Chapter One: Loki
What did I do in life to deserve this? That was the first thought on Natalie McKenzie's mind when she found a dark-haired man in her living room, unconscious. Natalie was starting to be very glad she lived alone as she carefully went over to the man and knelt next to him. He didn't seem to be injured, but when she put a hand on his forehead, she noticed he had a pretty high fever.
Okay…. so I've got an unconscious guy who appears to be some kind of cosplayer on my floor, with no clue how he managed to get in, Natalie thought. And he's sick. Great…. I can't just leave him on the floor, so I guess I'd better wake him up and ask him why he's here.
She sighed and shook the man gently. No response. She shook him a little harder, and said, "Hey, wake up."
This time the man stirred and warily opened his eyes. They were the greenest eyes Natalie had ever seen, and after looking at his eyes for a moment, she shook herself out of thought and asked, "Who are you? And why are you in my apartment?"
The man looked at her warily for a minute or so, but finally said, "I am known as Loki."
"I'm Natalie. So…. why are you in my apartment?" Natalie asked.
"I have no idea," Loki said- then started coughing.
Natalie groaned. "Why aren't you at home?" she asked. "It's not good for you to be walking around when you're sick."
Loki eyed her with something akin to curiosity. "You are…. Unusual," he said finally.
"How exactly is asking why you're not home in bed when you've obviously got the flu 'unusual'?" Natalie asked irritably. "For most of us, that's a fairly normal reaction. You should be glad this isn't my mother's living room, or she'd first scream the place down and then go into 'mother hen mode' and you'd never get to leave."
Loki eyed her for another minute before saying, "Most would either hate or fear me; you have not done either. That is why I say you are unusual."
"You're not some serial rapist or something, right?" Natalie asked suspiciously. "Because if so, I am calling the police and letting THEM deal with you."
Loki looked offended for a brief moment before smoothing his facial features and saying with a hint of indignation, "I am NOT a rapist."
"So…. why do people fear you?" Natalie asked. Loki started coughing again before he could respond, and Natalie decided more questioning could wait. She got up and moved the ottoman in front of the couch, then unfolded it into a bed. She often had friends who needed a place to crash, so the sofa bed was always ready. She put a large pillow at the head of the bed and turned to Loki, then said, "I'll be back, I'm getting blankets. Stay put."
Loki just looked bemused, so Natalie went to get blankets, coming back from the closet with three and spreading them over the bed. She looked at Loki critically, and said, "I'm getting a spare pair of pajamas too. All that leather can't be comfortable for sleeping." She turned on her heel and went to her bedroom, picking out a pair of black sweatpants and on impulse, a green t-shirt. She took them back to Loki and asked, "Can you stand? You can change in the bathroom, and you can leave those boots in here."
"Why are you being nice?" Loki asked as he stood up somewhat shakily.
"You haven't given me a reason to be nasty," Natalie replied, handing him the pajamas. "Bathroom's around the corner." She pointed, and Loki hesitantly took the pajamas and followed her directions. When he was gone, Natalie sighed and vaguely wondered what she was getting into.
When Loki came back, he looked exhausted. Natalie took one look at him and said, "Bed. Now. You look like you're about to collapse."
"I am not about to collapse," Loki said.
"I'm not blind, Loki," Natalie sighed. She closed the curtains, darkening the room, and said firmly, "Go. To. Bed."
Loki grumbled something that sounded like cursing, and Natalie sighed, went over to him, and dragged him over to the sofa bed. She pulled back the blankets, pushed Loki down onto the bed, and gave him a stern look. He glared back, and Natalie asked, "Do you want to get better or not?"
"I do not understand why you are so concerned for my wellbeing," Loki said.
"I don't know either, but it feels right," Natalie said. "Are you going to bed?"
"No," Loki said grouchily. Natalie sighed and pushed him down against the pillows, then said, "I will sit on you if you don't go to sleep."
"Why exactly are you so insistent on having me sleep?" Loki asked irritably.
"You're sick and you won't get better if you don't sleep," Natalie said bluntly. "You're acting like a six-year-old, you know."
"If I agree to sleep, will you leave me alone?" Loki asked, ignoring the six-year-old comment.
"Yup, I'll be making dinner," Natalie said.
Loki looked at her somewhat warily, and she rolled her eyes. "I'm not going to poison it, if that's what you're worried about," she said. "Are you always this paranoid?"
"Maybe," Loki said.
Natalie sighed. "Okay then," she said. "I'll go make some kind of soup, and you should sleep. I promise I'm not going to kill you in your sleep or anything like that."
Loki just glared at her, and Natalie sighed, then went to the kitchen and started looking around. She didn't have the ingredients for chicken noodle soup, but she did have the ingredients for miso soup, so she started making that.
Half an hour later, the soup was done, and Natalie turned off the stove. She ladled some soup into a bowl, and got a spoon, then went back to Loki. She was somewhat surprised that he had actually fallen asleep, but got worried when she noticed he was shivering, and looked scared. Is he having a nightmare? she wondered. Setting the soup down on a table, she went over to Loki and gently put a hand on his cheek, saying, "Loki. Loki, wake up."
Loki's eyes shot open, but they looked blank, like he couldn't see her. "Loki, can you hear me?" Natalie asked gently. "You're safe here. No one is going to hurt you, I promise."
Loki's eyes slowly focused on her, and after a few moments he asked uncertainly, "Natalie?"
"Welcome back," Natalie said. "Do you want to talk about your nightmare?"
"No," Loki said.
"Alright, but let me know if you do want to talk," Natalie said. "I made miso soup, are you hungry?"
"I am fine," Loki replied, sitting up.
"That's not what I asked, I asked if you were hungry," Natalie said. "And you look way too thin to NOT be hungry."
"Why is it that you care?" Loki asked. "No one cares about me, and yet you go out of your way to help a person you have never met."
"Do you always need a reason to help someone?" Natalie asked. "You've already said you have no idea why you were in my living room, and since you obviously didn't come here to harm me, I see no reason not to help you. On top of that, you're sick. I'm not going to kick someone who's sick out onto the streets, no matter what. And I have no clue why no one cares about you, but that's just wrong. What about your family?"
An emotion Natalie correctly identified as pain flitted across Loki's face before he returned to looking stoic and said, "My 'family', as you call it, could care less about my wellbeing."
"Abusive upbringing?" Natalie asked.
Loki stared at her in shock. "I'll take that as a yes," Natalie said. "Loki, the ones who abused you are the ones at fault, not you. If you had been raised in a loving household, you wouldn't think the way you do. It's obvious that you think you don't deserve help or care, and that that idea was drilled into you by someone else. You believe you're worthless for some reason, most likely because whoever raised you also made sure you would remember their words on the matter. You also have an inferiority complex, most likely due to your parents having favoritism issues- which suggests you have a sibling. You've been living in said sibling's shadow your whole life, and were often reminded that you would never match up to him or her. Part of the feeling worthless thing you've got going is that you were probably told repeatedly that you'd never be as good as your sibling, and I wouldn't be surprised if you were punished for things your sibling did. Whether the abuse you suffered was physical, verbal, or both, it resulted in your current state. You believe that you deserve the abuse, because you've made mistakes that were made out to be bigger than they actually were. Your sibling could make the same mistakes and get a lesser punishment, therefore making you believe you were somehow inferior to him or her. Everyone is special in their own way, Loki. Whether or not you're good at sports or your studies, art or music, no two people are supposed to be exactly alike. Even identical twins can have different interests and excel at different things. I'm sure that whatever you're good at, just because it's not what your sibling is good at, does not make you less than them. You are not your sibling, and it's cruel and unfair of your parents to expect you to be exactly like your sibling. Whatever they did to you in the past is not your fault. The blame lies solely on your family, for not understanding that you are your own person and just because you can't excel at the same things as your sibling, doesn't make you weak or inferior."
Loki was gaping at her, completely shocked. "I take it I was right?" Natalie asked.
Loki nodded, still shocked. "Analyzing people is my talent," Natalie said. "It's why I went into training to be a therapist as opposed to a regular doctor. Well, that and the fact that becoming a regular doctor requires a class where they make you dissect things. I simply took cues from your behavior and your words, and put them into a logical form and explained them. I know it'll take more than one pep talk to convince you that you're not worthless and you don't deserve to be hurt, but I want you to remember that I, at least, don't believe you're worthless, and I certainly don't believe that you deserve to be hurt. No one deserves an abusive upbringing, no matter what your parents may have told you. And if you ever decide you need someone to talk to, I'll be here."
"…..Thank you," Loki said quietly.
"You're welcome," Natalie said with a smile. "I think you should get some sleep; it's after eleven already. I'm going to do the same; call if you need anything."
Loki nodded, and Natalie went off to get ready for bed.