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Ashes and Bone

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When cinders rain from the skies, he goes looking for her. He cannot help himself.

He leaves Midgard behind to be baffled and amused by the snowfall of ash. He knows what is to be found, in his heart of hearts, but it hollows him to his core to see it with his own eyes, to walk Asgard with bone and ashes beneath his boots.

He walks amongst bodies, blackened and dead, sprawled out and desperate. He sees the skeleton of Yggdrasil outlining the sky, an eternal monument to the golden kingdom, to Asgard. Or perhaps those last, scorched branches will crumble and break in the days to come, to unsettle the dust and debris.

The palace is naught but a shell, reeking of smoke and death. He lingers only briefly, to mourn little more than the archives, of books scattered and few that will be able to be salvaged.

Asgard has fallen, long live the Eight Realms.

He will not admit what he seeks as he walks the streets, the discarded weapons and the dead.

He finds a dagger, the blade etched with a serpent, the hilt wrapped in worn green leather. It is his, and to find it discarded and filthy on the streets of Asgard is a slow burn of pain and understanding and that hollow feeling has returned.

He has no where to go as night falls, and he is no stranger to the scavengers of the Realms.

He is one, after all.

He finds himself back home, in the wreckage of his mother’s rooms - the great stained glass window that welcome guests to the rooms of Queen Frigga is long gone, but he can feel the glass beneath his feet.

A scorch mark across the gold and silver carpets, books and pages scattered, furniture blackened and crumpled.

But the wards, the oldest of the wards hold - the ones Frigga laid when she had two sons in the cradle; wards of protection and harmony, of sanctuary. They are weak, but there, greeting him sweetly, eagerly, as if he is there to put things right once again.

A bloody knife and worn-in magic. That is all he has left.

He needs to go back to Midgard, to show himself and tell his bro…Thor what has transpired.

That Ragnorak has come and brought its wrath down upon Asgard, and they are all that is left of the Aesir, of the Golden Realm.

But his is, of course, not Aesir. Thor is the last.

That thought leaves him colder. Thor is truly the last, and she…

He will find her before he faces Thor. He will find her and bury her, in the crude manner of the Midgardians; it is the very last thing that he might do for lo… for her

For love of her.

There is no one left to use that against either of them, so why does it matter now?

The night stinks of smoke and charcoal, and so does his clothing when the sickly greyish light stirs him from what little sleep he has managed.

It is a long day, of contemplating corpses and battles, of weapons and destruction. He recognizes some people, some children, and it is terrible in a way he has never contemplated before. It is exhausting and dreadful and his broken sleep is stalked by haunted, disfigured children.

It is four days that twist into each other, until he is not sure that this is truly happening, or if he has finally fallen so deeply into his own, twisted mind; that he is destined to haunt the graveyard of Asgard in penance.

It is a bad day, the longest day, and he stalks his mother’s rooms, hurling things against the walls, rendered unsatisfying as they crumpled rather than shatter. He hollers his rage to silent walls until he is spent and then he is crumpled against one wall, clutching a blade flaking dried blood, and trying to find his grasp on reality once again.

The only thing he has left to hold on to is the knowledge he must carry this news to Thor. That is all that remains.

He has been staring at her for minutes, dull eyed and not comprehending what he is seeing.

She is Asgard, the walking dead. Her hair has been scorched, lank strands around her face, and an ugly purple bruise lines her face. There are dark stains of dried blood dotted along her tunic and leggings, where her armour does not cover. Her armour is dented, stained and pieces are missing, torn away.

One hand is bandaged roughly, with a grimy cloth. A foreign blade hands from one hand, as filthy as she is, blood flaking from both herself and her weapon with every step.

”Word of your death seems to have been greatly exaggerated, my lord.”

The words are sharp, and he is aware.

Sif, Sif is here. And he no longer cares - not if she is the restless dead, or if they are dead together, or if they are still clutching to the thin strand of life together.

"Sif." His lips feel numb, he cannot move, he can only stare, a willing disciple to the Goddess of War. "Sif."

She moves closer, her steps measured and careful, uneven. She favours her left leg, but her face is like marble - no sign of pain, no sign of anything. She is little more than the devotional statues of Midgard, of fierce lady patrons, of goddesses and queens.

She discards the sword with a clatter, as she reaches his side, before she kneels, only the slightest of flickers across her face indicating any pain at the movement. It is then he regains power over his famed tongue, over his limbs and mind and Sif is with him. Dead or alive or something in between, it does not matter.

He does not say any more, and he prides himself that he finally, genuinely, shocks her.

He kisses her hard, his hand in her hair (shorter than his, for the first time since the summer he cut it all off when they were young). She almost pulls away before she kisses him back and when he finally, finally pulls back, she is staring at him with something he recognizes. It is bleak despair, it is pain and it is fear. And it is no longer hidden from him, like an opponent hides their weakness. It is there, and it is raw, and he wishes he could do as his mother’s old wards bid, and put things right, just to see such horror leave her eyes.

Instead, he simply manages to tell her, “I looked for you,” before he pulls her into his arms, holding her tightly as she lets out a shuddering breath. His fingers ghost along her body, his magic testing for injuries and weakness to heal, and she does not flinch.

Perhaps they will sleep in this place, surrounded by deaths and endings.

Perhaps he has died, and she is his angel of mercy, the one who sought him out when everybody else has moved on.

Perhaps he is irreversibly mad, as they all said, and he is still alone with nothing but a memory in his arms.

It does not matter, truly. He would rather this be madness, if it wears her face.