Lost Before The Dawn

Disclaimer: I own nothing

Warnings: None.

A/N: This will remain an oneshot until September when the Avengers comes out on DVD, but it will eventually turn into a multi-chapter Lokane.

'Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.'

- Galadriel, The Fellowship of the Ring

Jane tried not to fidget as an anonymous, faceless SHIELD agent led her down the corridor. It was cold, sterile, like something out of a bad Cold War movie.

She wondered if they did that on purpose, to put visitors off balance, making them expect one thing when the truth was quite different. The man beside her looked so ridiculous in his black suit and sunglasses, indoors, that she almost expected Will Smith to pop up at any moment with his big space gun.

"In here, Miss Foster," the nameless agent gestured her into a lift. To her slight unease, he didn't follow her, just pressed a blank button on the lift controls, and stepped back.

"Aren't you coming with me? Where am I going?" she asked, frowningly.

"The Director will be waiting for you," was all the answer she got, as the lift doors closed, and it descended. The visitors badge hanging around her neck felt like an iron chain, and she wondered, not for the first time, if agreeing to meet with SHIELD had been such a good idea.

It had been three weeks since Thor had crashed into her life, and just as abruptly, crashed back out of it. Three weeks since she had been offered so tantalising a taste of the truth behind her wildest dreams, and it had been taken away so cruelly.

Jane sighed, refusing to let herself think about it. She had known him three days; it was nothing to break her heart over. If anything his departure just gave her more impetus to keep developing her research, to find a way to travel the stars the way he did, to prove to the world that she had always been right.

The thought gave her strength, and she straightened, smoothing down the smart black trousers and blouse that were the nicest things she owned. Living in a desert backwater didn't exactly call for three piece suits and ball gowns.

The lift juddered to a halt, and the doors opened with a ping to reveal yet another long corridor, lit by emergency strip lighting, the walls covered in what looked like plumbing. Great, so she was in the basement.

Could SHIELD get any more cliché?

Black storage cases lined the walls, and a few personnel in black army fatigues passed Jane as she uncertainly made her way down the corridor, following the winding passage, hoping she would find this mysterious 'Director' at the end of it.

At last she seemed to come to an end, as she paused, glancing down the corridor.

"Miss Foster," a deep, commanding voice called, making her flinch slightly in surprise as she turned, to see a tall, forbidding figure in black, a single eye patch bound across one eye. The skin around it was puckered and dark, and Jane uneasily wondered what had happened to cause such a wound.

Her mysterious 'Director', then.

Determined not to be intimidated by the whole silly setup, she turned to face him and slowly walked towards him. "So you're the man behind all this," she called briskly. "A bit much, don't you think? What next, is Q going to jump out of the plumbing?"

"Your sarcasm is unnecessary," he replied, eying her piercingly, as she came to a halt in front of a long worktable, stood between them like a shield. "My name is Nicholas Fury, Director of SHIELD. I called you here to discuss your research."

"You mean the research you stole?" Jane replied coldly, meeting his gaze. Fury did not even blink. Jane turned to look back at the corridor she had just left. "Quite a labyrinth down here. Not to mention all the cloak and dagger stuff. Are you going to kill me now because I know too much?"

Fury's lips quirked in a parody of an amused smirk, as he shook his head.

"Oh God, you're not, are you?" she breathed, wondering what she had got herself into. Fury stepped forward, further into the light, towering over her like some dark colossus. Again, Jane forcefully refused to let him intimidate her.

"I've been hearing about the New Mexico situation," he began. "And I called you here to discuss your research, and what…assistance SHIELD might be able to offer."

"Thanks but no thanks," Jane muttered. She didn't need government busybodies in suits poking their noses in. "I don't trust you as far as I can throw you."

"Fair enough, but don't be too quick to say no," Fury inclined his head. "I haven't even made an offer yet."

"I don't really appreciate having my research stolen right out from under me without a reason, then when it gets interesting, you start drooling. So still not interested," Jane crossed her arms defiantly.

It was cold, whereas on the upper levels it had been hot. She felt a draft of air against her neck, and suppressed a shiver.

Fury continued like she hadn't even spoken. "Your work has impressed a lot of people who are much smarter than I am,"

Jane restrained an urge to reply that that wasn't difficult. She wasn't usually so rude, but the past few weeks were starting to catch up with her, and she was irritable from sleep deprivation. She'd been having odd dreams ever since Thor has disappeared from sight in a flash of light and ozone.

Unconsciously, Jane moved closer as Fury turned to one of the storage cases, hauling it up and onto the worktable. He was still talking. "Legends tell us one thing, history, another. But every now and then, we find something that belongs to both…"

"What does this have to do with my research?" Jane asked. Fury glanced at her again, his one eye delving like an x-ray into her own.

"Your research is sound, Miss Foster. I had some of my best people look at it, and they all agree it's possible. But it won't matter at all, if you don't have a power source to fuel it," Fury replied. Jane's chin firmed.

"I don't know what you're talking about-"

"I know you want to find a way to travel between dimensions, Miss Foster. Don't insult my intelligence by playing games," he continued, interrupting her smoothly. Jane pretended not to notice, but she heard an undercurrent of menace slip into his tone. She made herself remember that she was in a secret government base, with no way out if she annoyed this guy too much. "Now, if we could proceed?"

Jane nodded as Fury reached for the case, unclipping it. It opened with a rush of air, and Jane blinked as it opened to reveal a strange cubic object, nestled in the protective foam, glowing in the darkened room.

Awed, but confused, Jane stepped closer, eying it critically. She could feel heat radiating off of it like a heat gone thermonuclear. It was astounding.

"Pretty, but what is it?" she asked, looking up at Fury questioningly.

"Power, Miss Foster. If we can figure out how to tap it, maybe even unlimited power," he told her, watching her closely for her reaction. Jane's mind raced as it connected the dots, and she understood why they'd come to her.

They were offering it as a way to fuel an Einstein-Rosen bridge.

"Why are you doing this?" she asked. "What's in it for you?"

"If I told you that, Miss Foster, I'd have to kill you," he replied, and she almost thought there was a joke hidden in there. She mentally shrugged; let them have their secrets, as long as she got what she wanted. "Now will you do it? Study the Cube and find a way to tap its power?"

Jane's gaze fell once more to the Cube, and sighed. She was still suspicious of SHIELD's motives in helping, especially if this thing had the potential Fury was claiming it did but…

A chill swept down her spine, like someone breathing down her neck, and she shivered.

"I guess it's worth a look," she breathed, meeting Fury's gaze, even as she wondered what she was letting herself in for.

"Well, I guess that's worth a look."

It was almost ridiculously easy to nudge the mortal's mind just so, to influence her decision.

A dark shadow hovered by her shoulder, and shrouded from the mortals' sight, Loki smiled.

He may have fallen, he may have lost everything, but soon he would rise. He had not been idle since he fell from the Bifrost.

His smile turned vicious, tempered only by pain, as his eyes drifted to the mortal woman who had changed his brother…changed Thor so radically. She was not much, and he wondered at her power over him. The only thing to recommend her was a trace of spirit, wasted in one so insignificant.

Pathetic. Unremarkable.

Nonetheless, his plan would require he keep a close watch on her from his resting place. And when he came through…

His smile deepened.

He had promised Thor he would pay her a visit.