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Midnight Mischief

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I sat at the vanity while Sylvi brushed my hair. I’d already bathed for the night and once she was finished, I would be off to bed. Today had been another uneventful day, as most days were. Dinner had been the usual combination of stewed meats and pretentious conversation. I’d spent the afternoon with the Queen and her ladies, learning to navigate the company I would soon keep. And before that I’d had my morning lessons, taught by the very same tutors that oversaw the young princes.

Often I reminded myself to be grateful for the life that I had been given. Things could have turned out much worse for me. They had taken me in as one of their own. My future was promising. I wanted for nothing. I shouldn’t have had a single complaint and yet, I did. Not a moment passed where I was trusted with any measure of autonomy. Sure, it was in my best interest to have every choice made for me, although that didn’t make it any less it suffocating. I couldn’t even bathe without oversight. Yet somehow, I was allowed privacy in the evenings while I slept. I suppose I wasn’t a danger to myself in that state.

“Try not to lay awake all night. I do not want to hear that you have been resting your eyes in the Queen’s presence again.” Sylvi warned. Maybe if we did something besides needlework and gossip I’d have a reason to stay awake…

“I apologize. I have a hard time falling asleep.”

Sylvi gave a sympathetic smile and rested her hands on my shoulders. “You have been having trouble for some time now. Are you having bad dreams? Perhaps we should consult with the healers to see if they can recommend a gentle sleep aid.”

I shook my head, “No. I just think too much.”

“There is no such thing. Maybe you could try writing all these thoughts down before bed. Would you like to give that a try?” She suggested. So that you can read my journal the second I leave it unattended? Nope.

“I’d like that. Hopefully it helps.”

Sylvi didn’t know when I was lying. Not that anyone ever did. I liked to think that it was because I was really good at it. Well, you did learn from the best. Although it was probably because she assumed that I had nothing to hide in the first place. After all, she also thought that she knew everything there was to know about me. In reality, all her constant oversight really did was teach me to be sneaky.

“In that case, I will see if I can find a nice journal for you tomorrow.”

“Thank you.” I left the vanity and crawled into my bed whilst she tidied my room. There wasn’t much left for to do, considering everything was as immaculate as usual. After brushing away the four pieces of dust that had settled since her last cleaning, Sylvi made her way to the door.

“See you in the morning.” I called to her.

“Sleep well, Eleanor.” As soon my door closed, I let out a sigh of relief. And now the fun begins.

I climbed out of bed and hurried over to the balcony. “Loki? Are you there?” Sometimes he would wait outside for me because Sylvi never thought to check before she left for the night. After a closer look, I found that he wasn’t lingering in the shadows. Soon my stomach began to twist anxiously. “Loki you know I hate it when you jump out at me.” My words were met with more silence. I was starting think he hadn’t come at all.

There were many nights where he didn’t visit, although I could usually tell when that would be. There were no royal festivities requiring his presence, he wasn’t away with the Allfather in another kingdom, and I hadn’t seen him nursing any battle wounds after his sparring session this afternoon. Outside of those reasons, there were very few instances where Loki would miss our nightly rendezvous. I just hoped that tonight would not be one such occasion.

So instead of continuing to stand out in the darkness, I turned back, growing more and more disappointed the closer I got to my bed. I guess I will be well rested in the morning. Just as I was turning back the covers, Loki casually strolled out of the washroom and I stifled a yelp of surprise. “You admit defeat far too quickly.” I could tell Loki was underwhelmed. Even though I wanted to appear irritated after he’d startled me, I couldn’t deny that I was glad to see him.

“How am I supposed to find you when you’re invisible? I’m not a hound. I can’t stiff you out nor will I attempt to.”

“You didn’t feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end? Did you have the feeling that you were being watched?” He whispered.

“All day, everyday. You’re going to have to try a little harder if you truly wish to frighten me.”

He smiled wickedly, “Is that a challenge?”

I scoffed, “I have no interest in challenging you. Don’t get any ideas Odinson—“

“It is far too late for that Ele. My imagination has already begun to run amuck.”

“Then I suggest you exercise some self control.” I sauntered over to the wall nearest my bedside table. Using the blade of a letter opener, I pried one of the larger stones free. There was a hollowed out space behind it and that is where I liked to hide things from Sylvi. I reached inside for my bag, brushing off the dust and mortar. “Where are we off to tonight?”

“Nowhere special. Your lack of effort hasn’t earned you any favors.” Loki smirked.

“Hasn’t it?” I reached into my bag and pulled out a few pieces of the licorice. Aka his favorite snack. When Loki reached for them, I quickly stuffed the candy back in the satchel. “Tonight…we go where I saw we go—“

“And where might that be?”

“The tree.” That was farthest we’d ever ventured off of the palace grounds. On our own at least. I’m sure that we could’ve gone even further some nights, however it wasn’t wise to stray too far from home. We were adventurous enough to sneak out, just not enough to put ourselves in real danger. Surely marauders would’ve loved to get their hands on an heir to the throne or a naive girl such as myself. Loki was no stranger to taking risks in the name of fun, but he wasn’t stupid. Neither am I.

Loki grinned, gladly accepting my challenge. “Walk with purpose. The sun will be up soon.” With a sense of accomplishment, I started towards the balcony doors.

Of course our excursions hadn’t started this way. When I’d first arrived here in Asgard, Loki only visited. I was very young, far from home and in a strange land without a single friend. Being the first person I’d met here, I gravitated to him. Back then I hated being alone and I was afraid of the dark, two things that were a given come bedtime. Then one night Loki snuck in to keep me company. As the time passed, we only grew closer. We would play or talk until I fell asleep, although on one occasion we both did. The next morning Sylvi came to get me ready and that was the only time I’d ever seen her that irate.

I was punished for two month because ‘a lady isn’t supposed to share her bed with a boy who isn’t her husband’. Especially not when that boy is a prince. If I wasn’t mistaken, Loki may have been reprimanded as well. Certainly not to the extent that I had been, however I didn’t see him for weeks after that incident. To present, I still didn’t understand why she was so upset. I had been safe in my rooms the whole night and despite her endless questioning, Loki never harmed me. He was my friend then, just as he was now. I didn’t even want to imagine the kind trouble that I’d get in if she knew what we were up to tonight. Or any night for that matter. At least now she would have a legitimate cause for concern. We were sneaking out of the palace, beyond the security of our guards and to the very edge of the city.

That being said, the fear of getting caught should have stopped me from doing all of this. I just couldn’t say no. I loved breaking the rules that confined me and when I was with Loki, we were all but invincible. That’s not to say that the thought never crossed my mind. After being called reckless and irresponsible, surely Sylvi would launch into a long lecture about the consequences that I’d face if I allowed him to deflower me. I still didn’t know exactly what that meant or how that might happen, just that it might. I often wondered how she expected me to prevent something if I didn’t even know what to guard against. Whenever I asked for the specifics, she always told me that I would learn once I was married. That of course didn’t help me now.

As frustrating as this was, it was normal for me. I’d been sheltered my whole life. When I was younger, I was never allowed to play with the other children. They were stronger than me and I guess Sylvi thought the slightest injury would be fatal. I was never given lessons in seidr because she thought that I was incapable of learning. Sometimes I even got the feeling that she believed I was mentally deficient as well. It’s true that Midgardians are delicate, but not as delicate as she liked to think. Loki always understood that. He never treated me liked I couldn’t do anything. Perhaps it was because he knew how it felt.

Loki followed me outside and I lingered by the doors to give him space to maneuver. He climbed over the railing then dropped onto the balcony below. Once I saw him waiting for me to join him, I gathered my skirts and followed his lead. I climbed over with much less confidence and lowered myself from the edge. I hated this part the most because I was terrified of heights. Sadly, this was our only option. If we simply waltzed out of my bedroom door, there was a great chance that we might run into Sylvi. So the only way to avoid getting caught was to shimmy down a couple stories via the balconies. That put us in a part of the palace where she was very unlikely to be at this time of night. Fool proof.

Then I felt Loki’s hands at my hips, “You can let go. I’ve got you.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.” So I closed my eyes and released my death grip on the ledge. When my feet touched the ground, the relief was short lived. We still had one level left to descend. I waited for Loki to start climbing down to the last balcony, except something caught his attention. Typically the rooms beneath me were vacant. These accommodations were reserved for distinguished palace guests and tonight the suite was occupied. Loki put his finger to his lips and he crept closer to peer through the glass. The curtains were only partially drawn, so from his position he could see inside.

Silently, I beckoned him towards the railing. “Loki!” I whispered harshly. Fed up with being ignored, I took his hand in an attempt to tug him away from the window, although he continued to resist. He was rooted in place, unable or possibly unwilling to be distracted from whatever was happening on the other side. His palms were hot and clammy instead of being slightly cold the way they usually were. Then I saw what he saw.

There was a couple on the bed. We’d seen at dinner earlier, only now neither of them had any cloths on. I was shocked and at the same time intrigued. The woman was on top, ridding the man at a steady pace. Her heavy breasts undulated with every thrust and his hips hitched upwards to match her movements. I wasn’t quite sure what they were doing, although whatever it was, they seemed to be enjoying it. The longer I watched the more aware I became of a new, foreign sensation. A clenching arousal blossomed in the pit of my stomach. With each passing second it began to spread lower and my heart beat a little faster.

Without meaning to, I squeezed Loki’s hand and he looked down, seeming to realize at the same time I did that this wasn’t helping to quell that uncomfortable development. I quickly let go and started over the railing on my own. Surely falling to my death was more dignified than continuing to intrude on whatever this was. Moments later, frightened shrieks replaced the impassioned sighs that had previously seeped through the walls and he hurried over the railing. Believing that we were about to get caught, I quickly dropped down to the balcony below. My knees buckled under me and I hit the ground with a painful thud. Loki landed more gracefully than I had, except he was laughing so hard that he doubled over anyway. I knew that he had done something, just not the specifics.

“What did you do?” I insisted.

“I put scorpions in their bed.” He snickered as he helped me to my feet.

My eyes widened in horror, “Loki, that’s awful!”

“I couldn’t resist.”

I shook my head in disapproval, “Isn’t there ever a little voice in your head that tells you not to do these things?”

“No. There is however, one that laughs after it is done. What happened to you? The Ele I know would have been amused. Hell…it would have been her idea!” There was no point in arguing with him. Loki was going to do what he wanted, whether he had my blessing or not. And to be perfectly honest, I did enjoy his tricks from time to time. As long as they aren’t directed at me anyway. That was one of the reasons I loved being with him. I could embrace the part of myself that liked to disturb the peace. I didn’t have to pretend to be outraged or to condemn silly antics the way I was conditioned to. And he was right; sometimes I was a bad influence on him.

“A good laugh at someone else’s expense is a must around here. In the future, let us aim for more public settings? They were minding their business and I’m sure they expected some degree of privacy. We aren’t savages.”

“Speak for yourself.” Loki answered, wearing a smug grin.

We crept through one of the darkened reception rooms, all the while attempting to be as quiet as possible. Then Loki peeked into the corridor to make sure that there were no passersby. When he gave the signal, we made our move. I followed close behind him in case someone unexpectedly rounded a corner. Loki could only hide one of us with his spells. Not both. Whenever we found ourselves in a tight spot, he always concealed me and talked his way out of trouble.

Thankfully we made it into the night without being seen. Only after we’d traveled a good distance away from the palace did I finally feel at ease. I lived for nights like these, nights where we escaped all the boundaries the world impose upon us. On me. Sometimes I imagined what it would be like to have a realm all to ourselves, a place where it wouldn’t matter that I was Midgardian or that he was a prince. Somewhere we could just be Loki and Ele. Just the two of us. For as long as that daydream lasted, I was happy. But this was reality and tonight was as much of a reprieve as I could ever hope to get.

“You must have learned some more parlor tricks by now. Show me something new?” Loki shrugged. “Please! Are you trying to make me beg? Because I won’t, you know.” Again Loki shrugged. He wanted to come across as uninterested, even though I knew he loved to show off for me every chance he got. “Well…I guess I can take that to mean you’re not as good as you used to be.”

That earned a smile from him; a feat only I could achieve on a whim. “Ele, do you think that I am that dim? I can see what you’re trying to do.”

“Really? I’m not sure I know what you’re talking about.” I could never play innocent with Loki and get away with it. He knew me far too well.

We came to a wall that ran the perimeter of the innermost grounds. At waist height, it was more for decoration that to act as a true defensive barrier. I hopped up onto the stone and waited patiently for a demonstration. Loki paused and then stared at me, with an eerie expression. “Well are you going to show me or not?” He didn’t speak and I immediately I got an unsettling feeling. The chilling sensation began to crawl up my spine until I couldn’t handle it anymore. “Loki?” Again he didn’t respond. When I nudged him with my foot, I broke the illusion and he disintegrated.

“Impressed?” Loki whispered, his voice just inches from my ear. I screamed, falling forward into the grass. Somehow, Loki had gotten on the other side of the wall and he just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to sneak up on me for the second time tonight.

“Loki!” I shouted.

“Admit it. I scared you.” He stepped up onto the wall victoriously.

“That wasn’t nice.” I frowned.

“It was a joke, you’re supposed to laugh. Don’t be so sensitive.”

“You sound like your brother.” I muttered.

Loki scowled, “I am nothing like him.” He vehemently hated it when anyone compared the two of them. Although there were times when I used it to my advantage, times when he threatened to crossed the line with me.

No matter how mischievous Loki became, he never got quite as brutal as Thor and his friends. Each of us had been on the receiving end of their taunts at one time or another, Loki more often than I. He hated it, frequently confiding in me after Thor and his accomplices tormented him for his magic or for whatever else they deemed worthy of ridicule on any given day.

“Then don’t act like him. You always talk about how that sort of behavior is indefensible, and then you go and mimic it. I prefer it when you are yourself and not a poor copy of Thor.”

“Thor is a poor copy of Thor. You shouldn’t speak ill of your future King.” Loki stated, though the tone of his voice suggested that he himself mocked the thought of his brother ascending to the throne.

“Just between you and I…I’d be prouder to have you as my king one day.” I was probably the only person in all the nine who believed that. And that should’ve been a deterrent, although I was no stranger to holding otherwise unpopular opinions. I thought that his quirks were sweet and I even found his magic intriguing. Most people thought of it as an effeminate waste of time, but not me.

“Flattery doesn’t suite you.” He mentioned dismissively.

“It was a compliment, you’re supposed to be flattered. Don’t be so sensitive.” I playfully shoved him out of the way so that I could reclaim my place atop the wall. Somehow, Loki maintained his balance and allowed me to take the lead along the narrow stone path.

“Father says we were both born to be kings and yet he favors Thor…“

“That doesn’t mean that you are any less worthy.”

“It may as well. I don’t possess the brute strength or foolhardy confidence that they hold in such high esteem. I’m not what everyone wants me to be.” Loki mused.

“I don’t want you to be anything else. In fact, I don’t see anything wrong with the way you are.” I confessed.

Loki sighed, “You don’t count.” I kept quiet, trying not to internalize his words. I was aware that my opinion wasn’t one that carried all that much weight. Still, I wished that he’d value my opinion of him a little more.

“I’m not the only one that thinks that. There’s more to being king that being strong, confident, and…loud. It takes intelligence too and you’ve got that in spades. You would make a great king. Personally I think you’d be a little better, but that too stays between you and I. Anyway…I didn’t come out here to hear you complain all night.” I took his hand in mine to keep my balance. We followed this winding wall for ages until it veered off in another direction. I hopped down and hurried ahead of him. Somehow this turned into an impromptu footrace. Which I won by the way.

When we reached the stream, I kicked off my shoes and began to wade through the shallow water. Loki on the other hand, remained on the banks. “Will you hand over the rest of the licorice now?” he asked, except when he did his voice cracked. That used to happen to him all the time. He loathed it, often refusing to speak at all for fear of embarrassing himself. Secretly, I’d always thought that it was kind of cute, not that I ever shared that with him. His new voice is nice too.

Needless to say, I was helpless to stop the girlish giggle that followed, “Say again?”

He cleared his throat as though that might help, “Licorice. Now!” Still, his voice dipped again.

“No need to be rude.” I smirked, reaching into my bag for a few pieces. “Did you bring a lantern with you?”

“Don’t I always?” He asked with a mouthful of candy.

“Sometimes you forget and then we’re in the dark.”

“I just told you that I didn’t forget.” We walked for a while longer in silence, save for the sound of him chewing on that nasty licorice.

While we made our way across the open field, my mind wondered back to the scene we’d stumbled upon in the suite below mine. I had a strange feeling that that was what Sylvi had tried to shelter me from. Not too long ago, I’d asked Loki what Sylvi meant when she told me to guard my virginity. I often turned to him for information whenever she withheld it. But to my dismay, he wouldn’t tell me either, which was a first. I wasn’t sure if it was because he genuinely didn’t know or if he just didn’t want to tell me. I assumed it was the latter, considering there wasn’t much that Loki didn’t know. Even if they both continued to keep the logistics a secret from me, I just wanted to know why they were doing it. It seemed like an odd exercise to partake in without good reason.

“That’s what Sylvi thinks we’re doing, isn’t it?” I asked. Loki’s confused expression encouraged me to clarify. “Those two in the rooms below mine.”

Immediately Loki became quieter than usual. “Yes.” I glanced at him skeptically. It wasn’t like him to give such short explanations. He usually got a thrill out of explaining new things to me, only this seemed to be the last thing he wanted to delve into.

That’s what she means when she talks about deflowering?”

“Yes. Why are you asking me these questions? This is what Sylvi is for.” Now Loki was visibly uncomfortable.

“She won’t tell me. Most of the time she outright ignores me when I try to talk about it. And when she refuses to tell me something, I ask you…like always.” That didn’t seem to put him at ease either. “Why were they doing that?” Now I really felt stupid for having to asking such a simple question. Loki must have been able to hear that in my voice and felt obligated to tell me since no one else would.

“Because it feels good.”

“Oh…” That surprised me, “Why does it feel good?”

“It just does.”

“How do you know?”

“I just do.”

“Have you…ever done that with anyone?” I was almost afraid to hear his answer, for fear of learning that he had been with somebody who wasn’t me. That last thought was startling. Again I felt something I wasn’t accustomed to; only I recognized this emotion a little better. Just the thought of him doing that with someone else made me incredibly jealous.

Loki was hesitant to answer, “I haven’t.” That’s a relief!

“Has Thor?” I asked.

“Why does that matter to you?” Loki asked sharply.

“It doesn’t. I was only curious. He’s older than us...and he always has lady friends around. I just wondered. He seems like he would’ve...that’s all.” I mentioned awkwardly.

“Of course he has, not that it makes a difference.” Loki mentioned bitterly.

“I didn’t say it did.” I whispered. We finally made it to the tree and I sat down in the grass. Loki brought out his lantern and lit the flame with his seidr. Dim light flickered between us, chasing away the pitch-black darkness. “Why haven’t you—“

“I should ask you the very same.” Loki countered.

I laughed nervously, “Because I’m not supposed to until after I’m married? You know that.”

“They only tell you that to control you. If a man’s affection is conditional on your virginity, he is not worthy of your hand in the first place.” Loki answered.

I scoffed, “Now you’re a marriage expert too?”

“No. I don’t believe in it.”

“Don’t say that—“

“I resent the idea of being bartered for political gain. If you believe in doing as your told and abstaining from all of life’s pleasures to remain untouched until the day that you are passed along to stranger to repay another’s debt, then that is your business. I am not required to approve of it.”

“Maybe I just don’t want to.” I suggested quietly.

“And how would you know? Prior to tonight, you had no idea what intimacy involved.”

“Loki, I don’t know…I…I still don’t know if that’s something I’d be interest in.” I muttered uncomfortably. I half expected Loki to argue a little more. Thankfully he didn’t. He let our conversation end there. At the same time, I did my best to focus on anything but this conversation.

In the distance, the rainbow bridge shone against the darkened sky. Maybe one day we’d pluck up the courage to venture all the way out there. For now it remained a distant wish on the horizon. If he has such righteous opinions, why hasn’t he done it yet? I felt myself blush the instant my attention wondered back to this. To my relief, Loki was too busy rummaging through my bag for the rest of the licorice to notice. As disinterested as I’d tried to appear, I did wonder what it felt like. The couple we’d seen looked like they were enjoying it and Loki said it felt good. I could barely admit this to myself, let alone to anyone else, but now I wanted to know firsthand if this was true. Frustrated, I sighed and lay back in the dewy grass.

Loki looked over at me, “Is something wrong?”

“No, I’m just sleepy. I had a very long day.” I lied.

Loki wasn’t fooled, but he didn’t call me out on it either. Instead, he opted to lie back in the grass too. “Do you wish to retire for the night?” He asked, unable to hide the disappointment in his voice.

“No, absolutely not.” I shimmied closer to him so that I could rest my head on his arm the way I so often did. For some reason, Loki tensed. He looked lost and seemed to have trouble finding the gull to say something. In the end he decided to maintain his silence, swallowing his the words to keep them from escaping. When he did, the lump in his throat moved and my eyes focused on that new feature. How long has that been there?

That was the moment I began to realize just how much I never notice or simply didn’t know before tonight. To make matters worse, that strange sensation was back again. I’d never felt like this around Loki before. I’d never felt like this about anyone. Loki and I had been friends for as long as I could remember. So why does this feel different? To some degree I’d always looked up to him, almost in the same way that he looked up to Thor. In turn, Loki had accepted me as a little sister? A friend? Or maybe something in between? The line had always been fuzzy from my perspective. Although right now, the absolute last thing I wanted was for Loki to see me as his sister. Before today I’d never truly cared one way or the other. Now I was finding this ambiguity to be extremely frustrating.

Not wanting to confront any more of these foreign sentiments, I pulled away to put a comfortable distance between us. We talked for another hour or two and I tried to pretend everything was the same as it had always been. Even though it isn’t. Not entirely. In the back of my mind these discoveries continued to linger. I wondered if Loki ever felt like this about anyone else, not that I was about to ask. Gods I hope he hasn’t...

Soon it was time to go back. Getting caught was not an option and the sun would be rising in a few hours. With that in mind, I gathered my things and followed Loki back towards the palace. Funny how it took longer to retrace our steps than it took to get here in the first place. I suspect that that was because neither of us wanted our evening to end. Just to break this silent tension, I hiked up my skirts and jumped on his back. Taken by surprise, Loki nearly topped over. Thankfully he managed to correct himself before we both hit the ground.

“A bit of warning would have been nice.” Loki complained, although the tone of his voice suggested that he wasn’t actually upset with me.

“You would’ve disappeared if I had.” In order to keep myself from slipping, I had to adjust a bit. I must have jabbed something important in the process because Loki sucked in a sharp breath.

“Eleanor, be mindful of where you put your feet!” He hissed.

“Sorry.” After I apologized that seemed to be the end of it. Loki continued to carry me without complaint. For most of the journey back, I rested my head against his and took in the scenery.

Returning to my rooms was the real challenge. The balconies were just low enough for us to drop from one level to the next without injury. However, even if Loki gave me a boost we still weren’t tall to climb back up. He’d offered to fashion some kind of ladder to avoid this riskier alternate route, but I wasn’t athletic enough to make that sort of climb. It was just easier to hurry though the servant’s passages and hope that no one saw us. By this hour Sylvi and the majority of the staff should have retired for the night anyway.

The halls were empty as we made our way back up to my rooms. So far so good. We turned the corner and started towards the passage at the other end of the hall. We were almost there. Then I heard someone enter the hall behind us. Sylvi was coming this way. At first she was looking down, brushing the wrinkles out of her apron. I tightened my arms around Loki in warning. Before we could completely retreat into the shadows, she spotted us. Sylvi frowned, “Eleanor!?”

Loki hurried me to my feet, “Run.” So I did. As we bolted into another nearby passage, I noticed that he’d conjured a projection of himself to bide us some more time. As convincing as his illusions were, I didn’t think that she would be fooled for very long. I should know. I’d spent my youth trying and failing to do just that. After sprinting the rest of the way, we managed to reach my rooms before Sylvi did. By now we were both out of breath and could only laugh, it helped to dispel the nervous energy.

“You should have seen her face when my projection failed.” Loki grinned.

“You can see with them too?” Despite the circumstances, I still managed to be impressed by his magic tricks.

Loki nodded, “See, hear and maybe someday soon they’ll be able speak. When I’ve mastered it, they will be indistinguishable from their creator.” Loki boasted.

“I can’t wait to see that.”

“Me either. I’m sure you can imagine the mayhem we could cause—“

“Is that all you can think about?”

“Almost.” Ever the gentleman, Loki tucked my bag into the crevasse before shoving the stone in place. Just as I was about to thank him, I heard Sylvi’s footsteps echoing down the hall and my heart leapt into my throat. There wasn’t enough time for him to escape off of the balcony or to make several attempts at becoming invisible. The only place he could go was beneath the covers.

I climbed in bed next to him, stuffed one of my pillows under the blankets, and then calmed my breathing so that Sylvi wouldn’t suspect a thing. Seconds later the door opened and dim light from the hall spilled into my room. She strode in; peering into the washroom, then the closet and when she neared my bed I continued to lie very still. Without warning, she tore back the covers and my eyes sprang open. I’d never been so afraid in my entire life. Fortunately, Loki had managed to conceal himself. I could still feel him lying there next to me. He was so close that his breaths flutter against my skin.

“Is it morning already?” I tried to look as bewildered as possible, although in retrospect I probably looked just as frightened as I truly was.

Without having any incriminating evidence, Sylvi draped my covers over me. Her expression fell and she looked as though she may have felt sorry for waking me so abruptly. “No, it isn’t morning yet.” She assured me.

“Is something wrong?” I asked, starting to sit up.

“Go back to sleep.” Not wanting her to stick around longer than necessary, I did as I was told and laid my head on the pillow. Just as quickly as she’d entered, she was gone. Once I was sure that Sylvi was out of earshot, I sank beneath the covers to where Loki was hiding.

“I’m impressed. You almost sounded sincere.”

“That was too close for comfort. I think we just shaved a decade off my life. She was looking right at you!”

“Yes and she still did not catch me. I am getting quite good at this.” He boasted.

“Let me know when you’re done self-congratulating—“

“Admit that you enjoyed it and I will.” Loki challenged.

The harder I tried to keep a straight face, the more persistent my smile became. “Ok, fine. It was a bit exhilarating. That doesn’t mean that I want to do it again.”

Loki gave a slight nod, “Fair enough.”

“You should go. I have a feeling Sylvi is going to come back. Try not to get us in trouble?” I warned. Really I meant don’t get me in trouble. In spite of my insistence, Loki still didn’t seem concerned. In fact he wasn’t even listening to me. His eyes had drifted downwards, watching my mouth as I spoke. And before I could repeat myself, he kissed me. In shock, I held my breath, only able to focus on feeling his lips pressed to mine. I’d never been kissed before, not like this. It was brief, barely long enough for our lips to touch and then it was over.

Before I could find my voice, Loki pushed back the covers back and made his way to the balcony. “Wait!” I whispered. Rather than give myself the opportunity to overthink this, I got on my toes and kissed him again. He hadn’t expected me to return the favor, but he wasn’t upset about it either. I didn’t fully understand how this might change things between us and I didn’t care. I liked kissing him too much to think about anything else. When I stepped back, I watched his eyes search my expression for more of an explanation. “Please don’t get us in trouble.” With that Loki began to back towards the railing, leaving me with on last mischievous smile.

To be continued…

Chapter Text

For the better part of an hour I stared into the distance, reliving each kiss over and over again. I was already prone to excessive daydreaming and after last night, I didn’t even attempt to curtail it the way I typically would have. Loki had kissed me and I’d kissed him. Nothing like this had ever happened between us before. I felt weightless, blissfully floating through the day without a care in the world. I wasn’t used to feeling like this. And while it was a bit foreign, I liked it. Periodically Sylvi would nudge me or comment on how distracted I was. Before she could even finish voicing her complaints, I was already thinking of him again.

I don’t know what I was expecting my first kiss to be like, yet it had better than anything I could’ve imagined. From the moment I woke up this morning, I was looking forward to tonight. I hoped that we might stumble into a similar situation or that something equally thrilling could happen instead. It really didn’t matter what we did, just as long as we escaped this purgatory together. Although as my luck would have it, these gleeful musings came to an abrupt end. Early in the afternoon, Sylvi was returned me to my rooms. It was hours before sun down, far too soon for us to be getting ready for dinner.

“Aren’t we expected in the hall tonight?” I turned to her, confused by the sudden change of plans.

“Had you been paying attention this morning, you would recall the arrival of our Vanir guests.” She remarked. I stayed quiet, knowing better than to say anything else because I should’ve remembered that. “We are to attend the feast at dusk, where you will present yourself with dignity. It is time you started showing some initiative Eleanor.” If I had the courage, I would’ve rolled my eyes. The Sylvi to english translation really meant, ‘Stop looking bored and unapproachable so that you can attract a suitor.’

Advertising myself was the absolute last thing I wanted to do, so I was not about to go out of my way to do any of what she asked. Furthermore, I resented being told to stop thinking about Loki. I couldn’t even if I wanted to.“I understand.” I whispered. Sylvi looked displeased with my lack of enthusiasm, but continued to help me get into my formal wear. One would think that after being scolded all day, I would’ve found a way to stay in the moment. One would think… Once again, my mind went in it’s own direction.

Loki certainly wouldn’t be visiting me tonight or any night this week. Sometimes he managed to escape the happenings when there were visiting dignitaries, however this time was not like all the others. Recently the Allfather had taken great interest in the princes observing the negotiations and informal talks. It was not unexpected, considering they had been a part of these occasions in some way since they were small. The most notable difference was that Thor would be of age soon. While he was not about to ascend to the throne; he would begin speaking on behalf of the kingdom in minor dealings with our allies. And as his loyal, levelheaded, voice of reason, Loki went along for the ride. Whether he wanted to or not.

“Eleanor, this has to stop.” Sylvi’s tone was curt and it was obvious that she had finally run out of patience. The laces in my bodice tightened sharply and I flinched. She turned me around to face her, “Is this because you were awake all night again—“

“No, I was just thinking. You were the one who told me there was no such thing as thinking too much. Or have you forgotten about that already?” I remarked snidely. Immediately I regretted back-sassing her.

“I certainly hope that you can quiet your thoughts enough sleep tonight. You will have plenty of time to think about the proper way to address your elders as you assist the kitchen staff tomorrow morning. Surely they will be very appreciative.” She casually stated. Great job, Ele.

“Yes, Ma’am.” Mentally I sighed in relief. Contrary to her beliefs, I actually enjoyed kitchen duty. I hadn’t been born into a life of luxury, unlike everyone I associated with. It was bestowed upon me. Therefore, I didn’t view domestic work as something that was beneath me the way that they all did. While I didn’t recall much of my life before I had arrived in Asgard, I did remember helping my mother with the dishes after dinner. At the time I didn’t consider it all that enjoyable, although now, it came as one of the few connections I could still have with my former life.

It was also worth noting that the women in the kitchen staff were much friendlier than Sylvi. They treated me as their apprentice rather than their prisoner for the day. If I was lucky, there would also be left over desserts from tonight’s feast and I might be allowed to keep an assortment of pastries that weren’t fresh enough to be consumed by the royals. And if that weren’t enough cause for celebration, Sylvi never lowered herself to actually supervise while I was being ‘punished.’ If I was lucky, I’d be left in their custody all day.

The only reason I didn’t risk getting sent to the kitchens more often was because there was no guarantee that Sylvi wouldn’t send me to the laundry instead. That would truly be a punishment. For fear of finding myself neck deep in soiled bedding and personals, I kept my affinity for the kitchens a secret. Pleased with her parenting, Sylvi continued to dress me for the evening. She neatly styled my hair and even placed an elaborate bejewled headdress atop my head. While I was not recognized as a princess in any capacity, I was very much Frigga’s unofficial daughter. Even though she outsourced much of my care to Sylvi, Frigga and I had a strong relationship. So naturally whenever feasts came around, I looked ever bit as regal as either of the Odinsons.

Soon after, Sylvi escorted me to the grand hall for the occasion. To my delight or maybe even to my detriment, I managed to catch a glimpse of Loki. He was dressed in his formal regalia and I could see just how hard he was pretending to want to be here. Had Sylvi not been at my side, I would have gone over to tug one of those grandiose antlers, if only to learn how they stayed on his head without the rest of his helmet. Surely that would make him smile. I liked it when the grin he wore was genuine and not just for show. But for the sake of appearances, I didn’t approach him. Loki never saw me and I pretended that I hadn’t seen him. That was the way it had to be.

The next day I served my time in the kitchens. For the most part I was kept away from all of the activity surrounding the guests. I was given the task of packaging the meals for distribution throughout the palace. One in particular caught my attention. Loki was the only person I knew of that received meals free of dairy. Right before the orders went out of the door with the currier, I snuck a piece of licorice under the cloche. He would know it was me. I smiled to myself, imagining his surprise in the middle of what was sure to be a boring day of forced interactions.

The formal events carried on for the rest of the week, although none of which required my attendance. While Loki performed his princely duties, I watched from a distance, wishing that I could break out of my personal prison to enjoy the change of pace too. And every night I would stay up late in the hopes that he might come visit me, only to awaken to another sunrise. All I could do was add another tally to my running count of the days since he had last visited.

At the end of the second week, our visitors readied for their departure. I was glad to see them go. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy seeing some new faces around the palace, I simply wanted things to return to normal. The morning after they returned to their home realm, I went to breakfast, suddenly excited to begin another unremarkable day. Much of the time Loki ate with everyone. He never said much, but I always knew that he was there. Sometimes we even shared a few knowing glances, both of us in on the same secret. To my surprise, Loki didn’t appear at breakfast nor did he visit me that night. A few days without a single sighting turned to another week. Then two. It was as if Loki had simply vanished.


It had been a month since I’d last seen Loki, a whole month. It was not unusual for him to miss our rendezvous when there were festivities underway, but that wasn’t even a factor anymore. Surely after this long Loki must have missed me a little. I sure miss him. At the same time, I feared that he might feel differently when we finally did get to see each other again. I even began to wonder if this was the end of our late night adventures. The nervous part of my brain rarely gained this much influence, however with little to go on, my mind ran wild with all sorts of fears.

In the end, I just had to rely on my faith in him. Loki wouldn’t abandon me; he always came back no matter what. So I threw myself into my daily routine to pass the time. Disappointed didn’t even come close to describing how I felt, but I’d learned to live with disappointment a long time ago. This hurt more than usual because I felt that I had done something wrong. That sentiment was even an even harder to overcome.

Meanwhile, I had somehow fallen behind on my studies. Whether it was my general lack of enthusiasm or lack of focus, I couldn’t be sure. My tutor instructed me to take the rest of the afternoon to gather another set of reference books from the library. Sylvi agreed that staying on track with my schooling was more important than sitting with the ladies today, so I was given permission to focus all my efforts on my education. On the condition that I returned to my rooms for lunch, I was allowed the freedom to visit the library alone, which was a rare treat. I don’t know what inspired Sylvi’s generosity, but I wasn’t about to question it. Although I suspected she simply did not have the patience to chaperone such a boring excursion. Grateful for the opportunity to get away, I hurried to the library.

Along the way, I caught myself smiling and for good reason. Loki had most of his lessons in there and I hoped that we might cross paths for the first time in weeks. I pulled open the heavy doors and began scanned the shelves for the books that my tutor had listed. Quietly I wished that Loki would appear from around a corner and offer to aid in my search. Or to kiss me again. That would be great too. I hurried to push that intrusive thought aside and continued to move through the narrow isles with purpose. After living with this disappointment for so long, I wasn’t in a hurry to get my hopes up just yet. The let down would be too unforgiving.

My quest brought me to the upper level and that was when I stumbled on a reading nook. By the window there was an armchair with an open book lying on the seat. Curiously, I ventured over to peer into the exposed pages. After studying the notes in the margins for a few seconds, I recognized Loki’s handwriting. This must be his spot. Just as I moved closer to get a better look, Loki cleared his throat. Per usual, I hadn’t heard him approach. He was standing right behind me, satisfied with himself for startling me once again. “Why do you do that?” I demanded.

“I didn’t do anything. I stepped away for a moment and when I returned you were here.” Loki stated.

“No, you did it on purpose.” I insisted.

Loki shrugged, “I wish that I had. Personally, I like it better when you scream.” He confessed as he reached down to pick up the scattered books near my feet.

“Why?”

“I just do.” After returning my books to me, Loki reclaimed his spot. Without anyone around to scold him for his impropriety, he put his legs over the arm of the chair.

Not wanting to miss this chance to talk with him, I squeeze onto the edge of the seat. Mirroring his position, I put my legs over the opposite arm so that we faced each other. “What are you reading?” Loki lifted the book off of his lap to show me the cover. “Oh. Do you have a review coming up?” He nodded, going back to his book. “Is this where you always study?” Again Loki nodded. “Where did you get the chair?” He looked up from his book now, wearing a look of irritation. “Sorry. I shouldn’t have asked so many questions.” I chuckled.

Loki handed me the book, “If you’re not going to stop talking you might as well make yourself useful.” I happily obliged. While I posed the questions, Loki supplied answers. He hardly got anything wrong and I was starting to think that he was just showing off. Then after a while, I began to grow bored and my mind started to wonder. Surprise, surprise… Loki waited for the next question and I continued to look down at the pages, pretending to be in search of more concepts to quiz him on.

“Where have you been? The Vanir left weeks ago.”

“I’ve been busy. Next question.” He insisted.

“Busy with what? What was so important that you couldn’t spare five minutes?”

“My studies.” He took back the book and looked at the pages with intent.

“You never used to study at night. Avoiding it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen—“

“What do you want me to say, Ele?”

“I don’t know. You’re the one they call Silvertongue. I imagine you of all people could come up with something. You could start by acknowledging that you kissed me. That wasn’t nothing…”

“You kissed me.” Loki hastened to add.

“But you kissed me first.” I smiled. This was when I realized that Loki wouldn’t look me in the eye. Following a prolonged silence, I started to think that right now might not be the best time to talk about this. He did have to study and I had invited myself into his space. I wouldn’t blame him for feeling a little ambushed.

Finally Loki answered my question, “Because I wanted to.”

“How long had you wanted to?”

Again Loki hesitated, “Longer than I am proud to admit.”

“I haven’t stopped thinking about it.” His eyes lit with optimism, visibly surprised by my confession.

“You aren’t repulsed?”

Now I was genuinely confused, “What? Why would I be? Should I be repulsed?”

“No. I thought that…you no longer felt the way you had that night.” Loki managed to reply.

I didn’t mean to laugh, but I couldn’t help it. “Of course not, Loki. I was starting to think the same about you. I kiss you and then you disappear for weeks…what’s a girl to think?”

“I understand.” While he looked somewhat relieved, there was still some apprehension in his expression.

Now that we’d cleared up that misunderstanding, I decided to change the subject. There would be time to discuss this all in greater detail; I just preferred that we do so when we had more time. If I missed lunch, Sylvi would never trust me with this much freedom ever again, at least not anytime soon. That meant that this chance meeting would have to be kept brief. “Did you have fun with you’re Vanir friends?”

“Of course not. Just so that we are clear, they are not my friends. They are Thor’s friends. If they weren’t trying to impress the ladies that had gathered to observe our sparring matches, they were bragging about their superior virility. As you can imagine, it all bored me to tears.” Sometimes Loki regarded socializing as if it an instrument of torture. I wasn’t much of a social butterfly myself, but he didn’t know just how much I would love to trade places with him for a day. “What were you doing in the kitchen?”

I laughed for the first time in what felt like decades, “I mouthed off and Sylvi wasn’t pleased.”

“She still hasn’t learned that you enjoy that assignment, has she?” Loki asked.

“Nope. So I got to eat my weight in those little frosted rolls with the custard filling. It was wonderful.” I groaned, remembering the way that they melted in my mouth.

“Next time, it wouldn’t kill you to send more licorice.”

“You’re lucky you got that.” I countered.

“Before we stray too far from the subject, how are you here exactly? Does she know where you are?”

“A very broad stroke of luck. I’m supposed to be collecting the books from that reading list.”

“Perhaps she is testing you.” He suggested.

“Testing what, to see if I get involved with the wrong people? It would be a shame if that mischievous prince they all warn her about snared me with his charm. He just might ruin me for good.”

Loki smiled, “Yes, you should be leery of him. He is often up to no good. We wouldn’t want him to corrupt such a modest young lady.”

“I’m already corrupted Loki. You’re too late.” I whispered.

“You don’t say?” I felt Loki carefully take my hand in his, almost experimenting with this level of contact. It wasn’t as intimate as a kiss but it certainly wasn’t meaningless either.

“Will I see you tonight?”

Loki nodded, “Yes.”

“Good. I expect to be impressed.” Without warning Loki lifted the hem of my skirt to steal a peak and I kicked him just hard enough to get him to let go. Once I managed to cover myself, I glared at him.

“Already corrupted she says.” Loki mocked, wearing an especially mischievous grin.

“You should be ashamed of yourself.” Loki had always been very inappropriate when it suited him. While this wasn’t behavior that I condoned, I had come to expect this from him on occasion. Before things got any stranger, I decided to take this as my cue to leave.

I started to get up and he tightened his grasp on my hand. “You’re leaving?”

“Yes. We both have things to do. And as much as I’d love to sit with you for the rest of the afternoon, Syvli wants me back in time for lunch. We almost got caught once before…I’d hate to see what might happen if she found us together.” Loki released me, although I could tell that he didn’t want me to leave. I straightened my cloths and collected my books from the floor. At the same time, I noticed Loki gathering his things. “I thought you were studying?”

“I’m expected for combat training soon. I’d rather not be late a third consecutive day.”

My expression fell in commiseration. More often than not he ended up acquiring fresh battle scars. Loki wasn’t bulky and strong like Thor. He was tall and lithe with a perfect face that seemed to attract bruises. “You’ll do well today. I believe in you.”

Loki answered with a weak smile, knowing that he was still going to be battered regardless of what I thought. Following that short exchange, he led me out of his reading nook and into the maze of shelves. After I made a few wrong turns, I noticed the way his hand rested at the small of my back. He guided me with the same polite gesture I’d seen so many of the men do. It was odd. Loki never used to do things like that and even if it was accidental, I found that I really liked it.

Just before we reached the main entrance, Loki pulled me aside into one of the isles. “Meet me at in the stables tonight.”

I raised an eyebrow incredulously, “The stables?”

“Trust me.”

“You’re asking for a lot this time.” Loki gave me a pleading look, one that never failed to persuade me. “Ok…fine. I’ll trust you, but I better not regret this.” I sighed, not entirely convinced that this was going to be a pleasant excursion.

That was when I noticed how close he was. And soon I began to feel the same giddy sensation I had the other night and I understood exactly what was about to happen. Loki slowly leaned closer and after hours of endless daydreaming, our lips finally touched. It was as if a month hadn’t passed since we’d last seen each other. His hand cupped my cheek and I took another step towards him. Just as I was beginning to overcome the nervousness that had paralyzed me the first time we’d kissed, Thor and his comrades noisily burst through the doors. Loki pulled away in an instant, considering it would not take them very long to find us.

“Brother! I feared that we would have to scour the library in search of you.” Thor announced. His voice smashed through what had been a quiet, intimate moment. I looked down in an effort to repress the girlish feelings I’d only just begun to unpack.

Loki glared at him, “I don’t need an escort, Thor.”

“We were beginning to think that you were having difficulty finding your way—“

“When has my punctuality ever been a concern of yours?”

This time Sif chimed in. “Today. I for one would never want to miss an opportunity to defeat you.”

“That’s mighty bold talk from someone who can barely handle a sword.” I muttered under my breath.

“And what would you know? Surely the queen’s ladies don’t erupt into battle in the midst of their gossip circles.” Fandral added dismissively.

I stepped towards him, “You’d be surprised. Give me a blade and I’ll show you my worst.” Truth be told, I probably wouldn’t even know how to hold a sword if I were offered one. But if there was one thing I’d learned from Loki, lying worked best when the other person couldn’t prove you wrong right away. Fandral barely knew me, beyond the fact that I was Midgardian anyway. That had never been a well-kept secret. Therefore he wouldn’t know if I had been trained in basic swordsmanship or not. Sif was living proof that it wasn’t as uncommon as it used to be. Besides, he’d never risk challenging a woman. The prospect of being humiliated with defeat was enough of a deterrent.

So instead, he laughed at me. “How quaint? Your Midgardian mistress fights on your behalf? That’s a new low…even for you Loki.”

Fandral went to stroke my cheek and I slapped his hand away. “I’m not his mistress.“

“Of course you aren’t, love. Loki probably wouldn’t know what to do with you. Would you Loki?” Fandral turned he gaze to him now, seeming to savor the venomous look his words incited.

“That’s enough, do not need to insult him.” Thor interjected. At least he had the decency to stand up for his brother after that jab, not that it redeemed him for everything else that had already been said.

I saw the muscle in Loki’s jaw clench and rage flit through his eyes. It was easy to see where this was going and I knew that neither of the others would do anything to deescalate the situation. The last thing I wanted was to watch Loki start a fight that he couldn’t hope to finish. So I took Loki by the arm, “You don’t have to take this from these cowards.” I whispered, urging him to follow me into the hall.

After we turned the corner I breathed a sigh of relief, yet Loki was still furious. “One of these days I’m going to punch that idiot right in his rude mouth. Why does he think that he can say whatever he wants to people—“

“You shouldn’t have done that.”

“Excuse me?”

“You shouldn’t have done that.” Loki shouted. His tone was jarring and I stopped in my tracks, bewildered by the sudden shift in his anger.

“Wait, you’re upset with me now? After what he just said to you? I hate how cruel they all are. And Thor does nothing while his friends belittle you. Was I supposed to let you start a fight with him? You know the others would have joined in—“

“Then so be it. I would rather take a beating than to be humiliated. You will not intervene again. Have I made myself clear?”

I stepped back; blinking in disbelief. “I don’t like the way you’re talking to me Loki. I didn’t mean to embarrass you. You know that I would never do anything like that on purpose. I just couldn’t stand there quietly while they outnumbered you and said all that awful stuff—“

“As your prince, I forbid it.” He hissed. Loki had never exercised his authority over me before and I certainly didn’t appreciate it. It was clear that he was taking his frustration out on me, but I wasn’t about to meekly endure it. After this unexpected turn of events, I had no way of gauging how he might react if I called his bluff, so I opted for the next best thing. Without words I continued to stand my ground, looking him in the eye with as much defiance that I could muster.

“I won’t do it again.” I didn’t mean a word I said and Loki knew it. Although I understood that saying it would be enough to keep the peace. I wasn’t about to give him the satisfaction of walking away from me, so I did it first. And as I left, I could feel his gaze burning into me.

To be continued…

Chapter Text

Following our run in at the library I returned to my rooms, where I kept to myself for the remainder of the day. I attempted to finish my studies, although the best I could do was stare indifferently at the pages. Rather than go through the hassle of getting ready for dinner, I had my meal brought to me and then I retired early for evening. My day had been taxing enough as it was, I lacked the energy or the patience to endure Sylvi’s nagging about proper table posture or appropriate dinner attire. To my surprise, she didn’t question my decision to take dinner in my rooms. It felt good to do what I wanted for once, even if all I wanted to do was nothing. Although, I’m sure she was just delighted to be rid of me a few hours early.

So with nothing left to do, I lay there in the flickering lamplight. Naturally, my thoughts ventured back what had happened earlier. I didn’t like it when we argued, especially when I knew that I’d done nothing wrong in the first place. As frustrating as it was, I’d come to expect this from Loki every now and again. He could be very temperamental when his pride took a bruising. And in retrospect I understood his embarrassment, but that was no excuse for the way he had shouted at me. My feelings mattered just as much as his. If he didn’t like how it felt to be put down, why should I?

As the night labored on, my curiosity turned into worry. Is Loki still expecting me to meet him in the stables? In spite of our argument, we’d never officially broken plans for the night. If I didn’t sneak out, there was the chance that my absence could further stress our friendship. And if I went, I could find myself waiting in the darkness all alone. For a long time I went back and forth with myself over what to do. Hours later, I decided that it was worth the risk. At this point, I was too fatigued to care about the potential consequences anymore. Taking a chance at doing something exciting and failing was better than making no effort at all.

More and more often it seemed that I was taking risks for the sake of self-expression. It wasn’t wise and I knew this. Yet I still found myself incapable of putting an end to this reckless behavior. Around midnight, I gathered my satchel from my hiding place, pulled on a cloak, and slipped into the hall. I tried to look as inconspicuous as possible because at any moment, someone could turn the corner and find me wondering the palace on my own. It was no secret that Sylvi kept me on a tight leash and word traveled fast through the staff. If I looked like I belonged, maybe they wouldn’t feel the need to notify Sylvi.

Thankfully, I managed to find my way onto the grounds without being noticed by anyone important. It didn’t help that I had never been here before. When I was learning to ride, my horse was always brought to me in the pasture. Therefore I navigated on intuition alone. After wandering a little, while I managed to find my way down to the stables. The small courtyard was deserted at this late hour. Not a single stable hand or patrolling guard was in sight and I felt a chill run down my spine. It was around this time that I started to wonder why Loki wanted to meet here, of all places. I didn’t think to question him earlier. Like always, I had blindly trusted that Loki had a plan.

At first I patiently stood by the entrance, waiting for him to show up. Although, the longer I was out there in the darkness, the more every little sound put me on edge. Rather than continue to stand outside where I was easily visible, I took refuge in one of the empty stalls nearest the door. It smelled of horses in here and that had never been my favorite thing in the world. After a while I lost track of just how long I’d been waiting for Loki to appear. Not only was I getting sleepy, I was also starting to think that he’d changed his mind and had decided not to come after all. If this was all a part an elaborate plan to embarrass me, he was poised to achieve his goal.

Just when I was about to give up hope, quiet footsteps made their way past my window. Immediately following that, someone entered the stables. My heart began to race for fear of getting caught, so I stayed very quiet. I doubted that a lowly stable hand would go out of their way to tell on me, assuming that Sylvi associated with the lower servants in the first place. Mostly I just wanted to avoid the embarrassment of being found waiting here for a boy. The floorboards groaned under their weight and I could hear them edging closer to me.

“Ele?” Loki called out to me in a hushed voice.

All of my anxiety drained away in an instant and I slipped out of my hiding place. “I was starting to think that you weren’t coming.” I confessed.

“I understand how you might have gotten that impression. I shouldn’t have lashed out at you earlier.” Loki answered.

“You’re right, you shouldn’t have. I tried to be a good friend and I stood by you when no one else would.”

“You expressed true loyalty. I was out of line. I hope that you can accept my sincerest apology.”

I hadn’t expected for him to concede so quickly. Frankly he’d interrupted the drawn out verbal lashing that I had prepared in my head for this exact situation. Now I wasn’t quite sure what to say, “So…what do you have to say for yourself?”

“Will you allow me to earn your forgiveness?”

I folded my arms, attempting to play coy with him for as long as he allowed. “That depends—“

“On?”

“Whether or not your plans have us around these smelly horses for a moment longer?”

He cringed slightly, “Will you be terribly disappointed if I tell you that it does?”

I sighed, not really having to feign my displeasure this time. “It better be worth it. And so far, it hasn’t been…”

That brought a quick grin to his face. “Follow me.” Loki led me to the far end of the structure, where he began to climb a conveniently placed ladder. From there he was able to stand atop one of the many beams that spanned the width of the building. Loki waited for me to join him high in the rafters before he started to cross to the other side. Meanwhile I held onto the supporting post, too fearful to even look down much less follow him.

“Loki I don’t like this.” He stopped halfway, which just so happened to be over a twenty-foot drop.

“Take my hand.”

“No! You know that I’m afraid of heights.”

“You’re balcony is higher.” He mentioned.

“At least a fall from there would kill me quickly. Besides, you’re always there to catch me if I slip.” I insisted.

“I will catch you if you slip.” Loki replied.

“You promise?”

“I swear.” On trust alone, I drew in a deep shaky breath and took a step towards his outstretched arm. I moved across the high beam one little step at a time, until I could grab his hand. Then we crossed the rest of the way together. The moment I reached the opposite wall, I hugged the vertical post for dear life. “That wasn’t so terrible, was it?”

Despite my persisting nervousness I giggled, “It was terrifying.”

“And yet you loved it.” Loki continued on to another, higher ledge. Even though I felt sick with anxiety, I followed his lead. This time it was a tight squeeze between a few crisscrossing joists. Instead of more, frightening heights, we found ourselves in the lofted platform. There were a few loosely gathered mounds of hay and some trinkets along the ledges. It had a cozy almost lived in feeling. There was no doubt that Loki came here often or that he used to. He took off his cloak and spread it atop one of the bigger piles to protect me from the itchy straw. Then Loki placed his lantern nearby so that we wouldn’t be lounging in total darkness.

Aside from the earthy smell of horses, which was far less concentrated at this height, this hide away did have some charm to it. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like it up here. “You really are a bad influence on me. How did you find all these places? Nobody in their right mind should have stumbled on something like this.”

“Who says that I am I’m my right mind?” Loki answered quietly. I knew exactly what he meant by that. When Loki wanted to outrun the endless onslaught of his responsibilities or his tormentors, he’d disappear. And over the years Loki had gotten very good at disappearing.

“Why haven’t I been here before? You usually share everything with me.”

“Because you’re afraid of heights.”

“So why did you make me come up here with you tonight? That part is still true.”

“I didn’t make you do anything. I encouraged you to do something you already wanted to do. You couldn’t resist the temptation of experiencing something new and exciting.” Loki teased.

I folded my arms because for once he was telling the truth. “Be that as it may, you still didn’t answer my question.”

Loki shrugged, “I felt like it.”

“That’s as good a reason as any I guess. There has to be a less terrifying way to get up here though.”

“Yes. I will have a staircase constructed in time for your next visit—“

“You sound exceptionally confident that I’d want to return…or that I even want to stay here with you tonight.” I jested.

“After all this time, you are still a terrible liar. If you didn’t want to come up here, you wouldn’t have. We both know that you are as suborned as I am.”

“I am not stubborn. Sometimes you just refuse to see things my way…the right way.” I laughed.

“That is the definition of stubborn. Nevertheless, you are welcome here as often as you like.” Loki offered quietly.

“Don’t give me that kind of freedom Loki or I might choose this place every night onwards.”

“I have no objections. No one will ever think to look for us here.” He added.

“Why would anyone be looking for us? They don’t even know that we are out of our rooms. Its not like they are going to form a search in the middle of the night.”

“I didn’t mean it in that sense. Considering how infrequently the stableman tend the horses at this hour, it is very unlikely that anyone will happen upon us. There is little chance that we will be interrupted.” Loki explained. Interrupted? While I though his choice of words was a bit confusing, I didn’t question it.

Instead, I just smiled at him. “Oh. I didn’t even think of it that way.”

“Clearly you still have quite a lot to learn, my friend.”

“Teach me?”

“I can try. It is more of an attitude than a skillset. If you are confident and follow through with what you are doing, people tend not to question you.”

“If you’re a prince maybe. I don’t think it would work like that for me.” I found myself staring at the ceiling, following the swirling grain of the wood with my eyes. “Sometimes I wish I could run away. I dream of walking out the door…maybe I’d come here to have a minute to myself…maybe I won’t. No matter how confident I am, she will turn that palace inside out if I leave her sights for a moment.”

“I would not want you to make things worse for yourself.” Loki stated.

“Loki, the only way this could get worse is if she forces me to share living quarters with her. And the only reason she hasn’t already done so, is because she wishes to preserve her own privacy while depriving me of mine. I’m not asking for a lot, I just want to be treated as her equal and not some juvenile burden.”

“Why have you not spoken with Mother? Yes, Sylvi is your guardian but you are under Frigga’s care. Her word is final.”

“It’s different for me, Loki. You are her child, her own flesh and blood. I’m just a stray that’s fortunate to have a home.” I stated quietly.

“You don’t believe that. If you don’t tell her, I will.”

“No! That would certainly make things worse for me.“

“Mother would not condone this if she knew how you felt. You should not have to live this way.” Loki mentioned.

“Well she doesn’t know and she won’t. Sylvi would just see that as betrayal. One day, I’ll find the courage to stand up to her. Until then…I’ll just deal with it the way I always have, by sneaking out of bed at night to see you.” I laid my head against his shoulder, hoping that that would be enough to dissuade him from becoming any more persistent.

Even though he wasn’t satisfied with my decision, Loki chose his words carefully, “If it means anything at all, know that I don’t believe that you are helpless. I think that she is envious of you. You are intelligent, kind-hearted, and unaware of your own beauty. You don’t need her as much as she needs you to maintain her place here in Queen’s company.”

It was only after I started to think about what he’d said that I realized there was a compliment nestled in there. I chuckled, fighting the shy smile that followed. “Thanks.” I’d known him for a long time and this was the first time he’d offered me any real flattery. It just wasn’t in his nature.

He looked confused, “For what?”

“You called me pretty.” I snickered.

“Don’t get used to it.” Loki hastened to mention, although I could tell that it was all bluster.

“I’d like to. You’re just afraid that if you start telling me what you really think that you’ll somehow tarnish your reputation.”

“My reputation?”

“Yes, your reputation for being cold and emotionless. You won’t by the way, your secret is safe with me—“

“I’m not keeping any secrets.”

“Aren’t you? You hide behind your words because you’re afraid of exposing those squishy feelings. You shouldn’t be that way around me though, I won’t hurt them.”

“You’re mistaken. I’m a warrior, sentiment is not in my nature—“

“After all this time, you are still a terrible liar.” I mimicked, “You wear your heart on your sleeves, Loki. That’s why you lie and create all kinds of mayhem. You do it to distract anyone who might notice just how sentimental you really are.”

He didn’t outright deny my assessment, “And what is your excuse? You aren’t known for your honesty either.” He countered somewhat defensively.

“Easy. I do it distract myself. I’m not saying that what you do is wrong. You know who you are and rather than change yourself to make them happy, you do what you must to defend your integrity. I have to respect that.”

“You’re the only one who thinks of it that way.”

“Well…right now it’s just you and me. So technically, I am everyone and everyone thinks that you’re brave, smart, and funny. You might even be handsome too, but I know better than to inflate your ego with compliments like that.” He loomed over me, watching my expression with real interest. I was at a loss for words again and I struggled to turn my thoughts in to language. When he was this close to me, whatever hope I had for forming coherent sentences went right out the window. I could smell his soap and the feel the flutter of his breath against my skin. We were quiet and the dim light play shadows over his face. The green of his eyes almost appeared to glow against his pale skin and then my gaze landed on his lips. Loki seemed to have read my mind because soon he was closing the distance between us.

I pressed my mouth against his, taking my time to enjoy how soft his lips were. This kiss lasted longer much longer than the others. There was no reason to rush because night was young and there would be no interruptions. With each successive peck my lips parted farther for him until we interlocked in a tender, intimate exchange. It was nice and it wasn’t as awkward as I’d imagined it might be. A short while after that I felt his tongue brush against my lip, politely seeking entry. Without thinking or even really knowing what I was doing, I granted him permission. It was fascinating how my body knew what to do even when I didn’t.

We experimented for a while, trying out various paces or techniques until we managed to find one that felt the best. Every little thing he did to me, from the exhilarating sensation of tongue against tongue to the way he gently caressed my cheek, ignited something that had lain dormant in me. That was when I noticed a heavy tension building between my legs. It was an uncomfortable ache, one that was both pleasurable and unpleasant. Prior to tonight, I never would have thought that such a combination could exist. Stranger still, I found that I liked it. I like it a lot.

Carefully, one of his legs parted mine as he pressed his crotch against my hip. His breathing had changed, similar to the way mine had. We each sounded breathless. His hand groped my chest, squeezing my breast over my shift. Since I was still dressed for bed, there wasn’t much fabric available to conceal my features from him. It didn’t help that the chilly night air left my nipples pert and obvious. I surprised myself when a quiet moan filled the space between us. Loki must have really liked that because he thrust harder against me.

That was what drew my attention to the firm bulge concealed in the confines of his pants. With no real understanding of what that was or what it implied, I chose not to focus on it. At worse, I figured it might be a little rude to start pointing and asking those sorts of potentially embarrassing questions right now. Soon that all faded into the blur anyway. I didn’t want to think, I just wanted to experience every wonderful second of this. I touched his cheek, deepening our kiss to savor every new physical reaction I had to him.

In the back of my mind, I wondered if this was some kind of spell that he was conjuring or if my body could this all on its own. And I noticed that his rutting became more fervent the longer he was at it. It didn’t bother me as much as it confused me. And soon even that wasn’t enough for him. Loki moved on top of me, parting my legs so that he could fit snuggly between them. This time when he moved against me, he rubbed me harder down there. I wasn’t anticipating this to feel so good. Even though the place between my legs continued to ache, moving against him like this helped to relieve the coiling tension. Without a second thought I mimicked his movements, accidently discovering how good this felt. At the same time, I notice how slippery the inside of my panties had become.

In the commotion, my skirts had bunched in between us, getting in the way of this delicious friction. Needless to say, I didn’t object when he shoved them up past my waist. Now the leather of his pants rasped against my bare thighs. His hand moved higher to squeeze my butt, urging me to rock harder against him. No one had ever touched me like this before. Prior to tonight, I didn’t even know that I that wanted him to touch me like this. I was lost to the pure blissful pleasure that I’d only just become acquainted with. And for the first time, I gave myself permission to let go of every fear or anxiety that might distract me form enjoying this.

Then his fingertips hooked under the waist of my panties and all of my banished apprehension returned in an instant. Within seconds my blood chilled in my veins, as I became hyper aware of my position beneath him. Loki vanished the garment with his magic, exposing my naked sex to the chilly night air. Startled by this development, I tried to close my legs in defense, not that I could’ve succeeded with him nestled between my thighs. My foot slipped in the hay, knocking over anything in my way as I tried to gain enough leverage to escape him. “Loki—“

He silenced me with another kiss, pressing his body against me with even more urgency. In a panic, I broke our kiss and did my best to push him away. That didn’t seem to be enough because he simply moved lower to kiss my neck and his hand grabbed at my breast again. For several torturous seconds, I didn’t believe that he was going to stop. “Loki…no.” I heard the timid quiver in my own voice and that was when he finally obeyed my plea. Loki shifted back from me and I hurried to cover myself with my skirts, considering my underwear were nowhere to be found. When Loki looked down at me, I saw confusion instead of malice in his eyes.

Before I could even begin to confront him about the way he had undressed me without my consent, my nose caught a faint whiff of something unsettling. The acrid smell of smoke began to assault my senses, not that Loki noticed. He was too busy getting me out of my panties to care about anything else. “Do you smell something burning?”

Loki glanced behind him and that was when we both saw the smoke beginning to billow from the hay. His lantern. You kicked over his lantern! He moved off of me and tried to stomp out the flames, but that did little to keep the fire from spreading. If anything it made it worse. Soon the smoke began to pollute every breath of fresh air there was to be had in our hide away. It didn’t take very long for me to start coughing and I grabbed Loki’s hand, partially to lead him away, mostly just because I was starting to get scared. “We need to get help before this whole place catches fire.”

He was poised to argue with me, but then the flames engulfed the rest of hay. We had just been lying there seconds before and now it was burning. Loki cursed under his breath then urged me towards the precarious series of ledges and beams we’d scaled to get up here in the first place. As I started to climb down, I watch the flames grow and spread like a living greedy entity that consumed everything in its path. We’re not moving fast enough! By the time we reached the high beam, the fire was already licking at the roof. So instead of trying to tip toe across the narrow post, Loki pointed to another way down. It wasn’t as easy to traverse as the other side had been. My fear of heights didn’t make it any less terrifying. But I fear the flames more than I fear a fall.

By the time my feet touched the ground; everything above us was ablaze. Now I was truly frightened. I never imagined that all this could happen so quickly. The smoke was thick and the heat from the fire baked the air until it was painful to draw in a single breath. As he led me towards the doors, I couldn’t ignore how all of the horses whinnied in distress. The sound was chilling, like something out of a nightmare. They paced in their stalls, crying out in what I could only imagine was fear. They were scared, just like me. Only they were trapped behind closed doors. Tearing my hand out of his, I ran over to the nearest stall and unlatched the gate. The two newly freed horses ran towards the entryway, nearly trampling us both in the process. “Ele! Are you mad?” Loki shouted.

“We can’t leave them all here to die.” I shouted.

“You are not about to sacrifice yourself for a few damn horses! I will not allow it.”

“We have to at least try! They’ll all burn alive if we don’t—“

We could burn alive!”

“Loki I’m not about to argue with you. You can either help me or get out of my way. I can’t live with knowing that I let all of these creatures suffer.” I hurried over to open another gate, but Loki took me by the waist and dragged me to the door against my will. “No! I’m not going—“

“They can’t find us here together. I will do what I can. Go back to you rooms before I change my mind!” Loki left me at the entryway, turning back to unlock the nearest enclosure. He pulled open the gate and the horses bolted past me. Even though Loki had told me to run, I couldn’t stomach the thought of leaving him behind. Seconds later, he glanced in my direction and that was when Loki noticed me standing right where he’d left me. “Go! What are you waiting for?”

Before I could answer, a portion of the roof caved in and the blowback threw a gust of cinders at me. I stumbled backwards, shielding my eyes from the red-hot embers that stung my skin. When I looked up, I’d lost sight of Loki. The pit of my stomach sank and I suddenly felt numb. I knew that I should go back in there to find him and at the same time, I knew that I had to leave. I had to at least go get him help. Instead, my feet were as heavy as anvils. All that I could do was watch the horror unfold before me. I was so afraid that I’d become paralyzed. My eyes frantically searched the swirling clouds of smoke for anything that resembled his silhouette, but the only thing that I could see was more smoke and fire. Even that was a challenge with the way that my eyes were burning.

Finally someone sounded the alarm and the loud siren pulled me out of my daze. Before I could think about what I was doing, I sprinted back inside. From the safety of a stairwell, I crowded into a window to watch as guards and servants all scrambled to the courtyard below. Their voices carried through the glass as they shouted direction to one and other, frantically organizing to get water on the fames. I was horrified by what I saw and even more terrified by what I didn’t see. I couldn’t find Loki anywhere in the sea of people and my mind began to run wild with distressing thoughts. Why did you let him go back in there? You should have stayed with him! It should have been you!

I had no way of knowing if he had made it out. And judging by the state of the collapsing roof and unstable exterior walls, I wasn’t sure how he could’ve. Once again I had become acquainted with a new cast of emotions, only I wasn’t fond these at all. I’d never felt fear like this before. I was shaking and by this point sobbing as the reality of what I’d just done began to set in. It festered in my core, consuming me with a self-loathing and regret. No one knew that Loki was in there except me and for all I knew, he could’ve been trapped under the fallen debris. I had abandoned my best friend to save myself. How could you be so stupid? So selfish? Not knowing what else I could do to help the situation, I did the only thing I could think of. Through tears of anguish and sorrow, I begged the Norns to protect my dearest friend. My only friend.

To be continued…

Chapter Text

I didn’t sleep at all that night. By the time Sylvi came to wake me, I had already run out of tears to shed. If that weren’t enough, I’d also developed a painful cough that I couldn’t suppress. The heavy smoke from the fire left my lungs scorched and raw. Now each wheezing breath was too obvious to ignore.

From the moment Slyvi entered my room, she watched me with scrutiny. At first she insisted that I stay in bed to rest. But after observing my suffering for a short while, she decided to haul down to the healing rooms instead. Even though I was in pain, I was reluctant to obey. In order for them to treat me, they would need to evaluate me. And if they evaluated me, they would be able to tell exactly what had caused my condition. The last thing that I needed was for Sylvi to find out where I had been last night. My silent terror only made my coughing worse. If that’s even possible.

On the way, I heard talk of the last night’s tragedy. The stables had burned to the ground. Not a single post stood amongst the ashes. By the time that help had arrived, the blaze was too hot to extinguish. It had simply burned until there was nothing left. While a handful of the horses had been spared, the majority of the royal purebreds hadn’t been so fortunate. This all made me sick to my stomach because I could only imagine Loki being trapped alongside them. The one time that I truly allowed myself to indulge in something scandalous, we failed so spectacularly that the entire kingdom became aware of it.

With each passing cluster of whispering servants, I pieced together what the rest of the palace already knew about the accident. The cause of the fire was still unknown, however there was speculation that it had been arson. One woman even claimed to have seen a small statured person flee the scene just after the sirens had started. It was a bit unnerving to know that someone had seen me last night. And for the first time, I wondered how often Loki and I were spotted leaving the palace on our nightly excursions. Regardless of what anyone may or may not have witnessed, I was prepared to deny any accusations. I feared what would happen to me if anyone could prove that I had been the cause of Loki’s death.

Despite all of my shame and grief, I was most disturbing by the fact that no one had mentioned Loki. I didn’t know whether to interpret that as a good or a bad sign. Either he was completely fine or they simply hadn’t thought to look for his remains in the ashes. It wasn’t as if I could ask anyone. I was the only person that would’ve known that he’d been in the stables to begin with. That thought only made me hate myself more. I shouldn’t have abandoned him. I should have feared losing my best friend than getting caught. I stifled a quiet sob, which only served to prompt another violent coughing spell. Sylvi steadied me, when I grew lightheaded from the exertion.

Once I managed to catch my breath, we hurried to the healing rooms. When we arrived, they asked Sylvi not to hover whilst they did their job. She had a history of overstepping her area of expertise. In a fit of irritation, she ordered that one of the caretakers escort me back when they were finished with me. Of course they promised her everything that she wanted to hear. Anything to get her out of the way. And for once, I was grateful for Sylvi’s overbearing nature. With her gone, I instantly felt more at ease.

The rational side of my brain told me that I needed to stay in control. Acting suspicious would only draw more attention. So in the interest of self-preservation, I buried as much of my distress as I could. Outwardly I managed to have some success, yet this did little to quiet my chaotic thoughts.

I sat on the exam table, waiting for the healers to come. By the time a few women began to head my way, another coughing fit had begun. Before I’d even gotten a physical evaluation, they were able to make a quick diagnosis and knew exactly which remedy to brew. It was almost as if they had predicted what was wrong with me. Our healers were some of he most skilled practitioners in realm, but even this level of care was a little too expeditious.

While I waited for their apprentice to return with the medicinal concoction, one of the women stayed with me. I suppose they wanted to ensure that I didn’t faint. “Were you near the fire last night?” Oh no! Think of something fast!

“My rooms are very near to the courtyard. I must have forgotten to shut a window before I retired for the evening.” With more sleep and less stress, I could have come up with something far more believable. As soon as those words left my lips, I knew that I’d just given myself away. Mercifully, she chose not to call me out on my lie, but she didn’t pretend to be convinced either. This only made my wait more uncomfortable. Does she think that you set the fire?

After that, I struggled to maintain my composure. All of my worries continued to multiply in my head, building until I thought that I might explode in an emotional outburst. I wasn’t sure how much longer I could maintain this act. Just the thought of keeping up this façade for the rest of the day, for the next week, or beyond left me feeling overwhelmed. It had only been a few hours and I was already on the verge of a meltdown.

Finally the younger woman returned and she handed me a small glass of something that looked like purple honey. It wasn’t awful and at the same time it wasn’t great either. The viscosity made it a challenge to get down, but the taste wasn’t as unpleasant as I had anticipated. It had a sweetened floral flavor to it, which made the brew a little more palatable. Though not by much. After I drained the contents of the small cup that I’d been given, I was taken to another area to rest for a while.

They were required to keep me for observation, in the event that I had an allergic reaction to the medicine they’d just given me. It had happened once before when I was a child. Considering I was Midgardian, they couldn’t afford to take very many chances with my health.

Alone in the recovery room, the silence finally got the better of me. I buried my face under a pillow to hide my tears. I wondered when news would spread that Loki was missing or how long it would be before they began to search for him. Once word got out that the youngest prince had died in a tragic accident, there was no possible way that I could bravely endure such a loss. I would mourn and descend into a depression I’d never emerge from. Without Loki, there would be nothing left to pull me out of my despair. He was the only brightness in my world, the one person I could always turn to whenever I needed a friend. I didn’t know what would happen to me, but I was certain that no form of punishment could ever outdo the heartache or the guilt that accompanied killing my best friend.

Following this revelation, I turned over to escape the growing wet patch of tears. That was when I realized that I wasn’t as alone as I’d previously thought. I quickly sat up and dried my eyes so that I could see clearly. Someone was in one of the beds at the far end of the room. Loki? Because of the way this person was laying, I wasn’t able to tell if it was truly him. So without a moment of hesitation, I moved closer. And as I closed the distance, my feet carried me faster, until I was finally standing next to him. An enormous weight lifted from my shoulders the moment I saw Loki’s face. I sat at the edge of his bed, just so that I could be with him, to touch him and prove to myself that he was alive.

Loki was asleep and from what I could tell he didn’t seem to be in pain. While he wasn’t covered in soot, he still smelled like smoke. Avoiding the bandages covered his forearms and most of his hands, I carefully closing my fingers around his. That gentle touch unexpectedly woke him and Loki slowly looked up at me, as a smirk spread across his cheeks. “You look terrible this morning.”

The sound of his voice shattered my tentative composure and I hugged him as tightly as I could. “Loki, I was so afraid. I thought that I’d killed you.” I wept against his shoulder. After the night that I’d had, all of my dammed emotions purged at the first opportunity.

“I’m alive, I promise.” He answered, tenderly cradling my head against his chest.

Once I started to feel better, I pulled away so that I could dry my eyes on my sleeve. “How badly were you injured?” I asked, gesturing to his arms.

“Minor burns. They tell me the smoke was the most harmful part—“ He was interrupted by a cough that sounded worse than mine. “I’m just glad that you’re safe.” Loki confessed.

“I should have helped you find your way out. I should have done more, Loki. All I did was stand there. I could have done something…” I said pitifully.

“It was not your fault. You were frightened. Sometimes you become paralyzed with fear and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.” Loki reassured me.

“I though you were dead. I thought it was my fault—“

“Stop. It was an accident.” Loki stated. I didn’t believe him, yet I continued to listen to his reassuring words. “I don’t want you to implicate yourself again. Do you understand me?”

“But I knocked over the lantern? If I hadn’t done that, none of this would’ve happened.”

“I was a fool for placing it there to begin with. That was not your doing.”

“Did you tell anyone what happened?”

He shook his head, “No. As far as anyone is concerned, I was the only one there last night. I will deal with the consequences. We survived. That is what we must remember.”

“How much trouble did you get in for this?”

His expression alone told me that he had already gotten an ear full. “Father is furious. They have to send a search party to collect all the horses that escaped. That doesn’t even begin to address the countless beasts that must be replaced.”

“What do you think he’s going to do with you?” I asked, almost too afraid to speculate.

Loki shrugged, “I do not know. I am sure that I will not enjoy it. That is for certain.”

“What about Frigga? I can’t imagine her being angry with you.”

“Mother was relieved that I did not perish.”

“That makes two of us then.”

“It is going to take a bit more than a little fire to end me.” Loki boasted.

“Why did you stay behind? You could have left with me.”

“Because saving innocent lives was important to you.” Loki answered, and I felt my heart break when he’d said that.

“Loki…you didn’t have to risk your life for what I wanted—“

“That was never my intention. It just happened that way.” Loki clarified. “Does this make up for the way that I shouted at you yesterday?” Loki tried to laugh about it, but that only prompted another violent coughing fit.

“Loki you didn’t have to do all of this to earn my forgiveness. I thought that I had killed you! Do you know how terrible that felt?” I tried not to cry again, but I was unsuccessful. Loki swept away the solitary tear that managed to fall. His expression softened, discouraging any others that might have followed. “How did you get out? I saw the roof collapse. I thought you were trapped.”

Loki stilled, his voice suddenly somber. “I was trapped. Had I not been practicing a teleportation spell for the last year…I do not know that I would still be alive.” My heart fall and I was deeply saddened by his confession. “The last thing I remember before I awoke in here, was landing in the courtyard with my face in the dirt.” It was clear from the way he recounted the experience that he was a bit traumatized; even if he didn’t allow himself to fully express it.

I tried to comfort him, leaning over to kiss his forehead. “You’re safe now. We both are.”

Loki didn’t say anything more; he simply smiled at me, allowing that to serve as his answer. Even though I knew that this was nowhere near an appropriate response, I returned the gesture. After all of this trouble that I’d caused, he didn’t blame me. Keeping me out of harms way was his highest priority. Even now, he bravely shouldered my share the blame when he didn’t have to. That was the sweetest thing anyone had ever done for me. In the back of my mind, I weighted the consequences of stealing one little kiss out here in the open. I knew better, however that knowledge did little to quell the desire. He was alive and simply sitting by his side was not enough. “I’ll come visit you tonight—“

“No, that is not a good idea. I will come to you when I am able.” As much as I agreed with him, I didn’t want to leave and at the same I knew that I shouldn’t risk anyone catching a glimpse of this familiarity. There was more than enough palace gossip concerning the two of us as it was. We didn’t need to add rumors of a love affair into circulating. Despite knowing all of this I remained by his side, uncaring of the potential implications.

“You swear?”

Loki tightened his grasp, “I swear.” His eyes settled on our hands before slowly traveling up to my lips. In this state, my ability to resist temptation was next to nonexistent. I felt myself drawn to him and when we kissed, a wave of relief swept over me. Just that quickly I was beyond reason. Loki touched my cheek to deepen each tender kiss. That was when I heard footsteps nearing the doorway and the hollow echoes snatched me back to reality. What are you doing!?

Abruptly I pulled away, realizing just how careless I had become. Before she entered the room, I stood and did my best to put a casual distance between the two of us. She didn’t look in our direction, not that I was about to give her the opportunity. Then when her back was turned, I waved goodbye. Without a word to anyone, I snuck upstairs.

Of course when I returned, Sylvi was irritated that I was without supervision. However, her complaints fell on deaf ears. I was in no condition to put up with her reprimands and to some degree I think she understood that. Before Sylvi put me to bed, she insisted that I drink some of the broth that I only received when I was ill. In addition to filling my stomach, I realized that she had mixed in a sleep aid. It came as a welcome respite in light of all that I had been through. Soon I was drifting into a deep sleep…


I hadn’t seen or heard from Loki in more than a week. This time I wasn’t at all impatient about our separation. I knew that I would see him again, which was better than thinking he was dead. After his injuries had healed, Loki began to serve his punishment. The Allfather had ordered Loki to help rebuild the stables. All I could imagine was my pale gangly prince, lifting heavy posts and tools that weighed more than he did. Somehow that image never sat well with me. He was not one for physical labor, neither in build nor temperament. The sooner he was freed from his servitude, the sooner I could see my friend again.

With all of this in mind, I’d allowed myself to retire for the night. As I slept, a quiet noise interrupted the silence in my room. It was just loud enough to rouse me from my slumber, though not quite raucous enough for me to believe that I hadn’t dreamt it. In my half conscious state, I assumed that it was someone outside of my bedroom. Maybe it was a passing servant in the hall or possibly the wind. I didn’t think there was any reason to worry, so within seconds I dozed once again, completely forgetting about why I had awakened in the first place. Then something began to feel off.

I opened my eyes, struggling to focus my sight in the darkness. Even with my blurry night vision, I saw the tall dark figure by my bedside. Like any reasonable person I screamed, scrambling to the other side of my bed to escape this intruder. Loki moved closer to shush me. “Ele, it’s ok! It’s me.”

By that point I had grabbed my pillow, so I hit him with it until I felt better, “Stop scaring me like that!”

“I didn’t mean to frighten you—“

“How did you think I would react to someone standing over me in the middle of the night?”

“I didn’t give it much thought.” Loki flopped onto my bed, occupying the warm spot I’d left behind. Considering I had been asleep seconds before he had arrived, I wasn’t entirely ready to entertain company. I scooted closer so that I could snuggle against him. If you’re going to be here, you might as well make yourself useful. “Are you going back to sleep?”

“I was asleep when you got here wasn’t I?”

“Yes…but I thought—“

“You thought what? That I should wake up just because you invited yourself in?” I teased.

“Well…yes. I did.”

“Get over yourself.” I smirked. Turning over to get more comfortable, I rested my cheek against his chest. For a little while Loki held me, content to have me by his side again after we'd spent so much time apart.

“I didn’t come all this way to cuddle.” Loki finally mentioned, attempting to feign disinterest.

“You didn’t? That’s a shame. You do it so well.” I whispered.

“Do you think that you could stay awake for this? I wanted to ask you something important.”

Out of curiosity, I obliged. I propped myself up on my elbow so that I could look at him while he spoke. “What do you want to know?”

“Can you keep a secret?”

I grinned, “You already know the answer to that. What more are you asking of me Loki?”

“Swear—“

“Loki who am I going to tell? More importantly, why would I? I would get in more trouble than you ever would if I spoke of anything we’ve done together, scandalous or not.” This wasn’t the answer he was looking for, his expression said as much. “Fine, if you insist. I swear on my honor that anything you confess to me will be kept in confidence for as long as I live. Happy now?”

Loki stood and I suddenly felt very bereft in his absence. “I want to show you something.” My first instinct was to protest, but another part of me was too curious to turn down a chance to be with him, no matter how ill timed.

I sighed, “Fine.” I threw back the covers and slipped on my shoes. “Where are we going?”

“A place that you have never been to before—“

“The last time you said something like that, you almost died in a fire.”

“That won’t happen again. Now get your things. Let’s not waste anymore time.” I hurried to collect my satchel and my cloak, and then Loki led me down the balcony. We really need to find a better way out of here. “Why do we never spend the evening in your rooms? That’s also a place I’ve never been before—“

“Why would I want to do that?”

“It’d be a lot more convenient. And you have to admit, it would be nice to avoid dangling off a ledge nine stories up for a change.” I said as sarcastically as I could.

“Would you want to stay shut in your rooms all night?”

“That’s not the same. You can go anywhere you want, whenever you want. My room is the only place I can go without having to ask permission. It is my prison.” I stated.

“Fair. However, even on my worst days, I typically have something far more exciting planned. This is why I rarely allow you to decide on the destination.” Loki laughed.

“You may make the suggestions, but I always have the final say. If I don’t want to go, we don’t go.” I smiled at him, my expression rife with defiance. His only recourse was to roll his eyes, silently showing his contempt for the truth without contradicting my statement. Not that he could. He might be prince enough to flex his authority from time to time, but I had a different kind of power over him, one that was without dispute. “Besides, you know I don’t like surprises.”

“I am certain that you will like this one.”

Still somewhat skeptical, I kept quiet as we crept through the lower levels and out onto the palace grounds. It wasn’t until we were far beyond the inner walls that I began to wonder just where he was taking me. When we reached the bottom of the hill, I saw his horse waiting for us. “Loki where are we going?”

He smiled, “After that disaster in the stables, I owe you a proper outing.” It was one thing to venture beyond our walls on foot. There was only so much distance we could cover in one night. We had never gone anywhere on horseback before thought. Sensing my hesitation, Loki took my hand, gently persuading me to move closer to his stallion. “Yes or no? We only have a few hours until sunrise.”

I suppose Loki knew that it wouldn’t take more than a little persuasion to convince me to go along with him. No matter how outlandish or potentially dangerous his destinations were; I was always one smirk away from falling into one of his well-laid traps. I dare not think of what that revealed about me. It wasn’t that I lacked the discipline to deny myself this one outlet of joy and escapism; I simply lacked the desire. Not surprisingly, it wasn’t long before I gave in to the temptation.

When I finally agreed, I did so without words. Loki helped me onto the saddle and I scooted far enough back for him to get in front of me. Then he nudged his horse into a trot, guiding him towards the woods to the east of the palace. With my cheek pressed against his shoulder, I watched the passing scenery. The deeper into the woods we ventured, the more unfamiliar my surroundings became. There was an unsettling trend in the places that we’d begun to explore. The stables weren’t necessarily secluded in their location, but it was absolutely disserted at that time of night. We weren’t exactly frolicking in the hay after breakfast. However, our journey tonight was taking us far from home and I was sure that we were going to be very alone.

“You never told me where we are going?” I whispered.

“If I told you, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise.” I tightened my arms around his torso as the darkness began grew more unsettling. “Could you hold on a bit tighter? I can still breathe.”

“I don’t like being in the woods at night.” I confessed.

“Don’t tell me that you are still afraid of the dark—“

“No, I am afraid of what might be hiding in the dark.” I hastily corrected.

“Do you not trust that I could protect you from whatever lies in the shadows?”

“I didn’t say that. Whether or not you protect me won’t change the fact that I’ll be frightened. And if I had to choose, I’d choose not be terrified in the first place.” I explained.

“Have a little faith. You worry too much.”

I scoffed in disbelief, “I worry too much? I worry enough for the both of us.”

“No, you worry too much.” In all the time that I had known him, Loki had always been the cautious Odinson, the one who would never take a risk if it could be avoided. Thor was the one who would charge headstrong into the unknown. I didn’t know what to think of this uncharacteristic behavior from Loki. Perhaps his near death experience had emboldened him or maybe I’d just been blind to his risk taking over the years. Whatever the case, it was unnerving. Especially while we were this deep into the woods.

Without warning, the horse came to a stop. Then Loki dismounted, before helping me to the ground. I didn’t know where we were, only that we had come to the base of a steep cliff face. I watched as he secured the reins to a nearby tree, then Loki took me by the hand. “What is this place?” My stomach was in knots and I was reluctant to follow him. Suddenly I realized Loki was leading me into a cavern, a darkened crack in the plateau. It looked ominous from the outside. I didn’t want to find out what lie within. Digging my heel into the dirt, I stopped right where I stood, refusing to take another step onwards. “I’m not going in there with you.”

“Ele—“

“No! Why can’t you tell me what this place is? We’re here now, the surprise is over.” As much as I tried to fight it, my fear was clear in my voice.

Loki smiled at me, “Have I ever taken you anywhere dangerous?”

“That’s not the point, Loki. This place is just too…eerie. It scares me.”

“Nothing bad is going to happen to you, I promise.” When I looked into his eyes, I saw his honesty. Up until the night of the fire, nothing bad had ever happened when we were together. I found myself trusting him, even when this place looked like something out of a nightmare. Against my better judgment, I took a timid step towards him. I did so hoping that he would not lead me into harms way. Never missing a beat, Loki guided me into the narrow entrance, then through what started out as a comfortable passageway. It twisted and turned deeper into the rocky plateau, growing narrower as we advanced. Guided only by lantern light, we climbed through the tunnels until we reached a large chamber. That was when my jaw dropped in awe.

The hot springs fed steaming water through the rocks until it collected in large pools down below. Moisture that rose from the heated lake condensed on the smooth black stone overhead. When the moonlight reflected off the water, it illuminated the tiny droplets like stars against a false night sky. “Loki this is beautiful.” I whispered in astonishment.

He smiled, taking pride in this small victory. “I told you that you would like it here.”

“Fine…you win this time.” I shoved him playfully and Loki too the opportunity to step back from me. That was when he started to disrobe. Loki tugged off his tunic, then stepped out of his shoes, while I watched in utter fascination. I’d never seen him this indecent before. With his cloths off, I half expected him to look as thin as he felt, although there was more muscle definition that I’d expected. Soon Loki started to unlace his pants, then stripped down to his underthings. Now all that was left was the scarce bit of cloth that covered his private area.

I swallowed hard, finally realizing that I had been holding my breath this whole time. There was the familiar mixture of longing and tension that I’d become used to whenever I was around Loki. And then all at once I realized why he was undressing. I’ll admit that I was so completely absorbed in his little show, that I was incapable of thinking of anything else.

“Are you going to swim with me?”

Suddenly I felt very self-conscious. “I really don’t think this is a good idea.”

“Why?” He took my hand, tugging me closer to the waters edge.

“Because…what if something happens?”

“Can you swim?”

“Of course—“

“Then nothing will happen.” Loki stated matter-of-factly.

“Do you even know what lives in that water?”

“Nothing bad is going to happen.” Loki assured me. Again he urged me towards the waters, until I finally snatched my hand out of his. Now Loki turned to me, “What is the matter?”

“I haven’t brought appropriate attire.” I confessed.

Loki smiled, “Neither have I. Where would be the fun in that?” I stood there anxiously, watching Loki get a running start and then leap into the deepest edge of the pool. As I watched, I tried to think of how I might manage to do the same. I looked down at myself, noting that I only wore what amounted to a silken nightgown. To make matters worse, I wasn’t wearing anything beneath it, save for my panties. Once I was wet my sleep clothes would cling to my figure, which would leave nothing to the imagination. Surely Loki was aware of this and perhaps that was why he had chosen this activity for the evening. “Are you going to stand there all night?”

“No…”

“Shall I come and get you?” Loki started towards me, as water dripped off of him.

“I don’t need any help Loki!” He merely chuckled to himself at my frustration. At least one of us is amused. Hesitantly, I unfastened my cloak and stepped out of my shoes, then started towards the waters edge.

“You’re going to swim in all of that? Surely you will sink—“

“You swim your way and I’ll swim mine. Why are you so fixated on taking off my cloths?”

Loki grinned, “I am only interested in your wellbeing. When the weight of your garments drag you to the bottom, I will have to fish you out of the water and revive you.”

“Loki, if you keep irritating me, I’ll hold you under myself. Then you will be the one in need of resuscitation.”

“I’ll take my chances.” He laughed.

On that note I shoved him backward until we both sank beneath the surface. Loki was nimbler in the water than I was, leaving me chasing after him much of the time. Maybe he was right about all of these clothes. After a while I managed to catch him, although I’m sure he only allowed me to do so out of pity. Later on I dove to the bottom to collect some of the shiny rocks. Loki could even name a few of them. Some were actual gems, so I let him keep those for his collection.

After swimming for a while, I returned to the banks. I’d forgotten about what I was wearing until now. It was a bit more revealing than I was comfortable with, however that was still better than nothing at all. The lazy current washed over my feet and tiny fish came to nip at my toes. When Loki approached me, they scattered and only to school together in the deeper water. Loki sat down beside me and without looking up; I watched his reflection shimmer in the moonlight. “Are you no longer enjoying yourself?”

“Of course I am. Do I look bored?” I asked, curious to hear his assessment.

“You look distant.” Not that the water had stilled, the little fish returned to tickle my toes with their nibbling.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to—“

“Why do you always apologize when I make observations? You haven’t done anything wrong.”

“Force of habit.” I mentioned quietly. Loki didn’t like that answer because he knew why it had become a habit of mine. Neither of us had to say it aloud, it would only serve to darken the mood. For the good of our evening, I tried to change the subject. “I didn’t know your hair was this curly.” I toyed with the dark ringlets that coiled atop his head. The water washed away whatever cream he typically used to keep it under control. In all the time that I had known Loki, this was the first time I had ever seen him so…naked.

“I do not know who I inherit it from. Mother doesn’t have hair like mine, nor does father.”

“I like it—“

“Its just one more thing that makes me different.” Loki muttered with disdain.

I put my hand over his, “Everyone around here wants to look the same, dress the same, or act the same. At some point it get’s boring don’t you think? I think the main reason we get along so well is because we’re both different. So what if you’re hair is dark and curly. So is mine. We’re two of a kind.”

“I suppose.”

“You aren’t sure? If you woke up tomorrow and had the same blonde hair as Thor, do you think you would be happier?” Again Loki seemed reluctant to answer me. “I can’t speak for you…I can only speak for myself, but I don’t want to be a copy of someone else. I might stand out for more reasons than just my hair, but that just means that I have something that they don’t...something they can’t ever take from me.”

“You know why you’re different.” He mentioned quietly.

I didn’t know what to say to that. Loki was self-conscious enough about his differences, no thanks to the decades worth of reminders from a number of sources. The last thing I wanted to do was aggravate an already touchy subject. “If you are happy with the way you are, the cause will not drastically change you self-perception. I’m not saying that you don’t have a right to be curious. You do. I just don’t think that it should determine whether or not you take pride in your individuality. I wish you could see yourself the way that I see you, then you wouldn’t seek to change so much.” I scooted closer to Loki, so that I could lean my head against his shoulder.

“The other night before everything happened…you said that you dreamt of running away. You wouldn’t leave without telling me would you?”

“No. I tell you everything, Loki. Besides, I wouldn’t just turn my back on you. You didn’t tell anyone about what I said, did you?”

“No. And I wouldn’t, unless you were in danger.” Loki turned over my hand, conjuring a tightly closed bud in my palm. He whispered the incantation and the flower blossomed before my eyes. The purple pedals unfurled and spread open in my hand. It was a tropical plant, one that was sure to be foreign to this land. “It is of Midgard. They call it a hibiscus.” I smiled, not only because I appreciated his gift, but also because I always loved it when he showed me magic tricks. “Please don’t leave.”

“Loki I’m not going anywhere.” I kissed his cheek, then looked back down at the flower. “This is beautiful.” Loki didn’t reply. He simply put his arm around my waist. At the time I hadn’t thought about how my confession might have affected him. I was simply getting something off of my chest, yet to him it was a painful prospect. It reminded me that I wasn’t in this alone. We had each other because neither of us had anyone else to turn to for companionship. “I won’t abandon you. I promise.” Loki kissed my temple and I realized how nice it was to receive this amount of affection without having to beg for it.

For as long as I could remember, I had never had anything like this before. Sylvi wasn’t a very loving person. When I was little, I would turn to her for hugs the way any child would. More often than not, I was shooed away for bothering her. I had become numb to it after a while, so numb that I’d almost forgotten what it was even like to feel wanted. Maybe Sylvi did care for me or maybe looking after me was just a job to her. I was never able to tell how she truly felt. She was kind when it suited her and when it didn’t I was just out of luck. So from a young age, I’d looked to Loki for reassurance. But like me, he was just child at the time, so it was only so much of a substitute. Nevertheless, he always hugged me when I needed it. And now that we were older, I’d grown to crave his kisses too.

I reached over to my satchel and pulled my journal from the bag. I opened the pages and placed the flower between them, gently pressing the halves of the book together. Every time that we would go someplace new, I always tried to collect a small memento. This one just happens to be my new favorite. That thought reminded me of the souvenir that Loki had taken the other night.

“What did you do with my panties?”

“I kept them—“

“Why? That’s embarrassing! Give them back.” I demanded.

“No.” He smiled.

“Why do you even want them?”

“You just shoved that flower in your book—“

“How is that even close to being the same thing? You better not have my panties in one of your books—“

Loki smiled in defiance, “I might. They belong to me now, I’ll do as I please.”

“No, you took them without my permission. Why did you think that it was acceptable to undress me, Loki?” My words come out as more of a reprimand than I had intended.

Now he looked uncomfortable and vaguely ashamed. “I didn’t mean to force myself on you. I thought that you were enjoying it. By the time that I understood your true feelings, I had already…overstepped your boundaries. It won’t happen again.”

I hadn’t expected to feel this guilty after confronting him. “I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy what we did. I just…I don’t understand. Why did you want to take my cloths off?” At first Loki simply stared at me, either too embarrassed or perhaps unwilling to answer my question. “Don’t you start keeping secrets from me too.” In my agitation I tried to stand, but Loki caught me by the wrist.

“What we were doing isn’t meant to be done with our cloths on.” Loki finally explained.

Suddenly my chest tightened as I had a startling realization. “You were trying to deflower me, weren’t you?” My voice sounded small and timid, in absolute contrast to the confidence I had hoped to display.

“I…I told you, I misjudged the situation. You were enthusiastic one moment and then…the next you were pushing me away. I wasn’t going to hurt you. I would never hurt you, Ele. You know that.” In all the time that I had known him, I had never seen Loki struggle this hard to string together a coherent sentence.

“I know you wouldn’t. It was just too much…all at once. I mean…I liked doing…what we were doing because I always like being with you and…it felt really good. But you were just moving too fast.” Loki wouldn’t look me in the eye, but he nodded nonetheless. I picked up a nearby rock and threw it into the water, frustrated with my own inability to say what I was thinking.

“Stop scaring the fish.” Loki teased, attempting to break this tension the only way he knew how. So on that note, I tried to be a little less serious. It was taking the fun out of everything.

“Why can’t I talk to you without getting nervous anymore? I never used to have this problem. Now all of a sudden, I get butterflies in my stomach, my hands get clammy and I can’t think…” I covered my face with my hands in exasperation.

“Trust me, I know the feeling.”

“So now what? Do we just pretend that nothing has changed?“

“No. I don’t want to go back to the way things were. We could…let this become whatever it will become…if you want.” Loki offered. I finally looked at him and I saw him anxiously fidgeting with his hands. Loki always was adorable when got nervous. Although, I never thought that I would be the one to put him in such a state.

Sometimes, just looking at him made me smile. “I’d like that.” This time I thought I’d be the one to kiss him. Every other time, I’d passively accepted his advances. I didn’t want to wait for Loki to make his move; I wanted to take the lead for a change. From the onset it was very much like the night in the stables. With each kiss I began to feel a warm gathering of pleasure between my legs. It didn’t take very long for me to become as aroused as I had been before. I vividly remembered this pleasurable ache. It blossomed into a desperate need, one that mimicked the urgency of hunger or thirst.

Instead of Loki getting on top of me again, I thought I’d give it a try. I put my leg over his to straddle him, so that I could settle on his lap. I cupped his cheek, drawing him into a deeper kiss and Loki matched my enthusiasm. His hands roamed up my thighs until he could squeeze my bottom. That was when I recognized that familiar stiffness growing between us. I forgot to ask about that… Once again I’d missed my chance to question that development, not that it bothered me. Now that I had come to expect it, it wasn’t so shocking. In fact, I actually enjoyed the feeling of it pressing against my tender parts.

With Loki’s encouragement, I began to move my hips over him. The same gathering pleasure began to build between. Now that I was on top, I had control over the angle and the pressure, which allowed me to direct all of the friction to the prefect spot. This was so much better than the other night. And after just a few short minutes, we both sounded breathless as I writhed against him. If this felt half as good for Loki as it did for me, I knew that he didn’t want me to stop. In a strange way, I felt empowered because it was almost as if I had discovered my own superhuman ability. While Loki could do magic, I could make him weak with need and give him pleasure with nothing more than my body. At no other point in my life had I ever had this much control over anything. I could get used to this.

Then I broke our kiss to leave soft pecks along his jaw, remembering how good it felt when he’d kissed me there. All I wanted was to give him the same delightful experience that I had had. So I continued farther up to his neck until I reached his ear. Moving along the outer edge, I lightly drew the lobe between my lips. I hadn’t expected that subtle gesture to earn such an enthusiastic reaction. Loki’s hands gripped tighter around my hips, desperate to earn more stimulation. I continued to kiss that sensitive spot of his, enjoying how frantic his movements became. However, all that was interrupted when something new happened.

Seemly beyond his control, he gasped and let out a strangled groan. Even through the fabric of our respective undergarments, I felt a gentle throb against my womanhood, followed by a fresh wetness that leaked between us. Immediately Loki looked up at me, mortified by what he’d just done. I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing. If I pretended that it hadn’t happened or that I wasn’t bothered by it, maybe he could do the same. So rather than disengage I pressed my mouth to his, hoping that this would be enough to distract him.

To my disappointment, Loki nudged me off of his lap to go back into the water. Once he was far enough into the pools, he fully submerged himself. I waited anxiously for Loki to resurface, but as time went on the bubbles stopped and he didn’t reappear. At that point I started to get nervous, so I tiptoed closer to the waters edge. “Loki?” I called out to him, only to receive no response. Just as I was about to go in after him, he resurfaced.

“What was that?”

“Swimming—“

“No, before that.” Once again my inexperience was showing and Loki was reluctant to answer my question. I hated it when people ignored me like this. Having to have someone explain ever little thing to me only made me feel even more juvenile. I didn’t like it when Sylvi did it and I hated it when Loki tried to do the same. “Loki, what was that?”

“Forget it.” Loki muttered dismissively.

“Did I do something wrong?”

“No, Eleanor. That’s just something that happens!” Loki snapped. It was clear that his frustration was not directed at me, but towards himself.

“Does that happen every time?” He refused to look at me, still not quite willing to address it. Rather than let him continue to rue in his self-loathing, I waded over to join him. Considering Loki was quite a bit taller than me, water that was chest deep for him was above my chin. So when I finally reached him, I wrapped my legs around his waist to keep my head above the surface. “For what its worth, I’m not bothered by what just happened. If its natural and you can’t control it, there’s no reason to be angry with yourself.”

He shook his head, “I can control it…whenever I’m alone at least.”

“Maybe you just need to get used to not being alone? I could help you practice.”

“You know not what you offer.” Loki warned.

I smiled, giving his lips a quick peck. “Then show me how I can help. Tell me what you want from me.” His forehead touched mine and I nuzzled my nose against the end of his.

“I want more than just this…” Loki whispered. “I want to feel your body against mine, skin to skin with nothing in between. When we’re together, all that I can think about is how badly I want to taste your lips or to caress your breasts…I crave any form of physicality that you will allow me. And when we are apart I relive our moments together…every quiet sigh or timid moan is almost too much to bear. I want you to give yourself to me, Ele. Without reservation or fear…”

While I couldn’t quiet put my experience into words the way Loki had, I could relate to everything he’d said because I felt the same frustration. That feeling crowded my brain and left no room for reason or rational thought. Before, I didn’t need to spend every evening with Loki to be content. When he came to me, we bonded over a mutual dissatisfaction with our circumstances. It was just one of the ways that we’d learned to cope. Now the only things that kept me sane were the kisses we shared or the feelings of lust and arousal that he’d introduced me to. I touched his cheek, taking the opportunity to gaze into his eyes. “Forgive me if I am hesitant—“

“You don’t need my forgiveness, Ele. You have the right to refuse me if you so choose.” He interrupted. At the same time, I saw in his eyes that he genuinely feared my rejection. It’s not as though the concept were foreign to him. However, my rejection was something altogether different. Loki wanted me to want him. And I did.

“Loki, I enjoy your company and the intimacy that we share. Why else do you think I keep coming back to you every night? You know me better than anyone…you should know when I’m sincere.” I smiled, “Even though I pushed you away before, I don’t regret doing those things with you. I don’t regret what we’ve done tonight. Its like I said before, everything just started happening too quickly. I don’t know when I’ll feel...ready to…do more than this, but know that when that time comes, you will be my first and only choice.”

A shy grin overtook his expression. “I can live with that.” He whispered.

Soon that timid look morphed into a mischievous smirk. A look that I am very familiar with. That was all it took for this tender moment to end and for the Loki that I was used to, to return. We started to sink and his grip on my waist tightened. I squealed as he dragged me underwater and for the remainder of the evening, it was just like old times.

We reverted to childish games, splashing in the water or racing each other along the banks. It was all lighthearted amusement; the way things had always been between us. Shortly there after, we reluctantly abandoned our fun in order to return to the palace. By then it was dawn and neither of us had gotten any sleep. We both knew that we were going to struggle through the day, but we didn’t care. We embraced the consequences of our actions, hand in hand, without a glimmer of remorse.

To be continued…

Chapter Text

When I awoke the next morning my room was dim. After our night in the caverns, Loki and I had returned to the palace. I’d bathed and crawled into bed in the hopes of catching another few minutes of sleep before Sylvi arrived. Although since then, time had escaped me. The curtains were still drawn over the windows and the sun shone brightly at the other side, far brighter than normal for this time of day I noted.

As I stretched through a yawn, I groggily realized that I’d overslept. And by the looks of it, it was already past midday. Sitting bolt upright, I threw back the covers and hurried to climb out of bed, before an even more unsettling realization dawned on me. Why hasn’t Sylvi come to wake me? That was when I noticed the envelope on my side table. Without hesitation, I unsealed my letter and began to read…

Eleanor,

I am sorry that I could be there not to tell you this in person. My eldest sister has fallen gravely ill and Frigga has granted me leave to tend to her children until other arrangements can be made. I do no anticipate returning to the palace until next spring, therefore I have asked Lady Alva to serve in my stead. You will be courteous, modest, and respectful in my absence. I encourage you not to embarrass either of us while I am away.

Kindly,
Sylvi

In disbelief, I reread the last few lines of her letter while my heart sank in horror. I could hardly tolerate Sylvi day in and day out. The last thing I wanted was to have this craggily old woman micromanaging my every move. At her advanced age, I had always thought that she were days away from a forced retirement. If someone told me that this lady had watered Yggdrasil as a sapling, I would’ve believe them. No questions asked. Alva could have easily predated the dawn of creation. I wouldn’t even be surprised if she had burped at least one of the Norns as an infant.

There was a part of me that was angry with Sylvi for sentencing me to several months with this woman. I understood that she would not have made such a hasty choice if she could’ve helped it. Surely she would have prevented her sister’s illness in the first place. That way neither of us would have to be inconvenienced by her departure. However, none of this alleviated the feelings of betrayal and abandonment that I now experienced. Of all the people Sylvi could have asked to look after me, Alva was the person who came to mind first? I’d had interactions with her in the past and none of them were ever pleasant. Along with her seniority, came an equally ancient worldview.

Just as I put down the letter, my door opened and the old woman shuffled into my room. “Still in bed?” She croaked to herself, “Hmh…Sylvi told me you were lazy.”

“She didn’t come to wake me this morning. I didn’t know what I should do, so I stayed put the way she would’ve wanted.” I lied quickly. You could’ve done better than that…

Instead of using her words, Alva took me by the arm and pulled me out of bed. She had a surprisingly strong grip and I winced at the way that her fingers pinched my skin. To avoid further scolding, I made sure to avoid eye contact. Maybe if I didn’t aggravate her, she would have no reason to chastise me.

“You’ve missed your lessons and now you are about to be late to the Queen’s gathering. I will not tolerate such flagrant disrespect.” Without a word I heeded her commands, hurrying to ready myself for the remainder of the day.

After I had dressed, she insisted on doing my hair. Despite my many protests, I should add. From the start I could tell that Alva had never managed hair quite like mine before. It was evident in the way that she tore the brush from root to tip. She had no interest in teasing out the tangles or minimizing my discomfort. Unlike Sylvi, she was intent on achieving perfection. Even if it meant that I’d bald by the end of this…

In spite of my squirming, Alva managed to pull at every wayward tress of my hair until I cried out in pain. “Keep still.”

“You’re hurting me.” I stated, attempting to untangle the brush from my hair.

“It wouldn’t hurt this much if you groomed regularly.” Again she started to pull at it with the brush despite my yelps of pain. If you knew what you are doing, it wouldn’t be this painful.

“That isn’t true. Sylvi brushes my hair daily and she never has this much difficulty.” By this point I’d forgotten to curb the sharpness of my tone and that oversight earned another awful yank through the knots.

Sylvi never hurt me like this. For all of her faults and irritating particularities, I never feared physical pain when she was around. So I bit my tongue and internalized my frustrations. I refused to allow myself to be broken by a few words or petty actions. All I had to do was survive the next few months and if I were fortunate, Sylvi would be back long before then. You hope… Without any other practical alternatives, I went about the rest of my day. I didn’t speak unless I was spoken to and I quietly endured the onslaught of barbed comments. I reasoned that if her words were met with no reaction, then maybe she would not feel the need to continue to sling hurtful jabs at me.

After lunch with the Queen and her guests, I asked Frigga if she would summons my tutors so that I could stay up to date with my lessons. Given the situation, she happily obliged. I didn’t dare ask Alva to do such a thing. She would have denied my request simply to punish me for missing them in the first place. At least I can depend on my adoptive family to treat me with compassion and respect. When Alva returned to escort me to my rooms, Frigga informed her that I was to meet with my tutors in the library instead. Alva was visibly annoyed by the fact that I had gone above her head, though nevertheless, she obeyed our Queen’s orders.

I did not expect to find Loki in the library this time. It was already late in the afternoon and he would be training with Thor by now. Yet there was still something comforting about simply being in a place he loved so dearly. It was almost like I was with him, even when we were apart.

By the time I finished my studies for the day, it was time to get ready for dinner. As we neared my rooms, we passed a group of men. They were carrying pales of mortar and a host of tools for bricklaying, which seemed out of place in this part of the palace. However, I didn’t give it very much thought once they were out of sight. Although as soon we entered my rooms, my eyes were immediately drawn to the wet cement surrounding the stone that housed my most treasured possessions. That was the moment that everything made perfect sense and the realization hit me like a sharp blow to the gut. I could feel the heat of my rage swelling in my chest until I was almost physically ill.

As if that weren’t enough, I noticed that even more of my belongings had been tampered with. Many of the books on my shelves had been removed. The volumes on potions and several of the other advanced texts that Loki had given me were missing. I strode over to my shelves in outrage, looking at the empty spaces that his books once occupied. After only half a day, I’d finally reached my breaking point.

“What have you done?”

“Correct your tone when you speak to me, girl. Disrespectful behavior begets consequences. The walls are not for storage and damaging royal property is a punishable offense. You ought to be ashamed of yourself, filling that hole with garbage like a common rat—“

None of what I kept in there even remotely resembled garbage. A fact that would have been obvious to anyone had they taken the time to examine a single item that she’d so carelessly discarded. Sure, none of my keepsakes carried any inherently value, but those things meant everything to me. My journal, the flower Loki had given me last night, and all of the other trinkets I’d collected on our adventures. Every single item memorialized some tiny moment of happiness that I didn’t want to forget, moments that were always few and far between.

“You have no right to touch my belongings without my permission. Let me refresh your memory, in case you’ve forgotten how this works. This is my room and you are employed to serve me. I do not answer to you, Alva! The respect that you think you’re entitled to, is earned and it should be mutual a privilege.” Now I was shouting. Every notion of propriety that had been drilled into me over the years was forgotten and in its place, was unbridled anger. “Where are my things? Tell me where you have taken my belongings. You have no right—“

She struck me and the sting of her handprint burned my cheek. I was stunned, too shocked to utter another word. No matter how much Sylvi had ever gotten under my skin or how ardently we disagreed, she had never hit me. I felt the tears gathering in my eyes, but I refused to let her see me shed a single one. “You will respect your elders, child. I do not want to hear another word about that rat’s nest. You will not to be late for dinner and you will carry yourself with dignity even if you have to pretend that you comprehend what that means. To eat at the high table with the Allmother is a privilege, one that you hardly deserve. You ought to be grateful for your place here in the palace. I do not need you to educate me on mine.”

I glared hatefully at that woman, clenching my teeth to force myself to remain silent. In that moment, I felt completely trapped. I hated her with ever fiber of my being, yet there was nothing that I could do. I didn’t know how change the situation. So with no other choice, I complied. I allowed her to dress me and escort me to dinner. For the entirety of the meal, I stared blankly at my plate. I didn’t touch my food. I didn’t look up. I didn’t speak. I was simply there, in a daze that no amount of conversation or hunger could extract me from.

Before the meal had concluded, I excused myself and retired for the evening. Of course Alva chastised my impropriety, but I didn’t care. I didn’t hear her. The constant drone of complaints and thinly veiled insults had worn me down to the point of exhaustion. I couldn’t stomach another month of this. Hell, I would never make it another day with her. I never thought I would say it, but I longed for Sylvi to return.

As soon as Alva left me for the night, I screamed into my pillow, releasing the frustration that I had been holding in since this afternoon. “Should I come back another time?” Loki asked as he sat at the foot of my bed. Before I could utter a single word, I threw myself into his arms and all of the tears that I had refused to shed spilled in a sudden outburst. I didn’t care how long he had hidden in the shadows or what he’d witnessed in the interim. I was just glad to finally see a friendly face.

While my desperation surprised him, Loki didn’t recoil from me. He simply held me as I cried, “Tell me what is wrong.”

Even though I wasn’t very successful, tried my best to articulate to him what had happened. “She took everything.” I stammered through my tears.

Loki dried my eyes with his sleeve, “What did she take?”

“She took my journal…the flower that you gave me and all of the souvenirs that I had from our trips. Even the books that you gave me—“ I leaned against him and sobbed even harder. It had been ages since I’d had a deep soul cleansing cathartic cry. For the most part, I had become numb to all of the daily frustrations associated with having Sylvi around. However, this was something altogether different. Alva was intent on making my life miserable, just because she could. “And then when I demanded that she tell me where she took my belongings, she slapped me.”

His expression settled in a deep, angry frown, “Alva will be dealt with.”

Holding me close, he kissed my temple as I continued to cry in his arms. I hadn’t expected Loki to be this understanding. In all the time that we had been friends, I’d never done anything like this in his presence before. I always hid my tears in shame, not wanting him to witness this side of me. Only now, when Loki looked at me his eyes were soft with empathy. My pain affected him as if it were his own. And from that tender gaze alone, I realized that my fear was unwarranted. “How? What can you do?”

“She will not harm you again. Don’t shed another tear because of her.” Loki whispered.

I did my best to dry my eyes and quiet the persistent sniffles. “I’m sorry…I know you didn’t come to see me like this.” I sighed.

“I am glad that I did. Now pack your things.” Loki instructed as he encouraged me to get out of bed.

“What? Why?”

“Sylvi is to be away for several months. Did you think it would escape my notice?”

“How did you know?”

“I have my ways.” Loki winked at me. Somehow his ever-playful attitude helped to pull me out of my despair.

“Where am I going? I don’t know what to pack.” I mumbled.

“Bring enough clothing for a day or so.”

Reluctantly, I pushed back the covers and retrieved a bag large enough to contain a days worth of necessities. Then I started to toss undergarments and outer cloths onto my bed indiscriminately. I could organize and fold things neatly after we were far away from here. Getting out of this room was the only thing that I cared about. While I searched my closet for another dress, Loki poked through the pile until he found a silky pair of panties.

“When will I get to see you wearing this?” Loki smirked, holding up the skimpy underthings for display. After a moment he brought them to his nose and drew in a deep breath.
My upbringing told me that I should’ve been embarrassed, only I wasn’t. Instead I smiled for the first time all day, before reaching over to reclaim them. “Loki, stop being silly.”

“I am being absolutely serious.”

“Well I’m being even more serious.” I mimicked, leaning farther to try to steal back my panties. In the end it was pointless. His arm span was greater than mine and unless he willingly returned them to me, I was never going to get them back. So I decided to take another approach, “Maybe you’ll see me in them tonight if you cooperate.”

Enticed, Loki tucked them into my hand, but he tightened his grip around my fingers before I could snatch them away. “I am not so easily manipulated Eleanor.”

I leaned closer, tempting him with my defiance. “Are you sure about that?” Loki allowed me to pull my hand out of his. Loki smirked, admiring my feistiness, yet choosing not to challenge me. Once I had collected everything that I could think to bring with me, Loki took the strap over his shoulder and led me to my door.

“You still haven’t told me where we are going.”

Once again he smiled, “It’s a surprise.” I don’t know how I feel about those anymore...

Since he wouldn’t tell me, I decided that I would start guessing. “Are we going to your rooms?”

“No.“

“Are we running away?”

“No.“

“Are we eloping?”

“No.”

“Are we going somewhere inside the palace?”

“Yes.”

“We are going to your rooms then!”

“No, we’re not. We have already been over this.”

“Then where are we going, Loki?” I groaned.

“Someplace you will enjoy.” On that note, I gave up trying to figure out where he was taking me. As long as we remained in the palace, I was open to anything that he had planned. And to be perfectly honest, I would follow him just about anywhere.

We walked for a long time, venturing into a part of the palace that I had never been to before. It was easy to forget how gargantuan the palace truly was. I was only ever permitted to see a tiny sliver of the place we called home, whereas Loki had the freedom to roam wherever he pleased. I could only imagine what it must be like to know every corridor and secret passage as intimately as he did. Finally, Loki stopped a large set of ornate doors. There were no identifying markings, just decorative adornments that suggested we were in a place that we had no business being in.

Once again, he stepped into his gentleman persona and opened the door for me. I accepted his hand and allowed Loki to escort me through the threshold. Just to impress me, he lit the chandelier above the entryway with his magic and the room was bathed in a warm glow. Right away I could tell that this was where the most distinguished royal guests stayed. “Are you sure that we are allowed in here?” I asked, turning to Loki with a tinge of nervousness in my voice.

He turned to me, wearing a sly smile. “Have you forgotten who I am? As prince of this realm, nothing is beyond my reach.”

“Careful Loki, you almost sound as pompous as your brother.”

“Hardly. As there are no allied Kings visiting for the foreseeable future, this apartment shall stand vacant. You can stay here tonight…or any night until Sylvi returns…if you like.”

“Of course I would like to stay here, but what if someone finds me? Unlike you, I’m not a blessed prince of Asgard. I don’t think anyone will casually overlook the fact that I’ve taken residence here…”

“You have nothing to worry about, I promise. I would not put you in harms way.”

“Okay, Loki. I trust you. I just hope that I won’t regret it.” In spite of my hesitation, I was almost too desperate to care. Returning to my rooms as not an option I was willing to entertain. So for now, this grandiose set of rooms was mine and I intended to savor every moment that I spent here.

Loki grinned, “You won’t.” Then he took my hand and gave me a brief tour of the apartment. By “brief tour,” I mean that I surveyed the accommodations as I followed his lead. Mixed in with the rooms for entertaining, there was even a private study. I imagined the two of us might study together in there at some point. Of all the things that we would have the freedom to do in Sylvi’s absence, I doubted this one was as high on his list of priorities as it was on mine.

The only time that Loki ever slowed his brisk pace to point anything out to me was when we approached a door beneath the stairs. “This is the servants passage. If you go down these stairs, you will find yourself near the courtyards. Many of the other passageways let out in that corridor as well. No one will be able to tell where you’ve just come from. It is the most discrete route in or out of this place. I recommend we both make use of this stairwell to limit suspicions.”

“Noted.” With that, we ventured up to the next level and towards what I assumed were the private quarters. There were several smaller bedrooms along the way, each of which were far more extravagant that my own. The living space that I had been given was sufficiently lavish in its own right, however this was a level of luxury that I was unaccustomed to. “Are the guest accommodations this nice in every kingdom?”

“No. Not every kingdom is ours Ele.” Loki added.

“I guess you’re right.” I chuckled.

At the very end of the hall, there was another set of double doors and once again Loki opened the doors for me. This time, I froze in astonishment. “That is the biggest bed I’ve ever seen in my life.” Seven people could have easily fit on that thing with room to spare.

Loki smirked, “It is a bed fit for a king. What were you expecting?”

I gazed at him, suddenly awash with that now familiar warm and fuzzy feeling. “Thank you...for everything” A shy smile touched his lips as Loki grapple with the sudden bashfulness that tried to overtake him. I always liked it when he smiled, yet this time my knees went weak and my heart fluttered. For as long as I could remember, there had been moments like these, where I had reacted to Loki in this way. Now I understood why and I experienced this giddiness with a new appreciation.

“I’ve always looked after you haven’t I?”

“Yes, you have.”

“Then why would this be any different?”

I shrugged, “It shouldn’t?”

“Correct.” After Loki placed my things on the vanity, he took me by the hand to lure me out of the darkness. It didn’t take very much persuasion for me to venture towards the bed. I hopped onto the mattress and to test it out. It was comfortable, but not as springy as I would’ve hoped. Not that stopped me from giving it a few test jumps. Meanwhile Loki leaned against one of the posts, watching as I regressed to a younger, more playful age.
I landed in the plush bedding and a few down feathers escaping when I plopped onto at the center.

“Is this to your standards, Lady Eleanor of Midgard?”

“Yes, it is.” I crawled to the edge of the bed, kneeling so that Loki and I were eye to eye. Then I hugged him as tightly as I could. “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

Loki squeezed me back, mirroring my own affection. “I could say the very same.” His words landed heavily in my chest, filling me with a bubbly excitement. Acting purely on impulse, I pulled Loki onto the bed beside me. Then when Loki settled beside me, I faced him and for the first time in my entire life, I was completely at ease. Sylvi was gone, we were alone, and we had the privacy to do whatever we wanted. And I want him.

Our conversation from the night at the caverns replayed in my head. I’d told Loki that I intended to give myself to him. That hadn’t been a lie, except I still wasn’t sure when that might be. While I was fonder of the idea, I still did not know how far we might go on any given night. “Will you stay with me?” I whispered and I watched Loki’s expression fall.

“No, not tonight—“

“Why not?” I was surprised and disappointed at the same time. Has he lost interest?

“There is something I must to do in order to ensure that Alva is no longer a problem for you.” Loki answered.

“You aren’t going to physically harm her are you?”

“I will admit that the thought has crossed my mind, however, I do not intend to act on those impulses. Regardless, she will not be in a position to mistreat you ever again. That is a promise.”

“I just thought I’d ask. Sometimes you take things too far...”

“Any other time, I would not hesitate to avenge you. In this case, it would not be wise to arouse suspicion, not when it could jeopardize this arrangement for us. Tomorrow, I will stay with you for as long as you like.”

I searched his eyes for the truth for a moment longer, until I was sure that he was not attempting to mislead me. “Ok.” Only after the silence fell between us, did I allow myself relax again. As we lay there, I noticed the way that our bodies effortlessly fit together.

Not all that long ago, the thought of lying with Loki this way would have been unthinkable. Our familiarity had always fallen into a grey area, somewhere between platonic and even familial at times. What was appropriate for one was not necessarily true for the other and with the addition of the third, romantic category; we often veered into questionable territory. Having all of this to consider, I never would have had the courage to be this relaxed in his arms before.

I remembered our first kiss and how nervous we each had been that night. Now neither of us hesitated and it came as naturally as breathing. That awkward apprehension was reserved for other, more intimate things. Funny what a few short weeks can do. Following that thought, I wondered how much could change over the course of a few months. In the end, I decided to take advantage of this newfound closeness and I carefully pulled his hand over the curve of my hip.

In light of everything that had happened today, all I wanted was to feel safe and cared for. Of course, Loki did not disappoint. He accepted my advance, shifting so that our legs intertwined. When I looked up to meet his gaze, something new surprised me. That was when I felt it for the first time. It was like I falling into a bottomless pit and I was ok with it because I was falling with him. Because of him. In that moment, I realized the depth of my affection for Loki.

From the day I arrived here in Asgard, he’d been my guardian angel. Loki lifted me up whenever the world put me down. He was the familiar face in every crowd. He knew me better than anyone and Loki could always make me laugh when I wanted to cry. And I love him. Not in the way that I was supposed to. No, I loved him in the silly romantic way that I’d once thought could only existed in a perfect world.

When Loki kissed me, I didn’t hold any of this back. I was eager and accepting of every gentle peck or roaming touch. His hand ventured higher to fondle my chest while his lips persuaded me into another open-mouthed kiss. My body acted on its own, driven by a primal impatience that I couldn’t ignore. I was desperate to feel his skin against mine, to create the satisfying friction between us that I’d learned to crave. Then my aching desire got the better of me and I pushed my leg over his hip, urging my softer parts against the roughness of his pants. Just as I was starting to enjoy myself, Loki began to push me away. When he broke our kiss, I was confused. “Have I done something wrong?”

“No.” His behavior suggested that finding the discipline to show restraint had been difficult for him, not that he explained why he’d done so in the first place. Not knowing what else to say, I tried to coax an explanation from him in the only way I knew how. I gently stroked his cheek, hoping that this tenderness would be enough to persuade him to share whatever was on his mind.

“Why did we stop?”

“I must go. Rest and do not worry about anything else tonight.” Loki kissed my forehead and I reluctantly allowed him to leave me by myself on this big bed. As he straightened his cloths, I knelt at the edge of the mattress. Before Loki could put very much distance between us, I grasped his hand. And for as long as I could, I tried to prolong our goodbyes because I didn’t want him to go. I didn’t want to spend the night here by myself. Seeming to harbor similar feelings, Loki lingered, drifting closer to me the longer I continued to hold his hand in mine. Once he was within reach, I acted on the sentiments we both felt. I gently pressed my lips to his one last time, hoping to sate the gnawing desire that continued to smolder beneath my skin or maybe if I were luck I’d change his mind.

Instead Loki pulled away once more, “Goodnight.”

I responded with a slight nod, “See you at breakfast.” And then he made his exit. Soon after, the sound of the door shutting at the servant’s passage down below let me know that I was truly alone. And suddenly, I was anxious for him to return. The silence in his absence was deafening and the new shadows that flickered in the lamplight were unnerving. With nothing better to do, I slipped beneath the heavy covers and tried to sleep. This bed wasn’t as cozy without him here beside me. Nevertheless, I managed to find some semblance of comfort. After the day that I’d had, closing my eyes was just about the only thing I had the energy to do.


Loki

Frigga emerged from her sleeping chambers and it was obvious from her disheveled appearance that she had long since retired for the evening. Upon entry, I had informed her servant that I needed to speak with Mother urgently. With only this to go on, surely she anticipated a crisis of some nature. I never called on her this late in the night for any other reason. At least tonight, I had not come on my behalf.

“Sit with me.” She offered, as I joined her by the windows. “Tell me what troubles you, my son. The look in your eyes betrays your distress.”

For a long moment I attempted control every nuance of my expression. It was no secret that Mother was adept at reading everyone’s conscience, especially her own sons’. I did not want my concern for Eleanor to reveal the entirety of my feelings for her. In Frigga’s eyes, she had three children. Two of which, just happen to be intimately involved… Attempting to separate my concerns for Ele’s safety from my carnal interests, only exacerbated the anxious behavior that I fought conceal. “There is something that I must bring to your attention. I would have done so sooner had I been aware of it myself.” I stated.

“What has happened?”

“I spoke with Ele tonight and she shared some distressing news. You aware aware that Sylvi is away?”

Immediately, I knew that had her attention, “Yes, I am aware of this. Sylvi requested that Alva take her place until she returned.“

“Other arrangements must be made. The only reason I am here tonight is because Ele is too frightened to tell you herself. The old woman has beaten her and stolen from her. ” A sudden, yet graceful anger overtook her expression. “Ele is gentle and kind…and undeserving of such treatment. I don’t want that woman anywhere near Eleanor ever again.”

“I assure you, this matter will be resolved long before morning. How did you discover this?”

“I saw the way that Ele behaved at dinner…she wasn’t herself. When I spoke with her about it, she was in tears. She’s afraid to be left alone with her.”

“I understand. Thank you for coming to me. This will not be tolerated.” Frigga called over her servant. “Summons Alva, I wish to speak with her.” The woman bowed her head obediently, and then hurried out the door to do as she was directed. “Is there anything else that I should know?”

At first I was poised to tell her everything. Mother should know that Sylvi treated Eleanor as more of a prisoner rather than a royal ward. However, Ele had sworn me to secrecy. Betraying her at this point would not earn her favor and at the moment, she was in no immediate danger. Against my better judgment, I decided to honor my word. For now. “You should speak with Eleanor when you have the chance. If there is more to this, she may feel comfortable telling you herself. Should I bring her to you tonight?”

“No. Let her sleep. It is already late and she does not need to be bothered with this before morning. I will have dealt with Alva by then. It is good that you were there for her Loki. She has always looked up to you.”

I imagined Ele looking up to me in another context. Surely she would be just as beautiful whilst on her knees. From that position, she would have not choice but to look up to me… Once again I tried to dampen these thoughts. “I have always cared for her, just as you have. Ele has done nothing to deserve this. I could not stand by and allow this to continue once she told me what Alva had done.”

Mother smiled and gently clasped my hand between hers. “She is fortunate to have such a caring elder brother. If you should learn of anything else of this nature, I trust you will tell me.”

“I will.”

With that, Frigga stood and began to adjust her robes. “Good. Excuse me, while I have a discussion with Alva.”

I smirked, privately amused by her word choice. In my life I had had quite a few ‘discussions’ with Mother and they were never dialogues. She spoke and I knew to listen. As a child, I’d found these talks to be a more of an effective reprimand that Father’s shouting. Whenever I made the mistake of getting caught that is. On that note, I took my leave and slipped into a darkened corner, waiting to see this vile woman’s face after Mother was finished with her.


Eleanor

The next morning, my hungry belly made sure to wake me early for breakfast. I had rested well, far better than I had expected. This bed was more comfortable than I’d initially thought and when the time came, I found it difficult to pull myself from beneath the covers. As I was getting ready to start the day, I remembered what Loki had promised. He would stay with me tonight and I eagerly looked forward to this evening.

Once I had washed and dressed, I slipped through the servant’s passage the way Loki had suggested and I found myself near the courtyards. There was no one around to notice me and I was a bit relieved to know that there weren’t very many people around at this hour to question me.

Even though my morning had been very simple, it was still one of the best mornings in recent memory. I had successfully gotten myself out of bed and ready for the day without any assistance. Sylvi would like to think that I was wholly dependent on her, however it was quite the opposite. I was more comfortable doing for myself than being waited on hand and foot. I felt free and the world seemed brighter now that I was out from under Sylvi’s dense fog.

On my way to breakfast I ran into Thor. At first I felt a bit apprehensive, then I noticed that he was alone. There was one thing that I had learned about my pseudo-brother; his friends emboldened him. When he was alone, he was bearable and sometimes I even enjoyed his company. “Good morning Thor.” I said quietly.

“Good morning, Ele.” He glanced back, as if he were looking for someone. “Where is Sylvi? It isn’t often I see you without her.”

“She is away.”

Thor smirked, “And while she is away you will do as you please, correct?”

I laughed, “I assure you, doing as I please does not mean what you think it will.”

He frowned, appearing to want me to want something more out of my time without Sylvi. Of course, what I did want, I dared not share with him. “And what do you plan to do? Were I in your stead, I would seek to have as much fun as I could before the she returned.”

“I am.”

Thor laughed, his expression both curious and doubtful. “And what do you intend to do?”

“Well I might have a picnic lunch or later this evening I might visit the library. I’ve never been there at night before. Then again I might just ask Loki to get me into some trouble.” I chuckled.

Thor sighed, “Loki does not know how to have a good time. He cannot teach you what he himself does not understand.”

“Yes he does, Thor. The things we would consider fun are just a bit different than the ones you enjoy. That does not make them any better or worse.”

“That cannot be true. All he does is sit quietly and look at books—“

“No, he reads the books. If you are simply looking at them, than you're doing it wrong. Perhaps that is why reading bores you.” I laughed.

“It may as well be the same thing. Life doesn’t happen on a page. It is more fun to experience what you read about it that it is to look at lifeless words on a page. Can you put music in a book or laughter—“

“Well yes, but I imagine that isn’t your point.” I answered quietly.

“My unsolicited advice, live more and read less.”

Emphasis on the unsolicited part...

“Thanks, Thor. I’ll be sure to do that.”

“You’re welcome. And if you ever feel that you would like a lesson in living, all you have to do is ask and I can show you how to make the most of your time without Sylvi. Even you deserve to experience a good party once in your life, little sister.” Thor only ever called me that when we were alone. He regarded me as more of a sister than Loki ever did. For obvious reasons. In spite of this acceptance, he still couldn’t bring himself to do so publically. I didn’t take it personally; he did it for many of the same reasons he chose not to stand up for Loki in a lot of situations. Sadly, his pride and his ego governed most of his actions.

“I’ll keep that in mind.” I had no intentions of ever to taking him up on that offer, although I nodded anyway. Just as I was about to follow him into the grand hall, I noticed Frigga standing by one of the reception rooms, talking with one of her ladies. When she noticed me, she quickly called me over.

“Eleanor, might I have a word with you?” I nodded, following her lead into the privacy of one of the nearby rooms. I had some idea of what this was about, however I dreaded the outcome. What did Loki do last night when he left me? Did Alva report that I had not been in my rooms this morning? With so much uncertainty, I kept quiet, hoping that I would not have to say very much. “How are you this morning?”

“I’m well.”

“I am pleased to hear that, especially after all that happened yesterday.” She said gently. I tried my best not to react, as I didn’t know what had already been said. “I am sorry this happened under my supervision. You should not have to fear those closest to you. Alva has been relieved of her duties and will no longer reside within the palace.”

I didn’t know what to say. I never thought that Loki could have the woman ejected. I wondered where she would go or if she had family who would take her in. While I did not like her, I knew that she had spent the last four thousand years within these walls. Her entire life was here and while I hated her, I wasn’t that heartless. However, something told me that Frigga wasn’t either. Even though she had had Alva removed, I doubted that she would have cast her out into the night with only the cloths on her back.

“You know that I care for you. Your wellbeing and your happiness are very important to me, Ele. Why did you hesitate to share this with me?”

I continued to look down, “I didn’t know if you would believe my word against hers.”

She hugged me, “Eleanor, I would never take another’s word over yours. If someone has done something to you, you do not need to quietly endure it. And if they tell you that you must, I will see to it that their actions will have consequences. My children are not to be mistreated. Not one of them.” A reluctant smile started to win my expression, “That is much better. It saddens me to see you without a smile one your face.”

“Thank you—“

“You do not need to thank me for this. I am doing what should be done. Your place is here with your family. Her words will never change that.” I nodded, not knowing what else I should say. “While I have you, we should discuss Alva’s replacement. Given the circumstances there was not enough time consult you before these decisions were made the first time. I have a hand full of suitable candidates who I have selected from my own staff. I have known these women for many centuries and I can assure you that each of them would do a wonderful job in the interim.“

“Must I have a replacement?”

Clearly she hadn’t expected me to ask that. “You realize it will be quite some time until Sylvi returns?”

“Yes.”

“May I ask why you have come to this decision?”

“Forgive me if I am hesitant to trust someone else in such private settings…so soon after what just happened. I am capable of looking after myself until she returns. I know and I trust Sylvi more than a stranger." I answered.

Frigga gave me a sympathetic look, both understanding my hesitation and wishing to persuade me against it. “Are you sure? Do you truly wish to go without any assistance for the duration of her absence?” Again I nodded. “Well…I don’t think that that should not be a problem. Are you truly comfortable with this?”

“Yes. I think that this is a wonderful opportunity for me to practice being self-sufficient. I don’t want to be a child forever.”

Frigga chuckled, “Accepting help from those who care for you is not always a sign of childishness. If you think you are ready, then I trust your judgment and I will not stand in your way. Should you change your mind, I am happy help you select someone new.” Wait…that actually worked!?

Following that small victory, I made sure to keep my excitement to myself. “Thank you. I won’t disappoint you.”

“Eleanor, there is very little you could ever do to disappoint me.” This time I hugged her tighter, silently thanking her for releasing me from my personal prison. “You will not be a child forever, Ele. Enjoy your youth and do not wish it away.” She stated gently. I nodded, not quite willing to agree with all of what she said. If growing up meant that I could be rid of Sylvi’s overbearing supervision, then I would gladly abandon childish things in favor of freedom. “Let us join the others.” She offered, beginning to lead me back towards the hall.

When we entered the hall for breakfast, I sat in my usual place and quietly ate my favorite foods. Contrary to the every other morning, I actually joined in the conversation. I laughed from my gut and I didn’t have to pretend to be happy for once. All the while, I eagerly looked forward to sharing the good news with Loki. When I chanced a glance in what was usually his direction, I saw that his place was empty. It wasn’t unusual for Loki to take his morning meal alone if he was particularly engrossed in his studies. Although, I would be lying if I said that this discovery hadn’t taken some of the wind from my sails.

After I finished eating, I excused myself in order to be on time for my first lesson of the day.
Simply because I could, I decided to take a detour along the scenic route. Sylvi never let me sightsee before my lessons began. Even if I could only enjoy these small luxuries for the next few months, I intended to make the most of each and ever one of them.

As I was passing by the gardens, Loki stepped from behind a column and matched my stride. “I think that you have desensitized me. Surely that cannot be healthy.” I stated, glancing over at Loki.

“I would consider it a strength.” He teased.

“Of course you would. Why weren’t you at breakfast?”

“I had more pressing matters to attend to.”

“Such as?”

“What did Mother say when she spoke to you this morning?” Loki asked.

“How do you know she spoke with me this morning if you weren’t there?”

He smirked, “Don’t worry about that. Answer my question.”

“I asked you two questions that you have yet to answer.” Ever the suborned one, Loki refused to speak until I gave in. “We talked about what happened yesterday with Alva. That should not be any surprise to you.”

“And?”

“And…I negotiated my way out of having any oversight until Sylvi returns.” I boasted.

Loki faltered, clearly not expecting me to say this. “So you are free to do as you please?” He asked, almost in disbelief.

“Mhm. I can do whatever I want, whenever I want.” I grinned.

“I’m impressed. You are bolder than I ever thought you would be. Where has this Eleanor been all these years?”

“I don’t know. Maybe I’m finally taking your advice. I’m just ready for a change. It has only been a day since she left and I feel so much more alive without her around. I’m not worried about every little thing that I do, every second of the day. And the best part is, no one even notices the difference. I can be myself and it isn’t…some egregious imperfection that must be concealed.” I laughed.

“How many times have I told you this?”

“I don’t know. I just couldn’t see how I could do anything to change my situation before now. I felt stuck…” Walking next to him like this left me feeling the urge hold his hand. And as much as I would’ve liked to indulge, I still knew that there were limits. We were in public and I did not want to risk anyone glimpsing this familiarity. “I told you what you wanted to know. Now answer my question.”

“I have something for you.” When I turned to see what Loki had brought me, my eyes landed on my journal and without thinking I threw my arms around him. “Thank you!” Before reason had a chance to intervene, I even kissed his cheek.

“I regret that I could not find the rest of your belongings.” He confessed.

“This is more than enough. You don’t know how much I appreciate this.”

Loki smirked, “I can think of several ways that you could repay me.”

“Oh I’m sure you can.” I laughed, giving him a playful shove.

Loki tugged me into an alcove, where no one could see us. “Let’s go back to your rooms and celebrate then.”

His offer caught me off guard and I hesitated, “I can’t—“

“Why not?”

“What will Frigga think if I begin to shirk my responsibilities? I have to at least appear to have some discipline.” I rose onto my toes to sneak a brief kiss. “Stay with me tonight the way that you promised, Loki. Then we can celebrate until dawn if you wish.” I giggled until he leaned against me. Now I found myself pressed between his body and a one of the pillars. I sympathized with his eagerness; it mirrored my own now more than ever. Yet I still knew that I could not let his influence rob me of this precious, newfound freedom.

And somehow despite my resolve, I found myself tenderly stoking his cheek. It was no surprise when he pressed his lips to mine and as hard as I tried to fight the temptation, Loki was quickly winning me over. Every gentle kiss brought me one step closer to stealing away with him. Then in an instant my inner adult put her foot down, reminding me of all that was at stake and I abruptly broke our kiss. “Loki, I can’t.” I was saying it out loud in the hopes that I might soon believe it.

As gracefully as I could, I dislodged myself from between his body and the pillar. Loki remained in the alcove, half masked in the shadows, while I backpedaled into the corridor, clutching my journal tightly to my chest. I can’t. Even thought I wanted to throw caution to the wind, I knew that I couldn’t allow him to persuade me.

“Then I suppose this is where we part ways.”

“No need to be dramatic, Loki. Come directly to my rooms after dinner. Don’t keep me waiting.” This time he smiled and I felt another flutter of butterflies ignite in my stomach.

“Until tonight…” Without another word, he disappeared in a shimmering mist of magic. Tonight. I repeated the word in my mind for the rest of the day, biding my time until darkness fell, when I’d get to see my prince once again.

To be continued…

Chapter Text

Since my run in with Loki this morning, I could hardly focus during my lessons. No surprise there. In between the reading and the dictation, I found myself daydreaming about more important things. What it would be like to share a bed with him for the entire night? What would it feel like to give myself to him? I gave pause to that last question.

In truth, I wanted Loki just as desperately as he wanted to have me. I liked exploring this new realm of experiences with him because on any given night, I never knew just how far we might go. In a way, that was part of the excitement. However, Loki had already made his intentions clear. Tonight was going to be different. That was a fact.

My patience abandoned me well before midday and what focus I did manage to muster failed soon after. So as best as I could, I attempted to keep this impatience to myself. I muddled through my lessons. Gave the appearance of modesty and poise during my time with the Queen and her ladies. Then at dinner, I quietly exchanged pleasantries with our table guests and the other members of the royal family. I was just too excited to enjoy my meal. He’s so close and yet still beyond my reach.

Every now and again I would look up from my plate, only to find Loki staring me from across the table and each time I fought to conceal the giddy blush that his attention incited. Twice I forgot that we were in full view of countless watchful eyes and I openly grinned the instant his gaze met mine. I do not know if anyone noticed this silent game of ours. Even if they had, I’d be willing to wager that their assumptions were nowhere close to the truth. Instead of continuing to giggle each time that he looked my way, I fixed my attention on the food before me.

Ever the mischievous one, Loki could not leave well enough alone. Something cool slithered across ankle and I stilled in an instant. I did not react, although in my periphery I noticed Loki watching me with renewed interest. He was waiting for me to squirm, but I wasn’t about to give him the satisfaction. I’d come to expect these sorts of tricks from him and as a result I was not easily startled anymore. I could feel the scaly creature coil around my calf, then constrict its body in order to inch his way under my skirt. All the while Loki’s attention never wavered. The serpent moved higher, creeping up between my shins and the moment I felt its little forked tongue flicker against my inner thigh, I crossed my legs to pinch its head between my knees.

Loki winced and Frigga turned to him, giving him a concerned yet stern once over. Ultimately nothing came of it, but Loki made sure to behave himself now that he knew someone was paying attention to his every move. Someone with the eyes of a hawk, I should add. Meanwhile I smiled to myself, doing a little dance of victory in my chair as I continued to hold him captive between my legs. Loki might like to pretend that my actions weren’t giving him a headache; only I knew for certain that his creations extended the reach of his own senses. He told me so. Given my position at the far end of the table, I was able to discretely reach under the hem of my skirt to grab its tail and uncoil the little devil from around my leg. He wriggled free, only to make a hasty retreat back to the safety of his conjurer.

Thankfully the meal was over before Loki had the chance to send his little minion over for another try. I don’t know that I could deflect any more of his schemes with the same amount of discretion. And Loki would not fall victim to the same defense twice. So as quickly as I could, I excused myself from the table and hurried back to my temporary home.

I assumed that it would be a little while longer before Loki would retire for the evening. Most nights, he didn’t usually let himself into my rooms until after I’d readied myself for bed. So with some time on my hands, I went over to the closet where I’d hidden my cloths. On the off chance that any servants were to pass through, the last thing I wanted was for someone to see my belongings scattered throughout the room. I did not know what the consequences were for such a trespass, but I did not care to find out.

I began to look through the neatly folded clothing, attempting to decide on what I should wear to bed tonight. It wasn’t as though I owned any alluring sleepwear, however, I did like the idea of looking my best. A part of me was disappointed that I had not considered this when I had packed my belongings the other night or even just this afternoon when I still had the opportunity to go back to my rooms to look through my wardrobe. Eventually I decided on one of my shorter silken slips that I’d brought with me. It fell just below my hips and the top fit my figure better than most of the other nightshirts that I owned.

Satisfied with my selection, I sat down at the vanity to brush my hair before my bath. Almost as soon as I started, Loki stepped through the doorway and my heart skipped a beat. I wasn’t sure if this was caused exclusively by my excitement or the fact that he had startled me. “You’re early! I was just getting ready for bed.”

Loki chuckled, clearly amused by the way that I had jumped. “I saw no reason to delay. I typically bide my time until Sylvi leaves...”

“Well we don’t have to worry about that today.” I grinned as I skipped over to hug him. He dropped his satchel onto the bed, so that he could squeeze me in return. “You’re really staying tonight? The whole night?”

Loki smirked, “Yes. Is that so hard to believe?”

“No. I’m just…excited.” A nervous giggle burst free, one that Loki seemed to like the sound of. Then he was smiling too and I felt his hand slide down my arm until his fingers laced in mine. Rather than let the conversation lull or allow myself to lose what confidence I’d managed to cobble together; I forced myself to make a suggestion. “Since you’re here…maybe we could…bathe together tonight? Only if you want to—I just thought it might be nice…it would save time and we could…be together…and have more time for…other things—“ You should stop talking now... Loki stilled and my heart began to thud hard in my chest as I waited to hear his response. Perhaps you were too forward and he’s no longer in the mood for that…

“That isn’t a terrible idea.”

“Ok.” With that I hurried off to draw our bath. As I sat at the edge of the tub, I began to take several calming breaths to collect myself. This is actually about to happen. I’d never seen Loki naked before, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, aside from my vague understanding of our anatomical differences anyway. Sylvi made sure of that. Likewise, I’d never undressed in his presence before either. Of course when we had gone swimming together in the caverns the other night, we were undressed to some degree. However, all of the important parts had remained concealed at my insistence. You moron…

That was about the time that Loki sauntered into the room. For all of his usual confidence, he suddenly appeared just as inexperienced as I felt. Although in a way it was comforting, I liked knowing that I wasn’t going through this alone. It was interesting how just the other night he had been the one coaxing me out of my cloths. Now that I was the one making the request, he seemed shy for some reason. I wondered if that meant that he hadn’t truly believed that I would do it before.

Without further delay, I approached him and pulled my hair aside so that he could reach the laces at the back of my dress. Sure, I could have undone them myself, except I wanted him to. Then Loki unlaced the bow at the nape of my neck.

“Are you nervous?”

“Yes.” I confessed as I turned around to face him. Even though he didn’t say it aloud, his eyes confirmed that he was too. Only once I’d gathered the courage, I reached under my skirt and tugged down my panties. Then I slowly let my dress and the underlying slip slide off my shoulders. They pooled around my feet and I now stood entirely exposed to him.

Loki swallowed audibly and his eyes shifted downwards, drinking in the sight of me as though he were committing ever curve to memory. All the while I fought the urge to cover myself. The room suddenly felt chilly now that I had nothing against my skin except for the heat of his gaze. After a few uncomfortable seconds of this, I gave an impatient nod, prompting Loki to join me in my current state of undress.

Seeming to snap out of his trace, Loki nodded and began to strip out of his leather over things. When his pants finally dropped to the floor, my eyes settled on his manhood and I felt them widen in bewilderment. I don’t know what I was expecting to see, but this was a jarring revelation. The head of it peaked out of the hood of skin and then there were rounder parts hanging beneath. How bizarre… Although like mine, his was decorated with dark unruly curls too.

I stared at him for a long time, a lot longer than I was proud of in fact. That was when I began to piece it all together. Reason told me that if his sex was external and mine was internal, then that must have to fit inside me…somehow. He was already girthy and it seemed like it continued to grow the longer we stood there inspecting one and other.

Loki went to reach for my hand, presumably to lure me towards the bath. When he did, his half engorged member bobbed in pace with his stride. Having never seen anything like this before, I took a wary step backward. So instead of pursuing me, Loki went ahead and stepped into the water, allowing me the leeway to follow once I was ready. After another few moments I hesitantly joined him in the tub, making sure to sit opposite him. And as far from that thing as I can possibly get. I slowly sank into the water and drew my legs closer to my chest to regain a comfortable amount of modesty.

“You look frightened.” Surely his words were meant to coax me out of my silence, except it barely pulled me from my contemplation.

“You’re supposed to put that in me aren’t you?” I asked, so quietly that my voice was barely audible. Loki nodded and I felt my brow furrow in confusion. “Where?” I was almost afraid to learn. To my knowledge, there wasn’t a single orifice on my body that could accommodate that part of him. Not comfortably anyway…

“If you feel between your legs, there is an opening…” He answered, clearing his throat to maintain his composure. Forgetting that Loki was sitting across from me, I reached down to find this mystery place. Obviously I was aware of that part of my body, except I’d never tried to put my fingers into it before. Sure enough there was indeed an opening, but I could only manage to insert one of my fingertips before I felt an uncomfortable resistance. “Loki, I really don’t think that is going to fit—“

“You will adjust. After the first time it should be much easier…at least that is what I have been told.” His answer wasn’t all that reassuring. Although, considering I was only just getting acquainted this part of my anatomy, he clearly knew more than I did about this subject. So I trusted that he would not intentionally give me misleading information. Rather than continue to scare myself by trying to imagine this seemingly impossible disappearing act he claimed my nether regions could perform, I decided to try to get comfortable with us being naked together. It was strange how after all these years of friendship, removing a few layers of fabric could change the dynamic of our interactions. We were like strangers all over again and I did not like this feeling one bit.

“Can I touch it?” Loki eagerly nodded before I’d even finished asking for his permission. So I crawled forward until I was kneeling in front of him. Then when I grasped him in my hand, Loki sucked in a sharp breath and his eyes drifted shut. “I didn’t hurt you did I?!”

“No…” His fingers closed around mine, preventing me from recoiling with doubt. Then Loki began to guide my hand up and down along his length. Following his lead, I did my best to mimic his actions. Soon his breathing grew heavy and every now and again, a satisfied sigh would escape him. The sound of his pleasure stirred something in me and once more I began to feel that pleasant ache gathering in the place between my thighs, the satisfying tension that I’d become oh so familiar with.

Even though I’d felt this part of him through his cloths all those times before, holding it in my hand was a lot different than anything I’d imagined. I continued stroked him, tugging at his engorged appendage with increasing confidence. It was firm and yet the skin was so delicate. In a way it was even fun to toy with. On a whim I tightened my grasp a bit, just to see how Loki would react. And the impassioned whimper that followed certainly took me by surprise, as did the feeling that jolted straight into my core. Before tonight, I’d never heard him make a noise like this when we clumsily rubbed against each other. I was usually the one who gave in to timid moans that filled the silenced.

The longer I continued to stroke him, the more excited he became. It was just like the other night by the water, only this time I could tell that Loki was putting considerably more effort into controlling himself. By accident, I realized that Loki reacted the most when I squeezed the end, so I focused my actions on the tip. I’d only managed to repeat this a few times before his cock pulsated in my hand, spurting thick ropes of cream that messily dribbled over my fingers. That must have been what had happened the other night, because looked just as embarrassed right now as he had then. Only this time I’d seen everything.

At first I was a bit nauseated when I looked down at the mess he’d made, but then I remembered how he said that he couldn’t help it. So rather than let my squeamishness get the better of me, I rinsed away the gooey secretions and tried not to focus on it too much. I Overall I surprised myself, I was more comfortable with all of this than I initially thought I would be.

“Sorry…”

“Don’t be.” I managed to reply. Instead of returning to my side of the tub, I settled beside to him. We didn’t speak right away. For a while we simply sat in each other’s company, as neither of us was sure of what to say or do next. Eventually, I was the first to break the silence. “How do you know so much about what we’re supposed to do?”

“Men are far less secretive about what happens behind closed doors. Especially the company that Thor keeps… “ Loki answered quietly.

“You’re not going tell them about what we’ve done, are you?” I asked, suddenly feeling a cold pang of embarrassment already creeping up my spine.

“No. They get a thrill out of comparing their conquests—“

“Am I one of your conquests?”

“No, you’re not. I have no interest in such things and I care even less about what they think. Besides, they would never believe me even if I were to tell them.” Loki explained.

“Why does it sound like you have already tried to?”

“Trust me, I haven’t. Their opinions of me are already established. If I say that you and I have been intimate, they will assume that I am lying to impress them. And as compelling of a reason as that is, that is not why I have chosen to kept our relations discrete.”

“What is the real reason then?”

Loki sighed, “Foremost, it is no ones business but our own. But…I do not trust any of them to keep it to themselves. Thor especially.”

“Are you ashamed of me?”

“No, of course not. The situation is more…delicate…than that. I do not care what Thor and his asinine friends think of our arrangement. On the other hand, if Mother were to overhear…I’m not sure what she will think of me…of us. In her mind you and I share the same degree of kinship as I share with Thor.”

“I never thought about it that way. Does that mean that what we are doing is wrong?”

Loki shrugged, “Regardless of how she chooses to regard us, we are not kin. We share only a familial bond in title, not one of blood. Furthermore, I have never felt that way about you. From the beginning, you have always been my friend. Everything else has always been an uncomfortable imposition.”

“Do you think she will be angry if she finds out?”

Again he shrugged, “That I do not know.”

“Well…I guess we’ll just have to be very careful then because I don’t want to stop being with you like this.” I laid my head against his shoulder. Without meaning to I glanced down at his cock, only to notice that it had relaxed against his thigh. “Why is it like that now? What happened to it?”

Loki blushed, “Sometimes I need a moment—“

Now that my shyness had begun to fade, I wasn’t overthinking as much of what I said and the filter between my brain and my mouth became far less stringent. Which in retrospect, isn’t always a good things. “It looks strange like that.”

“You think everything is strange, Ele.” Loki rebutted somewhat defensively.

“Well have you ever really looked at it before?” I giggled.

“Yes, I have. It happens to be attached to me. I’m sure that your sex would appear just as ‘strange’ to my eyes.“

“Nowhere near as odd as that, I promise—“

“Prove it.”

I shook my head, “No. That’d be too embarrassing.”

“More embarrassing than this, hmm?”

“A little bit…” I answered timidly. Rather than persist, Loki accepted my answer.

“The water is going to go cold soon. We should at least make this productive.” He suggested, reaching over to collect a bottle of the perfumed oils. He removed the stopper to take a whiff of the fragrance. “Do you like this one?” Loki offered the bottle to me to smell. It was too strong and I sneezed. “I will take that as a no.”

“Good idea.”

This time he picked another bottle, one with a softer fragrance. It was a neutral clean scent that I was fond of. “This one is nice.” Without prompting Loki poured some over my shoulder then across my collarbone. I felt myself holding my breath, too nervous to exhale. Then what Loki did next only made things worse, and by worse I mean, more difficult for me to contain the enormity of my excitement. He took a sponge and began to lather along my skin, moving across my chest, continuing lower until the coarse material rasped over the taut bud of my nipple.

Loki was gentle with me, careful not to over stimulate such a sensitive area. He traces alone the slope of my breasts and then down into the crease of my cleavage. Before I knew it, my breathing had grown heavy and the coiling tightness between my legs had returned. “Loki, there’s more of me to wash than just my breasts.” I teased.

“I’m aware of that. I just want to make sure that you are clean.” He murmured, still entirely absorbed in his work.

Giggling, I took the sponge from him. “If you want to touch me, then just say so.” Loki reached out to cup one of my breasts in his hand. He didn’t need more of an invitation. Instead he gleefully massaged them in his hands. It didn’t take long for him to get carried away and soon it became more of a game than something erotic. Simply to gain a reprieve, I leaned forward to distract him with a gentle kiss. “There is plenty of moonlight left for you to fondle me Loki. Let’s just get washed before the our fingers get wrinkly.”

Reluctantly, he obeyed and we focused on cleansing ourselves. Once we were washed, we climbed out of the draining water and headed to the bedroom to dry off. I helped Loki towel off his hair, not because he needed my assistance, but because I still really wanted to touch him too. Afterwards, I went to gather my sleep cloths and Loki put his hands on either side of my waist to pull my back against his front.

“Let’s sleep like this.”

“What? Naked!?”

He grinned, as if such a request were completely normal. “Yes.”

“Don’t you think we’ll get cold?”

“Not if we share body heat…or generate it.” He snickered, leaning forward to kiss my neck.

With a halfhearted shrug I agreed, “Ok. “ Then I crawled in bed, scooting over far enough for Loki to get in beside me. We quickly settled comfortably together. This wasn’t the first time we’d shared a bed together, so I already know how to snuggle with him. I turned onto my side to face him and Loki began to caress his hand along the curve of my figure. “You thought you were mighty clever with that snake tonight, didn’t you?”

“I was—“

“Until I squished its head, right?”

He cringed, immediately recalling the headache that had followed. “You’re thighs are stronger than I anticipated.”

“That’s what you get for reaching under my skirt at the dinner table.”

“You taste good, by the way.”

“Thanks?”

“And you smell divine.” By this point his voice was barely more than a whisper.

“Of course I do, I bathe regularly.” I laughed, but when I looked up Loki was suddenly within kissing distance. I didn’t recall him getting this close to me or scooting any closer to him. “You always smell nice to me too. Even when you come back from your sparring matches sweaty and bruised, I still like it…” Before I was really aware of what I was doing, I’d leaned in and pressed my lips to his.

We kissed for what felt like an eternity, tangling our bodies and tasting each other the way we had each night leading up to this. Even though we only had minimal practice, I noticed that we were each learning what we enjoyed. And then along the way, we made gradual adjustments to better accommodate the other’s preference. Loki wasn’t as hesitant as he once was. He was firmer with me because he’d learned that I liked it when he took command and in turn, I became gentler because he enjoyed it when I gave him his way.

Before long, Loki shifted so that he was on top of me. The feeling of his skin against mine was better than anything we’d ever done. Every part of us was touching and I never want him to stop. I tangled my finger in his hair, drawing him in to take my lips with more passion. His hand groped my breast, roughly squeezing the tender bud between his thumb and forefinger. I gasped against his mouth a reaction of both pleasure and surprise. I knew not where the distinction lay, only that his tongue took advantage of the additional clearance to mingle with mine. His actions were deliberate but impatient, as was his feral rutting against me.

Suddenly I began to feel myself losing control of the situation. Once again the panic began to rise from the pit of my stomach. No matter how much I wanted to enjoy this, the familiar yet unwanted feeling began to tighten my chest. His cock resting against my leg and with each passing moment, Loki only grew more aroused. In the heat of passion, we shifted and his heavy erection landed against my slick folds, causing my heart to leap into my throat. Then when I felt Loki fumbling between us as he attempted to guide himself into place, I began to panic. “Loki, wait…please!” I gasped against his lips.

“What is wrong?” His voice was gravelly as he struggled to restrain his enthusiasm.

“It’s not going to fit. I don’t want to injure myself and then have to explain to the healers how this happen. Then everyone will know what I did—“

“I won’t injure you.”

“How do you know? You said you’ve never done this before.”

“It will fit. I will be gentle, I promise. Your body was made to accept mine. That is the way we were each designed.” Despite all of his reassurance, I was still nervous. Even in the face of such pervasive anxiety, I didn’t want to stop. It was confusing. How could I want him and still be this nervous?

Letting out a shaky breath, I tried to calm down. I theorized that if I were allowed the opportunity to relax again, this feeing of apprehension would subside. To this end, Loki followed my lead. His actions weren’t quite so hurried anymore and when we kissed, he seemed to enjoy the act itself instead of regarding it as a means to an end.

After a while I did start to feel more at ease and my arousal began to return, I found myself seeking friction and relief. My hips urged against him of their own volition and in turn Loki settled between my legs to meet my each of my movements blow for blow. Soon it was too unbearable to put off the inevitable any longer. Loki grasped himself in hand and attempted to direct his cock into the opening I had explored earlier. This time, I didn’t stop him. More importantly, I didn’t want to.

After a few seconds, it was apparent that he wasn’t having the easiest time locating it and I could see the frustration gathering in his brow. Loki pushed forward a bit and I felt him slide out of place towards my tailbone. The opening that he managed to hit, did not appreciate the invasion. At all! I yelped, reflexively digging my nails into his shoulders. “Ow! That’s not it!”

His cheeks turned even redder. Since I at least had some experience with actually finding the appropriate entrance, I helped him in the right direction to avoid another uncomfortable mishap. This time when he pushed forward, my body didn’t outright reject him. Now Loki barely managed to drag in a ragged breath. He braced himself on top of me and then ever so slowly he penetrated me. I grimaced at the foreign stretching sensation, as my body struggled to accommodate him. Before long, he’d reached the same resistance that I had found earlier. When he pressed harder against it, I whimpered in discomfort. Right away, Loki stopped.

“I told you it wouldn’t fit.”

“I’m almost in.” He whispered, too preoccupied to say much more than that. After a momentary pause, Loki continued to push forward and the dull ache progressed into a sharp stabbing intrusion. I bit my lip to silence the pained cry that followed, eventually digging my nails into his shoulder when that was no longer sufficient. Just as I was about to beg him to stop, whatever had prevented his penetration gave way to the rest of his girth. Of course, I couldn’t silence the agonized whimper that followed that either.

In spite of my discomfort, I still wanted to enjoy this. But no matter how hard I tried, I did not find any of this pleasurable. The now throbbing tenderness persisted, even after he had stilled on top of me. I closed my eyes in an attempt to relax enough to ease the tension that tightened my muscles. Maybe it will start to feel good soon? In that brief moment of intermission, I felt his lips against my cheek. The fact that Loki took the time to offer me this tender gesture was comforting and it assured me that he did in fact care about how I was feeling through all of this. “Do you want to stop?” I shook my head, pulling him closer to distract myself with another kiss.

Finally Loki began to move his hips, pressing into me only to slide back out again. I grimaced in discomfort. With each careful thrust, it was obvious that he was making every effort to minimize my suffering. Not that it was helping any. I suppose in this instance it was the thought that mattered the most. Nevertheless, Loki kept his movements slow, barely managing to establish a predictable rhythm. The pain was at its worst whenever he would stuff his entire length inside me. And the whole time I was acutely aware of the foreign object that was moving in and out of my body.

When I finally looked up at him, I half expected to see a similar air of discomfort in his demeanor, except that wasn’t what I found at all. Loki gazed down at me, his pupils were wide with pleasure and his face was flush from exertion. I had no doubt that Loki was getting far more enjoyment out of this experience than I was. Before I could demand that we stop, Loki shuddered and groaned the same way he had in the tub. This time, his release took him by surprise. His body went ridged, with his face frozen in an awkward expression. Not knowing what else to do I lay still beneath him, waiting on bated breath for him to finish. Mercifully, this whole ordeal hadn’t lasted for very long.

Once I thought that he was somewhat back to normal, I nudged him. “Get off of me please.” I whispered.

Loki obediently began to dislodge himself and to my dismay this hurt just as much as before, only now he’d left more of that sticky slime inside me. Without a word to him, I hurried to the bathroom to rinse away the secretions that were now leaking down my thighs. At this point, I wasn’t sure how much of it belonged to me or to him. All I knew was that that goo was tinged with blood and that couldn’t have been a good sign. Unsure of what else I should do, I washed to rid myself of this unclean feeling and the cool water helped to soothe the stinging sensation that refused to subside.

For a few moments I sat by the tub, collecting myself in the aftermath. I didn’t know what to think about what we had just done. I had wanted to experience this with him. It was all I could think about all day or even for the last several days if I were to be completely honest. Now that we had done the deed, my emotions were… chaotic? This was nothing at all like the way I expected myself to feel right now. I had not enjoyed anything after he’d shifted his focus away from kissing me because everything that had followed was painful. At the same time, Loki had not done anything that I hadn’t wanted him to do.

I didn’t understand why my body wanted me to cry. I wasn’t afraid or sad and Loki had had my consent the entire time. Yet, the tears still welled in my eyes. After I’d wiped away the few that managed to slip free, I emerged from the bathroom. Loki sat up in bed, having covered his lower half with the blankets. He watched me approach with a quiet nervousness. It wasn’t all that different from the expression he wore whenever he faced reprimand after the Allfather had had enough of his mischief. I didn’t want Loki to feel as though he had done something wrong or that I was angry with him. I wasn’t upset with him at all. I wasn’t even with myself, at least I didn’t think that I was?

I slipped into bed beside him and the awkward silence thickened the tension that was already between us. “Are you ok?” He finally asked me, although I could tell that he was being very cautious.

I shook my head, “You said this was supposed to feel good…”

“It is supposed to feel good—“

“For you maybe.” I could still feel the aching twinges of discomfort down there. “There was blood…”

“That can happen when you’ve never been with a man before. It won’t always be this way. The next time should not be as uncomfortable—“

“I don’t want to do that again tonight.” I hastened to add, although I sounded more frantic than I’d intended. Loki didn’t easily conceal his disappointment, but he respectfully accepted my decision without challenge. This isn’t turning out the way that I thought it would. Once again, my emotions further complicated things. Not wanting to worsen the situation, I did my best to bury all of these dueling sentiments out of his view, at least until I’d had a chance to make sense of them for myself.

“May I ask what would you like to do instead?”

“I just want to rest…if you don’t mind.”

Without another word, Loki nodded and then leaned over to extinguish the lamp. As I settled under the blankets to get comfortable, I felt the bed shift under his weight. He scooted closer to me until his back was pressed to mine. I wasn’t expecting him to hold me; it just would have been nice if he had. This wasn’t terrible though. He was within reach and for now that was good enough. I lay there in the darkness for some time, not sleeping or even closing my eyes for longer than was necessary to blink.

Now that I had gained some distance from our encounter, I finally began to mull over this new part of our friendship. I actually gave myself to him. Loki would always be the man that had deflowered me and for what it was worth, I would always be the first woman that he’d ever been intimate with. Only time would tell if this would be a memory worth holding in high regard. Admittedly, I’d had no idea what I was doing and from the amount of fumbling Loki had done; I could tell that he hadn’t either. However, it still felt like he knew what to expect.

I’d gotten in way over my head with only the faintest idea of what lovemaking actually entailed. Of all the things I wished that I had known, the fact that it would hurt this much was at the top of my list. I wasn’t exactly upset with anyone in particular about that part. I knew that Loki would never hurt me on purpose. If he truly knew how to do better, then he would have done so. I just wished that this all wasn’t so foreign to me and that I didn’t have to rely exclusively on what he knew. I wished that I hadn’t spent my entire life in a tiny box where practical knowledge was all but forbidden.

After getting lost in contemplation for a while, I turned over to get his attention. Just as I had suspected, Loki hadn’t gone to sleep either. So I scooted closer to him, nestling myself against his front. In return he ensnared me in his embrace. Being held had done more to settle my chaotic emotions that I’d anticipated. Instead of feeling so alone and distant, I was warm and cozy in his arms. While it did little to resolve any of my feelings, it certainly helped to distract me from them. And right now, this was everything that I needed.

To be continued…