The new year began and eventually signs of spring began to return. Sigyn and Loki returned to just being friends, in their public personas, but behind closed doors, in private, they were very much new, young lovers, taking every opportunity to touch one another, no matter how briefly, and formerly unconsidered places were perfect for clandestine meetings, including, but not limited to, the library, Frigga’s private flower garden, the woods, and each of their rooms. Sigyn’s held more risk, as she resided with her father, but she could easily sneak out of her window if necessary, and many a night was spent just walking around the grounds in peace, holding hands, kissing and talking. It was not long before their relationship became more physical and they found pleasure with one another in new ways, always returning to their own beds before dawn but enjoying their nights together, holding and exploring one another.
One night, a week before the spring solstice, they lay in Loki’s bed together, surrounded by furs and little more, Sigyn laying on her side, propped on one elbow, while Loki sat beside her with a platter of bread, cheese and meats.
‘I swear this man is relentless.’ She shook her head. ‘He will not take no for an answer. I am close to telling him I am going to serve in the sisterhood just to get him to stop calling on me.’
‘The sisterhood would not take you, pet. I know the things your body has done and you would be ejected for even suggesting so.’ He offered her a bite of the bread, which she took.
‘You may find this funny, my prince, but he is trying to win over Father. Compliments and asking to hear of his exploits with Odin during the wars.’
‘Perhaps it is your father he desires.’ He grinned and she punched him in the arm.
‘There are only so many times I can have my lady in waiting dismiss the man without a valid excuse. Father thinks he would make a wonderful husband for me and he doesn’t mind the fact I am a warrior in my own right.’
‘Just let me kill the fellow.’ Loki said nonchalantly. ‘Problem solved.’
‘Problem not solved. Your father will still not entertain the idea that you and I could be together.’
‘What did you say my competition’s name was?’
‘Theoric.’ She groaned the name, tired of hearing it.
‘Theoric?’ Loki said in surprise. ‘Of the Crimson Hawks?’
‘The very same.’ She took a piece of cheese from the tray.
‘Oh you should definitely marry him, he is quite handsome.’ Loki teased.
‘You may jest, but I may have to.’ She pinched his leg to make the point she was so frustrated but he merely chuckled.
‘I will not allow you to wed anyone else, Sig, you know that.’
‘I know you don’t want me to. You’d lose one of your favourite toys.’ She rested her head on his thigh and grinned up at him.
‘You are not a toy.’ He touched her nose softly. ‘You know how I feel about you.’
‘Do I?’ She asked innocently. ‘Because all I recall you ever calling me was yours.’
‘Mine, yes, I do like that.’ He said thoughtfully before eating a slice of salt pork.
‘You’re an ass, my prince.’ She snuggled into the furs on his thigh. ‘One small sentence and this arguing would be done. Why you refuse is beyond me. It does not cause pain to look upon someone and tell them that you love them.’
‘I wish for all to know, not just you.’ This was a bone of contention between them, that he had yet to say the words, although he always said yes, if she asked if he loved her. ‘Your power over me is quite maddening, sunbeam. I feel unworthy of the attention you lavish upon me.’
‘If I have to marry Theoric you’ll have to lavish your own attention.’ She grumbled.
He laughed again and this time she sat up and glared at him. ‘Really, Loki. Theoric is persistent and as no one else has claim to me I fear this is tempting Father to do something drastic.’
‘Like marry Theoric himself?’
‘Like accepting a betrothal.’ She said angrily. ‘If it comes to a deal between the two I will have two options; go along with it or disappear, and I will not hesitate to do the latter than live in a loveless sham of a marriage.’
‘And if you disappear, dove, may I come with you?’
‘Now you’re just being ridiculous.’ She threw back the covers, planning on dressing and heading over the side of his balcony to her own room as she did most mornings, but he caught her around the waist, stopping her.
‘Not ridiculous, I just do not think Theoric is as big a threat as you fear. And if he does offer a betrothal and you choose to run, I will run with you. We will head to Midgard where no one knows us and be wed by the next new moon.’
‘Oh, Loki,’ she sighed, ‘how could I marry a man who will not even tell me he loves me?’ She said teasingly and he kissed her firmly, his tongue plunging into her mouth until she could do nothing but make small murmuring noises. He affected her so much it was almost painful to think of being without him.
‘Still leaving?’ He purred and she pulled a face but shook her head.
‘You are truly the God of Mischief.’ She whispered, and as he lowered his lips to hers to claim them again the main door banged open then closed. Sigyn grabbed at the furs, covering her modesty as Loki looked over his shoulder at the intrusion, knowing full well who it would be.
‘Really, Thor, please try knocking. I am tired of explaining to the locksmith why my door is shattered at least once a week.’
‘I could not wait for you to open the door, and oftentimes you ignore me.’ He barely gave the pairs mostly nakedness a second thought, nodding to Sigyn nonplussed. ‘Sigyn.’
‘Thor.’ She nodded back.
‘You are interrupting, brother.’ Loki pointed out.
‘I am aware, however this is important.’ He pulled a chair up to the end of the bed and took a seat, while Loki sighed and sat Sigyn back up, arranging the furs around her once she shuffled properly into the pillows. ‘Theoric of the Crimson Hawks has been bragging around the garrison.’
‘I told you he’s trouble.’ Sigyn remarked as Thor helped himself to some meat from the platter. ‘How many times does he claim to have deflowered me?’
‘None, yet.’ Thor pointed the meat at her. ‘However he is certain he is taking you to the solstice ball.’
‘I may have to volunteer for guard duty.’ She leant forward for another piece of cheese.
‘They have not allowed you to use that excuse yet.’ Loki reminded her.
‘There is always a first time.’
‘Father would not allow it.’ Thor pointed out. ‘I believe he stops you from doing so in the hope a suitor will catch your eye. You may be subtle with your affair but it has not escaped his notice that the two of you are still always together, however platonic you may claim to be.’
‘Am I no longer allowed friends?’
‘As long as they are not Loki, yes. But I come with a solution.’
‘Really?’ Loki said doubtfully.
‘Very really. And do you know why? Because I am such an amazing brother who looks out for you.’
‘He wants something.’ Sigyn glanced at Loki.
‘I do, but it benefits us both. What meat is this?’
‘Boar from the last hunt.’ Loki said.
‘I thought it depleted?’
‘If you knew there were any left it would have been.’
‘Fair point. But to my deal. There is a certain maiden I have made an accord with. She gets her chance to sit at the royal table for the banquet and show off to all her friends. One dance with a prince and she will go on her way.’
‘And where do we fall into this little scheme of yours?’ Loki asked, pushing the entire platter towards Thor.
‘Simple, little brother. You get to escort said maiden and I escort Lady Sigyn.’
‘That is subtle.’ Sigyn agreed as Loki processed what it meant.
‘You wish for me to escort someone else whilst you take my lady on your own arm?’ Loki said in disbelief.
‘It will stop Theoric from being able to ask, will give a reason for Father to be less suspicious, and we can all rejoin our friends after it is over for wine and song with no suspicions raised that the two of you are in fact like wild rabbits.’
Sigyn laughed. He had a point, but Loki still didn’t like it. ‘What else does this maiden want?’
‘What makes you think she wants something else?’ Thor asked around some bread.
‘So far there is nothing in it for you.’
Thor raised his eyebrows and grinned. ‘Oh, yuck.’ Sigyn rolled her eyes.
‘That is quite the mental image I could have done without.’ Loki shifted to sit beside Sigyn, taking her hand in his. ‘What do you think, petal? Do we go along with this scheme?’
‘It may offer a certain degree of plausible deniability.’ She said with a small shrug. ‘But why should we help with such an implicitly complicated scheme to convince your father there is nothing between us when I am unsure if there actually is?’
‘He still didn’t say it?’ Thor looked at her and she shook her head, her mussed hair falling over her shoulders.
‘He is either the nine realms’ best liar, as your father crowned him, or so emotionally repressed there is no hope for him.’
‘Just tell her, Loki. You know it to be true and you only hurt the both of you with your inability. Prove yourself the silvertongue we know you to be with a simple confession of your feelings.’
‘I will tell her without an audience.’ Loki argued.
‘That’s it, I’m going home.’ Sigyn shifted over, pulling the furs with her, but Loki didn’t let go of her hand.
‘You are not dressed.’
‘So dress me, my God of Mischief, or confess your feelings for me, once and for all.’
‘Thor, if you leave now I will agree to your scheme.’ Loki said without taking his eyes off Sigyn who glared at him.
‘Done.’ Thor took the platter with him. ‘Take my advice, brother, and say the words. You will both feel better for it.’
‘When I want your advice, I shall seek it.’ Loki called as the door closed.
Sigyn sighed when they were alone again. ‘You do not have to say it, Loki, not once. The words mean nothing if they are forced.’
‘Do you know why I do not say them?’ He asked as he released her hand. ‘You already know the power you hold over me yet you would make me say the words? You ask if I love you as though I have a choice, as though there were ever anything less than love I could feel for you. I have loved you since the moment you walked back into my life, perhaps even before that and I knew not what love was, but I cannot say the words because once I do, I shall never stop. I see in you my future, and all that I want. I will marry you, and you will bear our children, but once I say the words you long to hear it will set in motion the rest of our lives. I will go against my father and the entire nine realms if I must to make you mine. Once those words are past my lips it will bring about events I neither know how to start or finish. We speak of leaving, of being wed on another world, but for me it is not a jest, it is the reality of what I will do, if it is the only way to have you as my wife. I would disgrace myself with Odin, with Asgard, because you are my home, and as long as we are together I need nothing else.’
Loki’s words touched Sigyn so deeply her throat constricted and she climbed back onto the bed and kissed him, pulling him against her.
The memory faded out to the training ground where Sigyn was sparring with Fandral. The two of them bantered while they fought, lightheartedly making fun of one another but their fighting never suffered for it.
‘Do your admirers have to swoon for each swing of your sword?’ Sigyn teased as she stepped in close to him and elbowed him hard in the sternum before pirouetting away elegantly.
‘It is not my blade that makes them swoon, my Lady Sigyn.’ He recovered quickly and deflected the dagger she manifested and threw at him, a trick Loki had taught her.
‘Well, at least you are proficient with something.’
‘Your words burn me, my lady.’
‘As will your loins if you do not pick your partners more carefully.’ She hit him in the chest with a blast of energy that also blinded him and she leapt at him, hitting him in the chest with her shoulder and knocking him to the ground, pressing her blade to his throat.
‘You have bested me again, good lady.’ He dropped his sword in defeat and nodded his head in a bow.
‘If you concentrated more on the fight than my breast you would best me more often.’ She pushed to her feet and offered him a hand up, ignoring the applause from the makeshift audience.
‘But it is such a splendid breast.’ He clapped his arm around her in a brotherly hug.
‘But it is not your breast.’ She pinched his side playfully as they walked towards the opening in the fence together but her step faltered as the tall, handsome figure of Theoric came forward, his blond hair caught back in a leather strap that matched his brown leather tunic and pants. He was clapping his large hands and smiling at them, no, at her, and as she tensed Fandral’s arm automatically tightened protectively around her. She knew he was aware of Theoric’s intentions, as were all their friends.
‘Good Lady Sigyn.’ He bowed to her. ‘May I ask you to take a walk with me?’
‘She would love to.’ Her father’s voice came from the other side of the fence and she shot him an alarmed glare.
‘May I ask for a postponement, Sir Theoric? The bout has left me quite in need of refreshing myself.’
‘Nonsense.’ Her father came and drew her out of Fandral’s protective embrace. ‘You have both been training. Take some water then be on your way.’
‘Such reason, Father, you should have been a politician.’ She teased but the bitterness in her voice was evident. ‘Lead on, Sir Theoric.’ She held her arm out for him to walk ahead of her to the water provided but instead he offered her his arm. She suppressed a sigh and took it, his solid muscles barely moving under her touch, but it did not impress her. They both took some water and he took her arm again and led her towards the gardens.
‘You have become quite the fighter, fair lady.’
‘Thank you, Sir Theoric.’ She said disinterestedly as she looked over the roses that were beginning to bud.
‘As deadly as you are beautiful.’
‘You flatter me, sir.’
‘I speak the truth. Tales of your bravery on the battlefield rival your elegance in the banquet hall.’
She laughed and looked up at him. He was easily as tall as Loki, but not as handsome, his eyes a dull grey and while brawny she knew there was more to a person than physical size. ‘Sir Theoric, we have barely ever said ten words to one another, besides polite greetings. I would have the truth from you, if there is a reason for this walk besides honeyed words?’
He chuckled. ‘My, you are blunt.’
‘I am honest, Sir Theoric, if nothing else. Speak or return me to combat, I owe Hogun a bout and I hate to disappoint.’
‘Very well.’ He stopped and turned to face her, his hands taking one of hers. ‘I ask for permission to escort you to the spring equinox banquet.’
Luckily Sigyn had been expecting this and was able to school her face to apologetic disappointment. ‘I am sorry, Sir Theoric, but Prince Thor has already requested my company for the evening.’
‘Prince…Thor?’ He said uncertainly, as though he had misheard.
‘Yes.’ She nodded. ‘I had not been invited and he had not made an offer to any ladies, so rather than attend alone he invited me to dine with him, some days ago now.’
‘I, erm,’ he didn’t seem to have a response. Thor was renowned as a fighter and as royalty no one would dare try and usurp a lady from under him. ‘It would appear I missed my opportunity.’
‘I’m very sorry, but I gave my word.’ She smiled sweetly.
‘Then would you allow me to call on you? There are some fine horses in the stables in foal at the moment, perhaps you would like a tour?’
‘You want to call on me?’ She faltered. She hadn’t expected him to be that forward or confident.
‘With your permission, and that of your father, of course.’
‘Of, of course!’ She said rather more high pitched than she meant to as her mind ran as fast as the last stallion she had tried to break in without the stable master realising. ‘But, I do have a proviso, for callers.’
‘You do?’ He smiled in amusement, assuming he had her.
‘Indeed.’ She raised her chin defiantly and smiled slightly. ‘First you must best me in the training arena.’
‘I must…lady, please, that is an unfair fight, I could not do such a thing.’
‘I suppose it is a little unfair, as I have sorcery and you do not.’ She said thoughtfully. ‘If I renege weapons and just use my magic, would that even things a little, or would you rather I dispensed with power and fought with just weapons?’
His mouth flapped a few times, unable to comprehend what she was suggesting. ‘I could not face you in combat.’
She sighed and took back her hand, patting his arm before taking a step back. ‘You have my terms, Sir Theoric. Why do you think Fandral is always so keen to meet me in the arena?’ She grinned, leaving him standing amongst the blooms with his delicate sensibilities.