Frigga is a serene, collected presence behind the throne and in her family life. When Loki was too young to know better, he bet Thor and Sif that she didn’t even have tear ducts. He also spent a while believing that she had eyes in the back of her head, and even surreptitiously tried to find them once under the pretext of helping her brush her hair.
Growing up, he used to spend a fair amount of time in her bedchamber during her evening routines. He loved to help her pick out what color gown to wear for formal dinners, which earrings, and even a little bit with her powder and kohl. He liked to go there sometimes even when she wasn’t there, touching the handle of her silver brush and practicing his faces in her mirror. He found the smell of her perfume and face powder soothing when he was upset, even when she wasn’t there to comfort him.
She used to hold him sometimes, briefly, when he was very small. As he got older, the physical contact grew less often, but more significant. She was not a very demonstrative woman, and he learned to treasure these small moments. Her hands would brush the hair back from his forehead, almost absentmindedly, or hold his wrist lightly in greeting. He would escort her down the halls as they talked when he was tall enough.
The last time he remembers an actual embrace was actually one of the nights he had snuck in to her bedchamber when she wasn’t there. When he thinks back, he couldn’t remember exactly what had gone wrong in his day, but he remembered inhaling the smell of her face powder and perfume and feeling calmer. He was almost done pretending to have saved Thor from some wicked giants in the mirror when he heard voices.
If it had just been Frigga, he probably wouldn’t have hid. But he heard Odin as well, and the angry tone of his voice sent Loki scurrying behind the door. The actual meaning of the conversation remained a mystery to him for years- until that one horrible day when everything became clear- but the raised voices and the anger stayed with him for a long time. He snuck out quietly and went back to his room. When Frigga came in, still fighting back tears, he pretended to be already asleep and wake up when she kissed his forehead and held him tightly.
Later, he would realize his mother wanted him to know the terrible truth even when he was a child. This would only add to his rage. Why did she want his face rubbed in it?
Much later, he would understand this was because she wanted him to know that she had chosen him, out of all the children in all the worlds, to be hers.
Odin was more of a ‘stiff upper lip’ than the hug it out sort, so it wasn’t a common occurrence. A slap on the back, a sideways bump of the shoulders- that was as far as Father usually went.
Once, he and Thor stay out too late drinking mead with Volstagg. They return to the palace three days after they left, blinking and yawning. When Odin nearly breaks Loki’s spine in a crushing hug, and he can feel Father’s hands trembling- he realized they never told anyone that they left.
Sif is prickly and proud, quick to take offense and quick to give it. Sometimes Loki thinks she is actually that hardened and uncaring. Other times he knows she is preempting the rejection she sees as inevitable. While her friends are Officially Unconcerned with her gender, he knows many others in Asgard do not fully approve of a warrior maiden in peacetime.
At a feast, he is quietly discussing the finer points of the cut of a lady’s sleeves this season (listening, perhaps, is more accurate) with an absolutely appalling bore of a woman while trying to avoid the flying droplets from Thor’s quaffing. Between remembering to nod appropriately, and wishing he had brought an umbrella (he knew there would be ale there, and likely tankards- Thor is like clockwork sometimes, depressingly predictable) he barely notices Sif across the table most of the night.
The sheen of tears in her eyes catches his eye, makes him sit straighter. Belatedly he realizes she is sitting next to Frila. Frila is a cruel gossip, and Loki avoids her at all costs. Sif abruptly stands and leaves, the racous conversation around her not disturbed in the least. Loki watches as Frila smiles a poison smile at the lady next to her, and the two bend their heads together.
Loki couldn’t see enough of Sif’s expression to see if they were tears of anger, or sadness. He doesn’t really care.
Five days later, when Frila and her friend are found in an dwarfish bar, with no clothes, painted pink, and having to fend off the lewd grins of dwarves- Sif gives him a nod and a one armed embrace. He’s not sure how she knows he was responsible for the sequence of events (although he wouldn’t mind somebody knowing exactly what he had to say to whom, he’s rather proud of that bit of manipulative skullduggery) but he knows that now Frila won’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to criticizing Sif.
Volstagg, if is possible to do this, actually hugs too much. When he’s sober, he’s more likely to give a ‘love tap’ than a hug, but he gets disconcertingly touchy after a pint or three. Loki usually avoids it with a deft kick and a twist out of his grasp, often giving a parting shot to the kidneys to warn off further attempts. When it’s his turn, Thor usually laughs and hugs Vostagg back even tighter, turning it into a contest of who can make the other go blue and pass out.
It’s just too much damp hair for Loki. Maybe if Volstagg didn’t insist on singing while he drank, and punctuating the songs with his tankard- maybe then, Loki would allow it.
There is one time, however, when no one can find Volstagg after several days of searching. Loki knows the right people, however, and eventually he learns where he is. He finds him in the forest, brooding.
Loki approaches cautiously. Maybe he should have left this to Thor, he thinks.
Later, after he’s gotten the important parts of the story- a raid, a girl child left out in the open- out of the bits and pieces that Volstagg is willing to give, he lets Volstagg hug him. And if Loki feels tears, he doesn’t say anything.
Thor really needs to stop being so demonstrative. Loki sometimes thinks Thor was from a different family, one that rolled around like puppies and probably all slept in the same gigantic bed. He used to enjoy it when he was much younger, but now it’s just getting embarrassing.
Changing his body language to indicate He Does Not Want A Hug Right Now, You Great Big Oaf, doesn’t change Thor’s behavior at all. Doing the kick and then attempting to punch his kidneys makes Thor think Loki wants to horseplay, and even threatening his manhood only leads Thor to smirk and make some very self satisfied remarks.
The last time he remembers Thor hugging him was his sixtieth birthday, a huge grin on his stupid blond face, and cracking Loki’s ribs. Loki is considering a sign that he can carry around and point to (except he doesn’t know if Thor will take the five minutes necessary to read a sign that says NO) when he hits upon a solution.
He asks Thor politely, one day, when they are alone. It is a very successful venture, too. Thor stops hugging him altogether. He still sometimes brushes his shoulder against Loki’s, but Loki finds he can tolerate this just fine.
In the cold deep space between worlds, Loki finds himself thinking of his birthdays. At first, with resentment. Did they just pick a day on the calendar? Did Odin and Frigga even care at first, or did they only do it when he was old enough to ask for a birthday? Later, as time grinds on, he finds himself thinking of his sixtieth birthday in particular.
He has just realized that he’s forgotten the exact shade of Thor’s eyes on that day as he grasped his ribs so tightly and grinned in his ear- when he finally lands. The impact shakes his ribs as hard as his brother- no, not his brother, never his brother- as his brother had squeezed them.
Loki doesn’t understand why he has tears in his eyes.
And the one that stuck .
It takes them a long time. Worlds spin and nebulae burn, mortals and immortals die, children and new stars are born. But Loki knew this was coming from the moment he knew what those tears meant, from the moment he knows what Frigga wanted to give him all those years and lives ago.
They arrange to meet through intermediaries, through carefully chosen and guarded phrases. Loki has taken so very long to think up of barbs to hide in his words that it takes a longer time to think of something not painful. He has spent so long hoarding his pain and rage and anguish that it amazes him when he turns around and realizes that it’s all gone. It was stolen from him as he grew up and away.
The problem with a very long life is that you aren’t forced to change unless you want it.
And all change is painful.
But when he sees him, he realizes that anything worth anything is worth some pain. And he reaches out for Thor with open arms.