Sif's first clue about the new occupant of their quarters was the quiet. Usually, Loki would know she was approaching, and he would open the door for her and greet her. But this time, she went through the door and he was nowhere in sight.
"Loki?" she called. "Are you here?" But there was no answer until she entered the main room and saw him sitting on the middle of the floor. "Loki?"
He glanced up. "Sif, done so soon?"
That was an odd question, when she was not early at all. But not as odd as the way he was staying on the floor, hunched over. "Are you hurt?"
"No, Mother brought me a gift." He turned to show Sif a small animal in his arms, held against his chest. She couldn't tell what it was, but it looked fluffy. "A winter wolf pup found abandoned. I agreed to take him."
She was more surprised that he'd agreed, than that Frigga had offered. Loki had been so torn up by Fenrir's death, he hadn't looked at another dog in all the years since. But perhaps he'd healed enough now to try again.
His expression was at first hopeful that she would like the new addition to their quarters, though the hope faded to uncertainty as he waited for her response.
She couldn't help a bit of a tease. "You agreed to take a dog into our chambers, without consulting me?"
"I- " His gaze flickered, as he knew he'd been wrong, but then he pulled back his shoulders prepared to be defiant. "I did. He needed me."
And you need him. His fingers buried into the dense dark fur of the small animal as if he intended never to let go.
She knelt down, to get a look at her new roommate. Dark grey fluff on top, white belly fur, little triangular ears that were barely long enough to poke through the fur, and closed eyes in an admittedly adorable face. She reached out, but Loki shied back, turning his shoulder to keep her away. He tightened his arms around the sleeping pup.
Her heart ached at the protective gesture. Pulling her hand back, she murmured, "I only wanted to pet him, Loki. I'm not going to take him from you."
"Sorry," he muttered and turned back to show the pup to her. "I think he's Fenrir, Sif. Fenrir's come back to me."
That was wishful thinking. She doubted wolves had souls at all, but surely if Fenrir had a soul, he'd have found his reward in Valhalla and not be reincarnated. But she was not going to tell Loki he was wrong, not when he was smiling. He looked truly happy at the thought that his lost companion had come back to him. It was good to see after the last few painful months.
The fur was so soft. She meant to stroke it only a little but her fingers refused to stop. "I am not cleaning up after him," she warned Loki. "He makes a mess, it's yours. And if he chews my boots or my armor, you're replacing it all. No whining about it, no clever excuses to try to get out of it. And he absolutely doesn't belong in our bed."
"Agreed," Loki said.
That night, when she returned from visiting with Thor and Fandral, she found Little Fenrir had been banished to a basket on the floor beside the bed. Loki was already asleep, with one hand dangling off the edge of the bed to touch Fenrir's back. Fenrir was staring up at Loki with forlorn golden eyes and whimpering just enough to make Sif feel like an absolute monster that she had ordered him on the floor.
"Oh, Norns, you win," she grumbled, picking him up. She set him next to Loki, who opened his eyes to check if she had approved this change, returned her kiss, and fell back asleep again. The pup wiggled in delight, nosing his way under Loki's arm and plopped his head down on Loki's hand with the sort of possessive loyalty Sif had seen once before.
Joining them in the bed, she stroked the puppy's back, wondering, and finally whispered, "Fenrir, are you back? Is it you?"
The pup turned his head to look at her, as if he understood her question, and those eyes seemed too aware for a small pup only a few weeks old. But the moment passed. He let out a yawn far too big for his head and closed his eyes, and the swish of his tail stopped.
She smiled and impetuously kissed the top of his head. Fenrir reborn or not, the new pup would remind Loki how to love and trust, and how to care for a being who needed him. In return Fenrir would become his loyal friend, would guard his dreams, and help Loki continue to heal.
Then, she hoped, one day not too distant, Loki would be well enough for that next step of a child. It was the first time she'd thought about a child as something she would want, but now, seeing Loki cuddled up with the puppy, she could see a baby in Fenrir's place. Black hair, tiny hands, baby tucked safely between Loki's arm and body, while they both slept peacefully.... Smiling at the image, she closed her eyes with her fingers touching Loki's.
Between them, a contented wolf pup watched over them both.