I wrote this oneshot to supplement my other stories "Fallen Star," "Two Little Boys" and "Brother Avengers"—but it can CERTAINLY be read and enjoyed all on its own! I listened to the Thor soundtrack "Letting Go" whilst writing.
(To listen to the song whose lyrics I used, go to a site called "Luminarium," go down and click on "Search Luminarium," and type in "When the Nightingale Sings." Click on the first result, and scroll down until you see the little music bar. It's quite pretty.:)
"When the nightingale sings,
The trees grow green,
Leaf and grass and blossom springs,
In April, I suppose;
And love has to my heart gone
With a spear so keen,
Night and day my blood it drains
My heart to death it aches."
-"When the Nightingale Sings," circa 1310
Sif gritted her teeth, carefully stepping between the feet of the rows of wounded, moaning soldiers lying side-by-side on the ground inside the healing tent. Wind billowed the canvas walls, howling through the thick night, and shadows crept into the corners of the little room, despite the flickering flames of the lamps that hung from the center beam. She ducked around one of these swaying lamps, wincing. She had been thrown from her horse in the midst of battle and jarred her ankle—but she hadn't realized the severity of her injury until Odin had ordered a retreat and the Aesir had withdrawn from the thrashing chaos. Now, after the adrenaline had drained out of her body, lancing pain jolted up her leg each time she put weight on it. But she would not complain. Many Aesir lay around her with missing limbs, blinded eyes, stabbed guts and broken bones. And some were dead on the battlefield.
Sif stopped, squeezing her eyes shut.
He is fine, she told herself. Just missing. Loki will find him. Loki will…
She forced her eyes open as a sharp groan pierced the haze in her head. She turned down to her right.
"Fandral," she rebuked. "Lie still."
"I can't," her friend answered, grimacing as he tried to sit up, his blonde hair plastered across his sweaty forehead. "Not when my prince is out there, behind Svartalfar lines. I'll not stay here and—"
"Yes, you will," Sif insisted, kneeling down beside him and pushing him back down onto his pallet. "Eir has commanded you. And you'll not do anyone any good by walking fifty feet out into the canyon and collapsing."
Fandral let out his breath in a grunt and fell back down, closing his eyes.
"If our places were reversed," he muttered. "He wouldn't just lie here."
Sif did not answer. She pulled Fandral's wool blanket up around his shoulders, careful of his sling, and brushed a strand of hair out of his eyes. His forehead felt hot. His jaw clenched and his breath came short—she knew he was trying not to be sick.
Sif bowed her head, closing her hands into fists. Fandral was right. If any of them were out there, lost, he wouldn't be resting—not for one moment. He would be out amongst the rocks and crags of that jagged wilderness, wounded or no, searching through the dark until he—
Sif sat straight up. The edge of panic in Eir's voice grated down Sif's spine. She spun toward the entrance to the tent—
And leaped to her feet.
"Thor?" She barely made a sound.
The head healer, Eir, her face flushed and her red hair coming loose of its bun, heaved Thor's tall, broad-shouldered form in through the tent flap. And the sight of him turned all Sif's muscles cold.
The edges of his cape hung ripped and frayed. His lion-like face was white, his eyes fluttering. His long gold hair was torn, and stuck to his neck and forehead.
And blood ran down the right side of his chest, glimmering in the torchlight, dripping down his silver armor.
Sif flew to him. She felt no pain in her leg. She grabbed his left arm, but the next moment, Eir gasped and lost hold of him. He slipped out of Sif's grasp. His great frame turned and thudded down into a sitting position, then collapsed onto his back. Sif and Eir fell to their knees on either side of him.
"What happened?" Sif demanded, trying to quell the fit of quivering racing all through her by trying to find something to do with her hands. "Where is his wound? What—"
"Sif, quick—get that box of bandages," Eir ordered. Sif spun, snatched up the nearby wooden box and held it out to Eir. Eir grabbed the box without looking at her, set it down, then took hold of the front of Thor's breastplate. With strong, deft hands, she twisted the two mechanisms that released the armor. They hissed and sparked.
Sif's eyes raced over Thor's face. He had turned gray, his eyes rolled beneath soft lids, and sweat glistened on his neck. He tried to swallow twice. He opened his mouth and gasped.
"Eir," Sif hissed. "There's blood on his lips—"
"It's likely he's bitten himself," Eir clipped.
The next moment, Eir pulled the breastplate loose of his chest. He choked, then moaned, his jaw clenching.
"Here," Eir thrust the slippery armor toward Sif. She grabbed it, and set it aside, hardly looking at it. The next moment, the scale armor on Thor's arms rattled and jingled, and unconjured as if it had never been, leaving him lying there in his long-sleeved white undershirt—which was now crimson.
Sif had seen blood before—so much blood, in fact, that it usually affected her as much as water did. But now—now her stomach rolled, her vision blacked out.
"Lady Sif," Eir said. "Can you help me?"
Sif shook herself, hard. Her vision cleared.
"I'll help you," she growled. Eir nodded once.
"All right. Give me your knife."
Sif whipped it out from her belt and handed it, hilt first, to Eir. Eir took it up, grabbed the front of Thor's shirt and sliced it down the middle. The fabric tore loudly and crisply as the blade flashed. Eir then sliced up his sleeves.
"Pull it off," Eir instructed. "Get it off of him."
Sif reached down and finished ripping the hot, soaking fabric, clearing it away from his heaving chest and sweaty arms, ignoring the blood that leaked through her fingers. And her hands were the first to run across the wound.
It had gone all the way through him—an Elfin arrow, she was sure. Right beneath his collar bone. The shaft had also been unceremoniously yanked out.
"Who found him?" Sif asked, her hands hovering over the oozing wound.
"Loki," Eir answered, tossing away the last bits of shirt.
"He shredded him," Sif muttered.
"He saved his life," Eir shot back. "Now come around and put his head in your lap."
Sif blinked hard, pressed on the bridge of her nose with the back of her bloody hand, and scrambled around to sit behind him. Carefully, she took hold of Thor's head, lifted it, scooted forward, then let him rest in her lap.
He swallowed again, and his eyelids fluttered.
"What…" he rasped. "Where…"
"Thor, don't talk," Sif warned, snatching up a rag from another box and wiping her hands.
"Where is Loki?" he asked, his voice shaking. "He was hurt…"
"No, he's not," Eir assured him, wiping off her own hands and giving him a severe look. "You're the one who was brilliant enough to get himself shot."
Thor made a noise like a chuckle, but it rattled in his great chest. Then he coughed—the sound and vibration tore through Sif's whole body.
"Eir, he hasn't bitten himself," she insisted. "Listen to him—look at the arrow—it went through—"
"Sh," Eir warned quietly. Sif gritted her teeth and glanced down…
To see Thor gazing back up at her. With eyes as clear and steady as the summer sky. He blinked slowly, and took a deep breath. She swallowed, and ran her thumb across his cheek. He felt cold.
Eir sat up straight. She rubbed her hands together rapidly, closed her eyes, then breathed into her palms. Then, she bent down and pressed her hands to Thor's wound.
He jerked, yelping like a wounded bear. He almost wrenched out of Sif's grasp—her eyes flashed as she leaped to hold him still.
"There—he's halfway up now," Eir panted, shifting. "Help him sit up all the way."
Sif got up onto her knees and threw all her weight into him, grabbing his arm and wrapping her other arm around his waist. He groaned as he sat up and leaned forward, his face twisting.
Eir swept around behind him, rubbed her palms together again, blew into them, and then pressed them to the wound on his back—the wound that had spilled enough blood to leave a pool on the pallet already.
Thor cried out—Sif clamped down on his thick, muscled arm.
"There," Eir said triumphantly. "The inner wound is sealed. Now the outer flesh must be sewn back together."
Sif had no time to register any relief, for just then, Thor's clammy skin burned beneath her hands. She blinked—and watched as a hot sweat broke out over his whole body. He started shivering.
"What is happening?" Sif asked under her breath. Eir wiped her hands off again, then opened the squeaky lid of the bandage box.
"Elfin arrows are often tainted with some sort of dark magic."
"Of a sort." She pulled a length of suture thread and bit it loose from the rest. "It is likely to make him very sick." Eir pulled out a bandage pad and handed it to Sif. "Here—press this over his back wound and hold it there. We're going to lay him back down, and I'll stitch up his chest."
"Wait," Thor said, lifting his left hand just slightly. Sif leaned toward him.
"Isn't there…" he asked, staring straight ahead. "Something I could drink? For…" his throat closed, and spasmed.
"Do you want it?" Eir asked, resting a hand on his good shoulder. He closed his eyes and nodded once, looking as if he was making an effort to breathe evenly.
"All right, hold him still," Eir instructed Sif, and got up. Sif shifted closer to him, wrapping her arm tighter around him and pressing her whole side against him. She had no room—so she rested her chin on top of his heated shoulder.
Thor tilted his head toward her.
"Are you all right?" His voice was gravelly.
Sif straightened, surprised.
"I…Yes, I'm fine."
"Your hands are very cold," he whispered. She squeezed his arm, almost smiling.
"You have a fever, Thor," she managed.
"Where are the others?" he asked. Sif adjusted her hold on him.
"Fandral is here, with a broken arm and several broken ribs—his horse was shot out from beneath him," she said. "Volstaag and Hogun are resting in Hogun's tent—I believe they are fine."
"Where is Loki?"
"He's gone to your father's tent," Eir answered, coming back with a cup full of black liquid. She knelt in front of Thor. "Open your mouth."
Thor lifted his face. Eir took hold of the side of his head and eased the cup up to his mouth. He drank, and swallowed when she pulled back. He grimaced and turned away.
"That is foul."
"You asked for it," Eir reminded him. The corner of his mouth twitched, and his eyes drifted shut again.
"All right, Sif, lay him back down," Eir said. Sif eased him down—Thor sucked in his breath through his teeth in a hiss as his whole body clamped.
"Gah," he gasped as he finally lay prone on the pallet again, Sif's hand was pinned beneath his shoulder, holding the bandage in place. Eir reached up and grabbed a lamp, pulled it down from its hook, then held it out to Sif. Sif took it in her free hand.
"Hold that close for me," Eir said, stepping over Thor and kneeling down beside Sif. Quickly, Eir tied a knot in one end of the thread and then threaded the needle. Thor stared resolutely up at the ceiling—but his breathing sped up.
"Hold on," Sif urged him quietly. Eir bent down, positioned herself, and began to sew.
Thor's face contorted, he groaned through clamped teeth and squeezed his eyes shut. Sif shut her eyes too, turning her head away. She held her breath, each one of Thor's breaths piercing and pulling through her, just as the needle did to his skin.
It seemed to take forever, and she could feel the hot blood soaking through the bandage and onto her hand. Her arm ached from holding up the lamp. Still, she did not budge, and she did not look.
"There," Eir finally said, for the first time sounding ragged. Sif opened her eyes. Eir was now wiping Thor's skin clean of the blood with yet another white rag. Sweat trailed across his chest, which heaved, and he swallowed three times. His eyes stayed closed.
"All right, now for the back…" Eir said, wiping her brow with her sleeve.
Both women jumped, then turned to see Volstaag blunder into the tent.
"What is it?" Eir wanted to know.
"It's Hogun," Volstaag panted. "He's bleeding to death."
"What?" Eir jumped to her feet.
"He was stabbed through his middle and did not realize it—he just collapsed," Volstaag gestured helplessly.
"Sif," Eir snapped. "Finish stitching Thor. I must go see Hogun." Eir bent down and grabbed another wooden box of bandages.
"Will Thor be all right?" Volstaag asked.
"Yes—Sif has him in hand," Eir said.
Sif went white.
"Do it," Eir commanded. "He is still bleeding too much." And with that, she followed Volstaag out of the tent, leaving Sif alone with the multitude of wounded, and Thor bleeding all over her hand.
Her entire being froze. She couldn't even look when Eir had been doing this—how was she supposed to…
Thor let out a thin breath that carried a low moan. His eyes fluttered lethargically, and his breathing calmed. The sleeping draft must be working.
Or he had lost too much blood.
"I need you to turn on your side," Sif ordered, setting the lamp down with a clatter and trying to heft him. "Please, Thor—I cannot lift you."
He winced, and all his muscles went taut—and then he painfully shifted, laboriously drawing his left arm underneath him, and turning onto his good side.
Blood ran all down his back. Sif carefully pulled the bandage loose. The wound gaped. Sif ripped off a loose piece of her leather bodice, stuck it between her teeth and bit it, hard. Then, she snatched up the box, pulled a new length of thread, applied it to the needle, and braced her left hand right next to the wound. She took a deep breath, then another, then another…
Pressed the needle down against his soft skin and pushed the point through.
His whole back shivered like a horse's flank.
She drew the thread through, grinding her teeth against the leather…
Thor's shivering subsided, though the large muscles in his back trembled, as if from exhaustion. She scooted her knees closer to his back, reached up and gripped the top of his shoulder with her left hand, to keep him from twitching and tearing what she had done. She had to fight to keep hold of the slick needle.
She kept going, counting each one, almost feeling them herself.
Then, at last, she finished, and tied it off.
She let out a thick breath and spat out the leather. She cut the thread. Then, with hands that shook, she put the needle down, picked up the last remaining clean rags, dipped them in a nearby bowl of warm water, and began cleaning off his back, wiping off the sweat and blood and grime. She deliberately, methodically rubbed and smoothed the damp cloth across the contours of his fevered skin, pausing to press it against his neck, sweeping away the scarlet liquid until it turned the fabric red. Then, she took up a soft dry one and padded him down until no trace of liquid remained. Then, she found two more bandage pads, secured them to both stitched wounds, and carefully, gently bound them. Then, she snatched up an unused pillow, and eased it under Thor's head—he received it with only a sigh. After this, she cleaned and dried everything around him, and disposed of all of the blood-covered rags. She did not let her thoughts stray one inch while she moved as quickly and efficiently as she could.
Finally, the deep wound was hidden and clean and safe. She paused.
And realized that Thor now breathed deep and even. Eir's potion had put him to sleep. Sif turned around, her back stiff, and grabbed a soft blanket. She shook it out, then covered him with it, drawing it up around his shoulders. Her hands slowed as they settled down on him. She glimpsed the side of his face. She quieted.
Thor's eyes had closed, his features relaxed. A strand of hair fell across his forehead…
And she could clearly see the paths that tears had made across his nose and cheek.
It startled her—shook her in her depths. For a long, breathless while, she couldn't move.
Slowly, she sat back and let go of him. She stayed there, watching his shoulder rise and fall. A deep shudder started within her.
And all at once, she was crying.
She covered her mouth with her right hand. Tears spilled from her eyes and raced down across her fingers. She tried to stop, tried to control herself, but her whole body suddenly felt weak as water.
Sif lowered her shaking hand and dragged herself closer to him, her limbs cold. She gave in, leaning her face down into the side of his arm, battling to bury the sobs that threatened to leap from her chest. She gulped, took several deep breaths, and let her scalding tears race down her cheeks as his warmth washed through her.
Her forehead twisted. She lifted her head, blinked and cleared her eyes.
And, before she could stop herself, she reached out and touched his golden hair with her fingertips. She gently caressed his hot forehead, tucking that stray lock of hair behind his ear.
Then—her heart swelling with agony—she leaned down over him, and kissed his temple.
For just a moment, her lips lingered on his soft skin. Then, she gasped and rose up. Tears dripped down onto his face. She closed her eyes and, worn out, she rested her forehead against his cheekbone. Helpless to do anything else, she just breathed, breathed in the scent of him—he smelled like grass in the hot sunshine, a midsummer afternoon.
Frail and shaking, Sif eased down behind him, pressing the length of her body to his and laying the bridge of her nose against the back of his head. Every bone in her body ached. She nuzzled into his hair, wanting to drown in that quiet scent of summertime. Tears still leaked out and trailed down her face. But steady heat radiated from him, and while she laid this close, she could hear the beat of his mighty heart.
She raised her hand, and touched the side of his neck, feather-light. Her eyebrows came together, and she stroked back and forth down his neck and across his shoulder, savoring the chance to touch him so gently—she never, ever could while he was awake. Swallowing, she closed her eyes, and she took a brave breath—for she only had the courage to say this aloud when she knew he could not hear her.
"I love you, Thor Odinson," she breathed, her heart churning and squeezing and hurting so badly she thought it would break. "I love you. Do not ever leave me alone."
"I have loved all this past year
So that I may love no more;
I have sighed many a sigh,
Beloved, for thy pity,
My love is never thee nearer,
And that me grieveth sore;
Sweet loved-one, think on me,
I have loved thee long."