Rating: R for violence and sex (but mostly violence).
Pairing/Characters: Loki/Sigyn, Asgard & Co.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Not profiting. Don’t sue.
Summary: It dawned fair and clear, the day they sewed Loki’s lips shut.
Link to Chapter 1: Here
Sigyn didn’t sleep, instead curling herself into the chair by the bed to watch Loki. How close her idle imaginings had come to this reality, and yet how far—for indeed she had pictured Loki in her bed, but no dream she conjured could have guessed the gentle whistle he made when he exhaled. She stifled her giggle against her knee and resisted the urge to reach out and trace his cheekbones.
He looked less worn, asleep. The creases under his eyes lessened, and his hair grew softer as the oils in it lost their grip.
Sigyn’s thoughts slid to those she had had no more than hours earlier, of ice and fear and shame. He was still wounded, there was no doubt of that, but Loki was different, somehow, from the man who had choked her in the Hall of Noble Dead. Perhaps he had seen something, in his visions. Perhaps it was the return of his voice and his magic. Either way, he was calmer, more grounded—more the way he had been before the Chitauri arrived, but less the sharpness.
She stepped out near midday, carefully closing the door behind her, and requested of Ane a meal, something light, that would keep despite temperature. Ane nodded. “For two?” she asked.
“Please,” Sigyn answered, and slipped back inside. Fifteen minutes later came a knock on the door and Ane entered, burdened with a tray of morsels and fruit. She set it down on the table in the sitting area and glanced to the prince in Sigyn’s bed. Sigyn thanked her, and Ane curtseyed and left, and Sigyn smiled wryly as she lifted the lid from the tureen to see spell-chilled soup within. It would be all over the palace by the time Loki woke, that he had slept in her bed but not with her.
He rolled over, shifting into a fetal position, his brow creasing into a worried frown. His eyes roved furiously beneath his lids and he trembled despite the chains of sleep. A small whimper escaped his newly freed lips, and Sigyn leaned forward, reaching a hand to nudge him awake—but Thor’s words reminded her, and she pulled back, biting her lip in sympathy as he rode through his nightmare.
It passed, and his brow smoothed.
She wondered what had happened in the meeting. He had been preoccupied when he had emerged, somewhat cowed and distinctly unsettled. The walk to her rooms had been a quiet one, as though he had been working some massive dilemma through that great brain of his.
Sigyn had her own dilemma, and she picked it apart as she watched Loki sleep.
When Loki woke it was to the clear light of early afternoon. The bed was unfamiliar; the hangings were red, brown and gold rather than his own forest green, and the bedspread a humble patchwork quilt. He frowned, muddled by the lingering fog of sleep, before he remembered.
He turned his head, and she was there, curled in a chair before a table laden with food. She was reading a book of children’s tales, utterly engrossed, and nibbling on a rolled slice of meat; he lay quiet, watching her. After a time her eyes flicked up from the page. They widened when she saw him watching, but she didn’t break the gaze.
“You’re awake,” she said.
Loki pushed himself up to lean back against the pillows. “Yes.”
Sigyn set the book aside. “I had some food brought in, if you’re hungry.”
Loki didn’t reply, merely watched her. She sat awkwardly under his gaze, her hands fluttering in her lap. She was nervous, he realized. He considered. This was her sanctuary; she wanted him to like it.
He looked about. The furnishings were simple, with clean, elegant lines. One wall held the portrait of a Ljósálfar warrior maiden; the opposite a series of pressed flowers. It was much like Sigyn, from what he could tell: humble, graceful, and suffused with earthy tones.
He slipped from the bed, trailing blankets, and stepped to her. He urged her up from her seat. She went, gazing up at him, and Loki gazed back down at her.
She had washed her face at some point, and changed clothes. Gone were all signs of the battle. In their place was golden skin and glowing cheeks, and her large, hazel eyes, hesitant and anticipatory in turn. Loki licked his lips, and she took a small breath. He bent down and kissed her.
It was as sweet as Idunn’s apple. The press of her lips against his own, their first real touch since the vartari’s removal, was fire, and when she parted them, and he slipped his tongue in to touch hers, that was bliss. She smelled of warm sun and the musk of desert plants, and she tasted of her lunch. Loki broke away to smile against her cheek. Sigyn made a displeased noise and chased after him.
They stood there, in a pool of afternoon sunlight, and the kiss deepened, growing more needy the more they tasted. Sigyn pressed against him, the soft swell of her breast crushed to his chest, and Loki felt his body respond to hers. He took a breath and reached for the ties on her dress.
A soft knock startled them both. Turning around, Loki saw a servingwoman step inside. He scowled at her, but she kept her eyes downcast and persisted in the interruption.
“A message arrived from the Queen, m’lord.” She glanced to his face, and opted to set it on the table by the door.
“Thank you Ane,” Sigyn said, clearing her throat. Ane curtseyed and left, and Sigyn stepped back, smoothing her hair. Loki cursed his mother and the servant, and the world at large. He sighed, and went to pick up the card.
It was handwritten, as was his mother’s wont, and sealed with an archaic wax stamp embossed with a spinning wheel. Loki broke it with a deft twist and read the script within. It was an invitation to meet with her in her private chambers after the evening meal. He pursed his lips.
“You don’t seem surprised she knew you were here,” Sigyn ventured.
Loki shook his head absently. “My mother has ways of knowing things. It was inconvenient when I was young.” He handed the note to Sigyn. She read it, then handed it back with a sharp nod.
“Good. There is time.”
Loki took the letter and tucked it away. “Time for what?”
“I wanted to show you something,” she said, and contrary to her previous decided manner she sounded tentative.
Curiosity piqued, he took the bait. “What sort of something?”
“Well, it’s more of a place. I thought you might like to see it.”
Loki considered. Staying here, with Sigyn, until the meeting with his mother, or seeing… whatever it was she wanted to show him.
Sigyn noticed his reticence. “We don’t have to,” she said. “It’s just, I don’t know how long the Reserve will last, what with the invasion. I had hoped we could see it at least once more.”
A mixture of guilt and obligation slunk through Loki, and he nodded. “Alright. Let me just change, first.” He waved his hands, putting on a little extra show just for fun, and fresh clothes shifted from the dimensions to drape over him. He ignored how the tunic he chose flattered the line of his shoulders, or how his trousers clung to his thighs and backside. It was all under his surcoat, anyway.
He peered into the closest mirror to tend his hair, and he froze.
The vartari was gone, but its presence was not forgotten. A double row of pink scars outlined his lips, lurid against his pale skin, and they pulled his mouth into a crooked line. He covered his mouth with a hand and looked away. The cicatrices pressed up against his fingers. He rubbed at them, half-hoping it would make them disappear.
“Loki?” Sigyn’s voice was soft in the sudden hush of her rooms, and he jerked his hand away. He couldn’t look at her.
“Loki, what is it?”
He shook his head, ashamed.
“Loki, I can’t help if you don’t tell me what’s wrong.”
Loki jerked his head up, glancing at her before checking he had last minute supplies bundled away in a dimensional pocket. “Nothing is wrong,” he said, but his voice sounded strained.
Sigyn folded her arms and considered him. “It’s the scars, isn’t it,” she said, and when he looked up her expression was equal parts amused, exasperated and compassionate.
He opened his mouth, but no words would come. She stepped in, laying a hand on his breast, right over his heart. “I didn’t see the thread when it was in, and I don’t see it now that it is out,” she said. “It would be hypocritical of me.”
Loki’s eyes caught on her own scar, and he closed his eyes. Know you are small.
Small hands reached up to cup his neck, and drew him down. Her lips pressed against his, soft and forgiving, and he shivered in mingled awe and disgust. She pulled back, and raised a hand and traced along his lips, top then bottom, and sealed it with a chaste kiss. Loki’s heart clenched in his chest.
How he loved this woman.
“We should—we should go,” he said, loath to leave her embrace but keen to cover his indiscretion.
Sigyn grunted into his chest. “I almost don’t want to, now,” she said. “It’s quite a long walk.”
The corner of Loki’s (ruined) mouth quirked up, and he leaned down to whisper in her ear, “I think I can help with that. Hold tight, and close your eyes.” With a twist of magic he drew down the shadows and slipped them sideways through the In Between.
Sigyn gasped, and her arms locked tight about him. Loki had never transported another person before, and the additional mass, light as it might have been, threatened to drag them back into reality. Disinclined to getting them caught in a wall, he focused his will to a fine edge and sliced through the resistance.
It was a mercifully short jump, and he sighed in relief when they slipped back into Asgard. They had landed beneath the grove of lover trees in the Reserve, at the bridge landing. Sigyn shook her head, blinking. “Is it usually so… tight?” she asked.
“No. I’ve never transported anyone else, before, however.”
“Good to know I’m your guinea pig. It’s a Midgardian animal,” she elaborated at his puzzled look. “Commonly used for testing purposes.”
“Ah. How do you learn things like this?”
Sigyn poked him in the side. “Who was it that read my book? And what was that book about? Oh, of course, comparative analyses of technological schema across the realms. How foolish of me, I had almost forgot.”
Loki nodded sagely. “Yes, indeed, how foolish of you to have forgotten the subject of your own book.”
“Watch your words, Prince, or I shall push you over this cliff.”
“A bold claim, but I think you won’t.” He stepped up to her, pressed close to her, loomed over her. She had to tilt her head back to maintain his gaze.
“And why do you think that?” Sigyn asked, breathless.
Loki lowered her lips to her ear. “Because you’re wearing my colors.” He stepped away with a smirk, and when she looked down at herself he couldn’t stop the way it widened to a full grin. There wasn’t any use in protesting. Her surcoat, ever-present and fraying along the hems, was unapologetically green, and her dress was a sunny yellow.
She groaned, then pointed a finger. “Yes, well don’t you think I didn’t notice you’re wearing those trousers, so you’re right there with me!”
Loki’s inner, prideful half preened like a cat, and he pressed an innocent hand to his chest. “Me? How good of you to notice.”
“I—but—there’s nothing to see!” she sputtered. “It’s all covered!”
“And yet you knew which trousers they were,” Loki said, backing along the trail before turning about to face forward. “Point to me.”
Behind him, Sigyn growled. “So be it! But you’re going the wrong way.”
Loki stopped in his tracks and looked around. He knew he was on the trail toward the Midgardian gardens, he recognized that wasp nest and that particular ask and embla. “We’re not going to Midgard?” he asked, turning back to Sigyn.
She looked nervous. “No, I had thought we might see something different.”
Now why was she twisting her skirts in her fingers? Was she truly so worried he wouldn’t like it? “Then where?”
“It’s a surprise,” she said. “I can’t tell you, because then it wouldn’t be a surprise, anymore.” She smiled, then turned and started down a different path, one that led northward instead of curving around to the south.
Humoring her, Loki caught up and fell in beside her. He leaned down. “I could make you tell me.”
“You won’t. You’re curious, and you’re clever enough to realize I’ll never tell if you resort to brute force.”
Memories of moonlight and madness pressed forward, and Loki beat them back. “I don’t have to use force,” he said, and reached out to twine a loose curl of her hair about his fingers. “There are ways, and there are ways.”
Sigyn was having none of it, however, and she marched along as though he had commented on the weather. “You’ll see when we get there, Highness, and I’ll not utter a peep until then.”
She kept true to her word, and despite Loki’s efforts her lips stayed sealed. He reflected on the irony.
The path led them to the north side of the fjorðholmr, toward a cluster of low-lying buildings that glimmered in the lowering sunlight. Sigyn bore to the right when the path divided, and soon they were descending yet another set of stairs down the sheer side of the cliff. The fjord was narrower on this side, Loki noted. He fancied he might be able to jump from one side to the other unaided. Mosses and stubborn lichens clung to the stone, mist rose even to this great height from the tattered surf below, and shadows clung to the walls. An insistent sea breeze, funneled in from the headlands, whipped past.
When they reached their destination, there were no great terraces, merely a spare balcony with a row of doors, each cast from sturdy steel and painted with a number. Realization came swiftly. “These are the coolhouses,” Loki said, peering down the row. He had been here, once, as a child, as part of his general education. The memories were dim, but he recalled the coolhouses had been specially engineered to hold the flora of worlds far colder than Asgard could accommodate on its own. Samplings from Niflheimr, the southern tundras of Álfheimr, and others were cultivated under precise climatic controls.
“Yes,” Sigyn replied. “We’re for Coolhouse Four.” She strode down the row and paused at the fourth door. She held it open for him when he caught up, and Loki found himself in a narrow entry hall, darker and noticeably colder than than the warm, summer air beyond. Parkas of various sizes lined the walls. Following Sigyn’s lead, Loki plucked one from its hook and shrugged it on, and she nodded toward a second door before preceding him through. The door closed behind them with a pneumatic hiss.
Two gnarled trees, bark the silver of Sigyn’s aspen and leaves a marvelous shade of navy, welcomed them in. Blue-black moss carpeted their roots, and clusters of tiny buds dripped from their branches like snowflakes caught mid-fall. Loki looked beyond, and a world of silvers and blues, of delicate black and harsh, glaring white, met his eyes. Over all he felt the intense cold of Jötunheimr. He sucked in a shocked breath, and the air lanced through his lungs.
He felt a tug on the front of his parka, and he looked down to see Sigyn, her hands fisted in the fabric. Her eyes were wide and imploring. “Don’t go, yet,” she said. “Please.”
Loki scowled and pried her fingers from his clothes. He stood rigid in the doorway, glaring out at the icescape. The Jötnar had started all of this, by attacking Midgard. They had failed, and Asgard had whipped them like the dogs they were. It was their fault he wasn’t enough for his father, their weakness that made him fall short of his brother. Why couldn’t Sigyn see that? Why would she bring him here, knowing what he was?
Once more she spoke. “Please, Loki.” She was biting her lip, and her fingers, freed from his parka, had knotted in her own.
“Why?” he hissed.
Her cheeks pinked. “I had thought… I wanted to show you the beauty of your—of Jötunheimr.” She looked away. “I am sorry. We can go.”
“No,” Loki spat. “You brought me here, make your case. Convince me the Jötunns aren’t the monsters we cruelly mistake them to be.”
She winced, unable to meet his eyes, but said nothing, and led the way into the coolhouse. Her shoulders were taut beneath the layers of clothing.
He followed, and they once more found themselves on a narrow trail. Loki glared at Sigyn’s back, determined not to see anything, but the farther they went the less he could resist. It was morbid curiosity that drew his eyes to the side. What manner of tortured plants would survive the wastes?
What he saw he did not expect. True, the flora was unlike that of Asgard, or even vaguely familiar like it was on Midgard—but it was anything but tortured. Massive fans like periwinkle-and-white stands of coral lined the path, and there stood a thicket of shrubs disguised as crystalline prisms, clear and refracting rainbows but which flexed and bobbed as they brushed past. More conventional plants grew, as well, from an entire copse of the trees Loki had passed by at the door, gnarled together until their foliage was a dense mat, to a small ice field dotted with white-speckled black flowers.
Sigyn stopped before the field, gazing across the blooms pushing stubbornly through the cold. Loki stepped up beside her, close but not so close as to touch her. She said nothing for a time.
“People say Jötunheimr is a wasteland,” she said. “They don’t look close enough. One needs to get close, to see the beauty and softness hidden away from the cruel surface.” She glanced to Loki. “These are stars-in-black-ice. They thrive in soil nothing else can grow in, and it’s not unknown for entire plains of them to spring up after a harsh winter. Yes,” she said, responding to Loki’s sardonic eyebrow, “there is winter on Jötunheimr. It is short, but incredibly violent.” She gestured back to the flowers. “This coolhouse is the only place outside of their homeworld they grow. They’re notoriously fragile, for all their durability.”
She turned to Loki. Her nose was red with the cold. “They are not the only precious thing from Jötunheimr sheltered on Asgard.”
Loki shifted uncomfortably, and Sigyn reached for his hand, twining their fingers together. Her skin was chill against his. She sighed, and raised his hand and pressed it against her chest. “I love you, Loki Laufeyson. Despite everything you have done, despite the warnings of my family and friends, I love you. I love you for the glimpses of delicacy and beauty you show me through the cracks. I love that you can say more with one eyebrow than others can speak with a month in which to do it. I love it that you can’t keep your hands out of my hair. I love you, and I hope that someday you find closure for those dark thoughts niggling away in the roots of that impressive mind of yours.
“You are my right arm, Loki, the breath in my lungs. I love you, regardless of your heritage.” She kissed his hand, and returned it to his side. She stepped back, and her cheeks were pink from more than just the cold.
Loki stared blindly out at the ice and flowers. He brushed his thumb over the imprint of her lips on his skin, her words sending waves of heat and chill through him. Any other and he might doubt her honesty, but Sigyn had never been anything but purely candid toward him. Her depths were profound, but plumbing them was as simple as looking through the fathoms to the sea floor below. It wasn’t in her to lie.
He looked to her, and she looked back, and Loki couldn’t think of a single thing to say. What could he say? Sigyn saw him as, as some delicate and innocuous cutting, but he wasn’t. Loki was a monster, in deed if not in form. He had killed, enslaved, threatened; he had plotted the downfall of his birth world. He looked at his hands. They were long-fingered and as pale as the rest of him, though pinking from the cold.
“I see you, Loki Laufeyson,” Sigyn reiterated, as though sensing his confusion, and Loki shuddered at the sound of his patronym. “I see you, and still I choose to stand by you. I choose.”
It was too much, what she offered. Loki considered leaving right then and there, running from her and this damned flower patch. What had he done, to earn her loyalty? His heart wrenched. He drew himself up, steeling himself to say the words that would push her from his side, and unbidden the Urðarbrunnr surfaced. Know you are cowardly.
He gasped and hung his head. There were so many choices coming down on his head he thought he would be crushed beneath them. He stepped back, and Sigyn reached out, her desperation and regret plain to see. Loki raised a hand. “I hear what you say, Sigyn, I just—I need some time to think.” He pulled away, and the heartbreak in her eyes was breathtaking—but he turned anyway, and walked down the path.
It wasn’t a rejection. He just needed to think.