I find it hard to believe, but I started publishing this over a year ago. Time, is an elusive thing.
The beginning is a deleted scene that is easy to find on youtube. I felt that it explained Loki's surprise when Frigga was intangible. (Makes the whole thing sadder too, I thought). Any recognizable bits arn't mine!
Thank you so much for all your interest and support through this fic!
She heard it before she saw it.
Recalling distractions Loki had built for himself as a child, Frigga's smile was strained. She'd opened a channel through the barriers in Loki's cell, warded from all scrutiny. Odin would not be able to locate her entry point any more than Loki would. Her mission was doubly warded. She'd expected that he would feel the change immediately, but he'd made more of the trickle she had allowed than she would have thought possible.
The illusion had spread and filled out the cell, casting it a shadow-image of the Great Hall. Her own illusion taking semblance of form in the space, she bent her head back, appreciating the pennants that hung magnificently from the beams overhead, and the press of people jostling together and cheering.
She felt the breeze from the open causeway against her face.
Truly, Loki knew every detail of the Great Hall. He'd captured it perfectly as it had stood two years ago, on the day of Thor's failed coronation.
Loki had placed himself alone on the dais, before all of them. His back was turned to her, so he had no idea of her approach. There had been few times since childhood he had not heard her coming, but she attributed that to the illusion before him. It was undeniably compelling. The amount of detail he had drawn up and spewed out before him was impressive. He had always, she considered, been capable of much, given little.
He wore a red cape with a great fur collar and he held aloft Mjollnir, called to his open hand by his own power. Thor's colors, Thor's gift. She would that he had learned to treasure his own.
This was his coronation, though. None of them, she noticed, were in evidence. Neither Thor nor Odin, nor even herself. She did her best to not be hurt by that. It was a childish display, born of bitter helplessness. She would not be baited by it.
Taking a deep breath, she interrupted him. "Loki," she said.
The hand bearing the shadow-Mjolnir lowered, though the illusion did not fade, and Loki did not turn his head.
When she had caught him at his play-acting, once, when he had been but a child, he had been ashamed. He'd cast the illusion aside and averted his eyes, stammering that he'd been busy, and that he was sorry, he had not heard her knock. The flush had risen from his neck all the way to the line of his hair.
That shame did not so much as touch him now.
She folded her hands before her, "What are you doing?"
He looked at her over his shoulder, his grin wide and unabashed. The answer was self-evident. He knew the question for the test it was. Even so, he didn't hesitate. "I'm giving the people what they want."
A part of her had expected him to show surprise at seeing her. But, she reasoned, they knew one another better than that.
His tone had been exuberant. He was dulling himself, distracting his mind with temporary shadow-joys that could only leave him haunted in the end. "Does it make you feel better?" she asked, letting her tone carry the touch of her displeasure.
The smile was gone when he looked back at her. "It certainly doesn't make me feel any worse," he sulked.
Softly, she shook her head, "Cast enough illusions," she lifted her eyes to find his once more on his world, looking it over, amusement winked out as the feeble candle flame it was, "and you risk forgetting what is real."
He continued for a moment to stare at it all, spread out beneath him. His face was blank, a mask to hide his misery. "Precisely," he breathed.
Then he let it go.
Drawing a long breath, he clasped his hands behind him. He would not look at her. Even at his most ebullient, he'd never been wholly comfortable showing his nearest thoughts. Her unannounced intrusion nettled him, she could see that, though he would not address it. To do so would be to concede her a victory in their little war, and he was never one to give ground.
For herself, she could not blame him. He'd learned that stubbornness from her.
It was the senseless pride he'd gotten from his father.
The motion of guards and the new prisoners from Vanaheim caught his eye and he went to the far screen, pausing before it to admire the distraction he so obviously desired. There wasn't much to hide behind in his cell, she thought. And Loki had from the first employed diversion.
"Odin continues to send me new friends," he drawled, "how thoughtful."
"The books I sent," she asked, moving nearer him, to the center of the room. "Do they not interest you?"
Turning, he put the daybed between them, "Is that how I am to while away eternity?" he asked, facing her squarely from his place where she could not reach him, "reading?"
"I've done everything in my power to make you comfortable, Loki."
"Hm," he leaned forward, bracing his hands against the side arm of the furniture he'd sought shelter behind. "Does Odin, share your concern?"
Every time she visited him, it was the same. Raising her brows, she thought how much a child he yet was, and how very far they had yet to travel to make this right.
"Does Thor?" he pressed. Then he looked away, brow wrinkled in mock sympathy, "It must be so inconvenient, them asking after me day and night,"
"You know full well it was your actions that brought you here," she said.
"My actions," he raised his brows, gesturing with his hand as though to direct her attention to an image. He moved, then, facing away from her, "I was merely giving truth to the lie that I'd been fed my entire life," he paced to the far corner of the cell, looking bitterly out at the little that could be seen of the movement without, "that I was born to be a king."
"A king?" she demanded, moving no nearer, prompting him to turn.
He did, watching her with his eyes almost black in his pale face.
"A true king admits his faults," she said. "What of the lives you took on Earth?"
Admit something, she prompted him. Tell me the truth.
"A mere handful compared to the number Odin has taken himself," he spat. Turning away he paced further to the next corner of the cell. A caged thing, itching at its confinement.
"Your father –"
"He's not my father!" he whirled on her.
He stopped there, breath heavy, eyes abruptly blank.
He had not meant to say that.
For a long moment, she watched him, frustration at his obstinacy very nearly, for one moment, over-riding her compassion.
She weighed her options, and she made her choice.
She tipped her chin back to look at him directly. "Then am I not your mother?" she asked.
He blinked at her, and he drew just a little back. Watching her, he was a child again. Unsteady, uncertain. Not so long ago, he had thought that he was never to see her again. She hoped to lever that weight against him. To bring him back.
Thickly, he swallowed. Then, raising his chin just barely in a kind of defiance he said, "You're not."
His eyes were hard and they brooked no lie.
She felt it with the force of a blow, and she would have caught breath but for her own pride. Her own pride that made her mask the pain behind a smile.
Her own pride, perhaps, that was not so unlike his.
His mask faltered and he glanced down.
And it came to her that the greatness of her pain, hearing him speak what she had always known as fact, was nothing to that which he must have felt, to hear it without warning, those years ago.
And he was only still so little more than a child.
"Always so perceptive," she murmured, drawing for the first time truly near to him, lifting her palms like a supplication, begging him to understand, "about everyone but yourself."
He watched her with all the defiance gone, his mouth pressed tight and thin and his eyes nearly black in their hopelessness. Unable to hold her gaze, he looked away, he looked down. She didn't notice his hand as it moved to touch her own.
Her hold on the illusion shivered, and Frigga would have spoken. For one desperate moment, she wanted to communicate to him the depth of her love for him, and how much more she wished for him than this. But his touch had taken her voice, and there was nothing more she could do but watch as he realized her trick. She saw him look down. She saw the furious, despairing tears that gathered in his eyes.
Blinking her own away, she came to herself before the brazier she had used to reach him.
His image still showed in the flamed before her. She wanted so much more for her son than this.
Casting aside her tears, Frigga turned from the empty flames. She would come back to him when she could. Returning to him now would only muddle what little she might have imparted to him.
The sun glinted on the surface of the lake without, and somewhere, a bird trilled. Drawing a deep breath of the fresh air, Frigga stilled the fractious swirling of her heart.
She was a queen. A mother. AllMother. Defeat was not in her nature.
Gathering her skirts in both hands, Frigga moved toward the light.