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Like Hand in Glove

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The soulmark on Sif’s palm is written in highly slanted cursive, carefully scripted, almost calligraphic. The writer must be patient to write so slowly and carefully, and must appreciate the finer things of life, have a sense of delicacy and beauty. Sif gets this much out of the handwriting expressed in eight letters: Lady Loki.

The words themselves are more of a conundrum.

All Aesir are born with their soulmates’ names and ranks on their palms, and that there should be two ladies coupled is not exactly rare, though certainly not as common as it could be. Her mother occasionally sighs about not getting any grandchildren through Sif but she’s not the only daughter, and at least it pleases her parents that her match is noble.

The main problem is that there is no “Lady Loki” in the Asgardian court. At least, none that Sif’s family knows of, and they have connections all over. They even send out feelers in one direction and another, asking around: “Oh, your sister’s pregnant again? Does she have any ideas for names yet?” and “I hear the Vanir have a new lady born in the royal family this year. Do you know if they used a Vanir name again this time? Why wouldn’t they? Oh, no reason. No reason at all.”

Every time Sif hears her mother not-so-subtly inquiring on her behalf, she cringes just a little more. By the time she’s turned twelve Aesir years old and is ready to be presented in the Aesir court, though not wedded by any means, she is sick of the matter. She begs her mother not to bring it up at court, not to even mention soulmates or names if she can help it. Soulmates are a private matter, anyhow—until marriage, most wear gloves to cover the names on their palms. Some wear them even after marriage, most likely to cover the fact that their soulmate and the man they were forced to marry are not the same.

“I’m only trying to help,” her mother says, offended, when Sif insists on her silence.

“I will find my soulmate on my own,” Sif says. “We are bound to meet eventually, aren’t we? Aren’t we?” She crosses her arms.

“Sif,” her mother scolds, pulling her arms back down to her sides. “That’s hardly ladylike.”

“Don’t bring it up,” Sif says again. “I’ll find her myself.”

“Very well,” her mother relents. “Only make sure to keep your eyes open and leave no stone unturned. Whomever this ‘Lady Loki’ is, she’s not one in the public eye. Either she’s not born yet or she’s been hidden away by her family. It seems suspicious to me, darling.”

Sif agrees to keep her eyes wide, wide open, though in truth she is tired of her mother’s worries. She will find her soulmate when the time is right. And there are other things that trouble her: most of all, the role she will be expected to play in the Aesir court. Her mother and tutors have trained her for twelve Aesir years (each decades for a human, of course) to be a dignified lady of good sense and standing, demure and subtle. She still finds the role suits her ill, no matter how hard she tries.

Perhaps since her soulmate is a lady, she will understand Sif’s struggles. Or perhaps she will be so perfect at the role herself (Sif thinks of the meticulous handwriting) that she will see Sif as clumsy and useless.

Really, Sif isn’t in any hurry to meet her at all.

///…///…///

Obviously, Sif has known about Prince Loki for some time.

Her mother was hopeful initially that the prince being named Loki would lead to a rise in popularity for the name, but no such luck. In the meantime, Prince Loki is the only Loki Sif has actually heard of in the Aesir court, but he can’t be her soulmate as a side effect of being unfortunately male.

Nevertheless, when she first meets him at court, at the feast thrown for his fourteenth birthday, it is with the sense of meeting someone she has been waiting to meet for a long time. She can tell by the glint in his eyes that he feels similarly, though she cannot say why. Perhaps he has heard about her family constantly inquiring about his name. Perhaps he has simply heard the rumors about her.

She has only been at court for a year and there are already rumors.

Of course they aren’t sordid scandal—she’s too young for any of that and uninterested in any of the men or women at court anyhow. No, they’re just about her running her big mouth, and of course that time she punched young lord Fandral, which is still a story going around even though everyone knows Fandral deserved it.

Either way, when they are introduced Prince Loki raises his eyebrows wide and says, “So you are Sif.”

She smiles back, uncertain at his odd greeting. “Yes, your highness.”

He peers at her far too carefully, and she thinks for a moment he’s going to say something shocking or maybe piercing (there are rumors about the young prince, too, about his biting humor and snide insinuations), but he only smiles and says, “It is very good to meet you. Come, I must introduce you to my father.”

Sif bucks at that. She’s only known him for a couple seconds, and she is nowhere near prepared to meet the Allfather. She didn’t even know she was meeting the prince tonight—although, it being a fairly small feast, perhaps she should have expected it.

“Your highness, I do not think the Allfather would be interested in meeting me,” she mutters, glaring at the floor. The lady who introduced her to Loki in the first place has vanished, and she cannot remember how to excuse herself from a situation like this.

“He would,” Loki says. “But maybe not tonight.” He takes a knife out of his pocket and polishes it on a handkerchief, which is such obvious male posturing that Sif has to roll her eyes. He catches her at it, and he grins. “Would you like to meet Thor?”

The crown prince, known to be something of a loudmouthed idiot, is considerably less intimidating. “If your highness wishes to introduce me,” she says, more self assured now.

She ends up at his side for the entire night, despite trying to excuse herself multiple times. He never does explain why he’s decided to monopolize her, of all people, but he doesn’t get around to saying anything nasty either—to her, at least, although she does enjoy seeing him snark at several other lords and ladies, including Thor himself.

At the end of the evening, he tells her he’ll see her again. She smiles and says it seems likely, and he smirks. He never takes off her gloves, and she wonders vaguely what kind of soulmate would suit such an odd boy.

///…///…///

She does see Prince Loki again. And again. And again. And again.

By the time she’s known him for a couple years she’s forgotten her strange apprehension at first meeting him, the only person whose name comes near that on her soulmark. This impression has been replaced by myriad other impressions, as many unpleasant as pleasant, though overall she has to say he’s at least amusing.

He’s not very helpful at silencing the rumors about her being disorderly—if anything, people become even warier of her. Loki isn’t overly liked at court, and he talks her into more than one prank that leaves her in the spotlight. “All in good fun, Sif, all in good fun,” he says time and time again. She’s getting pretty fed up with him but somehow he always talks her into just one more adventure.

He’s a lot more helpful when at the age of fifteen she declares her intentions to train as a warrior of Asgard instead of continuing her training as a lady. One day the court is in an uproar over it, General Tyr actively refusing to admit her to the training grounds even though she used to at least be allowed to visit casually, and the next day Odin is stepping in and everything is resolved within hours and the dwarves have been sent a commission for a set of armor to accommodate her female form.

“Don’t tell me you had nothing to do with this,” she accuses Loki.

Loki shrugs. “I said nothing, milady.”

She kicks him in the shins, but only lightly. “How did you convince the Allfather to take a chance on a lady on the battlefield?”

“It’s not without precedent,” Loki points out. “They say our grandmother fought as fiercely as any warrior, back when we were at war with Niflheim.” Which was a very, very long time ago.

Sif huffs. “As if I’ve never made that argument.”

“You’ve made it well,” Loki said. “I suppose he found it more convincing coming from me.”

“Because you’re a man,” Sif says, which sounds funny once spoken, considering Loki is still only sixteen Aesir years—hardly a man.

“Because I’m his son,” Loki says with another shrug. “If it makes you feel better we did argue about it for several days before he gave in.”

“Several days?”

Loki says, “Well, these things take time. I think he used our grandmother as an excuse. But it’s obvious, really, that you should be a warrior rather than a lady.”

Sif scowls. She isn’t sure whether that’s an insult or a compliment. “Thank you, I’ll be both.”

“You’re welcome,” Loki says. “And you will.”

It’s a couple months before she feels totally comfortable about his having exerted his influence on her behalf. In the end, she sees it as fair trade—he’s gotten her into enough trouble before, and she suspects he’ll use her newly learned fighting skills to get her into even more.

///…///…///

Everyone in the Aesir court knows Loki’s up to something odder than usual when he spends a few months largely occupied in his rooms, skipping even more warrior training than usual. When Sif critiques him for it, noting how he is falling far behind her and Thor, he laughs and tells her that she and Thor are hardly the standard caliber anyhow, and somehow avoids the question of what he’s actually been doing.

It only becomes obvious what Loki’s been up to lately when he—or rather, she—shows up one day in the training arena looking not quite the same as usual.

For a moment everyone stares.

“I finally perfected it,” Loki says, smirking with pride. “It took me months, but I managed.” She leans against a wall, looking straight at Fandral, who is gaping the most. “Impressed?”

General Tyr is the first one to actually articulate a thought. “Prince Loki, what is—”

“Lady Loki,” Thor interrupts him.

Tyr gives him a face that generally says, “I wasn’t talking to you but you’re a prince so I guess I’ll put up with it.”

Sif takes a sharp breath. (Neither she nor her parents have spoken that name in years.)

“Loki has been experimenting with transformations and can now change genders at will,” Thor says proudly. “She explained it to me last night. Of course, while she is a woman you will refer to her as Lady Loki and treat her with respect.”

Tyr coughed. “Your highness, you cannot expect us to simply continue training with the…princess…in such a state.”

“My grandmother fought the fire giants as a woman and I suppose I can do so as well,” Loki says, unimpressed. She stalks over to the area where the swords are hanging and takes a sword slightly smaller than her usual—in this form, she is perhaps a touch shorter, though by no means petite. Perhaps an inch or so taller than Sif. “If you believe I am unable to fight in this form, you may challenge me.”

Her eyes are sparking with mischief.

Tyr backs off. He’s probably not scared of Loki’s physical prowess—she’s just missed a few months of practice, after all—but she isn’t really known for playing fair and keeping magic out of her battles. And at magic, she is quite adept. As her current state proves yet again.

Now, she grins as she walks over to join Sif on the training grounds. “So what do you think? Was it worth all the missed practices?”

Sif bites her lip. She knows she should probably have some kind of thought out reaction to this, since it’s clear it really does matter to Loki. Like, should she say she’s glad there’s another girl training with her now? Maybe ask her how she managed the transformation which had to be fairly complex, although Loki’s done harder. Or compliment her on her physique?

There’s probably a better response than any of those out there somewhere (it was probably the response Thor had last night, honestly, he’s always been better at Loki than her) but Sif is still getting over the two words “Lady Loki”. All she can manage is, “Seems like it was.”

Loki tosses her hair (which to be fair she did when she was a guy too) and they begin drilling the basics of swords fighting. After a few months of lacking practice, Loki’s gotten rusty.

///…///…///

Sif wonders at first if Loki will actually stick with it. But she does. She doesn’t always keep her female form, but she’s a woman about as often as she isn’t, and that’s enough for Sif to decide her soulmate has officially been found.

Of course, some part of her has wanted Loki to be her soulmate ever since meeting him when she was thirteen. But now, at eighteen, she’s certain, and she’s ready to do something about it.

She calls Loki up to her room and, after pleasantries and a certain amount of puzzlement from Loki, who has never been here before, takes off her gloves. She shows Loki her palm.

“Lady Loki,” Loki reads. A smile curls over her lips, and she gently takes Sif’s palm in her own gloved hands. “Oh dear.”

“My mother went insane,” Sif said sharply. “You’re the only noble Loki there is.” Her hand trembles as Loki’s fingers stroke the creases where her curved handwriting sits. “But I’ve found you now.”

“So it seems,” Loki murmurs. “I would not have expected this. You know, I’m as much a prince as a lady.”

Sif shrugs. Your soulmark gives the rank of your soulmate at the time when you are meant to be together. Likewise, a peasant thrust into nobility by some odd happenstance, if their soulmate were to meet them as noble, would have their noble name as the soulmark. “I suppose it simply means now is the time.”

Loki chuckles and carefully relinquishes her hold on Sif’s hand. “No, I’m afraid it’s not.”

“It’s not?”

“You’ll have to wait another two years, Lady Sif,” she says, walking to the door. “Sorry.”

“Two years? What—why? That makes no—Loki!” Loki has already walked out. “What’s your soulmark?” But she’s talking to an empty room.

///…///…///

“Your sister is a jerk,” she tells Thor a few days later, when they’re relaxing over a couple mugs of mead. Fandral and Hogun and Volstagg have already left for the night, and Loki left as soon as they started singing war songs, saying it was ridiculous and she would rather study magic in private. Who cared. Sif was done with her anyways. Even though they apparently were soulmates…at least, so it seemed.

“My sister is a delight, Lady Sif,” Thor says seriously, placing his mug down on the table. “You had better watch your tongue.”

“Oh, come on. You agreed with me when he was male.”

“My brother is a jerk,” Thor agrees. “This I can agree with. However, I will not abide any insults to my sister. They are most unchivalrous, Sif, and you must stop at once.”

Rolling her eyes at the contradiction, Sif says, “Your sister is my soulmate.”

Thor gasps, then, overcoming the shock within seconds, slaps her violently on the back and says, “Congratulations! I count myself lucky as the first to hear this news. I assume I am the first to hear this news?”

“You are.”

“A fine partnership that will be,” he says, already reminiscent over the prospect. “You with your fierce sword, Loki with her feminine wiles…”

“I have plenty of feminine wiles,” Sif says.

“Of course,” Thor says. “You with your muscles, Loki with her magic…You with your long black hair, Loki with her even longer black hair…”

“Now you’re just being ridiculous,” Sif says.

Thor booms with laughter. “Really, though, Sif. This is very good news. You must tell our father—and mother will be very pleased…”

“Yes, but Loki’s being a jerk about it,” Sif says. “She won’t show me her soulmark, even though she knows her name is mine.”

“Really?” Thor says. “That is odd. I suppose she has hidden it for a long time, though, which I never understood.”

 While Loki has always worn gloves, Thor never has. His hands are eternally bare, showing the writing on his palm to be “Miss Jane Foster.” He claims this is for two reasons: first, that all might know he is not ashamed that his soulmate is a peasant. Second, that all his “current lovers” might know they are impermanent to him—lovers in this case meaning one night stands. Sif is never sure whether to be impressed by this attitude or a little disgusted.

“Do you think her soulmate is someone else?” Sif says. “I mean, that does happen sometimes.”

“Yes, but that is very rare,” Thor says, frowning.

“Everything about Loki is rare.”

“As is everything about you,” Thor says. “You are both very strange. This is why I think you really must be soulmates.”

Sif snorts. Very certain considering he hadn’t even considered the possibility until a couple minutes ago. Still, it’s touching in a way. No one has ever told her that she and Loki should be together before. It’s a nice thing to hear.

“She said two years,” Sif says. “She won’t show me her soulmark for another two years. Really, Thor. What the Hel.”

“With women one must be patient,” Thor says, philosophically picking up his mead again. “I know you don’t have much practice in this, Sif, but as an experienced lover…”

Sif deliberately tunes him out as she sips some more of her own mead. Still, she supposes he is encouraging. At least one of her in-laws will be happy about it.

///…///…///

The warriors in training are knighted at the age of twenty. This means Loki is knighted a year before Sif. He goes to the knighting ceremony as a man although he only spends about a third of his time as a man lately, telling Sif he wouldn’t want to steal her thunder. She rolls her eyes (it’s not like either of them is Asgard’s first female knight, only the first in a long time) but is somewhat grateful, if only because it means a bit less stir and scandal in court, which with Loki’s mischief is always tempestuous enough.

He dances with her all night at the celebration afterwards, and when he leaves her at her room for the night he calls as he goes, “Only one year left!”

“What does that even mean?” she shouts.

He doesn’t respond, only waving over his shoulder.

On the day of Sif’s knighting ceremony, Loki is a woman. She wears all the finery of a princess of the realm, and offers Sif her favor in the form of a lacy scarf for the stage of the ceremony that involves sparring. Sif accepts, though she acerbically comments that she would prefer a glove. It only makes Loki grin.

It’s a long ceremony, and excessively formal and ritualistic in parts. It is also one of the best days of Sif’s life, possibly the best. She expects to hear whispers and see looks of skepticism from the court watching her as Odin Allfather declares her a knight. No. The court is silent as they watch, and when they applaud it is thunderous, more applause than for anyone else this year.

Not that she doesn’t deserve it.

What makes her happier is that it is not just the men, her fellows in arms to whom she has proved herself time and time again. The woman applaud too, and their smiles look sincere. They do not see her as a failure as a lady anymore.

She shakes a million hands at the celebration afterwards and talks and dances with a lot of important people, until eventually Loki pulls her aside. She can see in Loki’s eyes, gravely happy, that this is very important.

Loki takes a glove off one of her hands and shows Sif her palm. There are nine letters, one more letter than on Sif’s palm. “Knight Sif.”

“And so, my knight,” Loki murmurs. “We are both ready now to be together.”

Sif shakes her head. “You just like drawing out the suspense.” She has been waiting for so long.

“Maybe,” Loki says. “But I like a good climax, and today is a fitting day, isn’t it?” She puts her arms around Sif. “My lady, my knight. I am very proud of you.”

“My lady, my prince,” Sif says. “If there is one thing I may take pride in, it is making you proud.”

She kisses Loki delicately on the lips, using one hand to hold Loki’s hair back and out of the way. In the background she can hear Thor yelling hoarse encouragement, and she did not know he was watching, but that’s all right. She wants the world to see this moment as much as she wanted them to see her become a knight. She wants everyone to see her make Loki hers.

A few months later, the betrothal ceremony is held. There are people who say they should wait until Thor has found his bride, but he laughs them off and says that may be a long time coming. The bachelor life suits him well.

As for Loki and Sif, they do not wear their gloves anymore. And whenever anyone questions whether Loki should be spending half her time a woman instead of as the man she was born, or questions whether Sif was ever rightly meant to be a knight, the answer is always in the other’s hand—though they often choose to deliver it not by gracefully showing their palms but by balling their hand into a fist and punching said person in the face. Neither knights nor ladies tend to be amused when their partner is insulted, and Loki and Sif even less than most.

And as for Sif’s mother, well, she is very satisfied by the match, Loki being royal and all that. She also gets her grandchildren as she wished, though most of them are carried by Loki in the end. But she always feels a little regret that she was not the one, after all her efforts, to find the mysterious Lady Loki. Though, as Sif put it, she hardly found the Lady Loki either—rather, it was Loki who found herself.