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The Burning Skull

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Loki’s reign ended in two sets of coronations and marriages. Sif and Jane had a grand wedding ceremony to make up for the cursory one they’d had months earlier. They were made co-rulers of Midgard. Heimdall and Valkyrie were married and became the new King and Queen of Asgard. Royalty from all the Nine Realms, including Jarnsaxa and the Grandmaster, attended the solemn events. Darcy and her fellow prisoners had survived their ordeal in Loki’s garden. She and Jane were reunited during the festivities.

“So, Queen of Midgard?” She said. “The Polisci major in me finds it ironic that even Saudi Arabia and the Vatican have accepted the legitimacy of your rule.”

“The last few years have sobered people,” Jane observed. “Women like me are only really accepted as leaders when things get really bad. Sif and I have a lot to do to fix the damage of the war.” She sagged just thinking about it. Darcy grinned, and clapped her on the shoulder.

“Hey! You know I’m still here for you, right? It’s not like you’re going to go about this ruling business alone. I love the fuck out of you, Jane Foster, and it’ll take more than life as a hostage to beat it out of me. Also, I’m Jewish too.” She said seriously. “We may have faced down an alien invasion, but I know that anti-Semitism, sexism, and bureaucracy are hard things for a world leader to navigate. You need me as your assistant. You and Sif have an entire planet to govern, and very little time for a honeymoon. Life here on out isn’t going to be easy for you!”

Jane gave her a watery smile, and drew her into an embrace. “I’ve been so worried, and don’t know how I managed without you in the past few months.”

Darcy patted her on the back. They had much to discuss, from Erik’s death to Darcy’s stint as Loki’s prisoner. But that could come later. Separation had only made their friendship stronger.

Odin and Frigga decided to retire to the garden of Idunn, and keep her company. Odin placed a hand on Heimdall’s shoulder. “You have done far better than I could under the circumstances,” he said gravely. “You have both earned the right to be the rulers of Asgard.”

“You have my full blessings.” Frigga declared. “You will make the realm a wise King and valorous Queen.”

 


 

Thor visited the newlyweds that evening. Loki’s ministrations had left scars on his body, a perversely beautiful shade of silver. His hair and skin shimmered; the melancholy in his eyes was like a ship lost at sea. He held the shattered pieces of Mjolnir in his hands, and there was a sweet, sad smile on his face.

“My brother is reborn. I can sense it in my blood, and it is my duty to find him.” He said heavily. There was a long, awkward silence in the room.

“Loki has hurt so many people, and you have other options. I’m sure you know that pursuing him isn’t the easiest or healthiest choice, right?” Jane asked warily.

“Are you absolutely certain of this, Thor? How do you even know that he is alive?” Sif asked, but her face was dull with resignation.

Thor looked away for a long time. His hands balled into fists, and a jolt of electricity crackled through the broken body of Mjolnir. “I know you may not understand, but I cannot rest while he is gone. I love him enough to bear the brunt of his villainy, to try and fix what is broken. I belong to him like the ocean that craves to cleave onto the shore, and my thirst will never cease until I find him again.”

“I know the feeling, Thor.” Valkyrie said in a low voice.

“If you must go, we cannot stop you.” Heimdall added quietly.

Thor left the gathering that night. He refused all forms of transportation, trudging on foot at a very slow pace. The newlywed couples watched him leave until he was a glittering dot on the skyline. The lonely hero disappeared, leaving a trace of rain in their hearts.

 


 

Soon afterward, Heimdall and Valkyrie left for Asgard with Odin and Frigga. Sif and Jane waved until the four Asgardians vanished into the heavens. The two women went stargazing that night. There was no moon. It was a time for new beginnings. The stars scintillated, a dancing school of silverfish in the ocean of the night.

Jane’s thoughts wandered as they went. She’d gone from scientist to celebrity, outlaw, lover, and Queen in a span of months. She was defined by all these roles; her memories were so raw. Jane felt like a limpet trying to find footing after an earthquake. The wars, her near-brush with death, left her shuddering in their wake. How many people had perished due to Loki’s violence? Where were Loki, Freya, and Erik now? Who, in addition to Erik, had died in the wars to protect her? Their souls were somewhere among the stars. The afterlife, along with God and string theory, was one of the great mysteries of the Cosmos. What was it like to pass away? Perhaps one day she would make a groundbreaking, scientific discovery about the afterlife. Jane did not intend to stop her research, just because she had become a Queen.

“As an immortal goddess, you’ve seen many eras across time. Do you think you’ll forget me when I die?” She asked, and Sif stiffened.

“Why do you ask such questions, when we have our whole lives ahead of us? It is true that Ragnarok is coming, and that the lifespan of Midgardians is fleeting as a dream. But the scientists of your realm have developed a host of life extension technologies, and Asgardian sorcery has advanced enough to lengthen the span of people’s lives. Our time together will be longer than you anticipate. I will make sure of it.”

Jane gazed over at her fondly. “We make a good team, don't we? I know that Thor gets most of the credit for being a warrior, but you wiped the floor with Loki’s forces on the battlefield. You’re too brave to let me go without a fight, and I’m too smart to die so easily.”

“I am indeed fortunate,” Sif mused. “The brilliance of my wife’s mind rivals that of Loki. Who else in the Nine Realms could have outwitted him the way you did? You were simply wonderful!”

Her searing eyes were full of wonder, and Jane blushed at the intensity of the gaze. “There were times toward the end where I wasn’t sure I would get through it. But you made me feel safe.” 

The very stars seemed to bless their union, a white bed of water lilies.

“You and Darcy are...good friends?” Sif asked, and she nodded.

“We’re like you and Valkyrie. She sacrificed a lot for me when Loki took her captive. Darcy will be a good assistant. We’ll need friends to protect the realm, especially if Ragnarok is coming.”

“Yes, and if she stood by you, then I am in her debt.” Sif said fervently.

Jane paused. “Do you think that Loki and Thor will ever reconcile?” She asked. There’s something...everlasting about their relationship. Some parts of life are just destiny. Others, though, are not. The Queen Frigga told me there are many worlds in which we never realize our feelings for each other. But she seemed to think we’d be together in this lifetime.”

“I will confess that I have wanted you for longer than was strictly proper.” Sif said, running her fingers through her hair. “I desired you the moment we met, and suffered when you fell for Thor. I did not reveal my feelings out of respect for you both.”

“I wish you had,” Jane replied. “But I think we would have wound up in this position regardless.”

“If Thor doesn’t find Loki in this universe, then he will break the cycle of Ragnarok to do so.” Sif concluded. She knelt before Jane, and gallantly pressed a kiss to her fingertips. Jane sighed, leaning into the touch. “Thor and Loki are meant for each other, and so are we. I trust that we will stay together as surely as they will find each other again.”

Jane grasped her shoulders, and drew her up with a joyous smile. “You know what? I’m glad to hear it.”

She closed the space between them with her lips. For a long while, she allowed herself to savor the sweetness of Sif’s face against hers....Ragnarok had not yet come, and they had the strength to meet it when it did.