Disclaimer: Everything but the plot belongs to Marvel. Not done for profit either.
Summary: Sif has to marry and Loki is in denial. As her best friend though, he feels obliged to help her. What better way than to marry her himself? If only Thor would stop trying to help…
LOKI IN LOVE
It had all started a week ago. And like all misfortunes in his life, it was linked with his older brother. On Midgard, they named it Thursday, another version of Thor's Day. Well, on that blighted and miserable Thor's Day— which he had actually thought of as glorious before the pall had settled—Sif had invaded his gardens and ruined everything.
Well, to be fair, he had told her before that she would always be welcomed to his inner sanctum. She and she alone, apart from his dear mother, knew the magic word to get the briars to part and the maze to straighten its path. His lips lifted in the barest of smiles when he recalled leaving Thor there for hours to tramp around, yelling for Loki to release him. 'As though I had been the one who encouraged him to thieve from another's garden.' Still, when Father had found out, he had been punished. He had been made to give Thor the roses, never mind that this particular rose bush from Alfheim only flowered once every five hundred years. They had been children but even then he had trembled with outrage at the unfairness of it all.
But then Sif had come in the middle of the night. Loki could still recall waking to small but strong hands shaking him awake, a soft palm covering his mouth to stifle his shout, for at that time he had been convinced a family of Jotuns had secretly taken up residence under his bed and no amount of wards he placed there could evict them.
"Sif, the sentence for murdering a prince of the realm is death."
"Are you insinuating that Prince Loki is feeble enough to die of fright in his own bed?"
"Of course not. Now explain your presence here at this late hour."
Her brown eyes sparkled, lit by the faint glow of the night lamps he insisted on keeping next to his bedside. "Close your eyes."
"Sif, if this is a trick, I swear…"
"If you find whatever I'm about to do displeasing, I'll let you turn my hair blue."
Disgruntled, Loki glared at her before doing as he had been ordered. They both knew he would never do that, not after his last mistake. Sif was not as clever as he was but she was far from stupid either. That was one of the reasons why she was his friend. The mystery was why someone of her relative intelligence would actually choose to keep company with Thor. Loki had a legitimate excuse; Thor was family. He could not get rid of his older brother even if he tried…
Something soft touched his lips and Loki gasped. For a moment, Sif's smiling mouth came to mind, even as his eyes flew open and then he had to blink. Hard. Twice in fact, to assure himself that this was no dream. For in Sif's hand was a single white rose, its petals edged with shimmering light which it shed the way butterflies do the beautiful powder that lay upon their delicate wings.
"How did you…?" His fingers reached for it and she met him halfway, relinquishing the treasure easily.
She sighed dramatically. "I did the unthinkable."
Immediately, he sat up straighter and pinned her with his sharp emerald gaze. "What did Thor want?" Actually, there was only one thing Thor ever wanted from Sif: a chance to beat her in the practice ring. She, apart from Fandral, was the only one of their peers to ever hold her own against him. That she was a girl was an especial sore point for Thor and one of great pride for Loki. It was the factor that made him take her side at once when he had first seen them sparring. More than most, Loki knew what it was like to be the underdog, the one expected to lose.
"Nothing, silly. He couldn't wait to give the roses away to Sinthgunt and Sunna. Not at the same time of course."
Loki raised his eyebrows. "Sisters, this time. Whatever is my brother thinking? Not that I really wish to find out. So how did you get it away from him?"
Sif touched a delicate petal before dipping a finger beneath the rose, catching silvery pearls of light that glimmered before vanishing. "I had to bat my eyelashes," she admitted with a small scowl. "Don't you dare laugh!" Before he could stop her, she jabbed him in the arm. "I had to pout too. I had to act like a…" She stopped, distaste written all over her twelve-year old face.
Loki's smile was radiant. "Girl. But what a fine girl you are, the best in all the realm." He pushed the rose towards her. "Thank you."
Sif's eyes widened. "Oh no, Loki! I couldn't. I took it back for you!"
"And I am free to give what is mine. At least, I would like to when I can," he corrected bitterly, the embers of his fury beginning to catch fire again.
Her hand encircled his wrist, pulling him away from dark thoughts. "I thought we could replant it."
"And what makes you think I can join back that which has been severed from the parent plant?"
"Because the flowers in your garden never die, nor do the leaves drop. There is magic enough in you, Master Enchanter, to keep this rose alive for its season." Strong fingers tugged him up and Loki forgot all about the fact that both of them were in their bedclothes and were flouting palace curfew. All that mattered was the soft approval and admiration in Sif's eyes. That, and a small midnight adventure.
When he surfaced from his memories, Loki scowled before sighing deeply, rubbing a hand over his brow and tired eyes. The drapes in his room were completely shut, the lights extinguished. But even here in the cool shadows, Sif found him, even if it was only her memory. He had not seen her since that day when she had dropped her news on his head. She might as well have dropped a cliff of ice from Jotunheim while she had been at it.
"I am to marry."
They had been seated side by side beneath the shade of an ancient tree, shoulders almost touching. He had been idly threading his fingers through the grass when she made her announcement. His hands had involuntarily clenched and Loki felt the slight echo of pain from the garden as the delicate green blades broke. His brilliant mind, which he prided himself on, went blank.
"You are to marry?" he echoed stupidly.
"Yes, before this year is out. My parents grow impatient and my father has decided that it must be now. I've put them off before but…" Her voice trailed off and she looked at him. He could not meet her gaze. There was an invisible hand twisting the sinews of his chest. It was hard to breathe. "If I do not choose, they will make the choice for me."
"Have you someone in mind?" he asked, making a mighty effort to keep his voice light and steady.
"No!" she cried indignantly. "Hence the problem. All my life I have only wanted to be a warrior, not a wife. The men I am most fond of are the ones I keep company with but I can scarcely imagine being betrothed to Fandral, Hogun or Volstagg." She shuddered, drawing her knees up to her chest and wrapping her arms around them.
In the silence that passed between them, one could have dropped a pin on a bed of flowers and still heard the sound it would make. "A prince of the realm is above my touch," she finally replied.
The resignation in her voice pierced his heart. Suddenly, Loki was furious, blindingly and breathtakingly so. She thought so little of him that she had not even mentioned his name. And she wanted Thor!
"She wants Thor," he murmured and felt his head ache again. Or was it his heart? He kept it so carefully wrapped away, hidden from all except those he trusted and even then, he never showed them more than he wanted. It seemed a stranger to him now.
He had lost his passion for his experiments. The new books on enchanted smithing from the Dvergar went unread, and not for want of trying either. Meal times in the great hall were unwelcomed events, especially when Sif was there. And now he found himself increasingly resentful of the sight of the eager warriors that jostled each other for her attention. All of whom Sif had thrashed at one time or another in the practice ring.
"Fine, let her choose a husband she can bend to her will, if not with her double-edged spear," he sneered spitefully. "Married life will be easier to bear then. She can be the brains and her husband the brawn." Except that with Sif, she had both intelligence and breathtaking physical prowess. Loki had never sparred with her in the ring. Instead she had coached him, trained with him when it became clear that as the second prince of Asgard, he was expected to participate in the mock fights. "Magic can only take you so far, brother," Thor had boomed before proceeding to humble Loki in front of half the realm's warriors.
Once the healers had been done putting him back together, Loki had tried not to limp too obviously back to his rooms. He could have teleported, but the physical effort to conjure that amount of magic was too much at that moment. Sif had been waiting for him in his rooms, a small mountain of books about sparring beside her on his table.
"I am not in the mood," he scoffed, glaring at her out of frustration. He hated feeling so helpless, so belittled and the thought that this would become a weekly affair made his stomach turn cold with dread. "Such violence and petty shows of strength are below me. I am a sorcerer, not a warrior."
Sif refused to go away, even after those insults. "But your brother is right. Magic will provide only some measure of protection or offense in combat. Thor was trying to make that clear to you."
"By beating me into the ground?" At least Sif had the good grace to wince.
"Thor has never been the most subtle of persons. I think he hoped to convince you to take the practice sessions more seriously."
"He is failing."
He had earned himself the nickname of Silver Tongue by then. There were many he could deceive. Sif was always one of the few who never fell for his deceptions. Well, almost never. But on that occasion, she read him like an open book.
"Nay." Earnest brown eyes gazed up into his as she came to sit by his side. "I fear he is succeeding, but not in the way he intends to." He flinched as she lifted a hand. He knew his face was cut and Sif was merely being affectionate but he was too sore, too bruised, too damned angry with her for defending his brother to be touched. Hurt flickered over her face; Thor was always a source of contention between them. "Let me help you. We can spar together."
"So all of Asgard may see you beat me into the ground?" he snapped. "No thank you. You need not equal Thor on that scale."
"Loki Odinson, I would never humiliate you!" She stood up then, towering over him, beautiful and furious. "I only wanted you to be better prepared when you next face him. I know Thor, I know how he fights, I know what it feels like—"
She drew in a deep breath and calmed herself. "These books are from my personal library. If you have no use of them, send them back to my home."
And as much as he wanted to see her go, he could not. Not when he knew his words had gone too deep and too far. Her hand was on the door when he forced himself to speak.
"When shall we begin?" It felt like a second defeat, for he genuinely hated sparring. In Asgard, he was something of an anomaly. Instead of the muscular girth of his father and brother, he was tall and slender, quick rather than strong. It was one of many reasons why Father was so disappointed in him, and in his secret heart, why Loki was also disappointed with himself. He had rebelled by skipping as many lessons as possible and focusing on his magic. Let Thor have the swords, he had his books. The difference was clear and set in stone. Now he was going to have to undo all of that and Loki was afraid he was setting himself up for failure. No one could best Thor, not even Sif, now that his older brother was growing in strength and into manhood.
Still, when she smiled at him like that, when she accepted his version of an apology, it went a long way to soothing his battered pride. "In your gardens, two mornings from today. I'll bring the weapons."
She had no need for weapons, not when she could disarm him without even trying. "By Yggdrasil, can I not get the woman out of my head?" With a snarl he sprang up from the chair and began pacing the ground. What was wrong with him? Where was his legendary control? All magic began in the mind, a desire made coherent by the shaping of thought, the birth of emotion into vision and it was far too easy for a spell to go awry without mental discipline. And in spite of his best intentions, all Loki could think about was Sif. Sif was a plague, a sickness eating away at him. There had to be some spell to undo this. Maybe someone had cast a spell on him and he knew it not. The thought was horrifying, but it would explain why he felt as though he was losing his mind.
"Speaking of losing my mind," he muttered. Thor never knocked. Instead, he yelled out a greeting and would burst into a person's room, having announced his presence by way of said greeting. "Three, two…"
The doors to his chambers swung open with such force that one would have thought them crafted of wood instead of gold. "Loki, how can you even see in this darkness?"
His night-vision was superb, unrivalled by any other in Asgard. It was a point that had been made many times, especially when Father had decided he was capable enough to be sent on missions. Loki could not fathom why Thor insisted on asking the obvious again and again. He winced as his older brother, without asking for permission, pulled back the drapes and let in swathes of blinding sunlight. "Ouch…"
"You are hiding." Thor picked an apple from the woefully neglected bowl of fruit sitting on his desk and crunched into it enthusiastically.
"Did it ever occur to you that it might be from, oh, maybe you?"
Blue eyes twinkled merrily. "It might have, if my name were Sif."
Uh oh. Now his brother decided to grow a brain. "Thankfully it isn't. The warriors would be confused as to whose skirts they ought to be chasing after." Loki ducked as the half-eaten apple flew at his head. "Sloppy, sloppy," he mocked. "Perhaps a round or two with Volstagg will improve your reflexes."
"Sheath your claws and stop trying to be rid of me. We have all noticed your absence and Mother is convinced it has to do with Sif."
There was a true God after all, one who did not need golden apples for immortality. So it was Mother who was responsible, not some newfound intelligence of Thor's.
"I thought it foolish thinking on my part but when she approached me to speak with you, I am now more convinced than ever that the news of Sif's impending marriage has upset you."
Or maybe he had been a little too quick to conclude there was a true God— "Wait. Did you say impending marriage?" Loki stopped pacing and spun around to face Thor who was now fishing about for the cherries. "She has already set a date?" Suddenly, the room seemed to be closing in on him.
"Do not sound so aghast, Loki. She has not even chosen a husband," Thor announced smugly. "I must say though, I've never seen your face turn that shade of purple. It looks rather fetching."
"Mock me again and you will look 'fetching' for the next month or so."
Thor laughed, which only served to irritate Loki further. "So, it is true then."
"If you want a proper answer, Thor, try asking a question first."
"Are you hiding because Sif has to choose a husband?"
"I am not hiding. But if I say yes, will you go away?"
Loki expected Thor to laugh uproariously, which would be his cue to vanish and spend the rest of the day or days, depending on how horrible he felt, in his gardens. Instead, his brother's face softened, gentled with something akin to sympathy. Living with Thor was unpredictable. Thor bullied, demanded, overshadowed everyone without a thought because as heir to the throne, he believed he was entitled to do so. Yet he was the one who argued in favour of Loki being sent on missions, had stressed the importance of having a sorcerer and skilled diplomat by his side, had taken the blame for the worst of Loki's mischiefs and the subsequent punishments. Just when Loki thought he hated his brother, he found that he loved him after all.
"What troubles you? Do you fear you will lose her as a friend once she is wife to another?"
The thought of sitting down to Sif's wedding banquet made him feel ill. And Loki steadfastly refused to let himself consider what would happen once the feast was over and the guests had gone. One did not think about one's friend in such a fashion. That would be improper, or so he told himself.
"Well, she can hardly be allowed to visit my gardens alone without her husband acting as a chaperone and where would be the fun in that." Loki clasped his hands behind his back and resumed his pacing. Hopefully Thor would be satisfied with that because that was the only reason Loki would allow himself to consider. "So yes, our friendship would be affected, to some degree."
"Sif is my friend too but I do not find myself affected so much that I am compelled to miss my meals."
"Nothing short of Ragnarok would cause you to miss a meal, Brother."
"Have a care Loki. The next thing I throw at you might be Mjolnir."
"Do you remember the first and, coincidentally, the last time you did that? Perhaps this time I will teleport your mighty hammer to the wilds of Nilfheim. I assure you, it will take more than two days before it returns to your hand."
"You have a point there. So, all that ails you is the prospect of your friendship being affected?"
How could Thor understand? Sif was but one of the many companions he had. Thor was the God of Thunder, the king to be. He was all an Asgardian should be and though he was far from perfect, he was loved by all and worshipped by most. Loki knew he was not like Thor. It was harder for him to trust, he measured out the affection he gave and that did not come easily. Fandral, Hogun and Volstagg were amiable enough. But it was Sif to whom he spoke, Sif who remained by his side in battle, Sif who soothed his temper with a word or two but was not afraid of taking him head on when she felt he was wrong. She was, for all intents and purposes, his only friend. "Yes," Loki forced himself to reply. The word felt like dust in his mouth.
"You do not love her?"
If Thor had hit him with Mjolnir, it would have made less of an impact than that simple question. Somewhere inside, he started falling to pieces as the pieces began falling into place.
"No! Are you daft?"
"Perhaps I ought to be asking you that."
Loki walked towards the windows, eager to put distance between him and Thor. He could feel his brother's eyes on him and schooled his face into an impassive mask, praying his reflection in the glass would not give anything away. "I am not in love with Sif. She is but a friend." Liar. It was a good thing Thor could not read minds.
"You are certain?"
"Yes," Loki all but hissed. "Now cease your prying. I am beginning to suspect you are here not to check on my wellbeing but to play matchmaker."
That was true. Frigga had instructed him to help his usually brilliant brother see what was as clear as day to everyone else, at least those within their inner circle. Thor was not going to admit that though. "Sif is a good woman. I simply want her to have the best to choose from."
…A prince of the realm is above my touch…
"Then offer for her yourself," Loki retorted and proved himself wrong because, no, saying that to Thor did not kill him. Maybe a dip in the lakes of fire on Muspelheim would have been more painful though. Marginally.
"Offer for Sif?" Thor snorted and Loki considered rearranging his brother's face, both with his fists and magic, the latter before the former of course. "Don't be ridiculous. I care for her but I love her not."
"Well then, she will have to settle for second choice." He hoped none of the relief he felt seeped into his voice. He was a selfish bastard, Loki thought sadly, for he felt more joy for his own sake than sadness for Sif.
"If her second choice is Fandral, she will not do very badly."
"There is no need to shout. He is a fine warrior from a glorious line. Her children will be strong and formidable, a credit to Asgard."
Loki did not want to think about how Sif was going to beget children with Fandral. Gritting his teeth, he forced himself to lower his voice. "She does not feel for him, she told me so herself."
"Perhaps that is because he has never wooed her. She might see him with new eyes should he begin his pursuit."
If anyone was going to need new eyes, it would be Fandral if he so much as stepped in Sif's direction. "The man is a flirt. He will not remain faithful for long."
"Perhaps Sif will be the woman to tame him."
"What use is a husband if one has to put him on a leash?"
"I did not say she would marry him. Maybe Forseti—"
This time, Loki's shout did echo past his chambers and into the passageways of the palace. Somewhere in her rooms, Frigga smiled serenely and went back to her stitching. Thor, as she expected, was doing wonderfully. With any luck, their plan would work.