NOTE: here's the final chapter/epilogue! I hope you've enjoyed the story. (and yes, we're skipping over some potentially interesting stuff here - this was written for a gift exchange and it barely made the deadline at this length. perhaps someday I'll write what happens in the middle...)
Sif had finished sparring with Fandral and headed to find Loki in the garden, when she heard his voice.
"No, I certainly will not," Loki refused loudly. "Just because you feel it necessary to go play with your mortal friends-"
"Loki-" Thor tried to interrupt, but Loki was having none of it.
Sif grinned, hurrying her steps to meet them.
"-doesn't mean I have any wish to join you, at all. I'm untangling two thousand years of mismanaged accounts, because Father had many skills but good at sums was not one of them. And I'm writing Mother's notes into a book, and I do not have time to visit the poor benighted souls on Midgard. Even if I wanted to visit them, I doubt they want to see me, so it's all rather a moot point."
"I was trying to say," Thor overrode him finally, "that I was making you regent."
Sif rounded the dragon topiary in time to see Loki blink. "Oh. Why didn't you say so?"
Thor grinned at him and sighed. "I would have if you had let me. Also you are officially proclaimed my heir. I signed it this morning."
"Well…" He hesitated, and his eyes flickered with uncertainty, but he expressed none of it, saying drily, "So formal, I'm impressed. If you insist. But don't think you can escape your duties for too long; I will fetch you. Don't think I won't."
Thor clapped him on the back. "I know." He saw Sif and raised his other hand in greeting at her. "And I trust you will make sure he gets into at least a little trouble, Sif? I scarce recognize this … loremaster."
"Indeed, I shall," she agreed cheerfully. "Perhaps we should adopt disguises and go start a war in Ljosalfheim?"
Thor laughed. "Only if you save some for me."
Loki rolled his eyes. "You should go with him, Sif, and hopefully Midgard will teach you both some better humor. Stark at least had some wit."
"You should both come with me," Thor told him eagerly, trying to take advantage of Loki's seeming willingness. "We can tell them about Thanos-"
"No." The single word was abrupt and adamant, and it took Thor a moment to find words to follow it.
"Very well, another time." He clasped Loki's shoulder. "I would have you fight at my side. But I know the Realm is in good hands, brother. I will return with stories of valor, and you will both be sorry you missed the battle!" With a nod in her direction, he took off toward the palace.
As soon as he was gone, Sif moved closer to Loki, who had found something fascinating to watch in the spray of the water droplets of the small decorative fountain.
"You should go with him," Loki suggested. "If they called Thor, it must be a decent fight."
For a moment she was tempted, since she hadn't had a decent fight against enemies since they'd invaded the Chitauri base to rescue Thor months ago. But glancing at Loki's profile, she didn't want to leave him. She gave a shrug. "If he needs help, he'll tell Heimdall and then I'll go."
In the months following the Odinsons return, which had been full of the funeral for Odin, the explanations of how Loki had impersonated him, and Thor's coronation, Loki had kept busy through all of it. She'd thought he might resent or contest Thor's accession, but he had insisted on it himself, seeming glad to foist it on Thor. He'd been surprised and gratified when Thor bestowed Gungnir on him, and seemed content to return to being the prince.
While she thought it was good that he was less angry, she tucked the sad thought away that something had broken in him. The loss of both parents in quick succession, including Odin's sacrifice, Thor's near loss, and whatever Thanos had done to him in their confrontation, had burned more than his anger. On the surface he seemed well, if quieter than before, but she was privy to his nights, when nightmares still clawed his sleep to shreds.
"You should tell him, Loki," she murmured. "He suspects, you know."
"It's been months." Loki flung out his fingers toward the fountain and froze all the water droplets to ice. They fell with rather musical tones and not, given his grimace of disappointment, the crash he'd wanted. "He's hardly bothered by what happened, and I'm still a child afraid of the dark."
He would only fall asleep if she was with him, and even then his sleep was rarely restful, unless he drank sleeping draughts which he hated because they also made his powers inaccessible. But this was the first time he'd admitted he was annoyed that Thor had recovered from his captivity without much difficulty, while Loki was still struggling.
She wrapped an arm around his waist. "Did it occur to you that's because we reached him in time? You had no such fortune, beloved." He automatically extended an arm across her shoulders to hold her close. "You're not a child - believe me, I know - but you need some time to heal. Remember, we're immortal. The time seems endless now, but in years to come you'll remember these days as a passing shadow, no more."
That seemed to reassure him, and he turned to face her, smiling into her eyes. "A shadow perhaps, but also a light. For these days brought you, and I can never regret that."
She wrapped a hand around the back of his neck to pull his mouth to hers.
"You could cast an illusion right here, so we can do whatever we want," she suggested, mumbling against his lips, as her other hand slipped beneath his surcoat.
He didn't answer as anything but a hum, deepening the kiss again, as his long fingers caressed her hip and down her thigh.
Then he abruptly drew back, dropping his hands from her and his eyes alight with outrage. "That- that snake!" he exclaimed. "That's why he wanted everything so formalized! He left me that excruciating water rights case tomorrow. I gave him a pile of documents and I bet he didn't read a single one. He's going to visit Jane Foster and laugh about how he stuck me with that tangle. There's probably no fight on Midgard at all!"
She burst into laughter at his aggrieved tone. For a second he glowered at her, offended, but then heard himself and chuckled, too. She asked, arching a brow, "Perhaps Thor learned something from his tricky little brother, after all, hm?"
He grumped at her, but didn't deny it. His gaze slid to the fountain, and his head cocked to one side, considering something.
"Oh dear. I know that look," she teased.
"The true problem with that case is lack of water. And it ocurrs to me that I don't have to decide the case, I can fix it." His smile was bright at her, and though she was disappointed by the apparent end of more pleasurable activities, his enthusiasm was contagious. "I don't have only lore, I have power, Sif. I can use the most powerful weather controlling artifact in the entire Nine Realms. I can bring them water. Tell the stables to saddle the horses, I want to be there by nightfall!" he called to her over his shoulder. He ran toward the palace, disappearing halfway to the steps because he was so excited he had to teleport.
She watched after him, laughing softly. He'd grown as a ruler and a man, pressed and shaped by pain and guilt, but he was still the boy of mercurial moods and an eager desire to make grand gestures.
Life would never be dull.
Thanks for reading!
(also, if Frozen is something you like, I began to post a crossover today: The Snow Queen and the Ice Demon. in which a frozen heart is thawed and there are FAMILY FEELS of parents and children, sisters and brothers, all over the place.)