The last thing he remembered was letting go.
Letting go and falling into an open hole, an open star.
The Bifrost had been effectively destroyed thanks to his older brother. That was a point of contention for the tiny Jotun; he had almost had exactly what he wanted. But now he was back at square one: no throne, no plan, and still not recognized as Thor’s equal. He was simply an adopted frost giant, a traitor to the throne, and an outcast.
An outcast with a severe headache.
He groaned as he placed his hand over his forehead. His entire body felt like it did when Thor sat Mjolnir on his chest: heavy, humiliating. Frustrating.
Well, maybe not humiliating, but definitely heavy and frustrating.
“The last time I had a headache this bad, I was drunk,” he muttered to himself.
It was the first time he’d gotten drunk actually. And then he’d gotten sick. Thor and his friends laughed at him while he puked behind one of the pillars. He’d gotten them back, though. Made them all sick enough to pray for death, and blamed it on some roots they’d come in contact with on one of their adventures.
They believed him. He was a talented liar. His disarming smile and innocent features belied a terrible secret: he was a vengeful monster, one without caring, feelings, or remorse. He always had been. He always would be.
But that stray memory had nothing to do with the pounding in his skull, or the throbbing in his back. The pain reverberated up his spine, through his limbs and twisted his core. It was nearly unbearable, mostly because it was annoying.
He wondered if he was dead. He kept hearing voices. Whispers, harsh and commanding, lingered in his ears. If he focused enough, he found that he could understand them - which meant he must have been somewhere in the Nine Realms.
“If I’m on Midgard I’m going to kill myself,” he sighed dramatically. Of course he wouldn’t, but Loki was a drama queen. And drama was probably warranted right now, all things considered.
“What’s Midgard?” one of the voices asked. Loki frowned as he tried to place it. It sounded like a young boy.
“I don’t know,” another voice answered. A young girl. She was probably related to the boy, since they sounded so much alike.
“Hey, dude, you gonna open your eyes or what?” the boy asked impatiently.
“Palom!” the girl chastised. “That is so rude!”
“No, it’s rude that he’s talking and hasn’t opened his eyes yet,” Palom objected. “Seriously, I am not giving him another sponge bath.”
Loki’s frowned deepened, but he still didn’t open his eyes. He wasn’t quite sure he was ready to face whatever this place was.
That didn’t stop him from speaking. “Another what?”
“Sponge bath!” Palom said again, emphasizing every syllable individually. “I’ve already seen you naked once. I can’t unsee.”
That made the Prince open his eyes.
“Naked?” he repeated, shooting straight up.
He immediately regretted it. That simple motion made him feel like all of his muscles were being pulled so tight they would snap at any second. He collapsed back onto the pillows and glared up at the ceiling. It didn’t take him long to figure out he was naked, even if he was under a blanket. That just added to his annoyance.
A pretty little girl came into view. Her big, doe eyes were full of childish wonder. Her mousy brown hair was pulled back into a neat ponytail. “Please don’t move,” she said quietly. “You had quite a fall.”
“Through the roof,” he heard Palom add.
She glared in his direction. “Palom, please!”
“What? Rydia’s roof is busted man. It’s gonna take them at least a month to fix it.” Loki heard shuffling before a second face came into view. “And you shouldn’t even be alive,” the boy said matter-of-factly.
Palom looked exactly like the brown-haired girl, except he wore a quirky, devil-may-care expression. Loki surmised they were twins, and rolled his eyes. Just what he needed.
“I’m gonna go get Rydia,” the girl said.
“Great,” Palom smirked. “Because I am done washing naked guys. Never doing that again!” he called after her as she walked away.
He turned to look back at Loki, who was wearing an I-am-going-to-murder-you-slowly expression. The boy hardly cared. He sat on the edge of Loki’s bed as if they were great friends. “So how do you feel?” he asked.
“Like I want to strangle you,” Loki answered honestly.
“Yeah, try it man,” Palom grinned. “I’ll hand your ass to you on a plate.”
Loki glared at him and sat up. “You...arrogant little shit…!”
“If I smell at all like shit it’s because I’ve been cleaning yours up for about a week,” the boy answered, holding out his hand to the side. Loki could see a spell forming on the boy’s fingertips. He was, for a brief second, intrigued. But that intrigue quickly turned to rage at the thought that some little milk-drinking toddler would dare to challenge him.
Loki might have been in pain, but it wasn’t paralyzing. He could forgo it to put the little peon in his place. The child may have known magic, but he did not know Loki’s magic. And he would not be threatened by a boy .
Loki’s green eyes glowed as his own magic began to gather into one of his hands. He’d fire first. He’d only needed to fire once.
“Palom! What do you think you’re doing?! He’s my guest!”
The boy immediately backed down at the sound of the new voice. He slid off of the bed and sighed, rolling his eyes powerfully.
“He said he wanted to strangle me,” Palom confessed honestly.
“I don’t blame him,” the voice mused. “You’re a handful. Go outside and help your sister.”
Palom mumbled something under his breath, but retreated nonetheless.
Loki couldn’t see the owner of the voice, so he kept his spell waiting. He wasn’t sure where he was but he wasn’t going to be threatened by anyone else.
She came into sight, and he found himself staring harder than he should have. She was so... green . The first thing he noticed was her vibrant green eyes and hair, followed by her pale, pale skin. She was slender, petite, and young - barely old enough to be called a woman. Perhaps most importantly she was wearing green and gold, his colors, and he thought he’d never seen them look more... intriguing .
His spell subsided entirely, subconsciously. She could not possibly be a threat. Not with an innocent, sweet, sickening smile like that.
“I’m sorry,” she said apologetically. “He still has a lot to learn.”
“Haven’t you taught him to respect his elders?” he asked blithely. He may have been caught off guard by her looks - by the bright, glowing, golden stars on the green sleeves of her outfit - but he hadn’t lost his callousness. He was still himself, he reminded himself, and he would not be caught off guard by an unreasonably cute face.
“He’s barely toilet trained,” she laughed. The sound of it was almost musical. It grated on his nerves to hear it. She was an enchantress, he decided. No one could be that appealing without some kind of magic involved.
He had to be on his guard.
“Let’s see your head,” she offered gently.
She approached him with the regal confidence of someone who belonged in a royal court, but her home (he assumed it was hers) suggested that she was a commoner. There wasn’t really much to look at. Just a couple of beds, and a table with two chairs. That’s all he could see, anyway.
She reached for him and he withdrew, leaning away from her touch. He didn’t know her from a hole in the wall. Truth be told, she made him uncomfortable. He felt that there was something about her that he couldn’t place. He didn’t want to trust her, so he wouldn’t. Trust was easily traded, and Loki’s trust was a rare commodity that he had only ever given out once. Once, and he had been a fool to give it. Look at where he was now.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” she assured him. She stared at him with those bright, intelligent green eyes of hers. Eyes that held his gaze, even as he glared hatred and death at her. Eyes that never blinked or looked away, even as she slowly pressed a hand to the back of his head to feel for damage.
Her fingers worked through his jet black hair, rubbing his scalp in a reverent sort of way. She was exploring, but being careful, and still holding his gaze. It was as if she were trying to tame a wild animal, a beast. She wasn’t challenging him. She was merely assuring him that she meant him no harm. She was not an enemy.
He blinked, wondering if he should be worried that she could communicate so well with him without uttering a single word.
She hit a tender spot, causing him to hiss and pull away. Her spell was broken. He glared at her, reaching up to the back of his head to feel the knot she’d hit. He didn’t remember hitting his head, but it wasn’t entirely unlikely. He had fallen a long way off the Bifrost.
“It’s a lot smaller than it was a week ago,” she observed.
He looked at her cautiously. “You mean I’ve been here a week?”
She nodded. “You fell right through my roof and smashed your head on my fireplace. I honestly didn’t think you’d live. You landed in such an ugly, twisted position.”
So the boy was telling the truth. He had fallen through her roof. That explained why he was in so much pain.
“I’m Rydia,” she announced as she sat on the bed next to him. “What’s your name?”
“I am Loki, Prince of Asgard,” he answered. He tried not to sneer when he said it, but he failed miserably. He decided he didn’t regret his actions. She should show him some respect. He may have been an outcast, but he was still of royal blood.
“Well, Prince Loki, will you let me look at your injuries?” she asked humbly. “Please?”
He felt completely disarmed by her question - not the question itself, but the way she asked it. He looked at her, honestly looked at her, and in that moment, he could genuinely say he had never come across someone who was so... innocuous .
But wasn’t that his game? To be the innocent bystander when really he was the one pulling the strings? Was she pulling the same thing on him?
She certainly looked the part.
“All right,” he permitted after a few moments of mulling it over. Honestly, he just wanted to see what she was going to try to do to him. He was naked in her bed. She might have thought he was harmless. If she tried anything, she’d find out how wrong she was.
Gently, very gently, she placed her fingers on his shoulder. She had such little fingers. They were soft, calloused, but not in an unpleasant way. He watched them trace a purple bruise up to the crook of his neck. His skin prickled pleasantly under her touch.
He absently wondered why he wasn’t healing as fast as he should have. Then again, he’d never fallen off the Bifrost, into another realm and through the roof of a house before. He really should be dead. Perhaps he should just be grateful that she was there to take care of him and try to mend him.
Loki wasn’t one to take gratefulness too far. A simple “thank you” would suffice. Then again, he didn’t like being indebted to people either.
He jerked when her fingers brushed the sensitive area behind his ear. His green eyes glared at her, but the look she gave him was passing and uninterested. He felt her nails graze his neck, and a shiver ran down his spine. He was starting to think she wasn’t checking for injuries at all.
In passing he didn’t blame her. It wasn’t like he wasn’t good looking. However, he wasn’t interested. Even if he was, this was the wrong way to go about getting him interested.
Loki was keenly aware that he hadn’t had the pleasure of a woman’s company in some time. She was running her fingers, her hands over his exposed skin, leaving nothing unturned. It was irritating, if only because it was pleasurable and he didn’t want it to be. He was hurting, both physically and mentally, and he was annoyed. This was no time to be thinking about bedding a girl he had only laid eyes on two minutes ago.
A girl, he reminded himself. A little slip of a thing that was carefully kneading his tender skin and making him growl. His injuries were little more than bruises, but he was still sore, and everywhere she touched him reminded him of places he didn’t know hurt or even existed until she acknowledged them.
Feather-light fingertips grazed over the curve of his ribs, and down the firm expanse of his stomach. Her touch wasn’t at all personal or goading, yet he felt like he ought to respond to it just the same. His fingers twisted in the fabric of the blanket covering him, aching to do...something. Anything .
When her hands tangled in the blanket and began to pull it down, he finally reacted.
He grabbed her wrists and held them close to him, glaring at her accusingly. This wasn’t a game , and even if it was, he wasn’t in the mood to play it. Not after the events that just passed. Not with his failed attempts of dominating Asgard so fresh in his mind.
“Are you quite finished?” the annoyed Prince asked.
She just gave him a confused look. “Do you want me to stop?”
“I hardly see how undressing me allows you to check my injuries.”
“I had to clean you up,” she said matter-of-factly. “You were covered in blood and...ceiling.”
Well he couldn’t argue with that.
“You’re healing rather well,” she continued, as if he weren’t holding her captive. “I sent the twins to get some more elixirs. I think you should be OK after a couple of weeks.”
He rolled his eyes and let her wrists go. A couple of weeks. He should be alright in a couple of days. At least all right enough to walk. Then he could walk right out of there and figure out what he was going to do next.
“Are you hungry?” she asked him.
He shook his head. He really wasn’t.
“You should eat anyway,” she advised, standing up off the bed. “You haven’t had anything. I don’t want you to get dehydrated.”
He snorted. She sounded like his mother.
“Why do you care?” he wanted to know. “I could accept your hospitality, then kill you in your sleep.”
“You could,” she admitted. She went into another part of the house and came back with a pitcher and a glass. “But you wouldn’t get away with it.”
He watched her pour water into the glass. It was so crystal clear he wondered if it were enchanted. She handed him the glass, and he took a drink. It was cold, almost ice cold, and ridiculously refreshing.
“Why’s that?” he asked between gulps.
“My friends would hunt you down and kill you,” she said simply. “You wouldn’t live very long.”
Loki smirked. It was a wry but amused expression. “Is that so.”
She went to sit on the other bed, which was directly across from his. “It is.”
Loki smiled deviously into his glass. “Well, I do love a challenge.”