Lyn woke up the next morning and was happily surprised to see the picture of the warm twilight sky Loki sent the night before. It was doubly surprising that he would think of her to take the picture and send it to her. As much as she didn’t like to admit it gestures of thoughtfulness mostly came from her side and Loki was the less-than-grateful recipient. She smiled at her phone before sitting up on the edge of the bed and frowning at the too early morning. It had been a weird night without Loki around. She missed his sleep sounds, especially the odd, low purring sound he’d make when he was deeply asleep. Lyn figured it was his version of snoring, but it wasn’t very loud and it was actually comforting. She smiled while thinking about him, and then sighed, feeling his absence strongly.
She’d had a lot of very strange and vivid dreams last night. She dreamed about places and people that were familiar to her, but somehow off from what they should be. She was in her room, trying to get out, but the door was too big, and there were no light switches on the walls. There was a sullen orange sun going down in a dusty-looking horizon. People were running, laughing, things kept disappearing. She saw strange buildings, unreal creatures, and heard ugly, terrible voices. She was actually happy to wake up.
“Maybe I had too much booze and Spongebob last night. Yech…” She got ready for work and decided to sneak one of Loki’s scarves out of his closet to wear today because reasons.
As she stood peeking into his scarf rack, she bumped into his nightstand and jumped slightly. “What the…” she whispered, turning around quickly. She felt a draught of cold air, like a cracked open window in winter. She ran her hand along where she’d felt the cold and felt nothing odd this time. She put her hand on Loki’s nightstand and had a disconcerting impression of something hiding and peeking at her, not wanting to be seen. She didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, it was more of a feeling, on par with deja vu.
Feeling an oppressive sense of dread, she reached out with a lightly trembling hand and opened Loki’s nightstand drawer. She felt ashamed of doing so, she didn’t want to snoop; but the memory of whatever weird thing Loki brought home a couple days ago was still with her. She would do anything to prevent him doing harm to himself through a bullshit-silly idea that could lead to him being dragged away from her and possibly up to Asgard where lord-knows-what kind of tortures may await him. She pulled the drawer slowly open and a rush of odd thoughts flew out at her like bats from a cave. She thought she saw her own face mirrored in a dark, frightened caricature in front of her and stepped back, waving her hand in front of her face in a shooing motion, but there was nothing there.
Hesitantly, she looked in the opened drawer. When nothing else happened, she gingerly nudged the objects in it, pushing them around gently. There were pens, some cuff links, an old pocket watch, stray change, tie clips, one of those weird daggers that she’d found around the house before that she chose to ignore. Aside from that it looked like any other fashionable man’s nightstand drawer.
“Nothing weird in here. Well almost nothing.” She said aloud. She cupped her elbows in her palms and looked around nervously. “Goddamn it anyway, Loki!” she whispered, closed the drawer and went about borrowing one of his scarves for the day, just to have him close somehow.
Thor saw Jane off in the morning and also felt a pang of loneliness at first. He’d miss her as he always did when they were apart. He sighed deeply and went back inside to have another cup of coffee before getting on with his day. Currently, Thor’s days were filled with helping Jane analyze the data from her last project and keep her lecturing schedule up to date along with hanging out with Loki and Lyn. These simple things made his heart feel more full than ruling over Asgard ever could. He was able to keep company with the people he cared about most. The only thing missing from the equation were his mother and father.
The light smile on his face faltered slightly as he thought about Frigga. Her death had been an unexpected horror that not even his eternal optimism could make peace with yet. Her loss still felt like a hole in his heart. The recollection of her face brought the smile again to his countenance even brighter than before. He would always miss Frigga, but if not for her sacrifice, all of Asgard, and indeed all of the nine realms, would have been plunged into darkness and disarray.
Thor took his coffee into the study and sat at the desk in his usual spot, glancing fondly at Jane’s empty chair. He pulled up the data sheets he’d been working on and tried to concentrate on them, but his mind kept wandering. He was filled with ‘what-ifs’ this morning. What if Frigga and Jane had not pulled off their planned illusion? What if they had not defeated Malekith, and the Ether had been lost? What if he made it to Frigga’s chambers faster and was able to save her? Would he have been able to choose between his mother and Jane? If not for Loki, he would have had to make that choice, and he also might have fallen that day as well. Frigga’s death had brought all of them closer together, Loki included, even though Loki did not wish to stay in Asgard afterwards. The rift between Loki and Odin was still too great. Thor had faith that the strain in his relationship with his brother could be repaired with time. He did worry about Father and Loki though. Loki still felt so betrayed, so ostracized. No one in Asgard realized Loki’s part in saving them during Malekith’s onslaught, and they never would.
He picked up his phone and re-read the text message Loki had sent him last night. “All is well. You have my appreciation for looking after Lyn. She is beset by chronic worry. Distract her.”
Always giving orders, Loki. Thor shook his head and sighed. Frigga would have been elated at his relationship with Lyn, such as it was. He wished she had survived the siege on Asgard and was able to see Loki have such a close friend. She’d expressed hope that Loki would find someone that cared about him regardless of his Jotun heritage, or past deeds and temperament. The only way Loki had found someone that adored him without constraint was leaving Asgard. There is a reason for all things, and all things had their own paths to travel, including Frigga and Loki. He did wonder though, how Loki had come to terms with Frigga’s death. Loki had left Asgard shortly after Malekith’s defeat, and he had never spoken at length to Thor about it. “A mystery.” Thor murmured.
Taking a deep breath, Thor continued with his task, and let go of the thoughts of his mother, brother and that sad time in Asgard.
Despite all his protests to the contrary, Loki was actually enjoying the seminar in Los Angeles. He spent the day attending lectures, schmoozing around with others in the antiquities business, passing out his business card and extolling the virtues of Sojourns Remembered and of Sophia Ellison. At one point during a break in the day’s activities he checked his phone and wasn’t surprised to see a message from Lyn. She was doing well, or at least doing well at hiding that she wasn’t doing well, but she mentioned she had passed a strange night with a lot of odd dreams. She blamed it on a beer or two too many, and watching too much Spongebob. Loki felt skeptical about this, but didn’t think there was any way she could get impressions from the object he’d hidden in the drawer. If she looked in the drawer all she would see is an old pocket watch. Lyn was a run-of-the-mill Midgardian, and didn’t posses magical abilities. She wouldn’t be able to sense it there, it was out of her range of perception.
He thought back to the time Lyn had showed him that box of food spells that belonged to her mother. He’d led her on a merry chase all around the local Renfest to find supposedly ‘magical objects’. Of course all of that had been a ruse. He’d really just wanted to go out to the fairgrounds because the place itself carried a vibe he enjoyed…and he’d wanted some more of that oil. It smelled like something straight from Asgard, and reminded him of the few good times he had there. During all this, if Lyn had any inkling of magical prowess, she would have known the game he was playing, but she doggedly trekked along. She also copied all her mother’s food spells into that book. It ended up being an actual good experience for her, which wasn’t all of what Loki intended at first, but he certainly wasn’t about to spoil any good feelings she received from it. He was still making peace with the loss of his own mother.
A thought, unbidden: The liesmith deceives himself now? The trickster becomes his own mark?
Loki frowned. Thoughts of Frigga filled his mind. He felt the most crushing sadness as he remembered how he would hide with her away from Thor when he became a little too exuberant to deal with. Frigga would teach Loki spells and help him develop his innate magical talents. Her gentleness helped get him through those awkward times of youth when others would often refuse to be in his company, somehow sensing his difference. In the end she had sacrificed herself for him, for all of them…
…and why was this on his mind suddenly? He came back to himself, looking around to see if anyone else noticed how ‘away’ he was. He was one in control of his thoughts at all times, and he had fallen into this strange downward spiral of memories as if it were once again the abyss. His eyes narrowed and he thought that perhaps his magical talisman wasn’t as safely hidden as he thought. Perhaps being in such close proximity to him had somehow awakened a magical sense in Lyn? Interesting idea, however unsavory. He’d have to explore that possibility when he returned.
He sent her a quick message in return, telling her that he’d be back before she knew it, and to put some of that lavender spray on the sheets because it helped with sleep. He didn’t ask what she’d dreamed about even though he was extremely curious. He’d make sure to pull that information out of her when he got back. He shook his head slightly, took a deep breath and centered his energy, preparing to head into a Fine Arts Appraisal Standards class.
Thor dropped by to see Lyn that evening after she came home from work. She had the beer ready and made steakburgers, one of Thor’s favorite Midgardian foods. South Park was soon playing on the TV and the game up on their laptops. Trying to get a group together for a raid that night was challenging, and caused them both much aggravation.
“Why are people so fucking flaky on Friday nights?” Lyn grumbled. “This is the third healer that couldn’t hang, and DPS is like a revolving door. Don’t people want to get this achievement? Damn.”
“If this person steals my aggro one more time…” Thor rumbled under his breath.
They were quiet for awhile, the only sound in the room being the TV or mouse and keyboard clicks.
“Oh fuck no! Wiped? WIPED?! Come on, man! We were at 96%!” Lyn exclaimed.
Thor threw his hands up and looked to the ceiling in helplessness. “Why? WHY?” He moaned miserably.
“Shitty buzz.” Lyn said disgustedly.
Thor got up and said, “I need to get away from this for a few minutes.” He stretched and took his beer bottles into the kitchen. “Need anything while I’m up?”
“I don’t suppose I could con you into going upstairs and grabbing my eye drops out of the bathroom? Playing the damn game is making my eyes really dry and they’re starting to hurt.”
Thor agreed and headed upstairs to the bathroom. The eye drops were in the cabinet right next to the door, no big deal. He didn’t even really have to step into the room, just flip on the light lean in and…
He heard someone whisper from the bedroom.
He stopped and turned in the direction he’d heard the whisper. The bedroom was dark and shadowy. The shades were drawn and what little light was left outside lent a gloomy blue cast to the room. He stepped inside and looked around. There was no one there. Nothing seemed out of place. His eyes wandered across the large bed, neatly made. The dresser and vanity against the wall on the left, the closet doors on the right. He was regarding the closet when he heard the whisper again. This time it came from straight in front of him, from the night stand next to the bed. Stepping closer, he felt a strange coolness radiating from the nightstand. He reached out to touch the drawer and pull it open, but a weak force repelled his hand. It was only a minute sensation, but a clear one.
“What is this?” He whispered.
“Hey man! You find the drops OK?” Lyn called from downstairs.
Thor hesitated, wondering if he should bring this up to Lyn. He decided perhaps he should. Judging by the objects on top of the nightstand, it belonged to his brother. Thor’s heart sank. Could Loki be up to something? After all this time of living on Midgard? After what they’d been through on Asgard together? How could Loki do this?
“Yes. I overlooked them at first. Coming down.” He went into the bathroom, grabbed the drops and went back down.
After they had both settled in and watched a little TV, deciding the game was too damn frustrating for the night, Thor decided to segue into the topic of what he’d felt upstairs.
“Lyn, have you felt or heard anything strange upstairs?”
“What?” Lyn said, startled.
“While I was upstairs getting your eye drops. I heard something strange from the nightstand next to the closet. I felt a stream of cool air. Have you experienced this?”
Lyn looked back at him with wide eyes, not knowing what to say. Thor’s gaze had become very sharp as he gaged her response. “Yeah. I did. This morning. I also had a bunch of really weird dreams last night.”
“Is that Loki’s nightstand?” Thor asked.
“Yes.” Lyn answered simply.
They looked at each other for a few seconds. Thor couldn’t miss the fear in Lyn’s eyes. She was so afraid something would take Loki away from her. He knew exactly what she was feeling, as he felt it himself. “We need to investigate.” Thor said in a tired voice.
“Yeah.” Lyn said. “Come on.”
They headed upstairs to look into what was in Loki’s nightstand.
Enjoying dinner with a few new acquaintances, Loki suddenly knew Thor was on to the object in his nightstand drawer. He was well-versed in hiding reaction, and he didn’t let on to his present company that anything was bothering him until a break in the conversation allowed him to pretend his phone had vibrated and he had to take a call.
As soon as he found an alcove to slip into, he allowed his energy to flow away. His physical form seemingly disappeared, and he traveled through astral currents and eddies back to Lyn’s house. Horrified, he saw Lyn and Thor gathered around his nightstand. Neither of them seemed willing to open the drawer.
“YOU open it!” Lyn said to Thor. “Last time I did, it felt like a bunch of…weird thoughts flew out at me!”
Thor frowned. “I’ll open it.” He said, but his hand didn’t move towards the drawer yet.
Unseen from the doorway of the room, Loki sighed heavily. “Dolts.” He said.
“Hey…do you think it’s something bad? I mean, why would it be something bad?” Lyn babbled nervously. Thor looked at her. “It can’t be something bad. He wouldn’t…I mean…” she trailed off and folder her hands.
“Neither of you trust me. Typical. You’re not ready to know what it is though, and I can’t have you snooping about, sorry.” Loki said. He directed a strong camouflaging spell on the object, encasing it within the spell and damping any impression it may be giving out. At the same time, he deflected some of the effects of the object to the dagger in the drawer. The dagger itself was not a magical object, but it was a good receptacle for the physical manifestation Lyn and Thor picked up on. It would misdirect them in any case.
Thor pulled the drawer open and poked around inside. He drew back a bit and then shoved things around a little more, eventually pulling the dagger out. “This. I feel it on this.” He held it up in the light. “Have you seen anything like this before?” he asked Lyn.
She laughed, surprisingly. “There are things like that stashed all over this fucking house. I’ve seen them under the sink in the bathroom, in the kitchen, on the shelf over the washing machine. I’ve seen weird books and jewelry appear and disappear around here, I don’t know what any of that shit is, but I tend to ignore it. It’s…unsettling. I don’t want to know what it is.”
“You’ve never mentioned this before!” Thor said, shocked.
“No, because I’ve never felt anything from any of it. Maybe he’s…rubbing off on me now. I don’t know.”
Thor sighed. “Lyn, if you see anything strange, you have to promise to tell me. Loki is…”
Lyn didn’t let him finish. “Loki is my heart, Thor. If something were to happen to him, remember what I told you before? My first trip up there in clouds? What did I say?”
“I understand. Loki is also my heart. He is my brother, my family. We are united in our concern for him. We also have to be committed to keeping him from hurting himself. Do you not agree?”
Lyn frowned at him and looked around the room, remembering her own similar thought earlier that day. “I get what you’re saying.” She got up and walked towards the door. “Take that damn thing out of here and get rid of it. I don’t want to know what it is. I don’t hide things from him, though. If he asks where it is, I’ll have to tell him.”
Loki, still observing from the doorway said, “I can always count on you, dear. At least I am assured of that.” He stepped back and Lyn walked by him, without sensing his presence.
Thor stood up and followed, the dagger clutched in his hand, similarly not noticing Loki was there. After they had both left the room, Loki strengthened the cloaking spell on the object that was still in the drawer, hoping it would hold until his return. He returned back to solid physical form at the hotel and exhaled in relief as he leaned back against the wall. “Well, that was much too close.” He murmured as he turned on his charm again and headed back to his dinner, feeling a little more secure about the object now that he’d thwarted Thor and Lyn’s investigation. Those two were entirely too curious for their own good!