Laney looked around her as the fog cleared, feeling overly dizzy, wondering where Loki had sent them. "Where are we?"
"I don't know... all I know is that this isn't Asgard." Desi said, looking around, taking in the sight of the delicately carved designs on the walls of the hall they'd been transported to. She nearly jumped when two tall, thin men suddenly approached them from down a long hallway. Their clothes were more ornately designed and intricate than anything she had seen on Asgard, and it took a minute for her to realize they were guards.
"Why are you here?" One of the men asked them, his tone stern, guarded.
"Loki sent us here for safe keeping. Our home is under attack," Laney explained as she ignored a tightening feeling around her belly.
The two men looked at each other, then nodded. "Very well, come with us." He said and started to walk away.
"We aren't going anywhere. I'm Laney's healer and she needs to rest!" Desi insisted, forgetting her fear for a moment.
"She can sit over there." The other guard said, pointing to a bench not far away.
Laney let Desi lead her to the bench to sit down. "Where are we?" She asked.
"If I had to guess... Alfheim?" Desi said, glancing around again. "Are you alright?"
"I'm fine. Just stressed," Laney replied, ignoring the feeling in her belly. "I wonder if Loki knows someone here?"
"All I know for sure is that he wouldn't have sent us here unless he was absolutely sure it's safe." Desi said, then wrapped her arm around Laney's. "Star is very susceptible to stress at this point, so if anything feels different, you need to tell me."
Laney let out a long breath of air as the tightening ceased. "I'm okay. We need to see who the guards wanted us to see."
"They can come here to us; I'm not letting you overwork yourself when you're already stressed." Desi said firmly. "Are you sure you're alright?"
"I'm fine," Laney growled, feeling impatient.
"Hey, I'm only concerned about you." Desi said, but let it go for now. She could hear arguing in the hall, then the guard returned with another elf, who did not fit the typical description. His hair was short, and he wore casual clothes.
"Hello." the young man said politely. "I'm having some accommodations prepared for you now, it shouldn't take long." He promised them.
"How do you know Loki?" Laney asked. "Is this Alfheim?"
"It is, and he spent a fair bit of time here after he lost contact with you." He said with a little shrug.
Laney's eyes widened. "You know who I am?"
"Pretty much everyone in the realms knows who you are. You know, from the announcement feasts and such. I may not have been able to personally attend, but it's not hard to put two and together." He chuckled. "I'm Baylor and I will be tending to you during your stay."
"Well, thank you. We are grateful to you," Laney replied then winced as her stomach tightened again.
"Are you going to tell me what's wrong now?" Desi asked Laney, giving her a knowing look.
Laney sighed as she rubbed her belly. "My stomach keeps tightening off and on. I'm afraid the stress of the jump is trying to push me into labor."
"Try to relax and we can see if it eases in a few minutes." Desi said, hoping it would.
"I can show you to our healing hall." Baylor offered, and Desi nodded.
"Do you think you can walk?" She asked Laney.
"I should be able to," Laney said softly.
"I'll help you and we'll take it slow, alright?" Desi said and stood, then held her hands out for Laney.
Laney nodded and slowly stood as she felt the tightening stop. "It stopped... for now."
"That's good, but I still want to monitor you for a while, alright?" Desi said, then made sure Laney was steady. "If you need to stop, just say so."
She nodded as she followed Desi and the guard down the hall at a slow pace. "So far, so good."
"We're almost there. Emergency guests always arrive near the healers, just in case." Baylor explained, walking just ahead of them.
Laney sighed as they reached the healing wing. She moved to sit down when she felt as if a band snapped around her belly and wetness flooded her legs. "D-desi..."
"Deep breath. Let's get you into a delivery room." Desi said, rubbing Laney's back. "Can you walk across the hall?"
"Yeah... yeah I think so." Laney held tightly to Desi's hand as they made their way to the next room.
Desi quickly helped Laney onto the bed. "I need to get a few things ready, try to relax if you can." She said, then hurriedly gathered supplies.
"I can't do this... not without Loki. I need Loki," Laney mumbled, close to tears.
Desi brought everything over to get ready but held Laney's hand for a moment. "I know it's hard, but Star can't wait any longer." She said in a comforting tone.
Tears rolled down Laney's cheeks as a contraction hit, making her screw her eyes shut. "Desi..."
"We're going to get through this, I promise." She waved her hand over Laney, changing her into only a gown. "I need to see how dilated you are, alright?"
Laney grimaced. "That doesn't sound pleasant."
"It's usually not too bad, just slightly uncomfortable." Desi told her, then checked her, being as gentle as possible. "You're fully dilated... this little one is in some kind of hurry."
"This seems way too fast. Everything I've read says it can take hours," Laney protested. "Something seems wrong."
"Regular babies take hours, not Jotun babies, and not all regular babies take hours. Especially not in times of high stress." Desi told her. "Do you need anything for pain?"
Laney gripped onto the bed sheets as another contraction rolled through her body and took her breath. "Please... Desi, this hurts."
Desi brought a potion to the head of the bed and put her arm under Laney's head to help her drink it. "Do you feel ready to push?"
She shook her head after she drank the potion. "I don't feel any pressure."
"Try to relax and save your energy until you're ready. I will be right here the entire time." Desi promised.
Laney sniffled as she felt her body tighten for a contraction but didn't feel any pain. "I want Loki," she mumbled.
"If I could make that happen, you know I would." Desi said softly.
"I know. He was supposed to be here for this and it's just a lot to worry about at once." Laney shuffled in her seat, feeling uncomfortable.
"He wanted to be here. The only reason he isn't is to keep you and Star safe." Desi assured her. She heard a horn sound in the distance but ignored it.
Laney nodded and rubbed her face as she laid back. "Ouch... pressure is building."
"Breathe through it. Your contractions are still a few minutes apart." Desi said, taking Laney's hand and holding it.
She nodded as her body loosened as the contraction passed. "They're getting stronger."
"They will get stronger and closer together. At the rate you're progressing, I doubt it will take much longer." Desi said truthfully, trying to give Laney some encouragement.
"I don't like the sound of that," Laney replied with a grimace as her stomach tightened again without warning.
"Come on, it's time to meet little Star." Desi said with a smile, trying to cheer Laney up the best she could.
Laney drew her legs up as her breathing became labored. "Desi... it hurts."
"I know it does. You need to really bear down when you push or you'll just exhaust yourself." Desi said, giving Laney's hand a squeeze.
"I... I think I can feel her," Laney huffed, already feeling tired.
"I need my hand back so I can catch her, alright?" Desi said patiently, not complaining about the grip Laney had on her hand.
Laney nodded and took a deep breath as she let go of Desi's hand and gripped the bed. "Okay."
Desi moved to the end of the bed, ready to help. "For the most part, your instincts will guide you, but if anything feels wrong at all, let me know."
"Okay... okay. The pressure is really... strong," Laney answered with gritted teeth.
"Bare down and push. If you don't feel any progress, let up and breathe through it." Desi instructed.
After a couple of deep breaths, Laney bared down, pushing as hard as she could, and only stopped to get her breath back.
"You're doing great Laney; I can see her head now." Desi said excitedly.
"It hurts Desi!" Laney cried, then pushed again, unable to stop herself.
"Deep breaths, her head is out. The shoulders are the hardest part, then it's over." Desi said calmly, trying to talk her through it.
Laney let out a scream as she pushed a final time, feeling as the baby released from her body entirely. She fell back, feeling exhausted as she gasped for air, but didn't relax until she heard the infant's cries. "Is she okay?"
"She's fine, just upset." Desi said. She stood and laid Star on Laney's chest. "I can't believe she has so much hair already." She chuckled, then grabbed a nearby little towel to start cleaning her.
"She's... perfect," Laney murmured as she cradled the tiny bundle in her arms. She gently ran her hand across her tiny head, full of jet-black hair as tears rolled down her cheeks. She watched as Desi stopped cleaning Star and backed off for a few minutes, so she could have some uninterrupted bonding time.
Laney looked down at the tiny little girl in her arms and let out a long sigh. "I wish your daddy was here to meet you," she whispered softly. "He would fall in love with you, baby blue skin and all."
"He will meet her soon." Desi softly promised. "Do you want to cut her cord?"
She shook her head and sniffled. "I don't think I could if I wanted to right now. You are more than welcome to have the honor."
"Laney... you really should be the one to do it." Desi said, feeling lost as to how to help her best friend through this.
Laney nodded but didn't say anything. It was supposed to be what Loki would do. "Just tell me what to do."
Desi quickly tied the cord off in two places, then picked up a small medical blade. "Just cut it between the two spots I tied. I can hold Star if you want."
"Sure." Laney handed Star over to Desi, then gently took the blade in one hand and the cord in the other before she swiftly cut it, disconnecting the baby from her body. "Do you want me to help with anything? Do I need stitches or anything?" she asked.
"You need to rest and bond with your baby." Desi told her. "You don't need stitches, but the placenta will be ready to pass soon. After that, I can handle everything else on my own."
"Go ahead and weigh her and finish cleaning her up before she gets too cold. Are their clothes for infants here?" Laney asked, then smiled, feeling butterflies swarm her belly. "I can't believe I just had her... it wasn't as harsh as I thought it would be."
"I need to get you taken care of first. As for cold, she won't get cold, and I have some blankets to wrap her in until I can find some clothes." Desi told Laney as she handed Star back to her.
Laney curled Star to her chest and kissed the side of her head. "Do you think she would feed?" she asked softly.
"Probably not for an hour or two. She needs to settle from the stress of being born." Desi explained. "Do you feel anything that feels like small contractions?"
"Kind of," Laney responded as a small grimace came to her face. "I'm guessing that's everything else?"
"Yeah, but that won't be nearly as bad or take nearly as long. Just a couple small pushes is all." Desi assured her.
"Okay." Laney did as she was told and soon watched as Desi disposed of the afterbirth and began to clean her up. "I have a feeling I'm going to be so sore after everything wears off."
"I have some good potions that will take the edge off as you heal, but yes, you will be sore for a while. Just from the delivery won't be more than a few days. Your body has been shifted around to make room for Star, and it will take a few weeks for everything to return to its normal place." She explained, then returned to the bedside. "I'm ready to finish up with Star now, if you are alright with that."
Laney nodded as she gently handed over the infant. "Should I change clothes? I'm sure this bed is a mess now too."
"I have healer spells to take care of the clothes and bed. It just takes them a minute to work. By time I'm done checking Star, your clothes and bed will be clean again." Desi promised, gently rocking Star. She carried her over to the little scale to weigh her.
"Do you think her skin will get darker?" Laney asked, starting to feel tired. "I love the little white lines on her too."
"It will, but not for a few weeks, since she was born early." Desi said as she made notes during the exam. When she was finished, she neatly wrapped Star in a pink baby blanket and brought her back to Laney.
Laney's eyes welled with tears as she took Star into her arms once more and laid back on the bed with her. "I wish I could tell Loki that she's here... our little Star Veera Odinson."
"Why are you changing her traditional last name?" Desi asked curiously and began working on putting away supplies she was finished with, always keeping her areas very tidy.
"I figured she would take her father's name. Or should it be Odindottir instead?" she asked.
"Wouldn't it be Lokidottir?" Desi asked, then returned to her chair with the charts she needed to fill out.
Laney looked down at Star just as the tiny little girl opened her eyes and stared up at her momma. "That sounds perfect," she whispered.
"She has your eyes; did you see that?" Desi asked with a little smile.
"I have a feeling they will change and be just as green as her father's," Laney commented as she caressed Star's cheek softly. "I love her so much Desi," she added.
"When things calm down, I will try to send word to Asgard, alright?" Desi said softly. "When you're ready to sleep, I can watch her for you."
Laney yawned as she tightened her grip on Star out of instinct. "That might be best. I don't know how much longer I can stay awake."
"Come on, hand her over." Desi said with a smile. "I will take great care of her while you sleep."
She nodded as she reluctantly gave Star to Desi, then slowly got into a more comfortable position and yawned. "Be good for your aunt Desi," Laney murmured before she fell asleep.
Later that evening when Laney woke, Desi was sitting in a new chair, a more comfortable one that reclined, with Star sound asleep in her arms. The room itself was now set up for comfort more than treatment, and Baylor had returned, sitting across the room and chatting with Desi.
Laney smiled and moved to sit up. "What time is it? I hope I didn't sleep long."
"It's only just past evening meal." Desi told Laney. "There's food for you, if you're hungry." She nodded at the tray on the bedside table.
"Food sounds lovely, honestly. I'm also parched." Laney looked over to the table to see a meal of soup and a sandwich waiting for her, along with a cup of ice water.
Desi shifted Star to just one arm so she could reach over and pick up the tray to hand to Laney. "There's plenty more if you want a second helping."
"I'll see how I feel after I eat," Laney replied as she took the tray and placed it on her lap before she quickly drank the glass of water. "I'm sorry Baylor, for coming here and making a mess."
"No need to apologize. I would have stayed and helped, but I don't deal with that kind of... yuck. No offense. It's just a messy process." Baylor told her.
Laney chuckled as she took a bite of her sandwich. "None taken. Has any word come from Asgard?"
"All we know at this point is that some people higher in ranks have fallen. There has been no word on who, nor how bad the injuries are. It was enough to make them consider the possibility of needing reinforcement." Baylor told Laney.
"That's what that horn was earlier. All realms were alerted." Desi added.
"But... what does that mean?" Laney asked. "Have you sent people to help?"
"It means someone worth mentioning was injured enough to make them worry about their ability to defend themselves. It could be anyone from royalty down to nobles and lords. They did not sound off again, so their defense was successful. Had they called, we would have gone to their aid." Baylor answered, trying to give her as much information as he had.
Laney sighed, feeling relieved. "That's good to know. Hopefully we will hear from them soon."
"As soon as I hear anything, I will let you know." Baylor promised. "Oh! It could also be a council member!"
She smiled at him as she continued to eat her food. "Has Star eaten?" She asked.
"She has had a few snack size feedings, but she doesn't like the formula much." Desi answered. "There's a way to turn your milk into Jotun milk, and that will be the best for her."
Laney placed the tray back on the table beside her. "I'm willing to do whatever I need to."
"You just need to have one of these, once a day." Desi said, then took a little bag off of the bedside table. She opened it and took out what looked like an ice blue grape, then handed it to Laney.
She took it from Desi and quickly ate it, enjoying the taste. "Those are good. Only one a day?"
"Yep, just one a day. It will take about twenty minutes to work the first time, and only if you miss a day." Desi explained.
Laney nodded as she sat back in her spot on the bed. "I really like the taste of them."
"They smell very sweet. I wish I could have one." Desi chuckled, then shifted Star in her arms.
"Why can't you?" Laney asked.
"I don't have any milk and I don't need it turned into Jotun milk. For me, it could do more harm than good." Desi answered.
"Oh. So that's what it's used for." Laney looked down at Star in Desi's arms and smiled. "My darling girl."
"The Jotnar can eat it as a normal fruit, but that's a side effect of eating it for anyone not Jotun." Desi explained. "Do you want to hold her again?"
"I would love to hold her," Laney answered. "If she wakes, I can nurse her."
"She will wake soon. It's almost time for her to want to snack again." Desi said as she stood and brought Star to Laney. "She is fairly quiet for a baby."
Laney took Star into her arms and snuggled against her. "She's a lot like her father in that department."
"She also has his appetite, and I suspect his love of sweets." Desi said and returned to her chair. She pulled her legs beneath her and curled up in the small space.
"She can have her fill of milk soon. How have her diapers been? Normal?" Laney asked, curious.
"Normal, but still gross." Desi chuckled. "She's doing great Laney, I promise. She's healthy, feeding well, sleeps good... she's just small from coming early." She assured Laney.
Laney nodded then looked down as Star cooed as she woke. "Hey little one, are you hungry?"
Star made a series of little gurgle and coo noises at Laney, then yawned. "I think that's a yes." Desi said softly.
"Baylor, do you mind if I have some privacy to feed my daughter?" Laney asked him. "We would love it if you came back to visit a bit later."
"I'll be back in an hour or so." Baylor said, then excused himself.
"He's kind of weird, but he knows a lot about... everything." Desi told Laney.
Laney furrowed her brow as she unclipped one side of her gown. "Everything?" She asked.
"Literally everything. He's like a walking library. I didn't think it would be right for me to ask, but he might know something about Loki's birth family." She gave a little shrug.
"Do you think I should ask?" Laney moved Star toward her breast and encouraged her to latch on.
"Tilt her up a little more, she likes her head higher when she eats." Desi said, then thought about it for a moment. "That's up to you. We talked a lot while you were sleeping, and he just seems like someone who might have some answers."
Laney did as suggested, then grinned down at Star as she latched and began to suckle eagerly. She looked back over at Desi; her face thoughtful. "I'm not sure what to even say. I know Loki would be upset if he found out, but I think he would be happy to have answers."
"I feel like it's one of those situations where he's pretty much not going to like the answers, but even so, he can't move on without them." Desi said truthfully.
"Then I will ask him later today, see if he knows anything," Laney decided.
"He knew my father..." Desi said softly. "He said my father often tended to Loki's family. I can't see how he would know that, without knowing who they were."
Laney paused, then smiled. "If Baylor knew your dad, perhaps he can give you closure as well."
"I don't think it's really closure that I need... we were just really close, and I just miss him." Desi said, feeling a lump form in her throat.
"You will always miss him Desi. But Baylor may be able to tell you some amazing stories. It would bring a part of him back in a way," she said softly.
"I will think about it. It's not that I don't want to hear the stories, it's just still really hard for me... especially now." Desi sniffled, then dried her eyes.
Laney smiled, hoping to comfort her. "I know it's hard. But I will help you if you want me to." She looked down as she felt the suction lighten, to see that Star had tilted her head back and was fast asleep. "Someone is milk drunk," she chuckled.
"She definitely likes that better than formula." Desi chuckled, happy for the momentary distraction. "She might sleep longer between meals, drinking that much."
"As long as she has some awake time in between, she can sleep as long as she wants." Laney bent down and kissed Star's forehead before she scooted over and gently laid her down on her back to sleep. "Do you think Thor and Loki are okay?" She asked as she snapped her gown back together.
"I would like to think they are fine. While no word has been sent from Asgard, there's been no more horns either. So no one else high in rank has been injured and whoever was injured is still alive." Desi explained.
Laney sighed and nodded. "Would it be okay for me to shower? I think it would help me relax a little."
"Let's get you on your feet first and see how you feel. If you think you're up for a shower still, I will help you to the shower." Desi said. She uncurled herself and stood up.
"That sounds like a plan to me. I have a feeling I will be very sore though," she said with a sigh as she moved to slowly let her legs hang over the bed.
"Hold on..." Desi walked over to a supply cabinet and took out a potion, then brought it to Laney. "It won't make all the soreness go away, but it will help."
"Thank you, Desi. I really don't know what I would do without you." Laney took the vial and opened it before swallowing the liquid, then puckered her lips at the taste. "Reminds me of lemons."
"Do you want me to lay Star in the bassinet while you're in the shower?" She offered.
"You can if you would like. She's fast asleep," she answered, then slowly moved to stand, keeping one hand on the bed. "This doesn't feel too bad."
Desi quickly but carefully took Star and laid her down, then returned to Laney's side to help her. "Take it slow."
Laney nodded and began to take her first steps since having Star. She winced a little at the stretch she felt in her body but continued to walk. "Even though it's not pain free, it feels nice to move around."
"Moving around a bit will help, just don't overdo it. I think for the next day or two, only bathroom and shower trips. Then we can start going for a short walk a few times a day." Desi told Laney. She helped her walk into the bathroom, a little in awe at how delicately everything was decorated.
"This place is beautiful," Laney commented as she placed a hand on the bathroom counter to balance herself.
"It really is. The intricacy of their designs is incredible." Desi agreed. She left Laney at the counter and walked over to set the water for her. "Do you want a shower or a bath?"
"Is it safe for me to have a bath? Or should I stand?" She asked, while she continued to look around.
"It's safe but standing might be more comfortable." Desi answered.
"Standing it will be... although I think we might need to get some sanitary things," Laney commented as she noticed a patch of blood on her gown as she removed it.
"I will get everything you need. I was waiting until you passed the rest of the fluids." Desi explained.
Laney grimaced as she finished undressing. "I assume I will bleed for a little while. It's a big ordeal, having a baby."
"Yeah, for a few weeks or so. For the most part, it will be similar to what you're used to with your cycle, just longer." Desi explained, then came over to help Laney.
"That, I can deal with," Laney assured her and let Desi help her under the spray of the water.
"I'll be right over by the door if you need anything, alright?" Desi said, wanting to be able to listen for Star as well.
"Alright, thank you Desi." Laney grabbed for the soap and gently washed her body before she washed her hair. By the end of her shower, she could feel her legs tremble from the excursion. "Desi?" She called, "I need a towel, I'm ready to get out."
"Coming." Desi said and grabbed a towel. She handed Laney the towel, then stood by to help if needed.
Laney wrapped herself in the towel then stepped out of the shower. "My legs are getting shaky."
"Do you want to sit at the vanity for a few minutes?" Desi asked, taking Laney's arm to help her.
"That would be okay. It would help me dress easier to sit," she answered.
Desi nodded and helped Laney over to the seat at the vanity. "I have a new gown ready for you, or do you want sweats and a shirt?"
"Something loose fitting I think," she replied as she began to dry her hair with the towel, not minding she was nude.
"I will go look while you dry off." Desi said, then walked out to the closet. She found some sweats and a shirt that were a size too big for Laney and brought them back. "These will fit loose."
"Sounds perfect. Did you grab undergarments too? I'll need something so blood doesn't get anywhere."
"I already have them in here. I just wanted to have everything ready for you." Desi said, then took the underwear off the counter and brought them over, as well as hygiene items. "Do you need any help getting dressed?" She offered Laney.
"Maybe with the pants," Laney answered as she pulled the shirt on.
Desi got the underwear ready then knelt down and put Laney's legs through the underwear, then through the sweats. "When you're ready to stand, I can pull them up for you."
Laney nodded and put her hands on Desi's shoulders before she stood and let Desi pull up the clothing, so it was around her waist. "Thank you."
"No problem, Laney. I'm here to help." Desi said with a little smile. "Can you make it back to bed?"
"I should," she told her.
Desi helped Laney back to bed, and tucked her in. "Do you want to nap again?"
After thinking for a moment, Laney shrugged. "I could sleep. I should while Star is sleeping."
"I will watch her if she wakes." Desi promised. "I will only wake you if she wants to nurse."
Laney yawned and rubbed her eyes. "Alright. That will be fine." She scooted down on the bed and laid down to sleep.