“All the clocks in the city began to wear and chime.
Oh let not time deceive you, you cannot conquer time.”
W. H. Auden
The fever broke the next day and from there Caedra’s health returned at a rapid rate. She was still the quiet child she had always been, but Loki could once again see the energy and life gleam in her eyes. She didn’t say much of Jotunheim and of course Loki would not mention it, but it seemed that Caedra would have little or no difficulty continuing in life. Loki had never doubted that the child was strong, but even he was surprised at how well she could handle something so traumatizing.
The days passed quickly and Caedra was becoming more and more impatient that she could not go outside. Loki could not explain to her why she could not leave, nor did he intend to try. He knew the time had come, but he didn’t want to leave her. He knew Thor would imprison him again. He knew he would be sentenced, and whatever his fate, he would never have Caedra again. The child had opened his eyes in a way no one else ever had. He would never find redemption, but he had found love.
Sif came again that very afternoon, and she was surprised as Caedra ran to greet her, wrapping her arms around Sif and giggling with delight. She gave the child a gentle hug as she closed the door behind her. “Hello, Caedra,” she said with a smile. “It’s good to see you’re doing well yet again.”
Caedra only gave a playful laugh as she ran back to Loki, who was sitting on the edge of the bed, and climbed into his lap. She wrapped her arms around his neck and held tight. “Can we go outside, Loki?” she begged with childish enthusiasm and sweet eyes. “Please?”
Loki gave Caedra a gentle smile but shook his head. “Not today, little one,” he answered giving her a gentle kiss to appease her disappointed frown.
“Loki,” Sif said gently, hating to disrupt such a moment. It was rare to see Loki this way, and she hated to see the moment end. “You know what this means.”
Loki looked up to Sif slowly and gave a slight nod. “I know,” he replied as he kept Caedra close. The child, as any young child, was oblivious that there was a rather serious conversation going on around her. “Will you give me until tonight? I do not wish for her to be awake if you bring the guards.”
Sif crossed her arms. “Loki…”
“Please,” Loki said quickly, his voice strained as he tried to keep his voice low. “Please. I just want a little more time with her.”
Sif uncrossed her arms slowly. She would not have believed Loki other than the desperation in his eyes. “You swear you will not try to run?”
Loki gave a nod. “I swear,” he agreed.
Sif sighed as she moved back towards the door. “I may yet live to regret this but alright,” she said. “I’ll come back with the guards tonight.”
A look of relief came into Loki’s eyes. “Thank you,” he said softly.
Sif held her glare at him as she turned and left the room quickly. It would be difficult enough as it was to go to Thor and tell him the truth.
The day passed quickly and soon Sif found herself staring down the long hall that led to the throne room. It was early evening still, but by now Caedra should have been fast asleep and Loki (hopefully) with her. Sif took a shaky breath as she continued walking. There were very few things that could ever make her this nervous, but she had no idea how Thor would react when she told him the truth.
“HE’S WHAT?” Thor roared in anger once Sif had told him that Loki was also in Asgard.
“Thor, please! You must listen!” Sif begged as she followed him out of the throne room, nearly running to keep up with his brisk pace.
Thor stopped abruptly and turned around to face Sif, his blue eyes filled with rage. “And why should I?” he snapped. “Why should I ever listen to you, after you would lie to me this way? You are no better than Loki.”
Offended, as she rightfully should have been, Sif slapped Thor, her eyes wide as she realized what she had done. This was not the first time she’d ever hit him, but it was the first time like this.
Thor turned his head back to her, his eyes showing the anger that he fought to contain.
Sif took a deep breath as she quickly lowered her hand. “I am not like your brother,” she said - her voice shaky but resolved. “And I only lied to you for Caedra’s sake. Loki is the only one who could bring her back to health, just as he did when he first found her.”
“Then why not keep lying?” Thor asked, keeping his temper in check. “Why would you bother to tell me now?”
Sif sighed. “Because Caedra is better now,’ she answered. “I believe that Loki should be punished for breaking your law against him. I just need to make sure Caedra will be safe.”
Thor continued to look into Sif’s eyes, wanting to believe her though there was still some doubt. At last he gave a deep sigh. “I know you meant well by this, Sif, but Loki is not one you can trust, even for this.”
Sif gave an understanding nod. “I’m truly sorry, Thor,” she answered slowly. “I wish I would have told you the truth.”
Thor nodded slowly. “What’s done is done. Right now we need to find Loki. Do you know where he is?”
Sif nodded. “He took Caedra to a room near the healers’ quarters,” she answered. “He’s been tending to her since we returned.”
“Very well,” Thor replied as he turned and began walking. “I’ll send guards to take him immediately.”
“Let me go with them,” Sif asked, following after Thor. “Please,”
Thor paused as he looked back at her, considering her request. He shouldn’t let her go. He had every right to say no. “Very well,” he said softly. “Go,”
Sif bowed her head slightly as she brushed past him, intending to take a few guards back to Loki.
Loki sat by Caedra’s bedside yet again, book still in hand though he had stopped reading a while before. He only stared silently at the sleeping child before him, waiting for the moment that the door behind him would open.
Despite Caedra’s energy, he’d managed to keep the child amused by reading and telling her stories for most of the day. Many were stories he had been told as a child, and as Loki told her many of those tales he was reminded of when he, as a boy, listened just as eagerly to his father. How long ago that had been, how much his life had changed.
Now Caedra lay fast asleep, and here Loki waited. He didn’t want to leave her. He would have given anything to stay with the child that had touched his heart. But the only way that could be was if he took her hand fled Asgard. He had the ability, yes, but he did not wish to. Caedra had suffered enough because of him. Perhaps it would be better if they were separated. He loved Caedra more than anything but he could not bear to see her hurt again. Titus may have been killed but Loki had no short list of enemies, and sooner or later something else would come.
Loki leaned closer to Caedra, his arm by her head as he gently stroked her face. “I love you, Caedra,” he whispered as he kissed her forehead one last time. He bowed his head over hers and closed his eyes. “I love you with all my heart.”
He heard the door open softly behind him and footsteps approaching. He kept his head down, his arms around Caedra. If this was to be his last moment with her, then he would have it be as long a moment as possible.
“Loki,” Sif said softly from the doorway.
Loki lifted his head slowly, his eyes lingering on Caedra for as long as he could. He stood slowly and stepped back, finally turning around to face Sif. He took a deep breath as he saw her there by the door, watching him with only pity and sadness.
Loki tilted his head up a bit in dignity as he walked towards her with slow, measured steps.
“Loki, I’m so sor-“ Sif began as he walked past her.
Loki raised his hand slightly, motioning for her to stop. “Take care of her, Sif,” he said softly as he walked out the door and was taken by the guards. They held fast to him as they shackled him and led him away, towards the dungeon.
Sif remained by the door as she watched Loki being taken away. “I will,” she whispered, though she knew he could not hear her words.