Loki was indeed able to find a dress for you, although you never did find out how. You had been sitting with Deirdre on a couch in Loki's sleeping quarters, each of you in your own attire once more, trying to answer her endless questions about Midgard (or Earth as you were familiar with it)- when Loki re-entered the room with a deep purple gown draped over his arm. A pair of tiny purple slippers was in his fist along with some feminine undergarments.
You leapt to your feet, mouth dropping open at the beauty of the garment. Loki's mouth twitched in a smile and he tossed it and the undergarments to you and set the slippers on the floor.
"It's gorgeous!" you exclaimed, positively beaming as you unfolded the dress to get a better look at it. It had long, loose sleeves, a square neckline, and a high waist with a white, cord belt wrapped around it. The neck and sleeves were embroidered with tiny white vines.
"It will look lovely on you, I'm sure." Loki smiled at you, and your cheeks heated. "Try it on." You looked from him to Deirdre.
"I can't change in front of you!" you practically squeaked. Loki chuckled.
"I won't look, I promise," he said, turning his back to you. Deirdre stepped forward.
"I can help, if you wish," she offered softly. You merely nodded, still blushing, and began the process of undressing once more, wondering exactly how many times today you were going to have to disrobe in front of people. Loki kept his word, remaining facing the wall until you were fully clothed once more. The bodice of the dress fit like a second skin, the skirt hanging in soft folds down to your feet.
Loki gave a low whistle as he looked you up and down.
"I was wrong, you don't look lovely, you look absolutely stunning," he observed, raising an appreciative brow. Deirdre moved behind you, scooping your hair into her hands as you went positively crimson, quickly looking away from Loki's piercing gaze.
"May I suggest pinning up your hair?" she whispered in your ear. "It will look much better." You nodded, still unable to meet Loki's gaze.
Deirdre pulled some pins from her own hair, letting her blonde tresses fall over her shoulders, and began to comb your hair with her fingers, working out some stubborn knots before taking some separate strands and beginning to twist and braid with quick, skilful hands. Her touch was so gentle that you were beginning to feel sleepy when she finally announced that she was finished.
"Well, my Deirdre," Loki murmured, moving forward to toy with one of the strands that Deirdre had left to hang on either side of your face, "I must say you are good at what you do." His lips curved in a slow smile as you fidgeted nervously.
"Thank you, my lord," Deirdre breathed, giving a quick curtsey as a bell resounded suddenly.
"And that would be our queue to make our way to the banquet hall," Loki said, taking your arm in his. "Shall we?" Still red-faced, you nodded.
The banquet hall was as splendid as you imagined it would be, and simply enormous. There had to be at least a hundred people seated around the gigantic carved wooden table, but no one seemed crowded. More than a few faces turned your way with expressions of curiosity mingled with suspicion as Loki led you to the table where a spot was set out for you beside what you assumed was his chair, seeing as how it was upholstered with the same deep forest green that adorned most of his clothing.
Sending you a reassuring smile, he pulled out your chair for you. Mumbling your thanks, you took your seat, trying not to notice how the conversation around you seemed to cease as your arrival was noted.
"Loki." A dark-haired female nodded curtly at the prince, then fixed her chocolate brown eyes on you. She was breathtakingly beautiful, and yet she held an aura of strength and fury that made you think she was not to be trifled with. She wore armour of silver and a dark maroon, and her long hair was pulled back in a tight ponytail.
"Lady Sif." You thought Loki said her name with a hint of bitterness in his tone. Sif continued to stare at you until you began to wonder if there was something on your face.
"Is this the human?" a soft male voice cut in with cultured tones. You looked up to see a man with short blond hair swept to one side and a pointed goatee with a curled moustache. His armour was green and pale gold. He flashed you a crooked grin and winked one blue eye. He was handsome, no doubt, and you were slightly taken aback by his forwardness. Sif dug a sharp elbow into his ribs, causing him to let out a painful yelp.
"Fandral!" she scolded. "At least attempt some decorum!"
"Staring could be considered rude as well, fair lady," Fandral quipped, having regained his composure and taken his seat next to the glaring brunette. He did, however, lean casually out of her reach, giving her elbow a wary glance. Sif's cheeks went slightly pink and she suddenly found something very interesting to stare at on the other side of the room.
"Arguing already?" A booming voice joined the murmur of conversation and an enormous hand fell on Fandral's shoulder. You looked up to see the biggest man you had ever laid eyes on. He had to be almost seven feet tall and had a long, curly red beard and hair. His eyes crinkled with merriment. He wore red and silver armour, especially tailored to his rather large stomach.
"It's not as you think, Volstagg my friend," Fandral replied, giving the big man's hand a pat. "I was simply giving the newcomer a warm welcoming." Sif looked about to put her elbow to use again as Fandral shot you another bold grin. You felt Loki tense beside you and wondering what was eating him.
"Ah, I'm sure," Volstagg chuckled, giving Fandral a resounding slap on the shoulder and taking a seat beside him. Another man you had not previously noticed seated himself on the other side of Volstagg. He looked to be of Asian decent, with straight black hair pulled back in a warrior's ponytail. His armour was black and silver. He gave you a polite nod, his face remaining expressionless.
"Hogun!" Fandral exclaimed, leaning forward on the table to flash the Asian man a brilliant grin. "I must say, you look especially chipper today! Just look at that smile!"
Confused, you looked to Hogun and back to Fandral. There was no trace of amusement on Hogun's face whatsoever. Sif's lips twitched in a slight smile and Volstagg let out a roar of laughter.
Loki let out a weary sigh.
"I realize it might be a bit of a challenge, but could you try to refrain from your usual mindless drivel tonight?" he droned, sounding utterly bored, fixing Fandral with a half-lidded gaze. "We have a guest."
"Noted," Fandral replied, losing some of the mirth in his tone as he met Loki's cold stare with his own. "Although I should think that the lady is able to speak for herself."
Embarrassed, you wished you could slide under the table, but instead gave Loki a pointed glare and shifted away from him. He met your gaze with a look of complete indifference.
"What ails you?" You couldn't believe he had the nerve to ask, after how rude he had just been to the others. Not even deigning to reply, you busied yourself with tracing the carved edge of the table with your fingernail. Loki made a sound in his throat that sounded suspiciously like a snort and didn't say another word.
Sif cleared her throat, glancing around at the awkwardly silent group.
"Well that went well," she commented sarcastically. Then she looked at you. "I'd like to say we're not usually like this, but that would be a lie." She actually smirked. "I am Sif, as you know, and these are the Warriors Three." She indicated Fandral, Volstagg, and Hogun. "We are comrades to the princes, Thor and Loki." She looked at Loki as she said his name. "Well, most of the time."
"Yes and any friend of my brother's is a friend of mine." You turned to see Thor standing behind you, and were astounded to see him actually smiling at you.
"Uh, thanks," you reply, wondering what had brought about the sudden change in attitude. Thor took his seat on the other side of Loki to a chorus of cheerful greetings from Sif and the Warriors Three. Even Hogun almost smiled. Almost. It was easy to see which brother was more favoured, although after Loki's rude display you found yourself inclined to take their side.
"So what is for dinner tonight?" Volstagg boomed, slapping his gut. "I'm famished!"
"Patience Volstagg, we must await the arrival of the Allfather and his queen," Sif addressed the big man, chuckling.
"I'm fairly sure you aren't going to waste away, my friend," Fandral joked, poking his large companion in the side and getting rewarded with another booming laugh.
Almost on queue, a chorus of trumpets rang out, and everyone rose from their seats, looking to one end of the hall. Odin entered, still clad in his golden armour with a long flowing cape of deep scarlet. He no longer wore his helmet. Frigga was at his side, her pale green gown sweeping the floor as she moved with him to the table.
"Hail Allfather," everyone said in unison, surprising you. You looked around to see them placing their fists over their hearts, and you did the same. Odin smiled.
"As you were," he said, voice echoing through the hall. Everyone seated themselves again and chatter broke out once more. Frigga seated herself beside Thor, Odin at the head of the table. You suddenly realized that your placement at the table was actually one of honour and blushed furiously, staring at your lap.
"And how are my subjects on this beautiful day?" the Allfather asked. A chorus of voices answered cheerfully, and Odin chuckled. "Good, good." His gaze fell upon you and Loki. "As you can see, we have a rather special guest in our midst." With a wave of his hand, he indicated for you to stand. You did, feeling very small in the big hall. Loki stood as well, his hand brushing your back in a show of support. Still slightly aggravated with him, you shifted your weight and leaned away from his touch. Voices murmured around the hall as the Asgardians gazed upon you as if you were some sort of exotic animal.
"She comes a long way from Midgard, and we welcome her warmly," Odin continued, looking around at his subjects. "I have placed her under the protection of my son Loki for the time being."
Immediately a roar of disbelief erupted around the great table. It took Odin two tries to regain everyone's attention. "I expect her to be treated with respect and dignity as befits the companion of a prince of Asgard." Again, whispers and stares. It was becoming increasingly obvious to you that Odin's trust in his son was not shared by the general population. You began to feel a twinge of unease in your gut. What exactly had Loki done to cause so many to distrust him?
"Now, let us feast!" Odin waved his hands over the table before seating himself, and suddenly where there was once empty platters, there was now an enormous spread of more food than you could ever have dreamt of. Some dishes you didn't even recognize. Large goblets had appeared at every place setting, filled with a golden brown liquid.
Volstagg wasted no time in filling his plate to overflowing with numerous different legs of meat. Thor did much the same. Loki grimaced at his brother's choice of meal and dished some fresh vegetables onto his own plate beside the side of lamb he had chosen. There was an awkward moment when he and Sif reached for the same platter at the same time. After staring at each other for a moment, he let Sif take it. You were so busy trying to decide what to try first, the lamb or the boar, that you almost didn't hear Loki's question.
"I said do you prefer wine or mead?" he repeated, mildly annoyed at being ignored.
"Oh, uhm," you look at the goblet. "I really don't know. I don't drink." Loki sighed, mumbling something about mortals, and waved a slender hand over your goblet. Instantly you noticed the contents shift in colour. Wide-eyed, you gaped at him.
"How did you do that?" you asked. Loki smiled, almost shyly.
"Your people call it science, we call it magic," he replied. "Either way, you'll be pleased to know that your goblet is now filled with fruit juice. Non-alcoholic and perfectly harmless." He cleared his throat awkwardly and returned to his meal.
"Thank you," you mumbled, a bit surprised at the act of kindness, and took a sip. The juice was very sweet. Eventually you decided on lamb and bravely tried a few spoonfuls of some of the less recognizable dishes. Everything was delicious.
It was indeed a feast, and even after you had to admit to being too full to eat another bite, others continued to dig in. Loki pushed his plate away shortly after you did, and you both watched in silent amusement as Volstagg and Thor seemed to be having a bit of a competition. Fandral was on his umpteenth goblet of mead and was currently trying his charms on Sif, who did not look amused. Even Hogun chuckled when Sif gave Fandral a slap after a particularly bold comment.
You were surprised when a hand brushed over yours which was resting on the table top. You looked up at Loki, who smiled down at you.
"If you wish, we may leave at any time." Something about the way his eyes fixed on yours made your heart skip a beat.
"Sure, okay," you replied, biting your lip. His smile widened and he stood, not taking his hand from yours as he helped you to your feet.
"Retiring already, brother?" The question came from Thor around a mouthful of roast meat. Loki smirked at how ridiculous his brother looked at the moment.
"Yes, it's been a long day, for some of us more than others," Loki replied, casting you a sideways glance. Almost by suggestion alone, you found yourself suppressing a yawn.
"Well, I bid thee goodnight then!" Thor waved a drumstick, and you couldn't help but giggle. Fandral even managed to wink and wave, although you weren't certain whether he wasn't seeing double at this point. After a few more exchanged goodnights, Loki took your arm to lead you out of the hall. Neither of you were expecting Sif to appear by your side.
"Loki." She moved to block his path. "May I have a word with the Midgardian?" You felt his grip on your arm tighten, but then he nodded and let go.
"I'll be outside," he murmured in your ear before sauntering away. You tried not to watch him walk away, and instead shifted your attention to the tall brunette, giving her a curious glance.
"My apologies if I came across as rude earlier," she said, her voice sincere. You found yourself smiling at her. Despite her tough exterior and obvious dislike for Loki, you could see yourself being good friends with the warrior maiden.
"It's all right; I understand why you'd be a little hesitant about me," you say, fiddling with the fabric of your skirt. Sif smiled, but her eyes remained watchful.
"It is not you I do not trust," she replied softly, glancing over her shoulder in the direction Loki had gone. "It's him."