"I may have taken my eyes from your glorious form in battle, but my focus was never lost. I knew where you were every moment we were on Jotunheim. I could not let Thor endanger us all, least of all you. I would have killed them all to protect you."
"He did not endanger me. I would not have allowed it. We all walked into battle willingly. I saw you every step of the way, even if you were not by my side.
I am certain we would have slain them all. I certainly would have, had another brought you any harm."
Sif was not always the greatest with her words, her actions speaking more than they ever could, but Loki seemed to easily bring verbal responses out of her. More than anyone else ever could, at least.
"He nearly got us all killed." Loki shook his head. Things had gotten out of hand on Jotunheim so quickly. They were never even meant to get there, let alone raise the ire of the frost giants. He was never supposed to be one himself.
Stepping in, he grasped her upper arm beneath the shoulder guard, but not roughly. A grip turned into a caress almost immediately before he caught himself, pulling away and clenching the offending hand into a fist. It was his right hand, despite being left handed. It was his left hand that had turned blue on Jotunheim at the touch of another Jotun. He found himself trying to hide it, despite the fact the blue had faded away immediately.
"If Odin had not come when he did..." They'd stood no chance against so many and he knew it, even if Thor did not. All the promises in the Nine Realms wouldn't change that fact.
Part of Sif was frustrated that he'd gone behind their backs to warn Odin of their decisions. It was a vague feeling of betrayal, but she'd experienced betrayal already by the younger Prince, and it hadn't come close to what still haunted her. After all, mirrors told no lies. She'd learned over time to forgive his actions, and this only left a slight sting in comparison.
In the end, he was right. If the Allfather hadn't arrived to bring them back to Asgard, they would have certainly been killed by the Frost Giants. She blamed Thor for that fact though. He reacted too quickly and attacked thoughtlessly.
"In theory, yes, but we all stand here today, do we not?" A faint smile crossed her lips, even as his hand dropped from where he'd touched her. Part of her wanted to reach out and take it again, but there were too many eyes lurking, and she wasn't exactly that kind of person anyway.
He seemed on edge though, and she noticed it. Would he want to speak to her about it? Probably not. That didn't mean that she couldn't try though.
"Something bothers you. Beyond Thor's mindless actions though, I can see it. He has acted rash in the past, this is not new."
His hand flashed behind his back and Loki swallowed hard. He and Sif had known each other a very long time. She saw more than most did regarding the younger Prince of Asgard. They had been and still were close friends – perhaps more. They’d never dared name this thing between them, made of gossamer threads of night and the sweetness of stolen kisses. It was too precious in his mind to taint with the same words he used to twist and manipulate ordinarily.
Since their return to Asgard from Jotunheim, however, the trickster had been more elusive than usual. What had been revealed to him on the icy realm weighed heavily upon his heart and filled him with dread. He planned to find out more: he was going to visit the Casket of Ancient Winters. That stolen Jotun relic had to be able to tell him something about what he feared laid upon him like the weight of irons around his neck. It was a curse, it had to be, yet how had he not detected such magic? He did not know who had placed the curse, but he would find out.
“The threat of war concerns me, as it should everyone. Thor has been reckless, yes, but never gone this far. Now he is banished and Laufey yet lives. I do not know what the Allfather plans; he does not share his mind with me as he does my brother.” While all of this was true, it wasn’t what Sif had likely detected in him. But how could he tell her what had happened? She would surely reject him as a monster, find him repellent and disgusting. He knew he did.
The art of lying was often a shell game and nobody did it better than Loki. Sometimes an omission was best overlooked by offering something else as a distraction. A confession would do the trick.
“I goaded him into it, Sif. I knew he would behave rashly. I wanted Odin to see that Thor is not ready to rule!” he shook his head, raking dark hair back from his face.
“I didn’t know the Allfather would banish him for it. It was never supposed to go that far.” Things had, quite literally, snowballed.
"If war shall occur, we will be ready for it. I do not expect it to go so far though. Thor's actions were inexcusable, but the Allfather knows what he is doing, as he should. If he did not know, we would have lost all semblance of peace years ago." She could tell that there was still something lurking further, but she dared not press the matter. She had learned things over time, one of which being that he was not often readily available to voice his concerns unless absolutely necessary.
Regardless, any question she had was wiped clean from her thoughts following his next admission. He had, in a way, gotten his own brother banished from their home. Sif shook her head in disbelief, a mixture of emotions swirled into her expression.
"You did what?"
She gritted her teeth in an attempt to hold herself back from physically lashing out and slapping him in the face. It wouldn't end well for either of them and she was fully aware of it. Instead, her hands clenched into fists and she let out a breath in a huff before she finally found the voice to speak again.
"Where was it supposed to go then, Loki? You know Thor better than all of us. How did you not see any of this coming? Showing that he is not ready is much different than tempting him into Jotunheim where he would surely destroy any Frost Giant he saw in front of him. Opinions on his ability to rule are unimportant at the moment - this was a brand new low."
“I told the guard to go to Odin immediately! We should not have gotten past the Observatory!” His protests were genuine. That had been the actual plan. Being completely candid was not something Loki did very often, but this was a highly charged emotional topic for all of them. His usual cool demeanor evaporated a bit as he became defensive. He’d known Sif would not think kindly of his plan, of course, but he hadn’t been a complete fool in his plotting.
“I do not know what delayed him so long. It was /never/ my intention to actually GO to Jotunheim. Not Thor, not you, not any of us.” Oh, how he wished he’d never gone. Fandral was already healed from his injuries, but Loki’s wounds from that day lingered, festering in his mind. Over and over he saw the color of his hand change, the raised lines appear, the look on the frost giant’s face who held him.
The warrior-goddess shook her head and exhaled a sigh, pressing the heels of her palms against her brow bones. "Regardless of whether or not it had been your intention, that was what had occurred. You should not have placed that thought in his mind. We both know he was thinking it, of course, but I believe that was the final push he needed. And we all know what Thor is like when he is determined to do something. 'Tis very rare to put an end to it."
She slowly dropped her hands to her sides and looked the younger Prince in the face again. "Loki, we have to bring him back to Asgard. Odin should not have banished him. Can you not explain that it had been a misunderstanding? Surely, if we approached him together, he will listen, no? Maybe even Frigga--"
Regardless of what she felt for Loki, Thor was still her friend, and she wasn't going to sit around and wait knowing that he was stuck on Midgard, completely powerless. That wasn't something a friend did.
"Loki, please... He is your brother, and he is our friend. Surely you cannot just allow him to stay there without trying, right?"
Loyalty was all well and good, except when it flew in the face of reason.
"And if I do, what then? I love Thor more dearly than any of you, but you know what he is. He's arrogant, he's reckless, he's dangerous! Sif..." His hand twitched again, longing to reach for her, to soothe them both, perhaps. He did not wish to face her ire or lose her regard, but in light of Odin's commandment, he couldn't see what could be done.
"You would ask your brother to commit treason and betray his post because you do not believe the Allfather knows what he is doing? He sent the hammer after Thor! Clearly, he means for Thor to regain it, otherwise why would he do such a thing?" Loki sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose and closing his eyes for a moment before continuing.
"You weren't there, Sif, you didn't hear them bickering. It was worse than I have ever seen. They were both so angry..." Loki had tried to intercede but their father had cut him off before he got more than a single word out.
"I tried. Do you think I sat by idly, uncaring that my brother was banished? We cannot go to my mother. She will support him. She has told us both many times to trust in his judgment, that everything he does has purpose. Thor may think him a fool, but I do not. The safety of Asgard must come before the comfort of my brother."
There were few instances in which Sif disagreed with the Allfather's decisions, but banishing Thor was certainly one of them. Especially if he didn't know the entire story. If he knew the Prince had been baited, perhaps he would've thought differently. Though, even she could see that that could've gone terribly as well. Kings weren't meant to be swayed so easily, or manipulated by just a few words. The thought made her bitter.
"I would never ask such a thing of him, but I know he would be willing for the right cause," she said, confident in her bond with her brother. "Treason is always a last resort when a wrong has truly been committed. I would not dare cross Odin in that way, not when he has had such faith in me."
"I never claimed that you were uncaring. But do you truly think him dangerous to Asgard? Because I do not. He is arrogant, I will admit, and still has some ways to go, but if Asgard is in danger, it will continue to be whether he is present or not. Would it not be better for him to be around to help us protect this home?"
She wasn't trying to get on his bad side, or insinuate that he didn't know what he was talking about - not at all. In all of their years, she would have been a fool to claim she didn't care for him. But there was a reason she was, on occasion, called the "Loyal Sif."
“Sif, he very nearly started a war today!” Despite Loki’s goading, Thor’s behavior on Jotunheim had been all his own. Loki had tried to be the voice of logic and was likely the reason they weren’t all dead right now, even if his message to the Allfather had been delivered late. Thor had wanted to attack when they were vastly outnumbered. Diplomacy had been required and that was not Thor’s strong suit. Just when Loki had thought they were free to go, just one muttered word had turned his brother into a murderous rage.
“He cannot ignore a simple insult, not even for the peace of Asgard. Tell me, truthfully, how is that NOT dangerous?” Loki was getting frustrated, hands clenching in the leather of his surcoat repeatedly before he realized it and tucked them behind his back again, picking at the left hand that had betrayed him.
“Your loyalty does you credit, but I am obliged to remind you that the oath you made was to serve Asgard, not Thor. He is not king, not yet, and so the two are not synonymous.” Loki took some solace in this, but knew Sif would not be pleased by him pulling rank on her. He had never had cause to before and it pained him to do so now.
“Who do you think will be sent to Jotunheim as an emissary?” He sighed, scrubbing a hand over his face.
“I will need you with me, Sif. And I cannot have Thor there, nor can I tell Laufey-King that the one who insulted and attacked his people has gone unpunished. We would all die our second death on Jotunheim and war would be guaranteed. Please… you must see this.” Loki might already doubt who his real family was, might doubt who he really was, but he did not doubt that Sif was his friend.
"Where my loyalty lies should be no concern to anyone. I know what path I made, I am the one who spoke the words! Does that mean that I cannot side with a friend? Someone who I have held dear for hundreds of years? I am fully aware that his actions were rash and unjustifiable, but had you not put the idea in his head, perhaps we would not have gone to begin with," she said, words spilling out of her mouth without a filter. She was acting accusatory, yes, but it wasn't an irrational response in her eyes.
"He would not go unpunished, Loki. I never said that he should be let off the hook for doing what he did. I am saying, however, that it was not the best punishment. Could he not have served his time here? In our realm? Think about it. I am always here with you, and you know that, but I am with him too. I have known you both longer than anyone else. Forgive me for questioning the Allfather's judgment, but I cannot deem it the best possible solution. Should there still be the threat of war upon us, what will Thor being powerless on Midgard do for us? He is one of Asgard's greatest warriors, regardless of his behavior. That is where my loyalty lies. That is for the good of Asgard."
Over the course of her response, the physical distance between them had grown - not by much, but it wasn't entirely unnoticeable either. Jaw set and fingers clenched, Sif was not moving in her judgment, regardless of her loyalty and of her close relationship with Loki. Their opinions were bound to differ eventually, and it was only fitting that they were arguing over Thor.
Loki nodded as Sif spoke, accepting her words. She had valid points and he would be as much of a fool as Thor if he were to ignore them simply out of temper. In truth, he was as rattled by Thor’s banishment as she was. He had not expected that outcome. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected now, but certainly not that. He knew the Allfather would be upset, but his temper was more and more uneven of late as he postponed the Odinsleep. It hadn’t been Loki’s intention to take advantage of that fact, but that was precisely what had happened. Now, even if Odin felt his temper had gotten the best of him, he was unlikely to admit he’d overreacted and allow Thor to return. Still, there was something that puzzled Loki about the whole thing.
“Sif, when the Allfather banished Thor, he sent the hammer after him. I saw him do it. He whispered an incantation to the hammer and threw it down the Bifrost after Thor.” Loki’s eyes widened as he recalled the events.
“He would never just discard such a powerful artifact. As mother has often said: there is always a purpose to everything he does. Sif, what if it is a test? What if Thor is supposed to return with Mjolnir? Your brother would know the Allfather’s orders if that were the case. He might be the only one in Asgard aside from Odin himself who knows what is truly going on.”
"Would he even be able to wield it in his current state? Or was it merely a method of mockery?" Her question was not presented bitterly. She was genuinely curious. Loki wouldn't have lied about something so trivial, so it must have been true. Was Mjölnir a key in all of this?
"Perhaps we should ask him. I am curious, truthfully, even if the decision is not one I believe was the best option for the situation. I find it unfair, to some degree." And honestly? She just wanted Loki to say something to Odin. Convince him that it was a mistake, and one that could be considered costly.
“Father took the hammer from him, said he was unworthy. He was so angry. He tore Thor’s cape off and his armor, said he was unworthy of his title…” Loki looked up, the reliving of the scene clearly horrifying him. It had been a very tense emotional situation and then it had just exploded. Loki felt like he’d set the wheels in motion but had been powerless to stop them or change their course.
“I tried to intervene, Sif. I didn’t want it to happen. I got shouted down. Perhaps I was a coward for not trying to physically step in, but I think there must be hope for Thor, else why send the hammer?” That was the crux of the whole thing to Loki’s clever mind. If Odin had no intention of Thor ever wielding Mjolnir again, he would have simply returned it to the weapons vault from which it had come. Instead, he made sure to send it where Thor also was. There had to be a connection.
He grasped Sif’s hand, just lightly and just for a moment, eyes pleading. “Sif, please. Can we not speak to Heimdall and see if he will tell us what he knows?”
Sif's brows furrowed, the shield maiden trying to make sense of any of what had happened. It seemed like such an exaggeration that Thor was suddenly deemed unworthy of anything because he made a foolish mistake. All people made mistakes. Had the Allfather never made one in his long life? He had to have..
"I do not know, Loki. I do not understand what his intentions were - only that I feel as though it had been a mistake. Thor may have set foot upon Midgard a few times, but he does not know everything about it. It may not be a permanent exile if the Allfather sent the hammer along with him, but it may certainly seem that way." Her eyes shifted downward, a long sigh falling from her lips.
Truthfully, she couldn't blame Loki for any of what had happened, but it frustrated her regardless. There were times where her emotions shouldn't have gotten the better of her, but it was happening anyway.
As he grabbed her hand, she made no effort to pull hers away. The moment was completely fleeting though, as he dropped it again before she could even register that it had happened. "I am not certain my brother will tell us of the Allfather's plans, especially if he had not vocalized them. He made an oath, just as I did - just as you did. He is not meant to speak of those matters with others, not even us."
But if he persisted, she would agree to trying.
“The worst Heimdall can tell us is nothing, which is exactly what we already know,” Loki pointed out. He did not think the Gatekeeper would confide in him, but he perhaps would in his sister. The younger Prince wasn’t certain if his presence would be a liability or an asset. He found Heimdall intimidating, if he was honest. Of course he wouldn’t admit it, though.
“Sif, you heard the Jotuns declare war on Asgard.” They’d all been present when Odin and Laufey-King had spoken. There was no doubt in Loki’s mind that Thor’s actions had broken the peace that existed between Asgard and Jotunheim.
“Surely your brother heard it as well. His vow is to protect Asgard. That is all we will be asking him to do.”
"The worst Heimdall can do is tell us everything and you know that. But, as capable as I am of arguing this further, I do not intend to. Should approaching my brother make you feel better, I am willing to oblige. I would not have your hopes raised any higher, however, as his duty involves keeping silent about Asgard's affairs unless they are a distinct threat."
She still wanted to blame Loki in part for doing what he did, and she did a little bit, but there was no sense in losing a friendship - or whatever they had - over something she could not control. However much she wanted to control it and change it.
"Shall we go then?"
"The sooner the better," Loki agreed, extending an arm in the direction of the Observatory which marked the entrance to Asgard via the Bifrost. It was Heimdall's customary post.
"I do not know what the Jotuns have planned, but the sooner we act, the safer Asgard will be. Whether that involves Thor directly remains to be seen." If a truce with Laufey could be re-negotiated, then the elder prince's banishment would surely be presented as a guarantee of no further incursions from The Realm Eternal. It was a valuable bargaining chip, and Loki saw the wisdom of the Allfather's strategy, if that was in fact what was happening here. Loki did not believe Odin would uphold an edict made purely in rage. He was not the father of the Norse gods and King of Asgard because he was a fool, despite Thor's assertions to the contrary.
"Once we find out what your brother knows," Loki told Sif. "We can plan our own next moves in accordance."