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Catharsis

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Where the hell is Darcy with her Taser when you need her?

Jane pushes her head back into the wall, trying to ease the pressure the spear's shaft is putting on her throat. She has no idea who this man even is, long limbs and bright teeth and wide pale eyes, but she figures it's safe to assume he comes from the same place Thor and his friends did—wow, that helmet has got to be heavy, not very practical at all—she tries to remember if they mentioned anyone else, any other names, draws a blank.

She gets the feeling he could crush her windpipe like a bendy straw, and wonders why he hasn't yet.

"Can't we talk about this?" she manages.

"Be silent," he snaps, pushing harder and making her gag. "Insect. You have no right to speak to me."

"I don't even know who you are!"

His eyes somehow go even wider, his expression even angrier, and her feet rise off the floor. "No, of course you don't!" he snarls. "Wretched distraction of a mortal woman, you made him forget me!"

He snatches the front of her shirt with his long fingers, slings her around like a rag doll, and stars explode in her eyes as her head cracks against the floor but at least she canbreathe again.

Green light flares at the edge of her vision, and when she can see again his hands are—they're on fire, holy shit, and some part of her brain is flashing back to sophomore chemistry, which element burns bright green, oh come on Jane think, think.

It hits her unexpectedly, a sudden memory of what Thor said to the metal monster before it sent him flying.

“His brother,” she says, scrambling back as he stalks forward. “You’re his brother, aren’t you? Loki.”

His lips twist into something that might vaguely resemble a smile, if you didn’t know exactly what a smile was supposed to look like. “How very clever of you to figure it out,” he says brightly.

She doesn’t take her eyes off him, pawing around the floor behind her for something she can maybe possibly use as a weapon. He wants to talk. He wants to—not gloat, not really, but—he wants her to be afraid, she can tell that much. Otherwise he would have just run her through and been done with it. He wants her to suffer. 

Which gives her a good chance to stall until she can come up with a plan.

“Why did you try to kill him?” she asks.

“You couldn’t begin to understand,” he says. The green fire shoots from his palms, makes the wall above her head explode and rain rubble and plaster dust down into her hair. “You with your fleeting little lives, like mayflies—you could never understand the weight of centuries. He left me.”

He hauls her up again, by the hair this time, and there’s not much she can do about it but yell in pain.

“For a little gnat like you. You changed him.”

She claws at his hands, though it doesn’t do her any good, just makes him pull harder.

“He did not want to fight me,” he says, with a nasty little sneer. “Thor Odinsson, who would have waded through blood and laughed as his enemies died around him, did not want to fight me.”

He throws her back across the room with a scream of rage, and she’s getting really tired of this now, she hasn’t been this bruised since roller derby in high school.

“You ruined him.”

In a flash of green he’s next to her again, yanking her up by the hair again, and this time she gets a good look at his face and—

“You ruined him! What do you have that I don’t?

—there are tears on it.

Something clicks—a cold realization slotting into place.

It must show in her expression, because he lets go suddenly and jerks back from her like she’s stung him.

“You love him, don’t you,” she says.

He slaps her.

The sound of it rings through her skull, the force almost knocking her jaw out of its socket. For such a skinny guy, he hits hard. It’s like getting hit by a living marble statue. Her cheekbone is probably cracked. Whatever happened to kissing her hand? She liked that, she’d like to go back to that part.“Oh my god. You love him.” She struggles to her feet, leaning against the wall to support her aching body. “No—you’re in love with him.”

He slaps her again. She tastes blood, spits it onto the floor.

“If you think you’re disproving my theory, you’re not,” she says.

“Shut up.” She can hear his breath hissing through his teeth. She’s not sure whether he’s angry or scared.

Maybe both.

“Does he know?” she asks quietly.

“Shut. Up.”

“I’ll take that as a no, then.”

She sighs and runs a hand through her hair; little sparks of pain flash across her scalp as the follicles shift. He’s shaking, fists balled tight at his sides, a faint green aura shimmering in the air around him like a heat haze.

“If you’re going to hit me any more, you might as well get it out of your system now,” she says, sinking back to the floor. “Not that it’ll do you any good.”

He’s staring at her, like he can’t decide whether to keep being angry or just give up and go straight to confusion. Has anybody ever talked to him like this? He seems like he’s used to being…avoided.

Abruptly, she feels sorry for him.

“You presume too much,” he says, apparently settling back on anger for now. “You know nothing of what you speak.”

“Didn’t stop me from getting an A on my senior thesis,” she mutters, half to herself.

The tip of his spear swings around and down to point between her eyes. She looks steadily up at him, watching his face. Watching his expression waver. There’s something desperate in it, something almost insane with terror.

He doesn’t really want to kill her, she realizes. He doesn’t give two shits about her. He’s only here because of Thor.

“Did you kill him?” she asks.

“No,” he says. His shell of anger is cracking. The spearpoint between her eyes trembles. “He is—incapacitated.”

“You couldn’t do it.”

His face spasms. “Shut up,” he snaps, gripping the spear with both hands to steady it.

“Oh, give it a rest already,” she says. “It’s making me tired just watching you.”

She lifts a hand, pushes the head of the spear to the side. Watches as some internal argument breaks out across his expression.

“I’m not your enemy,” she says. “I try not to be anyone’s enemy. I’ve got too much other stuff to do to deal with that kind of thing. Even if I wanted to hurt you I’m pretty sure I couldn’t. You’re way, way stronger than I am.”

His eyes narrow, his mouth pressing into a thin line of suspicion.

“Can’t we talk about this?” she says, raising her shoulders, giving him her best cute-little-girl grin, the one that always works on Erik.

It takes a good thirty seconds for anything resembling a reaction to happen. It’s kind of like watching footage of an avalanche starting. Little twitches at the corners of his lips, his hands weakening around the spear shaft, his brows twisting towards each other.

The spear falls to the floor with a thudding noise that she’s pretty sure is acoustically impossible.

Then his knees give out, and he joins it, folding up like he’s been stabbed in the gut. He pulls his horned helmet off, drops it to the side. The sound that comes out of him is heartbreaking, worse than the sound Darcy’s dog makes when he’s feeling attention-starved, and that’s saying something.

There’s really only one way to respond to a sound like that, frankly.She crawls over to him and wraps an arm around his shoulders. He tenses, pulls away a little, but she can tell it’s just a halfhearted, cursory gesture, because if he really wanted her to go away he’d have no trouble making her.

The comparison to Darcy’s dog suddenly seems a lot more accurate.

“Let go,” he says, quietly, almost a whimper. “You have no idea who I am. What I’ve done.”

She doesn’t bother answering that. What’s the point? It won’t matter what she says. She knows abject self-loathing when she sees it.

Maybe it’s her silence that does it. Maybe it’s the touch, her arm around his shoulders. Maybe it’s that he feels safe here—safe enough, anyway, doesn’t see her as a threat at least. Maybe it’s just time catching up with him. She doesn’t know, won’t claim to know.

Whatever it is, it cracks him apart. Blows him open. He starts sobbing.

She holds him, because that’s all she really knows to do; Darcy’s the maternal one in this partnership, this isn’t the kind of thing Jane has to deal with on a regular basis. It’s awkward. She pats his back, makes shushing noises.

This is not how she expected her day to end.

Still, it’s better than dead, she guesses.