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Of Softer Emotions

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Odin Allfather is a terror to behold in his rage. His council flinches before him, the messenger that delivered the terrible news ducking his head and backing away respectfully so as not to catch the god’s unintended wrath.

 

“This slight shall not be ignored,” Odin growls, rising from his grand chair and almost upsetting the table in the process.

 

Static crackles audibly in the air, tensions rising with the physical sensation tingling on their skin.

 

“We should attempt to reason with them,” one of the council men pipes up quickly.

 

It is well known that whoever’s advice the king takes becomes heralded as a hero among the nobles of Asgard.

 

“No,” another man butts in, frowning. “We should use this against the barbarians. Perhaps one of the Ordinat can be leveraged to give us information.”

 

“That’s absurd!” a third exclaims, rolling his eyes. “If the organization has revoked their deal with us, they are our enemies now!”

 

Odin’s eldest, Prince Thor Odinson, rises from the table, a grim scowl on his face. “Send me, Father. My warriors and I can make this right.”

 

A dark chuckle sounds from the other side of the table. The men of the council shudder in their tunics, shooting unfavorable glances at the younger prince.

 

“You find this statement humorous, brother?” Thor questions while Odin glowers with his one good eye at the table top.

 

Loki Odinson laughs again, finally gracing his brother with a cold, green stare. “You think your blundering band of boars can do anything to help this? There are situations that can't be settled with blood, you know.”

 

Loki’s smirk deepens at the reaction this causes in his brother. Thor’s face reddens as his eyes narrow. Loki isn't opposed to violence and blood at all, in fact, but he knows the tongue lashing Thor recently received for his actions in the field is still fresh in his brother’s mind. Fresh enough for a well-placed barb to prick the wound.

 

“Watch your words, Silvertongue,” Thor says from behind his teeth.

 

Once again, Loki’s smirk widens. “Pride wounded, Oh Mighty Thor? Does it hurt worse than the thought of our father’s disapproval?”

 

Thunder echoes in the distance, reacting to Thor’s anger. His mouth and eyes are stretched wide, and his fists clench as he imagines striking the other prince.

 

“Silence!” Odin commands, slamming his fist on the table to stop his sons’ bickering. He turns to the council men, who all rise from their seats immediately. “Leave me with my sons.”

 

The six men bow in almost-unison and scurry from the council room, muttering amongst one another about how their advice is never taken by their king.

 

As soon as the door closes, Thor speaks. “Father –”

 

“Silence,” Odin commands again. His eye flits between the princes, Thor standing and Loki leaning back in his seat. “This behavior is unacceptable. If the two of you are unable to control your tongues in the presence of the council, perhaps neither of you are mature enough to accompany these meetings.”

 

His words cut Thor deeply, while Loki is merely content to sit and watch his father’s rage.

 

“Father –” Thor tries again, but is once more cut off.

 

“Keep yourself free of trouble for the time being,” Odin orders, shifting through maps on the council table. “The both of you are dismissed.”

 

---

 

Thor grumbles as he walks, his four friends following in his wake. Fandral lags behind the group’s strides and Hogun exchanges a glance with Volstagg following a noticeable look at Thor’s back.

 

“Although I agree that the betrayal is cause for a fight, you shouldn't go,” Sif states from the prince’s side.

 

“I know. I will not,” he replies tightly, and then sighs as his pace slows.

 

He's been walking without thought, letting his feet guide him to the edges of Asgard’s mighty kingdom. The outskirts of the city are not a usual place for a prince to grace, and the people notice and whisper.

 

“Let’s go riding, Thor,” Fandral suggests. “It will do you well.”

 

“I agree,” Sif seconds. “To take your mind off things.”

 

Thor pauses a moment, and then with a shrug of his broad shoulders, relents.

 

---

 

It took you forever to suss out where the last Ordinat filth were holed up. You knew they'd be waiting for you, but you hadn't anticipated that they’d be on you the moment you arrived.

 

You turn and slash yet another body, your sword cutting clean through flesh and bone as it always has. The man falls screaming, another replacing him and coming at you.

 

Your strikes and blows come easy, your well-trained muscles reacting on reflex after hundreds and hundreds of battles. Once you've finished with these troops, it'll be simple to scout out what twisted group of people the Ordinat have latched onto. And when you find them, you'll only have one more battle to fight.

 

And then it will finally – truly – be over.

 

You feel for your power, knowing it will expend your energy and deciding it worth it. Darkness streaks from around you, spearing enemies that had you surrounded. Men and women scream, their dying sounds like music to your ears.

 

Oh, how you hate the Ordinat. How you will make the organization pay for all that they took from you.

 

You push your energy at the ground, the dirt shifting as you launch into the air. Blood rains down on the warriors below from the gash in your side, but you've long forgotten that it hurts. You fear nothing, not even death.

 

You would welcome death, but not yet. Not until the last base falls. You've been waiting so long to put your sword through Vitran’s heart, and you're not keen on waiting too much longer. And he knows it.

 

Fire flies from your fingertips down on the tops of heads, lighting them like candles. Once more, wails fill the air as the Ordinat members die. You wonder how many more there are. You wonder when they'll turn from you and run.

 

You feel something prick your neck, but before you can put your hand to the wound an arrow blasts through your shoulder. Enraged, you turn and destroy an entire area of fighters, your power scattering bits of their bodies in different directions.

 

You rip the arrow from your shoulder, blood flowing freely once more, only to feel pain erupt from your stomach. Your fingers fumble on the spear point, the taste of blood bursting in your mouth. The tip of the weapon glows yellow, the energy burning into you.

 

You're no longer thinking clearly. You're back once more, at another time and place, when you thought you were dying. You know better than to lose your head, but you're so close to victory that you can't help but want to finish this quickly. A scream of rage tears from your throat, and without thinking you let loose.

 

You feel more wounds open as you slaughter those around you. A sword buries itself next to the spear as its owner’s head becomes free of his body. Something lodges in your leg, causing your hamstring to snap painfully. You growl, pushing your energy at the ground to remain upright.

 

But you're getting sleepy. You don't know whether it's the loss of blood, or if your energy stores are tapped. There are only a few more, you're sure. You can make it.

 

Another arrow, glowing brightly, strikes your back. You whip around, blasting the woman with darkness. From behind her, at the edges of the bloody battlefield, you see five people mounted on horses.

 

Thor has witnessed the tail end of your fight. He and his friends are struck dumb at the sight, not expecting to find a bloodbath so close to Asgard. The prince recognizes the barbarian garb among the bodies, as well as clothing he's never seen.

 

You are a mess of blood and gore. At least three spears protrude from you, and arrows pepper your back and chest. They've been working hard to bring you down, and even the god of thunder doesn't know how you're still standing.

 

You point at the group, your eyes widening as you see a figure running at them. The prince turns and finds a man to his right, aiming an odd, small weapon towards him. Before the god of thunder can react, what he recognizes as the darkness you command slices the man’s arm at the shoulder. The weapon falls to the ground, something golden whizzing out of it. Sif rides her horse towards the groaning figure, successfully ending the man that had shot at him.

 

The Warriors Three join in the slaughter of the remaining barbarians, Thor in the lead. He smashes apart a man’s skull, and his horse suddenly rears, its ears laying back.

 

“Thor!” Hogun bellows, kicking his horse’s sides in hopes of stopping the oncoming soldier.

 

But you also saw the woman rushing Thor’s horse. You take another slice down your arm to burn her alive before she can reach him.

 

If the Ordinat are after the blond man, then you can't let them get him.

 

At this, the warriors that are left begin shouting to one another. Thor hears his name, although he can't make out the exact words spoken. The few remaining survivors retreat as you suddenly begin to sway on your feet.

 

Your head feels dizzy. Something is wrong. You can no longer project your energy out from your body, and your feet touch dirt. Your bad leg immediately buckles, and you go down. Blood rises in your mouth, but before you can cough it up your world goes black.

 

Thor quickly swings off his horse, his friends calling after him. The prince rushes through the bloodied dirt, attempting to beat two men to your unconscious body. He wields the hammer Mjolnir as easily as you do your sword, and has no trouble caving in the chest of the first man he comes to. The second flees, abandoning all thoughts of triumph and the glory Vitran would bestow upon him for returning with you.

 

Thor crouches over you, his brow furrowed. Your chest rises and falls rapidly, your body fighting to stay alive.

 

“She breathes!” he calls to his friends. “We must get her back.”

 

“You'd bring a monster like this to Asgard?” Hogun questions from his horse, surveying the bodies that surround the field.

 

Thor pulls a gold dart from your neck, the needle long and sharp. He remembers the golden glint he'd seen shooting from the man’s weapon, about the size of this dart. You’d disrupted his aim by taking the man’s arm. You'd saved him. From what, he doesn't know. But you'd saved him.

 

“Yes,” he answers firmly. “Help me.”

 

---

 

The palace infirmary is grand. Golden drapes line the windows in each room, and the white sheets on the beds are crisp and clean. The marble floors are kept spotless by the hardworking palace servants, and they've just finished their day's work.

 

You ruin all of this.

 

Your blood coats the front of Thor’s body as he brings you in, red dripping onto the floor with every step he takes. He’d called out as soon as he’d set foot in the palace: for the nurses, for his mother, for the servants, for anyone. Now, he’s made it to the infirmary with your body, three nurses quickly flooding in behind him. The spears and arrows prevent him from laying you down on those nice, white sheets, so instead he holds you up while the two women and one man exclaim and gasp at the state you're in.

 

“Is she even alive?” one of the women asks.

 

“She breathes,” Thor repeats again.

 

“It'll have to be Queen Frigga,” the man states, wringing his hands. “I don't have the magic for this.”

 

“She's on her way,” Thor tells him gruffly, feeling quite helpless in the current situation.

 

“We’ll have to remove these and staunch the flow,” the other woman states, her face grim. “She’ll bleed out if we don't hurry as we do it.”

 

“One at a time, then,” the other woman agrees, and they set to work.

 

---

 

Loki sits with his mother, quietly leafing through the pages of his novel. Frigga Allmother reads in the chair beside him. She quite enjoys reading, and takes even more pleasure in the pastime when her youngest son accompanies her.

 

They sit, content with their silence, in her lavish quarters. Loki has always been drawn to books and knowledge, so Frigga has made sure to seek out rare and outlandish literature to fill her personal library.

 

There comes a rapid knock at the door, causing both mother and son to look up from their pages.

 

“Queen Frigga! You must come quickly!”

 

It's her personal servant, Gudrun. The woman sounds panicked, as if she's seen something horrid (which she most certainly has). Queen Frigga quickly gets to her feet as she calls for Gudrun to enter.

 

The servant bursts through the door, her round face red and blotchy. “M’lady, I'm so sorry to disturb you. Thor has brought a girl with him, and she's bloodied beyond belief! The nurses say they don't even see how she's alive!”

 

Loki rolls his eyes, closing his book with a snap. “Why does my dear brother feel the need to drag his pets back with him to our halls?”

 

“He claims she saved his life,” the woman answers, although she speaks to Frigga and not her son.

 

Frigga does not take long to make her decision. She’s no idea what situation Thor could’ve gotten himself into, but if you’re important enough for him to bring back to the palace, then you’re important enough for her to attend to. If you truly did assist her son, she’s no qualms about keeping you alive.

 

“Then we shall save her life in return, if possible,” the queen says calmly. “Lead the way, Gudrun.”

 

The two women begin their rushed walk to the infirmary, and Loki sinks back into his comfortable seat. He has no interest in the event, and doesn't wish to be dragged into it.

 

“What befell this girl, that she's in such a state?” Queen Frigga asks her servant.

 

Had the marble halls of the Asgardian palace not carried echoes so loudly, Loki would have missed the answer. However, he clearly hears Gudrun explain that Thor told them you fought at least a hundred barbarians – alone – before being taken down.

 

And although he’s sure Thor is exaggerating, Loki decides you might be worth a glance after all.

 

---

 

The Allmother gasps when she sees you. She can't help it. She's seen many things in her long life, and helped with many injuries, but had she not witnessed the rise and fall of your chest, she would have pronounced you dead at sight.

 

“What is this creature, that she lives through these kinds of wounds?” Loki asks aloud, his sharp gaze taking in the blood-soaked bandages and bedsheets.

 

“M’lady! We cannot stop the blood!” one of the nurses exclaims as Frigga rushes forward, her hands immediately beginning to glow a soft golden color even before she reaches you.

 

“Have respect, Loki,” Thor says from his brother’s side. “She saved me.”

 

“From what?” Loki questions, shooting his brother a condescending look. “You were supposed to stay out of trouble, you know.”

 

Frigga winces as she lays her hands on you, her golden magic spreading throughout your wounds. They are even more gruesome than she'd thought. She can sense what is happening beneath your skin, that something is wrong.

 

“We had barely ventured from Asgard,” Thor defends himself, crossing his arms. “We came upon a battle between her and at least a hundred soldiers.”

 

“You jest,” Loki says, eyeing where you lay torn open on the bed. “Your exaggeration grows tiresome.”

 

“I do not exaggerate,” Thor replies seriously. “You can go and look yourself. She'd made quite a mess, and was just finishing up when we arrived.”

 

“And did you charge in to help this damsel? Did you put yourself in harm’s way? So much so that a simple girl is to save the god of thunder?”

 

The way Loki says ‘god of thunder’ is as if it's a curse, his voice dripping with jealousy disguised as disgust.

 

“No, I had barely helped at all,” Thor tells him, frowning.

 

“Then what?” Loki snaps.

 

Thor pulls from his pocket two golden darts – one from your neck, and the other retrieved by Sif at his request.

 

Loki scoffs at them. “What are these? Surely you weren't mortally afraid of being pricked.”

 

He is, in actuality, intrigued, although insulting his brother always comes easiest.

 

“Poison,” Frigga speaks into the silence, attracting the attention of her two sons. “There is more at work here than these physical wounds. What of these?”

 

She touches your old scars lightly, her fingers barely grazing the raised skin.

 

“They were already there, M’lady,” one of the nurses informs her.

 

“Will she survive, Mother?” Thor asks, stepping forward to stand beside her.

 

“Perhaps, with constant care. Loki, I require your assistance,” Frigga calls without looking up from your bloodied stomach.

 

“With what?” Loki asks, breaking from his thoughts on poisons and golden darts.

 

“She will die if we cannot stop the blood,” Frigga tells him. “You must help, quickly.”

 

The male nurse has kept his healing hands on your shoulder, while the queen focuses her attention on your ruined stomach. Blood bubbles up from between her fingers, and she can already feel herself weakening as she pushes her magic into you.

 

“Why?” Loki asks, raising his dark eyebrows. “This girl is nothing to me, why should I expend myself to keep her alive?”

 

Now Frigga does look over at him, her gray eyes dangerously calm. “She gave us the life of your brother. The poison that wrecks her body would've been his as well. We cannot let her die.”

 

“I'm not my brother,” Loki reasons, waving his hand dismissively. “I don't remember the girl saving me.”

 

Thor now fixes him with a glare that reminds him of Frigga’s. “You would let her die? Is there no nobility in you, brother?”

 

“It's nothing of nobility,” Frigga states, knowing Thor’s statement will just push her youngest further from giving his help. “I am weakening already. Will you not lend a hand to your mother, son? Or do you think yourself incapable of healing?”

 

Now it's a challenge, and from his mother, no less. Loki sees through her ruse (he is the Prince of Trickery) and thinks of just walking from the room. However, he can hear the desperation in his mother’s voice, see it hidden behind her eyes. And unbeknownst to almost the entire kingdom, he would do anything for Frigga.

 

“Make room, then,” he orders, stepping forward as the nurses shift to make space.

 

He knows they are uncomfortable being near him. He can feel the tension he causes everyone but his family, and sometimes even them. A smile twitches at his lips as the nurses appraise him.

 

Let them appraise.

 

Loki summons forth his magic, a light green shimmer coating his hands, and he lays them on you. Only Frigga can tell, from the slight widening of his eyes, that he is shocked by what he feels.

 

Your wounds are deep, and you're bleeding internally. Blood makes your skin slippery, and he has to force himself not to withdraw from you in disgust. He's decided his first statement about you must be correct – you must be a creature or a monster to have survived all of this.

 

He senses the poison, as his mother appropriately named it. Loki turns to Thor, who hovers around the sickbed helplessly.

 

“They wished to poison you? Who were they?”

 

“Barbarians,” Thor answers. “Although the one that shot at me wasn't of them. There was another group of people I didn't recognize in their ranks. It seemed she knew of them. There was hatred in her eyes as she slaughtered.”

 

“I see no weapon,” Frigga speaks up, shifting her hands on your stomach. “Did you leave it on the battlefield?”

 

Thor shakes his head. “She wielded a dark sword, which disappeared once she fell unconscious. This girl has magic. She set her enemies ablaze, hovered above the ground, and brought forth a darkness that she controlled.”

 

Now, Loki is interested.

 

“Darkness?” he asks. “What sort of magic is that?”

 

“I know not,” Thor tells him, shrugging. “You are the sorcerer.”

 

An idea blooms in Loki’s mind. If you have magic he has yet to conquer, he wants it. However, for you to tell him of it (because you could never teach him, of course), you have to be awake. You have to live.

 

And so, he will help you live.

Chapter Text

 

It takes them more than an hour to stop the rivers of blood stemming from your wounds. The Ordinat poison prevents your skin from knitting together, slowing the healing process of your body to almost nothing. Just as you escape the jaws of death, the male nurse falls backwards, almost passing out.

 

“I'm sorry, My Queen,” he pants, sweat dripping from his brow. “I have nothing left.”

 

“It is no fault of yours, Olav,” Frigga tells him kindly, her gray eyes tired.

 

He rests while the other two nurses clean the excess blood from your body. After they have changed your sheets, Frigga instructs the women to settle Olav in his own bed, leaving her in the room with your unconscious body and her two sons. Loki knows his mother has been piecing together your insides, healing the more brutal injuries you'd been dealt. Her strength falters as the sun sets, Frigga’s breath coming in gasps that mirror your own.

 

“Mother, don't tire yourself,” Thor says, breaking his silence.

 

He steps forwards from the back wall, worry in his blue eyes.

 

“I cannot leave her alone,” Frigga insists, forcing herself to push her magic harder and farther than she has in a long time.

 

“She will not be alone,” Loki states nonchalantly. “You've been taking on too much, Mother. I have plenty of magic left to spare.”

 

He is confident. He's recently repaired your hamstring, returning the tendon to the muscle it had sprung from. Frigga has left none of the vital healing to anyone but herself, and while she has surely saved your life, she will soon be spent of magic and energy.

 

The queen looks to her son, trying to see the hidden motives behind his gaze. She knows there is something he hopes to gain from you. The youngest prince does not give without wanting in return.

 

“Should she perish, our work goes to waste,” Frigga tells him, her thoughts scattered from exhaustion. “Please, Loki, put your trickery aside for this girl. There is more here than meets the eye. We need her alive.”

 

Loki bristles, his green eyes flashing in anger. “I would not cause the death of someone we’ve spent hours of time to keep alive. Do you really think so little of me, Mother?”

 

They know he lies, even he knows this, although none will say it aloud. That is exactly something Loki would do. However, they are unaware of his private quest, his curiousness that revolves around the spectacle of you his brother described. He wants the power you have. He is greedy, and will do whatever it takes to meet his ends.

 

Frigga sees this determination in her son, although she does not know its source. The tired queen bows her head and relinquishes her hold on you. Her hands are coated in dry blood, and your wound bubbles slightly once the pressure has been taken from it.

 

Thor catches his mother’s shoulder before she falls, and Loki reluctantly places his hands where the queen’s once were. His magic takes up where Frigga’s stopped, and his eyes widen at the evidence of all his mother has done for you.

 

“I will take over in the morning, if you think yourself capable of staying the night,” Frigga murmurs.

 

Loki turns to her. “You believe staying the whole night is necessary?”

 

“You saw what happened when I released her,” Frigga tells him, a slight edge back in her voice. “I can be back in a few hours if necessary.”

 

“No, no,” Loki amends, shaking his head. “Rest. I swear I will be here when you return upon morning.”

 

It is well known that the Prince of Lie’s vows have little meaning, but this is a vow to his mother. She dips her head in acknowledgment and allows her older son to guide her from the room and back to her chambers.

 

Loki sits in the infirmary, alone with you. He works in silence for a long while, focusing on keeping his magic steady. But soon, without the presence of his mother, bitterness quickly seeps into his thoughts.

 

“Do you know all that I could be doing, was I not instructed with saving your pitiful life?” he questions coldly. He knows you cannot answer, although he likes the sound of his own voice too much to simply sit in silence. “I could be practicing my magic, arcana more suitable to me than petty healing.”

 

Loki grows quiet, feeling warm blood rise under his hands. He applies more pressure and sighs. “I most likely would've been reading, were I not here. You've ruined my novel.”

 

He spends the rest of the night recounting the novel to himself aloud, to both raise his irritation with you as well as keep himself awake. By the time Frigga returns, Loki has lapsed into silence, his hands only slightly glowing green and your blood beginning to seep from your wounds once more.

 

He is frustrated. His mother bests him in many magics, and his disinterest in healing has come back to bite him. He is not enough, and he doesn't take kindly to being second best.

 

“Go and rest, my son,” Frigga tells him, setting her hand on his shoulder. “You have done well.”

 

“Not enough,” he replies, trying harder to staunch the flow from your stomach wounds. “She bleeds again.”

 

“But she's alive, which is all I asked of you,” Frigga says gently.

 

Loki takes his leave of the sickroom, scowling darkly at those he passes. Servants dance out of his path, knowing the kinds of things that happen when the man is in a mood.

 

--- 

 

The younger prince views the bloody battlefield, taking note of the amount of bodies you left behind in your wake. For once, Thor had not been exaggerating.

 

The scents of iron and decay assault his nose. Birds have been at work, stripping the flesh of the dead and revealing stark, white bones. They fly from his presence to circle above, leaving dark feathers behind.

 

Loki walks among the carnage, stepping over bits of bodies as the sun sinks ever lower in the sky. When the moons rise, he’ll need to be back at the palace to take his mother’s place at your side. But for now, he views your destruction.

 

The earth is scarred and burnt, the ground sowed with the blood of your enemies. He feels something close to being impressed, although you could never impress him. He can feel the echo of your power in the area, and the sensation makes him hungry for it.

 

He wonders if he will have to take it from you, or if you will willingly tell him what you are. Either way, he will find out. He reminds himself to request of his brother sight into his memories, to see what this magic you wield looks like.

 

Loki turns to go, satisfied with the truth, and his boot catches on something. Thinking it to be a stray arm, he shakes it off and then looks down. He finds not a body, but a black bag.

 

---

 

“I've got your belongings, monster,” Loki tells you snidely. “I assume them to be yours, at least. It feels like your power.”

 

He’s brought your pack, his magic keeping the bag invisible until he is alone with you. His mother and brother would, of course, disapprove.

 

“I'll be searching them. I wonder what sort of things you've been hiding?”

 

In front of you, he rummages through your belongings, pulling things out one by one.

 

You have clothing inside, although each piece is ragged and torn or covered in crusty blood. His lip curls. “What filth is this? Do you always wear such abhorrent rags?”

 

There are food provisions and a water canister, which Loki eyes with disgust and refuses to touch. More interesting are your trinkets. He is a collector himself, and wonders if there's anything you have he can add to his own stores.

 

However, upon closer inspection, he finds your items worthless. There is a crystal without any magical properties, as if you had just picked it from the ground (you had). He finds a tarnished silver necklace of no value, the pendant hanging uselessly from its chain. A woven hat, devoid of any power. A simple shell, from some foreign sea. Loki shuffles through your baubles, his frustration growing with each object he touches.

 

Where is the magic? This garbage you tote with you has no meaning to him, and without power, he names it useless.

 

He casts your bag aside, frustrated, and something small and black skids across the floor from its mouth. He holds out his hand, the object flying from the floor and into his slender fingers.

 

It is a book. Did you journal, perhaps? Did he think you the type? Curiously, with one hand, he opens the small book to the first page. He feels something tingle beneath his fingertips.

 

There is magic here. But although he can sense it, it doesn't feel like yours. He reads anyway, quickly realizing you are not the only one to write in this book.

 

Someone named ‘Willow’ writes back. The magic within allows for communication between you and this person. He flips the pages, scanning passages as he goes.

 

He finds your list, the one of the Ordinat members. They are all crossed out save one, and the last, he’s surprised, is a name he recognizes. The man had come to the palace in an attempt to strike a deal with his father, Odin. Before Asgard could accept, they found the leader had made the bargain with someone else – their enemies.

 

This man is Vitran.

 

He studies the way you scrawl your sentences. Your words are to the point, your humor dark and dry. He realizes you know this ‘Willow’, that she writes to you about her own travels.

 

And from these writings, he finds your name.

 

---

 

His mother has been healing your internal wounds, but holes still gape wide and red in your skin. Loki’s hands glow a strong green, his magic strengthened from his rest.

 

“You’re quite boring,” he states. “I should just let you die. It would be a mercy, I’d think.”

 

You make no reply, as usual. He starts to talk, telling you how he slept, and that he despised the idea of having to come back to you. He relives walking the field of bodies, calling you a murderess. He tells you that his father will not suffer your presence here once you awaken.

 

Loki’s lip curls after the statement. “My father,” he tells you in disgust, “can be most insufferable.”

 

And now, instead of berating you, Loki begins to vent. You're unconscious, so he feels no need to curb his tongue. He describes his arrogant father, his idiot brother, how he often wonders what his life would be like without the two.

 

“Although I do love them,” he admits begrudgingly, his eyes glaring at your stomach. “In the way that all sons must love their fathers, and all brothers must love one another.”

 

But Loki has always wanted more out of his life. He will not be king – that will fall upon the older prince – so what is left to be his? Perhaps this is why his lust for power is so great. Maybe he thinks he can somehow change the course of what is to be. But for that, he must gather all the magic and knowledge and power he can muster.

 

“And that includes whatever magics you have hidden,” he decides out loud, staring at your wounds. “You'll owe me, if you survive.”

 

---

 

“What is this?” Odin asks his son, waving a paper clenched in his fist. “You say you can explain?”

 

“I can,” Thor replies.

 

Kneeling before the throne, he tells his father everything in grand detail. Thor finishes his tale with the recounting of the healing his brother and mother are doing for you in the infirmary, and Odin cannot help but let out a huff of breath.

 

“Frigga made mention of the foreigner,” the king growls, unclenching his fist from the barbarians’ demand. He reads the message again, and looks down upon his son. “So they lie. This girl is not theirs.”

 

“She is not,” Thor states, rising from the floor to accentuate his point. “They have no right to demand her from us.”

 

Odin crumples the letter once more, disgusted by the words his enemies have thrown at him and his kingdom. He looks again to Thor. “And she saved you, you say?”

 

“Aye, she did.”

 

“And she fought them alone, you say?”

 

“Yes.”

 

An idea is slowly forming in Odin’s mind. But first, he must see for himself. “Show me.”

 

--- 

 

The weeks pass agonizingly slow. Loki finds you boring. Not even your belongings interest him anymore. He wonders why he keeps going back. Why he continues talking at you each night. He can't help but talk. Otherwise, he brings books to read. They float beside him, pages flipping magically as his eyes take in their words.

 

Thor has long since quit the sickroom, his stomach roiling uncomfortably at his helplessness. However, you are getting better. Frigga has worked tirelessly to knit your insides whole once more. Soon, the surface of your skin will piece together as well, the nine willing. Loki finds that the more he works with you, the better his healing becomes. Rather than be proud of you for fighting to stay alive, or be proud of his mother for her magical care, he is proud of himself and his accomplishment.

 

He tells you so, bragging about himself into the silence. You cannot hear him, or you surely would have rolled your eyes.

 

It is the next week that the fever strikes.

 

The nurses fear that even the Allmother’s magic is not enough to save you. She spends the entire day by your side while the women and Olav change the cool washcloth on your forehead. The queen is entirely spent by the time her youngest son saunters through the door.

 

He pauses at the sight of his mother’s exhausted face. Something is wrong.

 

“What has happened?”

 

“A fever,” Frigga replies, fighting to keep her eyes open.

 

“Help her to her room,” Loki orders one of the servants, who hurries to comply.

 

Frigga is too tired to argue, barely able to stay on her feet as she leans on the servant to walk.

 

“Why was I not summoned?” Loki hisses angrily at the three nurses, all of whom look as spent as his mother.

 

“Prince Loki, we –” one of the women begins, but he cuts her off.

 

“Get out!”

 

He does not wish to hear them say they did not think he would come.

 

He sits in his chair by the bed, immediately leaning forward to place his healing hands upon you. Your skin is hot beneath his fingers, a light coating of sweat on your face.

 

Loki does not talk tonight. He does not read. He solely focuses on keeping you alive. Dead, you are nothing to him. If you die, your secrets die with you. And he cannot have that.

 

It is deep into the night when you stir. He has never focused solely on your face, preferring you a mindless body to a living person, but he has no choice when he feels you move. Your eyes open, heavy with fever. They are like the steel of a sword just polished.

 

He leans closer, to ask you questions, to see if you display your magic, but before he can speak, your voice grates across your lips.

 

You speak a name he does not recognize. In your tone, there is wonder. He can hear it, and it makes him pause.

 

“You're alive,” you say, and kiss him.

 

Your lips are feverish on his, and there is a deep need in your action.

 

Loki jerks away, his mouth hanging open slightly. Your brow crinkles as you search his face, the recognition slowly leaving your features.

 

“You're not…. Your eyes are wrong,” you tell him, and then slip into darkness again.

 

It takes a lot to stun the Prince of Wickedness. He does not know who you thought he was in your fever dream, but he had not been expecting any of that. He touches a hand to his lips, disgust slowly spreading across his features. How dare you? He is a prince! Who are you to lay your lips upon his without consent?

 

Your voice echoes in his mind all night as his magic works to repair your body. You do not wake again, and when Frigga comes for him in the morning, he tells her nothing of what occurred.

Chapter Text

Loki, Prince of Lies, has decided that he hates you. The fact that you take up his nights infuriates him. The idea of your lips on his makes him scowl. He wishes for you to wake, solely so he can tell you how much he hates you.

 

You do not wake. Now the only book he brings to your sickbed at night is your journal. He scours the pages, reading every word, telling himself he is searching for more reasons to despise you.

 

These writings are not a complete catalogue of your adventures, but merely snippets. They tell him tales of other worlds beyond the nine realms, that he did not know existed. They speak vaguely of wars and loss. There is pain hidden here. He relishes in your misery, finding an odd form of comfort in it. You are as alone as he is.

 

He imagines what will happen when you wake, based on your writings. You seem cold, and harsh. You will probably demand to know who he is, and what he’s doing here (for he’s always the one present when you wake).  And he will laugh in your face, and tell you that you have been a burden on him. That you owe him, and paying a debt to a god is never an easy task. He imagines your eyes narrowing, glaring at him, although there is a certain fear behind them. He waits for this.

 

Yet still, you do not wake. The nights pass, each one as uneventful as the last. He’s read your journal three times, and cares not for its contents anymore. Frigga tells him one evening that you’ve finally reached stable condition, that your wounds are no longer gaping, but scarred over. Your body will heal naturally from here, without the need of magic.

 

And still he waits. Loki is stubborn, infuriatingly so. He continues his nightly vigils by your bedside, sitting sideways in his chair as he reads a new novel.

 

There was no mention of the name you called him in your writings. He’d been searching for it, hoping to torture you with it when you woke up. It had to be the name of someone long dead. He glares over at you, hoping the memories sting.

 

Days pass. Loki has already started a new book. You’ve begun quietly muttering in your sleep, and at every noise he thinks you will startle awake. He’s disappointed each time.

 

It’s during the next couple of nights that he realizes he is studying your face. Even in your sleep, he can see the killer that hides beneath your eyelids. Your face is hard, your mouth turned down into a natural frown. He wonders if you are ever happy, and guesses that you are not.

 

He is reading in the early hours of the morning when Olav enters the room. The man gives the prince a look from the corner of his eye.

 

“No changes,” Loki mutters darkly from behind the pages of his book.

 

Olav wants to tell the wretched prince that he didn’t ask for an update, but he smartly keeps his mouth shut. The nurse leans over you and places a hand on your forehead. His magic tells him that your body temperature is normal, although dregs of the poison still sit heavy in your veins. Frigga had told them she guessed your body would have to work that out on its own.

 

Olav puts his hand on your wrist to check your pulse.

 

---

 

You haven’t been dreaming, which for you, has been a respite. You always have nightmares, always mutter about them in your sleep. You can feel yourself slowly come back to consciousness, as if from a pool of molasses. Sleep wants you. It’s had you for a long time, and it isn’t quite ready to give you up. You can hear a voice in the distance, as if from the end of a tunnel.

 

And then someone is touching you.

 

The alarm is what shakes you from your rest, makes you pull away from the viscous darkness. You erupt back into the world of sight and sound with a gasp, feeling a hand on yours.

 

Your right hand shoots across your body, your teeth clenching at the pain this causes, to wrap around the man’s wrist. He shouts – your grip isn’t strong, but you’ve surprised him. He breaks away, backing up with wide eyes.

 

“Get the hell away from me!” you exclaim, your voice hoarse from lack of use. There is fire in your eyes as you glare at the two men in the room with you.

 

“I’m to alert Thor,” Olav tells Loki, who has stood up from his chair in wicked delight. “He said we were to tell him at once.”

 

“Leave us,” Loki instructs.

 

You try to get up from the bed, but your body isn’t responding to you as it normally does. Your limbs feel heavy and sluggish, your head pounds. You can barely swing your feet around before you nearly collapse back onto your pillow. The taste of blood is in your mouth, and you feel as if you’ll be sick.

 

“Hold still, fool! You’ll bleed more buckets, and they’ll blame me.”

 

The man in front of you is tall. You thought you knew what tall was, but now you realize you were mistaken. You affix him with a glare, noticing the wicked light dancing in his green eyes.

 

“What did you do to me?” you hiss as your fingers tighten in the sheets.

 

This makes him angry. “I? I saved your life, mongrel! You should be thanking me! Were it not for myself and my mother, you would be dead.”

 

“You should’ve let me die then,” you growl, struggling again to stand up.

 

Your breath hitches in pain as you realize you can’t walk. You practically topple out of bed, the man in front of you catching you before you hit the ground.

 

“Let go of me!” you shout, pushing against him as he rights you.

 

“Pipe down, you insufferable fool! And stay in bed, or are you stupid enough to try again?”

 

This is when you decide to fight him. You’ve always had a temper, and having just woken from your sleep you don’t have the reason to control it. However, as you attempt to summon your sword, a wave of nausea hits you so strongly that you lean over and retch.

 

“In the bucket!” the man exclaims, swiftly nabbing the waste bin and handing it to you.

 

Congealed blood hits the bottom of the bin with a sickening noise, one that makes even Loki’s stomach turn. You lean up and wipe your mouth, blood smearing on your arm and lips.

 

“What happened to me?” you ask, groaning and holding your stomach.

 

Your retching has caused blood to leach from your wounds once more, and you look down at your injuries in surprise. You never take this long to heal, and if the man was correct in saying that there were others that had saved you, the Ordinat must have done a number on you.

 

“What am I wearing?” you ask before the man can answer you.

 

The nurses dressed you in a white robe in order to have access to your injuries. Your chest and groin are covered, although the underclothes are not yours. “Where are my clothes?”

 

Your inflection of the common language gives you away as a foreigner, although based on your journal, Loki already knew this. However, the tilt of your words still sounds odd to his ears.

 

“All your clothing was nothing more than bloody rags,” he states dismissively. “We got rid of them.”

 

“Who are you?” you ask him.

 

Finally. This is the question he’s been waiting for. You’ve so far not complied to his imagined scenario of your waking, and it’s been vexing him to no end. He’s ready to see the fear in your eyes when you realize just who you’ve been so curt with.

 

“I am Loki Odinson, Prince of Asgard.”

 

The effect is not as he’d hoped. There is no flicker of recognition in your steely eyes, no sign of subjugation. Instead your brow furrows in confusion and then anger, your eyes rolling to the ceiling and then back to his.

 

“Great. A prince. God, what next?”

 

Loki is once more stunned. He wonders if anyone will notice if he strikes you dead.

 

“She wakes?!” Thor thunders, bursting into the room with such force that the door slams against the marble wall and almost breaks.

 

Loki knows what will happen next. Those steely eyes will soften after one look at his brother. You will recognize him – you saved him, after all – and will undoubtedly befriend him immediately, as brutes and boars often make great companions.

 

Women love Thor Odinson.

 

You do not. You recognize the blond man, jolting your memory of the battle. Now that he is closer, you realize he is also a giant before you. His voice is still ringing in your ears, and he bounds over to you in excitement. He is too much, and you glare at him as well.

 

“Stay back!” you shout angrily, teeth bared.

 

Thor stops in his tracks, his mouth slightly ajar. Loki thinks he looks foolish, and would laugh if anger wasn’t still lingering in his mind.

 

“Madam, I apologize,” Thor says in his deep voice, inclining his head to you. “I am Thor Odinson, Prince of Asgard. You saved my life.”

 

“I remember you,” you tell him, your glare remaining. “The Ordinat tried to shoot you.”

 

That was the Ordinat?” Thor questions.

 

Loki stays silent. He already knows it was the foreign organization at your battle, due to your journal. He feels smug in his knowledge, always enjoying being the smartest person in the room.

 

“Yes, it was,” you answer Thor.

 

“May I have your name?” Thor asks.

 

Before you can speak, both the king and queen enter the infirmary.

 

Thor and Loki respectfully bow to their parents. You do not. Your distrustful gaze passes over everyone in the room. You are the smallest; even Frigga would tower over you were you standing. You feel weak, and you hate it. You are not a person used to being at the mercy of others.

 

“Thor is right. We would like to know your name,” Frigga tells you, the softness in her voice meant to put you at ease.

 

You survey the Allmother. She wears a beautiful silver dress that matches her soft gray eyes, and her blonde hair falls in waves around her face. You cannot help but take to her, though you keep your guard up. Her husband, the king, stands behind her. He is a silent force, his hair and beard white from age, with an eyepatch over his right eye. His left stares straight at you, as blue as Thor’s.

 

You give them your name, your tone cold and unwelcoming.

 

Frigga makes up for all of your edge, gracefully walking up to you. You tense as she nears, but you don’t order her away as you did her sons. “I am Frigga Allmother, Queen of Asgard,” she says to you, her tone soothing. “My husband is Odin Allfather, King of Asgard. My son and I, with the help of the nurses, took care of you while you were ill.”

 

“And why was I ill?” you ask, steel still in your eyes.

 

Frigga can see the hostility in your gaze. She can tell you are not a woman that trusts without reason. As Loki took note of, the queen also realizes you are foreign from your speech, and she pardons your uncouth ways for now.

 

“You fought barbarians, and what I believe to be the Ordinat,” Odin states from near the door.

 

He has never taken to sickrooms, leaving those duties to his wife. He wants warriors on their feet with spears in their hands, not bedridden. Odin can see the care Frigga has for you, as she is prone to feel for those she heals. He did not see the extent of your wounds, and doesn’t want to. He is used to war, but the smell of blood in the air reminds him that his warriors are flesh.

 

“The Ordinat,” you agree, when a thought strikes you. Your hand flies to your neck. Your body’s reactions make sense, and you feel blood leave your face. “They finished their poison, then? Wow, I’m such an idiot.”

 

Loki silently agrees, smirking from his position on the back wall. He notes the blood streaked across your mouth and watches as his mother reaches out to wipe it clean. He sees you flinch away, Frigga immediately withdrawing her hand.

 

“You’ve blood on your mouth,” she says quietly to you, and you wipe at it the best you can.

 

“How long before I’m better?” you ask, flexing the muscles in your hands.

 

Frigga shakes her head. “We don’t know.”

 

“What does this poison do?” Odin questions, his voice rumbling deeply in his chest.

 

You grimace. “It makes you sick when you try to use your powers, makes you weak, makes you normal. It also makes it easy to kidnap people.”

 

They’ve crafted a serum to render us mortal, Odin realizes with a strong sense of unease.

 

“Why would these people want to kidnap our son?” Frigga asks, a sudden chill in her voice.

 

You look over at Thor, who is watching intently. “You got powers or abilities?” you ask him.

 

“Yes,” he replies, surprised that you didn’t know that.

 

“Well, there you go,” you tell the family, shrugging. “The Ordinat siphon power from others. They use it to craft new weapons and make new warriors. If they recognized you, and knew you had abilities, it would make sense that they’d try to take you.”

 

Frigga’s heart is in her throat, imagining Thor being snatched away while he is as weak as you’ve been these past weeks.

 

“If you didn’t know who I was, why did you stop them?” Thor asks you, thoroughly confused by this turn of events.

 

You narrow your eyes at him, and then look away to glare at the golden curtains of the room. “I’m going to kill every last one of them. Each power they gain only makes it harder. If they’re after someone, I’ve got to stop them before they have a chance to steal the power away.”

 

Loki wants to laugh. Oh, how he wants to laugh, his chest feeling as if it’s going to burst. Thor figured you had saved him because of who he was, and yet you were just doing it for your own means!

 

“They have taken base with our enemies,” Odin informs you. “When you are well, am I to understand you’ll set upon the Ordinat, along with their host?”

 

You glare at the Allfather. “Yes.”

 

Odin thinks on this, watching you carefully. He does not trust you. “You’ll be allowed to recover in the barracks with the other soldiers.”

 

Frigga whirls around towards her husband. “No.”

 

Odin pauses, his white mustache quivering. “What?”

 

“The barracks are no place for a lady.”

 

“This murderess is no lady, Mother,” Loki states, noting with satisfaction that the label makes your eyes snap to his. “You’ve not seen the extent of her butchery. A monster like this belongs in the barracks.”

 

Although you hate Loki’s wicked smile, you can’t help but agree with him. He knows you do from the way your eyes dart away from his, how your hands clench into fists.

 

“No,” Frigga says again, her mouth pressed into a thin line.

 

“Where are we to put her?” Odin asks gruffly, staring down his wife.

 

“We have plenty of rooms available. She should stay within our walls. Look at her, husband! She is yet to fully heal. You would put her out in the barracks, full of strangers she doesn’t know? And who’s to stop these poisoners from coming in the dead of night to snatch their prize?”

 

Both of the princes watch in fascination as their father and mother have a silent battle of wills.

 

Frigga wins. Odin heaves a heavy sigh. “Very well. When she is well enough to leave the infirmary, she may stay within palace walls.”

 

Before you can protest, Odin turns and walks from the room, leaving his family behind with you.

 

“I don’t need rooms, or whatever,” you state, staring at Frigga.

 

“Nonsense,” the queen replies, absentmindedly smoothing your covers. “Now, where is your family? They will be happy to know that you have recovered.”

 

You laugh without humor, reminding Thor too much of his brother. You are not at all who he expected his rescuer to be. He does not regret saving your life, but he had thought upon awakening you’d make things less – not more – complicated.

 

And that laugh. It rings in Loki’s mind. He knows that laugh too well.

 

“I don’t have a family,” you tell Frigga, no trace of longing or pain in your voice. Those feelings have long since vanished from you on this subject. “No one to tell.” This stops your thoughts, as you realize that’s a lie. There will be at least one person who wants to know you’re alright. “Do you have my bag?”

 

Thor and Frigga stare at you in confusion. “I only brought you back. You had no bag on you,” Thor explains.

 

“You can’t mean this?” Loki states, producing your bag and letting it dangle from his fingers.

 

Your eyes light up in recognition, and you glare at him yet again. “That’s mine.”

 

Frigga is unamused by her son’s antics. “Return her possessions, Loki.”

 

He shrugs, casually walking forwards and placing your pack beside the bedside table. “There you are.”

 

You do not miss the smirk he throws your way. You know he’s been in your belongings, and if you weren’t bedridden, you would’ve assaulted him.

 

“I must go,” Frigga says, smoothing your covers again. “You may call upon the nurses, or even myself if you have true need. I thank you for what you did.”

 

She inclines her head to you, and turns to leave the room.

 

“Thanks, for keeping me alive,” you tell the back of her head, and she looks at you over her shoulder and smiles before leaving.

 

You glance between the two brothers, wishing you could will them away. Thor picks up on the fact that you want to be alone. He approaches your bedside, inclining his head to you as his mother did.

 

“Thank you, my lady, for saving my life,” he tells you gravely.

 

You’re uncomfortable with all of these pleasantries. “Don’t, uh, call me ‘lady’. And, yeah, well, thanks for not letting the Ordinat take me. So, we’re even.”

 

Thor’s mind trips over the way you word your sentences, but eventually he understands your meaning. The debt is repaid. He gives you a grin, and turns to go, his parting words following him. “I hope to see you on your feet soon!”

 

You roll your eyes, and then your gaze snaps to the remaining person in your room. He regards you coolly, and instead of walking out, takes a seat. He rests across his chair as he had when you were unconscious. His legs dangle over the seat’s armrest, and you realize with a snarl that this prince has no intention of leaving anytime soon.

 

You can't decide whether to ignore him or yell at him. This man is a stranger to you, although the malice in his eyes is very familiar.

 

The silence stretches on until you can't take it anymore. “What do you want?”

 

Loki smirks. He's won this little game. And he loves to win. “You've thanked both my mother and brother, and have yet to thank me. So, I'll wait until you do.”

 

“Yeah? Well, the other two weren't assholes to me from the get-go. So as far as I'm concerned, you can shove any idea of me thanking you up your ass.”

 

He tuts at you, shaking his head and picking up his book. “Such language.”

 

“Fuck you.”

 

You turn away from him, perfectly content with ignoring his presence.

 

Loki, as a prince, is not used to being spoken to in such a way as this. You do not know to fear him or his magic, and he sees this as an awful underestimation of his character.

 

But he’ll bide his time, happily intending to wait you out. He's a stubborn bastard, after all.

 

It's only after you've fallen asleep that he realizes he forgot to ask about your magic.

Chapter Text

Loki looks at you over the pages of his book when you begin to mutter in your sleep. He is tired as well – he was up all night, after all – but he can't make his mind quiet after all of the excitement.

 

Without the coma keeping a hold of your body, you are much more mobile. He watches your lips move as you form words, flecks of blood still present around them. He cannot quite make out what you're saying, and he tells himself it doesn't matter anyway.

 

He's angry that he forgot his purpose for keeping you alive. He thinks about waking you, demanding the answers you were supposed to grace him with when you first woke and realized who he was.

 

This is not how things were supposed to have happened.

 

---

 

When you wake, you find yourself facing the prince, who has fallen asleep strewn across his chair. You roll your eyes and glare at his resting form. Of course the bastard would still be here.

 

You decide to go for your journal while he sleeps, hoping your comrade, Willow, hasn't decided to come trooping across the universe looking for you. However, as you stretch out your arm, you realize Loki has placed your bag just out of reach.

 

He knew what he was doing. That must be why he looked at you as he placed it. You have no idea why the asshole wants to waste his time torturing you, but you're starting to accept it.

 

You test your energy, cautiously attempting to pull the bag towards you with it. Instead, a heavy wave of nausea strikes you, and you double over as you dry-heave.

 

At the same time that Loki wakes, a nurse walks in with food for you.

 

---

 

“Go away,” you say hours later, unable to take his presence a second longer.

 

“No,” the prince replies, casually flipping a page in his book without looking at you.

 

“Don't you have, like, princely duties or something else to do?” you ask, exasperated.

 

“You must mistake me for my brother,” he says back, once again not looking up from his novel.

 

You notice the slight change in his voice as he speaks, and you grin at him. “So, you're the baby prince, then, huh? Wanted to be king, but got stuck with a big, brash older brother.”

 

Now he looks at you, with ice in his gaze. “Silence.”

 

“Ha! You can dish it, but you can't take it,” you jeer, smirking at him.

 

He does not outwardly puzzle over the phrase as Thor would have. Understanding has always come quick to Loki, and although he knows his brother isn't stupid, the god of thunder can't hold a candle to his intellect.

 

Even so, by the time the prince figures out what you mean, you've already moved on to other matters. “Look, just go bother someone else. Thank you for keeping me alive, alright? Just go.”

 

His eyes snap to yours, and he assesses your tone. There's something you want, something you need to do, that you must be alone for. And he thinks he knows what it is. The journal.

 

“What's so urgent, warrior?” he asks, making the word sound like something distasteful. “Is it perhaps this?”

 

He magics an illusory image of your black notebook, holding it betwixt his long fingers.  He even puts it within your reach, tempting you to take it from him. Instantly, you're all fire again.

 

“How dare you?!” you shriek, your hand stretching out to swipe it back from Loki, Prince of Trickery.

 

But your hand passes through the little black book, your fingers cutting the illusion and dispelling it.

 

He cackles, pleased that you fell for his trick so easily. You sink back on your pillows with a hiss of pain, holding your stomach as you glare at him.

 

“Magic,” you say, the distaste clear in your tone. “And cheap magic, at that.”

 

“Cheap, you say?” he asks, his voice holding a threat. “I beg to differ. You call the most powerful sorcerer in Asgard cheap?”

 

You laugh at him. “I don't give a shit about your magic tricks.”

 

Tricks?” Loki asks, his jaws clenching in his anger. “And what do you call what you can do, then?”

 

“Power,” you tell him levelly, giving him a grin so wicked that he is sure he’ll think about it much, much later.

 

He gives you a once over, in your bedridden state, and sneers. “I see no power here.”

 

And with his last barb delivered, he leaves the room.

 

---

 

Loki doesn't come back that night, and you fall asleep peacefully. You dream that you're trapped in darkness. It holds your limbs in place, and no matter how hard you thrash, your body does not react as it should. You're slow, uncoordinated, and are sure to be eaten alive.

 

When you wake up, you're shaking and bleeding. You've ripped open one of your wounds, and you let out a growl in frustration. This isn't the way you're used to living, and you hate it. You're tired of the weakness. You remember the way Loki sneers at you, calls you powerless. He isn't wrong. Not yet.

 

But he will be.

 

You practice every day. You flex your arms and legs. You attempt to use your powers until you throw up (the nurses start keeping the trash bin by your bed after a few times of this happening). You tire easily, but you're determined.

 

Olav has long since given your bag to you, and you've written to your friend to let her know that you are alive. The idea of Loki searching through your things makes your lip curl, although you know there's nothing you can do about it. Besides, you have to focus.

 

You have to kill Vitran. With him dead, it will all be over. Your past can be left behind you, and you can be done with your mad quest for vengeance.

 

On the fifth day, Loki walks into your room.

 

He'd kept himself busy with meetings and palace budgets and talks with his mother and brother. And yet he remembers that he's not yet gotten what he wants from you. Surely that's why you're still on his mind. Why he sees your wicked grin behind his eyes, and why he still has hatred for you in his heart.

 

You groan as soon as you see him, and turn away.

 

“You should learn how to properly greet a prince,” Loki chides you. “Those below us are to bow, and are not to rise until we acknowledge them.”

 

“What do you want?” you grumble, already feeling your frustration building.

 

Loki takes his seat by your bedside once more, throwing his legs over the armrest before looking over at you. “I want to know how you got your abilities.”

 

You stare at him. “What?”

 

“You heard me.”

 

“What do you mean how I got them? How did you get yours?” you ask, your brows coming together in confusion.

 

He notes the crease they make, the way you narrow your eyes as you wait on his answer.

 

“I practiced and sought out knowledge, once I found I had the talent for it,” he answers truthfully.

 

“Okay, but you have to be born with the talent, right?” you press.

 

He frowns, seeing where this is leading. “So, I've saved you for nothing, it seems. You were simply born with these gifts.”

 

“Gifts,” you say slowly, a dark chuckle leaving your throat. “That's funny.”

 

Loki wills himself to get up from his seat. There's nothing left for him here. He's found out what he wanted to know. But something in him still yearns for your power, and he’s sure he can find a way to obtain it.

 

He also isn't furious at the revelation, as he thought he'd be. His interest in you keeps him in his seat (as foreigners are often interesting, he tells himself). He gives you a level look and asks, “Why?”

 

You shoot him a glare, trying to see what he's getting at. Instead, you find his green eyes openly curious.

 

“You know how you helped heal me? Supposedly,” you add before he gets too cocky.

 

Loki gives you his best, winning smile. “Yes,” he draws out.

 

You roll your eyes, looking away in frustration. “That's a ‘gift’. I can't do that. Everything I have is more… offensive. Not defensive.”

 

He takes this information in, stores it away with the other facts he's gathered about you. “And you see this as a curse?”

 

“I'm assuming you can fight,” you tell him, wondering why you're bothering with making him understand. “Say your buddy gets blasted with magic, or stabbed, or something. You can heal him right up, and then just keep on fighting. I can’t do that,” you finish, shrugging.

 

“Neither can I,” he tells you.

 

You look at him curiously.

 

“I have no ‘buddy’. Unless you count my boarish brother.”

 

And you laugh. He is surprised you're not laughing at him, but rather at his words. “He is kind of a boar, isn't he?”

 

This time, when Loki smiles at you, it's a real smile. For just a moment.

 

---

 

Frigga asks him where he's been. Loki shrugs, feigning disinterest.

 

“I went to ask the murderess questions.”

 

“Why do you insist on calling her that?” Frigga asks, looking up from the ledger she's been pouring over for the past hour.

 

Loki has a retort ready, on the tip of his tongue, and instead takes his seat and replies with, “I don't know. And I don't care. What is our budget for the upcoming festivities?”

 

Frigga answers, although she eyes her son carefully as he glances over the numbers and notes she's drawn up.

 

“How is the girl?” she questions.

 

Loki shrugs. “Infuriating. Wish I hadn't gone to talk, if I'm being honest.”

 

Frigga changes the topic, having gotten all of the information on the situation from his statement.

 

Only a mother can discern the truth from the Prince of Lies.

 

---

 

Your irritation grows ever stronger when Loki remains your only visitor for days on end. He needles you with insults, hitting ever so lightly on the things that you hide deep. He acts as if he knows you, and his arrogance makes you hate him even more.

 

For every sharp word he has for you, you find something to retort with. You have your own way of discovering his insecurities, something that deeply unsettles the prince.

 

It's hard to hide from you. You have experience in catching even the slightest facial expressions, and he wonders how you developed this skill.

 

Your nurses have filled you in on the younger prince’s monikers, none of them kind. Liesmith, Silvertongue, the trickster god, the Prince of Wickedness. He truly has made a name and reputation for himself.

 

You just call him Loki. You can tell it irritates him; he secretly likes these titles. You never call him “prince” unless it's in a scathing tone. You diminish him to nothing more than a commoner, and he absolutely despises it.

 

And when you shorten his name even more, to “Loke”, he doesn't come to see you for two days.

 

Angering the prince serves to be your entertainment, and (although you'd never admit it, not even to yourself) you look forward to his visits. He brings witty conversation, casual hostility, and more importantly, interest. You despise being bored. And trapped in this room, your weak legs barely able to hold you up (let alone take more than a few steps) you are nothing but.

 

You have no idea that this is the very reason the Prince of Mischief continues to visit you. Boredom is his ever-present enemy, and you have unwittingly vanquished it.

 

---

 

Olav is tired. He's tired of caring for you, and it makes him snippy. The man is aware that you're just as irritated by your recovery speed as he is, but that doesn't stop him from resenting you. And with Loki ever-present, Olav soon only comes to your room to bring you food.

 

So the night your dreams inadvertently make you rip the thin flesh covering your wounds, no one checks on you.

 

You awaken to your blood flowing freely, soaking your clean robe and white bedsheets. You stumble out of bed to your feet, still half asleep but knowing you need help, and fall to the cold floor.

 

This is how the prince finds you. He's brought a book with him today. He's sure the title will intrigue you, and when you ask about it, he’ll tell you nothing. Childish, but amusing. Loki loves seeing the result of his mischief light a fire in your eyes. You are weak in body, but make up for that with your mind.

 

Sometimes, it's as if you're two different people. One is cold, harsh, and uncaring. The other is fiery, full of emotion, and as silvertongued as he is.

 

Today you're neither.

 

He drops his book, your blood making a stark contrast to the white of the room. But the Prince of Lies does not care about a lowly foreigner, of course, so he takes his time walking to you. He does hate you, as it is.

 

You hear his footsteps approach and groan in pain. He finally bends down and lifts your upper body from the floor.

 

“Good ol’ Loke to the rescue,” you state weakly, your whole body shaking with the effort to keep your head up.

 

“Call me that again, and I shall leave you to die in your disgusting puddle of blood,” he answers, his green eyes burning.

 

“I hate myself,” you tell him as your arms shake. “I hate this. When is it over?”

 

He pulls open your bloodied robe once you're laying on the bed again. The prince channels his magic to his hands, the green glow causing your eyes to open.

 

“Don't touch me,” you say to him, a weak scowl darkening your features as you glare.

 

“Silence, fool,” he orders, placing his hands upon you and watching your skin slowly begin to heal over once more.

 

There is hate in your eyes when he looks at you. He knows you hate him. He knows it's because he has power when you do not. Because you feel helpless while he is strong. Because you despise his company, but if not for him, you'd have no one to talk to. And also because he’s an insufferable, sharp-tongued bastard. He knows all of this.

 

And he lets you keep hating him. He lists his reasons for hating you in his mind as you both glare at one another, your skin almost repaired underneath his fingertips.

 

---

 

Olav is walking down the hall alone when the prince finds him. He gasps in surprise as his body slams violently into the wall, a forearm suddenly across his windpipe. Loki pushes him up, so that their faces are level with one another. Olav’s feet dangle helplessly, and he grips the prince’s arm in a futile effort to free himself.

 

“Clean her room of the blood. Fetch her new robes. And if this happens again, you won't have to worry about your nursing duties at all. Although it's obvious you already don't.”

 

Loki removes his forearm from Olav’s throat and walks away, leaving the sputtering and gasping man with the thoughts of the death threat lingering in his ears.

 

---

 

Hey, Willow. I'm alive. Will be down and out for a bit, but I'm okay. Don't come looking for me.

 

***

 

Hey! Good to know that you're alive! What kind of down and out are you? Are you getting healing?

 

***

 

Yes.

 

***

 

Okay, heal up. Let me know your progress.

Chapter Text

The palace grounds are beautiful, as is all of Asgard. Tall hedges have been magically crafted into shapes and creatures of all sorts, gorgeous flowers bloom along the sidewalks and pathways, and the palace groundskeepers see that the grass is always a dark, beautiful green. There are several fountains around the palace, the water within shimmering almost golden under the sun’s brilliant light.

 

You can see some of this from your window, on your good days, when you have the strength to make it to the cushioned sill.

 

You cannot, however, see beyond the wall that surrounds the palace. That is where the market lies, where the city’s people walk the paved streets. The nobles live closest to the palace, their houses grand and ornate. They are the ones who have the privilege to frequent the palace grounds if they so wish, to sup near those grand doors. They only enter the building, however, with permission or cause (such as the evening feasts); but the grounds are theirs.

 

The commoners dwell farther from the palace wall. These are the people the nobles sneer at in the marketplace, for while the nobles get the grounds, both must still buy bread.

 

Today, Prince Thor and his friends walk the streets of Asgard, happily talking amongst one another. People call out to the prince, greeting him as he passes. Thor is well loved among the Asgardians. He is their protector, their victor in battle – he keeps them safe. He walks among them, as if he is but a commoner himself.

 

The women call to him especially, living out imagined scenarios of grandeur silently in their minds. What woman wouldn’t dream of being behind palace walls, of living out her days in comfort and glory, worshipped by those around her?

 

There was a time when Thor would have spared a wink rather than a wave to some of these women. But he is caught up in conversation with Sif, who is always more than pleased to have captured the prince’s attention.

 

No, he’s not been after any woman for quite some time, and Sif silently thanks the nine for it.

 

She is not a jealous woman. She’s a warrior, and is quite content to fight alongside Thor. She’s happy to be near him, to be his friend, or sister in arms, or whatever he requires of her. However, she can’t help but ask about you.

 

“You have not been back to the infirmary, Thor?” Sif questions as their company walks.

 

Thor gives a group of idle girls a casual wave, and although he hadn’t even looked their way, they dissolve into giggles. “No, I have not.”

 

“And good for that,” Hogun grunts.

 

“I’m sure you at least thanked her,” Fandral says, pushing a lock of blond hair from his face and shooting a grin at the giggling girls.

 

They still only have eyes for the god of thunder, and Fandral cuts his own gaze to the heavens. He’s used to this.

 

“I did,” Thor tells him, quick to defend his honor. “And she repaid the kindness, although I would not go so far as to call her kind.”

 

“Not what you thought she’d be, then?” Volstagg asks, red beard twitching as he smirks at Fandral’s futile efforts to gain attention from others in the presence of Thor.

 

“She is harsh, and curt. A foreigner, new to this realm,” Thor attempts to explain, ignoring Hogun’s muttered comment of “monster” under his breath.

 

“Then perhaps you should go see her again,” Sif suggests, turning her face towards the food carts and away from the prince. “She’ll have no one to visit with. If it were me, I’d be going mad.”

 

“She’s not want for company,” Thor tells her, and then nudges the dark-haired woman’s shoulder. “And you wouldn’t go mad, Sif. I’d visit you.”

 

“Not want for company?” Fandral asks, eyebrows rising. “Who’s keeping this company then? Queen Frigga?”

 

Thor looks towards the palace, a momentary look of confusion and distrust crossing his face before he answers.

 

“My brother.”

 

---

 

You have no idea why Olav is suddenly always in your room. It's annoying. You thought you'd have preferred any company besides Loki, but Olav turns out to be awful as well.

 

He acts as if he's afraid of you, which you don't understand. Yes, there's plenty of reason to fear you, but none that the male nurse knows about. He checks on you constantly. Several times in the night, you awaken to your door opening and Olav’s blond head peeking around the side of it.

 

But even though he is an annoyance, Olav is also speeding your recovery. He helps you walk, insists you do your exercises, and holds the bucket for you when you test your powers.

 

Olav wants you out of his infirmary. He will do whatever it takes to make you well enough to walk out of those doors, out of his life, and take that infernal prince with you. Loki eyes him knowingly when he is present in your room at check ups. Olav hates it, but he is too afraid to protest.

 

The prince is happy to see the nurse finally doing his job.

 

You can't help but be excited to have your legs back. You walk around your room every day, from the window, to the bathroom chamber, to the room door, to your bed. Loki has left the books he brings piled beside his chair, and upon passing them one day, you pick one up and take it to bed with you.

 

This makes Olav nervous, even though he is aware that Loki is busy with meetings today.

 

“The prince doesn't care for people touching his possessions,” Olav tries to tell you, watching as you flip the pages.

 

“Good,” is all you reply with, and continue reading.

 

---

 

When night falls, Loki is finally free to do as he pleases. He sees Thor walk with his friends to the evening feast, all laughing and talking jovially. ‘Buddies’ you would have called them. The younger prince feels a sneer twist his lips, jealousy curling around his dark heart.

 

He has had “friends” before, yes, although none such as long-lasting as Thor’s. The Prince of Trickery keeps no one close, as solitude cannot hurt him as much as a living being can.

 

His feet take him down the familiar halls to the infirmary. He needs something to take his bad mood out on, and you are an easy target.

 

He is just about as thrilled to see his book in your hands as Olav had suggested he would be.

 

“Get your grubby fingers off those pages,” he commands, voice full of venom.

 

“My hands are clean, moron,” you retort, rolling your eyes and turning the page. “I swear, if Olav gives me a washcloth one more time, I’m going to shove it down his throat.”

 

Loki strides towards you, his hand reaching for the novel. You pull it from his reach, closer to your body, and narrow your eyes at him. “Good God, can you just let me finish this sentence at least?”

 

“You call me ‘good’?” he questions, working to keep the confusion from his face.

 

You snort, finishing the sentence and closing his book. “I’m not calling you a ‘god’ of any kind, you egotistical bastard.”

 

“I am a god,” he tells you angrily, snatching the book from you.

 

“Of course,” you reply, and he dislikes your condescending tone.

 

“You are nothing, murderess. You will bow to me one day,” he tells you, anger and hostility coating his words.

 

“Yeah, when pigs fly.”

 

Now his expression shifts to one of mischief, a smirk lighting on his face. “It seems you’ve not heard of the great winged boar that roams somewhere in the realm.”

 

“You mean your brother?” you ask, stretching out on your bed and shooting Loki a look.

 

He can’t remember a time he’s ever been more delighted by a statement someone else besides him has made, although none of this shows on his face. “Regardless, pigs do fly in Asgard, so your words hold no meaning.”

 

You groan, shaking your head and looking to the ceiling. “My sarcasm still stands.”

 

Loki flips around the book he took from you to see what you had picked to read. It’s a novel, the story telling of adventure, monsters, and combat. The sort of thing he expects you to be interested in.

 

“Olav says I get to leave soon,” you tell him in the silence, and he can hear the wistful excitement in your voice at the idea of being rid of this room. “Probably just another week here.”

 

Loki isn’t sure how to respond. He wants to bring your spirits down, for no other reason than to be cruel. But when he looks at the expression on your face as you stare at the room’s window, he can’t do it.

 

“Good,” is all he tells you, mentally cursing himself.

 

Now you look at him, your eyes nothing but cold steel. “And Vitran had better watch his back when I’m better.”

 

Now he laughs. Loki knows how to deal with this aggression, likes to poke at you while you’re at your coldest and angriest. “One touch from Vitran will have you topple over, fool. You’re nowhere close to being able to take him. Keep your temper in check. After all, the best tasting revenge is dealt slowly.”

 

He wants to ask you what your revenge is for. Why you hunger for the man’s life – what he and his people took from you. He asks nothing, just watches as you glare at him and look away.

 

You don’t like the prince. And you hate him even more so when he’s right. He speaks of revenge as if he’s enacted in it himself, and you don’t doubt that he has. Even you can tell Loki is not someone to cross without deadly consequences. That he’s dangerous.

 

But so are you, or at least you used to be. You’re ready to be back to normal, more so now than ever before.

 

The prince opens the book to where you left off and begins to read silently to himself, taking a seat beside your bed as normal. He catches your angry look from his peripherals, and can’t help but smirk.

 

Yes, torturing you always improves his mood.

 

---

 

Frigga’s servants tell her Loki has missed several of his meetings. Well, they don’t outright tell her, as this might be considered rude. However, they do not keep their voices down about it when she is near, knowing any whispers of her sons please the queen.

 

They talk of Thor, walking the marketplace with Sif, or making bold, drunken statements in the feast hall, or placing Mjolnir in the center of a table, daring any present to try and wield it.

 

These make her chuckle under her breath, pleased her oldest is as social as ever.

 

The whispers of her youngest interest her in a different way. He has missed a few meetings (she is not surprised). He’s been in the infirmary all too much lately, they say. Is he conspiring with the Bloody Warrior? They wonder aloud which shall kill the other first. There are tales of constant arguments from the two that echo down the halls.

 

Frigga is not one to put stock into the rumors about her sons, although she likes to stay in the know about who is saying what (as her servants are aware). However, she is always able to discover the truth, and the queen intends to sate her curiosity.

 

Olav has told her that you are almost well enough to leave the infirmary. Therefore, the next afternoon, the Allmother visits your sickbed.

 

You’re reading the book when you hear the door open. Loki left it behind when he made his exit yesterday, and you’d had no hesitation in picking it right back up. You pause in your readings without lifting your eyes from the page, huffing in agitation.


“Listen, asshole, I’m almost done with it, okay? I swear, if you take –”

 

You look up and feel the words die on your lips. It is not the smirking face of Prince Loki, but his mother, the queen, with a raised eyebrow.

 

“Uh… sorry,” you apologize, and then realize you are supposed to bow in her presence.

 

You are not one to bow to anyone. However, you can’t help but respect this queen. She saved your life, defended you to her husband, and has been nothing but kind to you. You clumsily get to your feet and awkwardly jerk your upper body into a half-bow, the feeling of submitting making your skin crawl.

 

“All is forgiven,” Frigga tells you, a smile playing on her lips.

 

She thinks she knows why her son visits you.

 

You immediately right yourself, setting the book on your bedside table. Queen Frigga is pleased to see you standing, and walks close enough to be able to have conversation while keeping her distance so that you will remain comfortable.

 

You notice this, and decide then and there that you like this woman. She can see that you relax, and smiles pleasantly at you. “Olav tells me that you’ll be able to leave the infirmary in a few days.”

 

“Yes!” you answer, feeling your eyes light up. “I can actually walk on my own now. And I don’t throw up as much. So that’s good.”

 

“Excellent,” the queen tells you, nodding her head. “I’m glad to see you better recovered. Tell me, have you any requests for your new quarters?”

 

Confusion crosses your features. You don’t feel worthy of any place in these marble halls, and although you try to hide it, the queen sees. “Uh, no,” you tell her. “Really, I’ll be alright in the barracks, or wherever else. I need to start training again anyway. I’ve been laying around way too long.”

 

“We have training grounds, although it may be a long time still before the poison truly works itself from your system. I can feel it present,” Frigga tells you, making you uncomfortable.

 

You don’t like that she can read you, or feel anything “present” inside of your body. “I guess. But still. I don’t need a room.”

 

“I already have one readied for you,” she tells you, shrugging. “There’s no reason for you to not make use of it.”

 

“Alright,” you mumble, relenting.

 

The queen smiles again at you. “Very good. I’ll be sending a few servants tomorrow to take your measurements. I’m quite sure you’re tired of wearing white infirmary robes.”

 

“You’re giving me clothes?” you ask, suddenly very nervous. “I mean, thank you, but I have a few pairs I can wear… I think.”

 

You reach for your bag and quickly search its contents. You glare into it, realizing they are missing.

 

It’s as if Frigga can read your mind. “Don’t fret,” she tells you gently. “Tell them tomorrow what your preferences are. We will do what we can to make you comfortable.”

 

Now you feel compelled to be honest with her. “You’ve already saved my life. I don’t deserve your kindness or clothes or rooms.”

 

Frigga fixes you with her gray stare. “While you’re beneath my roof, I’ll not have you wanting. You’re a royal guest.”

 

You’re even more uncomfortable now, and you look away. Your face reddens as you thank her, and she inclines her head to you.

 

At the door, the queen pauses and turns back to you. “I hope my son hasn’t been a bother to you.”

 

She watches as your eyes snap to hers, an angry fire within them. You force yourself to calm it quickly, to keep your facial expression clear as you tell her, “Not at all.”

 

Frigga Allmother nods to you before leaving the room.

 

---

 

It’s the day before you’re meant to leave the infirmary. Your spirits are high, and almost nothing can bring you down. You’re ready for the change, feeling you’d be happiest if you never saw gold curtains and white sheets ever again.

 

You’re still intent on gaining back your powers and abilities. You sit on your bed, waste bucket between your legs, holding a cupped hand out in front of you. Fire has always been your simplest ability, so you’ve been attempting to remaster it first. The flames that had once so easily danced across your fingertips are hard to come by, and your frustration builds with each fresh wave of nausea.

 

You continue to push yourself, channeling your energy, heating the particles of the air above your palm. Loki walks into your room just as a small flame springs to life in your hand. You let out a shout of triumph, and then he watches as the fire goes out and you promptly vomit into the bin.

 

His face twists in revulsion, and he rolls his eyes.

 

Even that can’t break your good mood. “I did it!” you exclaim before having to duck your head back over the bucket again.

 

“A tiny flicker, but a flicker nonetheless, I suppose,” Loki states, walking further into your room.

 

This is all the congratulations you will get from him, and you know it. You groan and sit back, putting the bucket onto the floor. “Hey, it’s something. Shut up and let me celebrate.”

 

Loki doesn’t see how lying in bed with sweat on your brow is in any form a celebration, but he doesn’t make a comment about it. The door opens again as Olav rushes forwards to empty your bucket, keeping his eyes on his task so as not to see how the prince looks at him.

 

“Thanks,” you tell the nurse, forcing yourself to your feet to walk around your room.

 

You rinse your mouth out in the bathroom and return to find that Loki is back in his chair. You wonder what he thinks about you getting a room in the palace. He’s most likely upset, seeing as how he was such an advocate for you lodging in the barracks.

 

You don’t let it bother you. You think about your flame, the bright orange light a reminder that you can still be what you once were. You feel like every time you throw up, although you hate it, that it helps to rid your body of the poison the Ordinat had set upon you.

 

Behind your eyes, images dance about how you will make them pay. Loki thinks you are looking at him.

 

“What?” he snaps, cutting his gaze to yours.

 

You think of something to say, and come up with, “I saw your mom the other day.”

 

“Oh?” he asks, his interest piqued. “What did she want of you?”

 

“I guess just to check up on me. And the next day she had people come and measure me. Guess I’m getting some clothes.” You glare at him. “Seeing as I don’t have any.”

 

He grins evilly at you. “I told you, they were nothing more than bloody rags.”

 

“I mean the ones from my bag. You also knew what my journal looked like. You went through my stuff!”

 

“You have no way of proving that, now,” he tells you smugly, his foot swinging idly as it hangs over the armrest of the chair.

 

“You’re absolutely a… a…,” you search for a word, anger taking your vocabulary from you.

 

“A nuisance? A bastard?” he guesses, his grin widening.

 

“A brat!” you shout, crossing your arms. “Just a spoiled, princely brat, used to toying with other people.”

 

He gauges his emotions. Your words anger him, although he doesn’t know whether to answer in an offhand way or a heated way. He chooses offhandedness.

 

“So what?” he scoffs. “What use do others have, if not to be toyed with for my entertainment?”

 

“Get out!” you yell at him, your good mood officially soured.

 

He gets under your skin and ignites your temper in a way no one has in years. You are not cold and calculating when you’re around Loki, which is what you’d become after the Ordinat attacked your base, after the war, after you set off on your own. You feel a bit of your old self returning, and you don’t like it. That’s dangerous. Emotions are dangerous, even anger.

 

Loki doesn’t know this about you. He understands that there are two sides to your personality, but is unaware that one is old and one is new. All he cares about is pushing you to the point of breaking. He wants to see what happens when you can’t take his words anymore, when your temper truly rules you.

 

He wants to be the one that makes this happen.

 

---

 

Being stuck here sucks ass, Will.

 

***

 

What? No pleasant company to see to your wounds?

 

***

 

Nope. Absolutely not. I’ll write later.

 

***

 

Cool. Eat. Sleep. Don’t hurt yourself.

Chapter Text

You're nervous when it’s almost time for you to leave the infirmary. You’re doubly nervous because while the Asgardian servants work on creating your new garb, you have to wear a dress. The fabric feels stiff, as if it hasn’t been worn in a long time, and it’s, of course, too large for your stature.

 

“What are they feeding you people?” you ask the woman nurse that helps you dress (who is also taller than you).

 

“I have no idea what you mean,” she replies, shaking her head as she laces the dress up your back.

 

You don’t know where the nurse found the article of clothing, but you wish she had left it where it was. It’s a pale blue color that does nothing to flatter your skin tone or figure. You think to yourself that it would have looked marvelous on your friend Willow, although you note that she would be an absolute dwarf compared to the Asgardians were she here.

 

You think the nurse is trying to cut off your circulation, when in fact she is just trying to keep the damn thing from falling off of you. It’s an old dress of her daughter’s, and it really is an ugly thing, so she doesn’t feel bad about watching you walk out in it.

 

They allow you to wear your boots, considering they cannot be seen from under the skirts of the dress. You clutch your bag’s strap after swinging it over your shoulder, worrying your lip as you follow Frigga’s servant out of the infirmary.

 

The Asgardian palace is absolutely phenomenal. You lose yourself in the golden archways, the marbled walls and floors, the white and gold columns that line the halls. You’ve never been inside of a building this grand in all of your life, not even when your adventures crossed paths with other royal families.

 

People bustle through the halls and rooms of the central palace – servants doing their duties, guards patrolling on their routes, and various nobles and lesser royals going about their business. You notice that people’s eyes follow you as you walk, barely able to keep up with Gudrun. You can feel yourself tiring already, reminding you that you are still weak.

 

The stairs are the worst. You aren’t sure if you’re going to make it, and Gudrun asks several times if you’re alright. You tell her every time that you’re fine, although your breath comes shorter and shorter when you talk.

 

Gudrun wonders what the queen would say to her if she lets you pass out in the stairwell, and decides she doesn’t want to find out. The servant lends her shoulder to you for the remainder of the climb, your face reddening in humiliation.

 

“Thank you,” you tell her at the top of the stairs.

 

Gudrun is a woman of warmth once she gets to know someone. This is one of the reasons the queen chose her as one of her personal servants. And although she doesn’t know you, the fact that you would thank a simple servant for her help makes Gudrun smile.

 

“Fret not,” she tells you. “We’re almost there, now! Just a little further.”

 

There are no people in the halls down this wing of the palace. The lower levels of the grand building are for business, dining, or audiences. Above are the areas of living. Gudrun leads you down the hall and to a door on the left. She slips a small, golden key from her pocket and unlocks your room.

 

“Here you are,” the woman says to you, setting the key on a small table near the door. “Frigga has had us put new sheets on the bed for you, and if you find even a mite of dust anywhere, I’ll eat my apron.”

 

You laugh at her expression, although your eyes are scanning the place you’ll be recovering in. The first thing you think is that this is much too big of a space for you. The bed itself could hold four people, a canopy surrounding it in a cream color that matches its covers. There is a vanity near the bed on the wall that you’ll have no use for, and a dark, wooden table by the corner of the room with two chairs. A red rug covers a large portion of the marble floor, and you’re sure it’s as soft to the touch as everything else in this palace. A wardrobe sits near the wall, the same color as the table, and you have no idea what could possibly be inside of it.

 

You catch a glimpse into the bathroom, and can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like if the room itself is this grand. Gudrun is watching you take everything in, unsure of what to do since you’ve said nothing to her.

 

“This is all… too much,” you finally mutter, taking a couple of steps forward before you remember the servant in the room. “Tell the queen she’s way too nice to me, and thank her.”

 

“Of course,” Gudrun replies, too polite to outwardly show how puzzling the way you phrase your words sounds. “Queen Frigga wishes for you to take your time resting, and to tell you that she will soon send along a servant who knows the palace… to help you find wherever you wish to go.”

 

“Oh! Thanks,” you say, realizing that if you had no one with you, you would get quite lost. “Thanks a lot for your help.”

 

“Anytime,” Gudrun answers, giving you another smile before bowing her head and leaving your room.

 

---

 

Unbeknownst to you, Loki and Thor catch sight of you in that horrid blue dress.

 

They walk out of a meeting with Odin their father, who told them the barbarians have retreated back to their own lands. Thor reasons with his brother that it is because their demands for you were not met, and that they have given up. Loki calls him a fool.

 

Thor looks over at the other prince, a retort on his lips, and then notices Gudrun walk by with you in tow. “Speak of the Helbeast, and it shall appear.”

 

“What?” Loki asks, and then turns to see you.

 

They both watch as you climb the stairs after Gudrun and disappear from sight. Loki laughs aloud, knowing how embarrassed you must be in the horrendous garment.

 

Thor grins and turns to his brother. "On her feet, and climbing stairs to boot! The barbarians are right to retreat. She’ll be slicing bone and flesh again in no time!”

 

“I doubt that,” Loki replies, resuming their walk to the dining hall. “She is still weak, and the poison eats at her.”

 

“Well, you would know better than I,” Thor tells him, shrugging.

 

Loki turns casually to his brother, narrowing his eyes slightly. “What do you mean by that, exactly?”

 

“It’s known you kept to her sickbed more than the nurses,” Thor scoffs.

 

Loki is not amused. “I despise the girl. I only visited to gain information. Nothing more.”

 

“Okay,” Thor replies, shrugging as the other prince scowls. “It’s no large issue, brother. There’s no need for hostility.”

 

But as they walk, Thor can’t help but smile. It truly does feel nice to push his brother’s temper for a change, rather than be the one pushed.

 

---

 

“She’s not a noble, or a royal, so why does she need a servant?”

 

“The girl would probably kill anyone who waits upon her! Have you not heard that she’s the Bloody Warrior?”

 

“Well, I’m not doing it, I assure you that!”

 

These are the kinds of whispers people make before they realize Frigga is outside of the room.

 

“Queen Frigga still asks for a volunteer,” Ivar, another of the queen’s servants, says louder, his irritation rising. “You do not have to wait upon the woman hand and foot. She needs a guide for the palace, someone who will help her dress and relay our customs.”

 

Silence falls among the gathered servants when the queen steps fully into the room. “Ivar is correct. Surely among you there is one who thinks themselves capable?”

 

The quiet stretches ever longer, and none will look the queen in the eye. It is a girl from the kitchens who pipes up in a shaky voice. She is an old hire, a dish washer, the very lowest position. “I’ll do it.”

 

The people part as she steps forward. Queen Frigga smiles at the girl, who is a young teenager. “What’s your name, my dear?”

 

“Sigrid,” the girl tells her nervously.

 

She’s traded few words with the queen before, and her heart hammers loudly in her throat. Sigrid hates being a washer. The dishes after feasts each night pile high, and the work is tiresome and boring. When she scrapes the food from the platters, she repeats to herself that she will do anything to get out of the kitchen.

 

She just wasn’t aware that that anything would be to take care of you.

 

---

 

The stairs took a lot out of you. You lay down on the bed, feeling the blanket under your fingers. You can’t remember ever touching something this soft. You are not a girl of palaces and dresses and softness. You are a creature of war that sleeps in dirt and is thankful just to breathe.

 

You have no idea how you ended up in this situation. Willow would laugh if she could see you. You would laugh, were it not you experiencing it.

 

You rise from the bed and look out your window. Frigga has given you a room that faces the training grounds, and you can see warriors doing drills. You wonder if this is secret motivation from her for you to continue working on regaining your strength.

 

You locate the trash bin and move it near your bed. You're not keen to push yourself to vomiting now that you've been given your own room, but it's always good to have it near just in case.

 

You cross to the wardrobe and peek inside. What you see fills you with relief: Frigga has delivered some of the finished clothing pieces to your room. You'd told the servants that came to measure you that you weren't fond of dresses, but there is still one hanging beside what you can only call leather armor.

 

The leather is black, and much more intricate than you think necessary, but it isn't a dress. Better than nothing, you think to yourself as you pull the bottom and top from the wardrobe.

 

At least they recall that you're a warrior and not a lady.

 

However, you soon realize you have a lady’s problem. You cannot get out of the damn dress! The ties are in the middle of your upper back, much too high up for you to grasp. Your face twists with pain as you do your very best to reach, still with no luck.

 

“How?” you ask aloud, your anger getting the best of you. “How do women wear these dumb things?”

 

You pull one of your arms through the neck hole, doing your best not to rip the fabric, only for the dress to not release your other arm. You’re standing by your bed looking quite ridiculous when you hear a knock on your door.

 

“Uhhh…. Who is it?” you ask, catching sight of your trouble in the vanity mirror.

 

“My name is Sigrid,” a girl’s voice calls. “I've been assigned to assist you!”

 

You panic, doing your best to put your arm back into your dress and failing. You sit down on your bed in a huff, and call out, “Well, I guess I do need help. Come on in.”

 

Sigrid does not expect to see you like this when she walks in. She does her absolute best to clear her face, and quickly shuts the door behind her and locks it. “You tried to take your dress off on your own, didn't you?”

 

Your shame makes you angry, but rather than turn your glare on the girl, you narrow your eyes at yourself in the mirror. “Yeah, maybe. Will you help me?”

 

She can't help but giggle a little behind her hand. She's young. You guess her to be thirteen or fourteen, at the oldest. Her black hair is pulled back, and she wears a brown servant’s dress. Even the servant’s clothes are more elegant than what you’re used to seeing.

 

“What’s your name again?” you ask her as the girl begins to unlace the blue monstrosity.

 

“Sigrid,” she replies.

 

Sigrid is afraid of you, but she can’t get the sight of you tangled in your dress out of her mind. It takes your edge away, makes her more at ease with her job. She does, however, remember who and what you are as your dress falls away.

 

Your new scars are still bright red, your old not as visible. The girl sees them all, her heart pounding faster once more. “There you go,” she makes herself say, swallowing her fear. “Are you trying to put these leathers on?”

 

“Uh, yes,” you tell her, confused by the terminology. “You don’t have to help me, though,” you add quickly as the girl moves to pick up the clothing.

 

“These are meant to be helped with,” she tells you, confused.

 

“Oh,” you say, looking again at the ornateness of the armor. “I guess I can see that.”

 

Even though the girl is young, you still don’t like being so bare in front of others. If her helping will get the clothes on your body faster, then you’re all for it.

 

---

 

Sigrid takes you to the lesser dining hall for lunch.

 

“That’s the grand hall,” the girl tells you as you pass it. “Every evening, a feast is held within. It’s also where royal dinners take place.”

 

“Okay,” you reply, for lack of anything better to say.

 

You are already lost within the palace. The grandness of the building has worn off, and with every twist and turn, you become more irritated than impressed. You walk with more confidence in your leathers (you’ve taken to calling them that as well, as they truly are more leather than fabric), and although they fit tightly to your body, Sigrid tells you they are made that way purposefully.

 

The lesser dining hall does not seem in any way “lesser” to you. The ceiling is vaulted glass, allowing the sun to beam down over the tables. Sigrid stands behind you as you eat, and will not sit with you even after you invite her.

 

“I eat in the servant’s hall, my lady,” she tells you, shaking her head.

 

“Not you, too,” you say, groaning. “Don’t call me that, alright? Just… just call me by my first name.”

 

Sigrid looks at you uncomfortably. “If they hear me call a royal guest by her first name, I’ll catch a fury from Hilde!”

 

She sees the lack of comprehension in your eyes as you stare at her.

 

“The servant master,” Sigrid explains, and you roll your eyes at her.

 

“Can you safely call me by my last name?”

 

Sigrid bobs her head from side to side, an unsure look on her face. “Maybe. If you instruct me to.”

 

“Then go with that, I guess,” you grumble, returning to your food in exasperation. “Better than ‘lady’.”

 

Sigrid does not know what to make of you. The other servants had told her she would be dead upon arrival, or at least have been screamed at by now. You’ve been a little standoffish, yes, but she’s never heard of a servant being asked to sit with a charge before.

 

When you finish your food, someone comes to clear your place. You try to tell them you can do it yourself, and they look at you as if you’ve gone mad.

 

“Pardon my asking, but have you never had a servant before?” Sigrid questions as she leads you back to your room.

 

“No,” you tell her, frowning. “No, definitely not. I like doing things for myself.”

 

“Well, you can cause a mighty disruption if you continue with your actions,” the girl tells you gently. “We are paid for our work, and we do it well. It is an insult to try and take that from us – it’s saying you could do it better.”

 

Once more, you aren’t sure what to say, and the walk is starting to make you tired. “Well, you saw me when we first met. I certainly couldn’t have untied that dress better than you did.”

 

The girl giggles, hiding the laugh behind her hand. You find the gesture endearing, and decide that if you had to have someone to show you around, at least it was her. “You’re not gonna’ be with me, like, twenty-four-seven though, are you?” you ask.

 

She turns to look back at you as you both climb the stairs to your living quarters. “What do you mean?”

 

“I mean, where do you sleep, and what do you do when you’re not saving me from dresses and showing me around?”

 

She giggles again, and shows you the callouses on her hands. “I used to work in the kitchens. And once you leave us, I suppose I’ll go back there. Helping you is a nice break, to be true.” She turns and begins heading up the stairs again, you starting to lag farther and farther behind. “I sleep across the hall from you now, so if you ever need anything from me, you can just call.”

 

“Alright,” you puff, determined to make it up the last ten stairs without anyone helping you.

 

Sigrid begins to head down the steps to assist you, but one look from you stops her. When you finally reach her, you grin triumphantly.

 

The smile slides from your face when you spot a tall figure leaning on the wall beside your door.

Chapter Text

Sigrid is afraid of you, yes, but the Prince of Wickedness makes her shake in her shoes. She has seen Loki’s trickery from a distance, and anytime he draws anywhere near her she feels a dark and vicious vibe emanating from him. The poor girl takes a few steps back, accidentally bumping into you, before bowing low before Prince Loki.

 

“Great. You,” you say, rolling your eyes and crossing your arms while doing your best not to wheeze.

 

The callous way in which you talk to the prince leaves Sigrid in apprehensive awe, though she does not look up from the ground. You notice her, and your brows come together when you see her subjection.

 

“Oh, stop it,” you tell her, but she doesn't rise.

 

Loki hasn't said anything. He isn't even sure why exactly he’s here. He'd knocked upon your door and received no answer, and had been about to depart when he heard your voice floating up the stairs.

 

He had expected you to be in the hideous blue dress. The sight of you in your leathers leaves him without a taunt or barb, and he has no idea how to deal with that.

 

“Hey, asshole, stop it,” you tell him, pointing to the girl.

 

Loki finally notices poor Sigrid, and sees how you pull on her shoulder. She won't rise until he tells her to, and he grins maliciously at you. “Ask kindly.”

 

Your fists clench as anger hits you. You know you're still weak, and still winded from the stairs, but you march up to him ready to swing.

 

He sees the fury in you, over a girl you surely just met, and it makes him laugh. “Rise, girl, so I don't have to kill your charge.”

 

Sigrid straightens at once, her eyes wide and horrified at the sight of you standing before the prince.

 

“Are you going to strike me?” he taunts you, his words light and humorous.

 

He knows this will make you even angrier, and it does. “Why are you here?” you hiss, venom dripping from every syllable.

 

He doesn't like this question, as he isn't sure himself, so he deflects. “You have a servant now? Still too weak to do much on your own, it seems.”

 

“She's not my servant,” you tell him, and had you been younger, you would have stamped your foot. “She's… my helper.”

 

He looks over at Sigrid, who stares at the floor under his gaze. “I see a servant’s smock.”

 

You're close to him already, and you wish you were taller, wish you had your strength back, so that you could force your energy at the ground to hover up to his level. Instead, you back away and noticeably survey him. “And I see a caped bastard.”

 

Your glance of him from head to toe, and then the sneer that followed, makes him angry without reason. He scowls at you, and Sigrid fears he will murder you where you stand.

 

Do you not know how deadly this man is? she wonders. Or do you think yourself just as much a threat as him?

 

Sigrid knows Loki can have you killed. He can do it himself, or instigate a plot to have the Allfather order it. He can lock you away in Asgard’s prisons until you rot. He can destroy your life in more ways that you can imagine. She's heard the tales.

 

You have not.

 

“Watch your tongue, murderess,” Loki tells you, his green eyes narrowed.

 

Sigrid thinks he of all people has no right to call you this, but she keeps her mouth closed.

 

You grin at him, although the expression is filled with your fury. “So what if I am a murderess?” you ask him. “Would you run from me, or would you rather try and kill me?”

 

“In your state, the ensuing ‘battle’ would be short lived and no fun,” he replies smoothly, forcing his temper to calm. “I could hear from where I stand how a simple set of stairs stole your breath.”

 

“Move, or I’ll make you,” you tell him, your voice a low and serious growl.

 

“Go to your room, girl,” Loki snaps to Sigrid. “You shouldn't see your murderess embarrass herself.”

 

“I'll come if you call me,” Sigrid squeaks to you, and does as the prince orders.

 

“You don't have to do that!” you call after her as her door closes, and you round on Loki. “You don't have to do that!”

 

“I ordered a servant,” Loki tells you, shrugging. “Why does this bother you so?”

 

“You make people jump through hoops just to please you,” you hiss, your eyes boring into his green gaze, “and I won't have you doing that to that poor girl.”

 

“You just met her!” Loki says, laughing at you. “Where does this come from? Does a heart beat in your chest after all, monster?”

 

“More than yours,” you reply, crossing your arms. “Move out of my way. I'm leaving.”

 

He stands between you and the door. And as you expected, he does not move.

 

“I find it humorous that you think you can order a Prince of Asgard to do your bidding,” Loki states, putting a finger to his chin.

 

“When are you gonna’ learn that I do – not – care if you're a prince?” you tell him, letting your breath out in a huff.

 

“Most likely the same time you learn your place.”

 

Your glare is fearsome, and he likes the white-hot rage he ignites in you.

 

“Why are you here?” you ask again, your whole body taut. “I thought I'd gotten rid of you.”

 

“Thor requested I check on you,” Loki lies smoothly. “My noble brother is prone to things such as unwarranted loyalty. As he is busy, I'm here in his stead.”

 

You watch him, and you hear his words. Most wouldn't have known a difference – he's the Prince of Lies – but your intuition tells you otherwise.

 

“You're lying,” you say, and calling him out on the fact makes your anger fade a bit. “Why?”

 

His dark eyebrows rise ever so slightly. It was not one of his better lies, no, but who are you to call the prince a liar? He once more briefly considers killing you for this bold audacity.

 

“To call a prince a liar can have dire consequences,” he growls, his teeth clenching in anger behind parted lips.

 

Now, you laugh at him. “Why would I not, though? Almost all of those little names you so enjoy being called have to do with lying!”

 

Now he's even angrier.

 

He doesn't understand you. He doesn't know that the walls built around the both of your minds and hearts are all too similar.

 

He walks away from you in long, angry strides. His cloak whirls out behind him as he goes, and you watch the green fabric swirl with a deep-seated satisfaction.

 

---

 

Loki paces the floor of his sitting room. He hates you. He knows he does. It's why thoughts of you eat their way into his mind. It's why he's seeking you out, talking with you. No, it doesn't make sense to him, but he's absolutely sure that’s what it is.

 

He forces his thoughts from you, grabbing a book from his table and sitting heavily down on his couch. When he opens it, he realizes it's the one you stole from him to read.

 

His eyes angrily scan the novel, even as he wills his hands to cast the blasted thing aside.

 

His anger ebbs as he reads. He wonders what you took from these pages, what the words made you think of. He is sure you've fought monsters greater and more fearsome than the hissing sea-serpent and man-eating kraken that the warrior in the book confronts.

 

He wonders why the voyages of an Asgardian hold any interest for someone like you.

 

---

 

You grow stronger as the days pass, strength quickly returning to your muscles. You practice with your flames every day, entrancing Sigrid with their flickering.

 

Sigrid loves magic. She would give anything to have the ability herself. She doesn't listen when you explain to her that you don't do magic, and you soon give up on correcting her.

 

The young girl grows to respect you, so much so that she doesn't mind doing things for you (when you find you can't do them yourself). She barely ever has any orders from you, and when you won't give them, she busies herself doing things before you have a chance to take on the tasks yourself.

 

By the time Loki visits you again, you're able to push and pull objects using your energy – and without vomiting. The prince has made himself scarce these past few days, and you've relished every second of his absence.

 

He has been working with his mother for an upcoming palace event. Frigga enjoys planning such things with her sons, although Thor is not so keen on sitting and talking out the details of balls and parties.

 

Loki knocks upon your door, his knuckles rapping smartly against the polished wood.

 

“Hello?” you call, the bottle of perfume you’d found in the bathroom falling from the air and clattering to the ground.

 

“What was that?” Loki asks you curiously from behind the door, and you roll your eyes as you cross the room.

 

“What?” you ask, pulling the door open only a foot.

 

“I asked what the crash was,” Loki replies, smirking at you as he purposefully misunderstands your words.

 

You flash him a mean, sarcastic grin before letting it fall from your face. “What do you want?”

 

He doesn't know. He says the first thing that comes to his mind. “I figured you strong enough now to show you the training grounds.” He suddenly pushes against the door. You do your absolute best to hold it closed, and fail. He smirks at you. “Obviously, I was wrong.”

 

“I'm ready for the training grounds,” you tell him hurriedly as he walks into your room. “I'm sick of doing workouts. I want to spar.”

 

Loki’s lip curls. You sound like his brother.

 

He's looking around your room, noting that you've placed some of the useless treasures he saw in your bag on the vanity. The room itself is devoid of anything else to personalize it, and he realizes it's because you have nothing.

 

“Look at you,” he scoffs. “Sparring even that servant girl would result with you on the ground, beaten.”

 

He accidentally steps on the perfume bottle and looks down at it. You hold your hand out, feeling only slightly sick as the bottle scuttles out from under his foot and then bobs in the air until it reaches your grasp. “No it will not,” you tell him firmly as you set the bottle down on the table near the door.

 

Loki walks up to you, and you have to look up to meet his gaze. He pushes lightly on your shoulder, and you stumble backwards from the force. “Weak, still. If you keep believing in this twisted form of reality you've crafted for yourself, you're going to be beaten every time. Accept that you're not as you were.”

 

Your eyes narrow in anger and stubbornness, your jaw set. “You don't know what you're talking about.”

 

“Don't I?” he asks, stepping closer and pushing you once more.

 

You only take two steps back this time before catching yourself. You look at him and feel for your power, sheer will and stubborn pride making you do more than you've attempted in the recent days.

 

In a small, swirling mass of darkness, a simple version of your dagger appears in your hand. You immediately double over, nausea creeping up your throat. You push it down, force your stomach to calm, and then slowly stand back up, panting.

 

You clutch the dagger. It's nothing like the one you normally craft, but it's something.

 

“Are you going to retch?” Loki asks, watching you with interest.

 

He's never seen a darkness like yours before. He had forgone dipping into Thor’s memories just for a moment such as this, when he can see it for himself in person.

 

“No,” you tell him, the steel in your eyes as cold and hard as any sword.

 

“Have you been able to reclaim this magic before now?” he asks.

 

You don't know why he wants to know. “It's not magic,” you snarl. “And no. Why?”

 

Because he was the one that brought it about. Loki doesn't know why this pleases him, but it does. He likes to anger you. He likes to see the results of this anger.

 

He's an insufferable bastard. He knows this.

 

“Because I can tell it's poorly done,” he says to you, shrugging casually. “Barely any flare of the real power I was told you wield.”

 

“I'll get better,” you swear, more to yourself than to him.

 

You go to the window, looking out at the soldiers that spar and practice in the open field below. Loki watches you, and sees the fierce longing in your face.

 

“I can help you practice.”

 

The words cross his lips before he realizes it. Stars above, why did I say that? He mentally curses himself as you turn to him, distrust clear in every movement.

 

“How?”

 

“Unlike you, I am not weak,” he states, turning his offer to help into a blow to your pride.

 

He casts an illusion in the center of your room. It is the likeness of one of the soldiers from down on the training grounds. The man wields a spear, and Loki makes him expertly twirl it in his hands.

 

“As a master sorcerer, I can give you something to fight,” he tells you, and then banishes his spell. “Unless you'd rather swipe at nothing but air.”

 

His offer is tempting, as much as you despise the man. “Why would you do that?” you ask, unclear on his motive.

 

He pauses a moment, a slow, twisted smile beginning to spread across his face.

 

“Because this further puts the ledger in my favor,” he tells you, his green eyes dark with a terrible greed. “And because I know you'll accept the offer.”

 

---

 

Vitran cannot wait to be rid of the barbarians. He finds their uncouth and ruckus ways to be unworthy of him and his followers. However, he knows the barbarian king will still prove useful.

 

He's done the math. He is aware that the Asgardian army is more powerful. But he also knows their king has advisors that would see through his ruse, and Vitran cannot risk that. Odin’s wife, especially, had told him with her eyes that she did not trust him.

 

The barbarian king, Magnus, is a fool gluttonous for power. That, Vitran can work with.

 

The Ordinat have made their base close to the home of this king. Vitran can hear every word the warriors say during their nightly feasts. He does not let his members join these parties every night, although occasionally he requires them all to attend.

 

Just enough to make the barbarians think they're one of them.

 

Vitran paces to and fro on the outskirts of the barbarian lands. He is a leader that does not like to be kept waiting, and the girl is very late.

 

He'd found her on his way from the Asgardian palace, after his meeting with the one-eyed king. Vitran could sense latent ability within the young woman, and upon catching a few strands of her conversation, had thought her to be useful.

 

Asgard is well protected. Vitran knows of The Watcher, Heimdall, who stands upon the realm’s rainbow bridge. A man who sees all is a very intriguing target for the Ordinat, but this power proves difficult to work around.

 

Vitran needs an insider.

 

His craftier followers have already planted the seeds of wealth and power in her mind, as he instructed. He has no doubt that she’ll come. He does know that he’ll need to conduct himself carefully in her presence. He cannot prove himself to be a threat to her. Not yet.

 

Not until he whispers to her what she should do, and sits back to watch his treachery unfold.

 

Not until he has a way to know where you are, and if the poison he crafted still affects your abilities.

 

Not until she provides a way for his soldiers to enter the palace undetected.

 

Then, and only then, can he kill her.

 

---

 

Still alive, friend? Guess what?

I found another base…. I thought we almost had them.

I've been exploring this new world. It's no wondering the Ordinat found it and set up here.

On the other hand, it's beautiful! Fun fact: And people look like me!

 

***

 

Hey, Will. Glad you're okay. I'm still kicking.

Damn, another base? Keep me posted.

Met a girl that reminds me of you. She's a sweetheart.

So, neglected to mention I’m stuck in a palace. I’m so out of my league. One of the princes is an absolute ass.

I’ll write you later.

 

***

 

You would end up in a place with an asshole prince! Not that I have much pity for him, since I'm sure you're being just as much of an asshole in return. Don't break anything!

 

***

 

No promises.

Chapter Text

Sigrid absolutely does not like Loki Odinson. She does not like the way he smirks, the tone in which he speaks, or the darkness she senses from him.

 

She especially does not like that he is now present in your life every evening, and therefore present in hers as well.

 

Good to his word, Loki now gives you something to fight. That being said, his illusions have little substance, their weapons unable to stop your poorly made dagger as you strike at them. When their blows meet your skin, they leave not blood, but a cold feeling that makes trails of goosebumps rise on your flesh. When your blade meets their skin, they vanish.

 

When you tell Loki his illusions have to bleed when you score a hit, a sadistic sort of pleasure rises in his chest.

 

Of course you would want blood.

 

Your body has to relearn the basics of combat, and he calmly watches the frustration in your eyes at the slow pace. Your reflexes and skill however, even at your worst, let him see the echo of what you truly are.

 

Sigrid does not like the arguments. Every time you open your mouth to the prince, she feels anxiety pinch her stomach. And yet by some miracle, no matter what curt words you throw at him, no matter how much you ignite his anger, you have yet to invoke his wrath.

 

The girl doesn't understand it.

 

Neither does the prince.

 

---

 

The first time you call her ‘Sig’ is an accident, although you immediately decide you like the nickname. Sigrid has never had a sobriquet in her life, and she hears slight affection in your tone when you tell her you're calling her this.

 

It is different from the waves of anger that roll off of you when you shorten the prince’s name. Sig discovers quickly that you tweak the names of things you either like or hate.

 

She's glad she knows which category she falls under.

 

The other servants watch her when she walks the halls with you. The ones so eager to heap snide comments and speculations upon you now cast looks of jealousy at who was once a lowly washer girl. They've heard you hardly ever ask anything of your servant, and that you don't even call her servant but ‘helper’. Sigrid has not washed a dish in weeks, and begins to hope she never has to again.

 

When you ask of her family, she hasn't a lot to tell you. Her parents left her when she was very young. She begged as a little girl on the streets of the marketplace, barely earning any scraps or coin. There came a day when the Allmother walked with Prince Thor through the market, laughing and talking.

 

Sigrid will never forget Frigga’s laugh. It is like bells that ring softly in the listener’s ears. The queen offered jobs to all those she saw begging on the streets that day, and so Sigrid the beggar gladly became Sigrid the washer.

 

At the conclusion of her tale, you look at the girl sitting beside you on the bed and tell her you are glad the queen gave her a job, and glad she volunteered to work with you.

 

Sigrid finally begins to treat you less as a charge and more of a person. She helps you put your clothes on (even common Asgardian day-clothes are still hard for you to master) and whispers tips to you when needed. But she finally isn't afraid to ask you questions, and does so often.

 

You tell her only the stories of light and humor. Sig loves hearing about the exploits you've gotten yourself into and out of. She delights in tales about your friends, of old and new. She asks you more and more until eventually she is sick with need to have an adventure as well.

 

So one afternoon, when Sigrid comes bounding into your room, she begs for you to walk the palace grounds with her.

 

“Please, let us go outside today!” Sigrid tells you, her hands clasped behind her back. “I've not been in a while, and you've yet to see what it's like.”

 

You realize she's right. You've been so focused on your recovery that you've forgone thinking about the outdoors. When you set foot out of the palace, you had thought it would only be to the training grounds, and then on to Vitran.

 

“Alright, let’s go,” you decide, making Sigrid beam at you.

 

However, when the girl pulls a silver dress from your wardrobe, you give her a questioning glance. “Uh, Sig, that’s a dress.”

 

“Yes?” Sigrid replies, confused as much as you are. “The grounds are for nobles and royals. They hold the gardens of the royal palace. Day-clothes and leathers are normally only worn inside, about the town, or on the training grounds.”

 

Sig leaves out the fact that as a woman, you shouldn’t necessarily be wearing leathers inside at all, anyway. She’s worried you’ll say no, and stay indoors again today, working on your abilities or putting your body through physical exercises.

 

You can see in her eyes that the girl very much wants to take you to the grounds. You rake your gaze over the dress Frigga’s seamstresses had made for you. You feel as if the Asgardians never make anything that could be dubbed ‘simple’. Jeweled designs swirl throughout the fabric, almost hidden until the light catches them just right.

 

Sig looks down at it, forlorn. “I’m sure… wearing day-clothes wouldn’t be too much of a problem. You are a royal guest, after all.”

 

You sigh. The girl has won you over, and you aren’t sure why. You’ve never felt less a warrior than you do when you tell her, “Alright. Let’s get this on me, I guess. Just to go walk around.”

 

The smile Sigrid gives you is so wide that it’s almost worth the trouble.

 

---

 

Freydis and Alva sit in the gardens together, talking quietly. They have both spotted Prince Thor and Lady Sif, who are walking the paths on their way to the training grounds.

 

“Look at that, Alva,” Freydis tells her companion, blue eyes narrowing wickedly. “The Lady Sif lays her hand upon Thor’s forearm.”

 

“Sister, if you speak of it more, I’m sure your face to turn a shade of green,” Alva teases, patting Frey’s arm. “Turn your eyes. There are nicer things to look at, still.”

 

Alva and Freydis are not, in actuality, sisters, although they have grown up together as close as family. The two are duchesses, as high a noble status as one can be without being royalty.

 

Frey does avert her eyes, looking to her friend. Alva has always been the nicer of the two, and Freydis has no qualms about it. Where she bites, Alva soothes. This is how they climbed to the top of the social ladder.

 

Alva’s soft, brown eyes have spotted the lesser prince. Another man walks with him, no doubt a sorcerer trying to worm his way into Loki’s guild. Freydis can tell from the prince’s bored expression that he is not intrigued by the other man’s words.

 

Frey is not picky. Be it Thor, be it Loki, it matters not to her. She had thought that upon reaching the top of Asgard’s social customs she would be satisfied with her high duchess status. Instead, she found herself wanting for more.

 

“Let us go save him from that blubbering fool,” Frey jokes with her friend, her icy gaze lighting up.

 

Alva laughs at Frey’s audacity. “Truly? You think yourself capable of chatting with Loki Silvertongue?”

 

Freydis will not tell Alva that the idea of talking to a prince of any kind sets her stomach in knots. However, now that the words have left her mouth, she has to follow through lest she be seen as all bluster.

 

Alva’s grin gives her confidence, and Frey shoots her a wide smile as the ladies both rise from their seats.

 

“Nonchalant,” Alva reminds Frey, smoothing her friend’s soft, pink dress.

 

They begin to casually walk up the path, chatting idly about the flowers as they near the prince.

 

The two are like night and day. Frey’s skin is tan, the blue of her eyes standing out in contrast. Her features are delicate and soft, her hair kinked into beautiful brown curls. Alva is pale, her cheekbones prominent, and her hair as black as a raven’s wing. Her smile is kind and warm, and she wears a beautiful violet dress that accentuates the curves of her hips.

 

They laugh loudly together right before they reach Loki, his bored gaze flickering to the sound. Freydis looks back at him, and she and Alva pause and bow.

 

“Prince Loki. It is good to see you out and about,” Alva speaks, leaving the man at Loki’s side sputtering into silence.

 

“Have you any spare time to chat this afternoon?” Freydis questions sweetly.

 

The sorcerer looks annoyed, and Loki has already forgotten his presence. “Rise, ladies,” he tells them, and hears a huff from the man beside him. “You may go, sir.”

 

“It’s Jerrik, sire, if you’ll recall. And my prince, give me but a moment more, I beseech you. I am a highly qualified –”

 

“I said you may go.”

 

There is no arguing with the command, and the poor man shuffles off, ashamed. Loki, at the beginning of their conversation, had told him he had plenty of sorcerers, and was not want for more. He’d said if he ever had need, he may find it prudent to call upon Jerrik. It was not enough for the sorcerer, who did his best to plead his case.

 

Loki looks upon the two girls before him, welcoming any distraction. They are familiar. He's seen them at palace events, even spoken with one of them at such an occasion. “Remind me of who I am speaking with.”

 

“I am Lady Freydis,” Frey tells him, giving him a winning smile. “This is Lady Alva. We’ve stopped you to say we are very much looking forward to the upcoming celebration.”

 

“Ah, yes. Duchesses,” Loki tells them, and they see the mischief that glints in his eyes. “Although I must say I doubt this is the reason you stopped me.”

 

Alva laughs. “I’m afraid you’ve seen through our ruse. The Lady Freydis suggested we save you from your companion’s conversation, as it appeared you’d grown quite tired of him.”

 

This makes the prince laugh, and the two women are practically beside themselves at the sound.

 

This is too easy. Loki knows this game all too well, and he’s won it every time. He toys with the idea of playing longer, but realizes he has no interest in either prize. “Well, I thank you both for saving me a droll conversation.”

 

Freydis hears in his voice that he intends to leave, and so she says, “Did you wish to walk the gardens today?”

 

He knows what she is doing. He can already hear the rest of the conversation play out in his mind. They want to accompany him. Before he can answer, he catches sight of something behind the two women vying for his attention.

 

He sees Sigrid walk into his view, looking over her shoulder and talking to someone out of sight. He waits, Frey and Alva both growing uncomfortable as the question asked continues to go unanswered.

 

When you step out on the path, he suddenly remembers the conversation he had been in the middle of. “Pardon me, my ladies, but I have matters to attend to.”

 

He inclines his head to the two of them, and strolls away. Freydis turns to Alva, a slight pride coloring her voice. “Did you hear that, sister? His ladies.” She giggles.

 

Alva rolls her eyes and gives Frey a grin. “He was being polite, nothing more. Come, let’s go back to our seats.”

 

But on the way back, both Frey and Alva glance over in the direction the prince had been looking. When they see his ‘other matters to attend to’ are you, they cannot help but feel more than a little put out.

 

“Who is this girl?” Alva asks. “I've not seen her before.”

 

“Neither have I,” Frey notes, narrowing her eyes.

 

---

 

You walk among the gardens of the palace. Yes, they are beautiful, and you notice, but you’ve never much had an eye for the pleasant things in life. Sigrid shows you each flower, explaining what it’s called and what it is to mean symbolically. You nod at her, and make idle comments.

 

The dress makes you uncomfortable. The feel of air on your arms and chest leaves you with a sense of vulnerability. And even though the skirt of the dress almost touches the ground, Sig insisted you wear lady’s sandals instead of your new Asgardian boots.

 

“Here, let’s walk this way,” Sigrid suggests, leading you down another path. “There are lilies in the pools!”

 

“Ah,” you respond, feigning interest, and follow her obediently.

 

The nobles around eye you uncertainly. They do not recognize you, and the ones that do shy away. They think to themselves that something like you doesn’t belong in these beautiful gardens.

 

You agree with them.

 

Loki keeps his distance, wondering if it's smart to poke fun and argue with you in a place so public. He can tell the whole escapade was your little servant girl’s idea. You look uncomfortable in the dress, even though it fits you perfectly (unlike the blue monstrosity). Loki sees your false interest in what the child shows you, that the beauties of the gardens hold little meaning to you.

 

But he notices the way something lights up in your eyes when you see the lilies in the pools. It is as if you soften, so much so that even the harshness of your features seemingly lessens.

 

“My friend loved these flowers,” you tell Sigrid, bending down slightly to get a better look. “Water lilies, right?”

 

“Yes!” Sig tells you, happy to have at least captured your interest with something.

 

The flowers themselves are pure white, their tips flecked with speckles of a soft golden color. You have no love for water, but the memory of your friend makes you think of happier times, before war, and loss, when Willow and yourself sat among true companions and laughed.

 

“My world had flowers like these,” you say. “They weren’t white, though. And knowing where I come from, they were probably poisonous or something.”

 

“Really?” Sig asks, looking over at you. “The ones here aren’t deadly, or anything like that at all.”

 

You give a short laugh, amused. “Just one of the many differences.”

 

“Playing princess today, are we?” Loki calls, walking up to the two of you with a smirk.

 

You frown deeply at him, narrowing your eyes. “No.”

 

“It seems to me you are,” he states, crossing his arms. “A warrior in a dress. Or rather, you aren’t a warrior anymore, are you?”

 

“Shut up,” you tell him coldly.

 

He’s once again hit at something you’ve tried not to think about. And he knows it. “I say, will you be wearing that when you fumble around and wave your silly dagger?”

 

“Can I not enjoy a little part of my day without you being an asshole?” you ask, his barbs starting to leave little nicks in your armor.

 

He hears it in your question, that there’s more tiredness than venom, and instead of bringing him pleasure (as he figured it would), it creates an unpleasant feeling in his chest. Hurting you is his sole reason for talking with you, so he doesn’t understand why the satisfaction is absent.

 

“I suppose you can,” he replies.

 

The prince walks away back towards the palace, surprising you. “Uh, hey, wait.”

 

He stops, and looks at you over his shoulder, his expression bored.

 

“Are you still helping me later…?” You hate that you have to ask it. You want to take the words back, but it’s too late, and it makes his apathetic expression give way to yet another smirk.

 

“Sure, princess.”

 

---

 

You snarl as you slash at the swordsman. You don’t have the same reach with your dagger as you do your sword, which has never been a problem before. You’ve killed with a dagger many times. All of your reflexes and training are there, but your muscles just don’t respond as quick as they once did.

 

The man strikes you across your front, leaving a cold chill behind as the illusion fades.

 

“And you died,” Loki chimes in a sing-song tone.

 

“Again,” you growl, pacing the floor like a violent animal.

 

“It’s enough for tonight. That’s… what is it now….” He counts silently on his fingers just to spite you. “Nine times? You’ve died nine times tonight, how about that!”

 

“Again!” you spit, rounding on him.

 

“Well, why not make it ten?” he asks jovially, summoning up a woman with a polearm.

 

You rush her, as you are like to do, and attempt to get in her guard. She strikes you with the butt of her weapon, as if you are more a nuisance than a threat. You shout in anger and dodge to her side, bringing your dagger up. Before you can touch her, you hear the whooshing noise of her weapon swinging down. Your body naturally flinches away, but before you can drop into a roll, you feel an icy chill settle in your belly.

 

“Dead again!” Loki calls, smirking. “That’s ten.”

 

“Again,” you state coldly.

 

He gives you an annoyed look. “I swear, you’re as boar-headed as my brother. Let it be for tonight. Is ten failures not enough?”

 

“Again!” you command.

 

He rolls his eyes and chooses to comply. Again. And again. And again. Each failure sends you further and further into despair.

 

You’re thinking about the flower. You’re thinking about Willow, about your old friends, about times before you learned you had to fight and die. You’re thinking about how you failed them all more than once, and how you can’t fail yourself in the battle that will end it all.

 

But your body does fail you, each and every time, and you cannot help but let out a shout of despair as you go to a knee, panting.

 

“Finally finished? Or did you rip open a wound?” Loki asks, rolling his eyes and stepping forward.

 

You do not answer him. He walks to where you’re crouched, and places a hand on your shoulder.

 

“Don’t touch me!” you hiss, and his hand vanishes as if it was never there. “Get out.” Your tone is quiet, your anger seething. He opens his mouth to admonish you for giving him orders, when you say, “Please.”

 

He shrugs, as if none of it matters to him, and walks away. You hear him shut your door, and only then do you allow yourself to break.

 

Your initial sob is quiet. It’s the first time you’ve let yourself cry since you’ve arrived on this world.

 

You’ve fought it off when you bathe, sinking below the waters as the empty feeling makes tears prick your eyes. You’ve fought it almost every night, when your limbs feel heavy and your powers flow sluggishly. You’ve fought it when you see the scars on your body in the vanity mirror, and wonder how you could have let those bastards get to you as they did.

 

Your second sob is louder, and you feel tears slip down your cheeks. You sit down on the floor, holding your face in your hands to quiet your noises. You are sick of your weakness. You are tired of feeling useless and slow. You used to be a warrior, and now even illusions of men can win against you.

 

You feel as weak as you did when the Ordinat stole the lives of those around you. The first time you truly should have died. You weep for all you lost, and all you left behind you when you set out on your quest. You weep because you know you never expected to go back once you’d completed your self-set mission.

 

You’ve always intended to die, but you wanted to die on your feet after the battle.

 

With the state you’re in, there won’t even be a battle.

 

---

 

Loki pauses outside of the closed door when he hears your sob. He listens, for some reason unable to continue on his way.

 

What does it matter? he asks himself. It shouldn’t.

 

It doesn’t.

 

He shrugs his shoulders and shakes his head, brushing the front of his outfit as if to brush away thoughts of you.

 

And yet something is unsettled within him, and it sits heavy in his chest as he walks away.

 

---

 

I miss you, Will.

 

***

 

Oh, friend, I miss you, too. You okay?

 

***

 

Just fine.

Chapter Text

You sit in your room with Sig, talking. Rather, arguing would be a better description.

 

“I’m not going to that,” you scoff, rolling your eyes. “I don’t even know what the party’s for.”

 

“It’s not for an occasion,” Sig tries to tell you. “It’s merely a social gathering. The royal family holds them at times, to keep morale high.”

 

“Okay, that’s fine and all, but why should I go?” you ask, crossing your legs as you lay back on your bed.


“Because you’re a royal guest!” Sigrid exclaims, leaning forward towards you from the plush chair she sits in.

 

“Siggy, you know me by now,” you tell her. “I can hardly wear a dress, I curse like a sailor, and I can barely function in this high society shit. It’s not like anyone invited me to go to this thing, so I can skip and it won’t be a big deal.”

 

Sig isn’t familiar with the phrase ‘curse like a sailor’, but she’s smart enough to guess your meaning. “But I can help you with things such as that. I’ll remember everyone’s names, I promise! I’ll remind you when to bow, too. We can have a code of sorts. If you’re supposed to bow to someone, I can clear my throat.”

 

You groan, and turn to look at her. “But what’s the point of going?”

 

“It will be fun,” she tells you. “You’ve never been to an Asgard ‘party’ before.”

 

Sigrid doesn’t like that you call the event a party. A party is not a formal affair, such as this one will be.

 

“And I don’t really want to,” you say, frowning. “Why don’t you just go have fun tonight, and leave me here to brood. Look, it’s been raining all day. That’s perfect brooding weather.”

 

Sigrid normally would have giggled at your statement, however this time she remains silent. You can both hear the rain pattering against your window, and it makes you calm after your night of crying. The party isn’t for three days, and you have no idea why Sig is bringing it up again.

 

She can’t tell you that she’s never been able to go to an event such as this one. She hasn’t even been able to work at a festive palace celebration. Yes, the royal family (Frigga) hosts such things for the servants at times, especially because the queen knows not everyone can attend the other events, but Sigrid realizes these things are but shadows of a real Asgardian royal celebration.

 

She definitely won’t tell you that she cannot go without you.

 

---

 

Sif loves the rain. Rain brings storms, and thunder, and lightning. As a soldier, she loves the taste of chaos Asgardian storms bring with them. She trains in the downpour, not bothered by the mud like some of the other fighters.

 

Fandral the Dashing rushes at her, swinging his sword. Sif watches as his boots slide a bit on the wet dirt, and she takes advantage of this.

 

“No! No! No!” Fandral exclaims, scuttling back from her as his sword flies from his hand. “I’ll not have you push me into the mud!”

 

Sif laughs, holding her hand up in a taunting gesture. “That’s alright. I’ve won anyway, so there’s no need to dirty anything more than your pride.”

 

“Heads up!” Hogun grunts.

 

Fandral turns just in time to see Volstagg barreling towards him. “NO!”

 

Thor’s laughter bellows loudly as they all watch the blond man go down. Even Hogun cracks a smile, and soon the four of them wrestle in the mud like young children.

 

“Men,” Sif mutters under her breath, chuckling and rolling her eyes. “Boys,” she corrects herself.

 

Just as she turns away, she feels a large, muddy hand wrap around her ankle.

 

---

 

Frigga works hard on the last-minute details of the celebration. Three days is still plenty of time for something to go wrong, although the queen always hopes for the best.

 

Her youngest son has been in a sullen mood, and no amount of prodding gives her a reason as to why. He’s let her talk for far longer than he usually does without giving his suggestion, so she finds herself going over the details aloud to herself.

 

“How does that sound, Loki?” she questions.

 

“Fine, fine,” he replies, waving his hand.

 

Her study is cozy. She’s lit several candles and is burning a soothing incense. She takes a seat across from Loki and sets a hand upon his. It is time to be blunt. “What troubles you?”

 

Loki reverts to his go-to answer. “Father.”

 

Frigga looks at him carefully. “What of him?”

 

Loki doesn’t know.

 

---

 

Odin Allfather has asked for an audience with your servant. Sigrid cannot imagine the reason she has been summoned, and when she asks you, you tell her you have no idea.

 

She walks alone to the throne room and awaits nervously for the doors to open. When the guards wave her through, her heart pounds in her ears so loudly she fears Odin can hear it.

 

Sig kneels before him, touching her forehead to the ground.

 

“Rise,” Odin says, his voice loud in the echoic hall. “What is your name?”

 

The girl gets to her shaky feet. “My lord, my name is Sigrid.”

 

Odin shifts in his chair. “You are servant to our royal guest?”

 

Sigrid nods her head, swallowing nervously.

 

“Tell me, Sigrid. You’ve shadowed her. Do you think her hostile to Asgard? Tell me true. I will know if you lie.”

 

Sigrid is shocked. She thought Odin had summoned her to admonish her over something you’d done. Instead he wants to know if she thinks you are a threat.

 

“N-No, my lord. The only hostility she’s shown is towards those that put her in her current state.”

 

Odin grunts. All of the others he’s had watching you say the same, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to stop keeping his eye on you. “Does the girl’s condition improve?”

 

Sig nods. “She works every day, my lord.”

 

With your son’s help, she adds in her mind.

 

Odin asks for specifics, and Sigrid happily complies. When she is finished, the king thanks her and asks if she’s comfortable on keeping him updated.

 

“Of course, sire!” Sigrid tells him with wide eyes, bowing low to the ground once more. “I am your humble servant.”

 

“Thank you, child. That is all.”

 

---

 

Frigga comes to your door that evening to find it slightly ajar. She knocks anyway, and you call for her to enter.

 

She is a little more surprised than she thinks she should be to find her son in your room. Loki dispels an illusion of a warrior as she watches, and Frigga pieces together the puzzle rather quickly.

 

“Mother,” he says, bowing to her.

 

You copy him after a moment, remembering that you’ve already decided bowing to Frigga isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Loki shoots you a look that would have struck you dead if it could’ve. You bow to his mother, but not to him?

 

“How goes your evening?” Frigga asks you kindly. “I see my son is here accompanying you.”

 

“Not ‘accompanying’,” Loki says quickly, with a little too much bite. “She required my assistance.”

 

“Ugh. It’s true, I guess,” you say, rolling your eyes and glaring at him.

 

You’re clutching a sloppy version of your sword. The bout of nausea to use your power had made you throw up, but it had been worth it to pull forth even a weaker form of your blade. Sig had been sitting in the back of the room on your bed, although she is now on her feet after bowing in the presence of the queen.

 

“Forgive me for interrupting, but I’ve actually come to extend an invitation to our celebration in three days’ time, my lady,” Frigga tells you. “Although if my son had any manners, he would’ve already done so.”

 

Frigga may not be either of her sons’ biological mother, but she did raise them both. And as one of them is the Prince of Wickedness, it is only natural that some of that mischief stemmed from her nurture.

 

The queen watches the way Sigrid’s eyes light up, how Loki’s mouth pops open in indignation, and the look of repressed fear that you try to wipe quickly from your face.

 

“Um,” you say quickly at the same time Loki exclaims, “Mother!”

 

Invitation from the queen! Sigrid screams in her mind, staring at the back of your head and willing the silent sentences to reach you. You do not refuse an invitation from the queen!

 

Sig clears her throat, and you remember her saying you should bow when she does this (although you aren’t sure if she was serious). You incline your head anyway, which makes you realize you actually do respect this queen.

 

You suppose there’s a first time for everything.

 

“Thank you so much, for the offer,” you tell her, your gaze falling to the floor as you shift uncomfortably, “but I….”

 

Invitation from the queen! Sigrid practically screeches in her mind. You do not refuse an invitation from the queen!

 

And with a jolt, you hear her. Your sentence trails away, and you turn and look wide-eyed at the girl. Sigrid doesn’t know what your look means, and immediately drops her gaze.

 

You turn back to Frigga. “But I… I, uh, am happy to accept?”

 

The queen smiles at you, delighted. “Excellent! As guest under our roof, it’s only befitting for you to be present.”

 

She dips her head. “I bid you all a good night. And Loki, don’t be late in the morning, please. You’re to oversee the arrival of deliveries.”

 

Frigga departs, her thoughts busy.

 

She knows her son has taken interest in you, whether he realizes it himself or not. She’s a mother. She’s seen him take to lovers in the past (albeit not as angry and confused), none of them accompanying him long. He is a match struck when something intriguing comes his way, but matches burn quickly. Both of her sons have broken the hearts of many, although Loki discards much easier than Thor.

 

She does not know whether you will be the one to light a long-lasting match, or be yet another left in embers and ashes, but Frigga is content to wait and see.

 

---

 

“I heard you!” you say, spinning around to Sigrid once Frigga’s footsteps have faded.

 

“What?” Loki asks, his brow still furrowed from the indignant look he gave his mother.

 

“What?” Sig echoes, although hers is full of shock rather than curiosity.

 

“I did!” you tell her. “In my mind! You were telling me people don’t refuse invitations from queens!”

 

“You – wait, what?” Loki questions, looking between the two of you.

 

“You heard me?!” Sigrid squeaks, both of her hands flying up over her mouth.

 

“You spoke into her mind?” Loki asks loudly, tired of being ignored and talked over.

 

“She did,” you tell him, Sigrid’s joy rising as your spirits darken. “Uh, that’s not good.”

 

Your mind has always been a weakness. You have a hard time protecting yourself from mental attacks, and you know the Ordinat have members that can do these things. You do not have your friends Elaine, Willow, or anyone else to shield you. The poison made both your body and mind weaker. Even a girl who didn’t know she possessed abilities had just put words into your head.

 

It isn’t good.

 

“What?” Sig asks, her excitement stopping suddenly. She stares at the dark expression on your face. “Why not?”

 

“I mean, it’s good for you, but not for me,” you tell her. You change the subject. “You have magic, Siggy! That’s amazing! I thought you said you weren’t able to do anything!”

 

Loki listens to the two of you blather, standing silent. He saw you change the subject, and knows you’re worried. As a sorcerer, his mind is well defended from others, and he slowly realizes where your anxiety stems from.

 

A smirk crosses his face briefly. Another area where you fall short of him.

 

---

 

You make Sigrid sit with you in the feast hall that night. It’s your first time, and you’re nervous.

 

“Plus,” you tell her, pointing to the seat beside you as she nervously sinks into it, “this was your idea, and it’s to celebrate you! How are you supposed to celebrate if you don’t eat with me?”

 

The feast hall is laxer than the lesser dining areas, so Sigrid reluctantly agrees. She’s happy she does, however, when the food comes out. The servants (obviously) do not serve her, but you happily share from your plate. And once the ale settles in the other diners’ bellies, they no longer shoot the two of you odd looks.

 

Eventually there is a mighty roar, and you both turn to see a troop of muddy people walk into the hall. Thor is in the lead, shouting happily to everyone that he won the tournament. Sif follows him, mud caked in her hair, laughing along with the rest of the company.

 

The small wrestling match had turned into a large affair when other soldiers came upon them. Soon, a mock tournament rose among the younger troops when Thor offered a sack of gold to any who could beat him. He would have honored his claim, but none could do the deed.

 

Now, they’ve come to feast and drink, not bothering to shake the drying dirt from their bodies.

 

“Oh, Hilde will be irate!” Sigrid whispers in your ear. “Look at all that mud! It’ll take them hours to clean!”

 

You wonder if the god of thunder has thought of this, and think he probably hasn’t. You’re surprised when you hear Sigrid chuckle after her statement, and you turn to her for an explanation.

 

“Oh, I shouldn’t laugh!” she tells you, mirth in her eyes. “But anything that bothers Hilde…. Well, I just can’t help myself!”

 

The food is delicious, and you stuff yourself although you hardly ever have an appetite nowadays. The ale you don’t even bother with. You doubt it would intoxicate you, and even if it did, the taste isn’t to your liking.

 

Eventually, a drunken Thor wanders your way and catches sight of you. “The warrior!”

 

He’s suddenly much too close to you, and you feel yourself stiffen uncomfortably when he puts a heavy hand on your shoulder. “Uh, hey,” you tell him.

 

“Listen, I am glad to see you’re recovering!” he exclaims, and you can feel all the eyes in the room resting on him.

 

“Hear, hear!” a drunken soldier shouts, and the words suddenly echo in the mouths of others.

 

It seems drunken Asgardians are much nicer than sober ones. Some have already decided that if Thor likes you, then you must not be all that bad.

 

“Thank you,” you tell him, the edges of your lips lifting into a small smile. “I’m glad to see you… uh… muddy.”

 

He bellows out a laugh, and goes to bother someone else. Soon, chants of “The Muddy Prince” echo through the room, and you look over to see Sigrid grinning like a fool.

 

You’re glad at least she’s having a good time, although you have to admit that the sight of a mud-covered Thor makes you chuckle.

 

It lifts your spirits so much so that you forget you cried the night before, and later fall asleep easier for it.

Chapter Text

Vitran’s head still rings with the sounds of the barbarian feast the night before. He'd laughed with Magnus, spoken of how the barbarian king would one day be the king of all of Asgard. Vitran makes these promises easily.

 

He knows his plans are set in motion, and looks forward to seeing them come to fruition. And unbeknownst to the barbarian king, they do not involve Magnus ruling Asgard.

 

Vitran is aware that his batch is one of the last of the Ordinat’s bases, off-planet. The remnants of their organization on your home world have informed him well ahead of time that you'd be making your way to him eventually. He's to subdue you, and if he can't, he's to kill you. This is how he knows the situation is truly dire; the Ordinat would forgo a power as great as yours in an effort to avoid being snuffed out.

 

Vitran doesn't care either way. He remembers you as you were when he first saw you: a little girl with wide eyes, frightened and out of place. And once you'd escaped, once the years had passed, he found no difference upon seeing you once more. His army took your base, took the lives of your friends, stole their abilities and powers. If only he had succeeded in killing you then. He remembers fondly the image of you lying in a dark pool of your own blood.

 

No, he’s never been afraid of you. He was the leader of the base that stole you as a child, before they'd been split up to spread their organization across the galaxies, and he is still a leader now.

 

“Sir!” a man calls from outside his door.

 

“What is it?” Vitran asks, breaking from his pacing to walk to the door and open it.

 

It is his officer, Jun, here to give report. “We’ve made contact with the girl again. She's agreed to your terms.”

 

Vitran smiles widely at the man, his amber gaze full of wretched evil. “Excellent.”

 

---

 

“But you have to!” Sigrid practically wails, once again holding up the fanciest dress Frigga had ordered crafted for you.

 

You make a face, tilting your head back as you frown. “Siggy….”

 

“It's a formal affair! You have to wear a dress, and it may as well be your nice one!”

 

“Are the others not nice?” you ask, looking over at her.

 

Sig wavers as you look at her. “That's not what I meant.”

 

She doesn't tell you that everyone else will have on beautiful dresses and stunning jewels. Sigrid knows you don't care about those things, but she doesn't want you to be embarrassed.

 

You groan and take the dress from her, holding it up to better look at it. “I told them I didn't like gold.”

 

The dress is a warm color that fades to a reddish pink near the bottom. The bodice, you can already tell, will suck tight to you and limit your movement. Golden embellishments span up the top portion of the dress, and decorate the lower part of the skirt. The neck of it reminds you of a tank top, so for that, you're grateful.

 

Sigrid doesn't understand why you don't like gold. Asgard is known for the metal, and as it’s more valuable than silver, she cannot fathom why you are partial to the lesser.

 

“Why don't you just try it on?” she suggests hopefully.

 

You give up. “You know what, Sig, if it’ll make you happy, I'll do it.”

 

The girl claps, delighted. She herself is already dressed, a more ornate servant’s dress and light makeup on her face. Sigrid’s put her hair back in an intricate braid, and you have no idea how she accomplished such a feat on her own.

 

Once she has you in the dress, Sig can't help but tell you that you're beautiful.

 

“Stop,” you say, rolling your eyes and looking in the mirror. “I'm just me, with my ugly scars.”

 

“I think they make you look fierce,” Sigrid informs you, and you let out your breath in a huff.

 

“Whatever. Let's get this over with.”

 

The girl says your name tentatively.

 

You turn to her, eyebrows up. “Yeah?”

 

“May I please do something with your hair?”

 

Your expression shifts from confusion to surprise. “Why?”

 

“Just to see?”

 

“Sig, are you trying to make me into your doll?” you ask, teasing her.

 

She blushes. “No!”

 

You open your mouth wide and gasp. “You want to put makeup on me, too, don't you?!”

 

Sigrid blushes harder. “Just a little kohl around the eyes, maybe….”

 

“This is fun for you, isn't it?” you accuse.

 

She doesn't reply, just hides her face behind her palms. Sigrid didn't have a childhood. She didn't know ornate and beautiful things until she worked in the palace, and even then she wasn't a part of them, not truly. But Sig found she adored the intricacies that surrounded her, and just cannot relate to your stubborn adherence to plainness.

 

When you tell her to just do whatever she will to you, you see her golden eyes light up happily. You know your life here would be very different without this girl.

 

You'll miss her when you're gone.

 

---

 

The Asgardian ballroom is grand. Golden statues line the walls, their metal shining brightly in the warm light of the room. Tables heaped with tantilizing foods and beverages sit near one side of the Allmother and Allfather, who have a wide table to themselves.

 

There are seats around smaller tables for those in attendance to rest their legs. The center of the room is occupied by guests, who dance happily together to music magically amplified throughout the ornately decorated ballroom.

 

The duchess Freydis finds Loki almost at once. She's been chatting with him, laughing cordially at most things he says, and is even so bold as to lightly touch his forearm for a moment.

 

She's proven herself interesting enough for him to hold a conversation with, and he thinks there's something else hidden beneath her gaze. She has something she wishes to accomplish, and he guesses that the motivation is him.

 

“Would you fancy a dance, my prince?” Frey asks sweetly, “or would you rather, perhaps, have a glass of wine?”

 

Her boldness is daring, her attention flattering. He almost offers her his hand when he feels you walk into the room.

 

He has no idea what alerts him to your presence. Perhaps it is because your power pulls from its repression more every day. Maybe his magic reacts to you as if you are a threat. Either way, he turns to look over his shoulder, and he sees you.

 

This is the first time he admits to himself that you are stunning.

 

You look like a true Asgardian, your dress very befitting of a royal guest. The ornateness of the garb gives you a refined look. It makes you seem taller, although those standing near still tower over you.

 

He cannot tear his eyes away as he watches you send your little servant into the ballroom ahead of you.

 

“Or do you have… ‘other matters’ to attend to?” Frey asks, her smile faltering.

 

He wants to tell her ‘no’. Loki casually looks back to the duchess. “Yes. I apologize, my lady.”

 

He inclines his head and turns from her. Frey stares daggers at you as you walk, unaware that you're about to be in the company of the prince. She spins on her heel to go find Alva, who is dancing with some unwed duke.

 

When Loki reaches you, he finds you in conversation with his brother.

 

“Ah! The Muddy Prince,” you tease, your mood lightened as you see Sigrid talking happily amongst some other servant girls her age.

 

“Aye, I suppose I've earned that,” Thor says, giving you an abashed grin. “I'm happy to see you here. It'll please my mother.”

 

You both look over towards the head table, where Frigga and Odin sit chatting with those around them. Guards stand behind each of them, keeping a watchful eye over the guests.

 

“Yeah, it was nice of her to invite me,” you tell him.

 

Thor grins at you. He finds your company much more pleasant when you aren't lying on your death bed. He doesn't know what has taken away some of the steel from your gaze tonight, but he's happy for it.

 

The god of thunder doesn't quickly forget those who save his life.

 

“I'm glad she did,” Thor states, and then hears his name called.

 

“Prince Thor? Could I trouble you for a dance?”

 

It's a woman he doesn't know. Alva smiles at him as she bows, the warmth in her tone very winning. Thor returns her grin, and politely declines.

 

“I apologize madam, but I've promised my night to another.”

 

The Lady Sif is not much different from her warrior self, but Thor finds her just as remarkable in a dress as he does on the battlefield.

 

Alva’s eyes travel behind the both of you. “And you, Prince Loki?”

 

Your eyes widen a bit, and you spin around as fast as the damn dress will allow you. Loki is inspecting the food table that stands beside you and Thor. He looks up nonchalantly.

 

“I'm fine, Lady Alva.”

 

Two rejections sting Alva’s pride more than she cares to admit. She has yet to look at you. Alva keeps the smile on her face as she dips her head and bids you all to have a pleasant evening.

 

She returns across the dance floor to Frey, who scowls angrily.

 

“The night is young,” Alva says to her, shrugging. “Now, clear your expression, my dear Freydis. No one shall dance with you if you gaze at them so.”

 

Over by the food tables, you watch Loki distrustfully.

 

“What are you doing skulking by the refreshments, brother?” Thor asks jokingly, although he notices the steel in your eyes has returned full force at the sight of the other prince.

 

“I'm not one to interrupt important conversations, Muddy Prince,” Loki says, smirking.

 

This is a lie.

 

“Ah, you cannot bring my spirits down tonight, Silvertongue!” Thor claims, grinning happily and clapping a hand briefly on his brother’s shoulder.

 

It is at this moment Sif walks up in a pale, red dress that even you notice looks very striking on her.

 

“Hello, all,” she greets, smiling brightly.

 

“Greetings, Lady Sif,” Thor tells her, offering his arm.

 

“Sorry to steal him away, but he's promised me a dance!” Sif says, grinning.

 

Please take him,” Loki answers, “although I don't know why you'd want him.”

 

You almost laugh, but catch yourself. Sif turns to you. “I didn't get a chance to make my acquaintance, although I've seen you only briefly. I am Sif.”

 

You give her your name, smiling. “Good to meet you.”

 

“Love your dress,” Sif tells you politely.

 

“Oh, thanks. The queen had it… uh… made for me.”

 

“Enough girlish chatter,” Thor breaks in, pulling Sif away. “You can talk later. I want my promised dance!”

 

Sif happily waves goodbye to you, and you're left alone again.

 

“Why she's in love with my brother, I'll never understand.”

 

Well, not completely alone.

 

“So I see it's not just my life you like to shit all over,” you state before you remember you promised Sigrid you'd try not to curse.

 

“I'm surprised to see you here,” Loki tells you.

 

He's been refusing to look at you since he walked over, and he casually studies the other party-goers as he talks.

 

“Yeah, well, Sig wanted to come.”

 

He sees the girl, who has apparently forgotten she is a servant as she talks with a server boy. “She's supposed to be attending to you, you know.”

 

“Ah, I don't care. She's just a kid, she should have fun while she can.”

 

He risks a glance your way and immediately notices things. How the color of your dress warms your skin. How your hair is swept up off of your shoulders. How the fabric clings to your figure.

 

He looks again around the room, at the decorations he helped his mother plan for. He despises noticing things about you. He reminds himself that he hates you, that he only wishes to cut you down with his words.

 

“My mother is too kind to give you such extravagant gifts,” he snarls, changing the subject.

 

“Don't I know it,” you grumble, glaring down at the dress. “I'm not keeping any of these, though, so she’ll get them back at least.”

 

You weren't supposed to agree with him.

 

“Ah, yes, when you run off to vanquish your enemies,” he replies snidely. “Or – let’s be realistic here – go to be absolutely decimated in your weakness.”

 

You're about to retort when one of the servers approaches the two of you. “Wine, Prince Loki?”

 

He chooses a glass from the platter the server holds. The man then turns to you, “My lady?”

 

“Sure,” you say bluntly, and pick one off his tray.

 

“The warrior drinks wine? I didn't think you the type to risk inebriation,” he goads you.

 

“No problem there. I can't get drunk,” you tell him, shrugging as you go to sit at one of the empty tables.

 

He follows you. “What? How is that possible?”

 

You give him a look as he sits with you. You'd most certainly rather be sitting alone. “I mean, I can, but there's not a lot of stuff that does it.”

 

“Why not?” Loki questions, genuinely curious.

 

He's never heard of such a thing, and he's always thirsty for knowledge.

 

You fiddle with your glass. “It has to do with how my body’s made up. I'm not… ‘human’, or whatever the average thing to be is. My race of people have a hard time getting drunk.”

 

“What are you called, then?” he asks.

 

You look up at him. “I feel like you'll laugh, or make some kind of snide comment, so I'm not telling you.”

 

You irritate him with your words, but you aren't wrong, and he knows it. But Loki is a curious being, and he feels like he has to have answers. “What if I promise you that I won't?”

 

You laugh as he takes a drink. “I’d say I don't believe you.”

 

“I promise I won't laugh, or make a snide comment.”

 

“I don't believe you.”

 

You smirk at the little game, and take a sip of your wine. It's not a wine you've ever tasted before, and you're surprised at how much you like it. The sweet flavor covers the alcohol’s bite, and the drink goes down very smoothly.

 

“What is this?” you ask the prince.

 

“Wine?” he questions back, as if you're dim. “What else?”

 

“I've had wine. This is different.”

 

Now he understands, and mischief lights in his eyes. “Asgardian wine is no ordinary drink. It is a wine for gods. I don't care what race you come from, it will go straight to your head.”

 

You roll your eyes at him, and take another drink. “Yeah, uh huh, we’ll see about that.”

 

You look away towards the people dancing to see Sif and Thor twirling together happily. Loki takes this moment to study your face (the wine must be getting to his head, he decides). His eyes follow the curve of your nose, your cheekbones… your lips. Down your neck, your shoulders….

 

Sigrid walks up to the table, giving Loki a wary glance as she bows to him. “Is there anything you need?” she asks you.

 

“Hmmm,” you muse, putting a finger to your chin in mock thought. “Just for you to find someone to dance with.”

 

“No, I'm quite serious!” Sigrid replies.

 

“Go, go have fun,” you answer, shooing her away and drinking a little more wine.

 

Sig wavers, unsure of what to do.

 

“That's, uh, an order,” you say, taking on a false, serious tone.

 

Siggy grins at you, casts another look at the prince, and then leaves for the outskirts of the dance floor.

 

“You care for children?” Loki asks, watching you smile after the girl.

 

You laugh. “Uh, no, not really. I mean, Sig’s old enough to hold a conversation with, but the young ones are all…” you wave your hands around and make a face. “… gross.”

 

“Gross is an understatement,” Loki tells you with an eye roll. “Little monsters is what they are.”

 

“I just don't know how to treat kids,” you state, more to yourself than him. “I just end up acting like they're little adults.”

 

You both lapse into silence, simultaneously realizing neither of you was insulting the other during this conversation.

 

You wonder if Asgardian wine really can get you drunk. You've already finished a glass.

 

You tell him the name of your people, looking at the ornate patterns on the tablecloth as you do so.

 

“What does that entail?” the prince asks, remembering he promised you he wouldn't poke fun.

 

“Power-users,” you tell him, shrugging. “That's it.”

 

The server comes by and hands you both a new glass.

 

“Oh, thanks,” you tell him, and he politely inclines his head.

 

“So there are others like you, then?” Loki asks you.

 

“Other people with power, yeah,” you say, and then roll your eyes at him. “I said we were a race, didn't I?”

 

You take another drink.

 

---

 

The sorceress dances, laughing and talking with her partner, although she keeps her eyes trained on you. She needs a moment alone with you, that’s all. She’s not yet strong enough to slip into your mind without assistance.

 

She needs to know where you reside within the palace. Needs to talk with you. She waits impatiently for the prince to rise and leave the table.

 

Why doesn’t he leave?

 

---

 

Loki has been sipping on his second glass, watching you with amusement.

 

You’ve had four.

 

“You're drunk,” he tells you, looking at your flushed face.

 

“I am not,” you insist again, leaning forwards on the table with your elbows. “You know I did drink this stuff once, though.” You point at him.

 

“What was it?”

 

“It’s, like, an elixir. So these people with magic, right? On my planet. My best friend is dating one of them. They make this drink. And it makes you feel happy,” you do your best to explain.

 

 “Like drinking too much wine,” Loki says, waving away the server before he can give you another glass.

 

“Yep,” you reply, popping the ‘p’ sound in your word.

 

Loki takes a moment to think about what other information he can glean from your drunken state. The wine of gods has opened the walls you built around yourself, and he feels as if he's talking to a different, happier, individual.

 

But before he can ask, you stand up from your chair. “I've been to a fancy shmancy party like this before. And you know what? I danced at it. So, fuck it. I'm dancing.”

 

Oh, how he will make fun of you tomorrow. The prospect absolutely delights him. “Without a partner?”

 

You look over at him, and shrug. “I'll find someone.”

 

You walk towards the dancers, your legs quite steadier than he thought they'd be.

 

The girl sees, from across the room. She politely excuses herself from her partner, and begins to walk towards you.

 

Loki doesn't notice. He's watching you walk, his thoughts waging war within his mind. The prince finishes his glass, feeling the alcohol snake its way through his body.

 

As you'd said, fuck it.

 

“No need to accost an unaware gentleman,” Loki smirks, walking up beside you and taking your waist.

 

The sorceress continues her walk, diverting her feet towards the table laden with foods for the party goers. Damn. Vitran won’t be pleased. She could lose everything. She does her best to swallow her panic.

 

Even in your drunken state, you pull away from the prince slightly. “I'm not supposed to dance with you,” you say.

 

“Why not?” he questions, dangerous anger tinting his words.

 

You frown up at him. “’Cuz you don't like me. And you're mean.”

 

“So are you,” he answers curtly.

 

You roll your eyes. “Yeah, I know. You were mean first, though.”

 

He doesn't reply.

 

You've both been dancing as you talk. He's in his royal attire, and you find yourself tracing the patterns on his chest piece with your eyes. “You're all too fancy here.”

 

“What?” he asks.

 

“Everything's got ‘stuff’ on it,” you try to explain.

 

“I've no clue what you mean, but it's a royal palace. I don't know why you expected any less.”

 

You let out a breath, working on moving your feet. You look up at Loki’s face, and although your world tilts slightly, you trace his features with your eyes.

 

He's got an attractive face. You've never noticed before. His features are thin, his cheekbones sharp, his jaw masculine. The prince’s nose is very straight, his eyes a vivid, bright green. There's intelligence there, behind those eyes. How have you never noticed these things?

 

He catches your gaze. “What?”

 

You shrug. “I'm just looking.”

 

He smirks, his ego pleased. “And?” he coaxes.

 

“And what?” you ask, your eyebrows coming together.

 

The song is over. It's the last one of the event. Loki knows, because he's the one that chose it.

 

With your feet still, a dizziness overtakes you, and you rest your head, your cheek pressed against those ornate designs on the prince’s chest.

 

Loki hears his mother thank everyone for attending. He listens as Odin does the same, making a polite speech to the guests. He hears these things, but takes none of them in.

 

The wine twists the hatred he has for you into something else. He tries to call the dark emotion back, but cannot find it at the moment. His hands do not push you away, but hold you. Your body rests against his, not taut and rigid as you normally are, but soft. He wants to let you go, along with any and all thoughts of you.

 

But he can't.

 

It's the wine, he decides. The wine, and the dress.

 

---

 

Sigrid fetched you from him, and his greedy hands did not want to release you. He did in the end, however, and now he lies in bed alone. He is sure he’ll be able to hate you tomorrow, once everything is back to normal. He might not even go see you, he thinks to himself, settling down among his pillows.

 

You are, after all, nothing but a murderess. And he is a prince. He tells himself any irrational feelings or wants he had tonight were merely physical. The dress, and nothing more.

 

---

 

You giggle as much as Sigrid on the way back to your chambers. “Siggy, I'm glad you made me go.”

 

“It was fun!” Sigrid tells you. “Although I can't believe you danced with the prince.”

 

You hear her chiding tone, and your brow furrows. “I didn't dance.”

 

“You did,” she tells you, rolling her eyes. “Oh, you won't believe me in the morning, will you?”

 

“I'm tired,” you pout.

 

“We’re almost there.”

 

Sigrid helps you out of the dress, undoes your hair for you, and then lets you dress yourself for the night. When she tries to leave, you give her a hug and thank her for being so nice to you.

 

It's the first time you've hugged her, and it makes her smile. You crawl under your covers once she leaves. You grin stupidly into the darkness, curled up on your side.

 

The smile fades when thoughts slowly begin to plague you. Now that you're alone, the gods’ wine brings up past woes you long to forget. Blood and terror swim before your eyes, the sounds of bones cracking in your ears.

 

You hear Willow’s beloved in your mind, his voice echoing through your thoughts as it did when he handed you a glass of the elixir of happiness.

 

For every high, there is a low.

 

You start to curse the Ordinat aloud until tears slip down your face and into your hair. You sob into your pillow, remembering your weakness, your failures, yourself.

 

And then when you finally fall asleep, your mind is silent in your dreams.

Chapter Text

The Allmother and Allfather sit in the study together. Queen Frigga blows on the scroll in front of her to dry the ink, the script written in beautiful calligraphy. Odin studies different maps and messages from his scouts, mouthing the words silently as he reads.

 

He cannot focus… something is bothering him, and Frigga can sense it. She leans over and waves her hand at the candle on the table between them, and a flame springs from the wick.

 

She has no qualms about waiting him out. She loves her husband dearly, and is always a willing confidant, but allows him to come to her at his own pace.

 

At her movement, Odin looks up at his wife. He sees questions in her gray eyes, and sighs as he sets his maps aside. “I am troubled.”

 

“What brings about this trouble?” Frigga asks, looking away from him briefly to see if the ink has run across her page.

 

“Loki danced with the foreign girl at your celebration last night.”

 

Frigga pauses before turning to survey the king. She's more than aware of this fact. “When has it concerned you who our sons take to the dance floor?”

 

“It concerns me,” Odin tells her, his one blue eye narrowing, “because the two are dangerous. Considering what he is, and her abilities –”

 

The queen cuts him off. “What he is, is our son.”

 

Odin sighs. He knows these conversations on the subject upset his wife. She loves both of Odin’s sons fiercely, and thinks him too harsh. But Odin is king, and must put the safety of his kingdom over his personal affections.

 

“That may be, but darkness seeks out darkness,” Odin tells her gravely. “You cannot say you do not see it.”

 

Queen Frigga has seen it. She is wary. But she is a queen of hope, and she believes in her son. “True darkness does not reside in our halls, husband,” she answers. “Besides, it was one dance. A single dance is not something to worry your mind over. You have other, more important matters to attend to, I'm sure.”

 

Odin sighs again, and Frigga sees the tired worry in his face. She reaches over and touches his arm, and he places his hand over hers. “Have faith, my love,” she tells him.

 

He cannot help but return the small smile she gives him, but his worries are not subdued. The Allfather intends to keep his eye on you.

 

And his son.

 

---

 

“Was she truly the Bloody Warrior?” one of the girls questions, leaning forward over the table.

 

“Truly,” Frey insists, delicately setting her cup down and staring at it darkly. “Alva recognized her first.”

 

“You've seen her before?” one of the other ladies question, now eyeing Alva with an awed expression.

 

“Oh, no,” Alva tells her, sipping her tea. “I have heard her described, though. It was hard to recognize her in a dress.”

 

“Well, tell us! Could you see her scars? Did she threaten anyone?” the other girl asks, excitement on her face.

 

“The only threat from her was to my evening,” Frey mutters angrily. “And the scars? Hideous. I was surprised she even made an appearance. It’s not as if anyone wanted her there.”

 

“I was shocked when you two told us the foreigner attended,” the first lady speaks up. “I figured she would be invited, but I hadn’t thought she’d think it prudent to attend.”

 

“I doubt she thinks much at all,” Frey scoffs. “Dull women who cannot make anything of their lives are the ones that turn to brawling.”

 

“She seemed to be having a grand time, though,” Alva says, giving Freydis a sympathetic look. “Perhaps she just wanted to celebrate her recovery.”

 

“If it was up to me,” Frey whispers quietly so that all of the women present must lean in to hear, “I’d send her back to the sickbed.”

 

---

 

When you wake, you are once again the cold warrior. Sigrid doesn’t understand the change, doesn’t know that your old self has been resurfacing, but that it isn’t you. Sig remembers why she was afraid of you, and can see the hard, emotionless way you stare out the window at the training grounds.

 

Rather than make Sigrid uncomfortable, you give her the day off. She feels a coldness emanating from you when you tell her, and wonders where the version of you that hugged her last night went. She doesn’t even argue with you on the order, and leaves you to your own devices at once.

 

You spend the whole day doing nothing but testing your abilities and working your muscles. You do not pause to eat or rest. You simply lose yourself in routines, counting in your mind the number of pushups you can do before collapsing.

 

Not enough. None of it is enough. You feel the weakness in your limbs and core, and no matter what you do, you cannot push it out. You flex your abilities and powers as well, and despite how nauseous you get, you do not allow yourself to vomit.

 

But no matter your determination, you cannot command your darkness. You can craft your crude weapons from it, yes, but it does not flow around you, does not lend itself to you as it once did.

 

It senses your weakness. The darkness is unforgiving to such things. That’s what you think, at least.

 

---

 

Sigrid has gone to spend some of her wages on a bracelet, now that she makes more coin in her new position. She hears talk among the marketplace streets as she walks, many recounting the palace event. The girl feels her chest swell when she realizes she was a part of this event.

 

Sig had been able to visit with some of her old acquaintances, who were absolutely overjoyed to see her out of the washroom. She recalls twirling on the dance floor with Asmund, and feels her face go red even though no one is around her.

 

She’s been sweet on the young man for years now, although he’s never noticed. Asmund is the reason Sigrid loves magic. His father is a sorcerer of sorts – not renowned enough to be a part of Loki’s guild, but a fair magic-user. His son inherited this magical ability, and does his best to hone it when he isn’t clearing Asgardian tables. He was kind to Sigrid from the first time she bumped into him in the kitchens, and they remain friends although she hasn’t seen him since changing her position.

 

Upon meeting up once more, the two had traded stories, and Asmund had been absolutely delighted to hear of Sigrid’s newfound magical ability. And although he didn’t have long to spare, he took a few moments to ask to dance with her (which risked him being scolded very harshly), and for that, she was grateful.

 

The girl thinks back on why she was even able to attend the celebration, and her thoughts go to you. She worries about you, about the coldness of your tone from this morning. Sigrid didn’t expect to care so much for you, and she isn’t sure when it happened. However, she’s been your personal serv- helper for weeks now, and you’ve never been truly unkind. Hel, even in your strange mood, you’ve given her the day off!

 

Sigrid reaches one of the many jewelry peddlers in the marketplace square and begins to search his wares. As she looks, two people walk by, and she catches the phrase “Bloody Warrior”. Sig glances up, worrying her lip. They’re talking about you.

 

None of it nice.

 

---

 

In his free time, Loki keeps his mind busy with his favorite hobbies. He reads, losing himself among the pages of “Ages of Arcana”. He visits the sorcerers under his instruction, ensuring their training is progressing as it should be. He dines with his family, poking fun at his brother and agitating his father. And he practices different aspects of his own magic, ever wanting to expand his power.

 

He doesn’t think about you at all, and is certainly pleased with himself about this fact. It is almost time to meet with you, and he considers skipping. He doesn’t know why he’s bothering to help you. You’re beneath him, you’re nothing to him, so why does he go? Why should he go?

 

He thinks these thoughts as he walks down the halls to your door. He can hear movement from inside, and he lazily knocks on the wood.

 

“Come on,” he hears you say.

 

When he enters, you’re on the floor doing sit-ups. You complete your set, and then stand up. “You’re late.”

 

“I don’t have to come at all,” he retorts, rolling his eyes. “You should be glad I chose to grace you with my presence.”

 

“Cut the shit,” you say curtly, summoning your sword.

 

He watches you in morbid curiosity as you fight his illusions. Where did your fire go? He’s seen hints of this part of you before, but never like this. He senses only cold, angry determination in your every movement, as if you are nothing but….

 

This is the killer. This is who you are. Your barbs and hot anger were once yours, although Loki reckons these are old, almost forgotten traits. The prince wasn’t sure what he expected after last night, but it sure as Hel wasn’t this. He wonders what brought about this change, and decides he may as well be blunt.

 

“Something is off with you today,” he tells you when you finally score a strike against one of his illusions. “I wish to know what it is.”

 

“What?” you ask. Your eyes are already searching for the next target, and when none appears, you turn to him. “I don’t have time for this.”

 

“You do, because I’ve said so,” Loki tells you, crossing his arms. “Answer my question, girl, or do I have to repeat myself?”

 

Yesterday you would have rolled your eyes at him, or shot him a steely glare. Today, you say, “Nothing is ‘off’ with me.”

 

“You’re lying. Did something happen?”

 

You’re fed up with him. You don’t have the time for this. You should be practicing, not wasting seconds of your night talking. You reach up and pull the neck of your Asgardian shirt to the side, stretching the fabric. It reveals one of the old puncture wounds you received at the fight that almost killed you, the fight where Elaine died.

 

This is what happened,” you tell him icily. “I can’t let myself slip back into my old habits.”

 

He studies the pale scar. He’s already seen it, and knows you have matching ones at three other places on your body, not including your newer wounds. “How long ago?”

 

“Almost four years.”

 

He looks at you, snidely saying, “And yet you’ve ‘slipped into old habits’.”

 

“I wasn’t thinking clearly,” you reply, releasing your shirt. “But I can’t end up dead now. Not when I’m so close.”

 

“Do you not think it worth it, to fight this battle as you were? Are you not tired of this coldness?”

 

You don’t understand his question. “What do you mean?”

 

“Four years, you would let your enemies rob you of your personality,” Loki replies, his own face apathetic. “You wish to destroy them, yet this cold being I see before me would take no joy in the action.”

 

“I would,” you say.

 

He sees the killer give way, slightly.

 

“Liar,” Loki names you.

 

He’s making you tired. You don’t want to think. You just want to train. “Why does it matter?”

 

Because he wants you back. He can appreciate a cold killer, yes, but it isn’t the ‘you’ he’s used to. He doesn’t say any of this, doesn’t even let the thoughts fully form in his mind. He dismisses you with a wave of his hand, his expression as rigid as your own. “I suppose it doesn’t.”

 

It is at this moment Sig returns, having spent her whole day outdoors. She knocks, but as you’ve told her she can come in whenever she pleases, she does not wait for permission to enter. The girl is beaming, hoping that you are back to normal.

 

When she sees Loki, she immediately bows, although her fear of him has diminished greatly. “How is practice going?”

 

“It’s over,” Loki states frigidly.

 

“Oh, good!” Sigrid says, reaching into her dress pocket as she walks towards you. “Here.”

 

“What?” you ask, confusion clouding your face as you automatically accept what is handed to you.

 

It’s a silver bracelet, the metal bands woven together to form interlocking knots.

 

“Well, I saw it in the marketplace on my day off. I thought it might make you feel better. You seemed upset today.”

 

Sigrid eyes you worriedly, nervous that you don’t like it. You’re staring at the gift, your expression slowly shifting.

 

“Sigrid, no, I can’t take this,” you tell her, your throat tightening. “You should’ve spent your money on yourself.”

 

“I didn’t want to. Servants don’t wear much jewelry, anyway,” she says.

 

Loki watches the killer almost break, giving way to familiar expressions. “Sig, no, it’s too much.”

 

The prince scoffs. “The little trinket is nothing.”

 

When you glare over at him, he knows the servant girl has brought you back.

 

“Here, I’ll leave it here for you,” Sigrid says, her cheeks red from Loki’s comment.

 

She takes the bracelet from your loose fingers and puts it on the vanity among your other possessions. It is a striking difference from the objects that surround it, making them seem even more worthless to Loki.

 

“Thank you, Siggy,” you whisper, heart in your throat.

 

“Tiresome,” Loki states, rolling his eyes. “I grow bored.”

 

You shoot him a look, and then a smirk slips across your face before you can catch it. “You’re just jealous that no one gave you anything.”

 

Sigrid giggles behind her hands, truly banishing the killer for now, although Loki now knows it’s ever a part of you. He first saw it when you slept in your sickbed, and he realizes you will never be rid of it.

 

But somehow Asgard has given you back your old self. Not your innocence, nor your carefree wildness, but a shadow of yourself nonetheless.

 

The Prince of Lies doesn’t let himself admit that he’s glad.

 

---

 

Been a while since I heard from you.

 

Hello?

 

You alive?

 

Answer me please.

 

***

 

I’m fine, Will. Sorry, I’ve been busy.

 

***

 

Still practicing with the ‘Bastard Prince’, as you call him?

 

***

 

Ugh. Yes. Yes I am.

Chapter Text

Thor looks at his brother questioningly. “What are you implying?”

 

Loki’s barb has backfired. He’d intended to tease the older prince about his affections towards Sif. However, he was unaware that Thor had not picked up on the woman’s intentions.

 

He rolls his eyes, letting out a huff of breath. “Honestly, were you any more dimwitted, I swear you’d forget to draw breath. I speak of you and Sif.”

 

“Sif thinks of me as a brother,” Thor says.

 

Loki stares at him, and then shakes his head. “Of course. How silly of me to think you'd be able to see her as a woman instead of leathers.”

 

“She is quite beautiful,” Thor muses, setting his mug of ale aside. “Truly talented with a sword. You think she has eyes for me?”

 

“I’ve no idea why she would be interested in a boar,” Loki replies. “Unless she has an inclination for some rather distasteful carnal urges.”

 

Thor snorts, torn between laughing and taking offense. “And I’ve yet to figure out why anyone would be interested in a… a serpent.”

 

Loki purses his lips, almost smiling. “Good try, brother. Think harder next time, and perhaps you’ll eventually find a retort that wounds.”

 

---

 

You wear the bracelet Sig gave you every day. You haven’t worn jewelry in a long time, and it feels odd on your wrist. But Siggy spent good money on it, and you won’t let that go to waste.

 

She remembered I liked silver.

 

You practice still, but work to not let yourself fall into the routines your mind so favors. You do it for Sig. You don’t know why. You figure it’s because she’s the only person even close to a friend you have in this palace. You spend your days with her, take trips outside with her, let her show you the marketplace.

 

These mundane tasks make her happy, and so you let them happen.

 

Every evening you get better and grow stronger against Loki’s illusions. Your sword is almost your own again, and your reflexes are getting faster. You still cannot throw enough of your energy at the ground to allow you to take to the air, and your darkness continues to sit untapped within you. But your flames come easy now, and the push and pull of your energy can make objects fly quickly to your fingertips.

 

Things seem to be going well.

 

---

 

“There was a stranger at our barracks last night,” Odin tells his council, pacing to and fro before the table. “Two men reported seeing a woman. Her face was hidden, and she asked about the foreigner. She figured the girl was staying in the barracks.”

 

“The Bloody Warrior?” one man questions.

 

“Perhaps this is the Ordinat’s response. According to their letter, the girl belongs to them,” another states.

 

“Maybe she does,” the first says, shrugging. “Have we any proof that she doesn't? Maybe she is a spy herself, whispering things to the barbarians.”

 

Odin stops his pacing, and turns to the man.

 

“Udom, what makes you say this?”

 

“The girl appears just after the leader of the Ordinat attempts to make a deal with you, sire,” he replies, quickly running with his thoughts while he has the king’s attention. “I call that troubling. We’d heard of the Ordinat, but had seen nothing of the group until she arrived.”

 

Odin begins his pacing again. The idea of welcoming a spy into his household is more than troubling.

 

“May I speak, my lord?”

 

“Colborn,” Odin nods.

 

“If I recall, your son brought the girl in. He claims she was slaughtering both barbarians and Ordinat.”

 

Odin nods, remembering. “I walked the field. We did not recognize the Ordinat uniforms.”

 

“So how can we know they were Ordinat?” Udom says quickly. “Are we to take it on the word of this foreigner?”

 

“Scouts have confirmed the uniforms,” Colborn retorts. “Your distrust is unfounded.”

 

“And you trust the foreigner?” another council member asks.

 

“No attacks have been mounted yet, but it’s sure to come. Is it truly worth it to keep the girl here?” Udom asks.

 

“If she can be used,” a member says.

 

This statement echoes Odin’s own train of thought. He turns his eye on the man. “Egil.”

 

Egil looks up at the king. “If we can find leverage against her, she could be a mighty weapon. If she's true to her word, she will slay the barbarians. Why should we have her stop there?”

 

---

 

Sigrid!”

 

Sig almost drops the laundry she's holding. “Asmund!”

 

The grin he's giving her is absolutely adorable. The boy is all bright energy, with light brown hair and blue eyes and a light dusting of freckles across his nose.

 

“Sorry, I saw you go by! I wanted to tell you that I very much enjoyed dancing with you. Hilde didn't catch me, so don't worry. I really enjoyed dancing…. I wanted to tell you that!”

 

“You've said that already,” Sigrid teases, giggling behind her hand.

 

“Oh, did I?” Asmund replies, tucking his own hands into his pockets. “Apologies. Oh! I brought something for you.” He feigns searching his pockets, and even checks under both of his arms. He looks at her in mock distress. “No! It seems I forgot –”

 

In a swift movement he brings his arm up and flicks his wrist. With a swirl of sparkling golden magic, a beautiful white flower appears, the stem between his fingers. He beams at her. “Just kidding! Here we are!”

 

Sigrid holds her hands up to her face, blushing furiously as she accepts it. “A calla lily! You remembered!”

 

“All ladies deserve flowers,” Asmund tells her, hopping up and sitting on the edge of the laundry counter. “Especially one who loves talking about them!”

 

“Where is that boy?! Asmund!”

 

Asmund’s blue eyes widen, and he quickly springs back off the counter and to the floor. “I hope we can spend time together soon. I miss you, my friend! We all do.”

 

“I-I miss you, too!” Sigrid replies, and then catches herself. “I miss all of you!”

 

He gives her a final grin and a wave, and then rushes off back to work before Hilde can find him. Sigrid holds the gorgeous flower carefully, wishing it could last forever. She should've asked him to place a spell on it, so that it would not wilt and die.

 

But no! She can't do that! Then he might think she….

 

Sigrid sighs, flower in one hand and laundry piled in her other arm. She does love flowers. She always has, and enjoys the meanings behind them.

 

She wonders if Asmund knows the calla lily he gave her represents beauty.

 

---

 

You're finally able to best Loki’s illusions.

 

“Give me three,” you tell him, and he obliges.

 

You dodge the two that come your way and head for the third, the archer. He takes out a dagger, bringing it up to strike you. You slip around his side, avoiding attacks from the other two behind you, and cut him through the middle.

 

You skirt around the illusion as it disappears and dodge a strike from the girl with the spear. She's got the longer reach in comparison to the final illusion man with the sword, so you deal with her first. You counter a blow from the swordsman and roll to the side, cutting through the woman’s legs as you go.

 

You're panting when you get up, the exercises slowly wearing you down. You ignore your weakness and parry the swordsman. You see the way he holds his weapon, and choose to aim for his wrist. He isn’t expecting it, and were he a real man, your swipe would've severed his sword hand from his body.

 

“Look at you,” Loki states, hint of approval in his tone. “Almost ready for real men, it seems.”

 

“I am ready,” you growl, your free hand clenching into a fist and then relaxing. “Again. More. And make them better, please. You're going easy on me.”

 

“Very well.”

 

He watches as you dispatch the illusions, cutting your way through them and not even pausing to watch them dissipate. You have to work harder now, as he's created craftier and better-trained beings to fight you. Still, their blades barely graze your skin, and if they do, the wounds would not have been fatal.

 

You truly are almost ready.

 

“Again,” you tell him, gasping for air.

 

“Take a short respite, murderess.”

 

“There's no ‘respites’ in war,” you say, rolling your eyes and shaking out the soreness from your arms. “Again.”

 

He narrows his gaze. “Any other requests?”

 

You look him in the eyes when you say, “Make it personal.”

 

He doesn't even have to think for a second to understand what you want. He flicks his fingers, and Ordinat warriors suddenly stand before you.

 

Loki has never seen them in battle, but he knows their uniforms from the bodies that remained on the field where you arrived. He also saw the wounds they left on you, so he gives these illusions weapons to match.

 

You snarl at the people before you, and even though your sword is heavy in your hand, you force yourself into your fighting stance.

 

---

 

Queen Frigga is looking for Loki. One of her more scholarly servants has procured a book of sorcery for her that she knows her son will want. Upon finding his chambers empty, she guesses him to be spending his evening with you.

 

Frigga shrugs, and decides the book can wait until she sees him again. However, on the way back to her chambers, she finds a certain curiosity stealing its way into her mind. She changes her path, and tells herself she can check on the progress you've made with her son helping you.

 

Before she rounds the corner of the hall, she can hear voices. Queen Frigga is not one to eavesdrop under normal circumstances, but she's quite curious to know where her son stands with you. And as the queen, she has nothing to fear of being caught.

 

Frigga feels like a young girl again as she slyly peeks around the corner.

 

Loki has walked out of your room, and you've stepped into the hall after him.

 

“Because I need to practice!”

 

He rolls his eyes. “Practice? You run yourself into the ground. Why do you insist on ‘again’, ‘again’, ‘again’? That's all I hear!”

 

“Again!”

 

“You say this until you fall,” he hisses. “Why? Why? You want ‘again’? Very well!”

 

He holds his hands up, and the hall is suddenly filled with multiple Ordinat. They surround you, and you immediately set upon them.

 

You practice every night until you can barely hold your sword. It’s as if you are training yourself to fight until your very last breath. At first he thought it was due to your burning desire to return to your former self. Now, he thinks it's something else. Something much darker.

 

Loki Odinson realizes you intend to die.

 

He angrily watches you as the thought runs through his mind. He hears your cries of hatred when the phantom blades leave chilly slashes across your body. But no matter what, you continue to keep your sword tip from the ground, even when you can't help but grasp at a stitch in your side.

 

Frigga watches you slowly work your way through the illusion army. She cannot help but be proud of you – you've come so far from the helpless, bloody girl you were when she rushed to aid you.

 

Loki is sure you're about to break. He can feel it. You've pushed yourself to far, and something has to give. He wonders what it will be.

 

You don't stop. You focus on one after another, feeling the cold lacing all over your body. You imagine blood seeping from you, the pain it will bring.

 

But in your mind, Vitran is long dead. You always go for him first, leaving his horde of followers left to deal with. You know the base is large, the largest you'll try to take on your own. You know the poison they struck you with will undoubtedly find its way into your body again. And because there is nothing left for you to lose, you won't worry about fighting on.

 

The Ordinat Loki crafted up in his anger would have long killed you. He feels the muscles in his body tense as he waits for it to happen. You're nearing your breaking point, where your rage and desperation will get the best of you. What will you do, when there's no illusion warriors left to fight? Will you turn on him? Will you sink to your knees? Will flames or darkness burst from you, uncontrollable? For there are always consequences when people break.

 

The last one falls. You're facing him, and he's watching you carefully, his gaze speculative. You're not sure why. You stare back at him, working hard to catch your breath.

 

And then someone does break.

 

And it's not you.

 

Frigga watches as Loki takes a single, quick step forwards, pulls you to him, and kisses you.

 

He could not have told anyone his reasoning for the action, it was just something that simply had to be done. He kisses you as he should have during your fever dream. Your lips are still just as warm, your mouth opening to his greedy tongue.

 

You hear your sword drop to the ground, although you don't remember releasing it. You forget yourself, the rage you feel towards him shifting to angry passion. Your breath was already short, and it's even harder to gain it back now. He holds you too tightly to his body, fingers pressed into your sides, and you grip at the leather beneath your fingertips while you kiss him.

 

The queen turns to go, but from the corner of her eye she sees you suddenly break from him, taking two, three steps back and shaking your head.

 

“No… no, no,” you mumble, stumbling backwards into your room and shutting the door.

 

Loki stands frozen in the hall, his shoulders rigid and his breathing shallow. Frigga watches him put a hand to his head.

 

Before he has time to collect any of his thoughts or emotions, your door opens again. You cross the hall in easy strides, your hands taking his face as you force his lips on yours.

 

You run your thumbs over his cheekbones, and then your fingers move to tangle in his hair. He responds as hungrily as before, his hands immediately on your waist to pull you to him.

 

But you’re gone once more, before he fully has you in his grasp, and you back away. Your chest hurts from lack of air, and you take quick breaths.

 

And he just gazes at you, a second away from reaching out and taking you, pulling you back into his arms.

 

And you turn from him.

 

And he sees your hands shaking as you close the door behind you.

 

And the queen slips away, as if she was never there.

 

And the match is struck.

Chapter Text

You fool. You’ve done this all before, this is him all over again, bloodied stomach, hand reaching, dead eyes. You hated him, too, it's the same thing, and look where it got you.

 

You don't have time for this, or don't you remember? You're so close to being done, completing this revenge, and it's sure to end in blood. This is a distraction, this is dangerous, this is not okay.

 

Maybe it would've been different if everything wasn't so similar.

 

Dead eyes, dead eyes, dead eyes.

 

You bury your face in your hands, your forehead resting on your knees. You can't stop seeing your first love, dead, stomach torn and bleeding as he stares straight at you. You can't do this again.

 

You can't.

 

---

 

Loki paces in his chambers, his footsteps quick. He's confused, and conflicted, but most of all: he's angry.

 

Your words echo in his mind, the taste of you still on his lips.

 

No… no, no.

 

No? No. You'd said ‘no’. To him. He's never been rebuffed, not him, not like that, at least, not so abrupt, so straightforward, just a ‘No… no, no’.

 

Why had you needed three? One to stab, and two to twist the knife? His anger stems from the idea of rejection, a rejection from you, no less. You are beneath him, you're nothing, and you reject him? A prince?

 

As everyone does. Why does this surprise you so? Unwanted things are always cast aside.

 

His face twists in anger, his fingers twitching involuntarily. His belongings are all thrown back a couple of inches from him before he can stop the magic.

 

He sneers at the thing that shattered – shards of a glass vase are now scattered across the floor. He changes his pacing route to avoid them.

 

The thoughts sting, as does his pride. He touches a hand to his face, feeling the phantom sensation of your thumbs running across his cheeks.

 

But you'd come back. That's what he doesn't understand. You’d come to him the second time. Did this counter the rejection? He doesn't know. He's wasting too much time thinking about it. And while Loki loves to waste other people’s time, he values his own.

 

He forces his feet to still, tries to make his mind quiet as he readies for bed. Tries to make himself believe it doesn't matter. That you don't matter.

 

He does not sleep. Closing his eyes only brings up images – the dance, the dress, your fire, your lips. You turning from him and closing your door. Your shaking hands. Why did they shake?

 

His anger makes his jaw tighten. Rejection. The word is ugly.

 

The prince is used to solitude, and now he remembers why.

 

---

 

When Sigrid knocks on your door in the morning, she doesn't hear any reply. She peeks inside, calling out your name. “Hello?”

 

You're in your bed, sitting with your head pressed into your knees, your face hidden. The room is still dark – you haven't even pulled the curtains back. Sigrid isn't sure you're awake, but before she can step inside, she hears you speak.

 

“Take the day off, Siggy.”

 

You're quiet, your voice bordering on a whisper. You still haven't moved, haven't even looked up at her. She sees the silver bracelet glint on your wrist, giving her at least a little hope. “I… I don't need the day off.”

 

“That's fine. I want to be alone.”

 

Sig clasps her hands behind her back and bows. “Alright.” She heads for the door, and then hesitates before she closes it. “Please… if you need anything….”

 

“I know.”

 

---

 

Frigga watches her son at lunch. He reads as he eats (rather, picks at his food), his eyes flicking much slower across the page than normal. He'd thanked her kindly for the book, and immediately opened the cover.

 

Thor continues to talk, unaware that anything is amiss.

 

“I’d say, the people are growing mighty content in this long peace,” he comments after swallowing a bite. “Even the kingdoms to the east and south have been respectful of our borders as of late. There's been no raids on our suppliers or farms.”

 

“That's very good, dear,” Frigga speaks up, returning to her own plate.

 

“Don't become complacent,” Odin grumbles, taking a drink. “There are threats yet to come.”

 

“You speak as if you know something we don't, Father,” Thor says, frowning.

 

Odin grunts in reply. He has not invited his sons back to the council meetings since their bickering at the last. After all, it's for the better, Odin reasons, glancing over at his youngest.

 

The council discusses delicate matters.

 

---

 

Sigrid sits in her room, drumming her fingers against her little table. She is afraid to leave, and then find you tried to call upon her. She has naught to do, as she's caught up on all of her own personal tasks, since you give her so few of yours.

 

Sigrid decides to stitch while she waits. She loves embroidery, and bought new supplies from the market on her last impromptu day off. One of her servant friends, Embla, had been taught embroidery by her mother. In between washing dishes, the young woman passed on the skills to Sigrid.

 

As a washer, with a washer’s wages, Sig’s projects have never come to anything particularly grand. However, she's determined to hone her skills before the kitchens take her once more. She wishes to craft a handkerchief embroidered with her favorite flowers, so she can have something of higher quality. A representation of her time as a ‘helper’.

 

The thought of the lilies give her pause. She's pressed the one Asmund gave her between the pages of a large book. It's a stolen cookbook, which she hopes Hilde will never discover to be missing.

 

He'd said he wanted to see her again. Perhaps, if he wasn't busy, she could call upon him. Would that be too improper? He had said they were friends. Friends visited with one another all the time.

 

He'd also said that he missed her. Her cheeks flush at the thought, and she lets out a slow breath. She thinks of you and your boldness, and strengthens her resolve.

 

She’ll go see if the boy is busy.

 

---

 

Asmund has finally finished clearing the tables from lunch. He wipes his brow and looks at the table he's just finished polishing. The tasks frustrate him, and he feels like if he was better with his magic, he'd be able to make these mundane chores much easier.

 

“You've done well, I suppose,” Hilde grunts, surveying his work as she walks by. “Go ahead and take your break. Be back by the time the first arrive for dinner, or there'll be Hel to pay.”

 

“Yes, Mistress Hilde,” he replies, giving her a grin and bowing.

 

Free at last, he practically sprints from the room towards the palace grounds. His breaks are when he gets to practice, and oh, how he loves to practice.

 

“Asmund!”

 

He halts in his tracks at the familiar voice, a broad smile crossing his face. “Sigrid!”

 

He turns to find the girl before him, his eyes taking in her blushing face. He counts himself a lucky man that he does not blush, otherwise Sigrid might realize he fancies her. The girl is always blushing (when he sees her), so he figures this is her natural state.

 

He thinks she's absolutely gorgeous, and longs to give her a kiss. However, he doesn't wish to insult her, or ruin their friendship, so he keeps these feelings to himself.

 

“Are you busy? Will I get you in trouble for speaking too long?”

 

“No, madam! I'm free until dinner. How about yourself? Where is the Bloody Warrior?”

 

He looks about her curiously, hoping to get another glimpse of you. Sigrid’s smile falters. “Oh, please, Asmund, don't call her that. She's not at all what people are saying, or didn’t you hear all I told you?”

 

“The name holds ill meaning?” he asks, his blue eyes widening. “I hadn't realized! I apologize. I thought it was meant to capture her battlefield prowess! I meant no harm towards your charge.”

 

“You're quite alright! No offense taken,” Sigrid assures him. “I… I was wondering if you'd like to spend a few moments together today. I very much enjoyed seeing you!”

 

He beams at her. “Of course! Say, I'm headed to the grounds to practice my sorcery. Would you accompany me? We can test your ability as well! It'll be exciting!”

 

Sigrid blushes as she grins happily. “That sounds delightful!”

 

She follows him to the grounds, the both chatting as they always have. Asmund leads her over near the bench by the calla lilies on purpose, watching as her eyes light up when she sees them.

 

Sigrid perches on the edge of the bench, and the boy sits cross-legged on the seat, facing her. She studies his thin frame, the adorable upturn of his nose.

 

“Alright, what say you try to speak into my mind,” he says, rubbing his hands together. “Show me how it’s done! I've yet to accomplish it, so I'm eager to learn.”

 

Sigrid looks at him, a little nervous. “Well, I've only done it once. I've no one else to practice with, you see, and I’m worried I won't be able to do it again.”

 

“Nonsense!” Asmund tells her, waving his hands as if to brush away her insecurities. “I have full faith in you!”

 

This makes Sigrid giggle, and the boy thinks the sound is magic in itself. “Alright,” she tells him, “I’ll give it my best go!”

 

Sig focuses on Asmund, staring deeply into his eyes. Her cheeks flush red again, and his heart starts to beat faster. She tries his name, softly.

 

Asmund?

 

He visibly jumps, his mouth dropping open. “I heard you! I did! You said my name!”

 

Sigrid’s lips part in surprise. “It was that easy? I had a much harder time with my charge! Although, I didn't know what I was doing.”

 

“To speak in someone's mind requires a connection between the two,” Asmund informs her. “I've read that the stronger the connection, the easier the ability is, for those who have it. Perhaps because we are friends, it is easier for you.”

 

“Yes, that's… that’s it,” she answers, the term friends once again making her high spirits plummet.

 

Asmund ponders about how easy it was for Sigrid to speak to him. “Sigrid, do you mind if I give it a go?”

 

The girl looks up at him, and quickly nods. “Of course!”

 

He concentrates on her, thinking about the idea of a bond between them, and just how much he likes her. She's staring into his eyes again, and it makes it hard for him to focus. He decides to take a chance, and his heart beats loudly when he thinks,

 

Sigrid, you are so beautiful.

 

At first, he doesn't think she's heard him. She's still staring at him, the same expression on her face. But as he watches, her cheeks slowly turn scarlet.

 

“Was that… did you say…?”

 

“That I think you’re beautiful?” he asks, stumbling a bit over his words now that he has to speak them aloud. “Yes.”

 

Sigrid’s fingers automatically twitch as they try to rise to cover her mouth. Instead, she leans towards him. He meets her halfway, their noses brushing against one another, and then he kisses her.

 

He thinks she smells like calla lilies.

 

---

 

You haven't left your room all day. Evening falls, and Loki doesn't show. You doubt you'll ever see him again, and if you do, you can imagine the dark sneer that will twist his lips.

 

His lips. Gods, the way his lips felt against yours…. You’ve had kisses over the years, but none like that.

 

Distraction. Dangerous. Dead eyes.

 

You shudder and wrap your arms tighter around yourself. You hadn't been attacked by these thoughts in previous engagements. It had to be because of the circumstances, the all-too similar circumstances.

 

Your fingers fiddle with the bracelet on your wrist. You can't tell Sig. You can't let anyone know he kissed you, and that you went back.

 

Why had you done that?

 

Dead. Eyes.

 

You drop the train of thought quickly, pressing your hands against your ears as if that will drown out the whispered thoughts. You know you should sleep – you hadn't the night before. But you can't stop thinking, can't stop seeing memories behind your eyelids.

 

You should be training. You should be working. You should be imagining your revenge fulfilled. You should rest, so that you can accomplish all of these things.

 

Instead, you continue sitting in silence, refusing to let yourself cry as you did four years ago.

 

---

 

It's the middle of the night. Loki’s candle burns low on his nightstand, the flame flickering and about to die. He closes the back cover of the book and sets it aside as his room goes dark.

 

He goes over the new techniques the book presents, quoting the lines in his mind so that he doesn't think.

 

But the rejection still stings as strongly as it did the night before. He wants to ignore you until the day you die. He wants to scream at you, and shake your shoulders. He wants to ask you why. He wants to kiss you again.

 

He is a man full of conflicting wants, leaving him only anger and bitterness.

 

He doesn't care. He hates you, doesn't he?

 

It’s your fault. You did something wrong. You missed a step. You thought she felt the same, but what a foolish thought that was. She truly despises you, as all the people do.

 

As you despise yourself.

 

Why should you expect anything else?

 

But the way you looked at him, he argues. When you crossed the hall and forced him to kiss your lips. How you laid your head upon his chest at the palace celebration. Your fingers had grasped at him when he held you, your lips parting eagerly for him.

 

No… no, no.

 

He glares up at his bed’s canopy, and doesn't know what he wants to do – never see you again, or figure out how to win you and never let you go.

 

But she’ll let go of you. There will be a time, a moment where you'll know you aren't enough.

 

You never are.

 

And she will be rid of you. Solitude cannot betray you.

 

She can.

 

And she will.

 

He scowls, rolling onto his side as his jaw tightens.

 

She will.

Chapter Text

Sigrid checks on you every day, and you send her away each time. You practice alone in your room and find that fighting invisible enemies isn't nearly as satisfying. You remember Loki making a comment about you swiping at nothing but air before he offered to help you.

 

Sigrid spends every day with Asmund during his breaks. They sit in the gardens, walk through the flowers, and practice magic. Her embroidery is well under way, and when Asmund sees it sitting on her desk, he tells her she's doing remarkably well.

 

Eventually, the boy officially requests permission to court her.

 

“B-But Asmund! Why?”

 

Sig has no family, which means no coin, no land. Asmund’s father is a sorcerer, his mother an herb peddler. They live away from the market, towards the poorer areas of the city, but this still makes them of a higher standard than Sigrid.

 

“Why? Because you're the most wonderful girl I've ever met, and I wish to court you!”

 

They're only children – Sigrid fourteen and Asmund fifteen. They are not of age to truly court one another, and yet the kisses they share feel as real a love as any.

 

And so they enjoy their time together, talking and spending happy moments in one another's company.

 

During this period of time, you forget about the training grounds, deciding you don't need them. You'd rather just go after Vitran. The middle step seems unnecessary, as you feel like you're almost ready, anyway.

 

No, you don't have all of your abilities back to their full potential, but you doubt that'll matter. You don't need the command of darkness to stab your sword into Vitran’s chest.

 

---

 

Jun paces in Vitran’s quarters, his hands behind his back.  He's the second in command (Vitran lets him believe that, anyway), and he doesn't understand what his leader is doing.

 

“What are we waiting for?” Jun questions heatedly. “The longer this whole thing drags out, the stronger she gets.”

 

“Patience,” Vitran tells him, rolling his amber eyes. “Haven’t you learned to trust me by now? The time to act is coming. We haven’t heard back from our insider. Once we get this information, it won’t matter whether the girl is at full strength or not. Her mind has always been weak.”

 

 Vitran is a master at crafting false senses of security. He's seen your work on other worlds. He knows you're prone to arrogance, that your previous victories will leave you wanting for this last one. He knows you plan to come to him, as you have all the others, and when he finds where you rest within Asgard’s palace, he doubts you will be expecting the fight to be brought to you.

 

---

 

Frigga is used to dining with different members of her family during different times. Loki is never at breakfast, as he does not rise until well after the sun. Thor accompanies her on most mornings, fueling for early runs with his gallant companions. Both of her sons usually appear at noon, though at dinner she almost always loses Thor to the feast halls. Her husband, as king, dines with his family when he's able.

 

Frigga is therefore delighted when Odin makes himself available to sup with her and her youngest come dinner time.

 

The king and queen chat with one another as Loki makes silent comments in his head. But he does not speak. This uncharacteristic silence leads Odin to almost forget his presence until he glances over to find the prince lazily sipping from a glass.

 

“Loki, how is the foreigner? Her servant has told me she fights better than she has in weeks.”

 

“How should I know?” Loki questions, sneering. “I’ve not seen her as of late.”

 

“Has she left?” Odin asks, almost rising from the table as his one good eye narrows dangerously.

 

“Left?” Loki snorts callously. “I would wish for it. Why should it matter to you? I'm sure you would be glad to have the murderess out from under your roof.”

 

Odin settles back down, realizing he had best not make a scene in front of his wife. “It matters not.”

 

Loki eyes his father suspiciously at the lie. “You know she seeks to destroy her enemies. Does she require you to tell her when?”

 

“As King of Asgard, all matters involving my lands concern me,” Odin growls. “When to be rid of the barbarians is just as important as how.”

 

“You seek to control her,” Loki states slowly, his sharp mind picking through his father’s words.

 

“And why not?” Odin asks, glaring at his son. “She's indebted to us. I cannot allow her to engage in warfare while her name is tied to our kingdom, lest I’m the one who gives the the command.”

 

“You would use her,” Loki says, feeling himself rise to his feet.

 

And you would not? Odin wants to ask him.

 

The Allfather sees Loki Laufeyson in his mind’s eye, walking calmly down the throne room. In this situation, the wicked prince has long had you trapped in his twisted manipulations, and the king can clearly imagine Loki’s smirk as you help him lay waste to the rest of Odin’s family.

 

He wants to believe this would not be so.

 

“I make use of all who are under my rule,” Odin voices aloud.

 

Loki only pictures your face when you find that Odin thinks you under his jurisdiction. He scowls. “Of course.”

 

“Why should this matter, over a girl you so despise?” Odin questions.

 

Loki immediately leaves the room without another word, and Frigga leans forward and puts a hand to her face.

 

It is quiet for a long while, and Odin begins to eat again. Frigga sighs. “Husband, can you not gift me a single, peaceful meal?”

 

---

 

Sig spends the next morning at the marketplace, picking out new colors for her embroidery. She's to meet Asmund in a few hours, and her heart is filled to the brim with joy. She still feels pricks of worry about your condition, but knows you will need space to work things out on your own.

 

You've spoken to her more as of late, asking how her day was and assuring her you would tell her if you needed her.

 

Unbeknownst to her, a man spies the young girl walking alone. He glances up and down the street, noticing that there are not many people out during this morning hour. She’s a pretty young thing, and he thinks he could probably get at least ten gold for her. He twitches his finger.

 

Sig accidentally drops one of the spools on her way towards the palace, the tiny thing pinging across the cobbled stones until it nears an alleyway. She sighs as she goes to pick it up, but finds a hand reaches it before hers.

 

“Madam, did you drop this?”

 

“Oh, thank you!” Sigrid replies, accepting the spool from the man. “That's very kind.”

 

She feels rough hands grab her, and her world suddenly goes dark.

 

---

 

Freydis and Alva walk about the ground floor of the palace on their way to the lesser dining hall. Frey’s eyes are peeled for you, her determination bringing thoughts of all she wishes to say. Alva glances at her friend worriedly.

 

“Frey, dear, why do you insist on speaking with this girl? What good will it do?” Alva asks as they skirt around the others there on business.

 

“I just want to get a sense of her,” Freydis replies, her blue eyes searching. “She’s bound to come down to eat sometime, right?”

 

If Frey can figure out how you encaptured the prince’s attention (not once, but twice), then she will have a better chance of replicating this.

 

“Down from where?” Alva asks. “Surely, as a warrior, she would reside in the barracks.”

 

“I don’t think so, sister,” Freydis answers. “You saw the gowns she wore. There’s no way she’d have things such as those in the barracks. I think she stays within the palace.”

 

Alva silently agrees, noting her friend’s logic, and the two take seats while they peer around in search of you. They are unaware that you haven’t been down to eat in days.

 

Towards the end of the lunch hour, Frey is getting desperate. She has to know if an outsider such as yourself has wormed your way into the royal palace. Alva looks at her curiously, slightly worried about such behavior, but Freydis lets out a huff of breath and waves over the servant boy closest to them.

 

“Forgive me, but I’ve heard tell that the Bloody Warrior resides somewhere around the palace. Is this true?”

 

Asmund looks at the two duchesses in surprise when he comes up from his bow. “Oh, yes madam, that is true. Although it’s in, not around.”

 

His words set a fire within Freydis’ belly. I knew it.

 

“Thank you for this,” Alva tells the boy, smiling kindly. “We’ve only made her acquaintance once before, and were wondering how to find her. Would we be seeing her around here anytime soon?”

 

“Oh, no, she hasn’t been down in several days,” Asmund replies, flicking his shaggy brown hair out of his eyes.

 

Alva glances at Freydis. This only confirms her suspicions. Frey clears her throat, attracting the boy’s attention.

 

“Down? Down from where?”

 

---

 

Wind whispers through the trees of the wooded area, leaves rustling in the darkness. Sigrid awakens on the ground, the scent of earth in her nose. She can see a fire in front of her, which silhouettes four men who sit around it. Her hands and feet are bound, and she’s laying on her side. When she lets out a tiny whimper, the men all turn towards her.

 

“Oh, the Asgardian servant awakens,” one says, raising his ale up. “Welcome back. Took the spell long enough to wear off.”

 

“Where am I?” Sigrid questions, although her voice comes out high-pitched and terrified.

 

The group laughs. The man that plucked her from the streets takes a swig of his drink and answers. “You’re in the middle of nowhere, sweetheart. I’d suggest not even wasting your breath to call for help.”

 

Sig looks around, and can’t identify any of her surroundings. She’s in a forest, definitely outside of Asgard. She can see four horses tied among the trees nearby, and a large tent beside them. These men… are they bandits? Or….

 

“W-What do you want of me?” she asks shakily.

 

They all laugh again, and do not reply.

 

Sigrid rolls, turning away from them. They do not know she does not have to waste her breath to call for help.

 

---

 

You’re sitting on your bed when you hear a rapid knocking on the door that makes you jump. The person is insistent, and you’re confused by the circumstances. That isn’t Sig – she’d just come in. Maybe it’s a messenger?

 

“Warrior? Warrior, are you in there?!”

 

You do not recognize the voice, but you carefully get to your feet anyway. You can tell from the boy’s tone that something is clearly wrong. You cross the room and quickly crack open the door.

 

“Uh, hello?”

 

He stumbles over his words for a moment, and then manages to stutter out, “Sigrid, she’s in trouble! Please, no one will listen to me!”

 

“Sig?” you ask. “What do you mean she’s in trouble?”

 

“She contacted me, up here,” he tells you frantically, tapping the side of his head. “She-She said she’s been taken by four men! They’ve tied her up…. Please, miss, I don’t know what to do! I think they’re slavers.”

 

“Hold up, I’ve got to get leathers on,” you tell him. “Come in and turn around or something, so I can ask you questions.”

 

The boy wavers at the door, but if it means getting to Sigrid faster, he’ll take the uncomfortableness of the situation. He dutifully averts his eyes as you reach for your leathers.

 

“What do you mean slavers?”

 

“They snatch people, young children usually. They sell them to other kingdoms, or other people, who will do with them whatever they will. They usually target people no one will miss.”

 

“Well, they fucked up on that tonight,” you answer, your fingers fumbling over the complicated clothing. “Ah, damn these things. So, where is she? Can you find her?”

 

“She says she’s in a forest, which makes me think she’s east of the city. There’s a wooded area near there that they could’ve reached less than half a day’s ride,” he answers. “Oh, I should’ve come sooner. I just thought perhaps she was busy during my break today….”

 

You’re done fooling with your clothing. You haven’t secured all of the correct fastenings, but your leathers won’t fall off of you. “What’s your name, kid? How do you know Siggy?”

 

“I’m Asmund,” he replies as you walk to the desk at the side of your room. “I-I’m courting her.”

 

You pause, and turn to look at the back of the kid’s head. “Sig has a boyfriend? I didn’t know that. And I’m dressed, you can turn around.”

 

You pull off your pen cap with your teeth, and find a piece of parchment. You figure if anyone tries to find you, it’d be better to let them know you didn’t run away.

 

Asmund obeys you, and looks at you with bright blue eyes. “We’ve known each other since the queen took her from the streets. Courting her is only a recent development.”

 

You feel guilt hit you, and you grimace. You’ve been pulling away from the girl on purpose, preparing for when you’ll have to leave. You like her, and you have a feeling she looks up to you. You don’t want her to be devastated when you don’t come back.

 

You finish writing and then pause. You have an idea of who is likely to find this note, or at least who will eventually read it. You sigh, and then add a short post-script before turning to the boy.

 

“Alright. Here’s the deal. You’re going to lead me there. We’re going to find her. Then you’re going to take her and get the hell out of there,” you say, heading for the door.

 

“And you?” he asks worriedly, following in your footsteps.

 

“I’ll take care of the rest.”

 

---

 

Loki sits in his study, fiddling with his dagger. The blade slips easily around his fingertips, the silver flashing as it spins. Odin’s words run through his mind again, and he glares at the table. It shouldn’t bother him. It really shouldn’t.

 

But it does.

 

Which tells him all he needs to know.

 

He’s had it with the whole situation. Loki sheathes the dagger and rises from the table. Before his resolve can falter, he walks from his quarters and heads for yours. He tells himself that he just needs to speak with you. It would do good to put all of this to rest. He’s too tired to bother with niceties; he intends to just walk into your room and ask you directly why. Why you said ‘No’. Why you came back. Why your hands shook.

 

He reaches your room and follows through with his word. He’s the prince – he doesn’t have to knock anyway. You keep your door unlocked for your little servant, as no one else visits you (he is unaware that you’ve forgotten you have a key), so he finds no resistance when he barges in.

 

Your name leaves his lips before he realizes you are not here. He looks around your empty room, baffled. Where else would you be? Your evenings are always spent here, training. Had you gone to the feast tonight, perhaps? It doesn’t seem like you.

 

He passes a keen eye over your room. Your bed is unmade, your closet open, your nightclothes cast to the side in a heap. Either your little servant girl is slacking on her job, or you left in a rush. He spies the paper on your desk and crosses the room.

 

Your scrawl is hard for him to read, but he’s had practice from your journals. You’ve written this in a hurry, ink blotting around the words.

 

Sigrid’s been taken. Not sure who would care about it but me and some kid, so we’re going after her. Just wanted it to be clear that I haven’t gone to kill those Ordinat bastards yet. That’s probably, like, treason or something, so don’t execute me or whatever when I come back with Sig.

 

Also…. Loke, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry.

 

He doesn’t even sneer at the disgusting shortening of his name. What did you mean your servant was taken? Who is this ‘kid’ that you have with you? Loki imagines his father finding the note, and immediately folds it and tucks it into his pocket for safekeeping.

 

We’re going after her, you’d said.

 

Oh, this is trouble in the making. You have no lay of the land, as a foreigner to Asgard. He imagines you lost, stumbling around in the wilds over some stupid little girl. He’s never understood the attachment.

 

Which is precisely why, he realizes, you’d said no one would care but you… and ‘some kid’.

 

He already knows what he’s going to do next. It’s just as when he kissed you – he couldn’t have explained it to anyone, it was just something he had to do.

 

Loki reaches out with his magic, and just as he had sensed your presence at the celebration event, he feels a pull towards the east. He walks quickly from your room and through the palace, heading for the front.

 

As he strides to the doors, he unknowingly passes Frigga.

 

“Loki? Where are you going this late?” He turns to find his mother, looking at him with curiosity in her gray eyes. “Are you not dining this evening?”

 

Loki dips his head. “No, Mother, I’ve some business to attend to at the moment.”

 

She regards him, the determination in his green gaze. “What has happened?”

 

“Nothing I cannot handle,” he answers smoothly.

 

Frigga waits for a second longer, and then nods. “Very well. Stay safe, and be back soon.”

 

“Of course.”

 

She continues on her way to the dining hall, wondering curiously where her son is off to. But he is a man grown, and deserves to lead his own life. This does not stop a mother’s worry, however, and she feels herself fret as he walks out of the palace doors.

 

Loki swiftly crosses the grounds, feeling the pull grow stronger. He pauses only at the stables, where he demands the fastest horse. The stable boys hurry to comply, not wanting to evoke the wrath of the younger prince.

 

For he does look mighty wrathful, they think.

Chapter Text

Asmund is nervous, although he does his best not to let it show. He doesn’t understand the darkness that surrounds him, that presses in on him from all around. He stays practically glued to your side and takes an odd form of comfort in the tight grip you keep on his shoulder.

 

You don’t really care for taking others into the darkness, although it makes travel easy for you. Few living beings can survive in the space for long, and even fewer can navigate it. You are one of those that fall within both categories. You’d found that slipping into the shadows only caused you to dry heave once – a huge improvement.

 

You can still see the world that surrounds you, the shapes of objects and buildings and people. You search, describing things aloud to the boy, as you know his eyes are clouded by the black space that surrounds the both of you.

 

“Alright, so I see… three hills coming up,” you tell him, pulling farther from the palace with your mind.

 

“Beyond them, and to the left should be the forest,” he says, shifting his feet so that they don’t sink into the strange, black ground.

 

Asmund knows it isn’t ground, but he likes to think that it is.

 

“I see the forest,” you tell him, pulling more. He watches your eyes shift to and fro, as if you’re frantically scanning an area he cannot see. “I’m not seeing any people, half-pint.”

 

“Look for a small, dirt road. That’s most likely how they entered. It’ll be coming from Asgard."

 

You purse your lips as you search for the road, your heart beating quickly although your mind is calm. You finally find it.

 

“Got it. Looks like there’s fresh tracks, too. Let’s get you out of here.”

 

“Yes, please.”

 

You give him a look, and then reach your hand out. A tear appears in the darkness, moonlight spilling inside of the strange space. The darkness recoils, slinking away as if it is alive itself, leaving the both of you beside the forest.

 

There is a shift inside of you, the killer taking charge.

 

You motion with your hand for Asmund to be absolutely silent, and he gives you a nod as he falls in behind you. Your feet barely make any sound as you follow the fresh tracks of the horses, and Asmund flexes his fingers to cast a silencing spell.

 

Now, he moves just as quietly as you do.

 

---

 

Loki has no idea how you traveled so quickly to your destination, nor how you had a clue as to of where the captors held your girl. He leans forward in the saddle, urging his horse to gallop even faster. He hasn’t been riding in a while, and while he normally finds traveling by horse far superior to walking, he still feels like he's not getting there fast enough. He helps the animal with his magic, feeling the strain he’s putting it under.

 

Your note was so vague. He wishes he knew who had taken the girl. Was it your enemies, using her to lure you into a trap? Was it slavers or barbarians? He can’t think of anyone else who would have use for a little servant such as her.

 

The Asgardian royal horses are quick, and with Loki’s assistance, the miles melt away. He scans the road in front of him, forced to narrow his eyes in the wind, and notices fresh horse tracks. Someone else rode this way. Was it you and the aforementioned ‘kid’? No, there's too many tracks, at least four horses.

 

Loki curses you in his mind, wondering what you've gotten yourself into. He can sense your power growing as he draws closer.

 

He doesn't know why, and he has no reason to think so, but he feels like he's running out of time.

 

---

 

Hurry, please!

 

We’re almost there! Don’t worry, Sigrid. We can see the fire.

 

The men have made no efforts to be undetected. No one ever comes looking for them, so they aren't worried one bit. They'd walked their horses rather than ran them. They'd happily gotten roaringly drunk. Three have already gone to sleep, but the one that captured Sigrid sits by the fire, talking to her.

 

Telling her things that make tears roll down her cheeks.

 

Things that make Asmund put his fist in his mouth and bite down, so that he will not do something stupid.

 

“See, I'm not sure what they'll do to you, pretty one, but I've got to get my coin’s worth from you somehow, as you'll only fetch about ten gold.”

 

He takes a step towards her, already loosening his belt. Asmund turns frantically to you, only to find the space beside him empty.

 

The man does not see the shadow appear behind him, but Sigrid does. In the same movement, you flick your hand to light the sleeping men’s tent on fire and put your dagger to the soon-to-be dead man’s throat.

 

Screams erupt from the tent as the men inside wake to flames, and you use your energy to keep the tent-flap from opening when they try to get out.

 

“Get her out of here, half-pint,” you say, your voice cold.

 

Asmund rushes forward, his feet still making no sound. He pulls his knife from his belt and cuts Sigrid free. She leans on his shoulder quaking.

 

“We’ll be at the road,” Asmund tells you, and uses his magic to cloak them from view before ushering Sigrid away from the wails of dying men.

 

“Hello, there, friend,” you say to the man in front of you. “You are suddenly mighty quiet.”

 

He sways a bit, the alcohol blurring his surroundings. But he’s sober enough to be aware of the dagger to his throat, and the screams of his companions. “P-Please, I –”

 

He seizes his chance to grab for your dagger, but you're ready. You kick in the back of his knee, and he falls to the ground. You flex your energy, keeping both him pinned to the ground, as well as the burning tent closed.

 

It's taxing. But it's worth it.

 

“Tell me, do you scream as loud as your friends?”

 

“Don't! Please! I have children!”

 

A cold laugh slips from you. “Then I'm doing them a favor, too. I heard the things you whispered to that girl.”

 

He starts to struggle against your power. It makes you laugh again.

 

---

 

Loki is near enough to the campsite to hear when the screams start. He bolts in the direction of the noises, but soon stops in his tracks when he senses the presence of another’s magic.

 

He holds his hand out, green light flashing, and a boy and a girl suddenly become visible as they're blasted backwards.

 

He steps up to them in confusion, and then recognizes your servant girl.

 

“P-Prince Loki?” Sigrid hiccups.

 

Asmund stares in awe, feeling Loki’s magic tingling in the very air. He's never been this close to any of the royal family, and of all the sorcerers in the realm, it's well known that Loki is the best. If the boy wasn't so focused on getting Sigrid to safety, he would've immediately peppered the prince with questions.

 

“Where is she? How many were there?” Loki asks.

 

“Campsite. Four. We're to wait at the road,” Asmund tells him quickly.

 

Loki cloaks the two again, and they disappear before his eyes as he continues swiftly through the woods.

 

The scene he comes upon is not a pretty one. The men within the tent have long stopped screaming, and he can smell their acrid, burnt flesh. The slavers’ horses are rearing and shrieking, fear making their ears lay flat. The smell of iron is thick in the air, and he sees a body lying on the ground. The man is dead, his stomach rent open with black blood still bubbling from his wounds.

 

Loki’s shocked when he sees you trying your damnedest to get out of the grasp of a man two times your size.

 

There were apparently only two men asleep in the tent. The third had got up to piss, and had blundered back into camp to see you torturing the one who threatened to rape Sig.

 

You'd already expended too much of your energy, and he'd managed to grab a hold of you.

 

“What'd you do to Gudbrand?!” the man shouts, decking you in the face.

 

Your head flies backwards, and your lip splits. He picks you up by the front of your leathers, your feet swinging above the ground.

 

You spit blood into his face and grin. “I gutted him like the pig he was.”

 

After your sentence, you both lose more time for any talk or violence. There's a flash of green, so quick you can't tell where it came from, and the man drops you as he falls dead at your feet.

 

You spit more blood, your split lip stinging, and then search out the source of the light. Darkness swirls around you as you ready yourself for the fight to come.

 

Sig had said there were four, but you didn't put it past them to have a sorcerer hidden among them.

 

And then you realize this is a sorcerer you know all too well. The killer fades off your face as he stares at you.

 

“Are you hurt?” Loki asks curtly, eyeing your lip and walking up to you.

 

“What are you doing here?” you ask, genuine surprise in your voice.

 

“Saving your life, apparently,” he replies sarcastically, rolling his eyes.

 

“Oh, I had it under control,” you tell him, grinning and holding your arms up slightly. “I'm back. I've got them all back.”

 

He knows you're speaking of your abilities, that the poison has finally, finally, left your veins. “So you are.”

 

---

 

Asmund and Sigrid sit by the road together. He holds her in his arms, trying to stop her shaking. She presses her face into his shirt, willing herself to stop crying.

 

Oh, how Asmund would've made them pay if he was strong enough. He has never fancied himself a killer, but after hearing the things that came from that man’s mouth, he thinks himself capable.

 

“You both came for me,” Sigrid says, sobbing. “Y-You both really came for me.”

 

“Of course we did,” Asmund answers, his tone surprised. “How could we not?”

 

“Did she give you a hard time?” Sigrid asks, her crying dying down. “I wasn't sure she'd believe you.”

 

“You should've seen her fierce look when I told her you were missing,” Asmund tells Sig. “That's when I was sure we’d be able to find you.”

 

Sigrid tightens her grip on Asmund, still shuddering. “I'm so thankful. I hope everything's okay.”

 

The boy kisses the top of her head softly. “I'm sure it is. Four men against two monsters? The outcome is easily predictable.”

 

“She isn't a monster,” Sigrid argues softly.

 

“I think she is,” Asmund retorts. “But I think that's a good thing.”

 

---

 

Loki can tell you're absolutely ecstatic to be back to your old self. Most would have shied away from the methods that brought this about, but the prince has seen much of death in his life. He's taken many lives himself. There's a certain dark excitement that rises in his chest from seeing all that you had done in cold blood to protect something you cared about.

 

“Is the girl alright?” he asks you, hoping your endeavor was at least worth all this trouble. “I saw her with a boy. She was sobbing.”

 

“She's probably shaken, but otherwise unharmed as far as I know,” you tell him, wiping blood away from your chin. “I'd better be getting back to them.”

 

“Wait a moment,” Loki commands, coming closer. “Your lip.”

 

“Leave it,” you tell him, seeing his hand start to glow green. “It barely hurts.”

 

“I won't. Stand still. Besides, the girl won't like it.”

 

You groan, knowing that once again, he’s right. “Fine.”

 

He moves to you, putting his thumb over the small wound while the rest of his hand lightly caresses your jaw.

 

It causes your heart to speed up, making you remember what a fool you are.

 

He watches your eyes, the slight blush that appears on your cheeks. He wants to erase what that man did to you, thinking perhaps it will make the sight of the bastard punching you vanish from his memory along with the wound.

 

Then he remembers how you turned from him that night, left him in the hallway, and he scowls as he looks away.

 

Once your lip is whole again, you step back. “So, you found my note then. Why'd you come out here?”

 

You both begin to walk back towards the road as he snarkily answers, “I've already told you: to save your life.”

 

“Ah, and I suppose you'd like me to thank you for that, or whatever.” He doesn't reply, so you glance at him out of the corner of your eye. “Well… thank you. You know. For killing that last guy.”

 

Loki doesn't look at you when he says, “Welcome.”

 

He’s upset. You can tell. You don't strike up conversation again as the two of you walk. Right before you reach the road, he stops. You turn around, confused. He stares at you, a dark shadow silhouetted only by the light of the moons.

 

“Why?” he asks you.

 

You can’t even pretend you don't know what he's talking about. You look away uncomfortably. “Listen, can we do this later? I want to check on Sig.”

 

Loki’s shoulders are stiff, and when you look at him, he locks eyes with you. “Very well. Later.”

 

And you know there's no avoiding that conversation anymore.

 

---

 

Sig runs to you when you break from the forest. Loki lifts his spell, making the two servants visible again, and you barely have time to prepare yourself for the hug she gives you.

 

The man and the boy both watch. Your body is stiff, but you rub the girl’s back reassuringly. “Hey, Siggy. You okay?”

 

Sigrid nods. When she finally pulls away from you, she's got blood smeared across her body from your leathers. You grimace as you both do your best to cleanse yourselves of the spatters of red.

 

You don't want to walk through the palace doors living up to your ‘Bloody Warrior’ epithet.

 

Cleaned and ready to be on the way back, your odd group now discovers a problem. You've one palace horse between four people. In the end, Loki returns to the campsite to retrieve the slavers’ horses, the beasts forgotten after the initial scuffle.

 

You don't like riding. You don't like horses. However, you know Sigrid would worry if you left, so you dutifully ride alongside the others at the back of the company.

 

Sig sits behind Asmund, nodding off with her head leaned against his back. Loki leads, the extra two animals’ reigns tied to his horse.

 

It's a long ride, even at a trot. Loki cannot run his horse anymore, the poor beast being quite exhausted. At the current pace, he reckons you all will arrive at the palace around the early hours of the morning.

 

The travel gives him time to wonder what you'll say to him, what he should ask you. He intends to do this once the girl is safely in bed, and the two of you are alone.

 

However, upon finally making it back, Loki cannot make himself request any more of you tonight. You look as tired as he is. After leaving the horses at the stable, he bids the three of you a restful morning and strides away across the grounds.

 

You're thankful.

 

Asmund is reluctant to leave Sig, but you tell him you'll stay with her tonight. He gives her a quick kiss, promises to see her tomorrow, and makes his departure as well.

 

You aren't sure if Sigrid can make it up the stairs to your room. The poor girl looks as if she's about to drop. Neither of you bother undressing before practically falling onto your bed. Sig curls up by your side, you awkwardly sprawled next to her.

 

You normally do not like sharing a bed with others, no matter who they are, but you fall asleep too quickly to really give a damn tonight.

Chapter Text

Sigrid gets out of bed in the morning, doing her best not to wake you. She just can't sleep anymore. When she glances over, the first thing she notices is that you’ve done the fastenings on your leathers wrong. Sig allows herself a little smile, and then quietly goes about doing different tasks to keep her mind off of things.

 

Her heart beats quickly when memories slip to the surface as she walks down the palace halls. She stares nervously at whoever passes her, and looks over her shoulder if she happens to be in a room by herself. She can’t help but be so jumpy.

 

When she returns to your room, she's surprised you’re awake. You've already bathed, and you're trying to get into a different pair of your leathers. You have no issues with the arm bracers, but the bodice always gives you problems.

 

Sigrid moves to help you.

 

“Hey, how’re you doing, Sig?” you ask her.

 

“I'm alright,” she tells you, securing the rest of your outfit appropriately.

 

You clasp her shoulder, and she sniffles and looks away.

 

“Hey, kiddo, listen up. It'll be alright. And if you're not okay, that's perfectly fine, too. But nothing’s gonna’ hurt you and live while I'm around.”

 

Sigrid looks up at you, tears brimming in her golden eyes. “Thank you for coming for me.”

 

“Oh, stop it,” you tell her, nudging her shoulder. “You saw the way I tried to take off that ugly, blue dress when we met. I’d be utterly lost without you.”

 

Sig gives you a weak grin, and you wish you could kill the bastards that took her all over again. Sigrid clears her throat. “What will you be doing today?”

 

You look over at her. “I don't know. I'm thinking about going to the training grounds soon, but I've got some stuff to do first.”

 

You figure Loki will be waiting to talk to you, and the thought makes you sneer at the wall.

 

“Alright, where are we going?” Sigrid asks.

 

“Easy, Sig. I want you to stay and rest today,” you tell her. “Go hang out with your boyfriend, do something… I don't know… peaceful.”

 

“Boyfriend?” Sigrid asks you.

 

“Yeah, the half-pint… uh…. Asmund.”

 

“Oh!” she says, her cheeks going red. “Yes. We’re courting.”

 

“Yeah, so go pal around with him today.”

 

Sigrid shuffles her feet. “I don't know….”

 

“Hey, if you need me, you can do your mind thingie at me.”

 

She looks at you, worrying her lip. She hasn't tried contacting you within your mind again, as she remembered the flash of distress that crossed your face when you'd realized what had happened. But she figures the bond between the two of you has grown tremendously after her rescue, so she's almost positive she’ll be able to contact you whenever now.

 

“Will Prince Loki accompany you to the training grounds?” Sigrid asks. “They might not want anything to do with you otherwise.”

 

You purse your lips in thought at her question. “You know… I don't know. I guess we’ll see, huh?”

 

---

 

When Thor spots you in the dining hall, he is more than surprised. “Well, greetings, warrior! Finally coming down to eat, are you?”

 

You look up from your food at his voice and give the guy a small smile. “Hey. Yeah, I thought I'd get some breakfast today.”

 

“You've leathers on. Finally ready to train on the grounds?” he asks, grinning.

 

It's as if the gods answered your prayers. “Yes!” you state, pushing your plate away. “Please tell me you're going there, too.”

 

“Aye! My companions and I all train there every morning after our run. You're welcome to join us, if you'd like.”

 

“That would be awesome,” you tell him as you stand up. You hesitate slightly, and then ask him, “Uh, are you sure that’s okay? I don't really know your friends like that.”

 

“Ah, come. I don't mind, and they won't either,” the man tells you.

 

---

 

Hogun minds. You can tell by the way the gruff looking man eyes you. Seeing the way he glared, you decided not to join them on their run, even though the prince offered. You choose instead to explore the training grounds.

 

They have targets and dummies lining one area, and a wide circle, worn by the feet of countless soldiers, for sparring. You stand in its center; the area is clear of people, as all of those in the barracks know Thor and his friends train in the earlier hours of the day.

 

You're not used to being up anytime in the mornings. You don't know why you couldn't sleep in, but you have a feeling it’s to do with your eventful night.

 

The urge to fight, to spar, has never been stronger.

 

You turn when you hear laughter, and see that the warriors are finished with their run. They walk up to you, and the blond one named Fandral calls out.

 

“Still here, then? Must be determined!”

 

“Why do you say that, Fandral?” Sif questions.

 

“I'd imagined ol’ Hogun would’ve scared her off,” he replies, nudging Hogun with his shoulder.

 

The gruff man remains unamused.

 

You roll your eyes, and Volstagg says to Fandral, “You’re a bold one to make such comments. I doubt a lot scares her.” He looks to you and gives you a grin.

 

“You're right,” you say, shrugging.

 

“Well, fearless warrior, if you're here to spar, you'll find me capable of taking you,” Fandral says, giving you a wink.

 

You snort, and summon your sword. “Alright, if you insist.”

 

“I bet on the girl,” Thor mutters out of the side of his mouth to Sif.

 

She chuckles. “I shan’t take your bet.”

 

“Hogun?” Thor asks.

 

The man ignores him, glowering at the sword in your hand as you drop into your fighting stance.

 

Fandral had thought it wise to go easy on you, as he knew you had been recovering not too long ago. You slip into his guard and touch your sword to his ribs so fast he’s stunned.

 

He doesn't go easy on you after that.

 

Fandral is good with a sword. He's got a strong strike and wide shoulders to back his blows. Hogun watches you fight, trying to pick apart your weaknesses. You're quick on your feet, and you're always moving. He sees the analytical look you give your opponents. It makes you dangerous, and he doesn't like it.

 

You put Fandral in the dust after a while, teasing his strikes to become wilder and wilder until his guard is open enough for you to land your blow. He tries to call for a rematch, but Sif steps up instead, drawing her own sword.

 

Fighting Sif is different and exciting. She's good at what she does, and she’s also light on her feet. Her style is very analytical, her gaze summing you up and predicting your movements. You press Sif with a flourish of attacks, doing your best to surprise her.

 

In the end, you prove yourself worthy of training on the grounds.

 

---

 

Loki awakens sprawled across his bed, his head not even resting on any pillows. He's still tired, and he rubs his eyes and cracks his neck as he sits up. His muscles ache from sleeping at an odd angle, and he kneads them in hopes of working out the soreness.

 

The sun peeks through his curtains, and he realizes it's well into the afternoon.

 

He has things to do today. He's supposed to meet with his sorcerers, attend a budget meeting, and talk with his mother about her upcoming birthday celebration.

 

He doesn't feel like doing anything.

 

The prince, finally dressed for the day, walks the halls of the palace yawning. He feels a little peckish and decides to grab lunch before beginning the things on his agenda.

 

As he passes the lesser dining hall, he's surprised to hear Thor’s laughter ring out. Is his brother eating with his friends today? Loki finds them all loud and bothersome, and cuts his gaze into the room as he goes by.

 

He freezes, even more shocked to see you sitting awkwardly among them. While Thor and his friends roar in loud laughter, you sit there with a small smile on your face. The only one who doesn't seem to be amused by anything at all is Hogun the Grim, who hasn't touched a bite of his food.

 

Loki enters the dining hall, wondering how this turn of events came to be. As he approaches, he notices even more how out of place you appear. The men seem even larger and more barrel-chested next to you, and Sif has more muscle in her arms than you do in your whole body. It seems as if they could crush you with very little effort.

 

He's proved wrong as soon as Thor spots him. “Brother! You've slept too long and missed the show! Fandral, tell him how many times she knocked you down!”

 

Fandral rolls his eyes, and blows a lock of hair off of his forehead with a puff of breath. “She's good, yes, we all know.”

 

Sif, Thor, and Volstagg snigger at him, Sif pausing to take a swig from her drink.

 

“It's all in good fun, Fandral,” Volstagg says, his voice reverberating in his chest. “You know how we love to see you beaten.”

 

“Sadists, the lot of you,” he groans, rolling his eyes again and taking a deep drink from his mug.

 

“Sounds eventful,” Loki states. He always feels at odds around the company his brother keeps.

 

“What are your plans today, Loki?” Thor questions. “We’ll be returning to the training grounds. You should accompany us!”

 

This makes each of his friends extremely uncomfortable. They know Thor loves his brother, but none of his company has ever felt truly… safe with the younger prince near, no matter how many times they’ve fought beside him.

 

Loki sneers. “Thanks, but I've better things to do today, other than blunder around with you and your friends.”

 

---

 

You have a surprisingly good time in the company of the god of thunder. Thor makes much more sense outdoors. Inside the pristine palace rooms, he's too big and too loud. Outside he seems natural. There was a time in your life when you would've truly enjoyed the wild nature of Thor and his friends. However, that time has long passed.

 

You spar everyone except for Hogun, who still refuses to acknowledge your existence. Thor, although partial to his war hammer Mjolnir, still knows his way around a sword. He far bests you in strength, and every time his blade meets yours, you feel a tingle of electricity in your fingers.

 

Before evening truly falls, Thor departs for a meeting of some sort, and you head back into the palace after him once you've thanked everyone for taking time with you today.

 

You're finally confidant in your abilities again, and the fact makes you light on your feet. You're still not quite at your full strength, but only those that knew you best would even be able to tell.

 

You figure Loki will be waiting outside of your door.

 

You're wrong.

 

He's inside the room.

 

“Invasion of privacy, much?” you say, rolling your eyes and closing the door behind you.

 

“What do you have to hide?” he asks, gesturing around your bare room from the chair he rests in.

 

“I mean… I guess not a lot, but still,” you tell him, shrugging. “I should really start locking my door.”

 

“Because that's sure to stop those who want in,” Loki says sarcastically.

 

You waver near the door. You don't want to have this conversation. You don't like these kinds of conversations. And you don't know how to start.

 

You sigh heavily, and go sit in the chair across from the one Loki’s in.

 

“Alright…. So…. Yep…. I'm no good at this,” you say, staring at the floor.

 

The prince snorts. “So it seems.”

 

“If you're so much better, you go for it,” you tell him, shooting him a heated glare before returning your gaze to the rug.

 

You can feel him watching you, and it makes your face burn.

 

“Why did you panic?”

 

You take a deep breath and slowly let it out through your nose, leaning forward in the chair until your elbows rest on your knees. You duck your head. “I… I don't know…. I mean… I don't know, I've had shit happen to me, you know?”

 

Loki tries to figure out how to proceed. “Such as?”

 

“It's just all too familiar,” you groan, rubbing your face. “I've been through this before, and it doesn't end well. I've got… I've got things to do. I don't have… time.”

 

The silence stretches on for a while, and you expect him to get up and walk out.

 

“Do you still hate me?” he asks you nonchalantly.

 

“You're still a jackass,” you answer, finally looking up at him. He meets your eyes, and you sigh. “No, I don’t. But I wish I did.”

 

“Why?” he asks, although he already knows this answer.

 

“It's easier that way,” you tell him with a glare, and then get to your feet and start to pace.

 

“So tell me why,” he says, getting to his feet as well, his words coming quicker now that you're moving. “Why'd you come back out into the hall?”

 

“I don't know,” you snap, scowling as you turn. “I shouldn't have. It was stupid.”

 

“Why’s that?” he questions heatedly.

 

“I've already told you!” you hiss. “I don't have time.”

 

“Asgard is constantly at war,” Loki snarls. “You think anyone has time? I've lost count of how many times I've ridden into battle this year alone. If you're waiting for peace, you'll never have time for anything.”

 

“Give me one good reason,” you growl, turning to face him. “Shit like this is a dangerous distraction.”

 

“So’s the girl, although you seem content enough to care for her. She could've been captured by your enemies, did you think of that? The boy could've been disguised. He could've led you to your death, but did you stop to question any of it? No. That’s what I’d call dangerous.”

 

Your mouth opens and closes a few times. You can't admit that he's right. Not to his face, anyway. “Why do you fucking care?”

 

“Oh, let’s see,” Loki says icily, putting a hand to his chin in mock thought. “It seems… yes… you know what? I think I may be attracted to you. Though, stars above, I can’t reason out why.”

 

The only way he can spit the sentence out is through gritted teeth. You take a couple of steps back from him, his angry green eyes following you. “Don't. Don’t you fucking dare say that.” You rub your face and start walking around again. “Ooooh, I can't do this. I can't do this.”

 

“Then we’re done here,” the prince says coldly, heading for the door.

 

You feel as if you could scream, and you almost let him walk out. “Wait.”

 

He slowly turns back to you, his gaze dark with feigned apathy. “What do you want?”

 

You close your eyes and take another deep breath. When you speak, your words come slow and heavy. “I’m not good at… feelings. But… I'm attracted to you, okay? There.”

 

He waits a heartbeat. And then another. Loki crosses the room to you, and you look up at him suspiciously. “Forget emotions, then. You intend to die, I know. But while you live, I want you.”

 

He takes a hold of the front of your leathers and roughly jerks you to him. You stare up at him, angry fire in your eyes. “You're a bastard.”

 

“I am,” he agrees.

 

“Fuck you,” you say.

 

“Fuck me,” he growls in your ear.

Chapter Text

You are fire, he thinks to himself. Everything about you is warm, heated, passionate. His cold hands leave rows of chill bumps across your skin.

 

You don't remember who leaned in first. Had he angrily pressed his lips against yours, or had you come to him? You decide you don't care.

 

Fuck it, fuck it, fuck it, I want him. Why?

 

You know why, but you cannot keep track of your list of reasons with his teeth pulling at your bottom lip.

 

Loki quits your mouth to trail passionate kisses down your neck. He hears your sharp inhale as you try to get your breath back, finding the little noise very arousing.

 

He's always had a penchant for the sounds his lovers make, and he thinks yours the most attractive (bias from the heat of the moment, for sure).

 

Now that your lips are free, you speak up. “Wait, wait.”

 

“What?” he growls from the hallow of your neck.

 

“Sig’ll be coming up soon. Maybe just… maybe we shouldn't…. this is a bad idea anyway, I mean….”

 

He hooks a couple of his fingers through one of your leather fastenings and turns away while pulling you along. He's done with waiting. Lust that lies latent for too long has a certain way of building.

 

You follow him into the hall, closing your door behind you. “Uh, she's going to worry.”

 

“Then tell her not to wait up,” he answers.

 

It makes your breath catch, and he notices.

 

You aren't sure if you'll be able to contact Sigrid, but you do your best.

 

Sig, I’ll be out when you come back. Don't worry about it.

 

Is everything alright?

 

You're surprised to hear her answer.

 

Yeah just… busy.

 

He tugs on you again, quickening your pace. He's worried the walk to his chambers will have you backing out. It's within your rights to do so, he knows, but he hopes that you don't.

 

He could've had you in your borrowed room, but he wants you in his bed, wants to feel you writhe beneath him in carnal pleasure. The imagined scenario makes his muscles tight.

 

He wants to hear you say his name, the vain creature that he is.

 

He opens the door to his rooms, and he's pleased when you close the space between the two of you even before the door has locked. He finds your lips again, kissing you deeply, his need making his actions rough.

 

You return this angry passion, which drives him even wilder. You feel your back hit the wall next to the door, his fingers working at the fastenings on your leathers. He easily gets the top layer of armor free, throwing it aside. His hands meet your skin, running up your sides beneath your undershirt.

 

You're grasping his shoulders, surprised at his cold touch. You move your lips from his, kissing down his jaw instead. He grabs your side with one hand, his other pushing upwards to grip your breast, hard, his thumb rubbing across your nipple.

 

 

It makes you gasp, another delightful little noise.

 

He's not sure he'll be able to abstain long enough to get you to his bed. You're too much. The chills he gets from the way you kiss his neck, how your breath hitches at his touch and your heart pounds just under his fingers. He's never been greedier, the want filling every inch of his body.

 

He lifts you up, feels your legs wrap around his waist. Your slight frame weighs nothing to him. He holds you, mouth preoccupied with yours once more, and carries you farther into his chambers.

 

Your fingers fumble with whatever fastenings you can reach as you kiss him, and you accidentally release the cloak from his shoulders. He leaves it crumpled on the floor. His chest-piece is harder for you to master, but it comes off soon as well and hits the ground behind him. Before he's reached his bedroom, you've stripped his green undershirt from him as well.

 

You immediately run your hands across his back, his flesh smooth beneath your fingers, and you bite down harder on his bottom lip.

 

He doesn't bother closing the door to the room, pushing your legs down from his waist so he can lay you across the bed. Your hands explore the bare skin of his chest, feeling his muscles jump as he moves.

 

Loki is thin, but not unfit. His lithe body is well defined, and you trace these muscles with your fingers as your tongue slides against his. He lifts your hands from him and and impatiently pulls your shirt off, moving his lips to kiss up your exposed skin.

 

You don't let yourself moan. You don't want to embarrass yourself. Instead your breathing quickens and your heart beats faster as he removes the last of your clothing from your chest.

 

His knees are on either side of your legs, his hardness pressed against you as he leans back down over you. You've never had a man so eager to have you. He palms one of your breasts as he takes the other’s nipple in his mouth, his other hand trailing down your stomach to work at your belt.

 

You manage to keep quiet, although you can't stop yourself from grabbing frantically at his head and gripping a fistful of his dark hair. The way your body arcs up is enough for him to know he's pleasing you. You're not vocal, but he's determined to make you so. He wants this, needs this aspect of sex almost as much as the physical act itself.

 

He pulls your belt free and kisses down your front. You try to sit up, and he puts a hand on your stomach to keep you flat as he nips at your exposed hipbones.

 

You grip his arm tightly, pulling on it in an attempt to force him to return to his previous spot. He tugs your leather bottoms and your underclothes down at the same time, pulling his other arm from your grip to complete the action. He kisses the old scar at your calf while he takes your boots off.

 

Loki runs his hands up your thighs as he returns closer to you, hungrily taking in the sight of your body. Your newer wounds have faded, and are almost invisible, while the old still keep a ghostly hold upon your flesh. His fingers lightly skim over the raised scar line on your thigh.

 

You immediately sit up, your hands running through his hair once more as he sucks a bruise on your hipbone. He's marking you, almost a claim, and he's interested to see how long it will last on your skin.

 

He pushes you down again without moving, and when he buries his head between your thighs, you almost, almost, moan. His tongue flicks across your most sensitive areas as his hands tightly grip your hips. As he’s made you lay flat, you clench his comforter instead of his body. His warm tongue makes you pant and gasp, yet still, he cannot wring the sounds from you he so strongly desires.

 

When he hears your breath pick up rapidly, he considers finishing you in this fashion. But he has and always will be a most greedy man, and it won't be enough. Not for him. He wants to hear curses from your lips, wants to give you pleasure that makes you groan. He pulls away and kisses up your thighs. You sit up again before his arm can snap back up to hold you down, and you're immediately kissing whatever of him you can reach while you do your best to strip him bare.

 

You've long stopped thinking about what you're doing, the consequences, who he is. He had said to forget feelings, and so you do. It's easier to let passion (in place of softer emotions) rule your sex life. The way he touches you, the way he breathes, how he looks at you…. You can't pretend he doesn't want you, as you're prone to make yourself believe.

 

Your eyes are dark when he looks at you, fire melting the steel he usually sees. He casts the comforter to the side, lifting you slightly, pulling you up to him, as he shifts the both of you to lay correctly on the bed.

 

He feels your fingers run over his body, your palms warm against him. One of your hands trails down his front, making his breath catch in his throat when your fingers graze his groin.

 

He doesn't ask. He doesn't have to, your desire for him made abundantly clear with every shift of your wrist. You're slick with want as he pushes his way inside of you, and he finally elicits a quiet moan from your throat.

 

He moves his lips there, to the origin of the noise, a hand gripping your shoulder and the other tangling in your hair as he starts to shift his hips. Your body arches upwards without your permission, and you're unable to stop your hands from grasping frantically at his back.

 

It's better than he'd thought. Loki always tries to keep his wits about him in the bedroom, but he accidentally loses himself in the feeling of you beneath him. The sensation of you around him causes him to let out a low moan, and he can't stop himself from rapidly sucking bruises at different places on your shoulder.

 

Your nails rake against his back at the action, and his hands rapidly move across your body, one settling on your breast, pinching your nipple as his thrusts grow faster. He ducks his head, replacing his fingers with his mouth on one tit after the other. Even then, he sucks hard enough to leave more bruises.

 

You gasp at the pain, and he trails his tongue up your body until his face returns to your own. You kiss his lips, his cheek, the side of his jaw, down his neck, and you stifle a moan by biting down hard on his shoulder.

 

His grip on you tightens as he ceases all movement. He pushes your head down away from his shoulders and kisses your cheekbone before hissing in your ear, “Give up. I hear them.”

 

Just his words make your breathing quicken even more. He threads an arm underneath you, lifting your hips while his other hand tightly grips your side.

 

You can't help it. “Fuck,” you gasp out, biting your lip and leaning your head back as his hips snap faster to yours. He takes advantage of your exposed neck, placing more little marks on your warm skin. He feels the moan you give him vibrate under his teeth, and it makes him groan in response.

 

He's finally gotten his reward, your vulgar curses and moans ringing in his ears. He's craved this, imagined it, and yet it pales in comparison to the true act. He replies in kind, matching your words with those of his own, trading your name for his. Oh, how he's longed to call your name.

 

Your breath is quicker, your body writhing, and he knows he has you when a string of curses along with his name, his name, leaves your lips. You grip his sore back hard, your fingertips unconsciously searing little marks into his skin as your whole body tightens. The sensation of your release, your voice, the burning on his back, all collectively send him over the edge after you.

 

 “Fuck,” you groan breathlessly, your arms relaxing and falling to your sides.

 

He doesn't reply this time, still buried in you with his face pressed into your neck. His breath hits your flesh with every deep exhale, and he works to commit your scent to his memory.

 

You moan quietly as he pulls out of you, although he doesn't move away. His nose grazes your neck, your jaw, as he moves his mouth again to your ear.

 

“Stay with me, tonight.”

 

It's a whispered request, full of emotion he had initially promised to withhold.

 

You do not turn to face him, and he rests his cheek against yours. Instead, you run your hands along his back, tracing up his spine and giving him chills.

 

He feels your breath on his ear, and when you agree, he cherishes every syllable.

Chapter Text

By some crazy happenstance, some godly intervention, this is the night two members of the Ordinat steal away into your room through the window, their bodies passing through the glass as if it was nothing but air.

 

But your room is empty. There is no one present to take back to Vitran. Was the informant incorrect in her information to them? Had the sorceress lied? Or were you out and about the palace in the dead of night? Neither of them have any way of knowing.

 

They search the room, finding nothing helpful to their cause. There is no prize here, and they dread returning to their base empty handed. It had been hard for the sorceress to allow them undetected passage to the palace, and they know Vitran will be irate upon their empty-handed return.

 

However, after a short, quiet discussion between the partners, they decide to go back. After all, they can blame the spy instead of letting the failure fall on their own heads.

 

They do recognize that this room has indeed been lived in by you. The informant was right about that much, at least.

 

The two disappear through the window once more, soundlessly slipping down the vertical palace walls and off into night. They both know Vitran will send them after you again in the future, and they pray – for their sakes – that you're present the next time.

 

---

 

Loki wakes in the morning to you muttering softly in your sleep. You're facing away from him, his thin sheets clinging to your figure and creating a silhouette that makes his heart falter. Light filters in through the curtains, casting shadows around the prince’s room.

 

You roll over onto your stomach, one of your arms curling up around your face, your hand lying on your pillow. He studies it. The same hands that have taken the lives of many have now also raked along his back in fiery passion.

 

He thinks about the phrase and remembers the burning of your fingertips into his skin. He wonders if he's marked by you, as you are by him.

 

He rises from his bed, waking you.

 

You groan in pain almost immediately. You're sore all over, your actions from last night flashing quickly through your mind. You feel your face go red, and you sit up and rub your eyes.

 

“Damn it,” you mutter, sighing and putting your head in your hands.

 

“’Damn’ what?” you hear from the other side of the room, and glance up at the man you'd slept with.

 

He tosses you a robe, one of his own, and you rub your face again after you slip the silky green fabric over your arms. It's too large for you, and it slips off one of your shoulders, even after you tie it closed.

 

Loki studies the bruises he’d marked you with last night. Many are already paling, although the ones that make up the little line he’d left on your shoulder are still quite dark. He feels a possessive urge rise inside of him when he looks at you, something that wants to claim you as his, just as his lips and teeth did last night, and he forces the emotion back down.

 

He knows better.

 

“Hey,” you tell him softly, awkwardly clearing your throat. “So… yeah. Hey.”

 

He snorts at you, and then waves a hand to his bathroom chamber. “You can ready yourself within, if it pleases you.”

 

You roll your eyes at him, and then do your best to both collect your clothing and keep the robe from slipping. Loki watches from the corner of his eye, pretending he's not. He decides he likes you in the color green.

 

And then he remembers his time with you is only borrowed.

 

---

 

Sigrid catches sight of you as she and Asmund walk around the grounds during his break. You're at the training area, slicing at one of the practice dummies, although she's too far to tell most anything else.

 

Asmund’s fingers are threaded through hers, and while she truly enjoys the sensation, her nightmare from last night still lingers. The one where Asmund holds her tightly and kisses her, but when she pulls away she finds herself in the arms of her captor, who smiles cruelly at her while his grip on her tightens.

 

She cannot tell Asmund these things. She cannot confide to him that she's afraid of him. Sig doesn't think he’ll understand, that he’ll take offense and not listen to her reasonings.

 

It's not him she's afraid of. It's the situation that haunts her, that turns everything good in her life into a waking nightmare. It's her second dream, one for each night she's been back, safe.

 

“What’s wrong, Sigrid?” Asmund asks, looking over at her worriedly when he feels her fingers tighten around his own.

 

“Nothing,” she tells him. “It's just… I’m adjusting.”

 

Asmund, instead of pressing her further, falls silent. He's known the girl for years. He knows when she wishes for things to go unsaid, and he respects this about her. “Sigrid, I do hope you know I am always here for you. Courting you does not erase our friendship. You may come to me whenever you wish. It's... still fresh, and I understand.”

 

He feels anger rise within him, as it does every time he thinks about what occurred two nights ago. Sigrid looks to Asmund with tears in her eyes, her thankfulness apparent. He pulls her to him and gives her a hug, placing a kiss on her cheek.

 

“I know I'm not strong or powerful. But I would give anything to undo what happened. And I'll get better, so that you'll feel secure in knowing I won't let anything like that happen to you again,” he tells her seriously.

 

“Oh, Asmund, don't worry. I truly am fine.  I appreciate you so much.”

 

The first two are lies, but the last oh, so true.

 

These words just fuel his feelings, the determination behind his statement, even more. He will protect her, no matter the cost to himself.

 

And Asmund finds himself perfectly okay with making that sacrifice.

Chapter Text

The Asgardian sorcerers have a “barracks” of their own. The building, compared to the palace, is nondescript (it's still much more ornate than the normal, noble architecture, however). The men and women under Loki’s command train their skills such as the soldiers, although instead of taxing the body, they tax their minds.

 

This is not to say they do not have a life outside of sorcery, as they have plenty of optional time off. The people attracted to the prince’s guild, however, are usually as thirsty for knowledge as he is. Many discover after joining, much to their disappointment, that they do not train under the man himself, but rather the select few he trusts to instruct the others.

 

When Loki visits, it's as if Odin Allfather himself has walked in the room. Those of the guild listen to him as if his word is law, watch his demonstrations with rapt attention, and learn all they can from him while he’s in the building.

 

Loki likes to visit often.

 

The attention strokes his ego, and the idea of having upwards of at least fifty people directly under his command is very uplifting to the lesser prince of the royal family. His sorcerers respect him in a way others do not, and they all appreciate his ability and his cunning sense of practicality.

 

He goes about his rounds in a pleasant mood. Now that he's had you, the idea of you will trouble him no more. The flame has been extinguished. He'd watched you quickly walk out of his door, and he was absolutely positive you'd never walk in again. He’s won, and he loves to win, and his prize is to be free of you. He hasn't seen any of you since this morning, and he's successfully put you out of his mind.

 

He paces around the large training room, happily pointing out things during his sorcerers’ practices. They take the constructive criticisms in stride, altering their stances or changing how they channel magic. He's speaking to one of his men, who’s always struggled with transformative magics, when the youngest of his appointed masters approaches him.

 

“Sire, I apologize profusely, but we’ve encountered something that may require your attention, if it interests you,” Hammond tells him. Loki raises an eyebrow, prompting the man to continue. He sighs and says, “We’ve a boy who’s requesting to speak with you. We, of course, denied him, but he hasn't left. He's claiming you know him? Something of rescuing a servant girl?”

 

Hammond waits for Loki’s anger, watching for it in the prince’s face. Instead, the man shrugs. “Show me to him.”

 

---

 

Asmund stands absolutely still, although he feels as though his legs should be quaking. He’d left Sigrid at the palace doors after their outing during his break. Her words hadn't sat right within him, and even as he walked back towards the kitchens, he felt something tugging at his heart.

 

The boy has never missed a day of work. Not one, not since he’d been hired. Being prompt is something his whole family prides themselves on. Today, Asmund found his feet carrying him away from the bustle of the kitchen, out of the palace, and to the building at the back of the grounds.

 

The room he's been taken to is one of the building’s studies, with bookshelves of dark wood lining the walls. He isn't sure what he's doing here, but he knows what he wants. And to get this, he must gain audience with Prince Loki.

 

When the man himself walks into the room, Asmund bows at once. He's again awed, as he was the night he'd felt Loki’s magic physically throw him and Sigrid backwards, unmasking the illusion the boy had projected over them.

 

Loki waves his hand, and Hammond leaves the two alone together. “Remind me of your name, boy.”

 

“Asmund,” he replies, straightening from his bow as soon as Loki acknowledges him.

 

“What makes you think you can speak of my private matters to others?” the prince asks, emerald eyes glittering dangerously. “I haven't said anything of that night for a reason.”

 

Asmund looks back at him, his determination overriding any shame he might feel. “I apologize, sir, but I doubted you'd grant me an audience if I didn't say something of that effect.”

 

“Well, now you have it,” Loki tells him, spreading his arms slightly from his sides. “Explain to me why you are here.”

 

Asmund doesn't even stop to draw breath as he launches into his explanation. “You know what happened the other night. They'd taken Sigrid. I was powerless to do anything about it, and I never want to feel that way again. I want to join your guild. I want to perfect my magic, to be strong enough to…” he trails off, catching himself before he can say ‘to protect her’. “… to not need help from others.”

 

Loki laughs, the sound starting quiet and quickly building until he's practically cackling. After his chuckling subsides, he states, “You’re nothing but a boy, barely able to control the magic you hold. And you would ask to join my sorcerers?”

 

“Yes,” Asmund replies, forcing confidence into his voice. “You came to help that night. I want to be able to do the same.”

 

Loki remembers back to the other night, images flitting through his mind. He snorts, smirking at the boy. “Do not mistake my actions as a kindness. They were merely out of self-interest. You have audacity, boy, I'll give you that. I see your servant’s tunic. Where do you work within the palace?”

 

“In the kitchens, sir,” Asmund answers.

 

Loki perches on the edge of one of the wooden tables in the room, the epitome of laziness. He remembers the boy’s cloaking magic. “Even the little talent you have is wasted there. But this guild is for masters, child. Tell me, are you a master?”

 

“No, but I could be,” Asmund replies, his blue eyes defiant.

 

The prince chuckles again. “Well, you've a mighty confidence, that's for certain. Tell you what, boy. If your determination to learn really is so great, I will grant you admittance to the School of Sorcery. There, you may hone your skills and trouble me no further.”

 

Shocked, Asmund dips quickly into a low bow. He forces himself to keep calm despite his spirits soaring. “That would please me greatly, my lord.”

 

“Hammond,” Loki barks out, standing up from the table.

 

The man quickly opens the door and scurries inside at the prince’s call. “Yes, sire?”

 

“Admit this boy to the school.”

 

Hammond is floored. Prince Loki hasn't ever personally admitted someone into the School of Sorcery. And a servant, no less! The master has no idea what bizarre, happy mood the prince is in, as Loki’s temperament has only shifted this way when he's delighted by some mischief. Perhaps there's something about the boy that entertains the Prince of Wickedness. Hammond doesn't know.

 

Loki turns and walks from the room, uncharacteristically humored by the interesting turn of events.

 

---

 

Hilde is irate. She mutters angrily to herself all through dinner as she finds a replacement for Asmund. The boy’s day off isn't until tomorrow, or has he forgotten?

 

She goes to the servant’s quarters, calling loudly for him. “Asmund! Have any of you seen that wretched boy?!”

 

“He's over there, mistress,” a girl says, pointing towards the other side of the room.

 

Hilde marches towards him, her mouth pressed into a hard line until she reaches him. “What do you think you're doing down here?”

 

“Packing,” Asmund replies brightly. “I'm to quit immediately. I've got to go home and tell my folks what's happened.”

 

Hilde opens and closes her mouth several times before her anger allows her to say, “And what exactly has happened?”

 

“I'm going to the School of Sorcery come tomorrow,” the boy replies, beaming at her.

 

Hilde scoffs. “As if a servant such as yourself would have the money or connections for a thing like that. If your father could barely afford to attend in his middle age, how could they have possibly saved enough to send you?”

 

Asmund shrugs, and holds out his copy of the paper Master Hammond had drawn up. “The Prince is sending me.”

 

Hilde reads the document twice, her face slowly purpling. The words leave a sour taste in her mouth, as Asmund was one of her best workers.

 

He grins when he takes the paper back. He’ll go to see Sig before he leaves, to let her know he can now spend time with her in the afternoons when she's free.

 

He's a true sorcerer in training now, and the thought makes him want to shout for joy.

 

---

 

When Loki returns to his chambers that night, he finds himself unable to rest. He's unsure as to of why. Yes, his sheets and pillows smell like you, but that's hardly a reason. He's had you, what more would he want? Why is his greed not satiated?

 

His mind takes him again through pieces of last night, which does not help him. If anything, it's always the women he takes to his bed that call upon him later, saying they can't quiet their minds of thoughts of him. While flattering, he knows they only say this because of his status in society.

 

You don't care for such things. You haven't approached him once today, or made any effort to contact him. He’s staved off thoughts of you until now, until he lays alone in his bed.

 

What would happen if he came to you, he wonders.

 

---

 

You've done nothing but train all day. It's a habit of yours, to work your body so that your brain has no energy left to think.

 

You sit at the desk in your room, worrying your lip. You twirl your pen between your fingers, and sigh deeply.

 

You don't know what to tell Willow. You don't know if to tell Willow. You sigh again, and prop your head up with your hand as you stare at her last entry to you.

 

You miss her. You can't help but miss her. However, you've been unconsciously distancing yourself, bit by bit. Willow is one of your only reasons to remain alive. You can't be thinking about that when you go to face off against Vitran and the Ordinat.

 

Hey, Will. I did something stupid, you scribble, grimacing.

 

The knock at your door surprises you. You figure it to be Sig, and call out, “Come on.”

 

You turn around and stand up when the door opens, and you find yourself facing not Sigrid, but Loki.

 

It's late. He's wearing more casual clothing, and you guess he's put this on only to walk the halls. You give him a level glare, and then avert your gaze. “What do you want?”

 

He says your name, and then, “Will you… accompany me tonight?”

 

You stare at him. “Uh, what? Why?”

 

You expected the prince to be done with you. He'd undoubtedly gotten what he'd wanted, and you can’t think of a reason for him to be here.

 

“I find myself wanting for company. Is that not reason enough?”

 

You decide to tell him ‘no’. “I guess. Yeah, alright.”

 

What? Where had that come from? You ponder about whether it's possible the signals from your brain to your lips malfunctioned when forming your sentence.

 

Still, you follow Loki down the hall, your heart beating all too quickly. You will not sleep with him tonight. You tell yourself this with every step you take.

 

“Your servant’s suitor, you know the one?” Loki speaks up as you both walk.

 

“You mean Asmund?” you question, looking over at him curiously. “Yeah, I know him, kind of. Why?”

 

“The fool asked to join my sorcerers today,” he tells you, rolling his eyes. “Brought up our excursion the other night to gain audience with me. Clever.”

 

“Well, hey, whatever works,” you state, letting out a short laugh. “You, uh, didn't let him join, right?”

 

“Of course not,” Loki tells you indignantly. “Although I allowed him admittance to our city’s School of Sorcery.”

 

You snicker. “Trying to be nice for a change?”

 

He shoots you a glare and chooses to ignore you, opening the door to his chambers instead. You look around when you walk in, realizing you'd neglected to do so the last time you were here (you'd been a bit… busy). The prince watches you, a little taken aback by the interest in your sharp gaze.

 

“Dear God,” you state, your mouth hanging open. “I thought I knew what a fuckton of books looked like. But I gotta’ say, I was mistaken. This is a true fuckton of books.”

 

They line each wall, the bookcases stretching from the floor to the tall ceiling. There are other standing bookshelves around the sitting area, jam-packed with novels. Stacks of books lie on both of the smaller end tables near the couch and armchair, and piles of them cover the larger table in front of the love seat.

 

You aren't even taking into consideration the other rooms in his quarters that you haven't seen.

 

“I've got a friend or two who would kill to see this,” you tell him, giving him a look over your shoulder.

 

“I like to learn. You'd fault me for that?”

 

You shake your head, going back to looking around his quarters. You don't tell him that you suspect he takes refuge in his readings, and that he has far more books than he will ever have friends.

 

You walk into the next room, the prince following behind you. He's got shelves in this area as well, although this time they're mostly covered with his personal affects (books here as well, though). Your eyes skim over the different magical items he owns, the varieties of armor, the different weapons. You respectfully don't touch anything.

 

“You're a hoarder,” you say, staring around and putting your hands on your hips.

 

“A collector,” he corrects icily, which makes you laugh.

 

“Call it whatever you want to, buddy.”

 

Buddy? “I tire of the callous way you speak to me,” he tells you, crossing his arms.

 

You snort, and turn to face him. “Okay, oh Master Lord Bastard, God Prince of Assholes.” And you bow low before him. “Better?”

 

The glare you receive is very impressive, and you smirk at him as you rise. He steps up close to you, as if to intimidate. “You'll regret that.”

 

“Don't think I will,” you answer. “But I guess I could be proven wrong.”

 

“Oh, you'll regret that, too,” he says back.

Chapter Text

The defiance in your gaze is something Loki longs to break. A true challenge, he thinks as he takes you in his arms and presses his lips against your smirk.

 

Your mind rebels, and you stubbornly attempt to back away from him. Your shoulders bump against one of his shelves, and when you turn your face, he plants kisses down the side of your neck instead.

 

“Not going to work,” you try to tell him, although your voice wavers, betraying you.

 

Instead of answering, he claims your lips as his again. Now you react as you had last night, instinctively deepening the kiss and wrapping your arms around his neck. He pulls you away from the shelf, doing his best to walk you backwards towards his room.

 

His fingers preemptively tug at your clothing, cold hands seeking the skin beneath. Your nipples sting slightly when he cups your breasts, still sore from his attention last night.

 

You know you'd be lying if you said you didn't want him again.

 

He’s thinking of last night as well. It's hard to strip you bare as the two of you stumble into his room, and you barely have time to step out of your underwear before one of his cool hands slips up your thigh.

 

You're doing your best to take his clothes off as he slowly circles your sweet spot, and the action makes your task even harder. Your fingers fumble on the fabric, and you inhale through clenched teeth. Your knees are already going weak.

 

He chuckles darkly, and the sound sends a shiver through your body. “You're going to lose,” he taunts you, teeth tugging lightly at your ear as his fingers move faster against you.

 

You're clutching his shoulders now, forehead pressed into his chest, holding yourself up as you pant. His other hand is on your back, keeping you firmly against him so that you can stay on your feet.

 

When you let out a quiet moan, he pauses a moment. “Louder.”

 

It's a command, one that makes you glare angrily up at him with red cheeks. “How about – ah!”

 

Your sentence cuts off when his fingers pick up the quick pace once more. You hold off as long as you can, but eventually another groan escapes you. And it is indeed louder.

 

He waits until just before your body tightens, when your breath comes in gasps and your hands begin to fist in his clothes.

 

And he stops.

 

“Take your damn clothes off,” you state, your voice hoarse.

 

He considers you, a lazy smile twisting his lips. “You do it.”

 

“Fuck you,” you hiss, and yet your hands immediately pick up where you'd initially left off in stripping him.

 

Loki backs you up again, your legs bumping into the bed. While your fingers slowly piece apart his wardrobe, he distracts you with hands that grasp at your chest and back, and sloppy kisses that trail along your collarbone and shoulder. He bites down when you manage to undo his pants, which makes you gasp.

 

You've finally rid him of his clothes, his bare skin cool under your hands. He guides you down to the bed, your legs still dangling over the side, and sucks marks on your stomach next to the faded ones he'd placed the night before.

 

As he did on that said night, his head again lowers to your sex, his tongue teasing twitches from your hips.

 

“Fuck,” you swear through your teeth, your fingers knotting tightly in his hair when he slips his tongue inside of you.

 

Again, he waits until he knows you're close, until your hands tangle his hair, until your toes begin to curl…. And again, he stops.

 

“Oh, oh, no, I know what you're doing,” you groan as he makes his way up your body. “Still…. Still not going to work.”

 

“Don't you want me?” he purrs above you, rolling your right nipple between his thumb and forefinger. “Your body seems to.”

 

“Shut up,” you snap, unconsciously biting your bottom lip as you narrow your eyes at him.

 

His hand snakes down in between your bodies, and he finds no resistance when he slips a finger inside of you. Your breath catches, and he lowers his mouth to your chest, his tongue rapidly swirling around your nipple as his hand movements quicken.

 

Once more, your hands run through his hair, down his neck, over his shoulders. You're ashamed at how quickly you groan, how loud it is.

 

He moves his lips to your other breast, his own breaths coming faster as his arousal grows even more. He wants you. He wants to have you again, to feel your muscles clench around him. But there are things he needs first.

 

“Say my name.” His words are quiet, but the authority within them rings loudly in your ears. A moan escapes you instead, and once more he ceases all movement. “Say it,” he snaps.

 

“Loki.”

 

He can hear the anger in your voice. He slips his fingers from you and practically throws you back further towards the middle of his bed. He settles again on top of you, tongue briefly licking your bottom lip before he pulls on it with his teeth.

 

You can feel his shaft pressed against your groin, the sensation itself igniting  your lust even more. “God,” you moan.

 

“Yes,” he growls, one hand running down your side while the other grips your arm and pins it down. He's doing his best not to take you, although it's growing increasingly harder to resist. “Now, ‘prince’.”

 

“Prince,” you hiss, your head titling back.

 

Your hips buck against his without your permission, and he grins evilly down at you. His free hand leaves your chest to pin your other arm. “Beg for me, murderess.”

 

“N-No,” you pant, your thighs tightening around his hips.

 

He moves his lower half, his member sliding against you, and accidentally makes himself moan at the sensation. “Do it,” he says curtly.

 

You fight against Loki’s grip, but he’s far too strong. He shifts his hips again, and your resulting moan is long, and loud, and full of want, and he can't take it.

 

“Damn you, woman,” he rasps, and thrusts into you.

 

He's lost his own game, and it makes his movements rough and angry. You strain to reach for him, to grip his shoulders and back while he fucks you, but his hands on your wrists remain as strong as iron.

 

He likes the feeling of you fighting, knowing you wish to touch him, and he sadistically enjoys his control over you in this moment. In no time at all, he has you cursing and groaning, your head thrown back and your eyes screwed shut.

 

His thrusts quickly become more animalistic and erratic when he feels your release building.

 

“Name me,” he demands through his rapid breaths. “Call out for me. Scream.”

 

“Fuck!” you shout, and then before you can stop yourself, you're fulfilling his request.

 

He feels your back arch, your muscles tighten, your arms straining to pull from his grasp. Your body clenches repeatedly around him, and he gasps and pumps quickly into you to chase his own release.

 

His body goes limp soon after yours, and you both lay together, spent and trying to catch your breath.

 

“You're… You're an ass,” you tell him, trying to control your breathing as you finally pull your wrists from his grasp.

 

He doesn't reply as you rest your palms on his back. He lays his head upon your chest, arms still stretched up around either side of your head. He runs his hands through your hair, and then traces a slender finger down the side of your neck and to your shoulder.

 

Your heart beats loudly in his ears, and he hates himself for loving the sound.

Chapter Text

Gudrun will not let Hilde by, which makes the woman even more furious. “Then go get her, madam! Please!”

 

“Mistress Hilde, I beg of you, quiet your voice!” Gudrun tells her, trying and failing to keep her tone calm. “The queen is visiting with the king. I will tell her that you tried to call upon her.”

 

Hilde’s face is very red, both with wrath and embarrassment. She's always had a habit of being unable to control her anger, but she does her best, hoping the Allfather hasn’t heard her screeching. “Very well,” Hilde says stiffly, turning on her heel and marching away.

 

At that same moment, Frigga’s door opens. Gudrun bows immediately, while Hilde turns and stops in her tracks to do the same.

 

“My queen,” the two women say.

 

“What is going on?” Frigga questions curiously.

 

She'd heard noise from her study, and had left Odin to discover the source. She studies Gudrun’s exasperated expression and takes note of Hilde’s blotchy face.

 

“Mistress Hilde wishes to call upon you,” Gudrun tells the queen, shooting a look at the other woman.

 

Hilde draws herself up. “Yes, that's correct.”

 

“What is it, dear Hilde?” Frigga asks.

 

Hilde doesn't even care that Gudrun is still in the hall, nor that this is a very unofficial audience with the queen. Frigga’s always been kind to her, and has never lost patience with the hot-headed woman. “Queen Frigga, your son has stolen away one of my servants!”

 

This, the queen was not expecting. She does her very best not to snort, as that's very unbecoming of a queen, and instead says, “What? What do you mean?”

 

“Prince Loki’s sent the boy, Asmund, to that sorcery school in town. Didn't have anyone let me know, didn't offer any form of replacement, I had to clear tables at breakfast, madam! Not that I don't mind doing my part, of course, but by the fates, none of this was done properly!”

 

“Hilde, Hilde, calm down,” Frigga tells her gently, laying a hand on the woman’s shoulder. “I apologize for whatever grievance my son has caused you. Do you not have enough servants at your disposal to make up for this loss?”

 

“They complain, madam,” Hilde tells the queen, letting out an irritated huff of breath. “They complain of me giving them extra work.”

 

“You have my permission to hire two new people in place of the boy,” Frigga says to her, smiling kindly. “There are always those who need work, and it's within our budget. Please, do not fret any longer. I thank you for bringing this to my attention.”

 

Hilde dips low before the queen. “Thank you for your understanding, my queen. May the fates bless you.”

 

Gudrun and Frigga both watch Hilde walk away down the hall, her footsteps echoing against the marble. Once the sounds have faded from earshot, the queen turns to Gudrun. “Who is the boy?”

 

“’Asmund’ was the name, right?” Gudrun asks, pursing her lips in thought. “I believe I've seen him. I'll have Ivar look into it.”

 

“Yes, do that,” Frigga answers, looking curiously at the hall down which Hilde had disappeared.

 

---

 

Are you okay?

 

You shoot up into sitting position, blinking the remnants of your dream quickly from your eyes.

 

“What, huh?” you say aloud.

 

Loki groans, your movement and voice waking him. It's too early for him to even think about rising, and he snakes an arm around your stomach to try and sleepily pull you back to him.

 

You settle down again, realizing it's Sig talking to you. Hey, yeah, I'm good. Sorry, just busy.

 

She’d questioned you yesterday afternoon about where you'd been that first night, and you'd given her some kind of half-truth you knew she saw through. You have no idea what you're doing, and there's no way you want to involve that precious girl.

 

You can tell she's changed. There's fear in her golden eyes that wasn't there before, and it makes you sick with anger when you see it. But even though you'd killed the bastards, Loki’s words about the Ordinat using Sig against you haven't left your thoughts.

 

Where are you? she asks, her voice weaving through your mind.

 

You glance around the prince’s room, wanting to bash yourself in the head at your own stupidity. I’m… uh…. Do you need me?

 

No. Do you need me?

 

You sigh, and the prince tucks you under his chin. Sigrid always asks if you need anything. Sig had insisted on cleaning and bustling about your room last evening, despite you telling her she didn't have to do that. No, I’ll be fine today. Why don't you go hang out with the half-pint again? Heard he’s in wizard school now, or something.

 

Sigrid, who is staring around your empty room, feels her mouth pop open. How do you know about that?

 

Asmund had come to her last night, after she'd completed her duties. She’d been ecstatic at the news, marveling that Prince Loki himself had admitted him to the school. Sigrid would never have believed it had she not been around the prince so much as of late. Sig’s beginning to suspect the man’s heart isn't completely made of ice, as he’d have everyone think.

 

You, on the other hand, are mentally kicking yourself. Just heard rumors. You could go see him off on his first day, if you feel up to it.

 

Sigrid, although confused, finds herself growing excited at the prospect. It'll definitely surprise Asmund. Are you sure?

 

Yep, you answer her, feeling your eyelids grow heavy as you listen to Loki’s even breathing. Tell him I said ‘hi’.

 

---

 

Asmund’s mother, Brenna, had been elated to hear about her son attending the school for sorcery. She's always been so supportive of him, even when he got his job at the palace and had to leave from under her wing. His father, the sorcerer Jerrik, was excited as well, although Asmund had a strange suspicion that something was off about the man’s praise.

 

He isn't aware that Jerrik had appealed to Loki, Prince of Sorcery, not too long ago in an effort to join his guild. He'd been turned down and ignored as the prince had found company in two women instead. And now his son is sent to school by this same prince? Jerrik does not understand, but a hint of bitterness strikes unwanted at his heart.

 

He loves his boy dearly, but the circumstances feel more like a personal slight to him than anything else.

 

Asmund steps from his home and begins the walk to his first day of school. Upon reaching the building, his slight apprehension is pushed to the side at a most welcome sight indeed. “Sigrid!”

 

The girl glances nervously from side to side, but beams at him when he approaches. It took a lot for her to walk the streets today, and he knows this. Asmund wraps her in a hug, returning her smile, and promptly gives her a quick peck on the lips. “What are you doing here?”

 

“My charge said I might see you off to your first day,” Sigrid tells him as he pulls away. “I'm so excited for you, Asmund!”

 

“You didn't have to do that!” Asmund exclaims, taking her hands in his. “I thank you for it!”

 

“It’s no trouble. You should get going! I just wanted to stop by. Oh, and here!”

 

Sigrid digs in her dress pocket for a moment before extracting a small handkerchief. Asmund accepts it, running his thumbs over the corner with his name in golden thread. “It's fantastic, Sigrid!”

 

The girl blushes red. “If you'd rather not carry it, I understand.”

 

In response, Asmund folds the cloth carefully and tucks it away in his bag. “Of course I’ll carry it, silly girl.”

 

She smiles as he gives her a last kiss before he has to depart.

 

---

 

“Do you think we’ll receive invitations to the Allmother’s birthday celebration again this year?” Frey questions Alva as they walk through the market.

 

“I’d imagine so. Our families always have. Why? Does something worry you?” Alva asks in return, her brown eyes appraising her friend.

 

Freydis sighs angrily. “No, I suppose not. I just feel as if I'm running out of time, sister.”

 

“Oh, Frey,” Alva says, patting her arm. “I have full faith in us. But, if things don't go our way, I have a backup plan.”

 

Freydis makes a face at her. “I don't wish to marry Brandt or Brynjar. Although they do fancy us.”

 

Alva chuckles, giving Frey a warm grin. “'Tis true. However, I can tell from your gaze that you're not so inclined to settle.”

 

“Absolutely correct,” Frey answers.

 

---

 

You wake again in the early afternoon, finding yourself still in the prince’s bed. He's wrapped around you, one arm strung over your waist as he sleeps on.

 

It’s just physical, you tell yourself, mentally shrugging. Not really any harm in that. If you don't have any emotional attachment, then where you spend your nights doesn't necessarily interfere with your quest for revenge.

 

Just thinking about taking on the Ordinat base makes your blood race. You're so close to being ready. You wonder if you'll have to talk to Odin, or if you can just head out without saying anything. It's not like there'll be consequences; you aren't coming back.

 

You wish Loki would roll over so you could put on some clothes. You remember that you're angry at him over last night, and roll your eyes. You pull away and slip out of bed, gathering your clothes and putting them on piece by piece.

 

The prince sits up and yawns, emerald gaze following your movements. “Leaving?”

 

“Still have to train,” you tell him. “I'm sure you have shit you're supposed to be doing, too.”

 

“You would spend all afternoon training?” Loki asks, getting to his feet and starting to dress as well. “Have you no other interests?”

 

“Nope,” you answer, searching for your other boot.

 

“You lie,” he tells you smoothly.

 

You shrug in response without looking at him. “I don't have time to have other interests.”

 

He rolls his eyes. “You have as much time as you please. When are you trying to make your attack, anyway?”

 

You look over at him. “Soon, hopefully. Am I going to have to ask your dad, or can I just, like, go kill them all?”

 

Loki shakes his head at you, sneering. “He intends for you to wait until he's given the order.”

 

You make the exact face he'd imagined you making when he first heard Odin say this. “Uh, why? I figured he might be like that, but I don't see why that matters.”

 

Loki feels words slide from his lips, although they came without his permission. “Why not wait? Perhaps the Ordinat will destroy the barbarians they reside with if you give them time. Then you'll only deal with a single group.”

 

You stare at him. “I don't think they'll do that. They're going to use Asgard’s enemies to make an assault on this place. If I don't get there before that happens, people here are gonna’ die.”

 

“You would go alone?” he asks. “I'm to believe my father may offer up a piece of the army to assist you, as your goals are common.”

 

“I don't want them. It'll be unnecessary deaths.”

 

But yours you count as necessary, he thinks bitterly. The Prince of Lies tells himself he would only miss your body in his bed. That's the reason the thought of you dying in battle bothers him so.

 

He doesn't reply, but follows you as you walk from the room. He isn't sure what he wants to say to you before you go. He doesn't want you to leave with that sentence hanging in the air.

 

You hadn't bothered to put the bodice of your leathers back on, as you'll be changing into clean clothes once you reach your room anyway. It's tucked under your arm, and you use your other hand to pull open the door to the hall. Both you and Loki freeze. Queen Frigga stands outside, her hand poised as if to knock upon the door. You're too shocked to say anything as her hand drops to her side.

 

“Mother,” Loki states from behind you, and the sound of him bowing reminds you to do the same.

 

“Good afternoon,” the queen tells the two of you, keeping the surprise from her voice. “I've come to speak with you, Loki, as you're late to our meeting. Thor is waiting.”

 

“Apologies,” he answers smoothly. “We should be off, then.”

 

You both step out into the hall, and the prince casually looks at you, as if you mean nothing. “We can continue our conversation at a later date.”

 

“Yep, okay,” you answer, awkwardly inclining your head to the queen before you turn to go. “Good to see you again, Queen Frigga.”

 

“You as well, my lady,” she answers.

 

Her gaze briefly follows you as you leave, her eyes taking in the way her son watches you walk, the fact that the bodice of your leathers is tucked under your arm, and how the back of your hair is still slightly tangled.

 

“You two were… talking?” Frigga asks, her eyebrow raised as she looks back again to Loki.

 

“Yes. She’d come to yell at me over some irritating matter. Her attitude is insufferable, I must say. How much longer does Father intend for her to stay here?” Loki Liesmith questions.

 

He really wants to know, the Allmother realizes. “I've no idea. You may ask him, if you wish.”

 

Loki scoffs and rolls his eyes. “It matters not.”

 

The queen wonders when such a match was lit, and marvels at the fire in her son’s eyes. It’s similar to the light she’s always seen in your own. The burning makes him look alive, rather than cold and calculating.

 

She wonders when her son will snuff out the flame, as he always has.

 

---

 

What do you mean, you did something stupid?

 

***

 

Well, now it’s two something stupids. I’m a dumbass, Will.

 

***

 

What did you do? Is it the kind of stupid that means I need to come out to Asgard?

 

***

 

No, no. Not that kind of stupid. I, uh…. You know how I’m always like, ‘Fuck the prince.’?

 

***

 

… You mean you took yourself too literally and actually fucked the prince?

 

***

 

Yep, I fucked the prince. Twice. Ugh. What a dumbass.

Chapter Text

“Courting her servant?” Frigga asks, tilting her head to the side.

 

“That’s correct,” Ivar tells her, clasping his hands behind his back. “The girl, Sigrid, I believe her name is.”

 

“Thank you, Ivar,” Frigga says to him, sharing a glance with Gudrun as the man leaves.

 

“So,” Gudrun begins, holding up a finger for each point she makes. “He sits by her sickbed, he assists in training her, he dances with her, guards reported him, the girl, and the two servants galavanting in the dead of night a few days ago, she was in his room when you arrived, and the boy he personally allows into the school is courting her servant?”

 

“Fates above,” Frigga says, her eyebrows rising as she puts a hand to her cheek. “I believe he’s fallen for her.”

 

“Perhaps, although we shouldn’t make it out to be more than it is. In either case, it won’t be long lived,” Gudrun states, waving her hand dismissively.

 

“She’s been here for three months,” the queen points out. “Albeit unconscious for the first part of her stay. But you’re right. It’s always best to wait and see, with the both of my sons.”

 

“Yes, and even then,” Gudrun says, wringing her hands as she speaks. “Pardon my tongue, but it’s the Bloody Warrior. That wouldn’t be allowed by any means.”

 

Frigga nods as she ponders over this. You are a foreign fighter that Asgard has taken under its wing. You are not truly one of them. Perhaps the fascination you hold over her son is merely due to this fact.

 

But then again, a part of her hopes it’s something more. She has only ever wanted to see her sons happy, and while Thor has always been within love’s grasp, her youngest has remained ever distant.

 

---

 

Loki had thought you would come to his door later, once his meeting with Frigga and his other duties were complete. However, when you hadn’t appeared, he’d spent his night alone. Why should he care if you do not?

 

But the next morning when he wakes, he finds himself ill-content. He has spent several nights with the same lover before, yes, but it’s always been more of a distraction to diffuse his boredom rather than an emotional act.

 

As he lays in his bed, staring at the canopy, the prince allows himself to decide that he favors you.

 

Once this thought makes its way through his mind, he purses his lips and slowly nods. It’s odd to admit this, although not a wholly unpleasant feeling. The unpleasantness lies in the uncertainties this brings, and the fact that you intend to give up your life in the upcoming weeks.

 

Loki Odinson has always had a hard time caring for others. He is aware that he is a selfish man with selfish interests. However, when someone does make it through the wall he builds around his heart, they become included in those interests. So far this encompasses his mother and brother, and sometimes his father. He has always told himself he needs no one else to care about.

 

He sighs deeply, and rolls his eyes. “I give up.”

 

---

 

You growl angrily as your sword flies from your fingertips, electricity still sparking between them. “Ugh. Why are you so freakishly strong?”

 

Thor bellows out a laugh and spins his weapon. “My strength is not ‘freakish’ here, warrior! You are just small.”

 

“Never been a problem before,” you mutter, shaking out your stinging hand. You aren’t sure when you’ll be back to your full strength, but you’re more than ready for it.

 

“So tiny.” Thor chuckles, returning his borrowed sword as he walks back towards the edge of the sparring circle.

 

Sigrid giggles from where she stands with Thor’s friends, who are chatting amongst themselves, and Sif glances over at the girl with a smile.

 

“Hey, anyone’s small compared to you,” you add to your defense, summoning your weapon back to your hand in a blaze of darkness. You glance over at Sig on the sidelines and say, “Hey, Siggy. How about you learn something for a change, huh?”

 

“What, me?” Sigrid asks, her eyes going wide.

 

“Yeah, why not? Bet you could learn to hold a dagger.”

 

“I agree,” Sif speaks up, nudging the servant girl. “There’s nothing wrong with a young woman learning the ways of weapons.”

 

You motion for Sigrid to join you, and with Sif beside her, she hesitantly walks forward as Thor joins conversation with the Warriors Three.

 

Sif draws her dagger and gives it to the girl, the two of you making suggestions on how to hold it. Sigrid seems very out of place with the blade, although she does her absolute best to do as the both of you tell her.

 

You hope learning to defend herself might give the girl some peace of mind. She’d stayed in your room late last night, as if afraid to be alone. However, when you'd offered to let her sleep over, she'd declined and retired to her own room.

 

Sigrid’s strikes are awkward at best, and there's no confidence behind her movements.

 

“Here, c’mon, try and stab me. For real this time,” you tell her, trading your sword for a dagger the same size as the one Sig holds.

 

Sigrid looks at you doubtfully. “I don't want to do that.”

 

“Just pretend I'm someone bad,” you state, shrugging. “I'm only going to be blocking you, I'm not gonna’ fight back. Come on, at least try!”

 

The girl gives a halfhearted swing in your direction, and you easily block her. “Like you mean it, Sig.”

 

“Give it your all, Sigrid,” Sif agrees.

 

Thor and his comrades have set off on their own, and when Sigrid notices that she doesn't have an audience, her confidence rises a little bit. She starts actually trying to swing at you, and when she sees how easily you block her, her weak strikes become more purposeful.

 

Sif stands to the side, instructing her on how to improve. You like Sif, and you appreciate her staying behind to help.

 

“Not so bad, huh?” you tell the girl, starting to genuinely enjoy the little game. “You almost nicked my hand, there!”

 

“Set your feet like she’s doing,” Sif says, watching the progress.

 

Sigrid doesn't necessarily like wielding the dagger, but she does find that it feels good to be learning. She does her best to commit everything to memory.

 

You don't expect Sigrid to be any good with a weapon, but after a bit you figure she’ll be able to surprise someone if need be. You watch as Sigrid’s gaze locks on something behind you, and you turn as she bows.

 

“Oh, hey,” you tell Prince Loki, a little surprised. “What's up?”

 

Sif’s eyebrows shoot up her forehead. You speak to him as if you are his friend, such as she and her companions speak to Thor.

 

“I was just out and about, when what do I see but a servant girl, attempting to kill a royal guest,” Loki says, smirking down at Sigrid. “Not too bright, but very bold.”

 

“They're showing me my way around a dagger, sir,” Sigrid tells him, ignoring his admonishment.

 

Once more, Sif is shocked. Perhaps you've rubbed off on your servant, as she seems to not fear the wicked prince either. At her thoughts, Loki’s eyes meet hers, and Sif once again has the uncanny feeling that he can hear what she is thinking.

 

“Has my boor of a brother been treating you well, Lady Sif?” Loki asks, smiling slyly.

 

“Of course,” Sif replies. “Just... as always.”

 

“Ah, so no change then,” the prince replies in a disinterested tone. “Daft.”

 

He's always looking for something with which to poke fun at his brother, but he's found Thor’s love life to be devoid of substance as of late. His bored gaze meets yours. “I've noticed your lack of appreciation for my craft, and have decided to invite you to come with me today when I visit the sorcerers under my command.”

 

“Uh, wait, what?” you ask, your brain working through the words. They all speak too properly in Asgard, and you always find yourself wishing people would just get to the point. “You want me to go see your wizard group?”

 

Loki’s eyes shoot upwards, and he heaves a large sigh. “Not. Wizards.”

 

“Alright, same difference. Sure, I guess. Sigrid, it's about time for you to hang with Asmund anyway.”

 

Sig blushes at your words, and ducks her head a little. “Yes, that's true. Thank you both so much.” She hands the dagger back to Sif, who takes it with a smile.

 

“Of course!” you say, grinning.

 

“Never a problem, Sigrid,” Sif tells her. “We can always practice more.”

 

You turn to the prince and shrug. “Alright, which way to the wizard house?”

 

He groans.

 

---

 

Spending time with you is an absolute pain, but it's quickly becoming a pain that he appreciates. You never lack a retort to his barbs, even though he thinks your words are always phrased oddly. He’s also found that the way you tease him is no longer full of hatred, which makes outings with you much more enjoyable.

 

You do your best not to gawk at the differences between the palace and the sorcerers’ building. Although both are very grand and ornate, the magical structure is more… unique. Platforms float down from the ceiling to take people to different floors, and the hum of magic is heavy in the air.

 

Willow’s beloved would've died happily upon walking in. Loki’s chambers have a fuckton of books, yes, but the rooms you walk through with him are full of nothing but. Even the practice room is lined with books.

 

“Okay, I admit, this is cool,” you tell him, watching the different spells and techniques the people around you are attempting. “It makes me think of….” You trail off, realizing you were about to start blathering about the magic from your world.

 

“Of what?” Loki asks, genuine curiosity in his tone. “You can tell me.”

 

You glance over at him and then look away. “This just makes me think of the, uh, group of people on my planet that use magic.”

 

“You've mentioned them,” he comments nodding as you both walk.

 

“Really? You remember that?” you ask, shocked.

 

He smirks. “Of course. Because unlike you, I wasn't drunk during the conversation.”

 

You roll your eyes at him, but before you can retort a man comes up to ask Loki a question. They walk on ahead, and you're about to dutifully follow when a voice stops you.

 

“Pardon me, madam, but is it true that you're the royal guest of the palace?”

 

You turn to see a man swathed in robes of dark blue. He's probably a couple of years older than you, with dirty blond hair and a large smile. “Yeah, that's me.” You give him your name.

 

“Hammond,” he replies, producing a hand from his long robe sleeve. “A true pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

 

“Oh. Thanks, nice to meet you, too,” you say to him, taking his hand and shaking it.

 

He's bent his head to kiss your knuckles, but quickly rights his mistake, hoping you hadn't noticed. “Tell me, Lady –”

 

“Can someone around here please just call me by my first name, damn it?” you ask, exasperated. “I swear.”

 

“M-My apologies!” Hammond stammers, stumbling over his words as his cheeks turn a slight shade of pink. “Yes. I was just wondering… well, it's rumored you have certain abilities… and if you don't find me so bold as to ask….”

 

Hammond hadn't expected you to look so… quite frankly, beautiful. You're nothing like the tales of the Bloody Warrior describe. He's not used to stammering like an idiot, and he doesn't much care for it.

 

Neither does Loki. He's in the middle of helping the man that approached him, but when he looks up he immediately notices Hammond’s blush and the way he looks at you. You lift your hand and dark flames rise from your palm, and Loki narrows his eyes at the delighted look Hammond gives you.

 

Don’t be a fool, especially one that sees things that aren't there, the prince scolds himself. He finishes addressing the man he's speaking to, and makes his way back up behind you.

 

“Absolutely phenomenal!” Hammond exclaims after stating your name.

 

“It's really nothing,” you tell him, confused by his excitement. “I just saw a guy turn another guy into a raven. That's ten times more awesome.”

 

“You refer to a woman by her first name only? And upon just meeting her? I thought better of you, Hammond,” Loki chides.

 

Hammond jumps slightly, having just realized the prince has walked up to the two of you. “She requested it, my lord.”

 

“You guys get so bent out of shape about names,” you tell the two, rolling your eyes. “Isn't that right, Loke?”

 

He sneers at you, and Hammond looks between you and Loki. You seem very familiar with the prince, but from the way he's snarling at you, Hammond figures he absolutely despises you.

 

“All is well,” Hammond says, chuckling awkwardly into the silence. He thinks he can diffuse the situation. “If it pleases you, sir, I can show the girl around while you’re preoccupied.”

 

“’The Girl’ is right here,” you remind them at the same time Loki says, “Absolutely not.”

 

Hammond stares worriedly at the glare he's receiving from the prince, and bows his head. “It was just a suggestion, sire. I apologize. I meant no offense.”

 

“Of course,” Loki says, waving his hand. “None taken.” He turns to you. “Come, there's still much to see.”

 

“Okay,” you state, shrugging. People don't make sense to you in general, and Asgardians are no different. “See you around, Hammond.”

 

Unlikely, Loki thinks to himself.

 

---

 

“What the hell?” you mutter aloud, walking to answer the knock at your door while you rub the sleep from your eyes. “Uh, hello?”

 

“Were you sleeping?” Loki’s voice asks you through the door, his tone amused.

 

You pull it open and give him a look. “It's the middle of the night. What do you think I was doing?”

 

“May I come in?” he asks, ignoring your sarcasm.

 

You can tell from his tone that he's coming in anyway.

 

“Uh, yeah, I guess. Or, wait, let me get some actual clothes on.” Now, he gives you a look, one that makes you blush and roll your eyes. “Okay, whatever.”

 

The prince walks in, and you close the door behind him. “Forreal, though, what are you doing here?” you ask him, suppressing a yawn.

 

“I'm bored.” It's a simple statement, and one he's said often. He looks quickly around your room. “Tell me what these trinkets mean,” Loki says to you as he steps to the vanity.

 

You let out a huff of breath. “Why?”

 

“Because I want to know. I studied them when you first arrived, and they have no value. So why keep them?”

 

You shake your head and walk up beside him, eyes still heavy with sleep. “Uh. Well. I picked up this crystal on the road,” you say, reaching out and taking it in your hand. “Gave it to a friend. When he died, he gave it back.” You set it down. “That necklace was a gift. I mean…. I don't know, I carry things for sentimental reasons, I guess. I mean, why do you keep all that stuff you have?”

 

“I've usually won them from a battle,” he tells you, considering the question. “Some of the armor and ornaments are gifts, though. My brother is an idiot, but he knows how to give phenomenal gifts.”

 

“I guess that kind of counts as sentimentality,” you say, shrugging and sitting down on your bed. “Oh, what about that gold helmet? With the goat horns.”

 

“Goat horns?” Loki asks, looking at you in indignation. “That's my battle armor!”

 

You snort. “You want to look like a goat in battle?”

 

“What's this, then?” he demands, changing the subject as he picks up the little seashell.

 

“Scooped it from the beach when Will and I went to our world’s ocean,” you say, looking over at it.

 

“Where are you from, murderess?” Loki questions, setting the shell down and walking over to you. “How did you come to travel galaxies?”

 

“Well, that's a really long story that's sure to bore you,” you say, rolling your eyes.

 

“I want to hear it,” he answers, shrugging.

 

You look at him carefully, decide you're too tired to argue, and pat the bed beside you. He takes a seat, and you begin to talk.

 

Once that story’s done, you ask him about his own life. About growing up in a palace, what having Odin and Thor as relatives are like, what happened in his first battle.

 

Before either of you realize it, you've both fallen asleep on your bed, your head on his chest and his arm around you.

 

And for the first time, you dream of him.

Chapter Text

Sigrid knocks on the door as she opens it. She isn't sure whether you'll be there or not, and you've always told her to come in whenever she pleases. However, upon seeing you and Prince Loki both scrambling to your feet, she figures she should start being more cautious about entering unannounced.

 

“Oh! Um,” Sigrid says, quickly bowing and looking away. “Good morning! I'll be… out here if you need me!”

 

“Sig!”

 

She immediately turns and shuts the door, her mouth actually falling open once she's alone in the hall.

 

“I… I…. Damn it,” you hiss, starting to pace.

 

“Are you angry?” Loki asks incredulously.

 

You pause and sigh, running a hand through your hair. “Sorry. That's kind of my default. I guess it doesn't really matter. It's just Sig, it's not like she'd say anything.”

 

“Why does that matter?” he asks, an edge in his tone.

 

You turn to him in surprise. “I mean, you don't want to be seen with me, right?”

 

He opens his mouth but cannot speak for a moment. “What? What gave you that impression?”

 

“Uh, I don't know. I guess I just thought that wouldn't be… good? Somehow?”

 

“I’ve no idea who would care, besides perhaps my father. The idiots of the palace always gossip and chatter about any topic of interest anyway.”

 

“I don't want to be a ‘topic of interest’,” you tell him bluntly, and walk towards the door to go find Sig.

 

“You already are,” he points out to your back. “Word of the foreigner flies from mouth to mouth ever so quickly.”

 

You turn around to face him again. “What do you want from me?”

 

He stares at you, eyebrows meeting in bewilderment. “What do you mean?”

 

“I mean why are you doing this? I thought after… after… that you wouldn't come around again. And now you stop by my room in the middle of the night. Just… what are you doing?”

 

He hears a strange tiredness in your voice. As if you're done with wit, done dancing around the topic. You're asking him how long before he's done with you. How long before he moves on.

 

He doesn't know.

 

“I said while you live, I want you,” Loki states, stepping up to you. “So that's what I'm doing, to answer your question.”

 

You search his green eyes, trying to see some kind of wicked trickery within. When you find none, you turn away to go search for Sig. “Fine.”

 

He's unhappy with your tone, frowning angrily as you walk out.

 

---

 

Frigga sits with Loki, the both of them reading in her study. He seems preoccupied, periodically looking up from his book to search the room with his gaze. She decides to test him.

 

“Do you think I should extend an invitation to our guest, in light of my celebration coming up?” Frigga asks, gently closing her book.

 

Loki looks up at her, confused. “Why ask me? It's your birthday.”

 

“Well, you seemed irritated when I asked her to our last event, and I felt it would be prudent to bring it up beforehand.”

 

“Do what you wish, Mother,” Loki tells her in a disinterested tone, returning to his book. “It matters not to me.”

 

“Ah. Well, I suppose you're right:  it won't matter,” Frigga says airily, opening her novel again and thumbing through the pages. “Your father will most likely send her out before the celebration anyway.”

 

Had Loki been thinking clearly, he could've easily seen through this lie. Instead, his eyes fly to his mother’s face. “What? Why?” he asks sharply.

 

“I knew it,” Frigga says triumphantly, promptly putting her book down into her lap. “You care for her.”

 

Loki’s mouth opens slightly, and his eyes narrow. “You lied to me.”

 

“As you did to me,” Frigga chides him.

 

He scowls at her, and rises from his chair. She thinks he's about to walk out, when instead he begins to pace. “I don't understand it, Mother. Why in the nine realms do I feel this way? It's terrible, and I don't like it.”

 

Frigga chuckles. “Oh, my son. What brings these negative statements?”

 

He's not talked with her about such things in quite a while. Rather, he's not talked to anyone about such things in quite a while.

 

He wishes to maintain this silence.

 

“It's… stressful,” he tells her, words angrily spilling out of him. “I feel like a youth. I've no idea how she…. The uncertainties are just abysmal. And the situation, Mother, she's not one of us. Ah, why did my brother have to bring her here?” he asks heatedly, glaring at the ground.

 

“Thor did what he thought best,” Frigga replies gently. “Do not fault him for his honor. Tell me true, Loki, are these feelings towards this girl to be short lived?”

 

“They have to be,” he answers, fixing her with his bright, green gaze. “When Father sends her to complete her mission, she does not intend to return.”

 

---

 

Loki?” Sigrid asks you, something akin to disbelief on her face. “Prince Loki?”

 

“Yes, that Loki. He just came by to talk last night, and we fell asleep. No biggie, okay?”

 

Sigrid fiddles with her embroidery tools at her desk, not wanting to look at you. “Well, he's… the prince hasn't the best reputation.”

 

“Yep,” you agree, leaning on the wall by the door. “You know, but then again, neither do I.”

 

Sigrid considers this. It's true. She'd heard terrible, cruel stories about you, and while you could definitely be a threat to your enemies, you’d never once harmed her or anyone you cared about.

 

Along the same thread, being near the younger prince has led her to see a much different person than she'd heard about. Sig has no doubts that a lot of the stories have hints of truth, but she begins to wonder if they may have been twisted in some fashion.

 

“Do you care for him?” she asks you.

 

You make a face. “I don't know. I don't have time to figure that shit out. I'm here to do a job, so that's what I'll work towards.”

 

---

 

Sigrid bursts into your room in the late afternoon, forgetting all about her thoughts on knocking. You've been doing your workout routine, and as the girl enters, you lean back on your arms and then launch yourself to your feet.

 

“What's up, Sig?”

 

“I’ve just seen Gudrun in the hall,” Sigrid says, panting as if she's had to run to get to you. “Queen Frigga has requested to have tea with you!”

 

“What?” you ask dumbly, your face scrunching up in puzzlement.

 

“Yes! Quick, we must have you dressed!”

 

Sigrid is a whirl of motion, slamming your door and bustling over towards you. “Whoa, Sig, is this, like, a big deal or something?”

 

“The queen invited you to tea! Yes, it's a big deal!” Sigrid insists, digging in your wardrobe.

 

You groan. “Like… ‘wear a dress’ big deal?”

 

“Like ‘wear a dress’ big deal,” Sigrid affirms.

 

---

 

Well, this is going to go so badly, you think to yourself, awkwardly sitting across the small table from the queen. You're both out on a beautiful patio, with a white pavilion above your heads. The sun is slowly sinking in the sky, casting long shadows from the floral growth around the area.

 

Frigga Allmother has been asking you polite questions for a while now. You've told her how you've been doing, thanked her for allowing you to stay, and said that you had a great time at her last event.

 

“Thanks for inviting me,” you tell her, shuffling awkwardly in your seat. “You've been really nice.”

 

“Nonsense,” Frigga answers, setting her cup down. “You're our guest, and are welcome to stay as long as you need.”

 

“Oh, don't worry,” you tell her, your nerves causing your words to come quickly. “I'm actually almost better, so I should be out of your hair any day now. I've been training with Thor and his friends on the grounds, so I'm making a lot more progress than I was.”

 

“Oh, that's splendid!” the queen replies, smiling at you. “But must you leave so soon? Perhaps at least consider remaining under our roof until our next celebration. You've been a wonderful guest, and I’d hate to see you go.”

 

“Oh,” you answer, your eyes widening slightly. “Uh…. I mean, that's really kind. But I'm worried.” You frown and clear your throat, anxiety pinching your stomach. “I don't want the Ordinat to attack. It's better if I take the fight to them.”

 

“Our sources say they continue to abide with the barbarians,” Frigga tells you. “They've been attacking their enemies to the south, their sights turned from us. Please, there's no need to rush. Would you make an attempt too soon and risk failure?”

 

She watches as you worry your lip. “I… I don't know.”

 

“Dear one,” Frigga says softly, “my husband is planning his own assault, with you at the head. If you insist on going, you will at least not be going alone. Odin bides his time, and you should as well.”

 

Talking to Frigga makes you feel like nothing more than a simple child. You open your mouth to argue, to tell her you don't need help, or soldiers, or anything more from them, when Loki Odinson strolls out to the tea table.

 

“Pardon my lateness,” he states, taking a seat.

 

“You are always late,” Frigga says to him, sighing and shaking her head.

 

Loki eyes you from across the table, and you look back in uncertainty. What is he doing here?

 

“I see you dine in odd company this evening, Mother,” Loki comments, leaning back as he stretches his legs under the table.

 

Did he say ‘dine’?

 

“I've asked her as my guest this evening, as I know your father and brother are too busy to accompany us,” Frigga tells him, smiling kindly at you to take the sharpness from her son’s statement.

 

He shrugs casually. “If you insist, I suppose.”

 

“Hello to you, too,” you mutter to the prince in an irritated huff.

 

He smirks at you, and out of the corner of your eye, you notice servers begin to bring in covered dishes. You hadn't anticipated having dinner. You thought this was just going to be tea.

 

“I see the servant girl has stuffed you into something actually appropriate for once,” he says, his eyes cutting to the side as his lips twitch with the hint of a smile.

 

“Yeah, I'm in a dress. And I see you've got your cape again today. Bravo,” you tell him.

 

He scowls at you. “Cloak.”

 

Frigga watches as you shrug, taking in the exchange with repressed laughter. She can tell. She knows exactly why her son favors you. You treat him just as he is – not a prince to respect, not a demon to fear, but just Loki. And you care for him as well.

 

“Enough, enough,” Queen Frigga says with humor in her tone. “It matters not what clothes are worn. Tell me of your day, Loki.”

 

Loki recounts a summary of what he's done since leaving Frigga’s study, doing his best to ignore you as he speaks. Seeing you in a dress reminds him of the dance he had with you. He wanted to believe his attraction stemmed from that certain dress, when in fact this lavender one is just as distracting as the first.

 

You're just always distracting in general. He abhors it.

 

You're not sure how exactly it happened. Somehow, in some bizarre turn of events, you are having dinner with Frigga and Loki. You answer questions when you're asked, shoot curt replies when Loki bullies you, and do your best not to anger the queen.

 

You're not used to fine dining. You've no idea what's served to you, no clue what fork to use with what dish. You're determined not to embarrass yourself. You feel some kind of strange urge to prove to Loki that you aren't an uncouth barbarian.

 

And for once, things seem to go your way. You don't drop anything on yourself, you don't spill anything, you haven't spoken with your mouth full. This accomplishment would've been easy for Willow, but you can't help but feel proud of yourself.

 

At the conclusion of the meal, you thank Frigga for inviting you before heading back inside to go back to your room. Loki waits a moment or two before he also bids farewell to his mother.

 

Frigga sits in the dying light while the servers take the plates and dishes back to the kitchens. She thinks about what she's learned, thinks about what her husband told her. That the two of you together would be dangerous.

 

He's not wrong.

 

But the Allmother can't help but like you. Unrestricted by the social customs of Asgard, you've unwittingly provided a strange sort of confidant for her son. One that he could not find among the others in their realm.

 

This does not mean that she approves. It does not mean that she wants something long-lasting between you and her son.

 

But you do not let him control you, and Frigga thinks this aspect renders her husband’s assumed worries obsolete.

 

---

 

Loki catches up to you in the hallway, and he calls out your name.

 

You roll your eyes and slow your walk. “Yeah, what?”

 

He comes up beside you and holds out his arm with a mischievous smile on his face. “Walk with me a moment?”

 

You groan, heave a large sigh, and then accept his arm. You can hear in your mind the teasing Willow would give you if she saw you, and cringe. “Okay, where are we going?”

 

“Not far,” he answers, and begins to walk again.

 

He leads you through the castle a short ways until you find yourself facing a large pair of glass doors. Loki opens them, and you both step out onto a small, marble balcony. The last of the sun’s rays are fading quickly, stars and galaxies appearing slowly in the darkening sky.

 

He closes the doors, and you both lean against the railing, staring out over the grounds. “I forget how high up we are,” you comment, breaking the silence. “You know, it's actually really pretty on this world.”

 

“I suppose it is,” Loki says, unimpressed. “I've not been to many others to compare.”

 

You watch people moving on the grounds for a moment before saying, “Went to a place once that was nothing but a dead city. It was after some kind of catastrophe. Reminds me of this, in a way.”

“How?” Loki questions, eyebrows raising indignantly. “Surely a ruined city is no match for Asgard.”

 

“It's not that. It's just the feeling,” you try to explain. “Like, the surrounding area had come back. It was so colorful, so beautiful in the setting sun. And I was the only living being left on that planet to see it.”

 

Loki watches your face, the way you look out over the grounds. “You feel alone here, as you did there.”

 

It's not a question. You glance over at him. “I have to. I want to.”

 

“Why?” he asks.

 

“I can't have anything left to lose,” you answer, shrugging and looking away.

 

“Stop it,” he states, glaring at the sunset.

 

“I'm telling you this so you'll stop coming around,” you reply evenly, still staring out over the grounds. “I used to be so afraid of being alone. But I've come to realize that it's easier.”

 

He's always thought this, too.

 

He takes your arm and pulls you gently to him. You fit beneath his chin, and you feel his heart beating through his shirt. “I can't.”

 

“What?” you ask.

 

“I can't just leave you alone.”

 

“Look,” you say, pushing away from him so you can look into his eyes. “The only reason I even… slept with you is because you said it wasn't about feelings.”

 

“I was wrong,” he answers. “I gave up. I care for you, and I can't just stand here and listen to you say such things.”

 

“Then don't,” you say coldly, turning away. “You've made a mistake.”

 

“Put your mad, suicidal thoughts aside, woman, and hear me,” he growls, pulling you back to him. “Don't pretend with me. I know lies, no matter how easily you let them fall from your lips.”

 

“Stop,” you say, your voice wavering ever so slightly.

 

“I cannot.”

 

“You can,” you snap. “Don't pretend to give a damn about me, bastard. You just met me. You don't know me, and you don't want to.”

 

“A lie,” he says back.

 

“I know you'd just use me and leave me,” you tell him. “There's no point in any of this. And I don't care about you,” you add, and you're surprised to feel angry tears prick at your eyes.

 

“Another – lie.”

 

You pull him down by the front of his shirt and kiss him. He runs a hand slowly up the back of your neck, his fingers sliding through your hair. You pull away, turning your face. “Damn you. I hate you. This doesn't change anything.”

 

“Does it not?” he questions, anger sneaking its way into his voice. “Why do you wish to give your life to your enemies, when you claim they've taken all from you as it is? You'd willingly let them have the rest?”

 

“I don't expect you to understand,” you tell him hotly. “I never even told you what I wanted to do. You aren't supposed to know or give a shit. I'm just tired, Loki. I should've died so long ago, and I didn't. And every second after has been absolute hell. I can't make a life of my own after that.”

 

“You never struck me as someone to give up,” he says, sneering down at you. “Loss is not something that should affect someone so.”

 

“You don't know what loss is, you asshole,” you hiss at him from behind your teeth.

 

He scowls at you. “Tell me no more of these plans, should you choose to follow them through.”

 

“I didn't tell you in the first place,” you growl, glaring at the grounds. “I'll be fine, okay? Look, it's not a big deal. I exist solely to fight. So that's what I'll do. There's no telling what will happen.”

 

“This conversation has gone awry,” he states, narrowing his eyes as he looks away.

 

“Yeah, it has,” you answer. “Let's just drop it.”

 

“Agreed.”

 

With that, you both watch the last rays of the sun fade in silence. The darkness almost makes you relieved, as if neither of you had said anything.

 

Loki sees you slowly relax. His eyes scan your figure, your dress, the way your eyes flicker as they catch on different parts of the grounds below.

 

He's angry at you. You irritate him, you berate him, you lie to him, you confuse him. He should just be done with you. It's as you said, he only just met you.

 

But he thinks back. On the blood pouring out of your body, the first time your eyes opened, watching you work so hard to regain yourself. Your fire, your humor, your wit. Your strange, foreign tales of far-off lands, your collected trinkets, the sad, lost look in your eyes when you think no one is watching.

 

But he's watching. Longer than even he was aware of.

 

He should've just let you die.

 

“Come with me tonight,” he says to you, running his hand up your arm, although his tone is bitter. “You may no longer fear being alone, but I'm sick of it.”

 

You know you should say ‘no’. That you shouldn't give a damn about this bastard prince.

 

“Fine.”

 

---

 

The prince figures he should just take your advice and leave you be. He wishes he could. But once he’s made a decision, set a course of action for himself, he’s compelled to follow through. And he’s already made his decision regarding you.

 

Perhaps he's just a glutton for punishment. The man is fully aware that the more he cares for you, the more it'll hurt when you're gone. Maybe he seeks this emotional pain, feels like he deserves it.

 

“I want to get clothes, and change,” you tell him as you near your quarters.

 

He pauses, feigning deep thought as his eyes dart to the side. “Hmmm. You can collect your things, but I hardly think changing is necessary. I doubt you'll have need of the dress for much longer.”

 

You roll your eyes at him and open your door. “Arrogant bastard,” you mutter as you gather up what you think you'll need.

 

You almost decide to change anyway, just to spite him, but shrug your shoulders at the last second. Once back in the hall, he surprises you by pulling you to him for a kiss.

 

You know anyone could walk by, that you should push him away. You have to stop. You have to stop finding these people to care about. It makes you think of your old friends, of Willow, of the people you'd met on your travels.

 

“Stop it,” you say to him breathlessly, turning your head. “Loki, you aren't listening. I can’t have feelings for you.”

 

“Okay,” he states in your ear, his tone alone giving you goosebumps. “You don't have to. Not tonight.”

 

“Not any night,” you answer as he steps forwards.

 

The skin of your back hits the cold wall, the chill making you shudder. He’s too close. You can feel his nose and lips graze the side of your neck before he gently kisses your pulse. “You don't have to care about me to fuck me.”

 

You bite your lip, breath catching. Damn.

Chapter Text

The walk to his wing of the palace always feels longer when he has you with him. Loki hasn't had you for two nights now. He's never been a man who wishes for a lover every evening, but now… he realizes that he yearns for you in his bed.

 

As soon as the door closes, he's already pulling on the fabric of your dress, loosening the ties as he kisses you. His hands are always cold, and although you don't know why, you like it. You like him. But you haven't given up like he has. You told him you couldn't care about him, and you meant it.

 

But it's hard when he holds you, when his lips press roughly up and down your neck. It makes you lie to yourself about missing him.

 

He doesn't fully get your dress off until you both step inside his room. He kisses your bare shoulder while he simultaneously tries to throw the door closed behind the two of you.

 

You tug off his shirt, your hands roaming over his skin as you kiss his collarbone. You lightly bite down, remembering you're still mad at him about the last time you slept with him.

 

So much teasing.

 

He'd wanted you to beg, but had given up. You wonder how quickly you can make him relent. You aren't confidant in such things, but you know if you lose yourself enough, it will come.

 

He finally pulls your dress free, and you step out of it as it falls to the floor. He reaches for you, but you back away a bit, expending a little energy to barely push on him.

 

He watches every movement as you slowly remove the rest of your clothing. You stand before him bare, and then carefully look him over as you walk back. His emerald eyes skim over your body before returning to your face. You’re watching him slyly, and he finds this very enticing.

 

You kiss him, and at your touch he starts to move again. His hands trail over your sides, pushing you towards the bed. He grasps your chest with one hand, rubbing his thumb over your nipple, while his other hand slides between your thighs.

 

You suck in a breath and bite your lip as he lays you over. Your fingers move to his belt, and you try to stay focused enough to successfully undo it. He kisses you, tongue parting your lips, which does nothing to help your concentration.

 

Loki moves his hand up your body when he's undressed, and you turn your face and do your best to catch your breath. You push on his shoulder, struggling to turn him over.

 

Bemused, he allows it, his lips twisting into a smirk on yours as you straddle him. You kiss down his neck and chest, and then lower to his stomach. His heart starts to pound faster at the sensation of your warm lips and tongue near his hips…. Your head finally dips between his thighs, and he groans and tilts his head back when you take him into your mouth.

 

You like it. You like how you make his hips buck, how his hands immediately knot in your hair, how his moans slowly grow louder and include your name.

 

He likes the sight of you, the hallows in your cheeks. Even so, after a bit, the bob of your head makes him close his eyes, and a swear hisses from behind his clenched teeth.

 

You pull your head up, leaning forward and folding your arms across his stomach, your chest on his groin. He groans and opens his eyes to look down at you.

 

It’s a sight, to be sure. He swears loudly in his mind.

 

You're watching him, eyes glinting in the dark. Before he can gather his thoughts, your hands stretch up his stomach and then down his sides to his hips. You duck your head back down for a bit as he watches, until his breath picks up.

 

When you stop this time, Loki practically pulls you up his body until you're straddling him once more. You sit up away from him  until you’re seated on top of his waist. Still, you do not take him, merely continuing to tease him with your hips.

 

He tries to reach for you, his fingers barely grazing your chest before you push his arms down to the bed, leaning over in the process. He’s stronger than you – if he fought you, he’d quickly get his way. However, he finds you distracting, your face hovering above his. Your hair tickles his jaw, and he impatiently lifts his lips to yours. You return his passionate kiss, keeping a firm grip on his arms.

 

He rocks his hips again, sliding against you, and still you don't give in. You instead kiss sloppily down his neck, sliding your hands from his arms to his shoulders. He tries to reach for you once more, so you push him back.

 

“Damn you, what is this?” he asks in his moan.

 

“Payback,” you reply breathlessly, grinning as you slip a hand down his body to grip his shaft.

 

He scowls at you, but you find that quick pumps from your wrist successfully clear the dark expression.

 

You get him close again, kissing his cheek and smirking as he pants, before you cease your movement. He angrily grabs at you, pulling you closer. You’re toying with him, and he feels as if he’s like to lose his mind. He takes your bottom lip roughly between his teeth while his hands slide to your hips. You catch his wrists and place his palms on your chest instead.

 

When he groans, you move your mouth to his ear and whisper, “Just say it.”

 

He narrows his eyes up at his bed’s canopy, heart pounding loudly in his ears. Every touch, every small shift of your body on top of him is tantalizing agony. “No.”

 

You squeeze his hands on your breasts, sitting up and leaning your head back as you let out a loud, lewd noise. He groans, his hips twitching involuntarily and fingers tightening even more on your body. You look down at him, leaning forward and kissing his neck as you release his hands to grasp his hair.

 

He's losing, just as he lost the last time he tried to play this game with you. He gave, and you both know he’ll give up tonight, too.

 

When your teeth meet his shoulder and your hand slips down his front again, he growls out the order. “Fuck me, already.”

 

And having won, you grin wickedly as you oblige. The foreplay makes it easy to lower yourself onto him, although the sensation still makes you gasp quietly. The little noise is almost lost in the groan that sounds from the prince’s throat. You start to ride him, unable to keep a slow pace for long. His hands find your hips, guiding you down to meet his body faster as he starts to thrust up into you.

 

He’s close, but he isn’t close enough when you start to show signs of nearing your climax. He increases the pace, fingers pressing so tightly on your hips that he’s sure he’ll see bruises there tomorrow. He watches you on top of him, your face twisted in pleasure, your breasts bouncing enticingly as your body moves.

 

You clench around him, and he takes in every miniscule movement that you make – your head falling back, your body shuddering, your lips forming his name.

 

He gives you no time to recover before lifting you off of him and turning you over. He takes you from behind, his hands teasing your nipples, lips kissing your shoulders and back. You are all moans and gasps and shrieks and swears and he loves it all, it makes him wild. He pounds into you rapidly, making you come again before he finally nears his release. His muscles tighten, his hands gripping you painfully when he finishes.

 

Loki groans as he goes limp, his body pinning yours to the mattress as the both of you try to catch your breath. He eventually rolls off of you, although he immediately wraps his arm around your waist and pulls you close to him.

 

He thinks of you, listens as your breathing gradually slows. His chest feels heavy, something inside prying at the bars that cage his heart.

 

And he asks himself what he thinks this is.

Chapter Text

He's curled around you, breath hitting the back of your neck, legs tangled together. It's the early hours of the morning, the sun not even lighting the sky yet. Your dream makes your arm twitch, although that isn't what awakens you.

 

It’s the pain. You suck in a deep breath and sit up quickly before you realize what you're doing. Your teeth are clenched tightly, but a muffled screech still escapes you.

 

Loki stirs, confused and blinking away his sleep. “What?”

 

“Get out!” you state, gripping fistfuls of your hair in panic.

 

“What? What's wrong?” he asks again, louder and more concerned. He reaches up to pull your hands away from your head, but your grip is too strong.

 

“Willow! Elaine! God, what the fuck, get out!”

 

You're scaring him. “What's going on? What are you talking about?!”

 

Things flash before your eyes as the person searches. You vaguely hear Loki’s voice, and shout, “In my head, there's someone –” you hiss, the blinding pain too great to finish your sentence.

 

That's all he needs. Without thinking, he flexes the magic that protects him to include you as well. He feels another’s power beat against the barrier he created, and is surprised by its force.

 

Things cycle faster, as if the person is frantically searching now, and then suddenly a chill slams over your mind. The relief is instantaneous, and you fall back amongst the pillows with a groan.

 

He says your name earnestly, lifting your upper body into sitting position. “Are you alright?”

 

You moan and put a hand to your head. “I'm okay. What the fuck was that? The Ordinat digging around in my mind?”

 

“That was familiar magic,” he replies, shaking his head. “It felt like Asgard.”

 

“Maybe they've siphoned off some bastard’s magic. Sounds about right.” You lean over on your knees, slowly blinking. You feel vulnerable, and shudder slightly. “I want to put something on.”

 

Before you can get out of bed to search for your clothing, Loki leans down and nabs whatever lies nearest. You pull one of his undershirts over your head, which makes you feel only slightly better.

 

“Do you know what they were looking for?” he asks.

 

You shake your head uncertainly. “Not really. I think… maybe where I stay? And I kept seeing the training grounds. And also us going to get Sig.”

 

He frowns, his mind busy. “They knew your mind would be exposed.”

 

“This is why I need to hurry up,” you hiss angrily, rubbing your stinging eyes. “It's going to get worse. I'll go tomorrow.”

 

“If it's truly them, they'll expect that,” he tells you, working to not blurt out his sentences too quickly. “They would've mounted this mental attack, knowing it would spur you to action. Don't play into their hand.”

 

“You can't know that,” you tell him, doing your best to ignore the leftover headache you now have.

 

“It's only logical,” he answers.

 

You sigh, leaning back and crossing your arms. “Why'd it hurt? How’d it stop?”

 

“I’d imagine it hurt because your mind automatically fought the assault,” he guesses. “And I stopped it.”

 

You look over at him in surprise. “Oh. Thanks. I mean it.”

 

“You called out for two people,” he tells you as he leans back against the headboard, hoping to distract you from your thoughts of revenge. “Could they have helped you?”

 

You pull your knees up and wrap your arms around them. “Willow’s my best friend. She probably could've helped.”

 

“And the other?”

 

“She's dead. It was just a habit,” you say bluntly.

 

He’s quiet for a moment, before softly saying, “I'm sorry.”

 

You grimace at the phrase. “It's fine. Elaine…. She could do mind stuff. Probably could've traced it back to whoever was in my head and killed them.”

 

“Mind stuff?”

 

“Yeah. Control people, speak in your mind, all that kind of stuff,” you explain, throat tightening.

 

He doesn't want to push you, knowing your friend is dead, although the thought of having these types of powers is extremely intriguing. However, he knows you care deeply for your living friend, and so he speaks of her instead. “What of the other, then?”

 

“Willow?” you ask, resting your head on the top of your knees. “She’s my opposite.  She has light in her. It can heal and shield. She’s helped me before, when it comes to mind stuff like this.”

 

“I don't understand,” he says, mostly just wanting to keep you talking. You let out a breath, reluctant to explain your friend’s abilities. However, once you start, it's like you can't stop. He can tell you miss her, and you miss her dearly. “Why did you leave her, if she's your friend?” he asks when you fall silent.

 

You turn to look at him, angrily wiping your eyes in the process. “I had to.”

 

“Why?” he presses.

 

You stare down at his comforter, tightening your arms around your knees. “Being there. Seeing everyone that survived. It’s just…. It’s a constant reminder of what happened. What we went through. And I couldn't take it. I got angrier and angrier until I knew I had to leave. And I did.”

 

The soft way you say the last sentence makes his stomach twist uncomfortably.

 

You think yourself more important than her closest friend? Nothing will make her stay. Give up.

 

You clear your throat suddenly, before he can say anything. “Enough of that. Let’s talk about you, huh? What do you wanna be when you grow up?”

 

He sneers at you, rolling his eyes at the subject change. “I'm grown.”

 

“Still live with your parents and don't have a job. Doesn't scream ‘grown’ to me,” you answer, the ghost of a smirk playing on your lips.

 

He frowns at you. You're diverting. He doubts you really want to know about his life. “I'm head of the sorcerers. I train them to keep our realm safe. That's my job.”

 

“Mhm. Yeah, but like, what's your main goal? To be king?”

 

At your words, he can see it in his mind’s eye. It's something he's thought of so many times, a fantasy he longs to make true. “Once more, you mistake me for my older brother.”

 

“Just because you can't have something doesn't mean you don't want it,” you tell him, leaning back against the headboard. “C’mon. You've told me you hate Odin and Thor.”

 

“I have not,” he objects.

 

You snort. “Might as well have. But really, I don't get it. Why would you even want to be king?”

 

This surprises him. “Why not? The power, the admiration, the whole realm at my fingertips.”

 

You roll your eyes again, and cut him off. “Why do you want to rule over people so badly?” He doesn't answer, and you look over at him. You wait a bit before saying, “People aren't nice to you, huh?”

 

His green eyes cut to yours. “As you've pointed out, I'm not very nice. But I don't need an excuse to want to exercise my birthright.”

 

You scowl at him and look away. Princes. “You're all the same.”

 

“What?” he asks, eyebrows raised.

 

“Forget it,” you grumble, settling back down among the pillows and covers and turning your back to him. “Tell me something about you. A story.”

 

He thinks for a moment, wondering whether to insist on answers, fulfill your request, or remain silent. He wonders if the assault on you is still on your mind. He hopes they didn't find what they were looking for. It worries him. It had to be strong magic to breach the barriers around his chambers.

 

He begins a story of his adolescence, laying back down and curling around you. He makes it short, figuring you don't really care about what he says. However, you ask questions, make comments, get him talking more than he has in a long while.

 

You start to drift off when he grows quiet, his arm draped across your waist. Oh, no, you think to yourself as you thread your fingers through his. Damn you. Damn you for this. Fucking hell, I actually care about you.

 

And unbeknownst to you, he hears you.

 

---

 

“The prince!” she shouts, snarling. “The prince?!”

 

The sorceress scowls at the floor as she paces. It wasn't enough. She hadn't had enough time to fully flay your mind, not with the unexpected flare of magic that stopped her. But she’d figured out why you hadn't been in your room the other night. She could at least report that to Vitran.

 

The prince took you to his chambers?

 

She wishes she didn’t have to face Vitran in her failure. She knows he intends to conquer all of Asgard, and must therefore thoroughly plan ahead. He still needs her. She’s done her part, both times now. Circumstances have just not been aligning in the sorceress’ favor.

 

While she has leverage, while Vitran’s schemes depend on her, perhaps she can convince him to spare the royal family. And if not, maybe just one of the princes. After all, Vitran has promised her power and happiness. He’s already lent strength to her magic, perhaps he’ll save a prince for her as well.

 

She's jealous. She hates you, the idea of you. You're everything she stands against. A brute of a woman is no true woman at all. Why should a monster like you revel in the company of any prince?

 

She lets out a huff of breath and goes to meet with Vitran. Perhaps he’ll have some use for the information she gathered.

Chapter Text

Asmund sits in the school’s courtyard, doing what he can to practice. He’d been admitted to the school during the middle of the year, and had had to do a lot of reading in order to catch up.

 

The others aren’t necessarily nice to him. They whisper to one another, trying to figure out how a servant boy wormed his way into the School of Sorcery. However, none say so to his face. He’s always bright, always smiling, always willing to learn. Even his teachers can’t help but like him.

 

When he gives up on practice for the afternoon, he bounds out of the schoolyard to meet up with Sigrid. He intends to show her his parents’ shop today, and he’s been nervously looking forward to it.

 

 

As they work, Asmund’s mother does her best to keep her husband’s spirits up. Brenna can tell Jerrik is bothered by the turn of events, seeing as how Prince Loki slighted him. She knows he loves Asmund very much, but her husband is prone to brooding, and he does so whenever the topic arises. They run their shop together, selling her plants and his spell-crafted artifacts. Asmund assists them when he isn’t in school, and Brenna is ever so pleased to have her family together once again.

 

What’s more, she thinks he has a sweetheart. Brenna has caught sight of the embroidered handkerchief her son carries, and her heart swells at the thought of Asmund falling in love. He’s always been a cheerful boy, and she’s no doubt he’ll find someone that loves him as much as she does. He’s not old enough to marry, but she knows he’s in his courting years.

 

So when he brings a young woman to the shop, Brenna is practically beside herself. “Well, hello there!”

 

“Greetings,” Sigrid says, blushing furiously as she dips her head.

 

“Mother, Father, this is Sigrid! I’ve been courting her, and we’re very happy.”

 

Sigrid wants to hide her face at the bold proclamation, but Asmund is practically beaming at her. Jerrik and Brenna smile at the two, used to their son’s upfront statements.

 

“Well, welcome, darling Sigrid!” Brenna exclaims, ushering them forward to see the shop.

 

“Pleased to meet you,” Jerrik states, nodding and returning to his work.

 

Sigrid is fascinated by the shop. Dried herbs line the walls, and artifacts are perched on shelves. There’s also a variety of stones and crystals in bins near the back, and the small room smells delightful, like a mixture of earth and sage.

 

They end up inviting her to stay for dinner, and at first she politely declines, telling them she has a charge and must be there to assist you. However, when Asmund insists she ask (explaining about her ability as she does), you, of course, tell her she can stay (which he knew you would).

 

As the days pass, Sigrid spends more and more of her evenings with Asmund and his family. She enjoys her time with you in the mornings and afternoons, watching you train or picking up Sif’s dagger herself, although you’re always happy to let her go whenever she needs.

 

Sig doesn’t think she deserves your kindness.

 

---

 

You’re spending a lot of your time with the prince. Too much time, if you’re being honest with yourself. You do your best to distract yourself, working harder on the training grounds in the afternoons. You want to beat Thor. That’s how you’ll know you’re ready. If you can defeat the god of thunder, you can destroy the Ordinat.

 

Thor, unaware that you’ve hinged your readiness on this, continues to decimate you. You don’t use your powers with him, he’s noticed. You want to beat him without them, using only your skill.

 

You tell yourself you’re not biding your time. If all else fails, you think Odin will send you out after Frigga’s birthday. You figure he’ll ask to see you, and when he does, you can tell him that you want to go alone.

 

And just when you’ve stopped thinking about him, Loki always appears. He comes to watch you practice, or takes you to the palace library, or eats with you in the dining hall (this usually causes quite a few stares, which you think he secretly enjoys).

 

Frigga eventually tells him to just bring you with him when he comes to dine with her. She’s absolutely floored that he still trails after you. And while Frigga’s pleasure hesitantly grows, so does Odin’s distrust.

 

“Let it be, husband,” she tells him every time. “Until you have just cause to worry, let it be.”

 

---

 

Asmund knocks upon your door one evening. You’re not expecting him, and your eyebrows rise when you realize who it is. “Hey, half-pint! Wait, where’s Sig?”

 

“Oh, I’ve left her for a moment. I wanted to tell you something I’m sure she didn’t let you know. Her birthday is tomorrow,” Asmund states quickly, looking over his shoulder to be sure Sigrid hasn’t caught up to him.

 

“What? Damn. You’re right, she didn’t tell me,” you say, putting a finger to your chin. “So, are you taking her out somewhere special?”

 

“Yes!” he answers happily, putting his hands behind his back and grinning at you. “But I just thought you’d want to be made aware.”

 

“Thanks,” you tell him, nodding and giving him a small salute. “I’m glad you told me.”

 

Sigrid walks up at this moment, looking at Asmund accusatorially. “You left me!”

 

“Just for a bit,” he replies, smiling mischievously. “But look here! I’ve found your charge!”

 

You roll your eyes and smirk. “Yeah, yeah. You guys have fun, I don’t need anything.”

 

Before Sigrid can protest you shut your door. You stand there for a moment, listening to the two as they chat, and then ponder over what you could possibly give to your little friend. You don’t have any money, and you figure you probably shouldn’t steal anything while you’re here.

 

 

 

Later that evening, Sigrid comes into your room. You’re sitting at your desk, head propped on your hand, writing to Willow.

 

Sigrid calls your name, and you turn in your chair to face her.

 

“Hey! What’s up?”

 

“I was wondering if it would be alright if I spent my whole evening out tomorrow,” she says, her cheeks heating up.

 

“I’ve already told you, you can go and do whatever you want,” you tell her, grinning.  “Especially on your birthday.”

 

Now her face is truly crimson. “Oh.”

 

“Yeah, why weren’t you going to tell me?” you tease. “Worried about being an old lady?”

 

Sigrid laughs. “No, I just didn’t think it prudent to bother you with the information.”

 

“Siggy, stop,” you say, rolling your eyes. “Telling me about your life isn’t going to bother me. Jeez. Anyway, I have something for you.”

 

“What?” Sigrid asks, surprised.

 

You hold out your hand and form a small Sig-sized dagger. You’d worked on it earlier, making sure to get the details more intricate than what you like to use yourself. You flip the dagger and hold it by the blade, offering her the fancy handle.

 

“Oh!” she says again, tentatively reaching for it. “Are you sure?”

 

“Yep. I can’t really buy you anything… so I made it. I think you’re ready for something of your own. But,” you say, pulling it back slightly, “only for emergencies, okay?”

 

When she nods, you let her take the weapon from your grip. Sigrid runs her fingers over the handle, looking carefully at the dark blade. You feel bad, having given her something of darkness when the girl is so pure. But it’s all you have, and you hope she might sleep a little easier at having a weapon of her own.

 

“You, uh, may have to have Asmund or someone craft up a sheath for it. I can’t really… make those. I’m sorry.”

 

“Oh, don’t be sorry!” Sigrid tells you quickly. “Thank you so much! It means the world to me.”

 

She wraps you in a hug as you sit in your chair, and you awkwardly chuckle and pat her back. “It's nothing, really. I hope you have fun tomorrow.”

 

There's another knock on the door when Sig releases you, and you raise your eyebrows as you get to your feet. “Huh. I'm popular today.”

 

Loki opens your door, not bothering to wait for you to say anything. “Oh, its you,” you state, crossing your arms and grinning.

 

He gives you a look, and then sees the dagger in Sigrid’s hand. “What's this?”

 

“Sorry,” Sigrid says quickly, realizing she forgot to bow to him.

 

“The dagger, silly girl, not the formality,” he tells her, rolling his eyes.

 

“Gave it to her for her birthday,” you speak up, shifting your weight to one hip.

 

He blinks. “Oh. Right.”

 

You snort. “Don't tell me you forgot non-royal people have birthdays.”

 

He shoots you another look as Sigrid turns to you. “Is there anything you need?”

 

“Nah, you're good to go,” you tell her, smiling kindly.

 

“Thank you again,” she states, bowing to you and Loki, and then leaves the room.

 

“You don't have to bow to me,” you call after her as she closes the door.

 

“Are you free this evening?” the prince asks, his eyes searching your room as they always do.

 

“Nope. All booked up with my super busy schedule,” you tease, stretching your arms one at a time.

 

“Ah, too bad,” he replies, smirking. “I suppose I'll have to find someone else to accompany me tonight.”

 

“Better get to looking. Anyone respectable will be going to bed soon,” you point out.

 

“Are you?” he asks.

 

“Respectable? No. Going to bed soon? No,” you answer, walking up and grinning.

 

---

 

Damn you, you think, sighing and staring at the dark silhouette of his bare back. You're surprised when Loki turns over to face you. “Alright. I heard that. I can no longer call it a coincidence.”

 

“What?” you ask, absolutely confused.

 

“When you direct thoughts at me, I hear them,” he replies, sitting up.

 

You copy him, your brow furrowing. “That's impossible. I don't have that ability.”

 

“You just thought ‘Damn you.’, in reference to me,” he says bluntly. “It's not the first time I've heard things.”

 

He knows he should've said something sooner, but he is who he is, and he didn't.

 

“What the hell?” you ask, frowning at him. “How? Why are you in my head?”

 

“I think… it may be because I'm protecting your mind,” he muses slowly.

 

“What? You're doing what?” you question, staring at him intensely. “I thought that was a one-time thing.”

 

“Oh, yes, I'm sure you could stop another attack like that yourself,” he states, and then a small smirk twists his lips. “Ah, you'll never be out of debt with me.”

 

“You've been reading my mind? Since then?!” you exclaim, grabbing one of his pillows and throwing it at him.

 

He easily catches it and rolls his eyes. “Heavens, no. You're the one sending thoughts to me, I've not done anything. I don't hear everything.”

 

“Wait, so anytime I think something about you, you'll know?” you ask dismayed. “I don't need your protection, take it back.”

 

He lets out a huff of breath. “Stop being dim. It's not everything you think about me, only what you thought at me. If you don't do that, you should be fine. And really now? You'd like to be at the mercy of whoever wanted to dig into your mind?”

 

You stay silent, anger apparent on your face. “Things I've thought at you?”

 

“Oh, yes.”

 

His answer makes you blush. “You bastard. Why didn't you say anything?”

 

“Well, I couldn't be sure, now could I?” Loki Silvertongue tells you.

 

You hit him with another pillow. “Ugh. I hate you.”

 

“Naturally,” he replies, and then takes a hold of your hands. “I swear, I've not pried.”

 

You look at him carefully, searching his face for the truth. “Alright…. If you say so.” He smiles at you, and you pull your hands back and turn away from him. “But I'm still mad.”

 

“Very well,” he answers, turning away as well.

 

His bed is very large. It's easy to give you space, and he does so.

 

 

When he wakes in the morning, your chest is pressed into his back, your legs against his, your breath hitting his shoulder as you sleep. One of your arms is around his waist, and he carefully takes your hand without waking you.

 

Your fingers are long, worn rough by your sword work. He rubs his thumb over the back of your hand, and realizes he's smiling.

 

He knows you'll go to battle, and that you want to go alone. He's already decided he's going with you.

 

---

 

Asmund easily crafted a sheath for Sigrid’s dagger the next afternoon. She's stored your gift in her room by the bed, as it's too big for her dress pockets.

 

Sigrid’s never been one to celebrate birthdays. When she was with them, her parents had never given the day any extra thought, except only to tell her when it was.

 

Asmund had always been kind to her on her celebration day. She'd saved every gift he'd ever given her, and upon seeing them the first time he’d been in her room, his heart had swelled.

 

On this evening, he takes her out to a dinner he prepared, gives her a necklace of gold, and tells her that he loves her.

 

And she says it back.

 

---

 

“What's the worst thing you've ever done?”

 

Loki looks up from his book, taking in the fact that your feet are propped up on his table. He sneers at you, and you close the novel you hold and remove your feet after giving him a roll of your eyes. “Come on. I know you've done some terrible things. You don't get that many ‘trophies’ from not doing terrible things.” You nod your head towards his other room, full of his belongings.

 

“Hm,” he says, marking his place in his book with a slender finger. “The worst thing. I plucked a man’s eyes from his skull during battle, and left him to wander blind.”

 

You scrunch up your face. “That's the worst thing you've ever done?”

 

“He surely screamed like it was,” Loki states, shrugging and going back to his book.

 

“Gotta’ be something better than that,” you press.

 

“Why do you want to know?” he questions, looking over at you in exasperation.

 

“Because I've never seen you fight, or anything, but I can tell you've done some fucked up stuff,” you reply.

 

“No, nothing more terrible, I'm afraid,” he lies.

 

You roll your eyes and get up, walking into his room of objects. He immediately follows, wondering what sort of trickery you're up to. You walk around, pausing and looking at the different items before pointing to an amulet. “What's this?”

 

“An amulet,” he answers.

 

“No shit. What's it do, and how'd you get it?”

 

“I won it from the man who had it. It can control the compulsions of others, at the wearer’s command, although the magic has long been spent,” he tells you.

 

“What, you didn't even use it? Seems right up your alley.”

 

“Oh, I used it,” he answers, smirking. “I won it from him, and then had him carve up his own self. Quite messy, really. Upset Thor.”

 

You snort. “Because caving people’s head in with a hammer isn't messy.”

 

“Ah, Thor craves violence as much as any Asgardian.”

 

“How about this dagger?” you ask, moving on down the wall.

 

Loki brushes a finger across the golden blade, the ruby imbedded in the hilt glistening. “Cursed. The woman who made it was a sorceress. It uses the blood of innocent victims to grow in power.”

 

“Did you try it?” you ask suspiciously.

 

“No,” he replies.

 

You narrow your eyes at him. “Uh huh. You're a psycho, you know that?”

 

“I'm not as chaotic as a true psychopath,” he answers. “Asgard is a warring state. Carnage is normal, battles are constant. I was raised with blood, although it grows boring quickly. Sorcery is much more refined.”

 

“Well, that's one way to put it,” you tell him, chuckling. “So, did you have to go to wizard school, too?”

 

“Of course not,” he scoffs, offended. “I've always had a knack for the craft. My mother taught me everything she knew, and I continue to learn on my own.”

 

“I always knew your mom was a badass,” you state, still searching his room of objects. “Do you have anything in here that's not dangerous? Even your goat helmet has pointy horns.”

 

“It's my battle helm, you fool,” he tells you angrily. “Your insults are becoming tiresome.”

 

“I'm not insulting you,” you reply, rolling your eyes. “I'm trying to see if our levels of ‘fucked up’ match or not.”

 

“And how do you see yourself on that scale, hm?” he asks, green eyes glinting coldly. “What's the worst you've done, then?”

 

“I don't know. I've tortured a lot of people,” you say, shrugging.

 

“Of course. As have I.”

 

“So far, pretty on point I guess. Although I don't go for eyes, I want them to watch,” you state, trailing your finger across his shelves as you walk.

 

He raises an eyebrow. “Interesting.”

 

“Oh, hey. Here,” you say, pulling something from your pocket and tossing it to him.

 

He automatically catches it, and opens his palm to find a green stone, polished from the waters of the garden pools. “What is this?”

 

“It's green, and you like green. I found it. Only green one. Boom. Didn't even have to kill anyone for it.”

 

“This is a rock,” he tells you as if you're stupid.

 

“Hey, you don't have to keep it.” You haven't stopped walking, and you leave the room during your sentence. “I'm bored. I can't believe the worst thing you ever did was pull out some guy’s eyes.”

 

He shakes his head and rolls his eyes, pocketing the stone. “I've done worse.”

 

“That’s more like it,” you say, collapsing onto the couch and throwing your feet over its armrest.

 

He returns to his seat, still shaking his head at you. You're watching him expectantly, and he sighs. Loki reaches for his book. “Let's discuss other things.”

 

“Okay, what's the worst thing you ever did to a girl, then?” you ask.

 

Now, he looks up at you in exasperation. “Why do you question me so?”

 

“Because I like to know things,” you reply, grinning evilly. “You can tell me.”

 

He looks back down at his book and resumes reading. “I charmed a girl Thor was interested in, simply because he wanted her. I had her and turned her out the same night. She wanted nothing to do with any prince after that.”

 

“Pretty shitty,” you grant him, leaning back on the couch.

 

“How about you, then?” he snaps, narrowing his eyes at the words he's not taking in.

 

“Oh, I'm like, the epitome of shit.”

 

“Out with it,” he commands.

 

It pleases him when you obey. Subjugation always satisfies him.

 

“Worst thing I ever did to a man?” you ask. “Or worst thing in general?”

 

“Both.”

 

You're quiet for a second, your mind running through several options. “Once I ripped this guy apart. He begged me to kill him, but I sat there and watched him bleed out. That was a pretty low point for me. I can still hear his voice.” Your feet swing aimlessly as they dangle over the couch’s armrest.

 

“How touching,” he answers. “That almost sounded like remorse. And what's the worst thing you've done to a lover?”

 

Now you're quiet for a longer time. You're regretting asking him, now that he's turned it on you. Eventually, you speak up. “I slept with one of my best friends before I left. I knew he liked me. And I left anyway.”

 

“Surely that's not the worst,” Loki states, rolling his eyes.

 

“You know, I haven't had very many ‘lovers’, okay? So I haven't had chances to do as many shitty things to men in that regard.”

 

He snorts, and closes his book. “Oh, I doubt that.”

 

You glare at him, and get up from the couch.

 

“Where are you off to?” he asks.

 

“I've got to meet Thor to train,” you answer. “Plus, you have wizard shit you're supposed to be doing.”

 

Sorcery,” he calls after you as you close the door.

 

---

 

You're always more relaxed at night, in his arms. He likes to feel the tension leave your body; during the day none can put a hand on you without your muscles growing stiff. At night you're his, and the difference makes him feel unique.

 

“How many, besides me?” he asks you into the quiet.

 

“What?” you question, coming out of a light doze.

 

“How many men have had you.”

 

You feel your face flush, and do a mental tally. “You first.” He gives you a number. It's a large number. You expected it to be large, but it's really large. “Lord.”

 

“Yes?”

 

“I'm not referring to you,” you say, rolling your eyes and lightly hitting his arm. “But damn.”

 

“I've told you. Now you.”

 

You let out a huff. “Five, counting you.”

 

Five?” You try to pull out of his arms, but he keeps you in place. He'd thought there'd be more. Five…. Only five…. It wouldn't be hard to find five. “Name them.”

 

You make a noise in your throat, as if you're choking on a laugh. “Ha, ha. No. That sounds dangerous.”

 

Like he'd kill them. That's what his tone sounded like to you, anyway. But you're not that special, so you doubt he'd go through with it.

 

“Then tell me of them,” he states.

 

“No way! You tell me about yours,” you challenge. And he launches into it, much to your surprise. He quickly gets to the fourth before you say, “Whoa, stop, stop, I don't want to hear about all the people you've banged.”

 

“But that was four. So I'm owed four of yours.” You can hear the smirk in his voice.

 

“I don't owe you anything, asshole.”

 

“Quite the contrary. You owe me everything, including your life. Shall I list the ways you’re indebted to me?” he asks happily.

 

“I hate you.”

 

“I'm waiting,” he tells you.

 

“Ugh,” you groan. “Fine, fine, fine. But this pulls me out of debt.”

 

“Not all the way, but we can discuss that later,” he replies pleasantly.

 

“I absolutely hated the first guy I slept with. Sound familiar? Ha. He was a soldier.”

 

“Was?”

 

“Yeah. He's dead,” you state.

 

“Are any of the others dead?” he asks, morbidly satisfied.

 

“Two are dead, one might be dead, and one’s alive.”

 

“Interesting,” he muses. “Continue.”

 

“Well, there's the friend I told you about,” you say, rolling your eyes even though you know he can't see it.

 

“He's the live one?”

 

“Yes,” you answer slowly.

 

“Alright. And then?”

 

“I had a thing with a guy on a different world. Only one time, before I left again. I don't know what happened to him. Maybe he's alive, I don't know. Their planet was pretty dangerous, so who knows,” you say, shrugging.

 

“And the last?”

 

You stay quiet. “I don't want to tell you.”

 

“Why not?” he asks you, his brow furrowing.

 

He rests his chin on the top of your head as you say, “Because it's not a good story. And I don't think you'll want to see me anymore.”

 

“Ah, so the true worst thing you've done to a man,” he says knowingly.

 

“Yeah, you could say that,” you mutter.

 

He rubs your arms. “I’m still waiting.”

 

You sigh. “Fuck you. Fine. I killed him.”

 

“You killed him?” he asks, bemused. “Why?”

 

“That's complicated.”

 

“I'm quite intelligent. I assure you, nothing you say can confuse me,” he retorts.

 

And suddenly you find yourself telling him. How the man had found you, used his power to force himself on you. How you had tricked him when you realized he was stronger than you, gone along with it, only to kill him when he let his guard down.

 

Loki can't help but shudder internally at this part of your explanation. Sex renders people so helpless, their guard fully dropped during the act. He's done many things, committed many a foul murder, but never one such as that.

 

You're worried at his silence, feeling your body growing rigid. “So, should I just, like, go? Or will you wait until tomorrow to never see me again?”

 

He breaks from his thoughts. “You're going nowhere. I do not fear you, nor do I think less of you. However, I believe you win this little game.”

 

“Yeah, but you'll think about it now, if you ever want to fuck me again. I didn't want to tell you.”

 

“I’d have you now, again, woman. The darker nature of living beings has always been attractive to me,” he says, tightening his grip on your arms.

 

He doesn't say he's heard the things you thought at him, and that he knows for certain you mean him no real harm. And the fact that you fret over whether or not he’ll want you means you do, in fact, care about him, although you've yet to say it aloud.

 

“Whatever,” you grumble, feeling his arms tighten around you.

 

I mean it, you fool.

 

The words float through your mind, and you roll your eyes and take his hand. We’ll see.

Chapter Text

When you tell Sigrid you like her necklace, she blushes furiously, which makes you grin. “Glad you had a good evening with the half-pint.”

 

“Why do you call him that?” she asks you, mostly to draw the attention away from herself.

 

“Cuz he's a twig,” you tell her, going back to your sit-ups. “But he's your twig, so I like him.”

 

“You like him? Truly?” she asks, eyebrows going up in surprise.

 

“Well, yeah,” you answer, sitting up and rolling your eyes. “He helped me come get you, didn’t he? You two remind me of my old friends in some ways, actually. Minus being kiddos, that is.”

 

“Who do we remind you of?” Sigrid questions curiously.

 

She’s heard tales of your friends, although you’ve yet to mention any names in your stories. You lean forward on your knees, pursing your lips. “You make me think of my best friend back home. Not always, but sometimes. And the half-pint is upbeat and jovial like another of my friends, although there’s a lot more differences there.”

 

“Are these comparisons good?” Sigrid asks, smiling kindly at you.

 

“Yeah, I guess so,” you reply, shrugging. “I mean, it doesn’t hurt anything.”

 

This is a lie. You don’t like that the two remind you of your friends, although you doubt you’ll be able to explain this to the girl. She smiles happily at you, and says, “Well, I appreciate your approval.”

 

You snort, once more going back to your workout. “I mean, he’s a good kid, and you’re a good kid. What’s not to approve?”

 

---

 

“Perhaps it would be best to turn our attention to Asgard, my king,” Vitran suggests, doing his best to make it seem as if ‘my king’ rolls off his tongue naturally.

 

“My troops are divided, you fool,” Magnus states coldly, taking a swig from his jeweled goblet. “Until our southern enemies are defeated, there will be no assault on Asgard. We’ll need all our forces.”

 

Our forces? “Sir, I lent you my fighters to help this scuffle end in a timelier manner,” Vitran says, an edge in his tone.

 

“And it shall,” Magnus booms loudly. “You preach to me of patience, and then scold me for not taking action, Vitran. You would do well to remember that I am king.”

 

“Of course,” Vitran states, not without bite.

 

Vitran had told Magnus to have patience, yes, in regards to taking Asgard. The barbarian king had, in return, launched an attack upon his other enemies to spite the amber-eyed man. Vitran has had to recalculate his assault several times due to Magnus, and he’s displeased with the results.

 

However, his informant has told him an Asgardian celebration is coming up, and he thinks the days after will be a perfect time to send his fighters for you once more.

 

He's slowly gathering all of his pawns. He's got the sorceress. From her information, he's decided he needs your servant. He's made his inquiries. It won't be hard to have someone close, someone she won't suspect, steal her away.

 

If his soldiers fail in surprising you a second time, or if he finds you reluctant to meet him on barbarian lands, you'll at least still come for the girl.

 

He’s more than ready for some good news.

 

---

 

Sigrid sits in her room, running her fingers over the sheath Asmund had crafted for her dagger. It is light leather, almost golden in color, with an embossed sun design across it. She wonders how long it took him to make, and where he’d gotten the leather so quickly. Perhaps Brenna had already had some.

 

The dark handle is a stark contrast to the sheath, like night and day. She carefully pulls the blade out, studying the strange, black metal. Not metal… she has no name for this substance, although it gleams in the light as metal does.

 

Sig sheaths the weapon again and returns it to her end table. It’s true that she sleeps easier since you’ve given it to her. In her dreams, she is now able to defend herself from the man that takes her. She wishes she could carry the dagger with her at all times.

 

Still, it’s progress. She knows the men are dead, and Asmund always tells her she shouldn’t fear ghosts.

 

---

 

“Where’s your girl, brother?” Thor asks happily from across the table. “I’ve yet to see her today.”

 

Loki narrows his eyes at the man, giving him a distasteful look. “I’m not the woman’s keeper. How am I to know?”

 

Thor grins, knowing he’s struck at something. “I figured you would know, as you’re quite close, as of late.”

 

“I could turn you into a true boar, you know. It’s only right that your body matches your mind.”

 

“Don’t,” Odin warns, looking up from the book of palace figures. “In case the two of you have forgotten, we’re here for business. Enough chatter.”

 

Loki sighs, absolutely miserable in the company of the two. Odin always insists on being a part of the planning for his wife’s birthday celebration, but in the end, the details always fall to the younger prince. Odin’s creativity is lacking, and Thor would rather do most anything other than sit and plan.

 

Instead of being helpful, Thor begins asking his father about updates from the scouts. “I’ve heard rumor that our neighboring western kingdom has moved their troops closer.”

 

“Where did you hear such things?” Odin asks him.

 

“He goes looking for information, Father,” Loki states, his tone apathetic. “The brute’s gone too long without using his toy hammer for anything other than decoration.”

 

Thor glares at the other prince while Odin heaves a sigh. “Calm yourself, Thor. It is true, our western neighbors have indeed advanced.”

 

“Is it a fight they want?” Thor questions immediately, making Loki roll his eyes.

 

“We will not know until later,” Odin grumbles, turning his eye again to the figures.

 

Thor slumps in his seat, disappointed. He has enjoyed this short peace, yes, but he is tired of waiting for his father to decide to attack the barbarians. “What of the barbarians, Father? You would still wait? The scouts say their forces are divided. What better time to attack?”

 

“Do you not think that’s what the westerners are waiting for?” Loki butts in quickly. “We would be divided ourselves were we to do that.”

 

Thor opens his mouth to argue, but Odin Allfather holds up his hand. “Silence. You squabble like children, not men. This is not a war council.” Odin roughly sets the book of figures in the middle of the table. “Let us do what we are here to do. I tire of these meetings as much as the both of you. Let us make this the last.”

 

“Very well,” Loki replies coldly, readying himself to, again, do all of the work.

 

---

 

His sheets cover your lower half, leaving your shoulders exposed as you slowly grow sleepy. You feel the cold touch of the prince as he traces the scar towards the middle of your back, his finger raising chill bumps. “Barely missed your spine.”

 

“Yeah,” you answer after a moment. “They weren't supposed to kill me. Although I can’t say I’d have survived much longer.”

 

“What did this?” he asks you. “All other wounds and marks have vanished from your skin, save for these.”

 

You grimace, head still turned away from him. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

 

But he wants to know.

 

“You don’t necessarily have to speak,” he says slowly. “You could show me.”

 

Your eyebrows come together in confusion. “What?”

 

“You could show me the event, as it happened to you. I’ve the ability. It doesn’t hurt.”

 

“Why the hell would I let you do that?” you ask him. “And why the hell do you even care?”

 

“Because I’m curious,” he answers. “And because you owe me.”

 

“Don’t pull that again,” you say, finally turning to him so he can see your glare.

 

“I shall.”

 

“Loki, why does it matter?” you ask. “What’s the point?”

 

“I’ve seen them since I’ve known you, and I’ve always been curious. If you won’t tell me, it’ll be easier to just see for myself,” he says.

 

Because once you leave, your secrets leave with you.

 

“I don’t know,” you tell him hesitantly. “It’s… a lot.”

 

“Do you trust me?” he questions, watching you.

 

Your lips press together, as if you want to answer him but don’t think you should.

 

Do you trust me? he asks again, into your mind.

 

Fine.

 

He suddenly finds himself in a large room. He sees through your eyes, feels the sensation of cold metal under your fingertips. You sit atop a structure, watching a group of people.

 

He experiences everything as you did, as they are your memories. The blast, the Ordinat invading the base, Vitran walking through the hole in the wall. The four sudden, blindingly painful strikes, too fast for you to escape. He tastes the blood, feels your helplessness. The metal burns in your body. You hadn’t lied – it was a lot.

 

The memories fade when you pass out, but come to life again shortly thereafter. He sees the faces of two people he doesn’t know, a boy and a girl, both ripped to shreds, bone and flesh exposed and bleeding. The girl heals you, and he wonders if this is your Willow.

 

He hears you call to them, and recognizes the name of the boy. This is who you mistook him for, during your fever dream. This is your dead soldier.

 

Healing you was too much for the girl, who slumps to the floor as the light leaves her eyes. You weep over her, beg her to wake, and he realizes it’s not your Willow, but the other girl – the one that died. The pain is fresh, almost tangible.

 

You know how you helped heal me? Supposedly. That’s a ‘gift’. I can’t do that.

 

He understands now.

 

Loki feels the connection fading, and the greedy beast that lies in his heart surges to the surface. He refuses to let your mind go, hurriedly taking in every single thing that he can. Scenes and experiences flash quickly before his eyes as he grasps for more and more.

 

There’s your Willow, with bright eyes and a slightly mischievous grin.

 

He sees you walking empty halls, alone, feels the chaos of your battles, watches as you leap from tall buildings.

 

There’s the fancy dance you told him of, a kind-faced man smiling at you as he holds you.

 

He sees with your eyes as you stand upon a grassy ledge, looking down over a mass of unmarked graves.

 

He’s walking as you did, with a light-haired man, who’s smirk is even more wicked than your own.

 

Loki, god of mischief, pulls against you when you fight him, things flashing faster before his eyes.

 

Your Willow with a man who kisses her, a fire blazing to life at a campsite, the absolute carnage you wreak with your friends during a battle, the feeling of a blade biting into your throat, the soldier boy staring at you with dull, dead eyes, blood spattering against your face, worrying over those you love, walking amongst the darkness, seeing the smirking man break, telling a dying man you love him, empty apathy, countless bones and blood and exposed sinews and screams and –

 

And there’s a mighty tug, and he’s pulled away, back into the darkness. He feels your hands shove him, your palms hot against his skin.

 

“You BASTARD!”

 

“I’m sorry,” he says immediately, but you throw the sheets off and angrily start pulling your clothes on.

 

“What a fucking idiot, I’m so stupid,” you mutter angrily as you dress, ignoring him as he tries to explain himself to you. “Don’t fucking talk to me!” you hiss loudly, interrupting him.

 

“A mistake!” he continues, almost dressed as well.

 

You glare at everything around you as you finish pulling your shirt over your head, still ignoring him, and march to the door.

 

He calls your name.

 

“SHUT UP!” you shout, slamming the door to his bedroom.

 

You hear it open again behind you, and you whirl around savagely. “Do not follow me!”

 

“If you’ll allow me to explain –” he says quickly.

 

Ha! No! You lost that chance, when you trooped all through my privacy! Leave me the hell alone!”

 

You leave his chambers in angry strides, throwing the door to the hall open so hard that it bounces against the wall. He catches up to you, finishing pulling on his shirt in the process.

 

“I know, I know I shouldn’t have. I was wrong, I apologize!”

 

“You asked me if I trusted you,” you growl in equal measures of disgust and despair, still making your way to your chambers without looking at him.

 

“And I betrayed it, I know,” he tells you hurriedly. “I was wrong.”

 

“Go away, prince,” you say coldly, and you hear his footsteps halt.

 

You haven’t called him that in such a tone in a long time. Not since you truly hated him. He stares after you as you turn down the hall and out of sight, a hollow feeling in his stomach.

 

He curses, his feet still frozen in place. The sound of your angry pace quickly fades from his hearing, making his fists clench.

 

“Fool,” he names himself aloud, putting a hand to his head. “Nothing but a greedy fool.”

Chapter Text

You're absolutely furious. Actually, furious doesn’t even cut it. You’re irate, more so than you have been over something in a long time. You feel gross, like something in your head is wrong. You pace in your room, rubbing your face at intervals and doing your best to calm down.

 

The bastard. It makes you think about what Elaine used to tell you when she talked about getting inside someone’s mind – give her an inch, and she’d take a mile. And the fucker had taken the mile.

 

You feel as if he’s stolen something from you, although your memories are all intact. He’d seen things you hadn’t wanted anyone to see, things you wanted to bury.

 

You don’t let yourself cry. Your anger doesn’t allow it. Eventually, your pacing tires you out, and you curl up under your covers. You need to leave tomorrow. It was foolish to stay.

 

He’d always said you were a fool, and you refuse to prove him right.

 

---

 

Loki does not pace. He lays in the middle of his bed, staring up at nothing. Why had he done it? He has no answer, besides that he wanted to. Seeing through your eyes, experiencing your anger and your sorrows, he feels as if he understands you in a way he wasn’t able to before. And the cost of this cheat, this shortcut, was you.

 

The things he’d seen in your head flash through his mind constantly. He’d pried too much, and yet he still wants to understand more, wants to ask you about these visions. Within your mind he felt your hidden sorrow, rage, and regret, all on deeper levels than you let show.

 

Can you forgive him? He doesn’t think so. You’ll be gone – perhaps you already are. The last thing you’ll know before you leave this life is that you trusted in the wrong person. Anyone else would’ve known, known not to believe the vows of a trickster god.

 

He shakes his head, mentally cursing himself. What a fool he is, and what a fool you are.

 

---

 

Queen Frigga does not know of your plight. She stands in her study window, gray eyes gazing over the palace grounds. The Allmother realizes that you will receive her gift today, and ponders over what you will do.

 

Odin will not like it. Frigga does not truly know why she did it, other than the idea of seeing her son smile.

 

It’s not as if anything can come of the two of you. It won’t matter in the end. The queen shrugs, as she did when ordering the gift to be made for you.

 

Why not revel in a small, rare moment of peace? Why not see happiness in each of her family members? Besides, Frigga thinks coyly, pursing her lips, it’s my birthday.

 

---

 

You wake up to a sharp rapping on your door. You sit up, a scowl immediately on your face. “I swear, if it’s you….” you mutter to yourself, standing up. “Who is it?” you call louder.

 

“My Lady, it is Gudrun, Queen Frigga’s servant.”

 

“Oh!” you say, eyebrows rising as you go to open the door. “Uh, good morning.”

 

“Yes, quite,” she replies, her round face open and warm as she smiles. “May I come in?”

 

“Yeah, of course,” you answer, opening the door wider.

 

Gudrun is carrying a large cloth parcel, tied closed with white string. She sets it upon your vanity, speaking to you as she does. “Queen Frigga has asked for this to be delivered to you, and wishes you to wear it tonight.”

 

“Tonight?” you ask her, quickly searching your mind for a reason tonight would be special.

 

“Yes, to her celebration, my dear,” Gudrun tells you smartly, patting your shoulder as she heads back towards the hallway. “Royal guests must look royal, after all.”

 

“Oh, well, uh, thank you, for bringing… this. And tell her thanks, too!” you call after her quickly.

 

Gudrun turns and bows to you before closing your door, smiling kindly. You put a hand to your head and groan. “I forgot about the thingie.”

 

You cast a side glance at the parcel, and have a terrible notion of what might be inside. You cross to the vanity while biting your lip, and start to untie the strings. “Don’t. Please, don’t be what I think you are.”

 

And of course, it’s exactly what you think it is.

 

A dress.

 

Emerald green.

 

“Frigga, no,” you moan, tilting your head up towards the ceiling in exasperation.

 

---

 

The whole palace is abuzz with the upcoming celebration. Rumors fly that Thor has invited the Lady Sif to accompany him, although the women all make sure to point out the two aren’t officially courting.

 

Frigga’s birthday is widely celebrated, as she takes joy in seeing the joy of others. She always insists her guests do not give her gifts, as their presence is a gift in itself. The invitations are wide-spread, as Frigga Allmother welcomes all with open arms.

 

Freydis and Alva had no need to worry about their families receiving invitations. The two have dressed in their most gorgeous gowns, lining their eyes with kohl and brushing rogue onto their cheeks. They giggle like children, although their plans are far from child-like.

 

“A final piece!” Alva states, slipping a golden bangle onto her friend’s wrist. “We match.” She holds up her own wrist, where the sister bracelet glints.

 

“Oh, Alva, thank you!” Frey tells her, grinning happily. “You know me. I always forget to adorn my wrists.”

 

The girls walk to the grounds as evening falls, and lights begin to come to life around the golden palace. Guests are happily ushered into the marble halls, guards lining the walls and eyeing them as they pass.

 

The Asgardian ballroom is glorious, decked in gold and silver in honor of the queen. She sits at the head of the room with Odin, who holds her hand and nods his head at those who approach to speak with her.

 

He’ll have her gifts from him brought in presently – the man dotes on her, truly, as she will not do so herself.

 

Thor walks into the room with the Lady Sif upon his arm, just as the rumors had hinted. She wears a dress of stunning red, which makes Frigga smile happily.

 

Her youngest son is late, as he always is. The queen has had her first dance with Odin, and the festivities have already started by the time Loki slinks through the doors. Alone.

 

Frigga eyes him as he approaches to pay his respects. He’s sullen and tired, although he smiles at her. Has he quarreled with you?

 

She doesn’t press him, watching as he disappears into the crowd.

 

Alva’s brown eyes find him at once. He sits at a table, nabbing a glass of wine as he does so. She waits a while to approach him, glancing over at Freydis, who is talking with Thor and Sif.

 

“My prince, why the long face?”

 

He looks up at the words, immediately all charm and wit once more. “Whatever do you mean?”

 

---

 

Sigrid looks around the ballroom nervously, feeling out of place. She’d done her best to convince you to attend, although she isn’t sure you were listening to anything she’d said. Sig doesn’t know what’s caused your sullenness, but she hopes it passes quickly. She doesn’t want Queen Frigga to think you are purposefully slighting her.

 

Asmund approaches Sigrid as soon as he sees her enter the room, bowing low to her when he takes her hand to kiss it. “My dear.”

 

Sigrid giggles and blushes, and then curtsies back to him. “I wasn’t sure you’d be able to come.”

 

“Will you believe it? We received an invitation, although I am the only one from my family to attend,” Asmund answers happily, offering her his arm. “So, technically, I am a guest here tonight.”

 

He’s clothed well, like a true sorcerer, and Sigrid finds it incredibly attractive. She’s put on her best dress; golden, like his magic.

 

---

 

You walk into the room, still not sure what you’re doing. You have no reason to be here. However, Sigrid had warned you Queen Frigga may think you’re insulting her, which is the last thing you want. You suppose waiting one more day to quit Asgard won’t be too bad, and you don’t wish to leave the queen with a bad taste in her mouth over you.

 

You search for anyone you can talk with that isn’t Loki. You recognize a few familiar faces, although you’ve neglected to get close to anyone in the palace besides those you know in your everyday life.

 

It’s Fandral that approaches you, smiling and smoothing his hair. “Well, hello, Lady Warrior.”

 

“Hello yourself,” you answer, giving him a grin.

 

“We missed you at practice today,” he tells you, crossing his arms. “Hogun claimed you’d run off, to be sure. I’m happy to say he now owes me some coin.”

 

You smirk. “Well, tell him he’d best pay up. I’m still here for now.”

 

Fandral bows to you, and excuses himself when he spies Freydis standing alone near the wall. You watch him go, amused.

 

“Madam! A pleasure to see you here,” a voice calls out to you, and you turn to find the sorcerer Hammond.

 

---

 

Loki knows when you walk in, but refuses to look at you. He’s playing his own game: he wants you to be the one to come to him.

 

Lady Alva has been talking to him for a while now, and he finds her smile pleasant enough. When she casually offers him her hand at the start of the next song, he takes it.

 

She feels different in his arms. He’s held no one but you for months, and he’s unprepared for the strange feeling of dissatisfaction. Her movements are smooth, her brown eyes warm as she smiles up at him. He returns her grin as they twirl.

 

He wonders if you see him, wonders why you came at all. In a way, he knows he’s pulling himself farther from you. You intend to leave him, so why should he bother with you? He’s had plenty of lovers, and he can have plenty more.

 

You are not special.

 

He does his best to continue these thoughts, to keep his attention on the girl with him rather than search you out. The Lady Alva is attractive, kind, and witty. A duchess is more than suitable enough for a prince. She bows to him, addresses him properly, upholds his title and royal respect.

 

In the past, he would have found these things endearing. However, he’s suddenly struck by how simple these traits are. He’s not had to work at all for her affections; rather, he’s just had to exist.

 

It’s in the middle of the song that he accidentally sees you. His feet stop at once, his dance partner bumping against him in confusion.

 

He first notices the dress, his colors. It reveals one of your shoulders, the silky fabric flowing like liquid down your body, jewels trailing across the bodice and wrapping around your waist like a serpent. And then he sees something very unfortunate.

 

You’re dancing with his sorcerer, Hammond.

 

“Prince Loki?” Alva asks him hesitantly, looking apologetically at the dancers that must move around the still couple.

 

And without a word, he releases her and walks away.

 

---

 

Hammond is nice. He smiles, laughs easily, and asks you polite questions to keep up conversation. You didn’t necessarily want to dance with him, but when he’d asked, you’d accepted.

 

He seems almost afraid of you, and you wonder what he’s heard. You’re certain that if he knew any true stories about you, he’d be terrified. The thought makes you smile, although he misinterprets it and smiles nervously back.

 

Odin’s been watching you as well. When he first caught sight of you, the obvious color of your dress, he turned immediately to his wife. “What trickery have you put in place?”

 

“My dear husband, would you accuse me of such on my birthday?” she had asked in return, smiling innocently.

 

However, Odin’s fears lessened as he noticed his son dancing with another woman. They lessened further when he witnessed you accept Hammond’s outstretched hand, and Odin fully returned his attention to the guests speaking to himself and his wife.

 

He therefore misses Loki Odinson cutting across the dancefloor.

 

Hammond does not.

 

“Sire,” he says immediately, releasing your waist and bowing.

 

“Hammond. I’d like to cut in,” he states coldly.

 

“No,” you say back, crossing your arms and glaring at him. “Besides, it’s the middle of a song.”

 

“Of course, sir,” Hammond replies at once, bowing again to Loki and disappearing into the crowd with red cheeks.

 

You turn from the prince and try to walk away, although the surrounding couples make the action more difficult than it should’ve been.

 

“At least allow me the rest of the song,” he requests to your back.

 

You pause. “Why should I?” you ask over your shoulder.

 

“You shouldn’t,” he answers smartly. “But I’d be grateful if you did.”

 

You consider his statement, and sigh after a moment. A part of you knew this was why you’d come tonight, even if you didn’t want to admit it to yourself. Why else would you have stayed? You turn to face him. “This isn’t me forgiving you.”

 

“I know,” he answers, putting a hand on your waist.

 

You’re quiet as you move your feet to the music. Dancing was never your strong suit, but you’d watched Willow and her beloved twirl enough to know what to do. You keep your face clear of emotions, your eyes tracing the pattern on his chest as they had the first time you danced with him.

 

“Do you favor Hammond?” he asks you suddenly.

 

You snort, forgetting your anger for a moment. “What? The guy in the blue dress?”

 

Loki doesn’t correct you about sorcerers’ attire this time. “Yes, that’s Hammond.”

 

“Why? You jealous?” you ask, smirking.

 

“Incredibly.”

 

“Uh huh, whatever,” you say, anger quickly returning and replacing the humor in your voice.

 

He chooses his next words carefully. “I don’t expect your forgiveness. But I’ve thought of a way to even out my wrongdoing.”

 

“Yeah, what’s that?” you question.

 

“Tonight,” he answers.

 

You stiffen in his arms. “If you think you can ‘even out your wrongdoing’ by fu–”

 

“No, no. Fates above, I’m not that daft,” he interrupts, rolling his eyes. “I swear, I won’t touch you unless you want me. No, it's something else.”

 

“Oh, yeah, you swear, huh? I’m sure that’ll work out great.”

 

He sighs, his eyes darting to the side. “I’m sorry.”

 

You hear a tired genuineness to this apology, so you bite back your angry reply. You sigh as well, still glaring at his chest. “Yeah, okay. But look. You’ve got to understand that what you did… wasn’t right. Invasion of privacy to the max. That’s not something I can just be ‘alright, we’re good’ about.”

 

“I understand,” he answers. His interaction with you is going much better than some of the other outcomes he’d anticipated. “Could we perhaps put this conversation on hold, and enjoy the evening?”

 

You consider this. It’ll be your last evening (or one of your last, your mind unwillingly interjects) on Asgard, so you might as well have a decent time. “Fine.”

 

The song comes to its conclusion, and he smiles and kisses your hand. You roll your eyes at him, and he says, “I must say, you look absolutely beautiful tonight.”

 

He’s told you you’re beautiful before, whispered it in your ear when you both lay spent and panting in his bed. “Uh huh, sucking up isn’t going to get you out of the hot seat,” you reply, cheeks going slightly pink.

 

“I admit, I do fancy seeing you in this color,” he states, noticeably looking you up and down. “I was unaware you owned anything such as this.”

 

“Yeah, thank your mom,” you say, rolling your eyes and crossing your arms. “Don’t ask me why she gave it to me, because I couldn’t tell you.”

 

His mother gifted such a garment to you? He glances over at the queen, who is caught up in conversation.

 

Another song starts, and he automatically reaches to take you into his arms.

 

“Excuse me, my prince,” a light voice speaks up, and you both look over to see the Lady Freydis.

 

She bows, completely ignoring you, and smiles winningly at Loki. “You look incredibly handsome tonight, I dare say. If I could steal a dance with you, I’d be ever so grateful.”

 

“No.”

 

Now she looks at you, and puts a hand to her face, appalled. “Excuse me?”

 

Loki is watching you curiously, his eyebrows raised. The fire in your eyes is directed towards Freydis now, as it once was at him. This is clear distaste he sees, at its purest.

 

“I said ‘no’, or didn’t you hear me?” you ask her, smiling sweetly.

 

Frey draws herself up. “Madam, I’ll have you know, as I’m sure you’re unaware, that I’m a duchess. You’re to pay respects to me.”

 

“Nah,” you tell her, and take Loki’s hand to pull him towards the other dancers.

 

He follows, a perfectly willing captive, with a wicked grin spreading across his face. “What’s this?” he asks you when he takes your waist to dance. “Disrespecting a duchess, now, are you?”

 

“I disrespect a prince on a daily basis. I don’t give two shits about taking her down a notch or two,” you answer. “I mean, unless you wanted to dance with her. Be my guest.”

 

You try to release him, but he doesn’t allow it. “No, I’m quite fine with the situation, as it is.”

 

---

 

Your mood shifts throughout the night. At moments, what he did to you flashes through your mind, and you become sulky and bitter. Other times, you have a thoroughly enjoyable evening, one you know you’ll miss once you head to battle. Maybe Willow wasn’t so crazy for liking fancy shmancy things such as this.

 

You almost wish you could see her twirling on the dancefloor with her beloved. She would absolutely love the palace.

 

The dancing ceases when Odin presents his gifts to his wife, who is overwhelmed by such treatment, as she is every year. Loki and Thor step up after, to give her gifts as well. Freydis watches for when he leaves your side, taking this opportunity to approach you.

 

“Madam. A word,” she says in her friendliest tone.

 

You look from the front of the room to her in surprise. “Oh, it’s you.”

 

“That’s not a proper greeting,” she says loftily, covering her anger with a light laugh.

 

“Okay. What do you want again? I’m trying to watch them do the gift thing.”

 

She pauses, working through your sentence. “I wanted to let you know that you’re of no status to keep the company of a prince. I mean no offense, of course. I just want the best for you. Loki Silvertongue is like to use you for his own means, seeing as he’s no hope for a future with you.”

 

You laugh, although she doesn’t understand the irony the word ‘future’ holds for you. “How about you just let me worry about my own future, missy.”

 

“My name is Freydis,” she says, a bit of her hostility slipping into the statement.

 

“Okay, how about you just let me worry about my own future, Freydis.”

 

“You are even more barbaric than I’d initially thought,” the girl hisses, narrowing her blue eyes.

 

“Frey, darling, what’s going on?” a second voice asks, and both of you look over to Alva.

 

“Nothing, Alva,” she replies. “I was just making conversation with the foreigner.”

 

“Well, that’s hardly a polite name to refer to her,” Alva says, looking at you apologetically. “I believe you’re the visiting warrior?”

 

“Yes, that’s correct,” you answer her, not sure what to make of the pair.

 

“Greetings,” Alva says, dipping her head to you. “I’m Alva, in case you hadn’t caught my name earlier.”

 

“Okay. Good to meet you,” you tell her, still hesitant.

 

“Frey, you should apologize for your brash behavior. She’s a royal guest,” Alva suggests, and Freydis shoots her a look of anger and disbelief.

 

“I will not!”

 

“Then I shall apologize for you,” Alva answers, and turns to you. “Please forgive the behavior of my dear friend. Her boldness is endearing to some, although she oversteps her bounds at times.”

 

“Uh, it’s okay,” you reply, awkwardly shifting your weight as you stand.

 

“Come, Freydis. Brandt has been asking for you.”

 

Frey gives you a last disdainful look before departing. Alva pauses, hanging back as her friend walks away. “Truly, I am sorry. Perhaps I could make up for my sister’s slight?”

 

“You guys are related?” you ask her, noting the differences in the girls’ physical appearances.

 

“Oh, no,” Alva answers, laughing. “Pardon my wording. We are as close as sisters, though not truly related. Poor Freydis suffers from jealousy like others suffer from sickness.”

 

“I can tell,” you say, and then feel a little guilty for insulting the girl in front of her companion. “Sorry. I know she’s your friend.”

 

“Worry not. I don’t take offense as easily as dear Frey. I say, while your prince is indisposed, won’t you sit with me a moment?”

 

“Uh, he’s not ‘my’ anything,” you say quickly.

 

“Oh, I apologize,” she answers, and then laughs pleasantly. “I’m apologizing quite a lot tonight, it seems.”

 

“You’re good,” you say, laughing a bit with her. “But no, I’m fine here, actually. Your friend looks pretty mad that you’re still talking to me.”

 

“Very well,” Alva tells you, dipping her head. “Perhaps we could meet on the morrow? In the gardens at midday, in the white pavilion? I’d much like to make your acquaintance. We ladies must stick together.” She smiles genuinely at you.

 

You know you’ll be gone tomorrow, so you lie. “Alright, sounds good. I’ll see you there.”

 

“Splendid!” Alva says happily. “There’s much to talk about. I’ll go attend to Lady Freydis, but I bid you a good night.”

 

“Yeah, you, too,” you reply as she walks away, wondering what in the world she would want to talk with you about.

 

“Is that Lady Alva?” Loki asks, walking back to your side as his eyes follow the woman that was just speaking with you.

 

“Yeah,” you say.

 

“What did she want?” he questions, wondering briefly if she had told you he’d had half a dance with her.

 

“She came to stop her friend from harassing me,” you explain, shrugging. “I don’t think either of them like me very much.”

 

“I wouldn’t let it bother you,” he says, mirroring your shrug. “Asgardians are generally wary of foreigners. Especially one so versed in combat.”

 

“I don’t really think it was that, but okay,” you tell him, letting out a dark chuckle.

 

---

 

“We’ve lost our chance, Alva.” Freydis casts her friend a dark look. “When next we see either prince, they’re sure to be courting. The two women wore their colors tonight, or didn’t you notice?”

 

“Oh, Frey, is it really so terrible to not be royal?” Alva asks, hooking their arms together as they walk down the palace steps. “But either way, I think you worry too much. There’s things that could happen yet. I can’t say for Lady Sif, but I’ve heard rumor that the Bloody Warrior does not intend to stay in Asgard.”

 

“Truly?” Frey glances over at Alva, who squeezes her arm assuringly.

 

“Truly.”

Chapter Text

Queen Frigga’s gray eyes follow you as you leave, noting that her son is escorting you. Perhaps whatever tension there was between the two of you has successfully dispersed.

 

Odin sees this as well, his mouth turning down into a deep frown. No good can come of this. He knows the nature of his son, and does not put it past him to manipulate you.

 

The Allfather decides to meet with his youngest tomorrow.

 

---

 

You feel slightly apprehensive as you walk down the halls with the prince. You want to stay angry. You truly do. But it's hard after two and a half glasses of Asgardian wine.

 

“Why'd you do it?” you ask when you recognize the hall that leads to his palace wing.

 

“Hmm?” He’s had a few glasses himself, and has to think for a moment about what you're referencing.

 

“Why'd you go digging around in my head?” you clarify.

 

“You know, I'm not sure,” he muses. “It was automatic. I felt as if it would be my only chance to truly know you.”

 

You look over at him, eyebrows raised. “Huh. Still wrong to do.”

 

“Still wrong,” he agrees, opening his door.

 

You walk towards the couch, trailing your finger along the back of it. “So where are we doing this, huh? Whatever it is you have planned.”

 

“Wherever you feel comfortable,” he replies, unable to stop his gaze from raking over your body.

 

You purse your lips a moment, and then head for his bedroom. As you pass through the room of objects, you notice the little stone you gave him resting on a shelf.

 

“Alright, so explain to me what's going on,” you state when you hear him close his bedroom door.

 

“Come sit,” he suggests, taking your hand and pulling you to the bed.

 

You both perch on its edge, and he slips his fingers through yours. He looks uncomfortable, his handsome face guarded. “So?” you press.

 

“I’ve decided to allow you to….” He sighs angrily, sneering at the floor.

 

Your brow furrows, and you stare at him. “What?”

 

“My mind is open to you.”

 

And at that moment, you find yourself in his consciousness.

 

You see through his eyes. At first you're afraid; being in another’s head is not something you're accustomed to. Then, a dark part of your heart reminds you of last night, and you start to viciously tear through his mind.

 

However, the things you see soon make you forget your rage.

 

You watch an unfamiliar blond boy crouch with you in the dirt, and when he calls you ‘brother’ you realize this is a very young Thor. You are both killing ants, pretending they are enemies, making it a game between you. You laugh together, truly enjoying one another’s company.

 

There are many adventures such as these. He remains your only friend for a long while.

 

You pull forward and find yourself walking down a hall. Looking up you find the Allfather towering over you. You hold his hand, and glance over at the boy Thor at Odin’s other side. The Allfather speaks to the two of you, telling you that the both of you were born to be kings, although only one can sit the throne.

 

You realize Loki smiled true smiles as a child, untarnished with dark and malicious thoughts.

 

You next find yourself hugging Frigga, and she strokes your hair, murmuring soft words as you cry.

 

Suddenly, you are on the training grounds. Other children laugh at you when you fall again and again against the sword, speaking of how strong they must be to best a prince. When Thor (more recognizable as an adolescent) steps up to defend your honor, you feel a bitterness seep into your heart.

 

Now you are in battle, illusions tripping up enemies and taking blows meant for you. It's easy to cause death, and you find yourself enjoying it.

 

You sit with Frigga to learn more of the ways of sorcery, and she smiles warmly at you, telling you she is proud.

 

As yourself, you feel curiosity welling in your own mind – you understand the temptation Loki felt, to see more. He hasn't fought you at all, and you continue delving through his life.

 

Where your memories are chaotic and jumbled, his are orderly and clear.

 

You hear Odin tell his son he loves him, and you can feel the prince’s heart swell as if the warm feeling is your own.

 

You see snatches of his different battles, most fought side by side with the god of thunder in brotherly companionship. You witness various sly ways he's vied for the throne. You see the people he chose as friends turn on him, and he therefore turned on all other acquaintances that came thereafter. You watch his collection of objects build, the stories he told you about them unfolding in your mind as he lived them.

 

You see the lovers he's had, although you push onwards quickly. You dance his dances, play his games, walk among his sorcerers. The memories stretch on and on, even with the amount of skipping you do.

 

Loneliness permeates almost every single thought, every moment. You feel boredom and apathy, with rage and anguish hidden underneath. You see the times life has been unfair to him, and you watch as he passes this misery to those around him, dragging them down as he drags himself.

 

When you find yourself looking at your unconscious body, and feel his hatred and cunning, you start to pull away. You're uncomfortable seeing these things.

 

It's time to come back.

 

You blink a few times, realizing you're grasping his hands as you sit together on the edge of the bed. You release him and rub your face, remembering to breathe. “Whoa.”

 

“So it is,” he replies, scowling and rubbing his eyes. “I can't say that was pleasant, although I brought it upon myself.”

 

Your mind still feels odd, and you can't quit thinking about what you'd seen. “Huh. You know, it makes sense. I'm still unhappy with you… but I get it. It's… I don't know. You can't lie about things, when I see them like that,” you say.

 

“But I would never lie to you,” he informs you, putting an arm around your waist.

 

You snort. “We both know that's not true.”

 

Loki smirks, leaning his head over against yours. “Are we through with our quarrel?” he questions, the silky feel of your dress pleasant beneath his fingers.

 

You roll your eyes. “I don't know. I guess technically we’re even now.”

 

“Yes,” he purrs, catching his finger on one of the silver jewels around your waist.

 

“It's the dress, isn't it?” you accuse, laughing. “You like dresses.”

 

“It's the color,” he corrects. “More, the woman in my color, as it is.”

 

“Oh, you like green or something?” you ask sarcastically, gesturing around his room, where emerald reigns supreme. “I couldn't have guessed.”

 

“My favorite,” he answers, smirking. “Your sarcasm is endearing.”

 

“Huh. Glad someone thinks so,” you joke. “I've gotten death threats for my dry humor, believe it or not.”

 

“I believe it.” He shifts towards you, nose brushing against yours lightly.

 

“Not going to kiss me?” you ask, staring into his green eyes.

 

“I said I wouldn't touch you, lest you wanted me,” he says with a smirk.

 

“Oh, shut up,” you tell him, and close the gap.

 

Stupid, you scold yourself, but a need claws it's way through your mind and body. You don't understand it, and you don't know where it's coming from.

 

He's been waiting all night. He missed you today, the fool that he is, and you in his colors makes him almost believe that you are his. The greedy, possessive urge rises again at the thought, fueling his desire. He's not sure if he’ll have the patience to fully rid you of your clothing.

 

You kick your shoes off, pushing him down on the bed as you deepen your kiss. A surge of hatred runs through you again, for how he makes you feel. You let the anger shift to passion, slipping your tongue into his mouth.

 

He makes a noise in his throat and easily turns you over, his body over yours as he takes charge again. He runs his hands up your thighs, the skirt of your dress gathering at your waist in the process.

 

No, he can't wait. His colors will just have to remain on your body while he takes you.

 

---

 

“What's with the snake?” you ask into the quiet, your head tucked under the prince’s chin.

 

“What snake?” he asks sleepily.

 

“The one on your chest tonight, at the dance.”

 

“Oh,” he says, “it’s my sigil. Something I'm associated with. Jormungandr.”

 

“Bless you,” you say, as if he sneezed.

 

He pauses. “Why bless me?”

 

“I hate you. Just, never mind. What’s a Jormuganger?”

 

Jormungandr is a giant serpent. I am linked with serpents in the public’s eye.”

 

“You don't say that like it's a good thing.”

 

“No, it's very fitting,” he replies.

 

“So, you like snakes?”

 

“I do, yes. Crafty creatures, associated with trickery, and cold-blooded. I am a serpent myself, it seems,” he tells you.

 

“You know, you are always cold,” you tease. “Takes you forever to warm up. And I thought I had cold hands.” To punctuate your statement, he places his free hand on your warm waist, and you immediately get chills. “Jeez. See? Goosebumps everywhere.”

 

“I’d apologize, but I'm not sorry,” he says, chuckling.

 

“Yeah, okay,” you grumble.

 

“What of you, then? What symbol are you associated with?”

 

“Uh, I don’t know. It’s not like I always find clothes or colors or objects that are associated to me. I just have what I have.”

 

“Silver, though,” he points out. When he does, a voice echoes through his mind, feeding him words. “You told your servant you favor it over gold. This preference makes the metal a symbol for you, as it does Thor. I myself am partial to gold.” He says this with a pompous tilt to his words.

 

“How did you know I told Sig that?” you ask curiously.

 

“Was I not there?” he questions, his eyebrows coming together.

 

“No,” you answer, feeling your confusion double.

 

“I thought we were all three in your chambers, and the girl expressed confusion over your preference for the lesser metal,” he expounds.

 

You narrow your eyes, suspicion cutting through your puzzlement. “Have you been spying on me? Because if you wanna’ fight again so soon, that's the way to go.”

 

He feels your anger and suspicion. “Oh, dear.”

 

“Oh, dear, what?”

 

His stomach twists with nerves. “I wasn't there. And I wasn't spying. I picked up on the conversation just now, as you spoke about it,” he says slowly. “I also feel your outrage and suspicion.”

 

“And I can feel you're scared of telling me why this happened,” you growl, and still tucked under his chin, you feel him swallow.

 

“A link was somehow established,” he explains to you smoothly. “And I'm not afraid of you,” he adds.

 

“I guess ‘apprehensive’ would be a better word,” you answer, slowly working on differentiating the foreign emotions from your own. “So, uh, shut it off.”

 

“I can't without opening your mind to assaults,” he says, clearing his throat. “And even then… I'm not sure it'll work.”

 

He doesn't like this, not one bit. He cannot hide. You're surprised when you feel his immense displeasure at the situation. “It's not a big deal. Just leave me to my own devices, I'll be fine.”

 

“I can't,” he repeats, and you feel a wave of his worry hit you.

 

“Ugh, I don't like it,” you groan. He feels your discomfort as you speak. “Jeez, how does Willow deal with this shit all the time? She works a lot with emotions.”

 

At the name, he again sees the girl in his mind’s eye. He watches her smile, as she races beside you down a dirt path. “You miss her,” he says aloud.

 

“Don't read my emotions,” you snarl.

 

“Why don't you go home after your battle?” he questions, ignoring the stab of pain in his chest at the thought. “Surely she will welcome you back with open arms.”

 

“I can't,” you tell him, your anger forgotten when you feel his sadness.

 

Damn it.

 

He says your name softly.

 

“Look, I can't deal with all of this right now,” you state, doing your best to not send him any thoughts or emotions.

 

It doesn't work. He feels your stress, how overwhelmed you are. He kisses the top of your head. “Sleep, then. Maybe it'll be gone in the morning.”

 

“It better,” you mutter, settling closer against his chest.

Chapter Text

Hey, Will. So, accidentally created an emotional magical link with Prince Dickhead. Any ideas on how to make it stop?

 

You stare at the page for a very long time, hoping she’ll respond quickly. When Sigrid enters your room to do her afternoon duties and chat with you about the dance, you immediately slam the cover of the notebook closed.

 

“What's wrong?” she asks you after a moment, regarding your expression carefully.

 

“Nothing at all!” you lie, a happy smile spreading across your face. “How was your night?”

 

“Oh, it was splendid!” Sigrid exclaims, twirling as if she was on the dance floor once more.

 

You chuckle at her antics, and grin. “Glad you had a good time. Saw that the half-pint got to come. You guys are pretty good dancers.” Sigrid blushes, and you roll your eyes. “You and Will are so easy to tease.”

 

“Will?” Sigrid questions.

 

“Yeah, she’s my best friend. She blushes at everything, especially when it comes to her boyfriend. Just like someone else I know.” You laugh, smirking at the girl.

 

“I can’t help it!” she tells you, giggling behind her hand.

 

“Hey, it’s sweet. Don’t worry about it,” you answer, leaning back in your chair.

 

Before she can reply, you feel the smile drop from your face as a monstrous wave of rage hits you. The emotion fills your mind, and you frown and glare at the wall. “What the fuck?” you mutter out loud, and Sigrid watches you with concern.

 

Where is this coming from?

 

---

 

“I’m afraid I don’t understand what the purpose of this meeting is,” Loki states, his voice calm. “Have you brought me here to chastise me? When have my personal consorts been of any concern to the Allfather?”

 

“She is to be a warrior, not your plaything,” Odin replies levelly from across the table. “You’ve no use for her – she’s no land, no status, no family. It will inevitably end with time, and I say to you, it is wise to end it now.”

 

“Is that an order, sire?” Loki questions, his eyes glittering dangerously.

 

“Not yet,” Odin tells him, “as I trust you to do the right thing, my son.”

 

“The right thing,” he echoes. “But of course. Because right and wrong are always so clear in the eyes – pardon me, eye – of a wise man, such as yourself.”

 

“Loki,” Odin warns, but at this moment, Thor walks into the room.

 

“You wanted to see me, Father?” he questions, a broad grin on his face.

 

“Indeed,” Odin replies, turning his eye to his eldest. “You’ve been training with the foreign girl, yes?”

 

“That’s correct, although she was not present today” Thor replies, his eyebrows rising. “What of it?”

 

“I’ve spoken with my council, and have begun to organize our assault on the barbarians,” Odin answers. “You think her ready?”

 

“Oh, yes!” Thor exclaims in his deep voice, the light of battle already filling his eyes. “She fights well! What she lacks in strength, she makes up for with speed. How many men will you send with us? It will be a glorious battle, to be sure.”

 

“Stow your excitement, brother.” Loki steers the conversation, folding his arms across his chest with a convincing troubled look upon his face. “I highly doubt you’ll see any part of this fight.”

 

“What do you mean?” Thor questions, turning his eyes to Odin. “Father?”

 

“They wished to capture you, Thor,” Odin answers, “or had you forgotten? No, neither of you will attend this battle.”

 

“Father!” Thor exclaims, his mouth falling open. “You would deny us this chance of glory and vengeance? The barbarians have accosted our citizens for years, raiding our supplies, storming our farmlands.”

 

“Seek your glory elsewhere,” Odin states. “There will be plenty battles more, my son.”

 

“It’s as he says, Thor,” Loki pipes up, his brother’s blue eyes darting to his. “Asgard will always have enemies. Think of how long the barbarians have been a threat to us! It will be good to see them vanquished, even at the hands of a foreigner.”

 

“And why should we send a foreigner to fight Asgard’s enemies?” Thor asks, as Loki knew he would. “Are we weak, Father? Do you think our realm incapable of fighting our own wars?”

 

“The girl knows these foreign forces,” Odin tells him. “She will know their tactics.”

 

“I've seen them, too,” Thor argues. “I was there! I know their tactics.”

 

Oh, brother, Loki thinks. You know nothing. You’ve not seen half the Hel I have. “You make a fair point,” he interjects aloud. “Why send the girl at all?”

 

“She’s not ready.” Thor jumps onto the statement before Odin has any time to speak. “I’ve bested her each time we spar.”

 

“So you lied to me before, at the mere idea of riding to battle?” Odin growls, glaring at the elder prince. “Are you so arrogant, Thor?”

 

Thor draws himself up, returning his father’s glare. “I am called arrogant for wanting to protect our realm?”

 

The argument has turned to a new topic, and Loki sits back, internally content with his mischief. It has always been easy to get a rise from Thor’s temper, especially when it’s in regard to his morality. As much as Loki is tempted to smirk, he keeps his face clear of any emotion at all.

 

Eventually, the argument ends as all of their arguments do. Thor turns on his heel and storms out. Loki rises from the table, inclining his head to Odin as he follows Thor.

 

“Loki,” Odin calls after him. The prince pauses without turning around. “Think on our previous conversation.”

 

“It will be ever on my mind, Father,” he replies over his shoulder, and leaves the room.

 

It is easy to catch up to Thor. Loki can hear his muttering echo down the palace halls. He puts a hand on Thor’s shoulder. “Oh, brother. It pains me to see you in such an angry state.”

 

“You stand with me, don't you Loki?” Thor asks him. “I've nothing against your girl, to be sure, but the barbarians are our enemies to conquer.”

 

“But of course,” Loki replies, nodding his head. “I say, they've had it coming, wouldn't you agree? Our father’s strategies have always been slow, brother. Why does he just now organize his attack? He told us himself that the barbarian troops are currently divided. It would not take much force to strike a devastating blow, and yet he waits.”

 

“This is true,” Thor says slowly, and Loki can practically see the idea forming in his brother’s mind.

 

“I bid you a good afternoon, Thor,” the younger prince tells him, giving him a warm smile. “Don't let Father’s words dishearten you. I've always found you to be noble in battle, and letting a single fight pass you by will not change that.”

 

---

 

Alva sits in the white pavilion, her fingers drumming impatiently against the table. She scowls, a most unladylike expression.

 

Of course you would not show. It was foolish to think you would. She was hopeful that things could be settled in an easier way.

 

She sighs, and rises from her seat, smoothing her dress in the process.

 

---

 

You've packed all of your meager belongings, your bag resting over near the door. You've dressed in your leathers, and you feel bad that you will not be able to return them. You sit at your desk, crumpling another piece of parchment and sighing angrily.

 

You've no idea how to say goodbye, but you feel obligated to leave him something. Your letter for Sigrid was easy. It sits on the edge of your desk. Why is this one so difficult?

 

When there's a knock on your door, and he enters, it surprises you. You usually don't see him until the evenings. You quickly crumple Sigrid’s letter and the beginnings of his in your palm, setting them aflame behind your back. “Oh, uh, hey. What are you doing here?”

 

He feels guilt emanating from you, and scrutinizes your room. Your vanity is empty of your baubles, your bag by the door. He smells smoke, and sees as you try to wipe your hands clear of ash. “Going somewhere?”

 

You roll your eyes. “Alright. Yeah. I am.”

 

“Surely you'd not leave me with nothing but a letter,” he tells you scathingly, eyeing the pen on your desk.

 

Your eyes flit to the side as you worry your lip. “Look, I'm not good at this stuff, okay? But I can't waste any more time.”

 

“You don't have to,” he says, rolling his eyes and shaking his head. “My father organizes his attack as we speak. He’ll most likely summon you on the morrow. Will waiting one day more do any harm, truly?”

 

“I don't want Odin’s help,” you answer, crossing your arms and narrowing your eyes. “Anyone else with me will just get in the way. I don't have the time or patience to worry about accidentally killing someone I'm not supposed to. It's easier when everyone around me is a target.”

 

His mind is suddenly flooded with a battle, screams of the dying in his ears. There's too much blood; it's impossible to tell friend from foe, and you worry for the safety of your companions. He shakes his head slightly, blinking your memory from his mind’s eye. “Don't be a fool. Our fighters are more than capable to assist. It is our battle, too, our enemies.”

 

“You can't stop me,” you say, shrugging. “I told you all when I first arrived. I'm here to kill the Ordinat. Nothing and no one will change that.”

 

“One day,” he requests assuredly, stepping up to you. “A single day is all I ask. Appeal to the Allfather. Tell him you wish to go alone. He might see fit to grant it. You'd be heralded as a hero upon your success.”

 

“I'm no hero,” you tell him, chuckling darkly and without humor. “And I never wanted to be.”

 

“You would make me beg for a last day with you?” Loki questions coldly.

 

You're quiet for a moment. “I told you it would be like this.”

 

He feels your hurt. You care for him, and he plays on this, taking you in his arms. “Have you no warmth left in your heart for me?”

 

“You're going to get me killed,” you mutter into his chest.

 

No, he thinks slyly, The selfish man that I am, I’m going to save your life.

 

---

 

You're irritated with both Loki and yourself. You shouldn't have stayed. You slump down in the oversized library chair, flipping pages in the book you hold. He reads in the chair beside yours, his eyes quickly scanning words as if he’s hungry for them. He acts as if nothing is different, as if you're not leaving tomorrow.

 

You can still feel his emotions, much to your displeasure. He's calm and assured, which is almost insulting to you. You figured he'd be at least a little upset about your departure. Perhaps he doesn't really care for you at all. Maybe you're the fool he’s always said you were.

 

“So, uh, what book you got there?” you ask into the silence.

 

He looks over at you briefly. “Complex Toxicology.”

 

“Ah,” you reply, pursing your lips and nodding your head. “Cool.”

 

“Very,” he answers absentmindedly.

 

You toss the book you hold on the library table and go to find something else. When you sit down again, you prop your feet up and do your best to read. You still can't quit thinking about how you should be gone already. You could be fighting Vitran right now, vanquishing your enemy instead of sitting in a palace library.

 

Soon, however, your irritation is replaced by a deep seated boredom. If Loki is to act like nothing’s off, you can pretend as well. You look over at him, studying his face. You'll miss the bastard, truly. It saddens you, your mood quickly dipping.

 

You toss the new book next to the first, and look over at him. “So what are you looking up? Thought you already knew everything.”

 

His eyebrow rises at your sarcasm, and he gives you a look. “There's always more out there to conquer. I’ve been researching poisons, as I've never seen a thing such as the Ordinat’s serum.”

 

“Really?” you ask, looking at him carefully. “I don't think you'll be able to find that in a book.”

 

“Perhaps not,” he concedes, shrugging. “But the topic still interests me.”

 

He lapses into silence again, and you sigh and attempt to find another book. Once seated, however, this one also fails to keep your attention.

 

You rise and stretch, making your way over behind Loki’s chair. You lean down and prop your head up near his shoulder, wondering what makes a book on poisons so interesting.

 

You quickly realize the information is presented through an autobiography, which explains how the author came about the knowledge.

 

Loki is slightly surprised by your closeness, as he thought you were still cross with him. He pauses his readings for a moment before his eyes again find his place. At the end of the second page, he naturally turns to the next.

 

“Hey, I'm not done yet!” you chime near his ear, startling him. “Go back.”

 

He considers continuing on with his readings, just to spite you, but finds himself obediently flipping the page back. He waits in silence, gaze fixed on the books you've tossed to the polished wooden table.

 

“Okay, turn.”

 

He rolls his eyes, although you cannot see him, and flips the page. He takes in the words, and you lean your head against his as you read over his shoulder. Upon turning to the next page, you again say you haven't finished yet.

 

“This grows tiresome,” he chides, irritated. “You've no hope of keeping up with me. If I read aloud, will you stop your hovering?”

 

“Yeah, okay,” you reply, surprising him again.

 

It’s your last evening with him, you may as well just give up. You like him. You really, really do. He's interesting, and witty, and intelligent. It'll hurt to give him up, although you're sure the two of you wouldn't have ended well either way.

 

You vault over the back of the large, plush chair, and settle in beside him. He's amused by this turn of events. “Where'd you leave off?”

 

“Right here,” you tell him, pointing to the sentence.

 

“All the way back there?” he asks mockingly.

 

“Shut up,” you retort, and then think about your statement. “Actually, don't shut up. Get reading. Poison Guy is actually pretty interesting.”

 

“Arvid Eerikki,” Loki corrects you, rolling his eyes as you lay your head on his shoulder. “He's a botanist who specializes in –”

 

“Uh, huh. C’mon, get to the book,” you tease, poking him in the ribs.

 

He frowns at you. “Still so commanding. I'll have to break you of that.”

 

“Yeah, okay,” you reply, your gaze cutting up to the grand library ceiling for a moment.

 

He starts to read, and you quickly lose your thoughts in the story.

 

You find his voice entrancing.

 

---

 

“Madness,” Sif states for a second time, shaking her head. “Thor, you would risk Odin’s wrath again so soon? Have you forgotten the admonition you received after our last battle?”

 

“When we finish, he will be unable to argue with our success,” Thor replies confidently, not pausing in his long strides. “Whether you accompany us or not, I am going.”

 

“As am I,” Hogun affirms, causing Thor to beam at him.

 

Hogun has been on board ever since Thor told his friends why he wanted to ride to battle. You are no Asgardian, and Hogun does not think you should fight an Asgardian enemy.

 

“Thor, you know we will not let you ride alone,” Fandral says apprehensively, “although I'm more inclined to agree with Lady Sif.”

 

“Thank you,” Sif tells him, looking over as she walks.

 

“As do I,” Volstagg comments.

 

“Then stay, my friends,” Thor says. “Hogun and I will be able to put a dent in their forces on our own.”

 

“Don't be foolish,” Sif tells him, readying her sword and shield as she gives in. “We’re coming.”

 

---

 

When you fall asleep, he continues to read silently. His arm rests around your shoulders, your hand on his chest. He fiddles with a strand of your hair, closing the book as he thinks on his father’s words.

 

It's true you have no land, no status, nothing for him to gain by having you. He cannot be wed to you. You do nothing to further him. Were you a princess, he'd perhaps have a kingdom of his own were he to marry you. He looks down at you, perplexed.

 

If you've nothing for him, why does he care? Why does the thought of you leaving bother him so? His softness irritates him. He was never one for kinder emotions, finding them most worthless. He'd often teased his brother over the lengths Thor would go to for a woman.

 

And now here he sits, with you pressed warm into his side.

 

It's late. He wonders if Thor has left the palace yet. Loki imagines the Warriors Three will accompany him, and perhaps Lady Sif as well. Will they be capable of defeating such a force, with Asgard’s foes divided?

 

He mentally shrugs. Either way, it’ll work in his favor. It will buy him time no matter what the outcome. Unless his father births an even more moronic plan in favor of the first.

 

He hopes against this outcome.

Chapter Text

You startle awake from your dream, sitting up quickly in the library chair.

 

“Why do you weep?”

 

You look to your side to see Loki watching you curiously. You touch your face and find your fingers come away wet. “I don't know.”

 

“You're lying,” he answers.

 

You glare at him, and then feel yourself start to tear up again. “Fuck.”

 

He extends a slender finger and brushes a tear from your cheek.

 

“Don't touch me,” you hiss, and he withdraws. “I hate you. Damn you.”

 

“Now, we both know that's not true,” he states, shaking his head. “But tell me why.”

 

“Because I’m an idiot,” you say, leaning over on your knees and ducking your face. “Just a big idiot. I don't… I don’t want to die.” Your sentence comes out quietly, painfully. “I’d miss Willow, and Sig… and you.”

 

The words taste disgusting in your mouth. You scowl as you cry, and then wipe at your eyes and stand up. “I'm going to bed.”

 

He says your name, softly.

 

You ignore him. “And I'm leaving tomorrow. I'm sorry.”

 

---

 

They meet the first patrol at the outskirts of the barbarian lands. The moons give sufficient light for the Asgardians to see, although it's still too dark for perfect tactics. Jun is surprised when his troops begin to fall around him, their cries quickly silenced.

 

Lightning crackles through the air, the bright strikes obliterating a large portion of the patrol group. Jun turns and flees, immediately contacting Vitran on his com.

 

He knows better than to stand and fight alone.

 

Thor, Sif, and the Warriors Three easily take down the barbarian troops, Mjolnir caving skulls right and left. Reinforcements arrive swiftly, Ordinat appearing from nowhere.

 

While the method in which they arrive startles the Asgardians for a moment, they recover quickly. Thor spies one of the members holding the gun-like object that shoots the poison darts, and he calls for Sif, who is closest to the girl.

 

Sif’s sword shifts to its spear form, and she hurls it at the girl with the gun. It strikes true, killing her. Sif nabs the gun as an afterthought on the way to get her sword.

 

The group is doing fairly well, but more and more keep coming. From the outskirts of the battle, the sorceress watches the skirmish. She should be at home, like a respectable woman, but she was supposed to meet with Vitran again tonight.

 

She twitches her fingers, and watches as the god of thunder trips and falls. A golden dart soars over his head, and she bites her lip and mutters. “What are you doing here, you fools?”

 

---

 

When you open the door to your room, you're shocked to find a man standing inside. He looks at you, equally surprised for a moment, before the both of you immediately drop into a fighting crouch.

 

You summon your sword in a single motion and dodge a shot from the man’s gun as you leap up and use the wall to vault off towards him. His second shot blasts a hole in the wall where you were a couple of seconds ago.

 

You hear Sigrid shout in surprise and her door opens. “Go back, Sig!” you yell loudly as you swing at the man. “That's an order!”

 

There's a blast from your other side that surprises you – there's someone else here, invisible.

 

You hear running footsteps, and sure enough, Loki darts into the room. You knew he’d been following you. You slash at the man in front of you, and score a hit across his chest. As he staggers back, you look over at the prince.

 

His eyes are scanning the room, his dagger drawn. There's a blast that punches straight through his armor, and you're shocked for a brief moment before there’s a flash, and the illusion of Loki disappears. A green light smashes into the place where the shot had fired from, and a girl becomes visible as she falls, dead.

 

The real prince now casually walks into the room and turns to the man you struck down, who is trying to stagger to his feet. Loki raises his arm.

 

“No!” you shout quickly, and the prince looks over at you, confused. “Don't kill him.”

 

“P-Please,” the Ordinat member stutters, his wide eyes taking in the dead form of his partner. “Lyrial? Lyrial?”

 

“She's dead,” you tell him, walking up as you trade out your sword for a knife. “But I'll give you a chance.” You lean over him, spinning the blade in your hand.

 

“Y-You aren't going to kill me?” he asks, and you can see him visibly shaking.

 

“Not if you tell me what I want to know,” you reply, sincerity in your tone. “Who sent you?”

 

The man stays silent, his eyes still locked on the dead girl. Loki steps forwards, blocking his view and looking down at him. “You should just kill him. He's too distracted to be of use.”

 

“Sorry about the girl,” you tell the man, reclaiming his attention as you hold your knife up. “But I'm talking now, and it would probably be good for all of us if you'd just pay attention.”

 

“Vitran sent us,” he answers, swallowing loudly. “We thought you'd be asleep. We’re to take you to him.”

 

“So he brought it to me this time, huh?” you mutter, touching your knife to your lips. “Where's the base?”

 

“Don't you… already know? Didn't you send the Asgardians tonight?” the man questions, blood trickling down the front of his chest.

 

“What?” you ask sharply.

 

Loki sighs heavily.

 

“Tell me,” you say, putting your knife to the soldier’s throat.

 

“They fight right now, at the edge of the barbarian lands,” the man tells you shakily.

 

You purse your lips and pat his shoulder, making him wince. “Thank you, John.”

 

“That's not my –”

 

“Doesn't matter,” you say to him, and slit his throat.

 

Loki’s eyebrows rise as he watches the man bleed out, listening to his sputtering dying sounds. “I thought you promised to spare him.”

 

You shrug and dissolve your blade before looking up at him. “I lied.”

 

He grins. “I could kiss you.”

 

“Save it,” you say, rolling your eyes. “I've gotta go help your dumb brother.”

 

“What?” he asks sharply. “Why?”

 

You hold out a hand, and sink the two bodies into the darkness. It will slowly eat away at them, until nothing is left. You doubt they'll be missed. “Because he's going to get himself captured,” you huff, rolling your eyes and opening a rift of shadow.

 

Loki stares at the darkness, taking a step back. “Wait.”

 

You walk through it as he speaks, wondering how you'll be able to find the Ordinat. Before the portal can close, he slips through after you with an exasperated shake of his head.

 

You can feel him when his feet hit the darkness, as you can sense most things in the space. You turn in surprise, and use your energy to float up to his level. “You don't have to come.”

 

“May as well,” he replies, his keen eyes searching the surrounding area. “Where are we?”

 

You ignore the question. “Do you know where Thor went to fight them?”

 

“Perhaps, although I've no idea how being in here will help us find him,” he replies.

 

“Ugh. Come on,” you tell him, taking his hand so you don't leave him behind.

 

---

 

“To me, warriors!” Thor bellows, raising his hammer and lighting up the sky for a brief moment.

 

They regroup, chests heaving. Their enemies collect before them, more reinforcements arriving as they watch.

 

“Thor, we should retreat,” Volstagg says nervously, holding his wounded arm. “There's too many.”

 

Before he can answer, the night sky suddenly lights up. A bright green ball of light appears above, hovering in the air and illuminating the battlefield. Thor turns, an excited grin spreading quickly across his face. “Brother!”

 

“Don't let them regroup! Keep them separated, they have healers!” you order, darting past the gathered Asgardians and summoning your sword.

 

“She's here! She's here!”

 

The call spreads through the Ordinat members as you speed towards them. The sorceress hidden at the edge of the battle stands quickly, her mouth falling open.

 

She immediately contacts Vitran. The man will be irate. His two cronies failed to capture you.

 

The battle turns quickly. Lightning flashes, heads roll, bones break. You feel like yourself again as your blade meets flesh once more. It feels good, and you have to work not to lose yourself in the fight. You're fighting among comrades this time.

 

Loki walks casually through the battle, keeping to the outskirts as he casts illusions and spells. His dagger darts quickly between his opponents’ ribs when they are sufficiently distracted, thinking they fight him when in fact they face a copy.

 

He strikes with his knives expertly, marking his targets with his eyes before he makes a move. He sees a flash of you from the corner of his vision. Just as he expected, you are truly a force to be reckoned with.

 

The battlefield is eerie, lit by Loki’s green magic. It is unnerving to not only their enemies, but also Thor’s friends. They have fought with Loki many a time, yes, but the four have always wondered if he truly had their backs or not.

 

Eventually, the seven of you stand in a field of the dead. Thor lifts Mjolnir to the sky, his teeth flashing in the green light. It's a look of pure triumph, one that you've never seen before. He's so proud of what he's done, so excited to have won.

 

“We press on!” Thor bellows.

 

You march towards him before he can set out, your eyes narrowed. “What were you thinking?”

 

“Asgard’s enemies will be defeated by Asgardians, my friend,” he tells you, putting a heavy hand on your shoulder. “Of course, we thank you for your assistance. But matters of our state our ours, and ours alone.”

 

“Thor!” you say, pushing his hand away. “You're a target! Don't you understand?! You coming here tonight was absolutely insane! It's like walking into their open arms!” you shout, knowing as you speak that he's not comprehending what you're saying.

 

“And they met the mighty Mjolnir!” he declares, grinning over at Sif and the Warriors Three. “They know to fear the power of the future king!”

 

“Yeah, a dead one.”

 

Loki hears your muttered sentence over Thor and his friends’ chatter, and comes to stand beside you smirking.

 

At this moment, a horse’s whinny sounds into the night. Silence falls among the group as the beast’s hooves gallop closer. You all turn to find a soldier approaching, mounted on a warhorse.

 

“Obasi,” Thor greets, swinging his hammer to his side and smiling at the man on the steed. “You've missed all the fun! Where are the others? We must advance.”

 

“Odin demands audience with the lot of you, at once!” Obasi calls, his horse stamping its hooves and rearing at the scent of blood.

 

“But of course!” Thor says, his spirits rising as everyone else's falls. “He’ll want us to regroup after this victory, to gather the troops.”

 

“Thor,” Loki warns softly, but his brother doesn't heed him.

 

---

 

Odin isn't sure if he's ever been more angry. The seven stand before him, Thor doing his best to explain his actions.

 

“I thought you'd be proud, Father,” he declares, holding his hand up towards the throne. “We’ve won! We’ve dealt a mighty blow!”

 

“A mighty blow? They've recalled their troops from their other enemies, Thor. They have focused everything they have upon us! You've put the people of our kingdom in danger! Have you no shame? Have you no thought in your mind? Has my first warning fallen upon deaf ears?!” Odin grips the spear Gungnir tightly in his rage.

 

Thor’s mouth gapes, stunned by the reaction from his king. “Father, I –”

 

“No more, Thor! No more! None of this nonsense shall be tolerated any longer! Should you wish to sit the throne, you must learn to see beyond these rebellious actions! Go! Leave me! Think on what you've done, and see the error in your ways!”

 

The dismissal is obvious, and the admonished Thor jerkily inclines his head and departs, his friends following embarrassed in his wake.

 

You turn to go as well, uncomfortable with the ongoings in the grand throne room.

 

“Halt, warrior,” Odin calls to you, and you cringe. You turn to again face the Allfather, who glances between you and his youngest son. “Leave us, Loki.”

 

“As you wish,” the prince answers, dipping his head and turning away.

 

He meets your gaze as he passes, feeling your apprehension.

 

He is almost out of the room when he looks back, casting a last glance at you standing before his father. When he does, he’s surprised to feel Odin’s power freeze him in place. No amount of fighting renders his muscles free. What trickery have you planned, Allfather?

 

Odin sits upon his throne, staring down at you as you stand alone before him. He states your name, and represses a sigh. It's late. He rubs his eyes, weariness showing on his face. It's time to end this.

 

You fold your hands militant style behind your back, waiting.

 

“I thank you for assisting my son. Heimdall told me of what occurred. However, it's time for this battle to cease, once and for all.”

 

You've heard of Heimdall the Watcher, although you've never been to the Bifrost to meet him. “Alright. I'm good with that.”

 

“It is customary to bow when addressing a king,” Odin tells you curtly.

 

“Uh…. Okay.” You go to a knee, your back unbowed.

 

You feel a great force, as heavy as the sky, press upon you. Your other knee folds to the ground, your back bowing until your face is mere centimeters from the marble. You sneer, and state, “You want me to lick the floor clean while I'm down here?”

 

Odin’s eye narrows at you as his son mentally breaks down laughing. “Silence. I've chosen to assist you in your quest for vengeance. As your enemies have taken up residence with ours, our goals are one and the same. I will grant you your battle, along with our troops.”

 

This displeases Loki, who would scowl were he able. His manipulations amounted to nothing, truly. Odin continues with his plan, to send you to your death.

 

“With all due respect, sir,” you tell him from your bowed state, “I don't want your troops. They'll only get in my way.”

 

“You'd go alone?” he asks. “You think yourself capable?”

 

“Oh, yes. After fighting today, I know it.”

 

Odin considers you. You look very small, bowed before him in the grand audience hall. “Should you prove yourself in this fight, would you remain here?”

 

“Why?” you ask, hearing more to this question than what's there.

 

“Asgard has more enemies than the simple barbarians.”

 

You can see where this is headed. “Yeah, I've done the puppet thing before, and I didn't like it.”

 

A face flashes in Loki’s mind, the face of the smirking man from your memories. Had this man used you?

 

“Consider it,” Odin answers. “I’d not make you a puppet, but a soldier of war. If you truly believe my troops will inhibit you, I will withhold them during your fight.”

 

You smile, thinking that for once something has gone right. “Perfect.”

 

However, the hold on you does not release. Odin sighs heavily. “I've a proposition for you, warrior. Think seriously on my words, as they can undo all I've just offered you.”

 

“Uh, yeah? What is it?” you ask, eyebrows narrowing in confusion.

 

“I've gathered information on your enemies. I know their original and largest base resides on your foreign planet. I've decided to lend Asgardian assistance in order to truly be rid of them.”

 

Odin has been thinking of the group, how they crafted a serum that could render those with power mortal.

 

Your mouth falls open for a short moment, your eyes darting upwards towards the throne as your thoughts come to an abrupt halt. “What?”

 

“We’ve sentinels that can level cities, technology that can prove devastating to unwary foes. Free of the base on our realm, they'll have no way of knowing we come for them. Would this please you?”

 

“Actually…. Yeah,” you say quietly. “That would be… wow. What's the catch?”

 

He can hear the hunger in your voice, and knows he's assessed you correctly. You're bright, he gives you that. Odin’s eye flicks behind you to his son. “You will quit my son. Do this, and I will swear to you that all I've described shall come to be.”

 

Loki’s stomach plummets, and he starts fighting against his father’s power. Cruel! he shrieks in his mind, mentally thrashing. What cruelty is this, that you’d have me stand and watch?!

 

“Uh, I'm sorry, what?” you ask after a moment, a little stunned.

 

“You will quit my son,” Odin repeats. “You're a foreigner, young one. You've no understanding of our ways, our customs. You've nothing here – no land, family, status. You know in your heart I speak the truth. Surely the decision is easy; your enemies vanquished in return for a simple man.”

 

“Why the hell is that important to you?” you ask, coldness seeping into your tone.

 

Because you are nothing but a tool for him, Odin thinks. Because my love cannot save him from his darkness. Because he needs to hear you relinquish him, for the good of Asgard. Because you are dangerous, as is he. “That's of no concern. Tell me, what is your answer?”

 

You struggle against his power, feeling as if you fight to lift an entire planet from your shoulders. The subjection you are submitted to awakens something deep within – something that bows to no man. It rises, your eyes overcome by a fiery darkness as you return to your original kneeled position.

 

Odin’s shock does not show, although it's as if he’s been struck in the stomach. The power fades from your eyes, returning to its normal state as you look upon his face. “I can't.”

 

“You cannot answer?” he asks.

 

You shake your head. “No. I can't… not see him, the dumbfuck that I am.”

 

Oh, if your past self could hear you now, she would absolutely despise you.

 

Odin’s eye widens at both your statement and the curse included in it. “You would deny yourself vengeance, true vengeance, for a single man?”

 

You lose everything either way, you realize. You have given up so much: to your enemies, to your friends, to yourself. You could be dead tomorrow. You could be home. Either way you won't be here. You know you should just give Loki up. Have Odin help with the Ordinat that remains on your home.

 

But your pride, your fucking stubborn pride, makes your jaw clench.

 

“Sir,” you say slowly, still staring straight at him. “When you've lost as much as I have… you don't just… willingly give up what little you have left.”

 

“Then go, warrior,” Odin states, releasing his hold on his son and forcing him from the room. This conversation has gone awry in a way the Allfather had not anticipated. “Leave, and complete your mission. And do not return.”

 

You stare up at him solemnly. “I’ll leave. Don't worry. I'll... go home. Or something. Thank you for your hospitality.”

 

The force keeping you on your knee is lifted, and you get to your feet. Odin stares down at you. “You are dismissed.”

 

You watch him for a moment, and then turn away. Your footsteps echo as you leave, and Odin rubs a tired hand across his face.

 

And when you step through the grand double doors of the throne room, you find yourself facing the Prince of Trickery, the Lord of Lies, the god of mischief.

 

Loki.

 

And upon his face is a true, warm and wicked smile.

Chapter Text

“Enough!” Vitran growls, his eyes shining in the darkness as he paces. The ground is slick with the blood of his Ordinat soldiers, the charred scent of flesh still lingering in the air. “Enough! You!” He jabs his finger towards the Asgardian man, who straightens immediately. “Bring the girl. And you!” He turns to his informant, who watches him with a calculating look. “Bring the royals.”

 

---

 

Loki kisses you as the guards are closing the throne room doors, in full view of his father. It's deep, passionate, intimate. You weren't expecting this, your hand on his chest to push him away, although you've quite forgotten to use any force.

 

When he finally releases you, you take a step back, catch your breath, and look at him suspiciously. “Eavesdrop much?”

 

“I was rather forced to listen, believe it or not,” he retorts, his mood still soaring. “Although you destroyed his plan beautifully.”

 

“Look, I don't have time for this,” you say, heading for your room. “Got a lot going on tomorrow. I need to sleep. Guess it really is my last night here, in case you didn't catch that part.”

 

He did, and he's been doing his absolute best to come up with a solution to that problem. “We shall see.”

 

You huff and roll your eyes at his vague answer. “Don't do anything, okay? Just let it be what it is. I don't mind leaving tomorrow.”

 

“And you spoke of home,” he comments, still matching your strides, arms folded behind his back. “Do you truly intend to return from whence you came?”

 

Your breath catches, although you're not quick to answer him. “I mean… I don't know. I’d like to see Will again.”

 

He's been asking about your Willow lately on purpose, dredging up old memories of camaraderie. He grins at your tone, pleased with your statement. You speak as if you'll come out of battle alive. “I'm sure she misses you.”

 

“Just stop,” you mutter, rolling your eyes.

 

---

 

You go to reassure Sig before you head to your room. The girl is still shaken, holding the dagger you gave her tightly in her hand when you open her door.

 

“Easy, kiddo. Just me.”

 

She says your name in relief, sheathing the dagger. “Thank the nine you're okay! Are you bleeding?” She eyes your clothing.

 

“Not too bad,” you say, shrugging. Most of the blood is not yours.

 

Sigrid questions you about what happened, and you do your best to explain (in a simple, quick way) what's going on. “So,” you say at the end, looking around her room, “I think I'll be… well… leaving tomorrow.”

 

“Leaving?” she asks, golden eyes wide. “Oh, no! But you can't leave!”

 

“Not really my call,” you tell her gently, still not fully looking at her. “It's okay, though. I'll get to go home. I've been away a really long time.”

 

And everything will be different, your mind whispers to you. Your friends have moved on. You left them. Can you even still count them as friends?

 

Sig steps up and wraps her arms around you. “But I'll miss you,” she says quietly.

 

“Oh, Siggy,” you say, sighing and hugging the girl back. “You know, I’ll miss you, too.”

 

---

 

You walk out and find the prince leaning against the wall by your room door, much as he was the second time you ever climbed the stairs to this wing.

 

“You waited out here all this time?” you ask, eyebrows raised.

 

“I did,” he replies, smirking. “You didn’t think I'd leave you alone tonight, did you?”

 

“I'm tired,” you remind him, your voice exasperated.

 

“I'm aware,” he answers, rolling his eyes.

 

He follows you into your room. Much as the night you both fell asleep talking, you rest together on your bed atop the covers.

 

“You still don't believe I'm leaving, do you?” you accuse as he leans his head on yours.

 

“I've said nothing of the sort,” he replies smoothly.

 

“Yeah,” you reply, rolling your eyes. “But I can tell.” You're both silent for a moment, and he thinks you've fallen asleep. Eventually you say, “I just want to say… thanks for not letting me die when I first got here. You didn't have to help. You didn't want to. But… thanks.”

 

“Stop this,” he orders, his arm tightening around you. “You're trying to say goodbye to me, and I won't stand for it.”

 

“Look, I –”

 

“No,” he states flatly. “Be done with it.”

 

You turn your face to his, staring into his green eyes. “Guess there’s always tomorrow.”

 

“Not then, either,” he answers with finality, giving you a small kiss.

 

---

 

Sigrid performs all her morning duties, casting a forlorn look at your door when she passes. You told her last night she shouldn't stop in. Sig imagines that the prince is with you.

 

Her dagger sits heavy in her dress pocket, pulling the fabric on her left side down a bit more than she cares for. However, you'd told her to keep the blade on her, at least for today. When the Ordinat are no more, she can do with it as she pleases.

 

She's nervous, to say the least. She knows there's a chance you may never get to see your home again. The world she lives in is dangerous. She vividly remembers the bright scars you bore when she first met you. And although it's been months since she was stolen away, the deep-seated fear still remains.

 

But you, and the prince, and her Asmund had come for her. The thought always makes her smile, although the expression slowly slips away as she walks.

 

It's still hard for her to believe that you'll be gone.

 

---

 

When Loki sits up, he's alone in your room. Your bag of packed belongings is gone, the room itself as plain as if no one had ever resided in it.

 

Empty.

 

He quickly gets to his feet, scowling. Damn you, he thinks, knowing you will hear him.

 

However, you offer no reply.

 

There's a feeling in his chest that crushes him, that hurts as if it's a physical wound.

 

You are gone. You are truly gone.

 

But she’ll let go of you, a dark voice in his mind hisses, echoing past thoughts. There will be a time, a moment where you'll know you aren't enough.

 

You never were.

 

What a fool you are, to have believed otherwise.

 

---

 

“I cannot,” Thor grumbles, shaking his head.

 

“An apology will not unmake you, Thor,” Sif reasons, putting a hand on his shoulder.

 

“My father still thinks me nothing but a foolish child,” he tells her, frowning down at the grass. “He sees no other way but his own.”

 

“His word is law,” Fandral chimes in.

 

“That doesn't make him right,” Thor replies.

 

“Help!”

 

The word is a shriek, attracting the attention of the warriors on the training ground. A woman is running towards the company, her beautiful dress in tatters. It's as if she's come from a skirmish, one that left her beaten and bleeding. The girl stumbles, although she keeps her eyes trained on the god of thunder.

 

“Lady Freydis?” Sif asks in a gasp, stepping forward towards the poor duchess.

 

Frey collapses into her arms, sobbing. “They've got her! They've got Alva! Please, please, help me!”

 

“What has happened?” Thor asks her hurriedly.

 

“They came this morning. When I arrived at her home, they were there!” Frey wails. “Barbarians, Prince Thor, in our very streets! Her family is dead, they lie with empty eyes in the sitting room. Alva screamed so loudly when she saw them,” Frey breaks down into deep sobs, gripping Lady Sif’s shoulder tightly. “Please, you must help me! I-I tried to fight them, I did!”

 

“Calm yourself, Lady Freydis,” Sif says gently. “Take deep breaths.”

 

“They send a message to the king,” Frey says shakily, hearing the words in her mind as the brute of a man had spoken them. “It is war. How will you stop us, Odin Allfather?”

 

“Fandral, Volstagg. Take the duchess with you and inform my father of what has occurred. He can send reinforcements after us,” Thor orders. “Sif, Hogun, with me.”

 

Sif and Hogun look to the prince, and both give him a single nod. Freydis tightens her grip on Sif, and looks her in the eyes. “Bring her back, I beseech you. We grew up together, as close as sisters. They were going to kill me, too, but she agreed to go without a fight were they to spare me.” Her blue eyes fill with tears again.

 

“We will do our best, Freydis,” Sif vows. “I swear it.”

 

---

 

Your entrance is no secret.

 

You step out of the darkness and into the center room of the Ordinat base – a large building Vitran had ordered constructed. Shouts echo off the walls, soldiers quickly calling out to one another and arming themselves. This room is their practice area, where they hide tactics and weapons from Magnus’ prying eyes.

 

You pause a single second to assess your surroundings before you set upon them.

 

“Vitran!” you sing-song, grinning as you slide your sword out of a woman’s chest. You dodge a shot coming your way, hearing it blast apart the stone behind you. “Vi-tran! Where are you at?"

 

Your tone is alarmingly cheerful, and you slice a golden dart in half as you kick a man’s leg, watching him go down.

 

You set fire to the people closest to you and send a few hurtling into the darkness before you remember to conserve your energy.

 

You aren't sure what you're going to do – let yourself go, or survive and go home – but either way, you need Vitran first.

 

“Cease fire!”

 

The command rings out loudly in the cavernous room. The man you've been searching for finally stands before you, amber eyes narrowed as he smirks. You flick blood from your sword blade as the Ordinat members withdraw.

 

“You called?” Vitran questions lightly. The booming sound of thunder suddenly echoes from outside, and Vitran raises his eyebrows. “And you brought friends.”

 

“I didn't bring anyone,” you tell him coldly. You swiftly rush him, and although your sword catches his skin, the wound is not as deep as it should be.

 

Either he’s grown even stronger over the years, or someone or something is protecting him.

 

At your movement, the chamber erupts into chaos. You ignore anything that tears into you, solely focused on destroying the man that started everything. Red light forms before him as he summons forth his blade staff.

 

You know this weapon. You remember its wicked bite.

 

You expend energy to clear out the Ordinat members that drew close, and then set about battling Vitran.

 

You're ready for this to be over.

 

---

 

“The Ordinat withdraw, sire!”

 

Magnus whirls towards his son, fury contorting his face as he stands up from his throne. “What?”

 

“They retreat to their base,” the barbarian prince confirms. “What would you have us do?”

 

“Take down the god of thunder,” Magnus commands, grabbing his axe and stepping forward. “We will deal with the Ordinat after. Jun!” he bellows. “Jun! What is the meaning of this treachery?”

 

But before he catches sight of the man, Magnus feels a sharp pinch in his back. It paralyzes him, his mouth open slightly in shock. His son stumbles backwards, horrified.

 

Jun stands behind the king, holding the mechanical instrument that strips him of his abilities. The process is over quickly, and Jun can feel newfound strength fill him as the machine transfers the barbarian’s power to its new wielder.

 

“Run,” the king whispers to his son.

 

“And another king falls,” Jun declares, aiming his gun at Magnus’ head and pulling the trigger.

 

---

 

Sigrid keeps her mind busy with the laundry. She's tired, having not slept well the night before, and she sighs and rubs her eyes. She imagines Hilde will come round tomorrow to tell her she’s to return to the kitchens.

 

A washer once more, Sig thinks, looking forlornly down at her hands. Ah, but it has been fun, to play a different role for just a bit. However, I feel as if it's gone too quickly.

 

The man hovering in the doorway wets his lips nervously. He didn't want to do this, but Vitran’s men had approached him so confidently, promised him things he'd only dreamed of. A better life for him, for his family. And in return, all he has to do is assist in conquering Asgard.

 

He thinks to use his magic to blind her – he is at least good at that sort of sorcery. He's no idea why Vitran wants the girl, and he tells himself it doesn't matter.

 

And with a flick of his finger, he takes action.

 

It's Sigrid’s worst nightmare come to life. She immediately cries out, her fingers fumbling on the fabric of her dress in her panic. She feels a hand grab her, feels magic swirling as he tries to conceal her. She begins to feel sleepy.

 

The dagger! The dagger! Sig finally grips the hilt of the blade, pulling it free of both its sheath and her pocket in a single motion.

 

She shrieks as she stabs the man’s side, the dagger parting his skin so easily that it makes her lean over and throw up.

 

The man screams, instinctively wrenching the weapon from his body and throwing it to the ground, fleeing the room as his magic fades. Sigrid blinks quickly as her sight returns, doing her best to catch a glimpse of who had tried to take her.

 

“Not again,” she moans aloud, crying and shaking. “Not again, please.”

 

The dark blade of her dagger is covered in blood, and more drops decorate the floor in a trail leading from the room. Sigrid walks over, and with a quaking hand, picks up her weapon.

 

She shudders so hard she almost drops it.

 

---

 

Thor, Sif, and Hogun fight hordes of barbarians, praying for the Asgardian troops to arrive. Thor worries that his father will see this as another act of rebellion, but has no time to dwell on the possible outcome.

 

However, his fears are alleviated when the voice of the Allfather rings out in the minds of everyone present.

 

War it is, Magnus.

 

Thor shouts in excitement, smashing his hammer across the body of his opponent. The man’s chest explodes, bits of gore flying. Hogun swings his mace and beats down a woman attacking Thor from behind, and Sif is finally able to carve apart a barbarian she's been battling for a while now.

 

When they hear hoofbeats, their hearts soar for a moment, thinking it to be Asgard’s reinforcements. However, the man who appears is not Obasi with the calvary.

 

Loki swings down from the horse immediately, green light flashing from his hands that causes barbarians to fall to their knees in pain. His sorcerers dismount behind him, joining the battle at once. Loki makes a path to his brother, sending illusions behind him as a distraction.

 

He glances over at Hogun, who seems to be losing his fight. Loki creates multiple copies of the man, confusing his opponent so that Hogun can deliver a killing blow.

 

Loki reaches Thor and uses his magic to create the illusion of a ring of warriors around them, causing a diversion for those attempting to take their lives. “Where is she?” he asks quickly.

 

Thor’s eyes widen. “The girl is here?”

 

Loki snarls at him, and disappears from his brother’s sight, his illusion warriors quickly cut down by the soldiers surrounding them.

 

“We could use your help!” Thor bellows angrily, but receives no reply.

 

Hammond, Loki thinks.

 

Yes, sire?

 

Remain here with half our forces. Lead them. I take the rest with me.

 

Loki slips through the battle, killing enemies left and right as he goes. He spies the “grand” barbarian “palace” in the distance, although the sound of fighting echoes loudly across the grounds at a different building.

 

He ignores the surrounding area and makes for this instead, relaying his instructions to the others he wishes to follow him.

 

It's slightly difficult to navigate the internal rooms and halls of the Ordinat base. He remains cloaked, only striking enemies down when he's sure he won't be discovered. Vitran’s soldiers all run in the same direction, and Loki follows swiftly.

 

Invisible, he enters the large, central room and witnesses an absolute bloodbath taking place. You're truly giving it all you've got.

 

And he knows it's not going to be enough.

 

---

 

Asmund holds Sigrid in his arms as she sobs. He's absolutely furious, wanting nothing more than to curse himself aloud.

 

It almost happened again, and once more, he was not present to do anything other than care for her in the aftermath. Apologies will not make up for this, so he doesn't even try.

 

He can't protect her. He isn't enough, even with all his newfound knowledge. How could she ever feel safe with him, when he's failed her twice now?

 

Still, he whispers to her, doing his best to console her. “Come home with me tonight, Sigrid,” he says. “You shouldn't stay within palace walls this evening, not after something as horrid as this. Your charge is gone, and you shouldn't be alone. My family loves you as much as I do. Please, do come. My mother knows how to brew wonderful calming teas.”

 

“Oh, Asmund,” Sigrid cries, feeling wet tears slip over the bridge of her nose from the tilt of her head on his chest. “I-I st-stabbed him.”

 

“Good,” Asmund growls, holder her tighter. “Perhaps we’ll be able to find him again. I want him dead.”

 

“No,” Sigrid tries to tell him. “You're not a man who would take the life of another!”

 

“I'm not,” he agrees. “But… it's you. I can't bear the thought.”

 

He quickly drops the subject, insisting she come with him at once, and she agrees. He walks with her, helping to keep her upright. It's a slow pace, noticeably different from his frantic sprint on the way to the palace. She'd contacted him during his class, and he'd promptly gotten from his seat and sped from the room without explanation.

 

He’ll explain to his instructor what had happened later. He's sure the man will understand.

 

“Mother!” Asmund calls out upon arriving at the house.

 

A sob is the reply he receives, which makes his blood run cold. Sig and Asmund rush to the back of his home to find Brenna gripping one of his father’s shirts.

 

“What is it?! What's happened?” Asmund asks frantically, his eyes flying to his mother’s face.

 

Brenna looks up at the two children, unable to stop her tears. “Your father, he's gone! I think him to be dead!” she wails, gripping the shirt she holds even tighter in her hands.

 

Sigrid takes a step back, her hand covering her mouth and her eyes wide and frightened as she stares at the bloody cloth. The dark red stain stems from a single rip in the fabric, in the side of the shirt.

 

As if from a dagger.

Chapter Text

When the sorcerers come streaming into the cavernous room, you feel as if you could scream.

 

No! you shout in your head, snarling.

 

You know he's here.

 

Something bites into your back, and you rip the device out and dodge away before Vitran can take your head off with his staff. The blade sings through the air, just past your ear, and catches a bit on your shoulder.

 

He unholsters his gun, choosing to face you with his blade staff in one hand. He hopes to poison you again. Judging from his experiments, however, he knows your body will have adapted to the poison. It will not render you as useless as it had the first time, but he still requires this edge if he's to take your power.

 

Arrows fly towards you and you duck, though one sinks into your thigh. You rip it out and attempt to ignite Vitran, but the flames flare harmlessly around him. Even your darkness cannot touch him, so you stop trying. You know better than to use your energy on a futile task.

 

You slash up a woman’s side as she tries to attack you, and dodge a golden dart from Vitran before you spin and try to get behind him.

 

You're fast. They'd been told you were agile, but they hadn't fully understood. It’s not as easy to bring you down as they thought it would be.

 

The sorcerers pose a different problem. Over half of the soldiers that previously helped to overwhelm you now turn in surprise, finding themselves battling illusions, being struck with sudden disabilities, and having to dodge blasts of different shining, killing lights. The Asgardian magic forces some of the Ordinat members to turn on their comrades, other soldiers to scream as they see things in their minds no one else can.

 

Loki spies several foes with the guns that hold poison, and makes them his targets, passing along the information to the others in his mind.

 

Vitran snarls as his staff strikes against your sword. Yes, you're older and stronger than the last time he faced you, but you're still you. He feels no fear, only thinks this will take longer than he initially imagined. You're holding up well against his lightning fast blows.

 

Would you have me help them?

 

It's the girl, Vitran’s informant, speaking of his screaming soldiers. No. Keep your energy focused.

 

She shrugs, cloaked at the edge of the battle. If Vitran wants her to only protect him, then who is she to argue?

 

---

 

Obasi leads his warriors, cresting the hill and riding down. The Asgardians let out a mighty roar as they surge forward, lifting the spirits of those already in the battle. They do not dismount, slashing their enemies from horseback.

 

Sif cuts down a barbarian before her, and then whirls around to face Thor. “Fandral and Volstagg are here! I head for the building to find the duchess!”

 

Thor smashes his hammer into the body of the man he fights, sending him flying upwards into the sky. He's dead before he hits the ground. “Very well! When we’re done here, we will assist!”

 

Sif bashes a woman with her shield, and then slices the barbarian’s arm free of her shoulder as she sprints past. She can see Freydis’ face in her mind’s eye, the desperation that lay there. Sif doubts the barbarians would have any use for a duchess, but she's no idea what the foreign Ordinat could be capable of.

 

Sif doesn't have to be told that Alva’s family is not the only one to be murdered in the city of Asgard this day. It's a safe assumption.

 

And a true one. Even as Volstagg and Fandral stood and waited for the Allfather, more and more people came wailing and screaming through the palace doors.

 

Odin sees to these intrusions himself.

 

---

 

Asgardian power fuels the Ordinat now. Vitran has troops within the city of Asgard as well as members flooding the barbarian lands. Those on this planet have magic and strength flowing through their veins, and it is an easy task to steal it from them.

 

Vitran is irritated. The sorcerer man should've been back already with your servant girl. You’d gone after her once, killed for her, which means you care about her. Where is his leverage? Had the man fallen through on his word? What of the prince, who you supposedly favored? Was your presence not enough to bring him?

 

Vitran needs their power. Thor, Loki, but most importantly, Odin. In the Allfather’s presence, Vitran could feel the power resonating from the one-eyed man. He craves it.

 

Another round of thunder reminds him that at least one of the king’s sons is present.

 

Loki’s keen eyes find you, cold concentration on your face as you zip around the man in front of you. He makes his way across the floor, losing sight of your battle several times as people block his path.

 

He flexes his magic, striking down those in his way. He doesn't wish to use his illusion copies as of yet – he wants to get an idea of the fight; he does not barrel into a skirmish like his boarish brother.

 

His sorcerers are doing well, although he knows he's lost a few. The casualties bother him more than losing average soldiers. He’s put time and effort into training his people, and to see them fall is irritating.

 

However, the Ordinat warriors are thinning thanks to the sorcerers’ assistance. You can't help but be begrudgingly grateful, as you no longer have to focus on so many different targets.

 

Vitran is a tougher opponent than you'd imagined. Strike after strike, he blocks you, and when you finally score a hit against his flesh, you barely draw blood.

 

Hey, asshole. If you're here, and want to be helpful, figure out why I can't hurt him.

 

Loki’s surprised, and a little amused. That almost sounded like a request for assistance, and it makes him smirk.

 

The twisted smile falls from his face as he concentrates, finding that the Ordinat leader is indeed being shielded by another’s magic. Someone assists him, but I cannot locate them as of yet. They've hidden their presence.

 

You let out an angry growl, and press forward in a flurry of attacks. Your ferocity surprises Vitran, although he swiftly reciprocates.

 

---

 

Lady Sif speeds through the empty Ordinat halls. She hears the echo of the battle beyond, but takes a short moment to search every room in case they've tucked captives away.

 

She sees many things she doesn't understand. The technology on Asgard is fused with magic, but the instruments she finds in the Ordinat stronghold are even more advanced. She spies a soldier standing guard outside one of the hall doors.

 

He's obviously nervous, and she takes advantage. She beats her sword against her shield, rushing forward when he jumps at the loud noise. Before he can raise his weapon, she slays him.

 

A swift kick to the door breaks it open, and she steps inside to find a group of frightened Asgardians.

 

“Lady Sif!” several of them call excitedly.

 

These are commoners of the city, and Sif is confused. “Why do they hold you?”

 

“They claimed we have latent ability, and once they draw it out, they wish to claim it for their own,” a man answers her nervously.

 

“Come quickly,” Sif states, ushering the group forward. “I will get you free of the battle, and set you towards home.”

 

The people follow her, and Sif plots her way out and around the skirmish outside. She bites her lip, however, when she realizes Alva is not amongst the Asgardians.

 

Where are they holding the duchess?

 

---

 

Vitran is losing too many soldiers, although his confidence is not shaken. He must now do as you did before, fighting multiple people at once. He knows he's capable, although the sorceresses’s protection assists him greatly.

 

The girl can feel Loki’s magic attempting to trace her, and were it not for the power the Ordinat gifted her, he already would've found her. She herself has located him, although she allows him to stay cloaked.

 

She's no way of knowing if Thor is among the living, and until she does, she won't reveal the lesser prince. She intends to make sure Vitran follows through with his vow to her.

 

Loki is closer now, although there's still too many who stray into his path. The soldiers around are beginning to realize the sorcerers can cloak themselves in invisibility. They keep an eye on one another’s backs, which makes it a little more difficult (but not impossible) for a small knife to make its way between their ribs.

 

---

 

Odin rides, the spear Gungnir clenched tightly in his fist. He's dispatched several captains to chase down the filth that had infiltrated his city, and now he gallops alone towards the barbarian lands.

 

Upon arriving, he's greeted immediately by attempts on his life. He blasts energy from his spear, the killing blow flashing brightly. He cannot find either of his sons, but trusts them enough in battle to think them safe. He hadn't wanted them here, but now he has no choice. He turns his eye instead on Magnus’ castle.

 

He spurs his horse forward, stabbing and slicing barbarians along the way. There is sound of a fight echoing from the barbarian grand hall, and Odin dismounts and enters the building in calm strides.

 

“Magnus!” he roars when he enters the room.

 

But the dead king has no answer for him. Odin sees Magnus’ body lying near the front, by his crude throne. Several Asgardian soldiers die before Odin can move, and as they fall he sees a short, thin man.

 

The foreigner turns to face him, a grin spreading across his features. “Another king sent to me today? Vitran will be so jealous.”

 

---

 

Thor and the Warriors Three burst into the Ordinat’s large training room with a victorious shout. Sif trails behind, having fetched them from the waning battle outside on her way back in. Blood begins to rain at once, the Ordinat now feeling they're completely overwhelmed.

 

You press towards Vitran again, a grin on your face. “I don't care what kind of protection you have,” you spit at him. “You've already lost.”

 

He leaps away when you try to trap him in your darkness, and darts towards you immediately after. He fires his gun, and you roll to the side to avoid it. He aims a blow at you and you counter his strike, slicing a gash in his side, although the damage is still minimal.

 

You're bleeding, and tired, but still make yourself focus. You want to finish him on your own, before the Ordinat falls and the Asgardians try to assist you. You've been trying to locate his protector, although you have no ability that allows it.

 

Loki is finally nearing Vitran, killing his way through the soldiers to come up from behind him. The man looks much more formidable in battle than he had standing before the throne of Odin. Loki knows his magic is strong enough to punch through whatever sorcery protects Vitran for just a moment, but he must choose this moment carefully.

 

---

 

Odin’s power is absolute as he fights. Gungnir hums as he swings it towards Jun. The man, with his newfound power, proves a worthy opponent. He wields a weapon that shifts form as he fights, depending on his needed attack.

 

He is small, and quick, trying to find an opening in Odin’s guard. The sound of metal on metal fills the grand hall as their weapons meet again and again. The Allfather is surprised by the force behind the small man’s blows. This is no normal strength.

 

Odin slams the butt of his spear on the ground, the force of his power sending all of the objects that surround him flying. Jun’s back hits the wall, and he barely has time to recover before Odin points his spear at him.

 

Jun takes the blast, as Gungnir never misses, using his power to shield himself. Jun runs around the front of the throne and slices at the Allfather in the process. Odin easily knocks his blade away.

 

Jun scowls, losing a bit of his confidence. Neither man has been able to land a true hit as of yet, but Odin will win. They both know this.

 

Jun thinks quickly, and makes a rash decision. He uses the strength of the barbarian king, casting every bit of his energy towards Odin in a single blast.

 

At this moment, seeing Jun’s hesitation, Odin fires Gungnir.

 

The resulting explosion of the two forces colliding is tremendous. The ceiling of the building is forced out and upwards, stone raining upon the heads of the warriors outside. The walls of the hall are immediately reduced to rubble, and the floor cracks, revealing the building’s foundation underneath.

 

Odin feels his age as he lays groaning. Earth clouds his one good eye, and a giant weight sits upon his chest. He blinks rapidly in hopes of clearing his vision, his free arm reaching out to call his spear.

 

Jun regains consciousness and slowly stumbles to his feet. His leg is surely broken, but luckily he had been missed by the pieces of the roof that had fallen inside of the place that was once a building. Jun limps forward, avoiding splintered wooden tables and large pieces of stone, to see Odin pinned beneath a large portion of the collapsed roof.

 

Jun grins through his pain and weakness, pulling out the sharp device he’d used on Magnus. He comes upon Odin, looking down as the Allfather continues to reach a hand out blindly for his weapon.

 

“And… And another king… falls,” Jun pants, a crazed look in his eyes, and he presses a button to activate the siphoning instrument, raising it above his head.

 

---

 

The battle in the Ordinat base has clearly been lost as Asgardian warriors from outside stream into the building. However, Vitran doesn't see it this way; as long as he lives, he can build anew. There are always people who long for power, long to be something they are not. He will always have soldiers.

 

Even with the girl’s magic to protect him, Vitran can feel himself tire. His blade staff grows heavier and heavier in his hands with every blow he blocks. You are not as strong as him, but you're fast.

 

He's only one shot left in his gun, and has yet to hit you. He holsters his weapon, choosing to save a chance for later rather than waste it.

 

Now that the battle has cleared, Sif sees you in your fight. She grips her sword and vaults over a body on her way to help. Your opponent looks to be a sturdy foe, barely staggering when your sword carves upwards in an arc, slicing an exposed portion of his chest.

 

Sif remembers how useless the Ordinat poison rendered you, and realizes she’s still in possession of one of their guns, the weapon strapped at her hip.

 

When Vitran catches one of your strikes and pushes you back, you ready yourself. This is it.

 

And then several things occur at once.

 

In the space between you and Vitran, Loki appears, his hands glowing green.

 

Sif, coming up around Vitran’s side, takes aim and pulls the trigger on the Ordinat gun, surprised by the kickback.

 

The girl at the edge of the battle screams in Vitran’s mind loudly, screeching for him to turn around, that the prince before him is nothing but a trick.

 

Loki, who truly does stand behind Vitran, lifts the magic hold the girl has on the Ordinat leader and brings his dagger up.

 

The prince’s mind rapidly traces the magic back to the source, and as he brings his blade down towards Vitran, he reveals the sorceress, stripping away her invisibility.

 

Vitran, forewarned, strikes with his staff as he turns around, unholstering his gun, and firing blindly.

 

You leap forward while his back is turned. The shot from Sif’s weapon strikes Vitran’s shoulder, although he doesn't notice. The poison quickly seeps into his blood, rendering his accelerated healing useless. It wouldn't have mattered anyway. Your sword cleaves its way through his spinal cord and out the front of his chest.

 

He makes no sound as he dies.

 

The girl, Loki instructs to Sif mentally, using his energy to force an image of the area the sorceress is in into Sif’s mind. It tires him. He's very tired. Mental connections are hard.

 

You twist your blade in Vitran’s dead body before pulling it free and looking up.

 

And you inhale sharply, your eyes lingering on the golden dart in the prince’s chest, Vitran’s blade staff sunk deeply next to it.

Chapter Text

Odin regains his sight just in time to see Jun’s arm swinging down towards him, with something glinting in his fist. The king tilts his head, the instrument burying itself in the stone behind him rather than in his remaining eye.

 

The Allfather gives a mighty shout, and forces power out from his body. Jun flies once more through the air, screaming as he lands upon his broken leg. Odin rises from the rubble, holding out his hand and successfully reclaiming his spear. He advances towards Jun, who does his best to scramble backwards.

 

“Vit, please,” Jun says frantically into his com, his finger sliding in blood as he tries to hold down the button. “I need backup!”

 

Odin slams the butt of Gungnir on the ground again, sending the smaller man tumbling backwards from the force. Jun’s pain-filled screaming permeates the area once more as the Allfather steps up to the man’s crumpled form.

 

“No man can help you now,” he tells Jun, who stares up at him in fear-fueled anger. “You come into my realm, take host with my enemies, and invade my lands. As reigning king of Asgard, I sentence you.”

 

Jun shouts, mad with panic, and swings at Odin’s thigh with his siphoning machine. He's long since lost his weapon, which rests under debris from the wall.

 

Odin levels his spear with the man at the frantic movement, and fires. Jun is thrown backwards a final time, and does not stir again.

 

---

 

“Loki,” you mutter, still frozen with your eyes wide.

 

Surely this isn't happening.

 

The battle wages all around, an explosion rocking the floor itself as both sides fight on, unaware that the Ordinat leader has fallen.

 

Your sword drops to the ground, dissolving into darkness.

 

You trip over Vitran’s body as you step forward, ripping the golden dart from Loki’s chest as you fall to your knees. The needle-sharp tip of the dart had plunged through his armor, having been fired at such a close range.

 

This victory is hollow, a pyrrhic victory if ever there was one.

 

You curse, tossing the dart aside and holding pressure around the blade staff. You know if you remove the weapon, he's like to bleed to death.

 

“Hey. Hey, you're alright, right?” you say aloud, feeling your hands rise and fall with his shallow breaths. “Fuck, you're alright. Wake up.”

 

Your hands are quickly coated in warm blood, and you spot his war helmet – the one you'd always made fun of – a short distance away. It had flown from his head when he fell. “I… I need help,” you say quietly, and realize you're shaking.

 

You've seen soldiers fall. You're no stranger to death. But this… it's just….

 

It's happening again.

 

You're no healer.

 

“I need help!”

 

You hear cheering from the Asgardians as they conquer their Ordinat enemies. The remaining soldiers flee, many of Obasi’s troops giving chase.

 

No one is listening to you. Your throat is tight.

 

“You just hang on, now,” you state, refusing to look at his face, afraid of seeing those dead eyes. You're doing your best to force yourself to be calm, but you're quickly losing your cool. “Hang on now, you idiot. Don’t go dying on me, alright? You’re okay.”

 

You remember your conversation with him, when you first arrived. You truly feel cursed with your powers, lacking in one of the most important abilities. You are very good at killing; you aren't meant to save lives, only take them.

 

“I need HELP!”

 

Still, no one answers your call.

 

But you know someone who could assist you, if only she was here. Someone you love dearly, and miss so much. And in your panic, your absolute terror, you can only think to call out for her.

 

“W-Willow. Willow! I need Willow! WILLOW, I NEED YOU!”

 

You give up. You finally allow yourself to admit that you want to live, that there are still things you love in this world. It’s hard. It makes you sob. If you care, you lose.

 

And loss hurts. Living hurts. You wanted to be done with all of this. But seeing him here, his blood covering your hands….

 

You spot Thor, walking with his friends. You know he is of no help, either. You need a healer, not another warrior.

 

You reach for the connection you have with Willow, the one you’ve left latent for almost a year. It's hopeless, you know, for her to reach you in time, but your desperation makes you forget this. You continue screaming.

 

Now that you've started you cannot stop.

 

---

 

Lady Sif races towards the area she saw in her mind immediately after firing on Vitran. She does not know the extent of the prince’s injuries, focusing instead on her task. Loki sounded genuine when he spoke to her, and she puts aside her feelings of distrust to truly finish this fight.

 

The prince’s intent was plain. She needs to kill the sorceress. Sif catches a glimpse of the girl when she reaches the side of the room, although the figure quickly vanishes from sight.

 

“No!” Sif shouts, drawing her dagger and sprinting in the direction the sorceress had vanished in.

 

It's impossible to listen for footsteps with all of the chaos surrounding her, so instead she watches the floor for evidence of a living being running.

 

She's not disappointed, as the girl is frantically sprinting away and tripping over bodies in the process. Sif tails her, closing the gap quickly.

 

The sorceress isn't used to physical activity, and she's already panting from exhaustion. Her magic has taken a toll on her energy resources, and it's hard to even stay hidden from sight at this point.

 

But she's almost made it from the room. She knows she can lose the Lady Sif in the many twisting halls of the Ordinat base. Her hopes rise as she sprints on a last open stretch between her and freedom.

 

Sif, knowing she's about to lose her chance, makes a decision, takes careful aim, and hurls her dagger towards the girl’s footsteps.

 

There's a cry, and the sorceress blinks into visibility, the handle of the dagger protruding from her back, sunk to the hilt.

 

Sif has always been precise in her attacks, but she's especially proud of this shot. She hefts her sword to her dominant hand once more and steps forward to complete her kill.

 

She pulls the dagger from the girl’s back, blood flowing freely from the wound, and rolls her over. Sif’s eyes widen in shock, and she drops the weapon she holds.

 

“Lady Alva?”

 

The girl groans and glares up at the woman above her. “Lady Sif.”

 

---

 

Olav carefully wipes the excess blood from the duchess Freydis’ temple. “There. Good as gold, madam.”

 

Her wounds may be healed, but Frey’s heart is heavy. She's worried, her hands clasped together in front of her as she sits in the infirmary.

 

Everything seems so silly now. Her ideas for the future, her actions leading up to this moment, it all seems to be nothing but the ridiculous notions of a young child. She'd been so preoccupied with how she thought her life should be, she'd forgotten to be appreciative of what she had.

 

Alva is missing. It makes Frey’s stomach clench with worry and fear. She can still see Alva’s dear family in her mind’s eye, forever still. It brings about another round of weeping.

 

She would gladly trade a life lived with any prince to have her friend back.

 

“Is the pain too great?” a calm voice questions, and Frey looks up to find that Olav has left the room. It is Queen Frigga that she faces.

 

“My Queen,” Freydis says, getting to her feet at once and sniffling as she bows. “Pardon my current state.”

 

“Rise, dear one. There is no need for pardons today.” Frigga has been treating people in the infirmary, making rounds with the nurses. She walks to Freydis and sets a hand on the poor girl’s arm. “I am sorry for your loss.”

 

“Thank you, Queen Frigga,” Frey begins, but suddenly finds herself stumbling over her words. “I… I….”

 

Something is off. At the queen’s touch, Frey’s wrist hurts – the one from which the bangle Alva gifted her dangles. It burns.

 

“What's wrong, child?” Frigga asks, her brow furrowing.

 

“G-Get away from me, quickly,” Frey says, her eyes going wide as she steps back from the Allmother.

 

The bracelet on her wrist, it’s shifting, the gold coiling in on itself to form into a small, thin blade. Frigga’s gray eyes watch as Frey’s hand starts to rise.

 

The queen steps quickly to the side, dodging a strike from the shrieking girl. “Hold, Freydis!”

 

Frigga extends a hand, her fingers outstretched, and Frey feels the muscles in her body freeze. She's sobbing, her right hand clenched tightly around the golden blade, blood running down her arm. “I-It hurts,” Frey moans.

 

It is simple for the queen to approach her, feeling out the dark magic cast around what was once a piece of jewelry. “Who gave this to you?” Frigga asks, her gaze intense.

 

---

 

Willow feels when the emotional connection revives, and the onslaught of pain, fear, and desperation almost overwhelms her.

 

She cannot hear your words, although she reads the meaning clearly. In your years of traveling, you've never called to her as you do now.

 

But how to get to you?

 

She swiftly grabs her bag, and stands up, fiddling with the strap as she thinks. Well. I've done this before. Hopefully I'll be able to do it again.

 

---

 

“Why?” Sif demands, her lips pressing into a thin line after the question.

 

“I was… tricked,” Alva lies, grimacing in pain and panting. “Please…. Please don't…. I'm afraid.”

 

“We shall see the truth,” Sif answers, pulling the girl to her feet and holding her tightly in case she tries to run.

 

Alva whimpers in pain, and then blasts Sif backwards with magic. Was she stronger, it would have killed her. The warrior does her best to land upright, but topples over.

 

“That snake!” Sif growls, quickly getting back to her feet.

 

Alva has not gone far. She limps now, her pace slow as her fingers fumble at the wound in her back. She does her best to push healing magic to her fingertips, but her stores are almost tapped.

 

Sif swiftly grabs her again, putting her sword against the girl’s neck. “Do not move. You will stand trial in Asgard, before the Allfather’s throne, to be judged for your treachery.”

 

“I think not,” Alva says weakly, chuckling as she sways on her feet. “I'm numb all over. Please… please don't tell Frey what I did. I couldn't tell her….”

 

Alva thinks on her friend. The plan will have unfolded. Frey will have gone to the castle. To the infirmary. The Allmother should be incapacitated by now – the woman would never suspect the duchess. Frey will have caught her off guard, for sure.

 

“But I tried to make a better life, for the both of us,” Alva says to Sif, her vision starting to blur. “Tell her… tell her I'm sorry. For what I made her do.”

 

And she sags, limp in Sif’s arms, the warmth fading from her brown eyes.

 

---

 

Thor laughs jovially with Fandral as they walk with Hogun and Volstagg towards the center of the room. The four felt no need to chase after the fleeing warriors, leaving that instead to the remaining Asgardian troops. Thor spots Sif walking towards them, a grim look on her face.

 

“My lady, you fought so valiantly!” he exclaims, thumping her on the back. “Why the long face? You look as grim as Hogun!”

 

“It is nothing, Thor,” Sif murmurs as Hogun rolls his eyes.

 

This is when you begin to shout. Thor keys in on the noise now, louder than the sounds of the dying, and he rubs his jaw and tucks Mjolnir into the side of his belt. “What is this, you think? Is the Bloody Warrior wounded?”

 

He strides quickly across the room, his friends following behind him. His worry grows deeper with every step he takes, until he finds himself sprinting as fast as he can to reach you. “Loki!”

 

“Help,” you beseech the god of thunder, your voice ragged as you beg.

 

“No,” Thor mutters, falling to his knees beside the two of you. “No, no, no. Brother, no.”

 

Sif turns and immediately starts calling for any sorcerers present. Loki’s men are scattered across the room, many gravely wounded themselves. Fandral follows Sif, and Volstagg rushes outside to seek help elsewhere. Hogun stands beside Thor, keeping his eye on the immediate surroundings.

 

“He quit breathing,” you moan, feeling tears start to well in your eyes.

 

Thor bows his head, covering his face with his hands. “Impossible. This is impossible. It isn't happening.” He takes a deep breath, and then bares his teeth. “What have you done?!”

 

He lifts his face to you, even as he knows he’s placing blame irrationally. But in your mind, it isn't so irrational. This is your fault. It was your battle. None of them should’ve been here.

 

Still, you keep a hand on the prince’s wound to maintain pressure, the other pushing on his chest as if you can bring him back to consciousness. “Come on, you bastard,” you say desperately, crying.

 

Thor has given up, looking away from the sight of his surely dead brother, although he cannot bring himself to walk away.

 

---

 

Volstagg has barely made it outside of the compound when he is blinded by light, shock almost making him stumble and fall. The Asgardian army collectively shields their eyes, holding their weapons up at the ready.

 

Odin sees it as he steps from the ruined hall, limping and leaning heavily on Gungnir. He is worried, feeling as if the Odinsleep will soon be upon him, although it's nowhere near time for it yet. Seeing the strange light makes him sigh heavily, and he wonders what Hel has come upon his realm now.

 

However, when the beautiful glow slowly fades, they do not find the threat they are looking for. It takes Volstagg a moment to realize that the being before him is a woman. She is very short, and slim, even more so than you are compared to the Asgardians.

 

The girl puts a hand to her temple for a moment, then shakes her head as if to clear it. She registers the people that surround her, eyeing their weapons. She isn’t sure what to say, so she instead asks where you are.

 

There are whispers from the warriors, and Volstagg (recognizing your name) speaks without thinking, remembering his mission. “Inside!”

 

The girl blinks, looking at the building as if she sees something the others cannot, and then nods her head. “Right.”

 

Before another word can be spoken, she runs. Volstagg skitters after her, worried he's made a grand mistake.

 

She pulls on her connection with you, tracing a path, and finally makes her way to the large room in the middle of the base. A circle of people surrounds you, and she wonders what has happened.

 

Are you dying? Is this why you called her?

 

She shouts loudly for you.

 

You hear your name, your head snapping up, desperation and panic rising once more. “Will? Will?! Willow!”

 

Are you dreaming, or is she really here?

 

Even the best of Loki’s healers cannot knit the wound that was left once they removed the blade staff, although unlike Thor, they do not assume him dead. Not yet. The sorcerers part, looking over to find your small friend quickly running towards them.

 

Thor still has not moved, although he glances over at the newcomer. Sif stands beside him, a hand on his shoulder that she knows cannot offer him the comfort he needs. Volstagg rejoins Hogun and Fandral, who both hover behind the older prince.

 

You're staring up at your friend in desperation, your hand once again keeping pressure on Loki’s still chest. “Willow, please,” you say through a sob. “Is he dead? Or is there a chance?”

 

Of things she expected, this was not one of them. She hurriedly comes up to crouch beside you, pooling light within her hand. She knows immediately that this is the prince you wrote her of.

 

The sorcerers mutter darkly to one another. If they aren't enough to heal him, surely this girl will be unable to do anything.

 

Odin walks into the room when the stranger places her glimmering hands on his son. He crosses the floor quickly, footsteps echoing. “What is this?” he asks, his voice hoarse.

 

Thor rises, although his eyes stay trained on this new woman with her hands on his brother’s chest. He's entranced by the light he sees. “Father… it is Loki.”

 

Odin sees the helpless faces of the people that have gathered, notices Thor’s eyes shine with unshed tears. His other son lies still on the floor, the foreigner’s glowing hands still attempting to repair him.

 

It is not an easy task.

 

Odin sees you, your eyes traveling around Loki’s face, how you grip your friend tightly on the shoulder with one hand, how you hold the prince’s limp hand in your other.

 

All is quiet for a moment.

 

And then Odin witnesses his son draw in a huge gasp of air, his green eyes opening wide.

 

Loki can see light, soft and warm.

 

There are faces peering worriedly down at him.

 

He wonders why.

 

And then he passes out, and thinks no more.

Chapter Text

Odin stands at the Bifrost with Heimdall. The Seer acknowledges the king with a slight dip of his head, gaze still set on the stars.

 

“What troubles you?” The Watcher questions.

 

“These foreigners,” Odin replies hesitantly. “Something resides within them, Heimdall. I cannot comprehend it. Tell me true: are they a threat to Asgard?”

 

Heimdall’s eyes flicker for a moment towards the palace. “Beings such as those are both powerful and dangerous. But, in their hearts, I see no threat.”

 

“What lies there?” Odin asks.

 

“Darkness, and light,” The Watcher answers. “Sorrow, and pain. The powers within slumber, ancient as they are. You must choose, my king, whether they are allies or foes.”

 

The Allfather stands silently for a long moment, staring at the galaxies that stretch beyond in the inky sky. “They saved my son. At least for that, I am grateful.”

 

---

 

The palace is quiet, the infirmary even more so. The servants have completed their nightly duties, the marble floors spotless as they always are. The nurses have done their rounds, checking in on the sleeping injured.

 

To some, the silence after the battle would be unnerving. To others, it is peaceful.

 

This is the world Loki Odinson awakens to. He carefully sits up, his breath hissing at a pain in his chest. He feels groggy and sluggish, as if he’s been asleep for far too long.

 

Moonlight shines through the curtains, illuminating the room enough for him to see that there are others here. A girl he vaguely recognizes sleeps on the cushioned window sill, the moon swathing her skin in silver. His brother sits on the floor, leaned up against the wall with his head lolled over on the Lady Sif’s shoulder. She rests beside him, her head on his, also sound asleep.

 

Loki feels his mother’s magic clinging to him, although it fades once she realizes he is awake. She’d always used this tactic to check up on her sons when they were unwell, and he briefly thinks back on a few memories fondly.

 

He rubs his eyes and turns to find you laying across a chair, which is scooted up closely beside his bed. Your legs are thrown over the armrest, your face resting on your arm as you sleep. There’s a book open on what little room is left of the chair seat, as if you’d been reading to try and keep yourself awake.

 

The irony of the situation is not lost on him.

 

He reaches over, wincing in the process, and tugs lightly on your fingers. You slowly blink, your eyes and mind still heavy with sleep. He rubs his thumb over the back of your hand, and you realize he’s awake.

 

Now you’re alert, your eyes immediately fixing him with an angry look as you pull your hand back. “What the hell were you doing, you bastard? You could’ve been killed,” you whisper.

 

“Well, I’m quite alive, it seems,” he replies in a hushed tone.

 

“You scared me,” you quietly tell him, letting out a huff of breath and looking away.

 

“What happened?” he asks, rubbing at his chest. “I feel unwell.”

 

“You tried to take on Vitran, you moron,” you say, shaking your head. “He shot you. And stabbed you. And then… eh, you kind of died, but Willow brought you back.”

 

“Willow?” he asks, his gaze flickering over towards the girl resting in the window. “Your Willow?”

 

“Yeah, thank God,” you state, and he feels relief emanating from you.

 

“I died?” he questions, pursing his lips in thought. “Odd.”

 

“You quit breathing for a bit,” you whisper, shrugging. “So kind of.”

 

A thought strikes him, and he scowls. “I’m poisoned, aren’t I? I can feel it.”

 

“Well, yeah. That’s what Vitran shot at you. No magic for a while, unless you want to hurl your guts up,” you say, shrugging.

 

“Not a very princely action, I must say,” he grumbles, scowling at the feeling of weakness in his limbs.

 

“It gets better,” you answer.

 

“Is he dead?” Loki asks you, referencing Vitran, his gaze flickering up to yours.

 

“Oh, yes,” you state, narrowing your eyes. “He's dead.”

 

The prince listens to you as you relay the story of the battle. Eventually, when you grow quiet, he slowly says, “So, I can’t help but notice that my father hasn’t cast the two of you out. How long have I been asleep?”

 

“Just a day,” you reply. “And no. I mean, Will kind of saved your life.”

 

“Did he say how long you have?” Loki asks curiously.

 

“Nope, he did not,” you answer, shaking your head.

 

“Good,” he decides, sinking back to his pillows before glancing over at you. “I also can’t help but notice that you’re alive as well.”

 

You shuffle until you’re sitting cross-legged in the chair. “You’re very good at noticing obvious facts.”

 

He rolls his eyes and looks to the girl sleeping in the window. “Will you go home, when she leaves?”

 

Your gaze meets his, and then you glance away again. “Do you want me to?” you ask him softly.

 

He considers the question, looking at your downcast eyes. He thinks of the things he saw in your mind. Of the man who danced with you on your world. The one who still lives. “Would you be happy there?”

 

You ponder this for a moment, your expression beginning as confusion and then fading into something close to understanding.

 

You slowly shake your head, quietly replying, “No.” He doesn’t say anything for a long moment, and finally you look over at him. “It’s my home… but it doesn’t feel like it. Nothing does. That’s why I travel. But now I don’t really have a purpose anymore. Too many times I should’ve just let go.” You frown at the floor.

 

“I’m glad you didn’t,” he tells you quietly.

 

“Says the dying man in the bed.”

 

He rolls his eyes. “I have no interest in dying.”

 

“Well, good. Because I didn’t like any of that,” you admit, frowning at the wall.

 

He smirks. “Did you shed tears for me?”

 

“Shut up.”

 

“Thor will tell me.” Loki's smirk deepens, and he shrugs as he shifts to a more comfortable position. “Although the man’s recountings always stray slightly from what others think occurred.”

 

“Yeah, I’ve noticed,” you comment, rolling your eyes. “He’s been telling stories to Will.”

 

The prince shifts again and winces, still feeling a sharp pinch in his chest when he moves. You catch the reaction, and watch him worriedly. “Are you okay?”

 

“I’m fine,” he replies. “A little pain is far superior to being dead.”

 

“I guess so,” you answer, still worrying your lip.

 

He’s smug; seeing you fret over him is very satisfying. Thor lets out a snore in his sleep, and Loki’s gaze snaps over to him. “Why do I have such an audience at my sickbed?” he asks you quietly.

 

“Oh. Well, I’m here, so that means Will is here. Thor got caught up talking, and Sif stayed behind when his other cronies left.”

 

Loki rolls his eyes. “I see.”

 

He shifts over on his bed, doing his best not to grimace. You see it anyway. “Stop shuffling around like that. You’re just pulling at the wound.”

 

He gives you a look. “Stop chastising me and come here.”

 

Your brow furrows, and your cheeks flush slightly. “Uh, no? There’s other people in here.”

 

“I’ve already moved over,” he points out. “You can return to your chair before the rest awaken.”

 

“You’re an idiot,” you mutter, but still move from the chair to the bed, settling down on top of the covers.

 

He takes your hand and leans his head to rest against yours. Images flit briefly before his eyes – him, lying bloodied on the floor of the base, and then another man, torn open and dead on a battlefield. Loki recognizes him.

 

“I’m not your dying soldier.”

 

You stiffen, your hand tightening around his. He waits. The silence stretches on, and he wonders if he's pushed you too far.

 

“I know,” you whisper finally. “I don't want you to be.”

 

---

 

He knows his feelings for you have stretched far beyond simple interest when he wakes to find you still beside him. He's relieved that you're there, remembering the last time he woke up to find you gone.

 

He sits up and sees that neither his brother nor the Lady Sif are present. Your friend still sits in the window sill, awake now, reading the book that had been on your chair last night. She glances up at his movement.

 

She wonders if the prince always sleeps in like you do, or if it's due to the fact that he's injured.

 

“Hello,” she says quietly, her gaze resting on you for a moment before she looks back to him. “You must be this prince I've been hearing about.”

 

You’ve told her of him? He quite likes this, grinning at the girl. “And you must be Willow, then.”

 

“I am.”

 

“Well, I suppose I ought to thank you. I’m told you saved my life,” he replies.

 

You groan, the voices waking you. You sit up, looking mildly confused about where you are, and then yawn. “Morning, Will.”

 

“Morning? Try afternoon,” she teases.

 

“Oh. Willow, Prince Asshat. Asshat, Willow,” you introduce, pointing between the two and hopping up out of the bed.

 

Loki scowls at you, which makes Willow snort. “Pleasure. Although we’ve already done our own introductions.”

 

Loki attempts to stand up as well, but has to sit down on the bed when he figures out his legs don't respond correctly. He glares at the floor. “Oh, this is going to be absolutely miserable, isn't it?”

 

“You being stuck in the infirmary? Oh, yeah, it'll be absolutely miserable,” you tell him, grinning wickedly.

 

---

 

The Asgardians hold a feast for their dead, for their victory, and for their warriors. It's a grand affair, full of drinking, toasts, speeches, tears, and laughter.

 

Willow goes with you, as you want to introduce her to Sigrid. There’s something off about the girl, although she still wraps you in a hug and beams at your friend. Sig bows to Will, even as you tell her not to.

 

Willow curtsies back, which makes Sigrid giggle for a moment. Asmund soon walks to her side, grinning broadly at you and Will as he peppers you both with questions.

 

When you ask how they're doing, they tell you Sig now works at the shop with Asmund’s family. You're relieved. You’re thankful she's not to be in the kitchens.

 

Your short friend soon becomes a source of passive entertainment for the drunken Asgardians. They've no idea why she's so little, but they love it. Willow is dwarfed by every single person present.

 

Odin and Frigga sit at the front of the hall, eating and drinking together. The queen puts a hand on her husband’s arm, seeing that he looks weary.

 

She is simply thankful to have her family with her, and whole. The queen visits the sickrooms of the wounded, doing her best to help in healing all those that she can. Your small friend assists her, much to Frigga’s surprise. The little sprite has quite grown on her in the past few days.

 

She looks for the girl, but instead finds you by yourself in the crowd. Frigga suddenly realizes it is odd to see you out of the company of her son.

 

The queen breaks from her thoughts when a drunken Thor pulls Sif into his arms and kisses her, the entire hall erupting into shouts, whistles, and cheers.

 

---

 

Locating your friend is an easy task, now that you feel the link between the two of you once more. You step out of your darkness onto the rainbow bridge, taking in the sight.

 

You'd seen it from afar, but had never felt the urge to visit. Willow sits upon its edge, her feet dangling over the waters below. The bridge lights up brightly beneath her, far more than it does under your feet. “Found you,” you tell her. “How'd you even get out here?”

 

She shrugs as you sit next to her. “It was getting too loud and crowded in there. I needed to breathe. I mean, I know I'm the fun new toy everyone wants to get a look at, but they're all really overwhelming. How have you survived with all those people?” She laughs slightly.

 

“Well,” you reply, “I usually stick to my room or the training grounds. I've done the feast thing a few times, but not a lot.”

 

“Ah, that makes sense,” she answers, nodding.

 

You both take a moment to gaze at the sunset, seeing how the light reflects off of the waters at the edge of the realm.

 

You ask about her beloved, realizing she hasn't spoken of him at all since she's arrived.

 

Her shoulders sag, and she doesn't meet your eyes. “Well… he's definitely well. I made sure of that.”

 

“Did something happen?” you question, surprise coloring your tone.

 

“He and I are… no more,” she answers softly, pain apparent in her tone. “The relationship is over.”

 

You're stunned. You never thought you'd hear such a thing from your friend. “What happened?” you ask, shocked.

 

And she tells you the tale; how she was gone for too long, and his society’s council forced him to marry. And now her long time love has a wife, who is pregnant with his child.

 

“It's okay,” she says quickly. “I met with him, and we talked things over. We mutually decided it would be best to move on. He said our journals will still work, since they were gifts. You know how their people are with gifts.”

 

“Damn, Will,” you whisper. “I'm so sorry, friend.” She nods, but doesn't reply. “Did you let yourself grieve?” you question softly.

 

She takes a deep breath, and slowly releases it. “I suppose so. The Ordinat have been an outlet, albeit not a good one, but still. I've done my best with it. I'm alright. But if the Asgardians don't mind extending some hospitality to me, and let me hang around, I'd appreciate it. If not, I'll bounce over to Earth. There's always something going on there."

 

You look out at the evening sky, lit with the sun’s quickly dying light. “You know you can be sad if you want. It's okay.”

 

Willow closes her eyes, biting her lip. You feel her start to tremble, tears slipping down her cheeks. Your heart breaks for your friend, and she puts her head on your shoulder as she sobs.

 

When Willow dries her eyes, you give her a quick side hug. “Ready to head back?” you ask her quietly.

 

“Yes,” she answers, giving you a small smile. “Yes, I am.”

 

You both rise, and begin to walk down the bridge. It hums softly beneath your feet with every step. Willow loops her arm through yours, as you had when you were both carefree children. “It’s good seeing you, my friend. I was beginning to doubt I ever would again.”

 

You're silent, unsure of what to say. You focus on the bridge, on the bright light Willow’s footsteps create. She notices your silence, and squeezes your arm. “You never said it, but I knew what you were planning. I've been considering jumping for a long time in hopes of stopping you. I'm glad it didn't pan out, but I understand why you wanted to leave."

 

You still cannot find words, your heart in your throat. You're almost ashamed, hearing her say it out loud. She continues on. “Your notes shifted unexpectedly when you got here and met the prince.” Now your cheeks hold a bit of pink. “Through your words I saw you come back, like you hadn't before. And I was grateful. Still am," she assures. "And I know… that some part of you still yearns to move on…. But I'd really like you to stay a little longer.”

 

You look over at her, your eyes finally meeting your friend’s gaze.

 

“Please don't leave me yet,” she requests quietly. “I don't think my heart or sanity could take it.”

 

A thousand things flash through your mind at once. Battles and blood, death and gore, the sounds of the ones you love dying around you. But there's also soft caresses, kind words, the feel of wind against your skin as you run.

 

There are countless experiences to be had on any world. Many are cruel… but there are things to still cherish in this life, before you move on to the next.

 

You've had to learn to love yourself again. Your period of weakness has proven to you that even alone, even among strangers, there is still hope to be found.

 

You stop walking and pull your friend into a hug. When you release her, you tell her sincerely, “I'm not going anywhere.”

 

She gives you a small smile in return. “Thank you.”

 

---

 

You stand before the Allfather once more. The throne room is empty, save for the two of you. He speaks your name, his deep voice rumbling.

 

“Sir,” you reply.

 

“I am aware that my son is alive because of you and your friend. This does not undo my previous order, however.”

 

“I understand,” you say, forcing an apathetic tone.

 

Odin stares down at you, his blue gaze intense. The silence stretches on. You aren't sure if you're dismissed or not, so you remain before him, arms behind your back, militant style.

 

The Allfather watches you, and then slowly speaks. “I give you a final choice, warrior.”

 

You look up at him, your eyes guarded.

 

“Swear fealty to me,” Odin states. “Pledge loyalty to Asgard. And while your word holds true, while you prove useful, you may remain a guest in our halls.”

 

He sees the way your jaw sets. Odin knows you noticed that quitting his son was not included in the terms.

 

It is as Egil said.

 

The Allfather has found his leverage.

 

---

 

You walk into the prince’s infirmary room, throwing the book you hold into the air and catching it in your other hand.

 

“Be careful with that,” he snarls, glaring at you.

 

“Nicer tone, or I'm keeping it,” you tease, giving him an evil grin.

 

He groans. “You're insufferable.”

 

“Good. I hope you feel bad about being an ass when it was me stuck in that bed.” You set his book on the nightstand, next to the four others you've already brought him. “You get to leave tomorrow though, huh? That's cool. You're lucky you aren't trapped in here for, oh, I dunno, weeks.”

 

He smirks. “Oh, yes. A large hole in my chest counts me a lucky man.”

 

You sit in your chair, rolling your eyes at him. “You want to read, or me?”

 

“You,” he decides after a moment.

 

“Alright,” you reply, leaning over to pick up the book again.

 

He interrupts your movement with a kiss, pulling you closer for a moment before you back away out of his reach. “Huh. Guess I should offer to read more often.”

 

“Insufferable,” he mutters as you sit back in your chair.

 

“You know what? You win. If you're just going to complain, go ahead and make room,” you say in exasperation. “But if Odin comes in and sees me in your bed, I'm launching myself out the window.”

 

“That's just a risk I’m willing to take,” Loki tells you, smirking deeply.

 

You roll your eyes and transition to lay beside him. You open the cover of the book, but stare blankly at the pages for a long moment. “What language is this?”

 

Loki snorts, taking the novel from you. “I forgot you were uneducated.”

 

“I'm sorry I don't know, like, eighteen languages, okay? That doesn't make me uneducated,” you retort, punching him lightly on the arm.

 

He chuckles, setting the book aside and putting his arm carefully around you. His chest aches slightly, but he ignores it. You're quiet, leaning your head on his shoulder.

 

You can feel waves of contentment coming off of the prince. The emotion makes you oddly nervous.

 

“What's wrong?” he asks, picking up on the feeling. “Surely my barb didn’t actually offend you. I shan't apologize.”

 

“You ass.” You roll your eyes.

 

“What is it?” he presses.

 

“I don't know,” you answer, unsure of what to say. “I just…. I don't know, I figured you'd just be done with me already. What gives? Thought you had a reputation to uphold,” you joke, although you find yourself apprehensive as you wait for his answer.

 

“Tell me, how long is your race’s average lifespan?” he questions.

 

Your brow furrows, and you turn your head to look at him. “Uh, I don't know. Too long?”

 

“Thousands of years, maybe?” he asks, and your eyebrows go up.

 

“I, uh, honestly have no idea. A lot of us die in battles at young ages. Don't know how long we’d live for naturally.” You pause and search his face carefully. “Are you telling me Asgardians live for thousands of years?”

 

“Well, not all Asgardians,” he relents. “Although some do, yes.”

 

You suddenly want to ask him how old he is, but you're afraid of the answer. “Why are you asking me how long I live?” you question instead.

 

“Well,” he replies slowly. “I told you that while you live, I want you. And here you are, alive.”

 

Your cheeks flush as he looks at you. “Well…. I mean, yeah, you say that now, but –”

 

And then Loki Odinson stops your rambling with a kiss, his hand sliding up the back of your neck.

 

He takes your breath away, and you do your best to return the action without harming him.

 

You didn't ask for this. You didn't come to this realm to find anything other than revenge for past wars, to die a warrior’s death in battle.

 

You hate princes, and palaces, and dances, and dresses.

 

But damn it all, you just can't seem to hate him.

 

He loves it. He thinks back to the first time he saw you, when he wouldn't have cared whether you lived or died. It seems ages in the past, as if from another life.

 

You kiss him now, not in a fever dream, but of your own volition. The prince does not usually allow himself to care for others, and yet he cannot help but to be thankful you're in his arms.

 

He cares. He more than cares.

 

These softer emotions make him weak, make him someone he would've sneered at were he on the outside looking in. However, as of now, he cannot help it. He knows you reciprocate, your feelings as open to him as the books he so favors.

 

It is warm, and soft, and intimate.

 

Neither of you have to name it.

 

It simply is.