An Edda, Unforetold
Fandom: Thor. Movieverse with a dash of comicsverse for flavor.
Summary: Gods have always dallied with mortals.
Notes: Sometimes my brain has a thought, and I deem it best just to get out of the way.
Thanks: to samjohnsson for beta!
Gods have always dallied with mortals. This is the right of their station, and moreover, a necessity of their immortal lives to find amusement outside the halls of Asgard. The mortals of Midgard, among all of those in the Nine Worlds, prove the most constant source of entertainment and diversion. The practice is not condoned, precisely, but Odin benignly turns his gaze away when the gods slip down Bifrost for an assignation. It is understood that they needs must play gently with their mortal lovers, lest the right-the privilege-be revoked.
Jane Foster is not the first of Thor's diversions. She will not be the last. Sif had ignored Fandral's sideways glance at her face upon witnessing their kiss, not discomfited in the least, despite all his (and the rest of Asgard's) romantic assumptions. In this, at least, their futures are not written; she and Thor have all of eternity to be together, if they decide to be so.
Sif, for her part, enjoys the unencumbered life of a warrior too much to consider any permanent engagement. She has spent a pleasant season in Forseti's palace, and some decade before that a blissful interlude with a lithe son of Alfheim. But she has no lover at present, so it is with interest that she gazes upon the mortals she encounters during their sojourn on Midgard. She and the Warriors Three have a reason and purpose for their journey-she has not forgotten-but a goddess always has time to look to more than one purpose, if she chooses. And Sif so chooses.
At first glance the man she sees is not a specimen she might have considered for her bed. But he fights for his world no less fiercely than Thor, using the weapons at his disposal. That is worthy of honor. He treated Thor as an honorable captive and stood in the path of the Destroyer and these things, also, demand respect.
After all the excitement, the Bifrost is broken. But Sif has been a hunter in her time and is not so easily deterred. There are other ways to visit the Nine Worlds beyond the physical.
Amora is, as always, ready to assist in matters of the heart-or more accurately, the loins. There will be a price for her aid, no doubt, but anything worth doing bears a price.
"Hmmm," Amora says, tapping her finger against her lips. "Really, Sif?"
"Shall I dredge up memory of your former paramours, and compare?" Sif asks dryly, because Amora's exploits are both legendary and legendarily imprudent.
Amora sniffs, disdaining to play the game. "As you will," she says. "The pendant for projection, and remember to invest only as much as you are willing to lose." She hands over a small green stone, hung upon a slender dwarf-wrought chain.
"My thanks, enchantress," Sif responds, meaning it. "I await disclosure of your fee."
"In time." Amora smiles, showing teeth, and Sif beats a hasty retreat. The mortals have a saying about meddling in the affairs of wizards; dealing with females of the kind demands even more caution.
But now she is prepared. Sif arranges herself in her quarters, her servants given instructions to bring food at intervals and not to allow her to be disturbed otherwise.
Sif composes her mind and thinks of Midgard. Part of her consciousness falls down, down through the branches and stars of the Worlds' Tree until she finds herself standing outside a plain door, in a plain hallway. A hotel, she recognizes, a temporary home to this man who travels so often at the will of others.
Her seeming-form is dressed so that he might recognize her, and so without preamble she raises her hand and knocks.
A brief crash and a curse from inside and a moment later, the door opens. He stares at her, uncomprehending for a moment, and then his eyes go wide. "You. You're-"
"Indeed I am, Phillip Coulson." she says. "May I come in?"
He glances down the hallways, doubtless to ensure no one else has seen her; she admires his quick thought in the face of her presence. And also his civility, swiftly remembered. "Of course, please."
Phillip is but casually dressed, clearly having settled in for the night. "I hope I did not disturb you." Sif glances around, locating the source of the clatter: an overturned glass, obviously knocked over in haste.
"Ah. No. Not at all. How- How did you get here? Is the bridge- "
"Gently," she says, smiling. "We begin again. You are Phillip," she says, "it is a brave name. I am the Lady Sif."
"You're one of Thor's friends." Despite his surprise his eyes are sharp, assessing. "I've been reading up on you...people. Or should I say gods?"
"You may," she says, and then remembers how the beliefs of this sphere have changed. "Does the term disturb you?"
Phillip blinks, and then laughs. "You mean, am I having a crisis of religious faith? No, not particularly. I've seen too much to worry about labels. We seem to be living in an age of superhumans, gods, whathaveyou. Whether they're from here or," he waves vaguely toward the ceiling and the sky beyond, "out there."
His pragmatism is refreshing. "We are not so different, truly. It is...a matter of scale." Despite his fine words he seems dubious, so Sif tries again. "We laugh, we eat, we sleep, we love. Like you. Just a little louder, perhaps."
"A little bit louder now," he murmurs, and if the meaning is not entirely clear, the sense of his acceptance is. "May I ask how you got here? And why?"
"The bridge remains in disrepair," she says. "But there are other means. Projection, simple illusion, possession of a mortal form. This is projection," she adds, before he asks. "Part of my spirit, sent forth with enough...energy to create physical form."
"So you're here and not here?" he asks, perceptive enough to startle.
"Aye. I sit 'above,' in Asgard, while also here. But we can talk of this further," she proclaims, forestalling his questions, "an you do me a courtesy."
"How may I be of service?" Phillip's tone is formal, correct, doubtless used to dealing with humans who wish favors from him and his concerns.
But she is a god. Sif smiles and says, "In the idiom...take me to dinner, Phillip."
He stares at her briefly, then laughs again. "Dinner. Certainly. I- was just going to order up room service, but...I'm sure something can be arranged. If you'd excuse me?"
She nods graciously, and as he passes through the doorway, she thinks again how swift and sure his responses are, even having been taken unaware. There is a flurry of activity and noise from the other room and though she does not mean to eavesdrop, her hearing can hardly prevent it.
He's speaking to someone, clearly through one of his devices. "There's a Norse goddess standing in my hotel room, Nick. I think this goes on SHIELD's tab. Find me a reservation, somewhere appropriate-" a pause, and the sound of a satchel being rifled through. "Oh, that'll do nicely."
Something on the other end makes him snort brief laughter, and then she hears only the sound of water running and clothing being assembled. She glances down at her own form, frowns, and concentrates briefly. Spear and armor vanish to be replaced with a formal gown in keeping with the mores of this world. Sif recalls at least one piece of Amora's past advice, and arrays herself in cloth of red. She will not cloud his mind, or radiate godly awe. She is here without glamour, her only artifice the pendant that anchors the projection to her true form. Sif wonders if Phillip might ever really comprehend the true depth of what he has been offered here, but she has no intent of overwhelming him.
Far more rapidly than she would have anticipated, Phillip emerges dressed in his own formal clothing, a contrast of black and white, attire more appropriately befitting her presence. He sees her and stops, eyes widening again, and she finds she enjoys seeing his amazement. Sif gestures down the length of her body.
"Does this suit?"
"Beautifully," he says, meaning more than the dress, and she is well pleased. "Lady Sif. Shall we?"
"Sif will do," she grants, and takes his arm.
Below a long car awaits, black as night and with room enough for herself, Phillip, and the Warriors Three. Well, perhaps not Volstagg, she concedes, thinking of her friend fondly.
Phillip looks suddenly anxious. "Ah- I should have asked. I hope you like fish? Raw seafood?"
"I enjoy all the bounty of the sea, in any manner," she affirms.
Something in his manner seems a little boyish, a little excited, as he says, "I had a friend pull in a favor. There's a place I never would have been able to afford on my own-anyway, he called the chef and we have a private tasting. This chef, Masa Takayama, he's...well, he's one of the best in the world."
"At the preparation of raw fish?" she asks, amused, but his enthusiasm excites her. This is the very reason gods seek out mortals; the delight they find in such small things, often passing unnoticed below divine eyes.
"It's so much more than that. You'll see," he promises.
They arrive at an edifice of glass, what she believes is a...shopping mall. Phillip smiles to her dubious look. "Real estate in New York is hard to come by. But it's what inside that counts."
"I know this to be true," Sif says, meeting his gaze, and Phillip flushes and looks away. She smiles to herself and follows him inside.
The atmosphere inside is hushed, rarefied, like that of a temple. There is worship here, Sif can feel it, a concentration and dedication to the appreciation of one principle above all: the pursuit of perfection. She turns to Phillip, not hiding the admiration on her face. "This is lovely," she says, speaking in the low tones this sanctuary demands. "You have done me honor, bringing me to this place."
He blinks at her. "We haven't eaten anything yet. I- I hope it's as good as I've heard."
"I have no doubt."
The slender, tiny hostess smiles at them. "Mr. Fury has taken care of everything, and hopes you enjoy yourself."
"Thank you," Phillip murmurs, and they are escorted to tall chairs arranged around a high semicircular table, behind which the artists do their work.
They are approached by one man—the chief among them, by his bearing. "Omakase," Phillip says, bowing, and Sif hears, "We are in your hands."
The master bows in return and begins to set before them a feast worthy of any in Asgar.
The first plate arrives, a delicacy of crab and seaweed and slivers of vegetables, arranged prettily enough. But the bite melts on her tongue and Sif feels her eyes go wide. She is no connoisseur like Baldur or Frey, but she has sampled fare from all of the Nine Worlds (even forbidden Niflheim) and this, surely, ranks high among the best of all those flavors. This is why the mortal world remains, despite those who wish to deny the truth, the true center of things. The mortal talent for creativity, for true innovation, cannot be matched by the beings of any other sphere.
Each course is presented with a word: otoro and kinme dai and anago and kuruma ebi and aoyagi and tako and unagi and hotategai and a dozen more, and a chilled sake to complement it all.
Every bite is a wonderment, but Sif enjoys even more hearing Phillip describe the dishes, and watching as he savors the flavors on his tongue. The meal is clearly an indulgence he means to savor and remember, as shall she, and his reactions as the greatest part of it.
They do speak of other things, in soft tones. She tells him of hunting fugitive Hel-hounds among the caverns and crags of Svartalfheim, and about the revels of Alfheim, which might last weeks or month.
He talks of the effort of coordinating the new-born super-humans, beings of power-some of whom, like this "Hulk," might well match the gods in might-and mere mortals of unmatched ingenuity, like the Iron Man whose armor sounds to her ears (blasphemous as it might be) a subtlety beyond even what the dwarves of Nidavellir might contrive. "Captain America" sounds intriguing, if the undisguised admiration in his voice when Phillip talks about the man is any indication, and Hawkeye might well be the human incarnation of a benevolent trickster-god. Thor has chosen to join this band, and Sif is glad to hear it; he is always at his best fighting with companions at his side.
But one detail gives her pause. "Are there no women of Midgard who will rise to their world's defense?"
Phillip smiles. "One so far, although we have our eyes on others. She's called the Black Widow," and Sif nods in approval and motions for him to continue. "Easily the deadliest by far, a master spy and close-quarters combatant. Not, uh, spears and such," he hastens to add, "but martial arts and quickness and exceptional tactics."
"Interesting," Sif murmurs, because it is, although part of her wonders how these super-human men would cope with a woman of her own kind. Brunnhilde, she thinks with amusement, would no doubt have her hands full keeping them all in line.
The meal is leisurely, stretching over several extremely pleasant hours. It takes a great deal to truly satisfy an Asgardian's appetite, but by the end of it Sif is sated by the richness and complexity of the flavors. It's a meal she will have to remember, and commend to those who would appreciate its subtlety. Hogan and Baldur and Idunn, she thinks, but Volstagg cannot hear of it. At the end she thanks the master, knowing he will hear her words in his own tongue, with all her gratitude and admiration.
They step outside to where the car is waiting, but she is not ready for the denouement yet. "Shall we walk through yon green space?"
"Central Park at night is-" Phillip visibly reconsiders his next words, smiling. "Perfectly safe for the two us, I suppose."
"I, also," she says, laughing.
They cross the street to the space where the park begins, neatly cut away from the rest of the city. They begin to walk the paths, but then Sif stops.
"Hold a moment. I never mastered the art of walking in these infernal devices." She reaches out to hold Phillip's shoulder, pleased to feel the muscle underneath, while she slips off her ridiculous heeled shoes.
He looks down. "So your feet do touch the ground."
"They do," she confides, "but the dust of the sidewalk does not stick. I do have some vanity."
He laughs and she reflects again how much she enjoys hearing that sound, from this man for whom laughter is evidently too rare a commodity.
As they stroll he tells her of growing up in a small New England town, and about his patterned and varied career, from the FBI through various security organizations, until his latest and most elite. "It's new, what we're trying to create, and that makes people nervous," he says wryly. "People in power don't like seeing what they think is a usurpation of their authority. But it's too important not to keep pushing forward."
"And necessary," Sif says quietly. "Your world is now open to other realms, and not just the nine I know." She shakes her head to his sharp glance. "I have no foreknowledge. I am warrior, not seer. But it is plain that your people have reached a stage wherein their evolution begins to reach past merely your own world, and soon it may be that other peoples will begin to notice."
Phillip's expression is caught between hilarity and alarm. "You mean aliens? And-I'm sorry, but it seems a little incongruous to hear a goddess talk about evolution."
Sif merely smiles. "Am I not 'alien' by some definition? As for the rest, I can only offer you your own sages' words. 'There are more things in heaven and earth, Phillip, that are dreamt of in your philosophy.' And...'Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. ' The progression of your world's development is not an unfamiliar one."
He walks on quietly for a moment, thinking on that. "In my reading about your people-it's all myth and legend, here, so I have no way of telling what's accurate-" he hesitates, perhaps reconsidering the description of her people as myth. But they have been so for long turns on this sphere, and she is not offended.
"Some more than others, like any tale," she replies. "A grain of truth at the heart, amended to the tale-spinner's liking. Is that not so for every history?"
"I suppose. From my reading, an awful lot of the stories tend to resolve around the end of the world."
Sif waits, but he has no further comment to offer, waiting instead for her response. "It is a...preoccupation among my people, I suppose you might say. Midgard has been fortunate," she pauses, thinking over what she can say, what she can reveal. "...in not having prophecy constantly looming over its every turn. Or at least, no prophecy that has been taken as absolute truth, and so become true."
He frowns, and Sif understands. Of all the differences between mortals and gods, inevitability is the one truth they cannot accept. It is, she sometimes thinks, their greatest strength.
"So you believe-if I'm treading on some kind of religious faith here, please tell me-that the world will end in, uh, a battle against a giant wolf?"
She takes a moment to compose herself before answering. His tone held no mockery, only inquisitiveness, and that is allowable. "Is it 'faith' when you are discussing something you know to be true?" She holds up a hand to forestall further questions. "This is...not an easy subject, Phillip. We of Asgard are immortal, yet shall die on that day. It is difficult even for gods to contemplate. But we also know that a new world will arise from the ashes, brighter than the last. It has done so, as recounted by our own legends," she adds, almost incidentally, "at least once before."
"All of this has happened before," he murmurs. "All of this will happen again."
"Yes!" she cries, more ardent than she had intended, because his comprehension is so unexpected. "You do understand."
"No, that was-" Phillip winces in embarrassment. "A line from a tv show, a science fiction program."
"But no less correct for that," she declares, knowing it for true, and not deterred in her delight in the least. "Your invented tales hold wisdom, not just the history you believe to be real."
Phillip stops walking, his hands in his pockets, staring at her. "You've...given me a lot to think about. Maybe too much. Might I ask one more question?"
"You said some of the legends are true. Is your hair is really 'strands of naught,' spun by dwarves?"
Sif stares back at him, and then begins to laugh. "Why, Phillip, is it polite in your world to ask a lady how she has her hair done?"
He grins at her, unapologetic, and were it not for his obvious sense of propriety she would take him right here. "It's just such a great story. Did Loki really-"
"Let us not," Sif interrupts, immediately sober, "speak of Loki." That wound is too raw, the betrayal too deep, and she would not have the good feeling of the night turn sour. "But the evening wears on and you have been properly courteous in not pressing me for an answer as to my presence here; let us return to the privacy of your room, and I shall reveal all."
"If I'd known you were coming, I'd have gotten a room at the Waldorf," Phillip says, and offers his arm for the return walk to the car.
Phillip is silent and thoughtful on the ride back. Sif is likewise contemplative, although presumably not for the same reasons. It has been a more delightful evening than she could have anticipated, reconfirming her initial impressions. The stories Phillip has read might not reflect the truth that wise men are revered among her people no less than warriors; Odin Most-High had sacrificed an eye for wisdom, knowing the exchange for a bargain.
And he has made her laugh. That she values, perhaps above all.
She thinks on her method of approach, as Phillip unlocks his door. For some of Asgard, seduction has been turned into an art, the chase lasting for weeks or even months before culmination.
No one had ever accused Sif of being either subtle or patient.
When he turns to her, perhaps to offer a beverage or urge her to a seat, Sif hauls him off his feet into a kiss.
She would not have been surprised or angered to have been pushed away or struck, given his training and instincts, but astonishment clearly has the better of him. She does not prolong the moment, having made her declaration clearly, and she lets him go.
There is no point in delaying her intention, either. Sif smiles to his bewilderment and says what she has been waiting to say since she first saw him.
"Once again in the idiom...take me to bed, Phillip."
He freezes, struck, and then- "This is what you came here for?" Shock and revelation alike reflect undisguised in his tone and on his face.
For a moment Sif is-not afraid, she is never afraid, but concerned that he might offer regret with some tedious mortal excuse. She knows he is not wed; she has too much respect for Frigga to insult her dominion by interfering in another woman's marriage. But perhaps there is some other reason that she must respect.
"No other purpose," she says, and allows him the space to decide.
"I. That is. Extraordinary," he stammers, "and I'm honored, although that probably goes without saying..." he trails off, and Sif smiles and nods to his statement, but nothing more. She is a goddess, and has her pride. She will not plead or cajole.
Even without artifice it is simple to discern the direction of his thoughts, beginning and ending with "why" or perhaps "why me." Had he not already won her favor, he would gain it now for not voicing the uncertainty. Phillip is a man accustomed to decisions made upon the moment, with no margin for error or second-guessing, and Sif is pleased to see his choice resolve with pleasing swiftness. He looks at her, his gaze decisive and admiring, but without worshipful awe. "Omnia vincit amor; et nos cedamus amori."
"Oh, prettily said, and well done," she murmurs, making her gratitude to Freyja, and reaches to take his extended hand.
Unlike certain other Asgardians (Amora, Fandral), Sif does not kiss and tell. When asked about her assignation, she merely smiles and says that Phillip Coulson was as efficient and thorough as he is in all things.
Phil Coulson, for his part, finds it difficult to speak at all in the days following, no matter how loudly Colonel Fury yells for a debrief.
He believes in transparency, but Nick is just going to have to accept that some hours are simply neither billable nor reportable.
Sif, of course, speaks Supernal, and therefore understands all languages and is understood by all in their own tongues when she speaks. /D&D geek
"Love conquers all; let us too yield to love." -Virgil. Also found as an inscription in Norse runes.
For much (much) more, see my page at AO3. Link in my profile.