i.

Loki woke to dim firelight and a pain radiating throughout his entire lower jaw. Something warm and heavy was laying on him and he glanced down to see Sigyn, fast asleep in his arms. He paused, wondering. And then the events of the day before came rushing back to him in vivid detail.

Sigyn's smile when she was presented with her gift, directed solely at him. Odin proclaiming Mjolnir the most magnificent creation. And then Thor holding him down, the pain as the needle pierced his skin and pushed through, the cord stitching his mouth shut as blood ran down his chin and neck. The laughter of everyone echoing throughout the great hall, mingling with Sigyn's screams. Watching Thor be rewarded with Mjolnir, how Loki had burned with jealousy and despair at seeing him hold the hammer. It should have been his, it was meant for him.

Loki ran after that, his thoughts switching between it was mine and I am alone, repeating it like a chant. The desolation he felt quickly gave way to a sort of horrified numbness, a blank state of mind and feeling that he welcomed. And then Sigyn had come to him, in tears over what had happened. In tears over him. He wondered that he was almost surprised by it.

"I will not leave you," she had whispered as he clung to her, like a dying man clinging to his last hope of survival. "I promise."

Loki's grip on her tightened slightly, remembering that promise. He held on to it and to her to keep the other memories at bay. It didn't work. As Sigyn slept, he stared off at the opposite wall, his numbness fading and leaving him a burning hatred of everything and everyone in Asgard.

Especially Thor.

Sigyn shifted in his arms, mumbling sleepily, bringing Loki out of his stewing. Her breathing changed from slow and deep to shallow and quick. She yawned and then looked up at him, blinking in the dim light.

He wasn't entirely certain what he should say. He wasn't entirely certain he could say anything. They looked at each other for a moment before Sigyn sat up, grimacing a little and rubbing her neck. He clenched his hands in an effort not to pull her back down, missing her warmth.

With a sigh, Sigyn re-ignited the candles, brightening his study. Then she stood and retrieved a small bottle from his desk before coming to sit down in front of him again.

"Numbing ointment," she said, her tone still a little tired. "We will have to be careful of these until they heal," she said, her fingertips brushing past a hole in his lip. He shivered in horror and closed his eyes tightly, memories of the needle going through flitting in his mind. Thor's hands bruising his skin as he held him down. Brokk's sneering, triumphant face. Then, as if she had caught on to his discomfort, she was done. The ointment was cool against his skin and brought little relief to the pain.

Sigyn set the bottle down, gazing down at it with a far off expression. Just like him, she must have been thinking about the day before. Then with a deep, steadying breath, she met his gaze and stood again.

"I am going to find us some food," she said simply. "I know you're likely not hungry, but we must eat something." She hesitated, then gently placed a warm hand on his cheek and leaned down, kissing his forehead. He nearly startled at the contact. Then she was gone, muttering the words to open the secret doorway to his study and leaving him alone.

Loki brought his knees up to his chest and hugged himself. He hadn't done that since he was a child. Not since he had found out what he really was. Come to think of it, Sigyn had been there for him then, too.

How she could get up and think about things like food, he didn't know. How she did anything other than curling up and staring at nothing like he was, he didn't know. He should hate her, he reasoned. She was everything he was not, doing what he could not. Finding the strength and the will to move forward from nothing.

From his position, curled up on the hard, cold stone floor like a damn child, Loki could not see any reason to keep going. He only wanted to stay hidden in his study for the rest of his existence, avoiding the other Aesir, avoiding the ones he had once thought of as family. Just stay there until the others had forgotten about him, until he had simply turned into a tale to speak of around the banquet table. How the sly one had his mouth sewn shut. He imagined them laughing at it over and over again.

Loki dug his fingers into his skin, ignoring the pain from putting pressure on the area his nails once were. He had torn them off, clawing at the stone floor, trying to get away from Brokk and Thor. As if his strength was any match for Thor's. The pain of the stitching had drowned out the pain of tearing his nails off, though now they ached just as much as the rest of him.

He focused on that pain, the pain inflicted by the others, and let it fuel the anger that was slowly building up in him. No, not anger, he realized. Rage. Rage and hatred.

The doorway to his study opened again, snapping Loki out of his thoughts, and Sigyn entered. There was an odd expression on her face, like she was trying to appear calm but, as always, her eyes gave her away. Her eyes always gave her away, at least to him. There was anger burning in them, a fierceness that, had it been directed at him, would have made him tremble in fear. She held two plates of food and two goblets.

She took another deep breath and came to sit down in front of him again. "My apologies for taking so long," she mumbled, setting a plate of soft food in front of him. Things that wouldn't hurt him too much to eat.

He blinked. Had she been gone long? He hadn't noticed, lost in his own mind as he'd been. Loki peered at her for a long moment, taking in her manner and her expression again. Something had happened while she was out. Something that had upset her deeply. He placed a hand on her wrist, hesitantly, and gave her a questioning look when she met his gaze.

Sigyn paused, then simply said, "I found Brokk on my way to the kitchens."

Loki stilled, his entire body tensing.

"I may have let my anger get the better of me," Sigyn continued, her tone far too calm, mismatched against the fire in her eyes. Then she looked away and focused on her food, leaving him to wonder what she had done to the dwarf. What she'd done for him. He let go of her wrist slowly, her skin smooth against his rough hands, and he sat back, ignoring his food in favor of the goddess before him. The one who screamed while the others laughed, who was there for him when he had thought himself utterly alone. Had always been there for him. The one who had just proven herself willing to go to extreme measures for him.

"Sigyn," Loki said, his voice hoarse, the movement making him cringe. Sigyn stopped, looking up at him with blue eyes wide in surprise. He found himself unable to say anything else, his silvertongue failing him for once. Then she smiled, a smile tinged with sadness, and she took his hand again.

"I know, Loki," was all she said, and somehow Loki knew that she did. They sat together in silence the rest of the day, neither one completely ready to face what lay waiting for them beyond the study door or to leave the safety they had found in each other.

ii.

He did eventually leave his study. Loki waited until the wounds on his mouth healed, leaving scars that rubbed against his teeth. Until then Sigyn stayed with him, bringing him food and clothing to change into, sometimes talking to help him temporarily ignore the memories that wouldn't leave him be. Her voice was soothing, just like everything else about her, and he found himself drifting off into sleep from it more than once.

Sleep was the only time he could get away from the memories.

When his mouth healed, Loki finally ventured out with Sigyn, though every fibre of his being wanted to stay in the safety of the study. He stayed close to her as they walked down the hall together, not entirely certain where they were going. Soon the laughter from the banquet chamber reached them, echoing lightly down the hall.

Loki stopped dead, the image of everyone laughing at his pain coming back. He took a step back and only when he felt a hand on his arm did he jump, focusing on Sigyn.

"We will not go in," Sigyn said calmly. She stepped closer and brought the hand from his arm to his cheek, her thumb stroking his skin gently. "We will go outside, somewhere. Into the woods, perhaps. But not in there."

Loki stared at her for a long moment, trying to pull his mind away from laughter and pain to her, when suddenly the banquet chamber doors opened and Thor stepped out. Loki stilled, his eyes wide, everything in him telling him to run but his body not obeying.

Thor saw them both and his cheerful expression quickly turned into disgust and rage. "Loki," he said, his voice low. He approached them quickly and Sigyn turned to face him, not moving. "Step aside, Lady Sigyn," Thor commanded.

"No. I know what this is about, Thor, and he did not do it. Take your anger elsewhere," Sigyn said. "You will not touch him again."

"Do as I command," Thor said, looming over her. Loki wanted to say something, tell him to get away from her, to leave her be, but his mouth wouldn't work properly. It was sealed tight surely as if it was still stitched together.

"No."

Thor clenched his fists and Loki knew he was resisting the urge to shove her aside. "You protect the coward still, after all he's done?"

"I always will, Thor. He did not do it."

"You know he did! Who else could it have been? He was the one who brought the hair to Sif, who placed it on her head again. Who else but he could have turned it from golden to black in revenge?"

Black? Loki barely comprehended what Thor was saying. He trembled behind Sigyn, all too clearly remembering how easily Thor had held him down. How much could Thor hurt him now that he wielded Mjolnir, which hung at his side? Loki took a step back again. Sigyn stayed where she was, standing tall.

"Step aside," she said, her voice every bit as commanding as Thor's had been. "We are leaving."

"Sigyn," Thor said, "do not protect Loki anymore. Do not side yourself with him."

"It's far too late for that."

Thor growled and reached out, grabbing her wrist and pulling her aside roughly. Her gasp of pain snapped Loki out of his terror. As Thor began to make his way to Loki, already having let go of Sigyn, Loki flung a spell at him with a snarl of anger. Thor was thrown backwards, taken by surprise, and landed with a heavy thud against the stone floor.

"Do not touch her," Loki said, his voice terrifyingly quiet-almost a hiss- as he prepared another spell. Then he felt a hand on his wrist, pulling him along, and he turned to see Sigyn, her expression panicked.

"Run," she said, and he followed her without a thought.

They ran back into his chambers, still in disarray from his quick departure of Asgard weeks ago, and sealed the door behind them. Sigyn leaned against it, trying to catch her breath, trembling slightly. With anger or fear Loki couldn't quite tell. He himself was shaking with anger. It surprised him, how seeing Thor treat her so roughly had sparked such a rage in him. It was a little sad how he could handle it when Thor used his strength on him, but not Sigyn.

He cursed his stupidity. Thor would not have hurt her more than that. Merely shoved her aside to get to him.

Sigyn rubbed her wrist a little, a bruise already forming. Her mouth was set in a hard line and Loki saw that it was anger making her shake, not fear.

"He will come after you for that," Sigyn said. "And Sif's hair."

"I know." Loki glanced at her. "Sif's hair?"

She shrugged. "It turned black. The night after..." she trailed off, not wanting to say it. "Everyone thinks it was you. In revenge for what happened."

What happened. That was how they referred to the sewing; never by name, never by its proper title. Just 'what happened.'

"It was not me," Loki said.

"I know," Sigyn said. "And it was not me either. I do not know how it happened," she said with a sigh. Loki believed her. Sigyn, he was beginning to see, most of the time did not act as impulsively as he did. She would have seen that turning Sif's hair black would have been blamed on him and would have gotten him hurt again. She wouldn't have done it, just for that reason alone. He would have, in his thirst for revenge. For all that he prided himself on his plans, his skills at thinking seven steps ahead of everyone else, he could be blinded some of the time by his own strong emotions.

Loki stared out a window of his chambers as the sun shone over Asgard and realized, I cannot stay here. It had become steadily apparent to him that he was not welcome, never would be for being a Jotun. That he would always be cast aside from the rest, thought less of and secretly (and not so secretly) hated.

He had to leave.

Sigyn approached him, stepping close again, and peered up at his face curiously. Then understanding crossed her face. "You're leaving," was all she said. Her tone was simple, nonjudgmental. Just stating a matter of fact. It unnerved him, how easily she could read him.

"I must." Loki turned to begin gathering his things but Sigyn's hand on his arm stopped him.

"Take me with you."

He stared at her for a long moment. "Why?"

"Because," she said, "I want to go with you. There is nothing for me here, Loki. And I do not wish to be here anymore. Please," Sigyn said.

Loki couldn't understand it, her insistence on always being with him, always being there for him. How could he, when no one else had done that for him before? There had to be some trick, some ruse she was attempting to pull on him, and if so he had to commend her ability to fool him.

Unless, a tiny voice whispered in his mind, unless she is sincere. Unless she truly does just want to be with you. And how lovely would that be, having the only one he considered a true friend with him? So he was not as alone as he thought himself to be?

"If you wish," Loki finally said. It was not the greatest declaration he could have given her, considering she was leaving behind her family and a chance at a good life for him. As much as she insisted she had nothing in Asgard, she had far more than he did. A kind family, friends, even a potentially good suitor in Theoric if she wished.

But she didn't. Sigyn had chosen him over all that. Loki wasn't entirely certain what to make of it, so he turned away from Sigyn's happy smile and began to gather the belongings he would take with him. After a moment he paused, then slowly said, "Sigyn... thank you."

There was silence from her at first before she said, "of course, Loki."

iii.

They left shortly after Sigyn gathered her things from her house, avoiding her family. The midday sun bore down on them both as they walked, Asgard's city growing smaller behind them. They had left unseen and Loki suspected they would not be found missing for some time. Truthfully he had no idea where they would go, and neither did Sigyn. Some place far from Asgard. He didn't know how long they'd be gone. Forever, if he was basing his bare bones plan on how he felt just then.

He picked a random direction and began walking, Sigyn following. They stayed silent through their travel, the wind and the sounds of nature the only things accompanying them. Finally, as night fell they found themselves in the woods that surrounded the border of Asgard. The city was nothing but a speck to them now and one they were all too eager to ignore. Sigyn helped him light a fire and then sat back, staring at it. Loki found himself staring at her, studying her, still trying to puzzle out her reasons for coming with him.

She looked pretty in the firelight, the way it warmed her face and shone in her eyes. The thought made Loki shift uncomfortably and he looked away, blinking the outline of the fire out of his eyes. He wasn't blind and he wasn't stupid; he could see she had grown into a beautiful woman. And if he hadn't noticed before, the whisperings of the warriors of how good she'd look on her back would have made him think about it, once he'd finished turning their mead into eels for such remarks.

And he may have thought about it himself, once or twice, on days when she looked utterly gorgeous while casting magic. When she looked at him and smiled, no hatred or disgust in her expression at all, only fondness. But she was so much more than just that.

"She's beautiful, isn't she?" Balder's voice made Loki turn from Sif and Thor sparring to him.

"Who?"

"The Lady Sif."

Loki stayed silent and turned his gaze back to Thor and Sif. The question made him pause. Sif's hair gleamed in the sunlight, so different from Sigyn's brown hair. No, Loki thought. She is not. Because I know what lies beneath that pretty face and golden hair, and it is not so beautiful. And she could never compare to Sigyn.

"Best look elsewhere, Loki, for she is quite fond of Thor."

Loki barely restrained the snort that threatened to escape him. Good. They deserved each other. He didn't bother to correct Balder and instead merely rode off on his horse, pushing aside all thoughts of Sigyn's beauty.

"I suppose we should rest now," Sigyn said, bringing him out of his wanderings. Loki looked up at her as she stood, brushing off her skirt. "I assume you want to be up early so we can continue our way to wherever it is we're going."

He tried not to let that get to him. She must be wondering, after all. But he didn't know, not yet. Just somewhere. Away from Asgard. "Yes," was all he said.

She nodded. "Do you want me to take first watch?" Loki stared at her blankly until she said, "watching for predators and other things, I mean."

He snorted and simply cast a protection spell around them. Sigyn blushed and gave him an embarrassed smile. "Right. I forgot. It's been a long day, I suppose." He made a noncommittal sound and laid down, knowing he wouldn't be able to rest for hours more. When he still felt her gaze on him Loki looked back up at her. There was a proud expression on her face, a small smile as she looked at him.

"What is it?"

"Oh," Sigyn said, shaking herself slightly. "You're just a very good sorcerer. The best, I think. No matter what anyone says." She laid down then, half obscured by the fire. "Goodnight, Loki."

"Goodnight," he said, still taking in her compliment. And then it all made sense, her reasons for coming with him. He'd always been willing to help her learn a new spell-he was almost her mentor in a way-and if he had gone, who else would teach her? She was after power. Of course. He should have seen it before.

No one's motives are ever that pure. Especially not when it came to him.

Loki looked over at her again. Knowing what he did now, he wondered what to do with her. "Sigyn," he finally said after a long pause.

"Mm?" came the sleepy reply.

"Why are you here?"

She shifted and looked at him, blinking in confusion. "I told you why, Loki," she said. "There's no place for me in Asgard. And I didn't want you to be wandering on your own, not after what happened. You need someone."

"I don't need anyone," Loki bit out. "You wouldn't have come just to keep me company. Leaving behind your comfortable life for one where you'll be sleeping on sticks and stones for who knows how long? Don't lie to me."

"I'm not," Sigyn said calmly. "I came for you, Loki. Because of you."

The sincerity in her voice made Loki tense, clench his fists and unclench them. Because she was telling the truth. He could tell. But he didn't want to believe it. It was easier to fall on past experience and believe she was lying and using him instead of trusting her.

But if he didn't trust her, why had he allowed her to come with him?

Loki ran a hand through his hair and closed his eyes tightly. He heard her get up and walk over to him, twigs snapping underneath her feet. Then she took his hands and knelt in front of him, blocking out the light from the fire.

"Loki," she said quietly, "you are my best and truest friend. You have always been so kind to me, and you were there for me when no one else was. Let me be there for you when no one else will."

Loki met her gaze steadily, stared at her for a long moment, taking in the earnestness and eagerness in her expression. And he remembered her tears when she'd found him in his study, how she had cut the cord out, her promise to him. How she had screamed for him and stood up to Thor for him, not just once but several times. How she had cut her ties to everyone in Asgard as surely as she had cut the cord, all for him.

Something in him crumbled. She was that good. After all she had done for him, he had thought to question her motives and her loyalty. Not for the first time Loki felt disgusted with himself.

"I'm sorry, Sigyn," he said, resting his forehead on her shoulder, allowing himself to get close to her again.

She hugged him tightly. "I understand, Loki." And he knew she did.

iv.

They continued on their way, traveling through the lands of Asgard. It had been a month since they'd left Asgard and no one had come after them, as he'd hoped. He gave Svartalfheim a large berth, not wanting to risk running into any dwarfs. He still didn't know where to go, had no plans other than getting away from Asgard and staying away.

He and Sigyn fell into an easy routine: Rise early, eat, set off, make camp at duskfall and repeat the routine the next day. After a while, though, their silence gave way to small words exchanged between them. The small words became conversations, about everything and nothing. Even the silence became comfortable between them.

Loki was terrified about what it could mean.

"It looks like there's a storm coming," Sigyn said, her hand over her eyes as she gazed at the horizon. Loki followed her gaze and saw dark clouds forming, far out to their West. "We should find somewhere safe to camp before it arrives."

"There's a small town not far from here," Loki said. They were in Alfheim, home of the Light Elves. They would find friendly lodging, he hoped. He lead her quickly to the town, finding it easily just before the storm hit. They found a small room at a tavern to share and stayed in it, avoiding others for fear of being recognized.

Soon rain pounded on the walls and roof of the tavern. Loki sat and listened to it, unpleasantly reminded of Thor. Gradually the flashbacks to the incident had stopped recurring so often. Sometimes, when his tongue brushed past the scars on his lips they would come back, but he had gotten better at pushing them away.

With a small sigh, Sigyn laid down and looked up at the ceiling. She had taken advantage of the bath offered to them and her hair was still damp. Loki studied her a long moment as he found himself doing often the past few days. He had grown so used to having her by his side all the time. Grown to love it. Since their conversation by the fireside the first night of their journey, Loki no longer questioned her motives, simply taking her for the admirable goddess she was.

"Perhaps we could rest here for a few days," Sigyn said. "Gather our bearings before we head out again."

Loki considered it. He had been pushing them hard. He hadn't missed how tired and aching Sigyn was becoming at the end of each day, how fast she would fall asleep when before she would take the time to look at the stars or make small conversation.

He supposed they could relax a little. They were far from Asgard now-not far as he'd like, but enough that he could stay in one place for a while. For Sigyn.

"We could," Loki said. "For a few days. We're both tired." He slipped off the arm band he wore and set it down beside him. Then a thought occurred to him. "Sigyn, what happened to your arm band?"

She hesitated, not meeting his gaze. Then she sat up and looked at him. "I left it in Asgard," she said. "I'm sorry, but I couldn't bear wearing it. It reminded me too much of what happened, what Brokk did to you. I couldn't stand having something made by him on my arm." She was silent a long moment, looking at him beseechingly. "I'm sorry," she repeated. "Are you angry?"

"No," Loki said quietly. "No, I'm not angry. I understand. Thank you."

Sigyn smiled at him and nodded, then laid back down. "I think I'll rest for a bit. Wake me if there's a flood," she said lightly as thunder boomed over them. Loki managed a small smile at that. He leaned back against the wall as the storm continued and as Sigyn slept, an idea forming in his mind. Ignoring his fatigue, Loki began crafting something in his mind, then cast his spell. He stopped only when he noticed morning light shining in through the window, illuminating his work. He blinked, not realizing he worked the whole night, then glanced over at Sigyn as she rolled over.

"Mm," she said, yawning. Loki hid his work behind his back as she opened her eyes and looked at him. "Good morning, Loki."

"Good morning." Sigyn sat up and stretched, yawning again, and brushed her hair out of her face. Now that she was awake and his work was done, Loki tried to rein in his terror. What was he doing? It had been a stupid idea. He tried to get back some of the bravado he'd had when he'd given her the arm band, how he'd been nervous then, too, but still went through with it.

Well, that was a stupid thought, too. Loki could never be that person again, the one he was before his mouth was sewn shut.

It's Sigyn, he thought. Just do it. It would make her happy.

He stood stiffly and approached her, hands still behind his back. "Sigyn, I-have something for you."

She blinked up at him, still a little dazed, and then smiled. "Oh? You didn't have to..."

He waved that away. "I know." But he still had. Nervously shifting his weight, Loki hesitated again before taking a steadying breath and bringing his hands out in front of him. Dangling from his fingers on a silver chain was a small, simple purple pendant. Silver encircled it, and it was beautiful in its simplicity. It seemed so small and stupid a thing now, and he shouldn't have done this, but she was looking at it so now there was no going back.

"Oh, Loki," she whispered, standing and walking over to him. Sigyn fingered the pendant and slowly a smile grew on her face. He knew she could feel the echo of his magic in it and knowing it made her smile was indescribable to him. "It's beautiful. Thank you. Thank you so much."

"Turn around."

She did as he said, lifting her hair out of the way, and Loki set it around her neck and clasped it. She turned back around once he was done, her hair falling back into place, and she smiled up at him. "How does it look on me?"

Loki studied her for a long moment, how her hair gleamed in the morning light, how her blue eyes shone with happiness because of him, how her attention was solely on him and not the gift. She was beautiful.

"It suits you," Loki said before he leaned in to kiss her. Sigyn stilled underneath his hands which came to rest on her waist, and then she kissed him back, and the rest of the world was lost to them.

Over the past month it had slowly been building to this point, every look shared between them and conversation they had, every time he made her laugh and the times she made him smile and forget about Asgard for a brief time. Ever since her promise, the way she had screamed for him, had stood up to everyone because of him. Even before that, when she had been his friend when no one else was, when she had taken his tiny hands in hers and said she didn't care if he was a Jotun, she'd always be his friend.

It had been a long time coming, this moment, and Loki regretted every lost second. As Sigyn pulled him back towards her bed, he swore to make up for it.

Later, as Sigyn rested her head on his chest and Loki had an arm around her shoulders, he said what he had been fearing for so long and could no longer think of why: "I love you."

He felt her smile and then shift, kissing his shoulder and looking up at him. "I love you too, Loki. I always have."

A month ago, as he sat curled up on his study floor, Loki had wondered how she'd found the will to go on. How she still found something to exist for from nothing. He wasn't anywhere near as strong as she was, not in that manner. But maybe with Sigyn by his side always, Loki could keep going on, for her. For the chance at happiness, however slim it might seem to him at times. With his constant Loki found peace and love, and he would cling to it for as long as possible.

"I won't leave you," Loki whispered, repeating her words from a time that seemed so long ago now. "I promise."