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Sunshine on the Snow

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Sindri laid another flower on his grandmother's knee. "And this one?" he asked, raising expectant green eyes to her face.

Frigga smiled. "Also very pretty, my pet."

The boy's round blue face lit up with a broad smile, and he bounced and ran back to the little plot that was his especial bed, to find more flowers to show her.

It was well past the child's bedtime, when Loki and Sigyn brought little Sindri into the family garden to play, but the nights were long in summer and the sunlight lingered in the leaves, and Frigga did not really mind having her quiet hours interrupted. Her grandson was as full of energy as his father had been, at the same age, and as he refused to sleep, he might as well run about in the open air.

Sigyn was kneeling in the herb patch she kept next to Sindri's little bed of flowers and soft fruit bushes, watching him out of the corner of her eye while she did some light weeding in the cool evening air. Sindri was very proud of his garden, even if it was the palace gardeners who tended and tidied it when he wasn't looking, and with his grandmother's undivided attention, he was going to show her all of its bounties. His mother, as far as the proud child was concerned, was simply there to make sure he didn't tear his tunic or prick his fingers.

Loki was flopped on his stomach on the grass at Frigga's feet, with his cheek pillowed on his folded arms, alternating between dozing and lazily watching his son run back and forth. He had spent much of his day in the council chamber, arguing with rural magistrates and royal surveyors about the locating and building of a new canal. It was the sort of engineering project he had always loved to involve himself in, but the bureaucracy side of things exhausted him, and then to come home from that to a recalcitrant son who was giving his nurses hell... well, he deserved a rest, in Frigga's opinion.

But he flipped over and sat up sharply when Odin came into the garden, with Gungnir held in his hand like a walking stick.

"Grandfather!" Sindri shouted, and ran to him.

Loki tensed.

Frigga pressed her lips together tightly. As much as she rejoiced to see her husband and her younger son reconciled, and although years had passed since the old trouble (as she preferred to obliquely refer to it), she still felt a soft pang of wistful sadness to see the way in which Odin and Loki always behaved whenever they were first in company together, with the stiff, awkward formality of acquaintances, unsure of how their overtures of friendship would be received. Their spines would unbend after a few minutes or so, especially when little Sindri was in the room, and their faces would crack first into smiles and then into laughter, and then all would be as it ought, but for those first tense minutes, the past hung between them like a multi-edged blade, quivering at the slightest touch and eager to draw blood.

They had tried forgiving, but neither man was versed in that art, though they were learning, and neither could forget, and so the reforged bonds of love and family had trust that they had built came at an unending price. When Odin looked at his son, or Loki at his father, the price of their restoration to kinship was the lingering, gnawing doubt that it was all too fragile to last.

But the moments always passed, and as the years went by, the doubts ran their course more swiftly. Frigga was confident that with time and patience, Loki and Odin's fears would fade away completely.

Until then, she simply had to endure the look of mortal dread that flashed over Loki's face, whenever Odin came near his son. "You know he will not take Sindri away from you," she reassured Loki, her voice soothing and low and for his ears alone.

"In my mind, I know it. In my heart..." Loki swallowed, his eyes always on his son, who was showing Odin a colorful flower he had grown in his little garden. "Father is only the nearest of my concerns to hand. I fear anything and everything will one day take Sindri away from me." A note of wonder crept into his voice. "Will I ever stop believing that I was worthy of siring such a wonderful little child? Even when he's made a mess of my desk and flung his supper on the floor and refused to go to bed, he's perfect. Sometimes I gaze at him while he's sleeping and... Mother, I weep from joy."

"I know." Frigga smoothed his hair as he leaned his head against her knee, and she smiled. "I did the same, when you were small."

Loki chuckled. "Even when I was ten times as troublesome as Sindri?"

"My son, even in the most winsome days of your youth, when your smile could make the sun jealous with its brightness, you were still an absolute hellion. But I loved you then, and would not have changed you for the world, and I love you still."

"As changed as I am?"

"Always."

Loki sighed and fell silent, but under her hand, she felt some of the tension leave his body.

From the other side of the boy's garden, Frigga saw Sigyn watching Sindri with much the same expression of mingled awe and worry that she heard in Loki's voice, and the green eyes that Sigyn had given her son were shuttered slightly, no doubt with memories of her own childhood in the bowels of Svartalfheim, hidden away behind a face not her own, until her father had need of her.

Then she shook her head sharply and rose, brushing the dirt and clinging grasses from her skirt, and went to greet her father-in-law and to retrieve her child, who had abandoned his botany studies and was now trying to climb Gungnir like a very slender tree trunk, without success, while Odin watched his attempts with amusement.

"Come here, my squirrel," she teased, scooping Sindri up and cuddling him close. The contrast between Sigyn's golden coloring and Sindri's black hair and smooth blue skin always took Frigga by surprise with how lovely it was - and judging by the soft intake of breath at her knee, it did the same to Loki.

"Would we have looked as beautiful as that, Amma?" he murmured. "If I had been left to the face of my birth, all the days of my life? Like... like sunshine on the snow, all white and blue and gold, bright and warm enough to blind onlookers with our brilliance, yet not so terribly hot or cold as to melt the one or blast the other?"

For a moment, Frigga could not speak for her surprise. For all his halting acceptance of his true heritage and the slow overtures of a relationship with his birth mother, Loki rarely spoke of his Jotun blood as his own, in terms of himself. He preferred to forget it, as much as possible, save where Sindri was concerned - and where Sindri was concerned, he was vocal and firm on the subject of his son's appearance, determined that Sindri never feel any of the shame that plagued his father. But even Sigyn, who had first seen him with the face and skin of a Frost Giant and loved and desired that side of her husband over his handsome Asgardian one, saw it only rarely. Never, since that first terrible day when the truth had been so tragically revealed, had Frigga ever thought to hear Loki refer to his Jotun appearance as 'beautiful'.

"Yes, I think so," she said at last. "Certainly you would have been, peacock that you are." Loki snorted. "Though our children are always fairer than our own childhood selves can ever be, in picture or in memory." She tugged a lock of his thick springy hair and he looked up at her questioningly. "You should go join your wife and son, and complete the picture, so that I may admire the whole."

Loki stood up with a slight smile. "As you like. But only if you will join us, after you are done admiring."

Frigga inclined her head in agreement, and Loki squeezed her hand before turning and striding across the grass to join his family. As he approached the group, Loki hesitated a bare instant and then started to bow to the king. But Odin reached out and clasped his tall son's shoulder, and drew him close to embrace him.

Though she could not see his face, Loki's back spoke eloquently of his surprise, and again Frigga felt the soft, wistful pang.

To her amusement, there were nightflowers clinging to his dark tresses, from where he had lain his head against her knee and the young, thornless blossoms her grandson had been adorning her with.

She was not the only one who noticed.

"Papa!" Sindri exclaimed. "You've got flowers in your hair!"

"Do I?"

Sigyn laughed. "You do." She plucked one from the hair tumbling over his shoulders to show him.

Loki looked at the flower for a moment, and then smiled. To his son's delight, he took the blossom and gently tucked it behind Sindri's ear.