The half-filled goblet dangled over the edge of the railing, threating to fall with the slightest slip of Jane's fingers. She swirled the deep red liquid, then brought the cup to her lips and drained the contents with a single gulp. Sighing, Jane let the goblet fall from her hands and roll across the stone tiles as she turned back to the view from the balcony. It was stunning. She could understand why the Asgardians chose this night to begin their celebration of starlight. The moons had entered their annual dark cycle, meaning the light from the stars was at its zenith of brilliance. Radiance from nebulae burst overhead, painting a ceiling of colors that rivaled the beauty of the rainbow bridge. Criss-crossing the sky, streaks of green and blue sliced open the inky darkness and peaked through the constellations of this realm. It was the most stunning sky Jane had ever seen.
A light breeze brought much-needed coolness to the heavy night air. Sighing, Jane turned to walk back inside and rejoin the celebration that had been raging for countless hours. She was exhausted and drunk than she had in years, and she only wanted to return to her chambers and sleep. When she noticed him standing at the door of the balcony, leaning casually against the frame with his arms crossed and staring intently at her, Jane knew she wouldn't be getting her wish anytime soon. Still, the thought of finally engaging Loki after days of silence filled her with new energy, and she bowed deeply for the prince.
"The stars smile upon your evening, my prince," Jane said, straightening from her bow and smiling at the taller man.
He looked more regal than Jane had ever seen him. Black leather pants and shirt clung tightly to his lean frame. On their surface, silver threads wove patterns around his arms and down to his hands, which were partially covered by the length of his sleeves. A silver plate held a deep green cape in place as its fabric billow behind him, swaying gently with the soft night breeze. His black hair was slicked away from his face, and not a hair stood out of place. He looked, every inch, a crown prince.
"And upon your evening, my lady," Loki returned, his face impassive.
He wandered away from the doorway of the balcony and stood near the railing, clasping his hands and looking out over the city that sprawled before him. Jane followed his gaze. The citizens of Asgard held their own celebrations these three nights. The city streets were ablaze with fire and torchlight, and the faint din of laughter and music could be heard even from the palace walls. Jane smiled to herself. How she longed to experience that life. How she longed to escape these gilded walls, even for the briefest time.
"How do you fare, my lady?" Loki asked stiffly, his eyes remaining fixed on the city below.
Jane smirked. The wine had made her bold; the trials of the past days had made her unflinching. Yet she did not wish to fight with Loki. She backed down.
"Who has sent you to me?" she asked softly. "Clearly you have not come of your own accord. You've been ignoring me since…since we last talked. Who convinced you?"
"My mother," said Loki simply, offering no further explanation.
"She seems to hold quite the influence over you and Thor," Jane said with a smile.
"You have no idea," Loki responded idly, glancing down at his hands before turning to face Jane on the balcony. "You still haven't answered my question."
Jane sighed and wandered away from him. She wanted to say so much, to have all of her questions answered. There were so many things plaguing her. Yet at the same time, she didn't want to spoil the beauty of this night. Here she was alone, with Loki, underneath the most splendid stars of the universe. Their colors and intensity, to Jane, marked the passion buried deep within her. She looked overhead, her eyes brimming slightly with tears as her emotions spilled out.
"How do I fare, Loki?" she hissed, her voice hoarse with pain. "I have never been so lost in my life. I have no understanding of what is happening to me, of what I'm supposed to be doing here. And no one will help me understand."
Jane finished her tirade. Her eyes again snapped to the city below her, the lights of the streets blurring together as her tears threatened to spill out. She was not weak. She would not cry. But her life had taken such a confusing turn that she couldn't help but feel lost, lost like a small child wandering the streets below as torchbearers rushed by and music played loudly. Soft fingers turned her face back to Loki.
"Why are you confused?" he asked, his voice filled with only curiosity.
"Because of the prophecies!" she shouted, wrenching her face away and backing up from Loki. She gestured wildly into the guests at the feast, pointing toward the dais of royals. "Because Thor and your mother speak of multiple prophecies that involve sprit-men and scientists and Frost Giants and humans, and my mind cannot wrap itself around all these!"
"Forget the damned prophecies," Loki hissed at her. His eyes had become narrow and tinged with passion. "They mean nothing."
Jane stopped for a moment.
"What do you mean, nothing?" she asked. "That's the point of prophecies. They tell the future and are important."
Loki laughed. "Jane, we all have prophecies written of us. They will come true with or without our knowledge, and often they come true in ways we do not expect."
He sauntered over to her and placed a single finger under her chin, lifting it up to meet his eyes. Behind him, Jane could see the bursting nebulae and the bright starlight that flashed over an awakening city. She returned her eyes to his gaze.
"So, Jane," he said softly, "Ignore your head for the time being, scientist of earth. You of all people should understand that intelligence is nothing without passion. What does your heart tell you?"
She stood staring at him. Jane thought she understood her heart, but it was a realm with which she had little experience. She had always listened to her head, to reason and to rationalism. And she considered love something for other women, something that, if it found her, would somehow benefit her intellectually. But the things she felt for Loki – these were things her head could not understand, and that scared her. She stood gaping at Loki, her mouth trying to force out words that would explain her deepest feelings. But nothing came out.
Loki's eyes narrowed. He swept his hand away from her face and turned it aside. Jane could see his fists clenching as the knuckles whitened with the strong grip. She dared glance at his face. It was slowly losing its gentleness that had been present only moments before. His mouth pursed in a tight line, his eyes became vengeful and volatile. She tensed in fear. She had often seen this change take place in Loki, and it usually ended badly for those around.
"I understand, my lady," he said through clenched teeth. "You could never feel anything for me, second to Thor, the great Crown Prince of Asgard."
His voice escalated as he stalked toward Jane. She backed away quickly until she felt her back hit the railing of the balcony. Loki reached her and placed his hands along her sides, trapping her between the rails and his body. Although she trembled with fear, Jane maintained her composure, harkening back to the confidence she felt during their…discussion in his chambers. She met his blazing eyes with a cool, composed gaze that hid the terror she felt within – terror and something else. Excitement. Thrill. Passion. But still, this Loki was dangerous.
"Yes, Jane, you could never love me when compared to that great golden brother of mine. I am but a blight on this family, on this realm." He laughed harshly. "Only a fool would think you could do anything past toleration of my personality, for who could ever love a monster?"
Loki ended his tirade. His breathing was heavy and ragged, his eyes angry and passionate. Jane controlled her breathing under his gaze. They remained staring at each other under the blazing Asgardian sky. Suddenly, Loki's hand rose to Jane's face. She flinched at the movement, but Loki only hesitated, and then adjusted the band that sat atop her hair. He then smiled sadly and backed away, releasing her from her prison.
"Apologies, my lady," he said quietly, his raging demeanor vanished and replaced by a cool façade. "Your crown was askew."
He stood looking over the balcony for a few moments, as Jane said nothing.
"I would never hurt you, Jane," he said quietly. "I am a monster. I am not Thor. But what I feel for you…what I cannot express…it is beyond the boundaries of love. It is inexplicable."
He turned to face her. "But I care for your happiness more than for mine. If it is your wish that I depart, then I shall no longer pursue you."
With that, Loki bowed deeply and returned inside, his great cape sweeping behind him. When he had gone, Jane let out a harsh sob that had been holed up inside her throbbing chest. She turned once again to observe the night sky, where the green streaks had grown brighter and the stars seemed ever nearer to the celebrating realm. But all Jane could feel was the hollowness inside that felt like an inky black sky without starlight. It consumed her as she gazed over the realm, as her emotions battled for dominance in the night.