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After Odin falls into the Odinsleep, Frigga takes up her husband’s spear. As the guards hand it to her, she sees Loki’s shoulders slump. To be passed over so soon after discovering his true heritage must feel like a sharp blow indeed, even if the law is clear with a capable queen and no prince crowned heir.

“Do you wish to rule?” she asks, holding it out.

“I would not take it from you, my Queen,” he says stiffly.

My son,” Frigga repeats. “Do you wish to rule?”

He looks away; he must be distressed indeed to show such true emotion so strongly. “You know I cannot.”

Frigga relents. “Will you see to your father?”

Loki agrees, dully, and Frigga leaves him arranging for Odin’s care. She has pushed him far enough for the moment, and she must think.

To be true, she thinks best at her weaving, or at least with her hands busy, but she must be visibly in charge and the ruler of Asgard cannot card wool while on the throne. She sits, instead, and uses Gungnir and Odin’s seat to watch over her sons.

Thor has fallen in with a group of mortals; they seem kind enough, and the woman in charge is clever and strong. He has not yet realised the true extent of his banishment, that much is clear.

Mjolnir lies in a crater, out in the desert. There are scientists around it, but they have done nothing to the hammer itself. Frigga squints; worthy of the power of Thor. That does explain it.

“Allfather, we must speak with you - my Queen?”

Frigga turns her attention back to Asgard. Her sons’ companions are before her, looking anxious and wrong-footed.

“He has fallen into the Odinsleep,” Frigga tells them. They are boisterous and follow Thor’s lead too easily, but they are true companions and she has a certain soft spot for the Lady Sif.

They make their obeisances. “My Queen,” Lady Sif says. “We have an urgent matter to discuss with you.”

“You may speak.”

Lady Sif licks her lips. Interesting; the child is nervous. “My Queen, we suspect that the Jotuns had help gaining entrance to Asgard during Thor’s coronation.”

Frigga inclines her head. “It is possible.”

Lady Sif shifts uneasily. “My Queen, we believe it was Loki who gave them passage.”

Frigga believes this too. Long has her youngest child played pranks and made mischief, and long has he labored in his brother’s shadow. To have put others’ lives in such severe danger is not Loki’s usual practice and it is most worrying. She had expected him to disrupt his brother’s ceremony in some way - indeed, she might have been disappointed had he not - but to have sacrificed the vault guards so callously is unlike him.

“This is a grave accusation indeed,” Frigga says seriously. “You have proof?”

They glance at each other nervously; their proof, it would seem, is mostly if not completely a matter of conjecture.

“The Jotun king said there was a traitor in the House of Odin.”

Frigga leans forward. “And he named Loki?”

Lady Sif bites her lip. “He gave us no names, my Queen.”

“We will go and question him further,” Fandral offers. “If Thor came back - “

Frigga raises one eyebrow. “You would end Thor’s banishment from Asgard - which he earned for an unprovoked attack on Jotuns - in order to send him to Jotunheim to question their king?” She rests her chin on her hand, honestly curious. “How do you expect that conversation will proceed?”

“Not - not well, my Queen,” Fandral admits.

Frigga sighs. They miss their leader - it is understandable that they want him back. She should not torment them so. “I thank you for your information,” she says. “I understand you wish Thor to be returned to you. I wish for his return as well, but the Allfather has taken his godhood and his powers. To return him to Asgard as a mortal would undermine him severely. Do you understand this?”

Lady Sif nods, reluctantly. “We do, my Queen. We will bide our time and petition the Allfather when he awakens.”

Frigga is not certain that he will awaken. The knowledge clenches in her breast and stifles her heart, but she gives no sign. There are too many things still to be put into motion.

“And... the other matter?” Volstagg asks delicately.

“I will speak to my son. I can promise no more than that. Do you have other issues to discuss?”

They do not, and they depart. Frigga leans back, thinking. On Midgard, Thor has tried to lift Mjolnir and cannot. On Asgard, Loki stares at his father and despises himself.

Frigga’s children are crying out. They are stoic and make no sound, but she is their mother. She can always hear them.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Loki has fallen asleep by his father’s bed; it is another sign of vulnerability that he would not otherwise show. Frigga wakes him gently.

“Loki,” she says. “Loki, son, I have need of your help.”

He blinks and comes awake, straightening. “Yes, M- my Queen?”

“Since your brother’s actions on Jotunheim, our treaty has fallen into ruin. We must draft a new one.”

His mouth twists. “Is this the purpose of father’s plan? This is where his secret weapon will be deployed?”

Frigga strokes his hair. He leans into it slightly, then pulls himself deliberately away. “No. To be truthful, that plan was born out of sentimentality and was discarded as wishful thinking when you were still a boy.”

He blinks at her, startled. “I - then why did he keep me?”

“Because you are his son, Loki,” Frigga says. She knows it will take Odin waking up and telling Loki so in person before Loki truly believes it, but she will find as many ways to repeat it as she can in the meantime. “Even a soldier like your father reaches a point at which he can go no further. That day in the temple was your father’s. He had killed legions of Jotuns, but he could not leave you to die. You were one too many.”

Loki’s mouth firms a little. “And he needed to think of a soldier’s plan to justify his kidnap?” His tone is doubtful, angry, but oh, Frigga can see how he longs to believe.

“Yes.” She strokes his hair again; this time he does not pull away although the set of his shoulders remains tight. “I need you to go to the library and find all the information you can on Joutnheim and its people.”

He is not willing to let go of his hurt just yet; Frigga does not truly blame him for it. “Because I am Jotun?” He spits.

“Because you are a Prince of Asgard.”

She has him there and they both know it. To refuse her is to acknowledge himself as other, and that he cannot bear to do. They may not be blood, but Frigga has always claimed Loki’s intelligence as her own.

“Very well,” Loki says, and he does not call her ‘Mother’ but he does not use ‘My Queen’ either. It is progress of a sort.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Frigga watches her sons. Thor is quiet, contemplative; his sadness tears at her but the change in his nature is welcome. She watches him as he looks around Midgard and sees it, sees its people, finally understands the tiny, beautiful, desperately brief lives they lead. She watches as he slows himself down and takes comfort in the simplicity of his new existence; he has three friends, and they enjoy his company. He has food to eat and a place to sleep. He uses his strength to help them manage their equipment and his mind to help them understand his world. The clever woman, Jane, softens towards him and Frigga watches as he softens in return.

Loki is also quiet and thoughtful, but it is in the joyful fierceness of his pursuit of knowledge. The libraries of Asgard are vast, if underused, and they contain volumes on all of the nine realms - even the hated ones. She watches as he reads, grudgingly at first and then with greater interest, as he discovers that the Frost Giants have law, and mythology, and history, and customs and lives of their own. She watches as they go from monsters to beings in his head, once-powerful and still proud even in defeat.

Loki comes to her when his research is finished.

“Mother,” he says. “Why did the Frost Giants attack Midgard?”

“Why indeed?” Frigga muses.

Loki sighs. “I am serious. It makes no sense. The magical energy they would have expended in remaking the realm for their own habitation would have drained the Casket of Ancient Winters completely. Without it they have little real magical power, as we have proved by taking it from them. Why would they take such a risk? Their society is not historically a violent one, as strange as it is to say so.”

“Could it be the nature of their king?” Frigga suggests, teacher to a bright pupil.

Loki shakes his head. “If he were bloodthirsty he would have responded much more quickly to Thor’s provocation. As it was, he did not attack until we had put his people in danger. Those are not the actions of a king grasping for conquest and violence. With me and Thor as his captives he would have had all the bargaining power he needed to force the Allfather’s hand and yet all he did was defend himself in justified anger. It does not make sense.”

“I suggest, my son,” Frigga says, “That it is time to visit the king yourself as my emissary. We must begin talks to negotiate a new treaty and we cannot progress farther from Asgard.”

Loki flinches, just barely. “Are you certain it is best that I go? I was involved in Thor’s attack.”

Frigga puts her hand on the side of his face. “Thor does his punishment on Midgard for the Jotuns he has slain. You will do yours on Jotunheim for the Asgardians you have killed.”

This time it is stillness that gives him away. “Very well. I will go.” He walks a few paces and then turns partway. “The patrol schedule changed because of the coronation,” he says stiffly, not looking at her. “The guards should have been in the lesser vaults.”

“Safe journey, my son,” Frigga says. “I suggest that Lady Sif and the Warriors Three would be appropriate companions. They have lessons to learn as well.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

There is much watching involved in ruling Asgard. With both of her children gone, Frigga finds herself lonely. She sits with Odin, who still does not wake; she deals with the petty peacetime squabbles of courtiers and the more pressing concerns of the common people.

Thor falls in love. He learns to drive Midgardian vehicles, to do household chores, to be content. It is enough to make him a good man, but still not enough to make him the wielder of Mjolnir.

Loki looks at Jotunheim with new eyes; sees airy spires and delicate carvings where once he saw bitter ice and old, sour anger. He deals with the Jotuns as beings, and watches Laufey with speculative intent. Laufey is not Loki’s father, not truly, but Frigga can see Loki considering the possibility and finding it less horrific than before. She can see the Jotuns waiting for scorn, for derision, and finding only patience and good intent. Both sides are confused and wary, but not violently so.

Lady Sif and the Warriors learn as well. Loki is different here, powerful in a way they had not previously considered to be power. They have never thought of words as something to be wielded; they have never thought of their bearer as someone to be respected. This is not a situation for strength of arms and it unsettles them.

Beside her, Odin sighs and moves a little in his sleep. Frigga rouses herself; her time as ruler is almost at an end. There is only one thing left to do.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Thor and Jane walk under the stars, full from a fine meal out and content with life. When a man steps out from the shadows, desperate and grasping and too frightened to be holding a dangerous weapon, they are caught by surprise. The man fires; Thor steps automatically in front of Jane.

The wound is messy and painful but not lethal. The man runs away, terrified by his own actions. Thor and Jane cling to each other, scared but relieved.

Out in the desert, Mjolnir awakens.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Frigga’s magic is women’s magic, all subtlety and illusion. It does not have the awe-inspiring power of Odin’s might or Thor’s lightning, but it is effective enough in its own way. Loki takes after her in more ways than one; they are both better suited to quietly arranging things than to leading vast armies to glorious victory. It is a shame that Asgard has so long revered the one and disparaged the other.

Frigga sits on her throne with her husband’s spear in hand, and watches over her realm. In his chambers Odin comes awake, and she is relieved not only for herself but for her sons and for Asgard. She would rule this realm forever if it became necessary, but it is not her preference. She is glad to hand the spear back and welcome her husband’s return with a kiss.

“How has the realm fared, my love?” Odin asks, changing into his kingly garb.

“It is quiet,” Frigga says serenely. “Thor has fallen in love and Loki is brokering a new treaty with Jotunheim.”

Odin comes as close to dropping his spear as he would ever like to. “They what?”

“Also, Thor has reclaimed Mjolnir. I do not think he will wish to leave his love and his new fondness for Midgard behind, however, so you may have to resign yourself to his comings and goings.”

Odin laughs. “Frigga, you have been quite busy.”

Frigga smiles demurely. “I am sure I did nothing you would not have done.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Loki and Thor both return for their father’s reawakening. After the feast, Frigga finds Loki out on one of the palace’s sweeping balconies.

“Did you find your answers, my son?”

Loki inclines his head. “I did. The Jotuns were suffering cruelly - a plague and a famine combined to make their extinction a very real fear. The attack on Midgard was a last attempt to get those Jotuns remaining to a safe new world. I suspect those circumstances were what caused my small size, as well.”

Frigga nods, putting one hand on his shoulder. “They must have been truly desperate to consider sacrificing their prince,” she says gently. Loki breathes out sharply. “Even then, our perception of Frost Giants was unkind owing to some previous trouble with Muspelheim. I am not surprised that they did not think they could apply to us for relief.”

“Ironically, I suspect it was the explosion of Asgardian war magic on Jotunheim that ended the plague,” Loki says, his voice almost normal. “The famine, of course, continues still.”

“Will you ask for the Casket of Ancient Winters to be returned to them?”

Loki nods. “I will. There is no guarantee that Father will agree to it, but I must make the attempt.”

Frigga kisses him. “I am very proud of you, my son.”

“Loki!” Thor’s voice booms from the doorway. “My brother, we miss you at the feast!”

Loki smiles. “I will return momentarily, Thor. I know you do not understand the attraction of solitude or quiet, but others of us find it astonishingly relaxing.”

Thor laughs and flings an arm around his brother’s shoulders. “You might be surprised, Loki. I have changed in my time on Midgard.”

Loki rolls his eyes, but he is still smiling. “Yes, I heard you fell in love.”

“Ah,” Thor sighs happily. “You would like her very much, Loki. She is a scientist, and very dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge.”

Loki blinks. “Really?”

“Yes.” Thor beams. “Actually, she reminds me very much of you, though her tongue is not quite so sharp. And I am not sure she would have been capable of forging a treaty with our greatest enemies - brother, that was most impressive!”

Loki smiles, truly pleased, and Frigga slips back into the banquet.

Her husband and children are safe; her realm is secure. Frigga is content.