Disclaimer: No, Loki doesn't belong to me...yet! All characters belong solely to Toma Rei.
"Princess," Loki called as Nakaba shook her head clear of the Arcana of Time. "Was it Caesar again?"
Nakaba gazed out over the balcony. "He has done what he needed to do, just as I have done what I needed to," she said, detached.
Loki took a step toward her, wishing for nothing more than to wrap her in his arms. She continued to stare out at nothing in particular. As the sun sank behind the horizon, she finally turned to him. Adele chose that time to make his appearance.
"Nakaba," he sighed. "How many times have I told you not to allow other men into your bedchamber? You are my wife and I don't want any other man in here, especially when I'm not around." He glared at Loki and approached Nakaba.
"I married you for political purposes and Loki is not just 'some other guy,'" she snapped. "He his my closest companion and advisor. He can go wherever I want him to." She jumped down from the balcony wall and stormed into, and out of, her room.
Loki smirked at Adele. The prince snarled at the ajin and stormed after his wife. Loki watched as they disappeared down the hall. Nakaba was as fiery as ever and if the prince thought for even a moment he could tame her, he was dead wrong. Loki sighed and turned to watch the last of the sun's rays disappear.
Nakaba grasped her sheets in a death grip, her scream still echoing off the walls of her room. A sheen of sweat covered her brow and her heart pounded in her chest. Loki, leaving his perch on her balcony, ran to her side. He knelt next to her bed and took her face in his hands. Her eyes were just returning to normal after using her Arcana of Time. Loki felt her trembling body and worried at what she saw.
"Caesar..." she began, and sucked back a sob. "Louis is with child."
Loki pulled her against his chest and wrapped his arms around her. His heart ached for her. Unable to contain her grief, she gripped his robe in her fists and sobbed. Loki comforted her the only way he knew how, with his own arms. After several minutes, she pulled away, apologizing for the tear stains on his robe.
"How do you do it?" she asked. "How are you able to bury your feelings for me and stay by my side?"
After a moment, Loki answered honestly. "With great effort, princess. I pains me every time I see you hurt. I have to restrain myself from pulling you against me, from wanting to take you away from all of this. It's a constant battle and some days are harder than others. Seeing you use the Arcana of Time so frequently puts me ill at ease." He took her face in his hands and tilted it up to him. "But I'd rather bare it and be by your side, than to be unable to ever stand with you again."
"Loki," she cried, wrapping her arms around his neck. "You have always been beside me and you always will be. You've always been loyal and faithful. I can only imagine your pain."
Loki held her back, relishing in the feel of her in his arms. "It isn't so bad," he mumbled into her hair. "At least I can still see you and serve you."
Nakaba pulled back and gazed into his silver eyes. He wondered at her intense look and was just about to comment when he felt her slender fingers on his ears. As she stroked the soft fur, he closed his eyes and sighed.
"Loki," she whispered, leaning down. "Show me how to forget him."
The Ajin felt her breath fan across his lips as her fingers curled behind his head and entangled in his hair. His eyes shot open just as her lips met his. The ecstasy of feeling her lips against his overruled his shock and he closed his eyes. A moment later, he was kissing her back, his fingers entangled in her red hair. She moaned and Loki nearly lost control. He leaned her back into the bed as he rose to his feet.
"Loki," she mumbled.
The Ajin pulled back and looked down at her flushed face. He found her intoxicating and ran his fingers gently down her cheek. Her emerald eyes sparkled as she stared up at him.
"I love you, Nakaba," he mumbled, kneeling next to her bed and resting his head on her chest. He didn't even need his sensitive hearing to know her heart pounded.
Nakaba wrapped her arms around his head, fighting back a sob. "I love you, too, Loki."
Several moments passed is silence as Nakaba organized her thoughts. Loki felt tense, waiting for her to speak, to push him away, to do something...
Without a word, she wrapped her arms around him. He felt the change immediately. Nakaba was opening to him like a flower blooming. Without even considering the consequences, he pulled her to him, embracing her with all the passion he felt.
The following morning, Loki stared out across Nakaba's balcony. His hands ran absently through her red hair, which had begun to grow back out. Stretched across his bare chest, her hand rested over his heart. She slept soundly, exhausted after their night together. Loki thought back, savoring in the memory she gave him.
Nakaba, his princess, his heart...had gifted him with her love, her affection, and ultimately, her innocence. Loki had been as gentle as possible. Still, her muffled cry against his neck as he pushed past her innocence haunted him. She'd assured him that she was fine, and after some time, he began to believe her. She pulled him close and captured his lips in an all-consuming kiss that engulfed him.
From then on, he didn't think. He simply followed the instinct ingrained within him. Nakaba opened to him, following in the age-old dance and for a time, it was just the two of them. There was no Caesar, no Adele, no warring countries. Just two people desperately in love.
Long fingers of sunlight stretched over the rails of the balcony. Loki knew he needed to get up; that Adele could come in at any moment and everything would be over. But the thought of moving out from under his beloved princess was anything but appealing. He ran his fingers gently down her back, savoring in the satin feel of her skin.
As the sun crested over the balcony rail, Loki heard footsteps approaching. Adele would reach Nakaba's room in another minute. Loki kissed her gently on her hair and slipped out from beneath her. Tucking the blankets around her naked form, he then dressed quickly and slipped out to the balcony. If he were human, the fall would cause some serious damage. Luckily, he wasn't. He leapt over the rail, disappearing just as Adele burst through the bedroom door. Nakaba's scream of indignation carried out the balcony doors and it was all Loki could do to keep from going back in there.
On the one hand, he found it humorous. Nakaba railed at her husband. Given Adele's silence, Loki believed the man was properly chagrined. On the other hand, the Ajin was furious. Nakaba did a fair job reprimanding the prince but deep down, Loki felt it was his responsibility. Nakaba had chosen him, had given herself to him, and Loki had made her his mate and life partner. He should be the one to face Adele. The Ajin wanted nothing more than to shout to the world that his princess had finally chosen him. But he couldn't, and it tore at his heart.
Nakaba's anger had finally died down after Adele's mumbled apology and departure. But for Loki, his torture had just begun. The thoughts he had banished the night before returned with a vengeance. All the reasons why he had kept his distance from Nakaba in the past flooded his mind. The world would never accept them being together. Nakaba would not be able to accomplish her goals if she forsook her current path and chose him. And, at some point, Adele would want a real marriage with her. The Ajin knew he wouldn't be able to handle that. He could never let anyone have his princess. It was a miracle he'd been able to protect her this long.
Tearing at his hair, Loki collapsed against the wall below Nakaba's balcony. He fought back the sob that threatened to escape from his throat and clenched his teeth. Sharp canines pierced the delicate skin of his lips and he welcomed the pain. He'd rather deal with physical pain than the fire that roared within him. Several minutes passed before the Ajin found the strength to move.
"Loki," he heard Nakaba say softly above him.
He knew she couldn't see him and wondered if she planned to call for him. He waited a moment to see if she would speak again. A second later, she shattered his world.
"What have we done?" she cried, her voice trembling with despair.
The anguish Loki felt brought him to his knees. 'Please don't feel regret,' he thought. 'Anything but that!'
A soft sob reached him and he grabbed the fabric over his heart. He feared the organ would pound clear out of his chest if he didn't hold it back.
"Loki," Nakaba called again, her voice suddenly clear of any emotion. "I know you are near. Come to me."
Loki looked up at the balcony. Gathering all the strength he had, he pulled himself together, buried all traces of anguish, and began to scale the wall. By the time he reached the balcony, he had schooled his features into his usual mask of serenity. As soon as his feet touched the stone, he knelt down on one knee, his hand crossed over his chest and head bowed low.
"You called, Princess?" he asked, his voice hiding all emotion.
Nakaba hesitated a moment. As she began to make her way over to him, Loki felt her indecision. He cursed his pounding heart. It took every bit of his self-control to remain as he was, a statue on her balcony. Her tiny, slippered feet came into view at the edge of his vision, her nightgown swaying gracefully around her ankles. Loki closed his eyes. Suddenly, he felt gentle fingers caressing the soft fur of his ears. He sucked in a deep breath, losing control of his iron will. On his exhale, his shoulders gave a great shudder.
Nakaba dropped to her knees in front of him and placed her hands on either side of his head, just behind his ears. She ran her thumbs torturously over them and Loki shuddered again.
"Loki," she said, gently. "Look at me."
Loki shook his head. That was one command he could not follow. He didn't want her to see his anguish. He didn't want to see pity in her eyes. Most of all, he didn't want her to confirm his worst fears.
Silence followed his answer. Nakaba continued to stoke his ears and, for a moment, Loki wished he had looked up, just to see her expression. Just as the silence proved to much and he resolved to lift his head, she pulled him into her arms, cradling his head to her bosom. His arms wrapped around her on their own and she squeezed him tightly. Loki felt her trembling violently and held her tighter.
"Shhh," she said, stroking his midnight hair. "It's alright."
Her words confused him until he realized that it wasn't she who was trembling. He forced his muscles to relax and the trembling stopped. Nakaba sat back on her heels, releasing him along the way. She tilted his head up and looked into his silver eyes. His mask had fallen and every raw emotion he felt was clear for her perusal. She gave him a sad smile, tears rimming her emerald eyes. With a gently touch, she brushed her thumb over his cheeks, wiping away tears he hadn't even known were there.
"I know what you're thinking," she said. "Don't. I love you, Loki. And I will never regret what happened last night. I'll keep it here, in my heart, in the same place I keep you. I need you to be strong because if you fall apart, I won't have the strength to do what needs to be done. Can you do that for me?"
For a split second, just long enough for his demons to escape their prison, Loki thought of Nakaba as a cruel master. He quickly reigned his thoughts in, angry at their errant ways. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath and schooled his features. He resolved to never again burden her with his feelings. As he opened his eyes again, he smiled. Nakaba returned his smile but Loki saw past it. She was fighting just as hard as he was. She stroked his ear one last time and leaned forward, placing a chaste kiss against his lips.
"Thank-you," she whispered, her forehead resting against his.
"Anything for my princess," he responded, running his fingers gently down her face.
A sudden knock on the door made both jump. Loki quickly got to his feet and then helped Nakaba to hers. He stood just inside her bedroom with the balcony behind him as Nakaba went to answer the door. No sooner had she turned the handle, than Adele swept into the room. The prince's eyes immediately went to Loki, standing across the room, a sentry just inside the door.
"How did you get in here without me noticing?" He demanded.
"Don't worry about Loki," Nakaba called, disappearing behind her changing screen.
"Nakaba, love, I thought you said you'd be ready by now," Adele said, dismissing the Ajin.
Loki remained impassive on the surface but an inferno burned within him. The prince had turned from him and began making his way to Nakaba's changing screen and continued with a conversation the Ajin had tuned out. It took everything Loki had to stand his ground. He turned slightly, so that he focused his gaze outside of the room. Several minutes later, Nakaba emerged from behind her changing screen, wearing a simple dress Adele insisted she wear while on outings with him. Loki didn't spare them a glance until he heard Nakaba call him. He bowed as she approached.
"I need you to stay here while I'm out," she said.
"Princess, I insist that you reconsider," he said, standing up straight and looking at her. He fought to hide his look of betrayal. "It isn't safe."
"I'll be fine, Loki," she said gently, seeing past his façade. "Prince Adele will be with me. You don't have to worry."
Defeated, Loki crossed his arm over his chest and bowed again. "As you wish."
Loki didn't have to look up to see Adele's smirk; he could feel it in the air around him. Nakaba turned from the bowing Ajin and, collecting the prince, swept from the room, leaving Loki alone in the echoing chamber. The Ajin remained as he was for a few more minutes, trying desperately to organize his thoughts. With a sigh, he lifted his head and looked around the room.
The chamber was surprisingly bare, given Nakaba's station. Loki made his way to the only thing that really stood out as "hers"; the large canopied bed that dominated the room. He ran his hand down the cool silk of the bedclothes before kicking off his boots and crawling under them. Nakaba's scent permeated his nose and he inhaled deeply. Closing his eyes, he did what he always told Nakaba not to do; he slipped in his own Arcana of Time.
This vision was different than others he'd had before. Something had changed. He turned his head side-to-side, trying to make since of what he was seeing. Nakaba's scream grabbed his attention and he followed it to a dark room. The door banged on the wall behind it as he slammed it open. He was wrong. The room wasn't dark, just dim, as though it were the middle of the night.
Nakaba stretched across an unfamiliar bed, sweat pouring down her pain-filled face. An old woman hovered nearby with a basin of water and washcloths. Loki searched the room for Adele but the prince was suspiciously absent.
Loki moved closer to his beloved princess, trying to determine to cause of her pain. A thick coverlet draped her frame and her knees were pulled up nearly to her chest. Another blood-curdling scream shot from her and she pulled her knees closer, folding almost into the fetal position. The old woman didn't even spare Nakaba a glance. Loki glared at her, demanding in his mind that she do something to help his princess.
Deep sobs wracked Nakaba's frame and tears fell from her eyes. Loki ached for her, wishing he could take her pain and worried at its cause. If he couldn't figure out what was wrong with her, how would he prevent it? Her weakened voice reached his ears.
"Loki," she cried. "Where is he?"
"That beast is no' here, m'lady," the old woman said. "I need him here. Could you please find him?"
"I can no' do that. I can no' leave you alone in yur condition." The old woman didn't even turn to look at Nakaba. "Then call for someone who can!" the princess screamed, another wave of pain overcoming her.
Loki was desperate for answers but before he could find them, the Arcana of Time slipped away.
"No!" he yelled, his voice echoing off the walls.
He jumped up from the bed and ran for the balcony. Without even slowing down, he launched over the railing and fell to the ground. He landed on his feet and took off through the palace streets, following a scent as familiar as his own.