You dozed lightly under the golden sparkles of the healing machines, while Loki sat by your side, going through his daily paperwork. You still couldn't help but wonder if this really would fix your face or not. These machines had not been built with humans in mind, so this was technically experimental medicine.
You'd been given back your snacks, deemed poison-free, and shared them with Loki. He was not particularly taken with your favorite cheese crackers, but he proved fond of chocolate covered peanuts.
He spoke to you about his paperwork, the complaints and requests of the people, his voice a soothing backdrop to your rest.
It wasn't just his voice. You had come to the conclusion that you were developing a hunger for his presence. What you weren't sure about yet was if it was because he made you feel safe-being strong, and magical, and powerful in many ways-or if it was something else.
If it was the former, that did make a kind of sense. Your relation to Loki was complicated. He was the cause of many of your worries, many of the dangers you now faced, but he also hadn't really done it on purpose, and most of the things he did for you were to ameliorate your troubles. He really seemed to care.
If it was the latter, if you were actually falling for the handsome prince, like in some fairy tale...Well, you didn't know what you were going to do. Was that even allowed? You weren't even the same species.
But the king had famously pursued Dr. Foster. So perhaps it was. Or perhaps that was one of the many changes to the law Thor had made, or at least proposed to make. Saga had had much to say about it.
But Dr. Foster was an astrophysicist with a PhD and everything. You were not. Everything special about you had been given to you, rather than earned. Forced on you, one could say. Loki had swooped in and done so much for you, and he clearly intended to do more. You couldn't expect him to love you on top of all that. No, it surely wasn't possible between you, and you found yourself hoping it was just the former.
You'd already had your heart broken, and worse. The reminder of that dark time in your life was camping outside the city, with a bunch of protesters who hated Loki, and everything they thought he stood for.
This was no time for romance. This was no time to even want romance. This was a time for you to be learning magic, and law, and self defense. Romance had to be secondary, tertiary, even quaternary to all that.
You shouldn't think about it. The more you thought about it, the more likely it was to become what you were telling yourself you couldn't want. After all, wouldn't it justify what that murderer was trying to do? Wouldn't it make you a traitor to the human race, the 'devil's whore' as he had called you?
No! Of course not! That guy was just a murderous racist, nothing he said really mattered. Besides, you couldn't betray humanity by caring about someone. Loki was no devil, and he wouldn't pay you to sleep with him, so you were no whore.
Oh no, shouldn't have thought about sleeping with Loki. Shouldn't have thought about it...
But you already knew the strength of his arms and the gentleness of his hands. The intensity of his gaze and the weight of his body on yours. The smell of his hair, the texture of his skin, the bubbling tingle of his magic inside you. You even knew what most of his body looked like by now, when you had seen him bare and dripping with bathwater.
The golden healing light always made you feel warm, but the heat crawling up your face had nothing to do with it this time.
Okay fine, maybe you had a little crush. You knew how to deal with living around what you couldn't have, and you were an adult. You could handle rejection.
You could also imagine what his voice would sound like, how his face would contort in the throes of passion...
“Are you all right, my dear?” Loki asked, concern lacing his voice. “You are squirming a bit. Is is uncomfortable?”
“No, I'm fine!” You shouldn't be thinking about things like that. He was sitting right there!
“Do tell me if there is anything wrong. If it becomes uncomfortable, I can turn the machine down, or give you another massage, if you'd like.”
Foul tempter. Maybe he was a devil after all.
A commotion approached, multiple voices spouting fast-paced Asgardian. Loki frowned, lines on his brow.
“It sounds like a construction worker has been injured. I'll go check.”
He left for a few moments, returning wearing a perplexed expression.
“It appears that he is not injured, but has come down with some illness from which he will not wake. His brother found him like this, and is going to be kept here as well.”
You sat up under the golden sparkles. “Now that's something I never thought of! Even between groups of humans, first contact always brought terrible diseases! Can Asgardians even get sick?”
“Asgardians fall ill, yes.” Loki confirmed. “Aesir do not.”
“Maybe that's why Thor didn't unleash a plague the first time he came here. But I've been surrounded by Asgardians for months, and I haven't gotten sick, or gotten anybody else sick. I'm sorta connected to an Aesir though, that might be why. Or maybe our diseases are just so different from each others, that they are just now starting to mutate into something that can infect one another. Loki, we've really got to look into germ science! We could be sitting on an epidemic!”
“Darling, I know!” He grasped your hand tightly, stroking the back of it to soothe you. “We have thought of this, and we have already begun. Humankind is very aware of the dangers of pathology that an alien species presents. We have submitted to your doctors, samples of every disease known to affect us...no matter how much some argued they could be used to make weapons against us.”
“Or vaccines!” You pointed out.
“Your optimism is a balm, my dear.” He said. “That was the initial purpose, of course. The Earth will be safe from our pathogens with your crude, but effective vaccines, and we shall be safe from your illnesses with the use of our own medicine.”
The commotion started all over again.
“Another one?” Loki wondered.
“Maybe we should go.” You said. “What if they need this room? My face can wait.”
Blueprints and road plans, that was his life now. He'd been a mason before, and fairly idle: Asgard rarely needed new buildings, and rarely needed repairs done; it had been so solidly built in the first place. He's made most of his living in the colonies before...before.
Now he lived, crammed with the rest of the population into tiny apartments that he had helped build; temporary shelters for the severely reduced realm of Asgard, while the survivors of Ragnarok all pitched in to build homes, businesses, and roads. He was lucky. He'd had training in building things, and had been given authority over an entire crew of workers. Unfortunately, nearly none of them had been builders. They'd been butchers, metalworkers, artists, scribes. But they did their best, and the nation was growing up from the ground, sturdily if not quickly.
The door opened, and the figure of his wife hustled in.
“Hildegarde, sweet one, I did not expect you back so soon.” He smiled at her, still so blessed by her presence. They had come through so much together. “Let me get you something to drink.”
“Please, that would be lovely.” She said. “I left a little early today. As much was done as could be, for now.”
He dutifully fetched a pitcher of Midgardian ale-weak, but flavorful-for her. Hildegarde worked hard breaking ground and mixing cement, work only for those with strong backs and arms. He was so lucky.
She took a good, long drink, no doubt weary from a hard days work.
“Oh, I haven't the patience.” She declared, holding her arms open. “Come to me darling. I have a well-deserved reward for you!”
He chuckled, wrapping her up in a hug and bringing his lips to hers. Her kiss was more electrifying than he remembered, bringing a rush of pleasure and contentment. It went on and on, until her strong arms were holding him up, his legs no longer able to support him.
Still, he felt no fear, even as he weakened further, only pleasure, and the deep heartfelt love he had for his wife, even as he struggled to draw breath. She would not let him.
Not until his eyes had glazed over, and the last dregs of his life ebbed, did she drop him on the floor and leave, tail swishing behind her.
You were much better able to walk the next day, though it was still easy to become dizzy and overbalanced, so Loki took you to the healing wing early, to absorb some healing light. There was wailing the wing however, as one of the men had died in the night, and the others-five in total-remained asleep. The newest had been brought in just before you had arrived, by his distraught wife, who claimed she'd been working deep into the evening and had simply fallen asleep at her construction site, only to come home in the morning to find him collapsed on the floor.
“This is spreading far too quickly.” Loki murmured to you. “We should come back later.”
Instead he took you back to the tiny library in his rooms, gave you paper to draw on, and began pulling old books from his shelves.
“Some of these are from my father's collection.” He said, flipping one open. “Here is a human temple once dedicated to him.”
He showed you an illustration of a large wooden building, ornate and clearly ancient.
“Alas, not a trace of it exists anymore. Wood is impermanent, and subject to a great many methods of destruction. Still, I hear it was nice while it lasted, for such a primitive construction.”
“Hey, I think it looks really nice.” You said. “So we're behind on our Nornbein technology or whatever. We still build some pretty cool things. Ever see the pyramids?”
“Of course I have. Not when they were new, no. They were old, even as I was young. I'm only a thousand or so, that's all.”
“What? Brunnhilde is three, and Heimdall is nearly five. He might have seen them when they were new.”
“Okay, but they are pretty impressive, yeah? And they weren't built by aliens either!”
“Of course not! It would have taken much less time to build them, their decorations would have been more securely fastened in place, and, most importantly, aliens would not have built such things and then simply abandoned them.”
“Did you ever get a temple?”
“Unfortunately, no.” He crossed his arms sourly. “In my youth, a transition was taking place on your Midgard. In the lands where I and my people were known, a new religion and new power structure were taking over, and they replaced us. But Odin was pulling away from Midgard anyway, and so we disappeared from your world. Fewer and fewer of us came for our training modules, and we were gradually forgotten.”
“You sure aren't forgotten anymore! Maybe they'll build a temple for you now.”
“Hmph. More like a gallows.”
“Yes, yes, alright. Perhaps I will eventually be accepted. But I doubt there will be even the tiniest shrines to me anytime soon.”
You shrugged. “I could make one. A shrine to the great god of...wait, what are you the god of?” He wasn't the god of evil, like that book had claimed, but no one had ever told you what, exactly, his Aesir associations were.
“How cute. What would it look like? Your little shrine to your god?” He asked, skirting the question entirely, leaning his chin on his hands, elbows on the table.
“Er, w-well...” Your god? You didn't worship him! You didn't really worship anybody right now. With everything that had happened over the past few years, you had some things to figure out, regarding spirituality.
“Well, I've never built anything before, so it wouldn't be very big, or very fancy. I think what I would do-” You began sketching. “Is to get a bunch of rocks or bricks, and make a circle. Then put layers and layers on top until it's kinda like a well? Then I'd put a plate inside, and make offerings of cinnamon pastries.”
“How utterly charming. I might just decree that you must do exactly that.”
“Try it and I might just leave plain cinnamon sticks instead.” You threatened.
“It comes in sticks? I could just have a bite of pure cinnamon?”
You laughed. “You don't want that! It's literally just tree bark!”
“Truly? You just peel bark from a tree and put it in your food? Humans really will eat anything.”
“Anything that doesn't instantly kill us, and a few things that will only kill us slowly. Though you'd be surprised how much of what we eat is just beans or grass. The coffee? Beans. The corn? Grass. The chocolate covered peanuts? Beans and beans. Bread? Grass.
But then there are the fun things: The herbs and spices. Well, herbs are just leaves, it's spices that get really fun. Spices are basically anything that isn't leaves. Cinnamon is bark. Ginger is a root. Saffron is the stamen of a flower, and cloves are just dried up flower buds. There's also lots and lots of seeds, and some berries, and even hot peppers, which are just dried fruits.”
“You really aren't helping your case, you voracious little thing.” Loki teased.
“Oh yeah? Well, you're making Asgardian food sound super boring.” You shot back. “Are you seriously telling me that you guys conquered whole worlds, and didn't try the food?”
“Oh no, we absolutely did.” He took a piece of your paper and began sketching. “But it was the Vanir and the Alfar that had the most culinary influence on us. The Vanir prefer delicate, subtle flavors, and the Alfar are very...natural eaters. As you might expect from the ecology of their worlds, they do not employ much fire, therefore, much of their food is uncooked.
We took these influences and added our own flair. We like a good sauce, or a nice, thick gravy, but we simply don't celebrate the riot of flavor that humans so prize. I suppose that will change in time, as humankind exerts their own influence upon us. Or perhaps it will be the other way around, and we will convince humans to cease over-spicing everything.”
“Never gonna happen. Humans have fought actual wars over spices.”
“Well, perhaps we can convince humans not to go to war over every little thing as well.”
You sighed. “That's...also probably never gonna happen.”
“Shame.” He said. “Sounds like you could use a strong, fair, firm ruler. If only you'd had the opportunity to acquire one of those...”
“Oh, cut it out. You've already told me why that wouldn't have been a good idea in the end.”
“I have said no such thing. Just that the Earth would have been in danger either way, and I would have whipped you all into shape, and led you to glorious power. Of course, I could just be talking about you in particular, rather than humanity as a whole. You, who now live with royalty within arm's reach. Would you like a strong, fair ruler?”
His pointed stare, his little smirk, the way he leaned in, chin in hands, had your pulse pumping so hard that it hurt your tender head.
Was he flirting with you? No way.
The instant you turned away and grasped your head, he dropped all of his teasing and scooted close, wrapping his arms around you and murmuring concern. It was really too bad that being in his arms like this just made your head hurt more; it made it impossible for you to enjoy the moment.
“Maybe we should go back to the healing wing? Things should have calmed down by now.”
He brought his paperwork with him, and even saw a few petitioners out in the waiting room, allowing you to doze contentedly under the healing sparkles. Only when he was certain you were deeply asleep, did he leave to find his brother.
“So, when's little brother gonna propose?” Brunnhilde teased, as Thor wove a patterned sash from yarn. He'd taken up the habit to help with some of his issues after Ragnarok, the act of creation helping to mitigate the terrible memories of destruction. He occasionally sold his creations on human Etsy, under an alias. Very few people knew about it, and none of them were Avengers. Each of them was receiving a scarf for this winter's holidays.
“You jest,” He said, turning the dainty cards with careful delicacy, another skill he'd had to learn. “But you have not yet seen my brother in the throes of love. When Loki desires something, he begins planning immediately. He becomes consumed by that desire. It's actually a very common Jotun trait.”
“Yeah, they do get like that. You know, if you'd told me a thousand years ago that there would be a frost giant in the royal family, I'd have called you a liar and a blasphemer. And yet, here we are.” Brunnhilde shrugged. “He's a decent kid though, even if he has a few bad habits.”
“It's not as if I'm really that different.” Thor pointed out. “But my point is, I'm surprised that he hasn't been ordering her flowers, or draping her with jewels, or-”
“Thor!” Loki called, stalking into his rooms. “I need some good, Midgardian love poetry. Have you any recommendations?”
“There we go.” Thor said. Brunnhilde snickered. “And what is wrong with our poetry?” He asked.
“Nothing, in theory. It's just that I do not think it will translate well, and it's also full of concepts that _____ won't relate to. She's never been on a battlefield, under the stars. She's never experienced the whirl of combat, nor found any attestation to life therein. She's never had to fix the memory of a loved one in her mind while staring down a faceless horde in the moments before a war began, or heard the song of her lover in the clashing of swords or the whir of arrows. I don't think any of our metaphors will really reach her.”
“Have you asked her if she even likes poetry?” Brunnhilde asked.
“Everyone likes poetry.” Loki said. “Don't they?”
The Valkyrie shrugged. “Maybe. Why don't you ask her what kind she likes? It's not as if humans are strangers to battle; perhaps war poetry is popular here too.”
“I wanted it to be a surprise.”
“You know, I think she's had enough surprises over the past few months. She might actually like a little stability now. You might just consider including her in your plans regarding her every now and then, I bet she'd appreciate it.”
“Well...perhaps...Thor, your opinion?”
“I'd like to preface this by reminding you that, while I am the only person you know who has had a relationship with a human, that relationship ultimately failed. Do not hang too much upon my advice alone.”
“Well then, who else might I ask?” Loki asked in frustration.
“Humans!” Thor and Brunnhilde exclaimed as one.
“Hmph!” Loki crossed his arms. “I come to you for advice for once, and you blow me off! Typical.”
“I am not blowing you off, Loki, just saying that our experiences may be very different. There is no one way to court a human. Their wooing requirements can be vastly different from one another, and if you do not meet her individual requirements, she might not even recognize what you are trying to do.
Jane, for instance, has no interest in poetry, and did not want that from me. She found beauty and fulfillment in the vastness of the universe. Discover what she finds beauty in, and work with that.”
“That is...actually good advice.” Loki said. “What happened you you?”
Thor sighed, deep and dramatic. “I fear I may have begun to grow up.”
“Norns forbid!” Loki cried, clutching his chest, and both brothers broke into amicable chuckling.
“Yes, yes. You're both adorable, and I love you.” Brunnhilde interrupted. “But I have some concerns regarding your Buridag plans. Are you seriously going to let a bunch of unsupervised humans in here? Because they will be unsupervised. Because we don't have enough bodies to throw at the security detail. I think I've brought this up before, but, while I do think it is a good idea in theory, I don't know how we're going to swing the logistics.”
“By recruiting humans to police themselves, naturally.” Loki said. “Behold. A plan I have for securing the loyalty of our worshipers. And also benefiting them at the same time. That's the important part, truly.”
He held out the sketches he had made while speaking to you earlier. Thor took and examined them.
“Are these...These are longhouses?” He asked, baffled.
“Ooh, those look cozy.” Brunnhilde commented.
“Trolekaerhalla is going to become a permanent fixture of Asgardian life; our friendly neighbors, who love and venerate us, as we deserve. They have defended us, they have sheltered _____ without question, and they are possibly the first and only human allies that I, personally, have on this planet. I propose that, as we are constructing a building to house justice for Buridag, that we also build this simple housing for our allies. You have looked upon the camp; you know some of those tents will not protect against the upcoming winter. These houses will protect them, as they did in the days of humans past. Updated for the modern setting, of course.”
“You want to build homes for the humans.” Thor said, his voice full of disbelief.
“_____ spoke about an oddly human concept called 'reconstruction' in which humans of today try to connect with the ways of humans from the past, so I thought this design would be well-suited to the humans in the camp. It shouldn't be hard to build in modern amenities either: electric wiring, and plumbing, and geothermal heating should all be easily-”
The King of Asgard grabbed his brother by the shoulder and pulled him into a crushing hug.
“Oof!” Loki grunted at the sudden squeeze. “I take it this meets your approval then?”