Lone and Level
Even before she opened her eyes, Jane knew this morning was not going to be enjoyable. Her head throbbed, her limbs felt heavy, and she had an empty, shaking feeling in the pit of her stomach. The entire sensation was similar to her first tequila hangover – not an ordeal she cared to experience again. Still, the light that shone through her eyelids wasn't going away, and Jane wanted to know where she ended up. The last thing she could remember, through the throbbing headache, was the swirling green and blue orbs overhead in the night sky and the heavy scent of honeysuckle. By the smell of crisp linen and the feel of soft pillows underneath, Jane assumed she had someone stumbled out of the garden and back to her room.
Her eyes fluttered open. She stared straight overhead, looking into golden fabric that draped over the corners of a large bed. Ornate posts spiraled down from the ceiling, carved with ancient runes of protection. Jane frowned. She didn't remember learning about runes, but she could read and comprehend these with ease, even through the strange hangover. As her eyes traveled down, she noticed the white blankets that covered her body were printed with similar markings.
Someone sighed softly beside her. Jerking her head to the side, a decision she immediately regretted as a stab of pain shot through her eyes, Jane was confused at what she saw. Loki sat beside her in a simply carved white chair, deep asleep. He was still dressed in the ornate outfit from the night before. One black boot was crossed lazily over his leg, and he held his head cradled in pale white fingers, his elbow resting on the arm of the chair. A few loose strands fell in front of his face, and he slowly breathed in and out as his eyelids occasionally fluttered.
Jane stared at the dark prince. Loki was actually very beautiful, she admitted to herself. His pale skin, his black hair, his demeanor, his easy confidence, his passion – everything drew her in, and she couldn't understand or explain the feeling to herself. Jane mentally slapped herself. Loki was harsh and demanding, he was selfish and dangerous – and beautiful and powerful and gentle, like the bursting nebulae the painted the sky overhead on a moonlit night above Asgardian gardens. She swore softly, unable to knock the thoughts of his attraction, far deeper than mere fascination, from her mind.
The voice sounded beside her, and Jane blinked; now realizing her quiet swearing had woken the sleeping figure. Loki now stared intently at her, a soft smile playing on his lips.
"Those words are not fit for a lady, Jane," he said quietly, uncrossing his legs and spreading them and leaning forward, resting his elbows on his knees.
Jane laughed softly. "Perhaps I am not a lady then, Loki."
He smiled fully, letting out a laugh that was genuine and held no malice – but that was too loud for Jane's liking. She flinched as a bout of pain shot through her forehead. Loki noticed and his smile disappeared. He stood quickly and hovered over her, his hands sweeping the length of her body a few inches above her clean white covers. He frowned, and his hands stopped above her forehead. "You're in rather intense pain, Jane," Loki said softly. His hands suddenly glowed with a soft green light and he slowly lowered until they nearly rested on her aching forehead. Jane's eyes closed and she sighed, calming under the proximity of his magic.
A voice called softly from the doorway of the room. Jane's eyes shot open, the sudden blaze of light adding to her pain. Loki's hands had stopped just above her forehead. The green light disappeared and Loki stood up, glancing toward the doorway. There, Frigga stood with clasped hands; her golden curls loosely travelling down her back. She wore a simple blue dress with long white sleeves that was belted with a slender gold band. She walked slowly to Jane's bedside and stood opposite Loki, staring gently at her son.
"Loki," she said quietly, "Would you be willing to leave myself and Jane for the time being? I assure you, she will be safe with me."
Loki's eyes hardened. Jane noticed the change, feeling the patterns of the air shift with his demeanor. She turned to Frigga, hoping to change the former queen's mind, but Loki was far ahead of her.
"Mother," he said, his voice rasping, "Jane is hurting, and after last night, I cannot be expected to leave her-"
He was sharply cut off by a raised hand from Frigga. "I assure you, my son," she responded, her voice gentle yet firm and unyielding, "That I will watch after Jane, and that I will heal her pain. You forget, Loki, that everything you know of healing you learned from your mother."
Frigga smiled and gestured toward the door. Loki's eyes blazed, but he turned without a lingering glance at either Jane or Frigga, and stalked out the door, slamming it behind him.
Jane flinched from the sudden noise, but tried to prop herself up in the presence of the former queen. Frigga noticed and smiled, pushing her shoulders back onto the soft pillows. She then stood and beckoned to a handmaiden, whom Jane had completely missed until now. The rose-clad woman stepped forward from the shadows, holding a gilded tray with two silver goblets. Frigga took both, nodded to the woman, and turned back to Jane, handing her one of the goblets.
"Drink this, my dear," she said softly. "It will stop the pain."
Jane took the beverage and drank as Frigga said, the pain immediately dissipated with the cooling liquid. As she drained the goblet, Jane felt strong enough to sit up. She propped herself on elbows and placed the goblet on a side table, then swept her messy hair away from brightening eyes and stared at the former queen.
Frigga stared back over her own goblet, then laughed and grabbed Jane's hand. Jane, confused and wondering still about the situation she found herself, wrenched her hand away and stared suspiciously at the woman whom she once trusted. She had woken up in a strange bed with no memory of the past several hours, could suddenly comprehend runes, was being watched over by Loki – whose emotions she could strangely feel and understand – and was now being watched over by the former queen of Asgard. Everything was wrong. Where was she? What was happening? Where was Thor? What were these new feelings for Loki? Why did she feel so different? She had so many questions, and she needed Frigga to answer them before she trusted anyone in Asgard again.
"Dear Jane," the older woman said quietly, her eyes softening as she noticed the emotions flashing through Jane's eyes, "I understand you must be confused. Fear not. I will explain everything, and more will become evident in time."
Jane still eyed the woman suspiciously, but allowed herself to nod at Frigga. The older woman smiled, then lowered herself into a chair aside her bed. She paused, and then began to speak.
"Jane," she said haltingly, "There is no easy way to describe what is happening to you, nor to explain who you are. I have never been one to be soft or indirect, so I will be blunt with my explanation. As a woman of science, I am sure you will appreciate my directness."
Frigga raised her eyebrows at Jane, who nodded in approval. Frigga smiled and continued.
"Jane Foster, you are what we call in the old language an 'Andi-Gumi,' in your language, literally, a 'spirit-man.' You are a spiritual link between the Nine Realms, a spiritual leader whose presence only graces the realms of Yggdrasil once every two thousand years. This status comes with more power and responsibility than you cane imagine, Jane, and I am sorry for revealing this so suddenly."
"An ancient power flows through your veins, Jane. You have doubtless felt it through your dreams, through your sudden knowledge, through feelings of other-worldliness. Your responsibility to lead the spiritual direction of the Realms will be revealed in time. Now, your primary responsibility lies in strengthening the inter-Realm bond." Frigga stopped talking to glance at Jane.
The younger woman stared intently at her. Jane's eyes were wide and unblinking, her mouth hanging open slightly, her hands clenched tightly in her lap. Still, through the shock, she nodded tersely at Frigga to carry on.
"But I'm only a human," Jane said softly. "How can I possibly act as this spirit-man-leader-person who is supposed to bring the Realms together?"
Frigga smiled. "That is where my son comes into the picture," she responded.
Jane's eyes narrowed. "Thor?" She asked, "I suppose it makes sense. A political ruler and a spiritual leader would be able to unite the Realms through-"
Frigga silenced the younger woman with a swiftly raised hand.
"I do not refer to Thor, Jane," she said quietly. "Rather, I mean my younger son, Loki. Remember, Jane, you are from Earth, yet you have been gifted with the entirety of the knowledge of the Aesir. Loki is of Jotunheim, yet was raised in the halls of Asgard, and his magic springs from the knowledge of the Elves. Your skills and backgrounds span Realms, and your relationship was fated of old."
Jane stared at Frigga. She spoke slowly.
"So I must work with Loki as the spiritual leader of the Nine Realms?"
Frigga laughed, then smiled brightly.
"Oh, Jane," she said, "You won't simply be working with Loki. You will be joining with him through the ancient bond of Asgardian linkage. Simply put, your responsibilities begin with marrying Loki."