A slow, careful knock on the door made Loki look up from his studies.
“Come in”, he said sternly, wondering what reason that gadfly – whoever it was – might have to disturb him at this time of day.
One of the servants slowly opened the door and entered the room.
The young woman did not dare to look at the God of Mischief, obviously she knew that she was disturbing him.
“Excuse me, my lord, I did not mean to interrupt you, but there is a man at the gate who is asking for an audience with you.”
Loki raised an eyebrow, then got up from his chair.
“Tell him I will be there in a moment. And now leave.”
The servant nodded hastily and left the room backwards, shutting the door quietly behind her.
The god sighed deeply. Obviously, this guest was a stranger, otherwise the servant would have told him his or her name. What should a stranger want from him? He grabbed his cloak and threw a quick glance into the mirror, before he stepped outside and headed for the huge gate that separated the city of Asgard from the rest of the world.
The man he met there seemed like he did not belong here; his clothes were ragged, the hair looked like it had been cleaned very quickly and without real effort, the only piece of this man that looked halfway clean was his face and the extraordinarily happy smile in the middle of it.
Loki raised an eyebrow.
“Good day. You are asking for an audience with me?”
The man laughed.
“No reason to be so formal, my dear!”
Figuring that if some random man dared to speak to him that way, he must have a very good reason. Maybe a meeting from a long time ago Loki forgot...?
“...who are you?”
“You don't recognize me?”
Again, a horse-laugh of which Loki was not sure if he was actually laughing at him.
“Yes, you should. You should indeed. But let's not discuss that out here. Don't you know any manners here? You should at least offer me a seat and a drink.”
Loki understood that he would not find out what the stranger actually wanted if he did not do him that small favour.
He suppressed a resigned sigh and answered: “Then follow me.”
On their way to the parlour, Loki examined the man closer. He was a little smaller than himself, but more muscular, his black hair partially hanging in his face, covering parts of his dark-brown eyes.
Oddly familiar, those eyes, thought Loki, but he had no idea from where he knew them. The pupils seemed a little bit more wide than round, but maybe that was just his imagination.
Wait, was he staring? He quickly turned his eyes away from him, relieved that they had now reached the parlour where he offered the stranger a seat and waved one of the servants over to them.
“What would you like to drink? Mead?”
“No, just some water, please.”
“Then bring us one cup of water and one cup of mead.”
Once the servant had left them alone, Loki turned to the strange man who had been bothering him.
“Who are you?”, he repeated his question from before.
“You know me very well.”
“Stop wrapping yourself in secrets. I've never seen you, I don't know your name, I don't remember you from anywhere.”
“Oh, believe me, you have more than just seen me.”
With a smile and a small chuckle, the stranger tilted his head, and the same moment that he told Loki his name, the god knew where he had last seen those eyes.
“It took you long enough, dear.”
Svaðilfari's smile grew softer as he raised a hand to caress Loki's cheek – and got slapped away.
“I'm not your 'dear'. It has been over a hundred years since our last meeting. And now you come back here for...”, he furrowed his brows, “... why exactly are you here?”
As he answered, Svaðilfari did not look at him.
“For several reasons. I don't want to discuss them here. Somewhere more private maybe.”
Loki could have said so many things now.
He could have thrown this... man... horse... out of Asgard, he could have just denied his wish, but instead, he said: “...well then.”
After all, he did have a special relationship to him so he should at least hear him out. There would surely be a good reason for Svaðilfari to leave his master, to shift his shape into that of a human, to travel all the way to Asgard.
His thoughts were interrupted by the servant bringing their drinks, putting them on the small table.
Loki nodded at the woman, while Svaðilfari smiled politely and thanked her, taking a sip from his cup.
There was silence between them for a while, until Svaðilfari, looking for a way to start a conversation, said: “How is our child? Is it a boy or a girl?”
Loki looked to the side, then at Svaðilfari again and gave him a little, unsure smile.
“It's a boy. His name is Sleipnir.”
“Sleipnir... this sounds wonderful.”
Loki's smile broadened a little as he started to describe Sleipnir a little, how similar he was to his father, with the glistering black fur and the strong, but somewhat graceful eight legs.
“Yes, eight. Don't ask me why or how. The only thing I know is that he really is incredibly fast.”
“He probably inherited my strength and your grace and agility”, said Svaðilfari, before he could stop himself. He looked away, blushing, not sure what to say now, while Loki's cheeks were bright red, too.
“You're... flattering me”, he slowly tried to regain his honour.
“I intended to.”
“And you're not making it any better.”
“I know... my dear.”
Somehow, Svaðilfari slowly regained the closeness he was used to when talking and interacting with Loki and somehow, Loki gave him some of this closeness back and let him into his private sphere a little more. He could not resist to smile a little as Svaðilfari called him 'dear', even though it still made him feel a little uncomfortable to let someone he had not seen for more than a century come so close to him. Was it because Svaðilfari now had taken a form Loki was more used to?
Or... was it because he had missed him without really understanding it?
“We should... go to a place where it's calm enough so you can tell me why you're here”, whispered Loki, his voice serious, but curious.
“...yes, I guess so.”