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…
A/N: Hey everyone, thanks for the lovely reviews! It was so great to hear from you, extremely encouraging too. This second chapter is for you, from the Muse. :) I hope you enjoy it.
LOKI IN LOVE
In a hundred other universes, this one moment happens differently. Sometimes the dark-haired, green-eyed boy takes the left turn down the corridor, instead of the right. Sometimes he walks a little too quickly, or too slowly. And so he never sees her as she is, as the other side of him, and they grow up and never recognize each other for the rest of their lives.
On a dozen different worlds, seven-year-old Sif is far too well hidden at the end of the great balcony overlooking the city of Asgard. In one, she slips over the edge before the boy can catch her wrist and he watches in horror as she falls to her death, taking the best part of his life with her although he will never know it.
But in this world, in this particular version amongst a multitudinous sea of versions, he takes the right turn, walks at the right speed and she sits there, silhouetted against the crimson evening sun and it is impossible to miss the fiery glow of her hair, or the tears that streak her cheeks as she leans against a pillar. She looks, Loki thinks as he stops and stares, like a golden, miniature Valkyrie. Except that those warriors never cry. Intrigued, Loki sneaks forward on silent booted feet. He knows enough magic to muffle his footsteps, to hide the sound of his breathing. He knows a little about invisibility but it would be ridiculous to render only half of himself unseen; he might frighten the girl to death.
Loki feels smug as he sidles around the pillar, just within arm's length of her. She is busy wiping her tears away and he thinks she has no idea that he is there. It's not until a hand grabs on to his sleeve that Loki realises he might have walked into a trap.
Her eyes are still wet but fierce. She might be shorter than him but Loki finds himself getting nervous because this girl might actually be able to do what all the other boys can do, which is to beat him in a fight. So he does the first thing that comes to mind. Faster than she can react, he reaches out, catches a tear in mid-fall and holds it up for her to see. Except that it is no longer a tear, for between his forefinger and thumb lies a tiny diamond that sparkles like the heart of a star.
Her jaw drops open and those eyes, so deep and dark they remind him of onyx, widen. She has impossibly long lashes, he notices. "How did you do that?" She does not release him but her grip loosens even as her other hand reaches for the gem. "It's beautiful!"
'Yes,' Loki thinks as he gazes at her. 'It is.'
She had not seen him for more than a week now. If she thought hard enough about it, Sif knew she could count the exact number of days, hours and minutes since Loki Odinson, second in line to the throne, master sorcerer and more importantly, her best friend and confidante, had been avoiding her.
Loki was angry with her. Sif could not believe it, but it was the only explanation she could think of. His eyes had turned so cold that day. She shivered slightly at the memory, her hand creeping up to press against the diamond she wore on a chain around her neck. As repayment for a favour rendered, a master smith of the dwarves had offered her any weapon produced from his forge. Instead, Sif had asked for an unbreakable chain of fine silver and this she had attached to the diamond. She had almost lost it once in battle and she would never again put herself through such anxiety.
'Perhaps he expects you to fight harder,' she thought miserably. He had encouraged her to pursue a warrior's path, in defiance of society's expectations and her parents' wishes. And likewise, she had stood by him when disapproval had been heaped on his shoulders because he had announced his intention to pursue his studies in magic. Battle, Sif had learnt at an early age, was not always done on the field or in a practice ring. One had to fight for what one wanted. And allies were precious.
Which brought her back to a certain prince who had deserted her in her time of need. She had expected Loki to give advice, maybe even offer a solution out of this quandary she now faced. Instead, she had to suffer the brunt of his anger. 'And what for?' For a husband she had never planned on having. It wasn't as though this was her fault; her father had made it clear he wanted her to get married.
"And it will happen," he had thundered, "even if I have to look beyond Asgard itself."
It had been a dirty threat, for if she married outside of Asgardian society, she would have to leave the realm to reside with her new husband. Away from everything she knew and loved. Oddly enough, her first thoughts had been of Loki and how there would be no more gardens, no more tongue-in-cheek remarks or just sitting and listening to him and Thor bantering while the hearth fires roared.
She wondered how much trouble he would get into without her by his side. There was only so much Thor could do. And he never figured out what Loki was up to until it was too late.
At least Loki could more than hold his own in the practice ring now. While he still preferred magic to weapons, no one laughed when his daggers started singing through the air. It was no coincidence either that his weapon for close combat was a spear.
She jumped at the unmistakable bellow that was Thor's. She was greatly fond of Odin's firstborn and he had, together with Loki, championed her cause. But sometimes, she wished she could lift Mjolnir just to hit him with it on occasions such as these. "What?" she snapped, looking up to see three pairs of amused eyes staring down at her.
"You are moping," Fandral remarked, taking a seat next to her. "You were planets away."
"I wish I were planets away," she muttered.
"We could go to Alfheim," Volstagg suggested, waggling his thick red eyebrows. "I could escort you so that your father would not suspect anything."
"And what would the excuse be? That Sif and you are embarking on a quest to raid the Elf King's kitchens?" Thor laughed.
"For a pot that never empties but produces whatever the owner's heart desires? Surely that will be a worthy quest. Asgard need never fear starvation."
"And the first to benefit would be your own belly," Fandral shot back. "Besides, the Elves may have heard that the famous Lady Sif is available for marriage. Whatever will we do should one of them decide to keep her?"
She would bring back the hide of the impertinent Elf who dared to try holding her against her will as an example to any in the Nine Realms who harboured similar thoughts. Before she could reply, Thor cut in.
"Simple. We tell Loki. He'll bring Sif home, even if he has to fight a world to do so."
She would strangle Loki if he attempted such a feat by himself. But the thought warmed her heart anyway.
"Speaking of Loki, where is he?" Volstagg asked.
"Mother sent for him. She had need of his magical tricks."
Sif frowned. If Loki were present to hear those dismissive words, Thor might find himself the recipient of said magical tricks. Sadly, the elder had never learnt to be more mindful of the younger, not in when it came to this.
"But that is not why we are here. Sif, have you chosen for yourself yet?"
Once again, she found herself the object of their stares. "C-Chosen?" she spluttered, cursing the way her tongue fumbled. "Barely a week has passed and you think I have made a choice already?"
"Have you given it no thought?" Fandral sounded slightly shocked.
"Unlike you, I have no list of attributes and neither have I been dallying with the opposite sex in hopes of adding to said list."
If she had, there would be a lot of Asgardian men suddenly disappearing or finding themselves the victims of highly unpleasant pranks, Thor privately added. As it was, men hardly approached Sif because she was always in their presence. She was a fellow warrior and as beloved as a sister. 'At least to us. The way Loki looks at her can hardly be described as brotherly.' Not that he would tell Loki, of course. Being turned into a frog once was enough for him. He still had occasional nightmares although it had been eons ago.
"Perhaps we might help you? Volstagg suggested with a bright smile as Thor subtly nudged his foot with his boot.
"Excellent suggestion!" Fandral jumped in. "After all, who knows the men of this realm better than us? We know things you ladies are not privy to," he grinned and wagged a finger at Sif who attempted to swat him. "Plus, we will be sure to pick somebody that we like."
"I thought I was the one compelled to marry, not you. If you want my husband-to-be though, he is all yours." Sif rolled her eyes.
"Perish the thought." Fandral shuddered. "Maybe Volstagg will have him."
"I resent that! Give him to Hogun."
"Who is conveniently not present to refuse your generous offer."
"Enough of this!" Thor added a meaningful glare that successfully quelled their bickering. "Sif, perhaps now would be a good time to discuss prospective suitors."
That was the last thing she wanted to do. The thought of submitting to the inevitable never sat well with her and she could feel her palms getting sweaty, something that never happened, not even when she had had to face a fire-breathing dragon. "Perhaps next time."
"But Sif, your parents—"
"Will be able to wait until next week! We can do this then. You do whatever you want to in the meanwhile." And with that, Lady Sif, steadfast companion of the Warriors Three, turned tail and fled.
Seconds later, Hogun sidled in through the entrance, a quiet smile of triumph on his lips. "He's on his way."
Immediately the goblets were pushed aside, all except the one Volstagg managed to rescue. A score of lists were spread out on the table, covering every inch of the surface. Some had names crossed out, others had names that were underlined.
When Loki entered the room, Thor, Volstagg and Fandral were in the midst of a heated argument while Hogun sat in silent disapproval, shaking his head. Thor did not miss the look of horror on Loki's face, followed by pinched disapproval at some of the names tossed about. "Brother! As always, your timing is impeccable. We are choosing Sif's husband!"
The sound of his footsteps echoed down the hallway. Usually, speaking with his mother always had a soothing effect on his spirits. She knew the right things to say, always directed him to a perspective he never considered and she never lost her temper. He loved being in her presence, mostly because she had never given him reason to doubt that she loved him as much as she did Thor. Unfortunately on this occasion, she had destroyed his peace of mind.
"By the way, have I mentioned your brother's latest project? Thor has taken it upon himself to choose Sif's husband. Apparently Sif has given her permission and Thor is most keen on recommending Forseti—"
He could not even remember what reason he had given to excuse himself from her presence but he was barely out the door before he began cursing Thor under his breath. His brother was like a dog with a bone; he just did not know when to leave well alone. And Sif! Sif had actually let Thor have free rein to ruin her life! Didn't she know what kind of man his brother would choose?
"Forseti! What is wrong with my nephew?" Thor bellowed, trying to outshout Volstagg and Fandral who were clutching lists in their hands and shoving it in his face. "Brother! As always, your timing is impeccable. We are choosing Sif's husband!"
Sif might as well have married herself to a Jotun, for all the good their choice would do her. She might even have more luck closing her eyes and blindly pointing at a crowd of suitors. "I believe we've already crossed our nephew from the list."
"I do not believe that he is too young—"
"He is four hundred years younger than Sif and has barely stepped into manhood. If you insist on pushing him on her, I shall have a word with his mother." Loki smiled inwardly as even the mighty God of Thunder looked somewhat quailed by the thought of facing Forseti's mother. Their sister-in-law had the boy tied to her with apron strings that not even Mjolnir could break. Maybe it had to do with Baldr's passing so soon after their marriage, leaving her nought but a child. Loki still mourned his younger brother's death but he was not above using any means to get Thor to drop this imbecilic idea.
Selecting the empty chair beside Hogun, Loki's eyes skimmed over the lists. "Anvindr? You must be jesting. The man is a boor. And he has had two wives already."
"Exactly why he is in need of one whom he can cherish," Volstagg argued, looked deeply offended.
"One wife died in childbirth and he barely mourned her before he remarried. The second he returned to her father's home because she could give him no heir." Loki glared at the red-haired warrior who shrank back slightly. "Sif will not be the kind of wife he wants." The thought of the warrior goddess confined to a barefoot and pregnant existence was unthinkable.
"What? Are you saying that Sif is incapable of birthing sons?"
If he got any angrier, he would burst a blood vessel. Come to think of it, maybe he should burst Volstagg's blood vessels. The ones in the eyes, maybe. There would be no harm done. His intentions must have shown up on his face because Hogun reached out with a quill and scratched out Anvindr's name.
"How about Hakon?" Fandral suggested quickly. "He is of the same age, more or less. He is a valiant fighter and as famous as Sif in his own right."
"He is always volunteering for missions and quests, returning perpetually injured only to leave on more missions once Eir has healed him. The man will eventually get himself killed one day and leave Sif a widow."
"Erm, she'll be free to choose another husband again then?" Fandral hastily scratched out the name when he found himself the recipient of Loki's icy stare. "Alright, I concede. You have a point there."
Hogun's suggestion stopped them all dead in their tracks. "Pardon me?" Fandral managed to squeeze out. "The ruler of Alfheim, that Freyr?"
"Freyr, brother of Freyja the beautiful?" Volstagg gaped, although it was hard to tell whether it was because of the brother's prominence or the memory of the sister's loveliness.
"How can you suggest this, Hogun?" Thor frowned and Loki decided to let his older brother handle this one. "Sif is a prize for any in Asgard but a King of the Elves is above even her."
He wanted to say that Sif was not a prize, not a trophy to be bandied on some man's arm but for now, it was wiser to hold his peace. And no, she was not below kings and princes either, not if one truly knew her worth.
"He remembers her, from the one time he came to pay tribute to the All-father. It would be a valuable alliance to bring both our kingdoms closer to each other."
Well, there was really no arguing with that. He could see the wheels turning in Thor, Fandral and Volstagg's heads. Blindsided by Hogun. It was always the ones you thought were harmless. "And you know this how?" he demanded, unable to keep the testiness out of his voice.
Hogun never flinched when he met his gaze directly. "It is reliable information."
"Sif would like it, the idea of an alliance," Fandral murmured. "There could hardly be a service more glorious to render to Asgard."
The tendril of dread that had crept into his heart was now making its way down to his belly. Oh yes, he knew Sif. She would think about it that way if the facts were presented in such a manner.
"He's worshipped on Midgard as some kind of fertility god, isn't he? We don't have to worry about her not being able to give him sons," Volstagg pointed out. Loki made a mental note to turn all the meat that the man put in his mouth into vegetables. Preferably the inedible kind. The inedible bitter kind that gave one rashes all over just from coming into contact with it.
"I do not think Sif would wish to leave us." Just when he thought it was all over, his older brother stepped in to save the day. How like Thor. "I do not want this mentioned to her."
"It's even better than being married to your nephew—"
"No more of this," Thor ordered. "And Fandral, I resent that remark about Forseti. Sif is feeling pressured as it is by her parents. I would not have her think the royal family is pushing for a political union with another realm. It would be most unfair. Would it not be, Loki? You know her better than any of us here."
Now was the chance he had been waiting for. "She would most certainly feel obliged to place her kingdom before her own happiness. Perhaps this…role you have taken upon yourselves would best be passed to me. I have some time to spare. I will speak with her about her choice of husband."
"Oh wonderful, that's a burden off us then."
"I was never one for playing matchmaker anyway."
Loki blinked. He looked at Hogun who merely shrugged and proceeded to put the lists away. Something was not quite right but he assumed that it was because Thor had forced his companions into doing this with him.
"Brother, you are certain you wish to do this?"
His smile was genuine, one of the rare ones ever seen. "More certain than anything in my life. Now, if you will excuse me…" He nodded at them and took his leave, secure in the knowledge that Sif's future now rested in the most capable of hands. His.
Even when they were certain he was out of earshot, they waited a good time before speaking.
"I wonder what Loki will do if he finds out we're all in this together?" Fandral sipped the wine and sighed. He had not dared drink a drop before this. After all, it was not everyday that one attempted to pull one over the God of Mischief.
"I don't wish to think on that," Volstagg shuddered. "I will truly move to another planet should that ever happen."
"I do not believe hiding behind Thor is considered that extensive a move."
"Why you—Meet me in the practice ring later and we'll see who will be doing the hiding!"
"We can't use the practice ring. There's no room there for you to hide," Fandral teased. While Volstagg turned red and groped for a suitable comeback, the swordsman turned his attention to Hogun. "That was a good one, suggesting Freyr. Unexpected though since it wasn't part of the plan."
"It is not a part of the plan. It is a truth."
It was not everyday that Fandral's mouth dropped open like that but today was such a day.
"You were serious!" Volstagg exclaimed. "The King of Alfheim fancies our Sif?"
Hogun glanced at Thor. "It will not be long before he hears of her parents' decree that she be married."
And when that happened, Odin would think twice about refusing such an offer. It would be an unimaginable slight, especially if there was no counter offer from another of equal standing. And even then, the political ramifications might lead Odin to consider passing over his own son in favour of the King. Either way, Loki would never forgive his father for giving away the woman he loved.
"Then we shall have to move faster. And pray that it all works out." In the meantime, he would speak to his mother, just in case. If there was one person who could sway the All-father, it would be her.