Sif was still in the Healer's Ward, so she wasn't there to annoy Loki at breakfast. It was a welcome change.

Loki was in a very good mood. He had managed to say all of that to his parents without stuttering. The lie was kept simple and straightforward so it was easy to remember. Thor had even played along like Loki hoped he would, jumping in when Loki's voice faltered. That worked amazingly well.

I wonder just how good of a lie I can weave.

When they arrived in the dining hall, Thor went right over and sat across from Fandral and Hogun. Fandral greeted him moodily and Hogun bowed his head respectively. Despite their clashing personalities Hogun and Fandral had become good friends, and these past few days Thor had been eating with them. Loki knew they would be better friends than Jaro and his pack.

Fandral had taken a break from eating and was looking in a pocket mirror, brushing his fingers through his hair as he sulked. He, like Thor, had been wooing Sif, entranced by her golden hair. Now it was gone with her beauty.

"What did you do to Sif?" Fandral asked, setting the mirror beside his food to better glare at Loki.

He would have to be careful in his verbal attack on Loki, so he wouldn't get Thor upset.

"Hmm?" Loki asked. "I never got a chance to get even," he whistled his notes as he reached for a strawberry, and Slítas poked its head out again. "She doesn't like snakes." He ate a strawberry in one bite, feeling a bit of juice run down his lip. He licked it from his lips. "Seems some other mage beat me to it when they got rid of her hair, I like theirs better."

"You do know Eir can't make her hair grow back?" Fandral demanded. "You did not need to shame her so."

"It is that strong?" Loki frowned.

He knew from the mess of Sif's room that the curse was powerful, but that powerful? Loki had bad feeling that he had made a novice's mistake of trying a curse too advanced for his level, and then let his anger for Sif color the curse and weaken his control. Too late he realized that he didn't know the counter for it. Maybe he could speak to Freyja, the leader of Asgards mages. No, he was better off trying to figure out how to undo it himself.

Wait a minute, undo it? Why would he do that?

With Thor and Fandral sulking, and Loki busy thinking about his magic, the meal was eaten quietly. Hogun, as ever, didn't say anything.

Everyone was almost done with their breakfast, and Loki was eating the last of the strawberries. He loved strawberries. There was one more on his plate and he had just plucked it up when Thor accidently knocked over his mug.

"Thor," Loki muttered, annoyed. A wave of his empty hand fixed the mess.

He went to take a bite out of the strawberry and it wasn't in his hand anymore. "What?"

He turned his hand over and looked down to his chair and the floor to see if he had dropped it by accident. "Where did my strawberry go? That was the last one!"

Fandral snickered, but held his hands in surrender when Loki glared at him.

"Your sleeve is moving brother," Thor warned.

Loki looked at the sleeve and gave an exasperated sigh. He shook his arm. A strawberry fell out. Midway to the table his cobra's head snapped out of the jacket and plucked its treat in midair. Then it retreated back up Loki's sleeve with its prize.

"Get out you rascal," Loki ordered.

Hogun and Fandral stopped eating and watched. Is there a snake in his sleeve? Fandral thought warily.

Loki shook his arm again, but neither strawberry nor snake fell out. Exasperated, Loki shrugged off his jacket. The cobra was curled loosely around his arm, one wrap holding the strawberry in place.

"That's the last strawberry, now give," Loki ordered, shaking his arm.

This time both snake and strawberry fell to the table. The cobra curled around the strawberry, head low to the table, holding its tail as if it were going to strike with that. Loki reached forward carefully, but was still not fast enough to avoid the snake as its tail cracked him on the back of his hand.

"Ow," Loki whined. There was a red mark on the back of his hand shaped like the cobra's tail. "Now I know why you're called a Whipsnapper," he retorted at the snake.

The snake flicked out its tongue at Loki, crystals flashing light blue in amusement. Thor started laughing.

"All right, if you're so good you get my strawberry back," Loki dared his brother.

"Fine," Thor never backed away from a dare. He held out a hand to Slítas, leaning forward. "Give me that strawberry little serpent," Thor cooed.

The snake puffed its hood warningly and when that failed to deter Thor, cracked his hand to. Thor yelped and jerked his hand back, looking at the red stripe in surprise.

Loki rolled his eyes. "I already tried that."

Thor growled something and moved his untouched oatmeal to one side to pick up his spoon. He carefully moved the spoon handle closer to the cobra. Slítas hissed warningly, crystals turning pink, tail moving a bit like a rattlesnakes.

Thor wisely hesitated. Then he moved the spoon forward again. Irritated, Slítas snapped out his tail and grabbed the spoon. It was neatly torn from Thor's grasp. Slítas wrapped his tail around it.

So the tail is prehensile, Loki thought, impressed.

The cobra transferred the spoon to its mouth, and gnawed on it. After a moment, its jaws snapped shut and the spoon snapped, the two halves clattering to the table. He brushed the pieces way with his tail and tore off another piece of the strawberry.

The Godlings gawked.

Loki knew it had impressive jaw strength proportionate to its size, but he did not know it had that much. It was barely two feet long and it had just snapped a spoon. Those things hurt when you got whacked by one, and they were not easy to break.

"I think I'll let him have it," Thor wisely submitted and leaned back in his char.

When the cobra finished off the strawberry, it neatly picked up the stem with its tail and set it on Loki's plate. Then it slithered over to the table's edge in front of Loki. It held itself up, and bobbed his heard in uncertainty when Loki kept his distance. Loki glared at it before holding out his right hand.

The cobra quickly wrapped itself around Loki's arm until it got to his neck. Then it nuzzled him gently and settled his head down with a click. Sighing, Loki scratched it between its eyes, its crystals flashing a dark, relaxed, blue. Loki put his jacket back on and the snake disappeared from sight. He really spoiled that serpent.

Loki winced as he later walked to the Healer's Ward. Under his mother's watch he had jsut tried to teleport. It was something he'd had his eye on for a while now. Amazingly, he'd managed to teleport, but his magic hadn't liked it much. With his lessons over with his mother, he decided to head down to the healers and see if they had something to help his magic. Slítas had been left snoozing on his mother's windowsill in the sun.

Really, it was an excuse. His magic would be fine, but he had another reason why he wanted to go there. He wanted to see if the healer's alycote named Sigyn was back yet. She had been on Alfheim for the past month, permitted to go there for a time and study at an elfin college. It was a rare chance, and if Fey wasn't her aunt she likely wouldn't have been able to go.

She was due back any day now, and the only place Loki knew to find her was the ward. Since Loki was a mage now he wodnered if he coudl talk Sigyn into helping teach him some healing spells. Knowing Thor, they would come in handy.

Of course, that plan only worked if Sigyn didn't pass out when she saw him. He still didn't understand why she seemed to get so fluttery whenever she saw him. There was no sign of Sigyn when in the ward, and for some reason he felt sad. He didn't understand it.

Fey glanced up from the patient she was helping. They looked like they had a broken arm. Breaks healed quickly but the bone could heal misaligned if you weren't careful, so most wanted a healer to check. There was a soothing mist of magic surrounding the patients arm as she worked. The patient was a boy about Loki's age with dark red hair. He wasn't looking in Loki's direction though.

"Back again?" Fey asked him.

"M-my magic burned me when I did a teleport," Loki offered. He glared at himself for stuttering.

Loki must truly miss Sigyn if he's using an excuse like that to come in here and see if she's present. "Go into the storage. I sent an alycote in there a moment ago. They can help you find something."

Loki nodded and followed her directions, ducking into the storage room of herbs and potions.

"All right Angborn," Fey said as she let go of the boy's hand. "It's fixed. Do try not to break it again."

"Yes, ma'am," Angborn told her, his mannerisms perfected by his father Eirill. He hopped off the bed and left.

Loki meanwhile, paused in the doorway to let his eyes adjust to the dimmer lighting. He saw a small girl taking some leaves out of a jar. For some reason, he felt himself smiling when he recognized her. Why am I so happy to see her?

"Hello, Sigyn," he greeted the girl anyway.

The young alycote glanced at him, saw it was Loki, and let out a little eep and jumped back. Her work was knocked to the ground, but Loki snapped out a hand and caught it in midair magically. His magic felt the strain as he levitated it back up to the counter.

"L-Loki!" Sigyn stuttered. Her long gold corn gold hair cascaded in front of her face as if she were hiding behind it. "I didn't hear you," she said quietly, not daring to meet his eyes.

Loki shrugged, "I'm quiet."

Sigyn nodded in agreement and tried to slow her racing heartbeat, or at least stop blushing.

"When did you get back?" Loki asked.

Sigyn found herself trapped in his beautiful emerald eyes and the silken tone of his voice, and so almost missed the question.

"M-Me? Um, yesterday night." She looked down to the floor. Loki was as entrancing as ever. "It was fascinating. I saw the elves prince and his foster sister."

She was blushing fiercely, and didn't have the faintest idea what to say. The last thing she wanted to do was make a fool of herslef in front of Loki. "I heard about what you did with Nira. That was really brave fighting her. And you used an Infinity Gem to do it. Normally, only gods can use them."

Loki glanced away pointedly. "It burned my hands nicely enough, a little reminder that I am mortal." He didn't need praise.

Sigyn liked that. There was a difference to him now that she couldn't quite identify. Part of it is because he's using magic now but the rest of it is something else. He's confident, she realized. "Um, I uh, what can I help you with. Are you injured?"

"My magic got singed a bit when I did a teleport, do you have a potion?" Loki asked.

He didn't understand why Sigyn always stuttered around him. For another odd reason, Loki never felt nervous around her.

"Magic?" Sigyn blinked. "You're using magic? I mean, I heard about it but, you're already trying teleporting. That's advanced."

"I can do it," Loki replied defensively. "I did do it; I just didn't do it perfectly."

"I didn't say you couldn't," Sigyn waved a hand. "It's just surprising. Let me get the potion." She held up a hand and a small bottle levitated off the upper shelf to rest in her hands. Quickly, she set it on the worktable and took out a clean glass shot glass – they worked remarkable well to give someone a dose.

She filled it a third full. "Here, this should soothe your magic. You might want to wait until you have something sweet to wash it down with before you drink." Sigyn held out the glass to Loki without looking at him.

"Another potion that tastes like stale swampwater?" Loki asked tiredly.

Sigyn felt a small smile, "yes."

"You should make a potion that's actually edible," Loki told her.

"Most things that taste sweet don't have medicinal properties," Sigyn warned him.

"Then add an extra ingredient in," Loki shrugged. "You're going to be chief healer here one day, I bet you could Sig."

Sigyn stopped before she could respond. "C-Chief? Me!" Did he just call me Sig instead of Sigyn?

"Yeah," Loki repeated, "who else? Eir was chief healer until he passed it on to his daughter Fey, and you're her niece."

Sigyn thought about that.

"Is there a spell I could use instead of the swampwater?" Loki asked after giving her a few seconds to muse. He held up the shotglass.

"Yes, but it's not severe enough to need it," Sigyn promised him. The spell also required physical contact which she didn't think she could do without making a fool of herself.

"That's alright," Loki told her. "Hey, now that I'm an active mage, could you show me some healing spells?"

"I'm still learning them myself!" Sigyn exclaimed.

"The best way to learn is to sometimes teach another," Loki offered, "you'd perfect your skills showing me how to do it."

"M-M may, maybe later," Sigyn told him. She was getting more and more flushed.

"All right, bye Sig and thanks." Loki bowed and walked back out.

The instant Loki was out of sight Sigyn gave into her wooziness and collapsed into a heap. She leaned back and banged her head on the wood counter.

Loki brushed by Eir on his way out of the ward, a smile on his face that he couldn't explain. Eir's face was dark and he overheard Eir address mention Sif's name. He didn't stop walking until he was out of the ward, and then ducked to one side so he could listen.

"Nothing is working," Eir told Fey. "The curse is simply too powerful. The user's emotions took over control of it."

"Do you believe that Sif says it was Loki?" Fey asked, "She's been telling it to everyone."

"Loki is a very young mage," Eir contradicted, "and under normal circumstances, no. Loki however, is no longer normal. We still do not what effect the Tesseract's magic had on him."

"There have been no physical changes though," Fey told him.

"Magic is different," Eir promised. "There is some evidence that his magic is not the same now."

"He never truly used his magic before the Tesseract," Fey argued. "We have nothing to base his current powers on. No control, no standard, and no way to make an assumption because we don't know what his magic was like before."

"That is true," Eir admitted, "and the blood samples don't point out to his DNA being tampered with. None the less, I don't think he's stable anymore."

Loki tensed. Fey was quiet. Not… stable?

Loki held his hands in front of him, palms up, fingers curled slightly. What does Eir mean? I feel fine. My memories of my fight with Nira are a little fuzzy, but that's all. I don't know what Eir's talking about. There's nothing wrong with me. Nothing! I'm just fine!

Fey jumped as one of the glass vials near her shattered.

Loki peered around the corner at the dust and shards. He swallowed as he felt his magic drop in response to the spell. Had he jsut broken that? No, it wasn't. It couldn't have been me.

Troubled, Loki quickly hurried down the hallway. He wasn't seen by the duo.

"Fey," Sigyn called out, "what was that?"

"Nothing," Fey told her.

Eir began to leave.

"Eir," she added to her father.

Eir turned curiously, and Fey walked briskly over to him. She leaned in close as she whispered, "When were you going to tell me that Loki is Jötunn?"

Eir's reply choked off. "What? Where do you get that idea?"

"I looked at his blood samples," Fey explained, "the ones that you didn't let any other healer touch. What was the excuse you used? Cross-contamination from the latent Tesseract energy in his bloodstream? You were acting all worried that the Tesseract's energy might jump to their magic."

Eir looked down at the white tiles. There were several agonizing seconds of silence.

"It's a long story," he said at last.

Fey stepped back. She looked as if she had just been slapped. "So Loki is Jötunn."

Eir nodded. "I will tell you about it when we are in more secure circumstances."

With that, Eir went off in another direction. Fey was left to stare after him. How could something like that be true? If Loki was Jötunn, then what was he doing being raised as a member of Asgard's royal family?

Sigyn came out of the supply closet with several bundles of herbs in her hands. She noticed Fey staring after Eir with an uncomprehending expression.

"Is everything alright?" Sigyn asked.

Sigyn's question brought Fey back to reality. Was everything all right? Hardly.

"Fine," Fey lied. She fixed the broken glass with a wave of her hand. "It was just an accident."

Sigyn didn't answer. She was too busy looking at the counter as she set her ingredients on it in preparation to refill a simple sedative.

Fey smiled, "Loki?" She saw Sigyn's color return. "If you like Loki that badly then maybe you should say something about it."

Horror filled Sigyn's eyes at the thought of actually confronting Loki and the fool that she would make of herself. "I'm fine," she promised Fey quickly and went back to her potion.

Fey, grateful for a distraction, let it rest. While Sigyn started to measure out ingrediants, Fey looked to where her father was watching a younger healer mend someone's wounds.

I wonder, Fey thought darkly. Just how many other Asgardians know what Loki truly is?

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