…Know when not to lie.
"Um- perhaps you could be the one to? Instead of me- I mean," Loki's companion said nervously. "You've said you've done it before- after all."
Loki tried desperately to keep a pleasant expression on his face. He was likely failing. "I distinctly recall that you were enthusiastic at the prospect just a short while ago," he said through clenched teeth.
"Yes- but what if someone were to discover that I- you know," the other man said worriedly.
Loki snorted in disbelief. "Who would tell them? Me? What we do isn't anyone else's business, and I have no interest in making it such," he reasoned. "This is meant to be about pleasure."
The man gave Loki a worried look. "Well- it is- but- you know what they'd say."
Yes, Loki knew. He just didn't care. He held the other man's hand gently in a last ditch effort to salvage the situation. "I assure you, if anyone talks, I'll take care of it," he responded curtly. "I've done so before. Besides, I'm not one to let the opinions of others interfere with what I want to do. Neither should you, in this case."
Not that it would even affect him this time, as everyone thought him dead, but Loki had taken care of such situations before. When it came to outright insults and accusations, Loki dealt with them. There was no one still alive who had dared insult him in that fashion. However, this prospective tryst was beginning to become more trouble than it was worth.
The other man looked slightly alarmed at Loki's subtle implication and pulled his hand from Loki's grasp. "But—"
Loki couldn't have cared less. "Look," Loki said, cutting him off. "You're obviously not willing, so perhaps you should just leave." Not to mention that Loki was getting beyond irritated with this man. Whatever appeal he had was quickly dissipating.
"It's not that," the other man assured. "I just don't think I'm comfortable being the one who—"
Loki should not be so surprised. Aesir were all the same, weren't they? He sneered in disgust. "May be called argr," he finished for him. "You don't want to be accused of being unmanly, but have no trouble with me being accused of it."
The other man hastily dissembled. "No! That's not it! I—"
One didn't need to be named Lie-Smith to recognize the obvious lie there, Loki thought. He glared at the other man. "Get out. We're done here."
Loki snarled. "Get. Out!"
The other man glared back at Loki but quickly left, slamming the door behind him.
Loki sat on the end of the bed and placed his head in his hands. He should have realized this little assignation would turn out this way. He was in Asgard, after all, and Asgard was hardly known for its progressive views regarding men that had lain with other men. His companion for the evening had seemed more than willing before, eager for his kisses, eager for Loki to take the dominant role, and then nothing. Loki should have honestly expected it. It was a good thing Loki's proclivities were quite varied or he would have been condemned to a lifetime of celibacy centuries ago.
This type of rejection always bothered Loki, even now. What was worse was that all of his experiences pointed to the conclusion that not only was there something wrong with him, but that the fault for everything lay with him. He pressed the palms of his hands over his eyes and clenched his jaw. He couldn't afford to think of it at the moment. Besides, Loki Laufeyson was not one to succumb to sentiment.
He sighed. "Right, you fool. There's nothing for it," he muttered to himself.
Had anyone bothered asking Loki if being labeled a liar upset him, and they never had, he wasn't sure if he would even have had an answer to give to them. Yes, no, possibly, I don't know. His own feelings on the matter were conflicted. Whether he was or wasn't a liar had simply become immaterial over time. It became a foregone conclusion that if Loki's mouth was running then lies were coming out of it. Frustratingly, maddeningly, unfairly accused as he may have been at one time, it became something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If Loki was to always be a liar, then he had decided to become the best liar in all the nine realms.
Somehow or another, it simply had boiled down to the fact that everyone began saying that Loki lied. From there, it had turned into the idea that Loki always lied, he lied to everyone, and thus he was known for it, whether he liked it or not. So, over the years, Loki the liar had developed certain rules for himself. He usually never even had to think about them anymore, they had become so ingrained, but he had often found comfort in repeating them like a litany when he was a youth. What did it say that he had taken to consciously thinking on them of late?
With palms still pressed so tightly over his eyes that he could see stars, he began his ritual.
Rule One: Make peace with the decision to lie.
He dropped his hands from his eyes and focused on the floor. Loki had long ago absolved himself of any moral or ethical concerns when it came to lying, as he had justified it with the caveat that it was assumed he was doing so anyway, even when he wasn't. He closed his eyes, exhaled deeply, and lifted his chin in defiance. There was nothing wrong with lying.
Rule Two: Consider the chances of being caught.
Standing up, Loki walked to the full-length mirror on the other side of the room and looked at himself. The form he had chosen for himself that evening wasn't all that different from his usual Asgardian appearance- just small changes here and there. Red hair, brown eyes, but otherwise his features were the same. He let it drop and looked at his usual pale visage with green eyes and dark hair. Aesir; barely. Masculine face. Green and black leathers.
Then he shape-shifted into a woman. Loki looked at himself critically, or did she look at herself critically? Pronouns weren't all that important to Loki at the moment. It was a feminine face with the same dark hair and green eyes. He was wearing the same colors that he usually wore, though the clothing was now distinctly more feminine. It was a bold choice considering he had just feminized his usual form, but he really didn't care tonight. They weren't looking for a dead man anyway.
Rule Three: Get your version of events straight.
Loki gazed at his reflection critically. Who was he meant to be tonight? He was just some woman, with a personality similar to his own, out for a good time in a tavern. He was there to get away from his worries and his past. It was simple, it was vague, and it was good enough.
Rule Four: Envision the lie.
His look turned contemplative. He wasn't Loki right now. He was a woman. Loki was dead. Loki's birthright had been to die, after all. He wasn't even Odin tonight. He was on a break from playing at being Odin All-Father. He was on a break from thinking about Thanos. He needed this. He was this new woman. Loki drew himself up to his full height.
Rule Five: Practice lying in front of the mirror.
Looking deeply at his, no, at her reflection, Loki gave a sultry smile. She went through a whole myriad of 'sincere' facial expressions and body language. It would do, she decided. She flicked her dark hair over her shoulder.
Rule Six: Think about the details.
She gave herself an innocent smile. Her name wasn't Loki tonight. It was Trixie. When the convergence happened she was so confused. She lost her entire family, as well as many friends during those events. Now she was just trying to build her life again, but none of that was important tonight, because tonight was about having a good time. It was still vague, but nothing anyone would look too much into, as it was certainly not an uncommon tale in Asgard these days. She was mostly ready and that was good enough. It had to be.
Leaving the room, she went down into the main part of the tavern. Her former companion would be long gone by now, and that was just as well. Walking toward the bar, she found a seat and sat down. She didn't have long to wait before a hand came down on her shoulder, causing her to stiffen in response.
"Pardon me, but you seem familiar," a man's voice said from behind.
Damn. It was Fandral. Her heart leapt into her throat. Was it her, or was there suspicion in his voice?
Rule Seven: Do the opposite of what liars do.
She turned and looked him straight in the eyes and consciously relaxed. "Oh, I get that a lot," she said with a slight smile, while giving the warrior a once over. He did look good in his warrior's garb, she'd give him that. "I simply must have one of those faces." Nothing overdone, because overdoing the facial expressions wouldn't do. She reminded herself to be natural and not make any nervous hand gestures. She couldn't afford any tells. She had successfully done this sort of thing for centuries. There was nothing to worry about.
If Fandral had ever been suspicious, he wasn't now. The blond man with the mustache smiled back. He gave her an appreciative once over in return. He picked up her hand and kissed it. "Fandral the Dashing, at your service, my lady," the warrior said charmingly. "Would it be too forward of me to buy you a drink?"
She kept the slight smile on her face. "Trixie," she responded. "And, no, it wouldn't be too forward. I could use some company right now."
Rule Eight: Bring up the lie first before you're questioned about the matter.
Did it matter that it was Fandral sitting in front of her right now? He would immediately recoil in revulsion if he even thought it was Loki with whom he was flirting, but she wasn't Loki tonight. She was someone else entirely. Loki and Fandral didn't necessarily have the best opinions of each other, but Fandral and Trixie? That remained to be seen. "I'm just here to forget things tonight, Fandral," she confided to the warrior. She looked down with slight moisture in her eyes before looking back up into Fandral's concerned gaze. "My family are all—" She hesitated briefly. "Gone now. I'm sorry. I don't mean to unburden myself on you. This is meant to be a fun evening," she said contritely.
"Think nothing of it, Lady Trixie," Fandral said, while placing a warm hand over one of her cold hands. "Recent events have been difficult for everyone in Asgard. I've lost friends too."
She found herself nodding along. "You must think me so selfish for going on about my own worries! Who did you lose, if you don't mind my asking?"
Fandral looked a little sad. "Ah, well, Prince Thor has been a dear friend of mine for ages," he began.
Of course, everything was always about Thor, wasn't it? Oh, and did that ever burn! She briefly closed her eyes. But she wasn't Loki, was she, so she wouldn't care what he said about Thor. Prince Thor was nothing but a fairytale to someone like Lady Trixie. She opened her eyes and gave Fandral what she thought was an exaggerated look of rapt attention.
Fandral preened. It was obvious that he liked having her undivided attention. "However, he recently left for Midgard with barely a word. His ladylove resides there, so I suppose I shall have to be understanding, especially considering he has lost his mother and his brother so recently. In fact, when I first saw you, you reminded me of his brother, Prince Loki."
She narrowed her eyes. "Prince Loki?" she laughed incredulously. "Should I be flattered or offended at the comparison?"
Fandral held his palms up in a placating gesture. "Definitely flattered, Lady Trixie. Whatever else he may have done, Prince Loki died with honor."
He even almost sounded as if he believed it. She knew better. However, that was the best endorsement of Loki's character that one could ever expect from someone like Fandral. Loki could accept a grudging admiration. Perhaps Trixie would like Fandral after all. "I get the impression you didn't care for him all that much though," she said with more than a little pique.
The sharp glance of suspicion he gave her was not in her favor. Fandral's face momentarily twisted with confused distaste, as if it was dawning on him that perhaps she was Loki.
Her tone and expression had been entirely too reminiscent of Loki, she supposed. She couldn't afford any more slips. She wasn't Loki; at least not tonight.
Rule Nine: Make a truthful admission.
If she didn't dissuade his suspicions now, then she would be found out. She gave a fake sigh of regret. Fandral would never know the difference. She gazed down in a contrite manner and then looked straight into his eyes. "I have a confession to make, Fandral. I am acquainted with Prince Loki." Fandral's shock and confusion showed on his face, but she continued on in an apologetic tone. "It would have been impossible for neither of us to realize our similarities once we came into contact."
She could see when Fandral accepted this point. It would have only made sense that Loki and his female look alike would have noticed their similarities had they ever met. Hopefully, it would throw his scent off the trail once and for all.
Fandral's shoulders relaxed and he nodded slightly. He looked sympathetic, his look like that of a man who could see into her soul. "Then I'm sure you have reason to mourn him then," Fandral said with a surprising amount of diplomacy.
She wasn't sure she liked the idea of her mask slipping even slightly. She gave a bitter laugh. "It's alright, Fandral. I'm fairly certain Loki would not want to be mourned overly much, and from me least of all," she admitted. She meant every word.
"You knew him well, then?" he asked cautiously.
"As well as anyone could, I'd imagine," she confided.
Fandral the Dashing looked torn over whether he should be disgusted at her closeness to Loki or whether he should comfort her over the matter. "Even Prince Loki had his good points," Fandral said softly. "I'm sure you're right that he wouldn't want you to be sad on his account."
The comfort route it was then. She felt oddly compelled to either hit Fandral or kiss him. Or, perhaps, she should just kill him. Then, maybe, she wouldn't feel so maudlin. She looked into Fandral's eyes coquettishly. "You're right. As I said, I'm not here for that."
Fandral's eyes twinkled. "Yes, you did mention you were here to have a fun evening."
"I did, at that," she laughed.
"And just what sort of fun did you have in mind, my lady?" Fandral asked slyly.
Rule Ten: Play dumb.
She played with a strand of her dark hair. She let her gaze shyly shift away from his. "Oh! Well, I—" She let herself blush becomingly. "I really hadn't thought about it," she evaded awkwardly and very unconvincingly.
Fandral only moved closer. "Well, perhaps I might have an idea or two," he responded rakishly.
Trixie gave Fandral a shy smile.
He gave her a disarming smile in return.
She let him order her another drink, and when he gently pulled her hand for her to follow him upstairs to a room, she let him. When he leaned in to kiss her, and when he encouraged her to lay on the bed, she let him do that as well. It was nice to forget things for a while, she decided, even if it was with Fandral.
Their encounter had even been going smoothly, until she made the mistake of using her magic to help expedite the process of removing their clothing. Her magic was distinctive. It always had been. Anyone who had ever spent any time with Loki would have seen the distinctive flair of it and remembered.
Fandral drew back from her immediately with a frown. "What is this?" he asked indignantly.
She pursed her lips in frustration. "Magic," she responded brusquely. "Is it a problem?"
Fandral gave her a look of utmost scrutiny. He was now shirtless and his hair was mussed, which gave him a look of dishabille.
She had to admit that it was a good look for him. She pulled him back in for another kiss.
Fandral denied her and narrowed his eyes. "How did you know Loki again?" he demanded.
Rule Eleven: Avoid elaborate stories that involve the need for collaboration.
She motioned between herself and Fandral with a sharp gesture borne of frustration at his antics, and rolled her eyes. A strand of dark hair fell into her eyes and she pushed it back in annoyance. "I already told you. But we met a long time ago, if you must know," she said coolly. "It does beg the question though of what any of that has to do with any of this."
Fandral gave her a particularly critical look. His upper lip twisted almost imperceptibly into a look of disgust.
Rule Twelve: Appear indifferent.
Even though her ire was raised, she kept her own animosity for this situation- and for Fandral- at bay. Instead she now made certain that her face was entirely lacking in expression. It would not do to show any sort of emotion. She would not give Fandral the satisfaction. She sat up on the bed and moved away from him. "Ah. I see. You somehow seem to think that I am Loki," she said calmly. "There were witnesses to his death on Svartalfheim, if you recall," she added logically.
Fandral almost convinced her that he was contrite, as he gave a slight wince. "My apologies, Lady Trixie, but you do remind me too much of our recently departed Prince."
Rule Thirteen: Follow through.
She raised an accusing eyebrow at him. "Need I remind you that you approached me? I admit, Fandral, that this has all been a little bit disappointing. I told you why I was here, and what has happened to me, and I even admitted that I knew Loki. Yet now you act as if I'm attempting to con you!"
Why couldn't Fandral just enjoy the moment! Why must he choose to analyze everything now, of all times? Surely she could not be that odious.
Fandral had the grace to look ashamed, and his cheeks reddened in embarrassment. "It is nothing against you, my lady, but—" He ran a hand through his hair and sighed.
Rule Fourteen: Know when not to lie.
Her shoulders slumped. "But I remind you too much of Loki," she finished for him apathetically. "And you loathed him."
"No- of course I didn't!" Fandral protested weakly. "He had been our companion for many years!"
She gave Fandral a skeptical look. Oh, but she knew better. Loki was only ever tolerated for Thor's sake, and Thor had only ever taken him for granted and barely tolerated his adopted brother himself.
Fandral sighed again and shook his head. "I didn't loathe him. That is too strong of a word."
She pursed her lips. "You just disliked him greatly," she deadpanned.
Fandral shrugged. "Well- all right. Yes. I will admit to that. We had our differences."
She gave him a condescending smirk. "And I remind you of him."
"Well- yes- but- I didn't mean it like that! You're twisting my words, Lady Trixie!" the warrior said in obvious frustration.
This prospective tryst had also turned out to be more trouble than it was worth. She refused to subject herself to this farce any longer. She sneered. "Get out. We're done."
Fandral's eyes widened in disbelief. "But, my lady! Surely—"
She gazed at him threateningly. "Get. Out!"
Fandral looked delightfully miserable as he shut the door behind him. At least he didn't slam it.
Loki fell back onto the bed, with her legs dangling over the side, and covered her eyes with the palms of her hands. She should have known things would turn out this way. This was Asgard, after all, and Asgard wasn't exactly a place that had ever been fond of Loki, or anyone that reminded them of Loki, apparently. She knew it had been too bold of a choice to shape-shift into a form that was too reminiscent of her usual self. It had been too much to hope for that it would work in her favor and she had been a fool to think otherwise.
Loki stood up with a sigh and tugged on her hair in frustration before stepping over to stand in front of the mirror on the other side of the room. She couldn't see her reflection clearly and brought a hand up to her eye. It came away wet. Curious. She vaguely noted that her hands were shaking as well. How odd. She took a tremulous breath and wiped her eyes.
Right. The rules. Loki had a certain litany of rules.
Rule One: Make peace with the decision to lie.
Loki looked in the mirror, observing the form she had chosen for herself, which was the feminized version of her usual Asgardian form. She let it drop and looked at her usual pale visage with green eyes and dark hair. Aesir; barely. Masculine features. Green and black leathers. Loki looked at herself critically, or did he look at himself critically? What did it even matter? Pronouns were the last thing on Loki's mind.
He was at peace. Loki closed his eyes and exhaled deeply. "You're you no matter what you look like, Loki," he whispered to himself.
Loki always lied.
Loki's seiðr, green and glowing, came quickly to his fingers. He always thought it was beautiful, this magic of his, and he had long proved himself to be a formidable sorcerer. He refused to feel shame over it these days. Nothing Frigga taught him was anything he would ever be ashamed of, even though he had only had her tricks and not her trust. He mustn't forget that. He never had her trust. Thor had said, and Thor wasn't a liar. He held his palm out toward the mirror. He felt peaceful.
He lied to everyone.
On a whim, Loki shifted to his Jötunn form. He felt at peace. Of course he was at peace. Why wouldn't he be? Opening his eyes to look in the mirror, he winced at the jarring sight and then glared at the cerulean skinned and red-eyed image before him with hatred. "A monster—" he growled.
He was known for it.
His visage shattered. He heard the shards crashing over the floor, a cacophony of glorious noise. He felt something warm on his cold hand and he glanced down, only to see a rivulet of blood trailing down the blue appendage. It was red, red, red, like his eyes. Loki was bemused at the sight. 'Are you mad?' Thor had asked him recently. 'Possibly,' he had answered. Possibly, but the thought didn't bear contemplating either way.
It really didn't matter anyway, because he had his rules; a litany of sorts, and they were more important. Loki closed his eyes.