Roskva looked around in surprise and, after a moment's puzzlement, spotted a bat hanging from a rafter just by one wall. She went over and studied it. Bright eyes, not very focused. Its ears swiveled toward her. "Loki?" The bat spread its wings and gave her a slight upside-down bow: here I am. "I hadn't realized you were back yet." She paused. "Why are you a bat?" Not that he necessarily needed a reason. It was Loki.
The bat gave a rather put-upon sigh. "Because I can't see."
She blinked. "Wouldn't that be the other way around?"
"No. It wouldn't."
"Bats can see," Loki explained, then amended, "Well, normally."
"I didn't know that," said Roskva, intrigued. "I suppose they don't really like hair, either?"
"Well, I do, but it depends on the hair. And that isn't exactly typical." Loki began to expound on the natural behavior of bats. Several minutes later, Roskva knew a good deal more about bats, at least if Loki hadn't made it up, but she was none the wiser as to why he was one now. "Well," Loki said, "any other questions?"
"Yes, actually. Why are you currently a bat, again?"
"I already told you that!"
At this point, Roskva gave up and went to find Sigyn. "Excuse me, but why is your husband a bat?"
Sigyn looked up and frowned. "Is he still? It's almost dinnertime!"
This was if anything less informative, although in Sigyn's case Roskva doubted it was intentional. "Does that make a difference? How long has he been one?"
"Oh, all day," Sigyn said with a sigh. "I was hoping he'd switch back so he could eat something besides insects. I suppose he might yet."
"Are you being confusing on purpose? I really can't tell. Why wouldn't he switch back?"
Sigyn blinked at her, then laughed. "Sorry. No, it's not on purpose. He came in that way. Evidently he annoyed someone badly enough to curse his eyes, and he's declared that until he can see again, he's staying a bat."
"So he can, what'd he call it, echo-locate? I guess that makes sense."
"It certainly makes sense for getting home," said Sigyn.
Roskva paused. "But?"
"But he apparently plans to eat, sleep, and everything else as a bat," Sigyn said in exasperation, "because otherwise people might sneak up on him."
"Um," said Roskva. "Who?"
"Who wouldn't?" Loki's voice replied. Roskva jumped and turned around to see him hanging from the top of the doorway. Evidently he had gotten bored with not being in on the conversation.
Roskva eyed him doubtfully. She suspected the nuances of the expression were not really communicated by echoes. "I wondered if you thought whoever cursed you had followed you home."
Loki's wings spread abruptly. "I certainly hope not."
"Oh, well done, give him ideas," Sigyn muttered.
Loki folded his wings again, with a disgruntled air. "I doubt it, actually. I was listening." His ears rotated. "Anyway, she already got me. I think she's satisfied."
"Then what exactly are you worried about?" Roskva asked.
Loki opened his eyes and directed a rather unfocused glare at her. "Isn't it obvious?"
"No," Roskva said patiently, "that's why I'm asking. You sneak up on people all the time. You and Thialfi both sneak up on me all the time. It's a little annoying, especially when there are centipedes involved, but it's not exactly a disaster."
"You," Loki said direly, "don't make a habit of annoying people."
Roskva considered this for a moment and then said, "Thank you," even though coming from Loki she wasn't sure it was meant as a compliment.
His ears flicked irritably. "The point is, if people are sneaking up on me, they are probably looking for revenge."
"This is the sort of argument I've been having all day," Sigyn explained. "It's not the bat part that bothers me; it's the paranoia."
"My suspicions are not unfounded," Loki grumbled.
"You're home," Roskva said. "I hardly think anyone here is going to do something horrible to you. Or let anyone else come in and do it."
"Hah," said Loki.
"Thor and I haven't gotten anywhere with that argument either," said Sigyn.
"Then I'm certainly not likely to," said Roskva. "I'm going to fix dinner. I'll make enough for you in case you change your mind, Loki. If you want bugs you'll probably do better catching them yourself."
Roskva set about the cooking and, after a little while, began humming to herself and selecting ingredients deliberately for fragrance. Some time into the process, she heard Loki say, "It doesn't smell as good to a bat, you know."
"Oh? That seems like a shame. I'm enjoying it."
He didn't answer immediately. Eventually a shadow flitted across her, and the next time she looked up, the bat was hanging practically over the fire, looking almost made of smoke himself. "This is your version of revenge, isn't it."
Roskva grinned. "Yes, Loki, I'm furious with you about the centipedes and have developed a vicious plan to get back at you by cooking your favorite foods."
"The centipedes were your brother's idea, you know."
"I do know. Unless you visited and gave him the idea when he was four, I suppose." Not that she'd put it past Loki to have done exactly that, but she didn't think Thialfi had really needed the help. "Either way there's not much point getting worked up about it now."
"Is that your strategy?" Loki asked, sounding amused. "Don't get worked up about it?"
She shrugged. "Sometimes. Losing my temper over the little things doesn't help." A snort. "And really losing my temper is more trouble than it's worth. I got forbidden to climb trees probably a few years earlier than otherwise, that way."
Loki flexed his wings in the smoke. "What did you do, push Thialfi out of one?"
"What?" Roskva asked, horrified. "Of course not!"
"What happened, then?"
Roskva cleared her throat. "Ah, well -- when he was eight and I was ten, he cut off my braid."
"Hm. Should I be worried about Sif hearing this story?"
"I have no idea," Roskva said, with as much dignity as was possible under the circumstances. "Although I was awake. He dropped the braid in my lap, and I, um, turned around and headbutted him." And the bat was laughing at her now. "I broke his nose." She snorted. "Which hurt, of course, but it did heal before my hair grew long enough to stay out of my face again. And Mother said I had to stop climbing trees."
"You and Thialfi, thus far, were making perfect sense. I do not follow your mother's reasoning about the trees."
Roskva chuckled. "Oh, she said I needed to start acting more like a grown woman, which meant no squabbling in the dirt with my little brother, and no climbing trees. Although I didn't actually stop until he quit climbing out to places he couldn't get down from."
"Hmm." Smoke drifted into her face. She coughed and tried to wave it away. "How sure are you that he didn't know how to get down?"
"Not at all. And please stop that."
"What makes you think I'm doing it?"
"You could make it stop even if you're not. Please?"
Loki huffed, and the smoke resumed its normal course. "Happy?"
"Yes, thank you."
"You're still trying to lure me to change back for dinner. Or annoy me if I don't."
"I am sure you'll do exactly as you please." Roskva glanced up at him. "Also, yes. Although I thought you said it was less appealing to a bat."
Loki ignored this last point. "Hmph. You think Sigyn hasn't tried that?"
"I think Sigyn has methods I am not going to try," Roskva said, laughing, "but I didn't think this would hurt."
"None of you are taking this seriously," Loki muttered.
"If we thought anybody was actually going to hurt you, we would." Or that he wouldn't get over the blindness, but Sigyn had spoken as if it was explicitly temporary. Or possibly as if she was going to make it that way. "And this may be a silly question, but who all even knows about it?"
"...Heimdall would have seen me come in as a bat."
Roskva thought about that for a moment and, upon failing to answer the question herself, asked, "Why would Heimdall think that was strange?"
There was a long pause. "I can't really think of a reason."
"Ah. Then I won't feel foolish for not coming up with one."
"After all this, I almost feel as if I should go see if Thialfi wants to argue the point too. Everyone else seems to be taking a turn."
Roskva laughed. "Thialfi will just tell you that if it were easy to sneak up on you, it wouldn't be any fun."
"That doesn't stop him with you," Loki said.
"Ouch! No, but you're not his older sister. Pestering me is automatically entertaining."
Loki chuckled. "You're getting better at catching him."
"I'm getting better, but so's he."
"There is that." Loki shrugged his wings. Of course he was teaching him.
"Roskva!" The shout entered the room from close range, followed closely by Thialfi himself, clearly not in any kind of sneaking mood. "There you are. Hi, I'm back. That smells good."
"It's not ready yet, you can't have any!" She swatted his hand with her spoon and stood on tiptoe to kiss his cheek as he cheerfully licked the residue off his knuckles. "How was the trip?"
"It was good. Grid says hello--" He looked up curiously at the bat in the doorway. "Oh, hello, Loki. Grid says hello to you too and to stay out of trouble, although I told her you probably wouldn't listen. Why are you a bat in the middle of the day? I thought that made you sleepy."
"I'm awake," said Loki. "And I felt like being a bat."
"He's been temporarily blinded and being a bat makes up for it." Roskva heard Loki sigh noisily, but it was exaggerated enough that she thought he was mostly pretending to be annoyed. "He says he's making shrieking noises that we can't hear and listening for the echoes."
"That sounds like a good way to get a headache," Thialfi said doubtfully.
Loki shook his head. "Not for a bat."
"Well, if you say so. Are you changing back for dinner, or should I go out and catch you bugs or something? The fireflies are coming out."
"THIALFI!" Sigyn called from what was probably a few rooms away. Her voice had a bit of the piercing quality of a galdr, though not the rhythm. "Don't encourage him!"
"That's not exactly encouraging!" Loki shouted back.
"Why does Sigyn think you need to be discouraged?" Thialfi asked, puzzled.
"She thinks I'm being unreasonable."
"About being a bat?"
Loki sighed. "About not changing back."
"He thinks somebody will attack him while he can't see," Roskva explained.
Thialfi frowned. "Who?"
Loki spread his wings and flapped them. "Why does everyone keep asking that?"
"Well," Thialfi said, "it would help with watching for them."
Loki sighed. "I don't know why you think I can narrow it down that much."
"For some reason I assumed you'd annoyed somebody specific."
"I have, but at various times it's been pretty much everybody."
Thialfi covered his eyes and laughed a little. "Well, yes...."
"So you see my point," Loki said triumphantly.
"Er." Thialfi eyed the bat doubtfully. "You're expecting to be attacked by someone with a grudge, which could be basically anybody?"
"Yes." Loki sounded as if he had his teeth clenched.
"I'm not sure there's anyone in Asgard that mad at you. Anyway, you're in Thor's house."
"We've all tried that one already," Roskva informed him.
"Oh. Well." Thialfi considered this for a moment, then laid a hand over his heart. "If anyone tries to take advantage of your not being able to see to harm you, I promise to try to stop them."
Loki's ears rotated stiffly toward him with a shocked air. "Except Thor, I assume."
"He's not going to."
"Also not likely, and I could at least ask him not to."
Thialfi eyed him. "You're just kidding around now."
"It's not as if you could do much about most people who'd be likely to try it. What if it were Freya?"
"Ask her to stop. She likes me. If that didn't work, Sigyn would probably take over anyway."
Loki's ears twitched. "Freya likes you? How did you manage that?"
"I think," Thialfi said patiently, "it has to do with not going out of my way to exasperate her."
Loki was, nonetheless, still a bat when the rest of them gathered for dinner. Roskva wasn't sure whether it was a good sign or not that he was hanging around the table. (Sometimes, for variety, he would hang from the table.)
"Loki," Thor finally asked, "have you actually done anything?"
Loki gave an exasperated flap from above the table. "Of course. Do I make a habit of doing nothing? That would be boring."
Thor sighed. "But have you actually done anything lately that someone is likely to be seeking revenge for?"
"That they didn't get yet," Thialfi added.
"I don't know."
"How can you not know?" Sif asked, amused.
"I just don't!"
Thor frowned. "Were you very drunk at some point during your journey?"
"I remember what I did," Loki said patiently. "I just don't know how angry anyone is likely to be about it. Or for how long. It's very hard to tell sometimes."
There was a pause. "You're receiving skeptical looks," Roskva said after a moment. (Sigyn was looking somewhere between amused and resigned, but the rest of them looked at least doubtful.) "I thought you should know about it."
Loki swooped down and tugged her braid -- Roskva was mostly past finding it odd that one of the gods persisted in reminding her of her little brother -- before returning to the ceiling. "Yes, that happens a lot."
"Well, you're something of an expert on annoying people," said Thor.
"Of course I am. I can always come up with something I know will annoy someone." Loki heaved a sigh that didn't sound as if it ought to fit in a bat. "I'm less of an expert on identifying what won't annoy them."
"I'd think you would have narrowed it down a bit by now," said Thialfi, bemused.
"Only with people I see regularly."
"And sometimes not even then," Sif said helpfully. Roskva swallowed a giggle.
"What if," Sigyn suggested, "you tell us what you've done this time, and we'll tell you how likely it is that the people you did it to are planning to invade Asgard -- and Bilskirnir -- to attack you."
Loki rotated his ears toward her. "It doesn't sound like you've already made your mind up about that at all."
Sigyn's mouth quirked. "I'm sorry, I'll try to be less sarcastic. We'll estimate how annoyed they're likely to be and tell you?"
"Oh, but you're irresistible when you're sarcastic."
Sigyn looked up consideringly and purred, "Am I?"
Loki's ears perked visibly. "Would I lie to you?"
"Yes," Sigyn said, laughing, "so come here and prove it."
"Vixen," Loki said cheerfully. He made a brief, tumbling flight down, caught her shoulders with his wings, and transformed to lean down and kiss her.
Sigyn made a satisfied noise and caught the back of his neck, then his hand when he finally drew back. "You might as well sit down and eat with us, you know."
Loki sighed melodramatically. "I might. Roskva, your cooking was easier to resist as a bat."
Thor snickered. "All that fuss, and you change back for Sigyn teasing you? Sigyn, I thought you tried that earlier."
"Well, it's Loki," said Sigyn. "Sometimes it's just a matter of waiting for the right whim."
"Hmph." Loki took one hand from her shoulder to check the location of the table and sat carefully beside her, then turned wide eyes on Thor, the effect somewhat altered by his inability to focus. "You really won't let anyone get me?"
Thor's mouth twitched. "Not until you can see again," he said, "and then only if you really deserve it. Now what about those stories?"