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Jane was fascinated with the sky. Ever since she was a little girl, she would look up at the stars and feel a sense of belonging. A certain connectedness that she doesn’t feel with her feet on the ground. The white dots that scattered over the dark canvas of the night beckoned her, as if she would be able to touch them if she flew close enough. Others felt connected to places, where they’d certain people made especially for them. Jane was different in this aspect. Her belonging was in the stars. But Jane wasn’t like her younger self. She knew now that it is impossible to be within the touching distance of a star. It is simply too far away and too hot for Jane to survive the encounter. The star would burn her to a crisp and she would most likely disintegrate or melt before she even made it. And so, Jane made do with what she could. She studied the stars instead. She studied the pathways that may be real so that she could catch a glimpse of a distant world that surely existed. She constructed theories of bridges between worlds. Let herself be engulfed with the passion that consumed her whole as she calculated and catalogued. And if her theories were right, she really could be among the stars. She’d be able to see a different star rising on a different planet. As long as she didn’t touch them, she’s safe.

When Jane was with Donald, he’d often ask why she was obsessed with stars. He found it a waste of time because he much rather preferred to study real people and help them, instead of flitting over theories that are impossible to achieve. Those were his words that Jane pondered over a few weeks before she broke it off with him. She knew from the moment she met him that he wasn’t for her. Something in her jagged ends never quite fit with the polished lines of Donald’s. Nor did they sport some of the words or shapes others did when they met their equal. It could have developed with time, but Jane knew that she was reaching for flying pigs. Jane continued her rendezvous with the stars; they never quite filled up the cracks in her, but they managed to dull the pain of it anyway.

Thor fell out of the sky soon. And, for a brief moment, Jane felt something skim the edges of her core and brush against the jagged line of herself. The sensation lasted for a fleeting moment, and Jane can’t help but wonder if it was because of the hulking man that stood in front of her. It disappeared as soon as it came, but Jane was elated for the next three days as she realized that her theories are real, possibly workable, and substantial. She felt almost delirious as her calculations came alive in her head. Darcy and Erik worried over her; they were afraid she was reading too much into the occurrence, that she was too much in over her head. But Jane was sane (as far as she knew). The numbers couldn’t be wrong. The anomaly had occurred and this Thor guy was seemingly more real than they thought.

It wasn’t until the arrival of the Destroyer that they were fully convinced. Jane wasn’t sceptical per se, but she was worried that the Einstein-Rosen Bridge activation was a onetime thing. But no, it was real. There were other civilisations out there, much more advanced than humans on other planets. Places Jane could only dream of touching before. And now, she might have an inkling of a change to catch a glimpse of said worlds. To see if it would fill her with the contentedness she craved. To see if the longing she felt would be sated. Because, as she kissed Thor after the battle in the heat of the moment, it did not fill her with what she thought it would. It left her as empty as she always felt, seeking solace in the sight of the starry nights again. Feeling connected but deeply set apart.

Still, Jane pushed through. Her theories were validated, and the scientific community began to look at her as something more than a fringe scientist. And even if there were still those who criticized her work, she couldn’t care less about them.

She stayed away from S.H.I.E.L.D. after that. Their proposal did not interest her. She knew they wanted to control her findings, to keep it for their own advantages. Erik thought it would be a great idea but Jane refused. And when Erik went to work with them, Jane left the heated desert of Puente Antiguo for the quiet coldness of Norway, for a teaching job she would’ve thought twice of accepting before. She felt horrible for leaving her mentor, but she couldn’t bear to be stuck in the hot sands any longer. Thor’s departure felt like a tsunami trying to drown her. She didn’t know if it was because of him, or what he had brought with him. But the longer she stayed there, the more she thought of fair-haired Gods and their direct connection to the stars away from Earth. And the deeper the well of longing extended in her.

Darcy, being the caring girl that she was, followed her, saying that she wanted to help more with her research. But they both knew that it was a lie and Darcy worried a lot for Jane’s wellbeing. Jane, who still forgets to sleep and take sustenance when she needs to. They would speak and send mails to Erik occasionally, but the responses varied in length as time passed. Jane felt a foreboding. She didn’t know what for. Her stomach felt queasy at times and she was more alert, despite not having consistent sleep. Darcy kept insisting that it was Jane’s poor habits, but Jane can’t help but worry. She wasn’t one for superstition, but the feeling that followed her: was it anticipation or ominous?

And Jane felt guilty after the event transpired. It was she that had left Erik to his predicament. She, who should have known that something was wrong with her beloved friend and be there for him. But it did happen. Loki, Thor’s estranged brother had come to claim Earth, and along with Erik Selvig’s mind. She was distanced from the battle in New York but the impact of it made itself known regardless.

She left Norway and went to London, bringing Erik along with her. She wanted to make up for abandoning him, but she knows it’s something she can never pay up in her life. Erik was broken and so was she. The guilt only clawed itself deeper in her, making space for itself beside her longing. She wished she could help. If Erik had someone by his side, someone his equal, they would’ve been able to boost him back to his old self. But Erik never found that special someone, choosing to take care of little Jane, and this fact is the one that worsened her guilt.

And the guilt made way to anger. Anger at herself for being selfish. Anger at Darcy for not talking her out of it. Anger towards Thor for making her leave in the first place. And most of all, anger at the abomination that is Loki, for taking Erik’s mind away from him.

She never addressed the brief reprieve she felt at her emptiness being half-filled during the battle.

Jane was researching full-time again, but she worked from London now. She still had Darcy with her, and occasionally Erik, who was slowly getting back to doing what he loved the most. He wasn’t the same anymore, but at least he still loved her. Jane didn’t know if she loved herself anymore. Being amidst a large crowd of people now, she often found herself staring at couples that walked past her as she sat nursing a cup of coffee in the shop. She saw how their heads leaned towards each other and how their eyes sparkled as they watched each other. She saw their hands clasped tight together and the occasional coloured ink that marked their skin in visible places. Some had them, some didn’t. Some develop them immediately while it takes time in others. But it didn’t matter, if they found their soulmate.

Because for some of them, they just know when the emptiness inside them is replaced by pure bliss.

Jane shouldn’t have touched it. She shouldn’t have gone inside. She should’ve listened to Darcy and went back the way they came from. Pain filled her upon contact with the mysterious substance and then she blacked out momentarily. When she came to, she made her way out in a trance, too exhausted to pay attention to her surroundings. She heard Darcy calling her name and then a male voice joined her friend’s but Jane couldn’t put a name to that voice. Her awareness stunted, she was falling back into the void she escaped from. The last thing she remembered was being lifted into someone’s arms.

When she awoke again, she felt oddly calm. She pondered if she were dead for a moment and dismissed the thought immediately as her eyes took in the surroundings. It looked like heaven, alright, but the people moving about in the room with tension didn’t seem like something that occurs in heaven. Jane sighed, trying to sit up in her cot. The place resembled a hospital, but had a surreal feel to it. Someone came to check up on her.

She said her name was Eir and that Jane was in Asgard. She almost scoffed in response, but the gentle look in the lady’s eyes kept her features calm. More people came in after that, wanting to see how she fared. Thor was there. Jane felt distressed. So much was happening all in one go. They said she had the Aether in her and that she was dangerous. She barely understood them; she was surprised that she was in Asgard, that Thor had come looking for her, but she was getting anxious as they explained to her what she holds in her blood. They said she had the power to destroy worlds, and all Jane wanted to do was return home. She wanted to touch the stars, still, but she wanted her comfort too. Erik – and Darcy, she didn’t know how they wejire but she needed them at the moment.

Thor tried to console her, but she did not respond, seeking to have some peace if he left. And he did after a while, allowing Jane some reprieve from questioning eyes. As night fell, Jane relaxed more and recounted the events. It seems her exploratory behaviour landed her in this situation. She needed answers, but she was afraid to confront people from a foreign land.

As Jane slipped out of the infirmary, she wandered the halls in amazement. She must be in the palace, for it was magnificent and beautiful. The moonlight shone through the pillars and Jane followed the light to a balcony. The air was chilly but it filled her up with an energy she couldn’t name. The sky glittered with stars, so different from Earth. She took in her fill of the sight; she may never be able to have this view again and she wanted to make the most of it. They were in blues and green and reds of different shades. She was sure she would never behold a sight like this ever again.

And Jane noticed, that the distress she felt earlier dissipated into calmness. Her longing, was doused, if momentarily. Maybe this was what she needed, to reach some place far away from whence she was born. She didn’t need a person, she concluded. Maybe all she needed was a picture of the stars burned into her eyes from a distant world.

Reality came crashing down in the morning. And in the next few days, Jane was truly afraid for her life. She had found the library by chance, since she did not speak with anyone extensively. She found what the Aether was, how it connects to something known as the Convergence, and why the Asgardians seem to think of her as dangerous. The All-Father had wanted her locked away and Thor wanted to save her. She didn’t understand him. They never spoke of the accidental kiss from before but it confused her that Thor cared about her enough to speak up against his father.

Her feelings for Thor were not real. If anything, she regarded him as a friend. Being close to him now made her understand that she was longing for what he could offer her: the chance to see a new world beyond the confines of Earth. The Aether coursing through her veins offered a small amount of relief as well. She wasn’t whole yet, she was sure of that, but she was empty no longer, which was a lot to say. Still, when dawn broke in the golden palace every day, Jane would feel a lingering sense of loss as she awoke. She never quite remembered what she dreamt.

There was an attack. For the Aether. Thor said it were the Dark Elves, savage creatures who crave the power infused in her. Jane was protected well, but Queen Frigga was injured in the process. She was healing, but it was enough for the All-Father to sentence her to prison. And it was enough for Thor to commit treason. Jane didn’t know what was coming for her.

Sif had rescued her from her chambers, leading her to where Thor was waiting for them. Jane felt an adrenaline spike. She felt as if her whole world was about to tilt on its axis as she approached two men waiting in the distance. She knew the larger; he was her friend, Thor. And she knew the other one as well. He, who was the destroyer of lives. Her heart beat faster, and the blocks of her life where slamming against each other. She felt chaos in her, and yet, she felt sated, finally, as her fist connected with the jaw of the darker of the two men.

Her blood boiled in her veins, the Aether urging her anger on. Nothing could allay what he had done to Erik, but he deserved that from her. For ruining multiple lives for his own twisted problems. She had heard from Thor what supposedly had happened with his brother, but it didn’t change anything for Jane. He messed up Erik, and he needed to pay for that. But as he smiled at her for her fierce attempt, Jane’s anger abated and she felt bewilderment creeping up her instead. Why did that smile rest the raging storms inside her?

She barely spoke to him after that.

Their plan was simple. They were taking her to Malekith, leader of the Dark Elves, in hopes that he’d remove it from her, and in return, they will engage in battle in the Dark World instead of bringing the destruction to Asgard. Jane was sure there were so many holes in their plan but she kept her mouth shut. She wished she could help somehow, but how could she, when she knows nothing about the Aether inside her, save what she little she learned in Asgard’s library – which did not account for much.

She could feel green eyes on her every time she doubled over in pain. Apparently Malekith’s control over the Aether was strengthening and Jane was feeling the effects of that. She hoped and prayed that they would get out of this alive. She wanted to see Erik and Darcy again. Wanted to know if Queen Frigga were alright.

When they reached the desolate land, Jane was overwhelmed. Loki supposedly betrayed and threw her into the clutches of Malekith. She was still reeling from Thor’s hand being severed. And suddenly, she felt agonising pain erupt in her body as the Dark Elf extracted the Aether from within her. As she fell to the ground again, her mind went blank. Disorientation affected her and she felt mild nausea. She could hear shouting around her but she was tuned out from all of it.

But she could feel a strong body over hers in clarity. Said person covered her from whatever explosion that was happening. She chanced a glimpse with a splitting headache forming behind her eyelids and found emerald green fabric winking at her. Her eyes trailed up to a sharp jaw and sparkling green eyes that stared at her with such intensity that Jane was rooted. She felt pieces falling into place in her and a peaceful blanket settle over her. Her physically pain was non-existent. Because in that moment, Jane felt the reprieve from the longingness and felt truly contented. She felt his presence clear and solid, without any static clouding him.

And the moment was over as he lifted himself off of her, immediately engaging with a Dark Elf that was attacking him. Jane withdrew quietly, her palms dragging on the rough sand before she hid. She didn’t want to distract either of the men that were fighting by putting herself in danger.

The Aether was gone from within her and she felt immensely better. It must’ve been that which had calmed her. It could not have been the wayward creature that lay atop her like a shield. She refused to dwell on it, but every time an elf managed to strike him, her heart jumped to her throat. And she really did cry out when the massive elf called Kurse managed to impale him with the spear. Her instincts called her to run and she did, not caring that she was exposed. Malekith was gone, struck down by Thor’s hammer. She didn’t know where the Aether was and she silently hoped that no one would find it. Kurse fell too, sucked in by a vacuum that appeared out of nowhere. These things would interest her before, but now, all she could think of was the man that had a hole in his abdomen.

As she approached the shaking figure of Loki, he sunk to the ground as Thor caught him. Jane was frozen in her strides, caught between her need to see him and her want to not disturb Thor. In the end, she just stood beyond reach, a tear or two slipping past her eyelids, wondering why she felt so for a war criminal and pondering upon the widening chasm in her chest. Emptiness filled her again.

She went back as if nothing happened. If she pretended that nothing happened, then she could forget the moment of pure bliss, forget that she had ever experienced. She could go on with her life, continuing her research and search for that sense of belonging again. But as night fell and her dreams filled with blood red shards and sparkly green eyes, Jane knew she could never forget it. She wanted to ingrain the star filled sky of Asgard in her mind, but all that she saw was the Aether and the man that she never knew.

Jane worked harder, trying to find a suitable way to build Earth’s own Bifrost. Work kept her sane, kept her away from thinking of things she didn’t want to unlock yet. The exhaustion gave her a gateway out of the haunting dreams, and despite having fitful nights of sleep, it was certainly better than vivid dreams that made her feel lost at home.

She’d managed to avoid S.H.I.E.L.D. thus far, but they eventually had her. And Jane accepted. Maybe she needed something new to distract her. So she packed her bags and left with Darcy, her ever faithful friend. Erik had declined the offer and Jane didn’t press it. She understood now why Erik felt as he did, because she did too now. He longs for reprieve from an abused mind while she, wants reprieve from the feeling of being stretched far from her other half. The longing that was gone for a brief moment in time was the only thing that ruled her now. So Jane went, trying to glue back the pieces of herself that once were whole in another time.

She’d never been to New York City before. But that was where S.H.I.E.L.D. stationed her for now. She worked with a group of scientists in her field, sharing her theories and calculations on space anomalies. Her research on the Bifrost was halted. She made the decision, convincing herself that it was for the best. Despite working for S.H.I.E.L.D., she was still weary of them and didn’t want them to get their hands on something as powerful as the Bifrost.

Jane went through her days almost mechanical. She woke up, cleaned up, went to work, returned home and went to bed again. She was no longer fascinated with the sky. Just felt a deep loneliness rooting itself inside her despite being surrounded by more people than the whole town of Puente Antiguo in the S.H.I.E.L.D. compound. Looking up at the sky taxed her often, not because she had to climb up to the roof of her apartment complex but because it made her think of things that emotionally exhausted her, so she only did it every Saturday night.

She developed a particular affinity for Sirius. And the constellation that it came with. She knew what it was referred to, but she chose to not dwell on it. Besides, in New York’s terrible atmosphere, Sirius was about one of the few stars you could ever see, even on a clear night.

Jane would never admit that she felt broken. That the Aether had changed her much more than she can account for. But she knew Darcy knew all the same, whom never failed to hoist Jane up whenever she felt distressed.

One day, Darcy came home exceptionally happy. Jane smiled at the happiness her friend radiated.

“Look what happened to me.” Darcy said, immediately rushing to Jane’s side and pulling up the sleeve of her shirt. Jane released a breath of astonishment. Her bicep had cursive words with purple ink indicating something that her friend and her love know. Darcy had a soulmark.

“Remember Ian, Jane? I thought we’d never get there! We were having this long distance relationship and it felt terrible being away from him. But I wasn’t sure if it was actually going to be him. He’s coming tomorrow, and I think I might just get married to him.” Darcy sighed, a dreamy look entering her eyes. Jane was rendered speechless. She didn’t actually closely know people who found their soulmates. Well, she didn’t know that many people, period. But Darcy’s enthusiasm and excitement grated at Jane’s nerves. Because Darcy had found someone while Jane was just there. Alone. No mark and no feeling of attraction to anyone.

“That’s… nice, Darcy,” she muttered, turning away from her friend. The smell of bitter coffee filled the space between them and Jane held the edge of the counter in her hands, tightly.

“Have you ever felt that Jane? That connectedness. When were back in London, I felt whole, and then coming here, I felt as if I were leaving behind a part of me. I did, didn’t I? It was so fuzzy and static, but then hearing Ian’s voice was the only clear thing I’ve got in a while. It was like, the whole world faded out and it was just me and him…” Darcy trailed off, retreating to her room, unaware of the turmoil that came crashing down on her friend.

Jane’s white-knuckled grip of the counter faltered as she sunk to her knees. She never wept before. Not when her parents had died. Not when Erik came back a shell of a man that he was. Not even in relief when the Aether finally left her. A few tears would spill on her cheeks but she never sobbed like a child.

Her eyes now filled with tears as she finally cried for the man she should’ve known. Because Jane had felt that. That brief moment of clarity when everything was as right as it should be in her life. That moment left behind in the black sands of a foreign, desolate world. That moment, like him, which had slipped through her fingers like smoke.

Jane let herself have a few days of mourning. But she knew being hung up on it was futile. He was dead. Any potential between them was lost. She could’ve learned to look past his mistakes; could’ve seen him through Thor’s lenses, of a brother that was misguided and misunderstood. Of a creature wrought in loneliness and despair. But that’s all it was. A what could have been which will haunt her for the rest of her life. And now she understood her fascination of the sky. She was already searching for what belonged to her long before she was aware of it. And maybe he had wondered, too, staring at the bright Asgardian sky and feeling discontented on the ground he stood, looking for a flash in the stars that showed him the way to her.

He was lost to the heavens, and she, he had left behind, lost in her own head, searching for a feeling she will never come across again in this lifetime.

Jane was working when she thought of him again. There really was nothing that would remind her of him save for herself. She’d taught herself to not cry upon seeing his face in her mind or studying anything brightly green. Her heart thudded loudly. It was as if someone screamed his name in her ear. There was a sudden itch on her wrist that bothered her too. She frowned, rubbing the skin but it persisted so she took a look at her wrist. And promptly gasped. On her wrist were small starburst shapes and neat lines in black: the constellation of the Big Dog.

Jane drew back from her desktop, panting in desperation. What was the meaning of it? A soulmark appearing when her soulmate was dead. Was she going to die too? Wanting to take a breath of fresh air, Jane ripped herself away from her desk when she really heard a scream from her colleague. Her head whipped around to see what was wrong, when Jane herself stumbled back in fear. One of her fellow scientists was disintegrating into dust. Panic arose in her as three other people around her turned to dust. Jane was alone as she crouched by her desk, hands covering her mouth. She didn’t know what was happening. Maybe she really was going to die.

She sat there for a long while, staring at the spots her colleagues once stood, and the she looked down at herself. She was still solid. But she didn’t know if she would break apart in a moment. Finally collecting herself, Jane took a chance. Whatever this phenomena was, she wanted to make sure her friends were safe. She first rang up Erik, who picked up immediately. Jane was relieved. Her mentor was fine. Then she rang up Darcy, who picked up after a long time. Jane’s fear was mounting in those brief seconds but now she was assured of her friends’ safety. They told her that some people had turned to dust, returning Jane’s panic again. Her eyes flitted around the room aimlessly once more, before she threw caution to the wind and left the lab.

A week after the event, Jane understood what happened. Thanos, a creature from the far reaches of space had tipped the natural balance in the universe, destroying half the life that existed. Jane was glad Darcy and Erik were fine. But her mind was in chaos again. She didn't know the meaning of her soulmark. She’d told Darcy about it, not mentioning his name, and the girl said that Jane probably acquired a new one, which left Jane with even more questions. She had heard that it was not impossible to have more than one soulmate, but why did her heart jump at the thought of Loki?

She didn’t know much details about the Snap. The Avengers didn’t disclose much with the public, but Jane knew one thing: Thor was gone too. He was taken with the wind like all the others that were dusted. She found out too that Asgard was gone, but it was mentioned in passing by someone helping with the new Asguardian settlement. Jane felt numb. Thor was a good friend of hers and Asgard was a dream come true for her, but now it was all destroyed. Jane wanted to know more, but she got no details from anyone at S.H.I.E.L.D. It was collapsing in on itself with the Director gone.

She wanted to leave after that, but the amount of scientists left were scarce. They needed Jane’s help and she was willing to give it to them, if anything to help humanity rebuild itself again, as it had done many times before. The appearance of her soulmark gave her an energy she couldn’t put a name to, but it was enough motivation to keep her going. She thought of him sometimes, how it would be if he were still around. Curled up on the edge of her sofa, Jane would dose with sparkling green eyes in her mind. Oddly, she never knew him past the colour of his eyes, but she longed for his presence that surely was a complement to her own. Where was the anger she felt towards him?

Jane was late from work one day. She’d stayed behind to help out with documentation and didn’t realise the time go by. It was close to twilight as she reached her block. Darcy wasn’t home that day to nag at her, so Jane took her sweet time getting back home. She felt delirious since she woke up that morning. A smile crept on her face from time to time. She felt almost…happy, which she hadn’t felt in a long time. There was a bounce in her step that Darcy pointed out in the morning and Jane was excited. Something was going to happen; she felt it deep in her bones. Something nice. Her keys dangled in her fingers as she climbed up the stairs to her apartment. She chanced a glance at her soulmark, which only made her grin harder. And then it fell.

There was someone at her doorstep. Jane’s breathing quickened. Her feet felt weighted. The person turned to look at her. Jane’s hands fisted by her side. The declining brightness did nothing to mask his appearance. He looked solid enough. Jane was afraid that her mind was playing tricks on her.

“Jane Foster.” He said.

A choked sob left her lips. Jane felt an unseen push. And then she was launching herself into his arms and he cradled her in his embrace. There! He was real. She felt him beneath her palms. Could smell his scent that was new to her but familiar at the same time. Tears spilled down her cheeks but she couldn’t care less. She forgot the world. Forgot that he was a criminal that had killed people. Because he was there then and that was all she needed. He was there with her, and she never felt this wholeness in her life. This clarity. Everything slotted into place just right, and they melded completely. She was sure nothing would ever break off again. Her longing was sated completely in his arms as he let her cry on his shoulder.

“How could you, Loki? How could you pretend to die?” She yelled, bringing down her fist on his shoulder in frustration. “How could you?”

“I did die, Jane. But now I’m here. And I will stay. Does that suit you?” Jane was taken aback. She pulled back to look up into his sparkling emerald eyes.

“You would? You want to stay with me, a mere mortal?”

“If you are willing to take me, Jane.” Jane sighed, cradling his face in her hands.

“Please, Loki.” She said, laying her forehead against his. “Never leave me alone again. Not like this.”

“Yes, my sweet Jane.” She smiled. They would talk. Soon. There was too much that needed to be solved between them. But right now, she wanted to bask in his presence awhile. She wanted to stay cocooned in his embrace. The feeling of fullness that alighted her felt great. And so, Jane found her belonging that came from the stars.