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"Jane, honey, I'd like you to meet Loki."

The little girl peeked out over her mother's skirts at the boy on the couch. He was all dressed up for the party, even though it wasn't supposed to start for another few hours. He had a book in his lap, something thick and leatherbound that had neither pictures nor a title. When he heard his name called, he glanced up, eyes darting over a brow he was not yet old enough to crease. They landed on Jane, and she felt pinned down by them.

She had lived a mere five years. Her biggest concern on a daily basis was whether they'd have chocolate milk during snack time. That was until this moment. Now, she worried that the youngest son of her father's most generous benefactor was about to unhinge his jaw and eat her alive.

"H-hello.." she whispered.

He went right back to his book without a response. Jane's mother urged her to step out and speak up, but Jane was smart for her age. She knew when she wasn't wanted, and it was clear that she was no more worthwhile to Loki than a speck of dust on the window.

That was fine. She wouldn't want to be friends with someone like him anyway. He was probably going to grow up to be the kind of person everyone warned her about.

The aggressive Alpha type.

**

At times, Jane felt like her entire life centered around being an omega.

When she was seven, her grandmother tried to take her favorite telescope away. As she clutched her mother's leg and soaked her pantsuit with tears, her grandmother scoffed at her.

"It's about time she got her head out of the clouds," the old woman said. "This stargazing and science… such things are not proper pastimes for a growing omega."

'Growing omega.' She had heard that phrase so many times as a child. Any time her grandma caught her with a science textbook, her guides to omega etiquette gathering dust at the bottom of the bookshelf. She heard it so much, that the words didn't mean anything to her. They were a stock phrase that signaled the empty threat of a verbal thrashing and going to bed hungry.

One night, after another such incident, Jane asked her mother as she was tucked into bed.

"Why does Grandma hate me?"

That gave her mother pause.

"She doesn't hate you, Jane," she said. "She loves you very much. She's just from a different time. Omegas didn't typically leave the home to work, especially not in scientific fields. She doesn't understand that things have changed since then."

"She says I can't be an astrophysicist," Jane said, tugging the blankets up to her chin.

"Well, she's wrong," her mother said resolutely. "You can be whatever you want to be, baby. Being an omega doesn't mean a thing. It didn't for your father, and it won't for you."

Jane's father had been one of the world's leading astrophysicists. He had been brilliant; a child genius graduated MIT at age fifteen. His name was commonplace among scientists. He'd lectured all over the world and he was known for his stunning intellect and shrewd business manner.

And he was one hundred percent omega, happily married to an Alpha wife whose name he chose to bear.

Grandma Foster had never liked him. In her mind, he was a no good reprobate who didn't know his place, demeaning a beautiful and strong Alpha female by forcing her into a role of submission that should have been his. She didn't care how many times Jane's mother said that she was happy, that she wanted to be a homemaker and have time to sit in the yard, reading and painting watercolor landscapes. As far as Jane's mother was concerned, Alpha and omega were nothing more than designations, like a person's gender or race. They didn't dictate how one's life should be led.

Only their choices did.

**

Thor Odinson was a sweet boy.

Jane met him the same summer she met Loki. He was bigger than his brother and far stronger. Jane knew, because the first time she laid eyes on them, Thor had Loki pinned to the ground. His scrawny legs kicked uselessly as he squirmed, but he never could make Thor move.

"Is that the best you can do?" Thor said. He wore a suit covered in dirt with long blonde hair in his face. Jane had never before seen a boy with hair like that.

Their mother ended the game, walking into the grass with such grace that she seemed to float on air. Frigga was a picture of quiet strength and refinement, beautiful in a way Jane wished she could be. She didn't need to speak a word to her sons. One look from her, and Thor was on his feet, Loki scrambling to join him.

"Such handsome young sons I have," Frigga said. "Are you ready to meet our guests for the evening?"

"Yes, mother," they said.

She hummed and pulled a twig out of Loki's hair. She made Thor stand away from her to fully take in his muddy front.

"Are you certain of that?"

Her words were soft and calm, but the boys reacted like they'd just been given a vicious scolding. With mumbled apologies they ran for the mansion. Halfway there, it turned into something of a race. Loki lagged behind as Thor picked up speed, his longer legs carrying him through the double doors.

He was all cleaned up when Jane met him for real. His new suit was a different color than the old one, his hair slicked back. His crystal blue eyes appraised Jane, not unkindly.

"Hello, Jane," he said, shaking her hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you."

Then he bowed to her. Actually bowed.

Jane giggled at the sight, until her mother tapped her shoulder.

"Jane, that's impolite."

She sobered instantly. Not knowing what else to do beyond the things she saw in cartoons, Jane bowed backed. Then she remembered that was not what ladies did and curtseyed. It felt incredibly stupid even to her six year old self, but appeared to be the right move.

"Isn't that sweet?" Frigga said to Jane's mother. "They're friends already."

"Jane, why don't you let Thor show you some of his toys while I talk to Mrs. Odinson."

She would've rather gone looking for the library, but her mother gave her a look that called for no arguments. So she smiled and nodded and curtseyed once more, and then Thor was guiding her down a winding hall past more rooms than Jane had ever known could exist in one place.

One of them was wall to wall with books, and there was one little boy seated on the farthest chair. He looked up as they passed. For a split second, Jane's plain brown eyes met his bright green.

**

Every summer was the same. Jane would end the school year with a string of straight A's and spend the entire month of July on the Odinson family's lakeside property upstate. As she entered her teen years and her life took several tumultuous turns, that was the single constant she could always count on.

Her mother's bout with cancer ended with twelve months of pain and the slow deterioration of a woman Jane had once thought to be on par with Wonder Woman. The woman who took her last breath next to a window overlooking the beach was a skeletal shell of what had been Jane's mother; her hair long gone, her face sunken in.

Johanna Foster was buried with her husband. Eleven year old Jane went home with her godfather, and Grandma Foster went home alone. The custody lawyer Odin Borson generously provided had made quick work of her before the judge. In the end, it was clear to everyone that the old woman simply was not capable of raising a child. Jane had never felt more relief than when she walked out of the courthouse hand in hand with Uncle Erik. It almost filled the emptiness in her heart that her mother left behind.

"Good luck getting a husband now," her grandma spat at her before getting into her cab and leaving for good. "At the rate you're going, you might as well confirm yourself to spinsterhood."

It hadn't hurt, or so she told Erik when he knelt to comfort her.

"Jane, you are an amazing girl," he said. He had his glasses off and it had never occurred to Jane just how wrinkled he was. "You're intelligent and beautiful, and someday, the right man is going to come along and see that. She doesn't know what she's talking about."

It was nice to think about, the possibility of someone, Alpha or no, truly understanding her and who she was and what she wanted.

The next summer, Erik dropped her off at the Odinson's door with a promise to call every day, and Jane spent the next four weeks attending Thor's sporting events, tutoring Thor in math in preparation for next year, and sneaking away whenever she could to the library. It was her favorite place to be, surrounded by more books than she would ever know what to do with, letting the hours fly by as she poured over each new chapter. The only sound she would make was the turning of the pages, and the only other sound came from the scratching of pen on paper, from the library's second most frequent guest.

"What're you writing about?" Jane asked him one day.

Loki glanced at her, a sneer on his face.

"You'd never understand. It's too advanced for you."

"Try me," she said.

It had been over a week, and he had yet to take her up on it. For now, she'd take the memory of his ever so satisfying gobsmacked expression as consolation.

**

Thor was an Alpha. That was something they had known since his birth.

It was different for everyone. Some people displayed signs of their designation early. Others got all the way to puberty before they knew. Such 'late bloomers' were more common than one would think. Jane had been an omega straight out of the womb, but it was thirteen years and six months before Loki Odinson had his first heat.

It had happened during Christmas. Jane learned of it through the emails she and Thor exchanged. She had to wade through his lax approach to grammar, but she'd gotten the gist of it. Loki was an omega like her, and his family was shocked. Every Odinson male had been an Alpha since the 1700s. Strangely, his parents weren't too distressed. Odin Borson was almost… calm about it. Like he'd been expecting it. That was how Thor described it. Jane couldn't say for sure if she believed it, but Odin had always been a difficult man to read, and he never seemed to care about Jane unless she was spending time with Thor.

That summer, a change came over him. He arranged several trips, from fishing to hiking, only for Jane and Thor to take. Carrying backpacks of clothes, food, and suppressants (just in case), they trekked the hilly fields and caught a bucket of guppies. At night, they pitched their tents and sat under the stars before bed. Jane demonstrated her growing knowledge of constellations, pointing out each one and breaking them down into the stars that made them up. Thor listened, he was good at that. He even asked questions here and there, though his answers never went deeper than a 'wow' or a 'that's amazing'.

Loki would've asked more questions, and he'd have much more to say. On these nights, Jane missed him more than ever.

**

"Why do they make us spend so much time together?"

Thor was tying on shinguards for a soccer game. He was taller now, and bigger. His shoulders so broad that they took up much of Jane's vision.

"I suppose they want us to become closer," he said.

"But we're already friends."

"I know." Thor picked up a ball and kicked it into the air. It landed on his knee, and he balanced it there. "I overheard my father and mother talking. They think we'd make a good match, you and I."

Jane's pen slipped between her fingers, landing in her notebook over a series of equations.

"They want us to be a couple?"

"Not now, I don't think." Thor let the ball drop so he could kick it again. "When we're older. I mean, it makes sense. You're an omega, I'm an Alpha."

"But would you really want to be with me?"

"I don't know. Maybe."

He knocked the ball into a tree across the way and ran to get it, leaving Jane alone with her thoughts.

**

"Loki, can I ask you something?"

"You just did." He was on the top rung of the ladder, searching the rows of business management books with his tongue between his lips.

"I'm serious," Jane said.

"So am I."

She puffed out her cheeks. She hadn't done that since he used to take away her toys when she was a kid. She was fifteen now. Loki was as tall as Thor and even more of a grade A ass.

"Do you think it would be weird if I dated Thor?"

He had found the book. He dropped it to the floor and climbed down with both hands free.

"You wish to date Thor…" It wasn't a question. Jane honestly wasn't sure what it was, but it didn't ease her nerves.

"No. I mean, no not- not that. I'm just…"

"Just catching flies?"

Jane closed her mouth. He got to reading in the meantime. He had two stacks of books on either side of him tall enough to reach the ceiling. She was pretty sure one of them was books read and one was books to read, but for the life of her, she'd never know which was which. The one he'd grabbed was thicker than her head with even tinier print than in her science books, and no pictures to boot.

"What is that?" she asked, almost dreading the answer.

"Fundamental economics," Loki said. "Fairly light reading, but important information if one is to take over a company someday."

"I thought Thor was going to take over your father's company."

Loki sucked in air through flared nostrils, his lips a hard line.

"That is the plan," he said. "And if Thor ever decides to take it seriously, it will be him reading this book. Until then, I need something to pass the time."

He leaned in close enough that his nose touched the page. Gradually, he eased back, as Jane wondered if she should try again or just forget about it. If she said no more, maybe she could leave with her head still attached. The silence stretched on until over an hour had passed. By then, Jane was so engrossed in Einstein's theories that a single cough from Loki made her heart skip a beat.

"If you want to be with Thor, that's up to you. It's none of my business."

He sharply flipped a page, his fingers drumming the table as he read on, eyes downcast so she couldn't see them.

"But that's just it," Jane said softly. "I don't know if I want to."

And Loki was silent. He read on as if nothing had been said, but for the rest of the evening until bedtime, there were moments where the hair on Jane's neck and arms stood on end, and she was sure he was watching her.

**

Thor's friends came over every day. Over the years, Jane had been introduced to them multiple times and learned all their little quirks and eccentricities. Fandral was the ladies' man, handsome, fair-haired and dashing. He had flirted with Jane once and never again after Thor dragged him away and told him to leave her be. That may have given him some ideas, because from then on, he took it upon himself to 'accidentally' trip Jane so Thor could catch her, or 'mistakenly' misplace the key to the shed so that Thor and Jane would be stuck in there alone for an hour while he looked for it.

Hogun was the quiet one, but only if you didn't get to know him. While he and Jane were never close, she did happen to spy the group drinking by a bonfire one night. The alcohol really loosened him up. He told a story that seemed to involve getting into a fight at the bakery. He had Fandral in a headlock, and mimed whacking him on the head with an oatmeal raisin muffin while everyone else went into hysterics.

Volstagg was the jolly one. That was no joke. He was one of the sweetest fellows Jane had ever known, not a mean bone in his body. He could typically be found in the kitchen, helping the staff with baking bread and pulling things off of high shelves in exchange for a little extra at dinner time. He was a huge man, but his weight never seemed to hinder him. Indeed, he was pretty agile, as Jane discovered firsthand the year the group decided to learn martial arts.

The morning after her talk with Loki, Jane went out for a walk around the garden to find Thor grappling with Hogun, Fandral and Volstagg cheering them on from the sidelines. They were covered in mud, having already taken their turns. It looked for a second like Hogun had the upper hand. Thor was on the ground, his face in the dirt. Jane remembered all the times he had Loki in that same position and laughed, but Thor wasn't down for long. Hogun made the mistake of getting too cocky, throwing his arms up in a victory pose, consequently leaving Thor's upper body unrestrained. Within seconds, Hogun was on his back, Thor's bare foot pushing him down. He laughed as Hogun conceded defeat and was allowed to stand.

"Excellent work, my friend," Thor said, clapping his shoulder. "You've given me quite a workout."

Trust Thor to treat it all like a big game. This was what he skipped all his summer classes for. Loki could sit and read for hours, but Thor always had to be moving. Jane could run as fast as her legs would carry her, but she'd never catch up to him. Most days, she didn't want to.

"Oi!" Fandral shouted. "Look sharp, Odinson. Your lady is watching."

All eyes turned to Jane. She clutched the book to her chest, not used to this much attention. She glanced at Loki in the gazebo. He was immersed in his reading and wouldn't react to a bomb going off, let alone her discomfort.

The worst of them was Sif, the single girl in the group. She had always been stiff around Jane, ever since her first rut sometime after Loki's first heat. As an Alpha female, she would one day marry a gentle omega male and bear strong children by him. That was what her parents expected of her. Jane had even seen them push her towards Loki a few times. The thought alone was laughable. Designations aside, those two couldn't have been less compatible.

No omega could ever hold Sif's heart the way Thor did, though. That was her curse, to be an Alpha who loved an Alpha, someone she could never have. Jane truly pitied her.

"Maybe she wants to watch the next fight," said Hogun.

"Think you can stand to be embarrassed in front of her?" Fandral chided.

Thor answered with a wild swing at Fandral's head. He dodged the blow, but just barely.

"Let's see who will be embarrassed today!" Thor boomed. There was not a trace of anger or malice to be found, just love for the sport. He didn't have to fight for anything, and despite what they said, she didn't think he was fighting for her right now.

She sat under a tree, her book still closed. The fight was mildly entertaining, but the novelty wore off fast. She turned to her place near the end of the story, reading each word deliberately and refusing to look up and see Thor try to impress her. It brought a sad feeling over her, as she remembered the stories her grandmother told, of the day she'd meet the Alpha who would enthrall her, reel her in with his scent. Thor entered the room and Jane wouldn't know he was there unless he spoke, and he always smelled like grass and vanilla. She'd never cared for vanilla.

When she did look up, the fight was still happening, and Loki was reading his book. His clothes today were neatly pressed and fit him well. A lot of people mistook him for scrawny, nothing but skin and bones. He needed to dress like this more often; people would never make that mistake again. Whatever he was reading, it was well above someone their age and stolen from his father's private shelves, the ones only Odin and Thor were allowed to touch.

At some point, the fight ended, and Thor was victorious again. His friends whooped and cheered, even Fandral clapped his shoulder and declared him the best of them. Sif looked at Thor with pure adulation. Even with no one else around, he seemed almost godlike in their presence.

All Jane saw was Loki.

**

That night, Jane couldn't sleep. It was her last night before summer ended and she returned to Erik's home in the city. She went outside to sit on a lawn chair and enjoy one more night under the stars. Tomorrow, she'd be home again, back to the smog and the artificial lights that took away from the beauty of the night. She brought her camera with her, the special one Erik had saved up for two years to get her. It took better pictures of the stars than her telescope did. She'd taken hundreds over the past month. Tonight, she filled it up with a few dozen more. That should hold her until next year.

Someday, she promised herself, she'd get out of that awful city for good, away from the noise and the rude people, and she'd settle down somewhere small and quiet. Somewhere with all the stars she could ever want. Just one more year, and she'd be free.

As time wore on and it got closer to morning, Jane's eyes began to droop and she started the trek back to her room. The manor was silent this time of night. Even the late staff had long since gone to bed. The lack of activity and dimly lit corridors were eerie to say the least. Jane had never been one for horror, but the creaks and moans of the massive house settling filled her mind with images of lunatic axe murderers sneaking up behind her. If she listened, she could even hear voices in the distance that weren't really there.

At least until she got closer, and recognized the exhaustion in Odin's voice.

"I'm sorry to ask so much of you," he said. "I know what a tiresome task this must be-"

"It is tiresome," said Loki. His longer shadow moved around the shorter one. Jane could easily picture him leaning over Odin at his desk, even taller from that angle than he usually was. "Though I think not for the reason you suspect."

"This is a serious matter, Loki." The other shadow got bigger now. Odin was standing. "Once again, Thor is behind in his studies. He fails to understand that summertime does not preclude him from work. If he is to take over my businesses when I choose to step down, he needs to stop fooling around and be more diligent."

"So you want me to help you groom your perfect successor."

Jane fought not to laugh at Loki's dry tone. He used it all the time when comically mocking his father's mannerisms. Her reactions always seemed to spur him on, but Jane couldn't help it, not when it was so funny and so true.

"You have always exceeded your brother in the classroom," Odin conceded. "I've spoken to your teachers. They are impressed with you, and believe you will go far. I hope that with your help, Thor can become the man he is meant to be."

"Does it ever occur to you that he isn't?"

A very long beat passed.

"You think he is not?"

"I didn't say that. I asked if you ever consider the possibility that he is not the right man to take over for you. That you should turn your attention elsewhere to find your heir."

A beam of yellow light stung Jane's eye, and she choked back a gasp upon realizing that she had moved out of the darkness to hear better. She backed up, her nightgown snagging under her foot and nearly tripping her. She caught herself in time, and the men inside were to involved in their conversation to have heard her. Odin let out a deep sigh.

"I don't want to do this again with you, Loki," he said. "You don't understand the full weight of what it means to run a company. If I gave it to you-"

"I would what?" Loki raged. Jane heard the squeak of a chair forcefully moved. "Run it into the ground? Collapse under the pressure? Let my mad, overwrought emotions get the better of me? Which poor excuse will you use this time, Father?"

"They are not excuses," Odin said. "And it is not my goal to devalue you and all that you have done to benefit this family, but you must understand that being what you are, this is not a responsibility you need to bear. Someday, you will find a wife, and you will know then your true place in the world."

Loki let out a laugh that chilled Jane to the very core… but only for a few seconds. After that, she felt strangely warm.

"Oh, that is the most intelligent thing you have said all night." His shadow moved away from Odin's. "You have no idea how right you are, but someday soon you will. You'll know how badly you underestimate all the wrong people."

He left the room and started down the hall opposite Jane. She waited in case Odin decided to follow, but the old man just fell back in his seat, mumbling to himself. He got up once to shut the door, and Jane took that as her cue to run.

She made back to her room in under a minute, stopping briefly to catch her breath before going inside.

"Out for a stroll?"

Jane whirled around, only to sigh with relief at the sight of Frigga, regal as ever in bedclothes with her hair undone.

"Sorry," Jane said sheepishly. "Just wasn't tired yet. I'm going back to bed now."

"You'll only have two hours of sleep," Frigga said.

Jane shrugged. "Wouldn't be the first time."

Frigga smiled, placing a hand on her head. She'd been doing that ever since Jane was a kid, joking that one day, she'd have to reach all the way up to get to her. That day would never come.

"You are such a bright girl, Jane," she said. "Have I ever told you that? I admire that about you. You don't let anyone ever tell you different."

Jane's cheeks went aflame. Compliments always got her like that, especially coming from people like Frigga. People she admired. If she could ever be a good omega, or even just a passable one, she'd want to be an omega like Frigga. Someone who stood tall where others faltered, and commanded attention. Someone like what Jane's mother thought she could be.

"Thank you," Jane said. "That means a lot coming from you."

Frigga smiled, stepping away to continue down the hall out of sight. Just before she disappeared, Jane heard her one more time.

"I know you'll be a perfect match for my boy someday."

**

Jane was eighteen the next summer, fresh out of high school having graduated with top honors. It was a bittersweet victory thanks to that nosy guidance counselor who couldn't understand why Jane was applying to so many colleges specializing in science and physics.

Wouldn't those classes be too much for her? Surely she'd prefer something more like nursing.

After Jane shut her down by getting accepted into every university she applied to, she left grade school behind one diploma heavier and ready to take on the world. Just like her father before her, anyone who tried to push her down was going to get stepped on. That included one Odin Borson, who shook his head when Frigga greeted her with a hug and Thor spun her around in the air a few times. He was only slightly more sullen than Loki, who didn't even say hello before retreating to the library.

Later on, after dinner, Jane got bored with Thor and his friends playing touch football and went to find him. She passed Odin and Frigga's sitting room. They were resting in their armchairs by the fire.

"That girl has become quite the rabblerouser," Odin grumbled.

"Did you expect any less?" Frigga asked over her sewing. "She has not changed. This is always how she's been."

"I had hoped that age would bring wisdom," said Odin. "An understanding of her lot in life. Now I wonder if she is truly suitable for Thor at all."

Jane clenched a fist. She had never wanted to hit someone so badly in her life. If she could just run in there and tell Odin everything she'd been dying to say for years. That Thor still smelled like vanilla, which she hated, and grass, which she didn't care for. That when she entered the room, he was the fourth or fifth thing she noticed, but never the first. She'd gone into heat while visiting them at least six times, and every time Thor was near, all she could think about was getting away. Never once had his scent reeled her in and it never would

Her body had rejected Thor over and over again, it's just that her mouth hadn't yet.

Swallowing her anger, Jane moved on. She wanted to find Loki and fast.

He hadn't spoken to her once since she arrived, and it bothered her. This could be the last summer she spent with the Odinsons. College wasn't far off, and then it would be endless days of homework and class assignments. Study projects and internships. If she didn't agree to marry Thor, this might be the last time she ever saw Loki. Next time could be twenty years from now. He could be married with children, the good omega husband caring for the little ones his Alpha wife had borne, no thoughts in his head but of keeping house and making dinner on time.

Boy, would that be a sight.

She didn't find him in the library, either the main one or Odin's private one. He wasn't in the courtyard either. Thor and Fandral's voices filtered in as she ran, interspersed with comments from Sif about having poor stances. Whatever they were doing was no business of hers, so she moved on.

She checked everywhere she could think of, up to and including the kitchen area. She caught various snippets of conversation, things like what to make for breakfast tomorrow and the new buyer sweeping up shares in Odin's company faster than anyone could track. That last bit caught her attention for a moment. If that was true, it would explain why Odin had been so curt with Thor at dinner, insisting that he come with him to the office tomorrow for a meeting.

She tried the gymnasium next, then the drawing room. The greenhouse outside looked empty, but Jane checked in there anyway. At times, Loki helped Frigga tend to her plants. He'd been fascinated by the venus fly trap in the corner when they were ten. He used to go out and collect insects to feed to it, and he'd affectionately dubbed it 'Fenrir'. Fenrir was still alive and well, and Jane dropped a dead fly from the bucket in its gaping maw. Loki was nowhere to be found.

She wanted to get out fast; the temperature in here was a lot higher than she remembered it being. Sweat formed at her brow as she made her way to the door. It was only slightly cooler outside, by a degree or so. Jane couldn't understand how anyone could withstand the blazing sun long enough to practice their tackles, but Thor and his friends managed it. Sif threw him to the ground and sat on top of him. She must've enjoyed that. Jane left them to it, not giving them a second glance. She couldn't have if she wanted to. It was just so ungodly hot out here.

The manor was always air conditioned in the summer. Compared to outside, it was practically an icebox. Jane never wanted to think about their electric bills, just trusting that the Odinson family had enough money to power a small city if they wanted to. The first burst of air was a boon on her sweat drenched body, but once that was over, the coolness just seemed to bounce off of her. Jane ran to the nearest air duct, stood directly in front of it with her face on the grilles.

Nothing.

If anything, she was even hotter.

The answer came to her literally like a punch to the gut. Jane doubled over in pain, curling up into a ball as she clutched her stomach. The fire burning inside of her grew and focused at her center. It crawled between her legs, spreading all over the place, and Jane moaned as the pain dissipated. In its place came and sheer, forceful, unrelenting need.

"No… no…"

She had to get out of here. Any one of the family's many servants could walk down the hall right now and find her. Most of them were omegas or already bound to a husband or wife, but there were enough unbound Alphas on staff that Jane wasn't willing to risk anything. Just being in this spot at all was dangerous. There were windows everywhere, and Jane had learned all too well in her human sexuality class how far the scent of an omega in heat could reach.

She staggered to her feet, using the wall as leverage. She took a step and felt it vibrate all through her. By now, she would have dug through her skin if she didn't have the wall to hold on to. She checked down the hall one more time that no one was coming. She was still completely alone, but there was another problem.

She'd have to go at least halfway around the mansion to get to her room. That was almost an eighth of a mile's walk, and she could barely take two steps at a time. She would never make it. She'd have to find somewhere closer.

She edged to the corner, peeking around at the long hall of doors that stretched on to infinity. This was not a wing she was familiar with. It was probably where the Odinson family's bedrooms were, the only wing of the manor she had yet to tour. She'd asked to see Loki's room once or twice when they were kids, but he always made an excuse. It was too messy in there or he had too much dark stuff that would frighten her. Jane had never taken him too seriously on that, but she still dropped the subject.

The first room on the left was open, and through the doorway, Jane could just make out a dark green carpet and a desk stacked high with books. She started for it.

She didn't care if Loki found out she'd been in his room. He would have to understand why she did it. Omega males were no different from females when it came to heat cycles. They may have had fewer on average, but oftentimes, theirs were even stronger than a woman's. Jane couldn't begin to imagine what that must be like. How could anything be worse than what she was feeling right now?

There was another foot or so between her and salvation, but that might as well have been a mile. Jane inched ever closer, always alert for someone else coming. Unfortunately, heats didn't come with heightened senses beyond touch, so she had to keep guessing and praying that she wouldn't be suddenly thrown against the wall by an out of control Alpha who couldn't resist a young omega in need.

She reached the threshold and threw herself onto the carpet. The fibers were soft under her skin, but not nearly cool enough. She kicked the door shut with a bang. Loki's bedroom was not at all the pigsty he made it out to be, but empty and ornate enough to be a little bit creepy. His bed was neatly made, and he had so many books laying around that Jane wondered why he spent so much time in the library. His laptop was turned off on the desk, and he had a datebook open to a certain page. In the corner of the room, another door sat partially open. Inside was a bathroom. Of course the Odinsons all had private bathrooms. Why not?

It was a welcome sight regardless. Somewhere in there had to be some suppressant pills. If Jane could just borrow one or two, she would be right as rain in thirty minutes. Loki couldn't possibly be so meticulous as to count them to make sure no one else used them. She would just take what she needed, let the heat die down, and walk out like she'd never been there at all. No one would ever know.

"Jane?"

She stopped. She'd have to take back what she said about heats and improved senses, because Loki's voice was as loud as a firecracker. This room was bigger than Erik's apartment, and he was all the way across from her, but still so clear. Jane turned around. Her heart was in her throat as Loki came into view. This was another first for her. First time in Loki's room and first time seeing him naked.

But only half naked, Jane realized as her eyes trailed down his chest and stomach to the black pants that covered his modesty. He was an impressive sight already. Jane had always thought he was stronger than he looked, and now she could see why. He was all lean muscle, his chest heaving as he breathed in her scent. Jane could've kicked herself for not considering that he'd be in here. Her heat might risk setting his off now.

"S-sorry," she said. She leaned against the frame of his four poster bed. "H-having a little trouble. Just needed a place to hide."

She would've said more, but she was exerting most of her energy to stay upright. Loki stared at her, not even registering her words as his mouth fell open. He closed it immediately, pressing a hand over his nose and stepping back.

"You should go," he said.

Jane whimpered.

"Could I just borrow some s-suppressants? I don't really f-feel comfortable t-trying to walk back to my room like this."

"It doesn't matter," he said. His shoulders were shaking. "You just have to leave. Right now."

"B-but I'm in heat!"

"I've noticed!" Loki shouted. He faced her, his eyes darker than she'd ever seen them. He was pure white and shaking all over. Her heat must've really been affecting him. "That's why you can't be here. You need to get away from me now."

"Why?"

"WHY?"

Jane flinched. She'd heard Loki yell before, just never like this, and never at her.

And that was he lost all control. He let out a growl and grabbed her. Jane yelped as she was thrown onto the bed, Loki moving with catlike grace to be on top of her. His long hair fell over his face, tickling her cheeks. With his face shadowed, his eyes were pitch black. Every part of his body was tense, and though he was holding himself partially off of her, she could see if she looked down something very telling about his state of mind.

He cursed in another language, his voice deep and guttural. He lowered his mouth to the side of his neck and inhaled. He said something else in that language and breathed again. His fingers dug into her shoulders, punishing. He would leave bruises behind, and the strange thing was that Jane wouldn't mind if he did. He didn't trap her fully, easily as he could've. His arousal brushed her leg, sending shockwaves all through Jane's system. It reminded her of her delicate state. Loki had actually managed to make her forget for a moment. Then she took a whiff of the air and forgot all over again.

The scent Loki exuded was like nothing Jane had ever known. It was indescribable, like an impossible combination of every smell and odor she had ever loved. Whatever it was, it made her want him. It was invigorating, intoxicating...

It was not an omega's scent at all.

"Loki…" she moaned. She didn't care anymore about protecting herself. She didn't care about anything but the man hovering over her.

"Jane…" he growled again. Oh she loved the way he sounded.

"I don't understand…" Jane could feel him blow on her neck and she writhed. "I thought you were an omega."

He paused. He remained over her for a time, and then he was gone. Jane's body cried out at the loss.

"I am," he said, grabbing a towel from the closet. "As far as anyone else knows."

"You've been pretending to be an omega?" Jane sat up. "Why? How?"

"It's easier than you think." He pulled up his desk chair and sat with his legs spread open. The sight was distracting to say the least. "I've had no trouble keeping up pretenses ever since I was a child. A first time heat and a first time rut are virtually indistinguishable."

That was true enough, but it didn't tell Jane what she really wanted to know.

"You're an Alpha," she said. She stood up with much less difficulty. "You're an Alpha disguising yourself as an omega."

"It's necessary if I am to achieve my goal."

"What goal?"

He smiled, and there was no trace of warmth to be found. She wasn't going to like the answer, it said.

"To take over my father's company, of course." He crossed his legs and steepled his fingers, much like a supervillain. "This is the only way I can make it happen."

"By pretending to be an omega."

"By making sure he underestimates me. I've spent the last five years preparing for this, and I've been working right under his nose to take the company. Last month, I put the final part of my plan into action. I've been using my connections to buy up shares of the company. It's only a matter of days before I become the primary holder. Odin plans to formally announce Thor as his successor next week. He intends for Thor to take over as soon as he completes graduate school."

"But this time next week," Jane said, as the rest of the blanks filled in one by one, "he won't be in charge to make that call."

"Exactly," Loki said. "A new day is dawning, and I will be the one to stand before our family, and the board of directors. All of it will be mine, just as it should be, and Odin doesn't suspect a thing because no omega could ever have the drive to embark on a hostile takeover."

He laughed a sardonic laugh. His hand came up over his face and stayed over his nose, blocking out her scent. He breathed a little easier now, but that wouldn't last long. The way Jane was feeling right now, she didn't think a brick wall could keep them apart. His scent was getting stronger by the second. If he was fighting hard not to ravish her, it was taking all Jane had not to spread her legs and beg for him like a wanton whore.

"So this is just a big game for you," she said. "Just so you can impress Odin and win his love."

"I don't care about that," he snapped. "I don't. I haven't for years, not since I discovered the truth."

"What truth?"

He shook his head. "It's not important. What matters is that I am the only one suitable to run the company. Thor could never do it. He isn't made for that. Everyone knows it except for Odin. All he sees is his chip off the old block, and that's all he'll ever see unless someone pulls the rug out from under him. That's what I'm going to do, and we will all be better for it."

"What about Thor?" Jane gasped. She fisted the sheets. She need suppressants or she needed Loki to fuck her now. Enraged as her rational side was at what was transpiring, she knew which one she'd prefer.

"Thor will be fine," Loki said tightly. "If he is upset, he will get over it. I already told you, he is not the right man for the job. You know it and I know it. If you wish to defend him now, it will only be because he is your friend."

She did want to defend him. She wanted to say a lot of things to Loki right now, none of them very nice. But she didn't. Because her heat was too strong and she could barely speak at all, and because deep down, she knew he was right. She couldn't forgive him yet for his deception, but she could never deny what was in front of her face.

And if he wanted to use Odin's blindly archaic ideas of societal roles to screw him over, there wasn't a whole lot she could do to stop him.

"So what happens now?" she asked.

Loki got up. Jane lay back, thinking he was going to pounce again and deliriously hoping that he would. Her logical side had long since been smothered, and any regret she felt at giving herself so willingly to an Alpha- to Loki- could be saved for later. Right now, she just wanted him and his delicious scent.

How amazing it was to finally understand what people used to tell her about. The next time she walked into a room, Loki would be the first thing she saw. When she went to sleep tonight, she'd be thinking of him, and when she woke up the next morning, he'd still be on her mind. Even when her heat ended, she would crave him. Her anger would fade in time. This feeling never would.

He didn't touch her again, but walked around her. Jane moaned in agony, but he just kept walking. He went into the bathroom; came out seconds later with a familiar white bottle in hand.

"I could run a monopoly on the suppressant drug business," he said, popping the cap open. "I've been given so many over the years that I rather… forgot to take."

He popped two in Jane's mouth. She swallowed reluctantly with a few drinks of water. The heat began to die down almost at once, but it would be slow going. While they waited, Loki flipped through a book from the scattered pile in the far corner. He read passages aloud, and as Jane's body cooled off and she could concentrate better, she recognized the subject of astrophysics.

"Feeling better?"

Jane got up on wobbly legs. She waited for her head to stop spinning and took a step. Then another.

"I think I'm okay now," she said.

"Very good."

He wrapped his arms around her. He was so fast, Jane had no time to react Then his lips were on hers, firm and demanding, yet slow. He didn't force her to respond or try to pry her lips apart with his tongue. He just moved his lips over hers, waiting for her to let him in. Jane parted her lips and swept at his with a tentative motion of her tongue. He deepened the kiss. He pulled Jane closer, keeping her from falling to her knees. His hands moved up her back over her clothes. Hers delved into his hair.

"Forgive me," he said against her lips. "I've been waiting far too long to do this."

"Waiting for it to be safe," she quipped.

He chuckled. "For once, you can read me like a book."

Their kiss grew softer. They sunk down to the bed as Loki placed her in his lap. His excitement had died down, but she could feel it starting to poke her again, and that was when Loki pulled away.

"No," he said sadly. "We can't yet."

Jane pouted and grinded into him. He bared his teeth, but held strong.

"I want this, Jane, I do. I want this more than you know." He pressed a hand onto her cheek. "There are a great many things that I want, but that's just it. I don't just want them for a moment. I want them forever. And I recognize that some of those things, I can't just take. I must ask first, and wait until the time is right."

His fingers trailed down to the side of his neck. Even though she was no longer in pain, he brought the warmth back with his touch. Jane closed her eyes, savoring it.

"You're kind of an ass, Loki," she said. She took his hand, lacing their fingers together. "Actually, you're a huge ass, but you'll get what you want."

She stood up. She didn't want to, but he was right. Now wasn't the time, but it would come soon. Perhaps sooner than she thought. For now, she smiled at him one more time, and she left the room with a shimmy of her hips. Just because she could.

She stolled along the winding halls, passing friend and worker alike as she went. Suddenly they were all crowding the area. Jane even saw Thor and Sif wander by discussing the game they just won. Their eyes moved right past Jane. All they cared about was each other, and it was just as well.

By the time she caught a whiff of food cooking, her stomach was roaring. That was the really annoying side effect of the suppressants: huge increases in appetite. She was going to need something to tide herself over until dinner. She left the kitchen with a freshly made peanut butter sandwich and ate it in the dining room. The table hadn't been set, but a maid came in once to change the tablecloth. After that, Jane was alone up until she wiped the crumbs off herself.

"Don't eat too much now," said Frigga, standing over her with her hands on her hips. "We're having something very special tonight."

"I hope that means crab legs," Jane said, salivating at the thought of one of her favorite foods.

"It just might," Frigga teased. "The whole week is going to be full of special meals. Odin wants everything leading up to next week to be perfect."

Jane's face fell, as did her stomach. The gnawing hunger that had withstood her tiny meal disappeared. She flashed forward to the party, to Odin all ready to give a brilliant speech about his amazing son, Thor, following in his footsteps, only to lose it all to the one he overlooked. It should've been a somber thought, but Jane looked forward to it. Odin had never been a friend to her, and in a way, he deserved what he would get. But no one else did.

"Frigga," Jane said softly. "Do you ever wonder about Thor running the company? I mean, you think he can do it, right?"

Frigga frowned. Jane instantly wished she'd kept her big mouth shut. Frigga was probably going to blow up at her now, for even daring to suggest that her oldest son was anything less than a born leader and the perfect candidate for running the company.

"I-I'm sorry for asking out of the blue, I just…"

Frigga wasn't yelling at her, though. She wasn't even looking at her. She looked away, far away. Out the window and beyond.

"I didn't think you'd seen it," she said.

Jane blinked. "Seen what?"

"Thor, of course," Frigga said, her eyes shining. "How trapped he is. Odin has high expectations that not many could hope to reach, even if they wanted to. Thor doesn't want to, and that is what Odin fails to see…"

She raised her head to the ceiling.

"Thor is a wonderful person. I shouldn't have to tell you that, and I know that he'll go on to do great things, but perhaps those things aren't what Odin wants them to be. It's a shame that he's so set in his ways that he won't let himself truly know his sons."

"I don't think he could ever know them as well as you do," said Jane.

"Oh, quite," said Frigga. "I know everything about my sons, even things they may not know themselves." She lowered her head, and looked straight at Jane. "I even know the things they keep a secret from me."

Jane nodded once, and then it hit her. It hit her so hard that she almost fell out of her seat. Frigga said no more, just watched and waited for Jane to come back to earth.

"Frigga," she breathed, "do you know about-"

Frigga shushed her with a finger, a knowing look on her face.

"Sometimes, Jane, it's better not to speak up. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is stand aside, and let the chips fall where they may." She placed both hands on Jane's shoulders, pulling her in for a hug. Jane held Frigga tightly, basking in this taste of motherly love that she'd thought lost to her. Frigga whispered in her ear: "I've always said, you'll be a perfect match for my boy."

She bade Jane farewell as a chef slipped in to humbly request help in making up the evening's drink list. A wink and she was gone, but in the far corner by the living room, another figure waited. Jane locked eyes with him, feeling her heart beat faster and her face heat up. For the moment, he was all she could see, and someday soon, everyone would know it.

Someday, she would stand at his side; the yin to his yang; the day to his night; the omega to his Alpha. He would be in charge of a thriving corporation, and she would bring about a new scientific age, but they would do it all together. Just like any good couple should. This was they life they would choose for themselves.

Jane smiled at Loki, and Loki smiled back.