Chapter 4

Sigrid goes immediately to her dressing room, and retrieves the small mirror, the only thing she has of her mother's that survived the ruin of Lake-town, from its box. Usually the large mirror in her vanity suffices, but if she wants to see Fili's braids in detail, she needs something else. She angles it carefully, and finally sees them clearly. They look relatively simple, for all the fuss they've caused, but a lump still rises in her throat as she sees them.

She will take a bath, she thinks, and then she'll call one of the maids she never calls to help her dress, and wear one of the dwarf-style gowns that she can't untie on her own. The maid will know, of course, and there will be gossip, but it isn't like there is not gossip aplenty already, and her subjects have thus far been only kind in their whispering about her.

She strips quickly, hanging her things on the clothespress, and takes one of the robes that is more decorous than warm to wrap herself in. Back in their main room, she realizes that the door to the bath is already ajar.

Fili. Who wanted to eat his lunch alone. She has half a mind to go track down her brother-in-law, whether to kiss him or hit him she does not know, but she acknowledges that would be a waste. Still, she will not interrupt her husband if he does not wish it. She walks to the door as quietly as she can, and looks through.

For a moment, she thinks he might be asleep. He's sitting on the bench in the warm part of the pool, his head laid back on the edge and his eyes closed. He is beautiful, not in the way that Men are, but in a way that is his own. The braids feel heavy behind her ears. He is beautiful, and he is hers.

His shoulders move, his hands beneath the water, and she realizes what he is doing. She should not watch, but if she doesn't she will never learn. Her breath quickens as his mouth falls open, and she can feel the heat under her skin. Then he moans, and it can only be her name he says. She is moving before she has time to think, and sheds the robe as soon as she steps into the bathroom.

"Stop," she says, and he does.

His eyes fly open in alarm, hands raising out of the water as though she holds him at sword point. For a moment, they stare at one another, and then Sigrid moves again. She lowers herself directly into the pool instead of walking to the stairs, and crosses to where he sits. She puts one hand on his shoulder, and holds the other out to him.

"Show me," she says. "Fili, please."

He still looks stunned, but he reaches up to bring her close enough to kiss her. With his other hand, he takes her offered one, and pulls it underneath the water.

He is dreaming. He is dead, and has gone to the halls of his kin to wait for the re-making of the world. Her fingers, under his, are uncertain, and the light touch drives him mad. He looks at her, returning her determined gaze for as long as he can, but then his eyes close again against his power to stop them. He squeezes his hand, and she mimics him. He cannot stop.

"Sigrid," he says. "Sigrid."

"I'm here," she says.

Through the fog of his desire, he realizes that she truly is. She is with him, has chosen it, and that is what pushes him over the edge. With a moan, he spends between them, and lifts her hand to his lips.

"Sigrid," he says again. He has no idea what else to say.

"You have to show me," she says, apparently not at the same loss for words he is. "Show me what you want and I will do it."

He blinks at her stupidly and says the first thing that occurs to him: "They cannot all be done in the tub."

She shifts backwards, and he realizes just before she steps beyond his reach that she means now. He catches her, images of her splayed out beneath him in their bed rising before his eyes. There will be time for that. Later. He pulls her towards him instead, reaching down behind her knees to pull her legs up on either side of his. Kneeling, as standing, he looks at her chin, and when he pushes up to kiss her, her body presses against his in a way that would make him desperate for her, were he not already so.

"There are some things we can do in the tub," he amends his earlier statement, and bends to put his mouth on her breast.

Her hands wind into his hair, which he had combed out before getting in the bath. He can feel her breath on his scalp, and then her kisses there. He moves to her other breast, steadying her with his hands on her hips. Once he is sure she is stable there, he slides one hand between her thighs. The hands in his hair tighten, and then loose immediately.

"It's all right," he says, relinquishing her breast to speak. "You can pull as hard as you like."

He smiles, aiming for rakish but suspecting that he lands somewhere closer to addlepated, and returns his mouth to where it was previously occupied. The swirling water makes her skin even softer, and it does not take his questing hand long to find what he is looking for.

She gives a small cry when he begins to stoke her, which quickly changes into something else as he continues, deliberately trying to take her apart. The blood rushing in his ears obscures the sound for a moment, but then he realizes that it is his name, "Fili, Fili", over and over again. With a final nip, he leaves her breast and returns to her mouth, pressing their bodies together so that his fingers are even better angled against her.

She's moving now, she can't help it, and the surge of her body, the arch of her back with droplets of water flying everywhere, is enough that he finds himself hard again. He ignores it, as much as he can, focusing on her as she spirals closer and closer to her own edge. With something like a sob, she breaks, a wave crashing over her, and falls forward in his arms.

He cradles her through it, kissing and murmuring sweet things into her ear. At last she looks up at him, so beautifully shy that he never wants to let her go, and smiles.

"Fili," she says when she can speak again. "Take me to bed."

She does not have to ask him twice.

He carries her, in the end, and they are all way to the fine carpet on the floor beside the bed before he remembers that they are dripping wet. She laughs as he sets her on her feet, impudently, he thinks, and can't quite resist pinching her bottom before stalking back to the bath for their drying cloths. He wraps his around his waist, and towels her from shoulders to knees, stopping regularly to kiss the skin beneath his fingers. They are breathy kisses, and messy with his tongue, and she cannot stop giggling.

At last they are both dry, but before he throws her on the bed, as he rather would like to, he reaches up and undoes the braids he'd put in the night before. He drops the pins onto the side table, and smooths long tendrils of hair over her shoulders, back and breasts. He saves the two small ones behind her ears for the end, but when he reaches for them, she leans away.

"Not these ones," she says.

He wraps them around his fingers instead, and uses them to gently pull her to him. The kiss starts slowly enough, but the fire is close behind, and before long he lifting her again, and following her as they scramble towards the middle of the bed. He stops just beside her, though she is reaching for him, and looks down, trying to decide. At length, he pushes her knees apart and sets his mouth to use where his fingers had been occupied just before.

This time, she does not even try to be quiet, and since he cannot see her face, he revels in the noises she makes. She pleads when he slows, or if he leaves her core to lavish kisses upon her thighs. He would hoard each repetition of "Fili, please. Fili, please", if he could, but he can't, so he will have to settle for eliciting as many as possible. He doesn't really mind.

When he can tease her no longer, he sucks hard on her pearl, humming deep in his throat, and she comes. He finds the corner of one of the drying cloths and wipes his mouth, watching the pink of her skin's flush deepen under his appraisal. He kisses her belly, the space between her breasts, and then her mouth once more. He tries to keep the bulk of his weight off of her, but he cannot hide his arousal, and she cants her hips against him.

He sits up on his knees and reaches over to rummage in the drawer of his nightstand, returning with a small bottle of oil. He slicks himself and his fingers before replacing it, and leans down to kiss her.

"Slowly this time," he says, and she nods.

He splays one hand on her belly, and slides the index finger of the other inside of her. She still feels twitchy from earlier, and gasps a bit more loudly than is really warranted. He hesitates after that, so she says "Yes, yes" and moves her hips against his hand. That reassures him, and he adds a second finger soon after. His thumb drifts back to her core, and that really is more than she can handle.

"Too much, too much," she hisses.

He takes back his whole hand, and she almost cries.

"Just fingers?" he says, and she nods.

He adds a third, and a twist, and it is almost, almost perfect. She arches off the mattress, following him each time he moves away and grinding when he pushes back in.

The expression on his face had been almost careful, but now it changes into something else. She has seen it before, before their wedding night went sideways, but this time it is sharper. Hungrier. This time, she thinks she has a better idea of what it might mean. She can feel him, heavy and slick against her belly. She does not know everything about him, but she wants so badly to be ready, and she thinks that will be enough. She only has to tell him.

"Fili," she says, voice as level as she can manage, which she suspects is not much of a claim at the moment, given how difficult it is to breathe. "I am not afraid."

He forgets himself, his resolutions and restraint, and lunges, both hands free of her despite her protesting whine. He tangles her hair with oil and whatever else as he kisses her with desperate heat.

"Fili," she says, but he is already moving.

He lines them up, only a little clumsy in his haste, and then sinks into her so carefully he's not sure which of them is going to fly apart first. He does see the moment when discomfort cuts into her arousal, but it's fleeting. He can feel her adjusting; he just has to wait. She crosses her ankles behind his back, pulling him in just a little more, and rocks her hips as a test. He bites his tongue.

"I love you, too," she says, and that is all it takes.

He tries to be slow, he truly does, but everything that had been wrong the first time is right now. He recognizes the way her fingers move, sure and certain in their work, as when she is sewing. He knows that look in her eye, the one she gets when she is determined. He sees the joy in her face, the same he sees when he plays for her, and when she sings him her own songs to learn.

By the time he thinks to slip a hand between them, to help her reach her peak again, it is too late: he is already falling apart. She doesn't seem to mind, and her grip on him does not lessen as his thrusts become erratic. He comes with her name on his lips, and his heart given over entirely to her keeping.

She cherishes his weight above her, before he musters himself to move. She might have complained, except he goes to fetch her a cup of water. It's not until she drinks it that she realizes how dry her throat had been. She has apparently done quite a bit of yelling.

He smiles at her, and somehow she knows that he is thinking the same thing, and that he loves her for it. It stops her from feeling shy.

He settles in on her pillows, and pulls her to him, avoiding the mess they've made in the middle of the bed. They can clean it up tomorrow. Right now, she is fairly certain her legs would not support her anyway.

"You have to show me too," he tells her, as she arranges herself on his chest. "And if we don't know something, we'll figure it out together."

"I will," she says.

"My brave girl," he sighs, as she is drifting off. "My brave wife."

"My brave husband," she replies, and finds she likes the words quite a bit.

His arms surround her, his beard tickling her cheek, and she falls asleep.

It's morning when she wakes, and Fili's hold has loosened while the slept. It's enough that she can escape to the privy without waking him. She uses the necessary, and then washes her hands and face. There are bruises, she sees, and she blushes to think how they were earned.

When she gets back to bed, he has not yet moved, but he shifts when she crawls in beside him again, pulling her back towards him with a contented sigh. There are strong arms and a broad chest, and golden sunlight shining in through the window.

"Good morning," her husband rumbles.

And Sigrid decides right then that it is.


Note: Thank you all so much for reading, leaving kudos and taking the time to comment. This has been quite the fic for me!

I have a sequel in the works (which I think will be shorter, but I thought this was going to be about 3K, so what do I know?), that I really want to finish by the end of the month because of Off-Screen Writing Reasons. In the mean time, watch this space for snippets from the years between "A Favourable Arrangement" and "The Very Spoilery Titled Sequel". ;)

Gravity_Not_Included, January 27, 2014