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What Could Be

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Frigga could hear her boys playing nearby, though they had wandered out of sight once again. Summers on Asgard were crisp and warm, and this day was no exception. She’d brought Thor and Loki out to one of the gardens to let them run and play without the worry of something getting broken, because she did not think the palace could handle many more days of the two of them playing inside.

Loki was old enough to run, but not quite old enough to be able to keep up with Thor, or evade him for long. There were days when Frigga still had worries that Loki would begin to show some outward signs to give his Jötunn heritage, but those days were very few and far between. Odin’s magic continued to hold, and Loki continued to grow as any Æsir child.

Somewhere, Loki squealed with delight while Thor shouted, “Loki, no!” once again. Frigga looked up briefly from her nålbinding, but could see nothing overly alarming about the way the two of them ran after one another.

“Loki,” Thor complained as Loki scurried under a bench while laughing wildly.

“No,” Loki said. He scrambled up from the other side of the bench and ran away behind a large tree.

‘No’ was Loki’s favourite word, and he would respond with it no matter what was said to him. Frigga did not have to be a seer to know that he would grow to be a very stubborn man, just like his father.

Thor caught up with Loki and picked him up from the ground, holding him tightly in both arms. He hugged Loki tightly to his chest as Loki kicked and flailed against the hold.

“No! No! Noooo!” Loki shouted.

When Thor finally released him, Loki ran off again, and Thor followed. Frigga did not even try to hide the smile that played on her mouth as she returned her attentions to her nålbinding. The boys played their game of catch and release tirelessly as they darted in and out of view. As long as they had energy to run, Frigga was content to let them play in the garden. Perhaps one day, they would even run all that energy out. That day had not yet come, but nothing was impossible.

The boys disappeared from view again, but were never far off. Their cries and laughter carried through the garden, making their presence known well enough. Occasionally, Thor would chastise Loki for some unseen transgression, and Loki would laugh at Thor’s childish outrage.

“Mother, he doesn’t play fair,” Thor complained from behind a row of thick rosebushes.

“Is it fair that you’re bigger than he is?” Frigga asked him.

Thor didn’t answer, which was answer enough. Soon after, he was chasing after Loki again and all was well. A part of Frigga that wished to remain naïve wanted to believe that they would never harm one another; that they would always fight and play alongside one another. She knew this was not the case, but she would ignore those visions for as long as she could. The visions she saw were far off, years in the future, with plenty of time to change fate before it became history. There was always time to change fate, provided fate could be changed at all. Frigga had seen fate change before; seen an Asgard ravaged by war, only to stand victorious in the end. She saw countless die, and then saw those same countless prosper. But not all fate could be changed, and even she couldn’t tell which visions were fate and which were warnings. For the time, she would assume that what she saw was not destined to be, but a vision of what could be. For as long as her boys played and laughed together, she had hope.

Suddenly, the sounds of Thor and Loki playing became sounds of torment. Thor cried out in shock and pain, while underneath it, Loki laughed and squealed wildly. Frigga threw down her nålbinding without thought and rushed across the garden to the rosebushes the boys had hidden behind.

“Mother!” Thor cried out, sounding like he was trying desperately not to cry.

It was Frigga’s worst fear realised. It was not a vision, but a mother’s panic that told her it had finally happened. Odin’s magic had slipped, and Loki’s cold Jötunn skin had burned Thor’s flesh. But as she came to the other side of the roses, it was not this scene she came upon, and Frigga was so relieved for it she almost laughed. Thor heard her and pouted loudly.

“Mother, help me!” he begged.

Thor was stuck in the rose’s brambles, completely unable to move lest the sharp thorns dig into his skin any more than they already had. He was standing awkwardly on one foot, trying to balance himself, while the other had become tangled and stuck up at an awkward angle.

Inside the rosebush, smaller and able to squirm in easily, Loki cackled at the sight. Frigga sighed at the both of them and knelt to begin untangling Thor while he pouted at everything around him.

“He doesn’t play fair,” he complained again.

Frigga held him up while she pulled his foot free. “He plays to his strengths, just like you,” she said.

Thor pouted some more. Seeing him hurt only in pride, Frigga was able to smile. She untangled Thor and helped him out of the roses before kneeling down to peer at Loki. He sat right in the middle of the massive bramble, clutching a small ball and grinning widely. There was no way to get to him without destroying the roses. He would have to come out on his own.

“You,” Frigga said, pointing a finger at him. “Come on, now. Time to get out.”

“No,” said Loki.

Frigga tried not to roll her eyes.

“No? Very well.” She took Thor by the hand and began to lead him away. “Thor and I will simply have to have all of the strawberry cakes ourselves.”

“No!” Loki repeated. Still clutching his ball, he belly-crawled out from under the roses and ran to catch up with Frigga and Thor. He took Frigga’s other hand tugged her eagerly toward the palace.

“Oh, you’ve changed your mind?” asked Frigga.

“No,” said Loki, grinning widely again, innocent as only a child could be. Frigga would cling to that innocence for as long as she could, and perhaps longer than she should, but she would not be sorry for it. No matter what came to pass.