The soft knocking on Jane's door sounded like exploding cannons to her throbbing headache. Before she could respond to the offensive sound, three of her handmaidens burst through the door and began bustling around the room, scooping up discarded clothes, laying out her dress for today's celebration, and, much to Jane's dismay, throwing open the curtains to let the bright Asgardian sunlight stream in through large windows. Jane flinched and pressed a hand against her temple. She remembered her conversation with Loki, she remembered wandering back inside to the feast and drinking some strong beverage that Fandral handed her – but after that, nothing. She sighed. She hadn't blacked out since sophomore year of college, and had vowed never to be so stupid again. Looks like plans change when you've been whisked off to another world and are being courted by the God of Lies.
"What…what time is it?" she muttered, standing up and stumbling around the room, trying to find something to drink.
"Nearly three, My Lady," an older woman responded, pressing a cup into her hands and smiling sympathetically at her. "Lord Loki thought it best to let you sleep. You were quite drunk last night. But no matter, dear, it happens to the best of us when it comes to the fine spirits of the Light Elves."
Jane stopped drinking and lowered the cup. Her eyebrows furrowed at the older woman.
"Loki?" she asked, her mind struggling to break through the haze. "What happened last night?"
The older woman smiled and motioned for Jane to sit in a nearby chair. She began combing through Jane's tangled hair as Jane relaxed into the brush.
"You, along with most of the royals, had indulged rather deeply in the liquor. Lord Loki found you sitting outside on the balcony, drinking out of a bottle and muttering about star charts and patterns. When he brought you to your chambers, carrying you because you couldn't walk, he ordered us to let you sleep as long as possible."
Jane let the information sink in. The fog was starting to clear. Something clicked.
"Why are you here?" she asked suddenly. "There are no servants in the palace these three days. Who are you?"
The brush stopped. Jane turned to face the older woman and gasped. She had disappeared, the only trace of her existence the brush, now laying discarded on the floor. Jane jumped up and immediately regretted the sudden movement. The room spun and she clutched her head, waiting for the spell to pass. She moved slowly to her wardrobe and found loose pair of pants and deep red tunic. Throwing them on and belting the flowing shirt at her waist, Jane dashed from the room, hangover be damned. As she flew down the hallway and tried to calm her protesting headache, she quickly tied her still knotted hair into a stiff ponytail and made her way to Loki's chambers. Finding the door tightly locked, she knocked swiftly and waited impatiently outside, leaning slightly against the frame in an attempt to maintain her balance.
The door swung open, revealing a casually dressed Loki. His hair was slightly out of place, his deep green tunic flowed down over black pants that, to Jane's amusement, covered bare feet. He seemed almost human. A slight smile graced his lips.
"Jane," he said, his voice slightly surprised, "Shouldn't you be preparing for the celebrations this evening?"
She shook her head and laughed slightly, ignoring the bout of nausea that came with the jerky movement.
"Loki," she said with a smile, "I know what you did. Carrying me back to my chambers and conjuring those maids to help me."
He raised a hand to interrupt, but she pushed forward, determined to finish her statement.
"I just wanted to say thank you," she continued quietly. "I know we might not have ended on the best of terms last night, but still you decided to help me." She paused and looked into his eyes. "I've been selfish and self-centered, Loki. Can you forgive me? Can we just start over?"
Loki sighed and took her arm, gently guiding her inside his chambers. As she stood awkwardly against the wall, he walked to a side table, filled with jars and glasses, and began mixing some beverage. They stood silently in each other's presence as he did so. After a few minutes, he handed her a glass of some strange-smelling liquid. She raised her eyebrows. He nodded. She turned up the glass and drank its contents in a single gulp. The results were instantaneous. Her headache disappeared, the fog around her mind lifted.
"Thank you," she said quietly.
He nodded stiffly and sat down across from her, motioning for Jane to have a seat. She did, sitting down and waiting for him to speak.
"Jane," he said softly, "We cannot start over."
A raised hand cut her off. She sunk back in the chair, knowing better than to interrupt him again.
"Because that would entail forgetting all that we've been through since you've arrived in Asgard. And Jane, I don't want to forget. Those fights, those arguments, that night in the gardens, that kiss," he stopped and smiled at her, "Those are moments that make up who we are, that define our relationship. So no, Jane, we can't start over. But we can keep going, keep plunging forward into this strange, starry relationship of ours, keep exploring the deeper hues of our connection. Is that satisfactory?"
Jane's breath hitched in her throat. She never expected Loki to say anything close to that. She had only hoped he would forgive her for her behavior, but here he was, willing to keep going forward. She nodded.
"I don't understand my feelings for you, Loki," she said, gathering her thoughts into some coherent statement. "I guess I could describe it like the stars. There are familiar parts, parts that feel like I've known them all my life. But there's always something new, something unexpected, like the colors of the bursting nebulae when you delve deeper into its parts." She shrugged, hoping he understood what she was saying. "We're like that, Loki. I don't know if it's going to work. But we can try."
She wanted to say more. She had more to say, more to explain. But before she could continue, Loki was there, standing over her and lowering his lips to hers. It wasn't like before. This was no battle for dominance. This was equality, this was understanding and questioning and exploration. She raised herself slightly off the chair to meet his searching lips, meeting him with the same level of curiosity. For a few moments, time stood still. Then he broke away and pressed his forehead to hers, smiling with eyes closed tightly.
"You should dress, Jane," he said softly, opening his eyes and helping her up. "The celebration begins shortly, and I would be very upset if I had to attend alone."
Jane stood and smiled at him, wandering toward the door. Through his windows, she could see the setting sun over the city sprawling beneath them. Over the roofs of the buildings and the trees of the gardens, the golden sunlight danced with radiance and rays of joy, peaking through crevices and streaming through windows. Soon, the sunlight would break and give way to the gathering dusk, allowing the stars to nightly dance over the realm celebrating the Feast of Memories. She turned back to face Loki.
"What color will you be wearing?" he asked softly, taking her tanned hands in his pale fingers and tracing the lines upon her palms.
"What color do you want me to wear?" she responded, already knowing his answer.
"Does green please you?"
"More than you know," she said, giving his hands a final squeeze before turning from the room and dashing down the bustling hallway.
Loki watched her sprint away, her steps full of life and joy. He smiled to himself, and then closed the door reluctantly. He had a celebration to prepare for, a lady to impress, and a lifetime to look forward to.
Meanwhile, Jane burst through the doors of her chambers and darted for her wardrobe. Fishing through lines of dresses and tunics – her personal preference – she found exactly the dress she wanted. Smiling, she shrugged out of her clothes and into the deep green material of the dress. She stood near a small mirror, pulling her hair off her face in small braids that wove around her head and settled in the back, forming an elegant bun of smooth hair. Finishing, she stood in front of the full mirror and took in her appearance.
The green sleeves fell softly from her shoulders, working their way down her neckline before gathering again at the waist and flowing down her body from there. Her sleeves were deep silver, bound tightly around her arms and snaking to her hands, where the fabric hardened into something resembling armor. She smiled. It was perfect. Gathering her dress in one hand, she darted from the room, leaving behind open windows that danced with the light of the dusk and glimmered with the promise of something brighter and more splendid than the golden sunset.