The halls of the Royal Palace were never empty. Maidservants, their simple dresses of rose linen and their hair swept into simple buns, hurried alongside the women they aided. Guard and soldiers stood quietly in corners and at doorways. Their golden armor gleamed in the brightly lit hallways. Royals, both leaders and courtiers, bustled quickly through the corridors, discussing politics and events and tournaments. And the halls were even busier as of late, their walls nearly bursting with guests and servants and revelers gathering for Prince Thor's pending inauguration and his marriage to his human lady.
It was through these halls that Jane Foster swept the morning after her conversation with the former queen of Asgard, Frigga. Ordinarily, her hair would be down in loosely styled ringlets that were carefully designed by her handmaidens. She would be dressed in flowing silks of pastel shades, with trains that swept behind her on the marble tiled floors. But not today. Jane was not a fool. While still reeling from Frigga's revelations about her identity as the Andi-Gumi and about her necessary marriage to Loki, she understood that with her responsibilities came power. And Jane was about to wield that power – beginning with her wardrobe.
Her hair was swept off her face, bound in tight braids that were practical for research and confrontation. Atop her braids sat a thin, silver band denoting her station. She wore black pants and a simple, deep grey tunic with sleeves that laced down her arms. Jane was comfortable and confident, and was dressed for battle with the one person she felt necessary to speak with that day.
Approaching the end of the Western Grand Hallway, Jane slowed her brisk pace as she neared her destination. The immense silver door was tightly closed. Jane was not deterred. She raised a fist and knocked twice at its golden frame. Realizing the inhabitant wasn't answering, she continued knocking, continually getting harder, until the door swung open mid-knock.
Loki stood in the doorway, his eyes blazing. He was dressed in a simple black and green shirt, laced with silver thread, which fell to his knees. Dark pants were tucked into soft leather boots. In his left hand, he held a large book, in which Jane could make out ruins referring to marriage and the Nine Realms. She slowly raised her eyes from the leather-bound book and looked into Loki's face. His mouth was set in a hard line that mirrored the annoyance in his eyes. Ordinarily, when she was dressed in fine silks and surrounded by maidservants, Jane would shy away from Loki when he was in a state such as this. But Jane no longer felt ordinary. She felt powerful and confident. She was independent, wearing pants and a simple shirt; she was ready for battle with the dark prince. This entire business needed to be sorted out now.
"Prince Loki. I appear to have interrupted your reading. Apologies. Do you mind if I come in?"
She stood, poised and tall, ready to enter his quarters even if he denied her entry. Much to her surprise, Loki only raised a single eyebrow, his face still impassive, and stood aside, gesturing into the room with his free hand. Jane's smile widened as she nodded her thanks, and she swept into the room.
The area she had entered was incredibly small. It was some sort of sitting room, Jane supposed. The walls were invisible behind rows and columns of shelves that towered upward toward the darkened ceiling. Three simply cushioned chairs were positioned around a deep brown table, on which rested a tray of wine and silver goblets. The white birch, wide planked hardwood floor was covered with a deep green and black rug. As Jane crossed into the room, she swept a finger along the surface of the brown table, then turned and stared at Loki. He still stood at the door, now closed, and remained stoically looking at her, a hint of curiosity playing behind his eyes.
"It's nice," Jane said quietly. "May I sit?" she asked, gesturing toward one of the cushioned chairs.
Loki said nothing, only stood silently for a few more moments. He then nodded, then began sauntering toward Jane as she lowered herself into the lowest chair and helped herself to a goblet of wine. He reached the chair across from her and, grabbing the arms, sat down slowly. He never took his eyes off Jane, and never revealed his feelings.
They stared at each other for several moments as Jane drank. Loki broke their silence.
"Might I ask your purpose in this visit, Lady Jane?" he asked, laying his open book across one knee and leaning back in the chair, a hint of a smile playing on his thin lips.
Jane smirked. "A rather brusque way to begin polite conversation, Prince Loki. Perhaps you would prefer beginning with banalities – the weather, the tournaments, the court gossip, for example?"
Loki's smile widened, and he laughed softly.
"Oh, Lady Jane," he said through his laughter, "You never fail to amuse me. Well, come then. What think you of the fine weather we've been experiencing?"
Jane started, shocked he was playing along.
"Well, I suppose the metrological patterns of Asgard – what?" she snapped, noticing Loki's growing laughter.
He stopped long enough to answer her question.
"My Lady, forgive me. I simply cannot take you seriously when you insist on playing into trivial customs."
Jane's shock dissipated instantly, replaced with anger and preparedness for battle. It was now or never.
"Perhaps I only choose to discuss such trivialities because I know you enjoy them, Prince Loki," she responded snidely.
Loki took the bait. His smile disappeared. He tensed in his seat, and leaned forward, his knuckles turning white with the tight grip on the armrest. His mouth was a thin, tight line that barely opened to force out a question.
"I will choose to ignore that statement, my Lady, as a symptom of your lingering delirium. I will ask again. What is your purpose here?"
Jane stood swiftly, responding to Loki's insults with her body as she swiftly closed the space between them.
"I come for answers, Loki. I come because your mother informed me of my role as a strange spiritual leader. And I come because she told me we are fated to be married. Have you any knowledge of these things?"
She finished her tirade bending down, her face at eye level with Loki's, her eyes unblinking and demanding. It wasn't one of her better ideas.
Loki stared for a few, unblinking seconds, then stood swiftly. His sudden outburst of energy knocked Jane off-balance, and she stumbled backward, falling into her previously occupied seat. It skidded backward slightly with the force of her impact, and with the strength of Loki's sudden grip on its armrests. Jane was effectively trapped, but refused to look away from Loki's seething eyes. They burned and blazed with anger and hatred – but also with passion and something deeper that Jane could not comprehend with mere words. Loki trembled with these pulsing emotions, then leaned forward, slowly, and rested his forehead against Jane's.
"Jane," he spoke quietly, "I do know of the things you speak. There are many more things I do not wish to burden you with. Prophesies, the bonds of humans and Jotuns, responsibilities. But you are weak now, and I cannot-"
He was cut off by a violent shove from Jane. As Loki stumbled back and stood gaping, Jane rose swiftly to her feet.
"I am weak?" she seethed at him. "I am not a fragile woman to be trifled with, Loki. I am the Andi-Gumi of our age, I am supposedly your future partner, and I am only learning of these things now. What I am not is weak. I deserve to know these things."
Loki stared, then grabbed Jane's shoulders and shoved her against the nearby bookcase.
"You deserve nothing," he hissed, his eyes blazing with rage and intense passion of emotion. "You come here, to my home. You live here for less than a fortnight, and you completely upset the order that has been established for centuries. And you think you are entitled to all of these answers immediately?"
Loki stopped and closed his eyes in an attempt to regain control. Jane took the opportunity and, raising a slightly trembling hand, slapped the prince across his face. He immediately released her shoulders and staggered back, clutching his reddening cheek. Jane breathed heavily, leaning back against the shelves.
They stood there for a few moments, simply staring at each other, rage blazing in both their eyes. Neither moved. Neither spoke. Then Loki stood to his full height, ran a pale hand through smooth black hair, and stepped forward, pressing Jane between his body and the bookshelves. His eyes blazed, her eyes reflected the emotion. He then grabbed her face between pale hands and pressed his lips to hers, embracing her fully in the rough and desperate embrace. She responded totally, fighting for dominance against the kiss. It was power play, it was passionate rage, and they both knew it. Loki eventually broke the kiss and stepped back, his eyes locked on the floor. They both panted heavily, refusing to look at one another.
Jane spoke first.
"I thank you for your time, Prince Loki. I shall take my leave. Until tonight's banquet, my Prince." She bowed her head slightly, then stepped away from the bookshelves and hurried out the door.
Loki stood silently, staring where she stood.
"Until tonight, my Lady," he said softly.