persephone_kore: (write on fire)
[personal profile] persephone_kore
Title: A Tale of Two Lokis
Authors: Khilari and Persephone_Kore
Summary: Thor and Loki were not the first of Odin's loved ones to bear those names. After the events of the movie, Loki is planning his next moves when he discovers a frost giant imprisoned in a volcano, who proves to be both the uncle he was named for and Laufey's first child. Soon Loki has a new mentor, Asgard is shaking off isolationist tendencies, Jotunheim is receiving foreign aid, and Earth is suddenly and vividly reacquainted with the existence of aliens....

Chapter 14

Loki rested his finger on the falconskin, a flat ovoid like the one they had copied, and whispered, ‘luka’, close. It glowed, briefly, light strangely green-gold rather than blue, and then faded back to blue, looking as if it had never been anything but a single carved pendant. There was a hole through it, built into the design, for the chain. The only thing that mattered there was that it was a high carat gold, including the catch, since gold would conduct the magic best. They had three chains ready, just in case, and Loki picked one to thread through the falconskin. Lopt let out his breath audibly and Loki couldn’t help grinning at him.

‘Can I test it out?’ asked Lopt. It would make sense for him to do it, he had much more experience of extradimensional space and travelling in it. Loki had only learnt to use a falconskin recently, and with one made by the best not their experimental copy. On the other hand Loki wanted to be the one to test it, even if it wasn’t something he could justify.

‘No,’ said Loki. ‘I’ll test it.’

Lopt sighed. ‘Worth a try,’ he said. ‘Having two people in it when it’s just being tested probably wouldn’t be a good idea. But you’ll let me try it later, right?’

‘Of course,’ said Loki. He looped the chain around his neck and did up the clasp, feeling the subtle buzz of magic against his skin. It felt different from the one he’d used before and, although it actually felt better, easier to use, he frowned, not trusting his instincts.

‘What’s wrong?’ asked Lopt.

‘It doesn’t feel like the other one,’ said Loki. ‘It feels…light. Almost like it’s part of me.’

‘It was your tree,’ said Lopt. ‘And your magic, mostly.’ He actually sounded a little jealous; he’d never be able to make a falconskin that was his quite the same way this one was Loki’s.

‘I’ll just step out and back to make sure there aren’t any major problems before I try it out properly,’ said Loki.

The transition to extra-dimensional space was the same as always, a step sideways to a place of darkness and distant lights. Jormungand’s coils formed a barrier you could see if you were looking for it, but that would only be something to worry about once he started flying. Right now it was a protection, just in case this falconskin didn’t ward off wolves as well as the Vanir ones. Later, of course, he’d test that (or, on second thoughts, have Lopt do it). But one thing at a time.

Anything that went wrong would be magical so the spell he prepared, and held the casket ready to back up, was the one for clamping down on magical effects which he’d used when dismantling the other falconskin. Even if a part exploded it should give him time to get the falconskin off and get away. He took a deep breath and the falconskin flared to life around him without anything fusing, blowing up or otherwise going wrong. Loki held the pendant in the palm of his hand, checking carefully for magic build-ups in any particular spot. But the energy balance was doing its job and the falconskin was working without stress.

Loki dropped his connection to the casket, held his position a little longer just to make sure, and then de-activated the falconskin and stepped back. ‘It’s fine,’ he said, and let Lopt hug him for a moment before pushing him off. ‘I’m going to try flying next. So I might not be back for a while.’

‘You’re not going outside Jormungand, are you?’ asked Lopt.

‘No, I just want to put it through its paces thoroughly,’ said Loki. He smirked. ‘I thought I’d leave the outside test to you.’

‘Oh, that’s right. Make me do the dangerous bits,’ said Lopt, sounding both relieved and like he was looking forward to it. ‘Try not to bump into Jormungand, he probably won’t mind but he’s a bit big to risk annoying.’

‘I never would have thought of that if you hadn’t told me,’ said Loki. He took the step sideways once again and this time activated the falconskin as soon as he was through.

There wasn’t enough room inside Jormungand’s coils to take the falconskin up to its top speed and going forward really meant a gentle curve. But it was a safe place to practise turns and loops (the falconskin was very slightly sluggish on turns, and Loki was already wondering if they could correct for that in a second one). It was fun, being out here alone and playing around just because he could. No one could see him so why not loop the moon in nine different directions and stop even pretending this was a test any longer?

He’d stopped for a rest, bobbing close to Jormungand’s side, when he sensed magic. Someone else was out here in extradimensional space. His first feeling was, oddly, a sense of resentment, like a child finding a secret den invaded. But Midgard and the space around it weren’t his yet. The second was a powerful sense of curiosity. Who was out here and what were they doing? Was he sensing someone looking for him? He turned the falconskin off (it was good for many things, but not sneaking up on people) and set out cautiously towards the feeling of magic.

Someone - presumably someone very brave - had anchored several metal platforms to Jormungand with a metal lattice that looked almost like spiderweb. Metal cuboids in two different sizes stuck up from the platforms. Tables and chairs, probably magnetic, Loki realised. Equipment rested on the tables, and who knew whether that was reacting to whatever passed for gravity out here or stuck down with still more magnets.

Mostly it was empty, but one person was sitting at a table taking notes. She looked up, although she couldn’t have heard him and he hadn’t been in her line of sight, and looked straight at him. Jane, Thor’s mortal love. Something else moved above her and a head so big it almost couldn’t be recognised as one also fixed deep, coppery eyes on Loki. The twin gazes held him, something eerily similar about they way they held their heads. Jormungand had told her he was here, Loki was suddenly sure of it. He swallowed and held up his empty hands, doing his best to look inoffensive. This would be a very bad time to frighten Jane.

Jane had been immersed in trying to design a new set of experiments when Jormungand suddenly shifted his head and communicated direction. She looked up, rolling her pen absently between her fingers, and then very slowly set it down.

She hadn’t seen Loki before. She’d worried about his possibly turning up when she’d started setting up the lab, and then the idea had gradually slipped from her attention, rather like a piece of paper vanishing under the other contents of a desk. But she had seen portraits while in Asgard, and really, who else could this be?

Suddenly dry-mouthed, she felt a gentle pressure from Jormungand’s mind and got an impression that she could only seem to translate as kitten and mine. That steadied her and almost made her smile, which might have been hard to explain.

She swallowed once and, for lack of anything better to say, started with, ‘Hello.’

‘Hello.’ Loki looked past her, at Jormungand, and his lips flexed in what looked like a faint and nervous smile. Jane wasn’t entirely sure whether to believe it. ‘Between the two of you, I have rarely felt quite so intensely looked at.’

‘You’re kind of riveting.’ And yet she could see how he might fade into the background -- which seemed improbable shading into bizarre, for a man Thor’s height and about as handsome in his own way, a thousand years old and with a level of power she was just now starting to comprehend based on Sigyn’s lessons. And for someone who had made plans to take over Earth, with the sun as payment to his army. But he stood very still, didn’t project the kind of presence that Thor had even when temporarily mortal, and she couldn’t be entirely sure he wasn’t doing something self-effacing magically. Except then she probably would have lost track of him by now. ‘I’d tell him you’re not a threat, but I’m not actually sure about that.’

Loki’s eyebrows went up a bit, his eyes still on Jormungand. ‘I sincerely doubt I’m much of one right now.’

‘That’s... good? Um, what are you doing here, then?’

‘Finding out what mortals are doing out here. Aside from making friends with the locals, it seems.’

Jane shot a fond and rather grateful look at Jormungand, who responded with something like a purr that felt, to her mind, as if it ought to be causing earthquakes in Midgard. The scaffold of her laboratory didn’t so much as quiver. ‘Research.’

Loki blinked at her. ‘Into extradimensional space?’

‘Yes!’ Nervous as she was, her enthusiasm and slightly incredulous glee at being able to do this leaked into the answer.

Loki looked very faintly amused. ‘And what have you discovered? I assume you haven’t been able to travel far from Jormungand?’

‘Ah, I haven’t exactly tried to go anywhere on my own. I’m working on measuring the properties of extradimensional space itself. I - for example, I think lightspeed is still constant, once all the directions are accounted for, but I’m still working on the energetic properties and I’m completely confused about the pseudo-atmosphere.’

Amusement faded from Loki’s face, replaced by interest, and he moved closer. ‘These aren’t even questions I’d really considered. I was much more interested in finding my way around and avoiding -’ He stopped and frowned, then finished, ‘Monsters.’

‘Well, I’m interested in that too.’ Jane looked back at her work and then was startled to find Loki suddenly next to her.

‘But now I’m curious.’ He was practically looking over her shoulder. ‘Especially about these energetic properties.’

And what harm could it really do to show him her results? At least these ones. She was hardly going to announce that Earth and Asgard were now working on how to help the Muspel giants travel, and the specifics of how were elsewhere and currently involved impractical quantities of vibranium. Jane mostly forgot to be wary of him in the fun of explaining her very latest work to someone who was interested in it and, once they got past some vocabulary issues, understood what she was talking about. Loki himself apparently stopped worrying about Jormungand. He even offered interesting suggestions.

‘Without Heimdall,’ he said, after examining the near end of a few rainbow bridgelets, ‘you’d probably be better off with something like the casket that you can control and travel through at the same time. Obviously not with mice though.’

‘Yes,’ Jane said, trying to imagine how that would work, ‘I’m sure mice are even worse than I am at steering.’

Loki blinked at her. ‘What?’

Jane cleared her throat sheepishly. ‘Never mind.’

‘Oh, come on.’ He was smirking at her, but it was more a playful expression than smug. ‘You can’t just leave it there.’

Jane sighed. And buried her face in her hands. And explained about hitting Thor with her car. Twice.

Loki actually laughed at her rather less than Darcy had done. He looked as if he wasn’t sure whether to be entertained or horrified. ‘If Fa - If Odin hadn’t made him mortal,’ he said, sounding a little strangled, ‘your car wouldn’t have survived. I’m - you should be relieved he did.’

‘I wasn’t going that fast,’ Jane muttered defensively, even as part of her mind noted where he’d stopped himself. ‘He was up and around right away. Especially the first time. We thought he was concussed pretty badly and probably drunk, but that was because he kept talking about a hammer and didn’t seem to know what planet he was on. Which, in retrospect....’ She waved a hand, as the conclusion was obvious. ‘Still. I’m amazed he didn’t hold a grudge about that, really.’

‘I don’t think he does grudges.’ Loki sounded rather wistful. ‘I’ve never noticed him holding one, anyway.’

Jane looked at him for a moment, then said, ‘That would explain a lot.’

Loki stiffened, his face going closed and something about his motion (or magic, maybe) making it hard to keep her eyes on him again. ‘I should go.’

She reached out automatically - comfort, trying to get another reference point as to where he was - before remembering as her hand landed on his arm that it was probably a bad idea. ‘I didn’t just mean you,’ she said, suddenly anxious that he not leave on that note. ‘Or me. There’s SHIELD -’

Loki didn’t quite look at her, but he didn’t vanish either. ‘That organisation that stole Mjolnir?’

‘They stole my research,’ Jane grumbled. Okay, she was still holding a bit of a grudge, even if she could work with them now. ‘They more sort of... set up camp around Mjolnir.’

‘Hmm. And couldn’t budge it. For an organisation of heroic mortals, they seem a little short on worthiness.’

Jane honestly wasn’t sure what 'worthy' was supposed to mean with regard to Mjolnir, but she knew Thor’s status in that respect had changed sometime between when he was being detained by SHIELD and when Loki had nearly killed him. And that Thor had been able to pin Loki with it. So this was probably an awkward topic. ‘Hey, I’m not going to argue the point,’ she said, as lightly as she could.

Loki snorted. ‘Good.’

‘Still,’ said Jane, feeling compelled to make some effort at fairness, ‘they’ve been a lot less obnoxious since Thor convinced them he was actually an alien.’

‘Interesting.’ Better than taking offense, at least. He leaned back comfortably on his seat, which was mildly impressive since it was a backless bench designed for someone a foot shorter than he was. ‘You know, we once had far less trouble convincing you Midgardians we were gods than Thor seems to have had convincing you of the truth.’

Jane laughed a little. ‘Yeah, at this point I think aliens were probably an easier sell.’

‘And now you’re studying something that my father couldn’t even describe to your forefathers with any accuracy.’

‘It has been a thousand years.’ Jane looked around at the laboratory that looked like it belonged in some later century yet. ‘I’d hope we’ve learned something in the meantime.’

Loki shook his head. ‘You live far faster than I’m used to. Asgard’s technology has changed little in a thousand years. I was surprised to find the casket and the Bifrost were developed during my father’s lifetime, and he is thousands of years in age.’

Jane gave a soft, helpless laugh. ‘Honestly, I still have trouble getting my head around a lifespan measured in thousands of years.’

‘I imagine you and Thor will find it difficult,’ said Loki. ‘For him, you’ll fade far too quickly. And he’ll be just the same with most of his life to go.’

Jane tried not to stare at him. His tone hadn’t changed in the slightest from discussing relative rates of cultural progress. ‘That’s occurred to me, yes,’ she admitted after a moment. Once she’d started believing Thor was really that old. It was hard to remember sometimes. He didn’t seem it.

Loki was very still again now, eyes fixed on her. ‘And it doesn’t deter you?’

She tried not to shift uncomfortably. ‘Not at the moment.’

A slow nod. ‘Enjoying what you have while you have it and accepting it won’t last? I suppose that’s how flings with mortals usually go.’

‘I guess from your perspective,’ Jane said, trying not to feel the sudden resentment or at least to keep it out of her voice, ‘that’s how our whole lives go.’ A breath, then stubbornly but as unaggressively as she could manage, ‘But I think I’ll consult Thor instead of you on whether it’s a fling.’

‘As you wish.’ She tried to hide the breath of relief that he didn’t lose his temper and suspected she had probably failed. Loki was still looking at her, and she couldn’t figure out whether he was out to mess things up for his brother or make her uncomfortable or - and maybe this was a ridiculous fancy, except for the reaction to the story about the car - worried about Thor’s attachment to someone whose life was so transient. Or maybe it just didn’t seem that important to him at all. ‘Well, now that I’ve troubled you,’ he added, his voice rather dry and still not very informative, ‘I think I will go. I’ve been gone longer than I planned.’

‘It’s been fun,’ Jane said on a whim. ‘Tell your uncle I said hello.’

Loki raised his eyebrows. ‘Very well.’ He stepped off the edge of the platform, and she lost him.

Jane looked at Jormungand, who no longer seemed to be concerned, and then moved over - partly physically and partly mentally - to lean against that absolutely enormous presence.

Even if he’d just been playing around, some of the questions he’d raised were ones she’d been... not exactly avoiding, but pushing to the side because there were so many more immediate ones. Well, maybe avoiding a little, but really - she was only thirty and had put a lot more thought into her career so far than her love life. But now that they were in front of her, and now that they’d actually been together for a few months, Thor’s age and relative maturity and aging process and where they thought the relationship was going... were probably things she ought to ask.

Oh, and she should tell him she’d talked to his brother. And found out absolutely nothing of any tactical use, although she had some new research ideas. That was going to be interesting.

...And damn it. The energetic properties of extradimensional space might be exactly what he needed.

Loki was pacing back and forth across the floor of the apartment, caught between anxiety about what was keeping the boy and a nagging suspicion that he knew and it had happened before. A chat with Jormungand wouldn’t do the boy any harm, if Loki’s suspicions were correct, although he would like to know why more than one young man in his care felt the need to worry him half to death while talking to a giant snake.

When the boy arrived, slipping in neatly from extradimensional space, Loki asked, ‘Where were you?’ and had to stop himself adding, ‘do you know how worried I’ve been?’ as if he was the boy’s parent and not (brother, uncle, friend, thrall) whatever he was to him.

‘I ran into someone,’ the boy said, taking off the falconskin and placing it very gently on the table.

‘Jormungand. And I hope you didn’t mean that literally,’ said Loki.

The boy moved into the kitchen, actions betraying the tautness of held in restlessness. ‘Not just Jormungand. He had someone with him, Thor’s little mortal lover, and I don’t know which of the two was strangest. She’s built a laboratory on him.’

Loki couldn’t help smiling. ‘Inventive of her. What’s she studying there?’

‘Extradimensional space. She’s been able to make miniature recreations of the Bifrost using mortal technology.’ The boy was pulling a can of lemonade out of the fridge as he spoke, he sent Loki a questioning look and threw a can over when he nodded. ‘She’s sent mice through them. And she has measurements of the properties of extradimensional space, including how energy behaves while inside it.’

Loki opened the can and took a drink. ‘That’s a very mortal approach,’ he said approvingly. ‘We always had mages that could feel how it worked as they interacted with it so we took it for granted. Working it out by mathematics they might catch things we’ve missed.’

‘They might,’ said the boy. ‘And I think they have.’

There was a note to his voice that Loki took as warning, the sound of someone with a plan. ‘Your brother is heavily involved with these people. Especially his girlfriend,’ he said.

‘Energy compatibility is the root of our problem. Even with the falconskin working we don’t know yet how to merge it with the casket to make something powerful enough to work with Muspel giants without harming them. That information is something we need.’

‘Something you need,’ said Loki. What he needed, he decided, was some vodka with the rest of this lemonade. He walked over to the kitchen cupboards to grab the bottle and a glass. ‘We’d figure it out anyway, in time.’

‘We don’t have time. The longer we wait the more chance there is of someone finding out about this before we can follow through with it.’ The boy blinked, then looked at Loki with suspicion. ‘Or is that your plan? Keep this wrapped up in the mechanics of working it out and hope we never reach the point where it’s practical?’

‘Figuring out how is the fun part,’ said Loki. He took a long drink of vodka and lemonade and then put the glass down. ‘What’s your plan? Once all the fun bits are over and you have Midgard where you want it what are you going to do with it?’

‘End war,’ said the boy.

‘No. You’ll exchange war between mortals for war between yourself and Asgard.’ Loki shook his head. ‘Who do you think you’d impress? Odin?’ He picked up the falconskin from where the boy had set it down and dangled it by its chain from one finger. ‘If you want to impress him take him this. Show him you’ve done what he couldn’t. Taking over Midgard? He never did that because he didn’t want to. But this -’

The boy snatched it from him and for a moment they stood almost nose to nose facing each other. ‘I will have a world to rule,’ the boy hissed.

Loki backed away a step, ducking his head as he took another drink. ‘I can’t stop you.’

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January 2014


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