Actions

Work Header

Secrets in the Sun

Work Text:

Prologue

They said eavesdroppers never heard anything good about themselves; the same was true about snoopers.

Loki later thought that he would have been better off if he'd never opened the safe in Odin's study.

He meant only to grab his passport, and since Odin was away and his mother was busy, he thought he'd get it himself. He could guess the combination easily enough since his father used the same numbers everywhere he could. It took only two tries and the safe swung open (which later made him wonder whether Odin wanted him to get in and find out? because wouldn't he have chosen something Loki couldn't guess so easily? Unless he wanted Loki to find the envelope and find the truth?)

His mother's jewelry was in there, two stacks of cash, and two file folders of papers. He took the files out to look for his passport, and found Thor's birth certificate and then --

Lawful Record of Adoption of the child, name of Loki Odinson, aged four days, signed by Odin Borsson and Frigga Vanir-Borsson, on this date

He stared for the longest time at the official piece of paper. Adoption.

He was adopted. He wasn't their child. They'd never told him. Not one word. Even when he had asked, innocent as a child, why he had black hair and green eyes and they had blonde hair and blue eyes. And his mother - not his mother - had smiled at him and ruffled his hair, and said he was just lucky.

His stomach felt hollow, his heart too large in his chest, and his fingers were numb.

He read the paper over and over, trying to make it say something else. Maybe it was fake. Maybe it was some kind of sick joke, trying to get back at him for something.

But he knew it was real. It just explained so much - why they cared for Thor more, why Thor mattered more, why he was so different, why he was the after thought…

He was going to explode. Everything inside him was swelling up, and he thought about taking a match and burning everything in the safe. Setting fire to the carpet and the curtains and the desk and everything in this fucking house, because they had lied. And lied and lied and lied to him, and smiled and pretended. Every time he'd given them a chance to tell him, every single time, even when the truth might have helped, they lied again.

It was just some game to them, some pretense. Or it had been pity, taking in the poor orphan like something out of fucking Dickens. To raise him to be Thor's…. back-up singer.

And there was Thor, mediocre on guitar, hopeless at anything else, incapable of reading music more complicated than Chopsticks, and couldn't write a song that didn't rhyme cat and bat, but he was the frontman, lead singer, everybody knew his name. As long as Loki buried himself in his music and didn't attract attention, everything was fine. But start to complain or cause some controversy, and suddenly it was clear: it wasn't his place. Because only one of them was a real son, adored and feted. First and best and only.

His hand spasmed shut into a fist, crumpling the adoption record, before he hurled it back to the surface of his father's mahogany desk. Leaving the safe wide open, he grabbed the cash and his passport and left, tipping his father's Tiffany lamp to the floor off the table as he passed it. The glass shattered behind him and he didn't even smile.

Fuck all of them. Now he knew, and they could all go to hell.

He took one duffel bag, threw some clothes in it, his two sheet-music workbooks because he was damned if he'd let them have any of his incomplete songs, his iPad, and his Fender in its case. The rest they could keep, he'd get his own things and not be beholden to them anymore.

He drove Thor's car into the city, deliberately parked it in an impound zone, grabbed his things, and walked away. He took the Tube to Heathrow, and once there, he looked at the departures and found a flight to Barbados leaving soon. No one would ever look for him there, knowing how he despised the beach and sun in general.

But then he laughed at his presumption that anyone would even bother to look. 


 

 

Sif paid off her taxi driver and let the bellhop take her luggage eagerly, as she walked into the lobby. It was an airy open place with wicker furniture, lazy ceiling fans, and a view to the pool and the beach beyond that. In her room - which was even nicer than she had expected, thanks to Frigga making the reservation no doubt - Sif freshened up, changed to resort wear of a flowing skirt and tanktop, sprayed on some sunscreen, and stood on the balcony to think.

Loki was someplace on the island. Odin had found out his last credit card charge had been to buy a plane ticket to Barbados. But after that, nothing, for three weeks. He'd left his phone behind at the house, and had not otherwise contacted anyone. He had simply decided to disappear, without a word to anyone.

Odin had explained that much to her, in his study. The antique lamp that had sat on the corner of his desk for as long as she could remember, back to when she and Loki had hidden in here as children, was missing.

"Why?" Sif had asked. "What happened?"

Odin had given a tight shrug. "I'm not sure. He gets upset about things so easily."

Sif lifted her brows at that. Sure, Loki was a bit sensitive sometimes, but never to the extent that he'd run away from home before.

Odin glanced at the credenza behind his desk, where the safe was, before he faced her again. "Anyway. Since he seems to be upset with us, I think it's fairly useless to send Thor to get him back," Odin had continued. "So I'd like you find him and talk to him. See if you can get him to come home and get over his… tantrum. Remind him he missed the concert in Brussels, and he and Thor have shows in September. I will of course pay for your trip. I hope a week is enough, but if you need more time, let me know."

So she'd accepted the mission to find Loki, knowing there was something else going on that no one was telling her.

Odin had told her that Loki had at least two thousand pounds in cash, so he had some to live on, but by now that must have run out. Which meant either he was living in squalor some place, or he had a job. And since Loki had taken his guitar and he had only one bankable skill he was probably playing music somewhere. She just had to find where.

She spied the poster advertising entertainment on the island and smiled at the concierge. "I'm looking for live music. Can I get a list of places that have performers?" She spied the piano across the lobby, near the bar, and added, "Or all the hotels that have piano players?

"All of those, miss?"

Sif smiled. "You can give it to the front desk when you have it. I like a lot of choice. Thank you." She showed her room key and handed the concierge a fifty. "As many as you can find. Hotels and local places. Especially guitar and piano. If you have advertisements for any of them that would be great."

The concierge looked at her tip and nodded, with a frown that suggested she knew Sif had a motive besides music, but she went along. "As you like, miss."

Sif went to the bar to order something fruity and boozy and wandered out to the beach. It was beautiful here, her toes in the sand, and think about why she was here, chasing down someone who didn't want to be found.

Tantrum. That's how Odin had described Loki's flight. But a month out of the country seemed a bit more than that. Some bad breakup? Loki had always been private about his relationships, though she knew of none that had lasted very long. But no, Odin had said he was upset with his family. If Loki's problem had been a lover, Thor would be the one standing here.

So no, it had something to do with Odin, or Thor himself. Probably not Frigga, since Sif couldn't imagine her doing anything that Loki would be so upset about. But Odin and Thor annoyed Loki regularly. She'd heard from Frigga and Heimdall about the fight when that article in Music Monthly had come out, purporting to be about the Odinsons but featuring Thor alone, and Loki had yelled at Thor and stormed out. But he'd come back. He'd supposedly accepted Thor's explanation that the magazine had taken out everything he'd said about Loki.

Sif knew that wasn't the only time Loki's contributions to the Odinsons had been overlooked and Loki resented the attention focused on Thor. But what had been the last straw? She'd looked through media reports, and found nothing obvious.

Walking down the beach to the next hotel, she wandered through their lobby and pool area, imagining that she'd see Loki sitting at the bar, barefoot and his long black hair windblown.

He wasn't there of course. This hotel had no piano that she could see. And the adverts for their late-night poolside band played "island favorites" which probably meant steel drum flavored music, nothing Loki would play.

The bartender came up to her while she was checking out the poster. "They're quite good."

"Do you know the music scene here?" she asked.

"Sure," he answered. "If there is a music here, I know about it."

"Good. I'm looking for a musician."

"Perhaps I can help. I know many. What's the name?"

"Well, I don't think he'll be using his own name. But he's tall and thin, English, very white, black hair. May be playing piano or guitar somewhere."

The bartender considered then his dark eyes narrowed on her. "I tell you I know music. I know him. And we here in the island, take our hospitality seriously. Not let strangers find our guests, who seek peace from the big world."

He knew who Loki was, she realized. "I'm not a stranger," she protested. "His family sent me to see he was all right."

The bartender made a big shrug. "You can tell them he was okay."

"I need to see him. Do you know where he is? Where he plays?"

His eyes evaluated her again, before he admitted, "He came in to ask our manager to play. But we have our band," he gestured at the poster. "He bought a drink and left. I hear he did the same down the beach."

She grimaced. So he was here, and he was looking for a spot to earn money. "If he's asking for work he must not have a lot money left. His family's worried about him. He left suddenly, very upset at something."

"It seems to me that is his business. Tourists come to relax, miss. You need to relax. It'll be all right."

"But--" she started and he held up a finger to stop her, and she subsided with a sigh. "Fine. Make me something with rum in it, and I'll relax." She hoped buying a drink would open his mouth and tell her where Loki was, but that didn't work. What it did do was relax her, and she was feeling pretty enthusiastic about finding Loki tomorrow. He was here, he was looking for work, so it was only a matter of time before she tracked him down.

Back in her own hotel, the front desk gave her a short pile of paper and a note from the concierge. The list was written in a lovely cursive, and underneath was a pile of flyers for several performances. She flipped through them, seeing nothing promising.

But the list… she nearly missed it. "David Z Jones" performing at one of the other hotels down the beach. She'd passed the hotel in the taxi from the airport, a rather run down place with a wing still damaged from a recent hurricane.

"Wait." She frowned for a moment and went back to the name, wondering why it had caught her eye. It was a bland English name, though there was no shortage of those in Barbados, and there was nothing about it that should draw her attention.

Then she slapped the paper with the flat of her hand. "Oh, you son of a bitch! Think you're terribly clever, don't you?"

The only question was whether she should go to the hotel to ask about him before tomorrow night, or wait until the performance. He might already be tipped off by the bartender, but she certainly didn't want to make him run again, not when she didn't know what had set him off in the first place. Watching him perform would give her a clue of how he was really doing, preferably before he saw her.


 

She recognized the guitar first, when she slipped through the archway and within sight of the small stage. It was odd to hear "stairway to heaven" played as background music, but it was definitely his guitar and his hand on it.

He'd bleached his hair and let it curl, so it was an unrecognizable mass of brassy waves, as he bent his head over the guitar and played without seeming to care if anyone in the bar was listening or not.

He played three more songs, solo guitar arrangements of pieces he knew well, while she stayed in the back and listened. She thought it was odd that he wasn't singing, but maybe he thought his voice would be recognized, or perhaps it was the hotel's choice to keep the performance more subdued. Certainly she'd never expected to find him quietly playing guitar in a hotel bar as if nothing else existed.

The applause when he finished was enthusiastic and genuinely appreciative for its small size. He looked up, blinking himself back from the music, as Sif moved behind the pillar so he wouldn't see her. "Thank you," he said, and sounded pleased. "I have a show at ten-thirty at the Shell House. I'd love to see you all there."

She waited while he started to leave, and then while he was putting away his guitar, facing away from her, she went up close. Calling softly, she teased, "Oh my god, it's David Bowie!"

Loki flinched and went still, recognizing her voice.

"Did you really think no one would figure out your little joke?" she asked, in her normal voice.

He didn't look at her. "I didn't think anyone would come looking." He snapped the clips of his case closed and stood up, turning to face her. "They sent you."

"They were worried."

He snorted skeptically, and brushed past her heading to the darker area at the end of the bar where there was a short hall to the restrooms. "Worried about September, I'm sure. Well, you can tell them I'm done with the Odinsons."

That shocked her. "What? You're breaking it up?"

He shoved open the back door revealing a much brighter deserted hall that led to a few dark conference rooms. "That's the common meaning, yes. Thor can go fuck himself, I'm over it."

"Is this because of the magazine article? He explained--"

Loki spun back around to confront her. "It happens all the time," he hissed seething. "And I'm sick of it. Sick of them."

"So you're just gonna do what? Play a cheap hotel in Barbados for the rest of your life?" she asked in confusion.

"I'm going to write my own songs for me. I have more talent in my fucking little finger than he has in his great big pile of muscles, and you can go back and tell Odin I'm not going to be Thor's backup singer anymore. I'm finished with them and I'm on my own."

"But Loki--"

"Who sent you?" he demanded.

"Your father."

"He's not my father!" 

"What are you talking about, he's not your father?"

"Well he's Thor's father, isn't he? The golden child, who does no wrong? And meanwhile I can't do anything right, unless I'm standing in the back, supporting Thor's glory. Yeah, fuck them. And you too, if you're here on their behalf. Go home, Sif."

He stalked away and she let him go, not knowing what to say. What the hell had happened? She had never seen him so furious and yet, all of that seemed to be a cover for some hurt.

"Not my father." What was that about?


 

Sif returned to her hotel, glum that she'd blown it with Loki so badly. She would give him a day to cool off, and then find him again and try to get him to explain what was happening. 

At the poolside bar, nursing another fruity rum drink, she glimpsed a familiar walk, even with unfamiliar hair, and turned as Loki approached her. He was wearing khakis and a yellow button-front linen shirt, and he'd even tied his hair back into a short tail.

"Wow, I don't think I've ever seen you in clothes that boring before," she teased but it fell flat, as Loki didn't respond to her wit. "Ok, sourpuss, have a seat." She gestured to the high chair beside her.

He didn't sit down, preferring to lean up against the bar on the other side of the chair. "I'm guessing you told them I'm here."

She decided there was no point hiding the truth. "I did. They only want--"

He made a sharp gesture. "I don't care what they want. I'm not here to talk about them."

She eased back in the chair and picked up her drink to have something to do with her hands. She sipped and then cradled the stem in her fingers. "What then?"

"I don't know," he answered then looked at her. "I was short with you, and I shouldn't have been. It's not your fault."

"Well, no, it's not, but I was sort of hired to come after you, so I don't blame you for being mad. But it's not like you were hiding super hard. The name was kind of a give-away."

"Only to you."

"I know you pretty well."

His lips turned up in a reluctant smile. "True. And I'm glad it was you. Surprised your job let you go on holiday." 

"You are a client," she reminded him. "And you did break the Brussels contract. They're kind of… curious about that."

"Yeah, I need you to dump all that." He ran a hand through his hair, so some of it came loose around his face. "I just… I can't do it anymore. I know it sounds pathetic, but I'm sick of being second all the time."

"Do you really want to be a solo act though, Loki?" she asked. "You know it's a lot more work. You don't like interviews and the publicity end of it. That's why it seemed to work so well with the first album that you didn't want to be out in front."

"And I didn't," he agreed. "I just don't want to not be there at all, and I've been left out, more and more. Everyone seems to think Thor does it all on his own, so let him. I'll write for myself, not for him."

She was going to try to argue him into staying, into not doing this drastic thing, but as soon as she opened her mouth, nothing came out. Because why shouldn't he try? Even if he failed, it wasn't as if he was going to be in the gutter - the money off the Odinsons catalog alone would keep him off the dole for years to come.

And wasn't he right? She could say part of it was his fault, for being reluctant to do publicity, but she could also say honestly it was Thor's, for not being insistent on sharing the spotlight. He was never malicious about it, but he basked in the attention.

When she didn't say anything, Loki raised his eyebrows at her. "Aren't you going to try to convince me out of it?"

She shook her head. "No. Look, I care for your family and I don't know what else is going on there, but you're my friend, too. And if this is something you really want to do, then you should."

He smiled at her, a truly happy expression that made her insides warm -- she rarely saw that smile, pure and unironic. "Thank you, I appreciate that."

"What are friends for?" she asked, setting her hand on his.

He glanced down at their hands and his smile faltered, before he forced it back and echoed, "Friends, exactly." He took back his hand and straightened. "Well, now you've done your friendly duty and you can report back that I'm found but I'm done with them. And you can tell your firm to make the arrangements for a solo career, pay penalties, whatever. I'll be back in London in a few days."

She blinked, a bit stunned that he sounded like he was saying goodbye. "Loki?"

"It's good to see you, Sif."

That was definitely a good-bye. "Wait, Loki, what are you-- are you going?" she asked in confusion. "You don't even want to share a drink with me?"

He stopped, glanced toward the beach, and glanced back at her. "I need to, uh, go," he said, clearing his throat. "Get ready."

"You have an afternoon show?" she asked, puzzled. "At Beachcomber?"

He looked bewildered, as if her questions had nothing to do with what he'd said. "No, no, it's-- not until five." He blinked and frowned. "I think. Maybe seven."

"You can't need four hours to get ready. Unless you're going to bleach your hair some more," she teased.

He reached up to touch it reflexively, pushing it back off his face. "You noticed?"

"Hard not to. It's different."

"Different bad, or different good?" he asked.

"Um." She grimaced and admitted, "It needs to be lighter, or darker. But right now, it's a bad 'I did it myself in the bathroom sink' shade."

That made him give a little laugh. "I did, actually."

"I can tell. There's a zillion hair salons at these resorts, why didn't you get a professional to do it?"

"Money," he answered with a shrug and a bit of a laugh at the irony that he had to worry about money at all. "I burned through most of my cash early."

"On?" she asked.

"Rum, at first, until I remembered it gives me headaches. Then cheap gin mostly." He said it likely like he was joking, except she knew he wasn't.

She shut her eyes, wishing she hadn't asked. "Oh, Loki. What are you doing? What is this about?" she asked him, more earnestly. "I know there's something else going on. Something none of you are telling me."

His eyes flicked toward the beach and his jaw tightened. He shook his head, "I don't want to talk about it."

"Not even with me?"

"You'll take their side," he said sharply.

"You don't know that! I don't even know what it is! Or, why there's a side to take? What is going on?" she demanded, but softened her voice, figuring anger wasn't going to get her anywhere. "Please, let me help."

For a brief moment, he was going to tell her - his lips parted and his eyes went soft and hurt, but he reconsidered. He straightened and his expression flattened, and he said abruptly, "I can't. I can't do this with you anymore, Sif." He started away and she went after him, furious. Grabbing his shoulder, she spun him around.

"What do you mean? Do what? Talk? Be friends? You're gonna cut me out like you cut out your family?"

"Yes!" He made a quick gesture, shoving her hand off him, and stepped close again, glaring down in her face. "I don't want to be your friend, I have never wanted to be your friend." She took a step back, away from the intensity in his eyes, bursting free, and he grabbed her shoulders, like he was going to make her hear all of it. "But Thor got his stupid head in first. I thought it would pass. But it didn't. It didn't stop. Because I keep seeing you, and looking at you, and being your friend. And it hurts to be only your friend. I can't take any more right now. I want it to stop." Chest heaving, he let her go, staring at her with anguished eyes that seemed to implore her understanding, before his skin went ashen that he'd said all that. Swallowing hard, he looked down and muttered, "I have to go."

She let him get two steps, unable to respond, or think. Was he saying--? Was he saying what she thought he was saying? "Loki… Loki, stop! Are you saying…?"

It was so strange, so incredible, she didn't believe it at first. It was impossible. 

He stopped. Her eyes fixed on the back of his shirt-- on the pull of it across his shoulders and the muscles of his arms, how it hung loosely at his thin waist.

He turned around slowly and gave a pained little chuckle. "I'm saying, I have been in love with you since before I even knew it. The same moment you started dating Thor, I realized I wanted it to be me. And that's why I ran away to the conservatory. Pretty pathetic, I know."

"All this time?" she asked, softly. When what she really wanted to ask was: you've been pining for me? Me?

"I didn't mean to say it," he said finally. "I should've just kept my mouth shut."

"No," she shook her head in denial. "Why didn't you say something before?"

He lifted one shoulder in a weary shrug. "Why? I knew you didn't feel the same. First you were with Thor, and then I thought you were just a… relic of when I thought I liked girls. But when I knew that wasn't true, and I was attracted to both, you liked me as your safe gay friend. I was all right with that; it was better than nothing. But…" he hesitated and then offered softly, "you asked me once, who "Someday and Never" is about, and the truth is, Sif, it's always been about you."

She should have seen it. She should have known. It had been sitting right in front of her the whole damn time, and she'd never put it together. "I-- I don't know what to say," she admitted in confusion, feeling blindsided by this revelation.

"You don't have to say anything," he said. "It's just me, being my regularly freaky self. But maybe…" he scrubbed a hand through his hair, still refusing to look at her. His shoulders were slumped and his whole attitude was weary resignation. "I don't know, maybe now that I've told you, I can finally let go." He laughed once, without any humor. "It would be a nice change."

"Loki-"

He cleared his throat and tried to say more briskly, "Anyway, the point isn't to make you pity me; I guess it's just time for secrets to spill out." His smile was pained but he tried. "I can write a few more songs about it, so it's not totally a waste."

She tried to fumble her way to figuring out what to say, or do, in the face of the revelation that he'd been in love with her for years. "Loki, I--"

He lifted a hand, face scrunching into a grimace. "Please, no. Whatever well-intentioned thing you're trying to come up with, don't. Trust me, in my head, I've played out this conversation a million times, and there's nothing you can say. Because it's my problem, and I know that. But I hope you can understand I'd rather not see you again, for awhile at least. Someday this'll turn into something we can laugh at over coffee. But I'm not there yet."

His parting smile was barely there, sad but resigned to what he knew was true.

She was silent, as he walked away down the corridor. If he got through that door, he would be out of her life. She knew it. He would put her in the group with his family, of things that he was dumping to get on with this new life he was planning. He said 'awhile'; she was pretty sure that was really 'forever'. And that hurt.

This wasn't the first time Loki had nearly left her life forever. The truth was a blinding flash of light, as stunning in its own way as his revelation had been

"You're wrong. There is something I can say," she called after him and rushed down the corridor. "Wait."

He stopped and turned, as her heel caught in the carpet of the hallway and she lurched forward gracelessly, stumbling her way out of her shoe. But she didn't fall, and that was all that mattered.

"Are you all right?" he asked.

She waved off the concern, and kicked off her other shoe heedlessly. She had something more important on her mind. "Loki, you think I don't - you're wrong," she said urgently. "I do. I just… I didn't realize it. But remember Seattle?"

The reminder still had the power to make her feel cold. That had been a stop on the Odinsons tour, when Loki's anxieties had spiked and he'd accidentally overdosed on tranquilizers. "I … was terrified," she admitted softly. "The first thing I heard was a rumor you were dead. And it was as if the whole world turned dark." Her voice cracked on it and she had to bite her lip and try to remember how to breathe, remembering how she'd felt in that moment.

His eyes had been bright with hope at first, but it faded as she spoke, and then he said, "Sif, I know you care. You don't have to tell me--"

"Yes, yes, I do, let me talk," she interrupted. Her hands twisted together, fingers clutching urgently. "It's not platonic. I tried to pretend it was -- but remember that Christmas concert when you pulled me onstage? Afterward I wanted so badly to kiss you, and I pushed it away. I'd barely broken up with Thor, and moving from one brother to the other seemed tacky and I was ashamed I'd even thought about it. Then all that happened with the Informant outing you, and you needed me to be your friend. But Seattle? You could've died. That wasn't a sisterly fear, that was terror that you would die and leave me, and I -- I couldn’t deal," she admitted. "I couldn't bear being that vulnerable to you, because until right now, today? I would've said you don't think of me at all, unless I'm right in front of you, because your head is full of your music. That's not a bad thing," she rushed to reassure him, "that's who you are. But I thought you didn't even know I exist. But me? I hear your music on the radio, or I hear songs I know you like, and I think of you all the time. I worry about you, and I wonder if you're eating, and I just-- The thing is, whenever I've started to think about you in that way, I told myself it was stupid, because I was so sure--"

She stopped to laugh, at him, at herself, at both of them for being such blind fools. "See, I knew "Someday and Never" was about someone. But I though you were keeping who it's about a secret from me because you were hopelessly hung up on a man."

He was staring at her now, as if maybe the words that had come pouring out of her had been in some other language. Then he shook his head, very little, and said in a barely audible voice, "No. Only you." His lips moved, tried to shape words, but nothing came out, as his brow knitted with pain and confusion. All he could manage was her name, "Sif?" Hauling in a ragged breath, he pleaded, "Please don't say this if you don't mean it. I can't take anyone else lying to me."

She reached up to touch his face, her eyes suddenly burning with tears as she looked into his face. Her fingers were trembling on his cheek, sliding gently down his face, this dear well-known face but it was a wonderful thing to be touching him like this when she had never done it before. She smiled at him.

"I'm not. I promise. I love you, as my friend, and more than that." she dampened her lips with her tongue, anxious that he'd reject the offer, but she had to make it, and find out. "We could be more-- we could try, if you want? If you-- if you stay?"

For a breathless, endless moment, he stared into her eyes, so terribly uncertain and she wondered what had shaken him so deeply he couldn't bring himself to fully believe her declaration of love.

"Loki, please," she whispered. "Don't go."

He didn't. In a convulsive moment, he stepped into her, his face tilting down, lips coming down to meet hers. His hand slid into her hair at the back of her head, and in his urgency, she felt every bit of the longing he'd repressed all these years burst free.

He kissed her like he was afraid she would disappear on him, or that he was dreaming this and he would wake. But she remembered when she'd feared he was dying, when he'd gone missing and she'd feared she'd never see him again, and she knew it was far more likely this was her dream.

She clung to him, her hands and arms wrapped around him, kissing him as long as she could.

When they parted, his long fingers cradled her face and he looked into her eyes. "Sif?"

She knew it was a question about where they should go from here, what the future would hold, and what was going to happen when she found out what had broken him from his family.

But she decided it wasn't time for any of that yet. She smiled and said, "My room isn't far away, if you'd like to come see it? Ocean view, balcony....?"

His smile grew to match hers, broad and bright, and the joy in it struck her to the heart. "Well, you are in luck, because I have a great appreciation for balconies. My room has no balcony, so I'd love to see yours," he said, as his grin turning a bit wicked, but she could still see the hesitation, fearful this would turn out to be a tease at his expense.

She trailed a hand leisurely down his chest, liking how it felt very much, and it was reluctantly that she pulled her hand back when she reached his waistband. "Oh good. Because I think we've wasted enough time, haven't we?"

He seized that hand in hers and lifted it to his lips, kissing her palm. "We have."

She picked up her shoes, and they went to find her room, and find each other, anew.