It’s not love.
It’s not love that makes her reach for the huntsman, stroke her auburn hair, caress her cheek, she’s checking for hidden injuries after the last battle.
It’s not love that makes her put Sara in charge of her army because Freya trusts her, knows her, knows that she alone is the triumph of her flock.
It’s not love when she visits Sara and only Sara after every battle, checking her over, waving healers away so she may do it herself. She's the best Freya has, it makes sense for her to look after her best.
It’s not love when she catches Sara’s eyes in the courtyard and smiles softly for her alone, Sara is training the new recruits well, Freya is letting her know. And when Sara smiles back, Freya’s heart quickens because she is glad Sara received her message.
It’s not love when Sara takes her hand softly under the new moon as they both look across her kingdom.
It’s not love when Freya screams and freezes a kingdom to an arctic wasteland when Sara is bought back half dead from battle, she must show the kingdom they cannot deal a blow against her like this without consequences.
It’s not love when Sara, laughing at the question, teaches Freya how she braids her hair and Freya spends days by her in bed as Sara heals, practicing on her, getting the loops and ties correct. Sara plaits Freya's hair once, when she falls asleep after visiting Sara late, her head resting on her hand, elbow propped up on the bed. Freya wakes up to find half her hair in delicate braids, Sara grinning at her, telling her she couldn’t reach the rest of her hair, but she thinks half hair braids might just come in style if the Queen wore them. Sara raising her hand to the imprints of Freya’s own digits on her skin, feeling Freya’s own smile creep across her face.
It’s not love when Sara is never bitten by Freya’s skin, the frost never seeming to touch her.
It’s not love when whispers about her and Sara appear, she hears them all from her owl perch, how Sara has her under a spell or how she is controlling Sara’s heart. Either narrative boils down to manipulation and lies and Freya can't get it out of her head how much it irks her, she trusts Sara, she believes in Sara.
It’s not love when Freya follows a bloodied Sara up to her room, the huntsman too tired to even talk, can only nod her head when Freya asks to bathe her. She tugs the clothes and furs off her huntsman’s swaying frame, Sara lays her head on Freya’s shoulder as she grapples with Sara’s belt, her breath is steady and deep, it curls around Freys collar bones and the heat touches her skin for the first time in a long time and it feels like...it feels like something she had forgotten. She peels the undershirt up off Sara’s back, coaxing her arms up and then stepping her out of her trousers and boots, leading her over the the gently steaming waters and guiding her in.
Sara sits in the tub, eyes half closed as Freya sponges her back, neck, arms. The blood is dry and half of it merely flakes off. She soaks Sara’s hair, undoing all the braids and knots, watching the water turn to pink.
She dries her off and wraps her in furs, Sara leaning more and more on Freya as she stands, she snaps herself awake half a dozen times before Freya finally guides her to her cot. Sara slips under the furs and blankets, giving a half smile to Freya as thanks. Freya perches beside her, draws a hand over her cheekbone, tucks the stray red hairs behind her ear.
It’s not love when Sara catches Freya’s hand and tugs, Freya tilting her head in a silent question.
It’s not love when Sara tugs again, pushes her furs and blankets open for a space just big enough for Freya.
It’s not love when Freya sighs and shakes her head but slips her shoes off anyway, pulls the laces of her bliaut and slips in beside Sara in her chemise. Sara rests her head in the hollow of Freya’s neck and breathes and breathes and breathes.
It’s not love because it can't be, because something like this couldn't never be banned, could never simply bow to the will of one person, could never be banished.
It's not love when Sara wakes to find the winter sun lazily making its way up the bed, its rays picking along the arm that Freya has over Sara on top of the furs. Sara’s pressed against Freya, the Queen’s body is the warmest she's ever felt.
It's not love when Freya finally stirs, blinking slowly at Sara’s face inches from her own, her mouth cracking into a smile.
It's not love when Sara brings her own hand up through the furs and touches the queens jaw, strokes the path she knows the ice takes along her face when she uses her power, tilts her own head and presses a pair of warm lips to the queens thawing ones.
It's not love when Freya responds, circling her arms around Sara's waist, making Sara's heart pick up a beat she's only ever heard in battle.
It’s not love when they break the kiss, Sara breathing hard, the warmth coiling between them, licking at Freya’s cool skin. Sara too tired, too full of bruises and aches to contemplate doing anything but pressing a last kiss of the lips and winding her own arms around Freya, resting her head on her shoulder and closing her eyes once more.
It’s not love when Sara finds winter flowers on a battlefield and brings them back to Freya.
It’s not love when Freya steals kisses from Sara after a command meeting, Sara’s thighs pressed against the cold ice of the table map as she feels Freya’s cold hands wind their way through her fur to finally touch her back, spine and hips. Sara shivers in the best possible way, hands around Freya’s shoulders, stealing the breath right back from her.
It’s not love when their kisses are fire and ice and then fire and melt water, then fire and steam. Freya gently warming within Sara’s arms each time.
It’s not love when Sara finds the winter flowers later, encased in a clear ice dome on the windowsill of Freya’s bedroom and all she can do is kiss Freya harder as she pushes her down into the large white bed and hope she understands.
It’s not love when Freya laughs in the hall at something a huntsman says about finding the king with a dozen ice wards around his neck, as if he could stop her army from killing him. The hall is quiet but her laugh makes it silent, none of them but Sara have heard that sound from her. She's still smiling when she dismisses them.
It’s ‘love’ when Eric says those three words to convince her.
It’s ‘love’ when Eric says they should escape, as if she no longer wants to be here just like him.
It’s ‘love’ when Eric says he’ll come back for her, that's she’s under a spell, that she doesn't know what she’s saying, why else wouldn’t she want to leave with him.
It’s not love when Eric asks if she’s been ‘true’ to him, as if she loves anyone, and she turns away and walks directly towards the advancing Freya.
It’s not love when Freya’s hands flutter over Sara’s shoulder as soon as she dismounts, checking the new gash, her other hand nearly reaching for Sara’s hip as if to check for more.
It’s not love when Sara’s chest warms to hear Freya speak of her.
It’s not love when Freya whispers ‘Welcome home.’ in the empty hall and wraps her fingers in the furs around Sara’s neck to pull her close and kisses her gently. Sara’s heart soars just to hear those words from her.
It’s love, Ravenna can feel it as soon as she steps out of the mirror, her sister hasn’t learnt.
It’s love when Ravenna catches Sara looking at Freya, she’s seen it before.
It’s love every single time she finds Sara glaring at her.
It is love when Ravenna stabs Freya and Sara roars.
It is love when Sara hears Eric’s blade hit the brittle mirror, she doesn't even watch Ravenna fall, she's applying pressure to Freya’s stomach, her tears are already dripping down her nose and she’s whispering three words to Freya over and over again.
It is love when Freya smiles up at Sara, feels the warm salt water tap against her collarbones and she sees her possibilities, sees her life and sees a reason she must keep living. She furrows her brows and grits her teeth, searching for a last piece inside her to freeze her wound and she finds it in the warmth of her huntsman’s palms.
It is love.