Chapter 1: Shattered
And in that moment I swore that nothing in this universe could be as heavy as the absence of the person you love. ~ Beau Taplin (The Absence)
Aside from the lone candle she had brought, the silvery light of the moon that filtered through the north-side stained glass window was her only source of light. Her tired yet eager eyes devoured the information on the page before her. For days now, she had been plagued by an illness she knew not the cause of. The candle flickered next to her and Sigyn frowned in confusion, the windows of the library were always closed during the cold season. Setting the book down, she lifted the candle from where it sat on the table beside her and stood up.
Making a round of the library, she noted that the windows had remained tightly latched. Narrowing her eyes in thought, she moved to stand by the floor-to-ceiling stained glass window. It was then that she saw it, a segment of the coloured glass had been carefully cut in order to create access to the otherwise sealed library. Curious, yet fearful, Sigyn approached the hole and shivered as the wintry wind, made colder by night, drifted through. Hugging her robe close to her lithe frame, Sigyn let out a stuttered breath, her every instinct was screaming at her to tell her husband and alert the palace guard.
Willing her racing heart to slow down, Sigyn took a lungful of the cold air that was swiftly flowing into the library. Holding the candle with one hand, she reached out with the other and gently traced the edge of the cut glass. The tender flesh of her finger caught on a jagged edge, causing her to hiss in pain and draw the injured digit close.
"It seems death has made you no less curious, Y/N."
Sigyn spun around at the sound of the unfamiliar voice. Her eyes, suddenly alert, darted everywhere at once. "Who said that?" She was grateful that at least, if nothing else, she sounded steady.
"To your right." The voice seemed a little too calm for Sigyn's liking. It bore a forced smoothness that set her teeth on edge.
Sigyn turned as directed and inhaled sharply as the face of the speaker was illuminated in the candlelight. Never before had she seen a being such as the one that stood smugly before her. It was smiling in a way that made her want to run as far and as fast as possible. "Who are you?" She demanded, a slight tremor to her voice.
The creature's smile did not falter. It inclined its head in a manner Sigyn found patronising. "In good time," it spoke as though addressing a small child.
"Then answer me this, why do you address by that name?"
Silence answered her. The creature steepled its unnaturally long fingers and seemed to consider her before answering. "It is your name is it not?"
The breath she took was an effort to remain calm. "It was. I no longer go by that name."
"Since your death?"
Sigyn merely nodded and began to wonder just why this thing was even in the palace? What did it want with her?
"Yet there is one. One in particular who still addresses you as such."
Her breath caught in her throat and her stomach dropped. "And if there is?" She asked, meeting the creature's eye in a challenge. "What importance is that to you?"
It blinked, slowly. "He owes a great debt."
Now confusion took over. "What debt?"
"One that you," it glared at her. "Prevented him from paying."
"I don't understand," Sigyn murmured, never once had Loki even so much as hinted at owing anything to anybody.
"No matter," the creature waved her words away and approached her.
Sigyn instinctively took a step back.
"Once your absence is noticed by your precious Prince," the creature continued. "He will have no choice but to seek us out."
Before she could even open her mouth to demand an explanation, a white-hot pain lanced through her head and darkened her vision.
~ ~ ~
Mornings were his favourite. They were the time of day he always found himself looking forward to. It was not the soft rays of the winter sun that he enjoyed, nor was it the cool morning breeze that would cause the sheer curtains to flutter gently. No. It was her. His wife of two years. The love of his life and better half. She would remain, for a short while, asleep after he woke. Allowing him time to admire her anew each morning.
Sometimes it was the way her snow-white hair spread across the pillow and curled at the edges of her elegant features. In the morning sun, he found, it would often turn silver. Sometimes it was the way her eyes seemed to move beneath the closed lids and he often found himself smiling as he imagined what she dreamed of. Sometimes it was the way she breathed, her lips parted ever so slightly to inhale and exhale and how her chest moved in the steady reassuring rhythm of sleep. It was rare that she smiled in her sleep, though when she did, he made sure to commit them to memory.
Now, blinking sleep from his eyes, he turned and was surprised to see her side vacant. Sitting up, he could see no indication that she had slept there at all. Smiling to himself, he recalled the many times he had found her fast asleep in the library during the Summer months. Deducing that that was where she was, he slipped out of bed and quickly dressed himself before leaving their shared chambers.
It was still early and only the servants could be seen hurrying silently through the golden halls as they made everything ready for the new day. Soon the dark solid doors of the library stood before him. Grasping the handles, he gently pushed them open and stepped inside. "Y/N?" He called softly. "She must still be asleep," he murmured to himself and began to make his way to her favoured reading space. A long couch stretched beneath the north-facing stained glass window. A sense of dread washed over him as he neared it, the couch was vacant.
Rare fear trailed its fingers along his spine as his eyes latched onto the missing segment of coloured glass. Praying that his mind was overreacting, he approached the window. His keen, searching eyes saw that the glass had been cut with some manner of precision; the edges were smooth. Reaching out, he traced the cut with a light assessing touch and stopped when a small spot of dark red caught his eye. Kneeling on the couch for better access, he leaned closer and narrowed his eyes in focus. What in the Nine had happened here? Who thought to enter the library and not the front gates?
Determined not to give into his fear, Loki decided that she must have chosen another area of rest within the library. Stepping away from the couch and the cut window, the Prince began to weave his way through the towering shelves, softly calling his wife's name. At the end of every aisle he hoped to find her, curled around her most recent literary find. Every time saw him disappointed. Soon he was forced to accept that she was not where he had originally thought her to be. But the question remained. "Where else could she possibly be?"
Breakfast soon found its way to him. Seated opposite his brother, never had the strange absence of his wife felt so prominent.
"Where is dear Sigyn this morning?" Frigga asked from her place at the head of the table. "Does the illness still plague her?"
"I wish it were so, Mother." Loki answered, knowing better than to lie to the woman who had raised him.
"What makes you say such a thing, brother?" Even Thor was taken aback.
Setting down the cutlery his trembling hands had been clenched around, Loki met the eyes of his family, each in turn. "She was not beside me when I woke. Nor was she in the library as I initially believed her to be."
No one said anything, each seemed to be in thought as to what explanation there could be. It was Frigga who broke the silence, "was she beside you when you fell asleep?'
Loki nodded, casting his mind back to the night before. "She fell asleep before I did," he paused and licked his dry lips before continuing. "I know she has a habit of visiting the library at night, she believes I do not know, but she is hardly discrete." Here he smiled softly.
"Her disappearance is not all that bothers you, my son," Frigga observed, her eyes searching his. "What is it?"
Loki shook his head and smiled grimly. "I have plausible reason to believe that someone other than Sigyn was in the library last night."
"What reason have you?" Thor asked, leaning forward, genuinely interested.
"The glass of the north-facing window was cut to allow entrance from the outside. It was done with no small amount of prior calculation. This seemed planned."
"Are you sure?" Frigga asked, her tone gentle. "Was there any sign of a struggle? Or that Sigyn was indeed there?"
Loki paused before answering. Now that the question was posed, he did remember seeing something. "She always has a candle when she reads at night," he murmured, loud enough for everyone to hear. That fear he had felt then, returned in full force. "A stub was left, in the holder that she always uses." His voice decreased in volume as his dread grew. "There was something on the window too," his eyes seemed to widen in realisation. "It was dark red, the exact same shade as dried blood."
"Show me," came his mother's gentle, yet firm request. "We must not hurry towards conclusions."
All too willingly, Loki escorted his mother from the dining hall, his brother and father following silently behind.
The library was silent as the royal family entered it. The cold air had permeated the very walls and they shivered slightly. Without hesitation, Loki led them to the broken window. There they found it as he had described it, perfectly cut with the stub of a recently burned candle on the couch beneath it.
Frigga stepped forward and gently lay a hand on the soft leather of the couch. She smoothed her palm along it as though looking for something.
"Mother?" Thor asked from behind her. He saw what she was doing and was more than a little confused.
Loki, who knew exactly what was transpiring, moved next to his mother. "Anything?" He asked, his tone hopeful.
The Queen nodded slowly, as though reluctant to divulge what she had discovered. "She was here."
Loki felt a tremor pass through him and he swallowed thickly. "Who else?"
The Queen stood and turned to face her family. "An old enemy," she answered before turning her eyes to her youngest. "One who has a special interest in you, my son."
Loki did not need clarification, nor did he ask for it. He knew all too well of whom his mother spoke. He shook his head once before he began his retreat. He did not slam the doors in his wake as his family stared after him
Loki paced the halls, his thoughts running rampant. He cursed himself for not believing it would eventually come to this. For so long now he had allowed himself to believe in the fiction he himself had created. That he was safe. That the ones he loved were out of harm's way. How foolish he had been.
Turning on his heel, he headed back to their shared chambers and closed the door behind him. All around him the air crackled with agitated energy eager to be let loose. His nails dug into his palm as his breath shuddered in his chest. Why now? What made that moment so particular? The questions ran in loops around his tormented mind and did little to ease him.
Only when a series of soft knocks sounded on the door, did he tear himself back to the present.
"I thought I might find you here," came his mother's soft voice.
He forced a smile, his hands still clenched tightly by his side. "Mother," he forced the words out from between clenched teeth.
Frigga moved closer and gently took both his hands and uncurled them.
"Why now?" He burst out, unable to remain silent any longer. "Why choose now to strike? Why not come directly to me?"
Frigga smiled sadly and smoothed stray strands of ebony away from his eyes. "Because he knows, my dearest, he knows how much you love her. And-" she cut herself off, as though suddenly unsure.
This caught Loki's fractured attention. "And what Mother?" He demanded, desperation creeping into his voice. "And what?"
The Queen's kind eyes were sad as she gazed at the younger Prince. She let out a pained sigh before finally answering, her voice steady. "He knows that she carries your child."
Chapter 2: Silence
I am not perfect. I am sometimes selfish, occasionally self-destructive, and prone to very brief, yet severe, spells of sadness. But I would fight until every bone in my body was broken to protect you. That's a promise. ~ Beau Taplin (The Blood Pact)
She wasn't sure what woke her.
It couldn't have been bright light, for there wasn't any. Nor was it the sound of some disturbance. No, it was a deafening silence that tore her from the peaceful realm of sleep. The unnatural stillness caused her to open her eyes and take in her surroundings. It was so dark that she wondered if perhaps her eyes were still closed.
This was not the first time she'd been taken against her will. A slight tremor ran down the length of her spine as she recalled that event... the struggling, the screaming, the fighting. All useless and a waste of the adrenaline that had been rushing through her veins. Screwing her eyes shut, Sigyn attempted to rid herself of the images that flashed to the forefront of her memory.
It was by a slight movement of her right foot that Sigyn became aware that something cold and heavy was curled around her ankle. Feeling blindly down her leg, her searching fingers soon came in contact with a band of metal that was attached to a chain. Following the chain, Sigyn's hand soon felt a wall that felt as though it were made of both metal and rock. She snatched her hand away however, when the grating sound of a door opening assaulted her ears.
A blinding white light attacked her sensitive eyes, causing her to shy away, raising her hands to shield her eyes.The next thing she knew, she was being hauled to her feet by hands that all together felt quite alien. Slowly lowering her hands, she saw that the light from the doorway had been partially blocked by a figure. Who or what it was, Sigyn couldn't quite tell. At least not yet.
"A Light Elf who shies away from the light," the voice, male, held a distinct tone of mockery and Sigyn bristled at the insult. "An interesting development indeed."
"You would too," she shot back, a surprising strength in her voice, and no small amount of venom. "If you'd been shut in darkness for goodness-knows how long."
One of the hands that held her, let go and backhanded her not a second later. "Watch your tongue, Elfling." The voice was female.
Sigyn tasted copper and lightly passed her tongue over the injured lip.
"Proxima," the male voice chided, almost indulgently. Whoever he was, seemed to turn his attention back to Sigyn. "You are spirited, child."
Sigyn attempted, despite the tight holds on her arms, to stand a littler taller. "So I've been told."
The laugh that followed was anything but warm. "By your dear Prince, no doubt."
Sigyn inhaled sharply. "Who are you?" She asked, her confident voice now a mere whisper.
"Has he not told you?" The being in front of her asked with genuine surprise.
She merely shook her head.
"There are few who do not know of me. Soon the entire universe shall."
Sigyn raised an eyebrow. She could not afford to show any weakness. "It would seem that I am among those few." She thanked the stars that her voice had remained steady.
"Look at me," the being commanded and held her chin in place with his thumb and forefinger. As he leaned in, the light from the doorway illuminated his alien features. "Your Prince no doubt thought himself beyond my reach."
Sigyn said nothing as she attempted to free herself from his tight grip.
The grip soon became tight enough to bruise. "No one is beyond my reach," the alien hissed in her ear. "He will pay what he owes. You can be sure of that."
"How?" Sigyn felt her confidence crumble, fear taking its place.
The alien smiled unpleasantly and lightly traced the outline of her jaw, causing her to flinch. "There are but two things that he values above his own miserable life," he drew back, his gaze sweeping over her form. "And I have them both."
Sigyn narrowed her eyes in confusion. As far as she knew, she was the only one taken, she had not seen the Queen. "You are mistaken."
The alien shook his head. "I never am."
He must have signaled to her captor, as the grip on her arms disappeared. Sigyn watched him turn for the door. "You only have me," she spoke, her voice a little louder. "I am the only one here."
"It is you who are mistaken, Elfling." The alien answered. "For do you not carry his offspring within you?"
Sigyn was struck silent. The shock robbed her of all speech. They left her standing there as they once again closed the door, plunging her into darkness once more.
Sinking to the cold ground, Sigyn felt her hands fold themselves over her stomach. "I'm pregnant?" She whispered, her wide eyes soon filling with tears. "I'm having a baby?" Despite her grim and undesirable situation, she soon found herself smiling, if only a little. "Oh Loki," she murmured, "you are to be a father."
~ ~ ~
The Prince stared at his mother. It was not often that words failed him.
The mention of his name seemed to snap him out of the shocked trance he had fallen into. Blinking, he shook his head as though to clear it. "She is with child? Did she know?"
Frigga smiled sadly and shook her head. "I do not believe so."
"Then how can you be certain?" Loki asked, his emerald eyes searching his mother's.
The Queen sighed and raised an eyebrow at her son. "Have you forgotten who I am?"
It took Loki a moment to realise what his mother meant. "When? When will she know?"
"Soon, I wager."
Loki nodded absently and moved to stand by the fireplace. His fingers lightly traced the carved stone above the dancing flames. "I am to be a father," he whispered. The notion aught to have filled him with joy. But no joy found its way into his heart, not with it being so far out of his reach. "Oh, Y/N," he uttered the name in a broken whisper as a lone tear fell into the fire below. "What hell have I brought upon you now."
The name, though quietly spoken, caught the Queen's attention. Y/N. She had not heard her son speak that name for centuries. The temptation to ask him was strong, but the Queen held herself back. Her son was grieving, his pain was hers. Never had she felt it more keenly than when she took him in her arms and felt him curl into her, as he had done in his younger years.
"We will find her," Frigga murmured soothingly. "We will bring her home."
His grip on her tightened and she felt his breath catch. After a moment, he drew back and made no move the dry his eyes. "Even if I must tear the Nine Realms apart, I will find her." The unshed tears made his eyes glint dangerously. "I will end him," he hissed.
Frigga smiled and nodded, a hand reaching up to cup his cheek. "I know you will."
A small, hopeful smile washed over his features. "Can you tell already?"
Now the Queen was confused. "Can I tell what already?"
"The child," the Prince replied, a little shyly. "Will it be a boy or girl?"
A small laugh escaped her as Frigga shook her head. "It is still too early."
Loki simply nodded and turned his attention to the snow that fell outside the closed balcony doors. "When will she know?" He asked, his voice softer. His eyes became distant, as though he was searching for her with sight alone.
"When the child is born," Frigga answered, her voice just as soft.
"Then I must find her before then," he spoke with quiet determination. He turned back to his mother. "I'll be damned if she gives birth surrounded by my enemies."
Chapter 3: Containment
"I can't - damn it, I can't do this," he cried out. He shook his head with two fingers pressed to the bridge of his nose. "I'm losing it. Sense, sleep - everything. I look at you, I look at you and the whole world unravels. Give up on you? God, how? You're all I know." ~ Beau Taplin (The September)
"You must promise me something, brother."
The younger Prince's insistent tone drew his attention away from the practice ring where the new Einherjar recruits were training under the watchful supervision of their superiors. "And what is that?"
Loki's green eyes darted over their surroundings before coming back to focus on his brother. "Not here," he muttered and nodded to the nearest entrance.
Sighing in resignation, Thor shrugged and motioned for Loki to lead the way.
The moment Loki perceived them to be alone, he rounded on the older Prince. "You must promise to keep the situation regarding Sigyn a secret. Under no circumstances are you to tell anyone."
Thor narrowed his eyes and folded his arms over his armoured chest. "What if someone should ask? What then?"
"Tell them that she went to visit family on Alfheim," Loki's answer came quick, as though rehearsed. He had thought this through before approaching his brother.
"You want me to lie?"
"By all means, tell them the truth," Loki snapped, his patience was running dangerously thin. "Yes. I am asking the Golden Prince of Asgard to lie," he continued testily. "The last thing we need is widespread panic."
"Are you concerned for the people now, brother?" Thor asked, a grin forming.
"There is only one person I am concerned about," Loki shot back. "And until she's back, safe and sound, you," he jabbed a finger in Thor's direction, "will not breathe a word of it to anyone."
"Are you threatening me?"
"Take it as you will," Loki retorted and spun on his heel.
"Where are you off to?" Thor called after him.
He didn't turn around, "I should think it's quite obvious," he threw over his shoulder and hurried off before Thor could say anything more.
~ ~ ~
"Its so rare to get one of you alive," the nameless alien murmured thoughtfully and traced the slender outline of her bruised jaw. "And such a lovely one too."
Sigyn closed her eyes and swallowed hard at the touch of calloused fingers. "Stay strong", she thought to herself. There were two of them now afterall. "I'll get us out of this", she directed her thoughts towards her unborn child. "I promise you that, little one."
"Don't worry," her captor said, interrupting her silent conversation. "I don't want to hurt you, I wouldn't dream of it."
Sigyn only barely stopped herself from snorting. Instead she opened her eyes and met his gaze. "I can't say I share the sentiment," she forced out between clenched teeth. "After everything you've done."
The alien let her go and stepped back, watching in amusement as she collapsed to the cold floor. "Still hiding from the light?" He asked as she immediately made to cover her eyes.
Sigyn said nothing. Even the cover of her hands wasn't enough. Her eyes stung for days after the last visit. It had felt as though someone had poured salt mixed with acid straight into her open eyes.
"In time you will welcome the dark."
A harsh laugh tore from Sigyn's lips and she dropped her hands, forcing herself to keep her eyes open without squinting. "That will never, ever happen," she sneered, her features contorting as the pain from her eyes seemed to radiate outwards. "Your light is unnatural. It is poison," she spat.
Then, she felt her airway become constricted and she felt her eyes direct themselves forwards and up. "You have a sharp tongue," the purple alien commented dryly. An unpleasant smile spread across his features like spilled ink on parchment. "I can see why he chose you."
Even as she struggled to draw breath, Sigyn refused to grant him the satisfaction. "I thought you didn't want to hurt me," she gasped out.
She was released from the bruising grip and folded in on herself, immediately shielding the life within her by turning her back.
As her captor turned to leave, he threw one final glance over his shoulder. "I do not wish to harm you," he repeated his earlier words. "But if your pain brings him suffering..." he left the sentence incomplete.
Sigyn waited with aching lungs for the door to close before she succumbed to a fit of coughing. As the blessed darkness washed over her, she opened her injured eyes and looked down at her stomach where her arms were wrapped protectively. "I'm so sorry, my precious one," she spoke softly and traced soothing patterns on her skin that was still mercifully covered by the nightgown she still wore. "Your Papa and I will do everything we can to keep you safe. I love you so very much," she smiled as she spoke. "I'm sure your Papa will too," her smile became sad. "You and I must be fighters," she leaned back against the wall she knew to be there. "You will be born surrounded by people who love you. You will be born on Asgard," her eyes became distant. "It is such a beautiful place, especially in the Spring, my favourite season.."
~ ~ ~
Whether the sun had set or not, Loki did not know, nor did he care. The palace archives were well lit with candles and sconces decorating the walls and tables. There were no windows, for fear that the sunlight would only damage the fragile and aging documents that resided within the towering shelves.
It was here that Frigga found him. He gave no indication of having noticed her entrance. His dark head bent over his latest research. The Queen was content to simply watch him, knowing exactly why he was there in the first place. He was no stranger to the archives; as Sigyn haunted the library, Loki haunted the archives. Sometimes they could be found together, sharing their latest find while the other listened with rapt curiosity and interest.
Y/N. The name she had heard him utter a week before. Frigga had only known the girl a brief while, but she had seen the clear effect and impact that the girl had had on her youngest. She remembered finding him distraught and heartbroken in his cell all those years ago.
"She's dead." He had answered her silent question in a voice that broke her heart in two. "My angel is gone."
Why then? Frigga found herself wondering. Why invoke the name of a dead love? Her grey eyes narrowed in sudden thought, unless...
"Mother?" The Prince only sounded mildly surprised. The Queen was certainly no stranger to the archives either. Using a finger to mark his place in the book, Loki approached his mother.
"I should have known you would be down here," Frigga remarked with a fond smile. "When you didn't make an appearance at dinner."
Loki merely shrugged. If he was surprised at the mention of the time, he certainly kept it well hidden. "I have more important matters to attend to," he said by way of explanation. "I cannot afford to waste a single moment. Not while she's out there..." his words trailed into silence as he abruptly turned away from the Queen.
He took a deep breath before turning to face her again. A seemingly-genuine smile gracing his features. Frigga, however, could see the undercurrent of fear and pain beneath. No mask of his, however well made, could fool her. "Yes?" Even his tone was deceptively light.
Ever the mother, Frigga stepped forward to close the distance between them. Reaching up with both hands, she gently cupped his face. "My sweet boy," she murmured, eyes never leaving his. For a moment, it seemed as though the mask he wore might crack and reveal the maelstrom of emotions beneath. "Have you found anything?"
The Prince shook his head, effectively dislodging himself from his mother's gentle grip. "Nothing. Every way I turn, every new avenue I pursue, it always ends the same."
"And how is that?"
His face was blank, wiped clean of all emotion. It was his eyes. Those swirling pools of hypnotising green, that ultimately betrayed him. "Circles," he replied, "it feels as though I'm going in circles. Getting nowhere while that monster-" here he cut himself off and pressed his lips into a thin line. Images flashed through his mind and he pushed them violently away.
Chapter 4: Below Zero
It feels bittersweet to love you, as though time has already run its ruinous path and everything good is over before it begins.
It feels perilous to love you, like a dust storm swallowing up the sky or a comet skimming the stratosphere.
But it is an honor to love you. Like the snow drifts giving way to spring, I will hold you for as long as I can.
~ Lang Leav (To Love You)
Sigyn woke with a start. Her breath caught in her throat as her sleep-heavy eyes locked onto the designs and shapes above her. They seemed oddly familiar and strangely comforting. Shifting her weight slightly, she noticed just how soft the ground was beneath her, her eyes widened when it came crashing down on her. She was in a bed.
Blinking, her eyes refocused on the ceiling. Now she knew why the swirling patterns had seemed to familiar. It was no ceiling, but the canopy of her bed back on Asgard.
"It is not often that you are awake before me," came a teasing voice from beside her, made rough by sleep.
Sigyn felt her heart leap and a smile blossom. Tearing her eyes away from the myriad of greens above her, she turned to look beside her. Happy tears flooded her eyes as she reached out with a trembling hand.
Soft lips brushed her knuckles and caressed her palm, while his free hand gently smoothed the tears from her cheeks. "What is it, my love?" He asked, concern evident in his beautiful emerald eyes. "Why are you crying?"
She made to shake her head and avoid the question, but soon found herself unable. Her lips trembled as they tried to form words, "I..," she began before reaching out with her free hand and running it through his dark, unruly hair. "You.."
"Yes?" He prompted, eyes never leaving her. "What about me?"
When more tears came in place of an answer, he sighed and pulled her towards him and held her gently but firmly against his bare chest. His heart leapt when she wrapped her arms around him and nestled her face into the crook of his neck.
"Was it a dream?" He asked, tracing soothing circles on her back and smiled grimly when she nodded, burrowing herself further into him.
"Yes," came her mumbled reply.
"What was it about?"
It took a moment before he felt her take a breath and pull away from him, her watery eyes meeting his. "I was in the library and some people came and took me away." Her voice was surprisingly steady, considering.
"Did you recognise them?"
Sigyn shook her head. "I had never seen them before. They seemed to be neither human, nor Aesir. Or any race I know of."
"What did they want?" He asked, keeping his voice gentle while his keen eyes watched her every move.
Sigyn looked down at her hands and began to twist them together nervously. "Something about a debt, then it went black."
"They either hit me or gave me something," she explained, finally meeting his eyes again. "The next thing I knew, I was in a room so dark, I could not even see my hand before my face."
"Did you see them again? The people who took you?'
She nodded."Only one though and he was different to the one that had been in the library."
"He was bigger," she started, before a shiver ran the length of her spine upon remembering. "And purple."
The soothing motions on her back stopped and she looked to her husband, a question in her eyes. He had gone completely still and there was an emotion in his eyes that she was not used to seeing. Fear. "Do you know him?"
He nodded and pulled her close again, his grip tighter than before. "It was just a dream," he murmured. His tone, she presumed, was to be one of reassurance. "It was just a dream," he repeated, his voice softer. "It was just a dream."
As she settled her arms around him once more, Sigyn felt a breath of cold air wash over her and she shivered and began to tremble as the cold seemed to increase in its intensity.
"Y/N? Darling, why are you shivering?" He asked, faintly amused. "The fire has been burning all night."
"I'm.." she started but clamped her mouth shut as her teeth began to chatter.
"Love," he spoke, his eyes wide at the sudden drop in temperature of her skin. "Come here," he moved to sit by the edge of the bed and lifted her into his arms. Her skin was icy. Holding her close, he brought her to their crackling fireplace. "You are almost frozen," he muttered, clearly worried and taken aback.
She could do little but nod and snuggled into him as the light of the fire danced across both of them.
"Is that better?" He asked, rubbing her back and arms and glanced down at her quivering form.
Sigyn shook her head. She couldn't even feel the comforting warmth that usually came from the fire. All she felt was cold, a bone deep cold that could not be chased away.
She woke with a barely stifled gasp, the sudden cold jolting her out of the dream her tormented mind had willingly believed to be reality. That her situation was all a terrible dream. That she was safe and sound, wrapped in Loki's loving embrace.
Sigyn instinctively curled in on herself, hugging her arms closed to her chest for some semblance of warmth. Her thoughts flew to the child she carried. If she could not find warmth soon, would the baby, still so small, survive? Her head dropped to rest on her bent knees. "I'll get us out of here," she said, "I promised, didn't I?" A small smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. "Stay strong, my little love," her voice dropped to a murmur. "Stay strong."
~ ~ ~
The last time he had felt such a drop in temperature, had been over two centuries prior.
In a dining hall filled with the laughter and chatter of countless guests, the sound of a knife clattering to the table drew little attention. The Queen's watchful eye, however glanced in the direction of her younger son.
Loki made to retrieve the piece of fallen cutlery but stopped as his hand began to shake from the sudden cold. His eyes watched and waited for the hue of his skin to change and when it didn't, confusion washed over him like the warmth of which he had been robbed. A small gasp left him as the temperature continued to drop. Looking away from his hand, he looked to see if anyone else was feeling the cold like him.
Frigga watched him intently. From his intense gaze on his hand, to how it shifted to take in the rest of the room's occupants.
Softly excusing himself, the younger Prince slipped out of the now cold dining hall and headed straight to the library. There too, he found no warmth, not even from the roaring fire in the elaborate stone fireplace. Standing near it, he stretched out both hands to the flames but felt nothing of the heat.
"Mother," he acknowledged her without turning around. "Why did you follow me?"
Frigga smiled and stepped out of the shadows of the towering shelves. "I know you are not particularly fond of gatherings such as the one we have just left. But your sudden departure caught your father's attention."
Loki sighed and finally turned to face her. "I've already told you, mother, I cannot waste-"
"A single moment," Frigga finished for him. "I know."
"Then why are you here?" Loki asked wearily.
"Because I saw what happened."
"And what happened?" He asked, his tone a clear challenge.
"Your hand," Frigga began, "something happened for you to drop the knife like that."
Loki knew that there was no point in trying to lie to her. Her gentle eyes would easily be able to see right through him. "Did you not feel it?" He asked, his voice soft. "The cold? The bone-deep chill?"
Frigga shook her head. "No. I'm afraid I did not. Why?"
"Because," he started and took a deep breath before continuing. "That is why I left so suddenly. My natural form did not emerge, I was beyond confused and I no longer felt the stifling warmth of the dining hall."
"Why did you come here and not retreat to your chambers?"
"Truth be told," he murmured, turning back to look at the dancing flames. "I do not know."
"Yes you do," Frigga said, moving to stand beside him. Reaching out, she gently took one of his hands, icy to the touch, and encased it within her warm ones.
As her warmth surrounded him and as the light from the fire reflected in both their eyes, Loki swore he heard two words, spoken in a soft desperate whisper.
Chapter 5: Colour of My Blood, Shape of My Bones
"Some people don't know what they have until it's gone."
"But what about the ones who do know? The ones who never took a damn thing for granted? Who tried their hardest to hold on, yet could only look on helplessly while they lost the thing they loved the most.
Isn't it so much worse for them?"
~ Lang Leav (Until It's Gone)
Sigyn wondered if it would ever stop hurting. If the light that she had once loved so well would ever stop cutting into her eyes and harshly slicing her sensitive vision. It began to burn now too, with a harsh warmth that in no way was like the summer sun. The harsh heat often left her longing for the icy darkness that always followed those encounters.
The food they gave her, if it could be called that, was barely edible. Sigyn, knowing that she was not merely looking out for herself anymore, ate it. Even though the dark offered her relief from the near constant pain, it offered her little in the way of assessing her surroundings. In the two months she had been there, she still did not know how big the room was, or what it contained, other than her. She had called out, hoping for a response. But nothing but cold blackness answered her. The chain that anchored her to the wall was short and allowed her to move only a few feet.
It was then that she began to claw at the walls. Hoping to find something, anything that might help her dislodge the chain. Sigyn pulled on the chain itself, biting down on her lip and tongue when the cold metal bit into the sensitive skin of her palms. A soft cry tore past her lips as the cold links tore at the skin.
Her chances were slim, but she couldn't let that stop her. It was escape or death. And she wasn't ready to die.
As her fingers once again curled around the frozen metal, the door opened. This time, the heat seemed stronger and Sigyn quickly turned away, squeezing her eyes shut and covering them with her torn hands.
"Have we been trying to escape?" The alien spoke, his voice sending unpleasant tremors running along her curved spine.
She was hauled to her feet and pushed forward, the chain on her ankle snapping taut as it reached it's limit. Stumbling, Sigyn felt her hands drop as she tried to regain a semblance of balance.
"You will look at me, little elf," the voice commanded.
Sigyn shook her head and turned away from the burning light as much as she was able.
"Look. At. Me."
The pain that shot through her eyes made her hiss and fight to retreat back into the blessed dark. Tears trickled down her cheeks as the burning spread from her eyes. It spread to her hands and froze them in place, leaving her unable to protect herself from the onslaught. Her chest began to heave with the effort to breathe and every breath seemed to bring fire into her lungs and burn her from the inside out.
Spots appeared and dark lines began to lance through her vision, but she could not blink them away. She could not move, save for breathing. She was sure that her eyes had dried out by now. It stung. It burnt. Sigyn felt a scream build in her throat and a moment later she collapsed to the ground, a guttural scream of agony tearing out of her. Her hands remained frozen by her now bent legs and her eyes remained wide open.
~ ~ ~
It was an ugly sound. A sound that no living creature should ever have to make. It shredded the tranquil silence of the Queen's private gardens.
Frigga felt the pain behind the sound and fought to keep from doubling over. Never in her long life had she ever heard a sound such as that. The cold bark of the tree before her brought her back to the present and she suspected, and by the Norns she wished she didn't, who this came from. Pushing herself away from the tree, she hurried from the small garden and into the empty halls beyond and went in search of the one other person who would have felt it too.
She did not have to guess where he could be. He spent his days in Sigyn's favourite rooms within the palace. The Archives were vacant, as was the Library. There was only one place left.
Loki swore that all the pain in the universe could never have amounted to this. Her scream echoed hauntingly in his mind and ceased to leave him in peace. He remained where he had fallen, his strength seeming to have left him. His eyes were open, staring at nothing. Not for the first time did he curse himself for his inability to find her.
The identity of her captor was horrifically obvious, as was the reason behind her disappearance. Thanos. The name of his nightmares and now the source of the most excruciating pain he had ever had the misfortune of experiencing. The pain of the heart.
"If you fail," The Other hissed in his ear. "If the Tesseract is kept from us, there will be no realm, no barren moon, no crevice where he cannot find you. You think you know pain? He will make you long for something as sweet as pain."
A strangled gasp left him. The Other had been right, curse him! The pains of the body could be healed, but the heart, such a strong yet delicate part of the body. She was his heart and he felt her pain. Searing tears burned his cheeks as they escaped his eyes. They had taken both his strength and weakness and would, no doubt, only stop when he begged them to.
Determination shot like adrenaline through him as he pushed himself into a standing position. He was a Prince, he did not beg. He demanded. He ordered.
"Y/N," he whispered, "if you can hear me, I beg you not to give up." His voice wavered as he repeated the words he had spoken to her two centuries prior. "I beg you to keep fighting. I beg you to live." He would be damned if he lost her again.
Frigga found the doors sealed, as could only be expected. She had but laid her hands against the smooth wood when it opened to reveal her younger son. He looked surprised to see her. Something else swam beneath the surface of his eyes as he regarded her. "Mother?"
"Loki," her voice was quiet but steady. With both hands she reached for him.
If he was surprised by the embrace, he gave no indication but merely reciprocated. His strong arms winding around the woman who held him. He had noticed the look in her grey eyes, it had been like gazing into a mirror.
"Did you hear it?" Frigga asked her son, stepping back and looking up at him.
He merely nodded.
"I'm so sorry," the Queen smiled sadly and inclined her head.
Again, he said nothing. No look of confusion clouded his features, nor did he ask why she would say such a thing.
"You felt it, didn't you?" Frigga had to know, his silence was unnerving and her suspicions were growing.
"I did," he finally spoke, breaking the tense silence between mother and son. His voice was surprisingly strong. "Now," he bowed politely, "if you'll excuse me, Mother, there is much work to be done." He turned on his heels and would have headed in the direction of the Archives had his mother's voice not stopped him.
"You are aware that this is a trap, do you not?"
Loki spun around to face her. "I have never been more certain of anything," he answered her, meeting her gaze with his own. "I will spring it if it means their safety."
"My son-" she began.
"Mother, please," Loki gently cut her off. "Nothing you can say will sway me from my course. I will pursue every avenue and every course of action if it means I find them."
"Them," Frigga repeated, her eyes beginning to fill with silvery tears. "Your wife and child."
Loki nodded and his breath hitched in his throat. "I feel everything," he admitted softly, eyes lowered to the ground so his Mother would not see the agony within them. "Everything he does to her. Every single thing. That is my punishment."
"Your punishment?" Frigga asked, "for what?"
Now he looked up. "For failing him. For bringing the Tesseract here and not to him."
~ ~ ~
The dark was back but the pain lingered. She had not even heard the door close.
With trembling hands, she reached up to touch her eyes and hissed upon contact with the damaged skin around them. She felt marks on the tender skin, marks akin to scars. Each mark throbbed and was warm to the touch.
"I have to get out of here," she murmured to herself as she lowered her hands to let the cold relieve the fresh injuries. She saw nothing in the inky darkness that surrounded her. In these moments she liked to imagine. She liked to remember. She would happily drown in memories if it meant escaping the hell that had become her reality.
"I will never leave you," he responded breathlessly. "So long as I have breath in my lungs and power in my hands to decide my own fate."
Salty tears stung her injured eyes and seemed to freeze on her cheeks
"Hush, my angel. Hush," he pulled her in close and kissed the top of her head. "This will be over soon."
"Do you promise?" She sounded like a scared child.
The raven-haired Prince nodded. "I promise that we will see each other again...."
The rest of the memory was washed away by the tears that now flowed freely down her frozen cheeks. If she had been scared then, she was terrified now. Curling herself into a ball, she sought to protect not only herself but also the life that grew within her. "Loki," just saying his name out loud seemed to fill her with some semblance of comfort. "My love," she whispered to the darkness and hoped against hope that he would hear her.
Chapter 6: Take My Hand & Hold It Tight
The lines stitched into highways; the never-ending seams, on roads that are less travelled, dividing you and me.
I wish I could unravel, the fabric in-between, and tear away the distance, to bring you close to me.
~ Lang Leav (4000 Miles)
The royal orchard was in full bloom. Orange and Apple blossoms fell in gently swirling patterns and landed on the soft grass beneath. It wasn't often that Loki came, but Sigyn had asked him to. She had been born in the Spring-time and was delighted that their first child would be too. She had requested he pay the blooming orchard a visit when the child came. She knew better than most that he would fight the healers themselves if he remained within the palace while she went into labour.
"Bring me back an apple blossom," she had said a mere two hours before. "That way I'll know you actually went and didn't pace a hole into the floor." Her light eyes sparkled fondly.
"If anything were to happen-" he began to protest and was promptly cut off as Sigyn pressed her soft lips to his.
"Your mother will be there," she assured him, pulling away and cupped his cheek, tracing the line of his cheekbone with her thumb. "We will be very well taken care of," she smiled down at her round stomach and giggled when she felt a kick. "Your son seems to agree," her eyes meeting his.
Loki chuckled and pulled her close, pressing a gentle kiss to her forehead. "I would never forgive myself if anything happened to either of you."
Sigyn sighed and merely wrapped her arms around his waist.
His wife now lay in the healing rooms, bringing their firstborn into the world. Loki wandered the orchard and at last approached an apple tree and made to retrieve a blossom when he heard his title cut through the air. "Your Highness."
A young woman in a healer's gown hurried towards him and dropped a brief curtsy before meeting his gaze.
"What is it?" Had the child come already?
"Her Highness has asked for you."
Loki was surprised at this. He promptly felt all the blood drain from his face and suddenly it became difficult to breathe. "Is she-?" He daren't complete the question. "The child?"
"Please, Your Highness," the healer pleaded. "We must hurry."
His arm lashed out, long fingers curling around the healer's slender wrist. "Answer me, woman." His tone was harsh and urgent.
The healer sighed, defeated. Her dark eyes had lowered to the grass and refused to meet the piercing emerald of the Prince's gaze. "It has been a difficult labour, the child has become stuck. Her Highness fears for the child's life."
Without so much as letting go, Loki sprang into action and all but dragged the healer along behind him. The closer they got to the healing rooms, the louder the cries became. The very sound of them shot fear into his heart. Pushing the doors open, he dashed across the room to where his wife lay.
Despite the evident pain she was in, Sigyn smiled upon seeing her husband.
Letting go of the healer, Loki took hold of the trembling hand Sigyn was holding out. His fingers immediately interlocked with hers.
"You came," her voice was a hoarse whisper.
The Prince nodded. His heart in his throat. "I'm here," he soothed, smoothing her hair away from her damp skin. "The child?"
"He's struggling," Sigyn stated quietly. There was a hitch in her breathing and it was evident that she had been crying. "He needs both of us."
Loki nodded, blinking away his own tears. "I'm here with you both," he gave her hand a gentle squeeze. "I'm not going anywhere."
Sigyn nodded once before turning her attention back to the healers around them. "Do what you must, the child must live."
Loki's eyes widened at her words. "What are you saying?"
Her eyes were sad as she looked back at him. "There is a chance that only one will survive. It must be the child." Her grip on his hand tightened to underline her words.
"No," he shook his head in denial. "You are a fighter, my love. So is our son," his free hand rested gently on her stomach. "Both of you will survive this."
Sigyn smiled sadly. "I'm so sorry my love."
"No," he repeated the word, his voice stronger. "Don't you dare give up on me. You hold onto my hand, break it if you must. But do not let go," he faltered, his gaze never left hers. "Do not give up," he pleaded, almost desperately. "Please promise me."
Sigyn nodded. "I promise."
The feeling of her hand in his stayed with him long after he woke. He was both equal parts relieved and disappointed. His words echoed around him for the duration of the day. The promise he had elicited from her. "Do not let go," he whispered, glancing down at the hand, which in the dream had held hers, "do not give up." He gently curled his fingers and imagined her hand. "Please promise me," he begged in a whisper of raw emotion.
~ ~ ~
Sigyn had begun to wonder if her mind was playing tricks on her. She was certainly in the right environment for it. With her unborn child as her only companion, Sigyn often delved into the past and the pleasant memories that could be found there. Unfortunately for her, her horrific reality often tainted even the most beautiful moments. It came creeping in when she had all but lost herself within them. It distorted and deformed them until she had no choice but to return to the frozen darkness.
Leaning back against the wall that she knew to be there, Sigyn let out a heavy sigh. There was no point in closing her eyes, she would only see the same if they were open. The incessant shivering set her chattering teeth on edge; she had long since given up on trying to keep them silent. No matter how tightly she wound her arms around herself or how vigorously she rubbed her arms and legs, not even the smallest amount of warmth entered her deteriorating form.
"You will know warmth, little one," she spoke softly, head bent towards her slightly swelling stomach. "The pleasant warmth of the Summer sun. The comforting warmth of a crackling fire on a Winter's eve. The soft warmth of the new Spring sun. The all-encompassing warmth of a freshly drawn bath. You will feel and see it all." A soft breath left her lips as she felt her hair fall to either side of her like curtains.
"You will hear your Uncle speak of his love for the warmer months," Sigyn continued, indulging both herself and her child in visions of the future. "Your father will of course say that the cold season is much more preferable," a soft giggle bubbled up. "I prefer the Spring, the season in which I was born. It is neither warm nor cold, but a rather pleasant combination of both. You will see my home realm of Alfheim as well as your father's, the home of the Aesir."
"Speaking to one that cannot reply." The voice came before the light hit. "Who's to say it can even hear you?"
Remaining where she was, Sigyn kept her head down, her eyes effectively shielded from the poisonous light. The sudden onslaught of heat elicited a sharp gasp from her. Her chattering teeth stopped and bit down on her chapped lips to contain the whimpers as the heat began to attack her near-frozen skin.
"It is rude to eavesdrop," she bit out from behind a clenched jaw. "Everyone knows that."
No hands hauled her up to stand. Nor did she receive another bruising slap to the tender skin of her left cheek. Instead, a large calloused finger lifted her chin. Sigyn squeezed her eyes shut and attempted to turn away as the sting in her eyes started.
"My, my," the alien murmured. "He is certainly taking a while to retrieve you."
Sigyn bit back a retort. The bait was clear.
"You are quite the sight, little elf. The resilience of your race was certainly not overstated."
Sigyn didn't know whether to feel flattered or insulted.
Her silence had clearly begun to irritate her captor. Before she knew it, a large hand rested on her stomach, right above her baby. Without thinking, her eyes flew open as she wrenched his hand away and delivered a sound blow to the left side of his face. Her chest heaved and her nostrils flared. "Don't. You. Dare," she snarled.
The offending hand was caught in the tight grip of the alien before her. A smile spread over his horrid features. "Still some fire left I see," he chuckled and made her tremble despite the heat. The grip became tight enough to bruise and Sigyn feared he would break her wrist.
"Do what you will to me, but leave my child out of this." Her voice betrayed nothing of the heart-stopping fear she felt.
"The time for negotiating is behind us," the alien spoke, standing up and looking down at her. "He was warned of what would happen should he fail."
Sigyn refused to give him the satisfaction of her curiosity of what he meant by that. Instead, her silence hung between them as she eagerly waited for him to leave. A soft, almost relieved sigh escaped her as the dark once again took over, the cold along with it.
Making to draw her bruised wrist to her chest, Sigyn stopped when she felt a pressure on her right hand. A pressure that seemed to curl itself between her fingers as well. It felt achingly familiar. A small disbelieving smile crept over her mouth. She would know this sensation anywhere. It was something she had not experienced since before she was taken. It was the beautiful and comforting feeling of having one's hand held by a loved one. She would know that hand out of millions; those strong slender fingers which were interlaced with her own and the warm, slightly calloused palm that lay snugly against her own. Yes, she knew this hand and she loved it well.
For a brief moment, she allowed her fantasy to become reality. Lifting her right hand, she pressed her lips to where his hand held hers. From her injured eyes fell a single tear and from the darkness that was now her world, came her answer. "Don't give up." His voice begged her, "please, promise me."
Sigyn nodded blindly, clutching at the phantom curled around her hand. "I promise." And the tear she shed did not land on her hand, but rather on the one that held it.
Chapter 7: Of Wintry Moons and Recorded Nightmares
"I am lost without you." What a hauntingly beautiful thing to say to a person - that whether you are off on another wild adventure or in the familiar quiet comfort of your very own home, you are all the same, enormously lost, whenever you are without them.
~ Beau Taplin (I Am Lost Without You)
It was in the dead of night when he saw him. The snow had stopped falling and the clouds had scattered to reveal an ink black sky. The moon shone like a silver sun upon the silent training grounds. A fine pattern of footprints were the only indication that anyone had been there.
His movements were quick and graceful, his slender frame bending and twisting in ways thought impossible. The lethal flash of daggers caught Thor's attention as his brother struck and parried blows from an unseen opponent. Small discreet flashes of green indicated the Prince's use of magic.
It had always been a rarity to see the raven-haired Prince on the training grounds; his marriage to the Lady Sigyn had ensured his disappearance from that venue all together. His pursuits had become purely of the literary kind.
What Thor witnessed however, spoke to the contrary. Loki's skills in physical combat were not lacking in any sense. Every step, every strike seemed premeditated. A one sided dance who's intention was lethal.
Lady Sigyn. Thor smiled to himself. He had not seen his brother so smitten with anyone other than that mortal girl two centuries ago. Y/N Stark. The only child of his good friend Tony Stark, now long dead. Thor saddened at the thought that his midgardian friends had long since passed on. He counted himself most honoured to have known and fought alongside such valiant and courageous men and women.
His blue gaze drifted back to his brother and he sighed. If his brother's wife was who he suspected her to be, then his brother had been luckier than most. Her disappearance had hit Loki hard and Thor had rarely seen him these past two months. It was said that he seldom left the chambers he and Sigyn had shared and if he did, he was seen haunting the library or the archives.
Turning away from the snow covered grounds, Thor silently retreated into the darkened halls of the palace. His brother's grief was unfathomable to him and no words or actions of comfort would bring him any solace. Only her return could achieve that.
Unaware of his silent observer, Loki continued. His practice and training continuing on from every other night where sleep had evaded him. Under the silver wintry moon, he fought his enemies, he sliced them to ribbons and tore them apart. He rendered upon them the pain and torment they had inflicted on him.
"You are nothing."
"You are alone. No one is coming for you."
Those hissed words, steeped in venom and mockery sprang to the forefront of his memory. Vicious pain from long ago sliced away at him. Pain of the mind as well as of the body. His captors had learned just how fragile and volatile his state-of-mind had been, they had known this and had exploited it to the fullest capacity.
"A monster. A thing unfit and unworthy of love."
"You belong nowhere. An outcast."
Those horrid voices. Voices of his past that his mother and Y/N had helped him fight and overcome. Y/N, known to the wider realm as Sigyn of Alfheim. Her words from centuries past floated to him on a breath of winter air.
"I love you so very very much. Always know and remember that."
Those beautiful simple words stood proud against the onslaught of hateful memories and served to strengthen the Prince. The touch of her hand in his had not left him since that dream. Even now, he could feel her slender fingers entwine with his and strengthen his hold on the dagger. The grip seemed to tighten and force the intricate patterns on the hilt to embed onto his palm.
~ ~ ~
The phantom grip on her cold hand seemed to grow just that little bit tighter. Smiling, Sigyn moved her hand and laid it on her stomach where their child grew. The child was still too small for her to notice it's movements. "Soon he'll big enough for me to feel him move," she said, her voice soft; words only meant for one person.
There had been no burning light, but her eyes stung all the same. She found that they would hurt less if she kept them closed. Even the constant cold air was failing to administer relief where it was needed most. The skin around her eyes felt warm. It was no pleasant warmth, but rather one that might be associated with illness or infection. She fervently and desperately hoped that she would be left in peace, she did not know how much more her fragile body could take. Even with the lack of light, Sigyn could tell she was markedly thinner and she was unpleasantly reminded of when she had narrowly cheated death for the first time. Shuddering at the memory, she hugged her right hand closer to her chest, until it rested above her heart. She smiled down where she felt his hand hold hers.
"Hey now, I've got you."
Sigyn smiled at the memory of those words. "Indeed you do," she whispered and let out a long sigh.
~ ~ ~
"Who do you think she is?"
Nebula shrugged. "Don't know."
Gamora sighed and continued to watch the display. The lack of lighting within the cell made it near-impossible to make out the young woman's features. The infrared sensors had latched onto her heat signature and gave Gamora a faint idea of what she could look like. Her father had said nothing of their newest captive. What Gamora knew of her, she had learned from Proxima, for Thanos gave nothing away.
While Nebula had quickly lost interest, Gamora was intent on finding out as much as she possibly could. She was obviously important enough for her father to keep her alive for so long. It was bordering on three months.
"Just who are you?" She murmured, looking intently at the tightly curled figure on the screen. "I don't even know your name."
"I wouldn't bother with her," came Ebony Maw's oily voice from behind her.
Gamora narrowed her eyes in thought and after a moment, turned to face him. "Who is she anyway? Why did father take her?"
"A bargaining chip," he flicked his long fingers in a flippant manner. "Nothing more."
That unpleasant smile was back. "I believe you mean, for who."
"Who?" Gamora repeated, "what's that supposed to mean?"
"It means exactly what you think it means, dear sister," Ebony Maw drawled.
"Who will be bargaining for her then?"
The alien in front of her inclined his head. "I've said enough already."
"Quite the contrary," Gamora protested. "You haven't told me enough."
"Father wouldn't approve."
She folded her arms across her chest and glared at him. "He doesn't have to know. Besides, if we are holding someone prisoner, I basically have a right to know." Thanos rarely hid things from her and Nebula, so why now? Why this?
"Just know that you will find out when the time is right," with those words, the slender alien turned on his heels and moved away.
Annoyed, Gamora turned back to the screen. An irritated huff left her lips.
~ ~ ~
It came out of nowhere. A brutal sound of agony and pure torment. It tore at her ears and made her want to cover them and become one with the wall behind her. It wasn't anything as simple as a scream. No. Sigyn could not find it within herself to describe it.
It came at intervals, interspersed only with the sound of ragged breathing. It was heartwrenching to listen to and selfishly Sigyn began to hope that perhaps she wasn't alone in whatever hell she now found herself in.
As the sound came again and again, she found herself gripping the phantom hand as though it were a lifeline. The sound was something nothing and no one should ever have to make. Hot tears soon traced delicate lines down her frozen cheeks as it sounded again. This time it was more guttural in it's howl of pain. Sigyn's breath caught in her throat as she continued to weep for the unfortunate victim. Someone she may never get to know, let alone see.
It was only when a faint voice echoed through the cell, did she forget how to breathe. It was a broken sound, spoken by one who had nothing left to lose and everything to gain. It was a pitiful sound, one that made her heart contract and threaten to shatter. The voice was hoarse, barely audible, as though the vocal cords had been heavily damaged and were being forced to work. It was full of pain, but the speaker did not beg.
"I will do it."
Sigyn did not bother to try and stop the tears that flooded her eyes. She ignored the sting of the salt on the damaged skin as they flowed down her cheeks. For two years she had helped in his fight against the terrors that plagued his night's rest. He had never specified who they were, but she knew what they did. The agony they caused him until he relented and yielded to their control. His beautiful eyes, filled with rare tears, would forever stay within her memory. The fear in them would haunt her for the rest of her immortal life, of that she was certain. It was a fear that she had hoped to never become familiar with. A loud sob broke free as she remembered his arms around her, clutching her to him as she gently ran her hand through his hair, hoping to impart some measure of comfort.
Chapter 8: Connecting the Stars
The middle hours of the night are the hardest without you. The memories of whispered conversations and our hands clumsily looking for one another in the dark. Sometimes, if I lie perfectly still, I can almost feel your body curl up softly into mine. And it breaks my heart.
~ Beau Taplin (The Middle Hours)
The light of the moon was so bright that it bathed the entire room in a cold silver light. The balcony doors had been flung open and a cool night breeze brushed every surface of the room. Only the sound of soft regular breathing punctuated the otherwise tranquil atmosphere. A figure stood silently, framed by the arched doorway of the balcony, his raven hair smoothed away from his searching eyes.
His gaze was directed upwards, towards the darkened sky. The stars twinkled gently beside and around the moon. A cloud of warm air curled into the cold night as he let out a soft sigh. In truth, he was exhausted, yet sleep would not come to him, no matter how hard he might try. His day had once again been filled with attempts to form a connection, which in turn would assist in obtaining a location.
"I've tried everything," he said, the moon and stars being his only companions. Looking down at his hands that gripped the marble railing of the balcony, he saw them tremble with fatigue. He had been at it since the sun first rose that morning. Lifting his left hand, he smiled sadly and gently squeezed the phantom sensation that always seemed to be present. He liked to think that she could feel it wherever she was. "I'm trying," he murmured and lifted the hand to his chest where it rested against his heart. His eyes lifted to once again look at the stars, "really I am."
It was a figment of his imagination, he knew that. A fantasy that he wished to be a reality. He had not even told his mother, for fear of the look of pity he was sure to receive.
"I will find you," he promised. "Just like you found me all those years ago. I swear it."
The soft breeze that had been present moments before, faded away. It seemed as though the whole realm was listening to him, or indeed the whole universe.
In the night sky he saw her. He saw himself as well. Together they danced among the countless glittering stars, with no cares to speak of. Her musical laughter, as soft as wind chimes in a Spring breeze, floated down to him. He held onto it and pulled it close to his heart.
This was how dawn found him. A soft, delicate layer of frost had settled on him and began to melt as the first rays crept over the horizon.
This was not, however, how the Queen found her youngest. After once again not making an appearance at breakfast, Frigga took it upon herself to seek him out. The closer she moved to her son's chambers, the more she noticed how the palace staff seemed to be making an active and rather obvious effort to avoid that area entirely.
Curious and rather suspicious, Frigga continued on her way. The moment she stood before the sealed doors, a hauntingly soft voice floated out to her and seemed to overtake her senses. It seemed to guide her into the expansive rooms beyond.
"Loki?" She called, her voice soft. Her searching eyes found no trace of his presence. The voice had faded until it hung at the edges of her awareness and seemed to become part of the rooms themselves.
The moment she set foot in the sitting rooms, the voice rose in its volume until it surrounded her in a cloud of eerie calm. It was there that she found him. Kneeling a few feet from the ornate stone fireplace. His hands were outstretched as though to absorb the warmth of the nonexistent fire. In it's place burnt a flame of another sort; pale green flames licked at the stone, small sparks issuing at the contact with the marble. His eyes were closed in concentration, while his lips were parted only enough to let in air to breathe.
Frigga's searching eyes soon landed on an object that lay on the ground before him. It was small, making it hard for the Queen to make out exactly what it was. She continued to watch in curious silence as Loki opened his eyes and lowered his hands to retrieve the object. Lifting it, he began to speak in a voice so soft that Frigga had to strain to make out the words.
"Grant ek sit ór hvat minn heart seeks, enn mega eigi find." At his words, the voice of the singing changed and seemed to be coming from the fire itself.
It was in the ancient tongue, yet Frigga understood it. Her eyes widened as she finally understood what her son was doing. Transfixed, she watched him as his rose slowly to his feet and approached the green flames. The token still held securely. The green light danced off his sharp features and cast them in a ghostly light, his emerald eyes flickering like flames of their own.
The moment he cast the token into the flames, an eruption of sparks followed and he waited in the silence that the voice left behind.
As the fire danced before him, Loki found himself searching for any sign that would allow him to believe that it had worked. That this time he had found something that would allow him to forge a connection and finally find her.
He allowed a few minutes to pass before letting out a sigh that seemed to shudder on its way out. Anger began to boil up inside him and manifested itself in a shattered crystal decanter. He watched with a heaving chest as the red of the wine trickled down the stone walls.
Frigga did not so much as flinch at his outburst. It was obvious what he was trying to do and that he had done it before. She tried again, her voice gentle yet firm. "Loki?"
When he turned to face her, no mask stood to hide the wealth of emotions that were displayed on his features. From the anger and disappointment in his eyes, to the way he clenched his jaw in frustration. "Mother."
"I missed you at breakfast."
A small smile broke his mask of anger and chuckle bubbled up from between his lips.
"Preoccupied with other matters, I see," Frigga continued, her eyes sweeping over the room.
Loki huffed out a breath and folded his arms, leveling his eyes with his mother's. "Until she is returned, I shall seek little else to occupy my time."
Frigga paused in her perusal of her surroundings and folded her hands. "You know I wish to help you in any way I can, but I will not stand by and watch you run yourself into the ground."
"What would you have me do?"
Frigga smiled indulgently and inclined her head. "I would have you take proper care of yourself. It would not do to waste away and be at death's door at her return."
"Come now, mother," Loki scoffed. "Let us not be dramatic. I am hardly wasting away here. I am as healthy as can be."
Frigga raised an eyebrow in a silent challenge. "Magic is no way to sustain oneself, my son. You and I both know that."
A pause followed her words and for a moment, the Aesir Queen believed that she had finally talked him round.
The Prince turned away from his mother and proceeded to open the balcony doors. Moving to stand on the cold surface of the exposed stone, he turned and motioned for his mother to join him.
"I need not explain myself for what you saw me do," he said to her, his eyes fixed straight ahead.
"Nor do I require one," Frigga reassured him and laid a gentle hand on arm, drawing his attention to her. "I heard and understood the words you spoke. You wish to forge a connection, do you not?"
The Prince nodded wordlessly.
"But my son, answer me this," Frigga began, her hand moving to rest against his cool cheek. "Why seek something you have already found?"
Loki looked at her with confusion clear in his eyes. "I'm not sure I understand."
Frigga smiled and shook her head. "The two of you share a connection that is rarely found between two souls. A bond that holds you together, no matter the test that time may present."
"Y/N Stark," Frigga spoke the name and saw the flash of something within her son's eyes.
"What about her?" He asked, his left hand slightly curled as it hung at his side.
Frigga met his challenging gaze with her own as a sad smile graced her lips. "I know, my dear one. I know."
"Do you?" His left hand curled slightly tighter.
"My beautiful boy," Frigga sighed. "You have only ever shared your heart with one other. You do not love easily," she paused, swallowing hard as sudden tears threatened to fall. "But when you do, you do so fully. You gave her everything. Did you really expect me to believe that you had left her behind?"
"When you said her name after I told you she was with child." Frigga explained. "In truth I only suspected then."
"Have you told anyone else?" A strange desperation crept into his voice.
"No," she murmured and shook her head. "I have not."
"No one can know," he muttered, more to himself than to her. "No one can know until she has returned."
"Loki, look at me."
The green eyes that met hers seemed to be light years away. "Yes?"
"You are already connected with her," Frigga proceeded to explain. "Why else do you think you feel what she does?"
Frigga shook her head, gently cut him off. "Thanos has nothing to do with it. You and she created this bond. It was created the moment she took her old life with her into her new one."
Loki simply stared at her, not entirely sure what to say.
"The hand you feel in yours, is hers." Frigga said, surprising her son further. "You are not imagining it, my son. You hold her hand within yours."
"How did you-"
Frigga laughed. "It is time you realised just how little you can hide from me."
"Does that mean?" Loki asked, not daring to finish the question and have his hopes dashed to the rocks once more.
Frigga nodded. "Yes, my boy. She is holding yours too."
"Grant ek sit ór hvat minn heart seeks, enn mega eigi find."
(Grant me the sight of what my heart seeks, yet cannot find.)
Chapter 9: Ruby Tears on Marble Faces
This is me, here, hands open, heart out. I want all of you and then some. I want your 3am lows and all of your brokenness. I want to know what terrifies you most so I can tear it to pieces. I want to spend the rest of my life exploring your blazing hot, cosmos of a heart. I want to show you the way the imperfections, the flaws, that separate you from the gods are the very things I'll always fall for the hardest.
~ Beau Taplin (An Admission)
"Did we enjoy our little trip down memory lane?"
The mocking tone only made Sigyn curl tighter around herself. The tears on her cold cheeks had long since frozen, but now began to melt under the harsh warmth that always accompanied her alien captor. She bit her dry and chapped lips as the cruel heat began to eat away at her once more.
"How long will it take, I wonder," he continued, all the while advancing on her. "For him to come and fetch you."
Sigyn opted to stay silent. Her strength was not was it used to be and even talking had the habit of tiring her.
All of a sudden her eyes were forced open and the purple mass of her jailor blocked the poisonous light. "I've seen how much he needs you," he murmured, his tone thoughtful. His eyes seemed to trail over her face and lingered on her eyes. "And how much you need him in return."
"You know nothing," she hissed, unable to remain quiet when he spoke in such a way.
"On the contrary, my child," he took hold of her chin when she tried to twist away. "I know more than I'm sure you would be comfortable with."
With all the strength she could muster, she tore herself from his bruising grip and squeezed her stinging eyes shut.
"I've been told that 'hate' is a strong word, often used for the wrong reasons." Her voice was soft and it caught his attention.
His eyes roamed her curiously, "indeed."
Sigyn continued as though he hadn't spoken. "I've been told that 'hate' is a very strong emotion. That it is corrosive to the soul of any being that should choose to bear it. That it eats away at you and blocks everything else out, right up until you feel and see nothing else." Her arms once again moved to curl themselves around her. "That only the very worst could elicit such an emotion from someone."
He smiled, even though he knew she could not see it. "You can hate me all you wish, little one."
Sigyn lifted her head and graced him with the sight of her tortured eyes, open despite the cruel unnatural light. The sound that came from her could only be described as a deranged laugh. So unhinged did it sound. "Hate you?" She asked, her head cocked to the side. "I do not hate you. For 'hate' is too milder a word to describe what I feel where you are concerned. 'Hate' is too kind, too gentle." Her lips split as she smiled, small beads of blood appearing on the dry flesh.
A heavy silence hung between captor and captive. The latter of whom had once more concealed her eyes beneath damaged lids and behind torn hands.
"Bring her," he spoke to whoever must have accompanied him.
Sigyn was roughly hauled to her feet not a moment later.
"Bind her hands."
In answer, her hands were pulled from her face and rough iron shackles were snapped around her wrists, effectively rendering them immobile while they hung before her. A second chain was attached to the shackles, then bound to a chain around her waist.
"It's time you saw," the purple alien spoke, leaning in close, making Sigyn lean away and turn her face to where she felt the cold still linger.
"Move," came a rough female voice from behind her.
Stumbling forward, Sigyn didn't dare open her eyes for fear of the light that would no doubt be beyond her cell. With her head bent, she relied heavily on the sound of footsteps and hesitantly began to follow.
The floor was rough beneath her bare feet and the heat that had assaulted her before, had faded to a more humid temperature. The slight water in the air was a balm to her dehydrated skin and she almost sighed in relief. Taking a deep shuddering breath, she slowly opened her eyes. She held back a hiss as a much dimmer light met her eyes. Though not hot, her eyes still stung and watered under the softer glare of the lights they passed.
Sigyn was too preoccupied with trying to see clearly and trying not to stumble, that she failed to see exactly where they were taking her. Mere shapes passed by her, light and dark alike.
All of a sudden they came to a stop. Her chains were pulled roughly, as though to get her attention, fractured though it was. The rough metal scraped at the sensitive skin of her wrists and she inhaled sharply, biting down on her bleeding lips. Despite the pain the action caused, Sigyn blinked rapidly as she tried to take in her surroundings.
The room, if it could be called that, was dark, though not as dark as the one she had inhabited. Light from the high ceiling and from the door cast the room in an eerie glow. The room was empty, save for a pillar in the centre.
Sigyn jumped as the door behind her suddenly closed. Chancing a glance over shoulder, her damaged eyes told her that the female had left. "Where am I?"
A low laugh sounded to her right, an unpleasant sound to be sure. A sound she had come to associate with pain and misery.
She opened her mouth to repeat her question when a bright blue light shone from the ceiling and onto the pillar in the middle of the room. Sigyn felt the tell tale fingers of dread skitter along her spine. "What is this?" She was pleased at the volume and steadiness of her voice.
"Watch," it was more of a command than an explanation.
Sigyn took a deep breath to steady herself and slowly opened her eyes further, squinting against the bright blue. She gasped audibly as an all together too familiar figure materialised as a hologram.
His hands and knees hit the ground with a painful thud, adding further bruises to his rapidly growing collection. His breath came in ragged pants as he tried to collect himself.
"How the mighty have fallen."
With visible effort, he lifted his head. His green eyes trained on the being before him. "I wouldn't say that."
The fallen Prince attempted a smirk but winced as the gesture pulled at his dry cracked lips.
"Then tell me, Aesir," the being spoke mockingly. "Will they come for you? The ones you called family? Will they search for you? Bring you home?"
Loki opened his mouth to answer but was quickly cut off.
"You are not one of them, are you?" The being sneered, "you are nothing to them. A child of the enemy, no less."
Loki clenched his jaw so tight he feared his teeth would splinter. His hands, though heavily bruised, curled into tight fists.
Sigyn's face remained expressionless, yet inside her heart broke for him. It bled for him. Her chained hands tried to reach for him, even as her mind told her that this was a mere recording. Her injured eyes recognised him almost instantly as another hologram began to play.
Chains circled his slender wrists. The metal was rough and quickly left the skin red and raw. The shackles on his ankles had never felt heavier than when they pushed him down a seemingly endless hallway. The ground was rough beneath his bare feet, small shards of metal would occasionally slice into the tender undersides of his feet, leaving bloody footprints behind.
The room he was hauled into was harshly lit with white lights. The floor was the same as in the passageway, save for in the centre. In the centre stood a stone pillar, from which hung a series of hoops.
His attention was soon pulled towards the opposing side of the room. A wooden frame stood propped against the wall, restraints hung from the wooden beams. He swallowed thickly as his imagination began to run wild.
The chains connecting his shackles was yanked forward, causing him to stumble and only just managing to catch himself. He watched in fearful silence as the chains were looped through the hoops on the pillar and secured tightly. His tunic was torn from him, leaving his back and upper body bare.
Sigyn knew what was coming. By the Norns she wished she didn't. Her right hand clutched at the phantom that had not yet left her. She fought to control her breathing as the whip came into view. Her already clenched jaw tightened as the first blow landed. Her free hand moved on it's own as it reached towards his arching form. With each lash, she swore she felt it too. She watched as he struggled to keep silent and bare it bravely.
Soon his back was a mess of blood and loose skin. He swore that there was not an inch of skin that the lash had not touched. With trembling hands, he pushed himself up to stand. His legs weren't much better; they threatened to give way each passing second.
"Don't know when you're beaten, huh?"
It was then that his knees chose to give out. He grunted as they slammed onto the floor. His tormentors laughed and jeered, seemingly enjoying the sight. Still laughing, they pulled him to his feet and made sure that his chains were still secure before moving away.
She knew what he was. He had both told her and shown her his true form. Sigyn had been enchanted at the sight of him. The beautiful blue of his skin had reminded her of sapphires and his eyes, oh his eyes. Where they had once been green, they were now red, as was his whole eye. Even the purest ruby would have paled in comparison. "You are so beautiful," she had told him as she pressed a tender kiss to the raised markings on his chest.
Her chest constricted as her stinging eyes landed on the object his relentless tormentors held. She held back a gasp as she watch the metal of it begin to glow. Her grip on the phantom hand became vice-like as an agonised cry tore from his lips. The red-hot metal rod was pressed to his heavily damaged flesh repeatedly, and not only his back, but his arms and legs as well. A small whimper escaped her as she watched them press it to the sliced under side of his bloodied feet.
Her captor looked over at the sound. It was the first he had heard her make. Her features were unreadable, even her eyes seemed blank as she stared at the hologram before her.
The pain she felt, Sigyn knew was nothing compared to his as he collapsed unconscious, still connected to the pillar by the chains that surrounded his bloodied wrists. As the hologram faded, she closed her eyes and felt a single tear roll down her left cheek and fall on her connected hands.
It was the tear that caught his attention after deactivating the recordings. It was the first she had shed. The blue light illuminated the dark trail the tear had left; this was no tear of salt or water. No. This was something far more rewarding.
Sigyn looked down as she felt something wet hit her hands. A dark spot stood in sharp contrast to her pale skin. Curious, she lifted her shackled hands and smiled sadly when the light illuminated it for what it was. Her heart was bleeding. It had been cracked open.
Chapter 10: All the Colours of a Sunset
I look to her in the simplest, smallest moments - when she reads or drinks coffee or brushes her teeth and I am breathless - knowing it does not take a million dollar telescope to witness the crushing beauty of the universe.
~ Beau Taplin (Telescopes)
The snow crunched beneath his booted feet as he traversed the royal orchard with his mother. The bare branches were laden with the snow that had fallen through the night. The sun was a little stronger that day and the snow sparkled like crystals on the trees.
"A few more weeks and all of this will be green again," Frigga spoke up from beside her son. Her grey eyes surveying their surroundings.
Loki nodded and smiled sadly. "Spring," he whispered.
Frigga turned to her son and looped an arm through his, hugging it close. "Yes, indeed," she sighed happily. "As much as the snow enchants me, the new life of Spring will always hold a special place in my heart."
"I had a dream," Loki began, his voice soft.
"It was right here, in this orchard," he continued, a faraway look in his eyes. "The trees were heavy with Spring time-blossoms, but she wanted an apple blossom," he chuckled lightly.
Loki nodded and sighed, "Y/N."
Frigga's heart grew heavy. "Oh," it was so soft it could be mistaken for a breath of wind. "She was in your dream then?"
The Prince nodded. "Yes. She was," he licked his dry lips before sending a small smile his mother's way. "She was with child."
The Queen returned his smile and tightened her hold on his arm. "How was she?"
"She was well," came his whispered answer. "She sent me to the orchard to distract me."
"The child was coming," he explained.
In response, Frigga laid her head on his shoulder and sighed. "Oh Loki."
Unwanted tears sprung to his eyes at the memory of the terror he had felt in the dream. His mother did not miss the shine of tears in his green eyes and gave his arm a gentle squeeze.
"She was born in the Spring, wasn't she?"
Loki nodded, "yes. Right in the middle of it."
A comfortable silence settled between the two as they continued their walk through the frozen orchard. Frigga quietly excused herself as they neared the entrance to the palace and was surprised when Loki did not follow her inside. She did not depart right away. Slipping into the shadows, she watched him as he resumed the slow pace from before.
There she saw it. His left hand was slightly curled, his thumb hovering over seemingly empty air; tracing invisible patterns. Her eyes continued to follow his progress and felt her heart threaten to break in two when she saw him lift his left hand and press a kiss to where her hand was likely to be.
Frigga knew that she should leave and let her son have this moment to himself. But his soft voice drew her attention back to where he now stood, framed by two bare apple trees. "What is it, my love?" He asked, his voice unbearably tender. "You seem to be squeezing my hand rather tightly."
The Aesir Queen bit her lip to keep silent.
"What has happened?" He continued, holding the phantom hand close. "Your grip has never been this tight before."
A beat of silence followed before Frigga saw something she initially believed to be a figment of her imagination. A second figure had joined him, it did not take her long to see who she was.
Loki smiled at the woman in front of him. "There you are."
The woman said nothing but simply inclined her head and smiled back at him.
"Finally," he breathed the word with such relief.
The Queen watched in stunned silence. No longer was the hand he held invisible, it was connected to the arm of the woman before him.
"I will find you and bring you home," his voice was quiet but firm with promise. The woman gave no reply, but simply reached for him.
It was a scene Frigga had not seen since his wedding. With steady hands he was holding her close, their joined hands resting over his heart while her head rested on his shoulder. They swayed gently together to a tune only they could hear.
~ ~ ~
Sigyn had never particularly considered herself to be a good singer, so she often resorted to humming. The soft sound helped to break the stifling silence that surrounded her.
It was a lullaby's tune that passed her lips. A well known elven lullaby. It spoke of soft Spring flowers, roses in particular. Soon Sigyn found herself rocking to the soft tune. Closing her eyes, she could see it all play out before her....
The sun had begun to set and the child in her arms was a restless as ever. Laughing softly to herself at her son's antics, Sigyn moved to stand by the balcony. "There now," she crooned, "isn't the sky beautiful?" She lifted the child slightly as the sun sank slowly, painting the sky in vivid colours.
For a moment the child stilled, eager eyes, so similar to his father's, absorbing the sight before him. Sigyn smiled down at her child before turning her attention to the brilliant sunset. It was indeed very beautiful, full of violets and soft oranges. She swore she would never tire of the sight. Her observation was cut short by soft cries.
Shaking her head, she bent down and pressed a gentle kiss to her son's forehead. "Will I have to sing you something?" She murmured, running the pinky of her free hand along his small cheek. Her heart swelled as one little hand reached up to take hold of the digit. "I shall take that as a yes."
She began to sway gently from side to side, "I'm a terrible singer I'm afraid, my darling. So you'll have to make do with humming." Soon a gentle tune slipped out of her mouth. Her eyes stayed trained on the child in her arms, and his on hers. His eyes shone a vivid green in the light of the setting sun as he regarded his mother.
Sigyn stayed on the balcony, it was Summer after all and the nights had proven to be warm. Her loose hair fluttered gently along her back and shoulders as a soft evening breeze passed through. A small smile graced her lips when she looked down to see her son fast asleep, his beautiful eyes closed to the world. "Sleep well, my angel," she whispered before turning and making her way back to where his crib stood at the base of the grand double bed.
Loki smiled as he watched them. He had come in just as her humming began. He had watched her sway in time to the tune she hummed. It was the lullaby he had often heard her hum during her pregnancy.
He watched silently from the doorway as she gently lowered their son onto the soft bedding and bend to give him a kiss. "Sweet dreams, my beautiful boy," he heard her whisper. It was then that he moved to stand beside her, winding an arm around her waist and immediately felt her lean into him.
"How long have you been watching us?" She asked softly, turning her eyes away to meet his gaze.
"Not long enough," he replied before leaning down and pressing a chaste kiss to her lips.
Sigyn smiled against his lips and looped her arms around his waist and leaned her head on his shoulder, her attention once again on the child before them. "He looks so much like you already."
"Poor child, I'd much rather he look like his beautiful mother."
Sigyn sighed and rolled her eyes playfully. "I'd much rather he look like you, my love."
Looking down at her right hand, Sigyn placed it over her stomach which had started to change shape. She fervently hoped that her dream would some day become her reality.
~ ~ ~
She had never heard that tune before. Or anything quite like it, it was too gentle and too kind to belong in in a place like that. Gamora sighed to herself. It had been almost an entire month since her interest in the prisoner grew. Another month of her questions being left unanswered.
Everyone she had asked, from her father to her other so-called siblings, had given her vague and non-committal answers. Her father had said nothing, choosing to remain silent on the topic all together.
Gamora had had enough. It was not often that she was left in the dark. Her curiosity demanded answers and since no one would give them to her, then she would just have to go and get them herself.
The tune that Sigyn hums as a lullaby:
Chapter 11: Ally or A Lie ?
Whoever said the small things don't matter has never seen a match start a wildfire.
~ Beau Taplin (Wildfire)
Gamora knew that her father's ship was larger than most, but now, as she made her way to the lower levels, it seemed almost endless. It had been quite some time since she had last been to the detention level.
Knowing the outlay of the ship like the back of her hand, Gamora knew when to hide herself from the view of the countless surveillance cameras, heat sensors and motion detectors. She knew she was getting close when it began to get darker, the lights started to flicker more often and the very air itself seemed stale. It was a scent that she was more than familiar with, having interrogated her own fair share of prisoners. She liked to think that she wasn't as cruel as the being that she called father.
It was disturbingly quiet. It was not a peaceful silence, but rather what one might hear after a scream. It was stifling and heavy, all together unpleasant and unnatural. Then again, hardly anything on her father's ship was natural. The cells she passed were mercifully empty; Gamora did not know what she would have done if they had been filled with people and beings begging for the release that only death could bring. Their screams and pleas often haunted her nightmares and danced at the edges of her awareness.
Not for the first time, Gamora grew suspicious of just how easy it had been to come down all that way, right down to a level where this 'special' prisoner was. In truth, she had expected more resistance from the sinister beings that were her so-called siblings. She had expected to be stopped and interrogated as to where she was headed and why. Not even the unnerving presence of Proxima could be felt amidst the dark and miserable atmosphere of the detention level. Nevertheless, she moved with caution and a level of stealth she did not know she possessed. Her senses were on high alert, ready to acknowledge even the smallest sound or movement that might prove a threat.
The lighting grew dimmer the deeper she crept. The spacing between the cells became wider. The nature of the cells themselves altered too; there were no bars separating the captives from the corridor. The walls seemed solid, with not even the smallest window and the doors seemed to be made of something that was crossed between solid rock and the hardest metal.
Gamora swallowed hard as she approached a cell that was so far separated from the others that it seemed to have a level all to itself. 'This must be it' she thought grimly to herself. As her hand reached for the door, her eyes locked onto a device built into the cell wall. Curious, Gamora dropped her hand and focused on what seemed to be an instrument panel. It did not take long for her to figure it out. Licking her lips and casting a quick glance over her shoulder, she punched in a series of numbers and commands before turning her attention to the door itself.
'Of course,' she thought with a heavy sigh. The lock on the door was the most complicated she had ever seen. Setting her jaw, she lifted her chin in acceptance of the silent challenge. This was going to take some time.
~ ~ ~
The clang of metal against metal echoed around the training arena. Even the cold weather could not deter Lady Sif and her companions, the Warriors Three, from sparring and competing against one another. Their laughter and banter filled the air as the wintry morning sun shone down on them.
"When will you finally admit that I am indeed your superior?" Sif demanded playfully, her booted heel resting between Fandral's shoulder blades. His face, currently half buried in the sludge that was their training ground, split into his signature grin.
"When the sun falls from the heavens, good Sif," came his reply, eyes sparkling in the manner that told all that he was up to no good. In the space of a heartbeat, he spun, catching her off guard and off balance, sending her tumbling backwards. In a flash, he stood and strode over to her and held his blade to her throat. "Do you yield?" A dramatic edge to his playful tone.
Grinning, Sif batted his blade away with one of her own. "Never."
Thor watched his friends from the sidelines. A sincere smile was present as he watched them train and bicker with each other. They stood among those he trusted most, trusted with his life should it come to it.
His brother's words echoed in his ears, "until she's back, safe and sound, you will not breathe a word of it to anyone."
He was at war with himself. Surely Loki would appreciate a little extra help? Even if it did come from Lady Sif and the Warriors Three, people whom his brother was not too fond of. Then again, he had not heard them even make a mention of Lady Sigyn or her strange and sudden absence. Should he tell them or should he wait until they said something themselves?
"You know, with it being so close to Spring, I'm surprised that Lady Sigyn hasn't made an appearance," Fandral's thought-filled words pulled Thor from his own conflicting thoughts. His attention snapping to his friends.
"Yeah, well, I'm sure she's got her nose buried in some book," Volstagg remarked, cleaning the handle of his battle axe.
Sif chuckled and whipped out a specialised cloth to clean her blades. "It is odd though," she replied, nodding towards Fandral. "Usually she's with the Allmother, preparing the gardens for the coming of Spring. And besides, isn't it her favourite season?"
Her friends hummed in agreement.
"How can one have a favourite season anyway?" Volstagg asked, his weapon resting on his knees. "Can't one just like them all?"
"I suppose it comes with the territory," Sif replied, folding the cloth. "Being a Light Elf and all."
Thor listened silently, having gone unnoticed by his friends. For once he was glad of it, it allowed him the opportunity to listen without having to make a contribution to the conversation. It should have surprised him, the note of slight disdain in the female warrior's tone as she spoke of Sigyn's race. A race known for their love of the natural world and for being as aloof and separate from the universe as the clouds that floated above them.
Inadvertently, this made his decision. He would heed his brother's request. His friends would not likely spring to the defence of someone they did not particularly like; it did not matter that she was in fact royalty. She was an outsider to them and Thor feared that she would always remain so. No, he would not tell them, but he would help his brother all he could.
~ ~ ~
Gamora had lost all sense and track of time as she worked on the lock. Her focus was only interrupted by glances over her shoulder, she did not want to think of what would happen should someone catch wind of her actions.
A small click finally sounded and with it, a trembling sigh of relief. Pushing herself into a standing position with a groan, Gamora once again reached for the door handle and turned it, pushing the door open with a harsh grating sound.
The light that followed her in from the hallway provided her with little in the way of truly seeing who it was that sat in the cell. The first thing Gamora had noticed was the drop in temperature. The cell's occupant had noticed her entrance, it seemed, and had curled away from the dim light that spilled in from the corridor.
She was female, as Gamora had expected and seen from the limited footage. Her hair seemed pale in the low light, it brushed the dirty floor as she moved further into the corner she inhabited. Her thin arms were curled around her bent knees.
"Hello?" She kept her voice soft, partly because she did not want to run the risk of being found out.
The woman didn't move to reply or look at her.
"My name is Gamora," she tried again, voice a little louder, but still gentle. "What is yours?"
A heartbeat of silence followed before the woman slowly lifted her head, her hands coming to cover her eyes. Her hands, Gamora noted with a sinking feeling, were filthy and covered in what could only be dried blood. They trembled slightly, most likely due to the cold. Her lips were in no better condition. Dry and cracked, thin lines of blood decorated the once soft flesh.
"I'm not here to hurt you," Gamora spoke, inching a little closer. "I just want to know who you are."
"The light," came a rough whisper that seemed to come from the woman before her. "It burns."
"But there is no light," Gamora explained, confused. "At least not in here."
"It still burns," the woman murmured, "even in the dark. The cold isn't enough."
"Enough? For what?"
In answer, the woman lowered her injured hands. Gamora barely managed to hold back a gasp. Even though the eyes were closed, the sight was still horrific. The skin around the eyes was red, even the lids. Red lines etched their way down her pale skin, radiating outwards from the eye itself. It was an unhealthy red, an infected red, a poisoned red.
Gamora knew well enough what caused this. She had seen her father use it before. But it was no less horrible now. Her gaze moved lower and inhaled sharply at the sight of her ankle that was shackled to the wall; the skin rubbed raw and bleeding.
The woman shifted, moving to curl her arms around her midsection and abandoning her legs. "What do you want?" The question was spoken in the voice of a scared child.
Gamora sighed. "I simply want to know who you are."
A harsh laugh tore from the woman's lips. "I thought everyone here knew who I was."
"Well," Gamora began, "I don't. No one has told me who you are or why you are even here."
"Why? Why does my identity or purpose interest you? You're one of them anyway, here to remind me of the supposed debt my husband owes."
This surprised Gamora. Her father had taken someone's wife? Something akin to anger began to boil within her. "Who is your husband?"
The pale-haired woman turned to her and slowly, hesitantly, opened her eyes. "He goes by many names."
Gamora leaned forward, curious. "Is there one that I might know?"
The woman nodded weakly, her arms tightening around her stomach. "Prince of Lies. The Silvertongued Prince. The god of mischief," here she paused and took a deep breath before uttering the next name. "Loki," her voice was soft, her tone was tender, the affection unmistakable.
Gamora could do nothing but stare. Her father had taken his wife? Why would her father seek to incite such chaos that would undoubtedly follow?
Her curious eyes continued to sweep her form, her attention snagging on the way her arms were curled. It was protective, that much was obvious. But what struck Gamora the most was how round her midsection seemed to be. It seemed almost out of proportion with the rest of her thin frame.
It was the words that came next that shocked her perhaps the most. "We were taken so he would be forced to pay."
'We?' Gamora thought to herself, confused, and made to ask what she meant when the realisation came crashing down around her. It hit her hard and would have sent her reeling had she not been sitting. The woman sitting in front of her was pregnant.
"You're pregnant?" She asked in a voice just above a whisper.
The woman nodded, but remained silent.
With this silent affirmation came Gamora's decision. She had tolerated many of the atrocities that her father had committed, but this was a step too far. She pushed herself into a standing position and dusted off her palms and made to leave when the woman's soft voice stopped her.
"My name is Y/N. But people call me Sigyn."
Chapter 12: Cracking the Mirror
I write to bring you closer. To imagine your fingers trailing the curve of my spine. To recall how the span of your hands were exactly the width of my hips. And how our bodies would fall into each other like words on a crossword puzzle. I write for the raw ache in my bones when the ink seeps into paper - for the bittersweet sorrow that comes from bringing you back.
~ Lang Leav (Crosswords)
Names were funny things. Extremely personal and very powerful to those that knew them.
For hours after her visitor had left, Sigyn mentally berated herself. Why in the Nine had she given a total stranger her real name? What was she thinking? Only one other person knew her by that name, it was private and very personal. She might as well have told her her whole life story. "I mean honestly," she hissed in a low voice, directing the ire at herself. "Why couldn't you have just kept your mouth shut for once?"
Leaning her head back against the wall, she closed her stinging eyes. She no longer cared that it made no difference, the action itself seemed to bring her some sense of normalcy. Small though it was.
The child, it seemed, sensed her foul mood. Sigyn's eyes flew open, her hands immediately going to her stomach. "Was that you?" She whispered, "are you big enough for me to feel you move?" She felt the sensation again, this time a little stronger. A disbelieving laugh bubbled from between her dry lips. "Oh, my darling."
Squeezing her right hand, she looked upwards into the dark. "You should be here," she murmured, "our child just moved." She did not stop the salty tears that spilled down her frozen skin. "He's already so strong." She smiled as his features materialised behind her closed lids.
"I will find you and bring you home," his voice was just as she remembered it.
"I know you will," she whispered in answer to her imagination.
It was quiet for a moment after before the child moved again. Sigyn smiled, "are you trying to cheer me, little one?" She liked to think that her child could hear her, this thought alone prompted her to keep talking. "I'm sorry, mama was a bit angry with herself before." Her left hand rubbed soothing circles on her protruding stomach. "But you and your Papa have made it all better."
~ ~ ~
'Curse the Vanir!' Loki seethed to himself as he stalked down the hall towards the throne room. Servants and nobles alike scattered the moment his footsteps could be heard echoing off the columns and high ceilings. His research had been interrupted by the arrival of a delegation from Vanaheim. The guard who had delivered the news quickly vacated the area as soon as the words were spoken,
"Four months," he muttered to himself, irritation and impatience flaring up. Four months she had been gone and he was still no closer to obtaining a location. Every moment he spent away from his research meant the further she drifted out of his reach. He could not afford to loose even a second. Yet, here he was, all because his mother had asked, nay, pleaded with him to attend the reception.
Clenching his jaw and pressing his lips into a thin line, he entered the throne room and wove his way through the gathered crowd to stand beside his brother.
"I'm surprised to see you here, brother," Thor commented, glancing to the side with faint surprise.
"Yes, well," Loki replied with no small amount of contempt. "It is expected of me, is it not."
Thor could not help but chuckle at the ice in his brother's tone. If it could be avoided, Loki would not attend such gatherings. "How goes the search?" His voice dropped to a more somber tone.
Loki glanced at his brother in surprise. He briefly considered lying, even though that would essentially get him nowhere. Closing his eyes briefly, he gave his brother a measured look before answering. "It's going," the words were laced with a strange mixture of self-loathing, irritation and impatience.
Thor sighed, it was obvious that his younger brother was in no mood to broach the topic. Even a blind man could have seen that this was the last place Loki wanted to be. This puzzled the older Prince. Usually his brother was much better at concealing how he truly felt, often resulting in a mask of polite boredom. No such mask sat upon his features now. His ire and displeasure were on full display for all to see.
Thor could only hope and pray that Sigyn's absence would not be noted by the delegates. He feared his brother's reaction if her name was so much as mentioned. He had kept it to himself, the conversation he had overheard in the training arena the week before.
The lively chatter of the assembled nobles died down as the great doors opened and the delegation swept in. It was a small group, Thor observed them closely as they approached and spoke with his mother and father. The conversation, as expected dealt with the long-standing treaty that held the two realms in alliance. There were two males and two females, all were of equal height and bore the same shade of chestnut brown hair. They spoke in low, even tones, the voice of a diplomat. The whole chamber heard what was being said and waited eagerly for the Allfather's response.
The moment that hands were shaken between the two, a thunderous applause flooded the vast chamber. The crowd was smiling and cheering, raising their hands as they clapped. The whole event seemed to relax a little after the official part was dealt with. Out came the food, the music and drinks. People started dancing in elegant and graceful patterns, using practiced steps to guide them over the smooth marble.
Loki, for his part, was fuming. How much more of this was he expected to be present for? Neither he nor Thor had even been acknowledged by the Vanir; he saw really no point in being in attendance any longer. Making eye contact with his mother, he bowed stiffly and smiled as convincingly as he could before turning and weaving his way through the celebrating crowd.
His grip on her hand had become vice-like throughout the proceedings. It did not, however, abate the moment he stepped into the silent halls beyond. Deep breaths were taken as he tried to calm himself and regain a sense of composure.
Moonlight cast the tall columns in a silvery light and threw their long shadows across the floor and opposing wall. The Prince stopped suddenly, his emerald eyes closed as he swallowed hard. His head was bowed and then his legs gave way. He collapsed where he had been standing not a moment before. When at last he opened his eyes, the moon turned them silver. A shuddering gasp left him, the warm air curling into soft clouds in the wintry air that flowed in from outside.
"By the Fates, I need you." The agonized admission was heart-wrenching, the words tore from him in a desperate plea. With her hand clutched in his, he looked to the moon, who's silvery light illuminated his tear-filled eyes. "Help me find you," he begged, curling in on himself. Never before had he allowed himself to appear so vulnerable where one might see him. Where one might stumble upon him and witness such a display of blatant heartbreak.
Lady Sif was taken aback had what she had just witnessed. Never before had she heard anyone speak like that, let alone one of the Princes. Shrouded in the shadows of the tall columns, she heard and saw everything. Her dark eyes narrowed in thought as she silently observed the raven-haired Prince. The absence of his wife on such an occasion had piqued her interest, so she had followed him, only to witness a display of emotion she had not thought him capable of.
'Who had he been talking to?' Sif thought to herself and why did it sound as though his very soul was being rent apart by the harrowing tone his voice had taken?
Chapter 13: The Use of Sentimentality
I felt you again in my sleep last night. Like always, my dreams of you are peripheral. An overheard conversation where your name is mentioned; a letter in my hand I try to desperately read before I wake. A styrofoam coffee cup and half-read book on an empty table where I knew you were just minutes before. It's as though my dreams are a mirror of my waking world, like finding myself walking down the street where I could have sworn I caught a glimpse of you, only to look again and realize it wasn't you after all.
~ Lang Leav (After All)
This chapter contains the use of blood magic. If this makes you uncomfortable, please proceed with caution. But please note that this is an essential chapter to the rest of the story.
"Thor, there you are."
His mother's cheerful greeting made him smile as he turned to face her.
"Here I am, mother," he greeted her.
Frigga hooked her arm through her son's and proceeded to walk with him down the sunlight hallway. They walked in silence, merely enjoying the other's company. It was Thor, who's curiosity eventually broke the silence. "Is anything the matter, mother?"
Frigga smiled and shook her head. "Why would anything be the matter? Can I not simply enjoy a walk with my son?"
Thor sighed and laid a gentle hand over his mother's where it rested on his arm. "Mother, please."
Both came to halt as Frigga looked up at him, her grey eyes meeting his blue ones. "I'm worried," her voice was soft, laced with rare fear.
The Queen nodded and motioned for them to keep walking. "Your brother is not himself. I fear for him."
Thor soon found himself agreeing. "Her absence is taking it's toll on him," the older Prince murmured sadly.
"I fear it is the nature of her absence that eats away at him," Frigga replied, gaining a curious look from her elder son. "He is frustrated beyond belief that he cannot find her."
This Thor knew all too well. He had seen it in his brother's eyes the few times their paths had crossed. "Why is that, mother?"
Frigga shook her head. "I do not know. But he believes that something is blocking him."
"And let me guess, he doesn't know what?"
She nodded. "And that only adds to his irritation."
Silence once again settled between them as they walked, only for Frigga to excuse herself a few moments later. Thor watched his mother go, his brother's condition, if it could labeled as such, was taking it's toll on the Queen. Thor loathed seeing his mother in such a way, yet he could not bring himself to blame his brother.
He made up his mind, he would seek out his brother and speak with him. If possible, and if Loki was willing, he would offer his help.
Smiling absently at anyone who passed him by, Thor approached the chambers his brother shared with his wife. The solid oak doors were closed, but not locked. Taking a deep breath, Thor raised his hand and knocked, hearing the sound echo down the empty hallway. Minutes ticked by and no response came. Thor frowned in thought, the servants he had spoken to had said that Loki was neither in the library nor the archives.
Shrugging his shoulders, Thor reached out and gently pushed the doors open, being mindful to close them behind him. The suite of rooms beyond were silent. Not even the soft sound of the afternoon breeze rustling the curtains could be heard. This was, as Thor discovered, because the balcony doors had been firmly closed.
The Prince continued in his search for his younger sibling; the bedroom as well as the bathing room were empty. This left only one other room. Determined, Thor moved towards the closed doors of the sitting room. Despite the sun shining in through the windows, a soft glow could be seen emanating from the closed off room.
The room beyond was dark as Thor entered it. Promptly closing the doors behind him, he saw the source of the glow; numerous candles of all shapes and sizes were situated at random areas within the room. The fireplace remained dark and unlit and a strange aroma hung in the air.
As his curious eyes swept over the room, he finally noticed his brother. If Loki had been aware of his entrance, he made no indication.
The younger Prince was kneeling on the bare wooden floor, his head bowed. Before him, Thor was shocked to see, lay an intricate series of drawings. Patterns that wove and interlocked with each other to form a circle. Patterns that pertained to a sinister nature. Dread and unwanted fear skittered along Thor's spine as he continued to observe.
Various objects lay at certain points within the drawings. They were small and seemingly random, holding no outward sign of having anything in common; a hairbrush, a stack of letters tied with a purple ribbon, a candle holder with a burnt out stump. Thor's attention was then drawn to a small brass bowl that sat in the centre of the ominous drawings on the dark wood.
'What are you up to, brother?' Thor thought desperately as he once again turned his gaze to his brother. He saw his lips move but could not quite hear what Loki was saying. A part of him was glad of it.
Still speaking in a language that Thor could not quite understand, Loki bent slightly to the right and picked up an object from the ground beside him. Thor's eyes widened when the soft candle-light glinted on the sharp metal. He continued to watch in fearful silence as his brother brought the dagger to rest against the palm of his left hand, his lips still moving.
It was not a small shallow cut; a deep slice that ran the length of his palm appeared under the sharp edge of the blade. Clenching his hand into a fist, Loki rose slightly in order to extend his closed hand over the small bowl in the centre.
A morbid fascination overtook Thor as he watched his brother allow his blood to drip steadily into the brass bowl beneath. He was not as well versed in magic as his brother was, but he knew all too well what this was.
Time ceased to have meaning for both brothers.
Loki had closed his eyes, his lips forming words that Thor was now sure he didn't want to know. His breathing was becoming heavier as his life's essence continued to drip into the bowl beneath.
The bowl, it seemed, had holes at it's base. Slowly, the white outlines of the drawings began to change to a dark red. Thor inhaled sharply as he realised that it was his brother's blood tainting the pure white. The red continued to spread until the whole design was no longer white. Only then did Loki draw his injured hand away, holding it close to his chest, still murmuring.
As Thor continued to watch, a red mist began to rise and form above the bowl. It grew and spread and began to take shape.
"Loki?" The voice was unmistakably hers.
His brother's eyes shot open as he lifted his head and looked straight ahead. At her. "Y/N?" His voice was soft, disbelieving. "You can see me?"
'Y/N?' Thor asked himself, 'why would he call her tha-', he felt his eyes widen.
She nodded, "and you, me?" Her voice wobbled as though she was on the edge of tears. "Am I dreaming?"
"If you are," Loki replied, his voice surprisingly steady. "Please don't wake up."
She laughed and made to reach out to him but sighed in defeat as her red hand passed right through his. "I should have known."
"Where are you?" Loki asked, his tone gentle.
Her answering smile was a grim one and she shook her head. "I do not know."
"What do you mean by that?" A hint of desperation crept into his voice. "How can you not know?"
"I can't see," she answered, almost reluctantly, "it is always so dark here."
Loki let out a shuddering breath before speaking again. "Always?" He spoke as though he already knew the answer and dreaded it.
She shook her head. "No." Her next words were spoken in a voice that betrayed the fear and the pain that she had been trying to hide. "It is not light," she whispered. "It is poison."
Loki momentarily closed his eyes and nodded. It sounded much too familiar. A lone tear traced a shining path down his cheek as he reopened his eyes. "I'm so sorry, my love."
Again she reached out, not seeming to care that her hand would pass through. Her red hand rested just above his cheek. "Hush now," her tone was gentle, reassuring even. "This is not your doing. Nor is it your fault."
Loki's eyes widened at her words. "How can you say that? It was my actions that caused this. You know that as well as anyone."
Stubbornly she shook her head. "No. Don't you dare go down that path."
"How can I not?" He protested in a voice so vulnerable that Thor, still hidden in the shadows, could almost feel the pain behind the words. "It is because of me. Because of my failures, you were taken."
"He made me watch," she whispered, looking down. Her breathing became irregular as she struggled to keep calm under the onslaught of memories.
Loki doubted he would like the answer. But he had to know. "Made you watch what, my love?"
She took a deep shuddering breath before she looked up again. Watery eyes meeting his concerned green ones. "What he did to you," the words tumbled from trembling lips. "Every single thing."
"He did. Did he?" He asked, voice soft.
"I am so very sorry," he whispered brokenly.
She smiled sadly. "You did not fail," she replied gently. "You did the right thing."
He said nothing. He could think of nothing to say in the face of her steadfast belief in him.
"I felt him move," her words drew his attention to where her arms were curled around her stomach.
She nodded. "I wish you could have felt it," her smile wobbled at the edges. "He's already so strong," she paused, "like his father."
"More like his mother," Loki gently corrected her. If he was a stronger man, he would have already found her. "You are the strong one."
A small giggle bubbled from her lips. The sound was too happy to be matched with the grief in her eyes. "No, no," she murmured shaking her head.
Thor watched, frozen from the shadows. She was pregnant?
"I will find you before he is born," Loki said, his voice strong with determination. "He will be born surrounded by those who love him."
"I know you will," she replied with a small smile.
"I have tried everything," frustration entered his voice. "But nothing seems to be working."
"This worked, didn't it?" She asked.
"It is but an illusion," he explained. "I am not really there with you. I can't touch-" he broke off as his voice wobbled dangerously.
"No," she whispered, "but this is more than I could ever have hoped for in the time I have spent here." A brief pause followed before she spoke again, "just what did you do for this to work?" She sounded almost fearful.
He didn't answer, he merely held her gaze.
"Show me your hand," she said, her eyes directed to the clenched fist at his side.
As he reluctantly revealed the gaping wound, a soft sigh left her mouth. "Oh my love. You needn't go to such dark and desperate means."
"I would use any means, no matter how dark, to see you," he replied, holding her gaze firmly in his own. "And I will not hesitate to use the very same to get the both of you back."
A look of pride entered her eyes, rendered red by the mist she was created from. She opened her mouth to reply when a grating sound came out from the illusion. The pride soon morphed into fear.
The sound of her name snapped her eyes to his. "We don't have much time," she whispered as though afraid of being overheard. "You must promise me one thing." She cast a fearful glance over her shoulder as she spoke.
Alarmed, Loki nodded. "Anything," he replied, drawing her eyes to his once more.
"Once the child is born," she said, evidently trying to hide the rising fear she was feeling. "Promise me that you will love him."
Loki was confused. How could he not love a child that was part of her? "Of course I will, my angel. You need not even ask that."
"No," she shook her head, tears beginning to form, "if something happens to me, promise me you will love him enough for the both of us."
Confusion soon turned to horror. "Nothing will happen to you," he protested. "I will find you before he is born. I promised that, didn't I?"
"Promise me?" She asked, her tone insistent. "Please."
Loki swallowed hard before answering. "If I promise you this, then you must make a promise to me in return."
She nodded quickly.
"Promise me to keep fighting. Not for me, but for our child," his voice dropped to a whisper. His voice displaying his bleeding heart. "Our son deserves to know his mother. His mother who fought for him and protected him against the vilest of beings."
A heartbeat of silence passed before she nodded.
"I need to hear you say it," he pleaded with her. "Please."
"Alright," she whispered, "I promise. Your turn."
"Will I see you again?" She asked, fragile hope shining from her eyes.
The Prince nodded. "You shall."
"I love you," she said in a heartbreakingly tender voice, reaching out to him. "I love you so very much."
His response was quick and natural. "I love you too."
Before he could utter another word, the mist that had formed her began to dissipate. A shuddering sob left him before he collapsed, unconscious, to the ground.
Thor approached his brother hesitantly and knelt beside his still form. "Oh brother," he murmured, "let me help you and together we will bring her home." After a moment of silence, he added, "both of them."
Chapter 14: To Breathe is to Hope
The air around me is thick with your absence. The sound of your name suffocates me.
~ Beau Taplin (Choke)
Sigyn had been right to feel fear when the door opened. Clinging to the memory of the illusion she had just spoken with, she refused to cower. Loki's words, spoken with sincerity and the deepest devotion, fueled her fast dwindling reserves of strength. The memory of his smile and the promise he had managed to elicit from her, gave her the courage and strength not to cover her eyes, but her child. Their child.
Even though her eyes burned and stung, even though the harsh light and heat seemed to cut and eat away at her, Sigyn turned to face her captor.
"Your little one is growing, I see."
A strange smile blossomed on her dry lips. A small bead of blood appeared as the chapped skin cracked. Instinct overtook her as she blinked and almost hissed at the raw stinging sensation that followed. "That he is," she answered in a low, even tone. "And strong too," she looked up and tried to meet his gaze, but all she saw was a purple mass. "Like his father."
This earned her a snarl.
The alien lowered himself to her eye level and gripped her chin in a bruising grip. "Then he is naught but a weakling. A runt and a coward."
Her smile disappeared. "You will not speak of either of them in that manner."
If she had been able to see properly, she would have seen an unpleasant smile stretch his lips. "And how do you propose to stop me, should I choose to?"
Her silence was his answer and he laughed. "You are in no position to give me orders, elfling. Your husband failed me, and believe you me, he will pay dearly for that."
"You say he is a coward?" She asked, her voice softer. "Yet it is you who kidnapped his wife, nay, his pregnant wife in order to enact revenge. Who is the coward now?" Her tongue darted out to lick over her bleeding lips.
"Watch your tongue, elf," the alien hissed, shifting his grip to her throat, closing off her airway.
"Or what?" She managed to gasp out, her frozen and torn hands fighting to release the grip on her throat.
"Or your death will be a hundred times more painful than his will be."
"Only a hundred?" She asked, surprised at her own words. "Surely you can do better."
Her captor glared at her with the force of a thousand suns. With a sound of disgust, he released her and sneered as she collapsed, rubbing her throat. "Your words will only serve you for so long. Soon they will fail you, like they failed him."
Sigyn attempted to look at him, but the light stung too much and the heat seemed to have increased. "I wouldn't count on it," she rasped, her voice rough.
The sound of the door closing was music to her ears. But the light did not fade, nor did the scorching heat abate in its merciless attack on her sensitive skin. She did not dare touch the wall, the heat radiating off it was warning enough. It wasn't until the metal around her ankle started to burn, did she bite down on her lip. Her teeth broke skin as the hot metal seared the thin flesh of her already injured ankle.
Tears broke loose as the metal continued to burn through layers of skin and muscle and Sigyn struggled to keep quiet. The light was too bright for her to see the effects the heat was having on the rest of her body.
"You are the strong one." Loki had said and yet now, she felt the opposite.
"You are my strength," she murmured, repeating the words in a whispered mantra. "You make me brave." A tear fell and landed with a hiss on the hot metal.
The blessed darkness soon wrapped her in it's cold embrace as her tortured eyes fluttered closed. A distant voice spoke, soft, but with an undercurrent of seething anger. "By the Stars, what has he done to you now?"
Sigyn was hesitant to move, let alone open her eyes. She recognised the voice and a small part of her breathed a sigh of relief.
The owner of the voice, Gamora, if Sigyn remembered correctly, seemed to shift closer. Soon, calloused but gentle hands traced a hesitant path along her left forearm. Sigyn inhaled sharply as a particularly tender area was touched.
Gamora drew back. "I'm not surprised that that hurts," she murmured, half to herself.
As ever, Sigyn's curiosity won out over her desire to remain distant. "Why?" Her voice sounded hoarse and felt rough as she spoke.
Gamora sighed and spoke, her voice sounded reluctant. "Your skin has begun to blister."
'The heat,' Sigyn thought to herself. She knew it had been hot, but not that hot.
"I will not stand for this," Gamora swore, her tone firm. "It is not right."
Sigyn felt a laugh bubble up but only just managed to repress it. "Why do you care?" She asked in a whisper, directing her closed eyes down. "You're one of them aren't you?"
"I care-" Gamora began and took a deep breath before continuing. "I care because you do not deserve this, no matter what your husband did or didn't do."
Sigyn snorted in a very unladylike manner and shook her head. "Tell that to him. I'm sure he will listen."
"Your child deserves better too."
Sigyn felt her arms curl themselves around her swollen midsection.
"I may not know you," Gamora continued, not at all deterred by the silence from her companion. "But I do know that no child, no matter who their parents, deserves to be born in a place such as this."
It was then that Sigyn asked the question that should have been posed long ago. "Where am I?"
It was a while before she got her answer. It was a quiet one. "You are onboard the Sanctuary 2."
Sigyn felt her eyes open and widen. "I'm on a ship?"
Gamora nodded. "I'd afraid so. I'm so sorry."
"Why?" Sigyn asked, confused. "Is it yours?"
"No," Gamora shook her head and cast a sideways glance at the young woman. "It is my father's"
~ ~ ~
It was during his rare appearances in public that Sif would watch him. Her dark eyes would follow his every move.
Spring was a mere week away and yet, the good Lady Sigyn was nowhere to be seen. Sif had expected her to be with either the Allmother or with her husband. But as Sif watched the younger Prince, and noticed that once again, his wife was not in sight, a gnawing feeling began to surface. A feeling that perhaps all wasn't what it seemed.
The female warrior was tempted to approach the older Prince as he entered the dining hall. She watched as the brothers spoke, their conversation animated. Her eyes narrowed in thought when she caught sight of Loki's left hand. She was surprised that he had not taken to conceal it with his magic. The hand was lifted as he strove to explain something to his brother and the thick white bandage caught in the candle-light.
The cogs in her mind began to turn. What she had witnessed in the hall those few weeks ago, and the rather obvious injury to his hand now. It was indeed far fetched to assume that those two were somehow connected. But she had to know, her suspicious mind would not let her rest.
Excusing herself from her present company, Sif approached the table where the brothers sat, still talking. Thor looked away briefly and acknowledged her appearance, while Loki ignored her entirely.
"Lady Sif," Thor greeted her with his signature warm smile. "It is good of you to join us."
Loki, it seemed, looked as though he felt quite the opposite. The look he shot her was far from polite. Nor was it indifferent, as Sif had perhaps expected it to be.
"I do not mean to intrude," she began with a small smile of her own.
"Oh, not at all," Thor waved her apology away and motioned for her to sit.
Loki rolled his eyes and made to leave.
"How is the good Lady Sigyn?" Sif asked, snagging his attention. "I have not seen her for some time and with Spring fast approaching..."
"She is well," came Thor's answer. "She is attending a family matter on Alfheim and will be gone for some time."
When Sif looked to Loki, as though for verification of the explanation, she was met with a smile that did not quite reach his eyes. "My brother speaks true," he answered her silent question. "My wife is with her mother's side of the family."
With those words, he spun on his heel and promptly left the hall.
"It is a delicate matter," Thor explained to her. "It was rather sudden and anything that is personal to Sigyn, is personal to my brother also."
Sif nodded, as though in acceptance of the answer she had just received. While Loki had always been cold towards her, this demeanor seemed all together quite unsettling. No longer was he making an effort to hide or conceal what would draw attention to him. "Is he always like this when she is away?"
Thor sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "I shan't deny it," he looked up and met her gaze hard on. "My brother is certainly different when she is not here. It is as though a part of him went with her."
Chapter 15: A Matter of Trust
The answer is yes, always yes. I cannot deny you anything you ask. I will not let you bear the agony of not knowing.
Yes I love you, I swear it. On every grain of salt in the ocean - on all my tears. I found you when I reached the seventh sea, just as I had stopped looking.
It seems a lifetime ago that I began searching for you.
A lifetime of pain and sorrow. Of disappointment and missed opportunities.
All I had hoped for. All the things I can never get back. When I am with you, I want for nothing.
~ Lang Leav (The Seventh Sea)
It was in the dark that her nails, those bitten stumps, tore and pulled at the skin. The burn had been replaced by an irritation, an irritation that demanded her attention. At least, that was what Sigyn told herself. The skin around her eyes had begun to blister like the skin on her arms.
Many times she had tried to stop herself, but the pain was too great. The blisters felt disgusting beneath her palms and fingers. She wanted them gone, she wanted the pain and irritation to cease. So she rubbed. So she scratched, peeling away layers of burnt and blistered skin; her own blood soon coated her hands and congealed under her nails in the cold air.
It was hard for Sigyn to keep track of just how much time had passed since she had spoken with Loki in that illusion. Had it been days? Weeks? Months? She had no way of telling. He had promised that she would see him again, but when would that be? Even in the dark, she could tell that her sight was not what it had once been. Would she still be able to see him the next time they spoke?
In the rare instances when the pain would lessen, Sigyn would fold her arms over her growing stomach and speak with her child. Stories flowed from her, stories featuring both herself and Loki. Stories of her side of the family, and of her home realm. Speaking with her child helped the time to flow past, however quick or slow it was in reality.
"Oh my boy," she spoke, smiling as wide as her chapped lips would allow. "If you are to take after your father in any sense, you will fall in love with the royal library on Asgard. Books and scrolls covering every topic known to the Aesir. The shelves are built from the sturdiest timber and their contents are well taken care of by the palace librarian," her voice grew soft as she fondly remembered her favourite room in the palace. "Your father would sometimes come up from the archives," she continued, tracing soothing circles on her stomach and giggled when the baby kicked. "And bring with him a particular piece of information that he would then read to me while we sat beneath the only stained-glass window in the entire library." She paused, a gentle smile forming at the memory. "I would always lie my head in his lap while he read, and he would comb his fingers through my hair-" a small giggle bubble up and cut her off.
"There was one time," she continued, grinning into the dark. "Both of us were in the library and the sun had long since set. Your father had been reading to me. I had, at some point, fallen asleep and so had your father." Sigyn cast her eyes down to her swollen stomach and cradled it. "It wasn't until the Queen had come into the library, looking for us, and essentially waking us up, that we realised that we had missed not only dinner, but rather the reception feast for the King and Queen of Vanaheim." Sigyn grinned at the memory of being shaken awake by her mother-in-law.
"Come on, you two," Frigga whispered, shaking both of them by the shoulders.
Blinking, Sigyn looked around and started upon seeing the Queen only a few inches away. "Allmother?" She asked, her voice rough with sleep.
At the same time, Loki seemed to register who it was as well, "mother?"
"Yes, my son," the Queen answered, her voice a little louder this time. A smile was threatening the edges of her mouth as she watched the clearly confused couple before her.
"Did something happen?" Loki asked.
Equally curious, Sigyn sat up and looked to the Queen.
"Did something happen?" Frigga repeated, looking between the two. It wasn't like either of them to forget an occasion such as this. "We missed you both at dinner."
"Dinner?" Sigyn repeated, looking shocked at the mention of the time.
"I'm sure you made our apologies to father?" Loki asked, looking hopeful.
Frigga nodded and struggled to keep from outright smirking. "And to their Majesties as well."
The silence that followed was deafening.
Loki and Sigyn both looked at each other then back at Frigga. "Their Majesties?" They asked in unison.
The Aesir Queen nodded. "Why of course. Surely you had not forgotten that the King and Queen of Vanaheim were to be our guests this evening?"
"I think that was the only time I have seen your father at a loss for words," Sigyn chuckled, running a hand over where the baby was. "Neither of us so much as showed our faces while they were there. The Allfather wasn't too happy with our lack of appearance, but that hardly mattered to your father. Your uncle saw fit to tease us for months after."
A wistful sigh left her lips. There would be more times like that, many more.
"You know," she spoke, a thoughtful expression entering her eyes. "I don't even know when I'll get to meet you. So much time has passed since I first discovered that you even existed. You're getting so big," she smiled downwards. "So I can only guess."
The sound of the door opening had her covering her stomach and turning away in anticipation of the heat that would no doubt follow soon after. But no such feeling came. The darkness remained, but the cold seemed to lessen.
Despite her curiosity, Sigyn remained silent.
"By all the Moons in the Universe," came a quiet familiar voice. Gamora.
It was a voice that Sigyn, in spite of herself, had come to like and associate with something akin to kindness.
Gamora shifted closer and inhaled sharply as her keen eyes took in the appearance of the woman before her. She was heavily pregnant, her skinny blistered arms were wrapped protectively around her stomach. Yet it was her face that had elicited the gasp. The skin surrounding her eyes was not only red, but raw. Dried and congealed blood coated the skin around the injuries. Half-destroyed blisters littered the once unblemished skin. She had done this, Gamora realised in horror. The light and heat must have driven her to do this to herself.
"Your face," she murmured, "did you do this?"
Sigyn shied away. The curtain of her long hair shielding her. "It hurts," she admitted in a broken whisper.
Gamora sighed. A strange mixture of sympathy and guilt flooded through her. She could not delay any longer. The sooner she got this young woman out, the better. From mere sight alone, she appeared to be very close to giving birth. Gamora knew she had to get her out before the child was born. She shuddered to think of what her father would do if he knew just how close the young woman was.
"I need you to trust me."
Sigyn's head whipped 'round. "What?"
"Your child is coming," Gamora explained, gaining the woman's full attention.
A beat of silence passed before she spoke, her voice quiet and laced with uncertainty. "How can you know?"
"Then how come I do not?"
"You are in the dark," Gamora replied, "you cannot see, only feel."
Sigyn licked her lips. "How much longer? Do you know?"
Gamora shook her head. "I can only guess, as I assume, can you."
"Do I have your trust?" Gamora repeated her earlier question, her tone bordering on urgent.
"Because I doubt you would want your child to be born in this hellhole."
Sigyn did not answer right away. Was she dreaming? Was this another elaborate hallucination that her tormented mind had conjured up? "Is this a trick?"
It was indeed very easy to see why she had come to such a conclusion. Secluded in the cold darkness, with no one but her unborn child for company, with the rare and unwelcome exception of the titan that had taken her captive.
"It is no trick," Gamora said and laid a gentle hand on the young woman's left forearm. "I have stood by for far too long."
Sigyn hardly dared believe what she was hearing. "You- you can get me out of this place?" The hope in her voice was fragile and it shone from her eyes like the weak winter sun.
"I can," Gamora replied, smiling slightly. "I will."
"Very soon," Gamora promised. "I swear."
Sigyn hardly registered the departure of her companion. A haze surrounded her. A haze of disbelief that threatened to overcome her. After so long, was she finally allowed to hope again? Tears of joy soon spilled down her cheeks and onto her hands where they rested on her stomach. A shuddering gasp left her as reality came crashing down around her.
"Oh my heart," she whispered, "my darling one. I am coming hom-" she was cut off as a sharp pain tore through her and she felt something drip steadily down the inside of her thighs.
~ ~ ~
"This is going to end in disaster. This plan of yours."
Loki glared at his brother. "How very optimistic of you."
"All I am saying is," Thor sighed and ran a hand down his face in exasperation. "Would it not be better if we consulted mother? I do believe she would be able to help us."
"Us?" Loki repeated, "there is no us."
"If you think I am going to let you do this alone," Thor replied, crossing his arms over his chest. "Then, dear brother, I have news for you."
Loki narrowed his eyes into slits and Thor was briefly reminded of a serpent. "Thor, this is a delicate matter. If I even get a tiny part of it wrong..." his voice trailed into silence, his narrowed eyes going distant.
"You know how mother feels about dark magic," Thor tried again.
"Dark magic?" Loki asked, "who said anything about dark magic?"
Thor leveled a look at his brother that seemed to say, 'go ahead and lie. I dare you.'
Loki, for his part, remained silent. He knew full-well what his brother was referring to. It surprised him that Thor had even been aware of it. For four months he had tried to reach her again, but each time remained unsuccessful. His mind had started going in dangerous directions.
"Do you even know where she is?" Thor's question pulled him from his reminiscing.
"I have a suspicion," came the quiet answer.
"Then there is certainly no way I am letting you do this alone," Thor stated. "Let us bring help."
"Help?" Loki spat the word as though it were poison. "I do not need help."
"Brother, please. See reason. If you go charging in on your own, the chances of you ending up dead are very high."
Loki rolled his eyes and turned on his heels, only to be closely followed by the older Prince. "Brother please. I beg of you."
"If she is where I suspect," Loki stopped walking and turned to face his brother. His eyes were haunted as they met his brother's blue gaze. "Then we will need no small amount of stealth."
"Where do you believe she is?"
It took Loki a moment to answer his brother. But when he did, he spoke in a voice that was foreign to Thor. So vulnerable did he sound, "on his ship. Away from the light." The words tumbled from his lips as his eyes took on a hunted look and his hands began to tremble. "His light burns."
"Brother," Thor spoke gently, "how might you know of this?"
Loki simply blinked and shook himself as though waking from a dream. The eyes that locked with Thor's betrayed no hint of the horrific memories that had flashed before his eyes. "I know, because I was there. I was once subjected the poison he calls light. I felt it burn and eat away at my skin."
Silence followed his statement.
"I will not let you go alone to face him. Not after what you have suffered at his hand."
Loki only laughed. But there was no warmth or joy in the sound. It was a desolate sound, harsh and grating. "I will not trust the wellbeing of my wife into the hands of those that do not care for her."
"Then we will simply find those that do."
"Come again?" Loki asked, confused at his brother's vague reply.
"There are those, one in particular who would fight for her ensured safety," Thor paused and looked his brother in the eye. "And that of her child."
Loki openly stared at his older sibling.
"Yes, brother. I know."
Swallowing hard, the younger Prince nodded. "Well then. Who is this mystery person you suggest would help us?"
Thor grinned. "Friends of mine."
Loki groaned, "excellent. I'm sure they'll be leaping to help."
"There is only one problem."
Loki lifted an elegantly shaped brow, "only one?"
Ignoring his brother, Thor continued. "We will have to travel back."
"Travel back?" Loki asked, worried as to where this plan was headed. "Travel back in time, you mean?"
Thor nodded. "Precisely."
Loki took a deep breath and narrowed his eyes at his brother. "How far back are we planning to go exactly?"
"Two centuries," Thor replied, almost immediately.
Loki paled. The pieces falling together in his mind. His brother couldn't possibly be suggesting they ask them? "And who will we be looking for?" He hoped and prayed he was wrong. "I can't imagine anyone from that long ago will be willing to help me."
"You are quite right brother," Thor said, winking. "But they will be willing to help her."
At his side, he felt his left hand curl just that little bit tighter around hers. "And why is that?"
Thor looked at his brother with surprise clear in his blue eyes. "I'm surprised you haven't figured it out yet brother."
"Oh I have," Loki bit out. "I was just hoping to be wrong."
"I know who she is, brother, who she really is."
"Do you now?"
Thor nodded, smiling grimly. "I am positive that once we tell Stark what has transpired, he will be more than willing to assist."
"Oh yes," Loki agreed mockingly. "I'm sure he'll be thrilled to know that his daughter was reincarnated and then married to me, only then to be abducted while pregnant with my child."
"Will you relax, brother? I'm sure he will understand."
Loki nodded, not believing a word his brother had said. "I do not recall Stark being the understanding type."
"Maybe only where you are concerned," Thor conceded with a grin. "You must leave the talking to me, once we arrive."
"Gladly, the sooner we leave, the better."
"You agree then?" Thor asked, disbelieving.
Loki sighed and rolled his eyes. "If it will shut you up and bring her home."
Chapter 16: My Sweet Summer Child
It was all I wanted for the longest time - to open my eyes and see you there. To stretch out my hand and touch the soft, yielding warmth of your skin. But now I have learned the secret of distance. Now I know being close to you was never about the proximity.
~ Lang Leav (Distance)
Y-B-D : Your Birth Date
It was excruciating. Unlike anything she had ever felt before. It seemed to tear through her, and leave no part of her untouched. She wanted nothing more than to curl up in a ball and wait for it to pass.
By the Norns, she had tried to keep quiet. 'Is it supposed to hurt this much?' Sigyn thought frantically to herself. Another spasm of pain ripped through her and she clamped her lips together and clenched her jaw as tight as she could. She could not permit even the smallest whimper to escape, lest her captors should catch wind of what was happening.
The nails of her left hand dug into the ruined skin of her palm, while the fingers of the right curled claw-like around the phantom. Sigyn knew what was happening, she had been told at length by her mother, who had omitted no detail.
"I'm so sorry, baby," the words came out in a pained whisper as tears slid down her poisoned skin. "I'm so sorry." So wretched did she feel. Here she was, breaking the first promise she had made to her child.
A shuddering gasp left her despite her efforts. The pain was getting worse every time it came. At first it been far between, now the spasms seemed to be moving closer together.
"Hold on, my darling," she bit out, "we will get through this together." Indeed they would and once the child was born, Sigyn would be damned if they tried to take the child from her.
Sigyn remembered seeing her mother pace while in the early stages of labor with her younger sister. Her mother would talk to whomever was there as a way of distracting herself from the pain. But Sigyn did not have the strength to walk, let alone stand.
"Mother, help me," she whispered into the dark. "Please. I'm so afraid and it hurts so much-" her voice broke on the last word and crumbled into silence. She had always imagined her mother would be there, right beside her. Never had Sigyn imagined the situation she was in now, what sane person would? She always thought she would be surrounded by healers and warm comforting light as she brought her first-born into the world, not this. Not the cold, oppressing darkness that had been her only relief from the cruelty of her captors.
"It was my actions that caused this." Loki's words of self-loathing and blame filtered through the darkness and to her ears.
She shook her head as she had then. Then she spoke, quietly, as though he was there before her. "I do not blame you, my love. I have never blamed you. You did not wish for this, nor did you will it to happen."
She felt her nails break the flesh of her palm as the pain washed over her again.
~ ~ ~
Earth. Midgard. It was much the same as the last time he had been there. The fact that they had traveled back two hundred years was not lost on him. Thor stood beside him as they looked over a grassy hill. Just below them stood a small group of people, they seemed to be huddled around something.
Had it not been for the python-grip on his left hand, Loki would have huffed and rolled his eyes in annoyance. Time was slipping through his fingers like sand through an hourglass.
Wordlessly, Loki followed the older Prince. Together they made their way down the grassy slope and towards the group; some were slipping away, until only two were left.
Upon seeing who they were, Loki slowed his pace. His efforts, it seemed, were for nought.
"Stark?" Thor all but announced their presence.
Tony, along with Pepper who stood beside him, turned to face the newcomer. "Thor?"
"Indeed," Thor nodded to both and made to announce his brother, when Tony caught sight of him.
Loki smiled. But no malice was etched into the expression, but neither was it warm. This was her father. Had been her father. "Yes. Me," he stated, his voice void of any emotion.
"What in seven hells is he doing here?" Tony rounded on Thor, jabbing a finger in the younger Prince's direction.
"It is a most complicated matter," Thor began and cut himself off as he saw a small group amass behind Tony and Pepper. "My friends," he acknowledged them before continuing. "We are in need of your assistance."
"There is no way, I am helping him," Clint sneered, his narrowed eyes focused on Loki, who merely rolled his eyes and proceeded to look spectacularly bored.
Wordlessly agreeing, Natasha stepped up beside her friend and folded her arms across her chest.
Thor sighed. Truth be told, this resistance had been expected. His eyes swept over the crowd and saw faces he did not recognise.
"Please," came Pepper's soft but authoritative voice. "Let's just hear what he has to say."
As Thor spoke, Loki's attention was diverted to what stood behind Stark and his wife. Her mother. His vision threatened to dissolve as he realised what it was. A gravestone. He remained rooted to the spot as his eyes devoured the information carved into the flawless white marble.
Y-B-D - 22 November 2013
Beloved daughter. Forever in our hearts.
Even though he knew her to be alive, in this timeline she wasn't. A vicious pain lanced through his heart and he squeezed her hand that existed as a phantom in his. His brother's words were drowned out as the blood rushed through his ears. The grief he had felt then, resurfaced in full force and he struggled to remain upright. It threatened to bowl him over, would see him collapse under the weight of the past and could, Norns forbid, become the future.
No. He shook his head. She would live this time. As would their child. He would fight tooth and nail to have what he had been denied for so long, happiness and a family of his own.
Even Clint was surprised at how quiet Loki had been for the duration of Thor's speech. Shooting a glance at Wanda who stood to his right, he saw her staring at the Prince with something akin to empathy in her eyes. Following her gaze, he saw that Loki's eyes and attention were directed to something behind Tony. Ah. The grave. Her grave.
The sheer grief and agony in the Prince's green eyes shocked the archer. His jaw appeared to be clenched rather tightly and his lips were pressed together in a thin line. A lone tear traced a shining path down his cheek and glistened in the morning sun.
~ ~ ~
It was getting harder to remain quiet. Sigyn was positive that her bottom lip was in shreds by now. She had no inkling of how much time had passed since it all began. The pain seemed to be never ending and for once, the pain in her eyes, seemed to be nonexistent.
"Come now, darling," she whimpered, "try to make this a little easier on me, will you?"
In answer, the pain only got worse and seemed to sear every nerve ending she possessed. Stars shot across her vision and her spine seemed to gain a mind of it's own as it bent in ways Sigyn thought unnatural.
"Something tells me that you will be born during the Summer months," she ground out. "I suppose it is only right that you will born into the warmth you were denied here."
Her left hand, unclenching despite the pain, came to rest on her stomach. "How much longer, my heart? How much longer until I hold you in my arms?"
Then came a bolt of pain so intense that Sigyn felt her lips fly open and heard his name tear itself free from her throat. The sound echoed around her and seemed to bounced back off the invisible walls.
~ ~ ~
The sheer agony in the voice was enough to drive him to his knees. The grip on his left hand had only tightened and now he knew why. The child was coming. He was running out of time quicker than he thought.
"Brother?" Thor's concerned tone drew him from his thoughts. Thor was taken aback at the look in his brother's eyes. Even more so by the sudden way he had collapsed to his knees without warning. "Brother what is it?" For a moment, the Avengers that stood in shocked silence behind him, seemed to fade away.
"It's her," he whispered in a pained voice.
"What about her?" Thor asked, confused.
"The child is coming."
These words, though quietly spoken, drew the attention of the Avengers. "Child?" Steve asked, clearly voicing the thoughts of the small group. "What child?"
Loki fixed the Super Soldier with a look that was something between exasperation and a plea. "My child."
"Wait," Clint held up a hand. "Hold up. You not only managed to get married, but now you have a kid too?"
Loki nodded wearily. Her voice ringing in his ears.
"Give us one good reason why we should help you?"
Loki shot his brother a look before pushing himself to his feet and lifting his chin. "Because the child she carries is not only mine," here he paused and looked Tony in the eye. "But Stark's grandchild as well."
~ ~ ~
She no longer cared who heard her. The screams tore from her throat as she began to push her child into the world of the living. Sweat ran down her neck and back in streams and stung the abused skin around her eyes.
Sigyn knew there'd be blood. If there had been light, she would have seen it, not just felt its presence as it coated the inside of her thighs and the tattered remains of her nightgown.
Her throat was raw and the screams and whimpers began to sound hoarse and rough. Yet, little by little, she felt her child emerge from within her. This alone gave her the courage to continue. Would it be a boy like she had so often fantasized, or would it be a girl? A girl who would no doubt have her father's ebony hair and her mother's light eyes. A beautiful girl who would be as mischievous as her father.
"Either way," she gasped out, "I will love you. Boy or girl-" another scream cut her off, followed by a grunt as she pushed with all the strength she possessed. Then, reaching out with a trembling hand, she gently caught the child's head before it could hit the cold ground. So, half sitting, she birthed her first child and gently guided it out of her.
Weak as she was, and despite the pain still blazing through her system, Sigyn lifted her child and held it close to her heaving chest. She closed her eyes in blessed relief. "Oh Loki," she whispered. Fresh tears sprung to her eyes. "We have a son."
A heartbeat of silence passed before she heard a sound that shot fear through her like a shot of adrenaline. There was someone in her cell with her, yet no blinding light or scorching heat assaulted her. The darkness remained.
"A fine job you've done," came a voice she hated. "You women truly are remarkable." It should have been a compliment.
Searching the darkness in vain for the face of the titan, Sigyn held the child closer, wrapping her dressing gown around it's tiny form.
"Proxima, if you will."
At the sound of approaching footsteps, Sigyn attempted to retreat, but only came in contact with the wall beside her.
"It will be better, and easier for everyone, if you do not struggle."
Shaking her head in mute defiance, Sigyn clutched her child as tight as she dared and turned her back.
"Fine," her captor sighed impatiently. "Have it your way."
She felt herself being forcefully turned around and held in place. Horror flooded through her as she felt two rough hands pull the child from the protection of her arms. "No, please," she had never been one to beg. But now, she would do anything. "Please give him back," she fought against the hands that held her down. "Give me back my son, you filth," she screamed.
"You have no son," the titan purred nastily. "But I do."
The moment Sigyn was released, she flung herself in the direction of the voice. But he was gone, along with her precious boy. Had she moved a little further forward, she would have felt no chain around her ankle. For what use was there in chaining up a prisoner who could barely stand, but also not see?
Chapter 17: The Heart's Vengeance
Sometimes, home has a heartbeat.
~ Beau Taplin (Home)
Get ready for some ass-kicking!!!!!!!
Swearing profusely under her breath, Gamora ran. Not caring who or what saw her. Her legs felt like led as she wove her way through the complicated outlay of her father's ship. A sense of urgency pumped through her and urged her onwards, towards the lowest part of the detention level. 'I'm coming,' she directed her thoughts to the young mother-to-be. 'Just hold on for a little longer.'
So preoccupied was she with the details of how she would get the young woman out, that she failed to see the two figures that appeared from the hallway she was headed towards.
"Ah, Gamora," her father's voice brought her up short.
Skidding to a halt, Gamora fought to catch her breath. Her eyes flicked to the side and noticed, with a sinking feeling, that Proxima was there too. 'This can't be good,' she thought to herself. Especially since both of them were looking rather pleased with themselves. It was a perverted and ugly smile that stretched itself over her father's features.
"Father," she acknowledged, bowing her head slightly before looking up and meeting his gaze.
"Just the person I was about to summon," Thanos said, sounding pleasantly surprised.
"Oh?" Gamora fought to keep her face void of any of the emotions that were swirling around inside her.
"I have something for you."
Thanos nodded and glanced towards Proxima. "Give it to her."
Proxima, Gamora noticed, was indeed holding something. Something small and bloody. Horror began to seep into her as her sister stretched her arms out and placed it in her arms. It was not something, but someone. A child, a baby not even an hour old. With trembling hands, she smoothed the cloth away from the child's face. She recognised the fabric and the intricate patterns woven into it. Instinctively holding the child close, she looked up at her father and sister, not caring if her emotions and thoughts were laid bare. "You took her child?" The words came out in a strangled, horrified whisper.
If Thanos was surprised that his daughter knew about Sigyn and her pregnancy, he kept it well hidden. "I thought you would be pleased," he replied, his tone much too calm. "You have always wanted to be a mother, now you have that chance."
Gamora inhaled sharply. "But the child isn't mine," she protested, her voice growing stronger. This was so many different shades of wrong. "The child belongs with it's mother. I'm not her."
"The child need not know that. He is yours."
Biting her lip, Gamora glanced down at the sleeping child in her arms. A boy. Just like Sigyn had predicted. By the Fates, he was beautiful. Small but beautiful. "I have to give him back to her," she murmured, not caring if her father heard her.
"You will do no such thing," Proxima hissed from beside Thanos. "Besides," she continued, a smug smile on her alien features. "There would be no point."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Gamora demanded, not liking where this continued to go.
"She can't see," Proxima explained to her sister's growing horror. "She's blind, sister."
"Blind?" Gamora repeated, praying she had misheard. "Even if that is the case, her remaining senses will only become stronger."
"Maybe so," Proxima shrugged, unconcerned. "But what use is the sense of touch or being able to hear when she can't even stand?"
With those words, Thanos and Proxima swept past the stunned Gamora. She remained frozen to spot, her eyes fixed on the baby. His eyes were closed so she could only guess the shade they were. A soft tuft of black dusted the crown of the small head and Gamora felt herself smile. Sigyn had been right in saying that the baby would have their father's hair. Black as a night without stars. Her heartstrings pulled her downwards and prompted her to place a gentle kiss to the child's forehead. "You will see your mother again, little one," she murmured. "I could not help her escape, but I promise you this, I will keep you safe until her arms hold you once more."
~ ~ ~
The Sanctuary 2. It was as big and terrifying as Loki remembered it to be. An old nightmare that hovered at the edges of his awareness. Taunting him with it's endless corridors and harshly lit cells.
"We have a son."
Her words gave him the courage he needed to face his old tormentor. He had a son. To keep the old nightmares at bay, he imagined what his son would look like. Would he have his mother's fair hair, or would he have his father's ebony locks? Would his eyes be the same light blue as his mother's or the deep emerald green like his? He soon found himself smiling, just the image of Y/N holding their child, that was equal parts of them both, was enough to keep him going. He prayed she was well, as well as one could be in the hell that was Thanos's ship.
"I'm coming, my love," he whispered, glancing down at the gold band that circled his left ring finger. The hand that held hers. "I will see you both very soon."
The Avengers glanced at each other as his whispered words, spoke tenderly to his absent wife, reached their ears. Tony was still very much in shock. Not only was his beloved daughter alive, but she was pregnant to boot. Loki had told them that she now went by a different name and was no longer human, her appearance thus being altered.
Sigyn. The mythological wife of the trickster god. How fitting.
"Are you sure he won't be able to see us coming?" Clint piped up, ever doubtful of the raven-haired god.
Loki merely nodded. He had cloaked the ship in a complicated and intricate shield that rendered them invisible to any detectors.
Thor stood beside him as the ship came into view. He glanced sideways at his sibling, who was gazing intently in front of him. Thor knew little of the horrors his brother had faced while in captivity. He could only imagine.
~ ~ ~
It did not take Sigyn long to notice that she was no longer chained. With what strength remained, she pulled herself in the direction where she believed the door to be. The pain of childbirth had not left her. Every part of her screamed in agony while her heart bled. The wrenching pain of being forcefully separated from her child, not an hour old, was crippling her.
Her throat was raw from the screams that had poured from her like water from a broken dam. She had begged and pleaded. She had wept until no more tears came, yet no response came to ease her suffering. So she had decided that she would go look for him herself. Pain be damned, nothing could come between her and her precious baby boy. Her son. She had been right all along. No smile stretched her bleeding lips, only a pain-filled grimace.
Her arms and legs trembled as she moved. Her breath came in shuddering, uneven gasps as her lungs fought to give her air to breathe. She no longer noticed the cold, even without the meagre warmth her dressing gown had provided.
What felt like an eternity later, she finally felt was seemed to be the raised surface of the door frame. This surprised her, for it seemed that they had left the door open. How odd. Not stopping to debate the reasons behind this discovery, Sigyn pulled herself closer to the frame and was surprised to find that the darkness from her cell had remained. No light greeted her, yet the temperature was lightly different, more humid.
Her trembling hands soon came in contact with the rough ground. With great effort, she pulled herself over the perceived threshold and into the hallway beyond.
~ ~ ~
The child looked up at her, blinking his small eyes open. Gamora gazed back, gently rocking him. His eyes were so light that she believed them to be grey, almost silver in the way they shone in the dim light.
"Your mother was right," she said, tracing the outline of his small cheek. "She seemed to know so much about you already." Her chest tightened with the heightening feeling of guilt. She had failed in the simple task of getting her out before the child was born. Now, even if mother and child were to be reunited, she would never see him.
"I wonder what name she'll come up with for you," Gamora mused, smoothing the soft errant strands of dark hair. That was something she refused to do. Naming a child was something that the parents would do. "She most likely already has one picked out," she smiled down at the baby who smiled shyly back at her.
Her one-sided conversation was interrupted when the ship's alarms sounded. It was an earsplitting, horrible sound. Meant to rouse attention and urgency.
Covering the child's ears, she slipped out of the hallway she had been standing in and into a smaller room. The door, thankfully seemed quite thick and blocked out the worst of the alarms.
"Hush, little one," she crooned as the child began to cry softly. "It's okay, I won't let anything happen to you." Despite her calming words, Gamora began to panic. The alarms were only ever activated in the most dire of situations. Her concern for the child outweighed her curiosity and so she remained where she was, calming the child as best she could.
~ ~ ~
If Natasha had once thought that killing 80 people in two days was extreme, she now changed her mind. Within moments of their ship landing, Loki had massacred hundreds. The aliens, Chitauri, if she remembered correctly, came from seemingly nowhere. They poured out in endless streams.
Using both his magic and his daggers, the god slaughtered them in droves. He carved a path through the endless throng, leaving only the dead in his wake. Thor closely followed his brother, bolts of lightning heralding his presence and destroying all those that dared approach him. Green light and bright lightning made it easy for the Avengers to keep track of where the Aesir Princes were. It was chaos. New York seemed like a breeze compared to this.
In the few moments Natasha had to spare, she noticed with only slight surprise that Tony was following the Princes, with young Peter Parker hot on his heels.
Loki was single minded in his goal. Cutting down the foul creatures that constantly blocked his path, he made his way down the numerous passageways. The Black Order, he was surprised to find, had not yet made an appearance. This unnerved him and only made him move faster.
Pulling up memories he would rather forget, Loki navigated his way through the labyrinth of corridors and rooms. The fear that surfaced at the very thought of Thanos was desperately pushed down. He had to find her first. He had to make sure she was safe.
"Well, look who it is."
Loki skidded to a halt. He knew that voice. His eyes hardened as Proxima Midnight stepped into view. She smiled at the Prince in a way that made his companions step back. Loki however, stayed where he was. "Miss me?" He replied, his trademark smirk appearing.
The female alien rolled her eyes and stepped forward until she was a hair's breadth away from the Prince. "He knew you would come."
Loki narrowed his eyes and inclined his head. "Did he just?"
Proxima nodded. "For all your tricks and deceptions, you are awfully predictable."
Loki merely laughed. The sound bounced off the walls of the hallway in which they stood. It was a harsh sound and grated on the ears of all those that heard it.
"For your sake, trickster," Proxima spat the word. "I hope you have brought what you owe."
Loki smiled nastily. "And if I haven't?"
"Well, let us just say that there will be someone who be very disappointed and may seek to further motivate you."
Cold fear washed over him. "I do not require motivation for something I have no desire to do."
"Enough!" Proxima slammed her weapon into the ground. "He is expecting you. He will suffer no further delays."
"Yes. Well, I'm expected somewhere else," Loki sneered, his daggers appearing in his hands.
"Oh yes, your darling wife."
The mere mention of her sprung him into action. The fight that ensued was unlike anything Tony or Peter had ever witnessed. Glancing across at Thor, they noticed his attention was riveted to his brother.
Loki moved with the speed and deadliness of a viper. Duplicates of the god sprang up and it soon became impossible to tell who the real Loki was. Tony had only ever heard of the god's magical abilities from Thor and read about them in the history books and SHIELD reports. What he now saw before him, made the stories and reports pale in comparison.
~ ~ ~
Sigyn had no way of telling where she was. The walls and floor all felt the same as she moved along them. In the distance she could hear what could only be the sound of an alarm. Her heart leapt with the faint hope that it was Loki. That he had finally discovered where she was.
She began to call for him. Her voice weak and desperate. Her hands reached into the darkness, in hope of making contact with the leather and metal armour that she knew he favoured. Green, gold and black. His colours.
Her wondering and hopeful thoughts were brought to a standstill as the sounds of a fight soon reached her ears. "Loki?" She called out, her voice barely audible. Many times she had fought the urge to collapse and give into the pain and exhaustion that were determined to drag her down. With desperate hands she reached out, grabbing at thin air. She turned her head in a desperate attempt to find some light, surely they couldn't be fighting in pitch darkness?
"Where are you?" She asked, her eyes searching the sea of black. No face emerged as she had hoped and soon she began to wonder, was she imagining all this? Had her fantasies finally found a way to infiltrate her reality.
'Which is worse?' She thought to herself, not for the first time. 'Emotional pain or physical pain?'
A soft sigh left her torn mouth. Tears came unbidden.
"Are you seeing this?" Came a voice slightly to the left of her. Male and young, by the sound of it. Unfamiliar.
"Yeah," spoke another male, older. "Do you think we should tell him?"
There was a pause before the younger voice spoke again. "Maybe it can give us directions?"
It? Indignance flooded her. Who were these people? Why did one of them sound so familiar? "Who- who are you?"
Tony and Peter looked at each other in shock. The being before them, whatever and whoever it was, knew they were there? Peter edged closer and eventually knelt in front of them. "My name is Peter," he offered and pointedly ignored the look Tony was shooting him.
It was a while before they got an answer. The voice was quiet and rough, but undoubtedly female. "Peter," she repeated, testing the name.
Peter nodded and leaned a little closer. "We are looking for someone."
At this, she lifted her head and heard them gasp.
Peter struggled to keep a straight face. The young woman looked positively awful. The skin around her eyes formed a red, bleeding mask. Old injuries, as well as new ones decorated the fair skin. Tony wasn't faring much better. He knew it was rude to stare but he couldn't help it.
Irritation flared up inside her and as she made to ask them who they were looking for, footsteps could be heard hurrying in her direction. Then came a voice she had longed to hear.
"Y/N?" It was soft, but undeniably his.
Falling to his knees before her crumbled form, Loki hesitantly reached out and gently cupped her injured face. It tore at his heart to see her so. At his touch, she visibly relaxed and reached up with a trembling hand to hold his in place.
"Loki?" She whispered, testing to see if he was really there.
A shuddering gasp left him as he nodded. When no reaction came from her, he frowned. "Yes, my love." Her answering smile brought tears to his eyes. Her lips bled as she smiled, her eyes searching for something.
"Why can't I see you?" She asked, visibly confused.
It was then that the Prince looked closer. Her eyes, still that beautiful shade he remembered, bore tiny white lines. Jagged lines that seemed to cut through her irises. Lines that looked all too similar to scars. With a choked sound, he pulled her close and wrapped his arms around her. His gaze flew to the ceiling. She was blind. By the Norns, she was blind.
"Can you see me?" She asked, voice muffled against his chest. A sigh of relief came when she felt him nod.
He would kill Thanos for this. His eyes, made liquid by tears, looked down and traveled over her thin frame. Anger shot through him at all the blood, dried and fresh, that he saw. Her ankle was a mess of burnt flesh. It was, however, the blood on her legs that caught and held his attention. He knew enough to know why it was there. Cold terror seeped into him. "The child?" He barely managed to ask.
In answer she shook her head. "He was taken from me," she replied.
What? Loki prayed he had misheard. "Taken?"
Sigyn nodded and clung tighter to him. "You have to find him," her sightless eyes looked up at him. "You have to get him back. Please Loki."
In answer, Loki held her just that little bit tighter before lifting her into his arms and standing. Was there any depths that Thanos would not sink to? "I promise," he answered, pressing a tender kiss to her forehead.
~ ~ ~
Lifting a finger to her lips, Gamora glanced down at the child before stepping out in the silent hallway. The alarms had stopped, much to her relief.
"Halt," a voice boomed behind her.
Casting a glance over her shoulder, Gamora could only make out a silhouette of a very broad-shouldered being. Hugging the child closer, she turned around. Determined to defend her precious cargo, she lifted her chin and spoke in a loud, clear voice. "Who are you? What do you want?"
The figure approached. It was a male with blond hair that fell just below his shoulders. A blood-red cape flowed behind him and in his right hand, he carried a familiar weapon. A hammer. She knew who this was. She had heard the stories. Thor, brother of Loki and Uncle to the child she carried.
A soft cry sounded from the child in her arms and drew Thor's attention to the bundle she carried. "What carry you there?"
Gamora considered lying. But what could she possibly say it was other than the obvious? "I believe you already know."
Thor took a few steps closer and sighed when he saw that she was indeed holding a baby. It couldn't have been more than a day old. A warmth spread through him as he realised who it was. His nephew or niece. Loki's child. "May I?" He asked softly, all fight leaving him.
Gamora nodded and all too eagerly passed the child to him. He meant the baby no harm after all. "If you find his mother, please return him to her."
Thor merely nodded and drew the child close. A nephew. He was so small in his large hands. Wrapping the child in his cloak, Thor wordlessly turned and left Gamora standing in the dimly hallway. A relieved smile on her lips.
~ ~ ~
Peter and Tony followed at Loki's heels as he carried the barely conscious Sigyn through the ship. Tony barely recognised her, but the tenderness and love with which Loki handled her, gave him all the confirmation he needed.
They were close to the docked ship when Loki suddenly stopped and drew her closer to his chest. His eyes narrowed and his jaw clenched.
"What is it?" Peter asked, as curious as Tony.
"Come to pay what you owe?"
Loki stiffened at the voice and Sigyn curled herself further into him. Wordlessly passing her to Tony despite her protests, he turned to face the titan.
"Loki?" She called, her ruined voice a mere whisper. "Loki? Where are you?" She reached out from Tony's arms.
"I'm right here, my love," he answered, turning back to her and laying a gentle hand on her cheek. His heart stuttered as she nuzzled into his touch.
"Where did you go?"
Loki closed his eyes for a brief moment and smiled, despite knowing that she could not see it. "I'm right next to you," he assured her.
"Why did you let go?"
Those words. Spoken in a voice so soft that it could be mistaken for a Spring breeze. Her hands reached for him, even though she could not see. "Oh my angel," he murmured, "I will never let go. Never again."
"Promise?" Her eyes, though blind and unseeing, pleaded with him. "Even of you are an illusion, will you promise not to go?"
The words struck Loki with more force than Thor's hammer ever could. "I promise," he choked out, bending to press a tender kiss to her torn palm. He wanted nothing more than to prove to her just how real he was. That he was no mere hallucination that her mind had conjured up.
Gently slipping his hand from hers, he once again turned to face Thanos. "It has certainly been a while," he spoke in a voice that portrayed more strength that he felt. "Not long enough, in my opinion."
"You failed us, Asgardian," the Other hissed, coming out from the shadows.
Loki lifted his chin and smiled. Stepping towards the titan, he spread his arms wide. "By not giving you the Tesseract to add to your collection? Surely someone as mighty as you would have found another route." His words were clear mockery.
Thanos remained impassive while the Other became incensed. "How dare you speak so to him?"
Loki paid the Other no mind. His attention was solely focused on the alien before him. He would end him, even it meant his own end, he would end the being that had brought him so much pain. "Mighty Thanos," he began, taking a step closer. "Surely, you must know that it was never my intent to keep the Tesseract from you?"
Sigyn could not believe what she was hearing. After everything, he would simply give up? Twisting herself from Tony's arms, she used her remaining strength to stumble towards the voice of her captor. "The Tesseract is not here," she stated in her hoarse voice. The pain in her core spiked and she collapsed, crashing to her knees on the hard ground. "We do not have it."
Loki stared at her. Too shocked to move. What was she doing? She could barely stand, let alone speak. Surely she knew with whom she was speaking?! Falling to his knees beside her, he gathered her into his arms, her head resting above his rapidly beating heart. "What are you doing, angel?" He whispered desperately.
"Yes," Thanos finally spoke, looking down at the couple. "What are you doing? Surely you must know that you cannot stop me?"
"Perhaps not," Sigyn conceded weakly before directing her eyes up towards him. "I was, after all, not able to stop you from taking my child. I was only taken as revenge and bear no significance beyond that. I have never had the power and strength that you do." With each word, she tried to stand, using Loki as support as she forced her legs to work. "I was only ever a tool to gain what you were deprived of. You have that now," she lifted her chin as high as she could. "So why, I ask you, am I still here?"
Out of the corner of her awareness, Sigyn felt movement so slight she believed she had imagined it. A small smile threatened to give her away, yet her mouth remained in a straight line. "Why keep something so broken? So weak and unable to even see what is in front of her?" She paused, her legs shaking with the effort to keep her upright. "Or perhaps you lied to me, perhaps I worth more than just a bargaining chip? Is that it?" Her words, though sharp, were spoken in a voice barely audible.
Thanos smiled down at her. "My child. I have told you before, I do not wish to harm you."
"All evidence to the contrary," Loki muttered from beside her. His grip on her waist tightened.
"So my punishment is his as well?" She asked, gripping his hand as a wave of pain crashed into her. "Was that your intent all along? To make him suffer through me?"
Thanos laughed. A deeply disturbing and unpleasant sound. "You think you know suffering, little one?"
Sigyn nodded. Her scarred eyes meeting his. "You took my child from me," she ground out, fighting back tears and the pain that rose in her heart. "Where is he? Where is my son?"
"You need not worry," Thanos replied what was meant as a reassuring tone.
"Not worry?" Sigyn hissed, her eyes narrowed. "I am his mother."
"And I, his father," came a voice from behind Thanos and Sigyn jerked her head up. Though she could feel him by her side, she knew who it was. Before Thanos could so much as even turn in the direction of the speaker, a blade as sleek and as sharp as a viper's fang, buried itself into the back of his head.
Sigyn promptly fell, only to be supported by Peter. The youngest Avenger nervously held her up as her head rolled to the side and her legs seemed to give out.
~ ~ ~
Having retreated back to the wreckage that was once a hanger bay, Thor boarded their ship. It had, miraculously, survived and was in relatively good shape. The child stirred in his arms. Looking down, the Prince smiled and moved the red fabric of his cloak away. "Hello there," he murmured as the baby opened his eyes. They were a shade lighter than his mother's.
Commotion soon drew his attention away from his nephew. Striding to the lowered ramp of the aircraft, Thor looked out and smiled as he saw his midgardian friends emerge from the carnage. Yet, his brother was nowhere in sight. Nor was Stark or the boy that followed him.
"Barton," he called out. "Where is my brother? Where is Stark?"
The archer shrugged his shoulders. "Hell if I know."
That was not the response Thor had been seeking.
A moment later a crash echoed through the cavernous space. "Don't even think of leaving without us," Stark's voice instructed them, earning a few chuckles from the team.
Loki followed soon after, Peter right beside him.
Thor's attention was drawn to the person his brother carried. Sigyn. Her eyes were closed and her head lay against his chest. Her arms, littered with various cuts and bruises hung limp at her side.
The moment the entire team was onboard, the ramp lifted and departed the Sanctuary 2. Any surviving members of The Black Order were eradicated in the explosion that shook the entire vessel.
Inside the Avenger's small craft, Loki refused to let Sigyn out of his sight or grasp. "You'll be okay," he murmured over and over again. Her sightless eyes were closed and her chest rose and fell in shallow breaths. In truth, it was a miracle she was alive at all. "You're safe now."
"Brother?" Thor's soft voice drew Loki's attention away from her for just long enough to see why his brother had called him. Thor had sat down beside him. "Would you like to meet your son?"
Loki forgot how to breathe. His green gaze traveled to bundle in Thor's arms. Silver eyes looked up at him. Eyes that reminded him of the woman that lay in his arms. "My son," he spoke in a voice that sounded almost reverent. Happy tears filled his eyes as he turned to kiss Sigyn's forehead. "Our son."
Chapter 18: Port in the Storm
I remember when I met you, the hands of time stood still; you and your camera smile - a flash of something real.
We talked until the evening, the moon came out for awhile; the clock resumed its ticking and my heart was on the dial.
The morning came to claim you, and as far as I can tell - I will never know another, who knew me quite so well.
~ Lang Leav (Know Me)
He refused to be separated from her. Even Frigga remained unsuccessful in persuading him. He would not leave her side. Even comatose as she was, barely aware of anything going on around her. He had insisted on bringing her straight to the chambers they shared.
"Mother please," he had said when Frigga began to object. "I do not want the whole of Asgard to know what has happened."
Frigga had relented, seeing the desperation in her son's eyes. He was barely holding himself together and would have crumbled had it not been for Sigyn in his arms. Her breathing had been shallow and irregular. In truth, Frigga had been horrified to see the state she was in. There was not a part of her that did not bare an injury.
So now, she lay in the quiet of the chambers she shared with Loki. She lay on her back in the middle of the big bed, seeming dwarfed by the sheer size of it. The injuries caused by the blistering heat had been tended to with salves and balms to aid in the healing. Yet it was her face, with the injuries caused by Sigyn herself, that Loki insisted on healing himself. He had not the heart to tell his mother that Sigyn could not see.
Upon learning that Sigyn had already given birth, Frigga insisted on allowing Eir, the Head Healer, to tend to the injuries and damage caused. Loki had been frantic, asking his mother to change her mind. Frigga stood firm in her decision. "My son," she had replied, "her body and mind have experienced trauma of a very high magnitude. Eir is a very skilled healer and will not tell a soul of what has transpired."
"She needs all the help she can get," Frigga had gently cut him off. "Together, you and I, along with Eir, will aid her on her road to recovery."
"How long?" He asked in a whisper, not meeting his mother's gaze. Looking instead at where Sigyn lay, his eyes roamed over her as though making sure she was actually there. "How long will it take?"
Frigga sighed. She need not ask what her son meant. "In truth?" She replied, "I do not know. It may be days, weeks, months, even years."
A shuddering, stuttered gasp left him. "Please not years," he had murmured brokenly, his emerald eyes desperate.
The Queen wanted nothing more than to comfort her grieving son. But she could not bring herself to lie. Despite him being an extremely talented liar, Frigga knew that Loki appreciated honesty. No matter how harsh or brutal. "It's not going to be easy," she admitted. "Or painless."
Loki had merely nodded absently, his thoughts clearly elsewhere. "The baby," he said, his eyes flashing to his mother's. "Where's the baby? Where's my son?" His tone began to pitch as hysteria crept in.
Frigga chuckled, alarming her frantic son. "The child is safe. He is with Thor."
Loki's eyes had widened. "Thor? Why Thor?"
"Because," the Queen explained, "you have been otherwise occupied." Stepping forward, she placed a gentle hand above his heart, where she could feel it beat rapidly. "Your son," she smiled at the words, "is very well. Eir was most surprised. He was born early, almost a month too early."
"Early?" Loki repeated slowly and Frigga nodded.
"But you need not worry, my dearest. He is well."
"Can- can I see him?" Loki had asked, almost shyly.
Frigga had simply smiled and nodded. "Why of course."
~ ~ ~
"Did you sleep well, little man?" Thor asked the baby in his arms. In answer the boy twisted in his arms as though stretching. Soon a little hand reached out and took hold of a blond lock of hair. Laughing, the Prince gently pulled his hair free.
It was well into Summer and the days were longer. The sun was filtering through the leaves of the orchard in which Thor was walking. "You know what I think?" He asked, looking down at the child, then back up at the laden fruit trees. "I think it is about time we had a Summer child in the family." Chuckling as the baby blinked at him. "Yes, I know, normally things like this do not really matter to me. But now with you, we have all four seasons. I was born in the Autumn, your dear father during his beloved Winter, and your mother, well your mother was born during the Spring time."
Approaching a tree that was bent under the weight of the fruit on its branches, Thor reached up with his free hand and plucked an apple. "I'm afraid you're still too young for this," he smirked as the boy reached for the fruit with his tiny hands. His silvery eyes entranced by the gloss of the apple and by the sheer size of it. "Oh, alright," Thor relented, holding the apple down so that his nephew's small fingers could just brush it.
The more the child reached for it, the more his uncle would laugh. His blue eyes sparkling with amusement. The child was certainly a wonder. Born in cold darkness and taken from his mother at not even an hour old, he had had a rough introduction to life. His mother, who now lay unconscious under the watchful eye of his brother. Loki had not left her side since they had arrived back in Asgard.
Loki, who now watched his brother from the shadows of the palace. He felt an acute sense of jealousy rise up in him. It was clear that Thor had forged a bond with the child. Only his mother's gentle touch on his arm prevented him from skulking back to where Sigyn lay.
"Come," Frigga whispered, "come and meet your son."
His breath caught in his throat as he followed his mother through the orchard and towards his brother. His hands began to tremble and his palms felt sweaty.
"Thor," Frigga called out, gaining the attention of her eldest.
Smiling, Thor turned and faced his mother. "Mother," he called back and smiled down at the child upon noticing that Loki was there. "Your father is here," he whispered. "Let's go and say hello, shall we?"
Loki swore that he had forgotten how to breathe the closer his brother came. He could clearly see the bundle in his arms and swallowed hard. Never had he been so nervous.
At last Thor stopped, a mere few feet from them. The baby turned his little head, curious to see who it was. A broad smile blossomed upon seeing Frigga and his little arms reached out for her. Chuckling, Thor gently passed him to the Queen.
"Why hello there," Frigga crooned, gently rocking the child. He already looked so much like his parents. "Your papa is here," she told the boy and turned slightly to her left, where Loki stood as still as a statue, his eyes locked on the baby. "I'm very sure he would like to say hello to you."
Thor watched his brother. Never had he seen him like this. Not on the battlefield and certainly not when he had faced Thanos a mere few days prior.
Loki watched his mother's every move as she stepped closer to him. The child. His son, twisted a little in the Queen's arms to get a better look at him. He felt his arms shake as Frigga motioned for him to take the child.
"Its alright, Loki," she reassured him, showing him how to hold the child as to support him best. "You will be okay. Just be careful with him." She had then stepped back.
At first Loki panicked. But soon he found himself looking down at the small face of his son and couldn't help but smile. The child's silver eyes regarded him curiously. "Look at you," he murmured in awe. "You're so perfect. Just like your mother."
Frigga motioned for Thor to follow her out of the orchard. Loki needed this time, alone with his son.
The younger Prince gently traced the fine dark hair on the baby's head. "I never thought I would have this," he admitted to his son, who seemed to recognise who he was. "A child of my own," his pinky gently stroked the soft outline of the small cheek. With tears in his eyes, he bent forward and gently kissed his son's forehead and laughed when the baby reached up to curl his hand around a lock of ebony hair.
A moment of silence passed before Loki spoke again, his voice soft. "Come, my son. Let us go and be with your mother. When she wakes, I am very sure that she will want to see you."
Shielding himself and the child from unwanted stares, Loki returned to Sigyn's bedside. "I am come back, my love," he greeted her even though she could not respond.
Sigyn lay on the bed as she had before. Her chest rose and fell in a more steady rhythm now. Her bandaged arms rested above the sheets while the rest of the healing injuries were hidden beneath the covers. Her hair was no longer as limp and lifeless as it had been. Even now, after such a short time, it had begun to regain it's shine.
As quietly as he could, Loki removed his boots with his free hand. His other held his son firmly to his chest. Once accomplished, the Prince climbed onto the bed and sat beside his sleeping wife. His son, seeming to sense who she was, reached towards her. Smiling through his tears, Loki gently set the child between them and lay down beside him. Gently taking one of her bandaged hands, he pressed a reverent kiss to her knuckles. "Our son is here," he said quietly, glancing down at the boy. "I think he already knows who you are."
Curling himself slightly around his son's small form, Loki reached out and lay a hand on top of one of hers. "I am here, my love. I am here with you. So is our son. Together we will stay with you until you wake." In a desperate whisper, he begged her. "Please come back to us."
Chapter 19: The Lulling of the Waves
There's a rhythm to my chaos and it's you.
~ Beau Taplin (The rhythm to my chaos)
'So,' Sif thought to herself. 'These are Thor's famous Avengers.' Her dark eyes followed them as they wondered the palace, the grounds and the gardens. They intrigued her. All of them were as wide eyed as a child seeing the world for the first time. A feeling of pride rose up in her at their blatant admiration of her home.
Sif however, felt it best to put a distance between herself and the young woman Thor had introduced as Wanda. She put Sif on edge. Perhaps it was the fact that the young mortal could read minds and make people see their worst fear. Sif had no desire to find out what she would see, should she be so unlucky. Then again, those that practiced any form of sorcery unnerved the warrioress. The Queen being the only exception.
It was the youngest member of the group, the young man who called himself Peter, that amused Sif. His boundless energy entertained her.
But one question still remained, "why were they there in the first place?" Sif had an uneasy feeling that perhaps Thor knew more than he was letting on and telling her what she wanted to hear, rather than what she needed.
Glancing over her shoulder, Sif smiled upon seeing said Prince. She had made to go to him when she saw him to be in a deep conversation with the man beside him. If Sif recalled correctly, this was the one Thor called Stark. Ever curious, as subtly as she could, she edged towards them and soon, parts of their conversation floated to her.
"...it's a big responsibility."
"I know," came Thor's reply. "But I believe in him."
Sif frowned and edged closer, hoping she wasn't being too obvious.
"You should have seen him, Stark," Thor's tone became a little softer as though he was recalling something particularly beautiful. "This has changed him, I believe in ways that she was striving for."
Stark simply hummed in a noncommittal manner. "What's he like when she's around anyway?"
This caught Sif's attention. She did not have to guess of whom they were speaking.
"She definitely brings out the best in him. Although," Thor added with a chuckle. "Sometimes she causes as much trouble as he does."
"So it's definitely her then?"
"I have every reason to believe so," Thor replied.
'Definitely her?' Sif narrowed her eyes in confusion. What was that supposed to mean?
"Anyway," Stark continued, pulling Sif from her thoughts. "I was hoping to pop in and see her."
"That may be a bit of a challenge."
Sigyn was back? When did this happen?
"The journey has tired her," Thor replied, choosing his words carefully in case someone walked by. "She is resting."
"But surely," Stark protested. "Surely she would be coherent enough to talk?"
'Coherent?' Sif thought with surprise. As far as she knew, Sigyn didn't really travel much and if she did, it was only to visit family. Never once did anyone refer to her being incoherent after her trip.
"He is with her. He has refused to leave her side since she came back."
"I never figured your brother to be the clingy type," Stark replied with a chuckle.
"He is not," Thor responded. "But what happened has made him see things in a slightly different light."
The conversation began to drift off as they resumed walking. Sif chose to remain in the shadows. She had never been so confused. The conversation had only raised more questions. Yet, it had answered one. That something was not quite right and that perhaps Sigyn didn't go to Alfheim after all.
~ ~ ~
Despite his earlier conversation with Thor, Tony was determined to see the woman that was supposedly his darling Y/N. She had been barely recognisable when he had seen her last. And that had been a mere two weeks ago.
Asking the servants and guards for directions, he soon came to a pair of solid oak doors. No guard stood outside as Tony had perhaps expected. After testing the door handle, he slipped in, closing the door behind him. A suite of rooms greeted him; the decor tastefully elegant and there was no shortage of books. Taking a quick look in the living room, Tony spied a series of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves fully stocked.
Then he heard it, a soft voice coming from what he assumed to be the bedroom. Approaching the room, he noticed that the doors weren't quite closed. Enough room had been left, unintentionally or not, for someone to be able to peep in and see a sliver of the room beyond.
"Hush now," a soft voice spoke reassuringly. It was too soft for Tony to make out if he recognised the voice or not.
A small cry came not a second later, followed by a chuckle that Tony found all too familiar. Loki.
"Yes, I know," he whispered, his voice gentler that Tony had ever heard it. "I know my little one. But now you must sleep."
Unable to help himself, Tony stepped forward and pressed his eye against the sliver of space. The scene before him was entirely foreign and something he never thought he would see.
Loki stood close to the bed, the child in his arms. The baby's head rested in the crook of his right arm and the Prince was swaying gently from side-to-side. Whether or not he knew he had an audience, Loki gave no indication. He merely continued. Soon a soft humming filled the room and it took Tony a moment to realise where it was coming from.
The humming slowly transformed into soft music as a soft baritone could be heard. The voice was soft and unmistakably Loki's.
"Baby mine, don't you cry
Baby mine, dry your eyes.
Rest your head close to my heart,
Never to part, baby of mine.
To Tony's breathless surprise, the child moved a little as Loki shifted his hold and laid it's small head on Loki's chest.
Little one, when you play,
Pay no heed what they say.
Let your eyes sparkle and shine,
Never a tear, baby of mine.
The music swelled around them in gentle waves as the Prince's voice continued to soothe and lull the baby in his arms.
If they knew all about you,
They'd end up loving you, too.
All those same people who scold you,
What they'd give just for the right to hold you.
From your hair down to your toes,
You're not much, goodness knows.
But, you're so precious to me,
Sweet as can be, baby of mine."
As the music and singing softened into silence, Tony found himself at a loss for words. The Loki he was looking at and listening to, was so different to the one he had become acquainted with in New York. The harshness and cruelty was nonexistent as he rocked his child to sleep. The malice-filled smile had disappeared in favour of a smile that was both soft and vibrant, with no hint of hostility. He held the baby as though it were the most precious thing in the world, the universe.
He was, Tony realised, a father as Tony had been. His manner spoke volumes to this. Looking away from the Prince, Tony attempted to catch a glimpse of her. Loki's wife and the reincarnated version of his own child. His only daughter Y/N. What he did manage to see was a hint of a bandaged arm, the white fabric stark against the forest green of the bed covers.
His silent observation was interrupted by Loki speaking. His voice was softer than before. "He is sleeping now," there was a hint of a smile in his voice and Tony soon became aware that he was speaking with his wife. Yet, no response came. This however, did not deter the god. "He is bigger now, and growing stronger by the day."
Still no response came and Tony came to understand that the way Loki was speaking, he clearly did not expect answers from her. From what he could see, the child still lay in his father's arms, sound asleep. His small head resting over his father's heart.
'Perhaps Thor was right', Tony thought to himself as he quietly crept from the rooms and back out into the hallway. The Loki he had just witnessed certainly wasn't bent on war or establishing himself as a ruler. No. This new side to the trickster unnerved the billionaire. The sheer tenderness he had heard in his voice and seen in his actions, was something Tony was not quite used to.
"Ah, Tony there you are," Steve's relieved greeting broke his train of thought.
"Hmm?" He hummed in response.
"I've been looking for you everywhere."
"Well," Tony replied, "I'm here. What did you want?"
Steve's eyes narrowed as he noticed his friend's slightly distant expression. "You okay?"
Tony simply nodded and smiled. "Yup. Right as rain. So what is it Cap?"
"Your eyes went a little distant there," Steve explained, inclining his head and folding his arms over his chest. "You sure everything's okay?"
"I already told you," Tony muttered in exasperation as he walked passed the Super Soldier. How could he possibly explain what he had just witnessed? There was no way in hell that Steve would understand. Hell! He was still struggling.
"Fine," Steve sighed and made to follow him.
The lyrics used in the lullaby are from the song "Baby Mine" from Disney's Dumbo.
Chapter 20: My Precious One
Kiss me until I forget how terrified I am of everything wrong with my life.
~ Beau Taplin (The Kiss)
"Eir, tell me plainly. How does she fare?"
A beat of silence passed before the healer answered, her voice void of any emotion as she looked at the Queen. "She is healing."
"When will she wake?"
Eir sighed and folded her hands. "I cannot say. Her body has shut down due to the amount of trauma it endured."
"When you say, she is healing," Frigga began, "do you know what caused her injuries?"
Eir nodded. "Heat. Very extreme heat. Her arms, legs and back were covered in blisters. The skin was red and raw, especially on her arms and legs."
"Most of the blisters on her arms and legs were broken and torn open," Eir explained. "I have every reason to suspect that she did that. There was, after all, blood under her nails."
"And her face?" Frigga asked. Loki had been most adamant on tending to that area himself.
Here Eir paused a little before answering. "His Highness is determined to care for those injuries personally. He cannot be persuaded otherwise."
The Queen nodded and smiled grimly. Her youngest could prove to be quite stubborn at times. "I had suspected that," she murmured. "And the child?" She asked, her voice slightly louder. "How fares my grandson?"
Here the healer smiled as she relayed the news. "He is very well, Your Majesty. Despite having come early, he is very healthy."
This made Frigga very happy and she returned the smile. "That is excellent news, Eir. But tell me, how is Loki? Has he much contact with the child?"
Eir looked at the Queen with surprise evident in her dark eyes. "Much contact, My Lady? He will not be parted from the boy."
Frigga's heart leapt at the news. "It shames me to admit that I am relieved. I did not know how he might be."
Eir lay a gentle hand on the Queen's arm. "None of us did, My Lady. I too must admit that I was surprised the first time I saw them together."
"Well," the healer replied. "I went to check on her, perhaps change her bandages and apply the salves and balms that would aid in the healing of the burns. At first I was so preoccupied with my patient, that I failed to notice another presence in the room with me."
The smile had not left the Queen's lips.
"It was only when I heard a soft voice come from the open balcony, that I paused in my task. Looking away from my work, I saw his Highness. His back was to me and while I could only see him, I knew him to not be alone."
"What prompted you to think this?" Frigga asked, although part of her already knew why.
"He was swaying slightly from side-to-side and I saw the child's head resting in the crook of his neck. He was talking, evidently to the baby, but it was too soft for me to hear what exactly he was saying."
Frigga felt her heart swell at the image that Eir's words conjured. Happy tears threatened to spill down her cheeks. "Did he know you were there?"
Eir shook her head. "If he did, he gave no sign."
"It gladdens my heart to hear such news, Eir," Frigga replied in a soft voice. "He deserves to be happy."
The healer hummed her agreement, but her eyes held a certain sadness. "Sometimes, when I am there tending to her, I can hear what he says to the child. Sometimes he even sings to him."
Frigga was confused. "But this is happy news, Eir. Why do your eyes carry sadness?"
"Because," Eir explained. "No matter how happy or calming the words and songs might be, there is always an undertone of sorrow. Of grief."
Ah. Frigga feared she knew why. While, yes, his wife and child had returned to him, he was not complete. With Sigyn unconscious with no sign of waking any time soon, all Loki had were memories and stories to tell the child. What the child knew of his mother so far, was from what his father had told him. She was missing out, Frigga suspected that it was this that hurt Loki the most. The fact that Sigyn wasn't able to share in those precious moments.
"I will visit her today," Frigga murmured. "It has been too long."
Bowing, Eir silently took her leave.
Waiting until she was alone, the Queen turned in the direction of Loki and Sigyn's chambers, nodding to the servants and guards as she passed.
Slipping silently into the suite of rooms, she noticed just how quiet it was. There were no hushed voices, no whispered lullabies. Curious, she approached the bedroom and stepped inside.
Sigyn lay motionless on the bed as Eir had said. Her bandaged arms lay on either side and her hair hung loose, fanned over the pillow. Her face, once a mask of gashes and self-inflicted scratches, was now a mask of scarred flesh. The skin, healed by Loki's magic, was even paler than Sigyn's already fair complexion. The uneven ridges of scar tissue marring her once soft skin. Her chest rose and fell in a steady rhythm; no longer the stuttering shallow rhythm of before.
Sweeping her gaze over the room, she smiled as her eyes landed on an armchair that had been pulled up beside the bed. Father and son seemed to be sound asleep. Loki's head rested against the winged back of the tall armchair, while his arms were wrapped securely around his son. The little boy lay curled against his father's chest, head tucked into his shoulder while his tiny hands were curled under his cheek.
Eir had been correct in her description of the child. Frigga noted with a fond smile; the child's hair was as dark as his father's and now covered the entirety of his small head. He was the picture of health as he rested against his father. Loki, on the other hand, looked exhausted beyond measure, if the dark shadows under his eyes were any indication.
Frigga then turned her attention back to her daughter-in-law and moved to sit on the bed beside her. "Oh my sweet girl," she murmured, smoothing a strand of hair away from her face. Three weeks now, she had been this way, eyes closed to the world around her.
Reaching deep within her, Frigga sought out the purest and strongest magic she possessed. With one hand gently holding one of Sigyn's, the Aesir Queen closed her eyes and pulled the magic up from within her and sent it into the young woman next to her. The magic curled and wove as it flowed into the comatose Princess. A soft golden glow soon emanated from her entire being as the magic swept through her system.
~ ~ ~
It was mid-afternoon when Loki woke. His neck immediately felt sore from the angle it had been bent at. Blinking, he looked down and smiled when he saw that his son was still fast asleep. His little chest rose and fell in a reassuring rhythm and small puffs of air left his lips. Adjusting his hold, but being careful not to wake the baby, Loki stood and moved to the balcony doors, which at one point had been opened.
With his free hand, he absentmindedly reached up and gently stroked the soft dark strands on his son's head. His heart skipped a beat when he felt the little boy nuzzle further into him. Never in his life would he have imagined that something so pure and innocent would come from him. "But you didn't just come from me, did you?" He whispered, his eyes drifting to the bed where she lay. Still no change. Sharp disappointment cut through him. Each day, each hour, each minute he prayed that she would wake.
How much longer was he destined to remain without her? Would their son grow and never hear her voice or see her smile? She was so close, and yet so far from his reach. Lost in a dreamless void as her mind and body healed.
Loki did not dread the thought of raising their son. What he dreaded, was raising their son without her. Without the gentleness that only a mother could bring. Without the unconditional love of the one who bore you. It was horrifically painful to consider. She had to wake up, she just had too.
As though sensing his father's distress, the little boy shifted and blinked his silver eyes open. His movement caught his father's attention. "Why hello there," he crooned, bending slightly to press a kiss to his son's forehead. "Did I wake you?"
Something to his right seemed to have caught the baby's attention. Turning in the direction his son was looking, Loki inhaled sharply.
"Loki?" Her voice, rough from disuse, called out to him.
Without second thought, he went to her. His heart sank as he saw her reach out to him, her hand reaching into empty air. In healing her face, he had hoped that his magic had been strong enough to restore her vision. "I'm right here," he choked out, taking her searching hand in his.
A hesitant smile blossomed on her features as she turned her head in the direction of his voice. "Where am I? Why is it still so dark?"
Silence answered her until Loki managed to swallow passed the lump in his throat. "My love, there is something I must tell you."
"Oh?" The grip on his hand tightened, as though she feared he would disappear at a moment's notice.
"You are on Asgard, my darling," he smiled reassuringly until he remembered. "The healers have managed to treat most of your injuries."
"Most?" She asked in a quiet voice.
"Yes," the Prince replied. "There was one not even I could remedy."
"I think I can guess," her sightless eyes were closed as a lone tear escaped down her cheek.
"I am so sorry, my angel," he whispered brokenly.
Opening her eyes, she reached forward with her free hand and searched for his face until he leaned in and rested his cheek against her bandaged palm. "There is nothing to be sorry for." Her thumb gently traced the line of his cheekbone. "Nothing at all."
A shuddering gasp left his lips. "I do not deserve you."
"Hush now," she soothed through tears of her own.
"I do believe that there is someone with me that is very eager to meet you." Loki smiled down at the baby in his arms, who at present was looking at his mother and reaching for her with eager hands.
Sigyn felt her breathing hitch in her throat at his words. "Is he with you? Our son?" Her voice wobbled dangerously with fragile hope.
"Yes, indeed," she could hear the smile in his voice.
"How- how is he?"
"He is well," Loki managed to keep his voice steady through the fresh wave of grief that washed through him. "He is strong and healthy."
Gently letting go of his hand, she reached out with trembling hands in a silent request.
Without a word, Loki shifted so that he was sitting on the bed beside her. Adjusting his hold on the baby, he gently lay the child into her waiting arms.
Upon feeling the familiar weight, Sigyn curled her arms around the bundle. She felt the child's head rest over her heart. "Hey baby," she whispered, bending to softly nuzzle the soft hair on the child's head.
Watching the scene unfold before him, Loki felt a sob build up and covered his mouth with his hand to keep the sound muffled. Tears of his own trailed down his cheeks.
"He's heavier," Sigyn spoke, her voice slightly steadier.
"Yes," Loki agreed in a soft voice, not trusting himself to speak any louder. "He's grown a little."
A watery smile graced her features as her free hand move to stroke the hair on their son's head. "His hair," she began, "what colour? Mine or yours?"
Fresh pain surged through him. "Mine," he answered, his eyes never leaving her face.
"And his eyes?"
"He has silver eyes," Loki replied, to her surprise.
"Silver," she repeated softly, her unseeing gaze trained on their son. "I always knew you'd be special." In answer, the baby burrowed himself deeper into her arms. Then, looking up in the direction she believed him to be, she smiled and reached out with one hand. "Come to me my dear heart."
Taking her hand, Loki moved closer until his shoulder brushed hers. Letting go, he draped an arm around her shoulders and kissed the crown of her head as she leaned into him. The baby in her arms was looking at both of them and for a split second, Loki allowed himself to believe that everything was as it should be.
"Is he a happy baby?" Sigyn's soft voice broke into his fantasy and brought him back to reality.
"Yes," he replied, his gaze alternating between the baby and her. "Yes he is. Mother adores him and Thor seems to have slipped into the role of a doting uncle rather quickly."
This made Sigyn laugh, a sound that Loki had sorely missed. "I'm not surprised," she said with a small smile. "I always knew he had a soft side."
"He's smiling at you," Loki said in a quiet voice. "One of his hands is reaching up," he felt himself almost choke on the last words.
"He is?" Sigyn asked with a shy smile. Directing her sightless eyes down, she sent a smile to their son and lent down until she felt tiny fingers against her scarred cheek.
"I believe he likes it when you laugh," his voice was a little steadier now.
"Then I shall do it more often," Sigyn murmured, kissing the baby's small palm.
"Please," Loki whispered so quietly that Sigyn thought she had imagined it.
A comfortable silence settled between the small family, broken occasionally by small snuffles from the little boy and laughs from his mother.
"What season is it?" Sigyn asked a few moments later, her tone curious.
"Summer," Loki replied, smiling down at their son.
Sigyn simply nodded and hummed in approval. "That's perfect."
"Oh?" Loki asked, confused.
A sad smile stretched her lips as she looked up to where she believed his face to be. "Our son was born in cold darkness. It is only right that he be born during the Aesir Summer, the warm season."
The meaning behind her words was not lost on the Prince. "I won't be surprised if he grows up preferring the warmth of Summer, to the coolness of Winter."
Sigyn chuckled and looked down to the child. "Maybe he'll like both, one can never know." After a moment, she lifted her gaze. "I fear I must ask a favour of you."
"Anything, my angel," he answered, pressing a kiss to her nose, causing her to giggle and the baby to smile.
"Will you be my eyes?" She asked, her voice sounding almost shy. "Will you tell me how the seasons change and the realm along with it? Will you tell me how our son changes as he grows up? Will you tell me of the vibrant colours of the sunsets and sunrises?" Her blind eyes pleaded with him as her free hand sought his out.
Loki stared at her in what could only be shock. How could she possibly think he would do otherwise? Squeezing the hand that held his, he pulled her closer than she already was. "How could I not?" He asked, his voice soft with emotion. "Of course I will, my heart's dear love. Of course I will."
A quiet "thank you," whispered from Sigyn's lips as she rested her head on his shoulder.
"I will be anything you need me to be," he promised, kissing her and resting his chin amongst her pale tresses, his tears landing softly on the strands.
"I love you so much," she said a moment later, "I love you so very very much."
"I love you too," he whispered, his heart in his eyes as he looked down at her. "More than words could ever say and actions ever could display."
Chapter 21: A Light in the Dark
Beautiful. Crushingly so. You look like the rest of my life.
~ Beau Taplin (For Life)
Y/F/F = Your Favourite Flower
"I really don't think this is a good idea."
Sigyn raised an eyebrow at her husband. "Says the god of mischief."
For the better part of the morning, Sigyn had been trying to convince Loki to let her out onto the balcony where a set of chairs and a table sat.
"Darling, that's different."
"Oh really?" Sigyn crossed her arms as well as one could when holding a baby. "How?"
"That's not the point," he argued, unable to keep from smiling. "The point is that, I'm worried."
She didn't answer right away. Hearing the genuine concern in his voice, she reached out with a hand and smiled when she felt his fingers lace with hers. "What is there to be worried about, my love?"
Sighing heavily, Loki moved to sit beside her on the bed and kissed her hair. "Your injuries are numerous and not all of them are fully healed."
Sigyn felt her heart flutter and she turned her face up to his. "The pain is minimal," she assured him, "if that's what you are worried about."
"Can you really blame me?" He asked, looking down to meet her eyes, still as beautiful as ever.
Sigyn huffed out a small laugh and shook her head. "I suppose not," she murmured and laid her her head on his chest, right above his heart. "But I would so love to go outside. To feel the sun on my face and to smell the plethora of perfumes from all the flowers that are no doubt in full bloom."
As he listened to her, Loki felt his resolve steadily crumble. How could he possibly deny her the chance to experience the seasons with what senses she had left? It would be cruel and horribly unfair. "But only to the balcony alright?"
A wide, beautiful smile stretched her healed lips as she nodded.
It was a mercifully short distance from the bed to the open balcony. The pain that came from simply walking had dulled but was still present. Biting down on any whimpers, Sigyn held tightly to his hand, while clutching their son to her chest. The moment she stepped over the threshold, she stopped. The warmth she felt now was nothing like the heat that had caused her skin to burn and blister. It was not a cruel heat. This was gentle and soft and washed over her skin in soothing waves. Tilting her head up, she soaked it in.
Loki watched her with a sad smile. A soft sigh of contentment left her lips as she basked in the light of the morning sun. The child in her arms seemed entranced by the way the light danced off the pale strands of her hair as they moved in the slight breeze.
"I'd forgotten how beautiful the sun could be," she murmured, just loud enough for him to hear. "How warm and comforting."
Following her husband's gentle directions, she sat down on one of the two cushioned seats. He immediately sat beside her and rested a gentle hand on her leg to assure her of his presence.
Turning in his direction, she sent him a smile brighter than the sun. "Thank you, my love. Truly."
"You are very welcome," he replied, hoping she would be able to hear the smile in his voice.
"Do you think there are any Y/F/F left?" Sigyn asked after a moment of silence. "They always tend to bloom near the beginning of Summer."
Chuckling, Loki moved to tuck a floating strand behind her ear. "Is that a hint?"
"No," she replied with a thoughtful smile. "Just curious."
"Shall I go and see for you?"
Her eyes, though blind, still sparkled. "You would do that?"
"Of course," he began before pausing. "Will you and the baby be alright?"
Sigyn was touched, yet could not stop the giggle that bubbled up. "We most certainly shall be. We will keep each other company until your return," her voice became softer towards the end.
Smiling, he gently gave her hand a squeeze before pressing a chaste kiss to her lips and one to his son's forehead. The baby stirred in his sleep before settling in his mother's arms once more. Loki's heart warmed at the sight. "I shan't be long," he whispered with a smile.
"I miss you already," Sigyn replied with a grin.
"And I, you," came his reply. The gentle closing of a door signaled his departure.
~ ~ ~
"How much longer do you think we'll be staying here?" Pietro asked his twin as they wondered the countless hallways of the Aesir palace.
Wanda shrugged. "I have no idea. It's up to Tony, I guess."
"I suppose he doesn't want to leave until he's spoken with her?" Wander replied.
"Does he really think it's her?"
Wanda sighed and ran a hand through her long hair. "I think so. I mean, I've only seen her in the photos that Stark keeps around the tower."
The twins lapsed into a thoughtful silence and only the sound of their footfalls echoed through the cavernous corridors.
"I still think it's a trick," Clint spoke up from Wanda's other side, startling the twins.
"Why?" The twins asked at the same time.
"No one can come back from the dead," the archer explained. "There is no such thing as reincarnation, not in my books."
"You really don't like him do you?" Pietro asked, his curious eyes locked on the archer.
No clarification was needed as to whom he was referring to. Everyone had sensed the animosity between the raven-haired god and the archer. It was as clear as cut glass.
"That's an understatement," Clint muttered, to Pietro's amusement. "He's not one to be trusted. He's much too slippery for that."
The hallway came to an end and continued on the other end of a small garden. The trio kept walking, each enjoying the sun on their faces. "I don't think I'll ever get over just how beautiful this place is," Wanda murmured as she paused beside a bed of bright flowers.
Clint and Pietro shot each other an amused glance but chose to stay silent as Wanda continued to slowly make her way through the small garden. Asgard was indeed a stunningly beautiful place. Their detour was interrupted by a voice that seemed to come from above them.
"Good morning, my little love."
Looking up in the direction of the voice, the friends saw a woman with pale hair sitting on a balcony. In her arms was a baby that seemed to have just woken up. It took them a moment to realise who she was.
They watched in curious silence as she continued to speak with the child and laugh whenever the baby would babble something as though in reply.
"Papa will be back very soon," she crooned, "he has gone to get something very special."
The twins tore their gaze away to look at Clint. The archer made no move to hide his surprise when he recognised her. Loki's wife. The woman Tony had agreed to help rescue.
Tapping his shoulder to get his attention, Wanda held a finger to her lips and motioned for them to make their way out of the garden. Clint was all too willing.
~ ~ ~
When Frigga entered the bedroom, she was surprised to find the bed empty.
"Loki?" Came a voice from the balcony. "Is that you?"
Frigga smiled in delight. She was awake and evidently well enough to be out of bed. Hoping to surprise her daughter-in-law, she gave no reply but merely moved in the direction of the open balcony.
The sight she was greeted with warmed her heart and made it swell to twice it's size. Sigyn was sitting comfortably in one of the chairs while her son lay snuggled against her chest. His dark hair stark against the pale lilac of her nightgown.
"Don't even try and think of sneaking up on me," Sigyn laughed, "it never works."
Before Frigga could put a voice to the confusion that rising rather quickly, Loki materialised in front of her, a bouquet of Y/F/F in one hand.
"I think this time it did," he chuckled as she gasped in surprise. His eyes traveled up and behind her. They widened as he caught sight of his mother standing silently behind her.
"You're lucky he's already awake," Sigyn scolded her husband with an indulgent smile. "Welcome back darling."
Turning his attention back to his wife, he bent down and kissed her before a wide smile manifested itself. "It's good to be back. I have something for you, my love." Holding out the bouquet, he took her free hand and guided it until her fingers came in contact with the blooms.
A delighted sigh blew past her lips. "You found some then?" She asked in a voice filled with child-like joy. Pure and untainted.
"I most certainly did, my angel."
Frigga watched them with a small smile. The confusion she had felt before had slowly begun to change into something else. As she watched them, she noticed how Sigyn moved and would slightly adjust herself whenever Loki spoke. Or the way that Loki would always be touching her in the slightest manner, as though to assure her that he was still there.
It was only when Frigga drew breath that Sigyn turned her head slightly in her direction. "Loki? Is there someone else here with us?"
Loki nodded before he answered. "Yes, my darling."
"Who?" She asked, her eyes turned towards her husband. "Who is it? I didn't hear them come in."
"It is my mother."
At his words, Sigyn all but shot up from her seat. The child in her arms gave a small cry of surprise. "Allmother?"
Frigga watched as Loki gently guided his wife in her direction. Her eyes, though open, seemed to be looking for something. "Over here my love," Loki whispered, making sure Sigyn faced his mother.
Unable to keep still any longer, the Aesir Queen surged forward and took the young woman's searching hand. Her heart sank like a stone as realisation hit her. "I am here, dear girl."
Sigyn smiled in relief. "I am so sorry Allmother. I did not hear you come in."
"It is quite alright my child," Frigga reassured her and slowly led her back to the balcony to sit. Loki stood behind his wife as Frigga took the chair he had vacated. "It gladdens my heart to see you awake."
"I am certainly glad to be so," Sigyn replied.
"And you are well?" Frigga asked gently, smiling as the baby looked at her.
"I am very well," Sigyn said, her free hand hovering behind her until Loki took hold of it, lacing their fingers together. "The mere presence of my husband and our son is enough to set me on the road to recovery."
"That is most excellent to hear," Frigga said with a smile. Her grey eyes met the emerald ones of her son. "I am sure he is relieved beyond measure and comprehension to have you back with us."
"I most certainly am," Loki replied, a soft tender look in his green eyes.
Frigga dreaded the question she was about to ask. But her suspicions and fears would only grow. "My dear girl," she began, looking for the right words. "I fear there is something I must ask you. It is of a delicate nature."
Sigyn merely nodded and smiled grimly. "I believe I already know your question, Allmother. And the answer is yes. I am blind."
Loki winced as she said the words. Harsh and simple. Yet her tone held no note of bitterness as he had expected.
"Dare I ask how?" Frigga asked, she too was surprised at how easily Sigyn had stated her impairment.
"Light and heat," Sigyn answered, gripping Loki's hand as she spoke. The memories seemed to take over. "He made me hate it. Fear it. Loathe it. He made me prefer the darkness over the light that is my heritage. He made me love the cold above the warmth that I had grown up with." Her voice shook under the weight of the past and shuddering breaths left her.
"Hush, my darling," Loki whispered, pulling her close. "Shhh," he soothed her as tears escaped her sightless eyes. "You're safe now. Both of you." He murmured the words over and over until her breathing steadied again and she gently pulled away from him to look in Frigga's direction.
"It's like he knew," she spoke to both of them. "It's like this was his back-up plan in case you managed to come for me."
Mother and son exchanged horrified glances.
"His revenge continues," she whispered brokenly. "You can see me, you can see our child. But I never will. That is his revenge; for you to suffer life, knowing that the one you love cannot see you."
For once Loki was glad for her lack of sight. For he knew that the agony he felt must have been clearly displayed on his face. Squeezing his eyes shut, he pressed his lips to her hair as he felt tears of his own trace down his cheeks. 'I will find a way', he swore to himself. 'I will find a way for you to see again.'
The joy that had previously filled her heart, was replaced with piercing sorrow. They didn't deserve this, not after everything they had been through.
"Have you thought of a name yet?" Frigga asked, breaking the heavy silence that had fallen.
A shaky smile blossomed on Sigyn's scarred features. "Not yet, I'm afraid-"
With a mischievous smile, Loki cut her off. "I had one in mind."
"You did?" Sigyn turned to him, surprise evident. "Well?"
"I was thinking," he paused and glanced at his mother before looking back at Sigyn. "I was thinking of something along the lines of Sleipnir."
"Sleipnir," Sigyn tested the name on her tongue and smiled up at him. Her eyes full of approval. "It will suit him very well. I love it."
"You do?" Loki asked, genuinely surprised. "Really?"
Sigyn nodded, giggling. "Have I ever lied to you?"
Frigga watched the scene with a smile. Something so affectionate as agreeing on a name for their child, was something Frigga had always wished for her sons and their wives. But her smile slowly faded as another pressing matter surfaced in her mind. "I hate to break this beautiful moment, but I fear there is something I must discuss with the both of you."
"What is it?" Loki asked, not letting go of Sigyn's hand.
"I fear that our dear Sigyn's absence has caused some rather ugly rumours to rise," Frigga explained, looking at both of them.
"Like what?" Sigyn asked in deceptively calm voice. "What are they saying about me?"
This was the part that Frigga dreaded. She had been horrified when her maids had relayed the rumours to her not two days past.
"Mother?" Loki prompted her, desperate to know his mother had heard.
"Stories are circulating through court," she began, but could not bring herself to look her son in the eye. "Concerning Sigyn's fidelity."
"My what?" Sigyn asked, her words slow and her voice low.
Loki had remained silent. Not trusting himself to speak. A white hot fury coursed through him. How dare they. How dare they even think so of his wife. He would make them pay for this.
"There are those within the court that are saying that the reason you have been gone," Frigga paused and took a deep breath before meeting Loki's furious gaze. His eyes looked to be made of emerald fire. "Is because you have finally left him."
Though she could not see the Queen's face, Sigyn could hear the pain in her voice. The pain and the betrayal. For this was an insult to her too. An insult to the royal family as a whole. "Who started this lie?" She whispered, her voice threatening to break. She knew when she married him that the court only tolerated him. That they did not hold him in the same honourable light as his brother. But this?! This was unwarranted and plain rude.
"I am afraid I do not know," came the Queen's reply and Sigyn simply nodded.
Resolved washed over the Princess and she looked towards where her husband stood silently. "Then there is only one thing to do. We must and will prove that ignorant rabble wrong."
Frigga smiled at her words. She sounded so like Loki.
"How?" The Prince asked, a wicked smile forming.
Sigyn looked to her husband with a smile to match his own. "We make an appearance. As a family. You, me and little Sleipnir. We will face them as a united front."
"But your eyes."
Sigyn shrugged her shoulders. "Let them see what I would willingly endure for you. Let them see the proof of how wrong they are."
Overcome with emotion, he bent towards her and kissed her ardently. The realm fell away and only she existed, she and their beautiful son. His family.
Frigga felt her heart swell with pride. It was time that Loki had someone in his corner that would fiercely defend him and stand by his side. "Well," she spoke up, smiling widely, eyes sparkling. "You'll be needing a dress for the occasion."
Sigyn giggled and curled herself and the child into Loki's side. From her position, she glanced upwards, a tender smile gracing her lips. "In green and black, with hints of gold."
"Most certainly," Frigga agreed with a proud smile and winked at her son. "And I do believe that I have the perfect occasion in mind."
"Why mother," Loki practically purred, his eyes sparkling deviously. "One might think I've been influencing you."
Frigga chuckled and shook her head. "Never forget where you learnt those skills, my dear."
"When did you have in mind?" Sigyn asked, her voice betraying her eagerness.
"My name-day approaches," Frigga explained. "What better time to introduce Asgard to the newest member of it's royal family?"
"But mother, are you certain?"
"My dear heart," Frigga stood and approached the couple. She met her son's eyes and took one of his hands in both of hers. "I have never been more certain of anything."
As soon as the Queen had left, Loki turned and looked down at his wife with nothing but love and sheer admiration. How in the universe had he gotten so lucky?
"Let's go show them," Sigyn smiled up at him when she felt his forefinger tilt her chin up. "I may be blind. But I'm certainly not deaf."
"Oh, my love," he breathed against her lips. "My soul. How did I get to be so lucky?"
Sigyn laughed and closed the distance between them. Only to be broken apart by Sleipnir voicing his protest at being ignored. Both his parents laughed; Loki bent down and pressed a kiss to his forehead. "Are you ready to meet the world, my son?" In answer, the little boy smiled and wrapped his little hand around his father's pinky.
Chapter 22: Sleipnir Lokison
Don't let them tell you that your pain should be confined to the past, that it bears no relevance to the present.
Your pain is part of who you are.
They don't know how strong that makes you.
~ Lang Leav (Strength)
The preparations for the Allmother's birthday were in full swing and the Avengers could do little but watch. Thor had insisted they stay until after the celebrations had concluded. Tony had reluctantly agreed, hoping silently that this would finally be a chance to see her.
"What does one even wear to something like this?" Steve asked, surprising the team.
"When did you suddenly care about fashion, Cap?" Clint remarked, smirking. The team chuckled in agreement.
"This is apparently a big deal," Steve said defensively. "And besides, it would be a sign of respect. We are guests after all."
This earned a thoughtful silence from the assembled team.
"I suppose we could ask Thor?" Carol suggested, "I mean, I'm sure he'd know where to go."
A hum of collective agreement echoed from around the group.
Servants, maids and palace staff bustled all around them, transforming the palace into a spectacle of further beauty. Towering floral arrangements were carried by servants much shorter than they were and drapery in all the colours of the rainbow were being hung in strategic placements around the dining hall. The sweet scent of freesias and peach blossoms permeated the air and followed the searching Avengers into every room they entered.
A collective sigh of relief sounded when at last they spotted Thor's towering frame. It was evident he was speaking with someone and the optimistic attitude plummeted when they saw who his company was.
It seemed that the brothers had not yet noticed that they weren't alone. Fragments of their conversation floated to the group, who made no effort at all to hide their eavesdropping. It did not appear to be a pleasant topic.
"She is what?"
Loki gave no verbal reply.
"For how long has she been like this?"
"I cannot say for certain," Loki answered, folding his arms. "But I cannot simply stand by and do nothing."
Thor nodded his agreement. "But are you sure brother? What I mean is, is there a way to fix this?"
Intrigued, the Avengers glanced at each other and slowly crept forward to hear more. Tony in particular was eager to find out the specifics.
"There has to be," Loki hissed, "I owe it to her and Sleipnir."
Thor frowned in confusion at the new name. "Who's Sleipnir?"
Loki smiled slightly before settling his features. "Really brother?" He raised an eyebrow and folded his arms, smirking. "Can you not guess who he might be?"
At his brother's words, Thor grinned. "A most suitable name, brother."
Tony glanced at his team mates, they all knew the name from mythology.
"Does mother know?" Thor asked, drawing their attention back to the conversation that seemed to have regained its darker tone.
Loki nodded, "she does. She is with her now."
"I suppose that will make things a little easier," Thor murmured thoughtfully. "Is she coming tomorrow night?"
The younger god replied with a slight nod. "All three of us will be there."
Thor beamed at his sibling. "I'm sure mother will be delighted." His smile, however soon fell away. "Will she be alright though, Y/N?"
The eavesdropping Avengers turned as one to look at Tony at the mention of the name and saw him staring straight ahead, hanging on every word of the Prince's conversation.
Loki sighed. "She hasn't done anything to deserve such ire from the people."
"The court has always been one to blow things out of proportion, brother you know this."
"I swear to you," Loki spoke, a hard edge to his tone. "I will find the coward that started this..." he didn't have to finish his threat to convey his meaning. A sneer contorted his angular features. "It appears we have company." His emerald eyes locked onto the Avengers, frozen in place.
Thor turned and smiled when he saw them.
"Brother where are you going?" Thor asked, confused as Loki spun on his heel.
"I have already been away too long," came the whispered answer before he disappeared.
~ ~ ~
The places that she had once known so well now seemed foreign to her. Using her hands, Sigyn began to learn the shapes of what the darkness hid from her. Her memories could only serve her for so long.
It frustrated her beyond belief. The rooms she had once glided through on sure feet, now she stumbled through, her feet not sure where to step next. Her hands were constantly outstretched, searching, forever searching and occasionally finding purchase.
The soft rustle of fabric caught her attention and she turned in the direction of the sound. "Allmother?"
"I am still here, child," Frigga replied softly, not wishing to wake her grandson who lay asleep in her arms. The Queen watched silently as Sigyn slowly made her way from where she had been standing near the entrance to the bedroom.
As Sigyn began to move slowly closer, her foot caught on the edge of the plush carpet and she fell before Frigga had a chance to catch her. She didn't move, she simply stayed as she had fallen. The sound of her fall had been muffled by the thick carpet. Frigga walked towards her and knelt before her. "Sigyn?"
When she at last looked up, Frigga saw tears in those sightless eyes. The self-loathing in them was as clear as day. "Allmother?" She sounded so vulnerable, so broken. A searching hand stretched out.
With her free hand, the Queen took Sigyn's. "I am right here," she said gently.
"I hate this," Sigyn whispered. "I hate this so much." Her hands came up to cover her eyes. "I hate him," her voice was now a hoarse whisper, a shadow of what it had been.
"Come now," Frigga spoke soothingly. Adjusting her hold on the child, she looked into the blind eyes before her. Beautiful eyes that were now condemned to see only endless dark. A sea of nothing, while the universe unfolded itself around her. "He is no more."
Sigyn shook her head. "But he isn't. He isn't, Allmother." The hands that had covered her eyes went to clutch the sides of her head. "He is still in here. In my head," she bit out the last words from behind clenched teeth. "With every blinded second that passes, he wins. Everything I cannot see is a victory for him. He is in the dark where everything I love is kept from me."
With her free hand, Frigga gently pried Sigyn's hands away from her head and held them in her own. "My darling girl." She guided Sigyn's arms and hands until she held little Sleipnir. The child curled against her. The tears that fell from her eyes were instantly buried in the child's soft hair as she hugged him close. Frigga ran a calming hand through Sigyn's loose hair.
This was how Loki found them. Entering the bedroom, he saw his mother crouched beside the curled forms of his wife and child. Sigyn's slender shoulders shook delicately. He fell to his knees beside her. Saying nothing, he drew her trembling form close. Soothing sounds whispered from his lips as he gently rocked her. "Shhh," he murmured, "you're okay."
Neither of them had noticed the Queen's departure.
When her breathing began to even out, Loki drew away slightly to see her better. The tears had dried and her eyes were closed, her lips pressed to the baby's crown. "Angel?" He kept his voice soft. A nasty feeling began to eat away at him. "Darling, what happened?"
Sigyn didn't answer right away. A shuddering sigh left her before she looked in his direction. "Do you think I will ever forget what you look like?" She sounded so small and fragile and he felt his heart shatter at her words.
Reaching out, he cupped her cheek and tenderly traced the line of her cheekbone. "I certainly hope not, my love."
Sigyn smiled, or at least, she tried too. Turning her head, she placed a soft kiss to his palm. "Me neither."
~ ~ ~
At least now they had a destination. All of them felt more than a little apprehensive about visiting the palace tailor.
Soon they arrived outside a rather large set of doors. Thor stepped up and swung them open, knocking lightly on the wooden surface before entering, his friends following close behind.
Bolts of fabric and mannequins met their eyes. Fabric in all manner of textures and colours. Mannequins dressed in partially finished outfits were dotted around the room.
"Wow," even Natasha was impressed.
"Your Highness!" The exclamation took them all by surprise and they spun around to come face-to-face with a short woman, who's graying hair was tied back in an intricate series of braids.
"Ida," Thor chuckled in response and swooped down to embrace the woman.
"You gave no warning," she admonished him affectionately. "At least your brother sends a servant ahead."
The Avengers glanced at each other. This was not the first time that the courtiers or palace staff had spoken so of the second Prince.
"Yes, well," Thor grinned. "This is a rather urgent matter."
Ida raised an eyebrow in anticipation.
"My companions, who are guests of both myself and my parents, require proper attire for tomorrow night's event."
"Do they now?" Ida muttered thoughtfully, eyeing Natasha, Carol and Wanda, sizing them up. "Hmmm, yes. I believe I may be able to help you."
"Ida, you are truly a miracle worker-"
The seamstress held up a hand, effectively cutting the Prince off. "Don't thank me just yet. Come along," she gestured to the three women of the group to follow her.
"Where are they going?" Pietro asked, looking after his sister as she disappeared behind a curtain.
"There is no need to be alarmed," Thor reassured him. "Ida sometimes has a number of ready-made gowns. She, no doubt, believes she has ones that will suit them."
"Alright," Ida stopped before a series of mannequins wearing gowns in a rainbow of colours. Some bore intricate embroidery, while others seemed to have crystals woven into the very fabric. The seamstress glanced back at Natasha first, then back to the gowns on display. It did not take her long to select one. The skirt looked to have a spectrum of tiny blades worked into the fabric, they flashed with all the colours of the rainbow in the light that streamed in from the window. The gown swept the floor as Ida passed it to a stunned Natasha. "This one, I think," she murmured. "Well go on then," she gestured to her to duck into a small room against the far wall.
As soon as Natasha had gone, Ida turned her attention to Wanda. "Red," she said, as though thinking aloud. Then, turning back to the gowns, she selected one that seemed to be both red and black at the same time. The bodice was a stunning work of obsidian crystals.
Carol, for her part, became curious when she saw a mannequin dressed in a black gown that seemed deceptively simple. Narrowing her eyes in thought, she stepped around the back and inhaled sharply. The back of the dress was low and would have left the whole back free had it not been for a golden snake that hung suspended from gold chains. Tiny emeralds had been worked into the links on the chains. The eyes of the snake were emeralds too and sparkled in the soft daylight. It was certainly beautiful and very elegant. As she continued to circle the mannequin, Carol noticed that the fabric was not black at all, but green. She smiled to herself when she realised that it all depended on the angle of the light.
"Can I have this one?" She asked the seamstress, who had just ushered Wanda into a second dressing room.
Ida chuckled as she approached the young woman. It was no surprise that she had taken notice of that particular dress. The Queen herself had come in a week before and ordered the dress to be made. For whom, Ida could only suspect. There weren't many who would wear those colours. "I am afraid that one is unavailable."
Carol tried not to be disappointed. "How come?"
"The Queen herself came and asked me to have this one made. She did not specify for whom." She patted the young woman's arm. "But never you mind, dear. I have one in mind for you."
Reluctantly, Carol followed the seamstress. Sure enough, the gown picked out, was certainly very beautiful and in a colour that Carol favoured. It was a midnight blue and seemed to have silver threads running through it. "Wow," she breathed in admiration, much to the seamstress's delight.
~ ~ ~
Sigyn no longer knew if it was day or night and had begun to rely on Loki and Frigga to tell her.
"What is it, love?" Loki's soft voice interrupted her thoughts and she directed a smile his way.
"Oh, nothing," she replied, absentmindedly tracing patterns on her son's back as he rested against her. "I was just thinking."
"Oh?" She heard the soft sound of a book closing. "About tonight?"
Sigyn swallowed the rising nerves and shook her head. "Actually no. I was just thinking on the fact that I now have to ask whether or not the sun is up or not." A rueful smile followed her words.
"Oh, my darling," Sigyn heard a soft rustle of fabric as he got up and moved towards her. "I tell you what," he began and took hold of her free hand. "Tonight, when the sun sets, I will take you out on the balcony and describe it for you."
Sigyn smiled and nodded, squeezing his hand gratefully. "That would be most beautiful." She paused and took a deep breath before continuing. "About tonight..."
Loki stayed where he was, kneeling before her with her hand in both of his. "I will be there every second, I promise you that," each word was punctuated with a soft kiss to each knuckle. "I will not leave your side."
While his words did indeed relieve her, another matter sprang up in her restless mind. "Do your father and brother know?"
"About Sleipnir?" Loki asked, sounding a little confused. "Of course they do, my love. You need not worry."
Sigyn bit her lip and shook her head. "No. I know that. I meant, do they know about my-" here she cut herself off as she searched for the right word. "About my condition?"
Oh. No Odin did not know. Perhaps his mother had told him, Loki fervently hoped she had. "Thor is aware," he began.
"And your father?" She asked, her tone hopeful. "Did your mother tell him?"
"I am afraid that I do not know, my love," the Prince reluctantly admitted. "If she has, she has not confided about it to me."
Sigyn nodded distractedly and began to chew her bottom lip. A nervous tick she had developed. She needed something to distract her. "You must promise me something, Loki."
Blinking, the Prince nodded, before answering. "Of course. Anything. What is it?"
"Please promise me that I will not have to wear high heeled shoes tonight."
At her words, a burst of laughter bubbled up and Loki did not bother to hold it back. "Of course. I promise you, my darling." Sigyn detested the shoes, forever trying to keep her balance and therefore favouring the lower heeled shoes.
Sigyn laughed along with him. Little Sleipnir voiced his protest at being woken so rudely, causing both of his parents to hastily apologise while unable to keep from smiling.
Not an hour later, Frigga swept into the suite of rooms, the sound of muffled voices guiding her to where the little family was. The scene she happened upon caused her heart to flutter.
"Mother," Loki, now holding the child, was the first to see her.
"Allmother," Sigyn greeted her and stood, hands clasped before her.
The Aesir Queen smiled at the trio. Little Sleipnir seemed equally delighted by her presence and was smiling widely, his little hands fisted in his father's tunic.
"I have come baring gifts," Frigga announced, presenting the bundle she carried.
"Oh?" Sigyn turned further towards her visitor, her hands beginning to reach out.
Taking hold of the searching hand, Frigga gently guided it to the fabric in her arms and smiled when Sigyn gasped. "My gown?"
Frigga nodded in answer. "It most certainly is, my dear."
Hearing something being laid down, Sigyn could only begin to imagine what the gown would look like and itched to run her hands along the fabric to detect its patterns and shapes.
Seeing her eagerness, Frigga unwrapped the gown and led Sigyn to it, directing her hands to the fabric.
Loki simply watched her. Sleipnir watched her too. Both of them followed her hands as she traced her way across the garment, taking in every detail. It was certainly very beautiful and Loki shot his mother a grateful smile. The style of the gown was very much to Sigyn's tastes.
"It feels," Sigyn began in a soft, distant voice. "It feels beautiful. Soft like the new grass in Spring. It is long too," she added with a smile. "All the way to the floor, if I am guessing correctly." Then her expression changed as her hands came to the back of the dress. As her fingers danced over the embellishments, a grin took over from the smile. A full, white toothed grin and her sightless eyes sparkled with joy. "By the Norns," she murmured, her fingers tracing the patterns. "How intricate."
"I take it that it has your approval?" Frigga asked from behind her.
Slowly turning and reaching out for the Queen, Sigyn nodded eagerly, making the baby giggle. "It is perfect, Allmother. Thank you so very much."
"Nonsense, my dear. The pleasure is all mine." Frigga replied with a warm smile of her own, gently squeezing Sigyn's hands before letting go.
The moment Frigga left, Sigyn sank to the ground and looked up when she heard footsteps head her way. "Loki?"
"Right here, angel."
Reaching out for his hand, she laced their fingers together. "This is it, isn't it?"
"Yes, my darling," he answered, moving to sit beside her. "It most certainly is."
~ ~ ~
The great hall had been completely transformed. The Allmother's colours hung in sheer curtains that billowed in the soft evening breeze. The hall was truly a sight to behold. Even Tony was struck speechless as the Avengers passed through the double doors.
There was a sea of people, many of whom were eager to meet them. Soon, they were mingling, each looking for a face of a member of the royal family. They had, as yet, not arrived.
"They're probably gonna come when everyone else is here," Tony said to a curious Peter.
"Because," Tony explained, smirking. "One can't exactly make an entrance if there is no one there to see it."
Behind him, Dr. Strange rolled his eyes and proceeded to make his way to the other side of the vast room.
"I suppose that makes sense," Peter murmured, more to himself than anybody else.
Then, the sound of the double doors grating open caught and held everyone's attention. They had arrived. Frigga Allmother, with her arm linked through her husband's, led the small procession. Following her was Thor, his red cloak flowing out behind him, his golden hair gleaming in the light of countless candles. Loki was strangely absent, as was Sigyn.
Tony searched the crowd as the procession passed, but there was no sign of either of them. He tried hard not to look too disappointed. He had hoped that this occasion might have pried her back out into the open again. But she was nowhere in sight.
Whispers regarding the couple's absence floated through the room, and only came to a reluctant standstill as the royal family came to a halt at the top of the dias at the far end of the hall. The Allfather's voice rang out, silencing and commanding attention.
"It is with great joy that we gather here tonight. Tonight we come together to celebrate one who is loved by all and who gives her love to all. She is your Queen and Allmother. She is the mother of my sons and my strong, unyielding anchor. To the Allmother!" Here he raised a goblet in a toast to his wife and the entire crowd lifted their goblets in unison.
"To the Allmother," they cried.
Frigga smiled at the assembled crowd before her. Laying a hand over her heart, she bowed to her husband before stepping where he had stood a few moments before. The eager, devoted cries of the crowd died down as she began to speak. Her voice was softer than the Allfather's, but it commanded no less attention and held no less authority.
"I wish to extend my deepest gratitude to each and every soul within this vast hall. It is indeed with great joy that we have gathered," Frigga spoke, repeating her husband's words and earning a few curious glances from the people. "For tonight we welcome a new member to our family."
The glances were replaced by whispers. These whispers reached the Avengers who had managed to come together.
"It is with tremendous joy," Frigga continued, silencing the crowd and drawing all eyes to her. "That we present to you, the first of his name," the smile she had worn before only widened as she glanced slightly to her left. "Prince Sleipnir Lokison."
There was a breath of silence before the hall erupted into cheers.
Two figures emerged from the left side of the dias and the Avengers, at Tony's insistence, moved closer. It soon became evident who they were. They were an elegant couple, no one could deny that.
Tony watched like a hawk as Sigyn came into clearer view. Loki had his arm around her and the child she carried. Even from where he stood, Tony could not see any scars that she might have had and she seemed to be smiling at something Loki was saying. She was so beautiful, as beautiful as she had been in her previous life. Her pale hair had been braided and styled into a bun of sorts, while from her ears hung delicate gold chains with a single emerald brushing occasionally against her neck.
"I know that dress," Carol whispered in shock next to him. Her words drew his attention to her attire. The way the light caught on the fabric made it appear both black and green. Yet it was her back that caught his attention. A golden snake with emerald eyes guarded her otherwise exposed back. Emerald chains secured it to her gown.
Once the cheers had died down and the celebrations had begun to flow, Tony made his move.
Sigyn did not stray an inch from her husband. The noise of so many people overwhelmed her and made her hold her son closer. The cheers following Frigga's announcement had surprised her. In all honesty, she had not known what to expect. The feel of Loki's hand in hers became a source of reassurance and she prayed that no one would come and wish to speak with her.
Loki had watched the crowd with narrowed eyes. Sigyn was on edge and he was sorely tempted to excuse them and return to their chambers. Following his mother, he led his wife to the table that sat on the dias. At least they would have some separation from the crowd. A groan of irritation left his lips as he locked eyes with Stark who seemed intent on making his way towards them.
Tony's eyes moved from Loki's and locked with Sigyn's. Yet no smile greeted him, no flash of recognition before they moved off somewhere else. Searching for something.
"It seems, my dear," Loki whispered in her ear as Stark got closer. "That there is someone who wishes to speak with you."
"What?" She whispered back, her panic evident.
"Fear not, my love," he reassured her. "I shan't be leaving your side."
"Can you do the talking for me?" Sigyn asked, her voice soft and almost desperate. "Please?"
Kissing the hand he held, Loki replied, "with pleasure, my darling." Drawing back a little, he glanced up and sneered. "Stark. Still here I see?"
Sigyn made no move to indicate that she was listening. Stark. She knew that name. It seemed so familiar to her.
Tony, for once undeterred by the god before him, glanced at Sigyn. Her attention seemed to be fixed on the child in her arms, her soft voice lulling him back to sleep. "I sure am," he stated, smiling. "May I have a word with your wife?"
Loki's eyes narrowed and he stepped between Stark and Sigyn. "She is otherwise occupied. As you can well see."
"Loki," Stark hissed, his irritation and impatience growing.
The Prince only smiled. Yet there was no warmth in the expression. "If she wishes to speak with you, she will seek you out." His words, calmly delivered, brokered no argument.
Tony ground his teeth in frustration and tried one more time. "Y/N?"
Sigyn jerked. Her attention was snapped away from her child as she turned her head in search of the speaker.
Tony watched with baited breath. It was clear that he had caught her attention, yet why was she not looking at him? Her eyes were open, yet they seemed to be searching for something. The one who had said her name, it seemed. Her movements were slow and unsure.
"She cannot see you, Stark," Loki spoke from beside him. Tony looked at the Prince with curious surprise.
The heaviness with which Loki spoke the words caught Tony by surprise and shook him to his very core. "She is blind." With those words, he moved to help his wife to stand and in turn lead her from the hall, her head on his shoulder.
"She is blind."
Chapter 23: Blind Cruelty
"People are oceans," she shrugged. "You cannot know them by their surface."
~ Beau Taplin (I am more than what you see.)
"She is blind."
There had been no trickery in those green eyes. No malice or deceit. Tony now knew what honesty looked like on Loki. He saw how the honesty had stripped all other emotions away, leaving only traces and mere hints to what the Trickster was feeling. His voice, though hushed, had borne an undercurrent of grief.
"She is blind."
Those three little words. Made so big by the impact they had upon him. That was why she had not smiled at him, nor made any gesture of recognition. If she had felt him watch her as they left, she gave no indication. The Prince's voice and words ran loops in his mind, refusing to give him even a moment's peace. All around him, the sounds of celebration; music and dancing were muted. They were dulled and made unimportant in the light of the news he had received.
Tony watched, as still as a statue, as the couple swept from the hall. The snake on the back of her gown appeared to coil and twist in the light, it's golden scales and emerald eyes catching on the golden glow of countless candles as she passed them by. The green of her husband's ceremonial cloak complimented the dark fabric of her gown and brought out the emeralds below her ears.
"She is blind."
He could not let her go. Despite the Prince's words. This was the closest he had been to her since the rescue. He owed it to her and to Pepper to at least try. It tore at his heart that she would not be able to see him. He wondered how many others knew, did all of Asgard know that the wife of one it's Princes, was blind? Steeling his nerves and holding fast to his resolve, he followed them. Weaving his way through the amassed nobles, he went after them.
Sif watched him as he passed and narrowed her eyes in thought. It was nothing new that Loki and Sigyn would leave a celebration early. They had done it often enough not to raise any eyebrows. But this man's avid interest in the couple, piqued Sif's ever growing curiosity. She, as well as the rest of Asgard, was still reeling from the news they had received that night. Lokison. There was a name that Sif believed she would never hear.
Politely excusing herself, she followed the Avenger out of the hall, making sure to stay in the shadows and out of sight.
The hallways were silent. Save for their soft footfalls, no sound broke through the warm air. Sigyn was grateful that Loki had taken it upon himself to excuse them from the celebrations. Her remaining senses had quickly become overwhelmed and she had fast become uncomfortable.
"Thank you," she whispered, hoping he would hear her.
A soft kiss to the top of her head indicated that he had. His arm around her tightened slightly and caught her attention.
"What is it?" She asked, her voice still hushed.
"We are not alone," Loki answered in the same tone.
"Someone's following us?" Her arms unconsciously tightened around the sleeping baby in her arms. "Can you see who it is?"
At her question, he turned and looked over his shoulder. His searching eyes landed upon a figure not too far from them. Even in the dim light of the hallway, he was able to see who it was. An irritated sigh blew past his lips.
"Who is it?" Sigyn asked, equal parts curious and frightened.
With a slight twitch of his free hand, the Prince illuminated the hallway. "You couldn't stay away, could you?"
The figure opposite the couple smirked. "I don't do well with orders."
That voice, Sigyn knew it. She had heard it back in the corridor on Thanos's ship. Stark. That's what Loki called him. Narrowing her eyes, she stepped towards the newcomer. "Loki?"
"Yes, my darling." He replied, turning his attention to his wife.
Sigyn bit her lip and looked up, directing her eyes where she believed his to be. "I want to speak with him," she whispered, not too keen on being overheard.
Loki was confused. "What? Are you sure?"
Sigyn hesitated before nodding. "He feels familiar. Like I've met him somewhere before. Please, let me do this."
Loki hesitated before looking back to Tony. "Alright," he breathed, meaning only for Sigyn to hear.
"Does he know?" She asked, voice still soft.
"Stark?" She called out, her voice a little louder.
Tony breathed a sigh of relief and moved to stand in front of her. "I'm right here."
With her free hand, she reached out and nodded when her hand came in contact with his clothing. "Back in the hall," she began, "you called me Y/N..."
"Yes, I did," a slight tremor in his voice betrayed him.
"Only very few people know me by that name," Sigyn continued, her free hand searching for Loki's. "Myself and my husband," she explained. When at last she felt his palm against hers, she spoke again. "How is it that you know that name?"
Tony took a deep breath and looked at her. While in the hall, her skin had been void of scars, now she wore a mask of them. The healed skin around her eyes was made paler by the light that hovered in the hallway. Her head was held high. "Because," he began, suddenly unsure of how to give voice to his wishes. "Because my daughter bore the same name."
Sigyn's eyes narrowed in thought. "Then why call me that? While it is indeed a strange coincidence that your daughter and I should share a name, why call it out to me?"
For the first time in his life, Tony had no idea what to say. Was she playing him? Did she truly not know who he was?
"Your name," she said, catching his attention and tearing him from his thoughts. "I know it. Your voice too, it is familiar."
Her words brought him fragile hope that maybe she did indeed remember.
"It is as familiar to me, as my own name," she continued in the silence, not seeing the way his eyes were roaming her face and taking in every small movement. "Yet I cannot place where I know you from."
"Yet you know why Y/N is your true name?" Tony was relieved to find his voice.
She nodded. "Indeed I do. I was granted a second chance."
Tony took a deep breath, "and what do you recall from before all that?"
Sigyn frowned as she tried to remember. "Precious little."
"Then let me help you," Tony took a step forward and Loki shot him a warning glare.
"How?" Sigyn asked, unsure.
"You said that I sounded familiar, right?"
Sigyn nodded and Tony continued. "That is because we knew each other."
"Indeed. If you don't believe me, ask Loki here."
She did just that. "Is it true, Loki? Did I know him from before?"
"Yes," Loki replied, giving her hand a slight squeeze.
"How well?" She asked, turning her attention back to Tony. "How well did I know you?"
Tony licked his suddenly dry lips. "Well enough for your name to be Y/N Stark."
The silence that followed was deafening as Sigyn stared where she thought he'd be. "I-I," she stuttered as her mind struggled to make sense of the hazy memories. "I'm your daughter?"
"You were, yes." Tony was surprised at how steady his voice sounded.
"Loki?" She turned in his direction. "Is this true?"
Her husband nodded before answering. "Yes, my darling. It is. When we met, your name was Y/N Stark."
She blinked rapidly. "That's why I recognised your voice," her voice came out as a breathy whisper. "That's why it sounded so familiar."
From where she had hidden herself, Sif was sure her jaw had dropped to the floor. Sigyn had once been someone else? Did Thor know about this? Did Odin and Frigga? From the revelation that she and Loki had had a child, right to the fact that she wasn't technically who she said she was, Sif did not know how much more she could take.
Her dark, hawk-like eyes continued to watch them. She saw Sigyn (or whoever she was) let go of Loki's hand and reach out towards the other man's face. When she began to trace her fingers along his features, Sif was sure she was imagining it. A cruel smile curved her lips as realisation washed over her. The woman was blind. The wife of the Trickster was blind. The Dark Prince's wife was blind. A delighted cackle began to bubble up and Sif dashed away before her hiding place might be betrayed.
She could barely wait to impart the news to her companions and soon all of Asgard would know. Sigyn may not have been unfaithful, she may have proven those rumours wrong. 'Let her try and oppose this one', Sif thought to herself with a grin.
Chapter 24: Dancing on the Edge of a Blade
I'm not choosing you because our being together makes sound, solid sense. I choose you because you make me forget there's a choice.
~ Beau Taplin (Sound Solid Sense)
"Tell me, my darling. What colour are the leaves now?"
"Oh?" Sigyn became curious and directed her scarred eyes upwards where the breeze played with the leaves.
"Some are yellow," Loki answered, smiling as he watched her. "And some are orange."
A delighted, curious sparkle entered her eyes as she looked towards her husband. 'What kind of yellow? What kind of orange?"
Sleipnir who had dozed off between his parents now woke, and blinked sleepily.
Upon noticing this, Loki leaned over and whispered to his wife. "It seems our little Prince has woken."
Reaching her hands out, Sigyn scooped her son into her lap. A soft laugh bubbled up when she felt a small hand pull on her hair.
The smile he had worn before only grew as he watched his wife and son. In spite of everything and the horrors both had endured not six months prior, they were flourishing. Even at his tender age of seven months, little Sleipnir had proven to be as mischievous as his father. He had a little smile that would tell anyone that he was up to no good.
Even his beloved Y/N, robbed of her sight. In the weeks following the departure of the Avengers, new rumours had begun to spread. Rumours that had soon proven themselves to be true. The Blind Princess, that was what they called her, The Princess with no Eyes. Loki knew that Y/N was aware of these, that she was all too aware of what Asgard thought of her. Yet, her love of the seasons and the natural world overcame her desire not to leave the confines of their chambers.
Now, six months later, she lay beneath an orchard who's leaves were painted in such brilliant shades, that a sunset would be put to shame. With a laughing child on her knee, she looked happier than she had been in a very long time. Her laughter, mixed with that of their son's, was the most beautiful sound Loki had ever heard. It was a sound of pure joy.
"He's getting so big," she commented, pulling him from his observation.
"Yes," Loki answered, glancing at their giggling son as he bounced on his mother's knee. "He is, isn't he."
"Are his eyes still silver?" She asked, pulling the laughing boy into her lap. "Or have they changed?"
Chuckling, the Prince wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "Still silver, my love."
"And his hair, it's getting longer isn't it?"
"Very slowly," he replied, "but yes."
Humming contentedly, she lay her head on his shoulder and kissed the leather that covered his skin. "How far into Autumn are we?"
"Not very far," came his soft answer, his fingers absentmindedly combing through her hair. "Most of the trees still have their leaves."
"Are the leaves falling yet?"
"From some trees."
She grinned and looked up towards him. "Here? In the orchard?"
Her grin widened.
"Darling," Loki began, knowing exactly what a smile like that entailed. "What are you planning?"
"I want you to dance with me."
"I'm sorry?" He blinked in confusion.
"You heard me," she replied, the smile never leaving. "Dance with us. I'm sure Sleipnir wants to learn." Turning her attention to their son, she kissed his head. "Shall we dance with Papa?" She crooned.
Soon the child's delighted laughter floated through the orchard as they danced among the falling leaves. Sigyn's gown flared out as she spun in Loki's arms, a beautiful contrast to the sunset colours of the autumn orchard.
Frigga watched the happy family from her tower, Odin at her elbow. They watched as Loki plucked the child from the ground and twirled him in circles until he laughed in his father's arms. They saw how Sigyn was smiling wider than she had in quite some time. It truly saddened Frigga that Sigyn could no see just how happy and carefree Loki was in these moments.
"I do not think I have ever seen him this happy," Odin remarked from beside her.
Frigga could only agree. "He is a good father," she murmured thoughtfully, her eyes on her son and grandson.
"Yes," Odin replied, his voice going a little softer as he watched the little boy bury his dark head in the crook of his father's neck. "He most certainly is."
Bittersweet tears stung the Queen's eyes at his words.
~ ~ ~
"How is my favourite nephew?"
Sigyn rolled her eyes and smiled in Thor's direction. With the hand that wasn't holding her son, she reached out to her brother-in-law. "He is your only nephew."
"Precisely," Thor replied and winked at the boy who smiled brightly at his uncle. "That is what makes him my favourite." He took her outstretched hand and squeezed it gently.
"To answer your question," she continued. "Sleipnir is very well. Aren't you, my little angel?" She bent and pressed a small kiss to his crown. In answer, Sleipnir babbled enthusiastically, making both his mother and uncle laugh.
"So talkative already," Thor nudged her arm, his tone playful.
"Just you wait until he can talk properly," she replied, winking.
"That is when the trouble starts," Thor said in mock horror.
Sigyn laughed. The sound filled the training arena, mercifully empty. That was until Sif and her companions, the Warriors Three appeared around the corner.
The female warrior smiled at the sight of the blonde Prince. That smile, however melted into one of malice as she spotted Sigyn and the child in her lap. The child that already resembled his father a little too much for Sif's liking. 'The Princess with no Eyes,' Sif thought to herself with a cruel glint in her dark eyes. A small part of her pitied the sightless Princess.
It had not taken long until all of Asgard had known of the Princess's 'condition'.
Turning back to her friends with a tight smile, she drew her sword from it's scabbard and lay the sheath down beside Fandral's
"You alright Sif?" The blond warrior asked, giving his rapier a final polish.
She gave an absentminded nod, causing her friends to glance at each other. "Everything's fine, really."
"Who are you trying to convince?" Fandral asked, not believing a word she said. "Us or you?"
"Alright fine," she huffed and threw a quick glance over her shoulder. "It is just that, I've been wondering..."
"Yes?" Volstagg prompted.
"What if this is all a trick?"
"A trick?' Fandral asked, clearly needing an explanation.
"You know," Sif lowered her voice to a whisper. "With her going blind all of a sudden. What if it is all one of Loki's tricks? A realm-wide prank, as it were?"
The Warriors Three stared at their friend in barely concealed shock. Sure, Sif had never been a fan of Asgard's second Prince, but this? Before either of them could utter a word in reply, a blade appeared at the side of Sif's throat, exposed by her hair being in a plait.
"A trick?' Sigyn hissed, surprising those before her. Her words dripped with venom. "You think this is all a trick do you?"
"Your Highness," Fandral spoke up, bewildered to see her there.
Sigyn payed them no mind. "Then answer me this Lady Sif," she spat the title in disgust. "Are you familiar with the being named Thanos?"
When Sif shook her head, a movement Sigyn could clearly feel, she continued. "Then I shall tell you. He is the one who robbed me of my eyesight. He is the one that tore me from my family and had me endure months of darkness before he decided to burn the ability to see, away. Months of cold darkness, only interrupted by a harsh light and heat that made my skin blister and burn."
Surprised at the speed at which Sigyn had traveled, Thor stood and approached the stunned group, little Sleipnir snuggled in his arms.
"I may be blind, Lady Sif," Sigyn sneered, scarred features contorting. "But I am certainly not deaf. So if I ever hear you speak so of my family ever again, I will make your life a misery. More than my husband ever did."
Pride flooded Loki as he happened upon the scene. Never had she appeared more heartstoppingly beautiful than she did then. He knew then, that his decision in gifting her with his most prized dagger, had been the right one. She had come a long way in such a short time. Her remaining senses had sharpened. "I suggest you heed her words, Lady Sif," he spoke up, unable to keep quiet. "My wife is not one to make idle and empty threats."
While Sif sent him the most poisonous glare she could muster, Sigyn smiled. A breathtaking smile that almost made him believe that she could see him.
Chapter 25: Be Still My Soul
My whole heart is yours, every pitter, patter and pause.
~ Beau Taplin (Pitter-Patter)
By the Norns, she was cold. Colder than she had been for quite some time. Fighting to keep her teeth from chattering, she squinted into the darkness and breathed a sigh of relief when a small orb of light was seen hovering close by. Curious, she pushed herself into a standing position and wrapped her arms around herself in an effort to ward off the cold.
The further she moved, the more familiar her surroundings became. The Aesir Palace. A small smile blossomed despite the cold, she could see again! No longer did she have to rely on what her hands felt or what her ears heard. The light before her seemed to move with every step she took. Every room she passed was empty. There was not a single sign of life, only a thin crystalline layer of frost that seemed to coat every surface.
"Loki?" She called, surely he would be there. Surely she couldn't be the only living soul in this frozen palace. No answer came, merely her voice echoing off the pale columns, turned white by the moonlight.
Biting her lip and rubbing her arms, she continued. Peering into every room she came across until a single sound interrupted her search. She would know that sound anywhere. It made her heart leap with both joy and terror. "Sleipnir," she breathed her son's name out into the cold air. With adrenaline rushing through her system, she ran in the direction of the cries. "I'm coming my darling," she whispered as she ran. "I'm coming."
The louder the sounds became, the more familiar her surrounds appeared. The doors were the ones that lead to the great hall. Faint music echoed out from behind the solid surface, punctuated only by her son's cries. Pushing the doors open, her breath stole from her lungs as she looked into the vast room beyond. Soft snow fell from where the ceiling should have been, the moonlight causing the falling flakes to sparkle. Yet not a single speck of soft white dusted the floor. She remained frozen by the door as her eyes locked onto the centre of the room where a couple twirled amongst the falling white. The soft, eerie music guiding their soundless steps.
The moonlight had only served to darken his already midnight hair, where hers became white. The snow appeared to fall through them, as though they were not really there at all. She was enchanted by the sight. Her son's cries fading into the haunting music.
"Beautiful aren't they?"
That voice. That hated, vile tone and the onslaught of memories it brought.
Then she saw him. Standing on the opposing side of the hall. He was as tall and as horridly purple as she recalled. Even from such a distance, she could make out a smile. Her heart dropped as her eyes landed on the bundle in his arms.
Oh hell no.
"How-?" That one word was all she managed. Despite the avalanche of emotions and hateful words, she could only manage one.
"How am I here?" The titan asked calmly, moving towards her, walking right through the dancing couple.
She instinctively took a step back as he approached.
"Did you really believe that a mere explosion would be enough to stop me?" He continued, his tone becoming patronising. "No, little one. No, no."
"What do you want?"
The titan laughed and momentarily looked down at the sleeping boy in his arms. "I want nothing," he began before leveling a poisonous glare at her. "Nothing save for what your dear, precious Prince owes me."
Swallowing hard, she steeled herself and looked him in the eye. "My husband owes you nothing."
A nasty smile overcame the alien's features as he began to rock the child in time with the music that floated through the air.
"Now," she said holding her arms out. "Give me my son."
"Oh no," Thanos laughed. "No, no. Not until I am paid what I am owed."
She couldn't believe what she was hearing. "How dare you," she snarled. "You took him from me once, I will not allow a second time."
"How naive of you to believe you still have a say," Thanos clicked with his tongue and shook his head. With one last glance in her direction, he stepped away from her and moved across the hall.
Seething with white hot fury, she made to follow him, only to find herself rooted to the spot. Looking down, she noticed with horror that her feet were encased in ice that would not break however hard she tried. "Sleipnir," she screamed her son's name as she fought. "No! Come back. Please come back."
At the sound of her name, her eyes flew open. Only darkness greeted her, darkness and the sensation of tears running freely down her cheeks.
"Angel?" Loki asked a second time. The sound of her screaming and desperate pleading had pulled him from his sleep. Conjuring a faint glow, he sighed at the tears that left silvery paths on her cheeks. "Hush now, my angel," he murmured, his voice soft. "T'was but a dream." Holding her close, he gently rocked her trembling form. "Shhh. It cannot harm you."
She could do little but cling to him and let the tears flow as the fear from the dream flooded through her. Her chest heaved with the effort to breathe.
"Nothing will ever harm you again," he promised softly. "Nothing will ever touch you, so long as I am here."
"Promise?" She turned her tear-stained face up towards his.
With one hand, he reached out and gently wiped the tears from her cheeks. "I swear it."
With a choked sob, she buried her face in his shoulder.
While his fingers gently combed through the sleep tousled tresses, he began to wonder just what she had been dreaming about. Her whimpering of their son's name had caught and held his attention. There had been such fear in her voice, such terror.
As the night passed on, her breathing slowly calmed until it was the slow and steady rhythm of sleep. Her arms remained wrapped around him as her warm breath blew in gentle waves over his chest. Looking down, the Prince smiled. Pressing a soft kiss to her forehead and keeping his arms around her, he settled back into sleep just as the first rays of the morning sun crept over the horizon.
~ ~ ~
Spending her days in the library was something that would never change. Whether she could see or not. Now, as she sat in her favourite place, she gently traced her searching fingers over the intricate coverings of the books in her lap.
The palace librarian indulged her and would gladly retrieve any book she requested.
As she was carefully opening the book in her lap, she heard a voice float in from the garden just outside the library. It was a male voice and one that she immediately recognised. Gently laying the book to the side, she moved closer to the window and pressed her ear against the cold glass.
"Come, I shall show you something, but you must promise not to tell your mother," there was a playful lilt to the voice, making her smile.
A beat of silence passed before the sound of a child's delighted laughter filled the air.
"I knew you would like that," Loki continued, a smile in his voice. "But something tells me that you will like this more."
Not for the first time did she curse her inability to see. What she would have given to be able to lay eyes on the scene that was playing out in the garden below. She tried to imagine it; what Loki would look like with a child in his lap, that clapped and laughed at whatever his father was showing him, with a mirroring smile on his angular features.
Angrily wiping away the tears that had fallen, she continued to listen and was surprised when she heard the faint sound of horse's hooves. They sounded light, as though barely touching the ground.
A peel of laughter pulled her from her thoughts, as did the soft sound of a baby clapping in delight. Just what had Loki shown him?
Her answer came not a minute later. "Yes," Loki spoke in a soft approving tone. "I knew you would like the horse and someday, my sweet boy, I will teach you how to ride one of your own."
In that moment, she felt her heart swell and threaten to burst with the affection she felt. The love for him and for their son was overwhelming. A strangled sob tore from her closed mouth and she doubled over, clutching at her chest and did not bother to stop the tears from falling. Yes, she could still hear and smell, touch and taste, but she wanted to see. She knew Loki loved their son, she heard it in the way he spoke to him, she felt it in the way he would gently pass the boy to her. But by the Norns! She wanted to see. She wanted to see the love she had for both of them, reflected in his eyes. She wanted to see the way he held their son, she wanted to see what made her boy smile and laugh. She wanted to see her husband, the man she loved above all else.
"I hate you," she hissed at the memory of the titan. "By the Norns I hate you for what you have taken from me."
Chapter 26: The Last Moon of Winter
I desire very little, but the things I do consume me.
~ Beau Taplin (Desire)
As hard as she tried, she could not hate the child, no matter who his parents were. His silver eyes would often regard her with a strange curiosity, as though he was trying to figure out what she was. It was not often that she saw him away from his parents and if she did, he was either with Thor or with the Queen. The pair had easily and quickly fallen into the roles of doting uncle and loving grandmother.
The child's laughter and wide smile had even caused her mask of indifference to crack on a few occasions. Thor would sometimes bring the boy to the training grounds and pace the arena while explaining everything to him. Indistinct babbles would often follow from the excited child as his eyes seemed to look everywhere at once.
While seeing Thor with a small child had become a sight she had quickly become accustomed too, the sight of father and son together was one she had yet to see. Whispers floated through the palace, from the palace staff through to the courtiers themselves. She had heard the maids and footmen speak of seeing the Dark Prince wonder the halls at night, a child in his arms. A child with hair as dark as his father's and eyes as curious as his mother's. The boy was almost a year old.
It was the last night of winter when she finally saw them. Spring was soon to arrive and the nights were slowly warming. Sif had taken a moment to catch a breath of fresh air from the surrounding gardens. The celebrations inside were in full swing, music and laughter following her out into the cool night. No snow fell and had not fallen for some weeks now. The garden she stepped into was one of the smaller ones that decorated the palace grounds.
The nightflowers were opening up under the star-strewn sky and a few shoots of grass were made visible to her. The light of the moon had bathed the garden in a silvery light, painting everything pale.
It was a soft male voice, accompanied by the soft rhythm of leather-clad footfalls, that broke off her observation of her quiet surrounds.
"Mama is fast asleep. It has been a long day for her."
Creeping towards the voice as quietly as she could, she searched them out. Her keen eyes sweeping the garden and the surrounding stone gallery. Then she saw him. His tall, lithe frame moved silently between the stone columns. His arms were curled as though carrying something.
"I know," he continued in the same soft, comforting tone. A tone of voice that Sif did not know he was capable of. "But it is almost Spring and Mama has been very busy. She loves the Spring time, it is her favourite season. Like Winter is mine."
If the child made a response, it was too soft for Sif to hear.
"Your mother and I are very interested to see which will be your favourite," the Prince murmured to his son. "But I am sure you will surprise us," he said, a smile in his voice. "Just like you do every day."
When he stepped into the garden, Sif scrambled to better hide herself. As he entered the garden, he fell silent and turned his gaze to his son who's dark head lay on his shoulder. "Look, my boy," he whispered, "it is a full moon tonight."
Looking up, Sif saw that he spoke the truth.
The little boy followed where his father pointed to the white orb that hung above them. His silvery eyes seemed to sparkle in the pale light. Imitating his father, the little Prince raised a small hand, earning a chuckle from his father, followed by a soft kiss to the forehead.
"You are a precious one, aren't you," Loki sighed, holding his son closer and nuzzling the boy's soft hair. The child, in turn, responded by lowering his hand and curling it into a tiny fist that came to rest on his father's chest. "Our precious boy."
In all honesty, Sif did not know what to think. What she was witnessing was something she would never even have imagined in her wildest dreams. Before her stood a loving, caring father, who's devotion to his family was as clear as the stars that shone in the night sky. Sif, did not recognise him. It seemed, to her, that a foreigner had taken the appearance of the second Prince, that this was someone else entirely.
"Come along," Loki whispered to the boy. "I believe it is becoming a little too cold for you. I can only imagine what your mother would say if she saw this," a small, wistful smile curved his thin lips and Sif saw his eyes go distant before snapping back to the present.
Sif remained silent as she watched the two Princes leave. Loki carefully adjusted his hold on the child who had evidently fallen asleep. His whispered words floated to her as he passed close to her. "Tomorrow we can tell your mother all about what we saw. We will tell her everything."
~ ~ ~
She was in the archives when she first felt it. A dizzying wave of nausea threatened to overwhelm her as she staggered against the stone wall for support. Her dark vision seemed to sparkle at the edges and her hands felt horribly cold and clammy. Leaning against the cold stone, she attempted to take a series of deep breaths.
"Your Highness?" The palace archivist, upon seeing her state of sudden unsteadiness, rushed to help her. The Princess's hand immediately shot out and began to search until it came into contact with the hand of the archivist. "Are you alright?"
She nodded, a little too quickly to be convincing. "I will be. Just felt a little faint is all."
"Shall I take you to the healers, Your Highness?"
She smiled at the evident concern in the voice, but shook her head. "I am quite alright, but I thank you for your concern." Despite her condition, there were not many in the palace who would have rushed to help her.
The archivist, a middle-aged woman, smiled before replying. "If you are sure, then I shall leave you. Shall I have someone fetch His Highness?"
"No, thank you," Sigyn once again shook her head, a grin forming. "He would only worry himself into a state. I will be quite fine."
Only when she heard the sound of soft, retreating footsteps, did she slide down the wall and to the ground. Her gown pooled around her, Loki had told her that morning that it was a lovely shade of soft yellow, run through with gold threads. She knew that aside from the palace librarian and archivist, both of whom she tried to visit regularly, that precious few of the palace staff made an effort to accommodate her condition. She should have been insulted, yet she only felt a sense of resignation.
Leaning her head against the cool stone, she sighed as a feeling of lucidity and steadiness returned to her. Pressing her hands to the stone, she pushed herself up and took a deep breath before continuing.
The shaking had not quite left her hands, despite it being reduced to a slight tremble. Her searching hands left stuttering trails in the fine dust that coated the shelves.
However it was the sudden stop of her slow, steady steps that alerted the archivist. Curious, she moved through the shelves until she came to the Princess.
The Princess's sightless eyes were wide as she struggled for breath, one hand clutched to her chest while the other gripped the shelf behind her. The breaths that came passed her lips were shuddering and shallow. Rushing forward as she began to sway, the archivist tried to steady her, but it was too late. The Princess's eyes rolled back into her head and all blood seemed to leave her face.
All she could do was gently guide her to the carpeted ground as she went limp in the archivist's arms. Her skin was cold to the touch and all the archivist knew for certain was that Her Highness had to be taken to the healers as quickly as possible. Caring little for propriety, she lifted the unconscious royal and carried her bridal style out into the hallway beyond.
Naturally, it was the Queen who had made to enter the archives when its caretaker rushed out, staggering a little under the weight of the body in her arms.
"What is the meaning of this?" Frigga asked, her tone urgent as her grey eyes swept over the form of her daughter-in-law. "What has happened?"
"I do not know, Your Majesty. She insisted she was alright and then the next thing I know, she couldn't even breathe properly, then her eyes rolled back and she fell."
Without waiting for further explanation, Frigga motioned for the archivist to follow her. "Then let us waste no more time. Let us bring her to Eir. I believe she will help us solve this."
Nodding a little too eagerly, the archivist followed the Aesir Queen and hoped most fervently that any gossip surrounding this event, would be kept to a minimum.
~ ~ ~
A loud series of knocks jolted Loki out of his reading. Sighing and huffing in annoyance, he laid the book to the side and made his way to the door, but not before slipping into the bedroom to make sure the noise had not woken Sleipnir. Seeing his son fast asleep, the Prince smiled and bent to press a kiss to the crown of his head before turning back to the source of the noise.
Upon seeing who it was, he promptly crossed his arms and glared at his brother. He detested interruptions of any sort. "What do you want?"
No smile preceded the older Prince's answer. "It concerns Y/N."
The use of her true name snagged his attention. His brother did not use it often, especially not where they might easily be overheard. "What of her?" He fought to keep the rising fear from his voice.
Thor seemed reluctant to impart the information. "She collapsed in the archives. She is with the healers as we-"
Before Thor had a chance to finish his sentence, Loki darted around him and dashed down the corridor. His mind began to race with awful possibilities of what could have caused this. His booted feet echoed loudly off the walls and columns as he ran. She had to be alright, she just had to be.
Startled servants ducked out of his way as he shot passed them, Thor hot on his heels.
Not slowing his pace as he neared the healing rooms, he pushed the doors open and dashed inside. Immediately his eyes began to search.
"Loki," his mother's soft voice pulled his attention to a far corner of the room.
The moment he stood by the bed, his hands reached out and took one of hers. Moving to sit on the bed by her legs, he brought her hand to his lips. She looked as though she were sleeping; her chest rose and fell steadily, though her skin was still a little clammy. Tearing his eyes away from her, he looked to his mother, who stood silently at the foot of the bed. "What happened to her? Will she be alright?"
The smile she sent him surprised and confused him. That was not what he had been expecting. "Yes," Frigga whispered, not wishing to startle the sleeping woman. "She will be alright."
Loki made to ask for specifics when he felt her hand grip his. Looking down, he was greeted with his wife's shaky smile. "You gave me quite a scare," he said, unable to keep the worry out of his voice. "Whatever happened?"
She shook her head, a look of confusion entering her eyes. "I am not really sure. One minute I was fine, the next I feel all the blood leave my head."
Loki sighed heavily before leaning forward and kissing her damp forehead. "Oh my darling," he murmured. "My dear one."
"Lady Eir," his mother's announcement had him turn away from his wife and towards the head healer. "What news have you for us?"
Eir sent the Queen a look, suggesting that she already knew.
"What happened to my wife?" Loki demanded of the healer. Damnit, he needed answers! "What caused her to collapse and loose consciousness so suddenly?" Sigyn, too seemed eager to find out as much as she could, her grip on his hand tightened.
A rare smile graced the lips of the head healer and she glance briefly at the Queen before looking back to the waiting couple. "Her Highness is not suffering from any known illness. She is in optimum health. As can be expected."
A small gasp flew passed Sigyn's lips as her eyes widened slightly at the healer's words.
"Well?" Loki was getting impatient, "what is the cause of all this then?"
Sigyn's eyes were shining as the healer spoke the next words.
"A child. Her Highness is with child."
Shock was evident in Loki's emerald eyes. Looking to his mother for confirmation, he saw her smile and nod.
"Loki?" Sigyn's soft voice drew his attention to her. The smile she greeted him with was filled to the brim with joy.
"Right here, my love," he replied squeezing her hand.
"We are going to have another baby," she whispered, as though it were some great secret. Meant only for them.
"Yes, my star," he answered, a smile of his own forming, along with the tears that threatened to fall. Pulling her close, he nuzzled the side of her neck and the soft hair that obscured it. "We most certainly are."
Chapter 27: Emotions are like the Morning Tide
I whisper your name like a prayer - with all the hope of heaven.
I trace the lines of your palm and draw a map to salvation.
I hear the knock of your heart and I answer it like my calling.
~ Lang Leav (Faith)
The Spring sun was so warm that she almost believed that it would be able to cut through the perpetual darkness that surrounded her. As the soft breeze played with the loose strands of her hair, she turned her face upwards, a serene smile curving her lips. It was times like these, lost in the gentle warmth of Spring, that she would forget. Forget that it had been nigh on a year since she had last carried a child in circumstances that were less than desirable.
As the warmth washed over her skin, she could not help but draw a comparison. Though still trapped in darkness, she was no longer surrounded by the oppressive cold that seemed to leach the very strength from her. No longer was she left to her own devices, fearing for her life and that of her unborn child.
Her smile widened as she felt movement. The child, her second, had been rather active of late. While pregnant with Sleipnir, she had fantasized about the child being a boy. Now, it changed. Every day it was different. Today the child was a girl. A girl that would grow up to have hair as fair as her mother's and eyes as green as her father's. She chuckled as the child moved again, as though aware that its mother was thinking about them.
"You seem rather excited today," she murmured, arms coming to cradle her protruding stomach. The healers had estimated the child to be born in the Autumn; it was late Spring now. "You have a brother, who I am certain will be very excited to meet you." In truth, her eldest was barely old enough to understand the changes that were happening in their small family.
Sigyn continued to speak with her child as her feet carried her through the well-known paths of the orchard. Soft petals fell from the blossoming apple and peach trees. One hand rested against her stomach, while the other skimmed along the bark of the trees she passed. It was so different; the fresh air, the warmth.
So lost was she in her thoughts that she did not hear him approach. Their firstborn in his arms. To him, she was the epitome of serenity. A soft glow seemed to surround her as she made her way slowly through the trees. She had chosen to wear her hair loose that day, wanting to feel the breeze run its fingers through the strands.
"I swear," he murmured to the boy he carried, his eyes glued to her form. "I swear sometimes I believe your mother to be an angel." She looked so happy, so calm and at peace. He would be content to watch her for the rest of his days.
Approaching her, Loki lay his free hand on her shoulder to gain her attention. "Darling?"
She turned at the sound of his voice and raised a hand to reach out to him. A hand which he readily took. "Yes?"
"You seemed rather distant there," the Prince replied, smiling. "Going down memory lane were we?"
A grim smile replaced the expression she had previously worn. "It is difficult not too, I'm afraid."
Taking her meaning, he wrapped his free arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. "Much has changed since then, my love."
"Yes, indeed it has," she agreed. "Is Sleipnir with you?" She asked, clearly wanting a change in conversation topic.
"Of course," Loki chuckled, glancing to where their son was curled up against him. His silver eyes trained on his mother.
Wordlessly, she held her arms out and sighed in contentment as she felt the familiar weight of her son in her arms. Absentmindedly, she began to sway from side-to-side, gently rocking the child.
Gently letting his arm drop from her shoulders, Loki stepped back and simply watched them. Never in his life had he imagined that he would have this. That he would experience such pure, untainted happiness and peace. As a soft tune began to drift from her lips, he felt his heart swell with love for her and their children. They were perfect, each member of his little family. His wife and the child she carried in her arms, and the one she carried within her.
The tune soon transformed into words, words in a language he recognised as being one of the many of Midgard.
"Mae 'nghariad I'n Fenws,
Mae 'nghariad I'n fain,
Mae 'nghariad I'n dlysach
Na blodau y drain."
There was a brief pause in the song as she bent to press a kiss to their son's forehead and nuzzle his soft hair. The little boy responding by fisting his hand into the fabric of her light blue gown.
"Fy 'ngariad yw'r lanaf,
A'r wynna'n y sir.
Nid canmol yr ydwyf,
Ond d'wedyd y gwir."
As the song drifted to a close, he came to realise that she was looking where she believed him to be. A small smile lit her features as though she could feel him watching her. He had never heard her sing before and her voice was as enchanting as he had imagined it to be. By the Norns she was beautiful. Though blind, she was smiling at him as though she could see him. Confident in the belief that he was there with her. Sleipnir too, was smiling at him. A smile as bright as the sun that shone through the trees. He barely felt himself move towards them as the boy stretched out his free hand.
Time froze. Everything froze. Everything fell away save for his wife and the boy in her arms. The boy who had just called to him. Papa. There was a word he never thought to hear. Tears soon gathered on his dark lashes and blurred his vision. Such happiness flooded through him that his legs threatened to give way and have him kneeling before his wife in such ardent gratitude. Gratitude for the happiness she had blessed his tainted soul with. Gratitude for the love she saw fit to bestow upon his damaged heart, so wholly and eternally hers.
Sigyn too, stood frozen. Happy tears flooding her sightless eyes. There was no envy in her heart that their son should call to his father with his first word. No. No such emotion swept through her now. There was only love. She could only imagine the look on his face. She could see his beautiful green eyes, wide with disbelief. She was overcome with a sense of gratitude. By the Norns she was grateful that their son's first word should be the one he had just uttered. Papa. Such a simple yet beautiful word when spoken to a man that had been without a family of his own for so long.
"Papa," Loki breathed, still hardly daring to believe what he had just heard.
The child, upon hearing the word repeated, reached for his father in earnest. "Papa," he said again.
A shuddering sob left him as he collapsed to his knees before them. His eyes looking up at her in purest adoration and the deepest love. With a trembling hand, he reached up and laid it against the one that rested against her stomach where their second child grew. The smile she sent him was easily the most beautiful he had ever had the good fortune to be graced with.
Sigyn, as best she could, interlaced their fingers where they rested against her stomach. Only when she felt his soft lips on her knuckles did she realise where he was. "Darling?" She asked, her voice soft and heavy with emotion. "What are you doing down there?"
"I am where I belong," came his answer. His voice a little steadier than hers. "Giving all the thanks and ardent love that this broken, tainted heart can give you. For you have blessed me with such happiness, my angel. You have given me more than a being like me deserves."
Sigyn felt her breathing hitch in her throat at his words. She shook her head and lowered herself to her knees. "You need not kneel to me, my love." She moved their joined hands to rest above her heart. "For the love I give to you is freely given. As is the love our son has for you. He knows who you are, I can feel him reach for you."
Reluctantly letting go of her hand, he reached forward and took his son. The little Prince immediately nuzzled into his father's chest.
"I wish I could see the both of you now," she murmured wistfully. "What a beautiful image you both must make."
In the months that followed, little Sleipnir grew more confident in the words he was steadily learning to pronounce. Words that never ceased to bring smiles of pure joy to the faces of his parents.
Thor had been delighted upon learning that his nephew had begun to speak. Sigyn would often find herself laughing quietly to herself whenever she heard him try to encourage the boy to say his name.
Frigga had been equally overjoyed. The boy's eagerness to learn reminded her of his father, and she had felt the sting of happy tears upon the discovery of what her grandson's first word had been.
It was, however, during the middle of Autumn, that her second child made it known that it was ready to come into the world. It was at night when the pain started and it had Sigyn bolting upright in bed, her hands clutched to her stomach.
Loki, woken by her sudden movements conjured a soft light and looked to her.
"Loki?" Her voice was audibly strained.
"Yes, my darling?"
"The baby," she gasped as pain shot through her and her nightgown dampened beneath her thighs.
Loki felt his eyes widen with realisation. "It's coming? Now?"
She nodded, her movements erratic. "Yes. Now-" she was cut off by a groan of pain.
Shooting out of bed, he did not bother to pull a shirt on as he gathered his wife into his arms. Clad only in a pair of soft cotton trousers, he sped from their suite and bolted down the empty corridors and towards the healing rooms.
"Eir," he called, his voice loud and urgent.
Bursting into the healing rooms, he lay her down on the nearest bed he could find and made to leave to find the healer when Sigyn's hand clutched his. "Don't you dare leave," she ground out. Her back arching as another spasm of pain ran through her.
"Eir," he called again, impatience adding to the urgency in his tone. He hated seeing his beloved in such pain.
Soon the sound of hurried footfalls sounded as the head healer came running, the Queen hot on her heels.
Loki did not wait to smile at his mother, but immediately turned to the healer. "The child is coming," he said, his voice trembling slightly as his eyes flew back to where Sigyn lay. Her features contorting in pain. "You have to help her."
"That is why I am here, Your Highness," the healer replied with a wry smile. "But I am afraid I must ask you to step outside."
Loki made to reply when Sigyn beat him to it. "No," she bit out, her grip on his hand becoming impossibly tighter. "No. He stays."
Frigga smiled to herself and glanced at her friend. After a moment's deliberation, she approached the woman. "My friend, let us make an exception. She was made to endure the birth of her first child alone, with no one by her side. Let him stay," she spared a glance to where her son now sat on the edge of the bed, pressing a kiss to Sigyn's hand. "Let him be with her. She needs him as much as he needs her."
Reluctantly Eir nodded, earning a relieved smile from the Queen. "Alright."
The name of the song she sings is "Eria" by Two Steps from Hell.
The English translation:
"My love is like Venus,
My love is so fair,
My love is more comely
Than roses most rare.
My love is the fairest,
Among all the youth.
And this in no boasting,
It is but the truth."
Chapter 28: The Unforseen
I want you. It's as simple as that. I've spent a great deal of my life already trying to convince myself that I can make do with less but I can't. You hear me? I'm done. I'm not giving up. A life without you is not enough.
~Beau Taplin (You or Nothing)
Time became an abstract concept to the Prince. His only tether to reality was the bone-crushing grip on his hands. Her fingers, interlaced with his, dug into his hands. With each new wave of pain the grip tightened. He watched helplessly as she gritted her teeth in a vain attempt to keep her whimpers and cries silent. Her sightless eyes were screwed shut as her back arched, driving her head further into his lap.
All around them, healers were gathering towels and sheets of innumerable quantities, basins of warm water were brought in and oils were added to the diffusers that decorated the walls. The soft light of early morning shone gently through the curtains and glistened off the sweat that had begun to gather on her brow. For near on four hours now, spasms of pain had coursed through her, each bringing her closer to the birth of her child.
A particularly painful whimper escaped her clenched jaw and she turned her head, burying her face in the leather of his crossed legs. His scent washed over her; mint, freshly picked from the garden and the cool freshness of mountain air.
"Hush now, my darling," he soothed, every sound she made, every groan and cry that she uttered were like blades to his heart. Her pain was his. "I am right here. I won't be going anywhere." His words were followed by a soft caress to both her hands.
"It hurts," she sobbed, the morning light causing her tears to shine on her cheeks. "It hurts so much."
What could he possibly say to ease her pain? He could not even imagine the sheer agony she was experiencing. A bolt of self-loathing shot through him; this was not the first time for her. She had suffered this torment before, alone and with no one to bring her comfort. He remembered the state he had found her in, her nightgown torn, tattered and bloody from the hips down. She had been trembling, barely able to support herself as she crawled towards him. He remembered her screaming his name as he and his brother begged the Avengers for assistance.
"I've got you," he murmured, fighting to keep his voice steady. Bending slightly, he pressed a soft kiss to her damp forehead as she shifted to look up at him. Her eyes, those beautiful blue orbs, horribly marred by the scars that stole her sight, searched the area around his face. "Nothing will part me from you."
A watery smile curved her lips and she swallowed hard, as though gearing up for another round. "I need you to promise me something."
A feeling of dread crept into his heart. In no way could this be good. Nevertheless, he nodded and licked his dry lips. "Anything, my love."
Her fingers curled, digging further into the backs of his hands. "Promise me-" a grunt of pain cut her off before she continued, breathing heavily. "Promise me you will love this child as much her brother," her breathing hitched as more tears came. "Promise me you will not blame her should I not make it."
He felt his eyes widen at her words. Why was she saying such things? "That is technically two promises," he whispered, not willing to accept what could very well happen. It was not uncommon for women to die in childbirth.
"I know," she replied, her voice hoarse. "But you must promise me that. Please. Should anything happen, it is not her fault."
He huffed out a laugh. She had been convinced for the past few weeks that the child would be a girl.
"Shall I take that as a yes?" She asked, scarred features shifting into a smile. An expression that could hide even the most agonising pain.
In answer, he lent forward and kissed her lips. It was a gentle, yet firm kiss, full of promises and the strength she so sorely needed.
It was Lady Eir, the head healer that reluctantly broke the moment. Approaching the couple, she lay a gentle hand on the Princess's bent knee. It was time. "Princess?"
"Yes?" She replied, her voice shaking from her efforts to keep it steady.
"I need you to push."
Never had Loki heard such a sound. The sound that tore from his wife was all together alien. The scream echoed around the vast healing rooms. It was a sound filled with such pain that he would have been brought to his knees had he not been seated.
"The towels," Eir instructed her subordinates, "quickly." The blood that would accompany the child had begun to flow. Younger healers flew back and forth, carting sheets and towels between the bed and the door.
Sigyn gritted her teeth and pushed once more, another shattering scream tearing from her throat. She had flung her head back, her back arching as it had done before. It was exactly the same as before, the pain, the screams and cries. Yet it was the hands she clung to like a lifeline, that prevented her from falling into the memories.
Loki was sure that the whole of Asgard could hear her. Yet he could not find it within himself to care. She was the only thing that mattered. Bending once more, he pressed his forehead to hers, a constant reminder that he was there. He closed his eyes and willed his strength, his magic to flow into her and ease her pain.
As she continued to scream and push their child into the world, he was glad that he had stayed. That he had not left as husbands traditionally would. He soon found himself gripping her hands as much as she did his. It would not do for him to waver when she needed him most.
"Your Highness, I need you to stop." Eir's urgent tone drew his attention away from his wife. "Stop pushing, Princess."
Sigyn, too had heard the insistent words. With what strength she had left, she lifted her head, damp strands of hair falling behind her. "What is happening?" She rasped. "Is something wrong?"
Eir exchanged a glance with Frigga, a look Loki did not miss. "The child is stuck, Your Highness."
"Stuck?" Sigyn repeated the word, her rough voice heavy with disbelief. "What does that mean?" Hysteria began to creep into her voice. "Is she dying? Is my baby dying?"
Loki, for his part, was frozen as cold horror coursed through him. The dream he had had all those months ago was flung to the forefront of his memory.
"It has been a difficult labour, the child has become stuck. Her Highness fears for the child's life."
"Not on my watch," Eir replied, her gaze flicking between the couple. "Not if I can help it."
Barely satisfied and far from convinced, Sigyn directed her attention to her husband. "She is struggling," she choked out the words. "She needs us."
"She has us," he replied, gently squeezing her hands and touching their foreheads together once more. "She will always have us."
Sigyn let out a choked sob and drew their hands together over her heart. "Do what you must to help her," she spoke to Eir, the fear still evident in her voice. "Just don't let her die."
Nodding in grave assent, the healers once more set to work.
"I cannot imagine that it will be much longer," Loki murmured against her hair. "She is but a stubborn little lass."
Sigyn tried to smile but only managed a whimper and a grimace as Eir worked to assist the child.
Time ceased to have meaning as she worked to right the child so that the Princess might be able to push once more. The shoulder had appeared first in place of the head. With deft, practiced hands, she gently moved the baby into the right position. Then, at long last, she looked up and met the Prince's piercing gaze and nodded.
"Darling?" Loki whispered to his wife. "We need you to push again."
With a deep, shuddering breath, Sigyn further tightened her grip on his hands. The cry that accompanied the push was louder than the ones that had preceded it. As did the ones that followed.
Murmuring encouragements to her in soft, soothing tones, he kept his eyes closed and his forehead on hers. The skin was wet beneath his, drenched in sweat. Tears continued to flow from her eyes as she continued to push their child into the world.
Then, as the sun began it's slow and steady descent towards the horizon, Eir spoke the words that both had been longing to hear. "Once more, Princess. One more push."
"You can do this, my angel," Loki encouraged her. "You can do this. Our darling girl is almost here."
Nodding weakly, she braced herself and pushed, her scream dissolving into tears of joy as the cries of a newborn echoed around the chamber. Happy tears continued to flood her eyes as she tilted her head up and smiled at her husband.
Loki, too, could not keep the tears from his eyes as the child's cries continued to ring loud and clear. He answered her shaking smile with one of his own and gently untangled his left hand from hers. Gentle fingers brushed strands away from her forehead and wiped the tears from her cheeks. "You did it, my darling. You did it." He could not describe the feeling of sheer relief that washed away his fears.
"Where is she?" She asked, turning to where she believed Eir to be. "Where's my daughter?"
"No daughter, Your Highness," there was a clear smile in the voice of the royal healer as she approached with a tiny bundle. "You have a beautiful son."
Sigyn inhaled sharply. Freeing her hand from Loki's, she reached out with shaking arms. Eir immediately passed the boy to his waiting mother.
The moment his wife held the baby, Loki encircled her trembling form with both arms. The child was wide awake and was looking curiously from his mother up to his father. By the Norns! He was beautiful and the knowledge that he had helped in the creation shook him. "Hello, little one," he crooned, earning a smile from Sigyn. "You gave us quite a scare."
"What colour is his hair?" She asked, the fingers of her free hand tracing the small cheeks of their son.
"Fair," came his answer. "There are only a few strands but, he has your hair."
"And his eyes?"
"Silver, like his brother's."
With a contented sigh, she leaned back against him, letting his arms circle them completely.
From where she stood beside her friend, Frigga smiled through tears of her own. It had been a long and difficult labor. It was a picture she would never forget; Loki, with his arms curled protectively around an exhausted Sigyn who held the newest addition to their little family. She did not miss the tender looks of love and devotion that passed between the couple.
The atmosphere began to calm as the healers began to clean and dispose of the blood-soaked towels and basins filled with red water. The curtains were opened to let in the last light of the day. The healers had finished cleaning the exhausted mother and child and lay her on a clean bed.
Something wasn't right. Sigyn noticed this as her head began to swim. She felt dizzy and uncomfortably warm. "Loki?" She called in a weak voice, gaining his attention and that of the Queen and healers.
"Yes, my darling?"
"I don't feel too good," she whispered, unable to speak any louder. Her breathing was becoming shallower by the second.
Alarmed, the Prince knelt beside her and took her free hand in his. "Angel? What is it?" He did not bother to hide the panic that was steadily rising. "What's happening? Eir?" He turned to where the healer knelt by the foot of the bed.
The look she sent him did nothing to alleviate his growing fears. She quickly looked away and motioned for the younger healers. "Any towels we have left, bring them!"
Frigga too, swept in.
"What's happening?" Loki asked again, not liking the tense silence that had fallen. "Mother?"
Sigyn's laboured breathing drew his fractured attention back to her. Her grip on his hand was getting weaker and her skin was cold and clammy. Even blind, her eyes seemed unfocused as they darted from side to side.
"I'm right here, my love," he said, curling his fingers around her small hand.
"What's happening?" She managed to ask, her breath now came in shallow pants.
"I don't know," he answered, fear and desperation creeping into his voice. "They won't tell me anything."
"Her Highness is bleeding out," came Eir's soft, yet firm voice. "I fear she does not have long if we cannot find a way to stop it."
Sigyn weakly turned her head towards her husband. "Darling? Remember the promise."
Horrified and in denial of what was happening, Loki shook his head. "No. No. This can't be happening." After everything that had happened, this would be how he would lose her? Surging forward, he sat beside her on the bed and pulled her and the child close. "Please," he whispered, "I cannot lose you again. I cannot endure another lifetime without you."
Sigyn smiled as best she could. "You will never lose me. I will always be there with you, and with our sons."
The Prince continued to shake his head in vehement denial. "Please, my angel. My heart's only love. Will you not fight for me? For our sons?"
"I am trying," she whispered. "But it is so hard."
"I know my darling," he murmured, clutching her close. "But please do not give up. Our boys deserve to know their mother. How will I continue without you?"
No answer came from the weakened Princess. Only her shallow uneven breaths signified that she still lived. All around them, the healers as well as the Queen fought to stop the bleeding.
"Angel?" Loki spoke, looking down at her weak form. "Darling? Can you hear me?" When no answer came, he began to gently rock her. "You can't leave me. You cannot. You are my everything. My reason for waking each day. You are my light in the dark, helping me to see the way-" he cut himself off as he buried his face in her hair. "You are my compass, always leading me in the right directions. You helped me find my way again." Her hair hid his tears. "I am not strong enough to live without you."
Frigga felt her heart shatter at the sight of her son rocking his dying wife. His words easily reached her ears.
"If not for me," he continued in a broken and vulnerable tone. "Then fight for our sons. For little Fenrir here, who has only just come into the world. For Sleipnir who laughs whenever you smile." A broken sob tore from his lips. "Do not leave us, my love. Please Y/N. Don't go."
Sigyn heard every word her husband spoke, but her body would not allow her to respond. Oh, how she wanted to tell him that she would never give up, that she would fight as long as there was breath in her lungs. But her lips would not move. Her heart broke at how desperate he sounded as he uttered her true name. Only ever spoken in private.
With every last drop of strength she possessed, she blinked, her eyelids fluttering weakly. Yet, this was enough to gain his attention. She was sure she was imagining it, that she was hallucinating. She could make out a shape above her, faint, but definitely there.
Chapter 29: Of Autumn Rains and Sparkling Rainbows
"Rise and shine." I've always held such fondness for that sweet old phrase. As though we are all little Suns. As though we are all someone's Day.
~ Beau Taplin (Rise And Shine)
The sound of rain had always calmed her. It did not matter if it poured in torrents as the sky tore itself open, or if it fell in a gentle patter on the earth below. Now, listening to it fall softly on the garden below, she smiled. It was a soft smile, a private one. Taking a deep breath, she settled herself against the balcony door frame, the air smelled of wet earth and decomposing leaves.
It had been a week since she had woken. The loss of blood making her weak and the lingering pains of childbirth had rendered her immobile. Every day and every night she had felt him beside her, murmuring encouragements and endearments. He had spoken to her of Fenrir, their newborn son. He would often leave him with her, the child's tiny form pressed to her side. That was how she had woken, how she had greeted this day. Loki had not been beside her, her searching hand finding only empty sheets.
It was the sound of the rain that had encouraged her to get up. Her body, still recovering, made the distance between bed and balcony seem longer than it was. It was the rain's calming rhythm that eased her mind and made her momentarily forget that she had almost died a week prior. The smile she wore as she listened to the rain, only grew when the cries of a waking child reached her.
Chuckling, she moved away from the balcony. It never ceased to warm her heart whenever she heard her son address her or call out to his father. "I am coming, my darling," she replied, "I am coming."
Approaching the crib that sat at the foot of the large double bed, she bent down and scooped the child into her arms. In response, Sleipnir nuzzled the side of her neck and fisted his hands into the fabric of her nightgown. "Good morning to you too, angel," she cooed, swaying gently. "Did you sleep well?" Her words were followed by a gentle kiss to the child's forehead, warm from sleep. "But we must be careful not to wake your brother. He needs more sleep than us." As she spoke, she looked over to the bed where her youngest lay fast asleep, snuggled between the forest green sheets.
Unable to help herself, she moved to sit at the edge of the bed and with her free hand, she gently pulled the sleeping Fenrir closer. The baby snuffled in his sleep before settling down again. Sleipnir seemed most intrigued by his little brother, whom he had only briefly met.
Noticing her son's curiosity, she moved the boy so he sat on her lap. "This is your brother, my darling. His name is Fenrir." With those words, she reached down and picked up the sleeping baby. She held him in such a way that Sleipnir might see him too.
She laughed and nodded. "Yes, my love. He is a baby."
With a cautious hand, Sleipnir reached towards the baby and gently touched his cheeks. His gentle curiosity and evident love for his brother, brought tears to her eyes. "Baby," he repeated in a softer tone.
With her free arm, she curled Sleipnir closer and kissed the crown of his dark head. The two brothers could easily be considered opposites, one with ebony hair, the other who's hair was snow-white. By the Norns how she loved them.
It was then that she noticed that it had stopped raining. The soft pattering had ceased and soft morning sunlight shone through the windows. "Come, my boys," she whispered, hoisting Sleipnir up to sit on her hip. "There is something you must see."
~ ~ ~
Loki hated himself for leaving her before she woke. Despite what had happened, she had never looked more at peace. He had almost lost her for a second time. The fear he had felt was heartstopping, barely allowing him time to breathe. He remembered how cold and clammy her skin was, how shallow her breathing had become. It had been nothing short of a miracle what the Queen had worked that night.
Sighing, he pushed open the library doors and stepped inside. He would have to hurry, for surely she would be awake by now and would have noticed his absence. Quickly selecting a book, he slipped from the library and began to make his way back to their shared chambers. It had become a tradition for them, every night and every morning, he would go to the library and select a book which he would read to his wife and sons.
Stepping out into one of the many arched stone galleries, he noticed that it had been raining; the scent of wet earth hung heavily in the air. The raindrops sparkled gently in the morning sun, like tiny countless crystals. Looking up, the Prince's keen eyes locked onto a bow of colour that stretched across the sky. While he was indeed taken with it's beauty, he was also saddened. Not for the first time, would she miss the beauty that nature had to offer. Yes, he would take it upon himself to describe it for her. But he knew that, despite how grateful she was for those detailed descriptions, he knew that she would rather see them with her own two eyes.
During his quiet walk back to their chambers, he idly began to wonder if perhaps the children were awake. He smiled at the thought of little Fenrir, who's sleep could go undisturbed for days. He was a heavy sleeper and it took no small amount of noise to wake him. He was beautiful, very much like his brother. His heart ached at the realisation that she now had two children whom she would never see. Who's smiles she would never experience and who's unique eyes she would never behold.
"I will find a way," he muttered to himself. "You will see again."
As he approached the royal wing of the palace, he shook his head as though to clear it. It would not do to start the day in such a miserable manner. She was alive and that was all that mattered.
Hugging the book to his chest, he pushed open the doors of their chambers and stepped through.
~ ~ ~
It was even more beautiful than she remembered. Oh how she had missed this. For so long she had been trapped in darkness, deprived of the beauty that surrounded her. It stole the breath from her lungs as her eyes swept over the scene before her. From the tiny crystalline drops that hung from the balcony rails, to the bare, soaked trees in the garden below her. Everything seemed to sparkle, as though Mother Nature had decided to give everything a fine coating of snow-like dust.
"Pretty," Sleipnir spoke up, voicing his mother's thoughts.
She simply nodded and smiled. "Yes, my darling. It most certainly is, isn't it." Her eager eyes drank in every detail, not wanting to miss a single thing. As her gaze swept upwards, she gasped. There, in the sky before them, stretched the most beautiful rainbow she had ever seen. It's mulitcoloured bow stood in sharp contrast the grey clouds behind it.
By now, Fenrir had opened his eyes and was staring in wide-eyed wonder at his surroundings. Upon seeing his silvery eyes, she smiled and bent to kiss his forehead. "Good morning, my love." Then, turning her attention to the rainbow above them, she said, "look, my darlings. See what Mother Nature has done for us this morning."
So absorbed was she by her surrounds, that she had failed to notice her husband's return. Turning, she greeted him with a smile that could put the morning sun to shame.
Heavens above. She had missed him. His emerald eyes were wide as they stared at her in obvious confusion. Never had he appeared more beautiful than he did then; his obsidian hair casually slicked back where it hung just above his broad, beautifully sculpted shoulders. He wore nothing save for a pair of dark green cotton trousers, leaving the view of his lean, muscled chest on clear display to her eager, hungry gaze. He was perfection. In her eyes, he had been fashioned by the gods themselves. "So beautiful," she murmured as her eyes continued to absorb every detail that she had been deprived of that past year. "So perfect."
Loki hardly dared believe what was happening. The words he had heard spill from her mouth not moments before had shaken him to his core. She was speaking as though she could see. The way her eyes traveled over him taunted his heart in ways more cruel than he had thought her capable of. By the stars, he wanted to believe it. Hesitantly he stepped towards her, laying the book down on the bed as he went.
Her eyes followed his every movement. The way he moved towards her was slow, the steps almost cautious. A soft laugh bubbled up and blew past her smiling lips. "I don't bite," she said, grinning like a love-sick schoolgirl. "At least, not if you don't want me too."
Her words shook him and had him stop and stare at her. There she stood, holding their two boys, bathed in the soft light of the morning sun, the balcony framing her like a statue upon an altar. She was smiling at him in a way she had not done since she had been taken. Her eyes were brimming not only with tears but also with pure love. The love he felt he did not deserve. The love she had never ceased to give. "You-" he broke off, his voice becoming a hoarse whisper. He did not dare utter the words that would no doubt shatter the dream that this undoubtedly was. Yet, he had to know. "You can see me?"
The tears she had been holding back spilled down her cheeks like water from a dam. Her answering smile was accompanied by an eager nod. "Yes," she replied, voice trembling with emotion. "Yes, my darling. I can see you."
In a few long strides, he stood before her, her scarred face held between shaking palms. The tears she shed landed on his hands, on his wrists. "Truly?" He asked her, voice soft.
She nodded again and turned her head to kiss his palm. "I do believe that your eyes would make the purest emeralds appear without colour. And that your hair would make the darkest obsidian appear grey and dull in comparison."
Her words broke the walls within him. She did not shatter or fade before him as she had done in countless dreams. Nor did a mocking laugh taunt him from the shadows of his periphery.
"Papa?" Sleipnir spoke up, shattering his train of thought.
With a watery smile, he looked down to where his eldest lay nestled in his mother's arms, his head on her shoulder. "Yes, my boy." Reaching out, he took the boy in his arms and held him close. Sleipnir, for his part, did not mind in the least and at once snuggled into his father's arms.
Her heart melted at the sight she never thought she would get to see. Sleipnir looked so like his father that her heart almost stopped. She always knew that Loki would be a good father, nay, an excellent one. His love for his son was evident in the way his strong, slender arms were curled around him and how one hand had gone and begun to stroke the boy's soft hair. Tears blurred her vision and she was forced to blink them away. "He already looks so much like you," she whispered, not trusting her voice to be any louder.
It was then that Fenrir decided that he had been ignored for long enough. His mother and father laughed and looked down at him. His mother's blue eyes bright with tears and her smile soft and full of love. "Yes, my darling?" She cooed. "Do not worry, little one, we have not forgotten you."
Loki swallowed hard at the scene that played out before him. The emotions he had always prided himself on at hiding, were now on full display. His heart was full to bursting. By what twist of fate had he been so lucky?
As though feeling his eyes on her, she turned to look at him, a loving smile at the ready. Her eyes, so blue and free from the scars they had borne for a year, looked from her sons to him. In those eyes he saw the love he felt reflected right back. "Like what you see?" She asked, her eyes sparkling like sapphires.
"Oh yes," he murmured, stepping closer to her and pressing an ardent kiss to her lips. His heart leaped as he felt her smile, her lips moving in tandem with his. Reluctantly pulling away, he used his free hand to tuck an errant strand behind her pointed ears. "I most certainly do."
Chapter 30: Epilogue
My heart does not have a fallback, no plan b or failsafe, it's you or no one else.
~ Beau Taplin (Fallback)
"Must we do this?"
Laughing at her husband's pout, she nodded, lifting Vali, their youngest, to sit on her hip. "Yes, my love. We must."
"Because," she continued, shifting her grip on the boy. "He is technically their grandfather and he deserves the chance to get to meet them."
Huffing in annoyance at his wife's logic, Loki pinched the bridge of his nose. "Why must you be so reasonable?"
She simply laughed and leaned forward to kiss the back of his hand. "One of us has to be."
Lifting his gaze to meet hers, Loki made to reply when the distinct sounds of a child's laughter cut him off. Intrigued, he looked in the direction of the sound and grinned as he spotted Hela, their only daughter who was named after the goddess who had given Y/N a second chance. With her hair flying loose of the ribbons that had contained it, the little girl ran as fast as her little legs could carry her. Not far behind her, ran her elder brother Jörmungandr, a serpent curled around his outstretched hand.
"Where's Sleipnir? I don't think I've seen him since breakfast."
Blinking, Loki looked away from the siblings and smiled absently at his wife. "I believe he went to the stables."
She nodded with a knowing look in her light eyes. They had gifted their eldest with a black stallion just last Spring and the pair had become inseparable. "I won't be surprised if he insists on bringing Nero when we go." Neither of his parents had been surprised when he had chosen to name the stallion after one of Midgard's more eccentric and chaotic rulers.
"It would certainly put Stark on edge," Loki smirked at the thought. "Perhaps Fenrir will bring Byanka, it'll be most entertaining."
"Are you determined to give him a heart attack?" She tried and failed to scold her husband, a small smile creeping across her lips. The white wolf followed their son everywhere and refused to be parted from him for even a minute. "Good luck trying to get her to stay while Fenrir comes with us. She'll howl the palace down."
"Maybe I will enjoy this little trip after all," Loki muttered, grinning at his wife.
"You are incorrigible," she shook her head, chuckling.
In that moment, as he opened his mouth to shoot back a reply, Narfi, Vali's twin, made his presence known. He had been sleeping in a basket beside his mother and had now woken, his little hands waving insistently.
"Good afternoon, little one," Loki cooed, bending to pick up the child. Unlike his twin, Narfi had fair hair, much like his mother and Fenrir. His eyes, like the rest of his siblings had remained silver since birth. "Did you sleep well?"
Vali, upon seeing his brother, smiled from where he was curled in his mother's arms.
She watched the scene with a tender smile. Their family had grown quite quickly and Loki had proven himself to be a strict yet loving father.
"When do we leave?" His question brought her rushing back to the present.
"Eager are we?"
Loki narrowed his eyes at her as she grinned, her blue eyes sparkling in the afternoon sun. "I simply wish to know when we are to depart so that I might also know our return."
"I will be sure to mention to Stark just how eager you were to pay him a visit," she giggled, winking at him as he glared at her.
"You will do no such thing," he hissed, earning a laugh from the woman before him.
"And if I do?" She asked, her voice dropping to a whisper, her eyes dropping to his lips.
"Then I will have to-"
"Loki, Y/N. There you are," Thor's booming voice greeted them and had them turning in his direction.
She shook her head, smiling as she caught sight of Hela clinging to her uncle and giggling while her brother attempted to reach her from behind. "Thor," she replied, her voice loud enough to also catch the attention of her children.
"What is it, brother?" Loki asked, adjusting his hold on Narfi.
Before Thor could respond, Hela leapt from her uncle's arms and ran straight to her mother. "Mama!"
"Why hello there, angel," her mother responded, smiling. "Have you and your brother been up to no good again?" The glint in her eyes was not missed by the little girl.
With a grin not unlike her father's, she shook her head. "No-" she was cut off with a yelp as Jörmungandr snuck up behind her, his serpent licking the back of her neck. Almost instantly, she bolted behind her father in an attempt to escape her laughing sibling.
"Got you," the boy chuckled, his silver eyes flashing playfully. The charcoal snake around his wrist blepped cheekily.
"Papa?" Hela looked to her father for confirmation of what her brother had just said.
Loki looked down at his daughter and dropped to his knees, his eyes now level with hers. Lifting the hand that wasn't holding her younger brother, he gently stroked her hair, black on one side, white on the other. "Would you like to get him back, my little Princess?"
Hela nodded eagerly, an grin forming.
As Loki spoke with his daughter, Narfi reached out to touch the serpent coiled around his brother's arm. The snake's silver-black eyes regarded the boy with curious suspicion but let him touch him.
Jörmungandr was momentarily distracted and moved a little closer to his father as though to encourage his younger brother's curiosity.
Thor and Y/N watched the scene unfold with a shared smile, until the tell-tale glint of metal in the sun caught their attention. This, in no way, was a good sign.
"Loki," they both warned him in a low tone.
Their warning was met with his signature smirk and a sparkle in his eyes that they both knew boded only mischief.
Y/N felt her eyes trail down to what their daughter was holding and inhaled sharply. "You did not just give her a dagger."
Hela, for her part, was delighted with her father's gift and proceeded to sneak up on her unsuspecting older brother.
"Relax," Loki assured his startled wife, "tis not even sharp."
Soon Hela was the one chasing as Jörmungandr bolted from the garden, her innocent laughter echoing off the stone walls and columns.
Y/N blinked rapidly as Thor laughed beside her. "I see not much has changed, brother."
Loki grinned and shrugged, his eyes focused on his wife. "I was simply helping her to look out for herself."
"I'm blaming you if our son is brought to the healing rooms with a stab wound," she muttered, her blue gaze turning to glare at her husband.
"Relax, my love. She can do no harm with that blade."
She narrowed her eyes at him before letting out a heavy sigh and turning back to Thor. "What is it that you wished to speak with us about?"
The older Prince's smile grew. "We may depart for Midgard whenever you wish, sister. Father is prepared."
Her earlier disapproval forgotten, she turned to Loki, smiling. "It seems you have your answer, my darling. We are leaving for Midgard today."
~ ~ ~
The click of claws on the marble floor announced the arrival of their second son. Fenrir stood tall next to the wolf that loped gracefully along beside him. His fair hair matched the fur of his companion. By Midgardian standards, he was fifteen and tall for his age, his lean build mirroring that of his father.
"Fenrir, darling," his mother greeted him from the far side of the throne room.
The young Prince smiled and lifted his hand in greeting as he approached his family; Hela and Jörmungandr stood between their parents who held the twins. With narrowed, thoughtful eyes he noticed that his older brother was not yet there.
"Your brother is on his way," his father explained, not missing the searching look in his son's silver eyes. "I believe he made a detour to the stables."
Fenrir grinned. Of course Sleipnir would go there, he likely was saying his farewells to that horse of his. Yet, Fenrir could hardly blame him when he himself had forged a similar bond with the wolf beside him. Looking down, he smiled at her and scratched behind her ears, earning a snuffle of appreciation. Byanka blinked up at him with a fond look in her grey eyes.
Moving to stand beside his towering uncle, Fenrir sent him a small smile in greeting. "Are you coming with us, uncle?"
Thor nodded, "indeed I am. Someone needs to keep your parents out of trouble." He winked conspiratorially at his nephew who grinned.
Before Loki could say anything in reply, the distinct sound of horse's hooves sounded, causing everyone to glance at each other with a knowing smile.
"Knew it," Jörmungandr murmured, gently stroking the snake wrapped loosely around his neck and shoulders.
"Is that Nero?" Hela asked her mother, the little girl had grown fond of the towering horse and loved it when her brother let her ride him.
Y/N nodded and smiled. "Yes, it would seem so."
The great doors of the throne room opened once more to admit the eldest of the six. His hair, like his father's in his younger years, hung just above his shoulders. It gleamed black as a raven's wing as he passed the sunlit intervals of the grand hall. His slender, yet powerful shoulders were thrown back and allowed the dark blue material of his cloak to flow even further behind him.
Beside him walked the graceful yet towering form of Nero. The horse was a magnificent creature to be sure, his coat as black as the Prince's hair. It shone like polished obsidian and his eyes glowed like dying embers.
To anyone that so much as glanced at him, he was the spitting image of his father. The only difference being the silver eyes and the preference for the colour of midnight blue.
With a delighted squeal, Hela broke rank and ran to her brother who promptly scooped her up into his arms. "Hello there, you little troublemaker."
Twisting in her brother's arms, Hela stretched out to gently stroke her hand along Nero's long mane.
"There you are," Y/N greeted her eldest with a soft smile as he came to a standstill before her and his father, gently lowering his squirming sister to the ground.
"I apologise for the delay," Sleipnir replied, bowing to both his parents.
"It is no matter," came his father's smooth response. "You are here now, that is the most important."
Meeting his father's emerald gaze, the Prince smiled. "Thank you, father." With a few short steps, he moved to stand beside his mother with Nero alongside him.
~ ~ ~
The sight that greeted them was not what they had been expecting.
Holding Vali closer and pulling Hela to her side, Y/N shot a worried look to Loki and Thor. The brothers seemed to be as shocked as she was, their eyes sweeping over the landscape before them.
Jörmungandr huddled close to his father, who immediately wrapped his free arm around his son's shoulders.
Even Fenrir seemed to cower, Byanka pressing close to him, her ears laid back. Thor instantly wrapped an arm around his nephew's shoulders and looked to where Sleipnir stood beside Nero. The eldest Prince betrayed nothing on his face, yet it was how close he stood to the horse that betrayed his unease.
"What happened here?" It was Y/N who broke the heavy silence. "Are you certain we are in the correct place?"
Loki nodded and pressed his lips together.
Before and around them was spread a landscape of ruin. What had once been a mighty, flourishing city was now a morbid collection of rubble, the air thick with smoke and the undeniable stench of death. Dread had set its claws into each of them, making them wary of the very ground they walked on.
Holding the children close, the royals slowly made their way through the ruined streets. The destruction wreaked made the city unrecognisable. The occasional collapse of a weakened building became the only sound aside from the careful footfalls.
"Mama, where are we?" Hela asked in a small voice, looking up at her mother.
Y/N did not answer right away. In truth she only suspected where they were. "I wish I knew, my darling." She murmured, earning a strange look from Loki. "But we are on Midgard. That is all I know."
This seemed to satisfy the girl as she huddled into her mother's side.
It wasn't until the hem on Y/N's gown caught on the sharp edge of a piece of glass, did she look down. Letting go of Hela for a brief moment, she bent to unhook the material. Her breath caught in her throat as the fabric of her gown fell away from the glass. Metal had surrounded the glass to form a letter. A letter that she was all too familiar with.
Curling Hela close, she called to her husband and his brother. "Loki? Thor? I think I know where we are now." Her quiet tone drew their attention more than the mention of their names.
With her children around her and the two older Princes flanking her, they looked down to where her gaze was directed.
Thor inhaled sharply and Loki drew closer to his wife.
They were standing where Stark Tower had once stood. The tower that had become the base of operation for the Avengers. Now a mere pile of rubble, the emblem of earth's protection lay cracked and broken at their feet.
Nero snorted and tossed his head and Byanka growled and Svartur, Jörmungandr's serpent, hissed and coiled tighter around the Prince. Something aside from the obvious was very wrong. They had not come across a single soul since their arrival.
"Loki," Y/N whispered, leaning into him, trapping Hela and Jörmungandr between them. "I don't like this."
Holding Narfi closer, Loki shifted his free hand to curl around his wife. "I don't either, my love."
"Who or what, would do something like this?" Sleipnir asked, speaking for the first time since they arrived.
Loki briefly closed his eyes before looking over to his son. "Someone who cares not for life the way we do."
In truth, there was only one person that Y/N knew to be capable of something like this. From the look on her husband's face, he suspected the same thing. "The explosion on the ship?" She began, praying that she would be proved wrong. "Did it not take the lives of everyone on board? Including him?"
"No one could have survived something like that," Thor replied, having clearly heard her.
"That, Asgardian, is where you are wrong."
The small group spun around and came face-to-face with the one they thought dead. Y/N hissed and held her children closer, even Sleipnir moved to stand closer to his parents. Loki stood frozen.
"You," Thor growled, his grip on his nephew tightening while the wolf beside them snapped and snarled.
"Why yes," the figure lowered his hood to reveal the hated face of the Mad Titan. "Me."