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Waiting For The End

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   “Run!” screamed the young prince as he dashed out of the room. You immediately followed him, and quickly found yourself chased by a handful of guards in armour. You were quick, but not as much as Loki who was far away in front you, while behind you, the guards kept coming in closer and closer. Fear ran through your veins and yet, you were beaming with joy. Barely outside of the castle, you jumped and sat on the guardrail, and let yourself slide down the flight of stairs. Loki was waiting for you near the last step, reaching impatiently for your hand. You grabbed his, and he immediately pulled you away, and the both of you started running across the city.

The guards lost you as you mingled in the impenetrable crowd that roamed the market. You slowed down your pace, making sure no one was following you. As you walked by a fresh fruits and vegetables stand, you let your hand jump upon the glistening red and green apples. And just before you reached the end of the row of fruits, you swiftly seized one.

“I saw you.” said Loki with a glimmer of amusement in his piercing green eyes.

“But he did not” you replied, pointing to the oblivious merchant.

As you were about to plunge your teeth into the juicy apple, the boy snatched the fruit away from your hand and took that first bite you longed for not a second ago. “Not fair. That’s mine.” you protested.

Loki smirked and took another bite, defying you with his malicious eyes.

“You can’t steal what’s already stolen.” he stated. His chin was dripping with the sweet nectar as he savored every bite of the fruit that shall be yours.

“No, but I can kick what has not been kicked yet.” you answered.

“Oh I’d like to see you try.” he exclaimed before eagerly running away.

You watched the boy disappeared into the packed crowd and started racing after him. You pushed people with your elbows, screaming a rude “Coming through!”. Citizens of Asgard glared at you and the young prince shoving them aside, but none dared stand in your way. Loki noticed how you were catching up to him, and as you extanded your hand to grab his shoulder, he vanished into thin air, leaving only a thin veil of light emerald flakes behind him.

“Not fair!” you yelled in the middle of the market square.

 

As the sun set slowly, you walked home alone. At this hour, most of the children were already in the safe heaven of their houses, but you always loved to take your time getting back to yours. Moreover, your parents did not mind you being a bit late for supper, because every time you did, your arms were full of treats for them. Most of the times you would lie to them, pretending you’d been helping some merchants, and in return they gave you some of their goods. As for the other times when you simply told them the truth, part of them chose not to believe you.

This day, you managed to snatch some carrots and eggplants, two cakes and even a pound of meat you did not recognize but stole anyway. The streets got emptier as you reached the far side of the city.

Finally, you saw the East gate still open as if waiting for your return. Beyond the gates, the horizon started to be filled with wide fields and trees.You were leaving the glorious golden city behind you, humming some random tune that popped into your head, when you noticed another set of footsteps hitting the pavement alongside yours. There was no need for you to turn and check as you already knew who it was.

Loki was walking next to you, like he did almost every evening with a content look upon his boyish face. You had fun today. But then, you always did. The tall guard called Selby, was laying against the wall and gleefully nodded as you approached. “I see you were busy today.” he laughed, eyeing your arms full. You looked ridiculous with your head barely above what you carried. But as it was, you forgot to steal a basket. “Got to feed the family.” you smiled at him.

You liked Selby very much. He was a tall, square-shouldered man, with laughing hazel‑eyes that often made you blush. Beside his pleasing appearance, you liked him because he never was one to lecture you about how a young girl should behave herself, unlike every other adults – your parents included – you knew. He seemed not to care very much about most of the rules, like the fact that he never wore his golden helmet, letting his wavy brown hair free instead. Or the fact that his spear always rested upon the wall next to him instead of being safely held inside his grip. He was some sort of free spirit that always let get away with murder. However, there was one rule he never joked about.

“My prince.” he said and lightly bowed his head. Loki scowled at him, never liking to be reminded of his royal position. “You know the deal.”

“Yes, yes.” dismissed the boy annoyingly. “I see you tomorrow?” he asked turning to you.

You offered him a big smile that he couldn’t not return to you. “Will you turn into a snake?” you asked joyful, almost jumping on your feet.

“Maybe.” he teased.

“Could we prank your brother again?”

“Always!” he answered proud as a peacock.

Loki usually left before you even crossed the gate, but this time, he gave you something before you left. A glistening red and green apple like the one he stole from you earlier this afternoon. Then, as he also did earlier, the boy disappeared in a puff of green smoke.

Selby was looking at you, his big and bright hazel‑eyes upon your face. You felt your cheek reddened as he smiled at you. “You are bound to get in trouble one day. You know that, right?” he said casually, picking the apple from the load on your arms. He brought it next to his full lips, and opened his mouth ready to take a bite when you reminded him that the fruit was yours. You sounded almost threatening, with your frown and your eyes that sent invisible daggers in his direction. Selby winked at you, and put the fruit at its place before mocking a bow. “My lady!”

“I’m no lady!”

“And should you never become one. It would not suit you one bit.” he laughed.

He wished you goodnight as you walked past him and went on your way home.

It was not a long walk from there, but you were exhausted from your day chasing yourfriend all around the city. You welcomed the soft caress of the green grass against the sole of your bare and dirty feet. You dug your toes into the warm blade of grass with each step. Behind you blasted the call of the night horn, soon followed by the familiar sound of the gates closing. You turned around, and took one last look at Asgard. In its very centre stood the grand palace. Its highest towers shining under the last glint of sunshine will soon glimmer under the pale rays of the moon. You wondered how it must feel to be living behind those golden walls, to have everything you wish for and how marvelous it must be to sleep in a good bed for once. But when you turned back, you embraced the endless horizon and smelled the warm perfume of the fields. You chased your silly dreams and wonders away and left the massive and crushing palace behind you. There, you walked the pathway you knew like the back of your hand and enjoyed the simple sensation of freedom as your bare feet was one with the earth and guided you back to the shabby house where you lived.

You knocked on the door with one foot, unable to open it with your little arms full of stolen food and entered the warmth of your home.


 Many years later

“Run!” screamed Loki from behind.

“Not again.” you sighed rolling your eyes.

But there was no time to complain. As the prince reached you, he forcefully grabbed your hand and pulled you after him.

“Why is it we are always running?”

“Did you do your part?” he asked with a mischievous smile.

You returned it, with an evil flash in your eyes that matched his. He knew you did. You always did. Since the two of you were children, ever fleeing, your pranks became more and more daring. Or dangerous, depending of whom were to judge. You heard a loud crash, and instinctively hunched your shoulders. The sound of the hooves against the bright marble of the floor was deafening, forcing you to shout so he could hear you.

“Turn right!” you warned.

“I think I know my own house better than you.” Loki smirked.

“I said turn right!” He glanced at you.

You immediately spotted the guards hurrying down the hallway, closing in on you two. They were not supposed to come this way. You both looked frantically around, and you decided to turn around, stretching his arms as you still held hands.

“Are you insane? We can’t go back that way!” complained Loki.

“Would you please trust me on this?” you pleaded.

The main doors were three corridors away and if you turned around now, you will most likely catch up with the horses Loki let loose a few minutes ago. But what about the one you already set free? If your calculations were correct you will meet the horses right about...

“NOW!” you screamed.

Loki followed your lead, let go of your hand and grabbed the neck of Alsvin. He nimbly hopped on its back. But as your reflexes were not even close to Loki’s, you missed your shot. You watched as your friend galloped away on the sun’s horse, followed by its brother Arkvakr. You cursed between your teeth, but the guards gave you no time to think. So you acted.

Mani’s horse should not be that far out. At the thought of it, you heard a series of screams followed by the crash of numerous dishes and fragile objects. You triumphally smirked, but now was not the time to dwell on your success. You changed direction at the last second, escaping the grasp of an angered guard. And there it was, uncontrollable and crazed by the screams that followed its erratic cavalcade. The cart fastened behind it bounced and banged against the walls and furnitures on its way. Then, the horse overtook you, and you jumped without a second thought. You seized the reins with your hands and took control of the race as much as you could. The main doors were still open thanks to Loki’s spell and guards were struggling to close them before the horses led by Loki.

“Faster! Faster!” you ordered the horse.

And as you shook the reins, it obeyed. Despite you closing the distance, you still had Loki’s back in front of you. The race was definitely not part of the plan, but you welcomed this new spontaneous addition with a gleeful laugh. Loki glanced at you from above his shoulder and grinned devilishly. I am going to wipe that smug off your face, little snake, you swore to yourself.

The suns blinded you for a crucial second. You blinked to get your vision a little less blurry. And then, you noticed them. The stairs of the palace. Oh no! A wave of panic crushed you as your mind went racing faster than the horse. What should I do? It was too late to slow this rapid goer, moreover, you knew the chariot would not survive a rapid descent of the steps. There was only one option left. You coiled the leather reins around your hands, making sure you had a good grip. Then, you took a deep breath, filling your lungs with the warm afternoon air and shouted “Fly!”

Alsvinder turned a hear towards you and kicked the floor with its hooves. At first, you closed your eyes, dreading the chaotic descent that would uninevitably lead you to your death. But when you finally opened them, their was nothing but blue sky and white clouds around you. It was breathtaking, or perhaps you were unsure if you could breath normally ever again. But then, you leant over the chariot before quickly stepping back. That’s mighty high, you realized terrified and exhilarated at the same time. Beaneath your feet spread a view of Asgard few could claim to have seen, so you gave it another try. The landscape was marvellous. Luxuriant gardens, colourful trees and the wide turquoise river caught your eyes. From above, you saw everyone and everything. That was when you spotted Loki, racing through the busy streets of the merchant district, bringing nothing but mayhem wherever he led the horses.

You called for him from the flying cart. He raised his head, confused at first, but then you noticed the look in his eyes. That mix of jealousy and envy was ever priceless to you.

“Not fair!” you heard him grumble.

“See you at the finish line, little snake!” You waved at him and barked at Alsvinder to accelerate.


“Have you any idea of what you have done today?” shouted Odin, his voice echoing against the almost empty throne room.

“Horse ridding?” suggested mischievously Loki.

You could not help but giggle at his banter. Even Frigga, allowed herself a thin smile to run across her soft face. But Odin, the High One, was not amused. You stood both kneeling, your hands on your laps and facing down. Loki’s hair had grown much since he was just a boy, and today it conveniently hid him from the wrath of his father. Yours on the other hand, were plaited on the side, leaving you vulnerable to His fury gaze.

“You are a prince of Asgard.” Odin reminded his son. “When do you plan on acting like one?”

Never, would be his truthful answer. But Loki was never one to tell it, especially to his father. He was too young to be thinking about throne and royal duties. You, obviously were not concern by such matters, even though your parents had their own expectations. But a humbler birth often meant humbler dreams.

“I’m glad you are not the eldest, otherwise I would worry for my kingdom.”

“You would be dead if that meant I were king.”

“Enough!” yelled Odin, striking the ground with his golden staff. You could have sworn the walls just shook and frankly, a feeling of fear was slowly taking you over.

“I was too indulgent with you and your brother but it has come to an end. You had gone too far Loki. At least, Thor isn’t ruining the palace and everything around it!”

As the High One kept on rambling, you checked on Loki besides you. He was barely listening, eyeing everything around him but his father. When his green eyes met yours, he winked and mouthed something along the line of “I will get my revenge.” You slightly shook your head and repressed a chuckle. Even in this position of submission, at the feet of the King of Asgard and protector of the nine realms, Loki seemed to care about nothing that came out his father’s mouth. You knew him well enough to see that he was already planning a way to get back at you as wounded his pride. Never would he let you get away with it. At the thought of it, you smiled, and wondered what his next move could be.

“As to you, young lady.” your heart almost skipped a beat when you heard Odin talking directly to you, which he seldom did. “I have never approved of you. But my wife here, thought you were a good influence on my son.” He chuckled eyeing you with obvious contempt.

You bow your head low but next to you, Loki clenched his hands into tight fists resting on his thighs. You whispered his name, in a calm voice, hoping it would ease the tension.

“I don’t want to see you anywhere near my son ever again. If I do, I should banish you from the city altogether. From the realm, if need be.”

“Father!” Loki protested as the same time as his mother called for her king.

“Surely you do not mean it.” Frigga added.

“You have shielded him from his duties for far too long. It is time for him to take his responsibilities. But he can not do so with this bumpkin always at his side.”

At the insult, Loki jumped on his feet, straight as an arrow and eyes burning with a cold fury. He was nothing but cold fury that meant to defend your honour, to defy his father in your name. yet, you refused to let him go through with his reckless plan.

“As your grace demands.” you replied bending your knee and bowing your head lower.

Loki was baffled, standing with his mouth open, out of words for once. He reached out for you, almost afraid you would disappear in a puff of smoke, as he often did.

“Don’t worry, little snake.” you whispered as you turn your back to Odin and Frigga. “We will find a way.”

“Say your goodbyes now, Loki.” ordered Odin eager to end the conversation.

“I will see you again.” promised Loki, his long and cool fingers around your wrist, reluctant to let go of you.

You put your hand on his and soon his grip relaxed.

“I trust that you will.” you answered with an confident smile.

Chapter Text

The late afternoon was so hot that you dreamt of nothing else than to take a dip in the crystal clear river near your house. But instead of swimming in your favorite spot in all Asgard, you were walking down the path that led to the well, carrying two empty wooden buckets. The weeks had gone by dreadfully slow without your partner in crime by your side. And as you were expected to get home straight after your classes ended, there was no more roaming around the city, which you missed very much.
You carefully approached the old crumbling well, thinking it was a miracle no one has fallen in there yet. You put one of the buckets down on the dry ground, when a shadow caught your attention between the blades of yellow grass. As you fully turned your head, you found nothing and proceeded to do as you were supposed to. You attached the rope to the handle of one bucket and to get it down what you believed was a bottomless well.
“Boo!” breathed a low voice inside your ear.
You screamed at the top of your lung, dropping the bucket altogether, bumped one foot against a rock loosing your balance. While you felt backwards, being drawn by the darkness of the well, a pale hand reached out to grab you at the very last second.
“Easy, there dove.” he said pulling you to him.


Your heart was still banging against your ribcage, as if it did not understand you were now out of danger.


“Do you mean to kill me?” you screamed hysterically, slapping his thin arm with your hand. The other one still upon your chest trying to ease to racing beating of your heart.


“I just saved you.” he retorted.


“You do not sneak on people.” you said, hitting him at each word.


He stopped backing away from your slaps and just stood there with a grin on his face. You ceased your punishment, perplexed by his huge and proud smile. Your mind automatically rewound the last few seconds, making you roll your eyes as you understood why he was giggling.


“Oh come on, I thought you loved when I turn into a snake!"

"Yeah! When it's to trick your brother! Not me! And what are you doing here anyway? Last time I checked we are not supposed to be together." "Uh no. We are not supposed to be seen together. Not the same thing." he said giving you a hand with filling the buckets. "I am currently working on a new spell and, not to brag but it is going pretty well."


 

Meanwhile in the palace.

Thor hurried in Loki's room where his younger brother was studying silently facing a massive book.

"There you are! I need your help with something but I'll prefer if you said nothing until I'm done. See, what I'm about to say is um- well..."

The illusion of Loki stood silent, his back turned on his brother.

"Good. You've noticed the way girls look at me right? I mean it's hard not to but...I think I look at Sif with the way they look at me. And I know, I know! She would never in a million years looked at me the same way but...I um- wouldn't mind if she did."

Thor paused and scratched his beautiful golden hair.

"So what I am trying to do here is...asking for your help. And the "get help" kind of help, but the real kind of help. I should just um- stop talking now."

Thor waited for Loki to give an answer. The confession had been a hard mountain to climb for him. Showing a certain vulnerability was new to him, and the stillness in the room soon became unbearable for the restless prince of Asgard.

"Loki?" he called approaching slowly the illusion of his brother.


"I still have a few things to work out, but it's pretty much done as it is." gloated Loki.

"I'm sure."

You hid your smile, but could not conceal how glad you were to see him again and grabbed a bucket.

"So, what brings you around these parts?" asked casually Loki.

"I live here, remember? But if you're referring to the well..." you sighed. "My father thought something was wrong with the plumbing of the house."

"Oh. What was the problem?"

"There was none. Until he decided to take a look. So now we don't have anymore running water until he fixes it. Which will never happened." you concluded.

You tried to grab to the second bucket but Loki promptly took it in your stead. 

"Careful, it's heavy."

"I think I can deal with a bucket, thank you." he boasted. 

Yet, as he lifted the bucket filled with water, a grimace reflected the intensity of his sudden pain. This time, you did not hide your laugh and mocked your friend heartedly. 

"You wouldn't last one minute out here." you mocked.

You began walking down the path that led to your house. And soon, the low wooden wall your father was supposed to fix since you were a babe appeared behind the horizon. You stopped and turned to the prince.

"Let me take this." you said grabbing the second bucket as if it weighed nothing.

"How the..."

Suddenly a familiar voice called your name from afar. Your mother emerged from behind the pear trees, a basket full of fresh fruits, her grey hair arranged in a tight bun. The colours of your face ran out, and left you scared and helpless like a child.

"Loki, quick, get out of here!"

"Hurry with this water, won't you? Your father is...Oh. I didn’t know you had company.” she exclaimed straightening her spine.

A wave of panic drowned you instantly as you feared your mother would tell on you. Yet she smiled. Her unexpected and nice behavior troubled you. Surely she had not forgotten what Loki looked like. No one who has ever met the prince could. Moreover, you used to spend half your childhood with him, so she was more than familiar with his face. Yet, when you spun your head, it was not Loki that answered your mother. In his place stood a tall, broad shouldered teenage boy with hazel eyes and waves of brown hair. He stretched his large hand to your mom. His smile was brighter than the sun, his eyes lighting with that special kind of cockiness charm. He somehow reminded you of a guard you once knew.


“Loren Olson.” he said with a slight bow.

Even his voice had changed.


“Pleasure to meet ya.” replied your mother shaking his hand.


“The pleasure is all mine.” he gently laid a kiss upon her dirty knuckles.


There was something most unsettling, almost repugnant, about hearing one of your parents chortling. Especially when they were charmed by your friend in disguise. She finally found her senses and put her basket on her broad hip.

"Let me help you with this." he offered.

"It's a bit heavy, but I'm sure a sturdy young man like yourself will think it's light as a feather."

You coughed a laugh.


“I don’t think I’ve seen you before” hinted your mother, gazing at you for a split second. "Are you in the same classes?"

"You could say that. Your daughter and I go way back, but it was until recently that she um- took an interest in me." he winked at you 


“I what?" you asked red in fury. "Wait, no. Mum, That's not what you think. Lok...Loren is learning a trade at the centre as well, and we just hang. Nothing else.” you quickly added.


“Do you by any chance, know anything about plumbing? Or fixin' a roof?"

"I'm afraid not. My skills are of a - another kind."

"Okay, so now that we have exchanged pleasantries, let's all go back to our respective houses and get on with our lives, shall we?"
You eyed Loki Loren slightly shaking your head, sending silent signals for him to take off. He understood you perfectly, you had no doubt about it and yet there he stayed, doing small talks with your mother.

"Would you stay over for diner? We don't have much but it'll fill your belly."

Once again, you shook your head no and mouthed "don't you dare." 

"How can I say no?" he smiled.

He glimpsed at you with a mischievous light in his eyes. Even under this new appearance, he remained the Loki you'd always known. 


You mother giggled once more, and you threw up in your mouth a little. As she headed back to the shabby house you had always lived in you waited to be certain she was out of earshot and kicked Loki Loren right in the leg.


“Ouch.” complained the brown haired young man next to you. “That hurts.”


“What possessed you? Is this new trick making you mind numb? And what's up with that?" you said gesturing to his new body.

He was now a bit taller than his normal size, and like Thor, his figure was muscular but not yet beefy as his growth was not yet done.

"Do you want to switch?" 

"Uh?"

"I give you the basket against these two buckets of water."

"Oh...right. Yeah, go ahead. Knock yourself out. But you are not staying with us tonight."


“Sorry, dove. But your mom asked me so nicely. What kind of prince would I be if I refused?” he beamed with mischief, looking a bit more like the Loki you knew.

You fought the urge to smack him and snapped back at him "but you are not a prince, little snake. Not here anyway."

"Touché!"

As he walked away to the house, carrying the buckets that were too heavy for Loki earlier, you found yourself admiring the way his shoulders tensed and how his figure moved in the horizon.

"Like what you see dove?" 

"As if! And stop calling me dove! It's ridiculous." you replied trotting after him. 

Chapter Text

“I swear to the Gods, I don’t see the point of these lessons.” you grumbled. “It’s just seems like a big waste of time. I should be at the farm helping my father instead of listening to some old bat talking about...about...”

“You slept through it all didn’t you?” said Dagmar.

She was the first person you befriended when you joined the institution centre your parents sent you to. The young woman had a face of exquisite features with two piercing brown eyes and full lips that seemed to be never far from smiling. She was a tall creature with thick arms and legs who wanted nothing than to become the best blacksmith in all of Asgard. She trained every day despite her parents’ wishes. They wanted her to follow their footsteps by pursuing a healing career, but she had chosen otherwise.

“How are you supposed to learn about theses things if you keep on sleeping during class?” Unn’s voice was as faint as a whisper.

The small framed girl with big ears and a flat nose looked at you with two huge watery eyes. She was the youngest student of the class, but the brightest by far. What she lacked in years of existence, she had in intelligence. She was the only child of a sailor who was never home and from a young age she had to take care of herself. While doing so, she immersed herself in books and soon dreamt of nothing else but to be an erudite.

“I’m not destined to create the deadliest of weapons, like Dagmar here. Nor will I go to Vanaheim to study with the Vanir like you Unn. My path is much more humble than that. Taking my father’s farm is going to be dull, unless I learn some other trade. And here, is not the right place for it.”

“You could come with me.” offered Unn. “You like books too.”

You couldn’t help but smile at your friend’s innocence.

“I love books Unn, but not as you do. And can you really imagine me with the Vanir?”

“I heard some of them live barefoot.” said Dagmar with a smile.

“That I can work with.” you laughed. “But seriously, what I want to do is move around. I can’t be bound to one place for all eternity. I want to see what’s out there. I don’t want to just visit the nine realms. I want to go beyond them, to cross the threshold of the universe and taste the air of a thousand worlds.”

“So basically you want to become a merchant, or a pirate.” joked Dagmar.

The three of you laughed. As different as you were, you had found in each other an echo of yourselves. You all dreamt of something bigger. None of you wanted to comply and being trapped in a mould that would not fit you.

“Oh! I almost forgot.” said suddenly Dagmar pulling a sketching book from her bag. “I haven’t shown you my latest project.”

Unn and you hunched over it and looked at the torn pages in awe; her drawing skills were very good when you first met her, but as time went by, she improved them so much that you could almost seize the weapons she had designed. She had perfected her skills while you were napping or daydreaming in class. She had turned the dull into usefulness.

“That is beautiful.” congratulated Unn in a soft voice barely audible. “Is it for your brother?”

Dagmar shook her head.

“That will be his signature weapon on the battlefields.” she said with pride. “He’s much more of a war‑hammer kind of soldier. Swords and shields are fine but...that’s not quite his style. And I added some protective runes on the handle so he might always come home safe.”

A thin trace of anguish tainted her voice but for only a split second. The moment after, she became the sturdy Dagmar you had always known.

As you went through the pages, a particular sketch caught your attention. It was a divine work of art. The magnificence of details took your breath away and instantly a thought invaded your mind. I have to have it. It was a blade curved by three of the sharpest waves and covered with engraved scales up to the slim and twisted handle that could be nothing else but a snake. Even only on paper, the scales seemed to shine and glimmer, and you could almost weight it in your hand.

“I am struggling about the mouth.” Dagmar confessed. “Open or close? I can’t decide.”

“I’ll go with an open mouth. Just add two venomous fangs capable of cutting someone’s finger and that’ll be perfect.” you said in all seriousness.

You raised your eyes and noticed the concern look upon your friends’ faces.

“When will you start?” you asked eager to stir the conversation in another direction.

“When I’ll have enough money to pay the old one.” she sighed.

Dagmar worked illegally at an unscrupulous blacksmith’s shop. The bald and grey‑bearded man agreed to rent her his forge after dark for a ridiculous high fee.

“I can help if you want...” you suggested.

“I don’t need dirty money, thanks.”

Your friends knew of your extra‑curricular activities and none of them approved. Despite her natural shyness, Unn was the more adamant as to your way of life. She stared at you silently, letting her eyes do the work for her. You resent her judgement and yet you said nothing to the young girl.

“I meant having the guy’s legs broken and/or forge some papers that would make you the owner of the workshop.”

“He’s here.” suddenly whispered Unn.

She carefully stepped back and as she did, found herself half‑hidden behind Dagmar.

“Well, well, well. If it isn’t your future husband.” laughed Dagmar elbowing you “Come now Unn, he will not eat you.” she said grabbing the shy girl’s arm.

“Ladies.” Loren greeted tilting his head and smiling with nothing but charm.

He automatically slid an arm around your shoulder, bringing you closer to him.

“What’s this?” he asked right away, eyeing the sketchbook you still hold.

He snatched Dagmar’s sketchbook from your hand before you uttered a word. He made a similar face as you did just before, eyeing with envy the weapon drawn on the page. You leant closer, now feeling his earthy breath on top of your head. Even that simple triviality has been modified.

“I told her to go for an open mouth.” you said.

“Definitely.” he breathed, his gaze ever focused on the page.

You took advantage of his mesmerized state and snatched the notebook away from him and threw it at Dagmar. She caught immediately and put it back in her bag.

“If you are interested I can make it for you. For a good price.” she offered Loren.

His - now - hazel eyes, lit with joy. Behind the mask he had created so perfectly, you caught a glimpse of the Loki you knew.

“What will you do with a dagger?” you questioned him.

“What won’t I do with a dagger? I know a couple of things you might even enjoy, my dove.” he teased you with an almost cruel smile.

“That’s not...It’s not what you think.” you promptly added to your friends.

Unn and Dagmar shared a look of utter horror on their faces. Meanwhile, the man besides you was softly chuckling. You punched him in the chest and broke free of his friendly embrace, your eyes darting a silent, yet very effective ‘not funny!’ in his direction.

“You two are the weirdest pair I’ve ever meet.” said Dagmar. Well, Loren, if you’re serious about your purchase, you know where to find me.”

“Actually I don’t.”

“Just ask your little dove then.” teased Dagmar.

She bursted into a laugh, taking Unn with her as she walked away.

“I’m not his little dove!” you shouted in protest.

She waved good‑bye and soon, disappeared with Unn by her side, in the busy crowd.

“Oh come on now, don’t pout! Everyone knows you’re not my little dove.” he mocked “You’re my devil dove.”

He laughed at his own banter and at your sullen face, then proceeded to put his arm around your shoulders again.

“Shut up!” you replied slapping his hand.

Loki had never been a very touchy person with anyone and you were no exception even though you spent much of your life together. As soon as he became Loren, the lovable boy next door, something in his behaviour changed and you weren’t sure if it was all just an act or if, somehow, this identity allowed him to be more...

“What’s eating your brain?” he asked shuffling your hair with his hand.

You pulled away from him and dismissed his question.

“Nothing. I’m just bored I guess.”

“Offense taken.”

You sighed annoyed at yourself for talking without thinking first. Your mother always told you that it would be your ruin and sometimes you believed she was right.

“It’s just...We can’t go on like this."

“Why not?” he asked confused.

“My parents are getting suspicious.” you blindly lied.

You were a good liar, a very good one who always got away with it. Yet Loki exceeded you in that area. Maybe because of his magic abilities, or maybe because he was just more skilled than you were. Whatever the reason was, he seemed to always have a sense of when you were trying to lie to him. It was clear by the look on his face – Loren’s face – that he wasn’t buying it.

“Yeah, right. I’m not buying it.”

Shit.

“All right. You can’t go on like this.” you claimed waving your hand at Loren ripped body. “It attracts too much unwanted... attention. And you showing up every now and then at my house is not helping. For the Gods’ sake Lo...ren, you do realize my parents are convinced, convinced, that you and I will end up getting married. I mean, how stupid would that be? If they knew that...Anyway, I asked you to stop coming but did you listen? Of course not.”

“Why dove, I...”

“And stop calling me dove. I told you...”

“And I did not listen.” interrupted Loki with a smile.

“You never do.” you said softened.

“I think deep down, that’s why you love me. Imagine how dull it would be if I were to do what you asked of me. You would lost any remaining interest you have in a heartbeat.” he joked.

As you let him rambling on, you spotted a small child holding a tiny bag of candies. And with that vision came a strange sound from your stomach. You passed lazily next to the kid and took advantage of his inattentiveness to snatch the candies from his hand in a swift gesture. Loki eyed you as you put a pink round sweet in your mouth.

“What?” you said. “I’m hungry.”

Loren grinned - but truly it was a classic Loki's smile -  and his lips drew a delighted smile across his fair face. He went to take one candy for himself when you slapped his hand.

“Steal your own.” you growled.

“Come on! I am hungry too. Famished even.” He complained stepping towards you.

You matched each of his footstep by one that went backwards but soon Loren leaped on you. However, you promptly dodged his attack and began running through the streets, chased by your best friend like the kids you once were.

 

The sun over the river was getting low. It was almost time for you to go home. You had your head on Loren’s shoulder, while he absent-mindedly stroked your upper-arm with his thumb. The bag of sweets laid empty in the small gap between you two. You were so comfortably numb that you were on the brink of dozing off as you listened Loren’s low voice telling you all about the last pranks he pulled recently. You missed those, but at least one of you could still perform their mischievous art. You had settled mostly on shoplifting and practical lies.

“Remember when you turned into a snake and stabbed your brother?” you said in a low voice so no else could hear you.

Loren raised one eyebrow, a proud smile upon his face. That was the good old days, you thought. You lifted your chin up and met his gaze. For only a fraction of second it seemed emerald specks glimmered in his eyes. You dwelled in these a little while, before he stared back at the river. You realized the sun was even lower than you would have thought. You will have to run if you wanted to be at the gates before they closed.

“I’m gonna be late.” You stirred yourself away from Loren’s warm embrace and rose up.

“Shall I see you tomorrow?” he asked spreading his arms along the backrest of the bench.

“No can do. Am going to some sort of fair with my dad. I won’t be back for at least three days.”

Loren groaned, letting his head fall back and exposing his thick throat. That is a sight for sore eyes, you thought sinfully.

“While I’m gone, would please find an alternative?” you pleaded.

“Does it truly bother you?” He sounded almost hurt.

No, you wanted to answer but it would be a lie. A little white lie. What bothered you was not the illusion per say, oh no, but what it brought with it.

“Just… take care of it, okay? Please little snake.”

His lips curved into a smile at the sound of the sweet nickname you had chosen for him a long time ago. You were to leave when Loren’s voice called your name.

“I was wondering… Is this form growing on you?” he teased raising his eyebrows.

“Ah!” you laughed. “You wish!”

“Maybe.” he baited you. “Oh and tell your father I won’t be able to accept his offer.”

Knowing your father, you feared the worst.

“Offer? What offer? About what?”

“Marrying you, silly!”

“What now?”


“How was it?” asked Unn in her ever sweet voice.

You sighed. The fair had been a dull crowded smelly place but it had its good times.

“Ale was decent.”

“You drank?” asked the girl in astonishment.

When your chores were done and your father grew tired of your impertinence, there was nothing left to do apart from drinking with the other farmers’ spawns. “Don’t you?” you teased.

Talking about the fair made you remember your first drink ever. It had been a huge glass full of fresh ale you stole in a pub. All because of Loki who dared you to do it. You had been caught that day, and were severely spanked on your bare ass by the manager. Then, the image of the young boy throwing knives and forks at the massive bearded man appeared in your brain. He tried his hardest but could not help you escape the violent punishment. If the roles were reversed, no doubt Loki would have gotten away with murder. No soul in Asgard would dare lay a hand on the prince. No matter how mischievous and devilish he might be.

At the end of your schooling day, you expected to find the sturdy boy to be waiting for you next to the fountain. His smile hanging on his handsome face and his hazel eyes laying on your figure as you walked to him. Your body shivered, anticipating the weight of his arm around round shoulders. Yet, he was nowhere to be seen.

“Do you want us to wait with you?” offered Unn.

You smiled at the kind girl and slightly shook your head no.

“Let’s ride over town.”

“Do you swear on the gods that you will keep your hands in your pockets?” asked Unn, “You know, they might not forgive you if you keep this up.” she warned.

Who cares about the old gods? They were most likely retired or dead for all you knew. You refrain yourself from sharing your thoughts with your most pious friend, and simply nodded.

“Don’t waste your energy on that heathen” laughed Dagmar “She’d rather be dead than walk the virtuous path you envision.”

“Says the one who sneaks away every night to go to the forge.”

“At least I do not steal.” retorted Dagmar.

You squinted and tried to get your serious and mean face but it took only one smile from her fair face to shattered it into pieces. The warm late afternoon breeze invited anyone out in the streets to wander around the city. As you spotted bees buzzing in the bushes, you licked your lips thinking of the golden nectar they made. The more you imagined it, the more it became heavy and sweet on your tongue.

“Who’s in the mood for honey cakes?” you asked eagerly.

“Do you have money to buy them?” inquired Unn with suspicious eyes.

“Y–e–s.” you lied, dragging the letters out.

You doubted she trusted you, but the small girl agreed nonetheless.Dagmar’s stomach answered in her taste.

On the way to the shoppe, your hand found its way under the coat of a fine looking man. Your fingers snaked around the cord of his purse swiftly releasing it from a refined leather belt.

Dagmar, Unn and you entered the sweet shoppe, eager to fill your stomachs with the sugary treats. Its bell rang as you walked in, welcoming you to the small, cosy place which was surprisingly packed and looked almost stifling. Unn clutched your arm, her cheeks redder than blood. She kept her eyes on the wooden floor, plunging her nails into your skin.

“You okay there Unn?” you asked. “We can leave if you want.”

The girl exhaled an “am fine” , tears in her wide eyes. Dagmar was walking in the front line in order to open a passage for the two of you.

“Oh! Look, toffee lollipop!” you exclaimed to help her focus on something else. “Would you like some? My treat.”

Unn shook her head timidly. You grabbed a handful of sweets and put it in a bag.

“What’s with the crowd today?” you asked. Dagmar raised her head and tried to watch over the sea of people.

“Can’t really say, there’s too many heads, but it’s not about the honey cakes, that’s for sure.”

You absent-mindedly played with the heavy coins in your hand, waiting your turn to place your order when a familiar voice boomed in the middle of the crowd. Your heart skipped a beat when you recognized Asgard’s very own princes in the middle of admiring and giggling girls and boys. The shoppe keeper smiled in ecstasy as he served them, too pleased to have such notorious customers. Thor and Loki thanked the beaming man and the mass split in two as they proceeded towards the door. They walked passed you, Thor waving and laughing and Loki holding his head high without even a glimpse in your direction. You watched as they left the place empty and much more quiet.

“Wasn’t it...” questioned Thor turning his head to the windows.

“Keep walking.” growled Loki.

Unn’s grip loosened, leaving a red mark on your arm. You paid for the your treats and your friends’, lying shamelessly about the source of your income. He would have seen right through it, you thought.

As days went by without any visits from Loren, your skin started to long for his touch. The ghost of his arm weighed around your shoulder, and his casual and yet gentle caress seemed like a beautiful dream. One night, your heart suddenly sunk when his name crossed the barrier of your mother’s lips inquiring about him. It was an unfortunate intrusion in your home, but how you wished he would suddenly appeared and knocked at your door.

One night, as you were lying on your bed, you pictured a map of the palace. Growing up with the prince of mischief had its perks. You dwelt on the thought of sneaking your way in and surprised your friend with a visit. I do know every entryway and exit, even the most curious and unexpected ones. That would be child’s play. But then, you remembered how he superbly ignored you at the sweet shoppe. He had to. Otherwise it would get us in trouble, you convinced yourself.

It hurt nonetheless, seeing your friend up close and pretend not to know him. Pretend that you could not care less about the young man you grew up with. Your current friends did not know about that particular detail of your former life. You missed him, more than you would admit it. Well, I did asked for an alternative, you reflected. But never in your wildest nightmares you would have thought him capable of abandoning you. Had he forgotten you already? Was he tired of hiding and scheming his way to you? Deceit was at the heart of your friendship but never against one another. Only in games. You challenged each other, most of the time doing stupid dares, but you had never betrayed him, nor him you.

You chased this dreadful thought out of your mind, opening a book you had borrowed from Unn’s library. But your eyes could not stay focused on the words written as it brought to your mind another image. One of Loki. A much younger version of him, with short raven black hair sitting under an ancient willow tree, reading to a younger version of yourself.

You threw the book through the room, immediately regretting it. You had no right to channel your anger and frustration into what did not belong to you. You picked it up and softly brushed its cover, making sure you hadn’t damaged it. You sat back on your back, when misery washed over you again.

“Oh hells no!” you said out loud and jumped on your feet.

You sneaked out of the house, under the cover of the cloudy night. There was no stars and no moon to light your way so you had to move carefully. Your feet brushed the grass of the fields you crossed on your way to the city.

“Okay.” you breathed at the bottom of the high wall. “I may know ways in and out the palace, but how do I pass you first?”

You looked around and glimpsed the flicking fire of a torch. A guard was doing his round at the top of the wall. I could throw a rock at him, climb the bloody wall and jump on the other side. Yet the idea seemed a little bit too bold and dangerous for your own taste. Or, I could just go to the east gate and work my way in. Yet, it seemed even more risky than your first plan.

“Who’s there?” screamed the guard above you.

You froze against the wall, making one with the stone and barely breathing.

“Shelby sir. Came to take my shift.”

“Put your back helmet on soldier!” ordered the guard.

You waited until the first guard was out of sight and earshot before coming out of the shadows. You whistled between your teeth, calling for Shelby’s attention. Despite his superior officer’s orders, Shelby did put his helmet back on. Instead, he was leaning on the parapet eating some fruit you could not see.

“Who’s there?” he asked with his mouth full.

You stated your name and showed him your bare feet hoping he would remember you.

“If it isn’t my favourite little thief! Wow, I haven’t seen you in ages. What you’re doing down there?”

“Looking for a way in.”

Shelby checked the area behind and around him, leant over the parapet and whispered:

“There’s the sewer stream near the south gates.” he said casually eating.

“Yeah, I’m not that desperate. Not that I am at all desperate. Can’t you just, throw me a rope or something?”

“And why would I do that?”

You paused for a moment and tried something. After all you had nothing to lose.

“For old times sake?”

The man laughed carelessly and threw what was the core of an apple at your feet. You jumped back, believing it was a bad idea from the start, when out of the blue, a rope unfolded down the wall.

Chapter Text

“Hide.” warned Selby.

You froze suspended in the air while the confident guard started chatting up with another one. You were with your back against the cold and damp brick wall when something crawled down your spine. Please don’t be a cockroach! Please don’t be a cockroach! you prayed. However, the Gods did not hear you and a second cockroach joined the other. In the meantime, just above your head, as you clung to the rope, Selby and the other guard were sharing a good laugh. As the couple of insects danced on your back, you wiggled, eager to get rid of them.

“All clear.” whisper Selby.

He needn’t to say it twice. You bursted out of the shadows and jumped on your feet, on the verge of crying under the cockroaches’ feet, when finally they fell down on the ground.

“Didn’t know you were such a good dancer.” laughed the guard.

“What took you so long? I was hanging by a thread here!”

“What matters is that you’re in, right?”

You sniggered but thanked him anyway. As you detailed him, you found out that he hadn’t changed much since you last saw him years ago.

“Let me guess.” he said “on your way to the palace meet your prince aren’t you?”

“How...”

“Oh please! You two were tied at the hips as kids. And every time I caught you sneaking in or out you were either caring your weight in stolen goods, or with him. Since your arms seem empty...”

“Fine, yes I’m going to see Loki.” you admitted. “Will you rat?”

“Me? How could you...I’m offended. What about honour amongst thieves?”

“Yes. Amongst thieves, important word being ‘amongst’. You’re no thief...that I know of. Wait...Are you a thief and being a guard is just a cover?”

You acted suddenly overwhelmed with emotion, and even managed to get a tear to one of your eyes as you asked:

“Are you the brother I never had?”

Selby chuckled, revealing two cute dimples and put the rope away. He led you to a deserted part of the wall where you could climb down safely and be on your merry way again.

“You had grown into a very impertinent lady.”

“Still not a lady.” you reminded him with a smile.

“Keep it that way!”

 

Finding your way to the palace was the easiest thing, but getting in there without being seen required your undivided focus. Since you had been cast out by Odin, you never dared to come close to the golden house of your friend, and now that you were roaming the place quiet as a mouse, you found out that you missed it terribly. Or perhaps was it the mayhem you and Loki made, that you missed. The activity was at an all time low. However, the very few people you came across you dismissed or avoided far too easily. That’s not even a challenge, you thought bitterly. Your feet led you through the palace, directly and secretly to Loki’s chambers. It was as if you had been there the day before. You gently knocked against the panel and waited for an answer. None came, so you entered the vast room.

The place has not changed a lot since you last came in there. There seemed to be more books pilled up near his bed and on his desk but other than that, it was pretty much the same. You breathed in the minty fresh scent that filled the air. The whole room smelled like him which reminded you how much you missed that too. Loren’s scent was more of an earthy one, thick and heavy like dirt after a heavy rain. It was never unpleasant, however, it was not Loki’s. You ceased to wander as a particular side cover caught your eyes. You moved to take the book when a voice you had not heard in a while stopped you.

“How did you get in?” Loki looked at you in disbelief your hand on the book you wanted to examine.

“I know the house pretty well by now.” you simply answered. “Missed Me?”

You left the book you wanted to examined and turned to face the smirking prince.

“Took you long enough.”

“Did you really expect me to disobey my parents and the King’s orders to come found you directly after you brushed me off completely the other day?”

“That was you?” he faked.

Though a sinful smile ran across his face, you could not help but feel a little bit hurt. In order to hide your pain from him, you threw the first item you hand could reach. Loki darted the projectile, laughing.

“Your aim is so poor, dove.”

“I meant to miss you.”

“I’m sure you did.”

He let himself fall on his bed, revealing the pale skin of his flat stomach. He stretched and yawned like a cat ready for his fourth nap of the day.

"So...What ever happened to Loren?"

"Who cares?" he yawned. 

Loki closed his eyes, and soon his breathing began to get lower and deeper. As you watched him falling asleep as if you were not there, a dreadful thought sank in your brain. You asked him to find an alternative when Loren became more of a problem for you than a solution, and for once, Loki did exactly what you wanted him to do. The moment he paid you no attention in that shoppe should have been enough for you to understand. However, you had made a fool of yourself thinking there had been something else, something more. Worse, you had risk your life, chasing a silly memory and now you had to deal with the possible consequences. A sharp pain through your heart caught you off guard and made it hard for you to breathe.

“Well, that was a fun ride.” you declared walking away.

Loki rose and jumped to his feet, all mark of weariness erased from his fair face.

“Where’re you going?”

“Back home! I should hurry before someone notices am gone, or worse, that am here.”

You were only a footstep away from the secret door, on the side wall of the room, when Loki appeared in front of you. Behind you, he approached as well.

“Impressive.” you said obviously unimpressed.

There was two Lokis in the room and no way to tell the difference between them. Yet, you decided to go through the one that stood between you and your escape way. The illusion shattered in light green waves, leaving the only real Loki behind you. As you were about to go through the door, he grabbed your wrist. His skin was cool, almost cold against yours. Once more you shivered.

“Why did you come tonight?”

“Not sure.”

You shuddered under his touch.

“Don’t lie to me dove. Why did you come?”

Loki leaned over you. When did he get taller than me? you wondered. I used to be the tallest. His grip around your wrist was firm and yet not painful at all. You gazed into the green of his eyes and demanded him to release you. Loki starred back at you, unwilling to obey.

“Not until you tell me the truth. Why did you come here, to my chambers, tonight? You know the risks if you’d get caught...”

“I’m never getting caught.” you answered prideful.

Loki smirked and slowly let go of you. His fingertips brushed the sensitive skin of your palm and lingered between your fingers. He leaned a little bit more, closing the, already, short distance between you. The air got caught in your lungs and it felt like you had butterflies in your stomach. When Loki talked, his voice is low as the purr of a cat.

“Meet me tomorrow near the garden gates.”

“Why?” Loki growled in annoyance.

“Because I tell you to.”

“Not going to happen.” you answered crossing your arms under your chest.

“Fine! Meet me tomorrow near the garden gates, please.”

“Still need to know why.”

“Ugh such a thorn in my side! I have a surprise for you all right? So if you don’t come tomorrow I would have worked for nothing. And I despise wasting my time.”

You let him simmer for a little while before you gave him a positive answer. Loki exhaled loudly and for a moment you wondered if it was a sigh of relief or of annoyance.

You crossed the threshold of the secret door but found yourself incapable of walking away further. A question buzzed in your mind, and there was no way you could find some solace in your bed before you got an answer. However, you stayed with your back turned to Loki as you asked him:

“If it weren’t for me getting here tonight, would you still...”

“Of course.” Loki abruptly interrupted.

He nervously scratched his throat and added, a bit more casually: “I was going to send you a raven in the morning. I already have the letter over there. It seems that you just beat me to it.”

“Good thing I came then.” you answered and tried to hide the smile in your voice. “I hate birds.”


Never have you been so close to the palace in broad day light since Odin forbade you and Loki to see each other. Even though you were in the palace not latter than the night before, you had a strange feeling that you should not be here. You lurked behind the trees waiting for Loki to show up.

From where you stood you could see everything without – you hoped – being seen. You watched as Thor trained with his group of friends out in the open air. It was a blissful day, warm but not hot, sunny but not too bright. It was the perfect day to enjoy simply being outside.

You observed Thor moving swiftly on the improvised battlefield, how each blow of his swords struck where it was supposed to, never giving an ounce of advantage to his friends. The boys fought hard and well, with their own and unique style. It appeared to be more of a game than an actual fighting practice. On the side stood Sif. The young warrior maiden was scrutinizing every move the future warriors made before jumping in. They were all good fighters despite their young age, but Sif was a deadly dancer. Her feet barely touched the floor, while she held her sword as if it weighted nothing. Yet, each blow she gave, struck her opponent with an impressive force. You admired the young woman, barely older than you and the way she moved fiercely around her opponents impressed you immensely. She belongs, you thought. Every move she made had a purpose. Sif left no room for chance and recklessness, only for opportunity, she seized immediately.

Thor’s reddened face was soaked in sweat but he could not help his ecstatic grin to show. The blond‑haired prince tried his best to impress the maiden, but she was the better fighter with a sword in her hands. Dagmar would definitely say that he needed to find his weapon as each and every soldier is different, you can not expect them to be at their best with something that does not fit them perfectly. You almost heard your friend’s voice when you spotted a shadow moving towards you. Loki crossed the garden, paying no attention to his brother and his group of merry fighters whatsoever. He hold a thick book under his arm.

“Look what I found.” he exclaimed.

Your smile widen as you recognized the first book you had ever read together. It was a volume of old and forgotten tales that used to entertained you very much when you were just a kid. Loki and you had spent many hours reading to each other between two runs in the city. You reached out your hands to take it, but Loki placed it above his head, out of your reach.

“Patience! There is too much noise around here anyway. Come.”

“Where are we going?” you asked doubtful. “Wait! Someone will see us!”

“Don’t worry. I have found an alternative...as you asked. One that did not involve running away or turning into a dull yet, very attractive boy.” he grinned.

You took the hands he offered you and followed him. As you entered the royal gardens you slowed down your pace to the point where Loki was almost dragging you behind him.

“Would you relax?It’s all fine, I promise.”

“But what if your father sees us. He is called the All Seeing One after all.”

“Odin’s not here.”

“What about your brother or your mother. Or anyone else...”

You were not prompt to panic. Still, a wave of unease took you over.

“Just trust me, would you?” he answered irritated. “You weren’t this overly cautions last night.”

Indeed, the night before you had acted upon pure instinct, throwing doubts and caution to the wind. But in the daylight things were different worry and danger seemed to be your new best friends.

“What happened to your sense of adventure?” teased Loki.

"You're not the one facing exile."

As you continued your stroll in the gardens, you soon realized that there was no need for you to be troubled as you saw no one eyeing in your direction. You and Loki crossed the lawn, hand in hand and Asgard stood still.

“What kind of spell is this?” you asked curious.

Loki raised an eyebrow but did not utter a word. Instead, a wicked and proud smirk floated on his lips. You wonder if he had turned you into someone else as he transformed himself into Loren. Hiding in plain sight seemed to be his go‑to plan.

“Who do they think I am?” you asked in his ear, afraid of speaking too loud.

“Only my little dove.” he smiled with confidence and winked at you.

You sat under the same old oak tree you used to when you were kids, shoulder against shoulder immersed in a book you shared. You had your chin upon your folded knees and were listening to him reading about ancients and forgotten gods and mystical creatures in a low and soothing voice. His voice. You had missed that too. You peered closely to the old illustrations which used to fill your head with dreams, and sometimes nightmare, when you were just a little girl. It sent you many years back where things were much more simple. Being cosily seated next to Loki, hearing him tell you stories you knew by heart, felt right and so good that you had a hard time believing it was true. Laughters from further away burst your bubble. You took off your eyes from the torn pages with your name and Loki written in the margin, and watched as Thor and Sif danced around each other, bantering.

“Oh Thor.” you mocked with an terrible impression of Sif’s voice.

It was too high to resemble her raspy voice but you did not care.

“You have the most beautiful hair of all the nine realms combined.”

“How could it compare with your magnificent mane my lady?” added Loki with a forced deep voice resembling Thor's.

“But yours are so bright and shiny!” you minced.

“True. But yours are so silky. What is your secret? Pray tell me.”

“Love, Thor. The secret is love.”

You burst out laughing uncontrollably at your own jape, joined by your giggling friend. Suddenly, Thor’s head turned in your direction, and fear killed your laugh in your throat. Have you made too much noise and he, somehow, heard you? As he walked toward the old oak tree, you straightened yourself.

“What do I do?” you asked pressed against Loki.

“Nothing. Just keep quiet. If you can master such a task that is.” he teased.

You glared at him, a flash of outrage in your eyes. Yet, you did as he told you.

“Reading alone brother?” boomed Thor’s voice.

“What makes you think I am alone?” Loki answered barely lifting his gaze from the opened book.

Thor guffawed.

“Well, I hardly count birds as company.” he said. “Is it a dove? How do you manage to keep it so still on your shoulder?” he inquired, slowly moving his hand to touch you.

Loki slapped his wrist at once, without even looking.

“Keep your barbaric hands to yourself.” he coldly warned.

“Well.” answered Thor massaging his red wrist. “Join us when you are done sulking.”

“I am not sulking.” Loki replied, a pinch of hostility in his voice.

“You are reading old women tales to a bird, under a dying tree. I call that sulking. But you can call it coping if you must.” he paused. “Don’t pretend you don’t miss her, you're not that good of a liar.”

This time, Loki lifted his eyes to his blonde sibling. If gazes could kill, no doubt the prince of thunder would have dropped instantaneously dead. Loki kept his glare upon his brother’s back until he went out of sight, cursing him under his breath. When he judged the distance between you and Thor decent enough, Loki picked up where he had left off.

“Aww! You missed me.” you purred, pushing him slightly with your shoulder.

“I did not.” he answered offended.

“Of course you did. You missed me! You missed me so much that now everyone thinks you sulk. That's so cute!”

“I pretended to miss you, slight difference.”

“Oh come now, little snake. Admit it. You were bored without me.”

You loved teasing him more than anything. And as a smirk stretched his thin lips, you knew that he loved it too.

“Would you please shut up, so I can continue?”

“Not until you admit that you missed me.” you grinned.

“Never!”

A smile he tried to hide enlightened his vivid green eyes. You opened your mouth to mock him more, but Loki immediately pressed his hand on it, forcing you to silence. You mumbled nonetheless.

“Y’mimed me”.

“Stop it!” he hissed but you were too far gone in your jest to end it now.

He accentuated the pressure of his hand on your mouth and slowly fell over you, his green eyes scanning your face. You start laughing as you slowly began to slide back and fall. Loki followed, and now rested on top of you, urging you to shut up. You opened your mouth once again, but licked the palm of his hand instead of repeating your new catch phrase.

“Gross!” he exclaimed.

Loki withdrew his hand from you and stared at his palm covered in drool, his face twisted in disgust. You cackled like an old witch but then, he turned to face you. You did not like the way he was looking at you. You did not like what you were seeing in those emerald malicious eyes. You knew him too well to hope you were misjudging the situation.

“Loki?” you hiccuped. “Loki...don’t.”

But he did. He pressed his slimy hand on your face, and wiped it with your hair, while he maintained your wrists above your head with one firm grip. You kicked and screamed and laughed but the prince had some strength you never imagined he possessed.

“That will teach you.” he smirked triumphantly.

Tears of laughter rolled down from your eyes. His sleek dark hair brushed your forehead. His chest slightly pushed yours as he breathed, his face just above yours. You stared in his eyes as he dwelled in yours and it seemed that time stopped its course for a split moment.

“Not fair.” you said still panting.

Loki’s weight slowly left your body as he sat, his back against the trunk of the tree. You dried your face with the sleeve of your stained shirt. You had come straight from the farm after you had cleaned and fixed the roof of your house. Then, you ran all the way to the palace eager to see your friend again, not that you would ever admit it.

Loki's gaze shifted to Thor and his group, meticulously avoiding your shape.

“I honestly suspect my brother to be more in love with the maiden’s hair than herself.” 

“You should cut Sif’s hair and see where that leads him” you suggested absent-mindedly playing with one lock of your own hair.

“What a tremendous idea!” Loki exclaimed. “Will you assist me?” “And risk banishment for all eternity?” you replied mimicking Odin’s voice. “No thank you. You are on your own for this one I’m afraid.”

“Shame. I miss having my devil dove near me.” He paused and found you secretly smirking. “Only to share the blame.” he clarified.

“Now, now. Let’s not dwell on sentiment.” you answered patting him.

You snaked your arm around Loki’s and laid down your head on his shoulder. His head rested on top of yours as he made himself comfortable. His voice boomed inside your skull when he picked up where he left off earlier. You wondered what it was like before Odin’s time. How was life during Odin’s father’s time and even before that. Curiosity crept its way inside your mind tanking your attention away from the strange tale Loki was telling. He noticed your mind drifting off and stopped reading. He hushed your name gently guiding you back to reality.

“Do you think they really existed?” you asked lost in your thoughts.

“Doubtful. But then again, stranger things have happened.”

A sad smile clouded your face. If Loki saw it, he dared not mention it. You sighed, convinced that a life of adventures and epic battles was not meant for you. yet, you were also sure that you were made for such a life.

“Dagmar thinks I should be a pirate.” you said.

“Well, she mention merchant first but that would be so weird to be on the other side of the counter don’t you think?”

“Why would you want to be a pirate?” exclaimed Loki. “Pirates tend to die young and of an awful and terrible death.”

“That’s for looser pirates. I’m gonna live until I’ve scavenged every realm this universe holds. I want to see if the legends in this very book are true.” you said knocking on the pages. “I can’t wait to be out of here.” you smiled dreamingly.

Loki shut the book in a violent clap, almost trapping your fingers in it.

“Do you have at least any notion of piracy?” he said irritated.

“Need I remind you that I’m kinda the best thief around these parts. I can sneak my way in and out unseen and unarmed. Plus, I have mastered the tricky art of lying and what I don’t already know, I’ll learn on the spot!” you added cheerful.

“And die of an awful and terrible death.”

“Yes, you said that already.” you replied annoyed. “Could you be less supportive?”

Silence fell upon you. The wind brushed the leaves above your head. You stared at him, and he stared right back at you. When suddenly, Loki rose to his feet, letting the book fall on the floor. You picked it up and chased after your friend.

“Loki, wait!”

He did not. You darted after him, afraid the distance would break the spell that hid you from the rest of the world. You caught up with him, yet he refused to acknowledge your presence. You forced him to face you.

“What’s with the sudden cold shoulder?” you asked.

Look kept silent, avoiding looking at you. His sudden coldness was beyond understanding and it broke your heart to be near him and yet feeling so far away at the same time.

“Keep it.” he added harshly, eyeing the book with a flicker of anger.

“What’s wrong with you?” you yelled at him.

Suddenly it did not matter if others could hear you. You were too pissed off to care.

“What’s going on Loki? One minute we’re having fun and the next you throw me off a cliff.”

“Better learn how to fly then.”

You eyed him, overwhelmed by the urge to slap him across his smooth white face and you had a feeling he wanted to do nothing more than slap you too. He looked mad at you, and every second Loki stubbornly held your gaze, you hated him a little more. 

“Fuck you.” you muttered between your teeth.

“Right back at you.” he answered the same way.

Loki went passed Thor and his friends who just witnessed the whole thing in awe. The prince tried to joined is angered brother, but a dagger suddenly appeared and stabbed him in the arm. Loki’s figure became a shadow and then a blurry spot on the horizon. You left the gardens before anyone could come to you and began running. You ran all the way to your house, and then past the old crumbling well where he first appeared disguised as a snake. You ran through a wild field and crossed a wood, to your favourite spot in all Asgard. This was the only place Loki had not tainted yet. Little did you know, it would become the first place you’d remember when thinking about him during the many decades spent apart from each other.

Chapter Text

“Pass me the other basket.” you said to your mother.

You put down a basket filled with the pears you just picked up from one of the trees she grew in the backyard.

“You will be late for your schooling.” she reminded you.

“Don’t care. I’m not going anyway.”

The look of disapproval on her face would have made you laugh on some other day. However, since your feud with Loki in the palace gardens two weeks ago, anger seemed to be your default mode in all things social.

“You need to learn a tread young lady. It’s not like you’re going to be married any time soon, and you need to take care of your future.”

“Do you listen to yourself?” you yelled dropping the basket “I don’t need anything except be left alone. You want me to learn a trade? I know one already and it’s called taking care of my fucking self.”

A blow suddenly hit you on the face leaving a red and hot mark in the shape of her hand on your cheek. It was, without a doubt, the slap of the millennium. It burnt like hell fire, still, you said nothing.

“I know things have been tough for you lately. First with Loki and then Loren leaving, I'm sure that...”

“Loren? D’you really think it’s about him?” you laughed maniacally. “We’ve been playing you this all time Loki and I. Loren never existed. That was just Loki doing what he does best.”

The words uncontrollably flowed out of your mouth, revealing every secret you have been keeping. You told the entire truth to your mother and left nothing out. You told her how Loki came up with his plan to be with you, and how you once sneaked to the palace to find him at night. You even revealed some darker corners of your past, as if there could be no consequences. You were still young of age, nonetheless you had spent centuries alongside the prince of Asgard and there were many things to tell. When you were done, your mother remained quiet. Her face blank and her body stiff. She picked up the one basket you had filled and turned her heels towards the house.

“If you want to skip your schooling make yourself useful. Keep your father far away from the kitchen, I don't want to him to 'fix' my stove. I intend to eat today."

She sighed in resignation and did not adresse to you for the rest of the day. Came diner, you ate a dull and burnt meal your father cooked on the stove you never prevented him to touch. Instead, you did exactly the opposite of what your mother had told you to do and enabled your father with his fixing and improving obsession. After cleaning his plate, your father turned with a resolute look on his face.

“I’ll go upstairs while there’s still some daylight out there.” he claimed.

“You will certainly not!” exclaimed your mother. “Last time you were up there, you almost broke your hip.”

Laking any skills, he broke most of what he was trying to fix, making the family daily life life a bit more complicated. You grabbed his tools belt from his hands and walked to the door.

“I’ll do it.”

“You know nothing about fixin’ a roof.” 

“Because you do perhaps? At least I know how to stand on my own two feet.” you snarled.

You had no idea what to do up on the roof because you did not see what was wrong with it in the first place. You carefully walked around under the scrutinizing eyes of your worried dad. If only he knew I climbed the city’s wall with nothing but a lame rope. His voice led you to where the problem was supposed to be, urging you to be extra caution as to where you put your feet. All your eyes could see were wheat fields and the greenest valley of grass. At the far end of your realm, a line of trees that conveniently hid the wild part of the river that crossed the city of Asgard. From the ground rose your father’s voice calling out your name.

“I know how to walk dad! You taught me, remember?”

“Your friend’s here!” he called.

Your heart was supposed to be the master and commander of a little ship called your body, yet he betrayed you for one terrifying moment.

“What’re you doing good looking?” said Dagmar a wide smile across her beautiful face.

You and your friend sat on the roof, enjoying the view of the golden sun getting low, while sharing a pie your mother made earlier. “I could sell my own parents for one of your mother’s pie.” Dagmar said licking her fingers.

“Why doesn’t she opened a shop?”

“She can’t leave my dad alone. He’s too clumsy, he might die holding a fork the wrong way.” you tried to laugh but somehow you felt sad for your mother. “Mom says he wasn’t always like this though. It started when he came back from Jötunheim...”

Dagmar solemnly nodded staring at the golden countryside that spread to the horizon. Soon the night horns will blow and the gates will closed until morning light. You hold on to the fabric in your hands, fighting the tears back.

“I… I can’t keep this.” you said.

“I don’t do refund, even for friends.”

“Keep the money and keep it. Please.”

The fabric slid and revealed the snake handle of the sharpest of blades. You put it in Dagmar’s fingers and shut them around it, begging her once more.

“Or, hear me out here, you keep the dagger and go stab the scoundrel. Hells, I’ll even forge another dagger for myself and go along with you. No one hurts my friend and get away with it.”

"What would Unn think?" you smiled a sad and tearful smile.

Anger had flown away the minute Dagmar gave you the blade you ordered from the sketch you saw many moons ago. It would have been the perfect gift for Loki and holding it, unable to give it to him, hurt you more than you could bare.

“She'll pray for our souls, we'll be fine. I always thought something was fishy with him.” confessed Dagmar. “As if he was pretending in some way...”

“You don’t know him like I do.” you whispered suddenly tired.

“Says the woman who got her heart broken. Well, despite his charms Loren was just another...”

“You should go.” you interrupted. “The gates are about to close and you don’t need that kind of trouble.”

You stared at Dagmar and convinced yourself you just told the truth whereas you only wanted her to stop talking about Loki. Except it was never Loki for her, you reflected.

“My brother is on wall duty tonight.” she winked.

“All right, so don’t put him in any trouble then.” you winked back.

“See you in class!” She waved at you and began running.

As you stood on the roof of your shabby house you gazed at the further and wondered what lied beyond.

You had traveled with your father but not as far as you would have it. The air was getting thick and damp. Your hair glued to your forehead by a sweat that would stained your shirt, you stood still and stared. Should you stay or should you go? You reflected on how far you could walk during the night and guessed you could reach a small city you knew south of Asgard. It was an easy way from your house to there and you should not need much except for a bit of food and water. One you could steal from the kitchen and the other you’d have aplenty while following the stream. That part of your escape plan was pretty much clear but as you climbed down the ladder, your mind started racing. What would you do from there? How would you live? Will you leave your parents a note and what about your friends?

You imagined Dagmar and Unn waiting for you before class and expecting you to pop during the lessons only to find out you had left without saying goodbye. Should I sneak in the city and tell them? Should you meet Dagmar’s brother you would be fine but they might try to talk you out of your default plan. I just need to find a ship, climb aboard and then I’ll be fine enough to tell them not to worry. You put your foot on the solid ground, but still, one face kept on haunting you. One voice kept on calling you back to the world you wanted to escape from. You purposefully pushed him back and back, until he became nothing but white noise in your mind. Through the window you watched as your fell asleep in the armchair while her husband was rubbing the sole of her feet. Her lips were curved in a sleepy smile and from time to time she chuckled softly while your father talked to her. You stepped back to put the ladder in its place when you bumped into something in the dark.

By the sound of the crash, it was a small and rather light object. You searched the ground when a shiver went down your spine. Under your fingers you felt the shapes of each scales Dagmar carved on the handle. Yet, you did not stop as if you were unsure it was truly Loki’s dagger and reached the sharp edges of the weapon instead of its handle. You let a sharp cry of pain out. Quickly, you folded the fabric around your hand and put the blade behind your back. Once safely in your room, you cleaned the blade and tended to your wound the best you could. You put the blade next to your bed, your eyes drawn by the beauty of it. The greenish handle glimmered under the silvery moonlight. It would fit his hand perfectly. It’s the perfect gift. Your mind ran in circles.

In a few days time there will be a massive celebration in Asgard and a magnificent feast for Thor coming of age party. You and Loki used to laugh about these sort of events, yet it was part of his world. Soon, it will be his turn and potential bride names may be whispered in his ear. And the more he will grow up as a prince, the more will be expected of him. Might be that one day Loki will be crowned King of Asgard. Stranger things have happened. You finished packing your bag around the same time your parents went to bed. You waited for a good hour to make sure they were asleep and sneaked out of your window like the last time. You walked down the path quietly to the edge of the property, unsure if a last look above your shoulder would be such a good idea. You were not leaving only your life and your parents behind, but your home. And your friends Dagmar, and Unn and…

“Loki?”

You squinted your eyes and saw a familiar shape coming towards you. As he got closer, you had to face the fact that Loki Odinson, prince of Asgard and partner in crime was outside the city’s gates at night and walking to your house with no cover nor disguise whatsoever. You glanced at the lane going right. The one that would lead you to the south of the realm, to the small city from where you will be able to start a new life. I just need to find a ship, you reminded yourself. I’ll find a ship, climb aboard and sail away. I’m never looking back, you said to yourself. I’m never looking back, you repeated when you turned right. The night was quiet except for Loki’s voice calling your name. I’m never...looking back. The more steps you took, the harder it was to convince yourself that you were doing the right thing. You knew he could just materialize in front of you the way in did in his chambers, and the fact that he chose to follow you, made you finally stop. Don’t look back. Whatever you do, don’t look back. One can give good advice to others, and sometimes to oneself, yet, one never seems to follow them. Loki stopped as the same time you did. Not only did you look back but you turned completely, forced to face the young dark-haired man that used to be your friend.

“Going for a walk?”

He talked as if he did not care about the answer even though his eyes told you otherwise.

“Something like that, yes.”

You gave him nothing else to chew on, leaving him drowned in his own discomfort. However it bugged you to see him there on the very night you chose to leave. Could have he known? There was many things you wanted to say to him, and some were unpleasant, yet you could pick one of them so you stayed silent. Was he going through the same process as you? The two of you did the same thing that was keeping your mouth shut even though thousands of questions and demands ran through your heads. For days now, the city spoke of nothing else than Thor’s birthday. The elder son of Odin was about to come of an age where everything changed. No longer a careless boy, yet not entirely fit to become a king despite the obvious expectations. You reflected about the incredible amount of pressure that must weight on his large shoulders because soon it would be Loki’s turn. Even though he was not meant to rule the realm, the life as he knew it was also about to change for ever and there will be no turning back.

“Were you leaving?” Loki suddenly asked.

You stood into the deep of the night, unsure if you should tell him the truth, too afraid you will be falling apart.

“Why are you here?” you replied.

“You don’t have the monopoly of sneaking out.” Loki smirked.

You noticed how Loki changed the subject as did a second before. Are we doomed to be much the same or are we ever going to change? It was nothing but awkward to be in front of him. Flashbacks of how you parted ways kept your throat tight, unable to speak nor smile. After a moment of reflection, Loki shifted his weight from one leg to another, nervously playing with his fingers

“I’m sorry.” he blurted.

“You’ll need to be more specific.”

Loki sighed, tensed from head to toes. Under the silvery moonlight, his jawlines looked sharper than ever. For once, he broke his habits and apologized. But what was more unusual for him was the remorse he tried to hide from you.

“It has been brought to my attention that I’ve been something of a...an ass to you the other day. And uh– so I came here to – to...what?”

“You suck at apologizing d’you know that?”

You refrained yourself from laughing, but his puzzled face was getting the best of you. For the sake of his wounded pride, you did your best to remain serious with a hint of coldness as you spoke back to him.

“And a lame ass ‘sorry’ is not gonna work. If you want to atone, you’ll have to do better than that.”

“You’re kidding right? I came all the way here.”

“Oh sorry...should I be impressed by something I do every day? C’mon Loki, you have tricks and magic to get everything you want. Don’t expect me to settle for something less than I deserve. Cause I won’t.”

Loki bit his lower lip, a devilish gleam twinkled in his emerald eyes.

“You say I can get everything I want but that’s not true. Far from it. My tricks and magic were supposed to keep us together and look where we are today.”

“Because you acted like a moron! You belittled me in a way that...Uh— It hurt Loki. I never once thought you could do this to me. We’ve known each other since we’re nine or ten.”

“Seven.” he corrected. “And it’s been two years since my father decided you were not good enough for me. Two bloody years and I won’t stand for one more minute. You never dreamt of leaving Asgard before this whole masquerade began!”

“Of course I did! I’ve always told you that I wanted to be free.”

“Does this freedom you hold so dear necessarily means you have to leave me?”

Loki’s voice broke for only a fraction of second but you noticed it. I never meant to leave you, not entirely anyway. In your backpack the dagger, safely wrapped weighted suddenly a thousand time more than it did. The moment you feared while planning your escape had caught up with you and now there was no way out. No one was coming to your rescue, giving you a much needed hand. You were on your own, facing Loki and his more than obvious pain. You opened your mouth to answer but what should you say when every thought and feelings you ever had was mushed in one big pile of goo?

“It used to be us against the world.” he reminded you.

“I know. And it still feels this way. I thought it would be fun to sneak behind Odin’s back and it was. But at the end of the day he still wins and I still miss you. I mean, why wait? Soon you’ll be way over your head in official duties and you’ll have no time to spare for an old friend. So I figured why not take the first step and be on my merry way?”

Loki stepped towards you.

“Do you really think that I will let my father win? I just told you that I won’t stand for one more minute away from you. If it was Thor instead of me, Odin would have caved in a long time ago. I played my part and now I’m sick of this. I’m sick of pretending to be the good little prince he wants me to be. I’m sick of him always looking above my shoulder.”

“Well, he’s called the All-Seeing One for a good reason.” you joked. “And I don’t think Odin would have caved in for Thor. He’s supposed to be king after him, so the stakes are much higher than with you.”

“Nonetheless, Odin plays favourite and I’m sick of this too. Have seen the raucous in town lately? and for what? Hooray Thor is getting older and one step closer to the throne!” he mocked “When was the last time one of mine was celebrated in such grandeur? You should see them running around the palace like it’s the biggest event of the millennium. Mother is swamped with the preparations and all I can hear is Thor, Thor, Thor!”

As you listened your friend complained, an idea popped in your mind and all outside distraction faded away. When you emerged from your thoughts, Loki’s grin was wide in expectation.

“I know that look.” he said as he occasionally bore the same one. "What's in your wicked brain, dove?"


You walked through the palace unbeknownst to the staff who was far too preoccupied to any pay attention to one more person in the busy palace. It was great to be out in the open for once. It felt like the good old days even though it would be the last time you roamed the palace the way you were.

“Are you ready for the big party?” you asked entering Loki’s chambers.

You sat at the edge of his bed, the soft sheets caressing the sensitive skin of your hands. You took off your hand, almost ashamed to touch such a delicate fabric. A brown gown flew across the room to land next to you.

“What’s this?” you asked puzzled.

“Your disguise.”

“That is not what we discussed.”

“I know, but I’ve been doing some thinking and no one could ever believe you’re a lady. And wearing shoes for once does not count, I’m afraid. So put this on, and pose as a maid. The rest will go as planned.” He lied down at your side, putting an insistent look on you.

“Chop! Chop now. Get dressed. There’s nothing I haven’t seen already.”

His dark shirt creased as he lied down, exposing the pale white skin of his stomach and the lines of his slender figure.

“There’s no way I pretend to be your servant.” you said throwing the dress on his face.

Loki instantly jerked up and grabbed your chin between his cool fingers, his face just a breath away from yours.

“Don’t ruin the fun, dove.” he grinned.

You answered him by smacking his wrist and pushed him back on the bed. You swiftly sat astride his thighs, pinning him against the slippery shits. Loki opposed a weak resistance, softly chuckling with your hair lingering above his face.

“Got something for you.” you purred.

Loki slightly shifted his position under you. As you moved to retrieve the gift you had wrapped and safely attached to your belt, a small bump between his legs kept on growing. As you reached for the dagger, you leaned closer, your chest pressed upon his. Loki’s breath became erratic, his parted lips ready to welcome yours at any moment.

“Not that kind of gift.” you breathed lazily.

You sat back on his laps and presented him with Dagmar’s blade. Loki’s head fell back, his body shaken with nervous giggles. But when his eyes lied down on the weapon, he straightened. One of his hand against your rear back prevented you from falling and kept you in place while he admired your gift. Joy overcame you when he put his hand on the handle and the handle fitted his grip perfectly. Dagmar had done an impressive detailed work and it was nothing but perfection. Loki was lost in contemplation a floating grin on his face as he turned the blade to examine it under every angle. He rose it up in the air, playing with the reflection of the light against the spotless blade and weighed it. He looked satisfied when suddenly he threw the weapon across the room. Loki’s move startled you and if it wasn’t for his hand pressed against your back you would have fall on the floor. An apple appeared out of nowhere just before the weapon punctured the door. Loki beamed like a kid.

“I guess you like it.” you said.

He gazed up at you through his thick black eyelashes. Your breaths met in the middle of the small space between your teenage sexually charged bodies. Loki had always been an eyeful, yet, before that moment it had somehow eluded you only to strike you as an unavoidable evidence. Your fingers slid down his forearm, cooling the longer you touched his bare skin. Loki’s hand went up your spine to the back of your head, pushing you gently, yet firmly, to him. You closed your eyes in anticipation, aroused and comfortably numb at the same time. Loki’s chilled lips brushed yours. You shivered under his soft breath and locked your hands behind his neck to get a better hold while he pushed you completely against him. There was no room left for any thoughts or doubts. There was only you and Loki, two hearts beating against one another. He slightly opened his mouth to ease the way in of your tongue and soon after they danced around each other.

“Loki! I'm going to put your little...” Thor barged in his brother’s chambers only to cover his eyes and immediately turned away. “Wow! Wow...Ok I’m gone now. You may uh– carry on.”

The embarrassed prince closed the door behind him but opened it once more just a second after. Half hidden behind the door frame, his eyes tight shut, Thor’s head appeared.

“Nice haircut.” you mocked. “It makes your eyes pop.”

“Do mother and father know you’re here?”

“What do you reckon?” provoked Loki.

“Right. Just...wrapped this up.” he said gesturing in the air. “The ceremony is about to begin and mother’s looking for you.”

 The door closed for good this time, leaving you and the prince alone in his chambers. If there was a moment for a brief, yet passionate, embrace satisfying two horny teenagers that were about to say good bye to each other, well, that moment had died when Thor entered. You moved backwards, letting your hands fall upon Loki’s chest. His heart beat fast and strong against the palms of your hands, and in his eyes burnt a fiery desire for you. His long fingers on your hips tickled but prevented you from leaving your spot on his thighs.

“I see that part one of the plan went well.”

You smiled imagining Thor’s reaction upon discovering his new and improved hair cut and garment for the ceremony. It was juste a little something to warm you up as Loki and you came with your greatest trick of all. It would be a day to remember.

“You know me, I always deliver.” he grinned.

Loki paused for a moment staring at you, his hands lingering on your warm body. You smiled weakly, pushing a strand of his hair away from his face. The tenderness was something new, something you could get used to, especially when he looked at you the way he was looking at you right this moment. You stopped that course of thoughts and got away from him before he could talk his way into your mind.

“I think it is time you get reinstated.” he breathed reaching for another kiss.

“That’s not what we discussed.” you answered pulling back.

You crossed the room to get a glass of water, putting a good distance between Loki and you. He watched you walk away, leaning on one elbow. Loki acted casual but you knew him well enough to recognize when he was being serious.

“Why not?” he straightened himself “I am sure, by now, he would be inclined to listen to my demands.”

You could not help but laugh. As fathers went, Odin was the least sympathetic you had ever met. Even your own father was more endearing and open‑minded than the king. If Loki walked in to his father, there was no doubt he would dismissed him as he always did. You shared your concern with your friend. But his mind was set and there was nothing you could tell him that would make him consider anything else.

“But why would he refuse? As far as he is concerned we haven’t seen each other for two whole years. I have complied to everything he asked. I have shown him that I can take my responsibilities and frankly, I am a much more fitted choice to rule Asgard than my brother is.”

“You mean the brother who’s currently walking around the palace with blue hair and lilly white armour. Yeah, I don’t think Odin will listen to anything you have to say after we’re through with the plan. You do remember the plan right? Because hobgoblins were especially hard to get in here without anyone noticing. It will be chaos soon, that what we agreed upon. Not talking to Odin. You can’t just change the plan without talking to me first.”

Loki jumped on his feet and crossed the room to join you.

“I am talking to you now but you won’t listen.”

“Because there’s no need!” you yelled. “Words are just wind! There’s nothing concrete with words. Odin won’t listen to you because as far as I am concerned he sees nothing but a disruption in his son’s life. I won’t spend my life hiding in the shadows just to occasionally have fun with you. I don’t wan’t to take the farm over from my father and I certainly don’t want to get marry just to be ‘safe’.” you paused, feeling a knot in your throat. “I don’t want to leave you either, but I don’t see another way out. You can’t leave with me and I can’t live with you.”

Saying it out loud broke your heart in million of pieces. You watched as Loki refused to acknowledge your statement. He shook his head, his hands clenched in a fist of rage.

“Just let me try.” pleaded Loki. "There's still time to cancel the plan and go to him for..."

“No. It won’t work.”

Someone knocked at Loki’s door and before you knew it, the prince casted a spell to hide you from whoever was about to enter.

“I hope I am not disturbing you.” said the queen.

“Never mother.”

You watched her approach her son, followed by servants carrying clothes.

“I have taken the liberty to choose this for you.” she said. “And these.”

You barely drew a breath afraid it would reveal your presence. Doesn’t she sense his magic?

“What is this?” he asked.

“A list of suitable partners for tonight dances.” Frigga answered.

Loki was not confused nor surprised, but having you in the room after the argument you just had, he could not ease down and patiently listen to his loving mother.

“For marriage you mean.” he exploded. “I don’t want a list of suitable partners. You never gave Thor a list of suitable partners.”

“Of course I did, but your father...”

“Oh yes! My sweet father who thinks about nothing but the well‑being of Asgard. Is that what you are going to say to me Mother?”

Then fell an unbearable silence. Quiet as well, the servants went about their businesses, head low but ears dropping and catching every word of the family feud. You on the other hand were trying your best not to be part of this but Loki had decided otherwise. Has he forget I’m just here? you wondered anxious to go.

“I do not need the list.” he said.

Facing his mother and staring at her Loki creased the paper into a ball and threw it on the floor.

“If you let me, I can spare you the hassle of finding me someone.” he offered.

Anger had left his voice, leaving only a low honey tone full of confidence. Loki looked more regal than ever and for a brief moment you pictured him on the throne of Asgard

“I have always known who I want by my side and I am not changing my mind. Ever.”

His eyes darted in your direction. You caught your breath at the last second. You whole body tensed under his fierce and fiery look. You shook your head in despair not knowing if he could see you or if the spell cloaked you for him as well.

“Loki.” Frigga’s voice sounded like a vain lament. “You’re too young to know of these things. I understand what she means to you and I wish there was something I could do to ease your pain.”

“Then talk to father!” he pleaded. “Make him see her the way you do! I know you don’t disapprove of her.”

“But I don’t approve either.”

Frigga gently took her son’s hands in hers. She glimpsed sideways, to the windows in front of which you were standing. A quiver ran through your body when you felt Frigga’s piercing gaze. Was she able to see through Loki’s tricks you would not know as she continued trying to reason with her son.

“As a mother, I wish for nothing more than my son’s happiness. But as a queen, my duties prevent me for letting your hearts take you astray. Not that you should not listen to it, on the contrary. But you ought to be careful of what it whispers. You also have a head Loki, use it.”

She kissed him tenderly on his forehead, in a way only a mother could. Frigga turned her heels only to freeze immediately.

“What is this?” she asked pointing to the dagger Loki had thrown earlier.

She pulled it out rather easily.

“Give it back to me!”

“You can't keep this.”

Loki gestured to get what was his, but Frigga moved aside.

“I have lots of daggers.” he answered.

“Not like this one you don't. She is here isn't she? And spare me your lies my son. I can see through them.”

Before you knew it, the queen stated your name and commanded you to come forward. You waited, praying it was a mistake, that she was not talking to you. But Loki’s resignatation shattered that hope. You brushed the dust off your cloths in order to appear more presentable. You bowed your head as the men were expected to, forgetting you needed to curtsy in front of the queen. With a light touch, Frigga lifted your head up to meet her eyes. But your gaze went from hers to Loki. He looked desperate and powerless.

Neither of you were sure to whom she was talking to and you both stayed silent. You feared that anything you said could be used against you. Maybe if you had acted strictly according to the plan this whole situation could have been avoided.

“Is this yours?” she showed you the dagger.

You gave the answer away with only a blink. Behind her, Loki was standing still, his hair was a bit messy because of you. You looked at him but he lowered his gaze to stare at the floor. Now you’re abandoning me truly.

“You can not keep this dagger, not here anyway.” she said to her son before turning back to you. “And you, you can not stay here. If my husband, the King, finds you, it would inevitably means your end.”

The queen reminded of something you had always known, something you had given away the minute Odin spoke against you that day in the throne room. Yet, you had engaged in a war of some sort and Thor’s day should have been the last battle before the final retreat. But Loki never retreated, he never surrendered, not for even a second. He was more resilient, more stubborn even. He refused to see when the war was over and that you had lost.

“Your father must never hear about this. And you must stop pursuing her. For both your sake and hers.” she warned.

You lowered your head as he tried to catch your gaze. You fought back the tears coming. If it were only to Frigga, things could have turned out differently, but fate had a funny way to show it cared. You were ready to leave but you paused, looking at the queen’s empty hands. A violent wave of outrage got a hold of you and you had to fight that too. The dagger had become too dangerous to keep around and somehow you ought to thank Frigga for taking it away. You sniffled and dabbled your nose with your shirt sleeve. There was no way you’d shown Loki how vulnerable you felt. You needed to put on your brave face, the one you had practiced for the latest of event. Loki was supposed to escort you to the wall the way he used to do when you were kids, each sun fall before the gates closed. Then, you would have land a couple of jokes to hide the unbearable yet necessary suffering of saying goodbye for good. You had planned on being brave, and even though the plan seemed to have fallen apart, this part should remained unchanged whatever might come your way. You were ready to leave, using the secret door, when someone entered Loki’s chambers unannounced.

“My queen! Here you are." Odin stopped, his bright blue eyes on you, sharp as Dagmar’s dagger. "Loki, care to explain?"

He watched his son near you, his hand brushing the back of yours and his own wife, the queen holding a dagger. Frigga stepped in, and answered for Loki and an argument occurred between Odin and her while you and Loki stood quiet. You never used to stand quiet. There always was a fire burning in your veins, always something to say if not a banter then a blind lie. You always tried to get away, but not that day. As you witnessed Odin's wrath you realized there was no reasoning with him. You did not run because there was no escaping this. Loki did not fight because he understood, as you did, that it was all for nothing. Everything slipped away. There was no more light on the horizon, no more bright tomorrows and, in a heartbeat, the promises all faded away. You stood at the end of the line, burdened by all the things you never said and all of those you refused to hear. You once stood on the edge of freedom but walked backwards giving in to your pride and your greed and now you could nothing but witness your fall and seize your doom.

Chapter Text

You looked at all of your belongings spreading across the bed and realized you did not possess much. You locked your backpack and watched one last time the room you were forced to leave. Outside in the short hallway, a handful of guards awaited, spears in their hands and stern looks on their faces. Your parents stood on the threshold of the main door, holding each other as you were escorted by the guards to the bifrost. Neither of them shed a tear and you wondered if somehow they couldn’t be more relieved to see you go.

“Try not to kill yourself while I’m gone.” you advised your dad.

The old man simply nodded. You turned to your mother with nothing to say to her, not even an apology nor a sweet word for her to remember you by. You nodded to her like your father maybe words were overreated in these situation, and began following the guards on the path that led to the city walls. You crossed the same gates you already crossed a thousand time before, yet it felt completely different. No one talked, and the walk across the city seemed longer than it should be. You gazed at the golden palace with a heavy heart when someone stopped the little garrison.

“Halt! By order of the King, I am to take this young lady and escort her to the new rendez‑vous point.”

“I’m no lady.” you grunted.

“Good.” answered the guard.

At first you saw only a glimmering golden armor. It could have been anyone, yet the voice you heard sounded familiar and then a pair of bright hazel eyes lit as he smiled at you. You refrained yourself for speaking Selby’s name out loud but joy suddenly overcame you. Joy and relief. The captain of the guards immediately stepped forward putting himself between you and Selby.

“I never heard anything about another rendez‑vous point.”

“As it was meant to be.” countered Selby. “The King fears an ambush has been planned to free this one. So he came up with something else to surprise the traitors who would try anything."

The Captain and his soldiers laughed mockingly, glaring at you. The round man with a pointed beard grabbed your hand and raised it in the air.

“This one right here? Who would want to free her?

“Sympathizers. Do you have any idea who that is?”

“Of course I do.” spit the Captain with a wounded pride.

However he had absolutely no idea who you were. Your face was of course familiar to him as he saw you many times around the palace but he could not quite place it. All he knew was that he was supposed to escort you to the bifrost and send you through the portal. The captain glanced at you. You were nothing but a contrite young lady who was supposed to be exiled in a far away and hostile land. Selby kept his cool and a serious face you never knew he could be capable of.

“You did your part. Hand her over now.” he said.

But the captain grabbed your arm before you could draw a step in the direction of your friend. People in the street slowed down their pace to get a better look at the scene.

“I’ll need to speak with the King first.”

“Look, I know how it sounds, trust me, but I was ordered by Odin to get her to another escort north of the city. 'One soldier should be much more discreet than a garrison', he said. And who am I to discussed with our All–Father? Now, if you want to go all the way to the palace and disturb his majesty because you think his idea is a bad one, be my guest. But leave me out of this sordid business.”

Selby stepped aside, his eyes fixed on the round face of the Captain.

“I never said...”

The captain gritted his teeth, squeezing your soft flesh in his grip before he loosened it and set you free.

“That’s what I thought.” said Selby with a cocky smile. “Now, rest assured that this scoundrel is in good hands. Good day to you fellows!”

He gently pushed you in front of him and guided you through a couple of street before removing his helmet.

“I hate those things. Can’t breath properly with them.”

“And it messes up with your hairdo.” you answered.

“Did it? Oh no!”

Selby carefully patted his brown wavy hair with concern, in desperate need to check his reflection in the mirror. You chuckled underneath your breath.

“Won’t you be in trouble?” you asked suddenly.

“What for?”

“Uh- taking me away for once. There’s no one who’d risk Odin’s wrath to set me free.”

“Are you sure about that weasel?”

As he said it, the street you were on led to small square where Dagmar and Unn were waiting for you. The young girl was dressed for travel, her belongings all around her while, Dagmar was holding a basket full of food and drinks.

“There’s our beloved criminal.” greeted Dagmar with a wide smile that revealed her plain white teeth.

You crossed the square more puzzled than ever, when a slender figure emerged from the shadows and strode gracefully to you and Selby.

“My prince.” said Selby bowing his head.

“Right on time Selby. Thank you. I trust they weren’t too suspicious?”

“Just a bit. But I prefer to make sure they haven’t followed us.” Selby answered before turning to you. “I know you can take care of yourself but...take care weasel. Maybe I’ll see you again before my hair turn grey.”

“As long as you ditch the helmet your hair will be just fine.” you joked.

“Damn right!” Selby paused, a fond smile lightning his fair features.“Don’t tell the other thieves of the city but...you were always my favourite.”

All of a sudden you broke into a hug, letting yourself melt in his strong arms. He smelled like walnut and earth which reminded of Loren’s smell. That’s where he got his inspiration, you realized. You let go of the guard, and pecked him on the cheek before he could go back the way he went.

“I have no idea what’s going on, but I don’t want any of you to get in trouble because of me.” you said looking a little longer in Loki’s direction.

Dagmar immediately reassured you and pointed her finger to the prince alongside you.

“You’ll have some serious explaining to do, but don’t worry, we’re fine. You and little Unn here are going on a trip.”

“We’re going to Vanaheim!” Unn exclaimed unable to hide her excitement.

“How? Why? Uh...I don’t understand. I was supposed to be sent to...”

“We don’t have time for all of this, dove. There’s a boat waiting for you and Unn that will sail to Vanaheim where you are to stay and study among the Vanir. You finally get to be on a ship, just like you dreamt. I am aware that it’s far from your pirates fantasy, but that’s...something.”

“My brother is waiting for us. He will make sure you get to boat safely.” added Dagmar.

“Did you do all this?” you asked Loki, frowning in concern. “What if your father learns about it? You’re in enough trouble as it is.”

The prince closed his eyes and pulled you closer to him. He slightly shook his head and glanced at the palace. You were in the bottom parts of Asgard, from where the palace loomed over the twisty streets. Only the top of the some towers were visible, the rest hidden by walls and roofs that pilled up on the hillside. Down south, the wide sea awaited for you.

“I can’t take the credit for this. But I will be perfectly fine, don’t you worry. It’s my mother you have to thank, and Unn for agreeing to leave a little bit early.” he smiled to the girl.

“Are you kidding me? That’s the best day of my life! I was supposed to wait another year but thanks to the Queen I...I shouldn’t be...I’m sorry.”

The overjoy was unusual for the shy girl who never spoke louder than a whisper. You and Dagmar starred in disbelief, chuckling. The cheeks red as a poppy, she bowed her head down and apologize again.

“Don’t!” you said warmly. “I know how much you wanted to go to Vanaheim, and now your dream is finally coming true. But why am I going there? Why did your mother go behind Odin’s back for me?”

“Why do you feel compelled to ask so many questions dove? It’s all taken care of, now if you don’t hurry, the plan might fail and we can’t have that, can we?”

You stepped closer to Loki, and slid one hand in his. His cool fingers urgently intertwined with yours, holding on to your touch. You raised your head as he lowered his. Loki leant a bit over you, touching your forehead with his. The proximity created a space were only you and the prince were allowed and all outside life was a mere distraction you were blind and deaf to.

“There's one thing I need to know, before I go. One last question and then I'm done. I promise." you smiled. "Did you mean what you said?” you whispered “In your chambers, about knowing who you wanted beside you and not changing your mind, ever?”

Loki breathed out heavily, holding your hand a little tighter, while his other one went slowly up to your cheek. Yours brushed his hips, feeling the coolness of his skin through the light fabric of his clothes.

“Does it matter now?”

You nodded, brushing his forehead and shut your eyes tight. His thumb drew small soft circles on your cheek. You could almost taste his lips against yours as he closed the short distance between the two of you.

“I did, yes.”

“Good.” you smiled against the curve of his lips.

A few steps away, Dagmar and Unn focused on each other while you and Loki shared your last moment together.

“I’m never aware of anything around here.” complained Dagmar. "

“Me neither.” sighed Unn. 

Loki reluctantly pulled himself away from you, yet holding you at arm’s length.

“Will you write to me?” he asked you.

"Would it be safe?"

"I can make some arrangements, yes."

“Then yes. Everyday.”

“So I shall answer your letters every night.”

His voice was steady but his green eyes were frantically scanning your face as if to be sure to remember every detail of it.

“It’s ironic isn’t it? I don’t even remember why I wanted to leave in the first place, and now that I am forced to do so, I wish for nothing more than just to stay here.”

“You’re a free spirit, dove. Nothing will ever change that. Now go, it’s time for you to sail away.”

You smiled at him with all the strength you could muster and forced yourself to step aside in casual fashion. Yet, Loki’s hand still hold onto yours and for a split second you thought he would never let go. But he did, and you went to Dagmar and Unn. From there, it was nothing but the most painful walk you had ever walk. You climbed on board and helped Unn to settle in the cabin you were to share during the sail to Vanaheim.

“You do know they have plenty of books and scrolls over there?” you teased Unn.

“Never ask a mother to pick her favourite child as she will chooses all of them not to hurt any one of them.” she answered in all seriousness.

“There’re books, Unn. Just books.”you said settling on your bed.

But you were to learn that books were never just books. You left the life you longed to leave behind you, a pain in your heart and a tear in your eye. The horizon was neither bright nor bleak, only filled with possibilities. A new chapter was about to begin, one you could have not foreseen, not in a thousand years...

Chapter Text

“I will miss you.” cried Unn her face buried in your breast.

You gently pulled the young woman and wiped the tears away from her beautiful face. She had grown a few inches since you arrived in Vanaheim but unlike Dagmar she was never supposed to be tall nor big. Your beloved friend starred at you with wide watery eyes. There were both tears of joy and of sorrow as she said goodbye to you. You have always hated goodbyes. They left nothing but bitterness in the heart and dry salty tears on the cheeks. Unn had plaited you hair on the side, the way the members of the Order of Sagá usually did. She checked your dress, a white simple thing with long sleeves and a golden belt hanging loose around your hips. You were waiting for the bifrost to open and take you back on Asgard after centuries spent on Vanaheim amongst the Vanir. The high priestess and a handful of your sisters had chosen to accompany to say goodbye.

From the bifrost dock you had a great view of the rain forest where you spent many years learning about what nature could offer and take back. You had to survive with only the knowledge the Vanir taught you and it had been the most exhilarating time of your life. Despite your gown and some books and scrolls you were expected to bring back with you, you owned nothing. Life on Vanaheim had been frugal to say the least, but there, you had thrived. There had been no distraction, no temptation, and Unn’s presence had been a soothing balm on your aching heart.

“I can not believe you are to be the next Keeper of Scrolls.”

“Me neither.” you confessed.

Being Keeper of the Scrolls was a tremendous responsibility. A burden! you shook your head, chasing away that old voice from your mind. Yes, it could be a burden, if you let it. But it was also an honour and you were grateful for being named and could not wait to start your new job.

“Promise me you will visit.” Unn said with new tears.

You gazed at her small frame, the freckles on her nose and her clever eyes, acute and soft. As soon as you will cross the bifrost, she will also start a new life. A cloistered one where she will tend to the temple, leaving her no time to do anything but the sacred rites. You did not know what your future exactly hold for you, but you promised her to come visit anyway.

“And do not let Dagmar drag you away from your duties.” You smiled grateful for Unn’s concern. “And do not let him either.” she warned with a softer voice, almost like a breath of wind.

Him. You hadn’t thought of him in some time. At first, you used to see his face everywhere you turned, heard his voice haunting you day and night. But worst of all, you felt his touch on your skin. His fingers gliding down your hand and intertwined with yours, his shoulder against yours, the linger of his lips hovering yours. The letters helped a bit, but then they stopped coming and you quit waiting and writing. Loki had been gone and you did what you had to do to move on.

“I hardly believe our paths are meant to cross again, but I’ll be on the look out.” you winked.

“I trust you have everything.” said the high priestess coming forward.

She was a graceful curvy woman with long dark hair that covered her body to the waist. She was a hard woman too but with the kindest of heart. She cared deeply for all beings, yet, she never let her emotions cloud her judgement and you admired her for that. The high priestess and other Vanirs had challenged you every minute during your stay in Vanaheim. You had your fair share of punishment due to your lack of concern about the rules. Yet, they managed to show you a way that could reconcile duty and freedom.

“I have, yes.”

“Now remember, knowledge is true power, and you are now one of the most powerful being in all the Nine Realms. Trust you heart, but listen to your head as well. You have good instincts my child, yet, we both know that your wild nature can sometimes take the best of you.”

You bowed your head deeply.

“Yes Mother.”

“We are all proud of you my child. You had turned out to be one of the greatest, and you will be deeply missed around these parts. But know that you have a greater purpose. Both of you.” she said looking at Unn as well.

You shared a conniving smile with Unn. The shy little girl had blossomed in a beautiful young woman. Ever so warm and pious, she had turned from a friend to a sister.

“Permission to hug my sister Mother?” you asked with a malicious grin.

The high priestess sighed, hiding the slight smile that appeared on her fair face.

“Of course.” she chuckled under her breath.

You wrapped Unn’s small body in your arms and hold her tight against you as the Bifrost opened behind you. You breathed in her lilac perfume, making sure you could never forget it. Evil little child. You had made me tender and unguarded. You pulled away and let her join the side of the high priestess. All the Vanir that came to see you leave, started farewell chant. Their voices melted into a great enchanting one that will travel all the way to Asgard, and even beyond, forever in your heart.

The warm air of a late afternoon in Asgard came out of the portal as well as a guard and a young boy wearing the beige clothing made for boy servants. They came through bringing with them the smell of home. You introduced yourself, surrounded by the voices of your sisters and your mother. The chant compelled the boy who said nothing but did take your hand in his, shyly at first. But then you smiled at him and asked him for his name.

“Don’t bother my lady, the boy can’t speak.” said the guard.

“Does it prevent him for having a name?” you retorted.

“If he does have one, he never said so my lady...I mean...Uh– He can’t read or write so no one knows what his name is. S’got no kin to claim him.”

“Is this true?” you asked the boy. “Are you all alone?”

He nodded nervously as if he were afraid to give you a wrong answer. Pity never was a good sentiment to hold for someone, and so you did not. Yet, something in your heart ached to know he was alone. You remembered being his age and running around the city stealing fabrics for your mother, hiding in your father’s wheat field and getting home late because you never saw how quickly time flew by with Loki by your side. The high priestess was looking at you with a glimmer in her eyes and a faint smile on her face. She slightly nodded, leading the chant into a higher note. The boy’s eyes ran from the chorus to you, prompt to help with the few belongings you had with you. But before you crossed the portal, forever leaving your home behind, you took a look above your shoulder, engraving the whole scene in your mind. You waved at Unn. The girl was trying to be brave, but tears ran down her cheeks while she sang. Who knew when you will see her again despite the promise you made?

“Thank you.” you mouthed to her.

And then, in the bifrost you entered. Asgard was still the same. You were a bit disappointed to see the same shoppes in the same streets. Most of the faces you crossed path with looked familiar and the sound of life in the city had not changed a tune since you left.

“The lad will take this to the old Keeper.” informed the guard. “I’ve been told you’re not living in the palace as of yet so where to my lady?”

“I am no lady.” you snapped. “And I can handle it from here, thank you.”

“I have orders to escort you to your temporary home, wherever that is my lady.”

“Would you stop with the lady thing? A friend is supposed to come...Oh finally! What took you so long?” you screamed.

“Is this the way you greet an old friend? Ingrate!” Dagmar grinned at you and spread her long and muscular arms to welcome you.

The full-time blacksmith smelled of iron and ashes. You breathed in this new fire scent and lingered for a couple of seconds in her embrace. Her arms were covered with burning spots, you supposed were the results of hazardous experiments.

“It is so good to see you. Love the new outfit by the way, it’s very goddess-ish.” Dagmar said examining your dress. “What’s that on your feet? Are these...shoes?” she asked in disbelief.

You bursted into laughter when all of a sudden Dagmar’s stomach grumbled.

“Honey cakes?” you offered with a wink.

She winked back at you and turned to the perplexed guard standing in your shadow.

“What are you looking at Goldie?” Dagmar asked.

“Is my...”

“I swear if you call me 'lady' one more time, I’ll ask my friend here to melt you and your armour in her forge. I know you’re supposed to escort me home but I know this place like the back of my hand and...oh look!” you exclaimed suddenly starring at your hand. “Well, hello new freckle I've never seen before.”

The guard shifted his weight on his legs, holding to the handle of his sword that hung on his right side.

“Relax." said Dagmar to him. "She’s just messing with you. Stop torturing the guy. He’s only doing his job.”

“I know.” you grinned. “Old habits die hard. Here’s what we’ll do." you said to the guard. "Me and my friend are going for a stroll through the city. We are going to make our bellies explode with pastries and you are very welcome to follow us and witness our debauchery. But as soon as I cross the threshold of her house, I don’t want to see you ever again. And if I have to see you again, you are under no circumstances to call me ‘my lady’. Is that clear?”

The guard hesitated, his eyes going constantly from Dagmar to you to the palace then to you again. After what felt a good whole minute, he finally agreed and proceeded to follow you in the streets of Asgard.

“Are we to ditch him?” inquired Dagmar.

You shook your head no even though the idea appealed to you. Unn would be so proud of me right now, you smiled to yourself. You remembered the way to the pastry shoppe very well, having to barely watch where you were going while you listened to Dagmar's latest news in her life. Not much had happened since her last letter, yet she managed to come up with a lot of new ideas and projects she was excitedly telling you about.

“The thing is I still need to learn quite a deal about those stones before I even dream of forging something adequate.”

“I can teach you the basics and refer you to some titles if you want.”

“Have you swapped bodies with Unn while you were gone?” she joked. “How was it by the way, living there with Unn?”

“Calm. Peaceful. Boring sometimes.” you laughed. “It was very different from Asgard; here it’s constantly buzzing. This is life in its loudest form whereas on Vanaheim there was nothing but purity everywhere around you. It helped focus.”

You entered the old pastries shoppe, hearing for the first time in centuries the ring of the doorbell. The warmth of the place overwhelmed you and you could not help but smile as you wandered between the narrow alleys. You wanted to taste everything, to remember every flavour you once had. Outside, the guard waited for you and Dagmar, looking through the window with envy.

“Should we take something for him as well?” you asked.

“It’s your money honey. Do what you want.”

“About that...”

“Oh no, don’t tell me you still broke?”

“Am afraid so. The Vanir are not the greediest bunch of gals, the job basically don't pay and I don’t think working my ‘magic’ should be such a good idea.” you said wiggling your fingers.

“Especially when everyone is looking in your direction.” she sighed.

Indeed you looked around and all eyes seemed to be on you. That was something unusual for you, more used to play in the shadows cast by others.

"Paint my portrait It'll last longer." you mumbled to the hush crowd around you.

Dagmar shielded you from the unwanted glances and agreed to treat you and the guard with a bag of honey cakes. The guard was ecstatic when you offered him a caramel pastry with almonds on top of it. You noticed his pace had slowed down while he savoured every bit of the sugary treat. And that’s one in my pocket, you reflected.

“And how is your brother? Last time you told me he went in some special training. Is everything okay here? We heard some rumours but...”

“Nothing we can’t handle. My brother says that it’s only reckless fools trying to get a name for themselves.” she dismissed.

“Fools driven can be more dangerous than cautious men.”

“Are you getting wise? First the dress, then the shoes and now the wise reply? Have they cleansed your mind over there?” she laughed.


 

Dagmar’s house was a tiny thing near the forge she worked at. There were two windows, one that overlooked the street and another had a view on a stream.

“Hope you don't mind, we’ll have to share the bed.”

On Vanaheim, privacy was a luxury no one could afford. You got used to share everything with everyone. Even though you had not always like it, you never truly minded it.


 

You woke up before the sun rose, a sense of eagerness preventing you from sleeping more than a couple of hours. You quickly donned your white dress and plaited your hair the way Unn had taught you. The belt hanged loose in the front, slapping your thighs with each step. You put your deep purple cloak on your shoulders, wearing the traditional garments and colours of the Order of Sága. Here on Asgard, you were to be the only representative of the sacred and ancient order. I can't wait to get rid of the dress, you thought. I'll wait a few years though. The dress was cut in a thin and light white fabric that felt like a breath on your bare skin underneath, contrary to the heavier cloak that almost crushed you the first time you tried it on. The streets were nothing but utter silence.

Everyone was still asleep, and it seemed you were the only one out there, hushing your way to the palace. You came across an alley cat, with grey fur and a missing ear. It looked at you as you passed by. You nodded at the quiet animal and in return, it squinted lazily its yellow eyes. The golden walls of the palace shimmered under the silvery moonlight. Day or night made no matter, it was always a beacon for every eyes in the kingdom to look upon. You walked faster as you approached a wooden gate at the rear end of the place you knew so well. There was a guard, half asleep, standing next to the door that led to the archives through a maze of corridors. You introduced yourself and let him know that you were the soon‑to‑be Keeper of the Scrolls.

“You were not excepted this early.” he yawned. “Do you need someone to escort you my lady?”

You rolled your eyes but let this one go. It was to early in the day to be angered over etiquettes you adamantly refused. He is only doing his job, you reminded yourself.

“I know the way, thank you.” you replied politely. “Excuse me, but I was wondering about an old friend of mine. He used to guard the city gates and patrolled around town, Selby was his name.”

The guard mumbled the name over and over again as if it would help him remember, yet, no bell rang in his mind. He apologized to you, and returned to his duty, his eyes already half‑closed. You made the inner promise to look him upas soon as possible.

As you travelled across the corridors wrapped in the shadows of the night, you wondered if you will ever truly belong there. You were to live within these walls once you became officially the Keeper, but in the meantime you couldn’t help feeling a bit out of place. Do I miss my sisters already? you wondered. Or perhaps you were simply afraid of what laid in the midst of the palace.

You reached the door to the Archives, focusing about what your first task would be like. For now, I just want to check up on what I brought yesterday. The current Keeper would not show up before daylight, leaving you plenty of time to do what you wanted to, your own way. You needed to verify everything was in order. Being with the rigorous Vanir for centuries turned you into a meticulous creature who could not settle their heart until they have been through a thorough checklist. You were curious about your new boss since you knew nothing about him despite being old.

The iron gate to the Archives were locked and all you could see through the bars was bitch black. You grabbed a torch hanging from a nearby wall and lit the flight of stairs that went down. Should I stay or should I go?  On one hand you did not want to get in trouble breaking and entering, but on the other hand a huge part of yourself had been unsettled leaving the Vanir scriptures in someone else’s hands. You peered above your shoulders and made sure no one was around.

“Let the show begins.” you whispered in a smile.

The lock was not the hardest to pick and the gate opened up without a making a single noise.

“Not even a spell to protect the gate? It’s a wonder the place is not being robbed every moon full.” you mumbled.

You cautiously climbed down the stairs, using the torch to then lit all the others across the Archives. You unhooked your cloak and put it on the back of an armchair. Your dress brushed the stone floor as you sauntered to find the file cabinets. Everything that came in here, was supposed to be registered and stored in its rightful place. Against a wall, underneath a large window you spotted the file cabinets and proceeded to pick their lock the way you did with the gate. You opened one drawer after the other, and perused through each fiche. At the end of your research, you found out that only half what you had taken with you had been registered and stored. You looked for the volume the high priestess entrusted you the most with. It had been put away in a secure vault far from prying eyes and dirty hands. At least they know what they are doing. You had not been entrusted with the content inside the precious book that was now locked away. Those particular books and scrolls meant, only, for the Keeper’s eyes. You starred at the vault, a familiar voice whispering into your mind to do it. Just do it. You’re the next Keeper, why does it matter that you take pick now or later. You grinned, thinking it would be too easy but you thought about Unn and the advice the high priestess gave you before you left Vanaheim not a day before.

“You can not be here!”

The rough voice gave you goosebumps, yet, when you turned to face a half‑bent old man, you were nothing but sweet and smiling. But when you spoke, your mouth was dry and your throat a bit tight. How you wished for a tall glass of water right now. At first, you believed the man to be the servant supposed to light the torches but as he came forward you noticed his garment: a beige woollen fabric, heavy on his round shoulders and a steel and bronze chain around his – even rounder – belly. You formally introduced yourself this time anxious to make a good impression.

“So it was you they sent.” he said unimpressed.

There was no deference, no ‘my lady’ and no politeness. He studied you with a circumspect eye for what seemed to last longer than it really did.

“I was not aware the order of Sága recruited common thieves. It is what you are, are you not? A common thief?”

You raised one eyebrow and crossed your arm under your breast. You caught his eyes flickering towards it before quickly returning to your face. You scratched your throat to make your voice clearer.

“I never was a common thief and I am the next Keeper.”

“You can not be.” he spat. “You have not been trained yet.”

“But I have been named, sir.”

“You still need training. And maybe then, you will be fit to the position. But nothing is certain as long as I have my say in the matter.”

“But you don’t. You’re going to be replaced by me!" you faked a smile. "Like it or not, this is the way and there’s nothing you can do.” you replied coldly and firmly.

There goes my first good impression. You bit your tongue but it was too late and the cutting old man did not motivate you to apologize despite his position. His forefinger touched the keys that hanged at his belt. You wondered why you did not heard him get into the Archives. With his chains alone, it was enough to be louder than required when walking around. But with the dozens of keys it should be impossible to move quietly.

“Have you touch anything?” he croaked.

The old man mistook your silence for a positive before he claimed:

“For your punishment you will scrub every floor tile in this Archives.”

“Who died and made you the boss of me?” you snapped.

“The last Keeper!”

Falling back in your old habits seemed to be easier than you thought and once more you bit your tongue too late. I should really do this before I speak.


 

You dragged yourself through the streets, your cloak hanging loosely on your arm and your dress stained for the hours you spent on your knees scrubbing every tile of the Archives. Every muscle in your broken body ached. Your hands had bled during the day, yet you never stopped to tend to your wounds. The Keeper wouldn’t hear any of it.

Your tried to stretch your back, but a horrible crack somewhere along your spine broke your effort. On the way home, you decided to visit Dagmar at the forge she worked at, eager to rest even for a minute. You entered, drained and you moaned, unable to speak properly.

“What happened to you?” screamed Dagmar dropping her hammer.

She rushed to your side, unsure if she should touch your aching body. Your dress was stained and worn, your face had became grey and your hair loosely hanged on the side.

“You look like you’ve been in Helheim and back.”

She pulled you inside the forge and made you sat on a wooden stool. It was a burning hot place, where the air was thick and smelled like soot. You licked your parched lips, longing for water but unable able to say a word. Dagmar noticed your state and went to fetch you a jug of warm water. You snatched the jug from her hands and drank avidly, pouring half of the water on you. The contact of the liquid inside and out of you, felt so great it seemed like a dream.

“You hungry?”

At the mention of hunger, you realized you had not eaten since the evening before. Your stomach growled, giving her the answer in your stead. Dagmar weakly smiled, more concerned by your disarray state. She helped you get back on your feet and led you outside of the forge.

“I’m done for the day.” she yelled to someone inside you never saw.

Outside, the cool air was a soothing caress on your sweaty skin. You were to tired to answer Dagmar’s questions, and soon she stopped talking altogether. You barely had time to touch the bed after a good bath, that you fell fast asleep. It was a dreamless night that left you more empty than refreshed came the morning light.

Despite a rough first encounter you settled in daily routine imposed by the old Keeper. Seldom did you see the sun except through the tainted glass of the windows. When came the evening, you were often too tired to enjoy any resemblance of social life. I thought life on Vanaheim was hard but that was nothing in comparison. In Vanaheim you had thrived and found your own rhythm but it did take you quite some time. You entered the palace one early morning carried by a strange and overwhelming sense of resolution. You cruised through the corridors and got inside the Archives full of confidence only to find yourself in front of the coldest man you ever met.

"You ought to stay here tonight." said the Keeper.

Bite your tongue, bite your tongue. You managed to hide your annoyance as there was nothing you could do or say to convince him otherwise. You planned to slip a note to the young lad with no name unbeknownst to the Keeper, in order to tell Dagmar no to wait for you any time soon. You were to spend your very first night in the palace, and it would be a night you would remember for a long time.

Chapter Text

It was late and you were alone in the Archives. You found solace in the silence of the place, having for only company the scrolls you were copying. The old Keeper had left you a few hours ago, entrusting you with a task he could not complete anymore. The man was becoming more blind as days went by, and soon you will become his eyes as well as his ears until he stopped waking up in the morning. Sometimes, the young boy with no name would come down with a tray of food and some water and wine, but ever since the Keeper went to his chambers, you had not seen the young lad. At some point your grumbling stomach forced you to escape your dusty prison to go on the hunt for some food.

On your way to the kitchen, you came across some servants and fine maidens and a few soldiers that went in and out the banquet hall. Inside the hall raged a furious party. The doors were wide open and inside, the benches on each side of the long tables were packed with roaring men and joyous women. Spirits flew like water and everyone seemed to have the time of their lives, eating, drinking and laughing to some banter you could not ear. The massive display of food was calling out for you. You licked your dried lips, eying a piece of juicy wild game that would go perfectly well with black pepper vinegar sauce.

Every one who met your gaze bowed slightly their heads in respect. It was still a strange sensation to be treated with such deference, you who spent most of your early life causing trouble wherever you went and as a result being look at something to be suspicious of. You smiled wryly when you caught some lasting glances thrown in your direction, amused to see the effect you seemed to have on some men and women. 

“Excuse me my lady.” whispered a shy voice behind you.

You turned and saw a young maiden with a heavy silver tray on her hands. You quickly moved yourself out of her way and dashed to the kitchen. There was food everywhere as it was upstairs, but the place was much more quiet. Most of the kitchen staff had been gone, leaving unfortunate souls to tend to the need of the late party only to clean afterward. There was so much juicy and tasty choices displayed in front of you, that you had a hard time to choose what to pick. So, instead of thinking you closed your eyes and grabbed everything you had your hand on. It was odd to take some food that did not belong to you, and yet no to be reprimanded for it. With a heavy plate on your hands you looked for a spot where you could eat your meal peacefully. But as the shy maid you just met before walked in you decided not to stay in anyone’s way.

“Do you have any wine per chance?” you asked her.

“Of course m’lady.”

The young girl reminded you so much of Unn with her soft face always a bit red, and her wide eyes and hushed voice, that your heart ached for a moment and you did not have it in you to correct her. She headed for the cellar and brought you a dented jug of wine and a glass to go with your meal. You thanked her and asked if she worked here regularly.

“Only when there are feasts.” she answered.

“So quite often, but not enough to make a living out of it uh?”

Her cheeks got red and reddened even more when you slipped a coin in her hand.

“Oh no, m’lady, I can’t.”

“Keep it for yourself if you can. For your family if you must.” you told her upon leaving the kitchen with the heaviest tray you had to carry.

You trudged through the hallways, chewing some hot bread which soon eased the pain in your stomach. Meals in the palace could hold no comparison. Every bite of every delicacy you had ever tasted – more or less illegally – within the golden walls was simply perfection. Your eagerness to devour your late diner grew as you walked past the banquet hall once more on your way back to the Archives.

“Tell me.” called a voice behind you. “If I were to call the guards, would they arrest you for what your are holding?”

You came to a sudden stop, your back still turned to the man who just spoke. You hardly believed your ears as they were surely playing a trick on you.

“I remember a time when you were much more… discreet.”

You chuckled under your breath and turned your heels in a slow motion, dreading to find out that there was actually no one behind you. But there he stood, tall and proud in his black and green leather garments. His raven hair were slicked back and fell to his neck. Loki looked strangely the same since the last time you saw him, and yet completely different. His chiselled face was clean‑shaved, and his skin seemed more pale than it used to. Despite his ever so slender figure, you could guess that underneath his leather attire there was a lean and muscular body.

“Hello dove.” Loki said with an engaging smile.

“My prince.” you answered solemnly.

You mustered the best curtsy you could while carrying the heavy tray. The corner of your lips curled in a playful grin. He raised an eyebrow observing you from a safe distance. His eyes scanned you from head to toe and lingered on the long golden belt at your waist. A glint of malice shone in his vivid green eyes. As he stood there, holding his hands together in front of him, a strong and intense wave pulsed through your entire body. The boy you knew had grown into quite a handsome man. He took you in with his piercing eyes making a slight movement towards you.

“Fancy a bite your grace?”

You lifted the tray in front of you.

“I’ve had more than my share for tonight. But thank you, my lady.”

With a soft chuckled, Loki mocked the title you hated so passionately. He made another step towards you, unsure if he should make more. Your arms were twitching under the weight of your late supper.

“Why don’t you come inside and feast with us? There is plenty of food that do not require physical training to be eaten.”

“That sounds nice, but I still have a lot of work.”

Loki blinked, taken aback.

“You work here? Since when?”

His voice almost fainted matching the distress in his eyes. It lasted only a fraction of second, then his face turned into an emotionless mask. A very attractive mask.

“Just a couple of months.” you shrugged. “I’m the...next Keeper.”

Loki stepped back. A shadow came across his face, and for a moment you were unsure if this was genuine pain or surprise. Either way, crept to your mind. I should have reached to him sooner and let him know I was back in Asgard. You worked everyday in his home, not that far away from him even though you were two worlds apart. You had been so swamped by your duties and the constant chores the Keeper put on your shoulders that it almost never occurred to you to reach out for Loki. Somehow no one warned him of your presence either. You made a slight step forward ready to break the ice mounting between the two of you, surely your reunion could not go so poorly, when a lady’s voice called for Loki’s name. The prince, answered her without taking his eyes off of you. She was a fair lady with a heart‑shaped face and heavy red hair flowing down her naked brown shoulders. As she walked towards the prince, you gazed mesmerized by her overflowing magnetic allure. She snakes her arms around Loki’s chest and whispered something in his hear with a sinful smile on her lips.

“Tell him I will be here in just a minute dear.”

She playfully bit the round of his shoulder. A hot wave crushed you under its weight while your cheeks burned so much that it almost brought tears to your eyes. There were some times when one hoped to turn into the tiniest of mice in order to escape some awkward situation. That moment enticed with a heavy sexual tension emanating from the gorgeous woman was one of them. You were about to turn your heels when her singing voice called to you.

“Oh hello! I’m Sassa.”

Her arms were around Loki’s body like vines around a tree. You politely nodded were about to leave when she complimented you on your dress. She stared at it with a glim of want in her eyes.

“You can have it if you want.” you joked.

Loki sniggered. Never had you met such a divine beauty despite the fair amount of good looking men and women that came across your path. Sassa was something else. She was ethereal. She must be a goddess, you thought convinced that no other being could match her beauty as well her aura. Loki introduced you as his oldest of friends.

“We grew up together actually. We were pretty much devoted to each other, right dove?"

Loki glared at you with a withering look in his eyes while Sassa’s face lightened with interest.

“Oh how cute you two must have been. You have to tell how everything! Our beloved prince here, is one to share but do not reveal himself easily. And my brother and I find it very irritating.” said Sassa.

“You have a brother?” you asked mesmerized by the thought of someone looking just like her.

“Why yes, and he is getting rather impatient.”

She grazed Loki’s chest with her nails, bitting his ear with a sinful grin. You drew the mental picture of Loki and Sassa and, what you imagine a similar divine man, locked in a passionate embrace and dropped your gaze to the loaf of bread on your tray. Loki slowly withdrew her hands from his waist and chest and turned to plant a kiss on her head.

“Go now my dear, I will join you in a minute.”

“Please, do not leave on my account.” you said “I have to go back to my cave anyway.”

“Your cave?” Sassa asked intrigued.

“She works at the Archives.” answered Loki in annoyance.

It took only one look from him to send Sassa away. You could not help but stare as she strolled back to the hall leaving you and Loki alone in the empty corridor. The music from behind was no louder than the sound of people drinking and partying, yet it became only an echo from afar. Your arms grew tired of carrying the tray and it was only a matter of minutes before you drop it. It was time for you to go back to the Archives.

“Well, it surely was nice to see you again.”

You almost added ‘little snake’ but something hold you back. Loki said nothing and remained still as a statue. You turned your heels and began walking away. However, after only a couple of steps towards the Archives, you came to a stop and turned back.

“What?” you snapped at him.

“I haven’t said a thing.” he rose his hands in the air.

“No, but you are thinking it very loudly.”

“Have you become a mind reader while in Vanaheim?”

His sarcasm, which you had dearly missed for so long, triggered something in you. The first response you envisioned was fulled with an impossible anger that would definitely start a fight. You managed to hold it back and took a deep breath in order to get in control of your emotions again. It was a helpful trick you had to learn in the land of the Vanir.

“No, but I know you, little snake.”

Loki suddenly crossed the distance between you in three strides. There was only the tray to keep him at bay. He leaned a bit and something flashed in his green eyes. Is it anger? you wondered. There was anger, yes, but behind it there was something else. Something that you had always felt yet never witnessed. For all the centuries you had known Loki, it was dormant in him but now it was on the verge to be awaken. You felt that there would be no safe place in all nine realms when it will be.

“If you truly do know me, you should have known better than to hide in that basement of yours for all this time.”

“I did not exactly have a choice.” you muttered. Loki scowled.

He glanced at the tray that prevented him to get any closer and with a snap of his fingers made it disappear. You were helpless, at the mercy of his cold fury. Loki stepped forward, closing in the distance. As he loomed over you, you realized that he had outgrown you. For many centuries you used to tease him because you were the tallest one but now the balance had shifted in his favour. The height difference was barely noticeable and yet there it was. Loki’s hands floated near your waist, yet never touching you. Your body sent waves of anticipating contact, aching for it did not come. Your chest was heavy and you could hardly breathe. The thumping of your own heart was deafening but when his sleek fingers softly took hold of your dangling belt, it became erratic. The pull was subtle but enough to bring you closer to him. He did not let go of the golden belt. And close as your were now, it was as if you could overhear his own heartbeat. His chest rose rapidly with heavy breathing. You gazed at his slightly open mouth, finding it difficult to swallow. How far were his lips now? You could not say and you were afraid to raise your eyes to his face. He almost brushed your cheek as he leaned ever closer. Your belt took in at your waist as he gave it a stronger pull, his hands just above your stomach.

“You’ve changed, haven’t you?” he whispered skimming the fabric of your dress.

His touch was light and cool, yet it came through and landed on your sensitive skin.

“It varies from time to time.”

He grinned against your ear and lingered for a second too long, his nose in your hair before he steadily pulled back.

“I shall see you soon my dove.” he said upon returning to the banquet.


 The Archives were a secluded place far from the raucous of the palace where the sun light came through painted windows. It was more peaceful than a library for only two people worked there and visitors were scarce. For some time now the Archives had been more quiet than usual as the Keeper was sick and on bedrest. You had to visit him at least thrice a day to keep him informed and updated on your work. But, despite your hard work and the countless hours you spent downstairs, barely sleeping, the old man was able to give you only two things: criticism and a massive amount of texts for you to learn, copy and store according to his system.

“There’s a couple of scrolls that need being translated and I thought that I...”

“You ought not to think but to do as I command! You are to care for the texts, not alter them nor...” the old man dissolved in a coughing fit.

“I’m sorry sir, but translation is my forte. I’m not just good at it, I am the best. I have exceeded my mentor’s expectation so quickly that...”

“You have not be trained by me.” he squealed.

He coughed again and spilled blood on his shirt. You came forward to help him but as soon as you reached his bedside, the angry old man waved his hand just a few inches from your face.

“Get away from here.” he grunted. “Go back to work and report to me by nightfall.”

He then called for his servant who rushed in the chambers, almost pushing you out of the way. You closed the door, with a last glance at the poor lad trying to lift the heavy round old man who kept bawling at him. Not my battle to fight.


 

You were bent over a study table under the delicate rays of the sun, filtered by an enchanted window glass, studying a parchment of runic verses. You were going against the Keeper’s orders and somehow you could not care less. You spared a thought to Unn, that would probably be shaking her head and telling you that sometimes it is not about obedience but more about respect. And why should I respect the old nob when he’s not even capable of saying hello without baring his teeth at me?

Translation had been a hidden treasure, deeply buried inside your brain that your studies in Vanaheim unlocked. You fed on ancient texts and runes, eager to learn much and more about them, it seemed that there was never enough for you to state your appetite. However, you did everything but what you were supposed to do while in Asgard and the Keeper made sure you to prevent you from doing so. But when the cat’s away, the mice will play. And play you did. You spent hours alone in the solace of the Archives working your other magic. Your neck was stiff and your lips parched. You wondered when was the last time you drank water. In that moment, you raised your head and noticed the frame of the nameless lad, sitting on a stool and waiting. He quickly stands up and fetch you a tall glass of water.

“Gullveig bless you.” you said to him “Have you finished your reading?”

The boy shook his head and lower his gaze.

“It’s a rather hard one.” you confessed “But you are a quick learner, just like me.”

You patted his hand and a smile lightened his feature. The boy had always lurk around the Archives when the Keeper was away hunched in the shadows or lying on his sick bed. He’d shown a growing interest in the books you registered, stored and checked.

“And what about your name? Have you found anything that might suits you?”

He shrugged, his eyes diverted to the pile of scrolls you wanted to study. You knew scarce and few about him except that he was raised in the streets and seemed to have found a place in the palace by himself. You were not comfortable enough to ask him about how and why he came to work within the golden walls but you often wondered on the various ways that led him there.

“What about Soini, it means ‘boy’?”

He grinned but wrinkled his nose in disapproval.

“You’re right. It is rather dull. Then, what do you think about Birger, ‘the one who helps’?”

He lowered his head not quite convinced by the suggestion. You fell back in your chair, giving up for the day. “Well, maybe you’ll find some inspiration in one of those texts I gave you. Which one is next on your pile?”

The boy disappeared behind a large pillar and came back with a thin volume of war songs and poems you thought would interest him. You smiled fondly remembering when you read it for the first time, under the old oak tree in the garden palace. You could still hear Loki’s voice humming a low tune while the words danced on your tongue. The nameless boy hugged the book and hid it in his satchel the way you asked him to. If the Keeper had word of your doing he might found a way to punish the boy in your stead. There was nothing he could do to you except make your life as miserable as possible while he still drew breath, but the boy was not as untouchable as you currently were.

“There you are!”

Loki’s voice echoed against the stone walls, making it louder than usual. The boy and you jumped in surprise. When Loki came into the light, the boy bowed deeply and dashed out of the place, leaving you alone with the prince. You had not forgotten the cold rage in his eyes the night you met after spending a few centuries apart. However, the Loki that stood before you, looked more like the dearest friend you remembered. He pulled an armchair and sat in it, putting nonchalantly his long legs on your study table. Doing so, he shoved aside a few scrolls.

“So, this is what have kept you away from me?” he asked leaning over a runic verse.

He sighed and rudely put it away. You gathered the scrolls, rolled them with utter precaution and took them to the vault where they belonged. Loki did not follow you. Instead, he made himself comfortable and began to talk to you as if you never left the room. When you returned to your desk, you kicked his feet down.

“What are you doing here? Surely you must have a million better things to do.”

“I cleared my schedule to pay you a visit.”

“That’s nice but as you can see, I’m rather busy today. Maybe you should go back to Sassa and her brother.”

“Oh that's ancient history. Are you by yourself?” he inquired.

“Most of the time, yes. The old codger is sick again and I intend to leave early today.”

Ever since you came back to Asgard you barely had the time to visit your parents and that day you and Dagmar were set to go over their house.

“What do you mean ‘ancient history’ I saw you with her just a few days ago.” you said cleaning your desk.

“I get bored easily.”

“That you do. Would you please get your feet off my table? You two looked pretty smitten though.”

“Would you please let it go?” he smirked. “Sassa and her lovely brother were just a magnificent distraction.”

As you walked past Loki, he grabbed your wrist stopping you in your busy course.

“Come away with me.” he said with a low honey voice.

You dived for an instant in those green gems of his thinking of the night you almost left.

“Another time maybe. I have to be at the east gate before it closes. Dagmar’s waiting.”

“Then I shall escort you.” he exclaimed.

He swiftly jumped on his feet and noticed your cloak hanging on a hook. He took it before you could and gently put it on your shoulders and locked it for you.

“In homage to the old days! Except that now I can actually cross the gates without getting in too much trouble.”

You laughed and took the arm he cockily offered you. The two of you walked side by side, his hand resting on yours like a proper lord and his lady. The walk was quiet as none of you spoke. Not unlike the last time you met, you sensed that something was troubling him. But before you could say anything you reached the door. You pulled yourself out and thanked him for the walk.

“This is not the east gate yet.” he pointed out.

“Really?” you scoffed

“What is it dove?”

“Nothing!” you lied “I just don’t want to take up too much of your time.”

“More like you don’t want your friend to see us together.”

Am I really that obvious? You dreaded the questioning that would ensue if she saw you at the arm of the prince that once went heels over head to help you escape.

“I can get the old Loren out if you’d like.”

As he talked, Loki turned into an older version of teenage boy he used to turn into to see you behind everyone’s back. He was even more charming that you’d remember him to be, and a sudden hot flushed made you dizzy. Loki noticed the abrupt change in your composure and wickedly smiled as he asked if you missed him.

“He was never real.” you dismissed.

“Nonetheless. Do you miss him?”

“No.” you quickly answered.

Even though you claimed he never was real, you had missed the sturdy boy and he never quite left your mind. And neither did the prince of tricks.

“Don’t you wish to see more of him?”

You stared back at him, looking for any trace of Loki behind these bright hazel eyes. He showed no more wickedness, no more amusement but the same thing you could not quite define the last time.

“On the contrary. He belongs to the past, as many other things do. And I have learned that nothing good comes from dwelling too much on them. It’s better to move on before we become sour old souls.”

“Who are you, and what have you done to my devil dove?” he joked taking back his usual form.

“Try spending centuries with the Vanir and not get some sense in your head.” you smiled at him and carelessly pecked him on the cheek “See you around.” 

Saying this, you had a feeling that you were about to break the promise you made to Unn upon your departure. 

Your footsteps echoed on the empty corridor and you waved at the guard so he could open the door before you got there.

“You’ve changed dove!” shouted Loki behind you, his voice effortlessly carried through the hallway.

“Haven’t we all?”

Chapter Text

“And then, he drank the wine.” exclaimed Loki with a proud grin.


You chuckled, your face still lowered upon the scriptures you were translating. The writing was small and most of the runes were blurry because the paper had not been kept well before it arrived in the Archives. As to the Keeper, he spent more and more time in bed, too weak to get up but no so much as to let you run your own show. Still, it felt more like your Archives than his, and without his knowledge, nor consent, you did what you set your heart on instead of just cleaning and cataloguing like he ordered you to.


“Can you believe such a thing?” asked Loki trying to get your full attention.


“Well, you are the master of tricks.”


“I see myself more like a trickster god.” he conceded with a smirk.


“Always so humble.”


Each time Loki was bored or fed up with life at the Court, he found his way downstairs and made it his mission to distract you. Even the boy, who had been your silent companion settled a corner for the prince to read when you were too busy to make conversation. As time went by, Loki had taken upon himself to continue the lessons you had been giving to boy. When he set his mind to it, Loki was a wonderful teacher and the boy – who still had no name – had made great progress.



“Look at you mister professor.” you teased once.


“It distracts me while you make a painful point to avoid me.” he said his nose buried in a book.


“Whatever you need to tell yourself little snake. All I know is that selfishness suits you.”


“Everything suits me.”


Loki was getting impatience at your side. And every time his nervousness translated in snarky comments.


“Are you not done by now? Surely it is not as complicated as you lead me to believe.”


“Here.Try it!"


You gave up your spot above the scroll sighing in annoyance and watched him settle. Loki squinted his eyes and hummed the rhythm of the poem you were desperate to crack. However, after only half a minute studying the scriptures Loki rose his head and triumphantly claimed his understanding of the text.


“What? It is impossible.”


“Come, I will show you.”


You scooted over to his side but his arm caught your waist to make you sit on his lap. His cheek brushed your shoulder as he leant to show you the exact spot that had been bugging you for hours. His right rested on your golden belt while the other pointed out the runes.


“Here, do you see this verse? It is as clear as water and yet, you have missed it. Don’t blame yourself, it requires the eye of an expert.” he gloated.


“Now, I know you are mocking me.”

You shifted, ready to leave but his grip tightened forcing you to stay put.


“Absolutely not.” he said falsely offended. “It is written, right here, in ink: ‘Take me away, directionless. It doesn't have to make any sense. Use what you have, I'll follow you’.”


“It does not say that.”


You squinted your eyes and bent over to inspect the tiny writings but in a swift gesture, Loki grasped the scroll.


“If I say it does, then that is what it is.”


“Give it back! You will damage it.”


“I wouldn’t do such a thing.” he said.


The next second the scroll disappeared in a puff of green smoke. You stared astounded at the air where the paper used to be just a moment before.


“What did you do?” you yapped. “Do you have any idea how precious...”


“Calm yourself dove, the scroll is safe and secured. But if you want it back you’ll have to do one thing first.”


“Loki, I don’t have time to...”


“I guess it’s not as precious as you claimed it to be then.”


You pinched the bridge of your nose, picturing a calm stream of water to regain control of your emotions. Unn’s voice whispered to you, reminding you not to let him distract you but it didn’t matter how much you tried, Loki always found a way. And you surely hold the door open for him. You bit your cheeks and sighed.


“Fine! Do with me what you will. But if there’s even the smallest of wrinkle on that parchment, I will dismember you and call upon Surtr to burn your remains!”


“Stop it dove or I’ll swoon.”


 

Loki and you were taking a stroll through the city and as you walked alongside the prince, you noticed how the looks on people’s face had shifted with time. You were no longer two young rascals feasting upon mayhem wherever you went.
Men and women alike peered at the two of you and sometimes bowed their heads or smiled gently as you crossed their gaze.


“I hate it.” you muttered.


“What could you possibly hate about about wandering around the city in the late warm afternoon with yours truly?”


“I hate how they notice us now.”


Loki laughed underneath his breath.


“They’ve always noticed us. You just never saw it.”


There was truth in Loki’s words and you wondered what else you might have escaped your attention before.


“You know, for a thief you always had your head in the clouds.” he remarked. “And I bet there are plenty of things you never noticed.”


“Only Heimdall sees all and beyond.”


“And my father.” Loki answered with a hint of irony.


“Supposedly. What do you think he’ll say if he were to see us?”


Your nodded to a merchant selling fruits, eyeing the round shaped oranges he was rearranging. Your hand automatically floated above them, touching their thick skin as your fingers scanned for the perfect one to pick. Old habits seemed to die hard, or ever. At the same moment you were about to absent-mindedly steal a fruit you could afford, Loki’s hand reached yours.


He had left your side to slid behind your back and was now breathing against the sensitive skin of your neck. He lightly pushed down your hand, his long fingers gliding down the back of yours in a soft brush. Loki’s closeness was overwhelming and enticing, and it gave you goosebumps. You heard his smirk in his low honey voice as he whispered to you “come on dove.”
You clutched to your golden belt, holding on to it. As you dropped your gaze, fighting the goosebumps the prince’s hovering presence delightfully created, you noticed Loki’s other hand was about to land on your belt. He liked to toy with it like a cat with a ball of yarn. Sometimes it was just to annoy you, and some other times he seemed to do it without realizing he was doing so.


“Would you like to buy it m’lady?”


The merchant’s voice snapped you out of wherever you just were. You cleared your throat and smiled to the man, ready to slip a coin in his hand even though you were not in the mood to eat oranges. You quickly left Loki’s touch and paid the merchant more than you should have.


“You’re a terrible money manager.” mocked Loki sprinting down behind you.


“Am not used to have any.”


“I could teach you if you want.”


“I’m fine thanks.”


You threw the orange above your shoulder which Loki caught without a sweat and started peeling it. You came across two guards talking and laughing. One had his spear against a wall and the other had took off his helmet to drink some water.


“I’ve been meaning to ask you.” you said taking a quarter from his hand. “What ever happened to Selby? I’ve been looking for him since I came back, but so far I’ve got no clues as to where he is. I hope he’s fine.”


Loki’s footsteps followed you in the street but no answer came out of his mouth. You turned your heels and noticed a shadow overbearing his face. You asked him if something was wrong and saw a violent and cold fire blazing in his eyes. It was the same one you saw on the night you met him, after years apart while you were on your way back to the Archives. There had been anger and something else you could not quite place but now, facing him in the streets, it was as clear as day. You stepped towards him.


“I’m sorry. I...”


The words to properly apologize eluded you so you extend your hand to take his but Loki freed himself from your coming touch.


“No it’s fine. I get it.” he said. “You were more concerned by some random guard you used to know than your actual best friend.”


“Selby was not some ‘random guard’. He was my friend! And if you were to take your head out of your sorry ass you’d remember he helped us in the past. Many times!”


You glared at him and Loki glared right back at you. None of you were concerned by the people surrounding you. Some pretended to be busy while other witnessed your arguments as if it was a show on display. It was neither the first nor the last fight you would ever have in public and frankly, none of you cared.


“All I know is that you said you had no choice and were too busy to come looking for me. Yet you seem to have time enough to look for the pretty guard you had a crush on.”


“I did not have a crush on… You know what? I’m not gratifying you with an answer.”


“There’s no need because I am right!”


“Ah! You wish! You’re only acting out because for once you were not my main concern. If it’s not all about Loki than why bother?”


Loki closed the distance looming over you, his green eyes lit with more than anger. You did not cave in, and stood your ground.

"Your main concern is only, and ever was yourself." he spitted "You never think about anyone else but you. Need I remind you that you almost left me once? There was no warnings, no clue. If it wasn't for me coming out for you, you would have been gone forever!"

The starring contest you were having shut the outside world. 

"Which eventually led to my exile."


Loki took the low blow hard and tried to hide the genuine pain that left his soul scorched. You knew it was uncalled for and yet you did not retreat, you did not surrender.


“I'll grant you this one.” Loki said. “But it doesn't change the fact that you knew I was there, living a few walls away. How could you do this? Why did you persist to avoid me?”


“How many times do I have to say this? I was not avoiding you.” you said elongating each word. “Our paths just never crossed before we met that night, that’s all. You were busy doing your prince stuff and I was busy with my keeper stuff. Sorry for not barging in and smacking the doors with my feet as soon as I came back!”


Loki’s lips stretched in a thin smile he did not bother to conceal. 


“Now, that would have been something.” he said.


“And imagine your father’s face.”


A smirk lingered on Loki’s lips when he put his arms around your shoulders, the way he used to in the form of Loren, and kissed the top of your head. 

"You can be so infuriating sometimes dove."

"Right back at you little snake. Right back at you."


 Later on, Loki walked you home to Dagmar’s house.


“You’re sure you don’t want to come in? She’ll like to see you again.”


“She’d met me only once.” he fondly smiled at you.


“Yes, but don't forget that you are Prince of Asgard, and that the one time you met her as such, you pretty much saved my life.” you joked.


A shadow of pain clouded his mischievous eyes. And for a moment, Loki looked as helpless as he had been that day despite the brave mask he had to put on. It drew you back to the hurtful farewell and the kiss you shared. In an instant you remembered all it had ever meant to you back then and for a moment you considered about asking him if he ever thought about it too. 

“It’s better this way.” he breathed lost in his thoughts while he pushed back a strand of your hair.


As he stroked your hair, the back of his hand brushed your cheek. A sense of peace took you over as you dwelled in his touch, wanting for that moment to never end. However, when ultimately Loki withdrew his hand, you found yourself craving for more. You opened your eyes only to see the parchment he was holding in front of you.


“Thank you for today.” he said.


You slowly and carefully took the fragile paper back, fighting the urge to check it.


“My pleasure.” you answered.


Loki shot one last glance towards you and forced himself to leave. You watched him walk away, holding the scroll against your heart when you called out his name.


“You could have asked you know. If all you wanted was to hang out with me, you could have just asked.”


Loki swivelled and with a shrug answered:


“We both know that’s not how it works.”


You pushed the door of the house opened, trying to make sense of Loki's last words when Dagmar caught you off guard.


“How is he doing?” she asked


“Uh? Who? What?”


“The old man! How is he holding up? How many days until he surrenders and lets you finally have a life?”


“You should never wish for someone’s death.”


“I don’t. I just wish the best for my friend...and if that means that some old bastard has to go, well…I won't apologize for it.”


She flashed a bright smile you answered with a laugh. Her blunt honesty was a relief to you and each time she gave you a piece of her mind it made you see things differently. That was a trait she shared with the wise and kind Unn you missed so much. 


“Will there be a ceremony when you officially become the Keeper? Can I come?”


“Not that I know of.” you answered in disappointment “I’ll just get the keys and that will be about it.”


“Bummer! Yet, one very good perk: you’ll get to live in the palace. Oh I shall miss you.” she sighed dramatically. “Who shall warm my bed every night?”


“I’m rarely here as it is. But I can surely find someone who will be willing.” you teased. "I'll have pull you know."


“I can find my own bed‑warmers thank you very much!” she said with pride. “By the way, I could have sworn I heard you talk with someone before you came in?"


“I tend to speak outloud when I'm alone."

The speed with which you partially lied - as you did have this strange habit - astonished you. Dagmar sharp eyes scrutinized every move you made, searching for any clue your face and your body could give her. 


“Come on, bed‑warmer tell me the truth or I shall glued my cold feet upon yours tonight!”

“I’ve known colder.” you replied unimpressed, yet amused.


You banged your head against the desk, cursing the gods for the treacherous text you were working on when footsteps brushed the stone floor. 


“What is it Ludwig?" you asked on the verge of screaming out your frustration.

 
The boy wrinkled his nose showing you he did not like your pick.


“Fine. What do you want Hans?”


The boy glowered at you, his arms crossed upon his chest.


“By Vana you are becoming more insolent each day.” you bantered. “All right I give up finding you a name, but you better pick one soon. What is it?”


The boy gave you a letter you unfolded with care. You grunted upon recognizing Loki’s handwriting and fell against the back of your chair.


Dove,
Find me in the throne room at once.


You asked the boy if the prince had disclosed anything to him but your young friend shook his head unable to help you. You sighed and tried to guess why he would send such a note. But then again, it could be for any number of reasons since Loki always did what he wanted to do.


“You rang?” you said entering the throne room.


You had not been in there for centuries and yet, you could tell everything was exactly the same. At the far back, Loki jumped from the throne onto his feet eager to welcome you.


“I have to say dove, I had my doubts for a moment.”


“About what?”


Loki met you in the middle of the room and the place seemed even bigger without the overwhelming presence of Odin. Loki’s hand hung above your golden belt in hesitation.


“I’m not sure I’ll like it if you come every time I summon you though. Perhaps the Vanir have made you too obedient.” he purred.


“They did no such thing.”


You went to slap his fingers but your hand only brushed the air.

 

"You need to improve your game trickster." you yelled at the empty room.


“Perhaps.” Loki smirked "But you couldn't tell the difference, could you?"

 

Loki emerged from behind the throne and sat on it with utter nonchalance. His stretched his long legs in front of him and sighed in content.

 

"Is this why you called me? To show me old tricks?"

 

"What if I was?" he chuckled. "As a matter of fact, dove, I asked to join me here because..."


“Getting comfortable brother?” cut Thor booming voice.


“As if.” answered Loki. "What are you and you posey doing here?"


Thor approached flanked by the Warrior Three, Sif and their new companion who broke rank almost at the second he laid his eyes on you. Your heart raced with each of his step towards you while your legs began to feel as soft and numb as cotton. When he shone a bright smile you couldn’t help but giggle a little and when he took your hands in his, the air became rare and scarce.


“The gods were merciful to grant my request so soon.”


The man had to bent to lay a gentle kiss on the back of your hand being as tall as a half‑giant. You tried to avoid his brown eyes lingering and contemplating you, yet you were uncontrollably drawn to look upon his radiant face.


“And who might you be?” broke Loki's voice.


You withdrew your hand, feeling your cheeks burn by the second and cursed yourself for acting so foolishly. You moved aside as Loki sneaked his way between you and the other man. You took a look above your shoulder and noticed the throne was empty.


“Only the luckiest man in all the nine realms.” answered Thor’s friend.


“And does the ‘luckiest man in all the nine realms’ has a name?” retorted Loki.


“Balder, my prince.” he answered bowing his head.


Earlier.

“I can’t believe I’m doing this.” you muttered while walking to the throne room. “I have a million things to do but no I chose to drop everything to go find him. Oh Unn, thanks the gods you’re not here to witness my failure! I should know better. I should be working, I was working...”


As you rambled on you failed to notice a massive and solid figure on your way and bumped so violently that you lost your balance.


“My apologies. Are you well my lady?” asked the tallest man you’ve ever met.


He helped you get steady, his hand swallowing yours with the most gently and soft touch. For a brief moment, your mind went blank and all you could muster was a faint – but very real – giggle which was very unlike you.


“Oh please, I am no lady.” you chuckled blushing.


“Then I must apologize again.”


The man was huge, the same size as a half‑giant with thighs thick as tree trunks and arms made to lift mountains. You took one good look at him and realized you had nothing to fear. He had an honest face with an easy‑going smile and the most sparkling brown eyes. Your hand lingered in his, which didn’t seem to bother him whatsoever.


“Tell me, do you know this place well?”


“I work downstairs.”


“But you are no servant.” he guessed. “And since you just told me you were no lady, then you must be something out of this world. A beautiful mystery!”


You tittered uncontrollably. Girl, you better stop this!


“I am only the Keeper of Scrolls.”


You leave the ‘soon‑to‑be part’ and introduced yourself as casually as possible but holding the man's gaze was harder than you would have thought.


“And I am Balder. At your service.”


He placed a soft kiss on your knuckles and blood ran up to your face. It was a relief not to have any mirror around you as you were sure to be as red as Thor’s cape.
You noticed Balder was not wearing the Einherjar armour and since he never told you anything more than his name you wondered what business had brought him in the palace. Stop starring at him you fool and take back your hand now. Even though it was good advice, you could not bring yourself to do so.


“There you are!” boomed a loud voice resembling a foghorn.


It belonged to Thor that was now marching down the hallway with Sif and the Warriors Three flanked by his side. Balder turned to greet them.


“I fear I got lost on my way to you my dear friend. This place is such a mesmerizing maze, it’s a wonder I did not end up in the dungeons.” he laughed heartily. “But I have been blessed somehow because this beautiful woman has been kind enough not to leave me wander by myself.”


Balder glided and revealed your presence to Loki’s brother whose eyes narrowed as he seemed unsure of who you were. The offense of him not instantly recognizing you after the years you spent torturing him alongside his trickster brother stabbed you right in your pride. However, Sif who was now a magnificent warrior maiden did. And even though she appeared in complete control of herself, she gave away a hint of mistrust seeing you inside the palace. You could not blame her for being on the alert and as you noticed her hand on the handle of her sword, your pride healed properly and you heart rejoiced. She finally gave away your name. Thor’s eyes brightened in epiphany.


“By my father’s name, how much you have changed!” he praised. “Does my brother know you are here? Of course he does, how could he not? I wish he'd say something so we could celebrate your return!”


“Have you met your brother?” asked Hogun behind the blond prince.


“What are you doing here? Shall I tell mother to hide the silverware and father to tie the horses down?” he joked.


“There’s no need for that.” you said hiding your growing smile. “Those days are far behind me I'm afraid. I actually work here now.”


“You do?” said the Warrior Three in one loud voice.


“She is the Keeper of scrolls.” added Balder.


“No way! So does that mean the old bat is dead? I should be happy about it but gods, was he terrifying! He used to be the meanest and chased me with a stick every time I had to go down there when I was kid.”


“Why would you go to the Archives in the first place?” asked Sif perplexed.


“That was Loki main hiding spot.”

Sif shrugged and silence fell in the hallway while Thor scanned you one more time. You had seen the prince from afar once or twice since you came back to Asgard but most of all you had heard the tales about him and his fierce group of warriors. Wherever they went, they came back victorious and the legends of their prowess thickened with each battle.


“Wh–What are you wearing? I don’t remember ever seeing you in a dress before. Not that it does not suit you...”


“And I also wear shoes now.” you replied lifting your white skirt above your ankles.


“Now that’s...Wow!” Thor answered with an appreciative eye. “I always wondered how you could run around bare-feet everywhere and not bleed yourself to death!”


Memories of your childhood flooded your mind with colourful and sugar‑coated images.

"I have my talents." you chuckled.


“So!” roared Volstagg. “Does that mean the beast is finally tamed?


“Are you blind my friend?” claimed Fandral “Look at her eyes. These burn with an ardent flame that reveals only a wild and passionate heart. Do not let her appealing demeanour fool you, she could stab you and run away with your pride and your belongings without batting an eye.”


“Loki did most of the stabbing.” you pointed out.


Fandral shook his head and laughed out loud. Never did you spend so much time in their company, let alone without Loki by your side. But as they bantered with you and shared a laugh you realized that you were actually having a good time with them.
You glanced at Balder who seemed both confused and amused trying to connect the dots.


“Thor, it’s time we move on.” reminded Sif.


“Right! We mustn’t delay the tour any longer. Come now Balder, the sooner we finish showing you the place, the sooner we can go eat.”


“Here! here!” yelled Volstagg.


“Now that I have made your acquaintance, I do hope I see you more often.” Balder said kissing your hand once more.


Having other people staring gave you the strength you needed not to titter again. You nodded and politely smiled at him. He was not beautiful per say, yet possessed a devastating charm. It was a mix of simple confidence and tranquility. Balder joined the Warriors Three and Sif who began leading him away while Thor hanged in the back. The blond prince turned to you and said in a lower voice:


“If I were to look for my brother any time he vanishes...”


“The Archives would be a good place to start.” you answered with a knowing smile.


“Of course! Where else would he be? I must go, but if you want to you can join us later.” he offered.


“If it pleases your Highness.” you said bending your knee.


Thor stared at you appalled and baffled.


“Please stop.” he said with a smile.


You watched the warriors and the prince leading their new companion down the hallway and thought of Loki who must be waiting for you in the throne room. But before you went to meet with your friend, you spared one last glance above your shoulder and saw Balder doing the same. You blushed like a young and sweet maiden, and cursed yourself for not being able to control yourself. However, as you set off again, your lips stretched in a wide and happy smile that partially faded away when  you reached the doors of the throne room.

Your heart pounded in your chest and you had to steady your breath before coming in. Behind those heavy golden doors was a room so vast that even your thoughts echoed against the walls. Behind those heavy golden doors you had to kneel and bow your head more than once. Behind those heavy golden doors Loki made you a promise he couldn't hold. You pushed one panel and set foot in the heart of Asgard power where many moons ago you had to face Odin’s wrath.

But Odin was nowhere to be seen. Only his son, Loki, who was slumped on his regal father’s seat whistling a happy tune. 


“You rang?” 

Chapter Text

“How are things doing dad?” you asked with your mouth full.

“Did the Vanir not teach you any manners?” said your mother.

“Actually you did. But I chose to forget all where custard pie is concerned.”

You flashed your annoyed mother a smile with your teeth covered in food. Your nameless friend concealed his laugh behind his hand while you winked at him. The boy left not even a crumb on his plate, doing your mother’s cooking true honour. Your father shrugged in response to your previous question.

“The roof’s okay, but I found something troubling with the window in your room.”

“Really?”

You acted surprised even though you were fully aware there will always be something troubling him around the house. You questioned him with your eyes, leaving plenty of time for him to get into the specifics. By his side, your mother sighed hiding behind her cup of hot beverage.

“The cold is slipping through the cracks. It’s getting everywhere in the house.”

“It’s not that cold dear.” said your mother.

“The crops beg to differ. It’s colder than it used to.”

His voice was sharp, almost mean with a hint of anger in it. Your father finished his drink in one gulp and slapped the glass down. He glanced at the boy next to you. The relative silence in the room cranked the tension up a notch until your father decided to leave the place. He disappeared outside probably to the fields he had to tend to.

“I’m sorry. He’s been a bit...edgy lately. It’s that time again.”

She put on a brave smile for the sake of her young guest but you could see easily behind it. You noticed the sharp pain and the anguish as it was ever a challenging time for your father and that put another heavy weight on your mother’s shoulders.

“He is very happy to see you, and your friend is such a delight. You have quite the appetite young man.” she said to the boy.

His cheeks reddened but he took the compliment by smacking his belly in appreciation.

“Have you room for more?”

The boy shook his head up and down so many times, so rapidly, you thought he would get dizzy. You helped your mother cleaning the table and went to do the dishes alongside her while the boy ran outside chasing the goose.

“He’s a dear lovely boy that one.” said your mother.

“Yes, and very clever too. He’s such a quick and eager learner, he amazes me everyday. Loki suggests I should take him to Vanaheim, that the Vanir would make an exception for him if I were to ask them but I don’t think they would.”

Your mother glanced sideways but kept her mouth shut. She did not need to utter a word for you to get where her thoughts had led her.

“It’s fine mom. You can say it but know that everything has changed since I left.”

“Don’t I know that.” she said taking a wet plate from your hands.

“It’s not like it used to be. For starters, I am allowed inside the palace now. Big change! And yes, we do spend some time together, but it’s mostly him coming down to the Archives to read, or to teach the kid. There’s nothing to worry about.”

Your mother cupped your cheek with your hand and gently caressed it with her thumb.

“It is my job to worry.”

“That sucks.”

Your mother chuckled and put the plate away.

“Is dad going to be okay? He seems to get worse every year around that time.”

“He never learn how to deal with what happened but he's going to be fine, I promise you that. He does have horrible nightmare these past few nights but that's expected, and he has his head up in the clouds more than any other day but he is going to be fine. He is getting old that’s all. You should go with him later.” she said. “That’ll do him good.”


 

The white clouds hid the sun, darkening the landscape a little. The air was sharply cold and when the wind blew, it slapped the flesh of your face. It is colder, you thought looking at your father walking before you, his hands buried in his pockets. You went underneath the big archway and followed him in silence, listening to the birds in the trees and the rocks scrunching underneath your feet. It had been years and more since you accompanied your father to the graves. The last time you were only a young girl with long untamed hair and dirt on your clothes. Now you were a pretty young woman who learned how to comb their hair and not a single spot could be found on your outfit. You had donned a brown pair of trousers with an off‑white long‑sleeved shirt and even put on sandals. A loose plait hanged on your left shoulder with some wild strands of hair here and there.

Your father stopped in front of a line of graves, behind which, a great statue of Odin loomed over. The king sat astride his mighty war horse, holding his spear firmly in his hand, and leading the soldiers to battle. His face was torn in a silent cry as he charged the enemy. You slid your arm around your father’s and laid your head against him. You refused to watch his face and instead focused on the names displayed. All of them had found their way to Valhalla a long time ago. All of them had left your father all alone. Those who had survived the battle of Jötunheim had either died since then or simply had gone away. His brothers-in-arms were not trained soldiers, nevertheless, they learnt and fought for the sake and glory of Asgard.

The air turned crisp and messed with the leaves in the trees. Your father buried his head in his shoulders and mourned for a solid half‑hour. He said nothing and he barely blinked. As you stood solemnly by him you read the names of the honoured fallen in your mind. Some rang a bell as you have read their stories in some book or another but most of them where unknown to you. Yet, your father remembered each and every one of his brothers and each year his heart seemed to ache more and more for them. You prayed in silence for every name exposed at Odin’s feet, and you prayed more for those who had survived. You prayed for your father, asking for his heart to soothe and you prayed for your mother so she could keep the strength that hold your family together.

Behind you a brush of footsteps caught your attention. It was the boy. You planted a kiss on your father’s shoulder and excused yourself in silence as you left his side to join the boy.

“Yes, it’s getting late.” you said to him as he pointed to sun getting low. “Give me a minute will you?”

You walked back to your father who had escaped from his silent prayers and was now ready to go home. He sighed, gazing lovingly at you and for a moment you noticed two fat round tears at the corners of his eyes. You kissed him goodbye and promised you will try to visit more often. It was a sincere promise made from the bottom of your heart, with all your love, but as often parents seemed to guess, it was a promise meant to be broken despite all your best intentions.


 

You entered the city alongside your young friend and decided you wanted to walk him home. On your way, you came by the market. The stalls were exactly at the same place as they were when you were a kid, and you remembered every way in and out like the back of your hand. You walked pass the fruits and vegetables stall and eyed a juicy red apple with a wry smile.

“You know.” you whispered to the boy “When I was your age, and even younger than that, I used to steal fruits from the man you see over there.”

The boy looked at you with two round eyes, which amused you.

“I was quite the rascal. But I was not the only one.” you smiled at him. “See, the prince and I go way back as you know by now. We were...” you paused to search for the best denomination you could find. “Partners in crime. For many years.”

What was bred in the bone comes out in the flesh, and you find yourself with a bumped red apple in your hand. You quickly hid it, saving it for later, like you used to when growing up. The boy, who had not yet chosen a name for himself, let you know he yearned to hear more stories.

“Well, promise me you will keep this to yourself. Few and less know what really was.”

With great seriousness, your friend lifted his little finger encouraging you to lock your own little finger with his. You shook your hands three time. It resulted an unbreakable promise made between to unlikely friends, in the middle of Asgard. As you continued your promenade, you told him the tales of your childhood and the many pranks you had played on Thor, and so often on Sif, and the – now called – Warriors Three. You confessed having stolen much and more things you did not need, just for the thrill of it, and how you used to run through the palace and the city chasing Loki or being chased by him.

“We were children of mayhem.”

You grinned from ear to ear, recalling all those wonderful memories. You had managed to get away with murder for as long as you could.

“But eventually, we got caught and that was the end of an era.”

The boy sighed heavily, matching your own deep breath. These memories were not as pleasant and you were not ready to go down that road. Not today, not with him.

“Well, that’s in the past now.” you cheered. “I hope I haven’t given you any twisted idea. Even though you don’t strike me as the criminal type.”


 

You walked along the turquoise river, looking at the last rays of the sun. The water shimmered and it looked like a million of blue and green gems slowly drifting away. Soon, the horns will blow and the gates will close for the night. You will be trapped inside a vast and enchanted prison, filled with tiny cells with at its centre the largest golden dungeon you had ever seen. But for now, you were willingly returning to your own lockup. There was some business you needed to attend to before you could think of going home. You got a sight of the back door and the guard standing next to it when someone shouted out your name. You and the boy swung round and saw Balder waving his hand with a glad smile on his face. You felt your temperature rising as he approaches and your hands getting sweaty. You swipe them on your dress, and straightened yourself. You prayed for the butterflies in your stomach to stop buzzing all around the place.

“I thought it was you.” he said beaming. “I am glad to see you are no illusion.”

He took your hand as he had done the first time you met and brushed your skin with his full lips. The contact made you weak in the knees and a titter came up your throat. Gods, stop acting like a maiden! The fact that the boy’s eyes were on you made you blush even more.

“Is your mind playing trick on you, my good sir?” you asked playfully.

“I am afraid that my heart is the culprit in this matter.”

He had not let your hand go and hold it as if it was the most precious thing he could have between his gloved fingers.

“My apologies. I can be too straightforward sometimes.” He awkwardly chuckled and let your hand fall.

The wind rose and made you shiver. Balder, being the valorous knight he was immediately offered you his cape. He wrapped you in it and noticed the boy next to you. He promptly introduced himself, ashamed to have missed his presence before. The boy waved his hand and shrugged.

“That young lad here is one of my most trusted friend and I dare say my very own assistant. Well, it can’t be official until I become the Keeper but...”

You stopped yourself as the door opened and let Loki out. The prince stopped for barely a second before he met up with you.

“I Hope I’m not interrupting anything.” said Loki eyeing you in Balder’s cloak.

“Not at all my prince!” said Balder. “We were merely discussing this young man’s future.”

He is a jolly good fellow, you thought tenderly.

“Really? What about your future lad?” Loki asked the boy.

With his hands, the nameless boy answered the prince and kept him up to speed.

“If that’s a position you fancy, I certainly can make some arrangements. We talked about this.” Loki said quickly looking in your direction. “And we both believe you would be a great Keeper or that you’d do well with the Wise. It’s entirely up to you and whatever you decide we’ll support you.”

You nodded confidently at the boy whose eyes jumped from you to Loki standing by your side. Joy was not a word powerful enough to describe what the boy could feel despite his positively radiant face. In a leap, the boy jumped in Loki’s arms and hugged him so tight the air left his lungs for a painful second.

“But I don’t want you all cooped up in the Archives all day long, is that clear? You need sun and fresh air to keep growing.” Loki said stiff in the boy’s arms. “Now, now, I believe diner is ready for your lot in the kitchen. Go before there’s nothing left.”

The boy flashed a grateful smile at the prince whose eyes shone with tenderness even though he did his best to remain impassible. The boy left Loki’s embrace to hug you as well then bolted inside the palace. Loki and you watched him crossing the door your hearts filled with utter pride.

“We’re doing good with him aren’t we?” Loki asked you.

“That we do.”

“The boy is lucky to have such mentors as yourselves.” added Balder.

You smiled at him and asked what he was doing around here.

“I am supposed to meet with my comrades in the weapon room for a training sessions but I fear I have taken a wrong turn somewhere. Granted it led me to you, but I should not be too late.”

Loki sighed beside you and rolled his eyes when you offered Balder to walk with him. You took the arm of the tall soldier, his cape hanging loose around your shoulders. The three of you entered the warm palace in an awkward silence, framed by the soldier on one side and the prince on the other.

“Weren’t going somewhere earlier?” you finally asked Loki.

“I was! But for the life of me I can seem to recall where I was suppose to go.” he grinned.

He walked alongside you until the three of you reached a crossroad of hallways where Balder looked around him in utter confusion. The back of the palace was not a place where people just wandered about. You had to want to be there in order to go there. You took the lead and explained Balder how to find his way around these lesser-known parts of the palace.

“You find me most grateful. You are as good-hearted as your are beautiful.”

“You never stop, do you?” said Loki.

You glanced sideways to your friend but Balder did not let Loki’s rude answer stop him and topped his question with another one that made you blush one too many time.

“Can you stop a heart beating for the one it longs for?”

“With the right potion, I bet you I can.”

Loki bursted in a short laugh and searched for a support you wouldn’t give him. You pleaded him with your eyes to stop but either he did not get the subtle message or he chose to ignore it.

“I hope you will not find me too bold, but may I ask you one thing?” Balder said addressing to you.

“You just did old chap.” answered Loki.

“Yes.” you quickly added showing your back to Loki. “Yes you may.”

Balder opened his mouth and closed it right back as if he could not bring himself to say the words he longed to say to you. You waited expectedly, enjoying the sweet torment Balder's hesitation brought with it.

“Come on Blader, we’re dying here.” complained Loki.

“No one’s forcing you to stay.” you pointed out with a frozen smile.

Loki answered you with a grin and finally Balder took his leap of faith, seemingly unbothered by Loki’s presence. “I was wondering if you are, by any misfortune for me, taken.”

“Taken? As in...a relationship...with another being?”

He nodded and for the first time could not bring himself to look at you. He kept his gaze on some invisible point above his shoes and it broke your heart as well as amused you very much to see the jolly man blushing in doubt.

“It was implied that I should not pursue you but the reasons as to why were left unclear. So I thought, that maybe you were betrothed to someone else.”

It sounded more as a question than a statement, nevertheless you bursted in laughter, tears already coming to your eyes. Loki, on the contrary starred at the man, his face thin with anger. Balder met his gaze but soon turned his attention to you.

“I...I’m sorry.” you hiccupped trying to catch your breath. “I did not mean to.”

You washed the drops away from your red face, though you were not completely calm yet. You sniffed, trying to regain your composure and as you looked to Loki, you saw him eyeing you with contempt. Well, that’s a first, you thought. He usually use that look for others.

“To answer your question: no, I am not taken. And far from betrothed.”

Relief washed every other emotion Balder went through a minute before. He lowered his eyes and took your hand with confidence.

“Then allow me to court you.” Balder claimed with eagerness.

Loki coughed briefly as if air went down the wrong pipe. He opened his mouth, surely with a witty and sharp answer ready yet you pulled the rug out from under his feet and answered first.

“I am no lady so you don’t need to court me.”

“Everyone that holds a special place in someone’s heart should be courted. And you, my sweet, holds a very special one in mine. I have been dreaming of you, day and night, since we’ve met. I barely had rest, for when I closed my eyes your image lingers, taunting me, keeping me awake. I once, caught your exquisite figure, walking through the wooden garden but I thought I was daydreaming again.”

“Maybe you’ve caught a fever.” Loki replied. “You should call a healer to get a look.”

“I doubt there is a cure for what I am suffering from.” the man smiled weakly.

You climbed the stairs leading to the weapon room where Balder was supposed to meet the others, leaving him hanging for a while. It was as delightful as watching a puppy eagerly waiting for you to throw a bone at it. But you were willing to put an end to his misery and as you pulled yourself away from his tender touch, and gave him back his cape, you stood on your tiptoes and lightly kissed his cheek. He opened his mouth to speak and once again no word came out of it. You left him speechless and resumed your way to the Archives with Loki walking next to you.

“Is he looking?” you asked him chipper. “Is he?”

Loki showed his annoyance with a long moan but eventually went to look above his shoulder so you could act cool and untouched by the romantic ambitions Balder hold for you.

“Yes he is looking...quite dumb if you ask me.”

You pinched Loki’s arm but smiled all the way down to the Archives.

“You’re not considering it are you?” he asked falling down on a chair and putting his leg up on your desk.

You threw him the apple you stole earlier and began tidying the place a little. A steel knife appeared in Loki’s hand with which he cut some slices.

“Have you stolen it? It tastes different.” he said with his mouth full.

You kicked his legs out of your desk and retrieved a book. You had to go to the far end of the Archives to put it in his place.

“Have you?” Loki insisted.

“Maybe.” you said coming back with a conniving smile.

“I knew my devil dove was still in there somewhere. I saw it so the other day. You may act all wise and concerned with your job and let some vapid tree trunk of soldier flirt with you but deep down inside there’s still that part of you that...”

“It was a one time thing.” you reminded him. “Force of habits.”

You walked around him and fell in your armchair, a thick leathered book on your lap and having no idea where it was supposed to go.

“Whatever you need to tell yourself dove.”

He smirked at you and threw the apple in the air before catching it again. He put his legs back on the desk.

“Give me one. I’ll help you.” he said pointing to one of the books you have to take care of.

“Not with your hands covers in apple juice, you’re not.”

He exhaled loudly and wiped his hands on his pants. His black and green leather suit was somehow very revealing of his lean and athletic built. You quickly diverted your gaze back on the book. That one’s mine, you realized. Loki showed you the palm and the back of his hands until you approved of their cleanliness and gave him a handful of scrolls to put away.

“Don’t you have something better to do than spend your time down there?”

“To tell you the truth at first I was originally avoiding my brother.”

“Yeah, that’s not the perfect hiding spot since I told him he could find you there.”

“Do you want a knife the next time you planned on betraying me?” he said half‑joking. “He is more agitated than ever now that father has put him in charge of the military.”

“Well, that’s a bit responsibility I guess. What did you end up with?”

You handled the conversation while walking back and forth between your desk and the shelves and the trunks eager to finish your business.

“Tasks unfitted to a prince.” he groaned.

“Did he ask you to clean the stables? Good for you.”

Your sarcasm did not go unnoticed by Loki so he tossed a ball of blank parchment on your head. You caught it and sent it right back, hitting him on the nose. He chuckled and promised he will get back to you eventually. You took a good look at the place, satisfied to see it in order. It had taken you more than a few hours as you talked with your friend but it was worth it.

“Will you have diner with me tonight?”

His blunt proposal took you aback.

“What – here?”

“Or we could go outside.” he suggested with a nonchalant shrug. “You must be fed up with these walls by now.”

It was partially true. As months passed you had found a way to make more time for yourself as well as your friends Dagmar and the boy. He really needs to find a name. Yet, you had almost always rejected Loki's offers to go out, preferring the more private setting of your Archives. He was a welcomed distraction to say the least.

“Or you are not.” he said annoyed. “Forget I’ve said anything.”

He turned around ready to walk away.

“No, wait! I’d love to have diner with you but I’m not sure I can eat a lot. I had lunch with my parents today.”

“Was there custard pie?” he asked “With slices of pears on the top.”

“How come you remember that?” you laughed. “It’s been ages since you – well, Loren – ate at home.”

“Your mom’s cooking is pretty unforgettable. I’ll let you know that I haven’t forget a single thing from those days.”

His features softened while a brief pain stabbed you in the chest. Was it true? Did he really recall every little things you had shared and lived together or was it only one of those phrases you would say without really meaning it? A diner with Loki. You were unsure you had ever done that before. You looked out of the window and noticed the night was darker as it should be. The moon was low behind the trees, half‑hidden by the heavy grey clouds.. The birds were flying back to their nests and you suspected people in the streets were heading home as well, afraid to be caught by the upcoming rain. Your mind wandered for a moment and you wondered if the Keeper was still breathing. Why won’t he die? you caught yourself thinking. When all of a sudden Loki’s voice broke into your mind and led you back to reality.


Outside of the palace the air was heavy and had a metallic sent. It smelled like rain and you guessed that you had only a couple of hours before it started pouring. Loki guided you through the street, unwilling to tell you the name of the place he wanted to eat. You tried a few names but each time the prince answered you with the most annoying sound he could make. He walked fast, and you almost ran behind him to keep up his rhythm.

“What’s the rush?” you asked gasping for air.

“I don’t want to get caught in the rain before we get there. Would you hurry up?”

“I may not be small but I don’t have your legs either.”

Loki grabbed your wrist and pulled you next to him.

“I know you can keep up.” he smiled down at you.

The place he had chose was a two‑storied cottage no far from the hills that rested against the city walls. The same stream that passed by Dagmar’s house, was larger there and fishes made the water rippled in shiny silver circles. You took a good look at the place and the first word that popped into your mind was ‘lovely’. It possessed the charm of a remote location, with flowers and trees framing the place in a romantic way. From the inside roared the noise of merry companions enjoying their evening. Laughters echoed through the tainted windows and the heavy wooden door.

“I heard the wine is exceptional here.” said Loki.

“Sounds like it.” you smiled snaking your arm around his.

A blast of hot air surprised you when the door opened. You stepped inside soon to be pulled back. Loki stood at the threshold stiff and stern. You followed his gaze and realized why he had suddenly frozen. The laughters belonged to a group you were well acquainted with, one that Loki wished he had not came across that evening.

Fandral spotted you first and rose to his feet, a drink in the air yelling your name while Thor urged his brother to join them.

“They’re drunk.” Loki grunted.

“Is it too late to go somewhere else?”

You did not mind spending the evening here or elsewhere until you spotted a massive figure walking to the merry table with pints in his hands. Your heart jumped in your chest. Is this what I have become, a creature who swoons at the sight of a man? For a moment you resented Thor’s new friend, who came into your life unwanted. All I want to do is have some fun, you reflected.

“What say you?”

Loki’s eyes went from the table to you and then on the table again. By the time he answered you, Thor had crossed the room and put his heavy arm around yours and Loki’s shoulders and led you to their table.

Since you were not very hungry, you spent most of your time with a pint in your hand and played with some bread purposefully avoiding Balder’s gaze. I feel like a silly girl and yet I seem to be unable to stop. Loki smiled and even joked once or twice but you could feel his will to be elsewhere more than anything. Your hand found his underneath the table and you squeeze it with affection and mouthed ‘thank you’ as you knew he was on his best behaviour for you and you only. It didn’t prevent him to make barbed comments from time to time. Loki squeezed your hand back and locked his green eyes on your face for a couple of seconds. You stood next to each other all night, shoulders pressed together and sometimes living in your own world.

It was not a feast and yet Thor and his companion made it feel that way for all the customers that night. The merry and heavily drunk band was the last one standing and – thanks to Fandral and Volstagg – singing as everyone else had left the premises or fallen asleep on their tables. When they were to loud for your taste, you could count on Loki to entertain you and when they were to stupid for his taste you did the same for him and by the end of the night you could say you had both had a good time.

Balder offered to escort you to your house, hoping he could finally spend a minute with you alone. Loki was handling his drunken brother with the help of Hogun and Sif while Fandral and Volstagg danced down the soaked street singing at the top of their lungs. You gladly accepted Balder’s offer and overheard a slight relief in his breath as he took your arm. Since the rain had stop, the sky cleared and it was now magnificent starry night. The moon reflected itself in the stream behind Dagmar’s house and only a handful of citizens were walking past your street. Despite his best intentions, Balder’s eyes were lit with expectation and – if you were correct– a burning desire.

“Dare I hope you had a good time tonight?”

“A great time, my good lord.” you teased.

You reached Dagmar’s door in a heartbeat already regretting not taken as many detours as you should have on your way. Perhaps the alcohol helped him a little but as you pecked on his cheek as a sweet goodnight kiss, Balder turned his head and stole a kiss from your own lips.

“Forgive me, my lady. I should not have...”

You cupped his face with your hands and whispered brushing his lips: “I told you already, I am no lady.”

He leaned in to kiss you. His hands found their way around your waist, bringing you closer to his broad chest. You were standing on tiptoe, your arms crossed behind his neck. Your tongue parted his lips and danced around own. It caught him off guard, still, he moaned in deep pleasure.

“My sweet.”

His grips tightened around your hips. His fingers were ruffling the light fabric of your shirt, and found a way underneath it. His large hands were surprisingly soft and warm against your skin. A cramp throbbed down your legs and you reluctantly took a step back, catching your breath. Balder cleared his throat and slowly withdrew his hand, leaving your skin yearn for his touch. You bit your cheek to kill the smile growing on your face. I just want to have fun, that’s all I want, you reminded yourself.

“Now I understand why I was told to stay away from you.” he said in a breath.

“Am I a bad kisser? I never had such a complaint before!”

“Far from it my sweet. Your lips are venomous, it’s like poison running through my veins. Your mouth...your skin...I wouldn’t break these chains. But after tonight I realize that it would be foolish of me to go against him. The prince seems to.” He paused searching for his words. “Hold you so dear.”

You sniggered.

“I’ve never been quite close with Thor but I’m sure we could get along just fine but I don’t see the point with...”

“I meant Loki.” interrupted Balder.

“What about him?”

You scanned his eyes demanding an answer Balder was reluctant to give you.

“Did he say or do anything to you? Because I know he can be quite possessive sometimes but if he had done anything I’ll make sure to kick his sorry ass to Midgard!”

Balder’s smile soothed you in an instant. Would that be his special talent? you wondered.

“He said nor did anything but the walls have ears and people have mouths. And Loki has a loyal army standing behind him.”

You pondered at his word, unsure of what they meant. Why was he talking about an army when Thor was in charge of the military? Despite your natural cleverness and all the knowledge you learnt to possess while in Vanaheim, some obvious things seemed to always elude you. Balder saw your inability to understand and made a gesture towards you but stopped himself in the middle of it.

“Don’t you want to court me anymore?” you asked quoting him.

“I do. Very much so.” he said reaching for your hands.

“Then do it! Court the hell out of me!” you screamed at him slapping his chest. “Unless you had a change of heart, otherwise you shouldn’t listen to silly hearsay. People have always mistaken our relationship for what it never was, but I’ll be damned if I let those dumb gossipers deprive me of your courtship or whatever.”

Balder smiled at you tenderly, lovingly, and for a moment he was convinced by your passionate speech. A cloud darkened his usually laughing eyes and his smile fainted to turn into a sad and pathetic one.

“There is a bond, a unique and very strong bond between the two of you.” he paused to brush the palm of your hands with his fingers. You found yourself holding on to them, refusing his touch to leave you. “I know I am not the sharpest tool in the shed but I have always prided myself with the ability to sense, to know, when I had my chances wining a fight. And even though it will be worth it, you are worth it, I must retreat and surrender.”

In the heart of the night, the street remained quiet as the graves you visited earlier with your father. Not a bird chirped, not shadow moved underneath the moonlight. The deep silence of the night hanged above your head, and soft voices from afar began their chant. It was the faintest of echo, barely a whisper you felt more than you heard. Suddenly the air changed and thickened like in a forest after a heavy rain. It doesn’t smell like Asgard, you thought. It smelled like home, the home you had shared with the Vanir and for a moment you hoped Unn would call your name. But the voices vanished and the streets smelled like they used to. You shook your head, chasing any remnants of Vanir and stared deeply in Balder’s eyes.

“I am not one to retreat, nor to surrender. Ever!” you said firmly. “Yes, it’s true what you said about the bond we share Loki and I. It’s one of a kind and I wouldn’t know how to live my life without it, without him. I thought I could, for centuries actually, but when I came back here I realized he had never, not even once, left my side. Despite the distance, despite the silence. I don’t expect you or anyone to understand what it’s like as I can’t comprehend it myself, and, frankly, I’m not so sure Loki can either. There is nothing to explain, it’s just... there no matter how hard we fight it. The story between us, our history has been misinterpreted so many times...” you softly chuckled. “I wish I could tell you they’re wrong but in every story lies a bit of truth and a bit of myth. I don’t know what you heard and I don’t want to know what you heard. The only thing that matters is that I like you, and I think that it’s worth giving it a try. But if you chose to do so, to bare with me for a while despite all my flaws, know that Loki is somehow part of the deal. He will always be part of the deal. You’ll have to accept him for who I tell you he is, not the one you think you see and certainly not the one he might try to show to you. Remember, Loki is most and foremost a trickster.”

“How do you know you can trust him?” asked Balder genuinely curious.

“I just do.”

You pulled the man against you and slid your hands in his hair. You gazed into his eyes laughing underneath your breath.

“What?”

“I can’t believe you would have given up so easily on me. I’m the whole package you know?”

Balder grinned, and his brown eyes laughed again. In a swift move, he seized you by the hip and lift you up in the air. Your legs automatically went around his large waist while you secured yourself. He would not let you fall, even drunk on your scent and drove mad by your kisses. Balder hold you close to him, smiling against your mouth and chuckling.

You closed the door behind you, still feeling him on you. You licked your lips and it tasted like him. It was sugary and warm and you yearned for more. Sitting near the fireplace, Dagmar looked at you with a smirk.

“Had a nice night?”

You chortled. It could have been even nicer but you were not there yet.

“Spill the beans.” she said pulling a chair next to her and closing her sketch book.

“What are you doing up anyway?”

“Couldn’t sleep much. The factory is at full capacity.”

That was Dagmar’s way to tell you she had gotten obsessed with a new idea. You peered above her shoulder but there was nothing to see except crossed off draft. Her frustration was all over the pages and it pained you to see her struggle. She slammed her book shut.

“Distract me, I beg of you. Take my mind far away from this mess. Please.” she begged. “Pretty please, you’re my best friend so it’s your obligation to help me.”

“Unn is my best friend.” you declared leaving Loki’s name out of the equation.

Dagmar lifted her hand to her chest pretending to be shocked. As you laughed at her jest, she smacked your shoulder with her sketchbook. You walked to the kitchen side of the small house and checked if the water was hot enough to prepare some tea. You began your story with the moment you met Balder when bells rang across the realm.

“Is it morning already?” said Dagmar confused.

You peered through the window saw people going out of their houses on to the streets with messy hair and gaunt figures.

“It’s still dark.” you answered her.

Dagmar rose from her chair and crossed the room in two strides. She put her square hand on the handle of the front door when someone knocked on it. Slowly she looked at you as if to ask “were you expecting someone?” and you shook your head sideways. Dagmar paused, her hand still on the handle when a loud whisper caught your attention. You peered once more outside and in shaky voice advised your friend she should open the door.

“Now.” you added more urgently.

With a swoosh, Dagmar did what you told her and found herself facing the Queen of Asgard Frigga herself, framed by her royal escort.

Chapter Text

Dagmar had frozen, unable to make a peep nor a curtsy as it was tradition. The regal woman spotted you but did not make a move, her hands resting in front of her. Her eyes scanned the place for a couple of second before going back to you. It seemed a faint smile hung on her lips.

“Your Majesty.” you said remembering the correct way to address a queen. “May I be of service?”

The corners of her mouth visibly turned up but the rest of her face stayed stoic.

“The Keeper has passed away.” she announced soft‑spoken. “Long live the Keeper.”

Even though it was not a surprise, the old man had been dying for quite some time now, you took the news rather as a shock. The guards standing behind and beside the queen repeated after her in one voice “Long live the Keeper!”. And just like that, your life changed once more.

You gathered your belongings scattered throughout Dagmar’s house. The Queen was waiting for you, near the fireplace while her escort guarded the front door, pushing back the curious citizens who tried to pried above their shoulders. You searched for Shelby as you often found yourself each time you came across a golden armour but he was not amongst the queen personal security detail. Frigga wandered around the place, brushing the wooden mantel and eyeing the dust on her pale finger. You and Dagmar never were ones for housekeeping, but now that you were in the presence of the queen, a sudden burden of shame fell on your shoulders.

“Is this where you have lived since you arrival?” asked the queen.

“Yes, your majesty. My friend has been kind enough to open her home for me.”

You crawled underneath the one bed and fetched your precious shoulder bag. You quickly opened it and checked if everything was still in place, and closed it before putting it on your shoulder. No one, but you was allowed to touch it as it hold your most precious belongings.

“Why not live in the Keeper’s quarter?” the queen said.

“Have you met the Keeper?”

It was not your intention and yet your answer had been sharp, almost rude and you regretted as soon as the word had escaped your mouth. I really should think before I speak, you reminded yourself. But a smile from the queen let you know there was no harm done. She had a soft and beautiful face that showed no sign of tiredness, despite the late hour in the night. You on the other end, started to feel sore and as you thought about what was coming next, you realized you were not about to get any sleep anytime soon.

“I thought it best not to live there until things became more...official.” you finally confessed to the Queen. “I don’t suppose I could still live outside the palace.”

“I am afraid it wouldn't do.”

“Figures. Well, I am all set your majesty.”

She slightly nodded and went to shake hands with Dagmar who still stood speechless and listless. Her eyes were fixed on the queen’s face as if she was under a powerful spell.

“Take her hand.” you mumbled between your teeth.

Your friend regained consciousness and took Frigga’s hand in hers. The queen’s smile reached her eyes, then she bowed her head to Dagmar’s awe and thanked her for taking care of you since your arrival. as you witness the queen’s kindness, you saw a once in a lifetime opportunity. And with an unsuspected boldness you came forward and suggested that your friend should get a reward of some sort. Both of them turned their heels and stared at you, though not with the same expression in their eyes. “And what is on your mind Keeper?” the queen answered.

“Dagmar is an extremely skillful blacksmith. She has already made great weapons but the forge she works at is not...”

“Enough!” Dagmar said. “I know your intentions are good, but please, stop.”

Dagmar had always been the confident one. She had so much confidence within herself that she could spare some for those who lacked a bit of it. and yet, it broke your heart to see her crumbling and shying away. This is not her, you thought. This is not Dagmar. The queen will grant me this request, I know she will. When in this state of mind, no one could convince you otherwise and you cared not if Dagmar was ill‑at‑ease at the moment, as long as sh could get something out of the situation.

“I shall send our own blacksmith to verify your work. Not that I mistrust our Keeper, but such matters should be attend by experts in their own fields.” answered amiably the queen.

You kissed your friend goodbye and took one last look at her place that had been your house for a time. A guard came forward and asked for your belongings. You gave him everything you owned except for your shoulder bag. There was no one in all the realms you would trust with it. The queen’s escort marched through down with you and her safely settled in the middle. The bells still rang, and every soul in Asgard was now fully awaken. All of this for an old man who spent his life buried under the dust of thousands of books and scrolls. Will they celebrate my death as well? you asked yourself. There was few and less in Asgard who had met the Keeper of the Scrolls and scarce who knew such a position existed. Nonetheless, someone a long time ago thought it would be a good thing to create a protocol – a loud protocol – for such an occasion. There are just books, you thought going back to the wild kid you once were. But the voice of Unn, followed by the high priestess reminded you otherwise. Knowledge was power and you possessed a great deal of it. You were always aware of the duties that came with being the Keeper of the Scrolls, not only to the realm but to the universe as you knew it. You were to truly become the one with knowledge, the one that search in to the past the answers for tomorrow. And yet, there was one thing that kept you from embracing what was happening. One name ran around your mind, bouncing from one side to another, eating you from the inside as you thought about it.

“Do not worry about my husband.” whispered Frigga.

Can she read minds? you wondered. Quick! Focus on something clever! Just in case. As often it happened in these situations, your mind froze when you needed it the most, crippled by a brutal wave of anxiety.

“He knows who you are now.”Frigga said.

She sounded sincere and you wanted to believe her with all your heart. As it were you never thought about the king, not really. Since you came back to Asgard, he had been just a noise, a faint shadow from afar. You had no need to speak with him, and he had not to meet with you. Until that night.

You entered the palace through the front doors. They were wide open to welcome you and the queen and the guards. The moon had sunken low on the east side of the river but the sun was not yet ready to appear. Depending on how you looked at it, it as either late in the night, or too early in the morning. Yet, despite the odd hour there were many people to watch you walk to the throne room where the king awaited for you. Whispers buzzed around your ears, filling your mind with half‑words and thoughts. You tried to overhear what was said but there were too many of them to focus. The queen’s arms brushed yours and in silence you thanked her for staying by your side. Many eyes rested upon you, making you feel small instead of grand. You passed before them, as tall and proud as you could be, but inside, you curled into the tiniest ball of fear. The guards stopped at the doors of the throne room and slid from one side and the other. “I’m not dressed properly.” you realized out loud.

“I– I went to visit my parents earlier and I... when I came back I went out for diner and, and then I went home but then you came home. I did not change, I should have change.”

Panic overcame you and if it wasn’t for Frigga gentle touch on your wrist you would have flight the scene and never came back.

“It’s fine.” she said with a nod. “No one will care tonight of what you wear my dear.”

You entered the room and immediately spotted Thor and Loki standing at each side of their father. Thor’s face gave away his drunkenness. His cheeks were red and he had a stupid smile that would not fade away. Yet he managed to stand rather still. Loki on the other hand, looked fresh and clean as if he just went out of a invigorating bath. He glimpsed at you and nodded.

The All‑Father climbed down the steps and waited for you at the feet of his throne. Frigga softly led you toward her husband. Odin stated your name loud and clear as if all the realm should hear it. In a very formal way he welcomed you within the palace. He treated you as if he had never met you before, as if he had never threatened you, and never punished you for being his son’s beloved friend. Let bygones be bygones, you reminded yourself. This is not the father you face today, but the king. Remember your place, remember his, and thank the gods and the queen, you are here now. Knowledge is power. You have the power.

Nevertheless you had never felt more alone than at this moment. Neither of the princes seems particularly interested in what was going on. Thor was perhaps too drunk to realize what was happening, and Loki acted as if he could not care less. Despite his slight nod when you came in, his eyes, whenever you looked up to him, seemed to always avoid yours. Frigga walked to her king whose vibrant blue eyes burnt through your flesh like it used to when he lectured you as a kid. You are no longer a kid. You are grown woman, you are the Keeper of the scrolls. His voice carried easily but you are not sure to whom he was speaking. You should have been listening but you barely did. Instead, you glanced over your shoulders and noticed there are not one familiar face amongst the small crowd. My parents should be here. They should know my time has come. And then your thought drifted to Unn.

The shy girl from Asgard turned into a graceful priestess in Vanaheim. She had exchanged her books to piety, her faith became her shield and with it she had protected you, nurtured you so you could blossom and walk your own path. I should write to her, you thought. I will write to her as soon as I’m out of here. Odin loomed over you, his palms turned upwards and waiting for you to slid your hands in his as it was tradition. Remember the protocol and all will be over before you know it. You were told it would not be some grand ceremony and it was very brief. Yet, in your eyes, it seemed to last longer.

Finally, Odin waved at a guard and ordered him to show you your new quarters. The guard stepped up, and you refrained yourself from telling him you already knew the way. You knew all the ways in and out of the palace. The golden house of the king hold almost no secrets to you yet, you were aware of what was expecting of you. You nodded to the king, but forgot to bend the knee before leaving and followed the guard. You reached the threshold of the throne room and took a look above your shoulder only to see that both of the princes had already left the place and that Odin was gently escorting his wife out.

You tried to match the pace of the man but his legs were considerably longer than yours. So much so, that you found yourself running to be at his side.

“Do you know some guard named Shelby?” you asked. “He used to work near the east gate when I was a kid.” The guard shook his head, his eyes ever on the horizon. “Hazel eyes, beautiful brown hair. Never to wear his helmet because of said hair. No?”

The guard opened the door in silence, letting out an anxious maid who hurried at your side. “If it pleases my lady.” she said trying to take your shoulder bag.

“Don’t touch this.” you barked slapping her wrist.

You promptly apologised but the maid just bow her head in remorse.

“I know you, you said. We’ve met some night during a feast. I came up to sack the kitchen and you were kind enough to make me a plate. Are you employed to be at my service?”

“If it pleases my lady. You are kind to remember me.”

“Not really. I just have a good memory, especially about people who feed me. But I am no lady, so please stop calling me that.”

“How should I call my lady then?”

The girl blushed so much you feared she would explode. She bowed so low that her golden hair fell and hid her face. You introduced yourself and took her hand in yours to shake it.

“My name would do just fine or I guess you can call me ‘Keeper’ if you must. But no ‘lady’ and definitely no ‘mistress’. Is that clear?”

She nodded.

“Now, I’m not used to be served, so I will probably not call for you very often.”

The maid suddenly lifted her head and your noticed how much her eyes were big and round. They looked at you as if you were her world in which her only purpose was to please you. She is just a doll, you thought. A beautiful fragile porcelain doll.

“You can use your spare time as you want, it really doesn’t matter to me. If anyone asks, pretend that you are running an errand for me. Deal?”

But the maid remained silent, words caught in her throat. No one had prepared her for that so she did not know how to react and what to say to you. Her big round eyes and her coy demeanour began to annoy you.

“What is your name?” you asked.

It took her a moment to answer this very simple question giving your annoyance time enough to turn into something darker.

“Gunborg, my lad...Keeper. But how should I spent my time if not serving you?”

You had already answered her question before and it felt like you were wasting you time. You did not care how pretty she was and how genuinely afraid she appeared to be. All you wanted was to get a couple hours of sleep.

“It is been what, five minutes since you’ve become the keeper? And you are already brainwashing the help.” called a disembodied voice you knew too well.

Gunborg promptly turned and curtsied deeply in front of Loki who walked in without being invited. He lifted her chin with his fingers and stared in her eyes.

“My, my. There are making them prettier and prettier each year, aren’t they?”

“What are you doing here?” you asked him.

“Why, to congratulate you, dove.”

You noticed Gunborg twitch upon hearing your nickname. Loki crossed the room in a few strides and left the pretty girl behind him.

“We are neighbours now.” he said with a smile. “Who would have thought?”

He noticed wine had been served near a window and walked passed you to pour himself a drink. Loki raised an empty glass in your direction. You politely refused his proposal, staying where you were.

“That’s quite a view you have here.” Loki said.

“If you are thinking of crashing here, you’d better think twice, little snake.”

Gunborg was now redder than blood, witnessing you and the prince casually talking and using pet names for each other. A smug smile on his face let you know Loki was amused by your maid’s embarrassment. He drank his wine in one gulp, his mischievous prying eyes studying the girl. Loki walked back to you and let himself fall on the bed they had move to the other side of the room.

“Do you think they have changed the sheets and mattress?”

“I hope so. I’m not sleeping in it otherwise.”

His eyes followed you while you moved around the room. Someone had thought it necessary to move the furnitures around and you wondered how much time it took to make it look as if no one had died in there just a few hours ago. Everything had already been put in its place. Your clothes were in the wardrobe which now wore the sigil of the Order of Sága, the bed was made and the library corner was filled with books and scrolls, some from your personal collection. A painting representing the silent valley in Vanaheim had been hung above the fireplace and the desk was now facing the window.

“You look tired.” Loki said.

“I am.”

“You should rest.”

“I know.”

“This bed is almost as comfortable as mine.” Loki said wriggling. “Come here and tell me if I’m wrong.”

Loki had the ability to amuse himself with very simple things but nothing could please him more than other people’s discomfort. Every word he said landed in Gunborg’s ears and she was quick to understand the prince had a past with you. The maid busied herself as she could, waiting for you to dismiss her or use her. But from time to time she glimpse at the prince lying luxuriously on your bed. You walked near the head of the bed, your fingers brushing the soft fabric. Someone had the idea to make the bed using the colours of the Order of Sága, your colours. That’s a lovely thought, you said to yourself contemplating this new part of your own realm. I should write to Unn.

“What’s on your mind dove?” Loki asked softly beneath you.

He took your hand in his long fingers. The doors were wide open and anyone walking by would have been able to see the prince lying on your bed and lovingly playing with your hand, looking at you expectantly. Your thoughts were drawn to those doors and to what was behind them. Loki’s touch was soft and cool, it made you shiver a little bit. He pulled slightly like one would pulled back the line of a kite flying to high, carefully and with great expectation not to break the device.

“You should leave.” you said withdrawing your hand from his.

“Why?” he sighed displeased.

“Because I have work to do. And so have you.”

“Not until sunrise I don’t.” Loki grabbed your hand once more, gave it a slight yank and stoop up.

He leaned forward, absent-mindedly playing with your fingers again. Loki searched for your eyes. But as you were lost again in some part of your mind. He reached for your chin and gently lifted it up. His minty breath brushed your lips while his hand cupped your cheek in tenderness.

“You are the Keeper now, and you live here, officially.” he said in a breath. “Surely that means we can do whatever we want to.”

Loki temptingly licked his lips. His thumb drew small and soft circles on your cheek. You lifted your gaze up and looked him in his eyes. They were greener than they used to, unless envy was the cause of such effect.

“Come on dove, what do you say?” His hands glided down and found their place on your hips and pulled you closer.

What do you have in mind? you asked with only your eyes and Loki grinned. But then your maid cleared her throat.

“There’s a – uh– a man here to see you, my la...my...Keeper.”

Her voice was so quiet you had a hard time to hear what she had to say.

“What a timid creature.” said Loki in a growl. “Do you think I can have her? Since you seem not to have any use for her.”

You suddenly broke from his hold on you and smacked his shoulder with all of your strength.

“You are not to approach her? Do I make myself clear?” But Loki barely listened to your warning as he mentally undressed the shy girl with a devilish glare in his eyes. The poor maid was sinking so low on her knees that you feared she will disappear in poodle of embarrassment. Your fingers were intertwined in Loki’s as neither of you had let go of the other.

“Who’s the man?” you demanded to know.

“Uh– he...he says that he is the...the most blessed man in all nine realms.”

Loki sighed but a smile appeared on your face, and you were defeated in making it go away. You asked Gunborg what he wants and she blushed again, crushed by Loki’s gaze.

“Stop it.” you said to him, yanking at his hand.

But he feigned not to understand what you meant. Gunborg’s face and neck turned bloody red and her eyes were puffing with waters. She is a dolly twig, you realized. She should be near us.

“Tell him to wait for me at the statue. He knows the one.” you finally answered.

She nodded and deeply curtsied. This was something you will have to correct too but now was not the time. You turned back to Loki and withdrew your hand from his. As the girl opened and closed the door he caught a glimpse of Balder awaiting.

“I thought you were tired.”

It sounded as a reproach and you stubbornly refused to address it.

“And you said you had work to do.”

You scratched your forehead, searching for the right answer if there was one. A part of you wished for him to go on his own, but the prince had decided otherwise. Soon, an army of Loki surrounded you and the real one disappeared in the midst of doppelgänger.

“Is this what you want?” they asked with one voice. “Is this who you want?”

You made your way through the wall of Lokis and went straight for the door. You swung the door open and left it that way for him to go but when you took a look around Loki had gone. There was no sign of him, barely his scent lingering in the air. Is there a secret door I don’t know about? You sighed partially in relief and walked to meet Balder. But as you do an inner voice told you this could not be it. What you had taken for sweet interest and, sometimes, concern from Loki seemed to have turned into a whole other thing. You had been a witness of it twice since you came back. You called it ‘possessiveness’ or ‘misplaced jealousy’ and you thought it was something new, dark and deep. You were wrong about one of these attributes.


 

“Does it hurt?” you asked Loki.

Your fingers hovered above Loki’s black-eye. You wanted to touch it but you did not while Loki stood still, unbothered by your ghostly presence.

“Not nearly as it should.”

You could not take your eyes off of it, always fighting the urge to touch it, like a kid who tried not to steal the warm cookies they forbidden to eat at once. Loki had come to the Archives practically jumping on his feet and had sat across your study desk, at his usual place. As he folded back into the armchair, he stretched his legs before putting them near the books you had pilled up. He knew that it annoyed you greatly, and still did it every time he came to visit.

“Are you not hungry by now?” he asked

“Not nearly as I should be.” You winked at him and his face lightened up.

Your maid entered the Archives and looked as lost as a frightened doe. When she noticed Loki casually seated there, she stopped and curtsied to you.

“Will you need a bath tonight?” Loki and you exchanged an amused glance.

“She learns quickly.” he said.

“I know! Soon she’ll have forgotten all about this silly protocol and treat me like a normal person. Next time you bend your knee to me young lady, I’ll cut it.”

Gunborg starred aghast not knowing when you were joking or not. Came in your silent partner carrying his weight in books.

“As for the bath, you should know that I only do so during the full moon in the river outside the city’s gate.” you added.

Loki chuckled under his breath. The pretty girl had been told to be taking your word for granted and not think but you saw in her eyes that her brain was processing. The boy shook his head with a fake disapproval.

“Poor thing. You are torturing her.“She will be taking a bath." Loki said addressing to the girl. "But only after diner. As to the river, no plan have been made yet.”

Loki rose to his feet and extended his hand to you.

“Come now, dove. It is time we feed you.”

You closed your book and nodded to the girl who began to bend the knee before she stopped herself in the middle of her curtsy. Gunborg darted out of the Archives.

“My friend, I leave you in charge. As soon as you are done putting those away, I want you to close the door and live a little alright?”

The boy agreed to your terms and wished you a nice evening.

“He still hasn’t chosen a name for himself?” Loki wondered.

“No, but he will.” you glanced at him seeing only the dark shade under his eye. “Why is it still here? I thought you healed quicker than the rest of us.”

Loki shrugged.

“And how did you get one? You still haven’t told me.”

As you climbed the stairs the answered you had been waiting for came to you in the form of Balder. Loki’s face closed up, his smile vanished and his eyes turned red for a split second.

“What happened to you?”

You ran to Balder, reaching to touch his cheek. A large dressing as been set across his face, from his ear to his nose. Balder took your hands in his and gently kissed them the way he always did.

“Do not worry my sweet. It looks worse than it feels.” Balder said softly.

He bent down so you could pecked his other cheek and chuckled under your pressing questions.

“All I can say is that the fight was formidable but lacked common fair play.”

Loki coughed beside you. Balder took you in his arms and kissed the top of your head, not even blinking while Loki stood and watched. You have got to be kidding me!

“My prince! What brings you to the Archives at such an hour?”

His mouth and throat were dry and his voice coarse. It lacked the common respect he owed his liege, sounding irritated instead of dutiful. Loki wore a strained smile on his face while his green eyes darted to his wound with a flash of pride.

“Why, I always come down here to have a moment with my devil dove.”

You felt Balder’s hand around your waist bringing you closer to him, as his fingers crinkled the fabric of your dress. You have GOT to be kidding me!

“Can I talk to you?” you said to Loki between your teeth.

You escaped Balder’s embrace and grabbed Loki by his shirt before he could answer. You dragged him downstairs, deaf to his complaints about his suit being ruined and almost missing a step of the stairs. Once hidden in the cover of darkness, you threw Loki against a wall. His eyes went from your hands on his chest to your face and you could have sworn there was nothing but primal lust in them.

“I will swipe that smug smile off your face right now if you tell me you did this to him.”

“Am I suppose to know what you are talking about?”

He was enjoying it, you knew it all too well. You saw it in the way he smiled and talked and breathed. Loki was having fun and the more he had the more you wanted to slap him and...No! His chest was moving under the palm of your hands and underneath them you felt the rapid beating of his heart.

“Damn well you are. Answer me!”

He sighed and his lips stretched in a simper.

“Technically you have not asked me anything. But I am willing to let this...Ouch!”

You pulled him to you only to push him back against the wall.

“Easy, dove, easy. That’s my favourite shirt here.”

“Like I give a fuck.” you said.

Yet, you reluctantly let go of his shirt but stood close enough to pin him once more upon the wall if he tried to escape.

“It was only a rough session of training. I got carried away, that is all.”

“Training?” you replied in disbelief.

“Yes. Training. Thor had worn me down and I finally agreed for a little one on one but since I know all of his moves, I asked for a challenge. Balder was amiable enough to volunteer.”

“So it was all about training. You swear?”

“Why would I lie to you devil dove?”

“I don’t know.” you muttered. “But you do lie a lot.”

“Perhaps. Or do you believe I went there to pick up a fight with your beau?”

You did not appreciate the mocking tone in his voice because it had occurred you once or twice since Loki met Balder. He had no love for the man but up until then he had said nothing about him, let alone do anything against him. This is absurd, you told yourself. He wouldn’t do that. Loki can be extreme sometimes but even he wouldn’t do something that stupid. You let your hands fall down, releasing him from your grasp.

“Or perhaps that is exactly what I did. Perhaps, I could not handle the competition. And the very thought of that demi‑giant stealing you away from me was too despicable to bare. How could I deny it any much longer? I have got you in my head, dove. And I would be flying if you would stand before me and say that I am the one that you want. Because you are the one that I want and need. After all this time, after this painful and sickening time apart I got you back but then you meet this pathetic excuse for a man and fall for his lover’s tricks. What was I supposed to do if not fight for you, for a chance to keep you by my side?”

He spoke with a shaken voice and a passion you rarely witnessed before and you began to think his words were genuinely sincere. You closed your eyes, needing the darkness to calm you down and settle your heart. Upstairs, Balder was waiting for you. You shut your eyes tighter to conjure his image. Yet, when you opened them again, there was only Loki. The ghost of a smirk hung on his lips.

“You are not funny.” you grumbled.

You gave him a weak slap on his chest.

“Or am I?” Loki said.

You took a moment to search for the truth in his eyes but that was a fool’s errand. Loki was the prince of lies, a natural born trickster. And for once, you were unable to see beyond that. You turned your heels to go back to Balder, knowing there would be no peace of mind for you that night. Loki’s words echoed so loudly that you pressed the palms of your hands over your ears in hope to shut them. However, you still heard his low honey voice, crystal clear, as if he was in the room with you, whispering in the silence of the night. He was making fun of me. He was making fun of me. That’s it! He was just making fun. You repeated your new‑found mantra over and over again until slumber finally claimed you and took you away from Loki's spell.

Chapter Text

"Is this who you want ?" Loki asked.

In a desperate act of keeping you near him, Loki surrounded you with a dozen of illusions. They all looked exactly like him of course, and yet you were able to tell the difference. You always seemed to be always able to see through the lies and the tricks. Not fair, he thought.

Loki watched you walked through the wall of illusions and go straight to the door. As you reached the threshold, the trickster prince cloaked himself from your sight. Loki remained silent, witnessing you turn around to take one last glance. As your eyes scanned the room, Loki shivered. What if you could see through his spell the way you did with his lies? You’d love that new trick love, he thought with a mischievous grin. However, you left your chambers swallowed by the darkness of the corridor.

Loki followed you as you were walking down the stairs, almost running. Your white dress only a soft caress on the marble steps. He followed you silent as a shadow, invisible to many. At one point, you stopped and looked above your shoulder. Despite his invisibility, Loki quickly disappeared behind a pillar. His heart pounded loudly against his chest. Yet, his eyes never diverged from the shape of you. A tingle ran from the back of his neck to his palms. The spell was hard to maintain and demanded a good deal of energy.

“Remember to breath.” his mother had advised him. “Slowly in and slower out.”

Loki did as his mother had taught him but as soon as the silhouette of a man appeared and you threw yourself in his arms, the air got stuck in his lungs. The spell vanished, leaving Loki exposed to the sight of anyone who would have come by. He was too exhausted to cast it again.

Balder caught you as if you weighted nothing and swept you off your feet. You did not only smile, but laughed like a child. Balder planted a kiss on your knuckles and you giggled like some featherbrained maiden. The sound of your laugh echoed in the corridor, stabbing Loki through his ears. The green of his eyes changed to a bright shade of red while his pale and fair skin turned to an icy blue covered with creases. The air became sharp cold and ice creeped up on the pillar behind which Loki stood. He watched as you shivered and Balder took you in his arms, against his chest. You looked so frail and tiny which you never did before. Not with him, not with your little snake. I would never to that to you, Loki thought.


“There you are.” the queen said as she entered the library.

Loki closed the book he was reading and put it away. His mother studied his face and saw it was more than the lack of sleep that gave him drawn features. Her hand, a soft and reassuring caress stroked his hair. She sat next to him, her eyes glancing at the book in curiosity. Did ever she saw the title of it? In any case she did not show it, nor speak about it. Instead, Frigga had chosen to focus on her son.

“You let it go for too long.” she said.

Loki gave her a faint smile, unable to do more. He was sore, much more sore than he would have thought. Every bone in his body hurt, every muscle ached and every breath had been as sharp as his beloved blades. Frigga tenderly put a strand of his black hair behind his ear.

She smelled like lavender and milk. It was a sweet scent that had soothed him ever since he was a baby. Loki glanced at his hands trembling and quickly hid them under the table. He felt like falling in his mother’s arms and lay his head against her shoulder. He wished to fall asleep, surrounded by the quietness of the place and the warmth of his mother. Frigga most likely knew how her son felt but said nothing. She was just there, at arm’s reach, open to receive him the way he chose so.

However, Loki stayed in his corner, wrapped in his misery. It was good company after all.

“Sooner or later, your father will want to have a word with you.”

“I am to be spanked?” Loki mocked.

His mother silent response made him stop. He had been looking for trouble every day of his life, unable to do otherwise. And for the longest part he had you next to him.

"What I teach you is not to be taken lightly." 

"Are disappointed Mother? Should you join Father's most exclusive club of disappointed parents!"

Perhaps I took it too far this time, Loki reflected.

“I have seen them.” Frigga confessed.

She did not have to say their name out loud for Loki to know who were ‘them’. The pain lodged itself in his heart when Loki thought about you and Balder together, as a unit known as ‘them’. Loki shut his eyes closed, scraping the fabric of his trousers with his nails as he fought not to collapse, clutched to the thinest of threads.

“She looks happy.” said Frigga.

Silence followed, heavy and deafening. It hanged in the air, crushing the remnants of the prince who stood quiet.

“She deserves to be happy.”

“I know.” Loki said.

“And so do you. Look at me.”

Gently, Frigga brushed her son’s chin, slowly guiding him so he could face her. Her eyes were of the softest of blue where lied loved and an infinite wisdom sharpened by her early life with the witches.

“As your mother this is all I want for you, to be happy. But I’m afraid you don’t know how. I have watched you all your life not allowing yourself to care. You are clever and you have more than one trick up your sleeve. Pun intended.” she smiled. “Despite all that, you have a tendency to give up when things don’t turn the way you expected them to be.”

“Oh please enlighten me Mother! Explain to me how I am ruining my own life.”

“No one said anything about ruin. But the path you are on now will define the man you will be in the future, and I am afraid you are to take the wrong turn. You resent your brother for something he has no control over and constantly reject your father’s love...”

“Father bares no love for me.”

“Of course he does! The things he did for you only... Believe me, he does. He has no idea how to show it to you, that’s all. In that way you are very much alike, you and him.” she paused and breathed in deeply. “There are people in life with whom we connect instantly and deeply and it seems easy to be around them. Easy, comforting and thrilling at the same time. Usually those people are the ones with whom words are not necessarily needed as a stream of inner consciousness and understanding flows back and forth between them. However, despite the strongest of bond and of love, the flow gets sometimes disrupted. In that case, you’ll have to take it upon yourself to build a bridge in order to reach the other, and to do that, my son, know that a few well‑chosen words are all the help you’ll need.”

Frigga rose from her chair in a brush, and gently squeezed her son’s shoulder. She left the library, nodding to her ladies in waiting and leaving Loki alone with his thoughts, which was a terrible thing for him to endure. Loki gazed through the table and all of a sudden slammed the book with the back of his hand, sending it across the room.


Loki wandered through the gardens first, when he spotted the old oak tree underneath which you and him spent countless of hours reading to each other. Our best pranks came from there, he thought fondly. But the view of the ancient tree stabbed him in the chest, so he turned away.

Loki then walked endlessly, inside and around the palace barely taking notice to where he was going as he tried to chase you away from his mind. But every turn he made, every stairs he climbed up or down, there you were. Somehow he could not find in himself to go properly out. As if the streets of the city were a too much of a world away from you.

What am I doing? he thought. Nothing, and that’s the problem, answered an echoing voice inside his mind. You fight for your throne, you fight for your father’s approval and for your mother’s love so why wouldn’t you fight for her? Don’t you care about her? Doesn’t it break you to see her with that mongrel?

“Of course it does!” Loki muttered between his teeth.

“My lord?” asked a lady who happened to pass by as he spoke.

Loki dismissed her and fall back in his thoughts.

'They look happy', spitted the voice mimicking his mother’s. They should be married soon. Loki sniggered. Will you laugh when she’ll show you the ring another man had dared to offer her? Will you laugh while you witness her happiness within the arms of another man? Do you laugh when you picture her giving herself up to another man? Her cockiness and her smile and her skin and her heart, all of that will belong to another man.

“She doesn’t belong to anyone.” Loki replied to himself. “She never will.” Then why do you long to make her yours and yours alone?

As the voice left him, Loki found himself starring at a door. Clash of swords and grunts came through those doors behind which was the training room Thor adored. Loki put the sweaty palm of his hand against the panel. He was short of breath and pain throbbed all around his head. For a moment he wondered why he stood there. I shouldn’t be here, he thought.

Then, Loki heard the voice of his brother, followed by Balder’s. Fight. The Warrior Three were there too. Fight. And if Loki’s assumptions were correct, Sif should be in there as well. Fight. Balder’s voice boomed loudly, more loudly than Thor’s and Loki’s skin crawled. Fight. Loki closed his eyes turning red while frost emanated from his hand. Fight. Balder laughed. Balder fought. Fight. Loki clenched his fist. Fight. Hearing him was enough for Loki to picture him. Him and then you. You and him near the statue. You and him gazing into each other’s eyes. You and him sharing the same stupid enamoured smile. Fight!


Loki climbed the stairs down to the Archives a hand around his painful ribs, grimacing with each step. A small cut had split his upper lip in two but blood was no longer dripping out of it while a deep and dark shadow rounded his eye. As he walked the last stair, Loki got a glimpse at your figure.

You were seated at your desk under one tall stained glass window, turned away from the entrance of the Archives. The sun was getting low and bathed you in a golden halo. It had been one of the longest day that had followed one of the shortest night. And yet, there you were, carefully reading a manuscript. A smile invited itself on Loki’s face as he overheard you humming the words you read. He let the low murmur of your voice fill his head as it was music to his ears.

The soft brush of his feet against the cold stone floor rose your attention. Loki slid behind a pillar before you could turn your head. You called for your assistant, the boy with no name Loki had grew very fond of as well. He looked around but saw no trace of him and grinned. He approached you with a slow pace, moving through the shadows, silent and deadly. You were only a couple of steps away from the trickster grasp but you made no move. You were so still that Loki kept his ears open to make sure you were still breathing. Then he heard it again, the familiar hum he loved so much. Despite the ache, Loki could not help it but smile and rejoice in advance to the fright he was about to cause you. One more step, he told himself. He extended his arm and stopped midway, his hand hanged in the air, just above the round of your shoulder.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you. I’m about to stab you with my quill.”

Loki’s hand dropped against his thigh giving up on the simplest prank of all times.

“How...”

“You’re loud little snake.” you said hunched over the manuscript.

“No I’m not!”

Loki sighed and drew a circle in the hair with his hand. His usual chair appeared across from yours. Loki collapsed on the chair, sighing once. He took a look at you, but your eyes were on the page instead of him, so he sighed a second time. You clenched your jaws and even if it was a subtle and uncontrollable move, Loki noticed it and sighed louder.

“What?” you said putting your quill down.

But then you turned your head and could only see the black‑eye and the dried blood on his lips. You almost threw your hands at him but slowed your move to cup his cheeks. Loki closed his eyes for a brief second, breathing in the scent of your hand. Neither the ink, nor the dust, nor anything you could have touched throughout the day could hide the smell of your skin. Loki fought the urge to fall under your touch and grinned instead.

“What happened?” Your eyes frantically scanned his face while you brushed the side of his wound with your thumb. “Have you been to the healer?” you asked. “Why d’you smile?”

“Because, dove.” he said gradually taking your hands away from his face. “I can heal myself remember?”

“Then why don’t you?”

Anger flashed through your eyes which made Loki smiled even more. There’s only you to be pissed at me when I look as if death itself spitted me out, he thought.

“It takes time.” Loki answered.

“Then go rest. You should not be here.”

There’s no other place I’d rather be than by your side my love. Loki meant every word, and yet could not bring himself to say it out loud. He looked into your eyes, searching for another way to confess. Loki lowered his gaze and noticed how you both held hands. You had never avoided his touch and as far as he could remembered he had always welcomed yours. Isn’t it enough? Loki thought. His green eyes went back up and met your gaze which had softened but still expressed concern and care.

“What is it?” you asked. "You seem unwell."

Say it, Loki said to himself. Say it now! Loki opened his mouth but the words wouldn’t come out and for a moment he believed that he was choking, truly choking. You tilted your head to the side and once more reached to touch his face.

Your fingers brushed the lines of his jaws and with the gentlest of care you put a strand of his hair back where it belonged. Your eyes went from the cut on his upper lip to his bruised eye while Loki’s never left you.

“Does it hurt?” you asked with your hand hovering above the black‑eye. Yes, tremendously

“Not nearly as it should.” Loki answered.

He gazed at you looking at the bruise on his face. Why don’t you look at me love? In his mind, Loki screamed out your name and urged you to turn your head. But you were too focused on a silly, unimportant, forgetful detail. Look at me love, I beg of you. Just one look from you and I’ll know. But your attention was called elsewhere. If he had waited for one more second, then you and Loki would have walked on a complete other path.

With utter reluctance, Loki fell against the backrest of the armchair getting away from your other hand upon his. He stretched his long legs across the desk and forced a grin as you sighed in annoyance.

“Are you not hungry by now?” he asked.

“Not nearly as I should be.”

Despite everything, Loki’s face lightened up. When your maid entered the Archives, Loki noticed how you glimpsed at him, with a glimmer of defiance and reproach. He remembered how you forbad him to go anywhere near her. Nonetheless, you teased the poor girl with sarcasm, using her natural shyness and naïveté to her disadvantage. It amused Loki, not near as it should, but it was enough for him to fall back into his old habits and pretend what he was about to say minutes ago, never crossed his mind. But as you talked about bathing in the river, Loki’s mind snapped and lost track of his current thoughts.


“Do I have something on my face?” you asked puzzled

“Uh?”

“Why are you looking at me like that?” you said tying your hair up in a messy bun.

The moonlight bathed your naked skin in a silvery glow. Although Loki had seen you naked before, it had been during a time of innocence and child plays. But as time had passed, he could not help but feel a certain physical attraction to you. Many times did he mentally undressed you or wake up half aroused in the middle of night because you had invaded his dreams. There was nothing a cold shower could not fix. But as you were ready to enter the cold river, Loki realised this was not a dream and that there was no boundaries anymore.

The young boy tossed his shirt to the side and quickly unbuckled his pants but tripped and fell because of his shoes still on his feet.

“Hurry up! I don’t want to miss it!” you said.

Loki struggled a bit but managed to get as naked as the day he was born and dived into the clear water, unbothered by the coldness while you shivered by his side.

“I don’t know how you manage.” you said chattering.

“This was your idea.”

“Doesn’t mean it was a clever one.” you smiled and splashed his face. “Ready?”

Loki nodded and swam closer to you. As he moved his legs to stay afloat, he brushed your inner thigh and immediately blushed.

“You okay?”

“Perfectly fine. Come here.” he said opening his hands.

“Will it hurt?”

“Not one bit.” he promised.

Loki wrapped your throat with his hands and as he did you shut your eyes and clenched your jaws as you often did when being nervous or annoyed. Your naked bodies followed the calm flow of the river and sometimes one brushed the other. Loki breathed in and out slowly, trying his best to focus but his heart thumped loudly in his chest. His green eyes fell on your half‑opened mouth and through the water he watched your arms and legs danced to keep your balance.

His touch softened around your throat as a burning thought invaded his mind. What if his left hand would fall underneath the water and reach your waist while his right hand would slid around your neck and up to the back of your head? Will you let him or will you fight? Loki green eyes glimmered as he followed the lines of your jaws then down to your neck and finally to the curve he found himself drawn to. Loki shut his eyes and slightly moved closer to you. The ripples of the water tickled you both but you remained perfectly still, waiting for him to cast the spell he promised. Yet, Loki had his mind wandering elsewhere as every part of his body throbbed because of your proximity. He was only one breath away from your mouth when you whispered in anticipation yet unaware of the boy’s turmoil.

“Is is done?”

This simple question brought him back to his senses.

“Not yet. Don’t move.” Loki said in a breath.

His fingers tapped on the sensitive skin of your neck and soon a set of gills appeared on each side and went from your chin to your ears. You smiled with your eyes still closed, enchanted and eager to test Loki’s new trick. Your fingers brushed his as you went to touch your temporary gills. You opened your eyes beaming with joy and at this moment Loki swore he had never seen anything more beautiful.

“How long will it last?”

Forever, he wanted to answer.

“Long enough if we hurry.” he said instead.


“Come on dove, it’s time we feed you.” Loki said.

You left your instructions to the boy you held so dear. The lad nodded even though he already knew what he had to do. He was a quick learner and an even quicker thinker. Loki waited for you to catch up with him. He offered you his arm but you failed to see it, all caught up with your thoughts.

“And how did you get one?” you asked about the black‑eye. “You still haven’t told me.”

You were never one to know how to give up, but then again never was he. Loki opened his mouth almost sure he was ready to answer you when Balder appeared at the top of the stairs.

You fled in a second, running to the tallest man Loki had ever met. I bet he could hide Heimdall in his shadow. You gasped and stared at Balder’s dressing covering up his wounds, your voice breaking with concern. Loki hopelessly witnessed the tenderness with which Balder showered you. He looked unshaken but inside, Loki’s blood boiled and the same voice that had led him to the training room earlier screamed inside his head. Get rid of him! She can’t see you when he’s here! Balder was not a subtle man. The way he tried to hold you – to imprison you – and the way he talked to Loki alerted you that something was wrong. Moreover, the way Loki answered Balder pathetic provocation was the cherry on top.

Before he knew it, you had him back downstairs, hidden away underneath an alcove and pinned to the wall. His eyes diverted to your hands pressed against his chest and then to your face. The wrath you felt made your skin hot and your eyes burn with hellfire. You panted, unaware how close you were to him. Loki felt your warm breath against the cut on his upper lip and smiled.

He was more aroused than he could possibly say and he wondered how you could not see it.

“I will swipe that smug smile off your face right now if you tell him you did this to him.”

Loki was cornered and he knew it all too well, so he did what he did best and stalled. He was being clever, charming and witty as he always did in such a situation but you were not fooled by his tricks. You knew them all. You inspired him some of them. No, he could not trick you, not easily, not ever. There was no way out of it, as you cared too much for Balder and knew Loki too well to let it go. How is it we always end up fighting? Loki wondered.

You demanded an answer from him so Loki gave you one. An answer so simple that he threw you off balance and most certainly unprepared for what came next.

“Or perhaps that is exactly what I did. Perhaps, I could not handle the competition. And the very thought of that demi‑giant stealing you away from me was too despicable to bare. How could I deny it any much longer? I have got you in my head, dove. And I would be flying if you would stand before me and say that I am the one that you want. Because you are the one that I want and need. After all this time, after this painful and sickening time apart I got you back but then you meet this pathetic excuse for a man and fall for his lover’s tricks. What was I supposed to do if not fight for you, for a chance to keep you by my side?”

Time stretched to the thinest of thread until it lost its meaning and purpose. Loki waited, willing to hope but dared not to. And as you opened your eyes, he realized he had forgotten how to breath.

“You are not funny.” you said.

“Or am I?” Loki heard himself answer.

But that was not him who talked. That was the shell of his former self, the shadow of the man he had been for the longest of time. A coward who loved you from a safe distance to afraid not to see his love rejected but to be loved back. For a brief moment, Loki had let himself be exposed and vulnerable. Every shield and armour he had put on throughout the centuries had fallen down to show you the truth. But the minute you hesitated, searching in his eyes if he was lying or not, the fear had crept back up, stronger than ever.

Chapter Text

    Dear Unn,

It has been weeks since I have received your last letter and I must apologize for my delayed answer.

There are three main reasons as to why it took me so long to get back to you despite the actual need to write back.

The first one, as you can imagine is my work down at the Archives. The reasons why elude me still, but we have received many books and much more scrolls than ever before. And on top of that the queen entrusted me with a bottle of Niflheim mist.

I would be crushed under a massive weight of work if it wasn’t for Egil, my precious assistant. Oh, yes, that’s right, you read correctly my dearest, the boy has finally chosen a name for himself! I could not be more proud of him. He is a very talented and clever boy that never ceases to amaze me. He seems to remember every little things he just saw, read or heard and his quick mind is about to surpasses Loki’s. Of course the man would deny all of it, but even him must know that the student will soon overcome the teacher. Egil has turned out to be a true wonder. Lately, he has shows a keen interest in philosophy and all things mythical and I’m sure you two would have much to discuss. I wish you could meet him properly and see for yourself that I am not exaggerating.

Perhaps I could come and visit someday and if the High Priestess would allow me I should have a word with her about the boy’s future. I know this is not the proper way to do things but I’m sure she could at least point me in the right direction. Loki and I have been discussing the possibility for Egil to join the Wise and a word from a sacred Vanir would help tremendously. What do you think my chances are in this matter?

The second reason is simply our beloved Dagmar.

I am able to see her a couple times a week and even have regular lunches in her company. Well, I say lunch but it is mostly me dragging her out of the royal forges to eat an apple or a piece of bread and cheese. Ever since she started working there, she had made more weapons than I could count. Her workload has intensifies lately, which, I think is not entirely disconnected from the fact that mine has increased as well.

I told Loki about my concerns and suspicions but he assures me that I worry for nothing. Perhaps he is right. Anyway, Dagmar is thriving and she asks me to apologize for her not writing to you as often as she should be. She would not say it, but she misses you the most.

Unlike me, she had to watch you go and never come back many moons ago but you have never, not even once, left her heart. The other day, when I told her I was about to write to you she wondered if you would like a custom made weapon of any kind. I told her no on your behalf, but she insists that I pass the message along so Unn, my dear: do you wish for a weapon? If so please do send me a description of it, vague or accurate.

I sincerely hope that you will decline her offer otherwise Dagmar will never let me forget about the fact that I was wrong and she was right.

Finally, the third reason is the most unforgivable kind of reason: a man.

I have failed to answer you quicker because I have spent much time with a man I let myself fall for. He is not any kind of man though. He is a man of war, a sworn brother of Thor’s companions. Yet, he is as kind as he is tall, and my dear, Balder is the tallest man I have ever met. I bet he could hide Heimdall in his shadow.

I have failed to mention him earlier in my letters because I was unsure of where this was going to go. Anyone knows that a soldier is bound to his sword more than he is to his sweetheart. But in his love for me, Balder has been nothing more than constant. He makes me feel like I am on top of the world, as if I am the most precious being which, at first, was unsettling.

I did not dare to believe it. I don’t fully believe it to this day, to be honest but I have to confess that I fell pretty easily. You should have seen it. The way I blushed and giggled when he spoke to me or acted all chivalrous. I was the swooning maiden and he was the enamoured knight, and frankly it is a wonder Loki has not stabbed either of us for being so disgustingly fawning. I know I would if the tables were turned.

Anyhow, I know for a fact that you would approve of him. Dagmar does and so do my parents. Sometimes I feel that they are more in love with him than I could ever be. And we are talking about my betrothed. Yes, my dear Unn, yours truly is about to get married, isn’t weird? My only thought about marriage, as far as I can remember was “no thank you, pass me the butter please.”And here I am saying yes to a man I met nearly a year ago, which is close to nothing for us who live thousands of years.

I do hope it was the right call.

Sometimes at night, I turn and toss in my bed and I wonder if it is wise. Wise to marry a warrior. Wise to marry altogether.

My dear Unn, I miss hearing the sound of your voice and I miss seeing the pink of your cheeks when you smile. I wish, more than anything, that we could be reunited, even for a minute. Perhaps I could come visit one day.

With love,

Yours truly.

 

You folded the letter and carefully sealed it. You looked at it one more time, making sure everything was in order before giving it to Egil.

A simple nod to the boy was enough for him to know where to go next and you thanked him for this. You watched him fly up the stairs and decided you should go out for a walk. You had been cooped up in the Archives for so long that you had forgotten which day it was. But as you took a look around, eyeing the mess that had spread all around the place, you realized there was more to do before you could allow yourself a break.

As you rose from your chair a sharp pain in your back pinned you down.

“Are you well?” Loki asked.

“Am fine, thanks. How...how long have you been here? I didn’t here you come down.”

Loki helped you get back to your feet, slowly and with great attention not to hurt you more than you already were.

“Not so loud anymore, Am I?” he smiled.

You smiled back at your friend and thanked him again. He moved his hands around you to guide you to your chair but as soon as you understood Loki wanted you to rest, you showed resistance.

“Fine! Have it your way, but if you would not rest, let me at least help you.”

“That’s not necessary.” you said. “Egil will back...”

“Not before a couple of hours. Let me help dove. I may not be as efficient as your precious assistant but I do know my way around the place.”

Weeks ago, Loki had suddenly stopped visiting you down in the Archives. And every time you were to look for him, the prince always seemed to be too busy to spare you more than five minutes. At best, you heard from him through other people's mouth but it was not the same. Him being there, near you both felt strange and familiar.

“What do you say dove?” Loki asked with a smirk on his lips.

You rolled your eyes and sighed in sign of approval but quickly added: “But don’t mess with my system.”

“I wouldn’t dare Keeper! Oh what’s this?” he asked and leaped to a shelve at the back of the room.

“A bottle.”

“I can see that. But...Wait! Is that Niflheim mist? No way! How did you get your hands on this?”

“Put it down.” you ordered taking the bottle from his hand. “Your work is over there.”

“Uh first I wanna know the why and how.”

You sighed in annoyance but Loki’s eagerness would not be dial down until you told him what he wanted to hear.

“Your mother asked me to translate it.”

“Did she? But how does it work? I didn’t know mist had a language.”

“Well apparently it does. But I am far from cracking the code. Now, unless you are fluent in mist...”

“I wonder why she...”

“Loki!” you called. “Move you ass over there and start cataloguing. Otherwise I’ll be forced to kick you out.”

“I’d like to see you try.” Loki smirked.

You replied with a glare in your eyes and Loki dragged his feet across the room. He disappeared behind a pile of books he began to opened and closed with an alarming speed. You shook your head, chasing the insane fear he might be damaging them. Loki wouldn’t hurt a book, you told yourself. To distract the unwelcome fear, you took it upon yourself to chitchat with your friend. 

“So, where have you been all this time?”

“Oh you know, the usual. The throne room to listen to our beloved citizens, out there on the battlefield to make sure my brother wouldn't do something stupid. Which is harder than you'd think. I had the chance to fight alongside your betrothed once, did he tell you?”

You shivered at the mention of Balder and looked upon your shoulder to see if Loki was looking in your direction. He was not as he was still passing through the books quickly. There’s no way he could know what’s inside of them in two seconds, you thought.

“Be careful with those.” you said.

“I am.” he said barely slowing down.

“It’s just that...they are very rare and...”

“What? Don’t you trust me around books?”

“No but...”

“Good. Because I know what I’m doing.”

You watched him get though one pile and moved on to the next.

“Why do you have so many book and scrolls lying anyway? You are not a library. I thought only the top secret and rarest of texts ended up here for safekeeping.”

“It does. That’s why I’m concerned. See this?” you said pointing to a heavy stone lay against a pillar. “That came from the dwarves this morning. It is probably the most sacred stone in all Svartalfheim and no one gave me a good reason as to why I have to store it here. It’s been like this for a while now.” you added frowning. “And Dagmar’s been producing more and more weapons down at the forge and...”

“I told you once and I’m telling you again, there’s nothing for you to worry about. Perhaps, the dwarves are dusting a little bit and the stone was in their way.”

“Really? You’re leading with this?”

“I am not a dwarf." Loki shrugged. "I don’t know how they keep their houses clean. Do they have houses at least?”

You answered his poor banter with silence, your back turned on him as you put a pack of scrolls away when suddenly a headache started to knock around your head. You closed your eyes and took a deep breath to make it go, or at least control the pain coming in. But then, a weird smell caught your attention. With your eyes still shut, you rose your nose and sniffed. It usually smelled like old books and cold stones and hot wax but now as you hummed the air, you realized there were two other smells.

One was none other than Loki’s. It was minty fresh, like a brisk of air, sharp and cool at the same time but the other was something else entirely.

“Do you smell that?” you asked.

“Wasn’t me, I swear.” Loki answered from behind a book.

“It’s weird...” you said as the strange smell disappear as suddenly as it had came. “Are you seriously reading this?”

“Why, yes. It’s riveting.” Loki defended himself.

You scowled at him and reminded your friend that if he were serious about helping you he was not doing a very good job at the moment.

“Not fair.” Loki growled and put the book down before picking another one up.

“Where did I put the elven scrolls?” you said to yourself. “Ah, there you are you sly little fox.”

You bent to retrieve the scroll that had fallen underneath your desk when a painful pinch ran down your spine and smack the rear of your back like a massive slap. A scream escaped your lips before you collapsed. You caught yourself to the desk, but the papers on it made it slippery. You managed to get back on your feet alone, but as you tried to straightened your back, another pinch, more intense, blocked you from moving.

“Come with me.” Loki said in your ear.

You realized that Loki had his arms around you, holding you with all the care he could muster. He took you to the far back of the Archives, in the shadows of the last alcove. He opened the gates that closed the space where you kept most of the oldest and fragile scrolls and guided you inside.

There was no torch here, and the air was cold yet dry. Soon, a green glow chased the darkness away and you noticed little emerald balls of light floating in the air.

“Take of your dress.” Loki said.

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me. Take of your dress and lie down on the floor. It will be cold so you can lie on your dress if you’d like. Come now, don’t act all shy and prude my dove. Do as I say and you shall be relieved from your pain soon enough.”

You breathed in to answer and yet no words came out of your mouth. Your hands glided down the soft fabric of your white dress to your golden belt. You unhooked it with only two fingers and gently folded it. Loki sat idly by, looking impatient as ever.

“Turn around.” you demanded.

“There is nothing I haven’t already seen before, you know.” Loki joked. “Well, it has been a while since our last skinny dipping.”

He chortled but did as asked. You undressed yourself, checking if Loki did good on his silent promise. Once completely naked you shivered, which sent waves of pain throughout your entire body. Nonetheless, you followed Loki’s instructions and lied down on your flatten dress. You put your head on your folded arms and did your best to relax. Behind you, Loki was barely making a sound and you had to listen carefully to be sure he was still in room with you.

You were unsure as to why, but it took you a moment before telling him that you were ready.

Soon, a ghostly presence floated in the air, just above the small of your back.

“It is going to be cold.” he warned you.

His voice was the faintest of whispers, made only to be heard by you. Even though you had braced yourself for his touch, you twitched the minute his hands were upon your skin. They were a few inches above your bare ass, thumbs turned on the inside and pressing against your spine. It tickled but it did not hurt. Loki drew small circles, pressing harder where it was needed and goosebumps ran all over you.

You repressed a smile and a laugh as it tickled some more.

“Hmm - How quickly you undressed for me, dove.”

You heard the smile in his voice as he talked low. His cool hands worked upwards, sending cold vibes through you. You shut your eyes in delight, leaving him in charge of soothing you. Sometimes Loki’s touch was hard and you clenched your jaws as he was getting rid of a knot, but most of the time, it was as light and soft as the caress of silk sheets on your naked body.

“I wonder if you do it so eagerly for your betrothed as well.”

You jerked your head so violently back that a wave of pain drowned you. Loki put it down against your arms, advising you not to do it again. You tried to resist him, compelled to look at him right in the eyes, but Loki had much more strength than you. And as soon as his hands returned to your skin, your head fell back in surrender.

“Why did you come here today?” you asked.

“To congratulate you.”

"But why today? It's been weeks since I..."

Loki's pressed his hands just under the right shoulder blade reducing you to silence at a knot unfolded itself.

“I ought to to tell you in person but...”

“You don’t owe me anything, dove.” Loki said.

His long fingers brushed the side of your breasts and your nipples hardened under his caress. You bit the inside of your cheeks and shut your eyes. But despite all of your effort, there was no denying the arousal you felt coming and growing. Between your legs there was a wet and warm sensation, a throbbing pain of pleasure calling for his touch. You braced yourself, wishing and praying for the arousal to go away. But as Loki’s hands slide backwards, falling to the rear of your back once more, the feeling just got worse.

“Try to relax.” he breathed.

“Easier said than done.” you mumbled.

Think about the most boring book you’ve ever read, you told yourself. Which one was it? It was a midgardian book I think. You did your best to recall, but Loki’s touch and breath was all you could think about. He was above you as well as next to you. He seemed to be everywhere in the room, his touch ever present and yet so distant. Your skin crawled anticipating his fingers and, between your legs, the call had been more pressing than before. For a moment you pictured yourself turning over suddenly and grasping him by the collar of his shirt. Soon he would press his lips upon yours and found a way for his tongue to dance around yours while you would unbuckled his belt and...

“So you’re not mad that I did not tell you before?” you managed to say.

Loki chuckled underneath his breath.

“I would be lying if I say my feeling were not hurt. Yet, it was anything but a surprise. He had been drooling with love for you ever since he met you, which is rather disgusting if you ask me.”

You giggled underneath your breath. Your eyelids felt heavier than ever.

“What can I say?” you said with a smile.

“You could have said no.”

Loki’s voice sounded faint and so far away that for a moment you thought he had not spoken. His hands relieved all the pain from your back but still were on your skin in a delightful caress.

“I wanted to tell you...” you said half-dozing.

The very night you accepted Balder’s proposal you escaped the sheets of your lover’s bed and found your way to Loki’s chambers. There, you stood for what it seemed an hour although it had been roughly a couple of minutes. Loki was not alone, and he was definitely not sleeping. You had risen your hand closed in a fist in order to knock a few times but could not bring yourself to do it. And when the panting and grunting had stopped, you had heard him getting out of bed to fetch some water. You had stood still, your hand in the air, before turning your heels and walking away, back to Balder’s bed.

“Why didn’t you then?” Loki said

“Wish that I know.”

You did not mind the cold anymore, wrapped in the silence you were comfortably numb.

“How does it feel?” he asked softly.

“Good.” you whispered with a smile.

Your head fell heavy on your arms and soon you sank in a blissful slumber.

When you woke up, Loki was no longer here and you were buried underneath your heavy purple cloak.

Somehow, the clothe still smelled like Vanaheim and for a second, the second right before you opened your eyes and faced reality, it felt as if you were still there. There was the rain forest and its tall and deep green trees, and the temple with its immaculate white and grey columns that had been here for millenniums. The wide river glistened throughout the land. It was a bright sunny day with a clear blue sky. The birds sang their songs in the colourful gardens, and a horse neighed behind the hillock you used to take a nap on. A warm brisk brushed the grass doted by thousands of buttercups. You knew that when you would open your eyes, all of this would be gone forever, so you dwelled on the thought of staying here with your eyes closed and your heart home.

But then, Egil softly coughed and despite all of your wishes you snapped your eyes open.

You were back. Back on Asgard, back in your Archives, naked as the day you were born but wrapped in the last remnants of your home.

Egil gave you the privacy he thought you needed to get dressed and waited for you a few steps away. You donned your white and light dress, feeling its caress all over your body, put on your shoes with a moment of hesitation as you finally slid your heel in. You took the golden belt in your hands and for no apparent reason it weighed more than it did when you took it off to undress. Your eyes scanned every link. There was nothing wrong for you to find. Once ready, you advised Egil and the boy warned you that the queen was there, in the Archives.

You straightened yourself and brushed the fabric of your dress making sure you looked presentable before you followed your assistant.

“My queen.” you called as you stepped into the light.

“Keeper.” Frigga answered “I am pleased to see you have found the parchments I asked for.”

“Not all of them.” you confessed. “One is severely damaged and it will require a great deal of time for me to fix it. And, not to complain your grace, but the Niflheim mist is well...mist. So I am not sure how I will translate it. But I am working on a few leads.”

“I’m sure you are more than capable. How soon can it be done?” she asked.

As you looked at her, you noticed a slight wrinkle between her eyebrows and the way she kept on playing with her hands. Despite her regal composure, a feeling of concern and worry emanated from the queen.

“It is hard to say your majesty. I am the only one who can do both of the tasks, but each of them requires my undying attention which I will give to them. Rest assured I would not know rest until I have complete the restoration of the Edda poems and translated the mist of Niflheim.”

“Right.” Frigga said with a stern smile. “I’ll leave you to it then. But please, come to me at once when one or the other is done.”

You nodded and bowed your head but a question burned your tongue and you could not live with yourself if you did not asked it.

“Is...is everything all right, I mean kingdom wise?”

Frigga smiled but it did not reach her bright blue eyes. Without thinking about it, the queen resumed playing with her hands as she assured you there was nothing for you to be concerned with.

“With all due respect your majesty, it gives you away.” you said nodding to her hands.

She stopped and lowered her head.

“Loki has the same habit whenever he gets uncomfortable so...”

“I supposed he does.” Frigga answered. “We do share some similar traits him and I.”

“Well, you are his mother after all.”

“Right.” she said twitching her finger nails. “Uh – I should be leaving you to your work now. I am sorry if I interrupted you Keeper.”

The queen made one step towards the exit when you called for her. She stopped and with grace turned to face you.

“I may be mistaken but I sense that there is something you want to tell me.”

Clever girl, her eyes seemed to say. But the queen did not utter those words. Instead she dismissed your claim with a shrug and a smile. What is it with this family, not to be able to speak when needed? you thought.

“You could try and deny it but I grew up with your son. I know all the tricks and deceits.”

“Is that so?”

You nodded, certain to be right.

“Do you claim to see beyond the veil of illusion?”

“Not exactly but...”

“Do you believe you can read minds?”

“No but...”

“Then why makes you so sure that I am keeping something from you? Don’t you think that if there was any matter that I needed to discuss with you, you wouldn’t be in the confidence by now? Why should I hide anything from you?”

Her response could have unsettled you as it was built to push you away from investigating. But the glare in her eyes barely concealed the glimmer of fear that you had noticed before.

“Did you know that your son calls himself the Prince of lies?” you asked. “And rightfully so he does. I taught him some of his tricks and he taught me much more. And if there is one thing that I know for certain, that Loki made sure I’ll never forget, is that when someone does their best to avoid answering a question, then that question needs to be answered. Something is wrong. I told Dagmar and Loki about my concerns. I told Balder about it too and did you know what they all said to me?”

Perhaps, the queen already knew the answer to your question but if so, she did not say it and remained silent.

“That there was nothing for me to be worry about. Isn’t it strange they all specified that I needed not to worry?”

“I don’t know what you want me to say.”

“How about the truth for once?” you snapped. “I may spend most of my hours here, but that does not mean I am to be cast away in the shadows. The piles you see over there are proof enough that I am right. The forges burning night and days are proof as well as my lover going on a mission he won’t talk about every two days, and Loki avoiding me for weeks... Your unwillingness to answer me is just the cherry on top.”

You let your words sink in and before the queen could answer, you opened your mouth once more.

“My job is to look at the past to understand the future and helps with the present.”

“Your job is to do what you are told.” answered Frigga. “I’m aware that it goes against your nature. In that you are so much alike you and my son. You both have a tendency to go against the current, to defy the authority, just for the sake of it. You do not comply, you do not follow. Though like him, you have to understand where your duties lie. You are the Keeper of Scrolls and you are in service of Asgard, that means under my command. If you have a problem with that, perhaps we should look elsewhere to find someone more suited for the position.”

Frigga raised her hand stopping you before you could answer her there was no one else but you. Keepers did not grow on trees and no one knew it better than the queen.

“I may be fond of you but that doesn’t mean I will be spoken to the way you just did. Let it be the first and last time you dared crossed the line, shall we?”

Frigga had spoken with pure authority and yet her voice never once, was cold or harsh. She had been as straightforward as she could have been and put you back into your place.

“Your blacksmith friend is right to tell you not to worry, as you have no concern with the activity in the forge. Your work is here, in the Archives. How would you feel if she perceived your increasing workload as a source of worry? Does she understand your job, does she know how it works? I’m guessing the answer is no. So why do you pretend you understand hers? As to you lover, he is sworn to the crown and to secrecy sometimes. Telling you nothing is him doing as he is told. My dear, you would to best if you could take a page from his book. As to my son...Do you recall when was the last time you saw him?” she said her eyes attached to your face. “Before today that is.”

A shiver crawled down your spine. You wondered how long you had been asleep, naked on the floor. You had already lost track of time before Loki came in and helped you get rid of you back pain. And when you woke up, you forgot to ask Egil what time it was as you hurried to get dressed.

You stared at the queen and her words echoed back in your mind. When was the last time you saw Loki before he suddenly stopped coming for a visit? What were the last words you had shared? When was it? you asked yourself. Your searched your mind and the answered slapped you so violently that your shook and almost fell.

The queen in all of her gentleness hold your elbows in her hands to steady you.

“As perceptive as you are my dear, you sometimes are very blind to the most obvious signs.”

Her words of wisdom sank in the way Unn’s words would have too. It was weird to think about your friend at this moment but as much as you tried to focus on the conversation and the queen of Asgard, you could not chase her away. Unn’s shape danced in front of your eyes and suddenly the air in the Archives became humid like it before a storm. The atmosphere was heavy and hot. So much so that it became almost impossible for you to breath. You coughed and gagged while tears ran from your burning eyes.

“What is it?” asked Frigga holding you. “What do you see?”

You shook your head. You saw nothing but smoke. There was nothing left. No scrolls, no books, no pillars, no alcoves. The Archives were gone and stood alone in the middle of nothing. The queen’s voice spoke out your name. Her voice was calm on the surface, but underneath it trembled with anguish as she fought to bring you back.

You blinked a couple of times and the vision of nothing and the smoke vanished. The air smelled of paper again but as you laid eyes on a torch nearby you shivered and barely concealed a scream.

“I...I don’t know what happened.” you said. "I must be more tired than I thought..."

The queen hold you at arm’s length, scanning your face and stroking your hair as mother would do to her child who just had a nightmare. But when you looked into her eyes, you feared the nightmare might have been true. In that moment, footsteps rushed in the stairway and Dagmar’s voice shouted out your name.

Seeing her in the Archives, panting and her face covered in dirt and ashes made your heart jump. Her eyes were wet with tears and her chin was trembling. She saw the queen but forgot to bow which was very unlike her.

“What is it?” asked Frigga stealing the words you were unable to say out loud.

Frigga turned to your friend but did not dare leave your side.

“There’s...there’s been a breach.” Dagmar said.

Her voice was coarse and her throat tight. It was clear that she was struggling not to cry while speaking, but she was unable to stop the tears falling on her face. They drew lines and curves on her cheeks and hanged on her chin before crashing on her boots. The queen repressed a sob and quickly turned back to you.

“You should sit.” she advised you.

Why should I sit? you thought. It doesn't make sense and I don't want to sit. Instead you walked to Dagmar who stood where she had stopped a minute before.

You walked to her, your gaze ever on her and with each step it seemed the woman in front you was a complete stranger. It bared resemblance with your friend. They were the same height and size. They had the same bulky shoulders and thick muscular forearms. They both wore the same outfit and shared the same scent. But the person facing you was just a shell, a limp doll that looked like Dagmar. Her eyes were wide and empty as if she had left for another realm where nothingness reigned unopposed. You rose your hand to touch her face. And as you cupped her cheek, Dagmar looked at you. The words that followed ran through your veins clouding your mind. The world would never be the same. Your heart soon blackened and the earth cracked and peeled under your feet. You blinked, unable to cry, unable to think. And before you realized you had sunk into the deepest well of despair.

“Unn’s dead.” Dagmar said.

Chapter Text

It had been only minutes since the news had been brought to Odin, and the Asgardian king immediately assembled his team of trusted advisers. They were all gathered, at the exception of the queen, in the council room.

Surrounded by his sons, Odin’s gaze was riveted to the maps of the nine realms. Not far from where Asgard stood, glorious and shining like a beacon of hope, a black spot blinked with an odd regularity, reminding that one of the realms fell under Odin’s protection. His grip tightened around his staff, and the longer he took to talk, the more itchy it made Loki.

“Do we know who they are?” asked the king.

The messenger lowered his head too ashamed to confess the truth. Odin scanned the room for answers but there was none for him to get. All eyes were on the map, starring at the depth of despair the fall of Vanaheim had brought.

“Does it matter?” Thor said, breaking the silence. “With all due respect Father, we are wasting time staying here and wondering who the enemy is. Send me and my warriors there alongside your army and I’ll make sure those bastards find the retribution they deserve.”

Loki had his eyes on the map and his nails scratching the palm of his hands. As to Thor, he advocated for launching a ferocious attack hoping to catch the enemy in time. His plan lacked details and even common sense, but it was the appropriate emotional response and so it was supported by the most of the advisors.

“We knew this was coming all along.” said Loki between his teeth. “At least you did.”

Wrath flashed in Loki’s eyes, shoving invisible daggers in his father’s throat. Odin opened his mouth but his son would not let him get away with his words.

“Mother warned you! But did our blessed All‑Father listen?”

“Loki! This was not our father’s fault.”

“Let’s agree to disagree on this matter brother.” Loki said with a smirk.

He took a step towards the king that was far for impressed by his son’s temper. If anything, he was used to it. Odin had seen and heard worse in the past and surely the future will hold some more for him to bear. Loki stopped a few inches from his father’s face, his green angry eyes planted in his father’s blue ones.

“You have a debt towards her.” he said so low that only Odin could hear. “And I’ll make sure you repay it.”

Despite not having the authorization, Loki turned his heels and left the room. Whatever was going to happened, Loki had decided he would not be part of it. Let the war be made by the warriors, he thought. He rushed down the hallway, moving easily through the small crowds of people he met along the way. Loki brushed them without a glance, too focused on finding you the quickest as possible. Truly, there was only one place he needed to look and in a minute he will have to tell you the most horrid truth there was. While, he almost ran to you, dozens of scenarios came to his mind, but none would shield you from the pain.

Outside the walls, soldiers had begun to gather on the lawn, while other went in and out of the weapon room. Loki peered through a window, and saw the Warrior Three, Sif and Balder moving through the ranks trying to get them in order. No doubt that Thor will soon join them and perhaps the king himself will leave his realm to mount his mighty horse and right the wrong that had fallen upon the most peaceful realm there was.

 

Loki discerned the wide open gates to the Archives and flew down the stairs. As he swallowed the steps, his heart beat faster and faster, cold sweat ran down the back of his neck. His hands were tingling and a bit clammy and soon his throat tightened.

“Stop it!” Loki heard. “Stop it right now!”

It was your voice that came from deepest part of the Archives. Yet, your wrath and your pain reached Loki’s ears as if you would stand right before him.

Loki emerged in the lights and first saw Dagmar holding you firmly as you screamed and struggled to be freed. You kicked the air, barefoot and almost bit your friend whose face got a little too close to yours.

“You lied! You’re all liars!” you screamed at the top of your lungs.

Loki’s first instinct was to rush to you and shove Dagmar aside, but as he noticed his mother’s presence, he thought otherwise. Despite her strength that surpasses many of men’s, Dagmar had a hard time holding you in place.

“Keep her still.” Frigga said to her.

It was easier said than done as you were a wild fury scratching your friend's skin any chance you got. You bent your back in all sorts of awkward positions like a fish that had been caught out of water, and sprung your legs to hit Dagmar. Every time Frigga tried to reach your head, you bared your teeth, yelling at her not to touch you. If he did not know you, Loki would have thought you were an unleashed demon struggling to get free in order to wreak havoc in their way. However, demons were the things of nightmares or legends that were to be feared, or admired. Those belonged to tales and songs. And right now, Loki wished he could fight a proper demon instead of being the witness of your intense suffering.

“Mother.” called Loki as he approached.

Relief smoothed Frigga’s gaunt features as she watch her son coming to the rescue. Loki got as close as he dared to and did his best not to look at you. Instead, he focused his attention to his mother who revealed her plan to calm you down.

“Do you remember how it works?” she asked.

Loki nodded. He remembered how the spell was supposed to work, yes, but there was a huge difference between theory and experience. Loki swallowed hard, and raised his hands at eye‑level.

“Dove?” he called you softly and took one step towards you. “There’s nothing to fear, I swear. We're here for you. I'm here for you. And you trust me don’t you?”

“No!” you yelled. “You’re all liars! Don’t touch me!”

As he slowly came forward, Frigga slid behind you right next to Dagmar who struggled to keep you still.

“I just want to help you.” said Loki.

He tried to sound as calm and reassuring as possible, but there was these knots in his throat and stomach that made his voice shatter and his hands tremble. He glimpsed at his mother who silently encourage him to keep going. She gave him the faintest of smile and Loki’s eyes went back to you.

You were fighting with all the energy you had and it seemed like the more in pain you were, the more feisty you became. Loki’s words bounced against you, unable to reach your mind and sooth your heart. Unlike his, your words sank in him, leaving a scorched mark that would probably never heal.

“Oh it burns.” you complained with fat tears in your eyes. “It burns! It burns! It burns! Why does it burn? Make it stop. Please make it stop.” you cried.

And for the first time since he arrived, you caught Loki’s gaze and hold on to it. Your struggle weakened and you began to tremble, repeating the same sentence over and over.

“Make it stop…please, make it stop.” you prayed.

In a coordinate move, Loki and Frigga’s hands surrounded your head. Your whole body softened under their touch. You shut your eyes in pain, and moved meekly to the side.

“Shhh.” hushed Loki closing his eyes, his forehead against yours. “Sleep now my love.”


 

The grass was the softest bed you had ever lied on and the sunbeams the most comforting sleek blanket you ever wrapped yourself in. The light created red and orange and yellow spots that twinkled against your closed eyelids. The breeze danced around your naked toes and the sound of the river nearby was the most pleasing and soothing sound you had ever heard.

A contented smile stretched your lips as you breathed in and out. There was no dominant fragrant in the air but it was the purest you had ever breathed. You mentally followed the trail of the air that came in and out of your body, keeping track of your breathing.

The world was at peace as was your mind. There was no parasite thought, no worries, and no question. Everything was so clear and made so much sense that there was no room left for doubt and fear.

An imperceptible movement caught your attention, but you were to comfortably numb to bother opening your eyes. A few seconds later, someone lied down on the grass next to you. You felt their ghostly presence, so close and yet so far.

“You are allowed to touch me you know.” you said with a smile.

“I didn’t want to wake you.”

“I was never asleep.” you said stretching your arms and legs.

You put your hand above your eyes as not to be blinded by the light and watched Loki settling. He was leaning on one elbow, his fingertips barely brushing the skin of your arm as if he was cautious not to bother you. The contact was slight, almost nonexistent, and yet it was delightful.

Loki’s eyes followed the invisible lines and curves he was drawing on you, enjoying the simplicity of this moment. He was painfully aware that this was just an illusion, a spell cast by his mother and himself to lure you into a temporary bliss. It had made him forget for a while the terrible fate that had fallen upon you and the cruel reality that will caught up with you once you woke up. Yes, it was an illusion, but it felt vividly real which led him to believe that this could become true somehow.

“Don’t go.” you said with a frown.

But Loki had no choice but to extract himself from the illusion.

When he came back, Loki was seated on your bed, his back against the wall and your head heavy on his lap. He stroked your hair and sighed. His legs were numb and he was thirsty. However, Loki found no strength in himself to get away from you.

“You’ve been gone too long.” said Frigga with concern.

She offered her son a much needed glass of water. Loki gulped the fresh drink and thanked his mother with a weary smile.

“She’s happy there.”

“I’m sure she is, but it will have to end sooner or later. She’ll need to face what happened, as we all do. Asgard need her more than ever. The nine realms need her.”

“The eight realms you mean.”

Loki lowered his eyes and gazed at you. A tear threatened to escape and roll down his cheek, but Loki fought against it and as he looked at his mother, he sighed.

“You did well today. I am amazed by how quickly you managed such a difficult spell. You should be proud of yourself.”

“Then why don’t I?” Loki asked quavering. “It doesn’t feel right...tempering with her mind...I...I am feeding her lies.”

Frigga sat on the edge of the bed, covering her son’s hand with hers.

“In lies there is a bit of truth. The spell only allows you to show her what she longs for. But I’m afraid that in this instance, it is not only about her wishes. Make no mistake, Loki, this spell is a powerful one. And if you are not careful it will devour you both.” Frigga said locking her eyes on her son. “I don’t think it would be wise for you to go back there.”

She looked as you blissfully slept, clutching at Loki’s clothes and breathing deeply. Frigga raised her hand, unsure if she should be touching you. Loki watched, silent but wary when someone softly knocked on the door. Gunborg entered the chambers her head low and bowed to the queen and the prince.

“My queen, there’s a messenger for you in the counsel room.”

Frigga nodded and dismissed the shy and pretty girl. She rose gracefully to her feet and filled the glass once more for her son to drink.

“The boy and her friend are waiting to see her.” she said.

But as Loki stood quiet, his eyes ever on you, she warned him that you will be needing them as much as you will need him.

“Let them come in.” she advised.

Don’t keep her all to yourself, she seemed to mean. Frigga he planted a soft kiss on her son’s forehead and left the room. It had grown dark and gloomy but Loki did not care. Outside of those doors it was mayhem and surely the remaining prince of Asgard was needed somewhere in his realm. However, no one and nothing could make him leave your side.

You moaned in your sleep, scratching his leg with your nail.

“Hush my love. I’m here.” he said stroking your hair.

As his fingers brushed your forehead, Loki contemplated the idea of casting the spell one more time. I’ll make sure it lasts until morning comes. Everything will be better in the sunlight, he thought. I’ll ask Egil to watch over us tonight and Dagmar can have you at soon as the sun rises.

It was far from a sound proof plan, because Loki overestimated his strength and endurance. The spell, like most advanced spells, was energy consuming and hard to control over a lengthy period of time. Until now, he had cast without his mother’s help, small bursts of illusions that lasted from a couple of minutes to an hour. But his will was far more to powerful than his reason and so Loki casted the spell once more.

He was back where he left you, nevertheless he was unable to find you. Loki looked all around him and saw only the green grass, the clear blue sky and the empty horizon. It’s impossible, he thought searching for you. Loki ran a few strides in a direction, calling for you and then turned his heels. He looked north, south and east but was unable to find you no matter how loudly he screamed out your name. Only when Loki went west and past a hillside, did he found you.

You were lying flat on your stomach on a bent tree that hanged low above the water. You lazily dangled one arm and one leg, brushing the water up and down in a slow motion.

“I thought you were gone.” Loki said out of breath.

“I was never there.”

Time had ceased to exist and there was nothing for you to do but enjoy the now, the moment that stretched to infinity.

“Come back here.” Loki said extending his hand in front of him. Behind your hair that hid most of your face, Loki noticed how content you were. The tree was large enough to welcome two people and curved in the way that invited one to rest on it for hours if the weather would allow it. And it did.

You were humming an eerie melody as you continued to play lazily with the water. But as Loki got closer, he heard that you were actually singing. Never once did you sing before. You only ever whistled or hummed some tune.

Loki took off his shoes and climbed the tree to meet with you. As he carefully walked, you drew circles in the water while singing in low voice.

“Same old song...”

Loki uneasily lied down next to you as he had done before in the grass. Though you were awake, he was still very cautious around you.

“...Just a drop of water in an endless sea...”

You stopped playing then turned to face Loki. And with your hand still wet, you sleeked his hair back.

“...All we do crumbles to the ground...”

Your hand slid to the back of his neck and lingered there while you absent-mindedly twisted his hair around your fingers.

“...Though we refuse to see.” you sang.

You peered at his lips then at his vivid green eyes. Loki’s fingers followed the features of your face with utter tenderness. He used to remind himself that this was just an illusion, something that he was supposed to be in control with.

“Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky.” you whispered gazing at him, your hand buried in his raven hair.

Loki shifted slightly closer, his hand now resting on your waist. He could not take his eyes off of you if his life depended on it. This is just an illusion, he should be telling himself. But instead, Loki caved in to his wish. He locked lips with yours while his grip around your waist tightened.

You closed your hand around his hair and responded to his kiss with an equal want. You moved to be against him and put your foot on his ankle. But doing so, you allowed him to slid his leg between yours. Loki’s hand left your waist to slid underneath your dress that had glided up to your knee. Your skin crawled underneath his fingers as he went up and up again.

Loki half expected to bump against your underwear but his fingers found nothing more than endless skin. There was no boundaries left nor any obstacle that would stand in his way. Loki opened his mouth to welcome your tongue and fought to keep his eyes closed. He wished for nothing more than to be able to look at you in the eye and to contemplate your body quivering with a growing and intense arousal as he touched you. Despite his love for gambling, he liked winning best and Loki knew that the odds were against him. This is all an illusion, he told himself. However, it did not feel like. Far from it.

Your scent enticed him as it had many times before and the warmth emanating from your body made him shiver. Your touch and your breath against his cold and ivory skin felt real enough, was real enough for him to go on and keep his eyes shut. His hand was on your bum and you giggled while his fingers danced on the smooth and round surface. To him, your skin could hold no comparison with the many he had touched before. You giggled and asked him to stop.

“Never.” Loki teased with a smirk against the curve of your lips.

He grazed your skin, reaching the top of your hip. You subtly turned so his hand would fall between your legs. A moan escaped Loki’s lips as he found your wet entrance welcoming his cool and slender fingers. At first, he had been almost too shy to touch you there, too afraid you would vanish. You brushed your forehead against his and licked your lips in anticipation of his touch.

“Go on.” you encouraged him.

And so he did. Despite his eagerness to have your pleasure all to himself, Loki displayed infinite control, carefully studying each of your reaction to his touch. He noticed how you twitched and hold your breath for a second when his fingers went slowly inside and out. He felt every goosebumps on your inner thigh as he caressed your sensitive skin. But what he enjoyed the most was how you arched your back and searched for his lips as he slightly scraped your sex with his nails.

Loki played around for a while, taking the time to know this version of you he had longed to know forever. He had dreamed of it many times, however in none of his dreams was the sensation so vivid and thrilling. Loki craved for you but had not wish to rush things. He intended to take all the time in the world, as time there meant nothing and you meant everything.

The sound of your growing pleasure sent chills right through him, making him weak in the knees. Your warm hand underneath his shirt began to slowly glide down and followed the lines of his arm to end up on his wrist. A wrist that you forcefully pressed against you as you whispered in his ear

“There, yes.”

Chest against chest, mouth against mouth, your hearts and breaths became one. The pace was obsessively slow, matching the lazy flow of the water beneath you. Loki deepened his kiss for it was the only way for him to keep his eyes shut. With every shaky breath you took, Loki’s pulse increased. With every shiver you had, his arousal became more and more obvious. You quivered and tensed under his touch, barely concealing Loki’s name behind your lips.

He was working every inch of you until you finally gave up and said it out loud, digging your nails in his scalp.

“Your turn.” you said with a smile.

Before he knew it, you were unbuckling his belt and sliding your hand in his pants. Your hair tickled his nose. Loki was aware of how close your face was to his, neverthemess he had to arched his back to win your lips. You playfully bit his earlobe and got a smile out of him. Now that his hands were both free they began to roam and explore your skin.

“Have you undressed?” Loki asked intrigued.

“Open you eyes and see for yourself.” you teased.

“Oh no love. This is way better than seeing.”

He had already seen your naked body. Even though it was a long time ago, he remembered it faithfully. What you offered him now, the undeniable freedom to touch you as it pleased him, was far more valuable. He had made it his mission to savour every little imperfection on your body and he had no intention to stop. The pleasure your wet hand was giving him intensified.

Loki kept his eyes shut and bit his tongue forbidding him to cave in.

“Stop fighting.” you whispered and planted a light kiss on his lips.

Loki chuckled under his breath, gritting his teeth.

“That's not how I roll dove.” he managed to say.

“We'll see about that.”

You withdrew your hand from his pants and shifted so he could no longer feel your presence next to him. The cold of your sudden departure crushed Loki and forced the idea of opening his eyes to look for you in his mind. A mere second before he did so, Loki felt your weight on top of him and your hands rifling through his pants.

Without a second thought, Loki wiggled to help you take his pants down to his knees. He repressed a moan as you sat on him. His hands fell on your burning thighs and gently worked their way up to your hips. You circled slowly around his cock and from time to time you would lean on him and kiss the curve of his neck or chase his tongue with yours.

You kept things painfully slow, yet when Loki thought about it, he realized he would not have it any other way. He lost himself in the tenderness of your kisses and in the warmth of your body. Nothing else mattered more than the now. He wrapped himself in your love and let his desire consume him.

“Look at me.” you said.

Loki shook his head knowing you might be gone if he did.

“Look at me.” you repeated gently pulling his chin up.

You breathed his name and the temptation became unbearable.

“Open your eyes.”

Your voice was so sweet and your fingers on his cheek so soft that he thought about complying to your loving demand.

“Loki...open your eyes.”

Loki frowned. You did not sound like yourself and he wondered what was going on.

“Wake up. Loki WAKE UP!”

Loki snapped his eyes open only to see his brother’s face looking at him with utter concern. His forehead was covered in blood, though Loki could clearly see it was not his. Loki shifted on the bed, straightening his back, therefore moving away from Thor.

“Wh...what time is it? What are you doing here?”

“Making sure you don’t do anything stupid.” Thor said.

“Usually that’s my job brother.”

“Well, consider this as me returning the favour.”

Thor grasped Loki’s arms and forced him to get out of the bed. You were still fast asleep, the sheets up to your chin. You looked so peaceful and beautiful as a faint smile hanged on your lips. Will you remember it? Loki asked in silence Will you remember any of it?

“Let go of me! You reek of...” Loki stopped himself and glanced at his brother.

His armour had been scratched and his hair were covered in a bloody mix of ashes. Thor’s piercing blue eyes glimpsed at you then went back to his brother’s bony face.

“When’s the last time you ate?” he asked.

“Earlier today, before everything went down. But how’s it that your...”

“I left for Vanaheim yesterday, Loki.”

Loki stared at his brother and slightly shook his head. Surely Thor was wrong, he could not have been gone for so long. Because if he had, that would mean that Loki went too far with the spell and he feared the consequences of his recklessness.

“Where’s mother?” Loki asked scanning the room as if she was hidden in the shadows. “I need to speak with mother.”

“You need to get out of here.” Thor answered with grand affection. “Loki, she is in good hands, you don’t have to do this. Just go to your chambers, take a bath and a proper meal. Father will return soon and he’ll need to speak with you. And with her.”

“She is not ready yet.”

“That’s not for you to decide.”

“Get out.” Loki grunted. “Get out.”

Thor stepped back but Loki saw in his eyes that he was not to give up.

“I missed you on the battlefield brother.”

“I’m sure you did well.” Loki replied coldly.

He watched as Thor left the room and kept the door open for Egil to slip in. The boy came to a stop, dumbfounded, then rushed to the prince who was finally awake. He ran so fast that Loki had no time to comprehend the situation and soon found himself locked in the boy’s arms. Egil was silently sobbing against his chest, holding on tightly.

“It’s...it’s alright.” Loki said unable to move otherwise he would have pat his head.

“He thought he’d lost you. Lost you both.” Dagmar entered the room and promptly shut the door behind her. “Gotta say, for a moment I thought so too. Glad you’re back though. How is she?” She sat on the bed next to you, and gently pushed your hair out of your face. “Shouldn’t she be awake by now?”

“I...I’m not sure uh...”

Being pulled out from the dream so suddenly and brutally had left Loki dizzy and perplexed. He had lost track of time and pushed his mind to its limits. He had neglected himself for too long which would certainly not go unpunished. He feared he had gone too far and that perhaps he had put you in more danger than comfort.

“Has...has anyone...Did anyone come while we were uh...”

“Only the four of us. The queen, Egil, Gunborg and I. She tried to wake you, your mother. But she said you were in too deep and that there was nothing to do but wait. What happened? What did you do to her?”

“Nothing. I...I was just uh...” But Loki could not find his words. “You can stay if you want. I need a shower.”

He hated that his brother was right but at this point, Loki was too exhausted to care. He promised Dagmar that he would be back quickly. In the meantime, he made her swear that no one was to disturb you, that the door should remained closed to anyone that was not him, nor the maid nor the boy.

“What about the queen?” Dagmar asked.

“Not even the queen.” Loki said having no doubt that his mother would try to wake you in his absence.

“What about Balder? If Thor’s back he must be too.”

Or perhaps he’s met a hero’s death, Loki hoped.

“You open only to me, to the girl or to him.” Loki said pointing at Egil. “No one else.”

Loki caught a glance between Dagmar and the boy but then again, he was too exhausted to care. Right now, he was focused on getting a shower and something to eat before he could haste back to you. If he had a say in the matter, he would made sure to never leave your side. However, few were the chances that here, in the reality of your lives, he would be able to do as he wished.


 

Loki scrubbed and washed himself in a state close to catatonia, images of what happened crashing in his mind and Thor’s words covering the rest of the world.

“A day...a whole day.” Loki said absent-mindedly.

He extracted himself from the bathtub and crossed his chambers with water dripping from his naked body. He raised his hand in the air and found himself dried and clothed. Loki sleeked back his hair and left the room through the secret back door you used to sneak through.

“Loki.” called his father in the hallway.

Loki turned and slightly bowed his head. Odin walked up to him, his head held high and his staff safely held in his hand. Silence hanged over the two men facing each other, eyeing one another with a circumspect look. Unlike Thor, Odin’s clothes and face and hair were spotless. So much so, that Loki doubted his father came back from the battlefield.

“How is our Keeper?” Odin asked finally.

“She’s resting.”

“I need her awake and ready.”

In the way he spoke, Odin made clear that it was an order he expected his son to follow. Yet, in the way he looked at his son, Odin appeared contrite. The blue of his eyes had greyed a little, clouded by shame and exhaustion and anger and sorrow. Loki noticed, how Odin did not hold his golden staff, but instead leaned on it. His back was slightly bent and in his breath there was rumble. Subtle but regular.

“How...” Loki began to ask.

“There’s nothing left.”

Odin had lowered his gaze for a second. So you are capable of remorse father, thought Loki. He could not help but feel a small satisfaction in seeing his father defeated, although he wished the circumstances were different.

“There was a fight to fight of course, but we were too late.”

Loki took a moment to absorb the news and asked his father if anyone had survived the attack. Odin's silence was all the answer he needed. How am I to tell her that her home is no more? It was an overwhelming thought to have as Loki knew none of his skills would get him out of it. It was glimpse of a dreadful fate that awaited him as he understood he was about to crush your spirit.

“Who are they?” asked Loki circling back to the first question Odin asked when he heard about the attack.

“We are not sure.” Odin reluctantly confessed. “But we have to be ready. I’ll need you to come up with an evacuation plan in case they decide of an attack on Asgard and also a list of all the abled men we can enroll as we will need all the power we could get here. We should not underestimate our enemy.”

“An enemy we know nothing about.” Loki replied.

“That’s precisely why we need our Keeper to get back on her feet.”

“She just lost her home, her best friend. Give her time to...”

“And I lost a realm! We don’t have time Loki. Your mother warned me this was going to happen and, you are right, I refused to hear her. I refused to see and now a whole realm has crumbled to the ground. They were under my protection!”

And I failed them, his eyes seemed to shout.

“Now, I may not have always approved of your relationship with her but you're the only one to...”

Loki scoffed, a sarcastic smirk on his face.

“With her? Good gods father, you can’t even say her name. Do you at least what her name is?”

“That is not the point Loki. She is the Keeper of Scrolls, and that all that matters. The knowledge she holds is our most precious resource right now. We need it to counter our enemy and to rebuilt what has been destroyed.”

Fury shone in Loki's green eyes but Odin did not let him enough time to answer. With his free hand, he reached to his son’s shoulder who twitched under his touch though he did not step back. Odin dived his eyes in Loki furious gaze.

“Without her, I fear we may as well be all lost.”

She is my dove, Loki thought, my devil dove. A free spirit that should not be bound to our fate.

“She is not an instrument of war. And I won’t let her become one.” Loki said.

“That is not for you to decide. There is so much we can do without her help. And if your mother is right, which I believe, then the answers lie somewhere in the Archives. You are letting your feelings for her cloud your judgement, Loki, and I can not allow that. Not if that means we meet our doom sooner that we are supposed to. Think my son. Think and do your part.”

“My king!” called the captain of the army behind him.

Odin nodded to him and returned to his son.

“I trust you’ll make the right decision.”

And with that, Odin left his son and walked alongside the captain who was giving him the latest news on the aftermath. He watched his father disappear, then promptly resumed his course that will undeniably lead back to you.

Loki entered your room stealth as a cat and found Dagmar asleep on the bed next to you. In an armchair near the fireplace, Egil was sound asleep as well, a book on his lap.

“She's awaken, but only for a second.” muttered Gunborg.

“Did she say anything?”

The pretty maid looked at her feet unable to lock eyes with the prince.

“Only ‘where is he?’ my lord. Do...do you need anything?”

“Make sure no one enters.”

Loki was aware it was an impossible task for her to complete as she was too shy and crumbled too easily under the slightest of intimidation.

He approached Egil first, and gently took the book away to put it on the desk before it could fall on the floor. The boy sighed in his sleep when Loki slid a soft small pillow between his head and his shoulder.

Night has fallen again, noticed Loki as he peered through the window. Only a couple of people were walking outside and seemed to be in no rush to go where they where supposed to go. The nocturnal birds took their turn to fill the air with their light songs while those who lived by day went to their nest. It was a cool night with a crisp breeze and few clouds in the sky. From where he stood, Loki gaze at the stars.

“Nothing last forever but the earth and sky” he said grimly.

Loki poured himself a drink of wine and swallowed it all in one gulp when you turned in your bed mumbling in your sleep. The faint whisper of your voice rang in his ear and urged him to go kneel at your side but your diligent maid almost ran to be of service. And who’s watching the door now? Loki asked himself. He watched the young girl with shaky hands pour water in a tall glass and rush to you. You weakly opened your eyes, mistaking Gunborg for your beloved departed friend.

“Unn?” you asked and Loki’s heart shattered.

“Leave her!” he ordered and the maid immediately vanished from his eyesight.

Dagmar slowly woke up with a quizzical look on her face. Despite her pain and the lack of sleep, your friend showered you with the most tender gesture, holding you close to her heart and stroking your hair so you would be eased up into the world. Loki smiled a weak smile when you finally set your eyes on his face. He meant it to be loving and reassuring but by the look on your face, he doubted that he did a good job.

“You look like shit little snake.”

Loki lifted an eyebrow then chuckled under his breath. Before he could ask you how you felt your eyes diverted to Egil and in a low voice revealed you had the strangest of dreams. Loki’s body stiffened and the world began to spin out of control. How much of what happened between the two of you would you recall? And how much will you resent him for it?

“There was fire everywhere.”

He let out a breath of relief he did not know he had held until then.

“I have to go.” you suddenly said. “My sisters need me. I have to go.”

You jerked up throwing yourself in Loki’s arms as he caught you before you fell on the floor. The sudden raucous had woken up Egil who squirt at your side. The vision of the worried boy seemed to calm you down enough for Loki to put you back in your bed.

While you were surrounded by Dagmar and Egil, Loki walked to the maid and asked her for some milk of the poppy. She soon returned with a cup Loki brought to your lips.

“Dove please.” he begged you.

As soon as the drink left your lips to go down your throat you began to blink sleepily and after less than a minute, slumber had taken you back.

Dagmar’s eyes shone with reproach as she asked Loki why he put her to sleep again. He gave her the excuse that you needed to rest a little bit longer, that he could feel you were not ready whereas in fact he was the one who could not find it in himself the strength to face the truth. The distress in your eyes when you asked for Unn made him back down and retreat in spite of the greater good. Fuck the realm, he had thought as he cared only for you. He realized as he talked to Dagmar that his action had been not only selfish but reckless as well.

“You can’t cloak her forever.” Dagmar said. “I need my friend Loki and i don't care you're a prince. Stop keeping her away from me. I need her.” Her voice broke.

“I need her too.” Loki admitted.

“Then release her.”

“She’ll suffer. I can’t bare the thought of hurting her.”

“Neither can I, but we need to mourn our friend. She’ll need to mourn her home. I may not know much but I know she’s also needed. She is important not only to you, nor me, nor her family but to the realm as well.”

“Fuck the realm.”

The words had overtaken his thoughts but it was too late to take it back. Dagmar sighed, her strong arms shaped by years in the forge surrounding you.

“You don’t know her like I do.” Loki said shaking his head. “You don’t love her like I do.”

“No one does. No one could ever...that would be silly to think otherwise. Even Balder, the gods bless him, doesn't love her the way you do. Look, she never told me the whole story, but it's plain to see. Whatever you two have it doesn't excuse what you're doing because it goes way beyond your feelings for her. It’s life. And right now it’s life at it’s worst but she’s gotta work her way through it. She won’t be alone, you know that she won’t be. You’ll be here, and I’ll be here. Egil and Gunborg will be here too. She’ll have her parents and Balder as well. We’re all here for her as she would be here for us if you’d let her. You have to let her wake up, no matter how hard it’s gonna to be. She’ll hate you for it. She’ll hate all of us for it, but way down inside of you, you know that nothing else ain’t gonna do.”

Dagmar stirred up and stretched her arms above her head. She unfolded before Loki’s eyes, tall and massive.

“Come on guys.” she said to Egil and Gunborg. 

The girl was the first to follow her but Egil was uncertain.

“It’s alright.” Loki said to him. “You can go if you want.”

Egil glimpsed at you then at Gunborg and Dagmar who waited for him to make up his mind. But the boy silently decided to stay alongside Loki.

“I’ll leave the door open.” Dagmar informed Loki.

Chapter Text

How you made it to your chambers was a mystery. You only remembered the void that had followed Dagmar’s words and then, there was only darkness.

The light had faded away and left nothing but a pitch black void that had swallowed you whole and spitted you out only hours later.

Your cheeks were parched as paper and your throat scorched. In your hand laid another one, much bigger and whose fingers were intertwined with yours. Against your back, you felt a warmth and a low vibration that kept your heart calm and your thoughts at bay. Dagmar was lying on your own bed, holding you and stroking your hair. You were curved in a round ball, safe in her strong arms while she absent-mindedly hummed a soothing tune in your ear. Perhaps, it soothed her as well but you did not had it in you to open your mouth and speak just yet.

You opened one eye and glimpsed at Loki’s figure leaning against the wall near the window across your bed, his arms crossed on his chest. Half hidden in the shadows he looked like a statue with a stern look on its ivory face. You slightly moved your head and noticed Egil seating in your armchair. He had fallen asleep, most likely while reading as you spotted a book near him. The simple fact of seeing a book, which was the most common object in your life, opened the gates that were safely locked and everything came rushing back to you. You moaned a tearless cry, eager to get out but your body refused to obey. There’s been a breach, had said Dagmar. Unn’s dead. You shut your eyes so tight that you began to see red and black spot against your eyelids. Unn’s dead. Shut up, you mentally screamed. Shut up!

“You should drink my lady.” whispered a voice that was not Dagmar’s.

You opened your sore eyes and watched a pretty and shy and young maiden leaning over you with a glass of water.

“Unn?” you asked in confusion.

The name scratched your throat with sharp claws and as you swallowed your saliva tasted like blood. You blinked, then realized it was only Gunborg.

The girl smiled weakly, squinting her red and puffy eyes. Despite your weak protest the girl insisted on pressing the edge of the glass against your dry lips. You grumbled, unable to form proper words.

“Leave her!” ordered Loki.

In a few strides he joined you and shoved the girl out of the way. He knelt and gently stroke your cheek with his thumb. Loki’s eyes scanned your face, piercing right through you.

“You look like shit.” you said with a smile.

You hid behind humour, unable to handle overwhelming concern with which Loki showered you with.

Loki appeared to beyond exhaustion though was clean shaved and smelled like the wild mint that grew near your parents’ house. He had donned a dark suit that matched his raven hair and that highlighted the paleness of his ivory skin. Loki did his best to conceal the stormy seas of moving emotions that rocked him, but you saw clearly behind those piercing, and often mischievous, green eyes.

“I had the strangest of dreams.” you said to him.

Though you wanted to confide in him what the dream was, the harder you chased the remaining fragments, the further they slipped away. In your mouth, laid heavy the taste of ashes and all that came to your mind was the flames of hell fire. There had been something else. Deep down inside of you, you sensed there had been a moment of calm and peace. It had been quiet for a minute, you thought. Then, you had been suffocated by the smoke, plunged into the fire of despair trying to find a way out not knowing what would wait for you on the other side.

“There was fire everywhere.”

Barely did you get the chance to utter those words that tears rushed to your eyes, eager to depart and fall on your shirt and on the hands Loki still hold with a dear tenderness. Why do I cry? you asked yourself. Why do I feel so empty while it hurt so much? If Loki had let go of your hands, you would have reached for your heart, just to make sure there was a pulse and that you were indeed alive. But instead, you stared into Loki’s eyes and noticed the way he looked at you.

In the past, Loki had looked at you in many different ways. There had been envy and defiance, mischievousness and complicity, anger and frustration but also lust and love. However, the gaze he hold was an impossible one to solve.

Dagmar moved behind you and suddenly the warmth of her body and the weight of her arms crushed you. Your eyes landed on your precious Egil asleep in the cosy armchair with a pillow placed between his head and his shoulder. And of course there was Gunborg. The shy and pretty maid that you were very fond of in spite of how frustrated she often got you, with her doe eyes and her promptness to bow her head and bend the knee. Someone is missing, you thought. Ever since you awakened, your mind had been blurry and confused. The veil between dreams and reality was thicker than it should be and it took you, what you believed was a long time, to get through it. That was why, when you crossed over the line and finally landed in your world, all of what eluded you before came rushing back.

Adrenaline pulsed through your veins and gave you enough strength to not only move, but to spring out of bed.

“I have to go. My sisters need me. I have to go.”

The sudden urge took everyone by surprise and Loki had to pin you down to the bed so you could no longer try to escape. Egil suddenly appeared by your side. He was weary and the look on his face shoved a blade in your heart. It’s alright, you wanted to tell him. There’s no need to worry. Your eyes went back to Loki’s who was holding a cup near your lips. You instantly recognized the smell of it and turned your head to the side. No, I won’t go sleep. I won’t go back there. If I do she’ll be there too and she’ll call for me and...

“Dove, please.” Loki begged, interrupting your thoughts.

Loki sensed your reluctance and put his cool forehead against yours. His free hand cupped your cheeks so easily that he left you no other choice but to dwell in it for a moment. His long fingers glided behind your ear and lingered in your hair. Loki closed his eyes when you did, his minty breath caressing your lips.

“Please.”

His purr was thicker than usual and a bit shaky. His nose brushed yours, concealing the distress you saw earlier in his eyes. Dagmar took her arms off of you, leaving you cold and utterly alone. You put your head back up and Loki helped you drink, lifting the cup with care. His hand was still on the back of your head and stayed there until you had drunk to the last drop. You tried to flash a reassuring smile at the boy next to you but slumber was already claiming you back.


 

There she was, waiting for you at the footsteps of the temple completely naked. Her body was covered in cinders. She hold something in her hands, a small object that resembled a copper bowl. She grinned and told you to come forward though her lips never moved.

The air was thick, and the temple behind her began to crumble and fall apart. You opened your mouth to scream but no sound would come out. You started to run but your feet would not move. You gazed down and saw that you were chained to the floor. In front of you, the temple was now in flames, and ashes filled the air as there was fire everywhere.

Unn was still looking at you with a grin that reached her ears but never her eyes. Her eyes, filled with tears, widen while an ominous growl coming from nowhere and yet was everywhere, told you that you should had been there. You screamed silently and desperately for your friend.

You grabbed the chains that locked you down and pulled with all the strength you could muster. The metal which the chains had been forged with was burning the flesh of your palms and yet you continued pulling again and again. The more you pulled, the more you felt the fire slid under your skin and make way inside your veins.

The Vanaheim you knew no longer existed.

The endless green lands you used to cross everyday were now burnt to the ground. The tall trees were lit like candles and the few buildings there were, had turned grey and black as the flames licked what was, once upon a time, the whitest of stones. While you did your best to get free from your chains, you always took a second to look above your shoulders to check if Unn was still there.

At one point, the girl turned her back to you and revealed a strange map of bloody flogged flesh. Thin threads of skin hanged here and there by the thinest of thread and you cried. You cried a tearless cry and you screamed out her name though no one, not even you, could hear it.

You strained against the chains once more and one link finally broke. The suddenness of your freedom made you stumble and fall on the rocks. You gasped, allowing the smoke to invade your lungs, burning your mouth and your throat in the process. But there was no time to lose so you gathered your strength and got back on your feet.

The temple was not far away, yet with each step you took forward, it seemed to get a little more out of your reach. You pushed yourself to the limits, dismissing the burning sensation in your hands and the throbbing pain in you lower back, while keeping your eyes ever fixed on Unn.

You managed to reach the temple and extended your hand to your friend, when all of sudden you tripped and fell on your knees.

It was just a scratch - you had known worse injuries in the past - nevertheless, the pain was the most unbearable you had to endure. Blood was tainting the white of your dress and when you looked up, Unn was no more.

You searched for her. There was no place for her to hide but inside the thick and heavy grey smoke. Although, you looked, scanning the place with your reddened eyes, and the floor with your scorched hands, eventually came the moment where you had to face the fact that Unn had vanished and that there was nothing left but the ruins of your home.

Boiling tears in your eyes, lungs empty that left you gasping and suffocating. You crumbled to the floor, scratching your chest with your bloody nails. You bumped into something. Something light and round. The copper bowl you saw Unn held in her hands.

There was nothing out of the ordinary with that bowl, however you were compelled to seize it as if your life depended on it.

Inside the small bowl, danced ripples of a clear water that triggered an immense thirst. Your parched tongue licked your equally parched lips. The water seemed harmless and to be nothing but just water. The flams of thirst licked you from the inside, so you eagerly brought the copper bowl to your mouth and drank avidly.

You emptied the bowl in a few seconds and check to see if there was any drop of water left. There was none.

You gazed at the inside, unable to think for yourself or to draw your eyes elsewhere. The black bottom of the bowl reminded you of the well outside your parents’ house where you almost fell in once or twice. You were staring at the pitch black bottom of the bowl when a scratching noise went up and up. At first, you were under the impression that you misheard. Perhaps, you mistook the scratching for the crumbling of a column near by. Nevertheless, an imperious force rounded you, and you found yourself steadily lifting the object up to your ear. As you brought the copper bowl closer, there was no mistake left for you to have. From the bottom of the bowl came a scratching noise. You covered your ear with it and silence fell heavy and deafening.

You waited, focusing on the lack of sound, when all of a sudden a loud shriek pierced your ear.


 

You woke up sweaty, the light fabric of your nightgown damped and glued to your body.

You sat in your empty bed and took a look around only to realize you were utterly alone.

The floor was cold against the sole of your feet.

A platter filled with grapes, bread and cheese rested on your bedside table alongside a pitcher of sugary wine and an empty glass. By the look of it, crumbs all around the plate, traces of lips and fingertips on the glass, this was not meant to you but more for the person who had been watching over you. However you took a piece of bread and plunge your teeth in it.

The simple taste of the food made your mouth water and left hungry for more. After devouring the grapes, you turned to the slices of cheese and shuffled them down in your throat. You did not even take the time to chew and nearly choked on the deliciousness. You reached for the glass of wine to help get the food down your throat, when the doors of your chambers opened.

“My sweet!” Balder said.

His immense legs brought him to you before you could could finish eating.

“How are you feeling?” he asked.

Balder looked like he had been through hellfire. His sword was missing at his side, which was odd considering he was still in armour, and his hands where covered in blood and dirt.

“Where were you?” you asked with a stern look on your face.

Balder avoided your eyes for a second before he managed to gather enough courage to look at you. He was holding your hands in his as he always did. Yet, he did not kiss your knuckles nor coated you with the sweet words and smiles as he used to.

Instead, your future husband appeared to be distraught. The corners of his lips curved into a mockery of a smile while his breath was short though heavy and loud.

You asked him again where he had been. Of course you knew the answer to your own question but an important part of you needed him to say the words out loud.

“I had to go, my sweet. I had no choice but to go. Would you please, please forgive me?”

“Forgive you?”

“I should have been here, with you.”

Balder put his forehead against your head, bowing his head low.

“Yes, you should have.” claimed a voice from behind.

Loki, soon followed by Dagmar entered the room.

“But there’s no need for you to cry about it. She was in good hands.” he smirked.

Loki walked decisively to you, shoving Balder aside with a simple brush on his shoulder.

“How are you feeling?” Loki asked in a low voice.

His fingers reached the palm of your hands slowly and gently lifting them. When his eyes returned to your face, an unexpected hot flush made you blush.

“Barely awake.”

Loki leant a little and went to cup your cheek but you quickly withdrew yourself from his touch and turned away from him. To Dagmar.

You recalled clearly the last time you saw her, when she came down to the Archives and gave you the terrible news. You wanted to apologize to her for the way you treated her back then because you were not the only to have lost Unn.

Shame and guilt crept their way in while you closed the distance between you and your friend.

“They are all dead.” she whimpered.

“I know.”

You wrapped your arms around her thick waist and welcome the heavy weight of her head on your shoulders as she let out all the grief she had been concealing while you were asleep.

Her whole body shook while she cried but you locked your knees so you would not fall and hold her tight against your heart. Loki appeared at your side. He snaked his arms around you, the coolness of his skin made you shiver through the light and damp fabric of your nightgown. He placed his hands on your elbows to help you move while you kept Dagmar in your arms.


 

The roles had been inverted as you were now the one who was awake and Dagmar the one who slept. She had cried for hours, unable to stop the continuous flow of tears, and you had hold her every minute of it. At some point, her body caved in, and she crashed on your bed, sobbing in her sleep.

You watched her, monitoring her every breath from where you were.

Next to you, Balder would not let go of your hand as if he was compensating for the time he had not been there for you. Despite your constant efforts to sooth his worries, assuring him that you understood where his duties lied - therefore that you were not mad at him in any way- he simply refused to leave your side, following you like the shadow of your shadow.

Across from you, the queen was settled in your most comfortable chair, her fingers intertwined on her lap. She had sensed your desperate need of hope when you asked her about the possibility of any survivors. And with the greatest of care, she gave you the answer you dreaded but knew all along. You turned your head to Balder who averted your gaze, his head low in shame.

Your heart was heavier than it had ever been. Your chest was tighter than usual and you wanted to cry because it felt like the appropriate answer to such an occasion, however you could not muster any tear nor any sob.

“I trust my son told you...”

“What he thought I needed to know, yes.” you interrupted the queen.

Loki told you Vanaheim was gone. Gone forever. And with the realm, the Vanir and their vast and ancient knowledge too. The temple had been burned down to ashes and anyone who might have drawn a breath had been slain by the enemy. Their was no one left. No one but you.

You shook your head, anxious to focus on the present time.

“But why Vanaheim? It doesn’t make any sense!” you said to the queen. “The Vanir never harmed anyone. They are – were – a peaceful people with no foul intentions. Who would do such a thing?”

Balder gently squeezed your hand. He wanted you to calm down, but how could you when there were people out there that thrived on chaos? When all they did was wiping out world after world until there was nothing left?

“If they went to Vanaheim...” you paused, searching your thoughts. “War is at our door then.” you whispered in defeat.

“Not yet. But soon I fear.” the queen said in a breath.

“Your majesty, your own son has led us through battle there, and we have won.” Balder reminded the queen.

“You have, haven’t you?”

The irony in her answer was something unusual for the queen. You might have expected such a response from Loki but not from his mother. A light of defiance shimmered in her bright blue eyes and there it was; the coldness brought by distress.

“You might parade with their blood on your swords and their heads on a spike, but this is far from what I call a victory. If you believe you have vanquished our enemy, then, you are more of a fool than I thought.”

Her voice left you all silent, desperately sinking into the dark corners of your minds. Gone. Gone. They are all gone. Unn is Gone. Gone. Gone. A murder of crows invaded your head, screaming and scratching everywhere. You shut your eyes to make them stop, but Unn’s image, burned and naked at the feet of the temple haunted you. Gone. Gone. The whisper of your name called you out from behind the screen of smoke. And as you opened your eyes, the shape of the queen’s face appeared in front of you.

She had laid a hand on yours.

“Would you be so kind as to fetch the young maid?” Frigga asked Balder.

“Of course your majesty.”

He began to stand up to leave then sat back to kiss you softly on your head. With him gone, you had more room to move a little on the cushion bench. Dagmar whimpered.

The sheets had been pulled back and she was shivering in her sleep. You excused yourself to the queen and rushed to tuck her in your bed. After you made sure she was warm and as comfortable as possible, you reluctantly left her side, and went back to your seat.

Frigga stared at you with a peculiar light in her eyes. A light you had already seen before in Loki’s green gems a couple of times before. It always gave the impression that he was trying to get inside your head. That he could get inside your head, as if staring through your eyes would have opened the window to your soul.

Yet again you noticed something was troubling the queen, although she did not answer when you inquired about what was on her mind. Instead, she lifted her hand to you. Her fingers hanged in the air, almost touching your temple.

“May I?” she asked.

You stood perplexed with an open mouth and a frown on your face. The queen waited for your answer so you blinked and nodded.

Her touch was almost imperceptible though you could sense it. She closed her eyes and soon started to shiver. Her breath was fast and short, her hand trembled and her lips mouthed silent words.

There was nothing you could do but wait, and so you did, anxious and curious at the same time. But when Frigga took off her hand, a tear rolled down her cheek. She was still short of breath when she opened her eyes.

“Is everything alright your majesty?”

It felt weird to ask such a question. Of course, everything is but alright, you reprimanded yourself. The loss is too grand for ever be alright. However, it seemed to be like the appropriate question to ask. 

The queen rose from the chair and barely concealed the nervousness with which she straightened her dress. She looked sideways before she managed to face you.

“I realize you need rest, my dear, and time to grieve. More than we do.” she said with an apologetic look in her eyes. “But the last scroll, the damaged one...”

“I’ll get right on it” you interrupted. “And what about the mist? The last time I saw you, you said that it holds the key to...”

Frigga rose a hand to stop you.

“Take care of your friend, and let your husband take care of you. If only for tonight. Then will come the time to honour our dead and mourn them. You are strong my dear, and I know you will see past the pain and the loss to do what is excepted of you. The mist is important, but the scroll is vital.”

You nodded.

“My queen, may I ask what you saw?”

She gave you a thin smile, yet another tear rolled off her eyelids and crashed on the blue fabric of her dress.

“What has been and what is no more.” she said.

You blinked and fat salty tears flooded your face. I thought I’ve gone dry, you thought with bitterness. I wish I’d gone dry.

“You carry them with you now. Be wise and loving...”

“...so you shall never be forgetting. As heart and mind make one.” you sobbed.

The queen took your hands in hers and softly spoke to you. Her sweet breath reminded you of your own mother and you realized how much you missed her, how much you needed her.

“There’s a feast tonight.” she informed you. “You should go and clear your mind, for tomorrow will be hard, especially on you.”

You managed a smile but it hurt too much for you to keep it. You were not ready to put on a happy face yet.

The queen’s advice echoed in your mind and you considered the possibility to join the others in the great hall. I have lost my mentors, my home and of a part of my heart. Unn is no more. The Vanir are gone.

You slipped under the covers of your bed and pressed yourself against Dagmar.

Today, tonight, you just wanted to be drowned in your own tears. You wanted nothing more but to get drunk on grief and felt every scrap of your soul be taken away from you. You wished for the cold and hard chains of pain to flay your ankles and you cursed to any deity who would listen. You did not dare closed your eyes, and instead you starred at Dagmar’s shoulder moving imperceptibly up and down as she slept.

“My sweet.”

You wanted to be left alone but when Balder brushed your sweaty skin, you turned your head. He pecked the round of your shoulder, sliding his fingers between yours.

“I heard there’s a feast tonight.” you said.

Balder rose his head in surprise.

“And you want to come?” he asked enthusiastically.

No, you did not want to come, but you thought that you needed to. You shook your head and kissed the tip of his nose. Balder smiled against your lips.

“Then it would be my honour.”


 

You walked down the corridors flanked by Dagmar, Egil and Gunborg. The boy was holding your hand and sometimes you caught him glimpsing at you.

“I’m not going anywhere.” you promised him.

As you came closer to the great hall, you slowed down your pace.

“Are you sure you want to go there?” Dagmar asked with a frown.

You looked at the open doors and caught sight of many heads and more. People were drinking and eating, some them laughed while others sang. By the look of it, no one could have thought the nine realms had shrunk to eight so recently.

“There’s your brother.” you said to her.

“Shit. That little punk is already drunk.” Dagmar grumbled.

She left your side and went straight for a brother who was about to get into a nasty fight. You watched her massive hand grasped his shoulder and yanked him as if he weighted nothing. It made you smile, a little.

“Remember that tonight, you are off duty.” you said to Gunborg. “If anyone bothers you, you come and fetch me alright?”

The girl moved her head rapidly.

“As to you.” you said to Egil. “No wine. You can not handle it not matter how much you try to.”

You entered the great hall with Egil on your right and Gunborg on your left.

The torches gave the room an orange and dim glow that made the shadows dance on people’s face and their eyes more sombre than they really were. Those who noticed your, otherwise, very discreet entrance, paused midst sentence or holding a cup or some food halfway to their mouth.

Soon, silence spread like winter and many eyes fell upon you. You grabbed hold of Gunborg and Egil’s hands and kept them close to you. The looks on people’s face, many of whom you never met was more than you could bare and for a moment you cursed yourself for having followed the queen’s advice. What does she know about grief? you asked yourself.

Then, a charitable soul made the musicians continued their cherry tune. The violin and the pipes went well with the ale that flowed like the stream of the river and made the people dance and feast like there was no tomorrow.

You searched the place to see if you could find Balder as he had went down an hour before you while you waited for Dagmar to be ready. But your betrothed was nowhere to be seen.

You spotted Thor’s table, as the prince had rose from his chair and with his eyes sent a silent invitation for you to join him and his friends. Egil gently yanked at your hand, and showed you another table he thought you might prefer.

It was at the far end of the hall where the lights so dim, that darkness seemed to swallow half the table. You faced a choice, something you did not have to do for a while it seemed. But when Sif caught up to you with a pint of ale in her hand, fate had chosen for you.

“Lady Sif.” you said amiably.

The warrior smiled and nodded. You noticed her glancing at you from head to toes. Perhaps she did not think you would show up to what looked like more of an all-night party than a wake. Or perhaps was she partially impressed that you chose to do so.

“Would you like one?” Sif said offering you her drink.

“And hundred more.”

“Come join us. If you’d like.” she added after a pause.

You pondered at Sif’s offer. Never were you and her that close though you practically grew up next to one another. But the company you kept had made your paths hard to cross.

The noise in the room was beginning to be too much for your head. The air tasted heavy on your tongue and moist against your skin. The many smells of the food collided with the sweat of those who grieved in their own way. A loud way.

“Balder will be back soon. He went chasing after a pie I think.” Sif softly chuckled.

You chuckled under your breath. You let go of Egil’s hand to grab the pint and swallowed it all in one long and impressive gulp. The warrior and the children stared at you, bug-eyed as you did not even burp after drinking the whole pint. Gunborg’s grip tightened around your wrist as she grew uneasy under the scrutinizing eyes that followed her as she walked by.

The three of you elbowed your way through the moving crowd, following Sif to her table. Egil’s hand felt chilly against your clammy one and as he reached for your fingers, you convinced yourself that you needed a night like this.


 

Though did not particularly enjoy yourself, you tried.

However, despite your best intentions you often retreated to the darker corners of your mind.

Around you, the laughters and the songs faded away and only the whispers of your fallen sisters remained, haunting you. You faked your smiles and pretended to laugh at one’s banter. And all you could do to suppress the urge to cry was to bring your pint to your lips.

You witness Gunborg blush while Fandral passionately serenaded her and gazed with empty eyes at your gullible Egil listening to Hogun and Volstagg’s stories and believing every word of them. You leaned on Balder’s many kisses and gave the perfect illusion that you were there with the crowd. Loki would see through it, you told yourself.

You looked around and realised you had not seen him for a while now. Even though you did not expect him to be at the feast, it pained you not to see him anywhere near you. You caught eyes with Thor who barely blinked as he slowly drank from his cup. The blue of his eyes were the right balance between his mother’s kindness and his father’s sharpness. It gave the prince of Asgard a peculiar look that could go in an instant from bold and wild to deeply wistful and sad. You gazed into those eyes a little while, wondering what might his thoughts be, then with a perfectly calibrated smile and a light nod, you excused yourself and gracefully stepped away from a boiling conversation about the advantages of a double hedged sword in combat.

“No, please. Stay here and enjoy yourself.” you said to your diligent assistant who instantly rose to follow you.

“Are you going to bed?” asked Balder.

His eyes twinkled as only eyes twinkled when one is too drunk. You planted a loving kiss on the top of his head and instructed him to stay put. And of course, he did as he was told. You extracted yourself from one loud corner of the room and entered another.

Silence had become an elusive stranger that night as was Loki. You searched for him, wandering around the room, nodding to the sympathetic condolences people offered you, though you barely listened a word they said. You were about to leave when Dagmar met with you near the open doors.

“Going to bed?”

“It’s getting late and I’ve had my fair share of drinks for tonight.”

“Did you at least eat something?” Dagmar asked frowning.

“There’s wheat in beer. And wheat is food.” you smirked.

She gave you a reproachful look that quickly faded away as she grabbed your arm and led you out of the hall.


 

Balder did not come to your chambers that night as you preferred to sleep with Dagmar.

But when you woke up in the middle of the night, your friend was no longer by your side, nor anywhere near your room.

The palace was quiet and dark for there were only a couple of torches here and there that lit the way. Nevertheless, you needed no light to show you the way, as you had an exact map of the place forever carved in your mind.

You crept down the stairs and moved like a ghost within the walls. You barely noticed how cold the floor was against the sole of your bare feet. You passed along the dining hall which was empty of people but full of dirty dishes and scraps of food laying everywhere on the tables and the floor. You turned and took another flight of stairs.

You knocked on the doors once and waited. One, two, three, I should be done with thee. You sung the silly melody in your head. There was no sound coming from the inside and you had set your mind on knocking only once. Four, five, six, but I' relish all your kisses. The stillness from within brought a single tear to your eye. Seven, eight, nine, would you forever be mine? 

You decided that the room was empty so you turned to go back the way you came, when one panel opened in a whoosh.

Loki stood on the threshold, half‑naked and with messy raven hair all over his sleepy face. He had one eye open, though barely, while the other stubbornly remained shut.

“Sorry to wake you.” you murmured.

But Loki grabbed you by the shoulder and pulled you against him. His nose in your hair, he wrapped you in his arms before he kissed your temple. You entered his room, and in hand with the prince who remained silent, walked to his bed. He lied down next to you and pulled the sheets up. You were curved in ball, your knees almost under your chin, your back a few inches from Loki’s chest. It moved slowly and regularly while his cool breath caressed your neck.

He was sleepily tracing lines on the back of your hand. And when you intertwined your fingers with his, locking your hands together, Loki moved over and pressed his chest against your back. His hold was both tight and soft which made you feel safer you would ever dream of being. You listened to his slow and regular breathing but it was the beating of his heart, pounding against you that lulled you to sleep.

Chapter Text

“For gods sake, Loki. What if someone else has entered the room instead of me?”

“And here we are. Compelled to lay eyes on each other.” Loki said to his brother. “It’s too early for this. Come back in a couple of hour. Oh and if you’d be so kind as to order us some breakfast.”

“She shouldn't be here.” Thor said in a hush, yet very irritated voice.

As soon as Loki had moved to seat on the bed, gently pushing away the strands of your hair that kept falling on your face, you had been awake. Silent and still, pretending to be asleep. A mere minute later, Thor had barged in Loki’s room, forcing you to keep up with the charade.

Although you heart beat way too fast for your own good and adrenaline rushed through your veins, you remained still and silent, wishing for the loud brother to go away, wishing for this conversation to be over.

“There's no harm done. She came willingly brother.” Loki bragged.

“You have to stop this madness at once. Send her back to her chambers, where she is supposed to be.” Thor paused for a moment.

And seconds seemed to stretch to minutes. You fought the urge to turn over to see his face, to look at Loki’s burning eyes as he was most certainly smirking at his brother.

“What if Balder hears of it? What do you think will happened then?”

“How should I know?” Loki shrugged. “My main concern is not Balder.”

The tension in the room was palpable, almost unbearable. The last thing you wanted was for Loki to get in trouble. He is perfectly able to do that on his own, you thought. He doesn’t need me to add more load.

“I would have supported you, you know?” Thor sighed. “Against Father, against anyone who wouldn't approve, I would have fought for you. But now is too late for you to claim her...”

“Why, I thank you for your early visit brother, but as you reminded me, we all have a lot to do today and I shall get ready. So if you do not mind.” Loki cut in a sharp voice that left no room for more conversation.

You heard Thor’s heavy footsteps getting further and further away until the door opened and closed again. Then, it was only you and Loki, coated in morning sunlight. You turned, half‑hidden under the covers.

“I should get going.” you muttered in a coarse voice.

Loki slid down and rested his head on a pillow, facing you. He pushed a strand of your hair behind your ear and let his hand slide down on the round of your shoulder before it gently fell on your arm. His skin was cool as a morning breeze, and his touch light as a feather.

“Or you could stay here.” he offered. “We could both stay here until the sun sets and let this dreadful day go by.”

You smiled at the idea and toyed with it for a while, gazing into those deep and mesmerizing green eyes.

Goosebumps followed his touch while his fingers traced imaginary lines and curves on your elbow before sailing down on your forearm. You watched him pursed his lip, witnessing the birth of a smile on his face as he looked at the goosebumps he made on your sensitive skin. Look at me, you desperately wanted to tell me. His eyes suddenly fell on your face and his smile, this thin line that ended up with a slight enchanted curve faded only to be replaced by something else, something deeper.

Loki moved closer and his hand that was on your arm a few seconds ago, was now brushing your face until it landed in your messy hair. He lazily played with it, contemplating the locks around his lean ivory fingers.

“What do you say dove?”

His voice was deep and smoky, inviting you to join him in this momentary bliss. His lips when he called you 'dove' got your attention filling you with rapture. You dwelled in his unfamiliar display of tenderness, aware of his presence, of his silence that was worth a thousand words. You shut your eyes to think, not to think, and Balder’s image scorched your mind soon followed by Dagmar’s and then Unn’s on the steps of the burning temple.

“You should have been here.” the dead girl cried.

“You should be here.” Dagmar added.

“You should not be there.” Balder said.

You jerked back and away from Loki’s touch. You did not give him enough the time to ask you what was wrong and jumped out of his bed and flew across the room to the secret door.

You ran down the closeted stairs and found your way back to your own room, shivering and panting.

“Where have you been? I was so worried that you...” Balder said.

You ran to him and pressed your lips upon his. In a swift jump, you crossed your legs around his waist and kissed him harder. Your tongue found its way inside his mouth. Balder carried you to the bed and began to unlace your nightgown. His hands were steady, perfectly aware of what needed to be done and how it should be done. He answered your passion with eagerness when suddenly Balder came to a stop.

“We're not married yet.”

“This has never stopped you before.” you replied.

You dug your hands in his hair, almost scratching his scalp as you pulled him against your lips to shut him up.

His thick half-giant body was heavy on yours but his warmth was all you wanted. You kissed him with all the fire you had, and bit his neck until he drew blood. Balder’s eyes bugged out.

“My sweet.” he said with a frown.

“Take me. Fuck me!”

"My sweet." he said again.

His breath was short and his eyes wide. You slapped him.

“I’m not sweet.” you said to him.

You scratched the skin of his chest as you ripped off the buttons of his shirt. Balder wiggled out of his pants and landed on top of you. His hands were callous from the many fights he had in his life but you did not care. You had no desire for sweetness and soft caresses. You grabbed him forcefully.

He struggled at first, but as soon as he felt you all around him, he relaxed.

“Fuck me!” you breathed.

You bit his ear and slapped his bare ass looking to awake something that was never there.

Though you squealed once or twice, Balder was not a brutal lover. He never was and never will be, no matter how much you asked for it. Despite his unnatural strength and equally unnatural massive body, he was the most gentle man you had ever met and that reflected in the way he had sex. Even driven with passion, his love remained kind and tender. He lacked the burning madness you longed for today.

You pushed him to the side to be on top and took the pace in charge. You moved like a ferocious beast, slapping his hands that tried to surround your hips.

“Fuck me!” you said. “Fuck me!”

You let your head fall back and stare at the celling. It was bare.

The off‑white coat of paint was smooth and free of imperfections, but it was bare. There was nothing to look at, nothing to look for. You speeded things up, almost taking off and felt Balder’s body tensed under you as you knew he was about to cum. Your nails dug deep in the skin of his chest and finally he thrusted his pelvis giving you a commendable fuck. Well, he tried, you thought.

There was no post‑coitus spooning, nor sweet pillow talk as you immediately flew from the bed to wash yourself in the bathroom, leaving Balder bleeding and panting on your sheets.

A long deep purple dress had been placed behind the door. The shade was so dark that it looked almost black. It showed the round of your shoulders while the end of the long sleeves was of a golden silk. The skirt was suppose to fall on the floor and hide your feet, so you decided not to put any shoes on. You had spent most of your life bare feet anyway. First in Asgard, pavement or rocks, or grass, it made no matter to you. Then, in Vanaheim, you continued to run free marble floors wooded lands were all the same.

“I knew a man once.” the high priestess had said to you. “A very tiny man with wild curls on his head and hairs on his toes. For such a small creature he had a large and insatiable appetite and wherever he went, he went barefoot. You remind me of him.”

“What, because I don’t wear shoes?”

“That, and because like him, you have a calling that will lead you to the most unexpected adventure.”

You recalled how she looked at the horizon, unbothered by the blinding light that reflected itself on the moving water.

“Was he happy?” you asked.

“I don’t know.”

“Will I? Be happy?”

She had seemed to be looking directly at the sun, unafraid of its fiery violence, able to see beyond its shimmer and light.

“The future is not ours to see, wild one.”

You locked the golden belt around your waist. Every link weighted more than before, reminding you of all the souls you carried with you now and forever. You looked in the mirror, barely recognizing the woman in front you when you spotted something half out of your coat pocket.

It was a plain square box covered with dark velvet. Inside laid a round locket with the rune of Kenaz carved on it. The metal was of a dark shade of brass, simple, and yet mesmerizing. You took the jewel in your hand to weight it and realized it was considerably heavier you would have thought. Surely, there’s something inside, you thought searching for a way to open the locket.

“That’s beautiful.”

You jumped, startle by Gunborg’s voice coming from behind you.

The shy maid knew how to move around unnoticed. A most vital prerequisite the girl had come to master.

“Help me put it on.” you commanded.

You shook your head and muttered a “please”. The locket found the perfect spot just above your breasts. You absent-mindedly touched it while the girl plated your hair. It took her a while but you never once moved nor spoke. Only when she backed off to admire her work did you realize it was time for you to go.

Egil was waiting for you outside your chambers. He offered you his arm, which you accepted with a smile as sad as his.

He had done a dark suit that fitted him perfectly and combed his hair back in a style that ressembled Loki’s.

The boy looked solemn and wise beyond his years as he led you to a handful of guards. Some of their faces seemed vaguely familiar but not enough as to put a name on them. They saluted you before assuming their position around you and Egil. You were always a few steps ahead, as if you were the leader of your own pack. Egil flashed a smile at your bare feet. In response to this fragment of joy, you gently squeezed his arm, relieved he was there with you.

The golden armours escorted you out of the palace and through a path you rarely took as a child, to the bank of the river. Many people were already there but what caught your eyes was the hundred of small wooden boats that floated peacefully on the calm turquoise river, unbothered by her guests. You stopped, struck by the view.

Alongside the bank were lined up small fires at the feet of stoic golden archers. Egil tugged at your sleeve wondering if you were alright. You nodded at him, making yourself breath in and out slowly, then, once your heart had settle a bit, you took the first step forward.

People turned their heads to watch you pass. You stared at each and every one of the faces. Most of them came to pay their respect and to honour the dead. Others because it was only their duty. However, a fraction of people that was assemble on that day were there only to satisfy their unhealthy curiosity. To have a dose of gossiping that will light their dull and empty lives. Those were the scavengers who fed on grief and loss. The crowd moved around you to make way. You raised your head and saw a swarming beast with hundreds of heads upon the bridge that crossed the river. You, small and afar, felt the burning of their gaze on your back as you walked to the king.

Odin stood behind an impenetrable wall of guards with his queen and their two sons. They were surrounded by highborns and foreign delegates, some you had met, most you never cared about. You spotted the Warrior Three, Sif and Balder amongst the small crowd that stood near the royal family. You scanned the audience while avoiding their eyes, those sympathetic gazes that showered you with pity were unbearable. You scanned the audience and came to a stop.

“Where is she? Where is Dagmar?” you asked Egil.

The boy shrugged as he did not know. You took a look around, but her face was nowhere to been seen. She was most likely to be drowned in the sea of people for she would never not come. She should be here, with me. We were Unn’s only family. She should be here. But it was not about Unn, it was not about you nor about Dagmar. It was bigger than the three of you and the bond you shared. You brought a hand to the locket hanging around your neck, absent-mindedly seeking for comfort and ease it gave you every time you brushed it.

Egil slid his hand in yours and gave you a small reassuring squeeze.

Odin watched your procession then left the queen’s side to come and meet with you. He bowed his head as he took your hands in his, but his cold blue eyes never took off your face.

“On behalf of Asgard, I offer you my deepest condolences. Words can not reflect what we all feel today. We may have lost a realm but you’ve lost a home and there is no greater loss than this. But I hope that you still view Asgard as your home and as your family.” Odin put his forehead on your knuckles as it was tradition. “I wish that you find solace in our heartfelt prayers.”

It was a talk between only the two of you, nevertheless you could not help but wonder if this was the work of Frigga or if he was genuinely sincere. Never had he shown you any trace of sympathy. Quite the contrary. You lowered your head in acceptance but instead of letting your hand fall from his, you grabbed his wrist and ensured he heard what you had to say.

“I’ll know peace when they’ve all been slain.”

You did not address to him as you would a high member of royalty. You spoke with no politeness, no contrition nor expected facade. The words that came out of your mouth were your own, fulled with wrath and a hunger for justice. Considering his rank, and moreover, the relationship you had with him, Odin had every right to be offended and to put you in your place, though he did no such thing. Instead, he peered into your eyes with a glimmer in his blue gaze and a wry smile stretching behind his white beard.

“Rest assured, we are working on it.”

You shook his hand on his promise and followed him. Thor’s companions all gave you a slight nod as you passed along but Balder, at the far left end of the line, surreptitiously caught your fingers. It was brief but in this touch you felt all the pain it caused him not be able to be with you today, not wholly. You were well aware of his duties and the toll they might have on you, on him and on your relationship. Yet, this was the path he had chosen. He had picked the sword long before he met you, and had devoted his life to it.

You found your place amongst the foreign delegates, unwilling to let go of the boy. You turned to Egil and noticed he was looking sideways, to the princes, to Loki. Your friend had his eyes on his father’s back so you could see him only from side‑on.

Odin’s speech was as it should be: heartfelt yet not emotional. He did not dwell on the loss though he shared a bit of his own grief with the people. It seemed that he talked about the things to come instead of the things that were, but only a few words he said managed to get through you. I am Vanaheim now. You took a moment to let the idea sink in. From a small farmer’s daughter to Keeper of the Scrolls to the last heir of the Vanir, what a journey it had been. And I am not a thousand years‑old yet. I wonder what’s next. The thought came and went, unable to stick in your mind.

You searched for Egil’s hand and only when you found it, your heart did settled. At some point in Odin's eulogy you heard your name but your attention was rapt by the line of small boats swinging on the water. Which one is Unn’s? Does she even have one? There were more people than that, you thought counting the boats. We were more than that. Vanaheim was more than that. Life there did not taste the same as it did in Asgard. The home of the All‑father never compared with the Vanir’s land. From the earth to the endless sky everything in Vanaheim was richer than it could ever be in Asgard. Nothing tainted the air that filled your lungs with rich promises of peaceful tomorrows and enchanted your nights. The tree leaves were greener, and the water glimmered like millions of topaz. The songs of the birds were more chipper and the wolves howled louder. Your feet never bled and you were at rest.

Wrapped in a blanket of numbness with your gaze lost on the rocking boat, you let time run its course barely taking any notice to what was going on during the ceremony. The words and the music and the movement of men and women all around the place was nothing but white noise and blurry ants. Some distant distraction made for others that should not concern you. Although it did.

Egil propeled on your sleeve bringing you back to reality. With a quick and confused look you realized everyone had their eyes locked on you. Why are they looking at me? I’m no one but a rascal from behind the east gate. I steal as I breathe, I should not be seen. Your eyes surfed the waves of faces until you came across Loki’s. He rose an eyebrow like he used to when he caught you no listening to him reading fantastic tales under the ancient tree.

“What?” you asked in silence, being a young and careless girl again.

“Why are you here if not to be here?” he would say.

You would sigh and shrug and settle and wait for him to resume his reading. Loki would pondered for a moment, giving you a depreciative look, then a smirk and finally he would pick right where he left off.

You searched for the locket between your breasts. It was chill and warm at the same time, tapping against your chest as you stepped to the river bank. Its thumping came to match the beating of your heart. So much so that it seemed that the locket was the reason your hear kept on beating.

You approached Odin who gave you his hand and stepped back so you could take his place. You gave him a perplexed look but all he did was to smile at you before going back to his family and leaving you to the crowd. Behind you, the river you held so dear was still and silent. If the waters could speak, you thought but never finished the thought.

On the sacred water, the small wooden boats, crates and coffin that held nothing but sorrow, swung soon to be ablaze. And, in time, all will fall into oblivion. You caught many gazes as you faced the crowd but only for a fraction of a second. What was the point to look at them, to truly look at them? What they reflected you had already seen it ten times over. Pity and sorrow and boredom and impatience, sometimes even anger or thoughtlessness. Yes, you had seen them all. Therefore you turned your back on everyone and faced the masquerade of boats.

You opened your mouth not knowing if you would speak or if you should speak. But then you heard your own voice resonate. The words came to you with an eerie ease like a long forgotten song you suddenly remember as if you heard it a second ago. Those words spoke to you more than they would anyone else. It was a song indeed. An ode that had begun with a hum at the back of your mind and then grew into a chant carried by the whispers of your own. Their voices came through you as the wind came through your window at night, holding a piece of the unknown as it travelled wherever it pleased it. At last, you heard them. You heard all of them and the words you said were yours as much as theirs.

“When the night has come, and the land is dark, and the moon is the only light we'll see. No I won't be afraid. Just as long as you stand, stand by me. If the sky that we look upon should tumble and fall. Or the mountains should crumble to the sea, I won't cry. No I won't shed a tear, just as long as you stand, stand by me. Whenever you're in trouble won't you stand by me?”

You clutched to the locket and closed your eyes. “Oh now, now stand by me.” you said with a steady and clear voice.

The swoosh of the fiery arrows covered your own breathing. Some small boats caught fire quicker than other, but soon they all enlightened the river. Little spots of red and orange with yellow strands danced against the smooth turquoise surface.

 

You stayed to watch, for now you saw. You stayed, even when the ceremony was officially over and most of the crowd had dispersed. As you did, few people remained. Those who did, had the same emptiness in their eyes.

Blades of wind cut your cheeks and your ears and your neck. Your skin reddened and stiffened under the cold and invisible slaps. The sky turned slowly grey and clouds heavier by the minute came down and down until they reached the horizon. They mourn, you thought. Those we worship mourn the loss of their children, and of their servants. They have received their souls so now they mourn. But soon, we shall taste their wrath.

You heard the ruffles of cloaks and long dresses around you and asked Egil to find Dagmar for you as she should be watching this with you. We should get together and drink in Unn’s memory. For a moment, you even felt your oldest self coming to the surface as the urge to go to the market and steal a few things itched your brain. You wanted to do this not for the thrill of it, nor for the good old days but truly, just to see if her spirit will come haunting you. At least she’d be with me. You shivered under the hood of your cloak, fingers lingering on your locket, playing with its chain. You sensed a presence on your right side and for a second, you thought she might be back from the dead. You had conjured her spirit so she could found her way towards the world of the living and now she was here next to you, afraid to speak, unable to breath. You turned your head eager to see her.

Loki’s eyes were locked on the river. The wind blew through his dark hair messing with his usual sleek hairdo, though he did not seem to feel the coldness of it. He was dressed all in black, the darkest shade of black there was and wore large golden bracelets on his wrists. He kept his hand closed behind his back and said nothing. Neither did you. You both stood there for a while, watching the flames lick the air, listening to the wooden boats burn and sink.

The cold bit your naked toes and turned them into insensitive bits of flesh. Your legs got numb for the time you had spent standing still. It’s only been a minute, you reflected. Though the clouds hid it, you noticed the sun got lower and was almost gone. The last small ship had sunk for a while now and neither Egil nor Dagmar had shown up.

You turned your heels to leave and noticed that Loki was still there. He had not moved a muscle since he took his place next to you, just a few steps away. A handful of guards was waiting to escort you back to the palace whenever you were ready and among them stood, taller than any other man, Balder. He looked uneasy but maybe he was just the cold that bothered him. You managed to send him a weak smile to let him know you were coming and took the first step towards him when Loki’s voice stopped you.

“Are you alright?” he asked still facing the river.

You looked above your shoulder and Loki shifted his head just enough to have you in his eyesight but not so he could face you. However he kept his eyes to the water waiting for your answer.

“No. But I will be.”

His lips pursed and he slightly nodded before turning his attention back to the water.


 

“Come to bed.” pleaded Balder.

You did not even bother to shake your head, your eyes fixed on the piece of parchment you had been struggling with all day.

“You need rest.”

“No. I need quiet!” you barked.

Your hands trembled and your stomach grumbled. An untouched plate of fresh fruits and bread were on a stool beside you. You had not drink neither water nor wine in fear of spilling some on your precious work. But now both thirst and hunger got you more and more unfocused. Balder closed behind you and his touch made you bounce.

“Don’t!” you warned him.

He obeyed – he always did – and left you alone in a semi‑obscurity. You could hardly see anything but at this point it made no difference Egil came to light the torches and took the plate back to the kitchen. He tidied up the place, silent as a mouse but you felt his gaze on you as he moved around. However, the boy did not share his concern with you and kept rather busy despite the late hour. It was his way to keep an eye on you as well as being in a safe distance.

You had not seen the light of day nor your chambers for days and as a result of your secluded life, your behaviour began to change for the worst. The only one to be spared by your mood swings, or rather by your constant irritation enhanced by some burst of anger, was the only one you allowed to stay. In rare moment of lucidity you watched the boy helping you in any he knew how and got crushed by you guilt. He remained cooped up in the Archives almost as much as you did. Though he would never complained, you did not have in your heart to let him become a ghost as well. So every now and then you send him on fool’s errands in addition of the work he had to actually did, just so he could get away from this place and get a semblance of life.

You stretched yourself in hope to gain a few more minutes of energy, but it was a battle your were doomed to lose. You raised from your armchair fighting a cramp in your legs. Your ass seemed dead from the countless hours of seating on it.

You dragged yourself to the bunk you had installed on the far end of the Archives like an old bent lady and lied there, in the dark, with your mouth dry and your lungs filled with dust. You closed your eyes and sunk into a dreamless and sound sleep, one hand on the locket you never took off since the funerals.

What time is it? you asked yourself dozing against the rough pillow you made with your cloak. Does time still has a meaning? You emerged from your sleep slowly, almost wanting to go back and rest some more. If it was not for the fate of Asgard being in your hands you would have indulged yourself, however you got up and walked back to your desk.

The sun lazily stretched its arms and legs through the stained glass windows. The light was pale but shimmered with golden specs. It’s just rising. I must have slept for a couple of hours top.

You moved back to your desk, the cushion on the chair still held the mark of your bottom, and leaned over the ancient poem Frigga entrusted you with.

“You begin to look quite descent.” you said to the damaged scroll. “But I need you to doll yourself up so I can unlock your secrets.”

And so you resumed the painstaking detailed work where you had left off.

The restoration seemed to be endless and if it was not for the pressing matters of enemies destroying worlds with a single blast, you would have enjoyed yourself.

“I’d have the time of my life with you.” you whispered as you illuminated the last two letters of a word that took you a whole day to bring back. You starred at the long poem and sighed.

“Almost there.” you tried to convinced yourself.

Gunborg entered the Archives mimicking Egil’s footsteps.

“Leave it there.” you said to her, knowing she brought food and water.

Egil disappeared under an alcove aware of his duties while your pretty maid took a step closer to you.

“I’ve brought a towel and soap too.”

“I don’t need to wash for now.” you said harshly.

Her voice, though very pleasant cut your ears. You grew accustomed to the relative silent of your Archives and the voices of others were nothing but a screech. Gunborg lowered her head and apologized almost calling you ‘my lady.’

“The queen asks for you.”

You put your hands delicately on your desk and stared at the poem.

“It’s not ready yet.”

“I–I told her so.”

“And did you tell her that I shall not leave this place until my work is done?” you almost yelled.

The girl repressed a sob. You closed your eyes, feeling your blood thumping in your ears. Your hands burnt with the urge to slap the girl, to scream at her and shake her so much that her head would fall.

“You know she doesn’t deserve it.” said Unn’s voice. “She’s just the messenger.”

You kept your eyes shut, your chin almost touching your chest and took a deep deep breathe.

“Tell her I’ll be there within the hour. And Gunborg?”

Hearing her name, the girl lifted her head and managed to look at you while she avoided your eyes.

“Don’t come here again, unless I call for you.”

Gunborg bent her knee then darted out of the Archives. The scent of her misery lingered as Unn’s filled the air.

“I know what you’re going to say. And you’re right. But I can’t keep having distractions. I need to move forward and fast!”

“They are not distraction, they are your family.”

“You were my family too.” you said in a low voice.

You dared look above your shoulder and of course Unn was not there. Unn would no longer be except for you. Does Dagmar hears you too? Despite your usual insatiable curiosity, this would be a question never to be asked with an answer you did not need. Perhaps I brought a piece of you with me and now you are forced to haunt me until the day I die.

“Let’s take a rain check, shall we?” you said to the scroll.

You placed it under a glass case and took the towel and the soap Gunborg had brought and went to the further corner of the Archives where a bucket of fresh water waited for you to wash yourself a little.


 

The queen was in her study, seated near an open window. You smelled the outside for the first time in forever. When she laid her eyes upon you, Frigga could not help but gasp in horror.

“My dear.” she said coming to you.

She did not greet you as she should but you were the last person to care.

“I am working on it, your majesty.” you gulped.

She waved her hand in the air and took you to the balcony. You bathed in the morning sunlight, closing your eyes not to be blinded. The warm caress was a delight upon your dry skin. You breathed in, reconnecting with the world for as long as you could. Frigga poured water in a tall glass and handed it to you. The cold of the glass surprised you, a violent contrast to the warmth of the sun that trapped you in a middle‑world where you did not belong.

“When was the last time you rested?” Frigga asked seating next to you.

“I have slept.”

“For how long?” she inquired.

Two hours tops. But you could not say it out loud, so you remained as vague as possible. You turned your head and glimpsed at your own reflection in the window. Your eyes were red with blood and dark rings around your eyes gave you a dreadful look. The shape of your face had changed from the food and sleep depravation you had imposed on yourself.

“You should...”

“I can’t.” you cut her off. “It’s too important. You said so yourself.” Your voice broke.

That too, had changed. Hints of rage always lurking behind each words forced out of your mouth. I don’t have time to chat, you always told yourself when someone came to speak with you even about the most trivial things like food or sleep.

“It is important that you take care of yourself as well. Even Keepers need to eat and sleep and go for a walk once in while. You have a family, and friends that worry about you.”

“Well, I haven’t heard no complaints.” you replied dreary.

“Because you do not listen.”

The silence between the two of you left room only for the poem. The ancient words danced in front of your eyes half‑formed and fading away. Some, bright like gold whispered their meaning in a language you did not speak.

“Maybe it was a bad idea.” Frigga’s voice snatched you from your thoughts. “Taking you to Vanaheim so close after the battle.” she shook her head. “No good must have come from it.”

“I needed closure.”

“And is this what you got?”

No. It had brought only despair and filled your head with nightmares. It had emptied your heart from the last remnants of love and hope you had when you left. It had stranded you from everyone you had ever loved. Your body ached, a migraine crept its way up to your eyes and the glass was heavier by the minute. You put it back on the small table in front of you and managed to get on your feet without a grimace of pain.

“If you would excuse me, I must return to my work.”

You would had bowed your head, but your neck was too stiff for that. The queen stood up and without asking your permission put her soft hands on your arms. She smelled of lavender and poppies. She smelled somehow like your mother. The mother that begged to come home, to take a break from everything. The mother you had shut away with a cold shoulder, never to be thought of again. Yes, Frigga smelled like her and you wondered if it was on purpose.

“I am sorry, but you leave me no other choice.” she muttered before a cloud of darkness cloaked you.


 

You woke up in your bed, cleaned and feeling, well, rested. Dust danced above you and judging by the position of the sun in the sky it was only an hour after midday.

“You are awake!” exclaimed Gunborg carrying a pile of clothes.

“Yes! How...How did I get here and...”

“The Queen took care of it. Well, she told me to bathe you of course, but she is the one who put you to sleep yesterday.”

Yesterday? A whole day had been wasted by sleep. You extracted yourself from the comfort of your bed and almost tripped and fall. Your legs clearly did not awake at the same time as the rest of your body.

“Do you want me to fetch your betrothed?”

“No. This is not necessary. I’ll...I’ll go back downstairs. I have too much to do.”

“Oh. But uh– your lady friend has asked me to tell her when you are awake. Do you mind if I quickly go to her before you leave?” she said putting your clothes in your wardrobe.

You thought of Dagmar and of the last time you saw her. She was in the forge, covered in soot and hammering an axe. The vision of the fires brought you down to your knees and she begged you not to go while you begged her to come with you. Still, you insisted and the more you did the deeper she buried herself in her work. The irony is not lost on me, you reflected. the things you said, the both of you. It had came from a place of hurt and anguish and surely none of you meant half of it, though neither of you spoke again.

“There is no need to disturb Dagmar. I’ll let her know I’m fine.”

You were on the edge of the bed, blood pounding in your temple, throat sore and famished.

“No, not lady Dagmar. She said her name is Olga, Keeper.”

You shook your head, unsure to have heard the name correctly. You told the girl that you knew no Lady Olga and was about to dismiss her when a voice rang across the room.

“How my heart breaks when I hear such words coming from your mouth.”

The woman who entered your room was a stunning beauty. She had legs for days and long waves of raven hair that fell on her chest. She did not walk but floated with grace and reached for your hands. You shivered under her chill touch and as soon as you laid your eyes on her, you saw clear as day. Those emerald gems that burned with mischief were beyond compare and there was no room left for mistakes. She smirked and winked as if you need another proof that it was him.

“Leave us.” you commanded your maid.

She curtsied to the other lady in the room and left. You walked around the woman named Olga, considering her green and black outfit.

“It’s a bit obvious, isn’t it?” you said rubbing your neck.

“It does the trick.” she answered with a fruity voice.

You studied her every move and the way her dress revealed a leg here and her breast there. It was subtle but ever so provoking. Even with his illusions, Loki could not help but be as charming and attractive as possible. Rarely did he chose to be a bent old‑man or a toothless crone.

“Why?”

Olga moaned in annoyance and lazily sat on a comfortable armchair. She poured herself a drink and then another one for you. With a glance she commanded you to join her. You sat and brought the glass to your lips. Her eyes diverted to your locket.

“This is pretty.” she smiled.

Your hand automatically reached for the jewel. Olga chuckled and drank a long gulp of wine showing her lean neck.

“Why?” you asked more firmly.

“Because I can.” she laughed.

When all of a sudden voice became serious and mischief faded away from her eyes. She put the glass down and turn to face you. You had not touched anything that had been put on the round table, already giving in to your recent bad habits though you did not think of work ever since Olga came into your room. Her answer, or lack thereof, was textbook Loki’s style. Eluding the question with humour or more question. You had to admit that he ‑ she ‑ got you intrigued.

“You should eat.” Olga advised.

“And you should answer me. Why?”

She considered your question for a moment, playing with her drink with her perfect nail. Golden thin rings covered her lean fingers, tapping a light melody on the glass.

Then a smirk you knew all too well stretched her full dark red lips as she answered: “Guess.”

Chapter Text

“Guess.”

“I’m not in the mood to play your games.” you answered.

“Humour me.”

You fell against the back of your chair, pinching the bridge of your nose. You just awoken and were still a little confused. Few were able to be on top of things right after being out of bed, and you needed at least five to ten minutes to get things started.

You stared into Olga’s eyes – his eyes really – giving your best to make sense of his new trick. Why does Loki do what he does? you asked yourself. Because he can. Because it amuses him. Because he is bored out of his mind.

“Did the cat eat your tongue?”

“I need a minute.” you replied with irritation.

“You shouldn’t need more than a couple of second. I am not that hard to figure out am I?”

You gave her a sharp look and were about to give up, not in the mood to indulge him, or her, any longer when suddenly it became clear. Of course, you thought. Why does Loki do what he does? Because he refuses anyone to tell him what to do and the more you try to stop him or prove him wrong the more he will do the opposite of what you want him to do.

“I’ve become the forbidden fruit again, haven’t I?” you said.

A twinkle in her eyes let you know you were right. You chuckled under your breath. A part of you can’t help to feel flattered by the extent of his will to be with you in any way – or shape – necessary but another, perhaps your consciousness, reproached Loki his stubbornness. I call it freedom, you told yourself. An imperious need to be free to choose and to be without repercussion. An impossible dream of some sort. Take something away from him and he’ll want it more. You were familiar with the concept of contradiction as you too were ruled by it, this will of iron that could not be bend by anything nor anyone. The harder they try and the harder you resist.

You gave Olga a smirk.

“Some people have been pretty adamant as to our respective places in this world and how things should be.” she said in a low voice “I thought, for once, I would oblige them.”

“Loki’s style.” you added with a laugh that echoed throughout your room.

“Loki’s style.” she agreed. “Or should I say, Olga’s. As we speak, Loki is being the good little prince they all want him to be. If I’m not mistaken, he is right in the middle of a session with the counsel while Olga is here. And she can spends as much time with you as she wants to without raising any eyebrows. That way everyone gets what they want and nobody gets hurt, or reprimanded like a ten years‑old.” she scowled.

“You do realize we have been down this road before, right? And it ended with your father banishing me.”

“And my mother saving your pretty little ass, yes. But I am much wiser and more skilled now, devil dove.”

You picked up at the nickname he had given you centuries ago, which at first you hated but it grew on you and now you did not mind as much as you did before.

“Then you should stop calling me that. Everyone knows about it.” you whispered playfully.

You drank a gulp of water, soothing the scratch in your throat then reached for a red apple. You bit in the fruit, licking the side of your mouth and chasing a drop of the sugary juice. You caught Olga glimpsing at you.

“So, you are supposed to be a friend of mine?” you asked with your mouth full. “Like Loren was?”

Olga was brushing her collarbone with her fingers in a lazy fashion, tracing thin and invisible lines to the curve of her long and elegant neck. She looked like Loki’s female twin sister with the same shade of raven hair, the same ivory skin and those unbelievably vivid green eyes. She even bore the same smirk as him. Do people are really that gullible? you asked yourself. Surely someone has seen through the charade. If not his brother then his mother. Frigga had seem to always be able to see through her son’s lies and you doubted this one would be any different.

“Olga is nothing like Loren, you’ll see. As to our story goes, we met aeons ago when we were children.”

“How convenient.” you smiled.

She winked and told you how most of the lie Loki had crafted was deeply rooted in the truth you shared together. You met as kid, while Olga’s family was traveling through Asgard and instantly connected. For centuries it could only be an epistolary friendship for she never used to stay too long in one place.

“A life on the road.” you said in a breath as you recalled the time you envisioned such a way of life for yourself. For you and Loki if he had not been who he was. “And you really expect people to buy it?”

“They already bought it and are selling it for a higher price.” she gloated.

You bursted into laughter and a single tear shone at the corner of your eye. Your lungs hurt and your body ached for you had not laugh for a century it seemed. You listened to Olga’s tales about you and her and somehow it felt as if she had always been real. Loren felt real enough too, you told yourself. You spared a thought for the young and whole‑around charming boy that may or may not have been your first crush. You recalled his bright hazel eyes and the way he was always physically close to you, casually leaving his arm around your shoulders. That happened in another life when you were both too young and too wild to realise what was at stake. We are none the wiser now, you reflected.

“You’re aware that this...” you waved your hand between Olga and you “...is doom to fail, right? We’ve done this before.”

“And I told you...”

“Why do you insist on going against the current?” you asked intrigued.

“And why don’t you?” she snapped.

Olga’s shape shimmered and disappeared to let Loki stand before you. He leant forward, his hands almost touching yours, his knees brushing the fabric of your clothes.

“Dove, I promise you if there was any other way I would do it, you know I would. But I can’t stand for others to tell me, tell us, how we should be. Neither can you. Against your better judgement you are to be married.” Loki said with irony tainting his smile. “And apparently that makes us...” he waved between the two of you the way you did a few seconds ago. “...even more impossible. So, unless you don’t want to hang out with me anymore, I’ll keep on finding a way. And right now, this is the way.” he said changing back into Olga.

Of course, you wanted to keep hanging out with him, never did you wish for the both of you to be apart, even when you were about to leave in the cover of darkness. Though he found me that night, you remembered. As if he knew what I was doing. Loki had been your oldest friend, furthermore, he had been a part of yourself as much as you were a part of him. From day one you had sealed your fate with his, and despite the many obstacle standing in your way, despite the time spent apart, you ended up finding each other again. Loren had been a solution amongst many. And yes, it had failed spectacularly but you were not a teenager anymore and neither was Loki. He had time to craft his tricks, to perfect his skills and more importantly to learn from his mistakes, and yours. You took a long hard look at Olga and let out a breath.

“Well may it be so.” you said in surrender. “How does it work?”

“I’m not fond of rules but I believe a couple are in order. First, we have to pretend that it pains us not to see each other more regularly. We don’t want to appear too compliant otherwise it will raise suspicion.”

You nodded in agreement. A compliant Loki was always sketchy to say the least.

“Then, when you get a visit from Olga, like today, you will get her and only her no matter how alone we seem to be. The walls have ears and eyes and especially mouths. We ought to be careful at all times, understand?”

“It’s not fair.” you sighted.

“I know.”

“We shouldn’t have to hide. We’re not doing anything wrong and we’ve done way worse in the light than we did in the shadows.”

Olga smirked and slid her hand in yours, brushing the inside of your wrist.

“Do you...”

“Yes.” you interrupted. “I do, if you promise me not to get carried away. You tend to be a little cocky when you think you’re above the rest of us.”

Olga grinned and pecked your cheek, near your ear and said in a low voice

“I’ll do my best.”


 

A week went by, during which you established a new, and much more healthy, daily routine. You tried to get at least five hours of sleep which was the bare minimum for your brain to get some rest and you to sharpen your focus. However, you discovered that you worked best at night when everyone else was in the land of dreams, so you mostly slept after lunch, through the largest part of the afternoon. Frigga asked for a report every other day. She claimed it was only to check on your work but you suspected her of being worry about your well‑being. You indulged the queen by always showing up with something to eat in your hand and profoundly apologizing for it was not a proper behaviour. Perhaps she indulged you too as she smiled genuinely pleased and told you she did not mind whatsoever.

It would appear that life was slowly going back on track but you knew better. Your heart was just a beat away from breaking and you had not spoken to Dagmar in weeks. At this point, pride was not to blame. It had faded as soon as you put a foot on Vanaheim. It had been a devastated field of nothing where the macabre quietness was deafening. No, pride was not the issue here. Guilt was more to blame. I should have been, I could have been a better friend.

“It’s not too late.” you whispered.

“Uh?”

Olga was rubbing your shoulders and it seemed that she was talking to you though you did not hear a word she said.

“Nothing. I was lost in my own thoughts.” you apologized.

She chuckled and asked you when Balder was supposed to be back. Your warrior was on a mission with Sif on an undisclosed location. Once again he was not at liberty to share any details except that it should not last long and that he was with the Maiden Warrior herself so he would be in good hands. You closed your eyes, unable to speak for you were too comfortably numb.

“Um– tomorrow I think. There’s a...oh yeah, right here.” you said when Olga fingers reached a tight knot that had bugged you all night.

“I see you’re almost done.”

You opened your eyes and glimpsed at her perfect skin near your face as she had leant to examine the scroll. Her hands were still on your shoulders and her chest pressed against your back. You felt it moved regularly with each breath she took and bit your tongue. Olga’s scent, not unlike Loki’s, was enticing. Work, focus on work, you told yourself. So you straightened yourself and embarked on a long explanation on the techniques you used to get the work done. Olga never once showed any sign of boredom but instead payed you an undivided attention. She sneaked some food in your hand while you talked and without realizing it, you ate and drank.

You were simply having a good time and even shared a few laughs with Olga when someone called from the stairs of the Archives.

“Hello?” “In here!” you sang.

Balder emerged from the shadows and when he saw you, cheerful and grapes halfway to your open mouth, he raced to take you in his arms. You could barely breath in his strong embrace. However, you let him have his moment before you broke free and introduced him, not too awkwardly, to your friend Olga. As the perfect knight in shinning armour he was, Balder took her hand and planted a light kiss on her knuckles.

“It’s an honour my lady.”

Olga smiled in return, though she looked not as pleased as any other woman would have been in this situation. You hid your dawning laugh by bitting your tongue.

“Weren’t you suppose to come home tomorrow?” you asked trying not to sound reproachful.

You were uncertain as to why, but seeing him earlier did not particularly move you. You should be thrilled, or at least happy, to have him back sooner rather than later, though it was not the case. Am I already becoming a bad wife? you asked yourself. Why can’t I rejoice like I’m suppose to? You put it on the account that you were not completely yourself yet; and that the pain you carried with you every minute of every day had taken a toll on you.

“We had a bit of luck.”

Balder was simply beaming but whenever he glimpsed at Olga, he would stop for a second, stare at her before going back to you. He scanned your face, relieved to see you standing on your own two feet, in daylight and finally taking care of yourself again. The contact of his hand upon your cheek melted your heart making you realize how much you had needed it. You gently took his hand off and raised on your toes to kiss him on the corner of his mouth. But as you did, Balder grasped your hips and pulled you closer to him. You felt his heart pounding in his large chest and his breath upon your mouth made you want him here and now. He kissed you deeply, with an overflowing neediness but ultimately broke away, gasping for air and wanting more of you.

“I apologize my sweet.” he said softly. “You are in no condition to...”

“I am. Later.” you whispered in his hear.

You had not been together since the morning of the funerals and even then it did not feel like you had any connection at all. Since Frigga forced you to rest, you barely saw your betrothed, so you took care of your needs all by yourself. Balder excused himself to Lady Olga whom answered with a smile made of ice and a sharp politeness.

As your betrothed left, not without a last lustful and hoping look to you, you sighed. There was a throbbing sore between your legs that had left your entrance wet.

“You did not need to stop on my account.” Olga said raising an eyebrow.

You flushed and muttered an embarrassed apology and ducked your head in your shoulders as you went back to your desk and pretended to focus on your work.

“Do you want me to leave so he can come back and finish what you’ve started?” Olga asked with a chuckle.

Though behind it, you overhead a hint of irony and what sounded like a bit of jealousy. You shook your head no and reached for a cup of wine to steady yourself.

“Or I could stay and watch.” she added.

You coughed, pushing the wine down the wrong pipe, and coughed louder as the air left your lungs. For a moment you forgot how one was supposed to swallow and breathe. It took you a while to figure this out and when you finally caught your breathe, your face was red hot from the near death experience you just had and the flush of lust and embarrassment Olga’s remark had provoked.

She walked to you and cleaned the edge of your mouth with her thumbs, licking the drop of wine with her eyes locked on you. She needed only to brush an inch of your skin to make you tremble. Your heartbeat kept on going faster and faster as she put a strand of your hair behind your ear.

“There.” she breathed softly, looking at you as if you were the prettiest thing in the world.

Her hand lingered above the curve of your neck then slowly glide down your shoulder and your arm. She was a bit taller than you, as was Loki, so you had to raise your eyes to look at her and when you did, you noticed she was undressing you with her sharp and lustful gaze. She leaned down, slowly. The palm of your hands tingled. I wonder if she tastes like him. One hand of hers, slipped behind your head, hidden in the mess of your hair, and with a small push she closed the distance between your lips. You welcomed her tongue and breathed in her scent. She pressed herself against you, leaving only enough room for her hand to slid down between your thighs. You squealed under the hard pressure of her fingers digging in your soft flesh and broke the kiss for a second. You moaned against Olga’s open mouth and clung to her dress. It became hard to breath let alone think. Your arms and legs numbed with each waves of pleasure Olga’s touch created and if it was not for the desk you were leaning against you would have surely fall to the ground.

You went for her lips again holding on to the edge of the desk, digging your nails in the hard flesh of the wooden surface as you felt yourself getting closer and closer to climax. Olga grinned with pride against your mouth as you sharply gasped and tensed for a second. She placed a tender kiss on your nose and withdrew her hand from your wetness.

You could still feel her lips on yours and the ghost of her body was already haunting you though she was only a few steps away. You rearranged yourself with trembling hands.

“Why would you do that?” you asked.

Olga kept her back on you, cleaning her hands with the soap Gunborg had left for you.

“You seemed tense.” she shrugged.

You stammered, unable to form proper thoughts. Words came and went in your mind, flying around like butterflies though you had not net to catch any. There are other way to help someone else relax, you wanted to say to her. Or did you? Because the more you thought about what just happened, the more you found yourself wishing it would happened again. And again, and again. Olga’s lips locked on yours, Loki’s fingers searching for your pleasure.

“No.” you said more to yourself than to her, trying to smack some sense into your head.

“It takes two to waltz, darling.”

“Well, I don’t want to dance. I shouldn’t dance...not with you.” you answered checking yourself in the reflection of the window. “There’s Balder and...”

“I’ve seen the way he looks at me, and it might actually turn him on to know what we just did.” Olga answered playfully.

“I’m not kidding Loki!”

“Olga.” she corrected suddenly turning her heels.

“Whatever. We can never do this again. Understand?”

Olga rolled her eyes in annoyance calling you a spoilsport.

“Fine! But can I ask you one question before we pretend this never happened? And I want an honest answer from you, no diversion whatsoever. I’ll settle for nothing but a straight answer.”

You desperately wanted to stop this conversation and wash away the growing shame with work so you might be cleansed enough to find Balder later, but you knew your friend would not let you go until you satisfied her. You gestured your hand as a way of telling her “shoot.” She took a step towards you and you feared the proximity will lead to the forbidden path you just escaped from. You turned your back and busied yourself rearranging your desk.

“How good was it?” she whispered in your ear.

You turned to face her, hardly believing what you just heard.

“You’re unbelievable, d'you know that?”

Olga nodded with a sinful smile stretching her full red lips.

“Can’t you just ask the hundreds of lovers you’ve already had?” “No need.” she dismissed with her graceful hand “I guarantee you that every one of them had the best time of their lives with me, no matter the way I look. But I am curious to know how you felt about it.”

Time suspended itself as you pondered your response. Come to think about it, this was one of the best moments you had ever had despite your own fair share of lovers, even though you were far, very far away from Loki’s little black book. Your thoughts drifted to Balder and his gentleness, how he was always eager to please and never hid his passion. Nonetheless, you realized after kissing Olga, which had felt very liberating, that you were craving for more. Something that never happened with your soon-to-be husband. Yet there was no way you would admit it out loud to yourself let alone to Loki whatever his shape.

You lifted your gaze to your friend and with a mischievous smile you answered “Definitely on my top three.”


 

One late morning you walked passed the throne room and glimpsed at Loki seating in the throne room with a long line of citizens waiting to speak with him about any sorts of matters. Men, women and children, however their ranks shared with the prince of Asgard their concerns, asked for his guidance to solve a problem and even sometimes seek his justice.

You hid in the shadows and watched Loki deal with a dispute between farmers, a concern mother and a healer asking permission to leave for Midgard. He gave his undivided attention to each and every one of them even if the matter seemed to bore him to his core.

“He is a natural, isn’t he?” The Queen had appeared by your side, startling you a bit. “He is much more patient than his brother and, dare I say, much wiser too. Though I find him sometimes too harsh. Compassion is not his strongest suit but he’s working on it.”

A cloud of concern came across her face as she looked at her son.

“Majesty. I was on my way to see you.” you said half-apologetic. “I have completed my work.”

“Come.”

She led you to her room and dismissed her ladies in waiting with a soft yet firm command. The last time you were there, alone with Frigga, you had not been yourself, haunted by the ghost of your beloved friend. I still hear her sometimes, you thought. When the night is calm and the moon is high in the sky, I hear the whisper of her voice, followed by our sisters’.

“How have you been?” asked the queen.

“Well enough your majesty.”

“May I see?”

You pulled the scroll out of its leather case and with a grand care placed it in Frigga’s hand. Her eyes scanned the paper from top to bottom and side to side.

“It’s...”

“Incomplete.” you finished her sentence for her. “As soon as I was done restoring it, I began to update the language so its content might be easier to decipher. That’s when I realized that it was only a fragment of what I believe is a saga.”

You witnessed her face distorting with disappointment and hung your head low. You went through a similar phase only an hour ago, only that you display quite the storm of rage. A whole shelf of books had been knocked down as you screamed and cursed the gods. You had cut the sides of your hand with the edge of the papers you threw across the room. Poor Egil witnessed the scene helpless, and only when you stopped, sinking to the floor and crying did he make a move.

“I am...so sorry your majesty. I should have known.”

“Don’t blame yourself dear” Frigga said with a smile that never reached her eyes. “You did what was expected of you and for that, I thank you. Now if you don’t mind...”

“I can look for the other poems.” you offered though you had no idea where to start your research. “Perhaps what you are looking for is in one of them.”

The queen put the scroll back in your hand, unable to look at it for a second longer. She patted your wrist and turned her heels to face the windows.

“There’s always the mist. What if the key is in there somehow? I’m not sure how I will break the code but...”

“It won’t be necessary.”

It broke your heart to see her battling the pain of having been wrong for she had placed her high hopes and the fate of the realms into your hands. And it was all for nothing.

“Still I can...”

“Have you pick a date?”

“Your majesty?”

“For your wedding. Surely, now that’s...over, you will resume your life and dedicate some time to the preparations.”

You opened your mouth and closed it. Never once, since Balder proposed did you spare a thought for the wedding that was eventually suppose to come. That was what people do after all, getting married after saying yes to a proposal. You were baffled and looked for a polite way of saying ‘mind your own business’ but found none for she was your queen.

“Marrying a warrior is not an easy task.” she said still facing the outdoors. “You’ll have to understand that his sword comes first. Notwithstanding the love he may bare for you it will always come first.” after a moment of silence she added “My son is very fond of Balder.”

You snorted then realized that she was talking about Thor and not Loki, which made more sense come to think about it.

“For what I have seen and heard, he is a skilled warrior, a good soldier and a fine companion. He seems to care for you very much as well.”

“He does.” you said with a tight throat unsure of where this was going.

“And do you? Care for him as much as he?”

“With all due respect your majesty, I don’t see any relevance with my work.”

So that’s the polite way to say ‘stay the fuck out of my business’, you thought. Frigga looked above her shoulders, looking almost sad.

“I have been meaning to ask you a favour.”

“Anything you need.” you answered.

She briefly smiled and found the strength to turn round and face you.

“Why do I get the feeling that I’m not gonna like it?” you asked her.


 

Olga had taken you to the garden to enjoy the last hour of sunlight.

By day it could be as animated as it was colourful but when the sun came down and the air chilled, it became quieter, almost the perfect place to share secrets. And secrets came in many shapes or forms.

“You enjoy it.” you said to Olga. “Being a prince.”

“Hush now darling. Walls have ears, remember?”

“There's no walls here.” you answered as you walked beside a tree.

You snaked your arm around Olga’s and pulled her closer to whisper.

“I’ve watched you listen to the complaints of the citizens and care for them and...”

“What you are saying makes no sense.” she said faking a smile when you passed a couple of elderly. “I am merely a guest in the court of Asgard.”

“Pretend all you want, darling, but I saw what I saw.”

Suddenly, Olga pushed you inside the maze which was the heart of the gardens, and pined you to the edge of it. She leaned over you with flames burning in her eyes.

“I do not care for them, I rule them.” she gnarled.

For a brief moment her face shifted and turned back to its male form but as you blinked, Olga reappeared in front of you. Her fingers around your wrists tightened.

“As you should be.” you said gazing into her eyes.

Hubris lit her green gems and a lustful smile stretched her lips. The next thing you knew, one of her legs parted yours as she leaned down to kiss you. She kept your arms above your head so you could not except, not knowing that you had no desire to do so. You arched your back so you could be against her completely and deepened the kiss.

“You broke your promise.” said Unn’s voice.

You shut your eyes tighter and moved back and forth against Olga’s thigh. Blood threatened to leave your hands for her grip was so very tight.

“You promised that you would not let him distract you.”

You moaned and Olga took it for a sign of your incoming pleasure, rubbing harder one your already wet entrance. One of her hand released your wrist only to land on your breast.

“You are no fool.” Unn’s voice continued. “You know damn well that it’s him underneath it all.”

You snapped your eyes open. Unn would never swear, you thought. You broke the kiss and gently pushed Olga so you could breath.

“There’s something I need to tell you.”

“Surely it can wait.” Olga said searching for your lips.

“No.”

You combed her hair back with your hands, devouring her with your eyes and fighting the urge to kiss her until the air completely left your lungs. You gave her a weak smile, aware that the conversation you were about to start would not be an easy one.

“What is it?” she asked brushing your cheek.

You took her hand in yours and let it fall. I can’t control myself if you touch me, you wanted to say to her. I can hardly control myself when you look at me. You withdrew yourself from the edge of the maze and began walking towards the centre. Olga followed you, always a step behind you, saying nothing. Once you arrived to your destination you sat on a white stone bench and invited her to join you.

“Could you?”

You waved your hand in the air asking without saying a word but she understood what you wanted. Loki always did and so he cast a spell that prevented anyone to eavesdrop for a short period of time.

“Your mother wants you to marry.”

“And?”

You searched for the right words to tell Loki about the conversation you had a few hours ago with his mother. Marriage had always been a touchy subject between them. It had been with Thor as well though he was allowed a little more leeway.

“It’s expected of me.” Olga said. “And of my brother. It’s what princes do. How else would we play this game of thrones?”

You sighed slow and easy to settle your heart and control your breathing. Of course he knew the rules but once upon a time he did try to fight against it. His mother even slapped him for he claimed to want no one else but you by his side. How young we were, you reflected.

“I know how it’s played. It’s just that...your mother said that...”

It was harder for you to say it than it was to hear it. Rip the bandaid off. Rip it!

“She asked me not to tell you but it feels wrong not to tell you so I feel like I have to tell you but I don’t want to break her trust either.” you let out.

Olga smiled at you and gently took your hands in hers.

“Have I tell you how pretty you were when you get nervous?”

“You never told me I was pretty.” you snarled. “No, stop. This is exactly what she warned me about.” you said refusing Olga to kiss you on your cheek. “She knows what we are doing. She didn’t say it but I know she knows and...”

“Let me guess. She fears I won’t marry because of you.”

“Yes.” you confessed.

“That is ridiculous.”

“Is it?” you asked dumbfounded.

“Of course! Have you seen the name on the list?” said Olga standing up.

She paced around the bench biting her nails in anger.

“Can’t say that I have.”

“Weak and foolish girls with half a brain and just a drop of personality. None are able to hold a proper conversation let alone please me in any way I see fit. They’re dull and too compliant, wretched creatures all of them.” she spit. “I am willing to do my part but don’t ask me to do the impossible.”

She sat back on the bench, her knees brushing yours.

“I won’t ever lower myself and forget all my standards.”

You repressed a laugh and let her vent a little while longer, fully aware it must have weighed on Loki’s consciousness for a few centuries.

“So this has nothing to do with me.” you said nodding absent-mindedly.


 

Earlier.

“My son will deny it of course. He might blame the names on the list or even his age, finding himself too young to settle, not having enough time to, and I quote, ‘sample every flavour of the world.’ He will found every excuse to refuse.”

“You want me to convince him to chose a bride?” you asked in confusion. “If so, you’re giving me way too much credit.”

“What I need from you is to marry as soon as possible. I can even make arrangements if that may speed the process.”

“Why? I'm in no rush.” you said forgetful of the proper way to speak to the queen of Asgard.

“Because as long as you remained untied to another, he will not let go of you. My son is a very ambitious young man and he would be a great king, of that I’m certain. But make no mistake my dear, he will drop all of his chances to the throne if it means he could be with you.”

You clenched your fist, digging your nails in the soft skin of your palms.

“Your majesty, I can assure you...”

“Are you going to deny it as well?” she asked.

Frigga sounded more upset than annoyed or angered, with a hint of weariness in her voice. You looked down at your bare feet. Ever since the funerals you had walk around without shoes like you did before setting off to Vanaheim. You looked at your feet and kept on listening to the mother of your best friend.

“Are you going to deny my son’s feelings for you? Are you going to deny that your relation is past the simple friendship of two people having grown next to one another? It is not a fling nor a crush, that would fade with time. I am talking of something deeper and almost impossible to get rid off. Loki needs to move on. And as much as it pains me to admit it, he has to do it without the ghost of you hanging around his head and his heart.”

“I can’t just stop being friend with him. We barely see each other as it is.” you said on the verge of screaming and crying at the same time.

“I am asking you to free him. Marry Balder, take a house to live in with him. Start a family if you want to. As long as you are unwed he will keep his hope alive unable to properly move on. Talking to him would do nothing but wanting you more. If you are reluctant to trust me, if there is still a part of you that refuses the truth of his love, then tell him you will marry in a month. Tell him and see for yourself.”


 

Now.

“I’m sorry to break it to you, but my world doesn’t revolve solely around you.” Olga said intertwining her fingers with yours. “Though I do enjoy your company more than anything.”

She laid a kiss on your jaw, at the section between your ear and your neck. Her closeness made it almost impossible for you to think. Frigga’s words invaded your mind and for a second your whole life, every moment spent with Loki came in a flash. Could it be that the queen was right? Why was it so hard for you to acknowledge the possibility of Loki being in love with you.

“So you won’t mind if I marry Balder in a month then?” you heard yourself say.

Olga jerked back and you missed her lips and her hands already. His lips and his hands.

“Did my mother put you up to this?”

“Actually, Balder did as he was the one who proposed in the first place.” you joked.

“A month is not enough.”

To do what she never said. However the look on her face was indication enough that she did not approve in any way. Perhaps a month is not enough to organize the whole thing, you had thought after your talk with Frigga. You never wanted something big nor complicated. You were the opposite of big and complicated. You had only a handful of people you cared enough about to want them at your wedding. On Balder’s side though, things were more complicated, and big. His family, his friends, his brothers in arms. You tried to keep up with the names but they were too many.

You played nervously with the golden links of your belt, expecting Olga to be pissed beyond reason so you jumped when she finally touched you.

“You ought it to yourself to have some fun before you tied the knot, don’t you think?”

You heard the smile in her voice. A voice that opened the door to sinful thoughts.

“With you, you mean.”

“Feel free to look around as much as you want, all I ask in return...” Olga snaked her arm around your waist to bring you closer to her. “...is that you don’t forget me.”

“How could I?” you said on the verge of kissing her.

Indeed you would never fail to remember him for it would mean forgetting who you were as well. However, if you were to be honest with yourself, spending time with Olga made you forgetful of Loki as he played the part all too well. He was a master at blurring lines and twisting facts and feelings. If he were to change back, to assume his usual form, would you indulge him as much as you did with Olga? Nothing was less certain, for Loki was the prince of Asgard and with such a title came responsibilities he could never avoid, and a game he had to play. We’ve been down that road before, you thought. We crashed and burned so why am I so willing to do this again? It was no longer a funny game between the two of you. Others were involved and you harboured no desire to hurt any of them. I’m in love with Balder, you told yourself. I’m to marry him and that’s the end of it.

Olga snapped you out of your inner debate offering you to go back to the palace for diner was upon you. You gazed into her eyes, searching for a clue as to which road you should follow.

“What do you say?” she asked extending her hand for you to grab. “Care to join me?”

Chapter Text

“Do you mind if we make a quick stop along the way?”

Though she asked you the question, Olga could not care less of your answer as she was already changing course and taking you far from the palace entrance. In a desperate act of rebellion, your empty stomach grumbled. You followed Olga for a moment when you realized where she was taking you. You stopped but she grabbed your wrist and pulled you after her.

“I don’t wanna go.”

“Stop being such a child.”

“You can’t make me!” you said yanking your arm free of her grasp.

Olga stopped and turned. She tried to take your hand again but you stepped back. You eyed the forge that stood behind her. Loud clangs came out of its open doors and the wind carried the unbearable hotness of the place to you. You could already feel your skin becoming clammy and your forehead damp. How can she bare it? you asked yourself.

“You haven’t talk to her in weeks!”

“So?” you said pouting like a child. “I haven’t talk to my parents either.”

“That’s something we’ll look into later. Plus, the forge were closer.” Olga replied with a smirk.

You crossed your arms on your chest and looked a way truly becoming a toddler again. Olga crept closer, talking to you with a sweet and honey voice. You heard a beloved smile as well and felt your shoulders relax without your consent. How does she do it? you wondered. You uncrossed your arms and sighed, rolling your eyes, now like a teenager.

“I don’t wanna talk to her.”

“You have to. She’s your friend.”

“You’re my friend too.”

“And as such I feel compelled to help you in any way I can. If I were Dagmar I could not stand being deprived of your company any longer.” “You don’t need to be Dagmar for that.” you smiled at her.

You glimpsed at the forge telling yourself that perhaps Dagmar would not be in there and it would be the indubitable sign that you were not to reconcile yet. However, knowing Loki as you did shattered this pathetic hope for he would have made sure that Dagmar would be here. And so you dragged your feet to the door and entered the stifling forge. This must be what Hellheim feels like, you told yourself.

You peered above your shoulder and saw Olga encouraging you to go on. Dagmar was not far from the entrance, lifting a heavy trebuchet in the air as if it weighted nothing. Her eyes scanned the weapon in search for any flaws but there was none to found. Dagmar’s work had always been the expression of her perfectionism. And if anything, no matter how little or trivial, was not up to her satisfaction she would simply threw it away and start all over.

The trebuchet seemed to satisfy her so she put it next to the others she had made recently and yelled for a boy to take them away. She went for a jug and drank her thirst away. Your throat was already scratching and burning though it had only been a minute since you entered the forge.

“Care to spare one for an old friend?” you asked with a smile that was so tensed you feared it would break your jaw.

“Suit yourself.”

She threw the jug at you with a little too much strength as if she did not want you to catch it. You managed to do so and approached the bucket of water, cautious and somehow afraid of what your friend might do.

“Who’s that?” she asked pointing to the door where Olga stood.

“Olga. She's a new friend.”

“Looks like Loki to me.”

She turned her heels and walked deeper inside the forge.

You had to pass by many fire and go through many clouds of steam to follow her. There was not one person, yourself included, who was not soaked in sweat. Most of the blacksmiths had their face covered in dirt and ashes while some had burning marks on their arms, showing that there was a time there were not as careful and precise as they were today. Dagmar bore a few marks herself, some you had witnessed the birth of when you were younger.

You moved around the forge, anxious not to lose Dagmar out of your sight and not to bother any one. Piles and piles of weapons lied everywhere. Swords and spears and daggers and axes. There was something to suit all tastes.

“Been busy?” you yelled so Dagmar could hear you.

“As you must be.” she shrugged.

She picked up the pace and now you almost ran after her until she finally reached the back door, opened it and went out. It suddenly became way more breathable and quiet.

The air was so fresh that you held your breath for a second until you let in and out, and in and out again, cleansing your nose and lungs from the tainted air of the forge.

“At least what you’re doing is useful.” you said.

No, it’s not about me today, you reminded yourself. Well, it is but not in that way. I’m here to make amends, to have my friend back. You took it upon yourself to look calm but on the inside the anxiety was slowly chewing you up.

“Listen, I’m sorry.” you said at the same time Dagmar did.

You shared a perplexed look until you both chuckled. The chuckle turned into a laugh and the laugh led you to one another. You were on the verge of taking her in your arms when she offered you to seat down on the grass.

“This’s more like you.” Dagmar smiled when she glimpsed at your bare feet.

You buried them in the blades of grass hoping not to kick into some anthill for you had spotted a few ants here and there.

“So.” you said breaking the silence that had fallen between the two of you. “How’s life treating you?”

“Can’t complain. You?”

“Can’t complain either.”

Awkwardness between two friends was the strangest things of all. You used to trust each other but now you had become weary of your words in fear to lose her friendship forever. Should you talk about Egil or Balder and the fact that you were to marry in a month? Or perhaps should you confide in her what was going on with Loki? No, definitely stay out of the Loki road, you decided. Should I tell her that I drove myself to the edge of sanity for a piece of paper that mattered not? That should be a fun conversation to have.

“I miss her.”

“Oh thank the gods.” you let out in a breath. “I mean...I miss her too.”

“How...How was it, you know, back there?”

You hung your head low, sending a tear to the ground.

It still haunted you during your sleep no matter how short it was. The ruin of the temple and the cracked statues scattered in the burnt grass. The smell of ash that hung in the air despite the wind endlessly trying to chase it away. Even the ground had been wounded and the trees struggled just to stand. Your house was no more, your home was no more. But the desolation was nothing compare to the deafening silence.

Vanaheim had always been a quiet and a peaceful place, though there was life there and with life came a few light sounds that you might never notice until there were truly gone. Faded laughters and the chipping of birds and the song of the river down the hill. All those proofs of life smothered by a noiseless blanket.

“T’was alright." you shrugged. "Well, apart from the fact that there was nothing left. But they’ve cleaned it up pretty good actually.” you lied. “Odin says that they might spruce it up a little and soon it will be liveable again.”

You forced yourself to smile and touched your locket that remained hidden underneath your dress. Knowing it was there was sometimes not enough and you felt the urge to touch it in order to calm your nerves.

“Thank you.” Dagmar said.


 

“See? She hasn’t killed you.” joked Olga.

"No but the next time you pull such a stunt on me I'll kill you. " you said You slapping her on the shoulder. 

“You may thank me by inviting me to diner.” Olga said not without a smirk on her face.

“We were on our way to diner.” 

“Marvellous!”


 

Instead of taking some plates from the kitchen and going to find a place in the dining hall to sit, you had another idea.

“When was the last time you’ve been here?”

“I was never here.” Olga reminded you.

Though she was technically right, you gave a tired look.

Buried deep under the palace, the window to the waters was, to you, the most extraordinary treasure you could found in the vaults. A gigantic thick glass overlooking the underwater life of the Asgardian river.

“I remember when I first set foot here.” you said lost in your contemplation.

“Weren’t you chased by Thor that day?”

You snorted of amusement and nodded.

“I was, and you tried to distract him by throwing scorpions at him. Well, Loki did.” you sighed lulled by a sweet nostalgia. “I also remember you kissing me.”

“That was not a kiss!” Olga defended herself. “That was merely a peck.”

You chortled and noticed a small amphibian and green creature swimming close to the stainless window. You put your hand against it and so did the creature. It had only three long fingers with round heads that stuck to the glass. You peered into its round and all blakc eyes, then and it swam away twirling in the waters.

Behind you came Olga who circled your waist with her arms, playing with your golden belt as she laid light kisses along the lines of your neck. You tilted your head on the side, leaving her plenty of space to work her magic and closed your eyes. Soon you felt one of her hands sliding down while the other went up and between your breast. Still, when she touched your locket through the fabric of your white dress you turned and grabbed her face between your hands and locked your lips with hers.

You pushed her against the window and parted her legs with yours. You chased her sweet and chill tongue, while her hands untied your golden belt. It fell with a loud clang on the floor and you kicked it away. You broke the kiss and gazed into her emerald eyes shining with lust. She grinned and dared you to go on. And so you did.

Olga shivered under your touch and moaned as you teased her with only the tip of your fingers. She chuckled and bit her lip and for a second a deep shade of red tainted her eyes. While you gave Olga a taste of what was to come, you could feel your own core throbbing with anticipated pleasure. You panted against her mouth, struggling with her dress whose fabric was soft as silk and as a result could never stay put.

“Get rid of it.” Olga ordered out of breath and already searching for your lips.

With the dress out of your way, you were now free to roam her body as you pleased and found out that every inch of her ivory skin was beyond perfection. You took your time, enjoying every goosebump you gave her, every anticipating moan she made.

You gently lied her down on the floor and glided down between her thighs. Her hands in your hair, Olga tensed and moved against your mouth. You smiled against her entrance, teasing her with your warm breathe.

“Don’t stop.” she complained.

You chuckled against her, glad that she begged for more. Loki would never beg, would he? you thought. Perhaps he would, perhaps he would not but thinking about him while tasting his female form became all too complicated for your mind. Same difference isn't? whispered a voice at the back of your head. A voice you quickly ignored as Olga’s desire came. You slid against her, your bare breast against her cool skin and hovered just above her smiling mouth. Olga licked your lips wanting to taste herself but you had left her nothing. Every drop had been for you and only you, she needed to know that.

“How was it?” you asked her chuckling.

She bursted a laugh that echoed in the vaults and came back to you louder. You laughed as well and buried your face in her raven hair.

“Definitely on my top three.” she said.

The floor was cold and you began to shiver.

“We should go upstairs.”

“In just a minute.” you breathed lovingly.

You watched those who lived underwater hoping to catch a glimpse of a mermaid even so you knew they were most likely south of the river by this time of year.

The weight of Olga’s arm around you shifted and seemed heavier. As you lowered your gaze you realized it was Loki’s hand you had in yours. You turned and found yourself face to face with him.

“What are you doing?” you whispered.

In a tender caress he brushed your cheek and slightly shook his head.

“You should turn.” you said to him with a frown.

“Do you want me too?”

“Those are the rules.”

“I know the rules.” he said pecking the tip of your nose and giving you a fond smile. “But, do you want me to?”

You gazed into his eyes. His beautiful beseeching verdant eyes that could make you lose your will in an instant. You moved closer, for there were a few inches left between the two of you, and you could not bare it. You found refuge against the curve of his neck and laid your hand on his chest feeling his pulse increasing. Chills came right through you.

His hand on the round of your shoulder stopped drawing circles and you felt the presence of his lips just above your forehead. You listened to his heartbeat with a dumb smile on your face, forgetful of the fact that you had to to answer him. As a result Loki mistook your silent for the expression of your will to see him turn into Olga.

You sensed it a second before the changes occurred and pressed the palm of your hand on his chest.

“Don’t.” you said locking eyes with him. “Don’t.”

Loki let out a breathe.

You examined him from head to toe, to be absolutely sure he was a hundred percent Loki Odinson, prince of Asgard, master lies and of mischief, your own beloved little snake. Only when all doubts had been dismissed, did you land a light kiss on his lips.


 

“Do you miss him?” asked Balder over diner.

“Whom?”

“Loki. I know you two were pretty close once. And for a second I even thought that you might chose him over me.” he nervously chuckled.

You shrugged and asked him if he had a preference for any type of flower as you had none and could not care less.

“I do not fear a little bit of competition.” Balder went on. “I was expecting to fight in order to gain your favours as soon as I laid eyes on you, but, let me tell you that the man does not fight fair.”

“He is a trickster, what did you expect?” you answered absent-mindedly.

“What about no flowers uh? At least it solves all our problem.”

“Mind if I join?” sang a voice you knew all too well.

You looked up and watched the most gorgeous woman you had ever lay eyes on smiling at you and your betrothed.

“My apologies if I interrupt the loveliest couple in Asgard.”

You answered her fake apology with a fake smile. If it was not for Balder jumping on the occasion to ask Olga to join you, you would have get rid of her quickly. What are you doing? you mouthed her. But all Olga did was laugh at Balder’s latest joke.

The three of you were now eating in a dining hall, on a table far away from the excessive noise coming from the other tables. The slightest of brush from Balder, or Olga, sent you through the roof of awkwardness, especially when one had his knee brushing yours and the other had her bare feet caressing yours.

“Easy on the wine my sweet.”

“Can’t help it. Very good.” you answered drowning your uneasiness with the wine.

“So, Balder, pray tell me, how did you snatch such a gem?”

Ô by Vana he is enjoying himself. You kicked Olga, however it was too late and Balder was already confessing every little detail of how you two met and how he instantly fell in love with you. You ate nervously, holding your knife and fork too tight.

“Was it love at first sight for you as well?” she asked you.

You chocked on your vegetables which made her laugh. I curse thee to life of misery, you yelled in your mind. You swallowed as best as you could. Your eyes going from her wicked smile to Balder’s expecting eyes.

“Well, was it?” she asked in need of some gossip.

I will kill you, little snake. You will think that you are going to sleep but you will never wake up!

You smiled and nodded awkwardly and tried to divert the subject on other matters like water. Is it only to wash oneself or do we really need it to stay alive and healthy? Though Olga was used to you talking gibberish while under stress, your betrothed looked at you as if you had lost your mind.

“Our little scoundrel never talk much about the affair of her heart so I must rely on you.” Olga minced, pressing his forearm. “Did you have to fight to win her favours?”

“Not really.” Balder answered swallowing a pint of ale.

“Oh look, no more ale. How sad!” you exclaimed. “Well, I guess it’s time to say good night so, good night!”

However, Balder rose before you had the chance to do so and ran to fetch some more ale. You sat back and leant towards Olga.

“What the fuck are you doing?” you said between your teeth.

“Getting to know your future husband, silly. That's what friend do.”

“This ends now!”

“Isn’t it fun though?”

“Only for you. This is exactly what I warned you against. You’re being cocky and...what the...what the hell are you doing now?”

You did not need to look to know what she was doing. Her hand rested on your knee and slowly got up to your inner thigh.

“You’re impossible to resist when you’re pissed. Should we take this to your chambers?” Olga said flirtatiously.

You bit your lower lip cursing yourself for wanting to say yes. For wanting to leave right now, to lead her to your bed and to rip her dress to shreds. You desired nothing less than see her fully naked again, moaning in your silk pillow case and feel her breast bouncing as you pleasure her passionately.

“No.” you manage to answer “Get your hand off me. What if someone sees us?”

Instead of taking her hand away, Olga leant closer and proceed to brush the lines of your jaw with a perfectly manicured finger. She follow the curves of your lips, eager to have them for herself.

“Relax darling. No one will see us.”

“Did you cast a spell?”

"There's no need."

And indeed there was no need for her to do anything to hid you from the prying eyes of the crowd as Thor was in the middle of a belly dance contest with Volstagg. The people cheered and applauded the prince banging on the table while yelling many things and orders for them both to remove their clothes.

“He’s got some moves!” you said impressed.

But when you returned to Olga, she had her wicked open mouth hovering over yours. She stubbornly stood a few inches away from you while her hand found its way between your legs.

“What are you doing to me?” you moaned.

“Nothing, yet.” she teased against your mouth.

“Keep doing nothing then.”

You tried to get yourself together because you were in a public place, getting fingered by someone that was not known to be your lover and also because your future husband could come back in any second. Nevertheless, as you will crumbled, your reason faded away, eating alive by your burning desire. Thoughts about the last time you were with her, in the vaults, came rushing through your mind and nourishing the fire that was already spreading. It had end up with you and Loki, holding each other naked on the floor. But also, it had ended with you not wanting him to change back and you kissing him. You never talked about it but you had plenty of time to think about it and about what it could mean. You were on the verge to whisper his name when someone hawked.

Oh gods! Oh gods! By Vana what have I done? You stared bug-eyed at Balder, and promptly took your hands off Olga. You smacked hers so you could be free from her touch and mumbled the lamest excuse of all.

“It’s not what you think.”

Balder’s eyes jumped from your red face, to Olga wet fingers then to your chest moving rapidly.

“Wasn’t she pleasuring you in the middle of the dining hall while I was away looking for more ale?”

Notwithstanding that Olga was in fact Loki, Balder's analysis of the situation was more than accurate. Olga fell back against her chair, finally giving you enough room to straighten yourself.

“We were just having fun.” she said.

You slapped your forehead with the palm of your hand, thinking she could not have said what she just said. You expected Balder to say something, anything but when he finally opened his mouth you had no way to predict what was going to happen. You watched him tilt his head to the side and with a raised highbrow he said: “I see.”


 

“Is he asleep?” whispered Olga.

Balder was fast asleep and holding you against his bare chest, a heavy arm on your waist.

“We have exhausted him.” you softly laughed.

“I must admit that I did not think he could keep up...but he did.”

“He is a good lover.” you admitted half-asleep.

“He has stamina for sure, but he lacks a certain something.” replied Olga.

You struggled to keep your eyes open, slumber claiming you with every running minute. Olga fell on her back, a hand in yours, and stared at the ceiling lost in her thoughts. Where did her mind went, you had no idea but one thing was sure, yours had become sharper than ever.

“Why did you do this?” you asked in a hush voice.

“Because it seemed fun.” she answered right away, still looking up.

“Was it?”

“No.”

You considered her for a while when a stupid nursery rhyme invited itself in your mind.

One, two, three, I should be done with thee. You got rid of Balder’s arm and gently pushed it away. Four, five, six, but I relish all your kisses. Your hand reached Olga’s chin and caressed it lovingly. Seven, eight, nine, would you forever be mine?

“I want you.” you said.

“You just had me.” she answered turning her head.

“No.” you paused. “I want you.”

Time suspended itself and faded away. You stared into each other eyes not saying anything as the only words you never dared to admit to yourself, let alone say them out loud, had finally been set free.

“It’s against the rules.” Olga said though her voice sounded more like Loki’s.

“You broke them once.”

She said nothing, barely breathing as it was.

“Loki.”

His name barely crossed the threshold of your lips. It appeared that rule number two was always meant to be broken. Or perhaps we were never meant to abide it. You said his name again, and he fought not to hear it. The shape of his female form shimmered.

She shut her eyes sending a tear out, alone and heavy. Her chest flattened and broaden. Her arms became more veiny and her fingers longer while some hairs appeared above her pelvis. Soon, Olga was gone and only remained Loki.

You contemplated every inch of him the way you did in the vaults. Your hand hovered just above his stomach and though you never actually touched him, you could see the tension following your fingers as you went up. His eyes remained stubbornly shut as well as his hands, clearly battling some part of himself.

“Loki”

“Don’t.” he said gritting his teeth.

“Why?”

He managed to look your way unbothered by the tears that most likely blurred his vision.

“You know why.”

“Say it.”

Loki went back watching the ceiling and let out a sigh. Come on Loki, you cursed in your mind, meet me halfway for I can’t do this alone. Please, little snake show me that I wasn’t wrong, that I haven’t misjudge the whole thing. Fear on your tongue prevented you from talking so you waited, desperately looking at the man laying next to you and forgetful of the other one you were about to marry.

“I ought to leave.” he said with a heavy heart. “Odin is sending me on a diplomatic journey to see if I can get some accords.”

“How bad is it?”

“Pretty bad.” he confessed. “But don’t worry, I won’t let anything happen to you, nor to Egil.”

You grabbed his hand and kissed the inside of his wrist.

“Promise me you’ll come back.”

“I’ll be here in time for your wedding.” he said with a sad smile.

You rose, leaning on your elbow. Your eyebrows met just above the bridge of your nose.

“D’you really think I can go through with this?”

This. What a callous way to talk about your wedding to come. You almost spit the word out and could not be more outraged by Loki’s assumption that you could, in all good consciousness go through with the plan. He shifted to face you and allowed himself to explore your arm and even played a little with you fingers. He had always done that, you realized.

Now that you thought about it, you became aware of how intimate he had always been with you, absent-mindedly playing with your fingers, dwelling in your gaze, or putting away a strand of your hair and lingering for a second too long. All those subtle things he used to do as Loki should have been enough for you to know. But they had been drowned in all of your history and insecurities. You had convinced yourself throughout the centuries that you simply had a strong and a bit weird relationship, a bond that could never be broken regardless of what happened to either of you.

“I want to see you in your wedding dress, beaming and proud.”

“Does it have to be with him?”

You sounded like a child which drew a smile on Loki’s face, a tender one that expressed the infinite fondness he held for you.

“I could never offer you the life that you deserve. You and I, are doomed.”

“Then why did we fight so hard?”

Your voice was on the verge of breaking but you managed to hold your tears back. Why does it feel like a goodbye? you asked yourself. It took us so much time to get here and now that we are here, he wants nothing but to go away.

“Because it’s who we are.” he answered.

Chapter Text

You had not run like this in years, perhaps even centuries, and every muscle in your body ached. You discovered with horror and grand disappointment that you had lost your stamina while being only halfway to your destination. The air you inhaled was sharp as blades and cut your nostrils and your throat and your lungs until it punched you in the guts. Did I ever run before? you asked yourself. It seemed so much easier when I was younger. The main difference between racing through the city now and before was without a doubt the rush, the adrenaline that fuelled your every step when you were a rascal with dirty feet. Now I’m just a Keeper with dirty feet.

You glimpsed at the front gates of the palace and jumped two steps at a time. You cursed at your boldness but kept racing as you entered the golden building, home of Odin and his regal family, amongst many other people. Though you had lived here for a few years now, you rarely called it home. It was your place of work, where you ate and sleep but that was never a home and it never will be. You speeded up, racing through the corridors and surprising yourself with this unexpected second burst of energy. You could have smiled if you weren’t in such a hurry to smack someone.

You ran so fast that you almost missed your first stop. You went back to the throne room only to see it empty and so you kept on going.

You entered Loki’s chambers kicking the doors open.

“Where’s Loki?” you shouted. “I need to speak with him this instant!”

The maids glanced at each other unsure how to answer you until one of them bowed deeply and stutter about the library. And so you went.

Faster than an arrow than a hunting bird swooping on your prey. You growled in exasperation finding many things in the library except the prince. Then, you decided to search every place inside the palace you thought he could be. Even the training room. That would be the last place but if he's in a mood for a pissing contest with Thor that's where he'll be.

Along the way you interrogated the guards and the maids, the lords and the ladies but none of them knew where he was. You ran passed Thor who looked rather concerned though he drew a smile as you slew down to ask him if he had seen his brother.

“No but...”

You excused yourself rather rudely and flew away. From behind you heard him calling out your name and yelling that you were expected tonight. Shit! I forgot that was tonight!

Later on, you stopped and rest against a pillar, truly out of breath. The pain stabbed you in your ribs while your thighs burned and your heart threatened to escape its cage.

“Where is he?” you said between your teeth.

When all of a sudden, it hit you. Loki was not in the palace. You picked up your dress and started running again. You sprinted down the flight of stairs and missed one. Trying to prevent a fall was usually the way to hurt yourself and as a result of you refusing to fall on the ground and scratch your knees, you twisted your ankle. You swallowed your pain and tried your hardest not to lean on your injured foot which was near impossible since you had chosen to run until death do you part.

You spotted Loki under the ancient tree where the two of you spent many hours, curled up together, reading and scheming pranks. He was seated between the roots of the tree, his head buried in his hands, knees under his chin.

Despite your injury you walked faster and screamed: “You lied to me!”

Hearing your voice, Loki raised his head and unfolded himself. He was nearly standing up when you met up with him and slapped his face with all the strength you had, leaving a red mark on his cheek.

“It’s what I do.” he said cold-blooded.

“Oh spare me would you?” you replied with snide.

You took a step back and stumbled. The excruciating ache extracted a grimace from you and Loki saw it. He noticed how you leaned more on one foot than the other and you tried not to curse when you inadvertently put the injure one on the ground. Despite his previous behaviour, Loki approached to help you. But as soon as you were at arms-length you jerked back.

“Do not touch me! Do not come anywhere near me! You promised me only warriors and trained soldiers will be called on duty but that was a lie, wasn’t it? Another trick from you.” you paused, gasping for air. “You already broke your promise once and took my husband from me but it wasn’t enough was it? Now you have to rip my family to shreds and bring death to our home. We were supposed to evacuate the citizens not send them to slaughter. This is madness.”

“This is war!” he yelled.

“Your war!” you cried louder.

Loki lowered his eyes and stared at the ground. Strands of black hair cascaded in front of him, hiding his shame and sheltering him from your accusations. He quivered with rage and frustration and bitterness but when he spoke to you, you heard nothing but misery and sorrow.

“Do you believe I enjoy myself, that I am pleased to send my people to death? Do you really think so low of me?”

“I think nothing of you.” you spited.

Loki took it in and stared at you with cold green eyes. Every line on his face petrified in a mask of contained wrath.

“Right. Because I killed your precious warrior.”

“Stop.” you commanded him in a breathe.

“You still blame me for his death, don’t you?”

“I said stop.”

“I have his blood on my hands.” he growled, coming near you. “And now I will have the blood of thousands unfortunate souls because I’ve brought war on their doorstep. Isn’t it right? Uh dove?”

“Shut up!”

“No! You don’t get to turn away.” he said grabbing your shoulder. “Face me! Face the monster that I am!”

You tried to push him away but either he was stronger than you or you had lost your will. Either way, you moved as weak as a rag doll with tears bringing you down.

“I hate you!”

You punched his chest. He did not move. He did not let you go and kept you at arms-length. His arms, in which you desperately wanted to take refuge in.

“You lied to me.” you sobbed. “I hate you.”

“You already said that.”

In a switch move, Loki pulled you towards him and against his chest. His chin rested on the top of your head while his arms surrounded your shuddering body. You wrapped your arms around his slim waist and let him stroke your hair.

“You’re no monster.” you sniffled after a while.

Loki’s shoulder fell down and his arms were now limp around you.

“I have failed.”

His voice boomed inside his chest, covering the erratic beatings of his heart.

“So have I” you said. “You want to talk about fail? What about the piece of paper I practically died for? That was an epic fail. At least you went out there and tried. It’s better than doing nothing. Now all we have to do is hope for the best but prepare for the worst.”

Loki sweetly cupped your cheeks in his hands and put his forehead on yours. As he did, the world ceased to exist. You brought your hands up to his and relied upon his touch for a while. You settled for a quiet moment where there was no talk of war, no hurt feelings and fear that all you had known might disappeared. Again.

“I’m sorry.” Loki said. “I never meant for any of this.”

You reluctantly took his hands off of you though you never let go of them. You gave him a gentle squeeze to which he answered in a similar manner.

“You have to edit the list.”

Loki let out a sigh.

“I can’t.”

“You made it in the first place surely you...”

“I made sure your father wasn’t on it, but someone must have gone through it after I gave it to Odin and made the changes.” Loki explained.

“Or he did. He never trusted you, not completely. It's not just about my father. Not anymore. Loki, your father, our king is sending unwilling men and women to slaughter, do you think that’s fair?”

Loki tried to brought you closer to him still you resisted. He had this ability to soothe you just by holding you against him and with time it seemed that he had become quite a master at it. Still, you refused him and stood awkwardly on your uninjured foot. And of course Loki offered you to ease your pain and once again you refused. He called you his ‘dogged dove’ and gazed in your eyes for a bit longer than he should. Then he suggested that you could sit.

“I know that look.” he said after a while. “What are you scheming?”

“If someone were to tampered with the evacuation name lists how would they do? Asking for a friend.”

“Why, if I were to guess I’d say that first of all they would need someone from the inside to get to the lists.”

“I see. And how hard will it be to find someone willing to help?”

“To commit treason you mean?” Loki said with a grin stretching from one ear to the other. “Not that hard. You’re not the only to disagree with Odin’s way on this matter. Now, back to name list your friend from the inside would need to move around a couple of names and alter a few others, but not too much otherwise it would appeared too suspicious.”

“Right. Right, right, right. We wouldn’t want that.”

“No we wouldn’t.”

Loki gazed at you, devouring you in silence as you kept on thinking out loud. What if some people were to have an unfortunate accident before they were to go out on the battlefield? A fake injured foot or broken back might do the trick. You even had your idea on a few people that would be inclined to fake their death and start afresh somewhere else. The more you talked, the more ideas grew out of your mind and soon a plan was made for you to save your father and all those wanting to save their asses instead of going to a gigantic meat grinder unprepared. Excitement ran through your veins and you could not wait to tackle this task except for Loki who had one subject he would like to discuss with you.

With reluctance you obliged him and pondered your enthusiasm jut enough to listen to what he had to say.

“You and Egil are set to take the first evacuation ship. I have seen to it personally. So you’ll need to be ready upon day break. If you want to take more with you than you can carry, I’ll send you my...”

“What? No.” you said trying standing up.

You winced as a wave of pain throbbed from your twisted ankle. The prince smiled a weak and pathetic smile that never reached his deep green eyes that dwelled into yours. He gently took your feet in his cool hands, circling around your ankle underneath the fabric of your dress. It tickled a little, creating lines of goosebumps all along your leg.

“I am not taking any chances.” he breathed. “You and our boy need to be safe.”

“I couldn’t agree more.” you said surprising him. “About Egil. He has to go and Gunborg too. Let her take my place on the ship. I’ll entrust them with all the sacred texts and the copies Egil and I made. Oh and the mist, I mustn’t forget the mist, we could never be too careful. Those are the one to leave and wait for when it’s safe again to come back. If it’s ever safe to come back. I’ve seen what they are capable of. What they did to Vanaheim...”

“That’s why you’ll get on that ship.” Loki insisted.

The pain in your ankle had vanished, however you said nothing about it. Perhaps because you were to caught up in your argument with Loki, or perhaps because you had not wish for him to withdraw his hands from you.

“No need. I’ll board the same ship you do.” you dismissed. “That way you’ll be able to keep an eye on me yourself.”

“Dove.” he purred and took his hands of off you. “I am not to board any ship.”

Loki avoided your furious gaze, the one that might instantly kill him if he dared look.

“I had no intention to leave.” he confessed reluctantly.

“But you expect me to, right? I might not be the one in charge of evacuation nor to defend the north side of Asgard – yeah I know about it – but I’m staying and my decision is final.”

You defied him to tell you otherwise. Prince or not, he could not order you around. Loki was left with no other choice than to agree, knowing he will never convince you to leave without him.

“Your loyalty to me is going to get you killed.”

“I’ll be the judge of that.”


“Father you do not listen to me!” you complained

“What you talk about is treason.”

“Better treason than death!” you replied.

Your father slammed his fist against the table startling your mother.

“I have been a soldier once.” he claimed with great pride. “Am not to back away from duty. When Asgard called, I answer!”

“When was the last time you touched a weapon uh? You have been a farmer longer than you have been a soldier!”

“She is right.” said your mother with compassion and concern for your father remained stubbornly shut to conversation.

“Enough! Listen to me child…”

“No! You listen to me old man. I have secured you a place on the next night ship and you better be on it otherwise I’ll kick your butt all the way there, understood? You ought to die of old age, or falling from the damn roof you try to fix every year, not slaughtered by some ruthless savages. I have seen what they're capable of and I'll get every one who can not fight willingly and properly out of here. That’s my duty. Yours is to live!”

Your father’s eyes were a shade darker than usual. His breathe was low and rumbling as he pondered on the idea you had just planted in his brain. You knew he wanted to fight, but the real reasons why eluded you. Was it because of pride or duty or out of a misplaced nostalgia? Was he holding a desire to avenge his fallen brothers the same way you wished to avenge your beloved sisters? You saw in his eyes a light you had seen in yours not long after returning from Vanaheim when you cursed the greater strengths that had been at play.

“Mom, tell him.” you pleaded desperately “Get some sense into that thick head of his.”

Your father glared at you and she hesitated. Despite her strong personality you had never witness a moment when she had gone against your father’s will. She had always stood by his side and it had bothered you for as long as you could remember. However, and for the first time in your life, you began to understand her a little more. It became less confusing for you as to why and how she could bare with him for no matter what. You seek her support on this but feared she might stay true to her principle until the very last minute, even if it meant loosing her husband leading your thoughts to drif away to Balder.

You had been married a minute and then he was gone.

Regardless of the fact that he had been a warrior long before you met and that his duty came first and, even though you knew from the very beginning that it would be a possibility, you never imagined death would claim him so soon. I was ready to call it off, you thought. Perhaps I should have.

Though it would not have diminish the pain you felt when you received the news of his passing. The irony wanted Balder to die for the man who could have snatch you away in a heartbeat if had said the word. Instead you had follow your reason and kept true to your engagement and you had convinced yourself that maybe, you would be happy, in time. But time there was none for Balder perished too soon and left you a widow before you could make peace with the fact that you were actually married.

“I...I can’t. This is treason...I can not...” shook your father.

“How could it be treason if I have the princes to back me up?”


 There were no stars in the sky that night and that was a blessing.

Behind you, a handful of too young or too old men and women followed you diligently and quiet as mice. You waited for the patrol to pass and sprinted through the streets. Those who were not called for duty had been evacuated already, taking your mother to a safe heaven, far from the tragedy that was about to fall on the realm. I wish I could have put them both on the same ship though. That had been a glitch in your well oiled plan, having your mother and father separated. 

You lead your flock like a shepherd.  It was your third unofficial evacuation and every time you felt that rush going through your veins, and your heart rejoicing. The skills you had acquired from a young age were now put in the service of a greater cause than your own desires. For once, you had to admit it to yourself, it felt good to take care of someone else's need.

You stopped and looked for the signal. A minute went by. You swallowed hard, your pulse increasing with each new second coming and going. That was when you spotted it. A light flickered briefly atop of the hill. You gestured to your flock so they ran as fast as they could between two patrols.

Fandral and Hogun welcome you and those who followed, quickly helping everyone to climb on board.

“Thor’s taking Odin out of our scent.” Hogun informed you.

“Does he know what we’re doing?”

“Not sure. But the All-Father is getting suspicious. Perhaps Heimdall told on us?”

You shrugged unsure as to where the guardian’s loyalty landed. Heimdall saw behind time and space and yet never did he run his mouth. He must had known for many tricks you and Loki performed before you even conceived them and yet, it seemed that you always had the element of surprise.

“Only one left.” Fandral said coming to you. “They are ready for your father, Keeper.”

“Aren’t you coming us?” asked your father grabbing your wrist.

You shook your head and in his eyes flashed a grim light. You could not shake off the idea that it was the last time you were to see him. But at least he’ll live and soon he and mom will be reunited. The rest does not belong to us.

“My child.” he said taking you in his arms.

In spite of him muffling a cry, you felt wet drops falling down on your neck. As to feeling were concerned, your father rarely shared them, seeking solace in his mind and in his work around the house. You had no recollection of him holding you ever since you grew out of it. The last time was when you were just a little who needed her father’s comfort at night during a storm. And even then, he would only pat your head gently telling you that a storm was nothing to be afraid of. So the fact that he was holding you and crying in your arms made you ill-at-ease but more importantly ashamed of having spent so little time with your parents.

“Now, now, let’s not dwell on sentiment.” you answered.

You put on your brave face hoping he could not see through the cracks and planted a deep kiss on his cheek. You watched him enter the ship and when the door closed, your heart tightened in your chest.

“As far as treason goes, I think we did pretty good.” said Fandral behind you. "What's next now Keeper?"

You inhaled deeply, fighting the tears back.

“I think ale might be in order.”


You wandered through the Archives, alone with your books and scrolls and parchments and maps. You had selected the most important or precious ones and given them to Egil, but those that had to stayed will surely be burn to ashes if the palace ought to be attacked. They left nothing but ruin in their path. The bitter thought crept its way to your heart, hunting down any trace of fear you might have had. Maybe I should have put some more in the others ships for Egil to receive.

You missed him already, your precious little assistant who was growing to be a wise and gentle man. You caught your reflection in the window and heard the quietness of the place. Egil was never one to make some noise, although you always knew when he was around. In the way he breathed and walked around the place, it had been a comfort of some sort to have him in the Archives with you. 

You scanned the place and realized how empty it had become since Egil was gone.

--

“You be brave.” Loki said to him.

“But don’t be stupid.” you added. “Sometimes people mistake stupidity for bravery.”

The boy nodded at the both of you.

“You should know.”

“We talked about this. If you stay, I stay too.” you reminded Loki.

Loki grumbled then winked to the boy who flashed a smile. Egil wanted to stay as well and he had fought you the way you had fought Loki. Harder still. Though neither you nor Loki would let him have his way.

“Now, take care of yourself and don’t let Gunborg anywhere near the scrolls. She’s too clumsy to hand them.”

“She spilled water once.” Loki said in annoyance.

“It’s one too many time!”

You glared at him and returned to Egil. The boy looked pale and concerned and his eyes kept on going from you to Loki. It became clear he was having second thoughts about leaving no matter how much you had explained him the importance of his mission.

He liked having a mission as he held a little bit of pride in his heart. You took a long look at this young man who had grown up so much and in so many ways. You did not want to sound as if you were saying goodbye even though you were under this exact impression.

You opened your mouth to promise something to the boy, something he could carry with him while away from Asgard, something that would light his way back home but you had forgotten what is was. As you felt Loki’s hand between your shoulder blades, you stepped back and wished Egil safe travels, a knot in your throat and tears on the edge of your eyes lashes.

The boy sprung to your arms and squeezed your waist so hard that the links of your golden belt marked his skin. You hugged him in return but doing so made it harder for you not to let your sorrow show. Softly, Loki took the boy out of your arms only to have him clinging around his waist.

The prince held his breathe for a second. You chuckled for it was adorable to see Loki uneasy with Egil hugging him. He patted his head and whispered something in his ear. When Egil finally let go of Loki he was ready to go.

He held his head high and went for the ship that awaited the last passengers. Egil put a foot on the threshold, paused for a second then entered and disappeared in the crowd.

“They grow up so fast.” joked Loki surrounding your shoulders with his arm.

Still, you perceived a genuine anguish behind his light-humour. An anguish that devastated you as soon as the boy was out of your sight.

“We did good with him, didn’t we?” you asked in need of reassurance.

“Couldn’t do any better.” Loki sighed with a heavy-heart, his eyes locked on the doors of the ship that swallowed the last people to embark.

Soon they closed and this ship took of, taking your boy with it.

“Tell me he’s going to turn out fine.”

“He’s going to turn out fine.” Loki said.

You glimpsed at him following the ship with his eyes until it vanished.

“I hate when you agree with me.”

A smile lightened his face and kissed the top of your head. But as soon as some guard arrived to tell him of the latest news, a shadow of distress clouded Loki’s face.

--

I hate this. I hate waiting and I hate being useless. You had done your part as Keeper of the Scrolls but you wanted to do more as yourself. I should sneak upstairs, and see what's going on.

“Keeper?” called Sif.

You were startle, nonetheless you greeted the warrior maiden with a smile and a joke. She did not even chuckle and her face was serious, more serious than usual. Which led you to think that something was definitely wrong.

“What is it?”

“I have been asked to escort you.”

“To the vaults already?”

It was the plan Loki came up with, locking you in the vaults if the battle was to begin on Asgard. It was the safest place in the realm and since you made it clear that you were to stay as long as he did, this had been the best solution.

“Come with me.” she demanded.

Sif's body was tensed from her clenched jaw to her grip around the tilt of her sword. You asked her again if you were to go to the vaults and if the battle had begun finding it odd that the warrior maiden herself was tasked to escort you. Every nameless guard could have done it so why did Sif, the brilliant sword master and Thor's own companion was there in the Archives asking you to follow her?

“It’s better if you come with me.”

She extended her hand for you to grab but instead you seized a torch and waved it in front of you.

“Who sent you?”

Sif let a scoff out that bruised your ego.

“What’s so funny?”

“He said you might do that.” she smirked.

“Who?” you asked when a sudden blow on your head sent you to a short, yet deep blackout.


 

You woke up straddle on a horse led by Sif. Before you the bifrost got bigger and bigger whereas Asgard was nothing but a golden point on the horizon. From the back of your head throbbed an intense and hot wave of pain. You winced upon touching it.

“If it’s any consolation, it hurt Fandral just as much to do it.”

“What?” you asked in confusion. “Why are we going...”

A loud explosion covered the rest of your question. The horse neighed but Sif manage to hold it in place. Three red stars and their blazing trails entered the Asgardian sky and fall all over the realm. It’s raining fire, soon there would be nothing left. The dreadful thought creept in your mind and sank in your heart. They’re here.

“We better hurry.” said Sif.

You entered the bifrost bridge struggling against the warrior maiden but, and not unlike Dagmar, she was too strong for you and, unlike Dagmar, there was nothing you could do or say to make her stop pushing you toward Heimdall.

The guardian greeted you with a slight bow of his head. His golden eyes flickered watching you come against your will. You stared at him in awe. His presence made of wisdom, was ineluctable for itt filled the place with a strange sort of peace. A peace of mind and of heart in that he had already seen what was about to happen. Heimdall moved aside and revealed the presence of someone that had been hiding in his shadows all along.

“Loki?”

He made a start on walking towards you when another explosion caught the attention of everyone. Sif was trembling with the urge to go and fight though she stayed put until Loki told her to go.

“I’ll be right behind you.” Loki said.

You expected Sif to mistrust him as she had always done, but her her will to join the battlefield was stronger than any suspicions she might have. Right before she left on her horse, she took a look at you and in her fierce gaze you saw pity.

“What is the meaning of this? Are...are we going away?”

With a nod from Loki, Heimdall drove his massive giant sword on its pedestal. You watched him turned it and blinked when a blinding, yet colourful portal opens. The all‑seeing guardian remained still as a statue. A gigantic black and gold statue whose gaze stared at the infinite. Before you knew it, Loki was taking you to the threshold of the portal.

“Wait...I thought you said you could not leave.” you said confused.

“I am not the one to go.”

Of course. I should have known.

“No.” you begged. “No, no, no, no. You can’t do this to me.”

Loki dragged you easily enough, deaf to your call of distress.

“No, stop, please, don’t do this to me. Please, Loki. Don’t.”

You fought and won the right to face him. Loki’s eyes diverted from left to right, to finally land on the floor. Heimdall reminded him of the opened portal as if anyone could forget the damn thing.

“Look at me.” you commanded taking Loki’s face in your hands.

You forced him to lift his head up to you but as far as his eyes were concerned there was nothing left for you to do.

“Come on, little snake, don’t send me away. I should be by your side, you know I should.” you pleaded. 

All of a sudden his emerald eyes shifted and stared right at you. They bursted with a stormy sea of emotions making it impossible not to drown in them.

“I told you before, I am not taking any chances.” he said stroking your tangled hair.

Then come with me, you desperately wanted to answer, except that it would sound too much of an ultimatum and that would definitely crush him.

“I don’t fear it.” you said with tears in your eyes. “Let me stay. Please, let me stay.”

“My Prince.” called Heimdall.

There was an urgency burning in Loki’s eyes as well as an inner battle he was the only one to fight. You held on to him, digging your nails in his black and green leather armour and when he pulled you against him he held you with the same force and desperation.

“You’ll have to forget me, dove.”

“Don’t you mean forgive?”

You had the strange feeling that Loki had not misspoken though you had no idea what he meant. You searched for a clue in his eyes, hoping he had not lie to you when he promised not to act against your will of staying. Then why is he sending me away then? That was when it hit you like a ton of bricks.

“He knows.” you breathed. “He knows doesn’t he? Odin knows what we did and he’s threaten me to exile or worse.”

“He does, and he did. That’s why I need to get you safe, now.”

“How safe and for how long? Where are you sending me?”

Loki clenched his fist around your hair still in battle with his inner self. You did not care for Odin’s wrath for you had done the right thing, however, you hated the déjà-vu sensation you were having. As Keeper you were aware of the peculiarity of History, the fact that it tended to repeat itself. You showered Loki with questions, demanding to know the extant of his unexpected plan and clinging on his hands so he could not take them off of you.

“There’s no time.” he said with his voice breaking. “For once, my love, let me win a fight.”

Loki’s lips prevented you from answering him. He pressed them on yours with all he had in him and you felt all of the emotions he had held in his gaze. There was fear and love and passion of course. But also pain and bitterness and sorrow. However, the last taste that remained on your tongue was which of hope.

Hope that you will find each other again. Hope that in a not so distant future you will be together. Properly together, with no obstacle standing in your way. We should have done this centuries ago, you told yourself as you connected with him with every fibre of your soul. You had kissed before.

Throughout the centuries you had known each other it had happened a few times, but none of those previous kisses matched the meaning and the intensity of this one. In it, lied the truth, the indubitable proof of your feelings for one another. No more games, no more tricks and no more pretending. Only the truth.

“It’s not fair.” you said with your forehead against his.

“No, it’s not.”

Chapter Text

Loki and Thor beheld the wondrous landscape that stretched before their eyes.

The outer space was beyond compare, infinite and complete at the same time. So they stood, side by side, having defeated their sister Hela and witnessed the fall of Asgard. They had watched, powerless and weakened by the extraordinary fight they had against the goddess of death, Surtur plunged his sword through the heart of their home. But Asgard was not a place.

It was its people, so said Odin and in this he was right.

Loki gazed beyond the stars and asked his brother if he really thought it was a good idea to back to Earth.

“Yes, of course.” he said with a smile full of confidence and pride. “The people of Earth love me. I’m very popular.”

Loki sighed. His brother had always been popular wherever he went and with whomever he talked to.

“Let me rephrase that. Do you really think it’s a good idea to bring me back to Earth?”

“Probably not, to be honest. I wouldn’t worry, brother. I feel like everything’s gonna work out fine.”

The dark haired god of mischief would like very much to be as sure as his brother was.

Earth. Loki had a complicated history with the place they knew under the name of Midgard. Home of pathetic and weak beings that would not bend their knee in face of a true leader. He should have rule them all but instead they had chosen to worship Thor and his mismatched new companions. The Avengers. The world's mightiest heroes had been quite the thorn in his thigh, though his brother had always been his main concern.

But time had passed, and plans have failed.

For a while, Loki had no wish to even think of this insignificant planet his father once upon a time chose to include in the nine realms and doing so, put under his protection. While Thor had taken quite a liking of Earth, as did their father, Loki had remained guarded. Though not for the reasons every one suspected.

Discreetly Thor left his side, probably to go and play King for a while.

“Makes you think, uh?” said Korg gazing at the stars. “All those balls of gas, like little farts from the other side of the universe shining bright. It’s beautiful really. But they dead, aren’t they? Dead but beautiful. Not unlike Miek, though he’s not dead is he?”

Loki flashed a smirk at the rock giant who breathed word of a revolution.

“Later.” Loki said and excused himself with a nod.

He walked through the corridors, searching for a quiet spot to rest and not think for a minute. As Loki studied a map of the ship on his way from Sakaar to Asgard and memorized it, he became the one in charge of running the place. But not ruling, he thought with bitterness.

On his way to solace, he found men and women wandering around the place having no clue where to go to rest or eat or clean themselves. With patience and care, Loki took it upon himself to guide each and every one of them, and what surprised him the most was their heartfelt thanks.

He was not used to it for the only time he did rule it had been too short to be noticed or under the disguise of the All‑Father. Every credit for his achievements he might have had went to Odin instead of him.

Loki pushed a heavy door and found an empty place with a bed under a long and horizontal window and a sink and a trunk. Not that he has many things to put in it really, but Loki opened it anyway and discovered a white and blue flexible armour.

“That’s mine.” Brunhild said entering the small room and shutting the open trunk with her foot.

“I see you’re accommodating just fine.” Loki said eyeing the bottle the Valkyrie held in her hand.

She drank from it though her eyes never left Loki.

“That’s the only quiet place I’ve found so far.”

“Yeah? Too bad for you. That’s mine.”

“Yes, so I heard.” Loki answered feeling his annoyance turned into something darker.

“Then why are you still here? Go share a bunk with your brother.”

A dagger had appeared against his throat, the sharper end of it tickling his ivory skin. Loki chuckled unbothered by the weapon as he had one of his against her throat.

“Not happening.” he said.

The last Valkyrie was a feisty little woman whose strength was not unlike the Hulk's with whom she used to train on Sakaar. Not that he would ever admit it, but Loki was impressed by her. There was a time when he and his brother even admired the Valkyrie so much that they wanted to join them. At least Thor wanted to, until Loki broke it down for him that only women were able to join the elite warrior force. It had hoped that it would shattered his dreams but instead it had planted a new one in his always optimistic brother’s head.

“Then Sif should join them.” he had said beaming.

“They’re all dead.” Loki reminded him.

“I’m pretty sure Sif could pulled it off anyway.”

And that was it. In Thor’s mind, Sif had become a sort-of Valkyrie.

But now that he had had actually met one, and fought alongside her, the new King of Asgard was beyond ecstatic.

“There’s someone you have to meet when we land on Earth.” Thor had said to Brunhild before he followed Heimdall to talk about the new place they had to built. “First thing we do, I take you to her.” Brunhild had frowned then shrugged then disappeared elsewhere.

Surely, she must have found her way to the kitchens and make herself comfortable until she decided to go back to the place she was now calling hers.

Loki exhaled and put his dagger away.

“Fine. But I’ll need one favour from you before I go.”

Brunhild studied him with mistrust in her brown eyes though she was intrigued. She could have scoffed and kicked him out of the room easily for Loki had not true leverage. However, she tilted her head to the side, tightening her grip around the neck of her bottle and asked him what it was.

Hearing so, Loki pulled out a long object bundled in a simple cloth from who knew where. As he unfolded the cloth, he revealed another dagger. It looked like a snake with glimmering scales and the sharpest blades ever made. Brunhild checked its balance and its weight with an expert eye.

Ever since she had ditched her sword, the Valkyrie had made the daggers her weapons of choice. She enjoyed the proximity of one’s last breathe as did Loki.

Loki looked at the blade in Brunhild’s hand, allowing her to play with it for a while. She whistled through her teeth, eyes shining with excitement.

“That’s some impressive blade.”

Loki lowered his head and thought about the blacksmith who made it a lifetime ago. He had seen her name on the logs but could not bring himself to visit her. That would mean, somehow, getting too close to you.

“It’s barely used though.” she noticed.

“I retrieved it recently.”

Saying this led Brunhild to believe that he had stumbled upon it by chance picked it up while being in the vault. After all, Loki was the last person to ever set foot in the place where the Odin's most prized possessions remained unscathed. Whereas in fact, Loki stumbled upon it on his way out after putting Surtur’s crown in the Eternal Flame though it was not by chance. The blade had been put in the vault, most likely by his own mother when she took it from his own hands on the very day you offered it to him.

Many times did he came down there looking for the blade or running other errands but never did he found it before. That was why, to him, it was not mere luck that led hi to the blade.

Brunhild gave the weapon back to Loki, almost with reluctance, and saw how he held it, flat on the palms of his hands unable to touch it.

Loki stared at the weapon. He was weary and his head began to hurt for he had not sleep in a while. More to the fact that he had traveled across the universe, leaving a garbage planet only to found that his home was to be destroyed. There was no other way. Ragnarök was always meant to be inevitable. He had his fun though, and fighting alongside his brother had felt good. For a second.

Now they were all cramped up in a tin can heading to a planet the Asgardian knew nothing about and that loathed him: Loki Odinson, god of mischief, prince of Asgard and rightful heir of Jothunheim. They might still fear me, Loki though with a bit of pride.

He raised his eye to meet with Brunhild’s and asked her, truly asked her, if she was willing to keep the dagger in her trunk. He still had no idea where he would stay for the duration of the trip. He would have to check the logs to see if there was any room left though he doubt it.

“Sure.” she shrugged.

She extended her hand inviting Loki to give her the weapon, but he hesitated. His heart was heavy in this chest and his breathe became shorter and shorter still. Looking at the dagger forced him to think of you, something he had carefully avoided for centuries, banishing everything that could have reminded him of you. Even saying your name had been forbidden.

“It was a gift.” Loki heard him say. “From a friend.”

He wanted to close his hand around the dagger and put it away though he could not. All he had to do was to fold the cloth around it, then let Brunhild took care of the rest. However, Loki could not bring himself to do it.

“A friend uh?” Brunhild said offering her bottle for Loki to grab.


 The life on the ship ran as smoothly as it could. Despite the fact that it was only a transition, a very long transition, tension rose from everywhere. Some people had a hard time grieving over the loss of their home no matter how many memorials or feasts were thrown. Then came the slowly but surely lack of food and drinks and the issues about the energy the ship needed to stay afloat.

This and more gave Thor and his counsel sleepless nights - or were they days? For there was no way to tell out in space. With each stop on a stranded planet, people disappeared but they were still too many to feed and to entertain.

“The revolution has begun.” Korg claimed.

“I swear, if you say that word one more time, I’ll turn you to dust.” Loki said shutting his eyes.

“What word? ‘Begun’?”

“Not that word. The R word.”

“Art word? Why does art have to do with this? That doesn’t even makes sense.”

“Let’s – let’s focus on the issue here, shall we? You are in charge of entertainment and for what I’ve heard, the people is not entertained.” Loki growled.

“There’s not so many volunteers whose willing to fight. But, I can print more pamphlet.”

“No more pamphlet!” Loki exhaled trying to get his anger in check. “Try something else. What about theatre? The people of Asgard always loved a good play.”

“Is it like writing pamphlet?” Korg asked innocently.

“I – uh...Yes, it’s like writing pamphlet. Now go and write...pamphlets."

"But you just said 'don't write more pamphlet. You ought to get your ideas straight, bro."

"Do funny ones with enthralling stories and twists and perhaps an act or two. Tell the people your story Korg. Any story really. Just stay out of the political stuff.” Loki reminded the giant but he had already crossed the threshold.

Loki fell on his chair and sighed loudly. Another day - or night - in the tin can, trying to make life bearable until they could finally all settle in New Asgard.

“I can’t believe you’re going with New Asgard for our new realm.” Loki had complained.

“What’s wrong with it?” Thor asked. “And it’s not a realm.”

“Are you not their king?”

“Yes.”

“So it’s a realm. By definition a king rules a realm otherwise it looses its meaning and purpose.”

“Fine. It’s a realm and we’re calling it New Asgard. Would you stop snorting?”

But Loki could not help himself for he found the name too simple and plain. It lacked panache and grandeur. Midgard could never match the intensity of Asgard and giving their new realm, their new home that name was an insult to the original.

“They have a ton of place called New something. Take New York for instance.” Thor defended.

“Exactly. Tons of if. So why do you insist that we lower us to their level? I’m telling you, brother. Naming our new realm New Asgard is a mistake.”

Thor’s only eye twinkled like a child’s who had discovered a secret cookie jar.

“You just said it was a new realm.”

The King looked at each the members of his counsel.

On Thor’s right stood Brunhild the slayer who was in charge of military. Even if Thor had no intention on waging a war he knew that he must always be prepared for one and that was Brunhild job. On Thor’s left was Heimdall the wise who spoke few but knew more. Then came Korg, chief of entertainment and Bruce Banner the midgardian expert - a title he kept on fighting. Thor relied on the scientist to have a better understanding of Earth and of the many habits and customs one could find there.

“New Asgard it is!” Thor proclaimed.

Loki sighed aware that it was no use arguing with his brother.

“Mind if I join?” Brunhild asked taking Loki out of his thought.

She was already throwing a blade of hers in the heart of the target practice Korg had made. Loki bowed and took a step back.

“May I?” he said eyeing the bottle she had brought with her.

“That’s mine.”

“You are one possessive little lady, has anyone told you that?” Loki chuckled.

“I’m no lady.” Brunhild laughed and took a gulp of the finest spirit she had found during their last stop.

Suddenly, Loki’s face became stiff and sulky. His eyes went to the ground before settling on the large window that gave to the endless starry horizon. Loki hated how easily triggered he could be when it came to you. He despised the fact that he seemed to be triggered more and more often as more easily as the ship moved towards Earth.

“You never told me her name.” Brunhild said casually throwing another blade.

“Does it matter?”

Loki sent his own weapons next to Brunhild’s. His aim was more than decent and that was a field where he could match her warrior skills.

“Not really.” Brunhild answered.

She drank from her bottle then offered some of her drink to her companion. It had become a habit between them, casually drinking and not talking about the one that kept on haunting them. Still, they talked. Sometimes. They also fought. A lot.

“Are you going to look for her?” she asked. “When we get there?” she said retrieving the weapons and handing Loki’s to him.

In the way she talked, Brunhild never came across as a prying person and sometimes Loki was very tempted to call her a friend though he never dared.

He gazed through the window that gave to the beyond and shrugged. He wanted it to come off as casual shrug, but instead it revealed the conflict that had kept him awake most of the time. The more they got closer to Earth, the more he grew restless and it began to show.

Brunhild assumed her position, her back to Loki as she faced the target.

“I know I would.” Brunhild said. “If there was a chance...you know.”

He knew. Loki had seen it on Sakaar when he fought Brunhild for the first time and resorted himself to make her relive her most painful memory. Doing so had made him feel her sorrow as if it had been his own and for that he was sorry.

They aimed and threw their knives practically at the same time and when they were done they walked to the target to take them back and do this all over again.

“I’ve been on Earth before.” Loki said.

“So I’ve heard.”

“I admit that it was not my proudest moment. But I’ve been there before and I didn’t go to look for her then, so why should I now?”

“Did you wanted to?”

Loki softly chuckled and sent his blade across the room.

“Let’s just say that my mind was set on something else.” he grinned.

“Well.” Brunhild left the firing line. “You’ll have yours hands full this time too, even more so because we're building something and it takes much more time than wrecking havoc riding a gigantic slug. But when we’re done with the foundations of New Asgard...”

Loki scoffed and rolled his eyes at the mention of New Asgard but Brunhild ignored it.

“All I’m saying is that you should at least try. And perhaps it’ll calm you down a bit.”

“I’m perfectly calm” Loki said defensively.

Brunhild raised a doubtful eyebrow.

“You dream about her.” she said agitating her blade in front of Loki’s nose. “More and more, and when you do I can’t sleep. So either you find yourself another place to crash until we land on Earth, or you settle your mind on this issue once and for all.”

Loki could not stand when somebody else was right, especially Brunhild who displayed a cockish smirk every time she was aware of the fact that she was indeed not wrong. The prince grabbed the bottle she had left on the floor and emptied it.

“What would be the point anyway? I made her forget about me a long time ago. I had to.”

“You altered her memories?” Brunhild said.

In her brown eyes shown reproach and a cold judgement Loki found himself unable to stare at back so instead of dealing with her, he threw the bottle in the air then launched one of his blade after it. The shattered glass rained catching the artificial lights of the ships. Thousand of tiny rainbows fall on floor jingling.

“You wouldn’t understand.”

“Try me.” she said kicking Loki in the legs.

He almost lost his balance but manage to hold steady and fought back. The more he struggled not to talk, the harder she came after him, urging him to ‘try her’ again and again.

“Stop being relentless. It's not cute.”

“I’ve been called worse.” she smirked and jumped in the air to punch him on the chest.

"What? Cute?"

As they fought, Loki began to open up. Evasively at first, sending her snarky remarks and counterattacking even her most sneaky assaults. Then, without his knowledge, the words flew out of his mouth like a river that burst its bank. Loki kept his feelings for himself but in the way he talked and fought, Brunhild guessed and in the end, there was no trace of judgement in her eyes but only a deep sadness that she hid behind her bottle.

“I get why you couldn’t go before. But now all of it is gone. We all have to start from scratch. Even her.”

“She already did.” Loki said smacking the back of Brunhild’s head.

She shook it off and jumped on her feet, ready for another assault.

“Bullshit. You gave her a false start, altering her mind the way you did. Odin’s gone. She’s not in arms-way anymore. Aren’t you curious to see where this could lead?”

It was a road he never dared go down on. It was too risky and the torture it would inflicted him was too much for him to bare.

“Look, the dark and broken-hearted man act as appealing as it might be for some, is really getting old.” Brunhild panted. “Either you want to be with her, or you don’t. On the first day on this ship you gave me her blade, why?”

“Safekeeping.”

“Doubt it.”

The air left Loki’s lung as Brunhild struck him with all the strength she had and sent him to the other side of the room. She was a true warrior who would never dialled her strength down but somehow it felt like she went a little harder than she used to. It gave Loki time enough to let his thoughts slip away. Why did I pick it up? Loki wondered. Though the reason was so simple that it eluded even his sharp mind. Seeing it in the vaults, Loki could not turn his back and pretend nothing ever happened, so he took the long lost blade and made sure it was safe in Brunhild’s care.

“You’re just scared because now all there is is you and her. No more walls, no more spiteful king nor unwanted husband. It’s just you and her, and you can’t stand the idea of you coking things up.”

Loki toyed with the idea of killing the last Valkyrie here and there but the aftermath would be too messy and complicated to handle so he decided against it.

He closed his eyes for a second and your image came to him so naturally that it made him believe you were actually there. However, when Loki’s green eyes opened you were gone.

“I’m off to bed.” he said as he rose. “Are you coming or what?”

Brunhild studied the tall and dark-haired prince with an appreciative eye. Loki knew he better be ready for her when she came.


 

You and Loki were seated on a rock, with your feet in the turquoise water of the river you loved so much. It’s only a dream, Loki told himself. But what a sweet dream it was.

You and him, together in a place that belonged only to the two of you.

“Why didn’t you come sooner?”

“I wasn’t sure you’d want me to.” Loki confessed hiding his awkwardness.

“Of course silly. I miss you.” you said bumping his knee with yours.

You stood so close to him that your shoulders kept on brushing his.

You were drawing circles in the water with your bare feet and sometimes you would touch his and Loki would twitched. The contact was brief and so light it barely existed. Nonetheless, Loki’s skin longed for your touch.

He watched you put a strand of your hair behind your ear. That simple gesture made him smile, almost shyly.

“I like that.” you said. “When you smile. You should smile more often.”

“Don’t have that many occasions.” he confessed.

“Come find me. And I’ll give you plenty.”

You pecked Loki’s cheek in a childlike way and laughed.

Your laughter faded away when Loki opened his eyes. Lying on the bed and staring at the ceiling, he exhaled deeply. It was just a dream, he reminded himself. He put his hand over his cheek, hesitant. He could still feel the light pressure of your lips and the smile you had when you kissed him so Loki wasn’t sure he wanted this to go away. Ever.

Brunhild moaned in her sleep and moved her legs to the other side of the bed. Careful not to wake her, Loki escaped the bed they often shared and began wandering around the ship.

His mindless walk took him to the kitchen where a few people had settled. Most were pit fighters from Sakar playing a card game where they smashed each other’s hand every time a card ranked out another.

“Leader!” than cheered when Loki walked in.

Loki obliged them with a nod but refused to join the game when they offered. He had had enough of a rough night -or day- as it was. He preferred to watch them while he drunk what ever was left in the square bottle he had found.

They had been getting their hands on everything they could along the way to Earth and sometimes, they ended up with strange meals and drinks.

Once he grew restless watching the pointless and rather violent game, Loki proceeded to the front of the ship only to find his brother.

Thor greeted Loki with a smile and a nod for he held a drink as well.

“You braver than I am.” he said eyeing Loki’s glass. “I had one taste of it the other day. And I completely blacked out. It wasn’t until later, when I found myself washing my hands that I knew I should keep away from it. Vrellnexians have very specific tastes.” Thor chuckled.

His smile changed in beatitude when his eye landed on the moving map of Earth.

“Isn’t it beautiful?”

Usually his adoration for Midgard would make Loki gag in his mouth or at least roll his eyes, but not at this moment.

The blue waters shone, unbothered and peaceful while millions of tiny lights scattered across its brown surface flickered. Loki looked closely at the round planet where they will soon land on and wondered under which light you lived and, if you were happy. You had to be, otherwise it would have been for nothing. His knuckles whitened around his glass almost crushing it.

“It’s alright.” Loki answered his brother.

Thor turned his head to glimpse at him for Loki stood on the wrong side. Ever since Thor had lost an eye, Loki had found it amusing to remain in his blind spot.

“We’ll have a lot to do. Once we get there. But the promise of it.” Thor exhaled. “I’m glad you’re here brother.”

Loki looked back it him.

“Of course you are.” he said looking back at the map. “You’d be lost without me.”


 

“No, it does not go there!” Loki yelled. “And you have to emptied it first.”

Loki gave his orders and made sure they got it right before going back to the ship.

It had been a temporary and flying Asgard for almost two years and everyone was eager to leave it for good housing and privacy. But for the time being, the ship had been repurposed into a camp while they built New Asgard.

He had to admit it, Odin did good choosing this place. It was as beautiful as it was tranquil, with a view over the sea and green grass that stretched from one edge to the other of the lands.

The island turned out to have good and fertile grounds that would be easy to cultivate. And the sea gave them plenty of food as well.

Loki turned his back to the landscape and began his long walk back to the ship. There, he found Banner discussing New Asgard with Thor.

“I’ve lived in worse place than this.” Banner said cleaning his glasses with his shirt. “But you’ll need more than wood and rocks and labour to make this place up and running. You’ll need electricity and running water and to build roads too. In fact you should start with roads. You’ll need resources for all of this and uh...I don’t know. It’s a big, big project.” he said with a frown. “Maybe we should call Tony.”

Thor snorted with arms crossed against his chest.

“We’ll do fine without Stark, thank you.”

And I’m the proud one? Loki thought eyeing his brother.

“Anyway. It’ll take some time but you have good folks that are willing to help so you’ll be fine.”

“Wait...Aren’t you staying with us?” Thor asked alarmed.

Bruce squinted his eyes to the grey sky and mumbled before he took of his glasses off and began to clean them up once more.

“Come on Banner, you are our midgardian expert. We need you here.”

“No, no." he chuckled. "You only saying that to get to the Hulk so he can lift the heavy stuff. We’ve been through this and...”

“Oh come on Banner. We need you both. You for this.” Thor said taping Bruce’s forehead with his forefinger. “And the other guy for...” Thor grunted while flexing his biceps.

Bruce sighed and glimpsed at Loki who was more than willing to stay silent and let his brother do the talking and embarrassed himself.

“I’m a scientist and...”

“Yes we know. You have seven STD’s.” Thor cut annoyed.

“PhD’s. I… I can’t stay here with you guys.” Banner pleaded.

His eyebrows folded themselves above the bridge of his nose and with his teary eyes no one in their rightful mind could think that this was the incredible Hulk.

“Come on.” Thor said bumping Banner’s shoulder with his fist. “You’re one of us now. We are the Revengers. We are...”

“In need of a doctor.” Loki broke and stepped up. “I’ve checked the logs twice, and believe it or not, we have no healers here with us.”

He turned to face his brother and a concerned Bruce Banner.

“If something were to happened, we’d be helpless. Stranded on an island far from the civilized world.”

“Alright! Alright!” Banner said waving his hand. “There’s no need for the dramatic. I...I get the picture.”

Banner looked at Thor and diverted his eyes quickly from Loki who was grinning. He knew it made the scientist ill-at-ease but he could not help himself. Finally, after cleaning his glasses for the third time in less than five minutes, Banner caved in and announced that he was staying until New Asgard was up and running. He also suggested that he should train whoever was willing to learn the healing trade.

Another victory for the trickster, Loki congratulated himself.

Despite the many tasks to focus on, one idea haunted him. One idea kept him awake at night, banging against the walls of his mind screaming “let me in! let me in!” And everyday it was getting closer, going faster than a rollercoaster. And everyday seemed a little longer.

“Loki.” Thor called. “You’ve been rather distant these past few days, are you alright?”

“Never been better.” Loki said straightening himself. “Come on, brother. Lots to do.”


 

As time went by, the memory of you got sharper. It messed with his senses and mind and feelings. Not only did it haunt him, it taunted him, made him painfully aware of your absence and more so of his will to come and find you.

In 2012, Loki had been 'distracted' as he used to say, but now it felt you closer than ever before now that you were only an ocean away. Indeed, what was an ocean when you had been realms apart for centuries?

Hands deep in the pockets of his black pair of trousers, Loki looked at the horizon. The wind ruffled his long black hair while the sea sang him her sad song. Between his fingers was a piece of paper, crinkled by the countless of times he had played with it.

Loki felt the soft brush of the paper against his fingertips, the torn corner and the tear, thin like a slit in the middle. He imagined the blue ink that spelled the letters Bruce Banner had written a week ago and closed his eyes, inhaling deeply.

Ever since Brunhild interfered, Loki had lost every battle he fought against your memory, leaving him weak and desperate. He never asked the Valkyrie to do this and yet she did. She messed with his business and involved Banner of all people. Though she assured him, Bruce did not know anything about you, Loki resented her just for seeking his help.

“He knows how to slide on the waves of the interweb.” she had said unsure if her words were correct at all.

Loki had stared at the paper for a long time, trying to make head or tail of what was writing on it. McGraw-Hill.

“It’s where she lives.”

Brunhild was proud of her, going out of her way to help Loki mend his heart. Or perhaps was she tired of his lonesomeness and of the gloom that tainted their relationship from time to time. None of it mattered for a raging storm shattered his heart and clouded his judgement. It took the best of him and forced him to launch an attack.

Brunhild and Loki usually communicated better when fighting, but this day was about shutting her up. Loki gave it all, but it was not enough. It never was. The fight was quick, yet brutal, leaving Loki panting on the floor with a thin cut on his cheek.

“Just say thank you and be done with it.” Brunhild said extending her hand for him to grab.

Loki slapped the back of her hand and got up all by himself. He wiped the blood off his cheeks not without staring at it for a second. The red drop mocked him, so he threw it away never to think about it ever again.

There had been a red stain on the paper from that day on. Loki never dared to say the name McGraw-Hill out loud though it followed him with each step he took.

Knowing where you lived was enough to make it real. To make you real, and closer he could ever imagined. Loki had banned you for so long that he had forgotten how dreadfully sweet it was to think of you. And now that you had invited yourself in his mind again, Loki found himself in a quandary.

Still, as he touched the paper with the name of the town you lived in, Loki pictured you leaving your house and closing the door behind though you forgot to lock it. Then, you walked down the street, nodding to a couple of people you knew but mostly, you were lost in your thoughts until something caught your attention.

It could be anything really, but it would snatched you away for a moment. He always saw the most insignificant of things like you drinking from a tall glass of water, or you holding an apple in your hand. What often came to him was the picture of you simply reading under a tree, with your bare feet buried in the soft blades of grass and a strand of your hair brushing the pages of your book.

Judging by the way your chest moved, Loki could guess what kind of story you were into. If it moved rapidly, then you were reading something filled with adventures and a high-end suspense. But if it was calm, almost motionless, then you were in a dark tale where the only light revealed more evil and treacherous things hiding behind a corner.

This piece of paper he carried with him wherever he went, was a portal to the land of dreams and hopes. It connected him to you in a way he never thought could be possible ever since he casted you away.

The clouds shifted in the sky, grey and heavy. They moved as slow as snails but seemed to get lower and lower still. From afar came a low rumble and the air smelled of iron. It will be raining soon, thought Loki his eyes on the sea. Which led him to wonder if it was raining over McGraw-Hill as well.

Chapter Text

The little square object weighed almost nothing in your hand.

In fact, it could have been a toy for all you knew. But the red bubble that shone when you pressed the record button made you believe it was very real.

“Ok.” you said holding the tape recorder a few inches from your mouth. “Here goes nothing… Dear diary, did you know that pranking old people was kind of not a good idea? Well, I, for one, did not know that and I almost got fired today. I don't know why I did it this year. Maybe an itch to scratch but let me tell you that she one tough little lady this Mrs Lee and with a good aim too. Anyhoo, I should go or I be late for my shift. Ah! As if!”

You turned off the little machine and carelessly threw it on the old – once – red coach. You crossed the living space of your cramped and dusty apartment in two strides and closed the door with a bang. You did not bother to lock it and ran down the stairs two by two.

Beside those stairs there were two doors on the ground floor, one that lead to a smelly alley on the side of the building and one to the Marvell’s Bookstore owned by your tenant, caretaker and life‑saver.

“Hi there, Mrs Lee!”

“Do you have to slam the door every time?” she reprimanded you.

You spotted an apple on the counter and quickly grabbed it. Apple juice drops rolled down your chin, and without taking her eyes off her check books, Mrs Lee offered you a napkin.

“Did you know that in France they say ‘poisson d’avril’ when they prank someone? Isn’t it weird? I mean...I don’t see myself yelling ‘April’s fish’ anytime I successfully...well you know.”

"I don't need the reminder thank you, young lady."

“I am no lady.” you muttered.

"And you're not young either."

She slammed her books and started walking through the alleys of her bookstore, expecting you to follow. As she spoke, she put some titles in place or dusted some covers with her hand.

She led you to the back room even though you did not need her as a guide. There, piles and piles of used books waited for you to sorted and put in their place.

It was a chore that never ended as Marvell’s Bookstore received dozens of them each week and was supposed to spread them across town. There were those that were destined to the community centre, those for the jail library you volunteered at and then the town library and the elementary school. Of course, there were some you wanted to keep for yourself and some that would be actually sold in the bookstore. You had to check the state of every one of them and toss those too damaged into the "book for free" collection. Those broke your heart more than you could say. 

In return, Mrs Lee let you live for free in the tiny and crappy place above the bookstore she owned. It was more than you coul ask for, and everyday you did not wake up under a bridge or in a dirty alley you were thankful.

“There’s something for you in the fridge.” she said. “Do not eat it all in one night, understood?”

You saluted her with your hand and clapped your heels together but as soon as you heard the bell rang you sprinted to the corner known as the ‘employee room’ where there was a fridge, a coffee maker and a small round table with two chairs.

“Yes! Cinnamon Rolls!”

You stuffed one in your mouth and closed your eyes, savouring the sugary pleasure that got you high every time.


 

It was a warm April’s morning and you were late, again. You barely took the time to put shoes on your feet and you realized as you sat, panting on the bus that you had left the door wide open. You cursed at yourself and faced the window trying to clear your mind and ease your breathe. As you peered at the buildings that passed before your eyes, a strange feeling overwhelmed you.

Your heart beat faster than usual while your hands began to shake. The bus dropped you off down the road that led to the prison.

“Late again bookworm.” sang the guard.

You showed him your badge and sighed as he took all his time to examine it before he slowly pressed the buzzer to let you in. A heavy metal door opened and you met with the usual faces you saw every Wednesday morning. You walked in the prison library, caring a copy of Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game and trying to look as professional as possible even though you were just a volunteer.

Claire, the secretary came to you and grabbed your arm as she led you to the library.

“You’re lucky I’m in charge today.” whispered Claire in your ear. “I can grant you a twenty minutes extension but not much more.”

You thanked her and apologized for your tardiness.

“Tonight you’ll buy the shots.” she winked.

“Finally!” exclaimed Durand as you pushed the door of the library.

A guard was standing in the corner with one eye kept on the circle of chairs and one on the muted tv that was hanged on the wall. Durand immediately and eagerly raised his hand high in the air. His hand must be twice the size of yours and when he spoke, even in a hush voice, it seemed like an explosion.

“I haven’t even started yet.” you said to him. “Okay guys, you know the drill, if I let Durand speak first, there’s no chance in hell you can voice your opinion, no offence D.”

“Absolutely taken.” he answered nodding nonetheless.

“So, what did you think about our pick of the week? Any one beside D?”

Silence fell like a heavy cloak but after a couple of seconds waiting, Parm, a short boy with an Al Pacino haircut jumped in.

“It’s long! I mean it’s interesting and stuff but it’s like, nothing happen for hundred of pages. And when something does...I don’t know. It’s still nothing, you know?”

“It’s the attention to the details that matters you moron.” Durand attacked.

The boy opened his mouth. You feared nothing constructive would come out of it since he was a very impulsive young man prompt to burst of rage and good in hiding knives where they were not supposed to be. You whistled between your teeth and called for order.

The guard in charge that day already had his hand on his beating stick. 

“Need I remind everyone that we are still on probation here? One fight and this fellowship is scattered. So D, please shut your mouth unless you are spoken to, or at least use appropriate language.”

The gigantic man with round clear blue eyes was an enthusiastic reader with a devastating temper. A bad combo for you to handle. With only a glare from him, you remembered why he was here. Why they were all here. You swallowed, avoiding the lump in your throat and stared every fellow in the eye, trying to find the right balance between confidence and humility.

“Fine.” Durand answered as he crossed his arms on his large chest.

You thanked him, relieved, and went back to the discussion picking up after Durand’s intervention.

“D was right saying that the attention to details matters, but Parm expresses something interesting too when he says nothing happens but when it does, it seems like nothing. Why should we care about a woman trying to get a glass of water?"

Although, the debates were passionate they were conducted in an almost-respectful way. However, you remained always on the edge of your seat, ready to bounce at the least showing of conflict that would start a fire you could not extinguished. The topics varied until came one Durand was adamant about.

“Because when Jessie wets her bed she breaks down barriers!” Durand claimed. “It is not socially acceptable to pee in your bed after and before a certain age, and it always brings down shame as if you were responsible for you defect bladder. Moreover, women are can't pee wherever they want to, because it would not be ‘appropriate’. We can pee when we want to! They can’t. Which is, unfair because they can’t hold it longer than us, so why should they be ashamed to pee behind a tree when we are not?”

The other men shook their head or averted their gaze elsewhere in room. Behind the circle in which you discussed a book every Wednesday, the guard was gazing at the tv screen completely oblivious to Durand heated soliloquy.

“So when she wets the bed, yes, yes, she breaks down barriers. She is both at her most vulnerable and yet most powerful state.”

You nodded in agreement glad to see that for once, talking about pee was relevant when discussing a book when all of a sudden, two fellows of the book club jumped out his chair, holding a gasp.

“Hey man! Turn it up!” Parm said to the guard.

“Go back to your seat.”

“Come on man! We wanna know what's goin on, turn the volume!”

You slid between the fellows and the guard, a hand already on his beating stick and asked him with a charming smile if he would oblige you. His eyes fell on your lips then glanced at your breast and with a smirk letting you know that he was mentally undressing you, while you wanted nothing more than to throw up on his face, the guard moved aside and put the volume on.

“It’s New York man.” Parm said.

“It’s always New York.” Durand answered.

“What are those?” asked another with  disgust written all over his face.

“Alien? Must be some shit from Area 51.” another fellow said.

“I’ve heard that we don’t know more than ten percent of what lives under the sea. Might be that.”

“They’re flying deep shit."

"So?"

"So how could a deep sea creature could fly in the air and still be alive?”

The attack was broadcasted live on television, on the web and on the radio so no one could escape it. Watching it, you noticed a heavy smell hanging in the air. Ashes. Then the echoing cries of laments drummed against the walls of your mind.

“It’s happening again.” you said and the others thought you meant the 2001 attack on the Big Apple.

Although in your mind it was something else entirely. A sense of déjà‑vu you could not comprehend. And then, you saw him. The one responsible for the attack, though at the time of the broadcast his name was not yet known. You watched him ride a massive beast from outer space, stopping an arrow with his bare hands. You frowned upon the golden helmet, thinking it was a bit much and held your breath when you watched him fall. What the heck is wrong with me? you reprimanded yourself. This is the textbook bad guy. One of the endless line of ‘I’m Mister Bad and I want to wreak havoc and/or rule the world because (insert evil laugh) reasons!’ Why should I care if he falls to his death? But you did and you had no control over the intensity of your feelings. Not matter how hard you fought your foolish heart it seemed to sunken more and more as you witnessed his fall.

But Loki did not die. On that fateful April afternoon, the world discovered the Avengers that would be soon called the earth's mightiest heroes. That day all the conspiracy theorists spiraled out of control, and no one was left in the dark as to where life beyond our planet was concerned.


 

“Don’t cheat.” Loki warned you. “You always cheat.”

You chuckled and put an arm over your eyes to prove him you had no intention to cheat. Or at least getting caught while cheating.

“So?” he said tickling your forearm.

“I don’t know. Yes?”

“Ah! You’re so far from it.”

You uncovered your eyes and blinked for the sunlight blinded you for a moment. You glimpsed at this hand and realized his finger was far from your elbow crease.

“Not fair!” you exclaimed. “Here, let me do it.”

Loki closed his eyes and extended his arm with a smirk. You pushed his sleeve up and began drawing circles on the inside of his wrist. You slowly went up, making your circles bigger then smaller. There was no pattern for him to follow. He folded his eyebrows while assessing if you were near his elbow crease or not. It was a silly game he had come with recently while being bored during his schooling. It was pointless, nonetheless plain old fun.

“Stop!” he said and opened one eye.

“No way. You moved when I said stop!”

“I did not!”

“Yes, you did.”

You laughed and pushed him telling him that he sucked at his own game which bruised his ego. Loki pouted but when you offered him a ride in the city, his green eyes glimmered with a mischief.

“What kind of ride?”


 

“Okay let’s do this DD, which stands for Dear Diary by the way, so it’s not like a proper name but it still sounds less corny.

Anyway. I’ve been running around in circles in my mind for the past few day, wondering if I should share those creepy dreams that I’ve been having. Since a therapist would probably lock me away or hammer me with meds, I thought ‘why the heck not tell DD?’ So here I am. Telling you about my dreams. I don’t have them all the time but often enough to give me something to chew on. It’s about this guy. The one with golden antlers. What’s up with those by the way? I mean...Anyway 2.0. Ever since he launched his attack on New York and, I’ve been dreaming about him.

Not weird sexy stuff which could be better because, and if anyone asks I’ll plead the fifth, he’s kind of hot. Shit. That feels weird saying it out loud, though it' not such an uncommon opinion. The joys of the internet: when you think you’re alone. You’re not! So, back to the dreams. Been having them. Can’t figure them out. Like, sometimes we’re kids running around the streets, sometimes teenagers playing silly games and some other times we are older like mid-twenty or something and we...Hang? I guess. There’s no way of telling if we’re together, together or if we are just friends but all I know is that he won’t leave my dreams!


The attack on New York was on everyone’s lips. That and the Avengers. They had become an overnight sensation, taking the world by storm. The tragedy and its aftermath gave sleepless night to many people around the globe and you were no exception. You would stared at the ceiling, lying on the couch with your legs stretched and up against the wall, a knot in your stomach and throwing a ball in the air. And every time it landed perfectly in the round of your hand a thought escaped your mind and flew right to him.

The media gave out every little detail they had, which was not much except for his name and that he was a demi-god or something, sibling of the god of thunder named Thor. If gods are involved, you reflected, what else is out there? That was the one-million dollars question these days and something told you that it was far from over.

You threw the ball in the air and caught it. Loki. The ball span on its axis then fall dramatically. What kind of lame name is that? You kept on throwing the ball and catching it endlessly, doing your best to ignore that creeping feeling that somehow you knew him.

“Bullshit.” you groaned sending the soft ball across the room. You sprung out of the couch and grabbed your phone. You browsed through your history file and erased any search you had made for the past couple of days. You also muted any tags that could be linked to Loki of Asgard, fearing you might have a caught a case of slight obsession over the god of mischief. Once your phone was purged, you sighed and decided sleeping was for the weak so you headed to your door, which you left unlock, as you went out to run in the streets at night.


 

“Can we focus on the matter here?” you asked peeved. “Or did none of you read the book?”

The fellows of the bookclub stopped their chitchat to look at you.

“I did.” said Durand with his hand in the air.

Of course you did, you thought. You toyed with the cover of this week’s choice and left the floor all to your most eager reader, barely listening to what he had to say. At the end of the session, while folding the chairs you heard Claire coming in the library. Only by the way she walked towards you, you could sense you were in trouble. You put the last chair in the cabinet and faced her awkward smile, the one she always had when she was supposed to deliver some bad news.

“On a scale from ruffling the wrong feathers to budget cuts, how bad is it?” you asked her.

“Let’s talk over drinks.” she said putting her arm around yours.

“That bad uh?”

Later on, you found yourself and your friend at your regular bar. Which was not much since the other was a trucker pit fall on the other side of town.

“You’ve been pretty out of it lately and...it starts to show.”

It was an understatement. Not only did you show up late twice in a row but your behaviour was borderline aggressive.

“And we can’t have that. Not in there.” she gently reminded you.

“I know, you’re right. So, am I fired or what?”

If crystals could sing, they would sound like Claire’s laugh. She put a hand on your wrist and squeezed it with a soft fingers.

“That’s not why I wanted to talk to you. I worry about you. Do you get any sleep or perhaps too much sleep? It could be as bad you know.”

She was sweet and you thanked her for it in your heart. From the first time you met at the county jail, Claire had been nothing but sweet to you, a good and fun friend to hang around with. She was younger than you, though to be fair, almost everyone you had met was younger than you. Even the old Mrs Lee.

You focused on Claire and listened just enough to know when to nod and when to add a few ‘hm’ or ‘yes, you’re right’. You could have told her she was worrying over nothing but it would raise her concern even more, so did your part and confessed that you were indeed feeling a little bit on the edge and blamed it all on the New York attack.

“I know.” Claire said shivering. “It’s horrible but it’s over now. and hey, we have the Avengers so I’d say we’re in pretty good hands. Very pretty.” You chuckled and sip from your beer. Haven’t you read any comic book? you wanted to ask her. Every time someone was powerful enough to protect the world with their bare hands, an equal force of destruction found their way to level with them and bring doom a little closer.

"Which one is your favorite?" she asked in need of gossip.

None of them kept you awake at night or pushed you to daydream. No, not one of them, you thought. How could it be since every human on this planet had deemed at least one member worthy of their heart? So you shrugged and told Claire that you like the green one alright.

"You're kidding me right?"

"I got to respect his smashing game." you chuckled.


 

Seven years later.

The bar was loud but you did not mind. Quite the contrary. The speakers blasted your jam and your could not stop moving your feet under the table.

“I shoulda work in a bar.” you yelled over the music.

Claire laughed taking the shots from the middle of your table.

“You’d be drunk half the time.”

“Already am!”

You bit in the slice of lemon and swallowed your tiny drink in a gulp. Claire frowned with a disgusted grimace that soon changed into a delighted one. When the waiter came around with a cupcake in his hands, your friend hoped up and down, stumping her feet on the bar of the chair.

“Is he a stripper?” you asked bug-eyed.

“I wish! Happy birthday!” she sang.

The waiter smiled at you, shoving his whiter than white teeth in your face. Diligently, Claire retrieved the cupcake with a single candle on top of it from his hand and put it in front of you. It was simple chocolate chip cupcake but you where honoured and worried at the same time. Celebrating your birthday, no matter how fake it was, meant you two were close. Too close.

“I can’t believe we’ve never done this before.”

Because I was careful not to let this happen, you thought. But this time you had been careless. You had settled in a comfortable routine and you stopped keeping track of the time.

“You’ve barely aged in ten years!” she exclaimed impressed and mesmerized.

I’ve barely aged in sixty-two years.

“What’s your secret?” she asked leaning across the table.

Her guess was as good as your own despite your theory of being some sort of meta human. Perhaps I was the result of some freaky experiment and I broke out of the lab. One day you had woken up in the middle of nowhere and you had barely aged ever since. Some would call it a blessing but to you it had been nothing but a curse, casting you aside of society for you were doomed to live a lonely life. If it were not for Mrs Lee and her late husband you probably would have been dead by now. If I can die that is.

Claire encouraged you to make a wish, her eyes on the candle.

“I could ask for a raise.” you suggested.

“Not even the genie from Aladdin could grant you this one.” Claire laughed. “What about a special someone?”

“You can’t wish for a special someone. And also, I don’t need one. Been there, done that, moved on.”

Or tried to, you thought sour. No, I did. I moved on. Your hand mechanically reached your right thigh and no matter how many layers you wore, you always felt the scar through them. Truthfully, you had nothing to wish for. You were content with what you had which was not much, but enough for you to live a life that was bearable. Granted you lived alone, but that was by choice not by necessity. You had no intention of doing it again. Ever!

However, Claire was waiting for you to make a wish. No, she was rooting for you to make a wish so you closed your eyes and pretended to think for a second before you blew the candle out. She gladly clapped her hands and gestured the bright smiley waiter for another round of shots.

“What did you wish for?” she said siping her margaritas with a prying eye.

“To bone before the end of the world.”

“No! Why did you tell me? You’re never going to have sex now!”

She was being ridiculous but you loved her for that. She made everything more fun and bearable. You grabbed the drinks from the waiter’s hand and swallowed them all. The alcohol burnt its way down your throat, clouding your mind for a second.

By the time you left the bar, you had more alcohol in your blood stream than a whole crew of seamen. Nevertheless, you showed almost no signs of being drunk. Perhaps were you more jovial but you suspected your friend to be the cause of it.

She stumbled on the paveway singing at the top of her lungs, throwing her hand bag in the air as she imagined herself in a musical. You laughed so hard that a pain lodged itself between your ribs while tears rolled over your cheeks. A voice from nowhere in particular yelled at her to shut up which made her sing louder and you laughed harder. When all of a sudden, you froze.

“Oh, you’re gonna see your sheba shimmy shake.” Claire sang.

She did not realized you had stoped cheering for her and were now staring at a crow that stood on the top of a mailbox.

“No, I’m no one’s wife but, Oh I love my life and all that...” Claire finally saw it too and the last word of her drunken song went out as a question. “Jazz? Is that a...”

She grabbed your arm to steady herself and leant forwards to get a better view at the motionless bird.

“That’s a crow, yeah.” you said.

“What’s he doing?”

“Don’t know.” you shrugged.

“It’s looking at you.” Claire murmured.

She chuckled under her heavy breathe and waved her hand in the air saying ‘shoot’ a dozen times but the bird would not move. It did not even pay attention to her, its eyes black as a pit only on you. An invisible string pulled you to the bird. You were compelled to step forward, to extend your hand, to touch its silky feathers.

“It’s gonna eat you Barbra!” Claire laughed.

You stopped. Your hand hanged in the air just above the crow’s head. Will it? you wondered. It looks so harmless. Instead of petting the animal, you showed it the palm of your hand and began to talk to it in a high and soft voice.

“There’s nothing for you here, I'm sorry.” you said when it pecked your sensitive skin.

The birds jerked its head up and tilted to the right. You smiled, feeling a strange connection with it.

“Where do you come from?” you asked it.

“I’m bored!” Claire complained. “Can we leave the freaky bird and go downtown! I need to toss those shoes in the river.”

“We are not tossing anything in the river.” you said above your shoulder. “Sorry new friend, got to go.”

The bird pecked your hand once more as a goodbye. You reluctantly moved backwards, facing this strange crow only to find your friend who immediately clang to your arm.

“Can I toss them on the street at least?”

You sighed defeated, and let her get rid of her shoes since you could have never stoped her anyway. Better the street than the river, you thought.


 

The bird flapped its wings in the sky, casting a gigantic shadow on the grass. You thanked this welcomed apparition and stretched lazily on the grass.

“Shouldn’t you be in school?”

You heard the smirk in his voice.

“Taking a day off.” you answered.

“You’ve been taking a lot of these lately.”

Loki sat next to you but did not lie down. Instead, he played with a clover he just found.

“So have you.”

“Well, where you go, I go too my dove.”

You grunted and groaned for the nickname still bothered you. But Loki being Loki, the more you begged him to stop, the more he found it satisfactory to call you his dove.

“I’ve got something for you.” he let out in a breathe.

“Is it freedom? Otherwise I'm not interested.”

Loki chuckled and the next minute you felt something round in your hand. You levelled your hand to your eyes and gazed at a red apple. It got bumps and spots, nonetheless your mouth watered upon the simple vision. You enjoyed the first bite like none other and relished in the sweet taste of a fresh apple.

“Give me some.” Loki said with envy.

“Over my dead body.”

Loki took your word for it and moved as quick as a snake so he landed on top of you, restraining your wrists and taking the apple he gave you, from your mouth with his teeth. He let go of one wrist to take a bite and waggishness shone in his eyes.

“Give it back.” you said struggling underneath him.

You wiggled your legs trying to put Loki off balance but the boy followed your moves with an unnatural ease. You lifted your hand to take what was yours, but he put it down immediately, locking you with your arms spread on each side of your face. Loki held the apple between his teeth and grinned an evil smile. He leant over, until all of his upper‑body was pressed on yours.

Your chests pushed one another in a slow and steady rhythm. His dark raven hair brushed your forehead when he closed the distance and put the apple back in your mouth. If it were not for the fruit, he would have locked his lips with yours. You hoped for a wild second that he would.

Loki was still laying on you, his grip around your wrists tight though not painful at all. He gazed in your eyes and you gazed back. He seemed hungry but you doubted that he was after the apple as you distinctively felt something growing against your lower abdomen.

“Shit!” you cursed when you woke up with a thin wet trail between your legs.

You banged your head against the pillow in frustration, bitting your lips until it drew blood.

It had been a long time since you had a dream about him. The centre of your pleasure begged you to take care of it and you wished for nothing else. Nevertheless, you denied yourself and sprung your leg out of the bed. Sitting there, on the edge of the lumpy mattress you gazed at your nightstand. You looked at the knob of the drawer pondering over what was inside for a long minute. Finally, you got out of bed and dragged your feet to the bathroom.

You undressed completely and entered the tiny and square bathtub, running some cold water on your back. Why would anyone built a square bathtub made no sense/ But more importantly, why would anyone buy such an ill-conceived thing? You splashed some water on your face to chase the tiredness away and combed your hair with you fingers to make it look less messy than it was. Since you had to work today you thought it best to at least look presentable.

Cold water chased away the dream you had about a teenage Loki teasing your younger self but the scar on your thigh reminded you of some unpleasant past you wished you could forget just as easily. At least the dream was only that, a dream. Whereas the scar…

Twenty minutes later, you walked down the stairs and entered the book store through the side door that gave behind the counter.

“Mrs Lee?” you called.

A low grunt from the back of the store gave away her location and by the time you made it there, the old woman was bent back and struggling with a heavy load of trash. You immediately offered her to care of it and put the bag on your shoulder, arching your back and grunting for it was heavier than you thought.

“Why made you think you could carry this all by yourself?” you said.

“I can carry my load. Always have. And I don't intend to stop."

"Well, let me carry this one for ya ok? Not saying that you’re old, but you’re not getting any younger either.”

You stepped back in case she decided to slap your wrist but she did not. Mrs Lee peered at you from behind the glasses she had worn since 1982. The prescription must be so out of date, you thought.

“I could say the same about you. Just because you look like you were born yesterday doesn’t mean you’re not a crone.” she said with a spark in her eyes.

She gave you a quick smile and nod that told you that you should get going. You kicked the door to the alley opened.

“Doors are not punching-balls.” Mrs Lee yelled from the store.

“Sorry.” you yelled back but let the door slam shut anyway. Loud noises got on the old woman’s nerves every time. Always have. And you found it hilarious.

Frank the alley cat stood above the dumpster mincing while looking up a crow perched on an electrical cord, swinging with the wind.

“I think he’s too high up for you buddy.”

The cat answered you with a complaint and an even louder one when you made him move over so you could put the trash in the dumpster. Once on the ground he had fewer chance to get to the bird that taunted him from above. Frank paced back and forth, twisting his face in a frustrated grimace. You peered at bird and shrugged, leaving nature follow its course, when the crow croaked.

It was a splendid bird with silky black feather and a large yellow half-opened beak. It had its head turned sideways to better look at you with on of its small and round eye. You wished it a good day with a smile, betraying your loyal feral friend in the process. Frank hissed at the bird, trying to impress his prey though the crow could not care less. 


 

Claire was bent over the counter of the store wrapping a gift some customer just bought for his mother while you pushed a heavy cart through the alleys. Music filled the air with soft guitars and soaring violins.

“So she’s making a whole day out it?” Claire asked when the door closed and the bell chimed after the customer left. “That’s so cute.”

“I’ve never seen two people more in love.” you said stacking comics books.

“You knew him? Her husband?”

Shit!

“Uh yeah, for a little while but he was already, you know, on the wane.”

“That’s so sad though.”

Unlike you, Claire was hopeless romantic who believed in silly things like soulmates and love at first sight. She just loved love in general and could pine for hours after seeing an old couple walking hand in hand in the street. So, of course, the story of Mrs Lee and her husband shattered her heart. And, of course, she wanted to know more. You remembered it all, though you had not been there from the start, too busy trying to survive on your own after...You push the thought out of your mind and locked the door.

“Did they have any children?”

You shook your head.

“Just some nephew and nieces. They were not interested in having any. Children, I mean.”

Some part of you used to think it was because of you, because they had chosen to care for you, to get you back on your feet until you were stable enough to do this on your own. They had tend to your wounds, even the deepest no one could see, put a roof over your head and food in your belly. More importantly they gave you their love and a purpose.

You told Claire the story of Mr and Mrs Lee, careful not to slip and reveal you were already there for most of it. If she thought it wonderful you had not aged in ten years, what would it be if she knew you had been around for way more than that?

In a few years you’ll have to leave it all behind. Getting yourself involved in the community was a constant Damocles sword hanging over your head no matter how cautious you were. Not only did Mrs Lee went out of her ways for you, but for the past decade you had made a friend, and got to know a few people around the place whereas you used to live rather secluded. Martin’s death had changed it all.

“I wish I could have what they had.” Claire said with an unfamiliar sadness.

“Anyone should be lucky to have you. But in the meantime, what about a treat? Come this way, Mrs Lee made a fresh batch of Bear Claws.”

You walked your friend to the employee corner, unaware of the crow that stood on the tree just outside the bookstore.

Chapter Text

The session of bookclub had been rough and you could not wait to take off your shoes, but fate had decided otherwise.

“There you are.” Mrs Lee said dragging you inside the store. “I need you to cover for me and handle the kid's club today.”

“Why? What’s wrong?”

“The bank called.” she said in a rigid tone.

You bit your nails in frustration for you knew she will have to spend most of her day in a bus just to get to the bank, only to face some ambitious and moronic man who had it in him to piss off an old lady. This had been her own Damocles sword. One she told you countless time not to worry about.

“Can’t Kenny drive you?” you asked.

She gave you a look that said ‘stop asking stupid question’ so you did not insist. If only I had a car, you thought bitterly. Instead you grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge and gave it to her while you made sure she had everything she needed for her trip.

“Call me if you need anything.”

You could not hide the worrying in your voice. If the bank forclosured the store you would be in the streets. Again. But this was not about your own survival. It was about Mrs Lee’s well‑being. The bookstore had been Martin's idea and Mrs Lee had been there every step of the way, shaping the dream and making it alive. Now that Martin was gone, the dream kept on living only by a shred you were anxious to see disrupted.

“If your friend comes today, made her clean the bathroom. The kids have a habit of tearing this place apart.” Mrs Lee advised.

You bid her goodbye and watched her walked down the street to the nearest bus stop.

You observed the alleys that stretched to the back, the sunlight pouring through small windows and the smell of books swallowing you all. This was home. Or at least something that was close enough. You often wondered if you had a home and people that you loved before the mist. Even if no one had come for you, searched for you, you suspected you came from somewhere like everybody else. You must have. 

“That’s supposed to be my day off.” you sighed while you threw pillows on the rug that was used for the kids' corner.

You pictured tiny human beings running around the place, yelling instead of speaking and cursed the faceless and nameless goon behind his desk at the bank for taking Mrs Lee away. Especially on a Wednesday when you should be surrounded by nothing but pleasant things and kids were not at all pleasant.

You closed the old trunk from where you had taken the pillows and walked down the children’s section to find a good read. You picked Wacky Wednesday by Dr Seuss and put the book in the middle of the rug like Mrs Lee usually did. That way all the kids that came in could peek inside the book before the actual reading began.

“Let’s see if she thought about snacks.”

You opened the fridge and noticed she had purchased two bottles of organic apple juice to please the ever concerned parents and a homemade pie that would please them as long as they never asked what was in there. Mrs Lee never went aboard the gluten and sugar free train although she went out of her way and to the other side of town to find the best of ingredients to everything she baked. Your stomach warned you of the time, so you grabbed some bear claws leftovers and sat down to enjoy the devastatingly sweet pastries before anyone came in. If i were a car, that should be my fuel, you decided.

The front door bell chimed and the clock showed you with its twisted arms that it was not yet 4P.M.

“Coming!” you screamed from your seat and groaned lowly. "Ain't no rest for the wicked."

You swiped your hands on your jeans, getting rid of the sugary powder Mrs Lee had sprinkled all over her delicious treats and proceed to the front of the store but not after taking one last bite. You chew and chew and chew but the bite was bigger than you had initially thought and when you arrived to the front of the store you still had you mouth full.

“What can I do you for?” you managed to ask with a hand in front of your mouth.


The man that stood in front of you was not only quiet but more frozen like statue sculpted in the finest of ivory. He had his hands buried in the pocket of his tight black pants and eyes so vividly green they caught the light and shone like two mesmerizing emeralds.

“Are you looking for something in particular?” you asked swallowing the last remnants of pastries. 

The man stammered and nervously pushed his hair back. Then he seemed unable to know what to do with his hands and proceeded to put them back in his pockets but instead bumped against a book you had forgotten on the counter. The man muttered an apology clearly mad at himself for being awkward.

“That’s okay.” you said politely as you bent the knee to retrieve it.

That was when you noticed you were bare foot for you had taken your shoes off just five minutes ago and of course you had forgotten to put them back on. At least Mrs Lee was not there to witness you lack of common decency.

The man’s hand entered your eyesight. So pale you noticed icy blue veins running along to his long and bonny fingers that brushed yours when you both reached for the book. When he unfolded himself you realized he was just a bit taller than you were.

He was thin and strong with long dark hair that fell over his shoulders and a look on his face that unsettled you. Despite the charming smile he conjured, his eyes displayed another kind of vibe. A mix of danger and expectation but also hope and joy. Why does he look so familiar? Stop staring at him that’s creepy, you told yourself after realizing you had maintained a prolonged eye‑contact. I should say something.

You gave him a professional and thankful smile and put the book safely away, wondering if he had noticed the absence of footwear. The grin that stretched his thin lips while his green eyes scanned you from head to toe let you know that he did noticed. Shit

“Are you here for the kids’ reading? It doesn’t start before four.” you said searching for a tiny human that might accompany him.

A shadow came across his face and the light in his eyes disappeared for they were drowned in infinite sorrow.

“You don’t remember.” he said with a tremor in his voice.

The door behind him opened and a handful of kids ran in, followed by smiling, yet extremely tired grown-ups. They took place on the rug, eager to the see the clock strike four.

“I’m sorry.” you said. “I've a hard time keeping track of faces. Are you a regular? Mrs Lee is usually the one who takes care of customers. She's the brain of this operation and I'm more of the muscles around here.” you joked but you sensed it did not land.

The man's weak and pathetic smile proved you right and the fact that it unsettled you took you by surprise.

“That’s...” he paused for a lengthy second. “...that’s ok.”

You tried to jog your memory, hoping to hear the bells rang. You searched for any special order you might have taken recently but your mind drew a blank. You were convinced you would remember if you had met a massively attractive moonlight skinned man with bewitching green eyes before. But then again, there was nothing. The tall and dark stranger looked at you with a great expectation. You held his gaze and time suspended itself.

“Excuse me.” a tiny thing with a red bonnet on its head said tucking at your blouse. “I need to go.”

“The door’s right there pal.” you said pointing to the front door.

The kid gave you a puzzled look. His bonnet was too tight and completely useless for it was summer and therefore, so hot when the wind was away that you could melt only by stepping out in the street. Kids were weird in that way. Still, when the kid glanced at the man, his face turned red and his eyes rounded so much that you thought they would popped out of his skull. You noticed how silly the kid look dancing on its feet with his legs crossed in front of him.

“Oh right. You need to go.” you said elongating the word. “Yes, uh...Through the red door at the back. And wash your hands afterwards.” you screamed after the kid had run through the alley.

You doubted the kid heard you and chose to forget about it altogether for a customer was in need of your services. But as you turned back to him, the man was already on his way to the exit.

“Wait.”

The man froze, his hand above the door knob. Know that you had his attention, even though he still showed you nothing but his back, you wondered what the next step should be. You had stopped him on his way out and yet you had nothing to keep him in. There was a thread, a thin yet unbreakable thread that came out of your guts and led to him. You could feel it tensed with the distance. He’s just a customer, you tried to convince yourself but the thread made it impossible for you to believe it. He's just a customer, you repeated until the obvious hit you. 

"Listen, my boss would kill me if I let even one unsatisfied customer leave the store. So please, tell me what you need and I’ll go to the edge of the world for you.” 

His smile, though shy at first, enlightened his features. He was not only beaming, but genuinely glowing which made you grin in return. Another batch of kids got in when the man was about to answer you, so he closed his mouth until the excited bunch settled on the rug.

“I’ll come back another time.” he said.

“You sure?”

Let’s try and not sound so desperate next time, shall we?

“Most definitely.” he said and that sounded like the sweetest of promises.

“Usually I’m off on Wednesdays.” 

You were unsure as to why you gave him this information but it felt important at the time. You reached for a card with the bookstore opening hours and gave it to him. He purposefully brushed your fingers while starring at you.

“I know.” he said with a cocky smile he immediately hid behind a rushed goodbye.

The bell chimed and he was gone.



A week went by before he entered your life again.

The bell chimed ten minutes before closing time. You let a grunt out and dragged your feet to the front of the store, hoping this would be over quickly. You resented any late‑customer for they were usually the most indecisive person in the world with a huge lack of politeness, which was the perfect combo to put you in the worst mood.
You sighed and put on a fake smile but when you entered the light and saw the waves of raven‑hair falling on his black vest you let it all go and expressed your genuine stupefaction. 

"I didn't expect you any time soon. I thought I scared you away."

Blood rushed to your cheeks despite your best efforts to remain cool and casual. What is he doing to me? you asked yourself. You did not recognize yourself but then again, you hardly knew who you were. A deep voice whispered in your ear knowing what you were and the scar on your thigh began to itch and burn. 

“Or perhaps the kids did." you laughed.

“A bit yes. I mean, the kids were a lot to handle. How did you manage?”

"I killed one to set an example and the rest of them fell in line nice and easy."

The man chuckled. An invisible force was pushing against your chest, making breathing more difficult than it should be. You opened your mouth to inquire about his book-related needs at the same time he began speaking.

“The customers always come first.” you said gesturing him to go on.

“You may find it weird but...”

He suddenly froze, looking uneasy as if he was afraid to speak his mind.

"I live for weird. You have no idea how weird I can be." you said trying to lighten the mood.

“I’m...actually here to see you.”

You took it in but two seconds later you found yourself in need to lean against something sturdy. You casually strolled towards the counter and put an elbow on it.

“Really? I’m intrigued.”

You were not because deep down you had a feeling this was the case. You had shut it down almost immediately calling for your reason but your guts told you otherwise and now he was confirming it.

The man chortled with a veil of redness on his cheeks. It was cute and you wanted to drag this moment forever, making him adorably uncomfortable. Even if you had never been the type of person to toy with anyone’s emotions, you felt compelled to tease him at least a little bit.

“Well, I, for one, am glad you’re not here on a book‑related mission.”

“You are?”

“Of course. Because, otherwise, it would mean that you were some obnoxious tardy man who has no regard for office hours. Someone who believes i have nothing better to do right before closing the store and I would have despise you with all my heart."

“That would have suck.” he said with a subtle smile.

“Indeed. But since you're not here for books, I can close on time and nothing makes me happier.”

You glimpsed at the clock on the wall above the cash register. It was five minutes after seven and you still have a lot to do before your day was over and you knew you could not postpone otherwise Mrs Lee would be on your back until the end of times.

“I’ll be honest with you.” you told the man. “You saying you're here for me is down the creepy line. You seem like a nice guy and all, but then again all serial killers seem like nice guys before they shove the woman in their trunk.”

“Oh, I don’t have a car.” he said mischievously.

“So, you’re more like a Santa Clause kind of killer. Putting bodies in a sack and carried them across town.”

You giggled like two kids. However, all this serial killer talk rooted in the fact that you were indeed, alone in the store with a perfect stranger. You considered the situation for a moment. If Claire was in your shoes what would you tell her? Would you advice her to weapon herself and run for her life or, on the contrary give the man the benefit of the doubt?
Thinking of your friend may have conjured her for she entered the store and made the bell sang its tune. She put a bottle on the counter, calling out your name then came to a halt. She grabbed the bootle by the neck and shook it in from of the man, urging you to stay away from him.

“Claire." you said in calm voice. "What are you doing?”

Her chest moved rapidly and her knuckles whitened around the bottle she held in the air.

“That’s him.” she said erratic. “That’s the Loki guy.”

“It’s just Loki.” he said with the flash of a smile. 

He took a step towards her which made Claire waved her bottle like a torch.

“I won't hurt you.” Loki said with hands in front of him. "I won't hurt anyone."

"Why should I believe you? Step back. Get out of here."

"I can't." Loki said. "In order to leave I'll have to step forward and you just told me to step back. Make up you mind darling."

“C’mon Claire put the bottle down.” you said.

What would be the point of hitting him on the head with a cheap bottle of bourbon if he was truly a god? You had no time to process the news for, at this point, you cared more about your friend. You moved towards her, elbowing Loki to get between them before he could act and snatched the bottle from Claire’s hand.

"And you." you said to Loki behind you. "Shut up."

“What should we do?” Claire whispered eyeing the tall presence you could feel for you stood only a few inches from him.

We are not doing anything. But you are going to wait for me upstairs while I deal with it.”

“But...”

“The door’s unlocked. Make yourself at home.” you commanded.

You made sure that Claire had really gone upstairs and was not stationed behind the door eavesdropping. 

“The coast is clear.” you announced. “So! You’re the infamous Loki of Asgard. That’s why you looked so familiar the other day.”

“I’m guessing your friend is not a fan.”

“Can you blame her? You tried to obliterate New York and that tends to make people less appreciative of your skills.”

“I did not try to obliterate New York. I was trying to rule this world.”

“See, I wouldn’t lead with that if I wanted people to like me.”

Loki scoffed and leant against the counter, stretching his long legs.

“I don’t care if people like me or not. I don't need the approval of the masses. I'm not my brother!”

His wide opened mouth led you to believe he was not done. But then Loki closed it with a resolute look on his face. You put your back against the counter a few feet away from Loki which was, all things considered, a bold move. You tapped your fingers against the wooden surface, following the memory of a rhythm you heard not long ago.

“You’re not kicking me out.” Loki said after ten seconds of deafening silence.

“Nope.”

“Why not?” he asked baffled.

Although it would have been an appropriate response to the threat Loki embodied by just being who he was, the thought actually never crossed your mind. Not even for a second. You remembered how you held your breathe when you watched him fall on TV, and the rush of anxiety that took hold of your body when you believed him to be dead. You reflected upon your inability to push him away, first from your mind, then from the store.

“Why are you here?” 

You dived in his vivid green gems, not unimpressed but decided to get to the bottom of this weird evening. 

“I told you. I came to see you.”

“Yeah, and why is that? You are Loki of Asgard surely you have better things to do than coming to the pit of despair meeting with a nobody."

"You are not nobody." he said with a hint of outrage.

"Trust me. I am. And so far as I know, you and I have never met so why are you here?"

You hoped against all hopes that he held the key to your past, that he would be able to lift the mist and shone a light. But you reduced that hope to silence for it had led you a dark road before and you had sworn never to go there anymore. 

"it doesn't add up." you continued. "Is this a prank? Are you a hosting some lame prank TV show?"  

“I can assure you that this is not a prank."

Loki moved closer and his hand was brushing the side of yours. The light contact was nothing but electrifying and sent shivers right through you. You glimpsed at your little finger almost on his. You gaze went slowly up and landed on his face. You locked eyes with him oblivious to the fact that you were upset a second ago, that you resented him for giving you hope once again. All the voices quieted down and the light faded. Loki's own little finger slid under yours and you let him. 

 

“Dove.” he said.

You heard it, you felt it. The heart-rending crack in his voice a second before he leant over you and his lips closed the distance. His kiss was desperate, yet you answered it almost immediately, letting him entangled his fingers in your hair. He held on to you the way he kissed you, with desperation and an untamed want. He craved for you as you craved for him. You even reached for his belt to pull him against you and the pressure of his body felt so familiar that it snapped you from your moment of madness.

You broke the kiss and shoved him out of your way. Anyone else would have fallen on their asses but even if Loki stumbled he promptly and gracefully found his balance again.

You nervously arranged you hair and straightened your shirt. His taste lingered on your tongue and you wondered if it was the same for him.

“I’m sorry.” Loki said pushing his hair back.

“No, that’s cool...just...don’t do it again ok? It’s...”

“Inappropriate?”

“And very weird. You just called me ‘dove’ I mean...You got issues.”

Loki licked his lips and while he looked up you could clearly see he was fighting tears.

“I thought...I hoped you would remember.”

“Remember what?”

You hid your hands behind your back for they began to shake uncontrollably. With a silent cry you commanded him to look at you, you needed him to look at you. 

“You and me."

You chuckled uneasy and agitated, refusing to believe it. You were entangled in a web of lies you had forged throughout the years. Stories you had told yourself so many times that you believed them to be true. You were an oddity, something out of this world, wicked and unnatural and the scar reminded you of that. The scar and the deep voice that called your name in the dark, urging you to come home for no one else would love you. 

"We were nothing but epic together.” Loki said.

He made a move towards you but stopped himself. 

“As I said: you got issues. Now if you don’t mind, I’d like you to leave.”

Loki considered you but did not seem ready to leave yet. What do I do if doesn’t? I’m no match for a god. You watched him stepping back with a knot in your stomach and way down inside of you, you knew it was not going to do. You did not want him to leave. Far from it. You wanted him here and nowhere else but since that made no sense, you pushed him away and for a second you hated him for not fighting you on this.
He apologized in a whisper and gave you a pathetic weak smile to bid his goodbyes. Once the door closed behind him, you locked it and turned off the lights. Loki crossed the street, his head hanging low. A splendid depiction of sorrow.

You creeped up the stairs and let yourself fall on the couch.

“I was about to call the cops.” Claire said. “How...What happened?”

What a pertinent question Claire just asked you. However, you had no answer to give her for you were unsure of what happened. Granted you talked with the god of mischief until he called you ‘dove’ and confessed unbelievable things. Then he kissed you and you kissed him back. You had wanted more, but you shattered this moment when you asked him to leave. And he did. Those were the facts. Those were things you ought to share with your one and only friend. But what was the connection between all those facts?
Whatever happened, happened fast and went deep under your skin and that was a fact you could not bring yourself to share with Claire.

“He mistook me for someone else.”

In order to shut Claire up and drown all of her questions and needs for clarification, you turned the TV on and blessed the skies for vacuous shows that allowed you to take your mind off things.


 

“What do you say dove?”

“i say you look ridiculous. Take it off.”

Loki smirked, raising a conspicuous eyebrow. You sighed to show him how annoying he was. Nevertheless, Loki took off the yellow toga a foreign king offered him in hope that he would marry his daughter and paraded naked as the day he was born.

“I bet you’d prefer to wear the girl.”

“Already did.” he said biting in a light green grape.

You laughed so hard that you bit your tongue.

“And still you won’t marry her.”

“Gods no! What sort of man would that make me if I were to marry anyone who I shared my bed with.”

The sun bathed his ivory skin in a warm glow that underlined his features exquisitely.

“We shared a bed once or twice.” you said casually.

“In all innocence my dove.” he dismissed, throwing himself on the bed next to you. “But if you want, I can ask you to marry me right here and now. What do you say?”

He could not care less about his nakedness. It was not the first time you were seeing him without a single clothe on and if you had a say in this, it would not be the last either. Loki was leaning on one elbow, his hand so close to your arm you could almost feel the cool brush of his fingers on your skin. You shivered just by imagining it.

“I’d say that you don’t need to wear a toga to be utterly ridiculous.”

You playfully pushed him so you could get away from his bed. Loki laughed a whole‑hearted laugh before he grabbed your wrist and yanked himself up. He held your hand down, alongside your thigh and near his cock. One twitch, one nervous moment was all it would take for you to touch him.

“Do it.” he dared you with blazing fire in his eyes.

No, you thought. That’s not what happened

“I know you want it.” he smirked against the curve of your neck.

You pushed the lump down your throat and shivered. This is not what happened, screamed a voice from the back of your head. You licked you lips and shut your eyes under the brush of his lips. Loki moved an inch closer and you were done. He let out a noise of approval as you grabbed him.
Loki was all yours. And you watched him enjoyed every second of it with an ecstatic grin on your face. Loki saw the grin and hardened in your hand. He searched for your lips though you denied him.

“You’re killing me dove.” he heaved a sigh.

“Good.” you said against the curve of his lips.

He chuckled grabbing a handful of your hair. If he could not have your lips he could at least have the rest. Your thumb circled the tip of his cock making him grunt and bit his lower lip.

“Don’t fight it.” you teased.

His legs began to shake and his chest moved faster and faster. His hand in your hair clenched in a fist and yanked your head back. He wanted to cover your neck and your shoulders with burning kisses but your work prevented him from doing so. Loki was throbbing in your hand. You knew he was close but he kept on fighting it. Then he gave you a quick glance with a light that could mean only one thing: trouble.

“Oh fuck it.” he cursed under his breathe.

The next thing you knew, he slid his free hand down your pants only to find the centre of your pleasure and toy with it. You were already wet and that made his grin wider. This would not have happened if you had worn your dress. Loki would have to struggle with the long and light fabric while you were standing up pleasuring him.

He came in your hand before you did but that made him even more eager to see your desire erupted. The cold sweat of his forehead against yours, the brush of your noses and the clumsy kisses you shared. You felt the weight of his cock in your hand. You had not let go of it. But now you clang to it to steady yourself while Loki found a way to make you squeal.

The both of you standing up in the middle of the room trying to catch your breath while holding on to each other. You both chuckled, your faces buried in one another. Loki stole a kiss from your red and swollen lips before you snatched him one too.


You woke up with a curse on your lips and a wave of shame crushing you. You could still feel his fingers between your legs, his lips on your sensitive skin. Claire was fast asleep and you thanked the heavens for it would have been awkward to explained to her you just had a steamy dream in which you and Loki went at it. The wetness between your legs became unbearable so you jerked out of bed and angrily walked to the bathroom.

The cold water should purge you from him and if not you will gazed at some insipid program on TV until there was not a brain cell left for you to process a single thought other than food, pee and sleep. I should tend only to my most basics needs and forget about the rest, you decided.
The rest of the night you spent it in a haze, afraid to let your thought wander because they would imperatively lead you to him and you could not have that.

Could you?

Chapter Text

The bells chimed as he pushed the door.

Loki knew you were alone for all the time he spent watching you, studying the patterns of your daily life. He saw how you moved between the aisles, confident and at ease, as if you belonged there. He had witnessed the way the old woman gazed fondly at you when you could not see her and how she always made sure you had some treat to eat. 

He had waited and waited so much that he thought this day would never come. Loki wanted to meet with you in a place you would feel safe. He wanted to enter your world, hoping it would ease the breaking of the spell. His father broke it all by himself a few years back, before he decided it was time for him to die. Even then, Odin, the all-father King of Asgard and protector of the nine realms had to struggle for a while before he managed to break the spell properly. And since Frigga was no longer there to guide Loki, he had only a vague idea of what was supposed to happen.

The bells chimed soon followed by the sound of your voice. His heart swelled for your words were meant for him even though you did not know it yet. That was not the same as hearing you talk to someone else or to his crow form. You came to him in the way he had always loved watching you; barefoot, with your hair down and a vibe of freedom surrounding you.

He tried not to laugh when he noticed you had your mouth full but the hardest part was not rushing to you. He had to be in control, to stay in control until he was sure you where there. You came to him with such a natural pace and confidence that he believe, he truly believed, the spell no longer existed. But his belief shattered to pieces when you did not even pause upon seeing him in the store. A blade was shoved in his heart when you addressed him as one of the customers you could have met any other time of the week.

People he met on Earth almost always recognized him. He was Loki of Asgard, son a bitch who attacked New York and tried to rule the world for a second. The reason the Avengers ever assembled. But to you, he should have been Loki, your beloved little snake, your oldest friend and for ever partner in crime. However, right now in your eyes he was only a random man who happened to enter your store in that precise moment. And that was it.
Loki excused himself for he could no longer look at you and not being sick to his stomach. He retreated only to come back stronger.


The bells chimed and less than a minute later you entered the light. This time, there was a twinkle in your eyes and Loki got his expectations on the highest of mountains. You joked with him and he felt the bond you used to share getting stronger by the minute.
It was enticing just talking with you and the way you held yourself showed him you were more than pleased to be in his company. It got undeniable when, in a heartbeat, you took his defense against your friend who was only trying to look out for you. You did not listen to her plead. You never listened and you always acted on instinct, which sometimes put you in harm's way. However, Loki would never hurt you. Not anymore he had already hurt you.
When Claire stated his name, revealing his identity, Loki saw it came as a surprise to you. No matter what, you stood still and acted as a shield between him and her. 

Seeing him and talking to him, even learning about his name did nothing and yet, Loki felt that you were just a few inches from him. You were there, locked in a prison he had to create to make you safe and he had lost the key. That thought lit a fire that consumed his being and melted his soul until coherence became a fantasy and he acted on pure instinct.
Loki pressed his lips upon yours and you answered with instant ardour. The way you clang to him, pulled him closer as if you could not stand the smallest of gaps between you, created great expectations. And those expectations made the fall, and the crash that followed, unbearably brutal.

“Wakey, wakey.” sang Korg as he partially opened Loki’s door.

“Get out.” Loki grunted emerging from another excruciating replay of his latest disaster. 

“Someone is in a mood. Just here to tell you that it’s launch time already and your brother's been waiting for you so...”

“I’m your leader and as such I command you to leave me ALONE!”

With a wave of his hand, five blades appeared into thin air darting towards Korg. The rock giant yelped and promptly closed the door to use it as a shield.
Loki screamed in his pillow. All he wanted to do was to sleep through the day and forget what happened the night before. He clumsily reached for the cup of wine on his nightstand and realized it was empty. He threw the useless object across the room and expected it to land somewhere between his bed and the door.
But it did not. Loki jerked his head up to look above his shoulder and groaned loudly upon seeing a tiny silhouette standing on threshold of his bedroom.

“Not you too.”

Brunhild smirked at him, holding the cup in front of her.

“How emo.” she said entering Loki’s room despite his ban on doing so. “Care to tell me what’s going on or is this just one of those days?”

With her foot, Brunhild gave Loki a nudge on his buttocks but got only a muffled complain.

“Sorry, what was that? I don’t speak emo.”

Under the spread of raven hair lied a pathetic shadow that once upon time belonged to Loki of Asgard, god of mischief and massive pain in Brunhild’s ass.

“Come on, where's the spite? The snarky comments about how annoying I am?”

“You are annoying.”

“Is that all you can do?” Brunhild said.

She pushed and pushed him until Loki practically jumped and threw her off balance. She fell on the floor in a thump. Loki pulled the sheets over his face, willing to be swallowed by the shadows until he heard the words he needed to hear, only from someone else.

“This.” she said gesturing to the dark room with the curtains closed and the smell of despair hanging in the air. “Is not you. So either you tell me what’s going on or I put my foot so far up in your arse, you’ll reach the moon in a minute.”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Then do something about it. Whatever it is. You look like some depressed teenagers who would hang posters of black walls upon their already black walls.”

Loki’s head appeared from under the sheets. The Valkyrie was right. This was not him. Loki of Asgard was not one to wallow. He was not some pitiful creature who can not handle rejection in its purest form. He should be brave enough to face the heart‑break said rejection caused and that kept him awake most of the night and staring at the ceiling wondering why he did what he did in the first place and wondering where it went wrong.

“That’s all your fault.” he said suddenly.

He pushed the covers and stomped his feet against the rug where Brunhild was still on.

It was her fault. She was guilty of harassing him until he broke and did her biding. She talked on and on about how blessed he would be once reunited with you. She even went to Banner to get your address and had the audacity of giving it to Loki.

He had thought about not doing it, about leaving you alone to your new life. But Brunhild called it a lie and reprimanded him for the way he saved you all those centuries ago. She had sent him into a spiraling guilt trip from which he could escape only by finding you upon the Valkyrie’s promise that everything would finally be set right in the universe.

She may have not said it so nicely but that was the message she conveyed and that Loki received. Nothing had been set right because everything went go wrong. He could not control his eagerness and missed the stop sign alone the road. Before he went all in, Loki had been nothing but careful. He watched you from afar, and checked upon the spell and asses how strong it still held, if it held altogether. Loki never doubted his skills and with time he perfected them. In a way, he did not expect the one he had cast centuries ago, while still a young sorcerer under his mother’s wing, to have last so long and so strongly. But it did. You were still a prisoner of the alteration spell as he bitterly testified.

Then, came a moment where watching was not enough and he had to come closer. This was when you first saw him and approached him with all the kindness in your heart. You did not fear the crow and that had given him hope. You gazed in his eyes and he felt the sparks. He ignored it until it consumed him and he could no longer wait.

He tried to come up with the perfect plan to approach you in the form you had known before. Loki went back and forth between Loren and Olga, impossibly stuck in a doomed conundrum.  Those two experiments had failed in the past and he could see how they would work now. Too much had changed. He had changed and so did you, although not truthfully because of the ongoing spell. Still, the idea appealed to him somehow.

Each time he watched you in this masquerade of a life, the guilt grew and left him more and more restless. So one night, he casually brought you up in a discussion he was having with Brunhild and that had been one of his greatest mistake. Loki mentioned he could entered your life through a side door, under a disguise to test the waters. But Brunhild strongly petitioned against it.

“Either you go or you don’t.” she said. “The girl has had enough lies in her life to sustain a whole planet."

"What kind of planet is that?"

"Lokiasskaar. A planet that feed off lies and stupidity." she said with a very smug attitude. "You need to go there as you are, as you want her to see you. If you can’t handle it, then leave her alone.”

That day it sounded like a good advice but now that Loki had gone through and failed spectacularly he resented the Valkyrie sitting down on his rug. Hatred burned in his eyes and for a wild moment he pictured a blade slashing her brown and soft skin.

“You screwed up didn’t you? You went to see her and you screwed up.” Brunhild said without an ounce of doubt.

She sat next to him on the edge of the bed. Loki thought her bold for he was still deciding if he should let her live or no. He spared her a quick glance and stared at the rug, unmoving and silent. However, his stillness could not hide the tumultuous waters that rushed behind his eyes.

“D’you want to fight about it or have a regular conversation?” Brunhild asked.

“Will you let me win?” he inquired.

She let a sharp laugh escape her lungs and patted him on the round of his hand like the poor creature he was. 

“I should have known.” Loki agreed in a sigh.


After his meeting with Thor, Loki felt a little more like himself and decided to take a stroll towards the village near the sea. He had many things to look over and this part of New Asgard was not on his agenda. Nevertheless, Loki’s steps guided him towards you mother’s house.

He recognized her voice and followed it to the side of the house where she tended to her garden. Small children were playing around while older ones gave her a hand planting herbs and cutting down dead branches on trees.

There was a porch on the back of the house that gave to the sea. Loki took a glimpse at a massive shadow that could belong only to Dagmar. He considered turning around when your mother spotted him and stretched her back. She greeted him from afar with a polite smile. She gave him a nod instead of bending the knee because she had injured it on their way to earth and also because Loki would never allow her to curtesy to him. He felt like it would be too disrespectful to your memory.

“What do I owe the privilege of your visit?”

The woman had visibly grown older since the last time he spoke to her. Ever since they landed on the island and began building a new home, he had avoided being alone with her. And now here I am. Behold, the one who threw himself to the lions.
He disguised his presence behind duties but in the way she looked at him, directly in the eyes, having no regards for what was left of royal protocol, Loki knew deep inside of him that she was not buying it. You took after her in that regard though your perceptiveness was sharper hers could ever be. Just not sharp enough to break the spell.

Loki’s eyes diverted from your mother’s face to Dagmar’s shadow.

“How is she?” he dared asking.

She sighed. She told him there were bad days and there were good days. And that today was a bad one. Loki did his best not to look behind your mother and chose to focus on the garden turning into a lush scenery where it felt good to wander in. You mother smiled shyly and gave credit to the many hands that had been helping her from day one.

“And of course the gifts you've sent were a blessing.”

“I was just trying to help.”

"Have you helped other like you helped us?" she inquired.

His smile could hide the tension rising in him. Your mother had let him into a trap and he fell for it head first. No he had not help other citizens in the way he had with your mother and her new family. He had sent spies to learn what she might be needing and sent her gifts, always checking up on her from afar for he was too much of a coward to face her. In his own way he took care of her and Dagmar, trying to make up for what he did to them, for what he had taken from them.

Although usually very fond of rewards and compliments, Loki did not come to make himself look good and hear how generous and kind he was to his people. At this point, Loki was unsure as to why he had come to the village, and especially to your mother’s house. For far too long, he avoided her as he avoided thinking of you. Even on a secluded ship, he managed to move around your mother undetected. Despite having a million things to do he had chosen to go and see her, to have a conversation with her with no one else around, no safety net and no exit strategy. Loki played nervously with his hands while his mind ran backwards.

"I've found her." Loki blurted out.

He could not believe what he just said, yet the words were out and rushing to your mother's ears. Soon they'll reach her brain and no one could predict what was to happen next. She could as well have a stroke or throw up or faint. She could also cried and slap him. The prince expected a violent outburst, perhaps she would yell and curse him and she would be within her right to do so.
Instead, your mother stood still and silent, her face was the epitome of devastation. Seconds dripped and became almost a minute. During which Loki did not know what to do with himself.

He contemplated the idea of leaving but a distant voice urged him not to do it. He could not just drop the shocking news and leave her alone to process it. That would make him even more of a coward and he was sick of it. The stillness between them became unbearable and slowly killed his patience, so he opened his mouth, uncertain of what he was about to say when your mother beat him to it.

“Why isn’t she home?”

Loki closed his mouth glimpsing at the mud on his shoes. Another trap had been set and he should be careful not to step in it.

“If you’ve found her, why isn’t she here already? You're here but I can't see her by your side. That's where she belong doesn't she?”

The trap clenched its sharp teeth in his ankles nailing him to the ground, bleeding and helpless. The more he would fight, the tighter it would get until it broke the bones and left him to die. Loki lingered in the guilt embracing it as he was painfully aware of his failure towards you and your mother. 

"You said she was dead."

“No.” he cut with a firm tone. “I've never...I said she was gone.”

“My daughter is out there, alone.” her exclaimed with a shaking voice. “You two were impossible to divide. You drove the whole kingdom mad without a care in the world because you were too busy chasing each other. Even the All-Father could not separate you but here you are, standing in front me, alone. That's not right. What have you done with her? Why isn't my daughter here with you?"

“Because she doesn’t remember!” Loki snapped.

The kids stopped playing and Dagmar’s shadow shifted on her seat. Loki lowered his head and began to confess what happened on the day Asgard lost its Keeper. He had to remind himself he did it to save you but the more he did, the less he believed it. 

"I had to make sure she was going to survive without my father going after her."

“So you cursed and abandoned my child.”

The fire in her eyes matched yours when you accused him of having your husband killed. That may have happened in another life but Loki remembered every detail, and still could feel the blades your gaze shoved in his heart. When it came to you, his memory could not be sharper, even after centuries of shutting your ghost down.
Your mother called the spell a curse and in that, Loki must admit she was true. Despite all the good reasons he had to alter your memory, it backfired severely. The doors were shut, the windows sealed. No light to show the way to the nearest exit.

“You bring her home.” you mother ordered with an unexpected authority. “I don’t care how you do it, but you bring my daughter home.”

In the midst of darkness, Loki saw Dagmar's shadow moved slightly on her chair. Even though he had no way to be sure, Loki knew that Dagmar was looking at him. He retreated slowly, eyeing the beautiful place and thinking of how much you would love what your mother did. 

It had been everything he had been afraid of with an extra layer of guilt.


Self destruction came in many shapes, even for Loki.

Growing up he would have shown a merciless ability to create cunning schemes and sometimes he would let a couple of violent outburst though his brother Thor was more prone to them when frustrated.

With time came loss and with loss came a wisdom he was not fully embracing yet. He still had to found the courage to share his thoughts and feelings when he felt like he was up against the wall at the bottom of a bottle or through a fight. But at least, now he was dealing with his feelings.

He got used to the process of fighting while discussing with Brunhild. It helped him as much as it helped her even if they both should see a therapist as Banner advised countless of times.


But that night, the Valkyrie was nowhere to be found as she had to leave on Thor’s command to retrieve a mystical cube. And since misery loved company Loki had found no one best fitted for the job than Heimdall. The giant who used to guard the bifrost with his might golden sword was a relatively soothing companion. He stood strong and silent at the top of the tower, staring at the starry sky. His presence was enough to quiet Loki's mind for at least five seconds in a row.

Then, some insignificant detail would reminded Loki of you. From the day he had set foot on this land, and even before if Loki was honest with himself - which was rarely the case -  he was never tranquil, never at ease and felt a void growing with every though he spared you. He was stuck on repeat, saying again and again that he let you down.

His heart sank and he felt like hiding under his sheets once again. He forced himself out of this terrible idea. If Brunhild uses that emo word one more time I’ll shove a midgardian dictionary down her throat. I’m better than this. I’ve lived long enough to know I am. Loki breathed deeply through his nose. The sea air cleansed his lungs and his mind as well. But it lasted only a fraction of second before the weight of his failure came crushing Loki's shoulders. 

Heimdall shifted on his feet giving the first sign since Loki had been up there that he was alive and awake. The movement was surreptitious but Loki witnessed it anyway.

“Growing restless?”

Heimdall answered with the slightest of smirk.

“Do you miss it sometimes?" Loki asked glancing up at the giant. "Asgard and all the circus that came with it?  I mean, you were just some enhanced doorman but at least you had a purpose. What's left now uh? You still have the sword but it's no use. Unless you plan on melting it and turn it into coins or pretty bracelets. I can make up a business plan if you'd like."

The smirk was there again and Heimdall’s golden eyes shone with malice for a second. What do you see? Loki wondered. If I had even an ounce of your power, I’ll be the ultimate leader. I’ll know what to do...There you were again, at the back of his mind, knocking at the door and begging to be let in.

“Usually the hardest problem to solve requires the most simple solution.” Heimdall said shifting his gaze to Loki.

Heimdall never was one to speak his mind with profusion but Loki wanted him, needed him to utter the words out loud, to give life to his advice. He could not afford to guess. Making assumptions was exactly how he got in this predicament. That and Brunhild’s push-over personality that had worn him out. Deep down, Loki knew she was not really to blame but it was easier that way.

“You know me. I’m always down for an impossible conundrum. But let’s pretend for a wild minute that I find myself in a dead end. What solution do you propose?”

Heimdall could not be tricked, Loki knew as much. Seeing beyond what was and what could be, prevented him from falling into traps, not like him. But the giant chose to play along.

“Swimming against the current only slows you down. But if you decide to be carried by it, you might reach your destination sooner.”

Loki noticed a twinkle in Heimdall’s eyes but it could also be the reflection of the stars. There was no way to tell with him. The giant turned his head towards the horizon and resumed his watch. And suddenly it all made sense.
The confusion faded away. He was ready to let you in, to embrace you in his dreams for he knew what he had to do.

Loki walked home. He used the fresh air of the night to clear his mind and built the foundations of his plan. Rushing it would only lead to further failure and he could not have that. Neither could you.


The Counsel was seated around the table while Brunhild showed the mystical cube she had retrieved. Banner poked at it with a pencil, promptly jumping back just in case the cube might do something unexpected.

“Is that for very tiny criminals?” Korg asked getting so close that he almost touched it.

"You should step back." Sif advised.

"Why? Is it going to swallow me?"

"It might." Brunhild said with her arms crossed on her chest.

Korg stepped back.

"You should step back as well your highness." Sif said to Thor.

But the king was beaming with curiosity.

"How does it work?" he asked Brunhild.

"You sent me to get it not write a manual about it. I assumed you knew how it worked since you..."

Brunhild's voice began to fade away, replaced by a loud and irregular pulse that ran through Loki's body, deafening him as well as blurring his vision. Loki shut his eyes tight and attempted to fight whatever was attacking him. A warmth came from his chest, slowly burning up. Through a hazy veil, Loki saw the shape of you.

You wandered through a messy living room, holding a small object in your hand. You appeared to be talking to it while you held something in your other hand. What it was, Loki could not see. But he heard you calling for him and he desperately wanted to answer that call though he did not know how. A force pulled him towards you when suddenly the veil broke.

“Loki.”

Thor’s voice boomed in his mind, making him jump on his seat. His blue eye stared at him and soon, Loki realized he was half across the table with a hand clutching at his chest.

“You okay leader?” Korg asked.

"I'm fine why d'you ask?" Thor said.

"I was talking to our leader, bro."

"Well, technically I am your leader since I'm the king. Bro." Thor joked though he was partially serious.

Loki straightened himself and with all the dignity he could muster and pushed his long hair back. Brunhild said nothing but the look on her face said plenty. Even Sif looked worried. 

"Maybe you should get some rest." Banner offered.

“Nonsense. What did I miss?” Loki asked with a smile.

“The...uh...” Thor stammered.

“We're trying to figure out how the cube is supposed to work. I uh...I'll have to study it in my lab of course, unless someone can find the uh manual."

"There's no manual." Brunhild said with annoyance. "That kind of things doesn't come with straight up does and don't."

"She's right." Sif added. "Mystical artifacts are..."

"Mystical! That's it. We should go and ask the strange doctor." Thor said pounding his fist on the table."

"You mean Doctor Strange?" Banner asked. "I don't know. Maybe. Is he even in our, you know, dimension?"

Loki followed the discussion from afar, wishing he could anywhere but here. He did not know how it happened but you had called for him which meant that you wanted him to come see you again, and perhaps you would be inclined to be with him. Ever since he came up with a good plan for his next visit, Loki had tried to convince himself that there was no such thing as perfect timing and that he should come see you next time he had the chance to.

The meeting ended with Banner having the mission to test the cube while someone should get in touch with Stephen Strange. Loki glimpsed at Heimdall and discreetly set off to the main door. Loki left the room but before he was out of the town hall, Thor grabbed a hold of him and pulled him behind.

“What happened to you in there?”

“Not enough sugar in my bloodstream.” Loki grinned.

 

For the longest time, Thor had been naive when it came to his brother, but that changed on Sakaar and now Loki did not know where he stood. With only one eye, that resembled too much of their mother's in this instance, Thor let Loki know that he was not buying his pathetic excuse. He leant over his brother, looking sideways, making sure they could not be overheard.

"You said her name."

"Whose name?"

Thor gazed in his brother's eyes making heads and tails the best he could. Loki was not worried about the thunder god reading him, he never could. Or so he thought.

"Is there anything I should know?" Thor asked with a knowing look. "You better tell me if there is. Father went looking for her and I always wondered how you managed to hid her from him. If she's on Earth she should be here with us. With her own people. We could do with a piece of good news and the Keeper coming back would definitely be good news."

"No." Loki said yanking away from his brother's grip. "Now, if you don't mind, Banner was right. I should rest."

Loki strolled down the corridor heading to nowhere in particular, just getting far away as possible from his brother and his sudden perceptiveness. Loki hoped it was a one time thing, a struck of luck, otherwise he would have to be more careful around him. He could not afford having his heart on his sleeve.


The bells chimed and the door closed behind him. A loud bang echoed from the back of the store and Loki had only to follow your grunts and moan. He found you with a feet in your hand and a heavy box of books right next to it.

“What did you break?” Mrs Lee yelled from an alley.

But before you answered, you took in the sight of Loki helping you.

“Nothing! Just my foot!" you yelled back. "I told you to leave.” you said to Loki between your teeth.

Don’t swim against the current, he reminded himself.

“And I’ve come back.” 

He extended his arms, proud of his answer when the click of gun made him froze.

“I should warn you, I hunt for sport.” 

You barely looked at the old woman pointing a shotgun at Loki's back and put yourself in front of him the way you did when your friend pointlessly wave a bottle under his nose the second time he came around. If Claire's attempt had made him laugh, Loki did not even smile for you were standing at gun point from a weapon that could very possibly harm you.

“Mrs Lee, put the gun down. You’ll scared the customers.”

With your hand pressed on his stomach, you pushed Loki back as you shielded him from Mrs Lee. 

“Now, put that thing away. I can handle myself.” you said to her.

That's right! Loki wanted to yell. Now scram you crone. Loki watched Mrs Lee go, softly and slowly like a hunter reluctant to leave the trail of their prey. Once you were sure the old woman was far enough you turned to him and the outrage on your face was a delight Loki attempted to hide. How can you not be my devil dove when I see the fire that lit your eyes and leads your heart?

“See that?” you told him pointing to where Mrs Lee stood a second ago. “That’s a pattern. Every time you come in here unwanted, someone tried to kill you. For your sake and my piece of mind I suggest that you leave.”

“I will. But first I want to apologize. There is nothing that could explain, let alone excuse, my previous behaviour. I am aware that I crossed a line that should never be crossed.”

“Well, never is a strong word but... But you could have asked, yes.”

By the way your eyes widen, Loki could tell you spoke without thinking first, revealing yourself. A grin stretched his lips from one ear to the other and it became hard to play the part where he should seek for your forgiveness in order to start over.

“Anyway, I’m sorry. That’s all I came to say. And I hope that you can find it in your heart to forgive me. I know I’m not the most eligible bachelor in town but...”

“Try on Earth.”

“Fair enough. But at least I’ll sleep better knowing that I have your permission to keep on living.” Loki said handing you a blade.

You stared at it. Shape like a snake, the scales glimmered under the artificial lights and the blade reflected your mesmerized gaze. The longer you stared at it, the more you appreciated the beautiful of the lethal weapon. It was a true work of art. A pinch in your stomach followed by the birth of a headache took you away from your contemplation.

“What do you want me do to with this?” you said putting the blade in his hand. 

You gestured with your head for him to follow you and led him to the back room where no one, and especially Mrs Lee could not see the weapon.

“Anything you might see fit for my punishment.”

“Are all the gods so dramatic?” you asked baffled. “I’m not gonna stab you for kissing me. It's a bit extreme don't you think?" 

Loki had no idea of who you were in this life but behind the paint, he could see more and more of you. You had the same untamed nature and promptitude to call Loki out with no filter whatsoever. He was convinced that the real you was there and that it was only a matter of time before you saw it too.

“Would you have say yes?” Loki asked.

“Uh?”

“If I had asked for your permission to kiss you that night, would you have said yes?”

Loki enjoyed watching you process your answer and the red that sneaked on your cheek. He never managed to make you blush before. No matter the circumstance you always seemed to be in constant control. So much that he believed for centuries that you might not be interested in him in the way he was beginning to be interested with you.

“Maybe not that night. But um after a couple of...I can’t decide if you’re being smooth or just stupidly bold. Which one is it tell me."

"I am known for my unforeseeable nature." Loki smirked.

"Ah. So you're on the stupid side of the line, I see. Well, what is it you want despite my forgiveness or whatever?”

“Anything you wish to give me.” Loki purred.

You rose an unaffected eyebrow but the curl at the end of your lips revealed you were on the verge of laughing.

“I’m fine with your forgiveness.” he assured you.

If the gesture had not been forever tainted by your late husband, Loki would have taken your hand in his and land a gentle kiss on your knuckles. Never before did he felt like acting all courteous with you, quite the contrary, but things were not exactly at they used to be. He thought that perhaps that could have been the right move for it could create  a sense of intimacy without adding the burden of presumptuousness. Perhaps you would have liked it. But if the spell was to be broken because he acted in a similar manner as Balder did, Loki knew he could not live with himself nor look at you in the eye ever again. 

“I should go now. I hope I haven’t taken too much of your time.”

Loki turned his heels and disappeared in the F-G alley. He pretended not to notice you were following him nonetheless when you spoke, his heart skipped a bit. The taste of accomplishment made him smile more than he should, so when you told him that you forgave him, Loki chose to just glance over his shoulder and answered with a simple ‘thank you.’

“So, what now?” you asked him as he drew a step further away from you.

The shape of you stood in the corner of his eye and he struggled not to turn immediately. He had to show restrain so you would not reject him again. Don’t swim against the current, Loki reminded himself for the second time. Embrace it.
Slowly, Loki moved to face you. The expectation in your eyes, the way you held your breath for a second, all of this was so new to him that he did not know what to do with it. With that other version of you. For many centuries you had chased each other, moving one step forward and taken six steps backwards. It had been exhausting and daunting sometimes, but Loki would not trade any of your history for anything in the world. 

You were everything to one another but, despite your friendship and the trust that came with it, you had lied to one another and buried things so deep it emerged at the worst possible time. It had been a bumpy road filled with excitement and adventures, laughs and secrets. Somehow you had always found your way back to each other, impossibly drawn to one another.
Loki was confident that you were to be reunited once again. But this time he had no intention of letting you go unless it was your wish. He had to learn to hold on to the little things that gave you away, which could be anything from a quick glance to a secretive smile, or the way you would tuck a strand of your hair behind your ear.

Loki looked closely at you. You were not interested in hiding your obvious interest in him despite everything he represented for the people of Earth of which you believed you belonged to. Loki wondered how you could have been so straightforward with him in the past while completely deceiving him at the same time. Were you just in denial this whole time as he had been, or did you performed the most exquisite trick of all time? Loki could not decide and certainly could not ask you so instead of scheming, he took a short breath and said:

“I don’t know. You tell me.” 

Chapter Text

“Now what?” you asked Loki not sure why you went with this question in the first place.

He had came back to the bookstore to apologize which seemed to be out of character for you did not picture the god of mischief to be contrite. It could be a trick although you felt a genuine nervousness behind his charming demeanour.


You forgave him and now you waited for Loki to answer your question. Now what? What were you supposed to do? Did the Asgardian plan on coming here again or was it just a weird moment in both your lives, that would make a great anecdote someday?


His previous behaviour was not okay, and his apology no matter how sincere it was, could not erase what he did. However, you found it easy to forgive him and the urge you had to be with him was rather off-putting. If I’m falling for another egotistical maniac I swear I’ll drown myself. Your hand landed on your thigh. There was no way for you to feel the scar underneath the layer of clothes and yet a wave of nausea seized you suddenly.

If Loki was anything like the other one, you should run and never look back. However, you had not spot any signs indicating Loki would be in any way like the one you escaped from many moons ago but still haunted you to this day. Sometimes you could feel his shadow behind you, growing and growing until it swallowed you whole and made it so dark out there that you would beg him to find you. But with Loki, it never felt like this. Strangely enough, you had been at ease with him from the start and even now that you were aware of the fact that he was supposedly a god from another planter, Loki did not impress you at all, and fear never knocked on your door. Not even once.

“I don’t know. You tell me.” Loki answered.

The cards were in your hands now and you had no clue what to do with them.

“You staying in town?” you asked hesitant.

Loki shrugged. Was it a positive or a negative answer? From the other side of the bookshelves you heard Mrs Lee’s footsteps creeping closer. In reaction to her most likely eavesdropping, you grabbed Loki’s sleeve and took him outside.

“I’m taking five Mrs Lee.” you yelled already a foot on the pavement.

You crossed the street and entered the small park that faced the bookstore. Only then did you let go of Loki, and the man was smirking like a high schooler.

“Are you ashamed of talking with me in public?” he teased.

You scoffed. As he leaned against a tree with leaves brushing the top of his head, a sharp pain throbbed from the back of your head, just above your neck and suddenly, a book appeared in front of your eyes.

It was thick and old, with yellow pages and moving colourful engravings. The lettering shimmered with gold specks and the smell of it gave you the promise of enchanted adventures. You blinked and the book was gone. The pain lingered but Loki's hand on your arm chased it altogether. 

“I’m starving. Aren’t you starving? I’d kill for a Danish right about now.” you nervously chuckled.

“A Danish?”

“That’s the name of a pastry. I don’t eat people from Denmark, don’t worry. Have you ever had one? The pastry I mean. If not, I feel like it’s my duty to introduce you to the tasty world of pastries.”

You began walking away making him follow you while you crossed the park.

“Now?” he said catching up with you. “Don't you have to go back to work?”

“Nah! Mrs Lee is probably already pissed so I’ve decided to treat myself before Judgment Day. Did you know I’m kind of a pastry connoisseur? I can tell you from where they come and how they were invented.”

You were proud of your this peculiar knowledge but saying it out loud made it sound silly and for a bitter second you regretted your nervous confession.

“It's...it’s a dumb hobby.”

“No." Loki said walking alongside you. "You've always liked food so it makes sens that...I mean, you seem like someone who likes food and...No. What I want to say is that uh...Okay, I will just shut up now." he said putting his hands deep in his pockets and avoiding your gaze. 

Loki stared in front of him but seemed always aware of your presence next to him. You laughed at his nervousness and felt like mocking him a little, unbothered by the fact he could kill you in a heartbeat. Loki played along just fine and soon, the two of you were jesting and giggling like two old friends.


You and Claire were seated at your favourite high table at the local bar sharing a bowl of peanuts while waiting for your drinks. Music was a faint distraction from afar and everywhere at the same time.
Green and pink and blue lights showered the small square stage at the back of the room. Tacky as they were, the tenants thought those lights to be essential to Karaoke Night. You gave Claire a snarky comment about that though she barely listened, too preoccupied to look behind you and above your shoulder.

“Basically, you’re dating a god.” she said all of a sudden.

You choked on your peanut which came out the same way it came in just a second before, though now it was covered in drool and mocked you from the middle of the round table.

“No, we’re...we’re just hanging out.”

You hesitated to take a handful of salty treats but decided against it, in case Claire fired again. She remained silent although her eyebrows expressed her views in an obvious way.

“You two text a lot.” Claire pointed out. “Like, a lot.”

“I’m teaching him how to use a phone.”

“And you see him on a regular basis, do you not?”

“Yes, but...” you sighed.

What was the point of fighting this? Wasn’t it the reason you invited Claire tonight? To talk about Loki, to make her see him in a different light because you valued her friendship and wished to keep it if things evolved with him? Which they were. The signs pointed in that direction.

The fact that each time you had to part, you felt like a piece of paper being torn apart. The grin that stretched your lips when you heard the ringtone you had chosen for him rang and how your heart always jumped in your chest with each text of his. Let’s not talk about the butterflies in your stomach and the tingling sensation in your hands when you were about to meet him. All of this and much more, made you unable to escape the truth.

“Alright, you win. I like like him. A lot. So please, try to be open-minded about this.” you begged her. “I know you don’t really approve of him but he’s really an okay-guy.”

“When it comes to you, okay is not enough.” she said holding your hand in hers and giving them a gently squeeze.

“Such a Mama Bear.” you joked.

“Excuse me if I look out for my girl. That’s the first time I see you in love and you went for the guy who tried to destroy New York.”

“For the last time. I was trying to rule the world.” Loki said putting drinks on the table. “Excuse me for trying to help.”

“Really?” you said to him.

"What? Earth is in need of a good leader, that much is true." he said with conviction.

"We have leaders." Claire said with a glare.

"And systems in place to elect them."

"And how has it work so far I wonder."

You leaned towards him as he sat on the stool next to you and whispered

“Deer...”

“It's a ghastly nickname and I wish for you to drop it.” Loki answered giving you your drink and putting one in front of Claire.

"Deal with it and Keep away from politics tonight okay? You can try to rule the world on Monday and if you wand I'll even endorse you." you said patting him on the arm like he was a kid on the verge of tantrum. "But now, let's drink and have a pleasant time, shall we?"

Claire observed him with hawk eyes while she sipped silently. Under the table, his knee kept on brushing yours and you were not trying to avoid it. In fact, you had moved a few inches to the left, in hope you would feel the ghostly contact of his cool skin, or the round of his shoulder lightly pressing against yours. It was a silly game you never played before. However you had gone addicted to the thrills of it.

“So Loki.” Claire said after a while. “What are your intentions for my homie here?”

You slapped your forehead and prayed you heard wrong. However, Claire displayed her deadly serious face which was supposed to impress though you doubted it worked on Loki.

“You don’t have to answer that.” you said to him in a way a lawyer would advice her client.

Please, don’t answer that. Plead the fifth! Loki smiled with his eyes and you felt some sort of tingles coming from the inside and spreading from the top of your head to the sole of your feet. Oh no. You had a feeling he was ready to answer and a sudden need to run away.

“Is there an answer that will make me less conspicuous to you?” he smoothly answered Claire.

“Probably not.”

Loki chuckled. He gazed at the ice cubes in his glass of bourbon that seemed smaller in his hands, surrounded by his long and cool fingers. You had noticed how his skin was always chilled and sometimes it made you shiver just to imagine him actually touching you which he rarely did.

Despite the unfortunate first kiss, Loki had been careful around you. You had to deal with a brush or a caress here and there. Whether they came from you or him, they all appeared to be inconsequential despite the fact that they were proves of your constant need to be near one another.
Loki got himself out of Claire’s trap with a magnificent spin and cheered luck for he had a way with words that would twist anyone’s mind.

When Karaoke Night finally begun, you let out a breath of relief. There was no way to hold a conversation while people sang - mostly out of tune - and so there was almost no chance for you to feel more nervous than you already were.

An hour later, with the help of cold and heavy beverages, you felt more relaxed and Claire had let go of her mama bear routine. She acted almost as if Loki was not there, but not in a rude way that would make him feel unwanted. Just in a way that demonstrated the fact that she was not entirely at ease herself. You were a bridge between them and as such you did your best to keep the mood light and cool.

You watched a group of tipsy friends singing Don’t Go Breaking My Heart with such enthusiasm you could not help but giggle. Your head rested on Loki’s chest while he had his arms around you. The way he breathed was slow and peaceful, but his heart beat fast and loud. His lips were always a few inches from your head and his fingers intertwined with yours, rested on your stomach. He smelled like fresh mint and sometimes you would close your eyes in delight.
You dwelled in his embrace and only nodded with a light moan of approval when he asked you if you were comfortable. Your ass was getting numb though and your bladder reminded you that it should be emptied every now and then. You fought for a while but came the time to surrender.

With the greatest of reluctance you pulled out and jumped down the stool, telling Loki and Claire you would be back in a minute.
You shared a questioning look with your friend to see if she would like to come with you. She emptied her glass first then jumped from her stool as well and snaked her arm around yours. 

“What’s your verdict judge Bear?” you asked Claire from your stall.

“Is this Bear thing sticking? Because I have a few suggestion for you as well.” she chuckled.

“I’m sure you do.”

You exited the stall and went directly for the sink to wash your hands. When Claire joined you, you could not help but look at her through the mirror as if it would grant you some protection you could not have by talking directly with her.

“I’m no seer, but one thing’s for sure, the guy’s got it so hard for you.”

Your laugh filled the room and echoed loudly back to you.

“I could write an essay about him trying to be smooth as a greaser and failing miserably. Oh and when you leaned back, very casually might I add, I thought he'd die of love.”

“Oh, language mama Bear. Do you kiss your cubs with that mouth?”

Claire splashed water to your face and elbowed you.

"There's no point in denying it. The man's in love with you and you have him wrapped around your little finger."

"I don't think that's..."

“He’s better make you happy. Because no one messes with my cub.”


Loki was walking you home, his head lost in the clouds. You appreciated how you never had to keep on talking to feel comfortable around him. Often were you silent next to one another and that was more than fine. That was as natural state for the both of you as was your endless bickering about trivialities.

"You have a fire in you and Loki is an accelerant. I think that together you can be a splendid blast." Claire had whispered in your ear after hours of observing you both.


You glimpsed at the store front window up in the street and slowed down enough to give you five more minutes with Loki.

“I had fun tonight.” Loki said suddenly. “And I think Claire likes me, which oddly enough makes me more nervous.”

“Why is that?” you asked him perplexed. If Claire liked him, which she was beginning to, it was a good thing. Acting as a bridge the entire night had exhausted you and you wished to be able to see her even if Loki was in town. Moreover, if Claire could be charmed by the god of mischief, perhaps Mrs Lee would be as well.

“I’m not used to it.”

There was shadow that clouded his emerald eyes every now and then. Despite his high and mighty behaviour and his constant reminder of his many pompous titles, Loki appeared incapable of not doubting himself. 

“You should.” you said taking his sleeve. “Because Claire does like you and I also like you. Not in the same way, but I do. And I’m sure many people do too.”

Loki dug his heels in the pavement and made you stop and turn.

“And in what way might that be?” he asked playfully.

You saw a twinkle in his eye. The shadow had disappeared as quickly as it had come. You smirked and took his hands in yours while you slowly closed the distance between you.

“I’m sure you know.”

“Enlighten me.” he said leaning over you.

His long waves of raven hair brushed your cheeks and you could not help yourself from bitting your lower lip. He was so close you could almost taste his minty breath. You fondly played with a strand of his hair, admiring the moonlight glowing on his pale skin until you put your arms round his neck.

“Loki of Asgard?"

"Hm?"

"I’m gonna date the hell outta of you.” you said with a grin.

His arms appeared round your waist and brought you against his chest.

“And what have we been doing until now?”

“That, mon cher, was the pre-date ritual. It’s a rite of passage all future lovers have to go through. It might last an hour or even years. There’s no rule really. But one thing is sure, it involves a lot of dancing around one-another, casual yet very intimate contact and this thrill that takes control of you every time you meet with the other.” you said against his lips.

“Fascinating.” he breathed.

“Yep.” you answered brushing his nose.

His grip tightened around your waist and he licked his lips, letting you know he was ready for you. However, you did not bat an eye.

“Are you going to kiss me or do I have to beg?” he said.

"Are you capable of begging?"

You smiled for you enjoyed the teasing way too much. Excitement and expectation had tighten a knot in your stomach and for a wild second you feared you would not be up to the task. You wished only for his lips tonight, nothing more. You had thought and dreamed about them so vividly that you often found yourself wet and in need of him.
Loki's fingers creased your shirt, barely caressing your skin sending a sexually charged blast throughout your body. You held on to him as you pressed your chest against his and sealed your lips with his wanting soft mouth. He tasted like iced crème de menthe and each time your tongues danced around each other, it made you more and more intoxicated with him.

You broke the kiss, gasping for air and goosebumps running all along your spine. His hands were still on the small of your back as he searched for your lips in a vain attempt. In spite of being locked in his embrace you had to put the palms of yours hands on his chest to steady yourself.
Without a spare thought you put your forehead against his which felt natural and familiar as if you had done this a hundred time before. The air around you thickened and the breeze brought the smell of fire with it. By the time you closed your eyes and the sensation was already gone.


You beamed knowing Loki could not see your face and how red it must be when he asked you with a hint of mischief in his voice, if tonight counted as your first date. You shook slowly your head with a smile hanging on your lips.

“That was the opening kiss.” you said. “The one that leads to many more.”

Loki locked his thumbs in your belt and made sure there was not an inch left between the two of you. You became aware of his arousal, which seemed to match yours. There was nothing that could stop you from inviting him to your place if it was not for a distance yet loud voice coming from the deepest shadows of your soul. You tried to block the voice out of your head but it screamed louder and louder until you it became impossible for you to ignore it. 

You closed your eyes and clenched your fist around Loki's black shirt. 

"Goodnight, Loki of Asgard." you said softly against his lips before giving him a gentle kiss.


“I know people are entitled to their opinion but I’d love it if they could keep it to themselves. Why does it matter who you date anyway? And have you seen the way they stare at us? It makes me want to punch them in their throat.” you said bitting off half of your popsicle.

Loki chuckled.

“People can’t unseen us. It doesn’t work that way. It never has. Every time we’ve been together, eyes and gossips followed.” Loki kept his mouth opened as if he wanted to add something and closed it before a grin enlightened his eyes. “But if you want to punch people in their throat, I won’t stop you.”

“You’re weird sometimes, you know that?” you said with a laugh.

“Why, I take it as a compliment.”

“You should. Because I won’t settle for anything less.” you left your laugh die in your throat and gazed at him.

Tall and lean with his raven hair cascading over his shoulders. You remembered when you first saw him on television, it had been shorter and you thought it suited him best. Without a thought, you caught yourself with your fingers in his hair.


It was a warm afternoon, perfect for strolling around the lake nestled in a lush green setting. Sometimes you would walk hand in hand around town but it attracted an attention you despised with all your heart. The not-so-subtle nods of disapproval you glimpsed at the corner of your eyes would only unleashed your wrath.

Loki offered you that soft smile you were very fond of and gently kissed your forehead. You closed your eyes for a second and hold on to his wrist.

“You never cared what people think of me. Not once.” he said in a low voice. “You’re more free than I could ever be.”

'Always' and 'never' were two words too often used for emphasis but lacked any depth. However, when Loki used them to talk about you and him, they became heavy like they had a secret meaning only he knew about. His voice would change and a peculiar light would lit his eyes and the words, those two opposite forces, would sink in your heart and scorch it with blazing letters.

A silence fell between the two of you as you walked peacefully side by side, only a few steps away from the water. You embraced those moments of quietness that sneaked in, sensing there was a rightful purpose for them, a natural order you were at ease with. Despite having always something on your mind and a keen interest in jousting with Loki, you enjoyed the silence and dwelled in the uselessness of words. Only by being with him, your heart was content enough.

None of your dates were fancy nor particularly entertaining from an outside point of you, because McGraw-Hill was a typical small town lost between endless fields and woods were activities came in short supplies. So most of the times you and Loki simply hung around and did nothing except talk or read.
The smile on Loki’s face begun to fade away and soon the silence lost its perfect peacefulness and turned heavily sour. You ended your popsicle in two bites and licked the flat wooden stick until the very last drop of raspberry flavour was gone.

“Why so serious?” you asked him in a tone you wanted casual.

Loki pretended there was nothing but you could tell otherwise. He could pride himself being the god of mischief all he wanted, but to you he was nothing but an open book. Although, the more you pushed him to confess, the further he would retreat.
You slid your fingers between his and let him do the rest. His hand closed around yours and with little force he pulled you closer so when you walked your shoulders would brush against one another. The coolness of his hand became your own and while you gave him a light squeeze, Loki sighed heavily.

“I may have to go.” he said with a contrite look on his face.

“So? You always go. But you also always come back.”

You gave him a beaming smile, one that was made to reassure him, to tell him that you understood the situation and that you would in under no circumstances whatsoever resent him for his way of life. Loki had told you about New Asgard and you hoped that someday you would be brave enough to go and visit his home, even if for now it was too much of a long haul for you to consider. But the way he spoke about it, with a glim in his eyes and certain joy, made you believe it was an enchanting place where you could belong.

“By the way, how do you do it? I mean you come here twice a week while you live on the other side of the ocean so either you have mad miles to spend or...”

You let your idea hang in the air hoping Loki would catch it and finally resolve this mystery he had been keeping from the start. But he did not and left you once again completely in the dark as to how he managed to travel so often and easily to come and see you. Sometimes he would stay only for a couple of hours and sometimes for a whole day. It was never enough, although you were wary of never letting him know, no matter how reluctant he appeared to be when he was about to leave you. The word ‘stay’ was a simple one that could not cross the barrier of your lips. You feared it would feel like an ultimatum. Something Loki did not deserve and neither did you.

You took a quick look at the man standing next to you, holding your hand in his and sighed heavily as well.

“How long will you been gone?”

The tension in his shoulder made them look more square while his cheekbones became sharper the more he kept his jaws shut.

“I don’t know.” he confessed with a heavy heart.

The breeze ruffled the leaves in the trees. Some broke away from their branch and twirled until they reached the ground.

“Well, I’m not going anywhere anytime soon, so you’ll know where to find me when you come back. Will you please stop with the long face? You’re no fun when you brood. Unless I can pock you to death, in that case that can be fun.”

You managed to draw a smile from him but it was clear that he was still troubled about his prolonged absence.

“Look, if I were you I wouldn’t want me gone either, but you gotta do what you gotta do. There’s no way around that. You guys just built a new home from scratch on a planet you know almost nothing about. In terms of responsibilities it doesn’t get much worse than this. As long as you're coming back to me, I don't care that you go and for how long.”

“I know plenty about earth, thank you.” Loki replied with a snarky smile.

“Right you are. Then who’s the president of England.”

“Trick question. It’s a queen.” he said very pleased with himself.

“One point for the deer.”

“Don't call me that.”

“Stop calling me dove then. And don't wear antlers either.”

“It’s not something I can control. And I’ll let you know that my golden helmet is very...”

“No it’s not.” you said with obvious contempt “So back on your extensive knowledge of Earth. What’s a Danish?”

“Someone from Denmark and a pastries you are very fond of.”

“Good. What’s the difference between a modem and a router?” 

“We have an expert for this kind of things.”

“So you don’t know.”

“No I don’t know. What is the point of all this?” he asked visibly annoyed.

“Why is the earth round?”

“Isn’t there people who believe it’s flat?”

“You can’t answer a question with another question. Star Wars or Star Trek?”

“Stargate.” Loki sighed pinching the bridge of his nose.

You fought the urge to smile and kept on asking him question after question in a rapid manner so he did not have time to think.

“Where is the love?”

“Okay now you’re just quoting songs.” he groaned.

You grabbed his shirt and pulled him in to kiss him. You stumbled backwards but Loki caught you and deepened the kiss, begging for your mouth to open. When you let out a moan of approval, Loki’s grasp around your waist hardened. You were running out of air and out of will. It took you a good deal of self-control to break the kiss and keep him at bay for he immediately leaned to get more from your lips.

“Now, I’ve annoyed you for at least two weeks. Three if you count the cold shower you’ll have to take tonight.”

The corner of his lips curled up as a grin appeared against your mouth. He was still clinging to you, pulling you against him while you meekly pushed to get free.

“That’s not enough.” he said stealing a kiss from you.

The waves of desire came crashing against the doors of your willpower. Soon they would break and you will be drowned, unable to stop for a second, not even to breathe. His lips hovering yours, his hair hiding you from the rest of the world, his hands holding you firmly. His fingers dug deeper in your flesh while his chest moved faster. You felt the beat of his heart so loud you could not tell the difference between his and yours.

That’s not enough, he had said and you agreed with him. Loki had entered your life only a few months ago and it had already put your heart in overdrive.
You detached yourself from him and endured the loss of his touch. You had to face his lust with a strong resolution despite your own desire to be with him. Loki had to go, you knew as much. The rest did not matter.


A child shouted joyfully on the other side of the lake, running after a dog who had a ball between his teeth. The laughter and the barks anchored you in the real world, the one you often forgot about when alone with Loki. You allowed yourself to toy with his fingers while he told you this was not fair.

“I know.” you said

The wind suddenly blew, carrying the smell of another place with it. Your head spun and for a minute you saw a colourful void opening in front of you, ready to swallow you and spit you out on the other side of the unknown. You pushed the lump down your throat, staring at the void with wide eyes and clutching to Loki’s hand.

“Dove?”

His voice called you from afar. The void hoovered everything, even the sounds, leaving barely enough air for you to breathe. You took one step towards the threshold when a yank broke the veil and pulled you back. Loki’s eyes scanned your face while he frantically pushed your hair back.

“Are you alright?” he asked. “What happened?”

You were not sure. It seemed that for a moment you had stepped in another dimension where you might have belonged to at some point. It had lasted long enough for it to feel familiar but also odd. Like a déjà-vu, the sensation was gone before you could comprehend what was going on.

“I thought I saw something.” you dismissed casually.

The void had made you hopeless and miserable so vividly you could still feel it in your stomach. You shook your head to clear your mind.

“I’ll stay.” he said resolute.

“No.” you pleaded.

“Thor doesn’t need me. I should stay here with you.”

This was what you had feared all along, that moment Loki would feel compelled to chose between you and his duty.

“He does need you. Otherwise he wouldn’t ask for your help. I’m fine. I’m more than fine.” you assured him. “Do you want me to walk a straight line while reciting the alphabet backwards? Because I can do it. No cops in this town could catch me for drunk and disorderly so...”

You pecked Loki’s cheek.

“I’m fine.”

“Swear it” he said planting his eyes in yours while holding your face in his hands. “Swear it to me.”

You rose your right hand in the air and jokingly swearing over an invisible Bible. Although you did as he had asked, Loki did not let go of you, scanning your face with untamed concern in his eyes. You let out a breath and took his hands off.

“When will you go?” you asked eager to direct the focus on him.

“First thing tomorrow.”

“Is it a cool mission? Like going out into space to retrieve some long lost artefact?”

“In a way, I guess.”

“Wow, your ability to sell dreams is beyond compare.” you joked. “Is it top secret?”

“No, not really. Frankly, I don’t see the point of it but Thor insists. He’s convinced it’ll do the people some good.”

“Will it?”

“It might.” he sighed.

You knew him well enough to realize you were not getting anything more from him. At least not today. He had his heart settled on not going and perhaps, it saddened him to see you were not even trying to keep him.

The time to part was approaching fast and you dreaded those excruciating minutes during which none of you wanted to leave but the both of you had to. Before each date you swore to yourself that this time you would be quick about it, rip the band aid in one swift move but when the moment came, you perjured yourself. The seconds became minutes and soon you had not enough fingers to count those bittersweet drops of time.

Despite not being one to pine after someone, you counted the days until you would see him again. But what would be to point now that there was no expected deadline? You blocked a sighed coming out, resolute not to let him see you distraught and infatuated. And so you did what you did best and put on a smile on your face that masked the pain. You conjured all the humour you had in you and dialed the sweetness a little bit. But it would required a lot more to make him go without looking over his shoulder and turning back.

You needed only a slight hint of truth to make your lie work, to trick the trickster. You looked up to him and by the way he looked back at you, you knew you had done it. There was a glimmer in your eyes that would lead him to understand that all was well and that he should go with less a heavy heart. You maintained it until it burned you from within as you wished never to be apart from him again. It felt like you had spent centuries away from each other and you could not bare one more minute of his absence. 

 

 

Chapter Text

Your phone vibrated against your bedside table and glided dangerously towards the edge of the small furniture. In a swift move you managed to catch it right before it fell and crashed on the floor. The bright white light blinded you for a moment.

“What?” you said holding a curse.

Your voice was coarse and your throat dry. You could not hide the fact that you were sleeping just a second before even if you tried. Moreover you had no intention to conceal the fact that you were annoyed with your unknown middle of the night caller.

“I’m downstairs.” he said.

And just like that, sleepiness washed itself away and you jumped out of bed. The phone glued to your ear you ran to the window and pushed it up with one hand.

“Don’t fall.” Loki exclaimed in the middle of the street.

“Don’t move!” you replied.

You threw the phone on your bed, not bothering to end the call and flew out of your place. In a blink of an eye you were down the stairs with feet bare, in your pyjamas, hair all over the place, and a stain of drool on your shirt.
Your lizard brain took over the steering wheel and before you realized it, you were literally jumping in his arms. Loki instantly caught you in his arms. You rounded his waist with your legs, forcing him to find a new balance now that you where there. A chuckle died in his throat as you locked lips with his.

You kissed him with eagerness, tasting every inch of his mouth even though you remembered it perfectly. And because of your overwhelming joy to see him again, fat tears birthed at the corner of your eyes. You chased them away to take a good look at him. Something you could not do for more than a month A horrible, never ending month and a week after that. You did your best to entertain yourself, to get your head out of the Loki’s game but despite all your best intention and all your efforts, the only thing you could think of was when will I see him again? Claire found the sentiment beautiful and cried a little when she spoke about the magic of witnessing the birth of true love. An idea you drowned in heavy amount of liquor.

“What’s that?” you asked eyeing a bag in his hand.

Loki grinned and lifted his chin up to steal a kiss from you.

“No, seriously. What’s in the bag?”

“Do you know curiosity killed the cat my dove?” he said with a mischievous green that lit his green eyes.

“No, deer. It’s not answering the cat that killed the cat, because the cat doesn’t like not to be answered and oh gosh, that smells good.”

You let yourself fall back on your feet and moved to take the bag out of Loki’s hand. He rose the bag in the air always a few inches away from your grasp. Sometimes it would dangle above your head or circle around it but never could you touch it.

“You’re lucky I’m barely awake you because I am this close to kick you in the groin.”

Loki laughed at your empty threat and finally let you snatch the bag. You opened it with the slow motion resembling a child who was about to discover the most mesmerizing thing on Earth. You untied one knot while Loki slid behind you, his chest close to your back. He gently pushed your hair to the side, brushing your soft skin with the tips of his ever cool fingers and stretched the collar of your old shirt until he had a free path from your neck to the round of your shoulder.
There was a second knot to work on which gave him plenty of time to plant light kisses along the way, clutching to the pathetic fabric of your shirt. His breath gave you goosebumps making him smile against the curve of your neck.


Loki was tasting you painfully slow while his other hand now on your hip, brought you closer and closer to him.

You closed your eyes, feeling his wanting presence all around you. You tilted your head to the side so he could have more room to work, curious to see where this would lead, but then a peculiarly familiar smell reached your nostrils and sent you back to a time you were just a little girl. The warmth and sweetness of the pastries in the bag reminded you of all the simple marvels of childhood. You could picture a hot oven from which you were forbidden to get near of, an a bench outside a shabby house on which you sat and waited for your mother to open the kitchen window and put a slice out just for you.

“Is that...” you sniffed. “Peers?”

Only a moan escaped his throat for his lips were too busy diligently following the curve of your neck while his hands creased your hollowed and torn pyjama shirt. You bit your lips when his grasp tightened, torn between your desire to strip Loki of his clothes right there and now regardeless of being in the middle of the street, and your empty stomach requesting some delicious pastries.

“I’ve missed you too...” you said turning your heels so you could face him, and doing so interrupted his light kisses.

There were still there on your skin, little chilled ghosts that left the impression of frost bites along the line. He nodded with his eyes closed, brushing your nose with his. But his half open mouth ready to welcome your tongue again and his grip around your waits indicated that he was barely listening.

“...But I’m starving.” you said reluctantly.

You had dreamed of your reunion countless of times, imagining hundreds of different scenarios in your head but none of them included a feisty stomach as well as an insatiable love for pastries. 


“Say no more.” 


Loki matched his understanding with an innocent kiss on your forehead before he took your hand in his, waiting for you to lead him inside your place. 


“That goes perfectly with a red tea we had on Asgard but unfortunately I couldn’t find any.” 


“I have rooibos. It's some sort of red tea. Maybe that’ll do the trick.” you said


McGraw-Hill was waking up and slowly getting alive while you climbed the crooked stairs and entered your place through the door you had left open.
The room was a mess but it was your mess. Although a sense of guilt crept under your skin when you noticed Loki was already wandering around between dirty laundry, forgotten ramen noodle boxes and magazines. You busied yourself in the kitchen corner, trying to distract him with chitchat but the man had already his eyes on your book collection.

A sigh left your lungs for you would much rather have him around your bookshelf. At least it was neat and clean there.
You took quick glances, watching him brush the sides of the volumes you had rescued throughout the years. Most of them were in their worst shape and it shattered your heart to see them that way. An eery smile stretched his lips as he admired some of your most precious belongings. A few first editions and foreign ones you had been keeping for yourself in hope to mend them later.


“I wish I could fix them, but I wouldn’t know where to start. I’ve watched some videos online but that requires finesse. Which is...something I lack.”

Loki snorted as if what you just said was beyond silliness.


“Repairing books is an art you have to practice every day with the right tools.”


“I don’t have those either.” you sighed.


The kettle whistled and begged for your attention. 


“I knew someone who could fix any kind of book and scrolls. Even the most damaged ones.”


“Really?” 


“Yes. She whispered to them.” Loki chuckled with his eyes lost in time and space. “Sometimes she would even hummed some tune to them. She managed to create a bond with each text she's ever read and immersed herself completely in the words she worked with. I’ve never seen someone doing what she did in the way she did it.”


“She sounds...”


You searched for the right word but you mind began spiralling. She sounded like someone he might have cared for and that was not in his life anymore. She sounded like someone who had most likely break his heart but despite the pain and the use of the past tense, she was more than alive in his mind which indicated that he had not forgotten about her. Was he still thinking about her? Was he thinking about her when he was with you? You could not bare the thought of that idea. Neither could you resent him for having a past. Everyone had a past whether they like sharing it or not. Yours was an inevitable burden you carried everyday so why would it be different for Loki? Just because he never talked about it, did not mean he did not have one. You never talked about your past as you never forgot about...


“She sounds unique.” you finally said.


“She is.”


Present tense.

This woman, this friend was still a part of his life, of that you were now sure. Insecurity rose from within. You could cope with someone from the past because there was no other way. But if she was part of the now what were you supposed to do? The way Loki talked about her left you under the impression she was not just some acquaintance. You sensed that she meant a great deal to him and believed their relationship was deeper and must have left a scar somewhere. The agitation soon turned into a violent inner turmoil you despised with every fibre of your being. 

Loki helped you set the table, quiet and visibly in his own mind. You wondered if he was thinking about her.


 The crust of the pastry exploded in your mouth and the pear revealed itself to you. The warmth of the cake increased the sweet taste of the fruits and sugar and filled you with unexpected bliss. Each bite anchored you in the impression that you were home and loved in a way you never were since you woke up in the middle of nowhere.
The shape of a woman appeared in front of your eyes, distant and blurry at first. She stood in the middle of a garden surrounded by fruit trees with her hand in the air as she tried to grab a pear dangling from a low branch. But she was too short to grab it and even standing on her tip toes she could hardly brush the round of the pear.
She turned her head and you saw her features and noticed how they resembled your own even though she was considerably older than you were. The strangely familiar woman glowed and displayed a natural kindness harvested from a life spent in simplicity. She mouthed a name you could not hear. However you understood she requested your help. You went to look up but the pear was no there anymore. The tree was gone too as well was the woman.


You blinked. A sharp pain at the back of your head made you nauseous for a second. You were back in your seat, with Loki standing across the table and telling you all about the delicious asgardian pastries. You made a mental note of the informations, eating until there was not a crumb left in your plate. Seeing it desperately empty made you moan in disappointment. Despite having taken your time to eat, the end of this amazing and tasty meal came too soon.
Loki; who had barely touched his plate, offered you his share with a satisfied grin. In return you poured him another cup of red tea and asked him if it was close to the one he drank on Asgard.


“Oddly so, yes.”


“I can’t believe you’re not eating this. You do realize that from now on you have to bring me these every time, right?”


Loki laughed under his breath.


“I’m sure I can get some arrangement with your...with the lady who make them.”


A sudden silence settled in the room and filled it with an awkwardness. Loki drank in sips, hiding behind the mug. The enthusiastic reunion from before seemed long gone now and you wondered what happened to get you and him in this weird position. Usually you would dwell in the silence, enjoying nothing more than his company but the quietness that had took over was not welcomed but overwhelming, almost crushing.


Your voice echoed across the table, sounding louder than it usually was for you broke the heavy silence asking Loki about his mission.

He absent-mindedly brushed your hand while he talked evasively of what had kept him away from you for so long. He lightly pushed your fingers up so he could slid his hand under your wrist. His touch lingered there for a while then, Loki’s lean fingers would go around your wrist and traced invisible lines on the back of your hand. He repeated the sequence over and over, his eyes locked on you while he told you of his latest adventure.


Although it was a fascinating tale, your attention was captured by his touch. You sucked your lower lip in your mouth and bit it softly as a reminder that he was not the only thing in the world even though, at this moment if felt like it was.


“Thor was understandably disappointed but even him can’t win all the time.” Loki said.


He looked too pleased by his brother’s mishap but you were not as focus as you should have been to comment on it. For once, Loki was talking willingly about his life, his actual life that concerned New Asgard, and his family and his duties. Things he often discarded when you tried to know more. You were missing most of it because his lingering touch sent you in some sort on trance. He had touched you many times before but the thin lines he was tracing


“I’m sorry.” you said withdrawing your hand.


Breaking away from Loki cleared your mind and freed you from the sweet prison he had locked you in with only a brush of his fingers.


“Did I do something wrong?” he asked with a frown.


“It’s just that...” You sank low on your chair. “The way you keep touching me...”


Your voice ended on a higher note making your statement sound more like a question which was no your attention at all. Your flesh was weaker than your will and succumbed to Loki’s caresses in an instant. Perhaps, the time apart was to blame for your mind never used to go numb like it did this morning. Or perhaps, it was the time you spent together that had prepared you to enter another stage in your relationship.

You had thought about it, a lot. You had contemplated the idea day and night and toyed with your deepest fantasies whenever alone. Moreover, Loki gave you the impression that he was not impervious to your charms. Surely the way he behaved barely an hour before was a good enough indication of his similar yearnings.
You took a glimpse at his exquisite features and noticed a smirk curling the corner of his lip up as well as a twinkle in his mischievous eyes. The man was glowing with a certain pride.


“You knew!” you said throwing a napkin at him. “You did it on purpose, didn’t you?”


“Can you blame me?” he answered.


“You could have said something.”


“Why, I thought I was pretty obvious downstairs.”


Of course he had. Nonetheless, you dismissed everything upon the simple smell of some delicious treats.


“You’re dating a pastry monster.” you mumbled and groaned with you face against the table.


Loki laughed and before you knew it, he was standing beside you and with only a brush of his hands on your shoulders made you standing up. He took you in his arms and locked eyes with you. A satisfied grin hung on his lips.


“Oh, don’t fret dove.” he purred. “I knew what I was getting myself into. It’s books, then food, then me. But as long as I am in the top three, I'm fine with it." 


You stretched your neck to get a kiss from him and moved your arms around his slim waist.


“Always.” you promised him.


You slid your thumbs in his belt buckles and pulled him closer. His tongue penetrated the barrier of your lips and gave you shivers down your spine.


The way to your bed was a simple straight line that would required only a few steps. However, you bumped into the mess that covered your floor. Loki stumbled but could not fall because of your hold on his belt and his wish never to be away from you lips. 
You entered your bedroom unaware of the clothes on the floor that tried to trap you into falling before you could make it to the bed. You kicked them sideways panting against Loki’s half-opened mouth as your hands roamed free under his shirt.
Loki wiggled out of his pants as he lifted your shirt up. You had barely taking it off that he was already kissing you with even more eagerness than before. 

You had only your shorts on and he still had his black shirt and tight boxer shorts, and that was something that would not fly under your supervision. You began to unbutton his shirt from the way down to the collar. The soft fabric glided on his smooth and perfect silvery moonlight skin and fell gracefully on the floor. You were now even in your nakedness. 

The natural coolness of his skin was a sore delight and you could not wait to have more. You gently pushed him back until he bumped against the edge of the bed were you intended to fall on and have most of the fun. Out of the blue, Loki stopped and froze, keeping you at arm's length. 


“What?” you asked him suddenly overwhelmed by a crushing concern.


Loki peered closely at you and with great reluctance took his hands off of you. The abrupt withdrawal casted you in a haze of confusion but when he took your own hands off of him, you became alarmingly disquiet.


“I’ve wanted this for so long.” he said in a low and heavy voice. “But...I’ve never asked you if you wanted this too.”


Softness came easy where Loki was concerned. Despite him being a powerful god from another planet, you harboured an urge to protect him at all cost. You sensed an unspeakable tear you wanted to mend and as you studied his face you wondered if by ‘this’ Loki did not mean him.


“You know, for a god you’re kind of insecure. I thought I was pretty obvious.” you said with a smile. “I don’t just want this, Loki. I want you. I’ll take whatever you want to give me but if I have a say in this, I’ll take it all. Because that’s what I want, all of you.”


You never one to be corny and unlike your friend Claire, you did not enjoy watching people expressed their feelings in melodramatic monologues finding those most unlikely to happen in real life. But there you were, standing in the real life, having delivered a truth you that, no matter how obvious it was, needed to be said out loud. 

The hairs on your arms stood up as Loki drew near. The beating of your heart increased for you expected him to touch you. He did not. Instead, Loki chose to remain a few inches from you and that was unbearable.


“Take it.” he said in a soft breath as he leaned towards you.

"What?" you asked already soft in the knees.

"All."


The flow was not as flawless as it may be shown in the movies. Yet, a natural ease settled and compensated for any awkward abruptness you might have had in the first place. You had many dreams involving him and you in very similar situation. And some them had been more vivid than other. So much, that they had felt real enough for you to wonder in a moment of blur if, perhaps they had not been true in another life.


Loki seemed to have found his way around your body quickly which did not surprise you for you believed he must be quite experienced, whereas you had only one encounter. And it had left indelible marks on your life as well as a thick scar that would not let you forget about it. However, and to your own surprise, you followed your instincts and they proved themselves helpful when it came to please Loki.


The both of you took all the time in world to get to know each other even though it felt like you already did walked down that road, yet not exactly.
Fragments of images flashed before your eyes and you mistook them for remnant of feverish dreams you had in the past, chasing them so you could focus only on the present. But when Loki lied you down on your back and opened your thighs with only a finger, and before he planted chilled kisses all the way down to your core, a ravishing woman with pale skin and raven hair took his place.
She nestled between your legs and licked your wet entrance. You let out a moan Loki believed was of an approval, which was partially true. You envisioned the woman grinning and teasing you with her minty breath and felt her nose rubbing against your swollen clit. You felt her nails digging in your soft flesh and heard the deep laugh she had when you moaned her name.

Olga.


You opened your eyes, dreading to see her but found only Loki eagerly pleasing you with his soft but strong cool tongue. You let your head fall on the pillow and clutched to the sheets.


“Shit!” you groaned.


Loki left your throbbing core to be on eye-level with you. You saw in his eyes the disarray for he wondered what he did wrong or if you had second thoughts about the two of you. He could not know you had uncontrollably conjured the spitting image of him under a female form and that had turned you on so much that you almost whispered her name instead of his. 


“What is it?” he breathed, caressing your cheek with the side of his thumb. “Do you want me to stop?”


“Oh god no!” you answered with a kiss. You swung your leg over his hip and with a swift thrust got yourself on top of him. “I just get lost in my head sometimes.”


You lowered yourself and grazed the curve of his neck with your teeth. Under you, Loki tautened. You felt his nipples hardened against your chest and his hands rounded your buttocks to keep you steady as well as giving him a false sense of control.


Loki moaned and groaned as you led him between your legs.

You shivered uncontrollably for his usual cool skin became as cold as ice. His hands roamed your body, sending trails of frost along your spine.
Your tongue knocked against hips lips. Loki opened his mouth to welcome you, digging his nails in your flesh. His kisses, tasting like iced crème de menthe intoxicated you and soon you would be impossibly addicted to them. If you were not already.


Loki buried his hands in your hair, pressing your face against his but at the same time you felt ten fingers on the small of your back and ten others caressing every inch of you. Iced fingers surfed your skin and you shivered harder and harder still.

"That's a neat trick." you whispered biting his lip.

"D'you like it?"

You nodded with a satisfied grin and soon it seemed like more hands were on you.

"Not fair." you mumbled.

He chuckled which you took as personal offense leaving you no other choice but to grab his wrists and pinned them above his head. Even though he had conjured many other hands to have you all for himself it was not enough for him. Loki grunted in frustration and struggled to free himself from your grasp. One of his hands left the small of your back and fell down on your injured thigh. His fingers were just a few inches away from the scar. You came to halt and broke your kiss.


“Don’t.” you chattered.


Loki jerked his eyes open and instead of his mischievous emeralds were two flamboyant rubies that burnt right through you. Icy blue veins overspread his pale grey and blue-toned skin. Loki witnessed your intense shivering and took his hands off of you. All of his hands.
The numbly coldness vanished while Loki’s complexion changed back to the usual moonlight tone and his eyes turned green again. The goosebumps that had covered you from head to toes vanished as well and left your skin smoother and warmer.

Loki stood completely still. Lust had left his gaze and made way for dread and anxiety. His disquietness unsettled you so you let go of Loki’s wrists and sat back which drew a moan out of him. He closed his eyes for a second. 

"D'you want to stop?" you asked.


“No. But I don’t want to hurt you.” he said.


“You won’t.”


“I might.”


“You won’t.” you assured him with a kiss.


You bathed in the morning sunlight pouring in through the window of your room, wrapped in Loki's arm. Your leg rested on top of his while you absent-mindedly grazed his stomach with your short nails, thinking about nothing. For the first time in forever, your mind was quiet and it felt good. So good, that you feared you were trapped in an all too real dream so you looked up to see if Loki was really there, holding you against him.

You met with his gaze and stretched your neck to steal a kiss from him.

You were drowsy, on the verge of falling asleep as you entered this hazy stage where you felt like you were being swallowed by downy clouds. Loki was so calm and quiet, breathing deeply that you believed him to fall asleep as well. However, a chilling touch slashed open the mist of slumber and slapped you awake.
Loki was touching the round of your scar. The very scar that almost stopped everything earlier. It was now under his inquisitive fingers. You breathed hard and trembled when Loki took the size of it.


“What happened?” he asked with a tear in his voice.


You froze and stopped breathing. All you could think of was Loki’s hand covering the thick white mark that had barred your thigh for decades. You shut your eyes but quickly regretted doing so for it had called upon you the image of the very one you had been careful to avoid.


“Dove?” he said leaving the scar alone.


You let out the air you had been holding in your lungs as slow and steady as you could. You stared at the wall unable to move nor to speak. The beating of Loki’s heart had changed from a low rhythm to a deep and erratic one.


“Who did this to you?”


You heard the tremor in his voice and suddenly the air became cold. You wondered what made him believe someone was responsible for the atrocious wound and why he could not just assume you did this to yourself. For all he knew, the scar could have the unfortunate result of some child plays. You wondered, avoiding the burden of answering him until, Loki murmured the strangest thing.


“You shouldn’t have one in the first place.”


You rose to his level and searched his eyes.


“Why would you say that?” you asked.


Loki gazed at you then promptly looked elsewhere and sighed. You on the other hand remained focused on him and asked him what he meant by saying you should not have a scar. But Loki stubbornly remained silent and impervious to your attempts to make him look your way.


No, you should not have a scar, because as long as you could remember, you had healed quicker than any human being. You did not age as they did and you also had more strength and stamina than the strongest of human. You were a freak and a natural disaster. Of that the scar reminded you everyday. You should not have one and yet there it was. He had made sure this one would stick, that you would never forget about him no matter how long you lived.


“I’ll die when you die.” he had said. And you still believed him.


A burning sensation emanated from the scar and urge you to scratch it. You battled against the imperious need.
The bliss was long gone and you yearned for it to come back, though you knew this could never happened. A line had been crossed and there were no turn backs. You could only deny or face the truth. But would Loki embrace it or would he run away? There was only one way for you to know.


“I...I’m not some regular woman.” you said. "It's not to brag or anything. It's just that..."


Loki shifted his head and you did not need to look to know that he was gazing at you.


“I woke up in 1957 in the middle of nowhere in Arkansas wearing a long white dress with a golden belt and a necklace. I had nothing else with me and not the faintest idea of who I was. I...still don’t know but uh...I began to wander, searching for someone to help me. After two days in the woods a man found me. He was a – um – a hunter who had a farm nearby. So, he took me there.”

--

The farm was nestled in the middle of a field, surrounded by high trees and wooden barriers. A dusty road led to the house and gave way to the stables and the grain silo. A rusty tractor was parked near a shed and there was a dog chained to a tree that kept on barking.

The chicks lived freely in the front yard while pigs and cows and horses had a whole green field dedicated to them behind the house.


The house front porch and shutters were painted in red though the coat of paint had seen better days. The main door was scratched and a window glass chipped at the corner.


“It’s not much. But it’s home.” the man said.


You walked awkwardly behind him for he had given you an extra pair of boots that were two sizes bigger. The sun casted a long and large shadow for the man carried a dead deer over his shoulders. You hid in the darkness as you followed him inside the house.


The kitchen walls were of an old yellow shade with pans hanging above the stove. The dishes were set on a shelf in front of a large window from which came the sunlight. Beside the sink, there was only a table with three chairs and a stool. A door led to the pantry while another, that always remained open, led to the living room. The man let the deer fall loudly on the floor and walked to the sink.


“You need some colours on your cheeks, sugar.” he declared.


He grabbed his biggest mug and poured some coffee in it then, from under the sink he retrieved a bottle with a red cap on it and sniffed it. Even though he grimaced, the man claimed that would do the trick well and poured some of the crystal clear liquid in the coffee before handing you the mug.
You brought it to your lips and took a sip. The man giggled when you frowned and coughed after your first taste of the horrible beverage. With a nod, he encouraged you to take another one.


“It’ll be good for you, c’mon.”


You took his word for granted but the second sip was almost worse than the first one. The man grabbed the deer by its antlers and dragged it behind him to the other room and then into another one you could not see from your seat in the kitchen. He came back a while later with blood on his hands and a grin on his face. Once he got rid of the blood, the man sighed with satisfaction and sat across the table.


“That’s some pretty little thing you got hung on there.” he said pointing to the necklace. “Is it family heirloom or did your sweetheart gave it to you?”


You opened your mouth to answer him but there was nothing for you to say. 


“D’you want s'me more?” he asked eyeing you eyeing the mug.


Your nod of approval made him laugh so hard he slapped his thigh.


“Well, I ain’t refusing such a sweet little lady. Especially when she can hold her liquor.”


“I’m no lady.” you muttered under your breath.


“What’s that?” he said pouring his special coffee for him and you. “What d’you say?”


“I am no lady.”


“No? You’re dressed as one with your fancy dress and golden belt dangling between your legs.” he said bringing his chair next to you. His shoulder and upper arm were against yours, touching you in a less than subtle way. He put a plate in front of you and told you to eat. Seeing actual food made your empty stomach grumble. The man chuckled as he watched you swallow down your food, not even chewing anymore for you were starving.


“You ain’t eating like a lady that’s for sure. But you’re as pretty.”


Your cheeks reddened but his cocky smile lured you into trusting him. After all he just saved you from the woods and invited you into his home and put food in your belly. You gave him a quick glance and smirked as you emptied your plate. As he had said, this was not much but it was home and you were in a desperate need of one.

--

“He put a roof over my head and gave me a name. He made me his and I thought all was well in the world.” you confessed curled up in Loki’s arms.


He had listened to the first part of your tale barely drawing a breath. The beating of his heart told you of his growing anguish.


“He was not the biggest nor the strongest man but authority came easy to him. He knew how to gain the respect of his men and the attention of women. He was homely and charming and I didn’t know any better.” you went on. “After a while he began to...uh...show an interest in me.”


Loki’s hand froze over the round of your shoulder as his chest stopped moving.


“As I said...I didn’t know any better.”

--

You exited the stables, carrying a bucket of horse shit while Romeo, the youngest helper on the farm, walked alongside you telling you a dirty joke that made you laugh out loud. You rocked your body back and forth unable to catch your breath until a shadow swallowed the sun. The laugh died in your throat and the palm of a hand struck you.


The force of the blow sent you to your knees and the bucket fell spreading its content all over the floor.


“Get up!” he said grabbing your arm and twisting it. “What you think you’re doing?”


“I was just helping.” you whimpered.


“The hell you were. Look at you. Look at you!” he yelled taking your chin in his hand and squeezing it.


Your white and yellow dress was covered with dirt and horse shit, and the ribbon around your waist was completely unfolded. However, as his eyes scanned you, you realized he was soon to see the worst part of your state.


“Do you enjoy walking around like some savages? Is that what you are uh? A savage?” he spitted on your bare feet.


“No.” you muttered.


“Ok then. Tell me what you are.”


You averted your eyes for you could not and should not meet his eyes. The last time you did, it sent him into a violent temper.


“Romeo.” he called.


The boy jumped on his feet and nervously nodded while crunching his hat between his hands.


“Tell her who she is.”


“The...the la-lady of the...the house, s-sir.” Romeo stammered.


“That’s right. And no lady goes around with no shoes on their feet, frolicking with the help in horse shit. Only a whore does that. And you’re no whore aren’t ya?”


He made you shake your head, digging his nails in your flesh until it drew blood. A low chuckle went up his throat when he slid his hand along your cheek and grabbed a fist full of hair. He yanked at it, bringing you against his face.


“Now, sugar.” he said forcing you to kiss him. “Go back to the house and wait for me there. And get yourself cleaned.” he spitted.
You knew what was going to happen but you obeyed anyway.

He was not supposed to be there that day and you wished you had been more guarded. You knew how much he hated seeing you run around the place bare feet and you had taken a chance because you believed him to be far away. If he had not come home early, perhaps things would have turned out different. You had blame yourself for many years afterwards.

--

“He was not a kind man, but I thought he loved me. He told me he did. He called me his 'lady of the house', his 'sugar'. He always bought me the finest things he could find. He said he felt like a king with me by his side, and I believed him. I believed love was meant to be rough. He did with me what he wanted and I thanked him for it.”


Loki had stopped breathing altogether. There was not an inch of him that was not tensed as a wire. Talking about what happened to you was the hardest thing you had to do in your entire life. However, it was too late to back down and pretend you said nothing. This could go either way but at least you would have been honest with Loki, and more importantly with you.


You spared Loki no details on how you were taken that day. You vomited the horrors of your past unable to stop or to keep things in the dark. Despite everything you could feel, you went on.


“He called doc Morrison the next day because I had a hard time getting up and, of course he demanded the best treatments.” you explained. “He insisted that he should not care about the expenses claiming he wanted what’s best for his lady. I hated when he called me that.”

--

Doc Morrison was an old man with a keen eye and an immoderate love for chewing tobacco. He always smelled like a cold cigarette and his hands were parched as an old testament. However, he was also kind and respectful of all of his patients.


“Would you care to make me your special coffee son? There’s a few things I need to see with the lady of the house.”


“What kind of things?” he asked with mistrust.


“The kind of things a lady does not show to anyone.”


“Ain’t nothing I haven’t seen, doc.” he gloated with a disgusting pride.


“It ain’t no shame in that for we are mere mortals. But as I reckon you’re not married and only the husband can stay during the examination. As a doctor I can’t allow you in this room any longer. If I did, I’ll go against my sacred promise and I might piss of the big man upstairs. I won’t tell you how to live you life, son. But I intend to shake hands with Saint Peter on the day I walked the stairways to heaven.”

The men faced one another and you feared things would go south until Doc Morrison flashed a big smile.

"What about that special coffee of yours, eh? It's not going to take long I'm sure."

Only when he was sure to be alone with you, did Doc Morrison dragged a chair and sat near the bed you were lying on.


“Now I have to ask. How did this happened?”


“I slipped. In the bathtub.”


“You sure of that?”


You nodded but the doctor remained unconvinced.


“If you had only the bruises I might believe you. But the way your ribs broke? That tells me a whole other story.”


Despite his smell and his callous touch, Doc Morrison had the kind of eyes that invited you to trust him completely. Moreover, he was not one to get easily impressed and the way he talked back made you want to confide in him, to tell him that you had been loved too roughly and that it hurt, although it hurt less than the day before.

--

“I told him that I fell and I stuck with it. He gave me some prescriptions and the promise he will check on me every day at random hours. I don’t know how he knew what was going on, but he did. He was the only one who tried to do something. The others...they knew too. They saw, they heard. But they were too scared to do anything. The thing is that before leaving, Doc said that it should take months before I recover completely, which ironically enough sealed my fate. See, it...and that's why I told you I was not your regular woman. It took only a week and I was back on my feet again. No pain, no trace. No nothing.

I was in shape and ready to tackle some work. Romeo thought it was a miracle and the others thought so too. When Doc came by and saw me sweeping the floor on the porch he dropped his hat and fell on his knees praying the Lord.” you said with a light chuckle.


Then a shadow came across your face as you remembered what happened next.


“When we realized how quickly I could heal...it sparked something. He became less and less tender if you can believe it.”


Loki sniffled and let a shaky breath out. You searched for his hand and slid your fingers between his.


“It took him years, you know.” you said. “But in the end he managed to leave a mark, one that would not fade away anytime soon..."


The words got stuck in your throat as you received a drop of salt water on your cheek. As you moved to looked at him, Loki chased the tears away but more were stuck in his eyelashes. He had stayed silent, listening to your story. 
Loki thumbed your cheeks but looking at you in the eyes appeared to be too much for him to bare so he put his forehead against yours. It created a safe bubble around the two you and the world disappeared. 


“I...I never meant for any of this. If I had known...”


“It’s not your fault. I just got unlucky. It took me a while to realize I was not to blame for what happened to me.”


“How could you? No of course it was not your fault. I'm the one who did this to you.”


“What are you talking about?”


“I'm the reason you came across this monster. I sent you right into his arms and you got hurt because of me.”


You moved your head back but Loki used the distance to get away from you and sat on the edge of the bed. He hung his head low. His raven hair fell on his trembling shoulders. 


“I don’t understand.” you said while putting a shirt on. “How could this be your fault? I’m a lab rat who stumbled upon a massive douchebag.”


“A what?”


“Well, this is the only explanation that I have. I’m a lab rat and somehow I escape. That’s why I can’t age and be hurt the way others humans can. I also have a weird ass super strength, the kind of things you see only in comic books and science-fiction novellas.”


“Is this from were you had gathered your knowledge? Science-fiction?” Loki asked sounding repulse by the idea.


“Most of it, yes. I can’t remember who I was before I woke up and no one claimed me so...”


“So you believe, you honestly believe, that some midgardian scientists cooked you up in some of their lab then misplaced you somehow and pretended like you were dead?”


“Ok, when you say it like this I sound like I’m about to throw a sink out of the window.”


You sighed. The dark of his hair enlightened the paleness of his skin while the light coming from the window shaped the lean muscles of his back. You found yourself wanting to draw them with your fingers, to feel him under your touch again. You were unsure that you could go on without him near you. Moreover, you felt a growing frustration that could turn to anger in a heart beat.


“You have a better explanation perhaps?” 

"I do actually." he said shifting on the bed.

He peered above the shoulders, glimpsing at the shape of you with only your shirt on.

"You're not some lab-rat. You are from Asgard."

"I'm what?"

Chapter Text

“You are from Asgard.” Loki said again.

You stared at him waiting for his joke to land, for him to laugh and say ‘gotcha’. However, you recognized that peculiar light that sometimes shone in his eyes when he looked at you. It was the door to all of his secrets, most of which you hoped to be the keeper of some day.

As he stared back, Loki appeared to have changed. Nervousness made him play with his hands and only because he chose to remain quiet, you realized the god of mischief was not in the mood for tricks.

“Asgard? Really?” you snorted.

Your smirk froze as Loki gave you a subtle nod. There was no trace of malice in his eyes, no slight smirk on his stern face. Loki clung to his silence, scratching his nails as he waited for you to say something, anything. You pushed the lump that grew in your throat and chuckled.

“That’s ridiculous. I can’t be from Asgard.”

“No? And why not?”

“Because!”

You had nothing else to say. No theory and no argument. Only a ‘because’. You could not built anything on a simple ‘because’, yet you held on the hope that you could. You refused to believe that you were indeed from the land of the gods.

“We grew up together. We used to run around the city and do whatever pleased us. We were children of mayhem, always challenging each other. Our favourite thing was to prank Thor actually. Well, it was my favourite thing, still is. Yours was to steal whatever you fancied.”

The shape of a boy appeared in front of you. You blinked, thinking it would make the apparition go away. Maybe it was a trick of your mind. It would not be the first time. Instead of fading, the boy's features became more distinct. You saw the green of his eyes peering through you and how his raven hair were hazily combed back.

“Put it back.” he said.

What? you asked but only in your mind. You lowered your gaze and saw that you in your hands a small golden casket encrusted with rubies and gemstones. By the time you raised your gaze to look at the boy, your room was no longer there.

You were standing in a large square room with marble floor and giant windows that overlooked a luxurious garden.

“It’s mine. I found it, so by law it’s mine.” you heard yourself say. Although your voice had changed.

You were a little girl with dirty hands and dirtier bare feet. Your pants were torn and covered in dust because of all the runs you made in and out the city. A straw of hay was stuck in your wild hair and a black trace barred your nose where you scratched it.

“That’s not how the laws work.” scoffed the boy. “Put it back!”

Heavy footsteps echoed through the door. A handful of guards was closing in. By the look of it, the boy must have have heard them as well for his eyes kept on jumping from your face to the door behind you. Your grasp tightened around the precious object but as the footsteps got closer, the price you could get off the casket seemed suddenly less valuable than your freedom.

The boy opened his mouth and without a second thought you threw the casket. It hit him on the forehead but before you could see if he was hurt you ran to the side of the room and slipped away through a secret door.

You ran down the stairs and emerged in a corridor filled with guard.

“Hey! What are you doing here?” asked one of the faceless golden helmet.

You starred at them bug-eyed as he leaned to look on you. He knew as well as you did that you did not belong inside the palace walls. You waited to the very last moment before you bolted away.

“Seize her!” the guard shouted.

You rushed down a flight a stairs, dancing on your light feet between the busy people of the palace. Behind you, the guards followed as bast as they could, mired by they heavy golden armour. You laughed at them and speeded up. You turned right, then left, then right again. If you remembered correctly the window you previously sneaked through should be…

“Hel!” you cursed.

Instead of the window you faced a dead end. By the heavy clangs that echoed through the corridors, you guessed that the guards would be on you in less than a minute.

“Think, think!” you told yourself out loud.

You looked around and saw nothing where to hide, leaving no other exit than going back. The trap was slowly closing in.

“This way.” the emptiness whispered.

You jumped around, searching for the whisper.

“Come on!”

A small and pale hand appeared from the wall. You grabbed it and closed your eyes as it pulled you in. The secret door closed behind you. Soon after, the boy was leading you through a maze of white walls, holding a torch with green flames licking the air.

The both of you emerged outside the walls of the palace and you believed yourself to be free. You turned to the boy whose forehead was injure where the casket hit him.

“Does it hurt?” you asked him.

He shook his pretty head no.

“Thank you.” you said, placing a gentle peck on the wound, hoping it would soon disappear. You looked sideways, making sure no one was around before you could escape.

“Wait! Can I come?”

“Where?” you asked the boy.

“I don’t know. Where are you going?”

“I don’t know.” you shrugged.

“Can I still come?”

You blinked and shook your head. You were back on your bed, with Loki.

“Stop. That’s...that can’t be true.”

Loki crawled on the bed to you but as his hands brushed yours, the pulse at the back of your head became a cold hard slap. You jumped on your feet and rushed to your dresser.

“It is. I swear, it’s nothing but the truth. Dove, look at me.”

As stubborn as you were, you kept your eyes on the clothes in your drawer, pretending to be absorbed with the task of getting yourself dressed.

“You had a whole life before this, before I cast the spell.” Loki exhaled shakily.

“Ah, of course, you cast a spell. Then, you’ll tell me unicorns are real.”

“Not in this realm, they’re not. The air lacks the purity they need to...” Loki waved his hand to clear his mind. “Listen, the spell is stronger than I thought it would be. Only my father broke out of it and it took him a while.”

“You put a spell on your father?”

“It’s complicated.”

“I’m sure.”

With proper clothes on you, you felt the need to escape your bedroom. Not so long ago, it had been a place of love and peace.

But now, with Loki’s wild theory about you being from Asgard, being his long lost beloved, the atmosphere became suffocating. The blade lodged in the back of your head, remained there, barely palpable, but there nonetheless. You escaped Loki’s will to get closer to you by entering the bathroom.

The fresh water on your face was a welcome distraction that soothed your gaunt feature and let you see a wide still turquoise river. You kept your eyes closed, unwilling to see the enchanted landscape disappear.

It happened sometimes.

You would see things but only for a second or two. It could be anything from an ancient tree, to a field of wheats. Sometimes you would picture buildings, shabby or grand, white or golden. Since it never lasted, you blamed it on your untamed imagination and the hundreds of books you read.

The river you were seeing now while cleaning your face filled you with a sense of calm for its waters were tranquil and unbothered by the life underneath. You breezed in deeply and smelled the iron in the air and the moss on the rocks. It all disappeared as soon as the water cleared out and you were back in your place.

“Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that I trust you, that you did put a spell on me. Why on Earth would you do that? Why would you erase my memory and send me here, alone with a fucked up mind and nothing to defend myself with?”

Though you had no resentment in you at that time, your voice carried a strong hint of cold anger. You leaned against the wall of your bathroom, waiting for Loki to answer.

“I had to.” he said lowly. “War was on our doorstep and it seemed to be the perfect solution.”

“The perfect solution for what?”

“Protecting you. This war was nothing like the others. We didn’t know what was about to hit us. Despite all your and my mother’s hard work, we were in the dark. Way before the enemy came to our doorstep, we had already lost so much. You had already lost so much. I couldn’t take the chance with you. There was no telling if we could win. Worse, there was no telling what my father would do to you if we won.”

“I’m sensing that your old man didn’t like me very much.”

“That’s an understatement.” Loki smiled. “You never abode by his authority which was something he was not used to. Moreover, he believed you had a bad influence on me.”

Me? Having a bad influence on you? I’m not the god of mischief, you are.”

“Not at the time, dove.”

The echo of a laugh rang in your ears. You glimpsed through the small window and watched two teenagers happily running down the streets, clearly at the end of what must have been a thrilling chase.

The boy wore black and green while the girl was in white and brown, bare feet.

“I can’t believe you did it.” he laughed, catching his breath.

“I didn’t. The troll did.” she chuckled.

“Thor’s gonna kill you.”

“Actually...he thinks you orchestrated the whole thing.”

“What?”

“I had to. Sorry, little snake.”

“I can’t believe you tricked me.”

“You trick me all the time.”

“I do not!” Loki exclaimed. “You’re the one coming with half the schemes anyway.”

“And you’re in charge of the other half. Plus, you execute most of them, being all sorcery and such, so I can’t be blame for the largest part of our tricks, anyway. Oh come on, don’t pout. I’ve made you prince of lies, you’ve got to live up to the expectations.”

“You didn’t make me. I made me.” Loki replied visibly upset. “And if I’m the prince of lies, what are you then?”

“A shadow.” you whispered lost in your thought.

The teenagers were gone. Vanished into thin air as if they never existed. Were they actually there, in your street playfully teasing one another or was it a fragment of your own imagination? The line between what was real and what was not began to fade. The more Loki talked, the less you knew where to stand.

“Dove?” Loki asked concerned by your sudden absence.

“Am fine. I need to get ready for work.”

“I’m sure Mrs Lee would understand if you were a few minutes late.” he said charming his way into your good graces.

“She wouldn’t.” you replied moving past him and trying not to run to the living room.

“You believe me, don’t you dove?” Loki asked coming after you.

“No, I don’t actually. And talking about it won’t help. Far from it. Have you seen my keys? I can’t find my keys.”

“You never lock your door.”

“Hmm.”

“Dove, please, I know it’s a lot to take in and Heimdall advised me not to do this but...”

“What’s an Heimdall?” you asked suddenly curious.

“Tall guy, black skin and golden eyes that see through time and space. Always with a tremendous sword that opens the bifrost, gateway to the nine realm. That doesn’t ring a bell? At all?”

You shrugged and moved passed him again. Loki sighed and cursed in his breath. His patience was running low and it began to show. One look at the clock told you it would raised suspicion if you were to appear in the bookstore for you never were one to be early. Let alone on time. You searched for an excuse to end up this conversation but Loki would not have it any other way.

So you pretended to be busy with cleaning the place before you went down to work and Loki stuck to you like glue which rapidly became unbearable. His constant talk about the life you allegedly lived on Asgard slipped under your skin and filled your brain with illusions.

You could sometimes smell strange smells lingering in the air or hear something that was not there. All the while, the pain at the back of your head sharpened.

“Enough!” you yelled, shutting him up. “I’ve had it with you and your stories. I’m not from Asgard. I’m not your dove. I’m not the Keeper or whatever you called it. I’m no one, okay? I’m no one with no past and no plans. If you have a problem with that, there’s the door.”

“We went against my father’s orders.” Loki went on as if you never asked him to stop.

“Don’t...”

“Which was our routine really, but this time the consequences were a tad more important. I knew he would forgive me after a suitable time of penance.”

“Stop.” you said, feeling the shooting pain extending.

“He always did. But you...Oh no. Odin would have never pardoned you.”

“I beg of you Loki. Stop.”

“Getting rid of you while being the Keeper was almost impossible but, blaming you for what we did? That was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I couldn’t take the chance, dove.”

“Please, Loki.” you begged feeling more vulnerable than ever before.

“I had to cast the spell. I did what I had to do to shelter you from his wrath. You landing in the middle of nowhere was not part of the plan. I didn’t know. You have to trust me, I didn’t know.”

“But you didn’t bother to check, did you?” you said with tears rushing to yours eyes. “Odin did nothing. You erased me and you threw me away like garbage! You abandoned me!” you screamed.

“I...”

“No! You don’t get to explain, you don’t get to say anything. I won’t listen. I won’t listen to a single word, you hear me? I’m not from Asgard. We did not grow up together and I never crossed your father. I’m a lab rat who escaped and was left for dead in the middle of nowhere.”

“No. You’re my dove.” he said. “You’re my devil dove. The most untamed person that I’ve ever met! There’s no one else like you in the whole universe, and I was lucky you ever looked my way."

"Shut up!"

"You can’t block the truth out.”

“Of course I can.”

“It doesn’t work that way, dove.”

“Stop calling me dove.”

“Stop denying the truth!”

“I can’t.” you shouted.

“Why?” Loki yelled back.

“Because it would mean you’re a monster!”

All tears broke loose and you felt your cheeks burn as they were drowned by the salty waters.

“If what you say is true...” you sobbed. “It means that you chose to tear me to pieces and to forget about me.”

“I didn' forget...” Loki hushed fighting a cry.

“Yes. Yes you did. Because you never came back for me. I was here for more than sixty years, alone and abused for most of that time, while you kept on living your life up there in that golden realm of yours. You even took the time to try and invade the Earth. You knew I was here, and you didn’t bother to come look for me.”

Loki let out a heavy sigh. You saw him combing his hair back and smoothing his face as if it would help him get his thoughts in order. He opened his mouth and closed it, lacking the words you longed to hear. One of his hands suspended in the air until he let his arm fall against his leg and lowered his head.

“I did but...I mean, I wanted to but...things were complicated. I was not entirely myself.”

“Oh and who are you now then?”

Loki stood in the middle of the room, hopeless and impossibly sad. You wanted him gone and to stay at the same time. His obvious sorrow tore your heart apart and you felt like crying again. You hated him for it. How dared he shattered your whole life, he who had spoken of love so passionately? Often did you find the bond that linked the two of you so naturally odd. And often did you wonder about how it was that he chose you in the midst of all people on Earth and further.

Claire had called it destiny but you now knew what it was.

“You’re just like Him.” you said in a breath, tired beyond tiredness.

You did not need to say his name for Loki understood in a second who you meant by ‘Him.’ Loki stepped back.

“I am nothing like him.” he said with a trembling voice.

A boiling wrath had frozen his face and lit his eyes on fire.

“Oh, but you are.”

The calm in your voice surprised even you. Surely, Loki would have preferred you to scream and shout and curse and cry. It would be easier for him to handle that rather than this eery sense of certainty that compelled you to remain calm, almost quiet.

“You need time...” he said. “You need time to process. I shouldn’t have push this...”

“I don’t need time.”

“Yes, yes you do. I dropped this...this bomb on you and you need time to think about it, to process it. But perhaps the spell will break in due time and you’ll see that...”

“You abused me, Loki.” you said hoping your voice would not break.

“No.” he said shaking his head.

“Yes. You may have never raised a hand on me but you did abuse me.”

“I care for you.”

“So did he, in his own way.”

“A twisted way.”

“And yours isn’t?” you laughed a cruel laugh. "Whose denying the truth now?”

“He never loved you, he possessed you. He wanted nothing else but to possess you."

“So do you! You keep on saying that I’m yours. That I’m your devil dove. How is that any different?”

“Because we belong together!” Loki shouted.

He closed the distance but then again was unable to touch you. His hands lingered a few inches from you, trembling. A chuckle escaped your lips and Loki took it as a personal offense. He was offering you his heart on a silver platter but you would not take it, no matter how much you wanted it. You refused it with all your strength and power of will. You blocked Loki out, him and his lies. Him and his profession of love. Your mind was set on the fact that you could have not shared a past, a rich and eventful past, with the god of mischief.

“I’m done Loki.”

“Don’t say that.” Loki begged of you with teary eyes as if you were already gone. “You can’t say that. It’s not you talking. It’s the spell and...and him! What he did to you was so horrendous.”

“Stop fighting this, Loki.”

“I can’t! The spell is keeping you away from me. I can see and hear and touch you but you are always beneath the surface, out of reach and it’s killing me.”

“Leave then! Leave and move on. I never asked for any of this and yet you make it sound like it’s my fault. You plague me with your stories, ordering me to believe but it doesn’t work like this. If what you say is true...”

“Stop saying 'if'...” Loki said on the verge of bursting out.

“I’ll keep on saying ‘if’ as long as I’m not sure I want you in my life.”

“What do you mean?”

“Exactly what I just said. I’m going to be late for work. Stay here or go, it’s your choice. But if you stay, I won’t hear any more of your lies. You wanted a clean start, that’s how you get it.”

You moved away from him, getting ready to go downstairs and begin your day of work. After all, if the world should stop with each heart break it would never go around. Mrs Lee was expecting you to be on time and ready to tackle today’s load and you had no wish to disappoint her.

“I offered you the truth!” he shouted slamming a book to the ground.

The gesture unhinged you and weariness disappeared. What remained underneath it all was too violent for you to control. You slammed the door you just opened and went straight to him, digging your heels on the floor. You stopped a few inches from him, with the burning desire to slap his perfect face.

“And what truth is this uh?” you asked between your teeth, diving in his eyes that reflected the same wrath he saw in yours. “Let me tell you the only truth there is.” you kept on. “Forget about Asgard and failed experiment. Hell, let’s forget about everything we previously said and hear this little snake: you’ve hurt me more by loving me than you would have by hating me.

And another thing for you as well. I get to blame you. I can have a field day blaming you for all the pain in the world if I want to. More importantly, I get to shut you out. I’ve earned the right to toss you on the side of the road and never glance in the rearview mirror. Do you know what you get? You get shit!

You have no say in this matter because anything you say makes it even worse. You are this close to lose me forever and yet you keep digging your own grave. Well, my deer, here’s the shovel, so suit yourself with the pile of dirt over there. Dig. But dig deep.”

“Little snake...” Loki whispered with a faint smile stretching his lips.

He stared at you as if the most wonderful thing just happened, yet you could not grasp the importance of those two little words that were said without a spare thought. You did not even notice them until Loki brought them back to your attention, his chest filled with hope and the same certainty one can have about the sun shining again on the morrow. You held his gaze and clenched your hand in a fist of rage, nauseous for the erratic beatings of your heart. All was gone. The peace and quiet that had wrapped you both for a second was gone. Instead of love and understanding you found yourself stuck with something you never felt in your life. Not once, since you woke up, have you felt something so sharp that would scorch you from inside and out.

“That’s it...I’m done. Go. I don’t want to see you when I return. It’s over Loki.”

“You can’t do this. You're remembering, I know you are. You can’t just throw everything away.”

“I can and I am. What did you expect? Me jumping in your arms saying that all is going to be ok just because you confessed and that we love each other? This isn’t a freaking movie. This is life Loki.”

“Oh please, don’t lecture me about life! You have no idea what mine has been.”

“Oh yes, please, tell me the sad tales of your poor life, and how terrible it must have been for you to be a prince and seen as a god” you replied with wicked irony.

“How did we get here?” Loki screamed toward the ceiling.

Surely Mrs Lee heard most of the fight and you could picture her with her hand on the rifle she kept under the counter and only because there was a customer or two in her shop did she stay put.

“You! You led us here.”

“Because you’re being as stubborn as an old donkey. You won’t listen!”

“You’re the donkey! Clearly you’re not equipped to handle rejection.”

Loki chuckled with snide which infuriated you even more.

“Rejection? You know nothing about rejection. I am the epitome of rejection. I was born in it. I was mould by it.”

“Good. So you’ll have no problem getting the hell out of my life then.”

“No.” he said shaking his head. “Not with the spell still running. It’s not fair. You can’t ask me to leave you now.”

“You did it before, surely you can do it again.” you replied with an insolent smirk.

The miserable mist of sorrow covered the wrath, swallowed it whole and soon, waters rushed to Loki’s eyes. His frailty was plain to see and impossible to face. The stormy seas of moving emotions sickened you. You wished for a moment of quiet but your mind was buzzing louder and louder. The blood rushed through your veins, you could feel its course underneath your skin and it burned. When suddenly, coldness struck you. You lowered your gaze and witnessed Loki’s left forefinger barely against your hand. You shivered under this ghost of a touch, wanting more of it.

“Is this what you want?” he asked holding back a sob.

"It's not about what I want."

Eery notes of music whistled in your ears, shutting everything else out. You turned to look over your shoulders and saw that your room was gone once more.

Instead of the messy place you called home, you stood in the middle of grand ball room filled with people wearing fancy garments. By the doors, were guards in golden armour and along a wall tables were set. They crumbled under the weight of rich food. Wine and beer seemed to flow endlessly while the guest appeared to have the time of their life.

You looked down and realized you were wearing a long purple dress with a golden belt and a light white shawl that wrapped your exposed shoulders.

“May I have this dance?” purred a familiar voice.

You gazed at the prince waiting for you to take his hand and remained speechless for a moment but your grin spoke plenty and the man that was holding you against him stepped back.

“Go.” he encouraged you.

Loki took your hand in his and slid an arm around your waist.

Many times before had he touched you, yet never did it feel like this.

Loki was a skilled dancer, graceful and keen that led you with a simple touch, while his eyes were locked on you. You moved around the dancing floor under the scrutinizing eyes of the people in the room. Whenever you and Loki were together, people stopped and starred, whispering behind your back.

Loki kept a respectful distance, but the simple pressure of his fingers on the small of your back, or around your hand he held in tenderness, was enough to shut the world out.

“Are you happy?” he asked.

His voice covered the music easily. So much, that you suspected him to have cast a spell to protect you and him from eavesdrops.

“Very.” you answered with a bright smile. “Despite everything going on, I’m happy.”

“You deserve to be.” he assured you.

“Thank you. And thank you for coming. I know Balder’s not your favourite person but I appreciate you being here.”

“Where else would I be? It’s my devil dove’s wedding after all.”

You watched as his fingers slid between yours. The distance had naturally been reduced, and people noticed it. You caught a glimpse of your husband eyeing the man that currently held you in his arms. Nonetheless, you smiled at him and mouthed a ‘thank you’. Balder raised his glass to you, and even added a wink but remained in his spot so you could find him when your moment with Loki ended.

“And what about yours?” you chuckled lightly. “I can’t wait to steal a dance from your bride.”

“I’m sure you would.” Loki joked. “But let’s not spoil this moment.”

“I've taken a peep at the Queen’s list. Her suggestions are wise. You should take her advise. Marry one those girls and secure your place on the throne. If you marry first, Odin might be inclined to favour you instead of Thor.”

“I admire your faith but I don’t think a wedding would change his mind in this matter.”

Despite the fact that Loki and Thor were both raised to be king, the All‑Father seemed to trust his intrepid and foolish son more than the intelligent and cunning one. The unbalance between the two brothers became more and more obvious with each passing years. What infuriated the most, was that Odin seemed not to care that he was destroying every bridge that could link his sons.

“Just between us rascals, you’d make a terrific king. Thor’s too vain to take it seriously. I get that he’s popular but popularity is not the main concern a king should have.”

“You really want me up that throne, don’t you?” Loki laughed, holding your hand in his a little tighter.

“It’s not about what I want but...yes! Loki, son of Odin, King of Asgard, has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? Still, I believe you’ll need someone by your side. Being king as great as it can be, can also be a tedious and lonely job. Think about it.”

“I have.” he said with a sudden graveness.

“Good.” you replied pretending you did not understand what he was talking about, that moment in his room, centuries ago, when he confronted his mother about having you by his side. You and no one else. “Then go for it. And who knows, you might end up as happy as I am.”

Loki’s smile was heavy with sorrow and in a subtile move brought you closer to him. You had to tilt your head back to look at him, to see with your own eyes how grave he had turned.

“It’s no use, dove. I’m not to wed any time soon, if ever.”

“Why not?” you asked, squeezing his hand.

“Don’t.” Loki spoke softly, his voice barely audible and yet, it was all you could hear.

“What?”

“Don’t make me say it.”

He lowered his head, bringing his forehead against yours. You shared your breaths, your lips dangerously close to each other. His hand against the smalls of your back weighted a ton, while his grasp between your fingers made it impossible for you to know which hand was his and which one was yours.

The music was about to change. You could feel it in the way Loki slowed down, following the rhythm he never lost track off. When the music did change, Loki reluctantly stepped back, giving you enough air to breath, yet still holding your hand in his.

“Farewell my love.” he whispered only for your ears before he let go.

You shut your eyes, crushed by his absence. When you opened them again, you were curved in a ball on your couch, with your knees under your chin.

“Dove?” Loki stammered near you.

“Am fine.” you replied pressing your skull with the palm of your hands. “You should go.”

“You don’t look fine. Let me ease your pain.”

“No!” you screamed against your will, slapping his hand. “Just go, okay?”

An unwanted tear rolled down his cheek and you watched its downfall. Loki was too proud to acknowledge the tears and prouder still to swipe them away in front of you, so you pulled up your sleeve and dried his face. Loki took a hold of your hand and closed his eyes as he kissed your wrist and the palm of your hand.

“Is this what you want?” he asked gently putting your hand on his cheek.

“I’m...My head hurts, I need to rest. Just tell Mrs Lee I don’t feel good on your way out.”

“You just said you were fine.”

“Well, I lied. You don’t have the monopole Loki. Now go, leave me.”

Loki was about to protest as he often did but you pulled the rug from under him.

“I need you to go.” you heard yourself say.

There was a moment of silence during which you prayed for your head to be smashed and reduced to pieces for it would finally stop hurting you.

“Go.” you urged him. “Please, just...go.”

Loki unfolded slowly. You could not bare looking at him and yet you did. You held his gaze no matter how it hurt, how it amplified the pain you were already experiencing. You had convinced yourself that pushing Loki away was the only solution for you. You were resolute and nothing in this world would ever change your mind, so you held his gaze and kept your mouth shut for it would inevitably betrayed what laid in your heart.

“All right.” Loki said giving up. “I guess there’s no point in fighting you.”

Facing the door, with his hand above the knob, Loki sighed.

“It’s not fair though.”

“You’re fighting.” you reminded him. “You just said...”

“I know what I said.”

Whatever was supposed to come out of his mouth next got stuck in his throat. If you did not know him better, you would have thought that resignation got the best of him. However, Loki was not one to surrender, nor retreat. Yet he did.

The door opened with a clang, and Loki stepped on the threshold and stopped there for a moment.

“We’ve fell apart before.”

You wiped a tear from your cheek. Unable to contain them any longer you froze, aware that you were only a blink away from crying. If he were to peer above his shoulder, Loki would have seen you silently weeping, forcing him to stay.

Despite your best efforts, you wished for him to turn around and take you in his arms and you hated yourself for such a sentiment. However, Loki crossed the threshold and closed the door behind him. You heard the brush of his footsteps going down the stairs and the door from the bookstore opening and closing right after.

The bells from the store chimed and a moment later, Loki would walked down the street and disappear according to your wishing.

You dragged yourself to your bed. You lied down, pressing your pillow against your face to smother your sobs. The smell of him was captured in your sheets making him impossible to ignore.

“We’ve fell apart before.” he had said before leaving you.

And as much as you tried not to think about it for the next few hours, Loki’s words would always find a way to sink in your mind and heart as well.