It was all wrong. The face in the mirror was wrong; the body was wrong. Loki stared at it, and recognised nothing but his eyes and the colour of his hair and the paleness of his skin.
"Father," he said, watching her mouth make the shape in the mirror, "don't make me do this."
"You say that as though I have a choice, Loki," Laufey said. "This agreement--this truce--with Asgard has kept our peoples at peace for countless generations. This is the way that things must be. You know this."
"But it should not apply to us," Loki said. "You are king of Jotunheim. I am your only child. Surely... surely there is some way to stop this."
"Just because this is the first time that a non-giant has been born to the king of Jotunheim does not mean that we can betray the bargain that was made. When they have appeared to a child of farmers, they were married to the child of Asgardian farmers. When they have appeared among the minor nobles, a similar arrangement was reached. This is not the choice that I would make, were it my choice, Loki. It is, however, the choice that is before us. You will marry the son of Odin."
"But I don't want to," Loki muttered, looking down. A certain portion of his new anatomy got in the way. He looked up again and glared petulantly at his father.
"You are a prince of Jotunheim," Laufey said sternly. "Even had you been able to remain among our people, you would have faced many opportunities where you were required to do things you did not want to do. This alliance of royal families will benefit us both greatly, and I will not be the one to go to Odin and tell him that my child will not fulfill the responsibilities of our people."
Loki turned back to the mirror. Her green eyes stared back at him. He ran his hands down the dress--her wedding dress.
Thor folded his arms in front of himself, trying to ignore the sound he could hear from just outside the waiting area. "I will not do this," he said firmly.
"Yes, you will," Odin said firmly. "We will go out there, and you will marry this girl. It is your duty."
"How can you allow this to be?" Thor demanded. "You will marry your only child to the daughter of your rival? You will ally our kingdoms this way because of a bargain that has applied largely to the children of farmers and peasants?"
"That it has applied largely to farmers and peasants has simply been little more than luck," Odin replied. "There have been nobles. I will ally our kingdoms this way because I must. Because that is the treaty that was made. I will not go to Laufey and tell him that my son refuses to honour the accord."
"This is madness," Thor said, anger rising again. "We know nothing about this girl. I have never even seen her. For all we know, this is a trick that Laufey is playing, and you are allowing it to happen!"
"Enough!" Odin snapped. "We will do this in good faith. Loki is a quiet, polite, and terrified girl. Your mother has been with her for two days. Now, our people await us." He went to the door and pushed it open. "Come, Thor. Now."
Thor glared at his father, then lowered his eyes to the floor. "Yes, All-Father," he said, teeth gritted. For all his arguing and complaining and refusing, he knew from the first that he had no hope of convincing his father. He straightened his shoulders and lifted his head, a grim, but determined look on his face.
They could make him do it. They couldn't make him like it.
Bells rang, and servants entered from the kitchens, bearing tray upon tray of food. The Asgardian nobility soon made their way to the table.
Three of the young maidens guided Loki to Thor. She did not meet his gaze, though greeted him with a murmured, "My lord."
It was the first time she had spoken directly to him.
He inclined his head politely in her direction. "My lady," he said, just as quietly.
"So much formality," Volstagg said. He'd already had a little too much to drink and dinner wasn't even formally served yet. He bowed deeply to Loki. "My Lady Loki, we are your new husband's dearest friends, the Lady Sif--" he gestured, "and the Warriors Three. I am Volstagg, this is Fandral, and this is Hogun. Welcome to Asgard."
She looked at each in turn and inclined her head. "Thank you," she said. "I mean--it is an honour to meet you and thank you for making me welcome."
Thor was fairly certain that he'd never seen Volstagg be this polite in his entire life... and that included audiences in front of the All-Father.
Perhaps Volstagg should have been the one to marry the Lady Loki, in that case.
"We are the ones who are honoured," Sif said, bowing to her as well. "You are most welcome here. I am sure that you must miss your home. Please--if you need anything--"
"You must come and speak to me, and I'll be glad to assist you," Fandral said smoothly, taking her hand and kissing the back of it.
Thor looked around, but sadly, there was no impending assassination attempt or animal attack to put him out of his misery.
Loki managed a small laugh. "Thank you, again. I am honoured and humbled by your kindness. However, my Lord Fandral, I would imagine that my lord husband would be most displeased if I did not seek his assistance first." Suddenly faced with an audience of more than young ladies or her new husband, she seemed considerably more certain of herself.
"Thor may be too busy sulking to be of any help to anyone," Hogun said very pointedly.
Thor gave Hogun a Look. "I am not sulking," he said firmly.
"Are you certain, my Lord Thor?" Fandral said. "Because I--"
Sif's hand covered Fandral's mouth before he could say anything else.
Thor looked over at Loki and managed to give her a smile that, while it did not have the fawning charm that Fandral could so easily produce, was at least friendly. "My apologies, my lady."
She couldn't meet his gaze as she had his friends'. "There is no need to apologise, my lord."
"Don't tell him that, my dear, or he will never apologise again," Volstagg said. "Come, friends, let us feast! It is a joyous day."
Loki glanced shyly up at Thor and followed them all to the head of the table where Odin and Frigga sat. Loki waited very patiently near her chair. It took a moment or two too long (and a hard nudge from Sif) before Thor realised what he was supposed to do. Murmuring an apology and moving awkwardly, he pulled out Loki's chair for her.
She murmured her thanks in turn and sat, casting a look down the long, long table to her father. Laufey held her gaze for a long few moments, then pointedly looked at Thor, reminding Loki of her duty. She sighed softly, hoping none would hear, and looked down at her plate. When the meal was served and her wine glass had been filled, she lifted the glass after rising to her feet.
"All-Father, Queen Frigga, my lord and husband, and honoured guests," she said, and suddenly her voice rang out so all could hear, "I wish to thank you on behalf of myself and my father, King Laufey of Jotunheim, for your hospitality and for such a glorious day.
"The war ended many centuries past, though there are those here who remember. Upon the war's end an accord and treaty was made to ensure peace between our people, and my place here is part of that bargain made long before my birth and the birth of my lord Thor.
"We are very young, and because we are so young I believe it safe to say that we do not fully understand what was lost and what must still be gained to continue the peace in the Nine Realms. I hope to honour you all and the sacrifices that were made in those dark days.
"I ask for your patience, your kindness, and your understanding, and beg forgiveness for anything I may not yet understand about this beautiful place and her proud people.
"My father Laufey, I hope that I can still make you proud. All-Father, Queen Frigga, thank you for allowing me to become a part of your family.
"Thor, my lord and husband--" and now her voice sounded less certain, "I wish for us many long years."
When Loki finished, Thor stood up, cup in hand, and cleared his throat. He looked not a little horrified in the moment before he began to speak.
"I do not have the gift of words that my lady Loki does, so I crave your pardon." He nodded in his parents' direction first, and then in Laufey's. "Father and Mother, King Laufey, friends and loyal subjects of the All-Father, and of course, my lady," he said, turning to look at Loki.
"This day was not foreseen when the bargain was struck between our peoples. It is, however, one of the last steps to join our peoples together, as Odin's son and Laufey's daughter join together in marriage." He looked out at the assembled guests. "Thank you for being here today to share in our celebration of marriage as we join our two families--our two peoples--together."
He looked at Loki again. "My lady, I welcome you to our home, and to our family. Health and happiness to us both," he said, lifting his glass.
"Health and happiness!" The voices rang out, almost deafening.
More speeches followed throughout the meal, in between courses. Both of the mighty kings took their turn, talking about the joining of their people and the necessity of peace; Frigga spoke of family and home; Volstagg rambled on seemingly without point until Hogun and Fandral made him sit and the next course was brought out.
Loki ate and seemed to enjoy the food, but on more than one occasion had to ask what she was about to put into her mouth. At the opposite end of the table, one of the honoured Einherjar could be seen doing the same for Laufey and his delegation.
Finally, a few hours later and dessert finished, Laufey stood again. Once more, he spoke of the honour of their people, and turned his red-eyed gaze on his daughter. He wished her health, and joy, and strong heirs, and announced that he would be departing.
Loki rose to her feet, her hands held tight before her, and though tears suddenly sprang to her eyes she wished her father farewell in a clear, steady voice, and watched him leave.
She sank down into her chair between Thor and Sif again.
Sif looked at Thor, who appeared terrified. She dismissed him as useless and touched Loki gently on the arm. "Is this the first time that you have been away from your home?" she asked softly.
Loki nodded. "Yes, my lady," she replied. "As my father's only child, I was kept close. Safe. Protected. I am homesick already."
"Well, we will do everything we can to make sure that you feel welcome and at home," Sif said. "Won't we Thor?" she added, a bit of bite in her voice.
Thor jerked his head around to look at Loki. "Of course... it... I am sorry, my lady. It must be very difficult."
The young ladies of the court once more flocked to their exotic new princess, and she glued herself to Sif's side. Fandral flirted his way through the room; Volstagg laughed and shouted his way through the room; Hogun slipped silently up to Thor's side.
"You will have to dance with her."
Thor froze, then turned to look at Hogun with a look of horror on his face. "I do not dance," he said through his teeth.
"Volstagg and Fandral would be happy to dance with her."
Thor swore viciously. "I will have to dance with her," he said, very reluctantly. "And I will make an idiot of myself in front of all of Asgard doing so, you do know that, don't you?"
"I think, my friend, that you may surprise yourself." Hogun gave him a small smile. "The players are changing their song. Go to your wife."
Thor wasn't getting used to that word any time soon.
He straightened his posture and went over to where Loki was surrounded by more women than Thor was ever comfortable with (also known as 'any number greater than Sif'), bowing low to Loki. "My lady. May I have the favour of your hand for this dance?" he asked.
She looked at him for a moment, eyes very wide, and then she nodded. "Of course, my lord," she said. She let him lead her to the dance floor. "I have never danced," she whispered to him as heads began to turn in their direction.
"We are evenly matched then," Thor whispered back, keeping an eye on Fandral across the dance floor, attempting to do as he did--only simpler.
"But you are the prince of Asgard. You have not danced?"
"There were lessons," Thor said reluctantly. "I... was conspicuously absent, and my mother despaired of me ever learning. I suppose we all felt that there was time before I would need to know how."
"I am certain you would have preferred to choose your own bride," said Loki, peering up into Thor's eyes then dropping her gaze. "I wish things were different, my lord. I'm sorry."
"I would have preferred for things to happen differently, yes," Thor admitted. "To say otherwise would be lying. I am sure that you wish the same. But this is not your fault, my lady. None of this is either of our fault. So please forgive me, but I cannot accept your apology. You need not make one."
"My lord is very kind," she murmured. "Perhaps we can indeed make this work somehow."
"That is my hope as well," Thor said, smiling at her.
Slightly less awkward, despite the dancing. Progress.
Thor's chambers were lit with candles. They cast their golden glow over the pearls in Loki's hair. She clasped her hands tightly together. She was scared again; even Thor could see that.
Loki's fear was more visibly obvious, but Thor had never been more terrified in his life. He could hear the mocking laughter of his friends if they could only see him now. His bride in front of him, the wedding night before them both, and Thor afraid as he had never been before.
Loki looked at the floor. There was a tremble in her voice; a crack. She said, barely loud enough to be heard, "I remain untouched, my lord. My body is yours." She reached up and back, beneath her hair, to unfasten her dress. It fell away from her shoulders.
Thor stared openly for a few long moments, then took a step or two back, averting his eyes. "I..." he started to speak, but his voice cracked, and he stayed frozen in place, hands fidgeting at his sides, avoiding looking at Loki... anywhere.
"My lord?" she whispered. "Have I displeased you?" She held the front of the dress up over her breasts.
"No--no, of course not," Thor said, somewhat desperately. He tried to look at her--failed--and stammered some more. "I... perhaps... maybe we should... Ihavetogo," he said, furiously red and embarrassed as he headed for the door; out and gone in moments.
She would deny crying herself to sleep.
(She. She. How strange. Foreign. Loki had no choice but to get used to it. Her father had left her here, alone, and she would have to adapt or be lost.)
In the morning, she perfunctorily dismissed the maids who came looking for her. She dressed herself in a very simple green gown, left her hair unbound--she had no idea what to do with it, and supposed perhaps her maids were actually a necessity--and decided that she would try to find the library. When she opened the door, she found herself looking at the solid expanse of Thor's chest.
She looked up into his eyes. "My lord husband," she said, stiffly.
"My lady," Thor said, back to being unspeakably awkward again. "I... my clothes, they're..." He gestured toward the room.
She looked at him a moment longer, then said, "There is also a bath. You should consider it, my lord. You smell... offensive." She stepped out of his way and wondered where in all the realms he had spent the night.
"Oh." Thor looked down at himself. "I... my apologies. I suppose I should... yes. And... did you... were you... how did you sleep?" he asked, looking somewhat desperate.
"I slept tolerably well, my lord," she replied. "Your bed is very comfortable. And large."
"Ah, yes. I have never been what people would call a small man," Thor said. He shifted in place. "Are you hungry? There will be food in the hall, if you remember the way. Or I could take you." He looked down at himself again. "Perhaps after the bath."
He didn't make eye contact with her. Was he embarrassed? She thought perhaps he was--was he embarrassed by his behaviour, or their situation? Surely he couldn't be embarrassed for humiliating her. She didn't imagine he was capable of such perception.
"I will await you, my lord, as is appropriate in my duties as your wife. Do you desire that I attend you, or shall I wait here?" She gestured, taking in his bedroom.
"Oh, you don't have to... that just..." Thor took a deep breath. "In here would be fine, my lady. I won't be long. There are books on the shelves, if you like."
"Thank you, my lord. I shall await your return." She gave him a terribly awkward-looking curtsey--she needed to practice those--then turned away to look through the books.
She sat with one on her lap when he returned from his bath. She lifted her head to look at him, and she didn't have quite the same reaction to him as he had to her the previous night. At the very least, she wasn't repulsed. She marked her place in the book, set it aside, and stood.
Thor had his towel cinched around his waist, apparently as tightly as he could get it. He had forgotten to take his clothes with him to the bath; true, he was a brute, but he was a well-formed one, at least.
"Did you find something?" he asked, nodding his head toward the book as he gathered his clothes and stepped behind a too-small screen to change.
"Yes, my lord, I found a book on Asgardian history. The introduction is dry, but it should provide me valuable information on your people." She turned away to look out the window.
Thor dressed quickly and came out from behind the screen. "I was never a scholar, but there are those among our people who would be glad to provide you with any instruction that you require," he said. "I never had much success learning from books."
"Thank you, my lord. I'm certain I will find that most beneficial. I will need to have all the lessons I can. If you are ready, I'm anxious to eat now."
"Yes, of course," Thor said. "My apologies for keeping you waiting." He offered his arm, at least, even if he didn't look her in the eyes.
If there was anything Loki Laufeyson could do, it was talk. Of course, she was now Loki Laufeysdottir, she supposed, and perhaps she needed to find her tongue all over again.
She was saved further awkward silences with the arrival of Queen Frigga and Thor's departure to join his friends on a hunt.
"You look well this morning, my Queen," Loki said once Thor had left. She cradled a tea cup between her hands.
"Thank you," Frigga said, settling in beside Loki, pouring tea for herself. "You look tired, my dear. How are you settling in?"
"I miss home," Loki admitted. "Asgard is beautiful, but it is not home." And your son wants nothing to do with me.
"This happened very suddenly, and you and Thor are both very young," Frigga said. "This must all be quite a shock...difficult to adjust to."
Loki nodded. "To be very honest, my Queen, I thought perhaps because of my station, I would be able to stay on Jotunheim. I thought..." Suddenly she looked down, and her eyes filled with tears--tears again!--and yet a laugh bubbled up. "The arguments I had with my father once I came of age! I was Laufey’s heir, and none dared to underestimate me because of my size. I was treated no differently than any other. And then the day came... and there was a great deal of yelling when Father told me I had to come to Asgard to be wed to the son of the All-Father. I argued and yelled and pleaded to the last." And then she peered at Frigga again. "Did he?" she asked in a small voice.
"Did Thor protest? Until he walked out into the Great Hall," Frigga admitted, touching Loki's hand. "He has ever been stubborn, and does not welcome change. I wish that things had been different for the both of you," Frigga said. "It is not an ideal way to begin a life together. Still--you are welcome here, child," she said, giving Loki's hand a squeeze.
"I imagine that my husband and I have more in common than we might ever dream," Loki murmured.
It felt a strange thing to do, but she reached over to put her free hand atop Frigga's. All of this touching. The warm skin. How unusual. But Loki smiled. "I fear I will never be able to repay your kindness."
"Nonsense," Frigga said, smiling at Loki. "You are our daughter now, and we will love you as if you were our own. If you need anything, anything at all, please come to me. My son is very like his father, and I know how frustrating that can be."
Loki looked away and closed her eyes. She supposed that if her husband would not have her, at least for a time she may have the compassion of her new mother. "Thank you," she whispered.
"Of course," Frigga said, her voice kind and gentle. "My door is always open to you, my daughter."