Title: Our life decides the penalty.
Summary: "So, what do we do?" Bruce asked. "I mean, is this like therapy or something? Because I'm honestly not good at that sort of thing. Ask Tony."
"His degree of guilt established, all that remains is to select the form of punishment which Loki shall receive. That is my task," Sif says. "Thor wishes you both to help me."
part 1a is here.
part 1b is here.
part two is here.
• No Archive Warnings Apply
• The Avengers (Marvel Movies)
• Thor (Movies)
• Bruce Banner & Natasha Romanova
• Natasha Romanov & Sif
• Loki/Sif (Marvel)
• Loki & Sif (Marvel)
• Bruce Banner & Sif
• Sif (Marvel)
• Natasha Romanova
• Bruce Banner
• Thor knows his friends better than they think he does
• Post-Iron Man 3
• Pre-Thor (2011)
• Einherjar (Norse Mythology)
• the War wasn't during the Viking Age
• ...it was earlier
• where did the Norse get that edda from anyway?
• fun with history
"Why is there a giant prairie dog in the guest room?" Tony asked when he walked into the common room.
"A prairie dog's a burrowing squirrel," Bruce said, explaining to Thor's puzzled look.
"Ah," Thor said, then bounded up from his chair. "Ratatosk is here!" and ran down the way Tony had just come in.
"Don't know whether to be more worried that he knew what I was talking about, or that he knows it by name," Tony said.
Walking over to him, Pepper placed one hand on Tony's shoulder and said, "As you said the other day, 'Norse god on aisle three.'"
"I'm sorry, say that again," Tony asked Thor when the big guy had come back, note in hand and told the assembled Avengers the news. "Because there's no way you just said what I think I heard you say."
Thor said it again: "Judgement has been passed upon Loki. For his role in returning Mjolnir to me; for his participation in the Chitauri invasion of Midgard."
"And?" Clint asked this time.
"And what?" Thor asked.
"What about that certain town in New Mexico?"
"That was how I regained Mjolnir."
Clint walked out of the room, pretty sure he didn't want to hear whatever else there was. If there's good news, I'll hear it secondhand, no problem.
"No no," Tony said, "the other bit."
"I have been asked to select two of my friends who are familiar with Loki, to undertake the role of advisors to Sif."
"Thor...?" Jane asked from where she and Thor had been sitting on the sofa before Ratatosk's arrival.
"We have discussed this, Jane," Thor said. "She is not."
"Not? Not what?" Tony asked. "Jarvis, who's this Sif person?"
"Sir, she is Thor's w-" and Jarvis silenced himself as all his sensors picked up on the hum - and the dangerous more - coming from the Hammer.
"Techy. Fine, ignore all that," Tony said. "No, thing I don't get is which friends you picked."
"It is his decision, Tony," Steve said.
"Oh I get that, I do. But seriously...them?"
Natasha's expression didn't change, aside from an amused-at-Stark look in her eyes.
"Why them?" Tony asked.
"I believe them to be most like Sif in mind," Thor said. "I fear you, Stark, would drive her to madness or to your death."
Pepper coughed sotto voice before Tony could say 'do I die happy?' or something worse. "Did Ratatosk come down here just to deliver that message to you, Thor?" Pepper asked.
"He did not. He will return tonight with Sif so they may begin."
"Begin what?" Natasha asked. "You haven't said what we're supposed to be advising her with."
"Which means she's going to be deciding between life imprisonment and lethal injection?" Clint asked from the doorway, having not gone as far as he'd planned before turning around and coming back - at the very least, he was curious about what they were asking Natasha to do.
Thor looked askance at him. "Sif has been granted the power to grant any form of punishment or penalty she wishes."
"So if she wants to, Loki can get off with two hours of picking litter off the highway?" Clint asked, hoping it was at least during rush hour, and even then...
Steve asked, "Has she even seen what happened to New York?" which made Clint hopeful that somebody else was on his side.
"No," Thor said. "But she is as familiar as I am with the level of destruction which I and my brother are capable of."
"This's...You're suggesting this has, uh, happened before, Thor?" Bruce asked.
"I do not suggest, Banner. Raining destruction in the course of battle is to be expected, particularly against worthy foes. Sif herself leveled a vast volcanic forge in her rescue of Loki and myself from Svartalfarheim."
And you're not sounding like it was anything in the least bit unusual, Tony mused. "And what were the two of you doing that you had to be rescued?"
Remembering the incident well, Thor utilized a tactic he had found used quite frequently on this world - he strode to Natasha and Bruce and, one hand on each of their backs, "Come, let us inform Ratatosk of the good news," and walked them out of the room.
"Anybody else see that?" Tony asked. "Please, tell me I wasn't imagining it."
"Not everybody likes to regale people with stories of how they were captured and held prisoner," Steve said.
"I know. That I get. I still say something's up, though."
“Welcome, War, welcome Tyr,” Odin said to the one man with more warmth than he gave to most, less than he gave to family. “This court has missed you in your absence.”
“Have I missed any battles, my king?” Tyr asked as a simple reply.
“You have not.”
“Then my presence would not have been required, and has been better spent elsewhere.”
“I take it you are speaking of the young girl at your side,” Odin said.
“I am,” Tyr said. “This is my daughter.”
Odin’s lone eye flickered to the stump of what had been Tyr’s good arm. I know what her nature will be. I know how you came by her. What will you ask of me, War? What long-due payment has come time? “Greetings, child. What is your name?” Odin asked her.
She looked up at Odin on his throne, and she asked him, “Are you not Odin the All-Knowing?”
Many courtiers gasped or stumbled and fumbled in shock at the question.
Tyr did not blink, did not flinch; only smiled proudly.
For his part, Odin smiled and gave a laugh he enjoyed. “I am, Sif the daughter of Tyr who is War,” said Odin.
“Then why did you ask?” Sif asked, and Odin could feel the genuineness of the question.
"There are things which must be asked."
"Appearances," she said, an unhappy taste in her mouth, by how it sounded to Odin.
"In part, yes."
"Question, Thor," Natasha said as she, Bruce, and Thor waited that evening for the Squirrel to return.
"I will answer," Thor said.
"I would only offer the assistance of those whom I am certain could be of great boon to Sif, for she is a fine comrade of mine."
"Oh so its because I'm Russian."
"No," Thor said; "verily, while she and I encountered several noble Rus on some of our journeys, that is not a consideration."
Bruce said, "I think she means, what do you see in the two of us, that you don't see in the other Avengers?"
Natasha gave a nod.
"I see," Thor said. "Distinction."
"Hard to get more distinctive than a supersoldier."
"I disagree. The Einherjar is full of them."
"I'm an assassin. Practiced at blending in and appearing normal - is that it?" Natasha asked.
Thor shook his head. "My brother says I am blind to all things, and betimes that is true. But even his friend Hod could tell that the both of you are many things in common with Sif, while also having an understanding of what passes through Loki's mind."
"What?" Natasha asked him.
"Oh not much. Just, that was the nicest way anyone's ever said they need me for my monster," and said it with a smile.
"Asked nicely. There's a difference."
Frowning, Bruce asked Thor "Hod is Loki's friend? I thought..."
Thor's voice darkened and it wasn't hard to imagine a backdrop of thunder sweeping towards you as he said "Do not place your trust in the lies written by your ancestors." Back to normal voice, Thor said "There are elements of truth, but both Hod and the Einherjar are examples of how falsehood and misunderstanding has entered in."
"Thanks for the warning," Natasha said.
Nodding his agreement, Bruce asked, "Then can I ask, how long have you known her? By her, I mean Sif."
"Since we were small children," Thor said.
"I'm going to get you!" Thor hollered as he pursued Loki through the more wooded part of the garden. "Rrroarrr! Rroaaarrrrr!"
"That is not how a Dwarf sounds," Loki called behind him.
"I'm an Elf, and I'm going to catch you!"
Also not how an Elf sounds, Loki thought and, hearing someone walking a short few paces ahead, ducked out of sight.
"Hey, no fair!" Thor said, not finding Loki where he had thought he would. But then he noticed that, while his brother wasn't here, nor was he alone. "Who are you?" Thor had asked, confused that there was a trespasser in this part of the gardens. There aren't supposed to be trespassers, he knew.
She drew herself up to her full height, such as it had been, and resolutely told him, "I am Sif."
"Sif who?" still confused.
"Sif of Sif, obviously, brother," Loki had said, having chosen that moment to appear, and do so a meter behind Sif. "Good day. I am Loki, son of Odin. The brother."
"I'm Thor, son of Odin," Thor introduced himself.
"Sif," she repeated.
Thor made a noise. "Who is your father? Or your mother? Or a hallowed ancestor bathed in glory?"
"Dead," was her answer. All are, but for my father.
"Oh. I'm sure they died well."
Loki glared at him, and said to Sif "Do you need to vent? Burn off anger?"
"No. I'm fine," Sif said. "Thank you, though," to the brothers.
Ratatosk's entrance was a superposition of two images, so it seemed to the mortal mind. Two giant squirrels the size of polar bears... One squirrel passed through the wall and ceiling of the room, like some clichéd ghost or cheap CGI; the other squirrel was simply not in the room one moment, and fully in the room the next moment; and the two overlapped so perfectly that the mind felt confident that it was a single bear-sized squirrel, and you were simply having trouble focusing on it during its arrival.
Sif came into view as she climbed down from the far flank of Ratatosk, and walked around it to join Thor and company.
"Go," Thor said, nudging Banner.
You're serious? "May I?" Bruce asked.
Thor chuckled. "Ask him, Banner, not I."
Oh, of course. Silly me. He held out a hand, palm and fingers flat, towards the Squirrel. "Hi," Bruce said, not knowing what else to say to a giant rodent capable of spaceshipless interplanetary travel.
Ratatosk looked at him, sniffed, and leaned forwards towards Bruce's hand -
- which turned green and started to enlarge.
Reflexively, Bruce backed up in a hurry...and his hand returned to normal. Looking from his hand to Ratatosk, he said, "Sorry about that. Its a, thing. Not your fault," though inwardly, he wondered.
Unblinking, the Squirrel stared at them all a bit longer, before darting up an unseen branch and into the stars, its path through the ceiling unclear to those on the floor.
Thor then said, "My friend, these are Bruce and Natasha."
"Your selections in accordance with the Allfather's command?" Sif asked.
Therefore knowing that this was no normal meeting, Sif said to them, "I am Sif. My epithets are War, Shieldmaiden, Glaive-wielder, and Swift. I am sworn to serve Asgard for as long as I live."
Bruce and Natasha could tell that there was more left unsaid - more titles and nicknames, more about her loyalty - but they had time.
"I was Warsdaughter, Tyrsdottir, and The Small," Sif added.
"Was?" Natasha asked.
"We cannot use an epithet or patronym when it no longer applies. My father was Tyr, whose title was War, whose role was the right hand of Odin; before he died, I could be addressed as Warsdaughter and Tyrsdottir, but not after he died."
"That sort of a rule cuts down on people clinging to the past too much, does it?"
"No," Thor and Sif both answered.
It was morning now, the dawning of the first day since Sif's arrival. The other Avengers had all been called out - a well-armored foe engaging in close-quarters combat, which rendered Banner and Romanova unneeded until the battlefield changed, so the comms were kept ready.
"Are you sure you should be doing that...in your condition?" Natasha asked Bruce while he was fixing pancakes for the three of them.
Bruce offered a small laugh, dry as pretty much everything else he said was. "These days, its fine," he said. "Used to be, even microwave dinners were a safety hazard."
"You have a plight?" Sif asked.
"That's, that's certainly one way of putting it," Bruce agreed. "It used to be that, any time I became angry or outraged, I turned into a - well, lets just say I was large and out of control."
"And now, he says, he is always angry," Natasha said, slicing her pancakes according to a pattern which eluded Sif.
Perhaps you could speak with Fenrir, then, Dr. Banner, Sif considered. "Then Thor understated it when he told me you could understand Loki well."
Bruce shot Natasha a look that read 'was that a compliment or an insult?' "So, what do we do?" Bruce asked. "I mean, is this like therapy or something? Because I'm honestly not good at that sort of thing. Ask Tony."
"I was given to understand that Thor informed you of what was required of you both," Sif said.
"He said we were the best people able to understand you. That's pretty much everything," Natasha said.
Sif sat down on the nearest chair with the sort of practiced caution that Bruce's muscles recognized. She looked at the countertop for a few minutes before she said, "I am a Vanir woman in an Asgardian army comprised mostly of men. My life has seen me buffeted from one set of customs to another, making me an outsider thrice over." At least thrice. "My blood family are dead. My fosterage family is survived by their descendants. My few friends are in arms against one another." She looked at them. "Loki is one of those few."
"Some of us have no luck, not in that regard," Natasha agreed. Complete misfortune in picking our friends.
"When last I saw Loki..." Sif said. "Prior to Thor returning your captive Loki to Asgard, I had argued with him before his plummetting into the depths of space; defied him, argued against him, argued with him, did everything but confront him." She made a face; "Nor was that the first time I had done so."
"Well, if I can say," Bruce offered, pouring everyone some orange juice, "that its kind of understandable, given what happened...if the stories got that right."
"Oh?" Sif asked.
"Your father's Tyr."
"Loki's son bit off your dad's hand, at least that's what we hear."
Sif blinked. "No," she said. Dad would have loved Fenrir. Granddad would have loved taking him fishing, and tried to imagine her boys all gone fishing. "My father was not attacked by dear Fenrir, having died when I was still a child," Sif said. "His hand was lost an age before I was ever born. His killer was Wulfgar the father of Brokk. When we were old enough to go out on raids and journeys, Loki and Thor went with me to avenge my father's slaying with one of my own. It...did not end well, but it ended the feud - Brokk's surviving relatives did not wish to pursue retaliation. One of our captured prizes ended up destroying a hill in Alfheim a while later."
"Not a mountain?" Bruce asked. 'Dear Fenrir'?
Sif smiled. "I'm from Vanaheim. What we call a small hill, an Asgardian calls a mountain or a pillar of the earth. Though, who mentioned the mountain to you?"
"Thor...may have alluded to it."
"Was it a secret?"
"No. Simply very...awkward," Sif said. It was the first time Loki proposed to me.
After a while of nobody knowing what to say - or simply opting for silence, it was hard to say, in this company - "So, I have to ask," Bruce said.
"Yes?" Sif asked between swallows of a cup of freshly-made coffee made to accompany the pancakes.
That's not your first or second one today, is it? Bruce wondered, noticing how many ceramic shards were already on the floor centered around one corner of the kitchen. "The, ah...the hair...you know..."
Sif looked at him and kept waiting.
Natasha shook her head. "Men," she muttered - or that was what Bruce suspected she was muttering in Russian. To Sif, she said "He wants to know if that's your real hair."
Now Sif was just looking at him like he was speaking gibberish. Which I probably am, Bruce had to admit, at least to himself. "When Loki supposedly cut off your hair."
Oh. "To give to the Dwarves," Sif said, nodding. "That happened. Not my hair, though."
"Huh," Natasha said.
"Thor, however, was quite angry when he woke up with it gone. It was rather a while before he would laugh about it with the rest of us - Not that he objected to the adventure that hair brought to us."
"Thor?" Natasha asked, mentally filing that tidbit away for an opportune time.
"And Loki got the credit for doing it down here as well?" Sif asked.
Bruce just drank his coffee.
Drowning her groan deep in her throat, Natasha stood up and said "Lets go."
"Go?" the other two both asked.
"You look about Pepper's size - do you agree, Dr. Banner?" Natasha asked. And when Bruce nodded, she added, "I'll get you a coat, and we're taking you to the library."
"Is it relevant?" Sif asked.
"You should see some of the stories that've sprouted up since you guys were last here."
"I admit, it should be interesting to see what Loki told your ancestors."
"Assuming its true," Bruce said with a qualifier.
"Loki tended to speak at length about Asgard and those who lived there," Sif said. Though he could certainly mix fact and history and name-calling...
“Horse-face!” shouted one of the boys.
“Horse!” jeered another.
“Maybe she’s a goat,” laughed a girl on the sidelines. “She’s always carting around the weapons to and from the training sands.
“Goat!” “Horse!” the taunts continued…until Sif tackled the nearest cluster of teasing boys, punching and punching and kicking, and head-butting one who tried to pull her off.
“Having fun?” Loki asked, walking up to the sidelines.
“Aren’t you going to stop this?” that ‘she’s a goat’ girl asked him.
With what, my magic? Suddenly its popular again? “I think not. She seems to have your thrashings well in hand.”
The fight ended soon after, with the boys asking for mercy, and Sif getting off them with a huge grin on her face.
As all the others ran off, Loki came over and said, “The winner. And with not a scratch on her. That really is a shame.”
“But I won!” Sif said.
“And soundly too,” Loki said, his voice full of the congratulations he didn’t spell out for her. “But you have not a mark on you – now your tormentors can say ‘she ambushed us’ or ‘it would stain our honor to hit a girl.’”
“Appearances,” Sif said, hating the taste of that word.
Loki nodded, and Sif wasn’t sure if he was more pleased with himself that someone understood what he was talking about, or if he was more pleased with her that she understood what he was talking about.
“You sound like your father,” Sif said.
She also wasn’t sure what Loki meant by the expression he wore for the few seconds before he smoothed his face back to his normal observant look.
Loki took her silence for something, and he left.
“The prince is right,” her father said, stepping into sight from the shadows.
“I don’t like appearances!” Sif said, all but stomping her foot.
“You are Warsdaughter,” Tyr said. “Even that name is how you are seen by others.”
“Can’t I just be me?” she asked him.
Crouching beside her, he said “You must always be that.”
"Yes, sir, absolutely," Romanova was saying into the phone. "I understand. Yes, sir, the next time we run across Dr. Doom in a library, we'll be sure to let you know." But really, if he's babysitting a kid, that's a good chunk of time he can't be out trying to take over a country or the planet or whatever the latest scheme is. Not that I'd trust him far with the kid either.
When Romanova had hung up, Bruce asked "Fury giving another earful?"
"And then some," Natasha agreed. "If I didn't know better, I'd swear Stark was tattling on us because he missed a chance to confront Doom."
"Some people just are not happy unless they're diving into a fight."
"And some of us were never allowed to do that," Sif said.
"I thought you said you were raised in a -"
"I grew up among the Einherjar. No, not dead soldiers," having reached that point in one of the books, "those would be of little use to Asgard. No, the Einherjar are a cadre of humans who fight in the service of Asgard; men and women alike bearing arms and charging at the foes they are pointed toward," she said, sounding like she missed it.
"Fun times?" Natasha asked, at least half in jest.
"They were my best friends. And the only thing they ever asked of me was to bless their babies, and that wasn't a frequent request."
"Blessing because they thought you were a god?"
I was warned to beware of questions like that. "For a time, briefly, the entire barracks was placed under my authority," Sif said.
“Sif, step forward and near the throne,” Odin said.
I am not the only Sif in Asgard. Merely the only one now without a patronym. Fully aware of the entire room full of people now looking at her, watching me as she stepped out from the ranks assembled before the Odin. Walking as slowly and humbly as she knew how, Sif stopped and knelt, head bowed, at the halfway point of the royal stairs. “My king,” she said.
Odin rose from his throne. “The entire court mourns the loss of your father. You are now the entirety of your House. But know that it is for neither reason that I am denying you two parts of what some would call your inheritance.”
“The Allfather knows best,” Sif said, reciting by rote as much as anything.
“You will not take up the mantle and title of War so well worn by your father Tyr. Nor will you take his place as my right hand, to smite when I am elsewhere. No, these duties will fall to another, one you know,” Odin said, then turned his head just a bit. “Thor son of Odin. Step forward and approach the throne.”
Sif very nearly let out what had been a very nervous and apprehensive breath. By merit. Let no one say I will inherit what I will rightfully claim as my own, she thought, hiding her grin.