"to have and to hold"
Genre: Humor, Bromance
Time Frame: Future Fic
Characters: Thor/Jane, Loki/Sif
Summary: In which Thor despairs over how to ask for Jane Foster's hand, and his brother is less than helpful. For the most part.
Notes: This is pure and unadulterated crack/fluff/bromance from I don't even know where . . . Set in some future verse where Loki is working for the Avengers, rather than against - and if you want a backstory for that, (and the Sif/Loki interaction at the end of this piece), then I humbly recommend my Steel!verse of stories. But, going through that marathon read is not needed for understanding this piece.
And then, the inspiration for this came from reading about Viking courtship – and I will be the first to admit that I am no scholar or expert on Nordic customs. So any errors within this piece, or the handy notes at the end of the story, are all my own. That said, I do welcome any who have a higher understanding than me who are open to pointing out error.
I also wanted to take a moment to thank everyone that has left such stunning feedback on this series. You guys humble me and keep me writing.
Now all that is out of the way – I do hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed penning it.
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine but for the words.
"to have and to hold"
"I have, with me, as Mundr, three fjórðungr's of gold, and two fjórðungr's of silver. Three dozen oxen, and a vætt of finely sifted flour. I have also, a fine male steed descending from the almighty Sleipnir, with bridle and saddle crafted by Brokkr himself. Past that I can offer my steel, my shield, and my heart as payment and promise. And so, Erik Selvig, I humbly ask for the hand of Jane Foster as my bride."
From across the open and airy vista, low and mocking clapping could be heard at the end of Thor's speech. Startled, the Thunderer looked up to see his brother walking across the way to him, his eyes glinting wickedly in the light of Asgard's setting suns.
"Only three dozen oxen, and three fjórðungr's of gold? Brother, you pay for a harlot, and not a wife."
"It is considered rude to lurk about unseen in the shadows," Thor declared haughtily, shielding the parchment in his hands from his brother's eyes – no doubt where he had actually penned the words he had spoken in order to rehearse their flow.
Loki raised a brow. "Rude?" he echoed back, sounding fascinated. "Truly, so much is now explained. Thank-you for illuminating that aspect of decorum for me. And yet, I can assure you that I was not hiding – nor spying upon you. Your attention was quite taken by your . . . rehearsal, and you did not hear me approaching."
Thor raised a dubious eyebrow, weighing his brother's sincerity. Finally, he heaved a great sigh and slumped forward, the fight taken from him. Wearily, he walked the few paces to the steps that surrounded the grand room, and plopped down gracelessly.
Loki raised a brow before following more elegantly, as always a shadow slipping into place next to his brother. "Mother knew that there was such a reason for your visit," he started delicately. "You are not much upon Asgard as of late . . . And Odin was no doubt puzzled at your request for access to the treasury."
"So she sent you?" Thor asked, eying his brother from the corner of his eyes.
"No, not mother," Loki said smoothly.
Thor visibly relaxed.
"Our beloved Freyja did," Loki said then, enjoyment upon his face as the still set of Thor's shoulders returned. "She told me that you had asked her assistance in composing a mansognr. Which surprised me, brother – for while it is better than asking a Skald, you still pay your lady a great insult by not being able to put her attributes into verse yourself."
"Traitorous wretch," Thor muttered under his breath.
Loki snorted. "Trusting Freyja to hold her tongue is like trusting a candle not to burn. And . . . her concern was true if she inquired so as to me." For it was well known the irritation that the golden woman bore for the Trickster, and he in return.
"Concern?" Thor echoed. "Indeed, it is hopeless then."
"I would not say so," Loki said delicately. "So . . . you have have decided to ask for Jane Foster's hand?"
"Yes," Thor answered.
"And you have chosen Selvig to pay her mundr to?"
"It seemed fitting," Thor shrugged. "She is without father or brother, and Erik Selvig treats her as if she were born of his own flesh."
"Brother . . . you do realize that such things are no longer part of Midgardian custom?" Loki tried to say delicately. "You need not pay in gold and livestock for her hand."
Thor looked as conflicted as Loki had ever seen him. At any other time, the sight would have been truly amusing, but Loki carefully set his smile aside upon seeing how troubled Thor truly was.
Thor sighed. "This is one thing that I do not wish to ruin by my short sightedness. Midgardian custom often eludes me, and yet, our own customs are somewhat . . . archaic to the mortals. I tried to ask the man of iron for his help, seeing as how he amongst all of us is the most . . . proficient with the fairer kind. And yet, he seemed more interested in the ritual they call a stag night, rather than the actual whys and hows of my securing Jane's hand. His Pepper, however, suggested flowers." Thor pointed to the rather impressive bouquet of roses tied neatly on the stairs next to him, and Loki recognized the blooms from Frigg's gardens, the bushes that he had enchanted to never loose their bloom or prick with their thorns.
"The flowers are very nice brother," Loki said, holding his tongue about his thoughts of Tony Stark's advice. Better that his brother would ask the gamma scientist or the Captain instead.
"Jane likes flowers," Thor said, his brow creased in thought. "Candies, as well, are looked upon favorably, so it would seem – and so I would procure that as well. And then poetry! On Midgard, poems are acceptable ways of professing ones adoration. Which is not so very different than composing a mansognr – and even though I am no Skald, I did imagine that stringing together a few pretty words to not be beyond me."
And here Loki did smirk. "It was harder than imagined then?"
Thor made a face. "My tongue is a leaden weight in my mouth."
"Heavens no," Loki drawled.
Thor narrowed his eyes. "But my steel is formidable enough, so watch your own tongue, brother."
"When have I ever not?" Loki returned smoothly, and upon saying so, a contemplating glow entered Thor's eyes. Loki immediately backpedaled. "Oh no, no, no. I know that face."
"I have it!" Thor declared.
"No," Loki said flatly.
"Yes!" Thor declared, obviously greatly pleased with his own wisdom. "You amongst us all are silken with your tongue. Please, assist mine."
"Indeed – you will aid my words, and the poetry written will ensure that Jane Foster accepts my suit!"
"Brother . . ."
"Please," Thor said simply, sincerity so encroaching in his voice and eyes that for a moment Loki wondered at it - wondered at how it was possible to go through life so open and read by all around.
Finally, Loki sighed, "Show me what you have so far."
Thor cleared his throat, his eyes glancing left and right, as if studying the shadows for eyes. When he was certain that no one would hear the Prince of Asgard trying his hand at verse, he said in a low voice:
"Jane, the love of my life -"
"- no," Loki interrupted.
"Why ever not?" Thor asked, miffed that he had been stopped so soon.
"Try something simpler. More elegant."
Loki considered. "Try 'beloved', the term is timeless."
Thor nodded, pausing only to scribble the note down upon the parchment. He cleared his throat, and then continued, "Your eyes are like the sea -"
"Cliché," Loki repeated. "Hallmark cards hold such lines, and so a son of Odin will not."
"And you know of these Hallmark cards how?" Thor narrowed his eyes suspiciously.
"One must study all aspects of his enemy if he expects to triumph," Loki dismissed the question. "Now, try again. Her eyes are like . . ."
"Coffee?" Thor guessed.
"Do you have any adjective not suggested by your stomach, brother?" Loki asked.
"Horizons!" Thor suddenly blurted. "I stared at so many while waiting for her, and she for me . . . I could spend forever trying to reach those horizons, and still not complete my journey."
Loki paused, and blinked. "That is actually good."
"You sound so surprised," Thor huffed. But he continued reading. "Your hair is like a curtain of silk -"
"Cliché, again," Loki cut him off. "Something other than silk."
Thor's brow creased. " . . . you already said no to chocolate," he complained, stumped.
"And coffee," Loki cut the other off before he could try.
Thor snorted indelicately. "Coffee is stunning and complex and darkly satisfying – Jane is as well."
Loki rubbed at his temples. "I can see how the connection is made in your mind, but I am not sure that comparing her hair to such a thing will get you far."
Thor frowned. "This is hopeless, isn't it?"
"Your grasp on verse, or the whole endeavor at large?"
Thor glared crossly at the other. "The verse, brother," he said tersely.
"Indeed, you are no bard," Loki said, his humor leaching into his words. Thor looked up sharply, but Loki waved a hand at the violence in his gaze – long used to dealing with his brother's tempers. "Might I suggest an alternate path?"
Thor still looked suspicious as Loki conjured two obviously Midgardian manuscripts from smoke and shadow. Catalogs, Thor remembered them being called. One was entitled 'Kay' and the other 'Jared'. Each bore a rather impressive collection of jewelry within their glossy pages. Most notably within, there were rings. Wedding rings.
Immediately, Thor understood. Almost eager, he plucked the catalogs from his brother's hand, and immediately started pouring over the pages. He glanced quickly, flying through the pages, almost certain that the right ring would jump out at him – just like he had known that Mjölnir was his to wield, or that Jane was the woman that he wished to bind his life with.
"This Jared is a man of great taste," Thor declared as he flipped through the pages, awed.
"Quite," Loki gave, his voice dry as he peered over Thor's shoulder. "Choose the design, and I shall forge it for you. The stones are easily accessible, and if I assemble it myself, then I can also aid with enchanting it. Surely your bride would do well to have some sort of protection for when you are not about. She certainly has attracted danger enough, binding herself to you."
Thor carefully set the catalog down, his massive hands delicately holding the pages open. He looked over to his brother then, and it took Loki a moment to realize his brother's contemplation while he continued looking on at the page. Finally, Loki caught Thor's gaze, and raised a brow. "Is something amiss?"
"What more?" Thor asked, sternly.
"Beg pardon?" Loki questioned, ever innocent.
"You," Thor lifted one hand from the glossy page to wag an accusing finger at his brother, "are being entirely too . . . helpful. Why? Speak your reasons and let me know the price you expect me to pay."
Loki held his hands out and open before him, palms up and empty. "I ask no price, and expect nothing in return," he said as sincerely as he could.
Thor's eyes were still narrowed.
Loki let a moment pass, counting out his heartbeats. One, two, three, low and deep in his chest, and then he said, "I have . . . I have spent too much time as a hindrance to you, and your attachment with the Lady Jane." His tongue stumbled over the words. They were thick in his mouth. "The bifröst's destruction . . . all of those battles . . . It is a miracle that she survived some of the things I put you through – and you as well were plagued by my hand one too many times. I will no longer see your happiness denied when I can see it otherwise." And that was honesty, Loki reflected for a moment, the confession oddly light upon his chest. He was very still, like a stag before the hunter, as he waited for his brother's reaction.
Thor was silent for a long moment, studying the other from very clear eyes. There was nothing ever shielded in their depths, and for a moment, Loki marveled over the regard he found there. He did not understand it – had not understood it years before, and he most certainly did not comprehend it now, at the end of so many things.
Thor reached out and placed a large hand on his shoulder. It was a weight, as always. "Brother, I have forgiven you long ago."
"And I will continue to earn it," Loki said simply.
"I am sure," Thor said. "But I would not have your aid out of some sense of duty or payment. If you wish not to lend your assistance, then you need not to."
"I want to," Loki said, surprising himself at the truth of such words. "Besides, if I did not step in, you would still be trying to give Jane livestock. Brother, what would she do with a herd of oxen?"
Thor winced, his smile soft and thankful. "Your point is valid, brother." He flipped through the pages of the catalog, his eyes narrowing contemplatively. "This one, brother. I want this."
Loki looked over his shoulder at the ring. The one Thor had chosen was a twist of antique white gold, knotting in the center with two toned diamonds – the twist of it almost like the northern oath rings of time past. The outer ring of diamonds were crystal and clear, and the inner grouping were actually chocolate toned diamonds. Loki raised a brow upon seeing so.
"Her eyes," Thor gave with a wave of his hand, the tips of his ears blushing pink.
Loki snorted. "Of course." He tapped a finger against the picture. Such stones would easily make the way for enchantments, and he had an idea or two to make the ring worthy of a soon to be immortal woman . . . and less like a mortal trinket.
"So . . . you truly think she would have me?" Thor questioned then, his voice soft. Loki had to strain to hear it, almost lost as it was by the breeze drifting in from the sea beyond.
"I believe that she is a woman who literally forged a path across time and space to make it to you," Loki's tone was wry. "She would not have tried so hard had she not intended to keep you around in some manner or the other."
Thor smiled, and the look there was so soft that Loki looked away from it, feeling almost as an intruder upon witnessing such a gaze. "She is unlike any other I have ever met," Thor said on an exhale.
"You do not deserve her, it is true," Loki couldn't help but jibe. Thor rolled his eyes and swatted at his brother's arm. Loki bore the blow, his smirk growing. "Just . . . forget your livestock and your gold and your poems. Keep the flowers – you picked them for her. And ask her honestly, tell her how you feel – your sincerity has never failed you before, and I would be greatly surprised indeed if she doesn't agree to be your bride."
Thor smiled, the whole of it so wide that it was seemingly hung from his ears. "You really think so?"
Loki gave a long suffering sigh. "If you make me say it again, I just may rescind my opinion entirely."
"Indeed, there have been too many flowery words for one eve," Thor grunted, shaking his shoulders as if to shake away the sentiments of the last few moments, unaccustomed to being mired so in them. When he got to his feet, his movements were swift and sure. "Now, if you would excuse me, brother, I do believe that I have to arrange a few things more. There is a lady who would marry me, you know, and everything must be right."
"Aim true and strike swift," Loki let the warrior's parting roll of his tongue, his eyes sharp with his humor.
"Indeed I shall," Thor inclined his head, once again self assured, and so very golden before the other. Loki smiled up at him, and for once he did not feel ill at ease in the shadow the other cast. "And, brother . . . Thank-you."
"It is nothing," Loki said softly, holding Thor's eyes.
Thor held his gaze a moment longer, and then turned to leave.
Loki lingered for a moment more, inhaling the sea wind, his eyes tangling with the smoke from the torches beyond; the shadows upon the gold. He felt almost liquid in that moment, as if anything harsh lingering from before had completely departed – like the surf cleansing the sand. He counted out the seconds, and then said to the empty air: "I have just been recently informed that it is impolite to loiter on unseen in the shadows."
A whisper of boots upon the polished stone, a hitch of breath. "And to think that I had learned from the best."
Loki tilted his head, his eyes liquid as they traced the Lady Sif as she stepped out from her concealment of tapestry and gilded column. Her smile was wry in the dying light, her skin painted gold from the fluctuating cosmos beyond. She had heard, he understood in that moment, having felt her as a dim shadow to his senses the whole of his conversation with Thor. But there was no humor at his sake in her eyes, just a gentle pride that anchored his gaze. The warmth there bound him, and he was unable to look away.
"So, how many oxen will you pay for me, my lord?" Sif's words were light as she passed over to him, her tone airy with her teasing. But as she spoke there was a challenge that shaded over in her eyes – steel sharpening steel.
She sat down besides him, and he turned just slightly; an angle of shadow thrown from her. "And why would I pay in oxen when I already have such a vested interest in horses?" he asked, reaching over to tug on a lock of her hair as if they were still children, with children's taunts on their lips.
"It would be good Heimdall you'd ask for my hand as my fastnandi," Sif said, her voice dangerous. "Perhaps you would consider something more valuable than livestock."
"And yet, something tells me that your brother will take nothing less than my life's blood."
"And you would not pay such for me?" she knocked her shoulder against his own.
Loki looked thoughtful for a moment. "I would sooner elope."
"And besmear my honor so?" she tossed her head arrogantly, her hair a black cloud that caught the fading sunlight. "I expect to be made an honest woman of, Odinson," her tongue made a graceful loop of the words, and they echoed oddly within his ears, not entirely unpleasant. He thought then: Sif Týrdottir, shield-maiden, and sister to the almighty Thor in arms. Sif Lokisbride, on his arm and in his life for all to see. There was something intoxicating about the thought.
"Honesty," Loki waved a hand in dismissal, his throat most peculiarly dry upon the word. "It is not all it is said to be."
Sif had leaned in towards him at his words, a gaze fixed upon him that he couldn't quite translate - as if she were reading him from the opposite side of the battlefield, rather from next to him with a lover's closeness. He inhaled, automatically finding his center, even though there was no enemy to fight in the room – no arms to take.
From beyond them, not quite departed, Thor's voice came in at the most inopportune time, calling out: "Brother! Just be honest with her, tell her how you feel!" He parroted Loki's words from earlier, miming his brother's voice in a ridiculously pleased way that had Loki biting his tongue so as to not laugh.
He concentrated, and when the great doors to the hall beyond slammed shut in the face of the chuckling Thunderer, no one could say that Loki was without cause for the slight.
Mira's Mauling of Norse Terms:
Mundr: The price a man paid to a woman's family for her hand, usually equal to her dowry (or heiman fylgia), the poorman's price was sometimes lower, and a rich man's gift could be substantially more. On top of the Mundr, a groom would also pay another gift the morning after the wedding. The morgen-gifu. But this would be paid directly to the bride, in honor of her availability for childbearing.
Fastnandi: Normally a bride's father, or closest male relative, this man would negotiate the price of a Mundr, and be the one to collect that payment from the groom.
Mansognr: A 'maiden song'. Literally love poems. In mythology, Freyja was the Goddess of such verse, even though Vikings were weary of such poems. It was considered offensive to a woman's honor for a groom to have a Skald (poet) write verses in their place, since it inferred that the poet had a deeper understanding of the bride than the groom actually did – and when a woman's honor was slighted, the wrath of every male relative was normally brought to bear on the offender. And then, there was such a fear for the power that the verses had to bespell a woman in pagan times that some Skalds were even punished by death for writing poems.
Fjórðungr: A measurement of weight, equivalent to about ten pounds.
Vætt: A measurement of weight, equivalent to about eighty pounds. (Yes, Thor was being verygenerous. The poor dear.)
Jane's Ring: Yes . . . Jared does have a line of Le Vian Chocolate Diamonds out this fall. I did not make that up. ;)