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The end? I think not.
“You mean to say…”
Sigyn’s eyes were numbly focused on the floor, cataracts of pain clouding their bottomless blue. I was half grateful for this, because I couldn’t possibly have met her eyes. Even as she continued, I felt my throat close with grief.
“There is nothing left of my husband?”
She looked up at me. I nodded slowly, closing my eyes as if it pained me to seal my brother’s fate so. All those times, when he’d pulled an escape out of certain death, gave me false hope that he lived still. I was half--no, wholly expecting his illusory sheen to melt away, for him to give me that wry smile, to tease me for crying over him…
Sigyn said nothing for a long time. She had been totally silent when I explained to her the events of Svartalfheim. The last time she’d visited was just prior to Loki’s sentence. It broke my heart to think that that was the last time they would meet outside of Niflheim. Finally she slumped lifelessly to the earth, squinting her eyes shut and propping her head on her forelegs. I could almost feel the hope draining out of her, joining my pool of melted joy somewhere on the floor.
“Leave me,” she whispered hoarsely. I needed no further goading. Standing up, I strode out of the room a little too fast, leaving her to grieve. It sickened me that once upon a time I had been jealous of Loki for her affection. They needed each other as much as I needed Jane Foster, if not more so. They had understood each other to a degree I could never hope to achieve. There was no way I could fathom what Sigyn was going through, nor could I possibly console her. I had lost a brother--she had lost a lover.
I stormed onto a balcony, letting Mjolnir onto the floor with a thunderous boom. I thrust myself onto the stone guard rail, gripping so hard the stone splintered under my fingers. I glared up at the reserved night sky through my tears, mentally demanding it why it had taken my brother away. He had done wrong, true--yet he had died redeemed. Should he not then be spared? All those years, I had taken my brother for granted, as poor all-too-deserving Loki rotted away in the shadow of great idiotic Thor. More than all the peace and good works I had committed in the galaxy, I wanted my brother back. I wanted to apologize to him, to tell him that he wasn’t a fool, that he was the most brilliant man he’d ever known, short not even to Odin--
My forehead collapsing down on the stone, sobs wracked my massive frame. I couldn’t remember a time when I had cried. I hadn’t cried when Mother died, or when Loki had ‘died’ the first time. But now it all came crashing down on me. Loki had died in my arms only a day or two ago, not hours after he’d left that cell for the last time. I’d been powerless to save him. And that was what finally broke me. I hadn’t saved him, not even when I had promised myself against all odds and logic that I would. Every time, when it mattered most, when I was all he had, I’d tripped and he’d slipped away. And now, finally, it had happened again.
So I cried.
I trotted up the stone outcrop in my wolf form, jutting out from the earth like the hull of a ship as it sank into oblivion. Though trees surrounded me directly, as soon as I reached the rock’s peak I beheld the city of Asgard west of me. Though once upon a time the lights had been a source of wonder for me, they now held naught but empty longing. I turned away, instead looking to the moon for reassurance. In its cold light I found little warmth. I dipped my head down, gazing listlessly at the earth far below me. I could join him in Niflheim now, I knew. We would all be happy together, perhaps, me and Loki and--
No. That was the precise reason I had to carry on without my beloved. I had a purpose for something that even he was not aware of. But that didn’t make his absence any easier to bear.
Turning my muzzle to the sky, I sang one last time for my lover. A simple, mournful melody I had only recently concocted, one that he never heard in his lifetime. Perhaps it would carry through the stars to him in Niflheim. Perhaps it would remind him of all the wonderful times we’d had together, of that bygone age where he was happy and loved. He’d always loved my howls. But he’d never hear them again, and there was nobody left to sing to me, either. How would his existence be? Would he be forgiven by his last act of valor or tormented because of a lifetime of bitter hate? How I missed him already.
How would I get along without him?
I took a breath and sang again, my voice ringing out in a new pitch. My eyes scrunched shut, but they still leaked tears into my fur. Never again would I feel his gentle touch, nor his heart beating furtively beside mine. His clever tricks, his lilting laugh, his wry smile. His blazing eyes, his cold logic, his aching sorrow. The illusions, the adventures. What we shared, who we lost, what we discovered in our hearts for each other…
All gone, forevermore.
More beautifully than ever before, I loosed my song upon the unforgiving night, till my lungs burned with the chilly air. The notes and memories blurred together, flowing into a lifesong as painful to endure as it was vital to my wounded soul. One last song, one last trembling note...
My legs betrayed me to the unfeeling stone below me, and I let myself cry.
His hand brushed the stone, luminous greeny-blue eyes lost in guilty thought. In his heart he wanted more than anything to go up there and comfort her, yet he knew he couldn’t. He would not risk endangering all he had left in this world. Yet how could he leave her in such a state as he found himself--utterly and irremediably alone?
He looked up at Sigyn, the only being in the Nine Realms who understood him. Who would cry for him until she herself perished. Who loved him, unconditionally and for all time. Whom he was abandoning without an explanation. His own tears stung his eyes, but he stood unmoving, letting them trace their way down his gaunt cheeks. His skin was even paler in the moonlight, and he knew that even if he allowed himself to be seen he would look like a ghost. Unlike her, who was always so full of life. So full, in fact, that she reached out to the lonely god whom fate had left to rot.
That she successfully brought his heart back to life.
Was this how he was to repay his savior?
He brought his hand back up to his face, wiping his tears from his face and letting Sigyn’s tears join his on his damp fingers. Breathing heavily and looking wistfully up at his wife, he beheld her one last time. She was human again, having sat up on the edge of the rock with her head in her hands. The short brown hair he’d run his hands through countless times, the hardy muscles that had carried him through thick and thin. The gentle features, the tough sarcasm, the soothing voice. All the little details that had always held his sanity in balance.
How would he get along without her?
“I’m sorry it had to be this way,” he apologized, voice raspy with grief. He brought his gaze back to his hand, still on the stone. He stared at it for a long time, what seemed to be an eternity. With Sigyn’s crying haunting his ears, he couldn’t peel himself away.
Turning, he ran blindly.
Sigyn tossed and turned in her sleep, as if attempting to flee from her nightmares.
Half-remembered figures taunted her; skinchangers snapping at her heels, Malekith’s booming voice taunting her in her head, Asgard’s ruins crumbling below her feet. She couldn’t shift, she couldn’t escape, she couldn’t even think. Her situation didn’t make any more sense to her than the numbing panic that blossomed in her chest and spread its tentacles to the rest of her body. She merely ran, ran from everything, ran from herself and her own fears.
She tripped on a piece of rubble, and she faceplanted onto the rough ground. Rubbing her sore cheek with one hand, she took off running again. She couldn’t stop for anything, not if she wanted to survive. But what was she surviving, exactly, and why was it so difficult to do so?
She leaped over a chasm that gaped under her out of nowhere. But the walls cheated, the opposite cliff face inching away from her as she fell suspended in midair. She reached out her fingertips, only to scrape the rock and fall into oblivion--
Stepping into the foggy dreamscape, he waved away a tendril of gray consciousness from his face. He looked around, panic beginning to bubble in his gut when he didn’t see her immediately. But far off, in the distance, shrouded in the darkness of a nightmare, was Sigyn. Withholding himself from crying out to her, he instead allowed himself a radiant smile and ran after her. He waved away the writhing dark that surrounded her, banishing the bad dreams and leaving her standing still. Her hands were clamped over her face, completely obscuring it. He softly laid a hand on her cheek, just behind her hand. She trembled.
“Open your eyes,” he chided gently. She shook her head and spoke, her voice so tiny he almost missed it.
“No. I’m scared.”
He knew better than to try and reason with her through words. He pried her hands off of her face, but almost wished he didn’t when he saw it. Grayed with sorrow, tear streaks staining her cheeks. If he didn’t know better, he wouldn’t have recognized that face. It seemed...older, almost inhuman. It took all his willpower to remain there with the knowledge that he caused this.
What kept him? The knowledge that he could undo it.
Holding her hand with his other hand, he pulled her in and kissed her.
He never dreamed he’d feel her feathery lips again, but if he had, it wouldn’t be half as good as the real thing. She put her hand on his chest, assured herself that it was him by the giddy thump of his heart. His hand sneaked up her cheek to the back of her head, running itself through her hair and holding her closer. She brushed his own face with a hand, sending an ecstatic thrill up his spine. If he’d had it his way, this moment would have lasted forever.
But she ended the kiss, pulling her face back to gaze upon his in disbelief. His eyes glowed with that scarce joy that only she had the power to release from the depths of his soul. The way he held her, so gently, but at the same time loving beyond physical capacity. His face was drawn up in a smile, but it seemed more ghostly than he’d seen him last, not befitting the life that beamed in his expression.
“My love,” he whispered, stroking her cheek again as if verifying her existence.
“I miss you so,” she whimpered. His smile faded away, and he gazed off into the distance. He seemed so aged, more like the regal statues that flanked Asgard’s gates rather than the sly Loki she knew and loved. What had changed about him while she was gone?
Closing his eyes and putting his hand on hers where it lay on his cheek, Loki gave Sigyn a sudden revelation. That quiet pain, inexpressable in any other way or by any other man. She gasped a little, horrified by how far he’d fallen without her. She hugged him, stroking the back of his head in an effort to calm his terrors.
“I had to do it,” he apologized, voice pitifully quiet with his guilt. “Thanos, he’s after me, now that I failed him. I had to disappear, and I couldn’t do it any other way. I’m endangering you merely by acknowledging my existence.”
There Sigyn’s old protective flare surged to life. She pulled away again, placing her hands square on his shoulders and glaring him in the eye as if he were Thanos himself.
“My own safety is not important,” she stated flatly, trying not to notice that his own eyes were getting puffy. “You are my top priority. I don’t know who he is, or who he thinks he is, but next time you run into him, send a message for me: I’ll whip Thanos’s #*$& for you, as many times as necessary. Nobody is getting to you.”
Loki laughed a little, lightening her heart ever so slightly. But she hoped that he believed her, because it was true. Nobody, dead or alive, was going to take him away from her. Never again.
“Well, you’re my top priority,” he countered, taking her hand in his and looking her in the eye. He drank in those sky blue eyes, as he knew he didn’t have much longer. “And hopefully, I won’t meet him again anytime soon. So we’re even. I did it for you.”
“How can I be sure that’s true?” she ridiculed herself, looking down and shaking her head. “You’re probably just a figment of my imagination, to try and fool myself into thinking that you still live.”
“But I do. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.”
Sigyn looked up suddenly, her eyes wide. From the serious look in his eyes and the way he held her hand, she knew that he was real.
“I’m out there somewhere, Sigyn,” he spoke, too fastly for her to believe that everything was all right. “You might have to search a little, but I’m there. And once I think it’s safe, I’ll come to you. I shall return, I promise--”
“Loki, what’s happening?”
His figure was flickering, and his touch felt intermittent. His eyes became pained, and more than anything he longed for more time with her.
“I can’t maintain the contact forever,” he apologized. “I’m out of time.”
“No!” she exclaimed softly, hugging him suddenly and burying her face in his chest. He held her tenderly, letting her grieve for the umpteenth time. He willed the connection to strengthen, but his magical reserves were burning faster than he’d like. Any moment now, he’d flash out of existence and she’d wake up alone.
He put his head on her shoulder and whispered a final message into her neck.
“I love you.”
She jolted awake with a start, half expecting to be in his arms again. But no; she had become a wolf again to sleep through the night. She lifted her head at the misty morning, cocking her ears at the chirp of the morning birds. Her heart felt lighter, possibly with the new knowledge she possessed. But she wouldn’t tell Thor--not yet, in any case. When Loki felt it was safe to live again, Thor would be the first to know. But not yet.
Sigyn walked down the stone, her step light with rekindled hope.