John Baldr is having a bad dream.
He is sitting on a bed that is far too small, even for him. His arms are behind him, holding himself up in a semi-reclined position. In other circumstances, it would be a comfortable sprawl, but right now it just makes him feel vulnerable. Unprotected.
From behind himself on the bed, John pulls out two tattered and dirty stuffed animals — the twin black ravens. He'd named them Huginn and Muninn, after his father's pets. Looking around, John's surroundings come into focus. He is back in his childhood room, in the old longhouse.
Once, he'd loved to spend time here, surrounded by his favorite toys: here his well-loved and well-used first runeset, there the little spear and shield he'd fashioned out of cardboard and tinfoil. Always on display, in the place of pride upon the shelf, would be the miniature figurines of Valkyries and Frost Giants, with which he'd held epic battles for hours on end. And there, next to the door, waited the hand-carved eight-legged rocking horse, given to him by Freyja when he was five years old.
John can't see any of his old toys, now. Instead, the room is filled with people — mostly women, with a good handful of men. They are pressed and packed together like cattle in a pen, far more of them than the size of the room would seem to permit. They loom over John, pressing in toward the little bed.
John looks up at the woman in front, and with a start he realizes that he recognizes her. It's Nanna, his ex-wife. She reaches out towards him, trying to grab his hair. He ducks away.
They'd been married for 50 years once, when John Baldr was only four centuries old. A youthful romance. He hasn't thought of her in years. John has to look away. He can't meet her accusing eyes.
When he turns, another face catches his attention. It's Sarah, who once upon a time was his beloved human consort, raised above all other mortal women. For a time.
His mouth as dry as bone, he looks around the room and realizes that he knows every person present. There's William, his old comrade and brother-in-arms, and sometimes lover. There's Hyrrokin, the giantess. (That had been one of his more... exotic escapades.) There's Var and Vor, the twins with whom he spent a memorable week tucked away in Alfheim, never leaving their shared bed. There are Gerdr and Rindr and Eostre, and Meili with his beautiful eyes. (Sometimes John still remembers those eyes, at certain moments, when he is alone.) And there are others. There are probably thousands of them.
Everyone that John Baldr has ever been with, even for a single night, is here in his childhood room; and all of them are reaching out to him.
In the lifetime of an Aesir, there is plenty of opportunity for love, and John "Nine Realms" Baldr has always taken full advantage of that. He has never lacked for willing partners, never wanted someone who did not want him in return. If he grows tired of one lover, or she grows tired of him, there is always another lined up to take her place.
John treats his lovers well, and tries to remain friendly with the ones he leaves behind. He has never felt regretful or ashamed of a single fling or dalliance.
But somehow, here in his dream, with all of these people packed together and staring, it feels different. Claustrophobic, somehow. There are too many people inside this tiny room, and John feels his chest start to grow tight.
His head spins, and his vision grows light; there is no air in the room. There is no air. He cannot breathe. When he falls backwards onto the tiny cot, his lovers crowd around him even closer, suffocating.
In the way of bad dreams, their faces start to blur and shift, changing from the people he recognizes into something unfamiliar. Their eyes narrow into yellow slits, their teeth elongate and become fangs. Their outstretched hands narrow and fork into great claws, smeared with gore and flesh. And then, as if on some hidden cue, the entire mob of them, all at once, attacks.
He can feel their bodies pressing down upon him, sheer mass keeping him trapped, immobilized. He tries to struggle, to push them away, but they tear at him with their claws, ripping at his hair, his clothes, his skin. Slicing into his flesh. He tries to scream, but one of the monsters sticks her tongue down John's throat and chokes him, muffling the sound.
They are cutting at his chest; they are cutting out his heart, taking it and lifting it high up to the sky, like a trophy. Like a prize. The monsters toss his heart from hand to hand, each one of them ripping a chunk off for himself. They are consuming him. There is nothing he can do; John cannot move his arms or legs.
The monsters will devour him. They will tear and tear at him until nothing is left, until John Baldr is reduced to scraps of bone and grace.
They will tear him apart. They will devour his heart.
John's return to waking consciousness is sudden and abrupt. His eyes fly open, letting in the pale light of another beautiful day. He sits straight upright, and looks around. He is in his own massive bed, in his own bedroom, safe in Breidablik, his own beautiful house.
It was all just a dream. Once again, it was the dream.
His heart begins to beat more calmly, and John forces himself to take slow, deep breaths until his hands have stopped trembling and the sweat has dried on his brow.
Somehow he has gotten his blankets and furs all twisted and tangled around him. As he stands up to unwind them, they catch under something, and John looks over to the other side of his truly Giant-sized bed. There is a woman lying there, wrapped in her own set of furs. Her mouth is open, and she is snoring lightly; a thin line of drool trickles down her chin and onto his pillow.
John groans. Wonderful. He had forgotten about Frigg.
His sister Frigga ("but you'd better call me Frigg") has always loved the mead. All of the Aesir love the mead, of course, but Frigg takes that love to new and astounding heights. And ever since Fulla left, it's only gotten worse. John has often imagined that somewhere in Midgard there must be an entire continent covered in nothing but beehives, all working nonstop, day and night, just to produce enough honey to keep Frigg supplied with mead.
When she challenged Thor to a drinking contest last night, John had pretty much figured from the start that he would be responsible for dragging her arse home, and he hadn't been wrong. At least this time she hadn't vomited all over the Best of Ships, Skidbladnir. (And boy, had Freyr been pissed off about that one.)
Reaching across his bed, John thumps Frigg gracelessly on the arm. "Oi! Get your drunk arse up, and stop hogging all my furs."
Frigg rolls over and moans, muttering a suggestion that John perform an anatomically challenging sex act with a Dwarf. But John has plenty of experience with a hungover Frigg, and he persists, prodding at her until she pries opens her eyes.
"Whaddaya want? I feel like Ragnarok is happening inside my head, fuck."
"Yeah, well, if you wouldn't let Thor goad you into foolishness, you wouldn't get hangovers like this," John snaps.
Something in his voice, some residual shakiness, catches Frigg's attention and makes her roll over and sit up. She looks at him closely, squinting though bleary eyes, and her face softens. "Oh, honey. You had another bad dream."
John nods, cursing the lump that rises in his throat and the way that his sister can so easily see through him. "I just..." His hands twist helplessly together in his lap. "I don't... I can't do this anymore."
"I don't think I can do this, Frigg. I don't want it anymore. I don't want any more love... I don't want to have to feel things anymore. I just can't take it."
Frigg scoots over and begins to rub his back. "Oh, Baldr. It'll be okay. Don't worry, brother. We'll figure something out."
The thing you have to know about Frigg is that, once she gets an idea into her head, nothing can get it out. Maybe it comes along with that whole "foremost among the goddesses" thing, John doesn't know.
Wherever it comes from, no one but Frigg would come up with the idea of simply asking everything in existence to make John stop falling in love. And without question, no one but her would have the guts and patience to actually execute the plan.
John has to grant to his sister this: despite her love of the drink, she is incredibly loyal and protective in her own way. When something threatens her little brother, she will let nothing stand in the way of taking that threat down.
So when John decides that he doesn't want to fall in love again, what does Frigg do? She sweet-talks Odin into letting her borrow Sleipnir, his eight-legged mare, and then takes a little ride all across the Nine Realms, talking to every single object and being that she finds.
She rides across Niflheim and Jotunheim and Hel, visits Alfheim and converses with the elves, even descends down into dark Svartalfheim. (It takes a special kind of person to get along with dwarves, and Frigg is that person. Possibly they bond over a shared love of shiny things and alcohol. Who knows?)
Baldr has always been popular, all across the Realms — brightest son of Odin, well-spoken and fair, clever in his actions and gracious in his speech, known to be a good lay, etcetera. So Frigg doesn't have much trouble persuading everyone and everything to agree to her crazy little plan.
When she returns from her impromptu road-trip across the realms, John Baldr is waiting. "How did it go, big sister?" He pours her a glass of mead, and feels vaguely guilty for encouraging her habit; but surely she deserves it after such a grueling ride.
"It went well, little brother. Very well." She fixes John with that penetrating stare that she can occasionally have. "Every single being and every single thing in all of the Nine Worlds has sworn to me a sacred vow. Upon their honor and upon their swords, every single being and every single thing has sworn to leave your heart alone."
"Nothing will make you fall in love ever again, John. Nothing will touch your heart."
Immediately, John feels a great sense of relief. Frigg's words close around his torso like a band of steel, caging and protecting, wrapping his heart in armor.
He is safe, now. Love will leave him alone.
Baldr feels free.
The other thing you have to know about Frigg is that she simply loves to boast and brag. Truly, she cannot keep her sacred mouth shut, about anything. No matter how personal.
So they are down at the Valhalla Inn, John's favorite pub in all of Asgard. It's Yule, and a large group of Aesir and Vanir have gathered to celebrate and boast and carouse. Normally, at a gathering like this one, John Baldr would be working the crowd, trying to figure out who he wants to take home for the evening, and how to best invite them in.
Now he is free from all of that, and it's a little disconcerting. The fact is, he doesn't quite know what to do.
He thinks his friends amongst the Aesir can tell that something's wrong. He must not be acting his typical gracious self, because at one point Tyr leans over. (It would be Tyr, the uncouth bastard.) He paws at John with an inebriated hand.
"Whassa matter, Baldr?" he leers. "Fenrir got your tongue?"
Immediately Frigg comes to his rescue, as usual. "Shove it, Tyr. Johnny's just still getting used to not being able to feel love anymore."
"Oh, that's right, Queenie, I forgot. You went traipsing all around the realms and made everything under the gods-damned sun swear an oath to stay away from Baldr's heart." Tyr leers again, this time at Frigg. (A leer is sort of his default look, really. Especially when drunk.) "Tell me, was your arse sore after all that riding? Because if not, I could help correct that."
John's fists clench, and Frigg blows Tyr off with a wave of her hand.
Some random Vanir overhears them, and chimes in. "You really asked everything? Like, everything everything?"
"Like, everything everything!" Frigg's face lights up, and she nods rapidly. John recognizes her expression with a sinking feeling. It's Frigg's "I just had a brilliant idea, and I'm too drunk to know that it's actually a terrible idea that would make you hate me if we weren't related" face. He has seen that one way too many times.
"You know what we could do, you guys? We could test it out! Go on, try to make our little Baldr fall in love. Try anything! I guarantee you it won't work!"
John lays his head down on the surface of the bar, with a groan. He can tell that it's going to be a long night. (The longest night of the year, in fact, which only gives the Aesir more time to torment him.) This evening is turning out to be just peachy. Awesome. Grand.
Sheyr Loki doesn't quite understand why he is here in the Valhalla Inn tonight.
The half-giant tends to keep to himself. To tell the truth, he rather despises these little, fair-haired gods, with their chattering and drinking and their meaningless fights. All of this foolish chest-beating, this futile struggle for glory and honor and rank; he doesn't see the point, and so Sheyr Loki stays away.
(It has nothing to do with the fact that they mistrust him because of his Frost Giant blood. Sheyr Loki doesn't care that they look at him strangely, and edge away from him when he starts to talk. His dislike has nothing to do with that.)
At least when he's alone, Sheyr Loki can amuse himself. He might transform into a seal and explore the hidden depths of the sea, or become an eagle and soar across the tallest mountain peaks. Many times, he travels to Midgard and watches humans, deducing their life stories from the pupils of their eyes.
Unlike most gods, he doesn't need runes to see the truth; the truth is obvious. It's written everywhere. You don't need the sight from Odin's missing eye; you just need to observe, and pay attention. So mostly, Sheyr Loki does that, and keeps his own company.
But for some reason, here he is tonight, on Yule, in this smelly, noisy little pub.
He stands awkwardly at the edge of the crowd, hunching over slightly as if to disguise his height. Unlike the fair-haired Aesir, Sheyr Loki's hair falls in dark curls and waves, like the coming of night. His eyes are the pale grey of ice, and his skin is tinted slightly blue, as if perpetually cold. Loki's demeanor is equally chilly, and people tend to flinch away when he brushes past.
His height lets him see easily over the heads of the gathered crowd. At the center of this large circle of beings there stands a man — an Aesir. It is John Baldr. Sheyr Loki recognizes him, and his heart gives a little jump, thudding oddly sideways in his chest.
Here is Odin's favorite son: Baldr the Shining One, sweet of speech and strong of arm, well-loved by everyone. Baldr the Brave. Baldr, whose hands can heal and kill with equal strength; Baldr whose tongue can spin a tale with boldness and panache. Baldr, whose hands... whose tongue... Well. All of that.
Baldr, the foremost man-whore in all of the Nine Realms.
Baldr who has never looked at Loki twice, and never will. Baldr, whose sister Frigg came to Sheyr Loki in his very own home, and made him swear an oath to stay away from her brother. Well, that arrogant twat has nothing to fear from Sheyr Loki. He knows exactly where he stands with Baldr: far away, out of speaking range. Too far away to see those sweet blue eyes.
The half-giant feels bitterness rising in his chest, and he lets it. Bitterness is familiar and warm. Loki lets it heat his pale face. His ugly, blue face, always the wrong shape and color; sharp instead of rounded, pointy instead of soft.
It's not a face that any Aesir will ever want to touch.
(Sheyr Loki doesn't care. He doesn't need love. Emotions are irrational, a foolish waste of time. A trickster cannot afford to become attached; it would only distract him, and take away his edge.)
The Aesir slut seems to be up to his old tricks; as Loki looks on, a lovely fair-haired maiden pulls Baldr close and presses a kiss to his soft lips. His soft, pink lips...
Loki shakes his head in disgust. Typical. It never ends, the line of people willing to throw themselves at Baldr. (How can they stand to humiliate themselves so? Sheyr Loki doesn't understand it.)
Then he gets a surprise. Instead of deepening the kiss, John Baldr pushes the woman away, shooting her a look of anger and distaste.
Before Baldr can walk away, a handsome dark-skinned warrior takes the maiden's place, grabbing at Baldr's hand and offering him a golden horn of mead. Baldr knocks the drinking horn aside, spilling mead everywhere. (The golden liquid sinks into Baldr's tunic, soaking it and causing it to cling to his skin, outlining solid and well-defined muscles. Loki blinks, and shifts his weight from one foot to the other.)
The warrior is replaced by a buxom Valkyrie, who tries to run her fingers through Baldr hair. But he pushes her away, too.
Loki squints and rubs his eyes, confused. He has never heard of Baldr acting like this. The man isn't known for refusing to flirt, and never before has Baldr turned down so many people who are obviously throwing themselves at him.
Burning with curiosity, Loki bends down and asks a nearby god. "What's going on with Baldr? He seems to be acting strange."
The god looks up, and flinches. Loki forces himself not to react, keeping his expression cold and remote. Icy. Just like the Frost Giant that he is.
"Oh, they're just amusing themselves by testing out the oath."
The god looks at him strangely. Sheyr Loki is used to that. "Didn't you get a visit from Frigga, his sister? She rode Sleipnir across all of the Nine Realms, and made everyone and everything swear an oath that they would not touch John Baldr's heart. Apparently, he decided that he was done with love, and now nothing can make him feel, ever again."
"She... spoke with everyone? Really? Oh..." Loki trails off. "Really, she got a vow from everything?"
The little god nods, and starts to back away toward the bar. "That's what they say, yeah. Everything. Well, I'm just going to go get a drink... Cheers, mate. Have a blessed Yule."
"Yes, of course," Loki replies, distractedly.
Frigga had asked everyone. She hadn't singled Loki out, hadn't wanted him specifically to stay away. It was no slight against himself! John Baldr had just decided that he was done with love...
John Baldr had decided that he was done with love. And every single thing in existence had sworn not to touch his heart, or make him feel love, ever again.
This means that Sheyr Loki still has no chance. (Not that he wants a chance. He doesn't care about that sort of thing, as previously established. Love is for lesser men.)
But still... everything? Really, everything?
Sheyr Loki narrows his eyes in thought. He finds it hard to believe that anyone could be so thorough, especially Frigg. She is... not known to be particularly steadfast, except perhaps in the pursuit of mead or ale. He needs more information.
(Really, it's a scientific pursuit. Loki just wants to satisfy his curiosity, to prove or disprove that god's hypothesis.)
He has always been a master of disguise. Loki can take the form of any living thing in all of the Nine Worlds; you name it, he can assume its shape. Next to a horse or a sea serpent or a mitochondrion, disguising himself as an old woman is child's play.
He steps outside into the frosted moonlight to transform himself, and then re-enters the bar.
It is not difficult to get Frigg's attention. She is in full carouse, flushed and happy and gregarious.
When a vaguely familiar-looking old grandmother offers her some mead, Frigg accepts it, of course; it wouldn't do to decline mead. One cannot have too much mead. She makes a cheerful libation, and tosses the cup back. Then the old woman grabs her arm with surprising strength, and pushes her old face up to Frigg's ear.
Her voice is whispery and faint, and Frigg has to strain to hear. "Is it true, my dear, what they say that you did? Did you truly take a vow from everything alive, every being and every object, in all of the Nine Realms, to stay away and not touch Baldr's heart?"
Frigg nods, proud of her accomplishment. "It's true."
"Really, my darling? How bold! How wonderful! But are you truly certain that you got everything? There wasn't one single thing that you might have overlooked? Not the youngest being, nor the tiniest object?"
Because it's that kind of evening, Frigg's mood swings over, immediately and painfully. Her shoulders slump, and her smile fades away. Catching the old woman's shoulder, she pulls her to the side, away from the crowd of Aesir and Vanir.
"I will tell you a secret, old woman," Frigg slurs. "There was one thing, just one, from which I did not take a vow."
"You poor dear. I can tell that this is hard on you." The old woman pats Frigg on the hand. Her skin is strangely cool and dry. "Please, tell me. Maybe it will help you, to get it off your chest."
"Very well, grandmother. Just outside of the Valhalla Inn, this very bar where we are tonight, there grows a mighty oak tree. If you go outside the door, you can see it, right over there in the park across the street. On the top branches of this oak tree, there grows a bit of mistletoe. Just the tiniest sprig, so little and young."
The old woman nods and pats her hand again, encouraging her to go on.
"Do you know Fulla, my handmaiden? Blonde chick, great rack, gorgeous blue eyes, wears this crazy golden snood thing covering her head?"
The old woman shakes her head. "No, my dear. I can't say that I do."
"Oh. Well, anyways, she... she was my closest of friends, at one time. We shared everything, clothes, secrets, a bed... Anyways. The point is that right out there, underneath that oak tree, was where we had our first kiss. And it was... I mean, it was always kind of a special place to me, after that, you know? It held such memories." Tears are falling from Frigg's eyes. She's always been a sentimental drunk. She doesn't bother to wipe them away, lets them spatter onto the sawdust-covered floor.
The salt gets in her mouth, makes her feel thirsty.
"So, when I got there to take it's oath... I just couldn't. I just couldn't do it. So... yeah. What you were asking, grandmother... Yeah. There's one thing that didn't give an oath, just that little sprig of mistletoe. That's all."
The old woman nods, and disappears without saying another word. Frigg is left wondering what that was all about, until she forgets and wanders off to get a drink.
Bingo. Pay-dirt. And so convenient, too. Just think that his proof was right here all along, right outside the Valhalla Inn.
Sheyr Loki transforms into a squirrel, and quickly scampers up the side of the tall oak tree.
If he has to deal with emotions and feelings, then Baldr does too. (Not that Loki does, but hypothetically.) It's only fair.
Now all that Loki needs is someone to take the fall. He lives by his wits; he's sure as Hel not going to stand up in front of the Aesir and be caught playing a trick on their golden boy.
Sheyr Loki scans the crowd, looking for a likely patsy, until his eyes fall on a familiar, unpleasant face. It's Sebastian Hodur, the blind god. He's some kind of minor deity of money and banking; Loki has known him a long time.
He wouldn't say they're friends, though. In fact, he thinks Hodur is a smarmy git. Which means that Loki feels not at all bad about the use to which he's going to put the man.
Sheyr Loki approaches Hodur, careful to keep the mistletoe tucked under his cloak. As he approaches, Hodur tilts his head, listening to footsteps. "Sheyr Loki," he says, in greeting. Like many blind men, Hodur's other senses are keen, and it is said that he can recognize any of the Vanir and the Aesir, by their footsteps alone.
"Sebastian. Looks like you're missing out on all of the fun."
Hodur hates to be reminded of his disability. "Piss off, Loki. Nobody asked you."
"Hey, hey. I'm only here to help."
Loki pulls the mistletoe out of his cloak, and lets Hodur touch it. "I brought you a gift."
"Mistletoe? You think something like that could affect Baldr?"
"Of course not," Loki answers smoothly. "I just thought that you might like to try something that nobody else has tried."
Hodur sighs. "Very well, Sheyr Loki. Give me the gods-damned plant."
Everything happens very quickly, after that.
John is thoroughly sick of it all. Apparently his heart is still great at feeling annoyance and irritation, because right now he's about to kick some Aesir arse if they don't stop messing and leave him the Hel alone.
He's going to kill Frigg for bringing this about. He's literally going to kill her, Queen of Asgard or not.
As yet another Valkyrie pinches his behind, John decides that mere death would actually be too kind. Maybe he'll hang her from Yggdrasil for nine days and nine nights, and see if she picks up any wisdom. If it's good enough for Odin, it's good enough for him.
He looks around to locate his sister, ready to give her a good piece of his mind. Dodging a dwarf who's making grabby hands at an unfortunate level, he takes a step backward and jostles into someone. Looking over his shoulder, he recognizes Hodur, the blind god. That slimy banker.
Baldr has never liked him, but still, he is polite.
He bends down and offers his arm, to pull the man up. Just as he does this, the crazy old coot pulls some kind of tree branch out of nowhere, and whacks John over the head with it, hard. He dodges, and catches the man's hand out of reflex. John Baldr wrestles the plant away, and examines it.
It's a sprig of mistletoe.
What the fuck?
John looks around the circle, but no one is paying much attention to them. Apparently, the allure of throwing oneself fruitlessly at Baldr is finally starting to wear off. The only one who is paying them any attention at all is a tall, slender, slightly blue-skinned man...
A tall, elegant man with flawless skin and shining eyes... (Eyes that lock onto John's, and refuse to let him go.)
A beautiful man with soft, curled dark hair... (Hair that John suddenly needs to run his fingers through.)
The mistletoe falls from of Baldr's hand, and most of his mind seems to go with it. The portion of sense that remains identifies this man as Sheyr Loki, called the Trickster. Sheyr Loki, the half-giant, Laufey's son, who makes his home in Asgard but keeps council with no one.
He's never paid the man much attention before, but John can't for the life of him remember why, because Sheyr Loki is absolutely beautiful.
His skin is the delicate shade of moonlit snow; his hair is black as raven feathers on a moonless night. His mouth is the exact red of a winter berry, and his limbs are long and fair and straight. His eyes sparkle with uncanny wit, and the movements of his fingers beguile with their grace.
(Oh, Hel. Did John just say all of that out loud?)
When John Baldr meets Sheyr Loki's gaze, something stretches out between them, and then snaps. He feels like he's been smacked upside the head by Thor's hammer. John is dizzy and lightheaded, sweating, his heart racing. He cannot catch his breath. Lightning flows through him, and he feels Yggdrasil move beneath him as if shaken to the roots.
Baldr has never felt anything so overwhelmingly intense.
He sinks to the floor, mortally wounded in the best sort of way. Vaguely John notices strong hands wrapping around his waist, supporting him, soft lips pressed against his cheek.
Hodur has gotten ahold of the mistletoe again, and this time he manages not to hit anyone. The blind god lifts the branch up high, raising and holding it up over Baldr's head — over Baldr and Loki, who is somehow at his side.
John combs his fingers into Loki's hair, and it is every bit as soft and wonderful to the touch as he imagined. He cups the other man's face with tender hands, and pulls him down into a deep, slow kiss.
Sheyr Loki didn't intend for this to happen. He just wanted to play a trick on Baldr, to make him to feel something. He wasn't supposed to really fall in love. And Loki definitely wasn't supposed to fall in love with Baldr. (Nevermind that voice in Loki's head, insisting that his side of the attraction is definitely not new.)
Sheyr Loki supposes he maybe should have researched the properties of mistletoe and its use in love spells, before carelessly throwing it about. Nonetheless, here they are. In retrospect, Loki really can't complain. (This is a rare thing. Loki can almost always complain.)
When their lips met, underneath that mistletoe, all of Valhalla had erupted in flame. (Well, not literally, but it's a good metaphor.)
The Aesir were all shocked, truly shocked, to find their precious Baldr making out with a half-giant after he'd turned each and every one of them away. Frigg jumped to her feet and demanded to know how Sheyr Loki had broken her spell. Meanwhile, several warrior deities started waving swords and spears around, spouting off threats and working themselves up into a real frenzy.
Loki thought it best to get away from all of that, so he could concentrate on Baldr. (Which, really, this is a novel situation. It's not surprising that he wants to focus his attention on the man who has given him so much new information to consider. Information such as kissing. Who knew?) So Loki jumped them out of Valhalla, and brought Baldr down to one of his favorite hiding places.
Sheyr Loki's favorite hideout is a cave, located deep below the earth, kept warm and cozy by strategic pools of lava. This is no dungeon, dripping and dank; Sheyr Loki likes his comforts, and the cave is filled with couches and chairs, and books and experiments and interesting things. Loki even has the skull of Audhumla, the cow who created the universe. (He keeps it on a shelf, next to his Miles Davis records.)
Loki lays Baldr tenderly down upon a pile of cushions, and wraps his long arms around the god, holding him safe and close.
Baldr whispers his name. "Sheyr Loki." It sends heat up and down the half-giant's spine.
"John," he whispers back, relishing the sound of Baldr's personal name. He can say that, now. He has the right.
"We will be safe and undisturbed, here."
Baldr stares at him, wide-eyed. His pink tongue flicks against his lips, and Loki is lost.
"How did you... I don't understand. I didn't want to give away pieces of my heart. Frigg made everything promise..."
Loki hesitates. Will John be angry about that? "I... I'm sorry." He feels awkward and ungainly. "I didn't mean to harm you. I didn't think that it would work, that it would be like this..."
"Hush, Loki. It's okay. I only thought... But this is a good thing. This is... different."
John looks up at the Trickster, his blue eyes open and trusting. "You can do it, can't you. You, of all people... You can keep my heart safe, the whole thing. You can hide it away where it will never be found, and only the two of us will know the location."
"You can do that for me, Loki. Can't you?"
"Yes, John, of course. No one else will take a piece of your heart, ever again. I'll keep it safe and hidden, and I will guard it with my life."
The two gods fall silent, then, and turn their mouths to better uses. Before long, the cave is warmed by more than lava, and the cushions are all in disarray.
Loki is so happy. He has never felt true happiness before. Every joy preceding this moment was just foreshadowing, a pale imitation.
But this... this right here. John Baldr and Sheyr Loki.
This, right here, is joy and peace and love.
"Hey, baby. You wanna see my Midgard Serpent?"
"Of course, John. I didn't know that you had a pet snake, too."
"...Oh boy. Nevermind, Loki. Just come here."