Loki looked just as out of place in her new house as Thor would have, Jane decided as he sat at the kitchen table, chin in his hand, thinking hard. He was reduced to simple tricks, little illusions and very basic transformations- none of his real power. It blew his mind, as did the magical wards he had found on himself- shielding him from Heimdall's view against his own will. It appeared, he had said, that they were in fact his own wards, but he now lacked the strength to remove them. For the time being, he was stranded on Midgard. And staying in Jane's house.

What else was she supposed to do with him? She'd highly considered turning him right over to SHIELD. Now that she was consulting for them, they'd actually listen to her and take her seriously. But it felt wrong. This Loki was unrecognizable as the same one who terrorized New York. In fact, he hadn't done it yet.

Jane wasn't quite sure how it was even possible, but she was beginning to theorize that he'd managed to accidentally fall forward though time. What she wondered, was if the other Loki still existed. If he did, she mused, things would get really messy.

Apart from his innocence (at the moment, anyway), Jane was curious who this guy was that Thor loved him so much, despite his crimes and multiple attempts to kill him. Her mother used to tell her that 'curiosity killed the cat', and her dad would add 'but only because it wasn't wearing lab goggles'. Jane was past trying to resist her curiosity; it was too deeply rooted in her nature. She would try to find out about this guy, but she would have to be careful.

Jane felt bad for him at the moment, staring at the table with a lost-puppy look. "Want some tea or something?" she offered, trying to pull him out of his current state.

He smiled up at her, shaking off the traces of the dark mood. "Yes, please," he replied. "That would be lovely."

She pulled the kettle out and filled it, setting it on the stove. Turning, she crouched by the bottom cabinet. "What kind do you want? Darcy keeps stealing the chai, but I've got black and green." Jane spun around at a sudden shrieking from the kettle. "What!?" She had just put it on, she was sure.

Loki grinned, looking rather pleased with her reaction. He hopped up and sat on the counter, wiggling his fingers. "Magic, darling, remember?"

Jane narrowed her eyes. "How does it work? It's not possible…you just- Well it is possible. You're manipulating energy, that's it. But how did you transfer so much heat into the water so quickly? Without a reaction of some kind, I just can't imagine how you're changing the speed the particles are moving so quickly."

Loki seemed a bit confused, but he took Jane's hand and pulled her close beside him, placing her palm above his. "There is a flow of energy," he explained, "in everything, in everyone. Only a select few can feel it, fewer still can tap into it and use that energy for their own purposes." As he spoke, a green flame appeared and sat in her hand, but did not burn her. "This is simple, mere illusion," he said, smiling at her wondrous expression. "I can make it a true flame, if I so wish, or I can cause it to change forms."

She stroked the little flame with a fingertip, finding no heat, only a tickling sensation something like static electricity. "Is it localized on your palm? Your ability?"

He grinned and slid off the countertop, winding an arm through hers, leading her to the tiny bathroom in the hall. "Let me show you."

Jane started, for once, to feel nervous. His charming way of speaking and being had put her so at ease that she'd almost forgotten who he was, but as he shut the door and left them both in the dark, her heart sped a little, brown eyes widening.

He let out a soft breath and then, the dark room filled with stars. Constellations unlike any she'd ever seen before, nebulas, moons. The patterns of light made her jaw drop, and she laughed in pure surprised delight. "Oh my gosh," she murmured, hands up against her mouth. "Oh my gosh."

"These are Asgard's skies," he said softly. "My stars. This is your field of study...I thought you might like to see them."

Jane scooped a group of the lights into her hands, feeling like she held the galaxy, although she knew it was just an illusion. "They're so beautiful," she sighed. "I love them."

Loki leaned forward, arms around her, covering the stars in her hands. He grunted quietly, and with a thud, something heavy landed in Jane's hands. "Keep them, then."

Thor had his brother by the arm, marching him forward to see their father. His father. Not Loki's. Sometimes it took Thor a moment to remember, to go through the realization again that his brother was in fact…not. He refused to think of Loki that way, as anything less than flesh and blood. Even now, dragging him forward to get his punishment, Thor wished for the right words for him. I am sorry. I still love you, brother mine. I wish things had been different for you. I want everything to return to how it was. I am so sorry.

Loki turned as they approached the door of Odin's throne room, opening his mouth as if to say something. He was too bitter now to apologize, even to his brother, possibly the only person besides the All-Mother who didn't loathe him. But he could try to say something. Silver tongue turned to lead again. And then his expression changed. The unmistakable reach of magic, pulling at him. His eyes widened and he reached for his brother the same way he used to as a child, and then he was gone. With a snap, Loki disappeared, the handcuffs falling to the ground with a thud- and his last thought before he was gone was a repeat of words once said to him: there will be no hidden crevice, no barren moon where he cannot find you…

The little ball of stars retained its nebulaic qualities. Jane could pick out individual stars and carry them around, and gradually, they would gravitate back to their original positions in the little, strangely heavy cloud that was currently functioning as a part-time paperweight, part-time nightlight.

Loki remained a both distraction from work and a bundle of dilemmas. There was a part of Jane that still considered turning him in to SHIELD, mostly on days when she opened her closet and everything had been changed to silky dresses, or a thousand emerald butterflies flew out of her computer screen. But he was actually strangely helpful in a lot of ways. They bickered about which equations went where and why this or that was wrong, eventually resulting in far more progress than she'd have made alone.

He was intriguing on every front. Jane could see no evidence of the monster who had terrorized New York City, but it left her wondering where /that/ Loki was. Amnesia was her current theory, but…it just didn't seem right. Asgardians (and Jotuns, she figured, in Loki's case, although he didn't know that) were so hardy that she began to wonder how he'd possibly forget. Magic? It seemed unlikely.

"Please try," she begged, doe eyes beseeching. "I just…I can't understand."

Loki sighed and knelt in front of her desk chair. "Basically, what I was trying to do…I was…looking for something. Someone. Several someones. But the point is, to bring them to where I was, when I wanted them to arrive, I had to reach across two streams." He took her hands and pulled them out, leaving her arms outstretched. Loki's hand wound over one arm and under the other, grabbing the pen off her desk. His eyes met hers, and he paused there for a moment.

"Your left arm is time, and the right one is space, yes, dear?"
Jane's cheeks flushed slightly at the nickname he'd begun to employ lately, but she nodded. "Why does time have to be involved? Doesn't that mean you could…change anything? Time travel?"

Loki shook his head. "That's… I don't know. It's the way it works, and no, not…necessarily. Technically, yes, I suppose that does mean it could be possible, but time is not like space. Space is…picture a calm river, flowing at a predictable pace. Time is turbulent and has almost no rules. That's why," he nudged her arm again, "I go over this one, to avoid getting caught up in it. Should one go into the future, things would get incredibly messy. The past, I imagine, would be even more so."

He sat back, pulling the pen over one of her arms and under the other. Spinning it between two fingers, the ballpoint became a red rose, which Loki offered to her with a smile. "Do you understand better now?"

Jane lifted the bloom to her nose to smell before answering. "I think so. You're saying that you fell into the space 'stream'. How do you know you didn't fall into time?"

Loki's brows furrowed in a look of polite confusion. "Well…I suppose I don't, but…why?" His eyes narrowed slightly. "Do you think I moved through time? You were very alarmed when you first met me...as if you knew me?"

Jane shook her head. "I'd never met you, I just…like I said, Thor spoke about you. And of course I was alarmed, you just appeared out of nowhere. On Earth, that's a disconcerting thing to see," she protested hotly.

Loki seemed to accept her explanation, already distracted by her phone lighting up with a text. "Doesn't this do the same thing? Reach through space with voices? And letters?"

"No, that uses satellites," Jane explained, already starting to make a diagram on her whiteboard. "It's very different, see, this sends a signal up here…"

She wondered if he could tell, that her explanation was halfhearted, that she was struggling with a mountain of guilt she had no idea what to do with. To tell him the truth might tear him apart...or make him once again the man who would terrorize New York City. Right now, he was so much more innocent, so...bright. Jane justified keeping who he was known to Earth as, what'd he'd done a secret when she thought of the darkness she was saving him from.