Chapter 31:

He hadn't made it very far, Loki muses disdainfully as he sits on the too plush seat of the booth, shoved into the back corner of this dingy little establishment called "Joe's Diner". Barely across the street from the inn Jane and Thor were staying at.

He feels so foolish, he realizes, his mind flashing back to memories of him as a boy, and his pitiful attempts to run away from the palace, bent on finding some great adventure or some undiscovered treasure, certain then in his ability to find honor and glory.

Like his older brother…

Thor, who had already been nearing the age of manhood while Loki still languished in his many years of adolescence.

He remembers feeling such vicious, roiling jealousy tear at his insides as he would have to watch Thor ride off with his friends upon great steeds, to quest or to battle, while Mother or Odin would tell him he was yet too young, too small and too weak to join them.

Tell him he was not yet good enough.

And even then, Loki had doubted if ever he would be.

Even now, still he does…

He scoffs quietly to himself, hands gripped firmly round the ceramic mug they'd served him his hot chocolate in. He can hear the flimsy clay threatening to break under his hold, and loosens his grip minutely.

Jane's words echo back through his skull unrelentingly, and he closes his eyes, praying to the Norns that it stop.

He was such a fool.

Such an utter, uncompromising fool.

He knows not if her affection for him is true, or born simply of pity. He knows not, and it eats at him as Nidghogg eats at the roots of Yggdrissil.

She did not say as much, but her silence may well have equaled a cry of proclamation.

Or at least, such is as his pride tells him.

Damn him and his idiots pride. Why is it he can only ever see it well after it's reared its wretched head?

He doubts now. He doubts his own reactions, and wonders dismally if perhaps, as he seems to with all things in his desperate existence if he's spoiled yet another chance at something akin to happiness.

Jane had told him she and Thor were no longer lying together, but Loki finds his mind unable to process such circumstances.

Unless… unless it were Thor to have lost interest, and put an end to the arrangement. Surely no woman would ever walk away from the prospect of being upon the arm of the great, golden Prince of Asgard.

But then, Loki wonders, why ever would he maintain so close a relationship with her, if not he were lying with her?

Of course, there was Sif, whom Thor had been great companions with for hundreds of centuries hence, and not once, that he knows, have they lain together.

But Sif is a warrior, as well disciplined and capable as any man, and Thor regards her as such. She is no more a woman to him than Fandral or Volstagg.

Jane is many things. Many wondrous, enchanting things, but a warrior's skill is not among her great array of talents.

He could… he could understand for himself companionship with a woman without… without the need for… intimate relations. Without the need for… for sex. But Thor

Loki shakes his head to himself, bringing the beverage to his lips and taking an even sip.

Thor has indeed changed, he supposes, if now he finds himself capable of contentment in the presence of a woman without needing to bed her.


Perhaps he should go back?

Perhaps if he should apologize, Jane would…

He frowns at the very prospect.

Ever has it been a weighted task for him, to admit aloud his own faults.

What if it were too late? What if Jane were to toss his words of regret back into his face and tell him to go? What if she…

His face twists into a scowl at his own cowardice.

He scarcely can believe his own thoughts, that he should be so… so frightened at the reaction of a mere mortal.

… Only it is that… Jane is no mere mortal…

She is…

She is…

Oh, but she is lovely, Loki thinks. And unwillingly, he finds his lips tugging up at their corners at the picture of her in his mind.

She is lovely indeed.

And has she not been true with him 'till now?

Has she not shown him care and devotion, and put herself at risk for his sake?

He wonders suddenly how he could so easily, so hastily doubt her. And unexpected anger for himself blooms in his chest.

He truly is a fool.

He must apologize to her, he realizes, and entreat her forgiveness, and pray to the Norns she will grant such. Lest he let another chance at joy slip through his fingers without fight.

He has let his damned pride rob him enough of it.

He pushes thoughts of Frigga from his mind, and how sickeningly to her his last words had been a denial of her love.

Conjuring the mortal's currency in this land, he throws the paper monies onto the table he sits at and begins to stand, intent now on going back to the room and speaking with Jane.

It is as he straightens fully, the door to the establishment comes flying violently open, and immediately, loud shouts begin to fill the space, a shrill, high pitched voice demanding everyone to get down on the floor and get out their wallets and purses.

Oh, Odin's beard, Loki thinks, not now.

He truly does despise this mud pit of a Realm and its sorry inhabitants.

Predictably, there is a mass panic, as the patrons of the place begin to scream and cry in equal turns, hesitating in their fear as the would be thief comes striding in among them, waving his weapon to and fro in what he doubtless thinks to be a threatening manner, demanding again that they get down. And the people then quickly comply, falling to their stomachs and covering their heads with their arms, some of them trembling visibly, others sniveling and crying and begging already for their lives.

Loki rolls his eyes, agitation quickly mounting.

"I said get DOWN! All of you's!" The man screams again, pistol held loosely in his fingers as he turns in a circle with it, aiming it lazily at each person.

Loki would like to kill him, in truth. But, he thinks, Jane would not be pleased with such an outcome, and already he must apologize to her.

Sighing, he smoothes down the front of his buttoned tunic, before against straightening and striding with a leisurely pace towards the man.

It is as he comes within perhaps five feet of him that the gunman again whirls about, eyes going wide at the closeness of Loki's proximity. For an instant, the man falters, his hand trembling as he nearly drops his weapon, before finally he seems to compose himself, whipping the gun back up and pointing it directly at Loki's chest.

"The fuck man, I said get down!" He snaps, voice edging towards hysteria. He sounds almost as frightened as the rest of the diner's occupants, and Loki can't quite suppress a little smirk.

"I heard you well enough." He says, and takes another step closer.

"I ain't playin' asshole!" The man replies, now cocking the pistol. "You wanna get shot!?"

Another step nearer, and Loki's closed the distance between them to about a foot.

"I cannot call the experience a pleasant one." He says. "Though in truth, a blow from my brother is infinitely more painful."

The expression across the gunman's face can only be described as bewildered, and there are murmurings now working through the crowd of patrons on the floor, nervous and worried.

They think he's going to get them killed, Loki is certain.

He could disarm the man with a wave of his hand, and implode his insides with another. The foolish mortal wouldn't even have the time to realize what was happening before he died.

Diplomacy though, the god remembers. Both Thor and Jane would want him to… talk to man out of violence. And, once, Loki recalls, there was a time he stood as Odin's head emissary, the first to be sent of diplomatic missions to other Realms in an attempt to stave off warfare.

Loki is exceptionally gifted at this sort of bargaining.

Mortals, though, are recklessly compulsive and moronic creatures, he has found, and as he begins to raise his hands in a gesture of placation, as he had back at the hospital, this man proves no better a representative of his species.

He fires a shot, and the weapon is close enough that the impact of the bullet against Loki's chest forces him back a step.

It hurts.

And suddenly what had been mere annoyance bursts into true anger.

The man hasn't even the time to react to the failure of his assault before Loki is on him, tearing the gun out of his hands and crushing the metal of the nozzle in on itself, dropping the now useless hunk onto the floor before taking the man by his neck, other hand wrapping, long fingered and tight round his jaw.

The god lifts him bodily from the floor, bringing him eyelevel, his own face twisted into a frown of disdain.

"Foolish mortal." He hisses lowly, eyes flashing dangerously. "Why must you always act with such unthinking hostility?"

The man stares back, wide eyed and gape mouthed, his jaw working as though trying to speak. Only his voice is apparently lost to him.

Loki's grip tightens, and the would be thief whines loudly, the sound slipping into a helpless whimper a moment later.

"Do you feel that?" Loki asks lowly, voice soft and calm, almost soothing. "That heat beginning to bubble up in your guts?"

The man can't answer, his whimpers turning to low keens.

"I could melt your insides to liquid in a matter of moments, you wretched, insignificant worm." Loki spits, anger only fueled now by the pathetic display of the man's all too obvious terror.

"P… please." He finally manages, only just. "please, wh-what are you? S-some kinda m-mutant?"

Loki tilts his head to the side.

"Oh," he says. "I assure you, what I am is beyond any of the kind you call mutants. For indeed, your mutants are still very much of the mortal ranks. Their greatest powers are infinitesimal in comparison to that of the gods."

And now Loki's hands glow green/gold hot against the man's skin, and the man screams.

The humans of the floor scream with him.

And then there is the sound of a bell jangling, and Thor's massive voice calls across the space to him.


Behind it then comes Jane, smaller but no less urgent.

"Oh God, Loki!"

Loki turns, eyes falling upon the two of them, and like water through a sieve, his anger drains from him.

"Loki, please…" Jane starts, stepping forward, her hands outreached.

Loki blinks at her, and then Thor is stepping forward too, his hands also up, nonthreatening.

"Brother, please." He entreats the same. "Let him down. He is no threat to you now."

A moment passes in tense silence, Loki's gaze shifting between the two of them.

Until, at last, his fingers round the man loosen, and an instant later, he drops him to the ground.

The man scurries desperately away, crying out and scrambling on his bottom, trying manically to get distance between himself and Loki.

But he's already forgotten, as Loki turns fully to face Jane and his brother. He stands there a moment, uncertain.

Jane takes a step nearer, her hands outreached.

"Loki." She says again.

And at once, it is both a surge of fear and relief which floods him, and he steps towards her the same.

"Jane, I…" he begins.

She doesn't give him a chance to finish, closing the distance and throwing her arms around him, burying her face against his chest.

"I know." She mutters, voice muffled. "I know, it's okay. It's okay. I'm sorry too. Alright? I'm sorry too."

For a moment, Loki hesitates, and nervously, his eyes lift to Thor, fearful of the anger or disappointment he's sure to see in the thunderers gaze.

But instead he only finds Thor smiling back at him, his own expression open with relief and joy. He nods at Loki, as if giving consent, and Loki blinks.

"He knows Loki." Jane says quietly against him. "I told him. He knows and he's… he's alright with it."

She steps back from him, looking up, reaching her hands to his face and turning it towards her. She smiles weakly, praying he can see the truth of it.

"I was telling you the truth Loki." She says. "I swear to you."

"Aye, brother." Thor finally steps forward, letting his hands hang loosely at his sides, unthreatening. "She speaks true. We have remained friends these many months, but it was a kind of… unspoken understanding between us as that friendship continued that we were not truly meant for one another. Not in that regard. We are friends Loki, nothing more. If you…" Here, Thor hesitates briefly, as though trying to choose his words wisely. "if you wish to court Jane, brother, and she returns your affections, you have my full blessing."

For a long moment, Loki continues staring back at his older brother, and Thor stands plainly, letting the smaller god scrutinize with his insightful eyes. Letting him see the truth of his words.

"Loki?" Jane says after a time, again placing her hand to his cheek and turning him to face her. "Do you… did you mean what you said, back in the room? That you like me?"

And at that, Loki's eyes glance away from hers, to the floor. She can feel him stiffen slightly, and she knows so blunt a question, in front of Thor, must be for him embarrassing.

She worries that maybe she's pressed too far when abruptly he steps back, and turns away from her, standing still and silent a long, few seconds.

But then she hears him speak, voice barely more than a whisper.

"… Yes." He says.

He keeps his back to her, his arms crossing over his chest.

"If you would… would have me Jane," he goes on, voice softening further still. He's desperately uncertain, Jane knows now. He's trying to prepare himself for rejection, for some sort of cruel trick. He doesn't want to let himself hope. "if you would have me," he continues finally. "there is… there is naught which would please me better."

Jane shakes her head, stepping towards him now, relief and regret somehow filling her in equal measure, for knowing she hasn't now messed this up, and for before coming so close to just that.

"Oh God Loki, of course." She says, and she dares to grasp hold of his arm. "I just, I want you to understand that I really do like you, I mean, for you. It's not out of some kind of pity or… or guilt. It's you. I like you."

"… I know Jane." Loki says after a long moment. And at last he turns to her. "The fault lies in myself Lady. I am a cowardly thing." He goes on softly. "I am a coward."

Jane shakes her head, grasping hold of his wrists.

"No, Loki." She says. "No you aren't."

"Just kiss already!" Someone suddenly shouts.

Both Jane's and Loki's eyes go comically wide in an instant, followed fast by Thor's booming laughter.

Neither him nor Jane can really say they're surprised then, when Loki growls in frustration, grabbing to two of them by the wrists, and dragging them unceremoniously through the spaces between, dumping them back out onto the ratty carpet of their motel room floor.