Monday morning rolled around as it often did; far too quickly and far too early.
Maia groaned when the alarm she had set on her new Stark Phone went off and she had to force herself from the bed. When she came back out of the bathroom Loki was laying on his side watching her, with enough flesh on show to make it distracting as she went about getting ready.
‘Come back to bed, buttercup.’ He patted the mattress.
‘It’s Monday.’ She reminded him as she took a white blouse out of the wardrobe to go with the black skirt suit she had already hung on the door.
‘We have nowhere to be.’
‘We have Charles coming in a few hours and I thought you wanted us to try my power with yours in Bruce’s cell again today?’
‘You are still depleted from yesterday.’ He argued as she tried to hide a yawn behind her hand. ‘Charles won’t be here until at least midday and we won’t be testing your magic until after that in case it effects you adversely. Bed, love. Rest.’
‘I’m getting dressed, even if we don’t do anything immediately.’ She shook her head and turned back to her task.
Loki sighed and threw off the sheet, walking across the room silently before scooping her up in his arms. She made a small squeak of surprise, having not heard him, and he carried he back to bed, not putting her down until he had crawled onto the bed himself, laying her on her back and pressing his body alongside hers to keep her in place.
‘You need to learn to relax a little better, sweet one. It will do you no good in the long run.’
‘I like getting up and being ready.’
‘I will have to give you a more compelling like of staying in bed.’ He kissed her tenderly.
‘You’re already a compulsion on its own.’ She stroked his cheek.
To her surprise all Loki wanted to do was just lay in the bed and talk, he really was intent on her resting and recovering some of the energy she had expended the previous day, with all they had been doing and the use of power she wasn’t used to. They went over various stories from their past, remembering together and also relating some of Maia’s memories that fit and she hadn’t realised how very similar they were. So much made sense for her now and Loki just enjoyed listening to her tell him stories from when she was a child and her time at X-Manor as both student and teacher.
He watched her as she spoke, marvelling at every little mannerism, every little quirk in her voice when she spoke, or laughed, the way she touched him as though she couldn’t help herself. He had missed her so much he hadn’t realised how it had effected him every day. He finally let her back out of bed hours later, satisfied she was as rested as she could get for now, and they shared a leisurely breakfast before dressing, Maia in her suit as she planned, Loki in one of his black suits with black shirt and tie. Having seen his wardrobe Maia knew most of his clothes were black or green and while it suited him she wondered if she could tempt him into another colour. The champagne shirt had been nice but didn’t suit him as well as darker colours, which contrasted with his complexion. She remembered wearing a lot of blue as Sigyn, maybe it was her signature colour and she hadn’t yet remembered, but it had become more green/blue as she had gravitated towards Loki. It was an Asgardian thing, a way of showing unity and dedication. As Loki was a prince and therefore of higher social standing it was his colour that was integrated into her wardrobe. She felt the urge to do so again, but she wasn’t sure whether that was because of Maia, or Sigyn, or some combination of the two. Probably Sigyn and the Asgardian tradition but she put it out of her mind for now.
FRIDAY informed them of Professor Xavier’s arrival and they met him in the foyer. Maia hugged him in greeting and they went through to a conference room for some privacy.
‘You are…different.’ Charles commented as soon as the door closed, looking Maia over as though it were something he could see. ‘I cannot specify how but definitely different.’
‘I feel different.’ She agreed, moving a chair out from the table for Charles to fit his wheelchair under it. ‘Coffee, Charles?’
‘Please. Would you both care to tell me what happened? From the beginning? Or would you rather I see what I can find first?’
‘The latter I think, please.’ Maia asked as she used the coffee machine on the side table. ‘That way we know it’s impartial and uninfluenced.’
‘Very good.’ He nodded before turning to Loki, speaking directly into his mind. ‘I do not need to tell you that, if for any reason, this is a trick we will have a very big problem.’
Loki’s lip twitched in a small smile and he nodded his head towards the man before him, who was obviously as protective of Maia as he was. ‘You have nothing to worry about, Professor.’ He said simply.
Maia heard Loki’s half of the exchange going on behind her and rolled her eyes. She appreciated Charles being her surrogate father for so long but once he saw what was in her head he would, she hoped, have all his doubts allayed.
She turned back to the table with a cup for each of them and put them in front of them more forcefully than she meant to. ‘Tea, coffee, sit down,’ she glared at Loki, ‘and let’s get on with it.’
‘Of course, sweet.’ Loki held a chair for her, his face still one of barely contained amusement.
‘You know what I’m going to do, Maia.’ Charles reminded her this wasn’t her first time having her mind read and she nodded.
He turned to Loki. ‘As do you. Do you mind if I combine you both to see if your memories of certain events match up?’
Loki and Maia shared a look and she shook her head. ‘I don’t mind. Loki?’
‘Not at all.’
‘Very well.’ Charles looked hard at Maia, his index and middle finger pressed to his temple as he accessed his powers. Maia knew how it felt and didn’t fight it, let Charles see what he wished to find and more, allowing him to see everything she remembered. He was meticulous, he always was, leaving no avenue unchecked, and she literally saw her life as Sigyn flash before her eyes, starting back to the earliest time she remembered meeting Loki, and Thor, they were all so young and innocent, children. How Frigga had welcomed her and suggested she study magic under her with Loki, sensing something in her that no one else had, the ability to wield sorcery. Playing in the gardens with the two princes, sticks as swords, and she held her own, until Thor went through his first growth spurt and he didn’t realise his own strength. The pain of the welts on her arms where he had caught her rougher than he meant to made her cringe at the memory, how Odin had demanded she stop roughhousing with them immediately, but they still managed to include her, teaching her swordsmanship as they learned themselves, too unladylike for her to be included in the actual lessons. Then the day, when she was barely twelve, that her father declared she would be sent away to learn to become a lady. She hadn’t wanted to go but she had no choice, and for six long years she studied how to be a lady of a court, worthy of her Asgardian heritage, her father a decorated war hero, one of Odin’s most trusted advisors and she had to act in a befitting manner. She kept up with her sorcery, learning what she could from books and scrolls, until finally she was permitted to return to Asgard.
That first night back, she was presented to Odin, who apologised for the absence of his sons who were engrossed in their duties, and she had curtseyed politely, told him none were necessary and she was just glad to be home once more, but as she made to leave Loki entered the main doors, strolling confidently in his custom black armour, until he saw her. She knew she looked different; the hair she had always kept braided now reached beyond her waist in a beautiful natural auburn curl dressed with small flowers, her figure had filled out in all the right places and she had perfected the elegant walk of a lady. Her dress was the same blue as her eyes, the shoulders cut away revealing her freckled and milky skin, and around her upper arms and back a shawl she had embroidered herself as part of her schooling. She held her hands in front of her, clasped together as she tended to fidget despite all her training, and as his walk faltered, she bobbed her head to him politely, when what she wanted to do was run to him excitedly. It was the first time she called him “my prince” and his jaw had dropped as he watched the maiden greet him before leaving the hall without a second glance. She knew he had asked who she was, once he reached the throne, as when he found out he ran after her, catching her a little way down the golden hallway and asking her lady in waiting for a moment of her time.
‘Fair Lady Sigyn, I beg your forgiveness. I did not recognise you.’
She bobbed a curtsey, having had it drummed into her over the past few years that it did not matter how well you knew royalty, you curtseyed, you respected them and, most importantly, you were not overly familiar. ‘You do not need forgiveness, Your Highness. I am flattered you remember me at all.’ She smiled sweetly when it was the last thing she wanted to do. She wanted to ask him how he was, what he had been doing all these years. He had grown so handsome, tall and lithe, his dark hair brushing his collar yet slicked back from his smooth jaw and cheekbones.
‘How could I forget my favourite playmate?’ He grinned and she saw a glimpse of the boy he had been. ‘I have missed your company greatly.’ He reached for her hand but that first touch was interrupted by a call from down the hallway.
‘Sigyn!’ They both turned to see Thor barrelling towards them. He had grown stocky, standing as tall as Loki but so much more brawny, his blond hair reaching his shoulders and the beginning of a beard on his face. He had no pretence of being a gentleman with her, she was an old friend and would be greeted as such. He swept her up in his arms and hugged her before swinging her around, laughing heartily as Loki watched with alarm. Their mother had always taught them to be respectful to ladies, to treat them well. Thor was manhandling Sigyn in a very ungentlemanly manner and he couldn’t help but notice her blush. ‘My little warrior, how are you?’ Thor asked as he put her on her feet again, further from Loki than she had been.
‘I am well, thank you, my prince.’ She started to curtsey again but he stopped her.
‘None of that. We are friends, are we not? We would not have you treat us any differently than you did when we were children. Would we, Loki?’ He looked back at his brother who approached with a soft sigh.
‘Indeed not, brother, however perhaps a little gentler. Lady Sigyn is just that now, a lady, and should be treated as such.’
‘Nonsense!’ Thor clapped Sigyn’s shoulder and nearly knocked her over in the process. ‘She still has a fighter’s spirit, I’m sure.’ He turned back to her, having missed her stumble. ‘Will you come and see me battle in the tournament tomorrow? It would honour me to have you there.’
Loki held back a groan. Thor was trying to impress her, despite what he said about her being the same, and he hoped she was, but she was now breathtakingly beautiful, the freckles she had occasionally been ribbed over as a child making her all the more so, and her eyes, a blue so vibrant they were like the noonday sky.
‘It would please me greatly, Your Highness. I will ensure I have no prior engagements.’
‘And as I am not participating tomorrow, perhaps you would allow me to escort you?’ Loki offered and Thor shot him a glare. Loki however ignored him, noticing her smile became more genuine at his offer.
‘I would be honoured, my prince.’ She bowed her head to him. She had always held a fondness for the younger brother, his gentle ways appealing to her more than the brashness of Thor.
‘I shall call upon you on the morrow.’ He bowed to her, taking her hand and kissing it softly.
‘Loki, you’re being ridiculous. This is Sigyn, not some maiden for you to fawn over.’ Thor laughed. ‘She is like a sister to us.’ And just like that she felt put in her place.
‘But she is not our sister, Thor. She is a friend returned, more beautiful than before.’
‘You’re too kind.’ Her blush returned, but it was a fainter pink, a warming colour rather than the startled red Thor had caused.
‘I speak nothing but the truth.’ He assured her, making Thor laugh again.
‘Which is why father has declared you the God of Mischief and Lies, brother?’
Loki glared at him as Sigyn glanced at her hand, still in Loki’s, but if Thor told the truth could she believe his words? ‘You deny she is beautiful? Then you are as blind as you are strong.’ Loki stated.
‘Lady Sigyn?’ Her lady in waiting came towards them and she quickly took her hand back, stepping away from them both as the austere woman gave them a steely gaze.
‘I have to go. It is wonderful to see you both again. Good evening, Highnesses.’ She curtseyed to them both and hurried away, her lady giving the men one final stare of disapproval before putting her arm around Sigyn’s shoulders, making sure she left.
‘How went your meeting with The Allfather?’ Her own father asked as she returned to their rooms.
‘Well, thank you, Father.’ She replied, removing the shawl and folding it as she approached him where he sat by the fire. ‘I saw the two princes as I was leaving.’
‘Fine boys.’ He nodded, not looking up from staring into the flames as he was.
‘Thor invited me to watch him in the tournament tomorrow.’
‘And Loki offered to escort me.’
‘Good. Good.’ He nodded and she realised he wasn’t listening.
‘I told them I couldn’t attend as I was allowing the entirety of the King’s garrison to ravage me in the stables.’
‘Very nice, my dear.’
She sighed. ‘Father, you’re not listening.’
He finally looked up at her. ‘Sorry, my child, I was elsewhere.’
‘I noticed.’ She went and knelt beside him, resting her hand on his on the arm of the chair. ‘Thor invited me to attend the tournament tomorrow and Loki offered to escort me.’
He frowned at that, his red brows meeting. ‘Both princes seek your favour?’
‘Both princes are being polite.’ She corrected him. ‘Thor made it quite clear I was always like a sister to them, and it would be rude to turn them down.’
He rested his other hand on top of hers. ‘You will have suitors soon enough, daughter. A good many, I don’t doubt.’
She rolled her eyes. ‘I do not crave suitors. I wish to be useful, to my realm and my King.’
‘And how do you plan on doing that?’ He smiled at her in amusement.
‘As yet, I am unsure.’ She got to her feet and kissed his cheek. ‘But I will be.’
Charles followed her memory to the next day. Loki arrived, dressed in green and black leather with gold trim, a small posey of flowers from his mother’s private garden in his hand. He had asked her permission, of course, saying he wished to give his childhood friend a welcome home gift. Frigga had smiled and asked that he bring Sigyn in time to see her before the tournament. She had missed the young woman.
Loki spoke politely to her father, who was also attending the tournament, and he was allowed entry to their quarters. Sigyn knew he was here, but her lady in waiting stopped her from rushing out of her room to greet Loki, assuring her it was best to make him wait, even just a few minutes. Her father offered Loki a seat, the young prince accepting it graciously, his fingers fidgeting with the ribbon wrapped around the flowers. He shouldn’t have felt nervous, he had known Sigyn almost all his life, but he was. When she finally emerged she took his breath away, and he was on his feet without realising it. She wore a burgundy gown of simple design, wrapped around her upper body then falling away in layers to her ankles, a gold band on the top of each arm. She had her shawl again, the only thing she had successfully managed to embroider without it looking a mess despite extensive teachings. The front of her hair was caught back from her face in a bun, the rest falling away down her back. She looked quite lovely and speech failed him for a moment.
‘Good morning, Prince Loki.’ She curtseyed to him.
‘Lady Sigyn.’ He bowed to her and offered her the flowers. ‘For you.’
‘They’re beautiful, thank you.’ She smelled them before the lady in waiting took them from her to put in water.
‘Shall we?’ He offered her his arm.
She smiled warmly at him, looping her arm with his and allowing him to escort her from the room. They walked through the pillared hallway together in silence, neither one knowing how to start a conversation, and they were outside before Loki asked something.
‘I didn’t realise you were returning home.’
‘I am officially a lady.’ She sighed. ‘There was nothing more to teach me that I could not bluff my way through.’ She realised her mistake as she looked up at him wide eyed. ‘I mean, my teachings were complete, and…’
He laughed. ‘I understand. Perhaps more than you realise. Being able to act a certain way in a certain situation is not something that changes you, just the way you approach things. Each social dynamic is different, and requires different behaviour. Being a prince is little different, my lady.’
‘Please, just Sigyn.’ She asked quietly. ‘I detest being reminded I am expected to be a lady all the time.’
He stopped and turned to face her before they reached the carriages provided to the tournament. ‘Then please, I am still the boy you played with, still the boy you fought with,’ he leant in to her, ‘and still the boy you laughed with until you snorted milk, still Loki. Perhaps we can offer one another the consideration of first name terms in private?’
‘I would appreciate it. Thank you.’
‘None necessary, Sigyn. We have always been friends, and I would like it to continue that way.’
‘As would I.’
On arrival to the arena Loki presented Sigyn to his parents. She curtseyed low to them but Frigga was off her throne and pulling her up for a tight hug before she began to rise.
‘My beautiful Sigyn, welcome home.’ She said warmly, stepping back but not letting her go.
‘Thank you, my Queen. It’s so good to be back.’ Sigyn had missed Frigga almost as much as she had missed her sons.
‘Please, sit beside me.’ She rubbed Sigyn’s arms with her hands. ‘And after the tournament would you spare me some time to tell me of your studies?’
‘As Your Majesty wishes.’
‘Dispense with my title, I would have you call me Frigga, as you did before.’ Sigyn smiled warmly, glad to feel so welcome. She had worried after so long she may not have been.
Loki offered Sigyn his hand and escorted her to the chair beside Frigga, before taking the seat on her other side. With Thor competing he could have taken the seat by his father’s side but he had escorted Sigyn and would continue to act as such.
Frigga spoke to them both as they awaited the start of the program of events, when it came the Allfather standing and announcing the commencement. Thor was announced to rapturous applause which he lapped up. Sigyn shook her head just slightly, he was still the cocky, arrogant boy she remembered and he didn’t seem to have gained any humility in the last six years.
‘He remains quite the show off.’ Loki leant into her and spoke quietly and she chuckled, biting her bottom lip to stop from laughing out loud. Loki smiled, knowing he had amused her. She had always been fun to spend time with and it didn’t seem time had changed that, but when Thor approached the royal box and held a flower towards Sigyn with a smile and a wink, Loki ground his teeth. Frigga patted Sigyn’s hand and nodded to suggest she take his favour and Sigyn got to her feet. Stepping forward and taking the offered bloom.
‘Thank you, my prince.’ She smiled as he took her hand and kissed it.
‘I shall win each bout for you as a welcome home gift.’ He grinned.
‘You favour me too much.’ She said simply before returning to her seat and Loki gave him a smug smile.
The morning moved into the afternoon as the games began, with wrestling, swordsmanship, archery and quarterstaff. Thor excelled at each bout he participated in, and Loki pointed out several other warriors who would be new to her, including the most incredible, statuesque woman named Sif, who held her own against male warriors twice her size. Sigyn found her absolutely fascinating and when teamed with The Warriors Three, who Loki named individually and promised to introduce her to later, they were a force to be reckoned with.
Finally all the bouts were through, Thor had done his father proud, and was happily gloating his wins amongst his fellow combatants. Frigga turned to Sigyn with a warm smile.
‘Dear, would you join us at our table for the feast tonight? I would love to hear your stories in a slightly less hostile environment.’
‘I would love to, Queen Frigga, thank you.’ She had worn a smile since she arrived and it saw no sign of slipping. Loki again offered to escort her and they spent the evening reminiscing and catching up, Frigga noting how her son looked at his childhood friend. She was not blind, but she knew time would tell whether this was merely an infatuation.
Several weeks later and the novelty of Sigyn’s return had waned slightly with all but Loki. Less well wishers called and there was less to attend on a regular basis, she was able to turn more things down without worrying about insults, and she had some free time, which she was currently taking advantage of. She had left the quarters early, dressing nondescriptly in leather pants and belted linen tunic, her hair braided and off her face, sneaking out of the palace and past the orchard into the woods nearby for seclusion and privacy. She found a small clearing easily and drew her short sword, swinging it gently at first, slowly warming up until she had a fast pace where her blade sliced the air, striking at nothing but low and high in a smooth arc, turning and swinging as she drew magic with her other hand, practicing both skills at once to the near perfection she had achieved in her spare time while away.
Loki had seen Sigyn head off from the palace dressed unlike he had perhaps ever seen her, and decided to follow. When she stopped and drew a sword he watched in wonder from a distance as she showed skills with a blade and sorcery to rival even his abilities. It was like watching a dancer, she was elegant and quick, barely making a sound other than her blade slicing through the air, she was captivating. She finally broke her pace, her breathing heavy but not laboured and he dared to approach, but not wanting to startle her. He applauded quietly as he stepped through the trees and she spun on him, weapon raised.
‘Very impressive, Sig. You really are still our little warrior.’
‘If you’re here to mock me, Loki, you can leave now.’ She wiped her sleeve across her brow as she lowered her blade.
‘Mock you? Never.’ He shook his head. ‘I am truly stunned by your skill. You could put many of our finest warriors to shame.’
‘Because I would ever be allowed into battle beside them.’ She scoffed, backing up two steps as he continued to approach.
‘Lady Sif battles alongside Thor and I and The Warriors Three. Why not you too?’
‘Because, people still look down upon the sorcerers, those who use magic and sword, let alone being female. If I suggested I wished to go into battle I would be laughed out of the city. Possibly the realm.’
‘I would support your claim, if you made one.’ He manifested a dagger into his hand. ‘Spar with me.’
Her eyes went wide. ‘I…I can’t do that.’ She shook her head.
‘Of course you can. It will be good practice for us both. Or are you afraid you may get hurt?’
‘You are baiting me?’ She half laughed.
‘If it will make you spar with me, certainly.’ He shrugged before taking a swing at her which she easily dodged. ‘I know you can do better than just move away.’
Sigyn shifted her grip on her sword and took up a defensive stance. ‘I know you can do better than that little swing.’
‘Little?’ He raised an eyebrow and she shrugged.
He swung at her faster this time, stepping into her and in moments they were meeting one another’s strokes with practiced hands, and it was some time before he finally bested her, and he suspected that was only because she was tiring from what she had already done. He caught her by surprise as she turned, one hand pinning her sword arm across her body while the other held the dagger close to but not against her throat and she froze, realising she had slipped up.
‘Very good.’ He murmured. ‘Not many can keep up with me.’
‘I didn’t keep up, you bested me.’
‘After quite some time.’ He pointed out, still not letting her go. ‘And I am sure you could find a way out of this.’
‘I am sure I could.’
‘So what are you waiting for?’ His breath ruffled her hair and she got a small tingle down her spine, but she ignored it and prepared herself.
‘I don’t want to hurt you.’
He didn’t get to finish as she pressed her hand to his thigh and sent a jolt of power through it. A stabbing pain shot through him and his hands spasmed, causing him to drop the knife and let her go as his body twitched. She stepped away, turning as she did and kicked him in the chest, knocking him to the ground before straddling him with her sword at his throat, a small smile on her face.
‘That didn’t hurt, did it?’
‘A mere discomfort.’ He grinned back before knocking her sideways and rolling on top of her, pinning her arms beside her head despite her efforts to get free. ‘You are quite the fighter, Sig. Did they teach you that while you were away?’
‘They taught me nothing of use, besides holding my tongue.’ She said angrily.
He smiled down at her. ‘I’m glad they didn’t extinguish your fire.’ He released her and slowly got to his feet, offering her a hand up.
‘It takes more than a few failed embroidery projects to do that.’ She took his hand but swung her foot up and planted it in his stomach at the same time, throwing him backwards over her head until he crashed to the ground behind her.
Loki winced and when he opened his eyes again she was running back through the trees. He suspected he may have embarrassed her somehow, but that hadn’t been his intention. He was rather enjoying her company and finding she still kept up with her fighting and sorcery had only piqued his interest further.
By the time he reached the edge of the orchard she was disappearing into a side door to the palace and he knew he had no hope of catching her before she reached her quarters, but he would speak to her, he would convince her to spar with him again. They were a good match, their skill set similar, and he hoped to explore her abilities further.
Months later and their training sessions had become a regular thing, sneaking away from the palace together often to work through sword, hand to hand and sorcery together. Sometimes Thor joined them, but he was of a different class of fighting, much stronger, whereas they were fast and light-footed. He gave the occasional pointer but often just arranged for them to meet up later, sometimes just the three of them, sometimes with Sif and The Warriors Three, and almost half of those times no one else arrived, leaving just Loki and Sigyn alone. Sometimes they just met up in the library to discuss books they had read, or just to get some peace as it was always quiet.
One evening, when the dining was done but the wining continued, they sat around a fire in the great hall, listening to one of Volstagg’s many stories. Sigyn felt quite tired, it was getting late, but she didn’t want to turn in yet, and excused herself to get some fresh air on the balcony. In the cool night air she was able to yawn freely and felt better just for that.
‘He has quite the soft spot for you, our young prince.’ Sif’s voice had her turn her head to see her coming towards her.
‘Loki?’ She frowned at her. ‘We’re friends, Sif, nothing more.’
‘If you say so.’ Sif chuckled. ‘But I have seen how he looks at you, how he hangs on your every word and always ensures he is seated beside you. And I have seen you do the same.’
‘I’m not, that is…’ she blushed as she sighed. ‘Am I that obvious?’
‘You are only obvious to those who know what to look for. Thankfully the oafs we sup with are not that smart or observant. You should speak honestly with our young prince.’
‘Oh, I couldn’t.’ She shook her head. ‘We’re friends, if I say something to ruin it, it ruins it for all of us, not just the two of us. And if you’re wrong, and he doesn’t reciprocate, then…’
‘Sigyn, little sister, he spends his every waking moment speaking of you or seeking you out. Our trickster is smitten with you.’ She smiled knowingly. ‘The solstice feast is approaching. If he should invite you we shall ensure you impress upon him the import of not wasting time.’
‘Sif, please, don’t say anything to him.’ She begged. ‘I cannot in good conscience hope for something he may not want.’
‘Oh, he wants.’ She smiled. ‘And if he wants bad enough he will do something about it.’ She pushed away from the balcony, leaving Sigyn to consider what she had said.