Review: To Cleave the Stars by Hollywithaneye

If you’re sitting on the Loki/Jane fence, this is the fic that may well give you a leg over to the Lokane side.

Hollywithaneye has a beautiful way with words which will suck you in with her opening sentence, and a brilliant knack for writing Loki. Manipulative, deceitful, damaged, but with just enough color in his blackened heart to give hope; this is Loki as we know him now, but with careful hints of the Loki he once was, and who we hope he might again become.

To Cleave the Stars picks up where The Avengers left off, with the taste of defeat still cloying on Loki’s tongue. Gagged and humiliated, Loki is led back to Asgard in shackles, and met on the other side by Odin and Heimdall.  Ever looking for a way to turn a situation to his advantage, Loki makes use of Thor’s undying faith in him as a means for escape; fooling him once again with careful application of the word “brother” (when will Thor stop falling for Loki’s tricks? Never!).

Thankfully, the wormhole he tumbled through leads him not to the Chitauri this time, but to New Mexico ,where he’s found by Jane. Yes, this may sound familiar, but rest assured, Hollywithaneye takes the ‘Loki falls to earth’ trope and owns it brilliantly.

Overall, Hollywithaneye impresses me not just with her handling of Loki’s character, but with her portrayal of everyone whose name she writes. Odin, Heimdall, Thor, Jane, Nick Fury, Tony Stark, Frigga, Skaldi… Yeah, that’s right, I’m giving you hints of what’s to come. She does awesome things here with Loki, Frigga, and an unfinished piece of tapestry, write’s Skaldi as if she’s met her in person, and her portrayal of Tony Stark was is so real I, I can still hear him landing outside Jane’s lab.

She captures Loki’s sarcastic wit, arrogance, vulnerability and all the feels in between, writes Jane so well that I can’t help but like the character (yeah, I’ve had some animosity towards Jane in the past, but good fanfic is turning that tide), and uses her knack for beautiful story-telling to bring it all together with a delicious helping of slow-building UST on the side.

If you’re not sure about the Loki/Jane ship, this is a good fic to get started on. Hollywithaneye does a good job of drawing these two towards each other and she does it at a nice pace; playing on what they have in common (intellect, inner strength, a fondness for travelling the stars – even if only in theory) along with a bit of opposites-attract and underlying chemistry (which they’re both unwilling to acknowledge).

Yes, Loki deceives Jane and she never knows quite whether to trust him, but Jane is also a strong character. One who is equally deceiving Loki by using his knowledge of space time to her advantage.

I should probably stop giving away bits and bobs of the story now, and leave you with this first half a chapter to read over (see bottom of post for link to fic).


To Cleave the Stars by Hollywithaneye – Chapter One Teaser:

Defeat didn’t taste like ashes so much as it did the cloying sweetness of rotten fruit.

Loki had plenty of time to examine the flavor, how the shame and anger sat uneasily in his stomach like too much mead as he was towed along behind Thor, chained and muzzled like some mad cur to be staked outside. It was too much to bear, simply too much, but no matter how he chafed against his restraints they were as immovable as Mjolnir. As Thor said his farewells to the other members of this ragtag group Midgard had assembled, Loki could do little but seethe silently. Seethe…and plan…for as long as there was still breath in his body, he would never cease his search for vindication against Asgard’s shining prince.

At long last Thor turned to him, his blue eyes full of a resigned sadness that looked so out of place on his usually jovial face. “Well, brother. Are you ready to return home at last?” His voice was quiet, the words pressed down by an exhaustion that carved deep lines into Thor’s forehead. There was no question, the fight had demanded much of his brother. It was a small victory, to be sure. But at this point, Loki would take any sort he could find. Unable to reply, he simply narrowed his eyes icily at Thor and lifted his chin – as ready to be on their way as he would get.

Truth be told, he was hardly in any better shape. The past weeks had taken their own toll on Loki, and being half-crushed by Banner’s green mongrel had left his body broken and battered almost beyond his own ability to repair it. Even now, some days later, his skin was mottled with bruises and there were still bones he swore he could hear grinding together in places. As Thor offered him the handle of the Tesseract he had to force his hand not to tremble as he grasped it, force his muscles to curl his battered fingers around the cold metal grip. The cool bite of it against his palm stung, and behind the mask that stifled his magic his mouth turned down bitterly. His last thoughts, before the blue wash of the Tesseract crested over their mirrored hands and Midgard faded from his sight, was to wonder idly which of them was the prodigal son.

The Tesseract deposited them at the tattered end of the broken Bifrost under the ever watchful eye of Heimdall, still standing stoically at his appointed post. His copper eyes slid over the tableau they painted, the brothers still joined by the faintly glowing cube, but if he found anything remarkable about the sight he kept his peace. Loki realized with a start that there was no one besides the three of them present, and he arched one raven brow in question at Thor. Where was Odin? Where was the mob, howling for blood? Rather than a rabble, there was nothing but the silence of the edge of the world and the softly glowing shards of the ruined Bifrost blending into the smudged cosmos behind them.

His mind racing, Loki glanced over at Thor, softening his features into something resembling mournful as he lifted a hand to touch the mask on his face. They both knew it was in place to guard the mortals and it was superfluous here, but whether or not Thor was incensed enough to leave it in place remained to be seen.

“My prince…” Heimdall said in soft warning as Thor lifted a hand to the cool metal that encased his brother’s jaw, and for a moment his arm checked its movement.

Shoulders rounding, Thor blew out a heavy breath before glancing back at Heimdall. “I will not have him go before Father muzzled like some hound, Heimdall,” he said. “Regardless of what he’s done, he is still a prince.” Thor’s fingers touched the mask, a brief flash of light blanching them as the magic holding it in place flared out of existence and it dropped into his palm, an inert hunk of metal.

The breath Loki sucked in was far sweeter than any he’d had on Midgard, and his eyes fluttered shut briefly at the familiar air of Asgard, free from the stench of spent fuel and corruption. It took him a moment to find his voice, rusted with disuse. “Thank you,” he said demurely, packing his rage and his shame into a tight ball that he stowed behind his breastbone so that he could turn a mild face to Thor. “You have always been honorable, Thor. Even to those who do not deserve it.”

Thor watched him quietly a moment, mouth twisting ruefully. “You have always been deserving of honor, Loki. If only you could see that as well as I.”

Loki let his eyes slide away from Thor’s gaze, as if it was too painful to bear, and blinked over one of his armored shoulders. The shimmering ribbon of the Bifrost rolled off into the distance, and he could see the small but recognizable figure of Odin striding authoritatively towards them. “There is no gallows reformation for me, Thor. Save your breath.” He stared out at the endless swath of stars, working a small hitch into his breath. “Only…” he let his voice trail off, as if he lacked the courage to continue.

“Only what?” Thor echoed with a healthy dose of suspicion.

Loki held up his arms beseechingly, the chain running between the manacles clinking softly in the silence, and gestured behind Thor. “There is enough shame on my shoulders, returning here. Do not make me face Father like some petty criminal.”

“Loki…you know I cannot…” Thor began, shaking his head before glancing back to see Odin drawing near.

Loki broke in over the top of his protest. “Please, Thor.” He brought his eyes back up meet Thor’s own, satisfied to see them soften ever so slightly at the entreaty. The chinks in his brother’s armor had always been so obvious, and Loki pressed the daggers of his words right for them, letting his eyes fill with meaningless tears. “If you ever cared for me, do not force me to stand before him in chains.”

“His heart is full of treachery,” Heimdall broke in, and Thor uttered a sharp bark of humorless laughter.

“When has his heart ever been filled with anything else?” he asked Heimdall with an undercurrent of bitterness. “There was a time once though, when it was reserved for those other than myself.”

So close. Loki could see the battle within Thor, his desire to trust Loki once more warring with his sense of duty. It wouldn’t take much, he was sure. A tiny push in the right direction, and Thor would topple…because he wanted so badly to be right. “Thanos’ hold on me is gone, and I am my own free man now. We will stay right here with Heimdall and wait for Father. Place Mjolnir on my foot if it will please you.” Loki placed one hand gingerly on Thor’s forearm and baited his trap. “Please…brother.” The last word was a ragged whisper, as if Loki had had to tear if from the very depths of his soul to utter, and he let one tear spill over.

There was a breathless moment where he doubted Thor would fall, before those cold blue eyes melted and Thor let out a deep sigh. He reached for the heavy manacles and the same frigid flash of light sparked once, twice, as he removed them each in sequence. No sooner had the thick circlets clattered to the ground than Loki had blinked out of existence, reappearing right at the frayed edge of the Bifrost just as Odin drew up beside Thor.

“Fools,” he spat out, the rage unfurling from his chest to bloom in his throat, quaking his voice with its force. “Your trust will be the end of you one day, Thor!” At his back the open expanse of space was restless, wind flapping the edges of his bedraggled cloak. He glanced over his shoulder as Heimdall hefted his sword in his direction and began to advance.

“Loki!” Thor cried and started forward, Mjolnir in hand.

“Hold, both of you,” Odin said softly, a resigned set to his shoulders. “Loki, do not do this.”

“One day you will look back on this, and realize it was the beginning of the end, Thor!” Loki crowed, his voice rising in on a manic note. Rocking back on his heels, he threw himself over the raw edge of the Bifrost to plummet amongst the stars, opening himself to the secret pathways until he snagged on one and was yanked into it, winking out of sight.

“Watch him please,” Odin commanded with a heavy voice, glancing up to meet Heimdall’s questioning eyes once Loki had faded from view. “I have faith in Loki, still. Even if he has none in himself.”

Heimdall nodded slowly, his uncanny gaze boring into Odin’s own. “I mean no discourtesy, but…are you are sure about this? You may have just damned us all.”

Thor snorted, shaking his head as he gathered the scattered restraints. “He may have. Or he may have just saved my brother. I refuse to believe that he is beyond reaching.” He paused, and when he continued, there was a painfully raw thread of hope in his voice. “Tell me, Heimdall…are hate and treachery the only things you see left in his heart?”

“No,” the sentry rumbled quietly, moving to stand beside Thor and Odin as they all stared out at the ever-wheeling stars. “No, they are not.”

Time had no meaning here, in these places between the stars.

As Loki fell through one of the cracks that only he could see, he had no idea where exactly it might take him. He was too weak, too worn thin, too…tired, after everything he’d been through to control much of anything. Realms and planets flashed before his eyes like a kaleidoscopic flipbook, faster and faster until he was dizzy and half-mad with the procession. It occurred to him that Fate was just ironic enough to drop him back in the realm of the Chitauri, and he was still laughing silently with more than an edge of hysteria when the fissure of reality widened and he slipped out.

The ground rushed up to meet him and he fell into its dusty embrace, limbs and cape and rock all tangled together in a shattered jumble. The pain, for one brief moment, was an unbearable wash that shredded nerves from muscle – until the blessedly cool hand of unconsciousness swept over his brow, and the darkness swallowed him.

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In a nutshell: 30-something. Mother of 3. New Zealander. Prone to escapism. Procrastinates over most things yet energised and enthusiastic when hit with alarmingly stupid and random ideas. Hasn't slept since the early-90's.