years might have tamed you."
"Thor might be back soon," she gasped, sense returning for one second. His eyes darkened, as he moved her back, towards her bed.
"He's currently somnolent in the feasting hall," he told her huskily. "A drinking game with Volstagg and Fandral, if I am not mistaken. So we will not be disturbed."
"Loki," Jane tried once more, when she felt the soft edge against the back of her thighs. "We can't, there can be nothing between us now."
"Then push me away," he whispered, a suddenly bleak look in his eyes. "Tell me you do not want this."
"I don't," she forced herself to say. His eyes searched hers, and then a slow, sly smile spread across his lips as he bent his head.
"Liar," he growled, before his lips devoured her, and she twined her arms around his neck, pressing herself to him as his quick, clever fingers untangled the laces at her back.
Naked, she let him push her down onto her bed, his hand pulling her leg up to his hip, her hand buried in his hair, the other clutching his back entreatingly.
Her body turned to pure flame as his chill surrounded her, and she burned for the first time in ten years.
Once again, Jane woke alone. Her dress was strewn across the floor, her hair loose and tangled by Loki's hungry hands.
Her heart sank as she wondered if he had left again, or even worse, it had just been a dream. He had been in Luc's bedchamber, with her, and the thought made her stomach sink.
Pushing aside that thought, she slipped from her bed, washing and dressing quickly. She ignored the aching twinges in her thighs and back, relics of their passion last night, as she headed down to the dining chamber.
Thor was there, the servants waiting to serve her, the King looking much the worse for wear. Luc and Loki were nowhere to be seen.
"Where's Luc?" she asked, as she sat down and a servant placed a plate of fruit and bread in front of her. Thor raised bleary eyes to hers, and smiled vaguely.
"I believe he and my brother are walking in the gardens," he replied, making Jane go cold. To cover her distress, she took a sip of water, not for the first time missing Earth luxuries like coffee and orange juice. "It's a pity Loki missed so much of Lucian's life. He might have been a good tutor for the boy."
"Yes, he might," Jane wanly agreed. A moment later, she set to her breakfast, trying to eat quickly so she might get out to the gardens. Sif entered, curtseying to her King and Queen, before gently smiling at Thor.
"My King, the council has convened," she told him, and he nodded. Her expression softened, even as her eyes twinkled mischievously. "I told you not challenge Volstagg to a drinking contest. He is unbeaten in seven centuries."
"I made my ancestors proud," he replied firmly, as Sif just shook her magnificent head wearily. "Did I not, Jane?"
Jane's head shot up from her preoccupation, and she made sure to smile and nod in agreement, not even entirely sure what Thor had asked. He grunted in her direction, and she sighed.
Things had not always been this way. In the first year, their breakfasts had been filled with laughter, at least at first, until things had turned sour and she proved to be a disappointing wife to Thor.
Now, like so much between them, their mornings were strained.
As memories of her reunion with Loki intruded, she closed her eyes and found herself wishing for a simpler life, one where she loved just one man and did not seemingly possess the gall to marry one and make love to another.
She was living a lie, had been for years.
Thor did not see her leave, but she felt Sif's gaze on her back all the way out of the room.
She searched the gardens for them, her son and her lover, but the green paradise was desolate of human company. Her sapphire blue skirts rippled around her as she searched the grounds, finally, with dread in her heart, turning her steps to their secret place.
The fir copse on the edge of the gardens.
As she neared the copse, she heard laughter, both a childish giggle, and a deep, musical laugh that sent shivers down her spine.
She stood in the shadows, and watched as Luc sat, sprawled in Loki's lap, laughing as the God conjured green and gold petals from the air.
To her mingled horror and delight, Luc then gathered some of the petals in his hand, and closed his fingers around them. When he opened them again, a blooming emerald and golden rose sat in his palm.
"That is well done, Luc," Loki laughed. "Now can you undo the spell?"
"Oh, that's easy," Luc scoffed, throwing the rose into the air and it scattered into petals again. They brushed against Jane's skirts as she stepped into the clearing, and Luc's smile only grew.
"Mother!" he cried, leaping up from his new friend's lap, rushing to her side. He threw his arms around her waist and hugged her. "Did you see what I did?"
"Yes, sweetheart," she smiled weakly. "Well done."
"One day he will be a master," came Loki's voice, and she glanced up to find him stood in front of her, watching her closely. There was something in his look that made her heart sink, and it only sank further when he glanced down to Lucian.
There was wonder and adoration in that look, in those usually icy eyes. They were warm, soft. She felt her breath catch, and she never wanted that look to fade.
But when he raised his eyes to hers, they hardened, growing cold, and she mourned the loss even as fear sank its claw in deep.
"Darling, why don't you go inside now?" she said to Lucian. "It's nearly lunchtime, and I need to talk to your Uncle alone."
"But he said he'd show me some more magic," Luc's face fell, and as she smoothed a stray lock of hair from his face, Loki's hand slid over his shoulder.
"And I will, Luc," he told the young boy soothingly. "This afternoon. Now go, do as your mother says."
With a renewed smile, Luc nodded and rushed away, through the trees. Jane turned to watch him go, unable to face her lover.
"How long have you known?" he murmured behind her, his voice deceptively pleasant, controlled. That only meant he was enraged.
"I don't know what you mean," she protested firmly, folding her arms defiantly. Regal as the Queen she was.
His grip was like frozen iron as he spun her around, his hands like shackles around her upper arms.
"Ohh, I underestimated you, my Queen," he snarled. "You have learned to lie well, but I am the master of lies, Jane Odinson. Do not play with me!"
Jane stayed strong under his burning gaze, not even flinching when the ivory sheen of his hands turned to azure blue, and his icy eyes to crimson red.
"What could I have done, Loki!" she snapped, angered even as the Frost Giant towered over her threateningly. "You left! I married Thor, and you were gone…besides I have no way of knowing, not for certain. Paternity tests aren't exactly commonplace on Asgard!"
A satisfied expression briefly crossed Loki's face, as the blue faded, and the red turned to sapphire once more. Jane could have kicked herself; her anger had made her blurt out the truth without even thinking.
She hadn't let herself think it, not for years after Luc was born, until he started showing signs of magical ability, and then somehow she just knew. Instinctively, she knew Luc was not Thor's son.
He was Loki's.
"I wished you could have known, but I had no way of contacting you," Jane continued, determinedly. "How did you guess anyway?"
"Luc's magic," he replied, quietly, his anger seemingly fading as his mask reasserted itself. "It has traces of my own, something that only passes down from father to…son."
He turned away, the shadows draping his shoulders like a cloak, the tension leaving his frame as Jane hesitantly moved forward.
"Does Thor know?" he asked, his back to her.
"I do not think so," she replied. "Although sometimes, I think he suspects."
Silence fell between them and Jane fought the urge to shift. Eventually she reached out and rested her hand between his shoulder blades.
"I'm sorry," she breathed, swallowing back tears.
"My son," he whispered, a short, mirthless, bark of a laugh falling from his lips. "Even now, Thor takes what is rightfully mine."
Anger reared its head again in Jane as she stared at the impossible man. Her jaw firmed, and she withdrew her hand. "I was never yours to begin with," she snapped, turning away but Loki's furious grip stopped her, forcing her back into his arms, pinned to him by his strong hands.
His lips fell on hers, hard, possessive, angry and she reciprocated without conscious thought, her body racing ahead of her mind, even as his hand fisted in her hair, tilting her head back and tipping his own to the side, deepening the angle of their furious kiss, leaving her no choice but to submit.
Loki tore away from her lips, his own swollen and bruised looking, his eyes glaring down at her challengingly. "Say that again," he snarled threateningly. Jane blinked, trying to muster up the strength to deny him, to reassert her identity as Thor's wife, but her heart and her soul cried out at the prospect.
The woman she had been was not quite dead, and she longed for the love of the one who knew her and loved her for all of herself. She subsumed the Queen of Asgard, and rejoiced in the fall.
Instead of answering, she simply reached up and pulled Loki's lips back to her own, reciprocating his viciousness even as he pulled her closer with a gentleness he hadn't used before. She clung to him, needing his love like she needed to breathe.
Nothing else mattered, except that she loved him.
Thor stood on a balcony outside the throne room, facing out towards the gardens, when he saw them emerge.
They did not touch, merely walked side by side, heads down, in apparently innocent conversation.
He sighed, wondering when his world had become quite so complicated. When he returned to Earth after retrieving Loki and stopping the Chitauri, he had been full of need to see Jane again. She had seemed so happy to see him as well, that it only seemed right that he took her away, to Asgard, and married her.
He had seen the shadows growing in her eyes from the day they wed, the sadness, the longing for another life, one that asked more of her than merely being his wife. She was meant for more than this. In the end, his own wife was a stranger to him.
But his brother…in all his millenia of life, Thor could never have foreseen this. He could see it in the way they stood so far apart, yet their every movement was attuned to the other's. If Loki moved, Jane moved; if she turned towards him, Loki looked to her. Perfectly in balance, in harmony.
He had seen it in Jane's eyes last night as she fled the feasting hall. She never enjoyed the raucous gatherings, preferring quiet meals with her and Luc. But when Loki had entered the room, he had felt her tense, had seen the look of resigned conflict in her amber eyes.
And he had glimpsed the look of longing in Loki's, master of deception though he was. It was the look of lovers separated, forced apart by events beyond their control.
His fist tightened, and he looked down, thinking of Lucian, remembering the healthy, happy boy that had been placed into his arms by the midwife, icy blue eyes blinking up into his own.
He should have known then, long before the boy's gifts made themselves known. Lucian was never his son.
The sting of betrayal mingled with grief and conflict in his heart, as he watched Jane with his brother.
A slender hand slid over his, squeezing his fingers in comfort. He did not need to look to know it was Sif. He could always tell when she was near, a sixth sense acquired after long years fighting side by side.
His oldest friend.
"How long have you known?" she asked, quietly. His breath rumbled from his lips, as he looked down, at the tanned fist clenched on the marble balustrade.
"I think I have known for a long time," he admitted. "I just did not wish to see it."
"Jane has never belonged here," Sif continued, softly, without venom. "Not for the reasons that others would give, but simply that she is too different. We prize strength in arms and combat beyond all else, while she yearns for knowledge and understanding. She wishes to see the stars and understand their infinite wisdom, and that thirst for knowledge drives her. She was never meant to be a Queen of Asgard."
Thor admitted the truth in Sif's words. Jane's mind was like an eternal flame, always burning, always needing new fuel, fresh knowledge, to keep her well. She did not possess the calm serenity of his mother, Queen Frigga, nor the warrior's temperament like Sif. They had never been well-matched, but gratitude and fascination and urgency had forced them together too early. But that didn't mean it was painless, these new revelations.
"But my brother…Jane…" Thor stumbled over his own words, hurt rising to stifle him. "How could they betray me like this?"
"For once, I do not think it deliberate on Loki's part," Sif told him quietly. "She soothed the hurt in his heart, helped to heal him after he was broken. I think their love grew before you were even wed."
"Why did she not speak to me?" he growled, anger taking hold of him, overruling his sadness. "Why waste so many years together if she was so miserable?"
"Because she loved you too, and she made you a promise," she turned him to face her. "She married you, and you and I both know her too well to imagine her a serial adulterer. She has remained faithful, but Loki is simply a missing part of her. They are alike in many ways. Besides my friend, you and I both know how caught up in your own happiness you were, and how could Jane not be so in your eyes? Jane is too self-sacrificing for her own good."
Thor had to concede that, but it did not help him, help the pain in his heart. Sif's unusually gentle hand on his cheek brought him back to himself, and she smiled sadly up at him.
"We cannot choose with whom we fall in love," she told him quietly. "If we could, then things might be so much simpler. Do you love Jane?"
"Yes," Thor replied, firmly. His eyes drifted down to her, radiant and beautiful in the Asgardian sun, her sapphire skirts iridescent around her, her eyes downcast, sad. "But I cannot give her what she needs."
"Then let her go," Sif reached for his hand, unclenched it and kissed it tenderly. "Set her free, and start anew."
Jane was unprepared as Loki pulled her into a dark alcove, once they had left the gardens. His eyes burned, intense and determined.
"Come away with me," he whispered in the dark, Jane tightly held in his arms. "Leave Thor and come away with me."
Jane could only stare at him, stunned. "What?" she gasped. Loki shook his dark head, and tightened his grip, almost bruisingly.
"You do not love him, not as you should," his voice was quiet, resolved, ruthless. Jane clutched the lapels of his surcoat, and struggled to find her equilibrium once more in her suddenly whirling world. "Leave him and be with me. You, me, Luc; as it should be."
"I can't just leave!" she hissed. "It is not as simple as that."
"It is," Loki retorted. "Or would you raise Luc with the same lies that were once told to me?"
Jane felt her heart break at the haunted look in his eyes, like two shards of frost glaring down into hers. Oh, how much she wanted to say yes, to go with him, to tell Luc the truth and stop living this lie.
He sighed, leaning in and resting his forehead against hers, making her breath shudder from her lips, her eyes closing as she relished his closeness. Could she give this up again?
"It is time to stop living a lie," he hissed softly. "Whether you stay or come, I cannot continue."
Jane's eyes snapped open, but he was already gone, and she felt bereft. Forcing back tears, she turned and walked away to find her son.
Thor found his brother, standing in his favourite room, atop the highest tower, looking out over the city to the repaired Bifrost, and the ocean and galaxies beyond.
His body was relaxed, his hands loose but Thor had too many millenia of knowing his brother not to see the pain in his bowed frame, or the knowledge that he was there and watching him.
"There are not many people who can sneak up on me, Thor, and you are not one of them," came the caustic opening shot, making Thor sigh. Their relationship seemed impossible to rebuild, after all they had suffered through, and this latest blow felt like a death knell.
"Loki, why?" he simply asked, his anger kept at bay, his sadness dominating him for now. The God tensed visibly this time, but did not turn.
"I won't insult your intelligence by asking you what you're babbling on about," he breathed coolly. "My simple answer is that I fell in love with her."
"So you took her for your own, once again in hatred of me-" Thor began, heat creeping into his tone, but even he was surprised by the fierceness with which Loki turned on him.
"Once again you believe everything is about you!" he growled bestially. "For once in your life, look beyond your own nose, Thor! I fell in love with Jane, and she with me. It was not planned or plotted, it just happened. She chose you over me, in any case!"
Thor sighed, closing his eyes as he rubbed a hand over them. He felt suddenly so tired, so old, and he wished for simpler times. Times when he was not King, Loki was still his beloved brother and friend, and Jane had not even been born.
"We have a son," he said, steadily, looking for Loki's reaction. He drew himself up, and Thor knew then that he knew the truth. The trickster stepped down from his perch, and paced towards his brother threateningly. Even with most of his magic bound, so he could only perform the most mediocre of spells, he was a dark presence, making Thor's hand itch for Mjolnir.
"And we both know the truth, do we not?" Loki snarled, stepping around Thor. "The boy is not yours, he is mine. My son."
"How did you know? Does Jane know?" Thor asked, turning to face his brother.
"Lucian's magic has echoes of my own," he replied coolly, his previous menacing ire fading slightly as he watched his brother tiredly. "And yes, Jane does know."
"Why didn't she tell me?" Thor continued, making Loki smirk mirthlessly.
"And risk disgrace and censure? I had gone, and she had fulfilled her promise to you," he replied candidly. "It was only one night, Thor. It was hardly a long-standing affair."
"Please, spare me the details," Thor growled, and Loki inclined his head, drawing himself up, a resigned wariness in his icy blue eyes.
"So what now? Banishment? Perhaps even execution?" he asked, airily. Thor tensed, as Loki's piercing eyes searched his. "What of Jane and Lucian?"
"Would you take punishment in their stead?" Thor asked him sternly.
Loki did not hesitate. "Yes."
"That is what I needed to know," Thor replied, turning to leave.
Loki's voice called after him, hauntingly, making him pause on the threshold of the chamber.
"For what it is worth, I did not mean for this to happen, Thor," he called. "I did not wish to harm you."
Thor sighed, looking down, but did not meet his brother's gaze. "I know," he rumbled, before leaving the chamber behind.
She sat in Luc's room, watching as he played and practiced with his magic, his lessons for the day long over. She allowed herself to take joy in him, momentarily forgetting the painful events of the morning.
But looking at him now, how could she not see the similarities to his father?
The way he stood, the way he walked, even the way he gestured with his pale, slender hands, all echoed Loki in Luc.
Even his eyes…while blue like Thor's, they were the frozen diamonds of an icicle. Thor's were like the azure waters of some warm ocean, welcoming and glittering. Lucian's, and Loki's, shone with an altogether colder light.
Lucian was quiet where Thor was boisterous, studious where he was uninterested. His already regal dignity imitated more the shadowy poise of the lost Prince than the golden King. Even his hair, the colour of Jane's own, fell in soft waves like his father's.
In that moment, she missed Earth, and Erik and Darcy, more fiercely than she ever had. It had been ten years since she said goodbye to them last, before Thor spirited her away to Asgard.
She wondered if Erik was well, and what Darcy was doing now she undoubtedly had her degree.
Suddenly Lucian looked up from his play, and smiled slightly. "Father!" he called excitedly, standing from his seat on the floor. Jane tensed, but she did not see Loki when she turned her head but Thor.
Thor's gaze was sad as he smiled at the young boy who rushed to his side, ruffling his hair affectionately. "Lucian, if you wouldn't mind, could you leave your mother and I alone? We have things to speak of."
Jane went cold at those words. He knew.
Immediately, her mind sought avenues of escape, words to justify her actions, to protect Loki and Lucian. She would take all the punishment in the world if it meant they were safe.
Lucian left, a little confused and hurt by Thor's dismissal, and her heart ached for him. She went to speak, but he held his paw like hand up for silence.
"Since our wedding day," he began, as Jane remained silent. "Things have not gone as I would have wished. I loved you, Jane, but I see now I married you without really knowing you. Perhaps if I had seen that sooner, before all of this, I might have spared us all pain."
"Thor, I am so sorry," she breathed, anguished that she was causing so much pain to a man she loved. Yes, loved, despite everything she had done.
"For loving Loki?" he asked, then shook his head. "I cannot hold you responsible for that, nor can I blame you for acting as you have done. But all these years, Jane-"
"I know," she rose, went to him, took his hands. "I hated myself, every day, for the lies I told you, the lies I made myself believe."
"You should have told me," he continued steadily. "You should have come to me, before the wedding, and told me all of this. More so, I should have seen it and stopped it."
"How did you know Lucian was not yours?" she asked. Thor's face grew pained, as he looked away.
"After he started showing signs of magical prowess. Few in my line have magical power, and there was something about him that always reminded me of Loki," he explained, Jane nodding to herself. "And there were no more children."
Jane flinched at that. After Lucian, no matter how they tried, she did not conceive again. It had been one of the many things to come between them.
"I'm sorry I couldn't be the Queen you deserved," she whispered. "I thought I wanted nothing more than to be your wife and Queen, to live here always. I love Asgard, but-"
"You do not belong here," he finished for her. "And Luc deserves more than a lie for a childhood. We all know how lies may destroy a life."
Jane shuddered, thinking of Loki, and nodded, looking away. "So what now?" she asked, tremulously. "Please do not punish Lucian or Loki. If you want justice, punish me, not them."
"How could I harm those I love?" Thor tilted her head up, his eyes sad. "I would release you, from our marriage, if you so wish."
Jane stilled at those words, her heart suspended, torn by pain and joy. To be free, she could be with Loki and have their son grow up with both of his parents, loved and cherished. But to do so would be to lose Thor forever.
"Do not be saddened, Jane," he whispered tenderly, leaning down to press a kiss to her hair. "Do not fight what your heart tells you. Be free, and be happy."
"And you as well," she breathed back, kissing his hand. "Thank you."
She paced her chambers as night fell, ignoring the hunger in her stomach, as she waited for some sign, for Loki or Thor to come to her. She had not seen Lucian since her talk with Thor, and she worried.
Outside, the stars blazed overhead in a cacophony of colour, against a backdrop of velvet blues and purples, nebulas and gas clouds wheeling overhead, reflected off of the golden walls of the city of Asgard.
Looking out of her window, she felt peace settle inside of her. The view was beautiful, magnificent but it did not fill her with a sense of belonging. She had lived here for ten years and she still felt like a stranger. She would never belong.
She needed Earth.
Suddenly, she heard footsteps and turned to find Sif, raven hair covered by a scarlet cloak, eyes cool but not unfriendly.
So someone else knew her secret as well.
"Fetch a cloak," she told her shortly. "And come with me."
Jane shrouded herself in a dark blue cloak, the warm velvet clinging to her body, draping her hair and face in shadow. Wordlessly, she left her chambers for the last time as Queen of Asgard.
Sif led her through the palace, keeping to the shadows, until they emerged from the watchful darkness and into the city. They hurried then, flitting from one shadow to the next until they reached the Asbru Gate, and it opened for them soundlessly.
The walk along the Rainbow Bridge was interminable, Jane almost having to jog to keep up with Sif's long strides. As they drew nearer, the roar of the waterfall at the edge of the ocean growing louder, she reached out and stopped Sif with a hand to her arm, pulling her around.
"I know I have disappointed you," she breathed, as Sif's hard expression softened. "And I am sorry for that. But please, look after him, love him like I couldn't."
Sif did not need to ask who she meant. She nodded, stepping close to the former Queen, and gripping her shoulders tightly.
"Be happy, Jane Foster," she whispered. "Love your son, love Loki as you should always have done. And keep him out of mischief."
"This is the God of Mischief we're talking about," Jane let out a little laugh, eliciting a smirk from Sif, but she did not reply.
There was nothing more to be said. The two women turned and resumed their march towards the Bifrost, four figures coming into focus, three towering like statues in the night, the fourth smaller, slighter.
One shone with a golden radiance, Hofud clutched close in his dark hands. Heimdall.
The other wore a scarlet cloak, rippling behind him like a river of blood, Mjolnir hanging from his silver belt. Thor.
And beside them stood father and son, Loki and Lucian. Two pairs of icy eyes watched as they approached, one with concealed joy, the other with fear and trepidation.
"Mother!" Lucian rushed forward, into Jane's arms, and she held him tightly. "What is going on? Why are we here?"
Jane glanced to Thor, and then to Loki, before she knelt down, meeting her son's eyes. "We're leaving Asgard, darling," she murmured. "You, me and Loki."
"Why?" he asked plaintively. "Did I do something wrong?"
"No, never," came the fierce reply, not from Jane, but from Loki as he stepped forward, placing his hand on Luc's head and kneeling down behind him. Luc looked from him to Thor, and then to Jane.
She waited, breath bated. He had always been too perceptive, yet another clue he was not Thor's son.
"You're not my father, are you?" he asked Thor quietly, barely audible over the roar of the falls.
"No, I am not," Thor replied. "Your father is behind you, and he loves you very much. Your mother loves you very much, and I too love you very much."
"But why did you lie?" he asked, looking back to Jane, eyes wide, yet there was no judgement, just pain and confusion.
"Because your father went away for a long time, and I did not know for certain," she whispered. "I am so sorry, Luc. Forgive me?"
Luc regarded her for a moment, and she felt her heart break. Unable to hold his stare, she felt her eyes fog with tears as she looked down. Abruptly, she felt warm, strong little arms hold her, and she clutched him close, crying freely.
"Of course, I forgive you mother," he whispered. "I love you."
Eventually, they drew apart, and Luc looked to Loki curiously. "So you're my father?" he asked, head cocked to the side in an achingly familiar way. Loki met his eyes gravely and nodded.
"Had I known," he began, placing a hand on Lucian's little shoulder. "I would never have left your side."
"And do you love my mother?" he asked, a hint of warning in his voice, almost making Jane laugh. She saw the twinkle of amusement in Loki's eye, but he kept his face solemn as he replied.
"With all my heart and soul."
Jane felt her breath hitch, and suddenly there was not enough air to breathe as their gazes locked over the head of their son.
"My King, time grows short," Heimdall bent his head to Thor, interrupting the new family's moment. He nodded, and Loki and Jane stood to face him, Jane's hand clinging to Loki's tightly, Luc nestled between them.
"Brother," he addressed Loki first. "I return to you the power the All-Father took, in punishment of your crimes against Earth. Use it wisely."
His face was sad, pained, as he met Jane's eyes. "I cannot allow you to return to Asgard again," he told them gravely. "You and Loki are henceforth banished from this Realm, forevermore."
Jane had expected that, and fought back the pang she felt at the announcement. He stepped forward, and kissed her forehead.
"But I wish you only happiness," he told her quietly, before his gaze met Loki's and Lucian's. "All of you."
"Where do you wish to go?" Heimdall asked, stepping forward as Thor stepped back, Sif coming to his side wordlessly, offering her comfort. Jane looked to Loki, who just nodded.
"Earth," she replied firmly. "Send us to Earth."
"Very well," the Guardian gestured to the Bifrost chamber, and stepped inside. Lucian hurried inside, his childish mind excited by the prospect of a new Realm. It would be some time before he realised he would never see his home again.
As they stepped inside, Sif's hand entwined itself with Thor's.
"You did the right thing," she told him, as the Bifrost chamber began to spin, and a bolt of lightning emanated from its golden point. Thor caught one last glimpse of the people he once called family.
Radiant, enthralling Jane with her quiet beauty and strength, shrouded in midnight velvet.
Towering Loki, his magic restored, his power draping him like a cloak as he stood with his arm around Jane, and his other placed supportively behind Luc's.
And the boy he had loved as a son. Lucian.
The boy looked back for one moment, and smiled, and Thor smiled back. Then they were gone, swallowed by the Bifrost, and he lowered his gaze.
In his heart, he knew he had done the right thing, but it would take time for that wound to heal.
Jane nearly fell as the Bifrost deposited them on Earth, unused to harsh landings, Loki's strong arm steadying her.
She looked up, and gasped.
They were stood in a desert, the Moon shining down on them, shedding its silver light over them like a welcoming glow. Jane smiled, mentally greeting her old friend.
The wind plucked at her cloak, as she glanced around, the view familiar yet distant in her memory, as she saw a small town on the horizon.
"Are we…?" she breathed, looking around to Loki, who smiled warmly.
"Yes, we are," he simply said, pulling her close. Lucian glanced at them curiously, and then at the small town, excitement gleaming in his eyes.
She was home.
"Come," Loki announced, holding out his hand to Lucian, who took it eagerly. "Let's go and visit some old friends."
Jane followed in their wake, her heart pounding. They were in Puente Antiguo, and Erik was nearby. She hurried, catching up to her lover as Lucian broke his handhold, rushing ahead, laughing as she rushed down the sand dunes.
"Careful, Luc!" she called. Loki laughed, suddenly carefree and looking younger than she had ever seen him. He spun her into his arms, holding her tightly.
"I love you, Jane Foster," he told her sincerely, his eyes like melted ice as she looked into them.
"I love you too," she whispered, brushing his lips with hers, a sweet, lingering kiss that only reaffirmed all they had suffered and felt. He pulled her to him tightly, pressing a heated caress on her lips, and she clung to him with all her might.
She would do for the rest of her days.
They parted, and continued their walk towards Puente Antiguo, Luc rushing ahead, childhood stories that Jane had told him showing him the way. Hand in hand, Jane and Loki followed in his wake, the town deserted, quiet.
"What will we do now?" she asked, as they neared the old gas station, and her old lab.
"Anything we wish," Loki replied. "Anywhere we want to go, anywhere we choose. With my powers restored, I can take us anywhere."
Jane smiled, excited by the thought, and gladly slipped closer to her lover, as his arm pulled her into him, resting around her shoulders. They walked in blissful silence for a few moments more, before he spoke again.
"Do you wish to be married?" he asked, carefully. Jane glanced up at him, but she didn't see anything to alarm her in his face. He was just curious.
"No," she decided, slipping her head back onto his shoulder. "I screwed up one marriage already. I don't think I'm ready for another one."
"Well, what of another child?" he asked, and Jane really did pause.
"Perhaps one day," she murmured, not wanting to admit how desperately she suddenly wanted his child again, this time consciously, openly, without fear or uncertainty. Loki merely smiled, deciding not to tell her that she already carried his child once more.
Jane eyed him suspiciously, but knew she could say nothing to make him tell her what was making him smile. But she had an idea, and it made her giddy.
Luc had reached the gas station and he hammered on the door. Loki shook his head wearily. "Thor certainly didn't teach him manners," he sighed, as the door opened, and Jane's heart nearly stopped.
"Hey kid, some of us are trying to sleep," he grumbled. "What do you want?"
"Are you Erik Selvig?" Luc asked, unbothered by Erik's clearly displeased tone. "Mother told me stories about you."
"Look, kid, it's nearly one in the morning," Erik sighed, glancing up when he noticed Jane and Loki. He stopped, his very breath suspended, his eyes darting back and forth from Luc and his obviously Asgardian attire, to Loki, their former enemy, and then to Jane, regal and beautiful in the moonlight. "Jane?" he gasped, and she stepped forward, eyes shining with tears.
And in that moment, she just knew that everything would be alright, as Erik stumbled forwards to embrace her, Luc laughing as Erik almost picked her up, spinning her round and round, Loki watching with quiet amusement at their reunion.
Jane simply closed her eyes, surrounded by the people she loved and who loved her back. She was home.
The future was veiled and who knew what would happen? No doubt it would be difficult, at times dark, and knowing Loki she would have a lot of damage control to do over the following centuries, but she didn't care. She had her son, her lover and her dearest friend near her, and she didn't care.
She was home.