Frigga rarely can do more than embarrass her sons on their way to bed: kissing them on the cheek or forehead when they are excused from her evening table in the long hall and fetched away by a maid. Thor squirms and rubs the press of her lips off his forehead. He shoots a look down the length of the table as if he expects someone to be watching this particular kind of shame, borne only by sons with doting mothers.
"I'm hardly tired," he insists, a last ditch attempt to fend off the hand of the maid.
"He's lying, Mother," Loki says frankly. "He always falls asleep first."
Frigga laughs. She takes both her sons by the chin. "Go with Bergdis and be good," she tells them. "Or I will have your father come by to kiss you goodnight also."
Thor is mortified, Loki by extension. They say, "Goodnight mother," and clap on to their nanny - one on each hand - who takes them away from the hall. Frigga watches them go. At her right hand, one of the ladies laughs in delight saying, "How they grow. Soon they will be men."
"Not soon enough for their taste," Frigga says, tasting the cheese and sweet meats left on her plate. Like all children, her sons cannot wait to grow up. She imagines her worry is that of any mother's and not the leavings of some jealously kept secret.
Yet she does worry. Soon they will be grown and there is no telling what changes will come with adolescence and adulthood. In the afternoon she sometimes has the time to sit with them in the gardens, to watch her sons digging in the dirt. They are both on their hands and knees; the sun reflects golden on Thor's long hair and Loki crouches in the shade of his brother's more compact shadow. Sometimes, they steal glances over to her. She makes a game of catching their eye above the pages of her book or the hoop of her embroidery. Both boys smile when she does: Thor is missing one of his front teeth and Loki lisps at him with an air of superiority. Frigga wonders how long it will be before Loki begins to lose his - if he will at all. The library has too few books on Frost Giants and she finds satisfaction in none of them; it seems it has been a long time since anyone cared to know much beyond the geography of Jotunheim or the map of a Frost Giant's aggression.
"Do you still like bedtime stories?" she asks, one rare night where she has the time to put her sons to bed.
Thor and Loki exchange a look, gauging the other's adulthood. Thor finally says "Yes." Loki rolls up toward the edge of his bed. "Tell us a story about Jotunheim."
Frigga looks between them. "What on earth would you want to know about that place?" she asks, spends a few moments too long rearranging her skirts.
"Tell us about a great battle," Thor says, clamoring, his face half buried in his pillow.
"No, like the stories Bergdis tells." Loki is quite serious. "The ones that scare you."
Thor bristles. Frigga can feel her mouth pinch as she tries to hide her smile. "Nothing scares me," he says.
"The Frost Giants do." Loki curls his lips back from his teeth. "They will come through you window in winter and freeze your flesh and cripple you."
"They cannot! Heimdall would see them--!"
Frigga clears her throat. She dims the lamp. "Come, come, I hardly think they are so scary as that."
"They are monsters," Loki says above the crook of his elbow. Thor makes a low rumbling noise of agreement.
Frigga quietly takes Loki's hand. She strokes his head tenderly, pushing his dark hair from his forehead. "Hardly so."
"How can you know?" Thor asks in the half light. "That filthy Laufey--"
"Is a king, as your father is." She pulls the covers up to Loki's chin, then turns to do the same to Thor. "Now, instead of Jotunheim I'll tell you a story much better than all of that. How about something more pleasant. I know a good number of love stories."
Thor groans and Loki too. She tells one to them anyway, as it is good for them to hear something beyond stories of Ymir or the cold breath of monsters. When she is done, Thor is asleep and Loki blinks tiredly. His eyes are bright in the lamplight. She kisses Thor's forehead since he can't protest, then leans down to Loki and whispers, "Goodnight Loki."
"Mother?" he asks very softly. His voice is half lost into his pillow. Frigga pauses near to him, their noses almost touching. She worries.
"My teeth are loose. Look," he opens his mouth and worms his front teeth around with his tongue. "Thor will make fun of me."
"Oh Loki," Frigga almost laughs. "Loki, you must learn some foresight and to choose your battles more wisely." She kisses him on the forehead, then on the cheek. "But this is nothing to be ashamed of. His are all falling out too."
"That's different." He frowns. "They will all make fun of me."
"It is just the same for you as for he or them," she whispers. "It is all the same, my little winter son."
He doesn't seem convinced, but he kisses her goodnight all the same. Frigga takes the light from the room when she goes, pausing at the door to look back. Loki has rolled over. In the darkness, Loki and Thor are two synonymous lumps in their respective beds. Sleeping and under blankets, she would hardly know the difference. Perhaps they will be so alike for a while yet.