The Play's the Thing
A/N: this chapter written from a prompt given by ninewood who was my 200th reviewer! Previously, the two Easter chapters were based off a prompt by Supremus85 as my 100th reviewer.
You can act in a play, but don't play with my daughter's heart! ~Loki
"Dad! Dad, guess what?" Serena yelled as she ran into the kitchen, her platinum hair coming loose from her braids, which were dyed ice blue that day.
Loki glanced up from the pot of chicken and dumplings he was stirring. "Did you win that math bee you were telling me about?"
"Yes, but that's no big deal. I win them all the time. Mr. Barron picked me for the lead in our school play! We're doing a cool version of Rumplestiltskin set in Norway and I'm gonna be the miller's daughter Freya."
Loki raised an eyebrow. "The miller's daughter is called Freya?"
Serena laughed. "I know that sounds crazy but people will at least remember it."
Loki paused from cooking and hugged his fey-looking daughter. "That's great, moon pi! So when is this play?"
"Umm . . . it's in two weeks. It's not a long play, so we don't need a lot of rehearsals. Mr. Barron wrote it." She waved around her play script.
"I can't wait to see it," Loki said, his emerald eyes glittering with excitement. "And your grandparents will be here to see it too."
"Dad, I'm gonna be doing the sets for the play," Nate informed him, as he got a snack from the fridge. "I'm gonna build a cottage and a cardboard castle."
"That is right up your alley, Racer," his father said, and playfully mussed his hair. He occasionally did that to Vince and Max, but mostly Nate, because Nate had told him that was what his original dad used to do and the boy still remembered it.
"That sounds lovely, Serena and Nate," Frigga said, she was having a cup of tea at the table.
Serena nodded. "I'm playing opposite Bobby Cameron, the cutest boy in my class," the girl said and flushed. "He's Rumple."
"Oooh! Serena and Bobby sittin' in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G!" Vince chanted. "First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage!"
Serena death glared her brother. "Shut up, daredevil! He's NOT my boyfriend!" Though she secretly wished he was. She turned back to her grandmother. "I have to make a costume for the play, Bestemor."
"I can help with that, dear," Frigga said.
"You can sew?" Serena looked astonished.
Frigga nodded. "Yes, indeed. I used to make clothes for my ladies in waiting. And my sons too when they were small."
"Would you make a dress for me?" Serena asked, her indigo eyes shining hopefully.
"It would be my pleasure," her grandmother said, stroking her cheek.
Nate took his snack into the den, where Odin was watching a documentary about medieval archery. "Bestefar, do you want to see my plans for the cottage I'm gonna build for the school play?'
"You're going to build a cottage, young Nate?" his grandfather asked in astonishment.
"Well, it's out of pine wood and cardboard, but yeah," his grandson said, and took the plans he'd drawn out of his back pack to show his grandfather.
The two began discussing various ideas for windows, doors, and interior designs. Nate wanted the cottage to be historically accurate, and Odin could, of course, recall what an actual Norwegian cottage looked like during the sixth and seventh century, as well as what an ordinary Asgardian home looked like.
While Loki cooked, Frigga and Serena drew dress patterns on some of Aleta and Max's poster board, and sketched different hairstyles, though Frigga assured Serena that her platinum hair would have most likely been worn in a single braid as a child or two braids wrapped about her head.
"You have beautiful hair, child. Like snow and ice made soft. If you truly lived back then, your hair would have been something that a boy noticed and thought beautiful."
"Really? Sometimes I used to think my hair made me look like an old lady," Serena remarked.
"Never! Women would kill for this shade of hair," Frigga assured her granddaughter. "Some women spend lots of money to dye their hair this color." She combed the long tresses with her hands. "Never be ashamed of how you were born, Serena. You are as you were meant to be, a lovely moon maiden. Why, I know several noble ladies at my court who would drool in envy to see your hair. Is that not so, Loki?"
Her son turned from the stove. "It is, Mother. In Asgard it is common to have golden hair or hair in various shades of blond or red, but my dark hair and your moonlight tresses, Serena, are something that catches the eye."
His quiet mathematician smiled. Then she asked her grandmother what color the dress should be.
The conversation at dinner that night centered around the play and the props for it. Frigga said she would start cutting the pattern for the dress after dinner and Odin and Nate were working on the interior of the cottage.
"How often do you have rehearsals?" asked Samantha.
"Twice a week," answered her sister. "I need to study my lines, but I've almost got the first half memorized."
"With your memory, you'll know it all in two days," her older sister predicted.
Serena had the best memory of all her siblings, even Belle, because in order to hide her dyslexia she had honed her skills to a razor edge. Of course now she didn't need to hide her disability, because no one would ever make fun of her, but she still possessed her prodigious ability to memorize things.
"Use your glasses, darling," Loki reminded her. The glasses he spoke of were red tinted ones that helped dyslexics read without causing the words to appear jumbled or backwards.
"I will," she said.
Once dinner was done, the children separated to do different things. Serena took her copy of her play book into the room she shared with Belle and began to memorize her lines.
Loki watched The Last Unicorn with Max, Lucy, Aleta, and Belle, while Samantha helped Frigga with Serena's dress and Hunter and Vince went outside to shoot some hoops. The basketball hoop was at the front of the driveway. Nate and Odin were working on the design for the cottage.
Odin slept inbetween Belle's feet, while Mischief curled up on Loki's lap, purring.
Everything went well until bedtime, when Loki came up to say goodnight to his older children and tuck in the younger ones. Frigga and Odin had put the youngest Laufeysons to bed, allowing Loki some free time to relax, but the god never missed the good night ritual, and came upstairs to tuck everyone in bed.
His youngest three were sleeping and he kissed their foreheads, his two eldest were drowsily listening to soothing music and he hugged them goodnight. His middle boys he tucked in bed with a kiss and then he moved on to his girls. Belle was asleep with the book over her nose, and he removed it and said, "Sweet dreams, little raven," and kissed her cheek.
Then he moved on to Serena, who had her night light on. She was sitting up, staring at her play script and looking frustrated. "You still awake, moon pi? You know you don't have to memorize this all in one night."
"Dad, I don't think I can do this," she whispered, looking at her hands.
"Of course you can," he encouraged, sitting on the bed. "I've seen you memorize much harder things than this."
"No. It's not my lines. It's saying them in front of people. You know I hate when people stare at me. My stomach turns to jelly and I feel like I'm gonna barf. How am I gonna do this?" She looked as if she were about to cry.
"Hey," he said softly, reaching out a hand to hug her. "That's not something that only happens to you. Plenty of professional actors get bouts of stage fright."
"What do they do about it?"
"Well, I've heard that some of them imagine the audience in their underwear," Loki related.
Serena frowned. "If I did that I'd start laughing and never be able to say my lines."
"Okay, then we'll think of something else." Loki mused. "I think that your nerves come from not believing in yourself. And worrying about what others think. But if you practice enough you can conquer them, Rena."
"I'll help you."
"But Dad . . . you have work and stuff. You don't have time to help me," she said quietly.
"Who told you that?" he demanded.
"Nobody, but . . ."
"Serena Amelia Laufeyson, what do I always say?"
"That your kids come first always," she recited.
"And are you or are you not my daughter?"
He put a finger to her lips. "Then trust me when I say that I will be there to help you. Nothing is more important to me than helping my children."
He gazed into her eyes, and she saw that he truly meant what he said. She threw her arms about him and hugged him. "Thanks, Dad."
"You're very welcome, sweetie," he said in her ear.
Smiling, Serena curled up on her side and said, "Dad, would you rub my back?"
"Sure," he said softly, and began to rub slow circles up and down, and gently run his fingers through her hair. His quiet daughter relaxed beneath his hand, and soon she closed her eyes and was slumbering.
"Sleep well, my little Alfar," he murmured, and placed a featherlight kiss on her cheek before slipping from the room like a shadow.
"We're ordering pizza tonight," Loki declared at breakfast that morning. He had made pork roll, egg, and cheese sandwiches that morning on toasted brioche buns. He had the pork roll shipped from New Jersey, since it was something that the stores in the city didn't carry normally. Loki and his children loved it, and Odin declared he would have to take some back to Asgard with him.
The kids never minded when he ordered out, so none of them said anything, just put in requests for the kind of pizza topping they wanted. His mother looked startled. "You're not cooking tonight?"
"No, because tonight I need to help Serena practice," he answered. "We're going out to the treehouse to rehearse."
"Can we watch?" Vince asked.
"No!" Serena said immediately.
"Not this time," Loki added. "This time you need to stay away and let us practice. I'll tell you when we need an audience."
"But we wanna see!" Aleta protested.
"You will, spark. Just not this time. Why don't you have Bestefar watch The Lion King with you?" Loki suggested.
"Yes! Simba!" Max cheered. "And I can wear my Simba pajamas!"
"Then can we watch Toothless?" asked Aleta.
"If you don't fall asleep first," her father chuckled. "I'll leave the Blue Rays out for you." He had taught Odin and Frigga how to use the Blue Ray so when he was at work, they could watch movies with the children.
"And I'll work on your dress, Serena," Frigga said. "Samantha, you can do the trim." She was also instructing her eldest grandchild on certain sewing techniques.
"Vince, we can work on that dragon model you have," Nate volunteered.
"Okay," his brother agreed, though he was secretly plotting how to sneak over to the tree house.
Until Loki eyed him sharply and said, "Don't even think about it, Vincent!"
His son's mouth hung open. "W-what?"
"You know perfectly well what," Loki interjected.
The boy's eyes widened. "How did you know? Did you read my mind?"
"I didn't have to. I know you, daredevil. Tell you not to do something and you can't wait to go do it," the god of Mischief snorted.
"Reminds me of another boy I used to know," Odin said slyly.
"Thanks, Father," his son sighed.
"But what are you doing in the tree house?" Vince asked.
"Rehearsing," Loki replied. "Now do yourself a favor and stay inside. You don't want me to take away your skateboard, do you?"
"No way!" his son cried. Now that the weather was warmer, he loved practicing tricks on his board.
Loki ordered several pies, one with cheese, one with pepperoni, one white pizza with spinach, one Hawaiian pizza, and one steak with onions, peppers, and mushrooms. To them he added a large garden salad, and then they all feasted upon them and drank Coke and ginger ale. He usually didn't allow his children to consume too much soda, they were hyper enough normally, but every now and then they were allowed to have some instead of the water, unsweetened iced tea, milk, and flavored seltzer they usually drank. Hunter liked coffee, but Loki only let him drink decaf, because too much caffeine could stunt a growing child.
Loki and Serena headed over to the tree house, Serena carrying both playbooks, she had obtained another one from her teacher so she could practice at home. They walked up the ramp into the tree house, and Loki took one of the books and said, "Now, I want you to sit here and just relax. Do you remember how we used to practice breathing and counting when you first came to live here and you were afraid of the dark?"
"Good, I want you to do that now. Breathe and count to five, then exhale and think of something pleasant. Meanwhile, I'll study this script so I can play opposite you." He seated himself on a chair across from her and began to read.
Serena began to do her counted breathing, and as she did so began to relax and the butterflies in her tummy quit fluttering.
After ten minutes Loki observed his daughter was relaxed and calm, then he shut the book and said, "Okay. Now let's practice. We'll start from scene 2, where Freya comes home and finds out her father just promised King Bjorn she could spin straw into gold. I'll be the miller."
With that Loki shifted into a large ruddy faced man with straw colored hair, handsome yet feckless, in a brown tunic and trousers. "There you are, Freya!' he said in a deep gravelly voice. "Did you sell all your thread at the market?"
Freya nodded. "Yes, Papa. Every last spool."
"Good! I told King Bjorn today that my daughter could spin the finest thread in Norway."
"Oh, Papa!" Freya sighed. "You shouldn't boast so!"
"But it's not boasting if 'tis true. Then I told him you could even spin straw into gold," the miller declared.
Freya clapped her hands to her mouth. "Oh, Papa! What were you thinking? I can't spin straw into gold! No one can unless they have magic!"
They went back and forth until they reached then end of that scene, then Loki skipped over two scenes which didn't have Serena's lines and moved on to her meeting Rumple in the tower.
For that scene he conjured the illusion of a tower room filled with straw and a spinning wheel, then he shifted into a younger version of himself in a green tunic and black pants with a furry peaked hat.
Serena's eyes widened. "Dad, was that what you looked like when you were a kid?"
Loki smirked. "Yes. I'd make myself smaller, but your friend Bobby won't be able to do so, so it's best if I remain this size. As you can see, I wasn't all that tall."
"Bobby isn't either. It's one reason why Mr. Barron chose him to play Rumple," Serena said.
"All right, let's begin."
Serena as Freya sank to the ground amid heaps of "straw" and began crying. "Oh! I am doomed! If I cannot spin all this straw into gold, King Bjorn will call me a liar and kill me!"
"We cannot have that, now can we, dearie?" came a small high-pitched voice and Loki as Rumple appeared in the room with a puff of green smoke.
Freya looked up, wiping tears from her cheeks. "Who are you? How did you get in here?"
"I have my ways, dearie!" the imp chuckled. "For one such as I, no door is ever locked."
"Can you . . . help me get out of here?"
The imp shook his head. "Alas, fair one, I cannot."
"Then I really am doomed!" Freya sobbed, and put her face in her hands.
Rumple came and touched her shoulder gently. "There now, why are you crying?"
Freya told him about the bet and what the king had said he would do to her.
"I see," Rumple said. "Perhaps I might make a deal with you, dearie?"
"What kind of deal?" Freya asked suspiciously. "I have naught to pay you with in coin."
"I don't require money," laughed the imp. "But all magic comes with a price!"
"Then what is your price?"
"That," he pointed to a leather cord around her neck with a tin medallion on it.
"You want my spinner medallion?" she asked puzzled. "It's hardly worth anything at all."
"That is my price. I shall spin this straw into gold for your medallion. Do we have a deal?"
Freya took the cord off and handed it to him. "We do. What is your name?"
"I have many names. Call me . . . Mr. Gold," said the imp with a grin.
Then he began to spin the straw into gold.
"That's so amazing!"
"That's my magic, dearie!"
They went through most of the play that night, and occasionally Serena asked Loki how she ought to say a line and sometimes Loki explained that not saying something was as effective as talking.
He took on the role of the guards on the tower and the king, who kept trying to get Freya to marry him.
Freya kept refusing, however, making one excuse after another, though she told Rumple she would sooner marry a snake because the king only wanted her because he thought she could spin straw into gold and not because he loved her.
Meanwhile, as the nights went on, Rumple and Freya fell in love.
Abruptly, Serena closed the playbook. "I'm kinda tired, Dad. Can we stop now?"
"I think that's a good idea. We did a lot. How do you feel?"
"Better than when we came out here," she admitted.
"Good. Then by the time we finish this, you should be okay to practice in front of an audience."'
"No!" she yelped. "I can't! Not yet!" she looked panicked.
He put his hands on her shoulders. "What frightens you, darling?"
"I'm afraid I'll be so worried that I'll forget what I'm supposed to say," she groaned. "I'm such a coward!"
He tipped her chin up. "Never say that!" he ordered softly. "You are not a coward for being afraid. Only if you let your fear control you. But that's not going to happen. Because together we will take your fear and use it to make you stronger."
"How? Everytime I think about standing up in front of people my knees go all like spaghetti and I feel sick."
"Then we'll practice until you don't feel that way. We'll run through the rest of the play tomorrow night. Then I'll have Mandy and Bestefar watch while you perform a few scenes.'
"But not anyone else, okay?"
"For now," Loki agreed, though he planned to increase the number of people watching until he had everyone in his family watching.
Serena nodded. But a part of her worried, not just over the audience, but over the fact that at the end of the play she would have to kiss her co-star, Bobby. She didn't know how she was going to do that without being utterly embarrassed and fainting, because she had a crush on the boy. And she didn't know how to ask Loki for help without admitting she liked Bobby. She didn't want her dad to forbid her to be in the play.
She worried her lower lip. Perhaps she could ask Samantha for advice.
Together, father and daughter walked back to the house, Loki resuming his normal form as they did so.
"Let's have some ice cream, moon pi," Loki offered.
"Chocolate chip mint?"
"Of course!" he agreed.
The next day at school, Serena met Bobby in social studies. "Hi," she greeted, making herself look at him and not at her sneakers. She gave him a tentative smile.
"Hi," he said, and he gave her a shy smile back. He was a small boy, no taller than she was, with brown floofy hair and a cute pixie face with bright brown eyes. He had moved here a year previous from Scotland, and still had some of his Scottish accent. Serena found it adorable.
"Umm . . . have you started studying for the play yet?" she asked.
He nodded. "I had my dad help me. He read the other parts."
"Me too! My dad did the same," she said, smiling. Of course she didn't say that he had also changed shape while doing so.
"We have rehearsal tomorrow," he reminded her.
"I know. I hope I'm not too nervous."
"My dad said to pretend no one is there except me," Bobby confided.
"My dad had me do counted breathing and to believe in myself," Serena told him.
They exchanged understanding looks before going to sit down as Mr. Barron came into the room.
Even though she liked social studies, Serena spent part of the class drawing hearts with her initials and Bobby's in her notebook rather than writing down the timeline of the Vikings.
Rather than thinking about how Leif Erickson had founded Vinland, she was thinking instead of a boy with floofy hair and a sweet smile and imagining what it would be like to kiss him.
That night, Serena told Loki that she didn't want to finish the entire play because there was a surprise at the end and she didn't want to spoil it for him. So they practiced almost till the end, until Serena was comfortable and sounded natural when speaking as Freya.
"We're going to rehearse tomorrow," she reminded her father.
"That's good," he agreed. "Then you can get used to moving around on stage and so on."
Serena hoped she wouldn't trip because she was staring at Bobby and forgetting to watch where she put her feet.
I need to talk to Samantha. Really soon.
After rehearsal the next day, which went rather well to Serena's astonishment, Bobby called to her as she was getting her backpack, ready to head out to the bus. "Serena, wait!" he rushed up to her, holding a piece of paper. "Um . . . I just wanted to give you this. My dad wrote it out for me so I wouldn't be nervous but I thought you could . . . umm . . . use one too, so I made you this."
Serena took the paper. On it was written the following quote: Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I will try again tomorrow.
"Wow! Thanks, Bobby!" she said, and flashed him one of her special smiles she usually reserved for her father or other family members.
He flushed and dug the toe of his sneaker into the floor. "It's just a . . . my dad calls 'em motivational sayings."
"I think it's awesome! Thanks so much!" she hugged the paper to her like it was a thousand dollars.
"You're welcome. Err . .. I'll see you tomorrow in Barron's class." He waved shyly and then followed her as she headed towards the bus.
Serena felt like she was floating.
When she arrived home, Loki asked, "How was play practice, moon pi?"
"It went great, Dad!" she called back. "Bestemor, how's my costume?"
"It's coming along nicely, dear!" Frigga said. "I'll have the top ready for you to try on soon."
"I can't wait!" Serena called and raced upstairs, thinking she only felt this happy when she won a math contest.
On the way to Samantha's room she passed Vince, who had his helmet in one hand.
"Ooh, didja get a note from your boyfriend?" he teased.
"He's not my boyfriend, now go away!" Serena ordered crossly.
"What's it say?" he demanded, trying to see the paper. "Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet, I love you?"
Serena flashed him a glare that threatened his imminent demise. "Vince, go knock yourself out! Now bug off! I don't have a boyfriend! Bobby's just my play partner!"
"Yeah, that's what they all say," her little brother hooted. "Next thing ya know, you're going on a date!"
Serena rolled her eyes. "Whatever, dork!" She continued on down the hall to knock on Samantha's door.
"Come in," her big sister called.
Serena opened the door to find Samantha busy stitching something which she quickly tucked in her sewing basket. "Hey, number cruncher. What's up?"
"Samantha? I need to ask you a question?"
Serena shut the door behind her and locked it.
Her sister raised an eyebrow. "What's with the top secret act?"
"Vince is nosy," Serena sighed.
"So are all little brothers," Samantha laughed. "Go ahead."
Serena's hands clutched the paper, then she shoved it at her sister. "Bobby gave me that after rehearsal."
Samantha took it and read it. "That's a quote from Mary Ann Radmacher. Pretty sophisticated for an eight-year-old."
"His dad gave it to him so he wouldn't be nervous acting. Then he gave it to me," admitted Serena, flushing.
"Oh. I see. That was nice."
"Samantha . . . I . . . um . . . I like him . . ." she whispered, feeling her face go hot. "I like him more than sudoku puzzles."
Her sister whistled. "That bad, huh?"
"I always did," Serena admitted. "I just . . . couldn't say anything . . ."
"Looks like he likes you too."
"No way! I'm just the math geek."
"Just? Rena, you're way more than just your brain. Trust me, by the time you're my age, you're gonna have Dad and Uncle Thor waiting with sticks to beat off all the boys."
Serena giggled. "They're gonna do that anyway."
"True. They'd be doing it for me, if I was dating," Samantha responded.
"Samantha, I have to kiss Bobby at the end of the play," Serena declared.
"So what's the problem?"
"I'm afraid I might faint or something stupid."
"Uh . . . then just close your eyes and pretend you're kissing Vince. Or Dad."
"Ugh! I could never kiss Vince like that!" Serena made a face.
"It's just a kiss for the play, number cruncher."
"Yeah, but in front of all those people!" Serena wrung her hands. "I don't even know how."
"Hmm . . . I can help with that," Samantha chuckled. She grabbed a body pillow from her bed. "Here, moon pi. Pucker up and kiss Gaz. He's from a movie called The Full Monty."
Serena's eyes went wide. "Wow! He's really cute!"
"Tell me about it," sighed her older sister. "He's also married. But you can practice with him." She handed Serena the pillow.
"I never saw this movie," Serena said, gazing at the handsome actor whose real name was Robert Carlyle.
"Yeah and you're not gonna till you're my age. Dad would kill me," Samantha hissed. "He doesn't even know I've seen it."
"Why? Is there . . . sex in it?" whispered her sister.
"No, but . . . you see some naked guys' butts," Samantha coughed. "It's actually funny but you're too young to see it. And Dad would think I was too, so I had to give it to Trudy to keep at her house. But I got the pillow case so . . ."
"If Dad ever found out . . ."
"He won't. Trust me. I'm the Mischief Maker's daughter and son," Samantha said blithely. "Now start practicing! That way you won't feel stupid when you actually do it."
Serena did so, imagining as hard as she could the soft pillow was her heartthrob.
Samantha watched and coached softly, until a knock on her door made them both freeze. "It's dinner, darlings," came their father's voice. "What are you doing in there?"
"Practicing for my play," Serena called. "OMG!" she mouthed to her sister.
"We'll be down in a minute, Dad, to set the table," Samantha called smoothly.
They waited a few minutes then Samantha peeked out the door. "Coast is clear," she hissed.
Serena dropped the pillow on her sister's bed. "Phew! That was close!"
"Uh huh. Let's go eat. I think you got it now anyway."
Serena gave her a relieved smile. "Thanks, Samantha."
The next night, Loki had Serena say her lines with him in front of her grandparents and Mandy. This time he didn't shift, simply read them from the playbook copy, but Serena did well, and seemed to be slowly conquering her stage fright.
"See? You're gonna do fine," he soothed.
She shook her head. "I think I'm gonna be sick with anymore people."
He picked up a glass of ginger ale with bitters from the table. "Here. Drink this, hon. It'll settle your stomach."
His daughter sipped the fizzy drink. "Tastes weird."
"Drink it all," he urged. "It'll help."
After that, he had Serena practice every night, each time adding a person to the audience. The next night, Thor watched with Frigga and Odin, and this time Loki shifted and played opposite her as his younger self. The night after that, Tony came and so did Pepper. Gradually, Serena realized she had quit feeling sick before the performances and she could say her lines and concentrate on her acting.
She found that reciting the quote Bobby gave her helped tremendously, as did Loki's constant practice and his encouragement. She found she looked forward to the rehearsals the way she did long division problems or math contests, as sometimes Bobby would talk with her while they waited for the bus. She learned that he and his dad Joe came from Glasgow and his dad worked in construction. She also learned that he too came from a single parent household as his mom had left when he was baby.
"I think she made my Dad sad, so I'm not sorry she's gone," he told her candidly.
"Yeah I wouldn't be," she agreed. "I never knew my real parents, they gave me away when I was a baby. So all I know is my Dad Loki. But that's okay. I wouldn't want to know people who just dumped me like trash." Serena said feelingly.
"Your dad's really nice."
Serena smiled. "Yup. So's yours."
"Did you get all the answers to that math quiz we got yesterday?"
"Cause I think I missed a few."
"Oh. Do you remember what they were? I could help you," she offered.
He pulled out the quiz and pointed out the problems. Serena explained how she got the answers until the bus came.
Serena was still thinking about how Bobby had smiled at her when she came home. She could barely concentrate on her homework, luckily it was easy, and she thought about how the play ended, and how she was going to wow the socks off the audience like a real actress. I hope I don't embarrass Bobby though.
Her costume was almost ready, Frigga had to just add a few more darts to the skirt and embroider the final pieces on the hem. Serena was excited to wear it. It was a brilliant sky blue with pretty red, gold, green, and purple flowers on it and a border along the hem. The top of the dress featured puffy sleeves with lace and a darker blue vest with more vines and flowers.
She hoped Bobby liked it.
She decided to go for a walk, and went to get Odin's leash, figuring the shepherd could use the exercise, when Vince bumped into her.
"Hey!" she cried.
"Watch where you're going, moony," he teased.
"You watch it," she ordered irritably.
"I am. You were the one too busy daydreaming about your boyfriend," he cackled.
"Stuff it!" she growled. "I'm gonna walk Odin."
"Just make sure you're walking in straight line, and not into trees!" her brother hooted, rolling his eyes and sighing dramatically. "Oooh Bobby! You're sooo dreamy! I can't wait to put my arms around you!" He pretended to faint.
"Will you shut up? You're such an idiot!"
Vince stuck his tongue out at her. "I might be an idiot but at least I'm not all googly eyed over a skinny shrimp!"
"Bobby's not a shrimp!" Serena saw red. "He's just hasn't got his growth yet! Anyway, why do you care?"
"Why do you?" Vince returned. "Are you in love?"
Vince began to dance around her, singing, "I Won't Say I'm in Love" from Hercules and generally being a total annoyance.
Serena lost her temper. "Knock it off, brat!"
"Make me!" her brother taunted.
Serena went to shove him, and Max called, "Hey! No fighting!"
"Shut up, Max! I've had it!" his sister shouted.
"Dad! Serena and Vince are fighting!" Max yelled.
"Enough!" Loki growled, appearing between them in a flash of green light.
"Dad, she started it!" Vince pointed at his sister accusingly.
"Because you were being a jerk!" Serena said hotly. "Dad, he makes me want to punch him! He keeps teasing me!"
"She's in love with Bobby Cameron!"
"You're a dork!" Serena spat, clenching a fist.
"Stop!" their father ordered. "If you can't settle your differences without hitting each other, it seems we need to get out the paint ball guns."
He turned to Hunter. "Hunter, you know what to do."
Frigga and Odin stared at them.
"Loki, what do you mean? Guns shoot people!" Frigga gasped.
"These aren't real guns, Mother. They're toys . . . well they shoot paint," her son explained. "You'll see."
"You're going to have them battle each other?" Odin queried.
"Just watch." Loki said. Hunter returned carrying two paint ball guns and two belts with paint balls in a pouch. "Thanks." He took the guns and paint balls. "To the backyard."
He handed a gun and a belt to Vince and Serena. "You know the rules. Rock, paper, scissors to determine who gets first shot."
The other kids chanted, "Rock, paper, scissors, shoot!"
"Scissors beats paper!" Vince crowed.
"Okay. Line up!" Loki ordered and Serena and Vince went back to back, each holding their gun at the ready. "Twenty paces!"
He counted and they walked twenty paces away from each other.
They loaded some paint balls into the gun.
"Turn, aim, fire!"
They both turned around, and Vince fired the first shot, which got Serena in the arm with a red ball.
"Ooo!" crowed Max.
"Return fire!" Loki ordered.
Serena did, nailing her brother with a green paint ball in the chest.
After that, it was anything goes, as the two shot each other and ran all over the yard, until ten minutes was up and all the paint balls had been used.
"See, Mother, I figure if they're gonna try and beat each other up, they might as well do it in a way that doesn't result in bruises, cuts, or a trip to the hospital," her son explained. "This way they get their anger out and release their aggression without hurting each other."
"But who wins?" Odin asked.
Loki looked over at his two soldiers. "Time's up! Looks like Serena won," he decided. "Okay. Shake hands and make up."
They did so, and Vince apologized for teasing his sister. "Can't you take a joke, moon pi?"
"That wasn't funny," Serena said.
"Yeah, but you with yellow and green paint in your hair is!" her brother giggled.
"Go look in the mirror, Frankenstein!" she returned, laughing.
"See? Works every time," Loki said smugly.
"Son, that's amazing," Odin said. "Maybe I should have my Einhirjari do that."
"Father, they're immortal. It's not the same," Loki laughed. But he was proud anyway that his father approved of his unorthodox discipline.
"Loki, what about their clothes?" Frigga asked, indicating her two dripping grandchildren.
"The paint is water based. It'll wash out," her son answered. "Go get changed, you two."
"Dad, can we have a paint ball fight too?" begged Nate.
"Well . . . okay," he agreed. "Go get your guns and ammo."
There were cheers from the rest of his zoo and they all ran to do as he said.
The night of the play:
The Laufeysons, Frigga, Odin, and the Avengers were all in the front row as the curtain went up and the Riverside production of Rumplestiltskin began.
He praised Nate for his historically accurate set decorations, saying they looked just like he remembered.
From the moment Serena stepped out on the stage, Loki was riveted to his seat, his hands clenched in white-knuckled anxiety. He prayed everything would go well. He knew his daughter's fragile self-esteem would be crushed otherwise.
Frigga rubbed his arm. "Loki, relax, dear," she whispered. "Look, she's doing beautifully!"
Her son took a deep breath. Then he stopped worrying and saw that his mother was correct. Serena was beautiful in her historically accurate costume and said her lines naturally, as if she truly was the miller's daughter.
There were a few comical missteps but on the whole the children performed excellently considering they were only eight, nine, and ten years old and it was their first performance. The play would run for another night after this. Everyone laughed when Rumple imitated the proud king, and gasped when it was revealed that Bjorn was actually a usurper who had stolen the crown from the rightful king—and cursed him to be Rumplestiltskin. It turned out Bjorn was a frost giant, and the king was an old enemy of his. So he had taken the throne by treachery.
And the only way to break the spell and restore him was for a maid pure in heart to fall in love with the ugly rumpled spinner and give him his heart's desire. But first she had to guess his name.
This she did by listening at the door while the king ranted to a guard about how he was going to finally kill Rumplestiltskin and end the royal line.
And when Rumple came again and asked her to say his name, she did.
"Rumplestiltskin! Rumplestiltskin! Rumplestiltskin!"
Rumple sighed and smiled. "You have done what no other maiden ever has, Freya!"
"Not yet," she disagreed, then she kissed him. "I love you, Rumple. No matter your skin, I know your heart is true!"
Then glitter floated down from the ceiling and whirled around the figure of the twisted spinner and when the lights came on, Rumple was now the true king.
"The spell is broken! I am now myself again!" he cried. Then he turned to Freya. "But there is still something else I need to tell you. I am not just a king. I am not even mortal. My name is Loki, God of Mischief, and I was trapped into this form by my old enemy the Jotun Thrym, fated to live a mortal life unless I could learn to love a mortal woman."
"You are not a king?" Freya gasped.
"I am . . . but I am a god too," answered Loki-Rumple. "Can you love me even though you loved a lie?"
"I did not love a lie," Freya returned stoutly. "I loved a man who was cursed twice. Whatever name you go by, I will love you still!"
"Will you marry me, Freya?"
In answer she kissed him again.
Then Rumple-Loki ordered his guards to arrest Thrym and throw him in the dungeons, but Thrym was so mad that he had been defeated that he stamped himself right through the floor and disappeared, never to be heard from again.
And Loki and Freya lived happily ever after and had many children.
"Wow! What a twist!" Tony exclaimed. "I did not see that coming!"
Beside him, Tasha, Frigga, and Loki wiped their eyes.
"That was beautiful!" Frigga said.
"Serena was amazing!" Tasha agreed.
"She kissed a boy," Loki muttered. "My little girl is growing up."
"Brother, are you crying?" Thor asked.
"Shut up, Thor!" Loki snapped. "You wouldn't understand."
Then he rose to his feet and began applauding loudly. Everyone in the audience followed suit and the curtain came down and the actors came out on stage to take bows.
People threw flowers and chocolate and cheered.
Serena held Bobby's hand and whispered, "We did it! And they liked it!"
Bobby blushed. "Yeah. Why wouldn't they? You made a perfect Freya!"
"And you made a perfect Rumple!" she laughed.
"Hey, you wanna get some ice cream?"
"Uh . . . how about in two hours. I gotta get changed and stuff. And ask my dad."
"Okay. Me too. I'll give you my number."
"I already have it," he reminded her. "Mr. Barron gave us a list of all our numbers in the beginning, remember?"
"Oh. Right." She blushed. "I'll call you."
Then they were running off stage to wardrobe. But Serena didn't want to take her dress off, so she ran instead back up the aisle of the auditorium after getting her bag and right into Loki's arms.
"Serena, you were incredible!" he hugged her. "I'm so proud of you!"
Serena found herself being hugged and congratulated by her whole family. She was happy but also overwhelmed. Finally, when everyone had calmed down, and they were walking to the van, she tugged on Loki's hand.
"Dad, I need to tell you something."
"Go ahead," he encouraged.
"Umm . . . Bobby wants me to go out for ice cream later. To celebrate."
"What?!" he was flabbergasted. "He asked you out on a date?"
"No. Just for ice cream."
"You're eight years old, for crying out loud!" Loki hit himself in the forehead.
"Loki, dear, calm down," Frigga said. "It's not a betrothal. They're only going for ice cream."
"But—but Mother!" her son sputtered.
Tony started laughing. "Man, if he's like this now—he's gonna be a basket case when his girls really start dating!"
Steve and Clint burst out laughing, along with Thor.
"I'm waiting on the porch with a club!" Loki threatened. "And there's going to be an application they have to fill out if they want to even think about dating any of them!"
"Dad! You're being ridiculous!" said Samantha.
"No, he's being an Asgardian," Belle corrected.
"Does this mean I can't go for ice cream?" Serena asked, looking as though she were about to cry.
"Loki, they're children. What harm can it do?" Odin said.
Loki was torn. Then he looked at Serena. He hated to play the ogre and make his daughter unhappy. "Okay. You can go. But I'm going with you."
"I'll pay for your ice cream and then I'll sit in a booth away from you. I'm not leaving you alone with a boy, Serena Amelia!"
Behind him Tony, Steve, Clint, and Thor were hysterical.
"Loki, dear, aren't you overreacting a wee bit?" Frigga remonstrated. "You were best friends with Kara when you were that age."
"No," her son said. "That was different. I'm sure Bobby's father would agree with me."
"C'mon, Rena. Dad's just regressed to Fred Fintstone," Samantha said comfortingly. "I'll help you dress for your date."
"No make-up, Samantha!" Loki reminded.
His eldest rolled her eyes. "Jeez Lousie, Dad! Chill! Just lip gloss, okay?"
"I mean it!"
"Dad, go beat up a brontosaurus," Samantha said sassily.
"Samantha!" Loki frowned.
"Sorry. But you really are going nuts. It's not like she's going to prom."
When they arrived home, Samantha took Serena upstairs along with Belle to get ready. Both sisters assured her that Loki would calm down eventually.
"He's just scared," Belle confided.
"Of what?" Serena asked.
"Us growing up. He wants us to stay little girls he can protect," Belle said sagely.
"He'd better get a reality check," sighed Samantha. "Here, Rena. Wear your lavender dress. It's classy and pretty."
"I'll do your hair," Belle said.
Soon Serena was ready. Belle had done her hair up in three braids about her head with silk flowers entwined in them and loaned her a silver chain with a unicorn. Samantha had applied some light lip gloss that shimmered.
"Any more and Dad will freak," she said. "Have a good time, sis. Oh, and hold hands under the table so Dad doesn't see and drop dead."
Serena giggled. "He's being kinda silly."
"He's a dad. It's what they do. Worse, he's an old-fashioned Asgardian one. But he'll get over it."
Downstairs Loki was pacing like a caged panther. "I can't believe I agreed to this!"
Frigga snickered. "Oh, Loki! It's just ice cream!"
"Yeah and next thing you know it'll be let's go to the movies or dancing and he'll be kissing her in the back seat of his car and I'll be arrested for killing him!"
"You'd have to get in line, brother," Thor remarked.
"You can have what's left after I'm done," Loki retorted.
"Boys, you're being ridiculous!" Frigga sighed. "Odin, can't you talk sense into them?"
"Me? Leave me out of this!" Odin raised his hands. "Besides, I'd be the same if I had a daughter."
"Loki, please regain the sense you were born with and remember that you're going to be there with them," Frigga reminded him. "So nothing is going to happen."
"Okay, Mother. Okay," Loki heaved a sigh.
"Why don't you go meditate, dear? Before you give yourself a stroke," urged his mother.
Loki agreed and went into the den and sat in his recliner. Mischief came and curled on his lap and he stroked her plush fur. "They say cats help blood pressure. I sure hope so, because mine's probably off the charts right now."
Mischief purred and he petted her, drawing deep breaths and then letting them out slowly. Gradually he calmed down.
When Serena finally came downstairs, he appraised her dress and hair and said, "You look beautiful, Serena." Can I put a bag over your head?
"Dad, I called Bobby and he's gonna meet us at the ice cream parlor," Serena informed him. "His dad is gonna be there too, so you can have ice cream with him."
"Lovely," Loki said through gritted teeth.
"Dad, are you okay?"
"Fine, moon pi," he said. "Okay, let's do this." Just this once and never again! You're not allowed to date till you're moved out!
"Have fun darling!" Frigga waved,
Loki was sweating as he drove the six minutes to Every Day's A Sundae. Breathe, Laufeyson! You will NOT hyperventilate in the damn parking lot!
"There's Bobby and his dad!" Serena waved.
I should have said no. I should have just said—he watched as Serena got out of the car, her eyes shining like stars at midnight. Okay. Maybe this will be all right.
He quickly got out and locked the van, pasting a smile on his face. "Hello. I'm Loki Laufeyson." He shook hands with Mr. Cameron, who looked like a grown up version of his son with brown hair and bright brown eyes and a friendly smile.
"Pleasure. I'm Joe Cameron. This is my son, Bobby."
"How do you do, sir?" Bobby said, and held out his hand to Loki.
"Fine, thanks," Loki said and despite himself he smiled back at the kid. He's got manners. I like that. "This is Serena, my daughter."
"Pleased to meet you, Mr. Cameron," Serena said, and also held out her hand.
"The pleasure is all mine." Joe said. "You two looked fine up there on that stage, didn't they, Loki?"
"Yes, they did. They were both amazing." Loki agreed.
"Gee thanks, Mr. Laufeyson," Bobby said, flushing. "I was so nervous I thought I was going to throw up."
"So was I. But Dad made me drink some ginger ale with bitters before we got to school," Serena said.
"You know that old remedy too?" Joe laughed.
Loki nodded. "I sure do. It's quick for curing upset stomachs, though usually I like peppermint and chamomile tea too."
"Shall we get these two stars some ice cream?" Joe asked.
"Yes, please!" Serena said, and Bobby seconded it.
They entered the shop and Loki told the girl at the register to just put the bill on his tab.
"That's really not necessary," began Joe.
"My treat," Loki insisted. "I'm in here so much I should own half this place."
He made his way to a booth over in the opposite corner, allowing the kids to pick a table right in view of his. Joe joined him, and then the servers brought their ice cream sundaes. Joe had an apple caramel one, and Loki had a banana split with mint chocolate chip, peanut butter ice cream, and chocolate, with hot fudge, whipped cream, nuts, and cherries on top.
Serena had a chocolate chip mint sundae with an Oreo on top and Bobby had chocolate fudge with hot fudge and whipped cream.
Loki watched out of the corner of his eye, but saw that neither child was doing anything except eating ice cream, and he turned and began to eat his own.
"Bobby tells me you're a video game designer."
"That's right. I own Laufeyson Tech. I just released a new game—Asgardian Quest 2," Loki replied.
Joe whistled. "I've seen that game in stores. I didn't know you were that Laufeyson."
"The one and only," Loki chuckled. To his surprise, he found he was enjoying talking with Joe, and he forgot all about keeping an eagle eye on the kids, who were simply eating ice cream.
Serena breathed a sigh of relief and squeezed Bobby's hand under the table. "This is so good!" she said, licking the spoon.
"Mmmhmm!" the small boy agreed. "Sundaes always has the best ice cream."
The two smiled and then Serena said, "You wanna try my sundae?"
"Okay. If you try mine."
They wiped their spoons off and traded them, and each ate some ice cream from the other's dessert glass.
"Which one do you like best?" inquired Bobby.
"I can't decide. Kind of like how I felt at the end of the play. When I didn't know if I liked Rumple or Loki better."
"Hey, your dad's name is Loki too!"
"Yup. He was named after the God of Mischief. My grandma and grandpa are history teachers and they come from Norway. They're here for Easter break."
"That's cool. I never knew my grandparents."
"I'm glad they came. My grandma made my dress for the play."
"I thought it was really pretty," Bobby said, and blushed.
Serena giggled. "Thanks! I liked yours too."
"Would you try out for another play?" Bobby asked.
Serena nodded. "Sure! I had fun. Once I got my tummy to behave."
"Same here. Maybe we could do the Snow Queen next time. You'd make a really good queen with your hair."
"You—you like my hair?"
He nodded. "It's different."
"Aww! Thanks!" She ate some more ice cream, thinking that this had been one of the best nights of her life. Just like in the fairy tales.
She glanced over at Loki and winked.
The Master of Mischief smiled. Then he said to Joe, "Why don't we arrange a play date for next time?"
"Sounds good to me. Do you prefer weekends or after school?"
A/N: any of my Once Rumbelle readers will note all the Rumple/Bobby Carlyle references in here! Hope you enjoyed this!