The dagger stood quivering in the green moss, stuck firmly where it had been flung harshly into the ground. Loki stalked away from his discarded weapon, pacing the banks of the small lake with jagged step and ragged, breathe, hands clasped behind his back. His eyes searched the sky, finding the moons risen and the stars mirroring the lake, their orange and green and blue swirls dancing across the black surface. Their beauty blurred as his eyes glazed over. Someone was going to get hurt in this situation, he realized. Either Thor, or himself, or possibly even Jane, he thought with a sharp pang of regret. If she married Thor, none of them would be happy in the end, but that's what she was supposed to do. If the tiny mortal played the game, Loki thought furiously, his anger rising as the thoughts mounted, then both himself and Jane would be lost in grief, their connection remaining but their joining impossible. And Thor too, he realized, would ultimately become miserable through Jane's sorrow. But if Jane chose him over Thor, Loki thought, his mind calming as the thought filled him with excitement, then the two of them would obviously be completed, and Thor would, in the end, be happier with someone who suited his interests better.
"Brother," came the voice from behind him, stopping Loki in his tracks.
He remained facing the lake, then turned on a single heel to face Thor, hands still clasped behind his back, posture ramrod straight.
"Yes, Thor, I know," Loki said, sighing slightly and walking over to his brother, who was still sitting on the forest floor. "You want me to explain my connection with Jane."
Loki smiled, a look of compassion darting quickly over his features before being replaced with an attempted indifference, which Thor immediately saw through.
"Come now, Loki," he said, gesturing to the ground beside him as Loki slowly lowered himself to sit aside his brother, "I know that look. You're trying to cover your emotions. I'm not as thick as you'd like to believe, dear brother."
Loki sighed and brought his knees to his chest, clasping his hands before his legs and remaining silent. The smell of honeysuckle hung heavy in the air, reminding him of her. He mentally slapped himself. The mortal woman was nothing to him, nothing but weakness and stupidity and…and beauty and intelligence and bravery, and nebulae bursting into flame, and golden swirls of skyward clouds, and stardust burning brightly the nighttime air.
"Damn," he said under his breath, hoping Thor did not hear.
No matter how he tried, he could not get the mortal out of his mind. From the moment their skin had made contact in her chambers, he had recognized the bond, and had spent the entire week attempting to distance himself, to make himself unavailable and unattractive in every manner. But that mortal women just had to follow him into the gardens and create this entire mess, she-
"Swearing again, are we?" Thor jested from beside him, offering a short smile. "Come brother. I am willing to listen. I need to understand," he said, eyes pleading and glossing over. "I…I love her, Loki," he said quietly.
Loki laughed harshly, and then turned to face his brother.
"Love," he said mockingly. "Do you know what love is, brother? How could you understand that love is more than beauty, more than a pretty face that dotes upon you and waits for you? Love is a burn, a brand upon your skin that can never be forgotten. It is an ache in the heart and a sear in the bones, a flame that scorches singes every fiber of your being, until you believe that you would die from the agony, but releasing the fire would hurl you into the cold abyss of death, from which escape is impossible. That is love, brother," Loki finished his tirade, throwing himself to his feet and stalking to the edge of the lake. "And your mortal," he spat, his voice both quiet and burning with intensity, "Brought with her the spark that lit my soul ablaze."
Thor sat staring at his brother's form silhouetted by the darkness of the lake. Around him, the stars danced and mingled with green orbs of dust that shot from neighboring clusters. He found his voice.
"Brother," Thor started softly, "How can you know? How can you feel these things? How do you know that I do not share these sentiments?"
Loki spun around, eyes blazing in the moonlight.
"Because, Thor," he hissed, "The love I describe is of an intensity only perceivable by Frost Giants. You Asgardians," he said, gesturing at Thor, "Are incapable of this feeling. You feel love as most humans do, as something beautiful and something to be cherished. Frost Giants, on the other hand, see love as dangerous and overwhelming, something to be avoided at all costs." Loki closed his eyes, breathing in the scent of honeysuckle to calm himself, then continued more quietly. "Frost Giants rarely join for life. We mate, produce offspring, then separate. Finding love is an occurrence that hardly ever occurs, and when it does, both partners are intensely aware of the bond."
Loki paused and glanced toward Thor. His brother had stood at some point during the tirade, and was now leaning against a nearby tree, his eyes staring unflinchingly at Loki, his hands toying with a twig, slowly breaking off pieces and casting them into the grove. Thor nodded slightly, silently urging his brother on as another piece snapped off and was discarded, tossed into the trees. Loki sighed and continued.
"Frost Giants have mated with humans in the past, and there are legends where a human and a Frost Giant have married," he said slowly, choosing each word with great and delicate care. "When I touched Jane Foster's forehead in her chambers in an attempt to heal her pains, through my head flashed the names of every Frost Giant and human pair to ever marry. I saw their past, I saw our present…and I saw our future," Loki said softly. "The rush was immense, hence why I left the room immediately. Likely, your mortal did not experience the same reaction, but she has doubtless felt the effect of our bond in other ways." Loki knew his next words needed to be chosen with the utmost care. He spoke slowly, allowing every expression of sorrow to pass his face. "Thor, Jane Foster and I share the rare and intense bond of a Frost Giant and a human destined to marry. I do not take joy in this fact. Our bond burns my soul, it lights my skin on fire and sears my brain with my every attempt to avoid it. Such a bond is impossible to avoid. I cannot – "
Loki stopped speaking and clutched his head. Suddenly hit with a wave of nausea and dizziness, he fell to his knees, buckling over and pressing his forehead to the ground in an attempt to stop the world from spinning. He felt strong hands on his shoulders, and distantly heard his brother's voice, asking, "What's wrong? Brother, what is it?" But all Loki could feel were the pine needles underfoot, all he could experience was the world through Jane Foster's eyes as she sunk to the ground, eyes staring skyward to the pale bark and green canopy of the overarching trees, and golden disk falling to the ground from her cold hands. He gasped for breath, pushing away Thor's hands and struggling to find his balance.
"Jane," he panted, struggling through the pain, "She's hurt and unconscious. We have to go, Thor," he said, staggering over to his discarded dagger and wrenching it from the ground.
He sheathed his securely in his belt and turned to face Thor, who had already sprung into the grove and was bellowing Jane's name loudly. Loki stopped, closing his eyes to realign himself, and rushed after him, the world and the swirling stardust and the sweet honeysuckle disappearing as he focused on the vision of Jane, unconscious on the forest floor and guarded by the pale trees.