They caught up to him on the outskirts of a small and rainy town in the northwest of what Jane called America. Loki. Loki, who'd run and never stopped. At last, Loki. Sif's toes were wet in her boots, soaked through and chilled. She curled them and held back as Thor leapt from the flatbed of the truck.
She thought, then, that Loki would run again, that it was another trick. He took a step. Mud piled at his heel. Then Thor was on him, and Loki's hands moved. He raised them, to: repel, attack.
Sif swung out of the cab, her hand flying instinctually to grab for her sword; lot of good it would do her. Her hand settled on her thigh. She'd strapped her sword to her back, not to her hip. Idiot, she thought. She'd forgotten to sleep again, too tensed even to doze.
"Hold," said Hogun to Fandral and Volstagg as they made to defend Thor. He threw his arm before them.
Fandral turned on him. "But Loki--"
"What's happening?" Jane slipped across the seat and dropped out of the cab after Sif. Sif held her hand out to her, steadying Jane as she landed in the dirt. Worry flashed across Jane's sharp face. "Is Thor all right, are they--" She broke off.
Thor dragged Loki into a sudden embrace then, and Loki's hands were caught on Thor's chest. Sif let her hand fall from her sword.
"Is that how you greet the man who tried to kill you," said Loki. It came out muffled against Thor's shoulder.
"No," said Thor. His arms tightened about Loki. "This is how I greet my brother."
Loki's face sharpened. He'd grown so thin, so lean and starved, the hollows of his face thick with shadows. His eyes flickered, low then to the side. He looked over the warriors three, over Jane, at Sif. Her fingers pressed into her thigh. His eyes closed.
"I should wonder you still have a brother," said Loki.
"I shall always have a brother," Thor swore. "And you shall always have your brother."
"Things were always so simple for you," Loki said.
"They were never simple," said Sif loudly.
Loki lifted his head again. His eyes rose. Sif's tongue ached between her teeth. She had not meant to speak. It was Thor's to say. Her fingernails bit into her trousers. The pressure was slight on her thigh. Her jaw worked. Thor, too, looked to her. She had meant to leave it to him; she had known to leave it to him, but how he looked at her then, how he looked at Jane-- Perhaps he could not say it.
"We know," she said to Loki. She raised her chin. "That you are jotunn. The Allfather told Thor the truth of it."
Dark circles showed under Loki's eyes. He stared intently at her. An ugly thing twisted his mouth.
"So," he said softly. "That's why you've come for me."
Thor made to hold onto him, but Loki was always so slippery. He twisted free. His foot slid through the mud, and his knee bent for balance. He was worn, too, tired. Sif took one step and then another. Her hands hurt for their stillness.
"I should have known," Loki spat. "Oh, you've grown clever, brother, speaking to me of kinship, of family, of, of brotherhood, when you meant only to capture the jotunn criminal--"
"That is not why we have come for you!" Sif shouted. Her throat was chilled with the damp. The words scraped slightly. "If you understood how far we've traveled in search of you, you would not say such things!"
And it was Thor's to say, of course it was Thor's, for Thor was brother to Loki and Sif was only-- She was only-- She shoved past Thor and caught Loki's hands as he made to put them up. He was so thin. She could not account for how that, of all things, enraged her most.
"Why did you never tell us?" she demanded. "Why did you hide? When there were people who cared for you, who mourned you thinking you dead!"
"Oh, I'm sure it was out of the goodness of your hearts that you came for me." He jerked his head toward the warriors three, who held their weapons at the ready, still. He would not look at Thor. "After all his crimes, who would mourn Loki?"
"Thor mourned you," Sif said. "The queen mourned you." She tightened her hands about his wrists. "I mourned you!"
His eyelids flickered. He drew his lower lip down in a sneer. That crooked tooth at the front flashed. He pulled, and she yanked him closer.
"Oh, spare me your attempts at concern," he hissed. "We all know how you really feel. If it weren't for my brother--"
"Loki," said Thor warningly, but Sif could not think but for Loki's nearness, the knobs in his wrists, how his teeth showed. If Thor would speak, he would wait till she had finished with Loki.
"Do not dare presume you know the first thing of how I feel," Sif snarled.
"I know well enough of how you feel," said Loki cuttingly. "Sif, who trails after Thor like a tail after a dog."
She clutched his wrists ever more tightly. He turned his toe to her, sliding through the mud. How very thin his face, how terribly, horribly thin, and still he sneered down at her. Sif felt her breath quickening; how it roared in her ears and wavered in her chest.
"And what of Loki?" she demanded. "Did it mean so little to you?"
"What?" said Thor.
"I thought you dead," she said. "I thought you dead, and all the while you were here, hiding as a coward!"
Loki's lips compressed so they paled, nearly white in his dirtied face. He curled his fingers; the tips brushed her arms. His eyes narrowed. He leaned into her. He was not so tall that she could be easily intimidated.
"Are you so brave?" he asked.
"I am not the one who ran," she said.
"Oh, and I am overwhelmed with your caring," he said venomously, but for all that he leaned against her, for all that his hands tightened, for all his sneering, his eyes were huge and wild. He swallowed. A muscle in his jaw fluttered. "We both know it was only ever a passing fancy."
"It was never that to me," said Sif.
"What?" said Thor again.
"I must echo the sentiment," said Fandral. "What?"
"Hm," said Hogun.
Loki did not look away from Sif. His breath shivered down her cheek. The tip of his tongue flashed over his lip, wetting it. She bunched her toes in her boots, for they were so very cold. Her nails bit into his wrists. He leaned closer, drawn by the pinch.
"Then what was it?" he asked lowly. "Why is it that you've hunted me, if not to bring me to justice?"
"I have every intention of bringing you to justice," she said, for she would, if it was not the justice he thought he deserved.
"I am now thoroughly convinced of your lingering affection," said Loki.
"You mistake me," said Sif. She held him, trapped, in her hands, even as he would have withdrawn. "I would have you know the truth. When I said that I loved you, I did not lie."
"What," said Thor.
"Is this a jest?" asked Fandral.
"Ah," said Hogun.
"I'm sorry," Jane said, "but I'm lost."
He fought it, still, for what had the truth ever given Loki?
"You confuse pleasure for love," he said, but his breath caught on his teeth.
Thor made a horrified sound.
"You confuse love for a trick," said Sif. She held his hands to her throat. His knuckles brushed over her pulse.
"I am not the one you love," said Loki. "Thor--"
Thor made an even more horrified sound.
"It was you," Sif said. "Loki. It was always you, and if you couldn't see it, it was only because you refused to allow it to be true."
"Because it is not true," he said, snarling -- Loki, who had always been second.
"It is true," she shouted, "though there have been times when I would that it were not!"
"So they were ... dating?" Jane asked dubiously.
"No," said Thor, "if they--I would have known of it, and they would not. Sif is like to our sister--"
"My prince," said Volstagg hesitantly, "forgive me, but-- I believe Sif may be unlike to a sister, where Loki is concerned. That is my impression. I may be wrong."
"Oh, and you suffered so nobly," Loki snapped, "to love me when you'd Thor--"
"You cannot define my heart," said Sif, "or tell me who I love! And it is not Thor I love; it is you."
"You do not," he said. His throat worked, again and again. The long muscles shifted. "I know it."
He was so near to her. She held his arms. His hands had unfurled; his fingers fluttered just over her shoulders, like the wings of a bird which hadn't decided if it was spooked. They had found him. She had found him. All along the highway, as the white lines flittered past the truck, she had thought of his face and what she would say to him.
"Know this," she said, "Loki Silvertongue. I am no liar."
"You cannot," he said, helplessly.
"Oh, shut up," said Sif, "or I will shut your mouth," and she let his wrists go though she thought: he will run.
He did not run. Loki stared down at her. He blinked once, twice. His lashes swept over his cheeks. He pressed his lips together. They fell apart again.
"You love me," he said. It was a question.
"Is it so strange?" she asked.
"It is to me," said Loki.
Sif said, "It should not be so," and she reached for him.
Catching his jaw in her hands, her fingers sliding across his cheeks, she pulled his head down to her. She kissed him then, hotly so his lips mashed on her teeth. Loki shivered. Then his hands settled on her shoulders, and his neck bent, curling. She ran her right hand around his jaw, his neck, to hold his nape in her hand. How his breath trembled on her lips. Sif held his head steady and licked into his mouth, teasing apart his lips and his teeth till all his barriers parted and he sighed and melted into her, at last relenting.
"I have missed you," she whispered.
As if it hurt him, he closed his eyes. His tongue ran over his lips again. The tip brushed the corner of her mouth. She drew him to her again and held him there as she hid her love in his mouth. He clutched her shoulders.
They parted. The little finger on his left hand spasmed once and stilled. He worked his jaw. She knew the signs of a confession. He breathed out through his nose and then his teeth. His eyes flicked up and then away again.
"And I, you," he admitted.
She pulled at his neck. He allowed her another long kiss as, slowly, it began again to rain. The mud stirred beneath their feet. Droplets struck Sif's fingers and slid between them to run down Loki's neck, darkening his dark collar to black. It was cold, and she felt it cold. She did not mind. Loki made a soft noise and opened his mouth, again, to her tongue. Like a tree in a storm, he bent; he wrapped about her. Sif stroked his rain-struck jaw with her thumb.
"Maybe we should get inside," Jane said, "before we're soaked."
"Don't think of it as you're thinking of it," Fandral suggested to Thor. "Think of it as gaining a sister."
"She is already like my sister," said Thor.
"Like," said Hogun wisely, "is not as."
"I do so love weddings," said Volstagg happily.
"No more running," said Sif to Loki.
He touched her jaw.
"Very well," he said.