A/N: As the summary states, this is a companion piece to my previous work, By Candlelight. I would recommend you read that first so that this makes more sense.
It was a nice night, August 5th, one with cool winds and pouring rain that doused the burning heat of summer. Loki stood on the balcony, dressed in nothing but a pair of loose fitting breeches meant for sleeping. His nightshirt was in a heap on the floor behind him, discarded only moments before. He much preferred having the rain on his bare skin. Tiny droplets dripped down from his neckline to his stomach, making paths for new ones to follow and branch off from. The wind, which would chill as lesser man to the bone, was a sweet embrace to Loki. He would never understand those subjects of his who shunned the rain and worshiped the hot summer day.
Loki deplored this entire season, especially during the month of August, when temperatures were always at their highest. In truth, he'd never cared much for hot weather, not even as a child growing up in Asgard. The only difference between then and now was that now he knew why. Loki cringed, reminded himself to double check the cooling spells around the castle tomorrow morning, then threw his head back and let the rain shower over his face. It washed away all of his unpleasant thoughts.
He felt the tickle of water on his cheeks and nose. When he pulled his head back up, he wiped his face off, but allowed what drops avoided his hand to continue their descent down his chin, to his neck and collarbone. He breathed deeply, taking in the musty smell of the air. He ran fingers through wet hair, letting the excess fall to the ground behind him. He looked out at the endless rows of trees surrounding his castle, and the golden city far beyond their reaches, one of many that had been established since the beginning of his reign.
Loki didn't think there was anything that could dampen his mood tonight. The one thing keeping this moment from perfection was the lack of a certain someone in his arms.
He eyed the subsection of trees on the far left; the large gap between two oak trees big enough for a single person to walk through without meeting any resistance. Not one minute ago, a black cloaked figure had emerged from the castle and left through those trees. They disappeared from sight, running straight into the forest and towards a small hill a short way's off. They carried a brown servant's knapsack and appeared uneasy, paranoid that someone might be following them. Twice they had stopped to look over their shoulder before departing, only to be greeted by empty air and rain.
Loki was unconcerned, Jane did this every year on the night of August the 5th. He wondered sometimes when she'd finally realize that her secret and sacred venture was no secret to him; that he'd known since the very day she started; that he followed her the first few years under a cloak of invisibility to make sure she didn't get lost in the woods; that he gifted special candles to her, ones that burned ceaselessly for the entire year and never shortened, solely so she could use them for her altar. He didn't like keeping secrets from Jane -though he was happy to keep millions from the rest of the world- but there were some things even she didn't need to know about. Loki was content to wait for her to figure it out herself, and he knew, one day, she would.
Ah, Jane. His wife and Queen who had enraptured him so completely without ever knowing. He first went to her after his first victory over the so-called Avengers in Manhattan. While bringing the pitiful, yet important, city fully under his thumb, Loki took a break one night to make good on an old promise to Thor. He'd already known Jane's location, SHIELD was made up of bigger fools than he thought if they honestly believed anyone he wanted to find could be hidden from him. Initially, he'd only made note of it in case he ever felt like using her as leverage against Thor. He didn't believe it would ever be necessary, but Loki was nothing if not prepared for anything. On that night, Loki sat down in Stark's lounge with a drink on the end table next to him and projected his image into Jane's room thousands of miles away… and paid her a visit.
She was asleep at the time, which wasn't a problem. Her weak human mind was so easy to enter that it might as well have been nothing but air. He stepped into the realm of Jane Foster's dreams, a place full of stars and planets and comets and meteorites and Jane herself in the center, seated in the air with her legs crossed. Her face was unreadable as she stared at the astronomical phenomena around her. Loki didn't dare approach her. Something about the world she created piqued his curiosity. He stayed for longer than he'd expected, just watching her. Whatever he might have done: scare her, intimidate her, tear her mind apart piece by piece until she was little more than a drooling vegetable, was lost on him now that she was here before him.
The next day, Loki was back to work spreading his influence to other parts of the country. Within the next week, the entire state of New York, along with California and Texas, were under his complete control. He didn't visit Jane again during that time and tried to keep from thinking of her. Inevitably though, she would cross his mind in the quiet moments. He'd been sitting in whatever hotel he'd commandeered, in the best room available- it was always sub par- trying to make himself sleep for a few hours, and there her face would be. Never the terrified look she'd worn when the Destroyer attacked her home, always the serene face of her dream self, staring off into the distance at something meant only for her. By the seventh night, Loki was forced to admit to himself that he was inclined to visit her again.
He did so the very next day, and again caught her in a deep slumber. In her dreams, she was calm as ever, though he detected a hint of unease in the air.
'She's worried for that idiot, Thor,' he thought disgustedly.
The longer he probed her mind, though, the more Loki had to question that. She had a great many thoughts in her head. Thoughts of the stars and their make-up, of physics and equations, of the books she read on her off-time to unwind and relax, of some movie she'd seen as a small child with her parents that first got her interested in the stars, of her friends and Selvig and her fear for their safety, of how little she knew about the situation with Loki and how incredibly frustrated that lack of knowledge made her…
Very few of her thoughts pertained to Thor. What little Loki could find spoke of admiration and interest in his home world, perhaps even friendly affection, but little else. There was nothing that made Loki believe Jane Foster loved his false brother. Her biggest concern seemed to be building a Midgardian Bifrost, and meeting Thor had done little more than strengthen her resolve. Now that was interesting. He wondered how Thor would feel if he knew someone actually cared less about he himself and more about what he could offer. Someone so used to blind adoration could never comprehend such a thing, but Loki knew it all too well. He doubted Thor could handle it.
And Jane Foster was inarguably a very intelligent woman. That, Loki could not ignore. He started visiting her more often, several times a week. He'd arrive when she slept or was about to sleep, enter her dreams and just watch her. She was pleasant to look upon, and not just for her intriguing thoughts. Oh, there were plenty of women across the nine realms whose beauty outshined hers, but Jane had a uniqueness to her that no other could emulate. Loki didn't know exactly what it was, but it was enticing, it drew him in. He stayed longer with her, found it harder to leave when the night was up. He looked forward to visiting her more than his latest conquest. He had all of North and South America under his rule by now, along with most of Europe and Asia. The Avengers and SHIELD scrambled to defeat him through endless battles and ambushes and attempts on his life. Everything they tried failed, and Loki was becoming bored with constantly crushing them. They were so predictable now. Did they ever give up?
And then, one by one, they started dying.
While Loki was off on another visit to Jane, Steve Rogers, better known as Captain America, was taking a fatal shot to the back while performing a rescue mission. Loki attended the funeral under camouflage, watching each member of the team get up to awkwardly speak about their fearless leader while trying to refrain from tearing up. Even Tony Stark had a few to shed for the man. It was a very boring affair, one that Loki didn't even care to crash. He left quickly. They could have their mourning time if they pleased.
Barton and Romanov went next, and together no less! Loki hadn't been there to see them go either, but he imagined it was in blaze of glory and oh so romantic. Because Romanov was a child inside to the very end. They were buried in her home country of Russia, together in unmarked graves in an unmarked field. Loki conquered Russia a week later.
Around the time Banner was murdered (a miraculous feat in and of itself), Loki was starting to think he should stop visiting Jane. He was spending far too much time watching over her, every night now. The sun would be up by the time he left her, and he'd almost been caught in his deathlike state by one of his human servants more than once. Her dreams weren't even interesting anymore. They became grey and empty. The stars had slowly vanished into an ugly cloud where nothing could be seen, and Jane herself was slumped over, tears shining unshed in her eyes. Loki didn't blame her, watching her realm fall to him one piece at a time had to be difficult. She was just a mortal, she had no idea how much good his rule would do this sad little world of hers. Someday, she'd understand, assuming she lived long enough to see his empire.
The moment that idea crossed his mind, something strange happened. Loki felt a horrible pain in his chest, like Thor had appeared out of nowhere and struck him right in the heart with Mjolnir. He clutched his chest, gently, as the pain started to fade. The sudden burst of fear did not go with it. His eyes remained focused on Jane, at her face full of sadness and regret. His chest started to hurt anew, so crippling that Loki couldn't stay another second longer.
Outside of her mind, Loki leaned heavily against the table. He rubbed his forehead between two fingers, the pooling sweat making them slip and slide. Despite his greatest efforts not to look at anything remotely near her, Loki's eyes found Jane again. She was as she always was, sprawled out over papers and figures with empty coffee cups all around her. Her clothes were rumpled and dirty, like they hadn't been washed in days. Her hair was similarly a mess and her skin was sickly pale. Loki hovered over her, studying every inch of her face and body and not liking at all what he saw. She was a mess. Were her fears so great that she no longer took care of herself? Was SHIELD working her that hard? And for what? Creating a new bridge would do little to help Midgard. Maybe Thor could return to Asgard and bring back an army to help, but it wouldn't matter. Loki's influence was spreading too far and the other side had suffered too many losses.
Surely they must have known Loki was victorious. The only reason he didn't completely rule this planet already was that he so enjoyed the look on Thor's face when he failed to prevent another country's fall. After centuries of being unbeatable, the mighty Thor was finally facing defeat, and at the hands of one who had once been trapped in his shadow. It was like a dream come true.
Standing before Jane, watching her shiver, seeing her spirit so close to breaking, hearing a whimper or two escape her lips, that same dream made him feel ill.
Loki's body began working faster than his mind. He ended the projection, shooting up in place at his newly built castle in Ireland. A maid who'd been trying to wake him shrieked and clutched a hand over her heart. Loki paid her no mind. He teleported once again to Jane's side. Now in solid form, there was nothing to stop him from running fingers through her knotted hair. He briefly considered fixing it with magic, but that would only terrify her when she awakened. He thought about how she looked in her dreams and how far preferred it to this. Her face when surrounded by everything she loved; clean, peaceful… beautiful.
He hated himself for a moment, knowing that it was because of him that her fire was burning out.
He would just have to bring it back, once the world was firmly in his grasp. He could and would deny no longer that he wanted her. He wanted to have her always by his side, to watch over her every night while she slept and have to go no further than his own bed to do it. It would take time and she may well fight him every step of the way, but he would be the one to fix her, to bring her life again.
And now that he thought about it, 'Queen Jane' had a lovely ring to it.
He ended the war fast.
Tony Stark was easy to get rid of. The man was already broken beyond repair after the deaths of his friends and his redheaded lover some weeks before. It took three nights of Loki entering Stark's dreams, taking on the form of the redhead, and whispering to him how much she missed him, how much she wanted him to come join her. On the third night, Loki ended it with a hiss of his true voice.
"You know you're long overdue for this."
Stark was dead that afternoon. So were a large portion of the battalion Loki sent to lure him out, but it was well worth the price. He would say that he was impressed. Stark was an annoyance for sure, but he was a worthy opponent to the very end. Loki might even miss him a bit.
SHIELD went underground shortly after, taking Jane Foster with them. It was a great relief. Now he knew she'd be out of the way and safe until he was ready for her. He conquered the rest of the world, and feared nothing that the tattered remains of SHIELD could throw at him. When his reign was secured, Loki sent a squadron to fetch his Queen, with orders to harm not a hair on her head, but to kill anyone and everyone else that got in their way.
She was brought before him that night, limp in the arms of a human servant. Loki had stepped off his throne. His gaze shot to the servant, who hung his head low. Jane made no such move when he looked at her. She stared right back at him, eyes slightly glazed, so he couldn't be sure she was seeing him. Her head was supported by the servant's arm. Loki wondered if she'd be able to keep it up on her own if she was let go. He feared that perhaps he'd waited too long and done too much; that at this point, she was beyond repair.
He kneeled on one knee, so that they were level. Her head very slowly lifted. Loki offered her a smile, warmer than he would ever give to another.
"Hello, Jane Foster."
And she spat in his face.
Loki roared as he backed away from her, ordering the servant to take her to her room immediately. The man practically ran from the room while everyone else cowered before his wrath. They never saw the grin on his face as he wiped it clean. He'd been wrong, the fire in her still yet burned.
It took weeks for him to get through to her after that, but Loki had time now to be patient. Thor was still out there, but he'd made no significant moves since the fall of SHIELD, and the great many issues still facing him, Loki could deal with in due time. For now, only Jane was important. She would refuse to leave her room for anything, so Loki took to standing outside her door. She would cry out from horrible nightmares when she slept, and only then did Loki force his way in, and sit with her for as long as it took until her terror faded. When the day finally came where Jane could no longer stay alone in her room, he met her with a cheerful disposition, like it had only been a day since he last saw her, and invited her for lunch. He asked her questions about herself, no doubt catching her off guard. She answered anyway, first with only one or two words, and then real sentences once Loki turned the subject over to the stars she loved so much.
From there, everything was so simple. He slowly earned her trust, calling on her every day and backing off with no arguments when she refused. As time wore on, it became more common for her to accept his invitation to dinner or for a walk in the gardens. She started to relax around him, consciously or not. The lack of companionship was getting to her, and she would take anyone, even one she thought of as a monster. Loki used that to his advantage. He kept going to her when she suffered nightmares, only now he made himself known. He held her in his arms as she cried for the friends she had lost. The day came when she no longer cared that it was their own killer who comforted her and dried her tears. Everything he'd been trying to make her see was sinking in. He was all she had left, the only constant in her life. If she rejected him now, she would have nothing, just as he would have nothing. They needed each other far more than they knew.
By the time Thor launched his out of the blue attack on the castle, Loki was inserting a diamond ring he'd crafted himself in a velvet box, and placing that box in one of his dimensional pockets alongside one of the golden apples of Idunn that he'd stolen ages ago on a whim, never imaging he would ever need it.
He met Thor head on, with only a small number of human and Chitauri soldiers, one of whom held Jane back from entering the fray. They fought one on one, Loki had commanded his forces not to get involved for any reason. He fought with a cold detachment. He ignored memories of all the play fights they had as boys, and how if their traded blows were just a little lighter and a lot less deadly, this would be exactly like that. It was harder than just that, though, because all throughout, Thor never stopped talking.
Never stopped begging.
"We can still end this!"
Never accepted that there was no going back.
What a fool.
Thor was such a fool, in fact, that he'd made the most glaring error a warrior could make that day. When an overeager Chitauri lunged at him, he'd forgotten to block against Loki's oncoming attack. He'd focused on that nameless, worthless creature for all of two seconds. He never saw Loki's spear stabbing him through the heart, Loki himself wasn't aware it had happened until Thor fell to the ground before him. There was a shrill ringing in his ears; he dimly recognized it as Jane's screams. A wave of sickness entered his stomach and threatened to come out his mouth as Thor gasped for air. The Golden Prince of Asgard spat out buckets of blood, and spoke words Loki couldn't understand while looking deep into his eyes, and then he was gone.
Just like that.
Of course, Loki killed that Chitauri. There was no way he could let such gross insubordination go unpunished. And, of course, he did the job himself and, of course, he made it as slow and painful as he possibly could. It sent the message to his army what would happen to those who disobeyed his orders. It was for that purpose, and that purpose only that he did any of it.
He waited a few weeks longer than planned to propose, after Jane went a full three days and nights without tears. She hadn't given him a verbal answer, just took the ring and walked back to her room with it. That was fine, Loki knew she was still grieving. He would wait as long as she needed.
They had all the time in the world now.
Fifty years had passed like a blur. Once the shock of Thor's death wore off, Loki felt a swell of joy unlike anything he'd ever experienced.
Because it was over.
Because he had won.
Oh, there were still threats to his rule. Some were worrying, and almost all were laughable. Most of the mortal's attempts at resistance collapsed on their own, as Loki established himself as a benevolent ruler who truly had Midgard's best interests at heart. His supporters far outweighed the rebels after several years. That left only the otherworldly forces for him to think about. In his quest for power, he had lied and cheated a powerful force, taking the army he'd been 'loaned' for his own and keeping for himself the power of the tesseract. They would find their way to him, in due time, and perhaps they wouldn't be alone. Because even the world he'd been raised in was an enemy now. Asgard may have had no Bifrost, but the beloved Prince and son of Odin was dead by his hand, and they would be baying for his blood. If even one denizen of Asgard found his way there, the very first thing they'd do was try to run a knife through his heart. In fifty years, no force had ever come, either for vengeance or to take what they believed was their due, but Loki was always vigil. There were endless worlds for Thanos to plunder, and Odin was busy now with the noblemen warring for his throne, but someday, somehow… they'd find a way.
And Loki would be ready for them.
Now, he could see that the rain was stopping, he barely felt the remaining drizzle. He snarled in annoyance. Good thing the black cloaked figure had re-appeared. He wouldn't have to watch for her any longer.
Loki went to the bed, kicking the shirt out of his way. He didn't feel like putting it back on. He slid into the middle of the bed, a quick drying spell removed the remaining water and warmed his skin. She would never suspect a thing.
He heard her footsteps coming a mile away and closed his eyes when the door opened. She moved around to the wardrobe, stopped, then continued on to the bed much quicker than expected. He wondered if it really took her that long to put on her nightwear, and then she crawled into bed by his side. He opened his eyes for a split second when she was turned around. Her form was bare except for a flimsy camisole that covered nothing. Loki fisted the sheets as heat pooled in his stomach.
She was going to kill him.
He wouldn't allow himself to touch her on this night, but he did turn in his 'sleep' and pull her soft body to him. A single word, in an Asgardian dialect ancient and forgotten to those who never bothered to study it, slipped passed his lips.
He felt the feather light touch of her lips on his chest and suppressed a shiver. He reminded himself again that tonight was not the night. He waited until she was asleep and ran a hand down her side, from her cheek to her neck to her shoulder to her chest to her stomach-
He opened his eyes and pressed a little harder into her abdomen. He closed his eyes again, directing the flow of his magic to that area, and felt the tiny flash of a life force not her own.
Loki grinned and held her closer, cradling his Jane in his arms. He wondered if she knew yet, or if he should be the one to tell her. He might just say she looked pale or wasn't eating right and make her go to the doctor. If she was already feeling the first signs, she would have to agree with him. She was an intellectual, after all. Loki then dismissed the thought for the night and settled down.
No matter what he did tomorrow, he could never be happier than he was in this moment. Loki kept his hand on Jane's stomach until morning, feeling the new heart beating with hers. The sun wasn't due to rise for hours, but his world outside was growing brighter, as the one he held in his arms grew one person larger.