"You cannot enter!"
The voice split through Jane's throbbing head, rousing her from the deep sleep. Lazily opening her eyes, she found herself in her bedroom, gathering dusty thoughts of the past few hours from her head. She glanced outside - the sun painted the late afternoon sky with shades of deep orange interlaced with the grey and towering harvest clouds. She laid perfectly still, gazing into the sky that whispered through the hidden stars. It reminded her of her home, Jane realized suddenly, fighting tears that threatened to cloud her eyes and mar the beauty of the sky. For the first time since leaving Earth, she felt peaceful.
It was a short-lived serenity. More shouting issued from somewhere, muffled sounds reaching her ears.
"You forget yourself, handmaiden," Loki's voice oozed through the walls. "I am your prince. Let me pass."
Jane's stomach clenched. She could not face Loki now, not after her horrible dream, not after she was now so unsure about their future, now as she lay sick and perhaps blessedly unable to attend the Feast of Futures. Simultaneously terrified and furious with herself, she continued listening to the conversation, hoping Iduun would keep Loki at bay./
"I - I do recognize my disobedience, my prince," responded Iduun, her voice shaking with fear and determination, "but she is in no condition to be receiving visitors, and I must insist - "
"Visitors?" Loki's question was full of deeper intent. "Am I an outsider within my own kingdom? We will speak no further, Iduun. Step aside."
"She is sick - in body and in spirit!" Her handmaiden had found her voice again. "Do you believe that she is in any mental state to receive you?"/
Silence. Jane realized that she had been straining to sit up on massive pillows in an attempt to understand their debate. As the voices ceased, she took the opportunity to gaze around the room, so ornately decorated, putting her trailer on Earth to shame. Why had she been brought to this beautiful place - why did she belong here?
"Do not presume to understand my motives, Iduun. I will not ask you again. Step aside, or I will have you removed from your post."/
Jane knew that Loki would be entering her room. The prince was always obeyed. Many feared his magic and his strangeness in the land of physical warriors.
The door opened and Jane closed off her thoughts. Loki quietly stepped in, locking the door behind him, and slowly walked toward her bedside. She was surprised at his appearance. His eyes were heavy and lined with exhaustion. No crown sat upon his dark head, and a massive black cloak covered the deep green robes signifying his royal station. Gently, he sat at the foot of her bed and gazed, unblinking, at her.
"You wish to return to Earth."/
It was a statement without malice or anger, Jane could see that in his eyes and hear it in his voice. Rather, he sounded defeated, an immortal reading from the book of life, a story that could not be changed.
"No," she whispered, a voice unconvincing to herself. "No, but I am afraid. I know you gave me the dream."
Loki stared at her, then rose swiftly and walked to the center of the massive room. He gazed up into the fiery sky and away from Asgard, freed within the majesty of the night. With his back toward her, he ventured a return to her questions.
"Would you believe me, Jane, if I confessed that my actions, my words - yes, even my dreams given to you - have sprung from desire to protect you?"
Jane snorted, no longer attempting to act the gentlewoman. Iduun would be displeased, she thought suddenly, but now was not a time for manners.
"No, I would not," she responded.
Loki clasped his hands behind his back, but remained staring off into the sky. She recognized his attempt to keep anger and emotion under control, and she waited for his next move. Slowly, he unclenched his hands and made his way to a small table that held a large decanter of wine. Pouring himself a goblet, the prince drank deeply and sighed heavily. Many moments passed before he spoke again./
"They are...selfish motives, I must admit," he said, beginning to pace the great length of the room. His black cloak glittered beneath starlight as he slowly walked from shimmering wall and back. "A darkness lies at the edges of our worlds. It springs from the east, where foul things begin to take root. Asgard will serve as the vanguard in the coming battles, and we will not prevail without aid."/
He stopped pacing and turned his gaze upon Jane. She held her breath as his powerful eyes, full of ice and depths of his lands, moved closer again to her bedside as he walked her way with silent step. She knew the truth of his words. The darkness crept at the edges of Earth as it lingered as the reaches of her mind, and both grew in power with each passing year. She waited for him to continue, and Loki waited until he had reached her side before speaking again.
"I know you have felt these things. Your...past battles...have left you scarred with the mark of the darkness," he said.
Lightly raising a hand and brushing aside her hair, Loki revealed the scar that ran from the base of her neck, down her left shoulder and onto her upper back. Jane cringed and drew away from him. The scar was the source of the darkness that haunted her mind; her parent's death, she always knew, had been no accident. The pale line etched itself permanently into her skin, and with it came the darkness that invaded her dreams, but that somehow had brought her closer to him. She had not realized that Loki knew of it. Unable to bring herself to look at him, Jane stared off into the distance, past the pale marble of her balcony and into the growing afternoon.
"How did you learn of this?" she asked quietly./
"It was revealed it to me years ago," he responded softly. "In a dream."
Jane turned back to him, her eyes full of question.
"You...you also carry a scar from this...darkness?" she asked./
"I would not subject you to it now. Only know this, daughter of Earth: you are not alone in your battle against the great evil. We, we two stars thrown together in an impossible dance, share the common path. We are both fading lights amidst the blackness of the night. Something out there understood that only together would we stand any hope of defeating the darkness without and within."
Loki's eyes filled with passion. Jane held her breath, amazed at the words that issued forth from his mouth. She still had so many questions, demands about his cold nature, about the gathering battle, about his inability to tell her these things earlier. All of these thoughts weighed heavily upon her mind, a mind already succumbing again to the sleep of the sick. She attempted to speak, but all that came out was a poorly stifled yawn - a poor response to his poetic words. While Jane still did not trust the prince, there was a sincerity to his story that attracted her interest, that connected her to his suffering. Loki noted her exhaustion and smiled.
"Rest now, little one," he said softly.
Something strange happened then. Jane would attempt to explain it later, but it lacked all logic. As the prince gathered his great robes, his eyes again locked with hers, his deep blue gaze penetrating her thoughts. Starlight shone upon their faces, and everything and nothing happened as time suspended in that moment in the Realm Eternal. Slowly, the great Prince of Asgard lowered his dark head, and the daughter of Earth lifted hers, and their kiss met in a soft embrace that lasted within the flash of skylight.
And suddenly it was finished, and Loki stood quickly from her side. He nodded swiftly to her and left the quarters in a flourish of black and green, and when everything was quiet and the sun shone overhead, Jane mused upon the taste of wine that had lingered on Loki's lips.