Sif found herself in the middle of a vast, cold desert.
She turned around. Everywhere she looked, she could see only snow and emptiness. And a cold breeze blew constantly. It wailed like a dying spirit. She didn't know what her purpose there was, or how she got there, she knew only that she had to reach somewhere, or someone…
It seemed her purpose was hidden, like the earth hidden under layers of snow.
And yet, if she could find him, she would know…
It felt surreal.
She trudged in the snow until she saw the tower of a castle that seemed to appear out of nowhere. She entered it. Into a room. A room that was smoky and dark. Smoky, like a dream and dark, like dread…
Her footsteps echoed through the dark, empty room. As Sif approached, she found that it was not empty. It was not dark, either. She could make out the features of Loki. Through the bars of an open window set in the high ceiling, faint light entered the room. And it left a part of his face in shadow. He turned to look at her, and stepped partly into the light. He smirked.
"Ah, Sif," he said, not surprised to see her. "Have you come to end my misery?"
"I have come to bring you back." The words came out of her, easily, unthinking, on their own. But when she said them, she knew them to be true.
"You are pretty naive, then, for a goddess of war," he said, his words soft, like the caress of a lover, long lost. She remembered.
She drew near and her footsteps echoed in the cell. "You are a sorry sight then, for any god."
He chuckled. "These? Odin's doing," he explained. He motioned towards his chains. They rattled, their sound affirming his imprisonment.
"It is your doing that caused it, Loki," Her voice was sharp, like the thorn of a rose. The rose cut him, like a thorn never would. "The all-father does not hand out punishments for his own amusement."
"And I would have thought my having lived in Asgard was punishment enough."
"Imagined slights," she dared state.
"Imagined slights?" he spat out the words. The chains on his arms rattled again, as he rose. "Being raised as leverage, is that an imagined slight? Being treated as second in preference to Thor, walking in Thor's shadow...are these imagined slights as well?"
"And, so, Thor had to pay? Midgard had to suffer? What you say is no fault of Thor. As for Midgard-"
"-one tiny mortal world that mattered so much, eh?" Loki smirked.
Sif let out a breath. "No world deserves to be destroyed, Loki. Or forced to serve on its knees," she said calmly.
In another world, in another life, in another moment, another Loki said it back to her. Loki of the Silver Tongue. Loki, who was wise. For the Loki who was before her was almost a stranger to her.
Sif remembered the Princes of Asgard standing by the fighting pit as she entered it for the very first time. The Sons of Odin. One who wore green and had a small smile playing on his lips at her sight, and the other who wore red and a scowl. She remembered how the younger seemed wiser than the older. And she remembered the times when the younger had defeated the older in swordplay.
"One who rules a realm also serves the realm," the younger prince had once stated to her. "He maintains the peace within, and also the peace without. His actions should never compromise the safety of his realm. Or any other." Sif remembered.
Loki remembered, too, a girl with golden hair who had thought it wise to train in a fighting pit meant for men. A girl who was strong of will and more than capable. He remembered smiling as she took on him and Thor in swordplay. And he remembered her grow into the best warrior of them all. He also remembered turning her hair into a midnight black. Shining and silky. Like his was. Loki remembered, and turned the thought away.
"Thor thought so too," he said, his once-brother's name slipping out, as though with a life of their own. "Especially after he fell onto Earth. Or fell in love with that mortal girl. Jane Foster, was it not?"
Sif noted the bitterness in his voice as he did. And she acknowledged a truth.
"You love your brother and yet you lie to yourself so that it is easier to hate him." It was not a question. It was a statement she dared him to contradict.
He didn't. Instead-
"It takes just one nail to hammer home," he said mysteriously, looking over his chains and stroking them, as though, a lover. "The end that I am drawn to. The rest that calls to me. Why am I chained?" He looked back at her. "Thor was never my brother and Odin, never my father. Or have you not heard?"
He seemed pale to her. And blue. She refused to see it. And so it was gone.
"I did hear. The lies, the half lies, and the truth. But they are your true family. Asgard is your home. You were raised as such."
"I was raised simply as a leverage. No amount of Asgardian life can change that."
Sif had heard the truth from Thor. The story of Loki, the son of Laufey, who had abandoned him in a Jotun temple during Odin's war with his people. The story of Odin who had loved Loki and raised him as his own son. She had heard the lies from others. Cold lies.
"You were raised a prince, alongside Thor. You should be proud." Thor and Loki, the Sons of Odin. Always Inseparable.
He laughed at that. "You speak of emotions that I no longer feel. That I never did feel."
Sif looked up at him, then. Loki who was high, cold and unreachable. "And what of emotions that you do feel, then?" Loki looked back at her, but did not answer. There was a tremor in the ground, then, slight and overlooked.
"-and what of me?" Sif continued, feeling a familiar pang in her heart.
He was a bit wary as he said, "You speak of things long past. What of you?"
Sif refused to let go. "What have I ever meant to you?"
There was a slight pause. Loki held her gaze steadily. "You should know by now. We have spent way too much time together." He gave a little smirk, but it lacked the earlier venom. And his rose never did have thorns.
"I need you to tell me." She placed her arms on the arms of the throne and stood over him. The throne that seated him was made of ice and fire. "I would hear it from your lips."
"Why, Sif? What difference would that make?" he said, softly. She had that effect on him.
"Tell me," she said, softer. The command of a war goddess. His own war goddess. And all he could say was-
"My heart aches for you," he said simply. He reached out, to touch her hair, but then, stopped. He made as if to turn away but she pushed him back, not harshly.
"Does it still?" she insisted. Their lips were only inches apart. Moments apart.
"Kiss me and find out," he hissed.
She leaned in and they kissed. A brief, fleeting kiss that could convey a thousand sentiments. Or perhaps, just the one.
Loki reached out to brush a lock of hair from her face. Midnight black. "What did you find?"
"Flesh and blood." She continued, "Warmth as always and the cool of a longing soul."
"Still longing soul," he corrected. The ache would never fade.
"Then why the long winter?" she mused, mysteriously. A cold heart was the ultimate winter.
His chains melted and fell away. Only then did it occur to him that-
"It is a dream," he said.
"It is your soul bared. The true Loki," she said and her words echoed in the darkness of that chamber, and, again, she knew them to be true. She knew it to be a dream.
Loki smirked. He stroked her hair, absently. "There is no true Loki. Only a lie spawned by the Jotun. A shape that shifts through the day. A shadow that recedes by nightfall."
She pulled away from him. "Asgardian. You are an Asgardian and an Odinson...and mine. That is the true Loki. And I have come to take him home."
Loki laughed, harshly. "Hell shall freeze over before that is done."
"I would let the dead rise before I let it deter me." Words of war.
He laughed, again, softly, this time. "There is a certain cold in you, then, as much as in me. A cold truth."
"That is not true. There is no cold in us. Only a late winter's chill that fades by daybreak. Or an early morn's mist comes to claim us."
A shadow seemed to pass over his face, then. "I had let go," he said, slowly. "There was nothing left for me there. I had let go of my own volition." He remembered the falling…
The remnants of mourning were in her face, too. "Then come back to me." She searched his light eyes with her dark ones. Loki who fell.
She was calling him to herself, to go with her. To be as her. "Sif..." Loki raised himself from the throne but she pushed him back again.
"A god of lies they call you. Loki of Silver Speech. Loki of Seven Tongues. A tongue for diplomacy and yet another for lies. But I see more truth in your eyes than in their empty words. And there is the truth between us." She came closer.
"The only truth between us is the silence that devoured us, from beneath." He replied, remembering their silence, as well.
She pressed on, "No, there is a truth that I felt with every part of me when we were together. The truth I felt at our every touch, kiss and caress. Silence didn't devour the truth. Silence did not overcome the remembrance."
He locked his gaze with hers. There was silence that seemed to stretch on. Until, finally-
"I loved you. That is my only truth."
"It took us long then, for this is my heart's constant ache," she continued, "that I loved you, as well."
"So why the long winter?" he said. A frozen heart is the longest winter. He understood. "What now?"
"Kiss me and find out," she said.
Loki raised himself from the throne and this time she let him. He touched her. His arms wrapped themselves around her. Her fingers tangled themselves in his hair. And their very silence was overcome. Their lips met and there was nothing more he could think of except, Sif-
"-Sif, Sif," he breathed against her throat and her lips, and in between a hot, fervent kiss.
"I want you. All of you."
"And I, you," he said.
"Not here, though. And not now. Time is running out."
They were backed against the dark wall of the chamber, and they kissed again, not having enough of each other, not having enough of time. Time that was running out. And Loki could already feel Sif, slowly slipping away…
In the end Sif must have felt it too, for she pulled away and stood back. Her features were starting to blur. With the remaining ounce of whatever power summoned her to him, she said, "Loki, I want you to come back."
"I know," he said. "I will."
Sif was gone. And now, he could feel himself fading. The throne that had seated him was melting. And then the world itself seemed to blur away...
Loki opened his eyes and woke with a start, gasping for air. Worlds away, in Asgard, Sif half-rose from her sleep, unsure if she were dreaming.
The fall was at an end.