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12 November 2013 @ 03:03 pm
Fic: A Seed in Barren Lands 1/2  
Title: A Seed In Barren Lands
Author name: lizardbeth
Artist name: Zeta_tauri
Beta name: [personal profile] hearts_blood
Characters/Pairing: Loki/Sif (with Odin)
Fandom/Universe: MCU (AU to Thor 2)
Rating: NC-17
Word count: 15,500
Warnings: author chooses not to warn

Summary: Sif visits Loki in his cell, ready to confront the monster. The truth is a far more difficult monster for them all to face.

NOTE: Written for [profile] marvel_bang 2013. The story was written before Thor:TDW, so yeah, definitely AU.

ART is HERE. And it is fabulousness!

ETA: Also, there is a AO3 link for the story if you like that better: A Seed in Barren Lands (AO3)

"This is a surprise."

Loki's dry voice reached her where she stood at the top of the steps. She flinched, feeling caught. How did he know someone was there? Then compounding her puzzlement, he called, "Come, Lady Sif, don't be shy."

Sif gritted her teeth, reminding herself that she knew he was going to provoke her. But she had to see. "I am not shy," she retorted as soon as she stepped before the transparent barrier.

The cell within was brightly lit, contained a bed, a few small tables, one chair, and little else. It was small, and her first thought was how bored Loki had to be in there. She hardened herself against pity, though. He didn't deserve it.

He was dressed in a loose shirt and trousers as he sat on the ledge against the side wall in front of the bed, with his knees drawn up to rest an arm across. His feet were bare which surprised her oddly, since it had been a very long time since she'd seen him without boots. He'd tied his hair back with a string, as if that was the most he could be bothered to deal with it. He'd fought his hair a long time, since it curled and he'd always hated that. But now the ends at the back of his neck were curling and several tendrils had escaped to frame his narrow face. The bright light fell harshly on him, making his skin look ashen and unwell.

His regard was intent and his greeting smile insincere. His pose and tone were both casual, but she knew him well enough to know they were thin covers over anger lurking beneath the surface. He'd always been such a thinly controlled volcano and she'd enjoyed provoking him to get at the passion beneath.

But for now he was calm, saying, "I had not thought you knew I was here."

"The queen told me."

"She labors under several mistaken impressions," he said. His gaze sought the opposite wall, avoiding hers. "Including that I wish to see you."

"She thinks you can be reclaimed."

He gave an uncaring shrug. "Her opinion is of no import to me."

Sif didn't believe that. He and Frigga had been close, and she still had to matter to him.

But before she could challenge him on it, he unfolded his long legs and sat more upright. "Shall we skip to the end of this dull conversation? If you're here to gloat, get on with it."

That line of attack surprised her. "Why would you think I want to gloat over this?"

"I can think of no other reason for you to be here. To enjoy my fall. To reassure yourself of your own intrinsic superiority." His tone was silky and cold, lacking the tease that it had held once.

"No, Loki, how lost are you to think such a thing?" she demanded. "I grieved your loss."

"Did you?" he retorted with biting mockery. "Alas there was no one to share in your feelings of such profound sorrow."

"Is that what you think? That no one mourned you?"

His lips made a bitter smile as he rose to his feet and approached the barrier. "I think you were all relieved. The disappointment on the All-father's face when I returned must have been amusing to behold."

She shook her head. "No. That's not how it was. Not with him, and not with me. We were friends, and whatever our disagreement, I never wanted you to die."

"Disagreement? I call it betrayal. We were never friends," he repeated, drawing it out in disdain.

That hurt, but Thor had warned her that Loki's mood was capricious and cruel, and his words which previously had been sheathed in jest were now bare steel, meant to cut.

He snorted. "Is that how you choose to delude yourself? You were Thor's friend, not mine. Never did you take my part over his."

"You remember only those times."

"Because that is all there were. Unless you want to provide a counter-example?" he invited with a gesture. He paused, but she didn't answer. "I thought not."

"I'm not here to play your games."

"No, you're here to find out why," he sneered. "Like all the rest. And like all the rest, you will not listen. You'll go away, secure in your belief that you've made your token effort to salve your conscience. You'll determine there is no saving me, so you need not try."

"Can you be saved, Loki?" she asked. "Is there any point in trying?"

"No," he answered with a smirk. "There, see? You need only ask the right question. So you can go."

He turned away, dismissing her, and it annoyed her. "I take no orders from traitors."

He whirled around, eyes flashing in fury. "Of the two of us, you are the far greater traitor than I."

That was unbelievable. "You tried to kill Thor!"

His lip curled. "If I'd wanted him dead, he would be."

"So what was all that on Midgard with the Destroyer? You were just playing at it?" she demanded, now losing her temper at his lies.

He stalked closer to the barrier to glare at her. "You were an oath-breaker and a traitor, disobeying the lawful king. So that was justice."

"You know nothing about justice or honor!" she spat back. "You tried to murder your father and your brother, and millions of Midgardians. How dare you speak of justice?"

He froze as if she'd slapped him, but then his lips lifted in a cold smirk. "I did murder my father, I have no brother, I care nothing for the mortals, and all I know of justice I learned from the king."

She frowned. "What madness is this? You murdered your father? The Allfather is not-"

"Is not my father, you uninformed fool. Did they not tell you? Still too ashamed of my blood, I see. Do you want to know? Do you want to see a truth to freeze your blood?" he taunted. "I'll show you." He set his right hand on the barrier.

She stared, thinking surely this was illusion, as the skin of his hand paled and then turned blue-gray, flowing up his arm and his neck and over his face until a Frost Giant stood there.

She stumbled back, shaking her head as she stared at him.

Red eyes stared back, seeming seared in fire, before he choked out a bitter laugh. "As I thought."

"No, it isn't true…" she whispered in confusion. "This is one of your tricks, illusions…"

He trailed black fingernails like claws across the barrier, smirking viciously, "Sorry to inform you that you took a creature to your bed. I would've told you, except I knew nothing of it either." His normal appearance snapped back over his features as if it had never been different. "So now you understand why. I never belonged here, I never will. Any appeal to my 'better nature' will fail, because I have none."

"That is... not true," she objected in a faint voice, stunned by this. He was a Frost Giant? But… but she remembered him, when they'd been children. She'd known him forever. He hadn't been a Frost Giant; he hadn't been one of that despised race. How was this even possible?

The answer had to be: it wasn't. This was one of his games, some kind of trick he was playing on her, for his own amusement. Though he didn't seem to be amused.

His face was stony as he turned his back on her and strode to the small table. "Disbelieve if you wish. It matters not at all." He shrugged, calm again, as he poured himself a drink from the carafe.

If he'd tried to make it for a trick, surely he would make it look more like a Frost Giant? Because now that the first shock was fading, she realized his height had not changed, and his face had been nearly the same except the color, with only slight ridges in place of the sharper bone structure of the Jotunn. So perhaps this was… real.

"But how? How can it be true?" she demanded in confusion. "You are--"

"Nothing," he interrupted. "Not their son. Not his brother. Not Aesir. A foundling they dressed up in Asgardian clothes to laugh as it danced. Scorned for not following the steps as a proper Aesir prince, yet never informed what I was, lest one of the dirty monsters get out of hand. But," he held out his other hand, palm up with a sphere of golden fire forming above it and he watched it, voice softening, "I found power in spite of them. And nothing else matters now."

She wished she had never learned any of this. How could this be? Was he so utterly mad that he believed this was true? Or was it true, impossible though that seemed? Still, his last words caught her attention. "Nothing else?"

His hand closed to a fist, extinguishing the magical flame, and his smirk widened over the rim of his cup. He let his eyes slide down her form and back up with deliberate provoking intent. "Unless you want to offer something else of value."

She stiffened. "Such obvious slurs are beneath you."

"You were beneath me," he returned, eyes glinting.

She grimaced at giving him such an easy retort. "Not as often as you were beneath me," she retorted. "You liked that best."

"Oh, I did. I enjoy remembering it, even now," he taunted. "Beautiful, perfect Sif bedding one of the-- what did you call them? Oh yes, frost animals. Tell me, how was it, fucking the frost animal?"

Her insides tightened up and her lips clamped together, feeling ill at the suggestion, while he watched with a smug smirk. "You are the most infuriating, perverse, vile--" she started, but then what he was truly saying penetrated and she stopped. She frowned, perplexed when the target of his words was not her, but himself. "Why are you saying this?"

He tilted his head to regard her, long fingers of his free hand plucking restlessly at his shirt hem, and there was no part of his grin that touched his eyes. "Your reaction amuses me."

"But-- you--" she started in confusion. Why would he want to provoke disgust, when it was turned against him? Then her eyes widened. "You want me to hate you."

"No, I want you to stop pretending you don't!" He hurled the cup at the barrier, calm mask slipping for incandescent rage. "You always have, I knew it, I felt it. You were lowering yourself, giving a favor, to be with me. Your eyes always set on brighter lights of Thor, his name on your tongue, while you dallied with me in the cupboards. So now you know what you were actually lowering yourself to. And I hope it haunts your nightmares and you choke on it!"

She recoiled from the vicious snarl, as he turned away to stalk to the far wall of his cell. He folded his arms, standing rigid, but still shaking with his fury.

Sif felt unbalanced, as if she was in battle but her enemies had spontaneously melted away. She'd been ready to fight him, but there was more here than she'd thought -- truths and hurts dormant for so long, suddenly brought to light -- and she didn't know what to say.

Finally, she decided to stick to the simple truth. She was no lie-smith, like he was, no storyteller, so she would state the truth. "You're wrong." She had to lick her dry lips, sorting through everything he'd said. "About all of it, but especially… I kept you and I a secret because … They said cruel things about me without adding a reputation that I was one of the Odinson's whores."

He didn't look at her, but his voice was calm again. "You mean, mine. You would never have minded the other one."

"No, I mean Thor, too. But I … I've never felt like that, for him. You would know that if you spent less time being jealous and more time looking," she told him sharply. "I love him as a friend. Nothing more."

He snorted, skeptical of the assertion, and it made her angry.

"We were more, you and I!" She glared at his back, wishing she had laser vision to carve holes in it with her eyes. "But you spoiled it with your demands-"

He turned a narrowed-eyed glare at her over his shoulder. "Because ancestors forbid I should want anything other than furtive coupling in dark corners. Or that I should want to stop the pretense we were nothing to each other." He paused, regret flickering across his face before he turned to face the far wall again, adding coolly, "But I see now my mistake was always wanting more than others were willing to dole out. I should have been grateful for my little spoonful of tolerance and accepted my share would never be the shower of praise and affection given to others."

"You see only the worst!" she returned. This wasn't the first time his jealousy had shown up in all its spiteful glory, and it was always tiring.

He turned in a whirl that would have flared his cape if he were wearing one. "Do I?" he challenged, taking deliberate steps back to the edge of the cell to stare into her eyes. "Name me the most recent time there was a feast in my honor alone."

She glared back at him. He would not sit here, drowning in mis-remembered insults and grudges, when she could triumphantly present him the truth. She opened her mouth to crow the answer, but nothing came out when she realized she couldn't think of one. But there was one, there had to be. There had been plenty of battles where Loki had turned the tide. Surely…

"Do you know why you cannot remember one?" he asked, his voice at first deceptively mild and growing progressively more ragged. "Because there never was one. Not for me alone. Odin could never laud one of the frost beasts, could he? No matter what I did. I killed a dragon alone and do you recall what I received for that? Not a feast of celebration, no. I had 'spoiled the battle', as if destroying a menace was some sort of game. A fearsome beast killed five of our people, two of them children, yet when I killed it, I was a villain, shamed that I had dared use magic."

She remembered staring at Loki in shock and horror as the dragon died. For he hadn't merely killed it, he had ripped it apart as if the giant beast had been no more than a paper model. She answered quietly, "You don't know what it looked like. What you looked like when you did that. It was frightening."

He snapped out a hand in a dismissive gesture, disbelieving her. "You fear nothing."

That was flattering, but wrong. "I feared you that day. You slaughtered it, with powers I did not know you possessed and a dark glee that was terrifying to behold. You were a different person. Perhaps we … we handled it poorly," she admitted, "but it seemed to damage you, Loki. That was why no one wanted you to do it again."

He hesitated, turned it over in his mind, and then utterly dismissed it, turning away. "That is all I have ever been: something to hide and suppress, except when my ability and lore was convenient… It astonishes me I did not give up on all of you sooner."

That hurt more than anything else he'd said. Because now it was all too clear that this was not a sudden madness. The threads that bound his heart had begun fraying long ago, and recent events had burnt them through and let him fall.

As much as a part of her wanted to say 'good riddance' and not care, her grief at his loss had been real. Regrets had grown thick behind her eyes, wishing everything had happened differently. Learning he was alive after all had given her a brief hope they might get a second chance. But then he'd proven that her every fear of his darker nature was true, turning to conquest and death on Midgard.

But now she saw what it truly was. Thor was wrong to believe Loki's mind had broken by his fall from the Bifrost. The madness was despair - he'd turned from his family, from love, from goodness itself, because he believed they'd turned from him first. She knew his family still loved him, but his anger was not unfounded either. Thor and his parents seemed not to understand the cumulative effect of what they'd done -- perhaps Loki had not told them as much as he'd told her, or perhaps they had not listened, already sure where the fault lay. But she saw with different eyes and she heard his words, and the greater fault lay in how much he loathed what he was.

He would not - could not - reconsider his actions in this cell, nor would he spontaneously recover and repent what he'd done. He would harden in here, his hate would sharpen until it cut open the walls of this prison, and he would forget that love ever existed.

That was wrong. Because while her stomach might twist at the thought of blue skin, her heart still remembered stolen kisses and hands on her skin in heated embraces. Because he had loved once.

He had loved her, and she had loved him but been too afraid of what it would mean to give in to it. Too afraid that it had meant she was weak. She was a warrior, and a warrior could not love a sorceror, because magic was used to cover weakness and cowardice, to defeat enemies from afar.

He had loved her, and she had thrown it away, as she had thrown away his flowers, given in apology for his later spiteful trick with her hair.

She owed him a chance, at the very least. The queen was right -- he was not yet lost, and Sif would help find him again.

She held her breath, wondering if she had the strength to do this, if she even wanted to. Give her an enemy to fight, and she would. But this was not an enemy she could slay with a sword. Then again, what was the use of being a warrior if she saw a way to end a threat and did not take it?

Was she not strong? She could do this.

Swallowing hard, she opened the baldric's buckle to let her sword and its sheath ease to the floor. "Loki."

He ignored her.

"I know neither of us can go back, but if I could, there are many things I would do differently. I was young and prideful, and I treated your heart carelessly. For that I apologize."

He said nothing and did not perceptibly react to her words. But he was listening, she knew.

"But please, don't give up on us. On me."

Finally he turned, frowning in irritation. "If you think empty words--"

As soon as he was looking at her, she stepped through the barrier, enjoying the reaction as his eyes widened in utter shock as she passed through. The barrier was one way. Anything could pass inside, but nothing could leave without the All-father's dispensation.

She was trapped within, until Odin All-father came to free her. It was either the smartest or the stupidest thing she had ever done.

Loki took a step back from her as if her insanity was a disease he could catch. "What - what are you doing? What is this meant to accomplish? Why are you such a fool?" he demanded, anger rising to cover his confusion.

"I do not fear you," she declared. When he stiffened, she softened her voice to something less than a gauntlet thrown down in challenge. She meant to reassure, not provoke. "I do not fear your Jotunn blood. I do not fear your sorcery."

His gaze flickered at her words, uncertainty and anger still fighting for dominance. Anger won, as she knew it would, and he stalked forward in measured paces, a gryphon in the tall grass.

"You should," he snarled, trying to tower over her. Trying to make her afraid.

"Should I?" she returned, without flinching a hair. "Why?"

"I tried to kill Thor. What makes you think I will not kill you?" he hissed, leaning closer.

Her heart beat faster in her chest, his challenge sparking a fire in her veins. "Because I entered this cell to help you, and you know if you do anything to me, your only chance of salvation goes with me."

"As if I want salvation," he sneered at her.

"Of course you do. Or you would not be so bitterly angry that you believe it's out of reach."

Glaring into her eyes, he bit off each word, "It does not exist."

She lifted her hand and laid it on his chest. He jerked back as if he expected a blow, and for a moment, his expression was full of confusion that she was touching him softly. He settled on suspicion, narrowing his eyes at her. "What are you doing?"

"Touching you."

"Don't." He twisted out from under her hand and took another step back. His hands clenched to fists, opening and closing, but he did not try to strike her. Which was unfortunate, since she thought a physical fight might help take the edge off his rage, but he was trying to stay in control. He warned, "Don't toy with me. I am short-tempered of late, and even my good intentions fall to ruin. You should not be here."

At least he was not so far gone he truly wanted to hurt her. "I do not toy with you, Loki, I promise."

"What do you want of me?" he demanded, frustration edging his tone. "To punish me for my sins? Is that why you trapped yourself in here with me?"

"Punishment will not teach you anything but greater loathing. I know as much. You will curdle in this place, bereft of all but your own thoughts and hate. But I will change it." She took two steps nearer to him, backing him against the foot board of the bed. "You did not expect my visit, and I make you remember how things used to be. Before you gave up, not on us, but on yourself." He stirred as if he wanted to object, but she overrode him, not letting him speak. "You let go on the Bifrost, Thor said. You sought death. And then you flung yourself at an impossible conquest of Midgard, and you cannot tell me you did so without awareness of likely defeat."

He drew himself up proudly, but she slapped a hand over his mouth before he could speak. "You could not have won," she insisted, digging her fingers into his cheeks to hold his jaw, so he had to meet her eyes. "I know it, and I was not there. You must have known it as well. Perhaps you could have held the city for a time, but the mortals have great numbers and they do not fear death to save their children and their kind. Either you underestimated them so greatly, which I find hard to credit in you, or you knew from the start that ultimate victory would never be yours."

He gripped her wrists in his hands, tightly enough to hurt, and yanked her hand from his face. "I cared nothing for ultimate victory," he snarled. "I wanted to watch it burn-- to hurt the mortals that Odin and Thor hold so precious." He jerked her closer, body to body, and bent his head to murmur in her ear, "Is that what you wanted to hear? That I wanted them to suffer? That is the monster you have locked yourself with."

He expected her to recoil, to turn from him in horror. Maybe if she hadn't already expected as much, she would have, but she was looking for a different confirmation. He'd had no greater plan than attack Midgard and avenge himself on those he thought his family valued more. He hadn't planned for 'after', because he hadn't expected to have one.

She wrapped a leg around the back of his and dumped him on his back on the bed. As he landed, she leaped atop him, knees straddling his waist, and after he blinked the shock out of his eyes, he stilled as she wrapped a hand around his throat.

She stared down into his eyes. "Hear me. I will kill you right here. I will take you out of the misery you have made of your own life and others'. If you want so much to end it, then I will. Your parents will grieve, your brother will grieve again--" He stiffened, eyes flaring in outrage, but her hand tightened to silence his objection. "They are your family, you sniveling worm. They took you, when they had no need to. Yes, they were imperfect, I know, but still, they accepted you. Still, they raised you as their own. Still, they love you, despite your temper and all your other faults. But I will cause them grief, if you give me the word.

"Or do you want to live? Do you want to remember that you're a prince? Do you want to repent of all the wrongs you have done, forgive the wrongs done to you, and live? Because I swear to all the ancestors, those are your only choices. Live or die. I will not let you rot in this place and become a true monster of hate and death. Choose now."

His lips parted and his chest lifted on a ragged breath, and his eyes flicked restlessly from meeting hers and away again, conflicted, but then his expression smoothed and he closed his eyes. His hands slipped from her arms to fall to the surface of the bed, as his body relaxed in surrender beneath her. He lifted his chin to bare the long line of his throat. "Do it."

It was a bluff. But no, if he were to lie, would he not lie about his willingness to forgive? He could not believe she was bluffing; it was not her way, and they were no longer so close that nostalgia would stay her hand. It had to be true; it was too terrible not to be true. She closed her own eyes, overwhelmed as the distance between them closed with a rush of feeling, and her fingers loosened their grip. "Have you nothing to live for?" she whispered. "Do you truly believe that?"

He kept his eyes closed, awaiting her promised end, and his voice was a barely whispered confession, "I am a monster, spawn of a monster, and there is no place for me. End it."

Her fingers caressed the soft skin on the side of his neck. "You fool," she chided. "So blinded by your own despair, you see nothing true."

She leaned down and brushed her lips against his. His reaction made her smile, as his eyes popped open and he stared at her incredulous. "What - what are - But I -" he stammered, the lack of his usual wit amusing her. "I told you - I showed you-"

"Think you I care about the blood in your veins?"

"You hate it. It is the blood of our enemies," he insisted, as if she had somehow missed that. He triggered the change in his appearance again, his flesh turning blue and his eyes a brilliant scarlet. He watched her closely, awaiting her revulsion.

But she was ready this time and did not flinch. This close, it looked less strange - he'd always been pale anyway, and the red irises of his eyes were not all one ruby tone, but lightened to a pretty amber at the edges. "It was surprising at first - as you intended with such a display - but I do not hate it. Or you. You're still you."

Because she could feel his resistance in his body beneath her and see the doubt in his face, she returned her lips to his, to prove him wrong.

He went still in disbelief, as if her mouth on his in this form had been utterly unthinkable, and that made her press into him, urging his lips to open, touching them with her tongue.

She had expected his skin to feel different, but it didn't - not his lips, nor his face when she held it between her hands when he tried to turn his head away. She pulled back enough to look into his eyes. "Stop trying to save me from you," she told him and caressed his forehead and cheeks with her fingertips, across the markings and the soft skin. The difference grew less the more she touched, even if he was still tense as if expecting her to recoil. "If I am strong enough to want you, you can be strong enough to let me."

Those scarlet eyes seemed to show his anguish more clearly, as if he desperately wanted to believe her but feared it was another glittering promise held before him, to be cruelly stolen away. He could barely whisper her name, begging her to be true as if he could not endure another betrayal, "Sif…"

Now that she was here, and she could see the truth that lay at his heart, she knew she had chosen rightly. "There's nothing about you I hate. And if I have to drag you to salvation, I will."

She kissed him again, sealing her promise against his lips. His groan when he gave in seemed torn from his soul, relief and pain and confusion all mixed together, and his hands clasped her back and shoulders.

His mouth seized hers thirstily, like he was finding water after eons in the desert, as his fingers pushed into her hair to hold her to him. But she had no intention of moving away, not soon. Maybe not ever.

The return of something that had been gone for … centuries… for too long hit her with the impact of fire along her nerves, digging deep into inside. She clawed at his shirt, getting her hands underneath to his taut skin. He felt so good, and she wanted all of it. She shoved at the shirt, as he got tangled in it. Impatiently, he sat up and she yanked it off over his head.

His gaze went over her shoulder, and he stilled at something he saw. His hand lifted from her skin to gesture sharply. A black smoke spread across the surface of the barriers to block the view of the corridor outside. She lifted her brows in surprise that he had power enough to create his own privacy in here, but she was relieved, too. They certainly needed no audience. "Thank you," she murmured and turned back to see what was now only for her eyes.

His torso was blue, too, with darker markings like narrow tattoos in parallel lines on either side, curling along his ribs and circling in to his dark indigo nipples, from there rising to his collarbones and the sides of his neck. It was like, yet unlike, the harder, sharper ridges of the Jotunn - and she found herself wondering if he was wholly of their blood or perhaps he was more mixed than he believed. But her pause to look was making him start to withdraw, self-conscious of the direction of her gaze, so she nudged forward on his lap and slipped her hands around to his back. Her mouth found his again, her tongue against his, to show that none of this was revolting.

His fingers felt cool on her thighs and her hips, as he found the hem of her tunic, lifting it higher until the tips of his fingers eased beneath the band of her bodice to touch the lower curve of her breasts. She shivered, tilting her head back in an invitation he accepted, lips trailing kissing beneath her ear and the hollow of her throat, while his fingers pushed upward to touch her hardening nipples.

He'd always had such agile fingers, cupping the fullness in his palm while stirring the feeling deeper with careful pinching and rubbing, until he stripped off her tunic and bodice with a magical ease. She knew what came next and found she was holding her breath in anticipation, as his mouth made a heated path between her now bare breasts. She sat up higher on her knees to give him easier access and his mouth seized the tip. She couldn't help the soft moan she let out at the touch of his tongue, and she pulling his hair free of the tie to feel it in her hands, while she squirmed her hips across his thighs.

The thin fabric of her leggings and his breeches was both too much, barring her from feeling his skin where she needed his heat, but also too little, feeling the shape of him as he swelled against her.

His free hand slipped down her waist to the narrow space between them, and between her legs. He caressed her over the fabric, fingers finding their way beneath and between her folds. She shuddered, as he opened her to his touch, pushing inside in maddening little thrusts and forward across her nub until she seized up with need and gasped his name.

She shoved him onto his back, determined this would not be all him doing. It turned out that sliding her tongue across the new markings on his skin made him shiver, and he arched his back and called her name when she bit his dark nipple. He had one hand fisted in his pillow and his throat worked, as she worked her way down the lines that crossed the flexing ridges of his stomach as her other hand groped him through the soft fabric of his breeches. His body might be slender but there was nothing inadequate in the swelling under her hand.

Opening the laces slowly drew a protesting groan from him. "Sif. Please."

"Patience," she chided. But she didn't have any either; she was burning for him and she couldn't wait very long either.

But right before she was about to open the flap, the skin beneath her hand turned pink again so abruptly she drew back, startled. Her withdrawal pulled a wordless whine from him of pure frustration.

She crawled up his body until her face was above his. "We're not finishing until you put it back."

His eyes opened to meet hers, frowning as if he didn't understand why she was objecting. "Sif, you proved your point. There's no need to do something you find distasteful. I would never ask you--"

"Put it back," she insisted. "It doesn't disgust me, and I think we've found there is one very useful aspect to it. Maybe we'll find another." She smirked down at him, leaning on one hand to free the other, and traced with one finger along the path of the line she could no longer see. But she knew where it had been at the outer edge of his abdominals to curve inward in the hollow of his hip and disappear beneath his low breeches.

He shuddered as if he still felt it, and she whispered, coaxing, "I want to see, Loki. Show me."

His eyes shut again, in resignation, and the pink faded first to grey and turned more bluish. She watched, noticing that he felt cooler to her touch, though nothing close to the deadly icy touch that Frost Giants could produce.

To her amusement, when she opened the flaps to free him from their confines, she saw that he'd lifted his head to watch as well. Their eyes met. "I … never… looked," he admitted uneasily.

She turned her eyes back down his body and licked her lips. "I think… you have nothing to be ashamed of."

It was suddenly intensely sexual to her, more than ever before, seeing his erection boldly blue, but with the dark lines converging on it and circling his shaft, leaving one stripe on the underside. And she knew she was going to have to trace it with her tongue and make him squirm.

Her intent was soon plain to him, as she pushed his legs apart to go lower, as her mouth enjoyed the soft plain of his lower belly, knowing the fall of her hair was teasing him.

"Sif, you -" he groaned and put a hand on her head as if to push her lower or pull her away, before he forced his fingers to let go, "- oh ancestors, but Sif, you need not do this -"

That had nothing to do with his new skin; he'd always told her she didn't need to put her mouth on him. The first time she'd tried it, Loki had recoiled as if she'd tried to bite him. She'd laughed, amazed it had been the first time someone had offered it to him, when he had become quite the expert putting his mouth on her. He'd enjoyed her attentions, once she persuaded him she meant it.

She lifted her head long enough to remind him, "I know. I know what I want."

The reaction to her tongue stroking along that path was even better than she'd expected. His hips jerked and he let out a sharp hiss that became her name as a guttural moan. His heels dug into the cot, and his fists gathered the sheet to keep himself from thrusting.

She teased him until he was quivering and she could feel him tightening, on the edge of climax but she wanted to finish with him inside. She let go to pull her underbrief down her thighs, while he watched her with glinting fiery eyes and parted lips. Then she mounted him, easing down until she felt full and stretched, and they were locked together. They were both panting with the need to move.

"You are glorious," he whispered, his gaze drinking in the sight above him. His hands slid up her thighs, up to her breasts, and back to clasp her hips and help hold her steady as she moved.

The feel of him was like everything she had forgotten hitting her all at once, deep within, coals flaring, fire building each time they came together.

He had little leverage but enough strength to thrust hard and change the angle enough she gasped, reached out blindly for something to hold her up, as her vision went white. It didn't stop, rising up from the pressure deep inside and flaring through her. Shuddering, she came down enough to open her eyes and watch him arch into her, fingers tight on her hips to keep her down hard on him as he rode his own release.

Her chest was still heaving for breath, letting the aftershocks subside, as he caressed everything he could reach as if he hadn't had enough of her skin. His eyes met hers and he smirked lazily, "Was that all right?"

"Acceptable, very acceptable," she teased and stretched her arms upward, enjoying his open appreciation of her movement. "You seemed to enjoy it?"

He shrugged, echoing her tone, "It was fine."

She chuckled and let herself fall forward to stretch out across his chest. He was pleasantly cool to her heated, sweaty skin, and soft beneath her cheek. "If that was 'fine', imagine what 'spectacular' will be like."

He snorted a laugh. "We will probably not survive it."

She let out a long groaning breath of pure relaxation and closed her eyes. She felt so comfortable there, and she murmured, "That was even better than the last time. Why did we wait so long?"

His hand smoothed her hair across her shoulders and back, and when he spoke his voice was drily amused, "I will take that as a rhetorical question, as the answer might ruin the moment."

She nudged him with the pointy end of her chin. "Very droll. But that's why you're the clever one. Most of the time."

"Always," he corrected. "But sometimes people surprise me."

"As I did. Walking in here. The look on your face was one I have not seen in some time." She chuckled, remembering his shock. Loki planned for a lot of things, but clearly that had never crossed his mind as something she would do.

"You were mad to do it."

"Nay. I reasoned it out quite thoroughly."

"Madness always seems reasonable. At the time."

"Speaking from experience?" she was teasing and expected a teasing retort back, but he hesitated.

His voice grew softer, more a rumble under her ear. "It is only afterward that I see -- I was chasing a bright light and never looked down to see the mire beneath my feet, from which I could not escape." He tensed beneath her, a quiver coming to his voice of some deeper emotion emerging.

Her left hand wandered across his shoulder and chest, fingers soothing and distracting him. She murmured, "So perhaps not always clever, hm?"

The mild taunt stirred him out of his dark thoughts and he muttered, "Clever enough to end here with you."

"Mmm, there was probably a less convoluted plan to get me to bed you, but I cannot complain of your goal," she said and was only teasing a little. Because it was true. His skin had such a beautiful tone under her fingers, so tautly stretched over his lithe muscles. She lifted her head sharply, realizing the skin under her fingers had returned to his normal appearance. She had no idea when he had done it. "Why did you change it back?" she asked, sliding her hand along his flank.

"I … thought you would prefer--" he started.

Silencing him with a poke as she lifted herself up on an elbow to survey his chest and face, she said, "I find it a little dull now."

His eyes flicked open with shock and he lifted his head to frown at her. "Are you mad?" he asked, eyes narrowing with flashing anger. "Or is this some jest?"

"Neither." She kissed the hollow of his throat in reassurance, and then laid her head back down on his chest. "Or perhaps a little bit mad. I am here, am I not? But Loki, it's not so different. You should not let it burn you inside. 'tis not a fault."

He lowered his head and closed his eyes again, but he was still tense beneath her, not liking the direction of the conversation at all. "It feels much like a fault. Or a curse. It's not… an easy thing."

"Nay, I understand that. And I did not make it easier, I know. When did you learn this?

"When do you think?" he returned sharply. "In that battle on Jotunheim. When everything went wrong."

Astounded, she lifted up to look at his face, thinking that could not possibly be true. "Only then?"

"One of them grabbed my arm to freeze my blood. But it doesn't work on their own kind," he said bitterly. "Everything I thought I knew was undone. And yet finally I understood. There was never anything I could do to be good enough - it was my blood made me a … beast." He said it softly, but there was something in the quiet loathing that made her heart hurt. He wasn't merely saying the word; he believed it was true. He fell silent and his hand on her back lifted away as if he could not bear to touch her.

"No. I do not lie with beasts, nor frost animals, either," she added tartly, knowing what he was thinking. "I was wrong to insult a worthy enemy with those words, and they were never meant for you. But you are also wrong if you believe the king does not care. Do you not remember how he--"

He put his fingers across her lips. "Do not," he advised. "Let us not spoil what remains of our time here."

She wanted to argue and to poke at all his wrong-headed beliefs until they shattered, but he was also right that someone would be investigating the ward eventually and she didn't want to waste their time talking about the king. "Very well. We can talk about each other then. You called me glorious."

His hand returned to her back, smoothing her hair against her shoulders. "I did. Because you are."

She smiled into his skin. "See, now that is a good use for Loki Silvertongue."

"I did not demonstrate the best use this time," he mused, and her smile widened.

"No, you did not. You owe me that." She rose up to find his mouth and when his hands clasped her tightly and he raised his head to deepen the kiss, she pulled back, teasing. "Next time."

For a moment they lay in contemplative silence, while she listened to his heart beat steadily under her ear and his fingers caressed her hair. He broke the silence finally to murmur, "I can change it back."

She gave an impatient sigh. "Loki, you can be either you wish. I merely want you to understand--"

He didn't let her finish, chuckling. "Your hair, I meant." He drew his fingers down the length of her hair.

Once it had been golden as the Midgardian sun, her greatest pride. After she'd told him they were done, in a temper he'd cut it and set a curse to turn it black when it regrew. "So I was right. You could have undone it."

He shook his head. "No. I lacked the skill to untangle the spell then. Not that I would have," he admitted with a flashing grin.

"Being of petty, vindictive nature," she muttered.

"I learned from you," he retorted. "Yet as you undid yours, so I am willing to undo mine." He caressed the length again. "I will miss this though."

She opened her mouth to tell him to change it back but the words didn't come. "Not yet."

His hand fell from her hair as he peered at her in surprise. "I thought for certain you would accept-- nay, leap at the offer?"

His surprise was always so amusing. But she needed some words to explain. "For so long I loathed it, and I longed to kill you. It was ugly."

"Black hair, so hideous," he muttered.

She groaned at his willful taking it as an insult. "It was not mine. It made me a stranger to myself."

He said nothing but sniffed as if thinking something contemptuous, because of course he knew all about that, too.

"But now it is mine, as this is yours." She drew her hand down his flank and he twitched as if surprised she would turn the discussion back on him. "It is a part of me, Loki. It is now part of the legend, and how can I be Lady Sif of the Ebonlocks if I have golden hair?"

"You would set everyone straight in a fortnight."

"Perhaps. But I find that now you offered, I am uncertain if I want to change it." Her fingers toyed with the end of his hair, wrapping it around a finger in the loose curl it wanted to be. "The color sets us apart."

"Apart is not admired."

She had to admit that was true, especially for him. "I wonder why they changed your skin but not your hair. So many whispers might have been avoided had you been fair-haired like Thor." Because while none had ever arrived at the truth that he was not Aesir, certainly there had been rumors that he was not of the king's blood, which Loki's raven's-wing hair had seemed to prove.

"You must ask the All-father. He has yet to explain anything to me," Loki said flatly, and his grip on her shoulders tightened as if he intended to push her off.

Regretful that she had touched this open wound, she wriggled up his body, finding that he was interested in the movement despite himself, and she made certain to rub with a more intent as her thigh pressed lightly between his. "Did I mention I have always liked your hair?" she murmured. "Except when you glue it to your head, but it looks especially appealing like this." She slid both hands into the mass of it to lift his head to kiss him fiercely.

He resisted, still annoyed, but let it go, as his hands caressed her sides to hold her hips. One hand slipped between her thighs, fingers tantalizing and teasing her, until she was pulling at his hair, growling his name an he smirked at her.


"Say please," he taunted.

She said nothing, refusing to play, except she had to, because his fingers pressed within and it was not quite enough. She squirmed her hips, looking for more, but he knew what she needed and held it back.

"So prideful?" he asked. "You refuse to ask for what you want? But what if it is denied?"

"Bastard," she ground out between her teeth as he pulled his hand away.

"Very likely," he agreed with a tight grin. "Ask, Sif. And I will give it to you."

"You know I will retaliate for this," she threatened, shuddering as his fingers returned for a brief tease.

"Oh, I hope so," he purred, eyes bright and undaunted.

"Fine. Please…" She meant it to come out annoyed, and not at all as if she was giving in, but somehow the word emerged hoarse and needy. That was all he awaited, fingers returning to plunge into her center, twisting and caressing, until she wanted to smack that triumphant smirk off his lips and yet couldn't move a muscle for the pleasure seizing through her body.

Still shuddering her release, she slumped atop him again, panting. "You are terrible. But great."

"I know," he agreed easily and lifted his fingers to his mouth. She couldn't peel her eyes away from the tense lines of his throat as he sucked her taste off his fingers.

"You promised next time it would be your tongue," she complained.

"No, you said that. I made no such promise," he retorted, and she had to agree with a sullen frown that was true. "I have to hold something back, or why would you return?"

She nipped at his shoulder, hard enough to make him flinch, before laying her head down. "Because of this?" she murmured, feeling drowsy in the aftermath. "It feels like how it used to be, when we were young."

"It does," he agreed softly. After a little while, he admitted, "I … do not understand why you did this. I have never understood why you would hold me in any regard over Thor. I did not believe it was true when we were together before, and now it is harder still."

She let out a sigh, wondering how she could explain. "Is it not enough that I hold no feelings but friendship for him? We are much alike--"

He snorted. "You are nothing like him."

"We are, and you know it."

"He wishes he was like you," Loki muttered, and she smiled against his skin, not displeased by his stubbornness.

"He's a fine partner for drinking and fighting. But he has never once stirred me to such passion as you. I am never angry at him, I am never curious, I am never uncertain - he is what he is. Where you… you confound me frequently."

"You make it sound vaguely unpleasant," he said, but his voice was amused, the previous tone melting away.

"There is nothing unpleasant about this at all," she confirmed, as her hand slid down his bare hip. "But the point is, I like Thor, but I could never imagine myself with him, no matter how much people seemed to expect it of us."

He chuckled. "And you hate doing what people expect."

"As do you. Except you love it when other people do what you expect."

"No, not so," he corrected thoughtfully. "It's satisfying, as if I've written a play that everyone performs for me, but it's also dull. I enjoy it much more when people surprise me. It happens so rarely."

She smiled, recognizing the compliment in that, but given how badly his plan on Midgard had unraveled it couldn't be entirely true. "Not all surprises are good ones, surely?"

His hand hesitated on her hair. "No, not all of them," he agreed, more somber than she had intended to be. "Sometimes people surprise me in quite terrible ways."

"I was not considering anything personal," she murmured in apology. "Of course there was nothing to enjoy in that surprise. Though I hope I demonstrated a pleasant surprise for you regarding it."

He hummed, like a great cat purring, and answered, gratefully seizing on her attempt at light distraction, "Oh yes. Though I think only once could be a coincidence of timing. Another trial should ensure there's a causal link."

She rolled her eyes. "'Causal link?' You were on Midgard too long. But yes, we should do it again."

He hesitated, growing troubled again. "If he allows you."

Lifting herself up, she frowned at him. "Why would he not?"

With his free hand he gestured around, at the blackened energy walls and the other blank walls of his cell. "This is supposed to be my punishment, Sif. I doubt conjugal visits are going to be acceptable. So we should enjoy this moment before it passes."

She grimaced, unhappy that he was probably right. "I will make formal petition if I must. The All-father will agree to make sure I do not utter the words 'conjugal visit' in the middle of court."

He snickered and his arms tightened around her, before his hands moved with more intent along her sides, and he shifted a leg to bend his knee and press a thigh between hers. "In case he refuses to go along with your weak blackmail attempt, I think we should try again…"

"Oh? Is that right?" She was about to kiss him again, when he rolled them over.

He chortled at her surprise, grinning down at her. "Yes, indeed. You mentioned retaliation…"

She was planning to flip them back over, but then his mouth came down on hers and she forgot about anything else except the feel of his lips and hands and body touching hers.

Until he pulled away abruptly, head snapping upright as if he heard or sensed something.

"What is it?" she hissed, tensing, wondering if there might be an attack.

"The ward on the main doors," he explained. "They're taking it down. Someone's coming."

to part 2

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