The first time I remember him saving me, I was nine.
I was running. Fast. The only thing louder than my father's screams was the echo of my footsteps frantically hitting the wet cloister pavement. It was nearly dark, just past twilight on a warm, rainy summer's eve. I remember the soft orange glow coming from the windows above and the dozens of blurry faces peering down at the commotion below. A few people lingered to watch, but most closed their shutters as soon as they caught sight of him stumbling after me.
My father was one of the fiercest warriors in all of Asgard. Feared, respected, idolized. He had fought countless battles alongside Odin, saved thousands of lives, but could not hold a drink to save his own. He was of smaller girth than the other warriors, but deceivingly strong, tall, and cunning to a fault. He exploited the inherent weaknesses in his friends and foes, using that unapologetically to his advantage both at home and on the battlefield. My disillusioned mother quickly became accustomed to smiling and looking the other way whenever she passed him with whores in the lanes between taverns. He spent more time abusing the two of us than he did breathing. Even though he was a hero in the eyes of many, he was certainly no honorable man.
To this very day I don't recall what I had done to ignite his wrath that particular evening, but I suspect it had less to do with me and more to do with the amount of mead he had consumed. Curious how I can vividly remember the smell of the damp ground, the spray of warm rain against my face and even the specific black leather boots I wore, but can't recall the reason for the dispute. You never could tell what would stir his fury. Most times it was something as simple as casting the wrong glance in his direction.
It seemed like a lifetime before he finally caught up to me, but he did. I was fast, but even drunk, he was faster. I thought I would lose him in the Borwood, but as I tripped clumsily over one of the roots of a large, weeping ash tree in the far corner of the gardens, I knew I was done for. Ironically, I had just very recently come to know and love the tree as a sanctuary; it was the only place I felt safe.
Before I could open my mouth to yell, his hand came down hard, striking me firmly across the face. He was muttering something about being an ungrateful little bitch, the callous look in his eyes disturbing. The blow seemed to hit my right eye for it suddenly became difficult to see clearly out of. I braced myself hard for the second, but it never came.
At that very moment, a pale, dark haired boy, not much older than me (but certainly taller), jumped down from the tree and came to stand beside me.
"I really wouldn't do that again if I were you," the boy warned in a cool, matter-of-fact voice, though the look on his face was livid.
I remember thinking, how foolish, but how brave. There was something vaguely familiar about the boy, as if I had seen him somewhere before, but I couldn't properly place him.
"Mind your business lad, or I'll snap you in two!"
The boy's face was severe, almost murderous as he sized up my father. Suddenly, he burst hysterically into laughter.
"Try me," he challenged, cocking a smug eyebrow.
The boy stepped out in front of me the moment my father started after us. He put his arms out protectively and I used the extra moments to push myself up and prop my back against the trunk of the tree, watching the two of them intently. I didn't know what it was, but despite the boy's meager size in comparison to my father's, I felt inexplicably safer as he stood close to me.
As soon as my father was a no more than foot away from him, the boy's hands emitted an array of bright green embers that flew straight up into the foggy air, forming a brilliant spherical force field around the two of us. I was too entranced by the beauty of the enchantment to remember the amount of pain I was in, and before long, I too was smiling. This boy, whoever he was, was a child of magic.
His hard expression softened as he glanced back to gauge my condition. He nodded down at me reassuringly before turning his cold gaze back on my father. I'll never forget the first time I looked into those troubled eyes; eyes the color of a sea just before a horrific storm. I had never seen anyone so mysterious yet so enchanting. I was positive he looked quite the opposite of what the Midgardians would describe as an angel, but at the time, he certainly felt like one to me.
As soon as my father had so much as touched the orb he was thrown high into the air, landing far from where he originally stood. The boy grinned and peeked back at me to see if I was impressed. Show off, I thought. Suddenly, his haughty expression turned pained. My smile faded as I looked up into his face. He immediately noticed my concern.
"It's nothing," he tried to reassure me as he winced, looking back in the direction of my father while still holding the force field strongly up around us. "I'm not wonderful at this yet. Sometimes it bothers my hands. Almost feels a bit like sharp knives."
"You must stop then!" I shouted frantically, extremely bothered by his distress.
He smirked, seemingly appeased by my concern. "Sif, it is Sif then?"
"Lady Sif, good sir," I replied, straightening myself while wiping the dirt from my dress.
The boy smiled broadly, trying hard to hold back laughter as he attempted a bow in his awkward state. "Lady Sif, I do apologize."
I blushed at his smile. It was blinding. To see such a radiant expression on someone who looked so forlorn was comparable to watching the sun break through clouds after a long, dark storm. I couldn't help but feel elated by it.
"Lady Sif, you must hide behind me now. Do not make an inch of yourself visible to your father and keep quiet, do you understand?"
"Do as I say."
At that moment, I heard my father stumble over once more in our direction. I panicked as soon as I noticed that the embers around us had faded. I broke my promise to the boy and peeked cautiously around his legs to get a better view of what was occurring. My father stood in front of him looking much more sober, though he didn't seem to notice me.
"Your highness," my father croaked, bowing awkwardly and looking around suspiciously. "I- I beg pardon, but I am rather confused as to how I got here. Have you any idea?"
Your highness? I mouthed, wondering what sort of nonsense my father was on about now. The notion that he was sober suddenly seemed even more ridiculous.
"Perhaps one drink too many, my lord," the boy retorted crossly, rocking slightly back on his heels while trying to nudge my face back behind him with the back of his knee. It was clear he was trying to be as nonchalant as possible, while keeping me hidden. "Best be on your way now."
"Err… indeed," my father agreed, rubbing his head. He questioned the boy no further, turning immediately to stagger off towards home.
It didn't make any sense. Why wasn't father questioning this any further? Why did he suddenly seem to be sober or at least much more sober than he was just a few moments ago? Why wasn't he snapping at the boy, grabbing him by his shirt collar and demanding he move out of the way so that he could finish what he had started?
After a minute or two of making sure my father was out of sight, the boy turned and crouched down beside me, looking dreadfully concerned at the wound on my face.
"What was that all about? Why didn't he realize where he was?" I asked, perplexed.
"Memory charm," he said. "I'm not very good at them yet, unfortunately," his voice turned sad. "Your father won't remember why he was here. If the spell worked properly, I don't think he'll remember he was cross in the first place."
"Is he sober as well?"
"The spell does that, yes."
"You- you know magic then?" I asked thickly, obviously knowing the answer. His gaze was unnerving, causing quite the annoying feeling within my chest. I looked away, touching my hand to my wound to see how much I was bleeding.
"Aye, my mother taught me. Are you badly hurt?" he asked again, holding out his hand to pull me up with. It was shocking how someone who was just so cold to a fearless warrior could be so very kind to me. It was hardly the same person. The rapid change in his disposition both frightened and intrigued me.
"I would be much worse if you hadn't saved me," I replied hesitantly, brushing my hair behind my ears with one hand as I reached up to take hold of his hand with the other. His skin was cold, but soft against mine. "What did you say your name was?"
"I didn't." He answered coolly, paying no mind to my stares. As he leaned in to examine the cut above my eye, still unknowingly holding onto my hand, I remember how strongly he smelled of fresh pine. He didn't look anything like the other boys I had lessons with. His skin was pale in contrast with his long, dark hair that fell across his striking blue eyes. The fabric of his dark green and gold tunic was something I had never seen before; the design was almost regal. He was quite handsome in a very unconventional way. I didn't know what it was about him exactly, but from the moment he had jumped from the tree it had been difficult to keep my eyes off of him.
"Your hand feels rough for a girl's," he declared candidly, suddenly looking down quizzically at my fingers entwined in his.
So there it was. He was exceptionally rude.
I ripped my hand away from him and turned to storm off in the other direction, half angry, half embarrassed. Despite his cleverness and opulent attire, it was clear that this boy lacked proper etiquette.
"Aw, come on, Sif," he followed after me, running to catch up to my side. "I didn't mean anything by it. You're by far the prettiest girl I've ever seen."
I stopped as soon as I noticed my heart doing that strange thing again. He thinks I'm pretty, I thought. I smiled to myself before turning back to angrily face him. Suddenly, I had an idea.
"That's Lady Sif to you. And for being royalty, you're quite daft!" I said sneakily, crossing my arms in front of me.
"How did you know I was roy-"
"HA!" I pointed my finger at him. "I didn't, but I do now! Besides, as much of a dolt as my father is, he wouldn't bow to just anyone, drunk or not. Who are you, really? And why was my father referring to you as 'your highness?'"
The boy's expression turned from sprightly to crestfallen. After seeing the drastic change in his face, I suddenly didn't feel so great about my devious accomplishment.
He paused a minute before answering, turning back around to face the Borwood. "My name is Loki," he whispered quietly, sadly, looking over his shoulder at me.
"Loki," I repeated thoughtfully. As the realization hit me, my eyes slowly made their way up to his and my stomach lurched. I knew that name. He was Loki Odinson. Prince of Asgard.
I immediately gasped and fell to the ground in an awkward bow, knocking my head wound against a small stone as I did so.
"Ouch!" I cried, rubbing my forehead while simultaneously trying to keep my head down in the grass.
Loki groaned and rushed over to my side. He sat me up and ripped off a piece of his sleeve to stop the bleeding that had recommenced. I remember being shocked that he had torn such elegant fabric, but I was grateful all the same.
"I'm sorry, your highness," I said mortified, unable to look at him. "Forgive my bad manners and clumsiness. I did not know who you were."
"There's nothing to forgive," he assured me, holding the cloth firmly against my skin. "Lady Sif, please do not bow to me again. And don't call me your highness either, Loki is enough."
"Just Sif is fine," I said meekly in return, my face burning.
"Good," he perked up, pulling me up carefully with him as he stood. His face turned menacing as he beamed down at me. "Because you are no lady!"
"OHHH!" I shrieked, immediately exploding with anger. He took off before I could grab him, howling with laughter as he did so. Every so often he would turn to look back at me, smiling with that charming grin that was so contagious, I couldn't help but smile back.
I chased after him for a while, sprinting through squares and knocking over bakers carrying trays of stale bread to the troughs, until all the light finally escaped the sky and the stars came out. When we finally reached the water, I collapsed exhaustedly on a grassy knoll that looked out onto Heimdall's observatory.
"I'm not- chasing you- anymore!" I called after him in between breaths, lifting my head weakly to see where he was at.
He climbed back up the hill, exasperatedly putting his hands on his hips, and came to sit beside me. "Boy," he said teasingly. "You sure do run like a girl."
"Don't test me, Odinson," I turned on my side to get a better look at him. "I bet I could beat you at sparring any day. Besides, if I hadn't already spent half the evening running, I would have caught up to you in an instant."
Loki scoffed, but his expression quickly turned sad.
"What is it?" I asked.
He hesitated for a moment before answering. "Do you- do you want me to use my memory charm on you?" He asked quietly as his eyes began to water. "I could make you forget what happened today. Your father, and all. The only thing is, like I said earlier, I'm not very good at them. You wouldn't remember any of today. Or me."
"Why would I want to do that?"
As I looked up into his face, tears began falling down his cheeks. I had no idea what was wrong, but his distress greatly bothered me. He wiped his skin clean with his sleeve and looked away. "Because that's what you normally want."
What I normally want?
"Loki," I said after a minute, suddenly alarmed, sitting up to get a better look at him. I swallowed. "What do you mean that's what I normally want?"
Suddenly, a sick feeling washed over me. I realized as quickly as I had asked that this wasn't our first meeting.
"How long have we known each other?"
"Not long, I promise. I promise!" he yelled back, desperately trying to get me to listen. "This is… this is the third time we've met."
"WHAT?! WHAT DO YOU MEAN? YOU USED THE MEMORY CHARM ON ME, DIDN'T YOU?" I screamed, my body shaking with fear and rage. I burst into tears, suddenly feeling very confused and afraid. I wanted nothing more than to run far away from him, but I was too tired. Instead I fell back on the ground in exhaustion, pounding the grass beneath me. I knew I had met him before. When he first looked at me, when his hand touched mine; I knew he was familiar. I had felt it.
"No, Sif, please," he panicked, starting to cry harder along with me. "Please listen to me, please! The first time we met was by that big ash tree. Sif, you were crying and bloodied up and so bruised, begging me to make you forget once I explained that I had made your father forget his anger. He had chased you to the very same tree you were at today, only this time, I didn't get there so late. You were so tired Sif, and I couldn't heal you. Not properly, anyways. I can't heal superficial wounds, but I can make people forget. And that is what you wanted. That is what you asked of me."
He made to reach for me, to soothe me, but I instinctively flinched away from him. He looked horrified.
I cried for what seemed like an eternity before finally calming down and carefully taking in everything he had said to me. I felt humiliated. I knew he was being sincere, but I couldn't shake the fact that he remembered everything and I didn't. He had seen me at my most vulnerable on apparently more than one occasion, and I couldn't even recall any of it.
"I don't remember having any bad wounds as of - as of late – where- did I go after-," I stuttered, finally speaking through sobs, though rather incoherently.
"I picked you up and I carried you to one of the healers," he said quietly, clearly not wanting to relive the harrowing event. "I- I told them you had fallen into the gorge and cut yourself badly on the rocks. By then you were unconscious."
I took another few minute before sitting up, but I still wouldn't look at him. My head was pounding, but at least the bleeding had stopped. I finally brushed the tears from my face and breathed in deep, turning my attention back to the stars.
"I keep running back to that same tree lately, whenever I'm in trouble," I sniffled, finally pulling myself together. "I felt it again tonight. It was as if I knew where I was running to all along."
"Right before I cast the first charm on you, I told you to come back to that tree if you were ever in danger again. I told you that I would protect you. I didn't think you would remember, but I had to try. Apparently, it stuck. I'm not sorry about that."
"What about the second time?"
"You weren't nearly as badly hurt. Your father had gotten to you just before you reached the tree. When I took care of him and then told you what had happened the last time, how I made you forget, you were so angry with me," he trailed off, moving his arm up to wipe his face with his torn sleeve. "You chose to forget me that time."
He sat with his knees pulled up to his chest and buried his face in his hands. "Please Sif. I'm so sorry. I know your father is horrible, I hate him. I know it's terrible that you don't remember, but part of me is glad you don't. I wish I could forget that day. Please, please don't hate me for doing what I did, for doing what you asked of me. Please don't choose to forget me again."
The more I listened to him talk, the more sincere I knew he was. It was clear he loathed making me forget; it was also clear that he only did it to lessen the pain I was in. My father was evil, capable of the worst. Maybe I was better off not remembering.
"If we are to remain friends," I said, conscientiously wondering how I was managing to remain calm in such a moment. "I don't know how I can trust that you won't erase my memories again."
"I suppose, as long as you have this memory, you'll at least always know the truth. I'm afraid that's the best I can do."
"Why didn't you just try to meet me on a better day? Then I would remember you, and you wouldn't have had to tell me any of this."
"I didn't want to lie to you about the first time we met, but I didn't know how I was going to bring it up," he said, looking over at me. Our eyes caught for the first time in a while. Stupid heart, I thought to myself. He looked genuinely vexed. "I would have figured it out eventually. Trying to stay away from you is proving to be extremely difficult."
To my surprise, and much more to his, I reached over to take his hand. I smiled at the extreme confusion on his face and smiled even more when he returned the firm grip I had on him. He was a curious individual. He looked angry, scared, relieved, elated and miserable all at the same time. He was a puzzle I would unknowingly spend the rest of my life unsuccessfully trying to solve.
"You're not very clever, you know," I said, looking over at him suspiciously.
"Why is that?"
"Because most of the incidences happen back home. If you really wanted me to be safe, you'd protect me there."
"I've spent quite a few nights on your roof, just in case."
"Nothing funny!" he exclaimed quickly, cowering from any more of my wrath. "I would just force him to miss when he'd try to hit you, or occasionally make him trip into a cauldron of stew. I didn't realize it would only make him angrier."
"I always put that down to his drunkenness," I said, bursting into laughter at his confession, much to his relief. "Why didn't you tell anyone what really happened to me?"
Loki took one long, painful sigh before answering. "The first and last time we met, you made me promise I wouldn't. And I've kept my promise. But Sif, I don't know how long I can keep that promise. My mother - Frigga - she is kind, and gentle, and she would take care of you. You could come live with us. No one would ever hurt you again."
"Why not?" He asked incredulously. "Don't you want to be safe? What if something worse happens?"
"My mother. No one would look after her."
If there was one language Loki understood, it was the love for one's own mother. I eventually discovered that there were countless times the Allfather had raised his voice to Frigga, and it left Loki seething. He told me once he never thought anything could possibly anger him more; until the first time he saved me from my father.
"When I grow up, I'm going to become a fierce shieldmaiden," I told him firmly. "I'm going to be one of Asgard's finest warriors. No man will be able to hurt me."
"I'll never hurt you," he whispered, squeezing my hand harder while half smiling at me. "I'll never let anyone hurt you."
I will forever remember the look on his face as he promised me this; frighteningly loving and frighteningly determined. It was as if he alone would protect me from all of the horrors within the nine realms; and I believed him. Little did I know, little did we both know, all of the misfortunes that would come to pass in time.
As we sat in silence, I leaned against him until I was practically asleep on his shoulder. He left me like that for quite a while before realizing the hour. I urgently needed to get some proper rest.
"Come on then," he whispered quietly, gently trying to shrug me off, much to my protesting. "I'll walk you home."
After quietly climbing through my already open bedroom window, I flopped down onto my bed just beneath it. The soft fabric was welcoming, and I wasted no time pulling my pillow underneath my weary head. I looked up at Loki crouched over me in the windowsill and smiled.
"Will I see you tomorrow?" he whispered, blowing what looked like a kiss off of his hand. Embers once again flew from his fingertips, flying like fireflies into the lantern next to my bed, giving off a warm light to the gloomy room.
"Yes, though hopefully under different circumstances," I yawned, smiling in wonder at the dancing embers before covering myself with the quilt at the foot of my bed. "Will you stay a while?"
His expression brightened at my request and he nodded down at me. It was clear he was reluctant to leave, but didn't want to stay without my consent.
I reached up to take his hand, too tired to curse my heart that was still busy flopping around in my chest. I wouldn't know it until later, but he had always felt it too.
"Sweet dreams, Lady Sif."
"Goodnight, Loki Odinson," I whispered, finally letting go after a minute had passed. "I will never again choose to forget you."
In the many years that would follow, Loki always kept his promise to keep me from harm. I was continuously saved by a boy who was at no point under any obligation to help me; to care for me. I want people to remember that before he chose hate, before he chose revenge, before he chose death and destruction and merciless ruin, he chose unconditional love. He chose me.
Only now, as I sit here without him, would I finally choose to forget.