Jane dashed through the hallways, corridors crowded with royals making their solemn way to the courtyard of the palace. She skipped around slow-moving noblemen and women, their steps calm and measured against her quick movements. Several older women looked disapprovingly at the dark-haired human jaunting quickly through the crowds, her green waves of fabric billowing behind her. The Feast of Memories was meant to be a solemn occasion, a remembrance of those gone to Valhalla the past year. Jane knew this, but still, containing her excitement in light of recent events was simply not an option. She continued pushing her way through the crowds until she reached the courtyard. A short gasp escaped parted lips; wide eyes took in the splendid sight stretching before her.
Seemingly miles of people had gathered in the courtyard. Their colors – light blue, turquoise, deep reds and vibrant golds – glittered beneath the lingering rays of the setting sun, whose beams danced against the sprawling golden city far below the palace walls. The great crowd was divided in two, split by a narrow canal that flowed through the courtyard. Its waters gleamed underneath the darkening sky as the first rays of starlight lit the inky field. Breaths of incense floated her way, scents of honeysuckle and lavender and hints of peppery oak filled her lungs and brought her back to nights, nights spent wandering the gardens and catching the occasional glimpse of a man shrouded in green and silver.
A soft hand on her shoulder made her jump, snapping her from the dream that was the field of colors and the breath of memory.
The voice followed the hand, and Jane turned quickly to face Thor. She smiled. He looked so regal, so kingly, every inch the ruler he was destined to become.
"Thor," she responded, dipping into a slight bow before returning his gaze. "How are you tonight?"
"Very well, Jane," he responded more casually, taking her arm and guiding her through the throngs of royals, now growing more closely packed as the ceremony drew nearer. "Come, allow me to escort you to the dais."
She so consented, and they wandered through the crowds, occasionally stopping to discuss some lighthearted matter with a member of the court, or to offer condolences to a husband who had lost his wife in battle – her memory, along with countless others, would be honored tonight. Jane drifted along beside Thor, her eyes and ears trained on the stories of those they passed, but her mind miles away, searching for the one whose colors she sported. It did not escape her companion's notice.
"He's on the dais," Thor muttered to her as he offered a dashing smile to a group of older women. "He waits for you."
Jane returned his words with a nod and a wide smile, accompanied by a slight blush that sprung to her cheeks. She tried to quickly hide her face as Thor laughed heartily, without malice.
"Have you…have you talked to him lately?" Jane asked, nodded and smiling more gently at younger man who bowed deeply in front of her path.
"Why, I spoke to him this afternoon. Actually," Thor responded, laughing slightly through the words, "I should say he spoke to me. I don't believe I got a word in edgewise. I've never seen my brother quite so enthralled by anything before – or by anyone, for that matter."
Jane went to respond, but noticed they had reached the edge of the dais. Her words hitched in her throat as they ascended the gold-plated stairs to the area designated specially for the Royal Family. Present already were Odin and Frigga. They taken their seats near the center, their blue and gold silks and armor gleaming in the moonlight, raised over the city and lighting up the dark sky. Thor, still holding Jane's arm, maneuvered over to his parents. Their progress was deterred by a voice behind them.
"Brother, Lady Jane," the pair turned to see Loki standing stiffly aside.
"Loki," Thor responded with a nod of his head.
Jane quickly released Thor's arm and moved to Loki's side. She could feel the tension radiating off his pale skin, could notice the uneasiness in the pursed line of his lips, could comprehend the distrust behind jaded eyes. He did not look at her as she grabbed his arm and bowed deeply to Thor before turning and walking to the edge of the dais. Together, they stood in uneasy silence, gazing over the thousands of royals packed tightly below the dark sky.
"You need to stop worrying every time you see me with him," Jane muttered, breaking the silence that created a chasm between the pair.
"Oh, do I?" Loki hissed in response, still refusing to make eye contact. "You two seemed fairly comfortable moving through the crowd just now."
Jane's anger rose to the surface.
"I chose you, Loki!" she responded, whipping around to face him. "I had the choice, and I picked you over Thor! I will always pick you and always want you, always. Why can't you trust me?"
"Because how could anyone," he responded, his voice grating as he spun to face her with blazing eyes, "Love the monster that is me?"
Jane's eyes softened, her mouth fell. She raised a hand to Loki's pale skin, feeling the coolness of his aura even on the warm Asgardian night. She cupped his face in her small hand, tilting her head slightly as his words.
"Is that what you're afraid of? That someone could love you? You're afraid to let someone in?" She paused, as he said nothing. "I'm here, Loki, in good times and in bad. And I don't see you as a monster – you're the man, the god, I've fallen in love with. And I couldn't be happier."
His eyes had glazed over slightly. He turned his face aside, knocking her hand away with his sudden motion. For several moments they stood silently, he staring over the city, she staring into him. Then he turned back.
"I…I am sorry, Jane," he responded quietly. "It's just…no one has ever chosen me over Thor before. Not my father, not the court, not…not any other woman. I simply cannot believe this is truly happening."
Jane smiled sadly, her eyes tearing up slightly at his pain.
"Yes, but I'm not your father, remember? I'm not your court, and I'm not any other woman. I'm me, I'm the other part of you."
Loki let out a noise between a laugh and a sob, smiling broadly at her words before composing himself again. There was a vulnerability there that Jane rarely saw, that Loki rarely let slip through his cool and composed façade. She smiled softly at him. He returned her gaze and bowed slightly.
"I am honored, Jane Foster, to have your love," he continued in a voice wavering slightly with the emotion he still let slip through. "And would be honored further still if you would join me for this Feast of Memory."
Jane grinned broadly. She held out her arm silently, and he took it gently and without hesitation as they made their way quickly over to the seats of the dais. As they walked, Loki leaned down to Jane's ear, his lips brushing slightly over her hair and his voice whispering softly.
"By the way, Jane, you look simply splendid in my colors. Although I must say, I might rather prefer to see that dress on the floor of my chambers later tonight."
She blushed, her face burning with an angry red hue at his suggestion. Loki laughed and pulled away, spinning her toward him and taking her gently into his armored arms. Soft lips descended upon hers, and before she understood, the world of the busy dais and chaotic crowd was swallowed up by the embrace and the passion as sparks of green and honeysuckle became her only world. He pulled away all too quickly, giving her a wink before guiding her to her chair, where she was seated between Loki and Frigga. The older woman glanced at the flushed girl before smiling serenely to herself and turning away to face the beginning of the ceremony. Loki sat beside her and took her hand, his cool paleness welcome in the stifling heat of the night.
Jane glanced down the dais. Frigga, then Odin, and to Odin's left, Jane noticed Thor and Sif seated closely to each other, their hands intertwined and their foreheads pressed together. Jane's eyes widened, then she laughed to herself. She turned quickly to Loki and whispered her discovery in his ear, causing his deep eyes to widen in surprise and forcing him to jump from his seat and stare at the embracing couple several seats down. Jane couldn't help but laugh at his surprise.
"Loki, sit down," a hushed whisper from his mother came from beside Jane. Loki sighed then returned to his seat, shrugging his shoulders at Jane and smiling widely.
The ceremony began soon after. An Asgardian priestess, a link between these Realms and the land of Valhalla, spoke of the dead, of their journey to the next world and of their lives in the new land. The twin moons of Asgard rose high in the sky as she spoke on, their light shining down upon the rainbow of royals and glinting brightly off the glittering waters of the canal that ran between their feet. Jane's eyes wandered overhead to the bursting green and gold of the sky and to the bright white starlight that illuminated the roofs of the houses far below in the main heart of Asgard, the city itself. Her dreams were interrupted by a soft squeeze from Loki's hand.
"It's time," he mouthed to her, gesturing to the crowd below.
She turned and inhaled sharply. Each member of the crowd, all thousands of them, held a white, glowing orb in their hands. At a cue from the priestess, a haunting note struck up from somewhere unseen, and as the ethereal music escalated into a haunting and unearthly requiem, the orbs were released into starry sky, their radiant lightness a ceiling of white against the sky. As the sky glowed overhead, the glittering waters of the canal were suddenly filled with boats, their contents shrouded by woven blankets, colorful as the nebulae of the sky. Jane raised her eyebrows at Loki. He leaned into her ear and whispered softly.
"Bodies of the passed. They are gods and remain as they were until this ceremony," he said. Jane opened her mouth to question, but Loki shook his head and placed a single finger underneath her jaw, turning her face back to the endless line of boats pouring through the crowd as the music began to reach its zenith.
"Watch," he whispered.
And so she did. She watched as the boats floated through the rainbow crowd and down shimmering waters, their colors gleaming underneath the floating, radiant ceiling of singing orbs. She watched as the boats reached the outer waters of the city. She watched as the ethereal lament reached its height of feeling, and she watched as the boats dissipated, their riders becoming flecks of light and stardust and rising into the Asgardian sky, joining the bursting nebulae and shining lights of the radiant stars overhead. She watched. She listened. She understood.
There was no motion from the crowd as the passionate requiem wandered back toward the ground and ended on a single, haunting note. The glowing orbs wandered into the sky and disappeared. All was silent and motionless. After several moments, the priestess spoke up, offering a final benediction before releasing the gathered crowds from their silence. The ceremony was over. Crowds wandered back into the palace, making their way to their chambers or to their celebrations – the solemnity of the ceremony would now give way to the raucousness of Asgardian festivity. It was, in their minds, the best way to honor the dead.
"Jane," Loki said from beside her. "Would you care to join the celebration? Or are you tired?"
She glanced down the dais at Thor and Sif. They had jumped from their seats at the finish of the ceremony and were already on their way to the grand feast. Around her, royals streamed to the unending supply of food and drink that awaited them in tonight's party. She wanted to join, but she was tired, so tired, physically and emotionally. She wondered at the stamina of the gods. But still, she didn't want to leave Loki's side – not even for the promise of a bed and sleep. She couldn't bring herself to leave his glowing, radiant aura, his eyes, and his smile.
"I…let's go to the feast for a bit, yes?"
Loki smiled and took her arm, guiding her down the dais and through the crowd, many of whom parted and bowed for the couple, resplendent in green and silver and glowing underneath the blazing Asgardian night sky.
For all her happiness, Jane felt knots of trepidation forming in her stomach. Tomorrow was the Feast of Futures. Tomorrow would decide the course of her life with Loki. If he still refused to trust her, to comprehend the depth of her love and devotion for him, then he might not have the courage to make their bond underneath the Asgardian sky on the only day of the year such a bond might be created. She sighed deeply. Loki heard.
"Something amiss, Jane?" he asked in all seriousness and honesty.
"Just…tomorrow…I was just thinking," she responded, keeping her eyes forward and her voice clipped, lest she release some emotion she desparately was trying to conceal.
Loki stopped walking beside her. She felt his hand on the side of her face, turning her gleaming eyes to meet his.
"You worry that I will not act tomorrow, Jane?" he asked, his voice full of concern.
Her eyes darted away, then returned to meet his. She nodded sharply, her voice caught in her throat by the tears that threatened to burst forth, to push past the lump in her throat that kept them at bay. Loki smiled softly at her, then brushed a soft finger across her lips before descending upon them, kissing her so gently but with such passion that she nearly gasped past his embrace. It was short, chaste, like something they had never experienced before.
"Do not doubt me, Jane," he said softly, spinning her back and continuing toward the feast. "Your love, my love, can overcome all our adversities."
Together they entered the sprawling feast, their green and silver silks and armors intertwining and their hearts beating in time. Outside, the singing orbs of white had drifted far away past the Asgardian Mountains, but their requiem had shifted from the sadness of lament to the joy of anthem, and the stars overhead began to burst and shine with the rainbow of colors and passion that heralded the coming night.