The first time she kisses Loki, she is but a girl brushing against the cusp of womanhood. Tired of hearth and home, all she wants to do is join Thor and the Warriors Three in combat training. Much to her surprise, they scoff at the idea that a maiden could have any promise as a warrior.
“A female is a wife,” Thor laughs, his muscles straining.
“Or a cook,” Volstagg adds, his belly bouncing.
“Or a bedmate,” Fandral quips, his eyes gleaming. “But not quite yet, darling.”
Hogun merely rolls his eyes and offers her a sad smile.
She is left alone on the steps, head in hands, tears contained deep within her core. Her brother is allowed to guard against Ragnarok and she can’t even be trusted with a blade. How pathetic.
“Don’t let them get to you.”
She turns around. Loki stands behind her, slight with a crooked grin. As Odin’s son and Thor’s punching bag, he’s often included in his big brother’s practiced bloodbaths, but sometimes Thor enjoys time alone with his friends. Or perhaps Thor sometimes forgets his brother in the shadows where Loki chooses to live. Sif wonders at times if Loki is even real at all.
“I don’t know what you mean,” Sif responds tightly. “It was just a passing thought. I don’t actually fancy myself a warrior.”
“I do. Fancy you, I mean. As a warrior.” His eye is appraising and Sif feels like a doll on display. “Thor is a fool not to.”
“Thor is a fool for many good reasons,” Sif acknowledges, “but this is not one of them. Maidens are not warriors. The fool is the one who would actually believe that.”
“Then paint me a fool,” Loki declares. He falls into place next to her. “You are more than just your sex, my dear Lady Sif. Your soul has fire and your body has strength and, most of all, your mind has cunning. You are destined to be much more than an accessory to a male’s ego.”
His compliment strikes her in the same place where her tears sit. “I have no use for your silver tongue, Loki.”
He shifts, glancing downward. “I would not lie to you.”
Sif rolls her eyes. “And why wouldn’t you?”
His gaze rises from the floor and locks onto hers. Her body freezes, as if on ice. With measured grace, Loki’s hand delicately brushes her cheek and despite an inner voice telling her to move, run, attack, she can’t even draw a breath.
Loki’s face moves closer to hers and Sif’s pulse quickens. She has never felt anything for the younger prince with his lean look and calculated stance, but at the exhale of his breath on her skin, her eyes close just the same.
His lips are cold but agile, and she moves against them like a snow rabbit hunted by the fox. It is a chase, an unexpected thrill—
—until Thor barges in, muscles bulging. “Loki, where is my helmet?” he booms.
His noisy entrance dies instantly on the sight of them. His blue eyes flash and he stands straighter, muscles churning under his armor. “Brother, come. It is time to fight.”
“Isn’t it always?” Loki responds. “I will be there in a moment.”
Before he gets up to leave, he draws close to her ear. “I believe I just got you what you wanted, my dear,” he murmurs into her hair. “Feel free to thank me later.”
The next day, Thor invites Sif to train with him personally. Her fingers brush her lips as she nods yes.
The second time she kisses Loki, Odin has announced that Thor will be his successor. The party is enormous with wine and laughter flowing. Thor claps everyone on the back like they are his favorite pet and he hits Loki with particular glee. Everyone knew that golden-haired, thick-muscled Thor would become King of Asgard one day, but with the slight doubt removed, Thor’s cockiness comes out in full force.
“Would you like to make love to the future King of Asgard?” he murmurs into her hair, breath hot with wine.
She loves him desperately, but in moments like this, she hates how desperately. Sif pushes him off of herself with decided force. “No, your majesty, I would not.”
“What, would you rather fuck a mere prince?” Thor laughs with a bemused lip. “His title is not the only thing that is inconsequential.”
“I shall fuck whoever I please,” Sif snaps. “A title does not make up for one’s failings. And you are not lacking for either.” She straightens with ramrod exactness, hand curled into a fist. “Now go back to the party before both of us do something we regret.”
Thor growls—deep, guttural—before he strikes and takes her one more time in his grasp. She pins his arm behind him and they stand there, pressed against each other, bodies on fire. Thor looks at her like he is going to have his way and with her back arched and lips unsteady, she almost lets him. Almost.
“Go,” she orders. Her body may tremble, but her voice does not.
With a frustrated sneer, Thor releases her and she him. “You will be my queen one day, Sif. We shall rule the Nine Realms together. You’ll see.”
Thor leaves and her body feels cold alone against the night air. She holds herself, trying to brush the goose bumps away. “You can show yourself, Loki.”
The forever-prince emerges from the shadows, face solemn. “I didn’t want to intrude.”
“You would have done nothing of the sort.” Her skin refuses to get warm. “How are you enjoying the festivities?”
He shrugs, leaning against the balcony. “It’s about as delightful as one would expect a celebration of his utter lack of virility would be.”
“Virility is worthless,” Sif states, “and certainly a poor indication of ability. But didn’t you once tell me the same?”
“Did I?” Loki asks with cocked head. “I don’t remember anything of the sort.”
Sif’s body hums with the memory. “When I wanted to be a warrior and Thor insisted that maidens were nothing more than hearth-tenders. You said you fancied me as a warrior.” Despite herself, she touches her lips. “And here I am. Not an ounce of virility and yet I can disarm your brother on most days. So can you,” she adds with a smile. “He thinks that with enough force, he can have anything he wants. He’s lucky he hasn’t been killed or gotten the rest of us killed.”
“Mostly thanks to you.”
“And you.” With a deliberate gaze, she takes his hands in hers. “You are his touchstone, Loki. He loves you more than anything in the universe and he needs you by him to stand a chance at being a good king. He lacks strategy, guile—things you have in spades. Together you will be unbeatable.”
Loki nods. His hands are colder than hers, but he wraps them around hers, cradling her like she might flee if the wind blows the wrong way. “He’s right, you know,” he says wistfully. “One day you’ll be his queen.”
Some things were always meant to be. “One day is not today,” Sif murmurs. “And it is certainly not tonight.”
She captures his mouth with hers, and feels him melt instantly. She doesn’t love him or trust him, but she knows him.
She finally feels warm again.
The last time she kisses Loki, Thor has been banished. The Allfather has fallen into the Odinsleep, Loki sits upon the throne, and the Warriors Three do nothing but whine. The threat of Jotunheim looms and she is left with a slumbering fool, an untrustworthy king, and yammering boys who are better prepared to use their swords to stab meat than Frost Giants. Thor is arrogant and reckless, but he is the greatest warrior they have against a threat that can slip past the greatest of guards.
The Warriors Three may take Loki’s words at face value, but Sif knows him all too well. She finds him in his chambers and her knife finds his throat.
“Is that any way to treat your king?” he manages to spit out.
“Is this any way to treat your brother?” Sif retorts back. “Don’t be a fool, Loki. He did not deserve to be banished and his continued exile threatens our very existence. Thor is our only chance against Jotunheim.”
“Our only chance?” Loki snaps. “Ah yes, because what idiot would want meek little Loki on the throne? What good are parlor tricks against brutish insolence?”
Sif tightens her grip on her knife, but Loki stares down at her, unfazed. “Your threats are worthless, Lady Sif. I know that you would never harm your king.”
Her breath catches, her throat dark. “And what a king you could have been. If just for a moment you set aside your jealousy and your mischief and did what you knew was right and not what would gain you victory over a brother who did nothing more than love you.”
Loki laughs in her face—a cold, hard laugh that slices through her chest. “Of course you would take his side.”
“There is only one side, Loki. When will you realize that?” She drops the knife and Loki stands up like a king. His derision tells her that he doesn’t believe her.
When Loki doesn’t reply, Sif lets the silence gather in her stomach. After so much together, how could it end like this? From such beginnings, such devastation. “I never did thank you,” she murmurs.
“For what?” Loki sneers.
“For giving me the life I always wanted. For making me a warrior.”
Loki’s calculating stare softens. “That was Thor. He trained you.”
“Yes, but you gave me the key to his ego.”
“And his heart,” Loki says. “But you would have won that without me.” For a moment, he is no longer the King of Asgard or a petulant prince. He is a boy who knows that despite all his tricks and all his trades, he will never get what he wants.
Sif brushes the hair from his face like she might brush away tears. “The others believe that you were the one who allowed the Frost Giants into Asgard. If I were to look with just my eyes, I would know that they are right—that no one other than you would be clever enough to sneak past Heimdall.” She narrows her gaze toward him, fearless yet frightened by what she might see there. “But I choose to look with my heart, which knows that you would never destroy your home or your brother.” She hesitates. “Or me.”
Loki is silent, his lips a thin line and his body motionless. Sif wonders if he has frozen into his own form of Odinsleep when he finally lifts his hand and touches her cheek. His eyes glisten. “I beg you not to trust your heart.”
He kisses her then, with fingertips beneath her chin and lips that chill her to the bone. When she opens her eyes, he is gone.
Perhaps he was never there at all.