He straightened and gave her a long look, puzzlement again in those quirked brows and clear eyes.
“And what possible cause could you have to be grateful to me, Lady? My magic aided you, and you then fought for my freedom. It seems to me that there is no debt on your side.”
He did not yet step away—he couldn’t quite bring himself to widen the distance between them. Nor, however, could he bridge it. He could not do so much as raise a hand, though he longed to brush his fingertips over the smooth curve of her cheek.
“My life for your freedom? Surely there is no debt on either side. You should not bow to me.” What was she to him? A lady, warrior, comrade, perhaps. It brought to her memory harsh words spoken of marriage and becoming Thor’s queen, things she wished she could forget, lies he could spew like poison now if he wished it.
“What will you do?” she asked again, and this time all play had fled. If this was the last she would speak to him, she would know it.
Loki looked at her steadily.
“…may not a friend bow to another friend, Lady Sif? Or are we no longer friends now that I am free of my bonds?
“I will return to my chambers,” Loki said with a faint smile, “and try to make sense of all that has happened today. Then I will wait until you are better, and then we shall ride, Sif. As I promised.”
“He may,” she allowed thoughtfully, “but a prince should bow to no one.” She stared at him for awhile, quite candidly, as if trying to take him apart with her eyes and see inside that she might understand him better. She hoped he spoke truth. She would accept it.
Reaching out, she took both his hands in hers and examined his freshly-released wrists. There was no mark to say there had ever been shackles there. She bent, pressing her lips to one hand and then the other, soft, reverent. “I shall look forward to it, then,” she said, and bowed her head.