Frigga and Odin meet in a garden, one of her father's many small, not-exactly-hidden plots. She is wrist-deep in the loamy soil of the plot, feeling warmth and life flow through her hands, when she hears someone clear their throat behind her. She lifts a hand (gooseflesh rises in the cool air, so unlike the earth) and wipes sweat from her brow, and turns around.
And that's how, she loves to tell her sons, Odin sees her first: sweaty, a streak of mud across her forehead, hair tangled and messily wrapped up, dressed in old patched clothing. "What a fright I must have looked," she laughs, "I can't imagine why he asked me."
Thor always responds, "You're pretty even through dirt, Mother," and when Loki is small, he says the same.
But when Loki is grown, he gives the real answer, and Frigga cannot tell if it makes her heart hurt or glow: "He would have married you if you were bald and mad and ugly, Mother, because you are the only woman who didn't chase after him. That, and the visions."
The visions are an open secret: no one speaks of them, and she tells no one. But they come, in threes and fours and sometimes all alone: vague and rough or clear and sharp. Sometimes she sees exactly what is happening, exactly what has happened, exactly what will happen. Sometimes she sees fractured images, things that don't make sense until much later (a golden man struck by a large carriage, a laughing dark-haired boy by a pool, a shining blue star in the sky, a Midgardian woman staring up at the stars). Sometimes, when she meets someone, she sees their whole future.
But the gift is intermittent, unreliable, uncontrollable. It's never saved a life or changed a decision, and if Odin is disappointed when he learns that his prophetess wife is nothing of the sort, he never makes it known. Loki finds out and watches, and comes to her when her eyes flicker, when her concentration slips, when she loses the track of conversation. He sidles up to her and asks her what she saw, and because the telling of it eases her fear, sometimes, she tells him. Someday she will regret this, as she regrets many things.
Frigga and Odin meet in a garden, small and quiet, but they marry in the city, in the great hall, because Odin will be king of Asgard someday and his people want to watch him make his painful way through the complicated ceremony (Odin is born to be king, but he never quite grows comfortable with the eyes of all of Asgard upon him; it makes him slow-witted and clumsy when, in smaller groups or alone, he is nothing of the sort). They smile as one to see him nearly drop the wristband, to see him stammer through his own name, to see him kiss Frigga furtively at the end and turn, beaming, to wave to them all.
They also want to see her, because she is, after all, a relatively unknown daughter of a relatively quiet lord of the Asgardians, a good man and true to Odin's family but not one for crowds or ceremonies (in this, her father and Odin are much the same; in other ways, they are nothing alike, but Frigga never chooses to dwell on this train of thought). They see her, and they approve, for she is young and beautiful, a streak of gold in a long white dress. Later, when they see her learning the sword and the axe and the spear, when they see her make judgments that even Odin cannot refute, when they see her belly swell with Odin's son — they stop approving of her, and they begin to love her. She has earned their love, and it is that love that makes her (sometimes) choose to keep her knowledge, her visions, her concerns to herself.
She tells Sif about the wedding once, about how Odin was so nervous and shy. Sif had laughed at the image of the Allfather blushing pink and red, and Loki, sitting nearby, had grinned and added on to the story, making jokes and waggling his fine dark eyebrows at the warrior maid. They had all been so happy in that moment, and Frigga had thought — but no matter. Sif soon took her vows to never marry, and Loki kept his face still and quiet, and Thor whined and flopped about melodramatically (because of course both boys had wanted her, the only girl they saw as their equal, and though it rankled Frigga that they thought of darling dark-haired Sif as a toy, as a weapon, as the ball in a game of keep-away, she sighed with relief that it came to nothing more than a week of loud moping from Thor and strange shut-off silence from Loki).
The Warriors Three never sat at Frigga's feet, never laughed to hear her stories, never came to her for counsel. They weren't afraid of her, exactly, but they were Thor's friends, his people, and his mother was not exactly welcome at their feasts and fights and gatherings. Loki went along, smiled and played the part, but he would find time, at the beginning, to slip up behind her, place a cool thin hand on her shoulder, bend his head and kiss her cheek. At first, he sat beside her at meals while Thor sat farther down with his friends. But Frigga knew, because all mothers know, that it would not, could not last. And when the day came that Loki sat at Thor's side, laughing uproariously with the Warriors Three, winking at Sif in the knife-edged playful way he did now — when that day came, Frigga tried not to mourn. She hadn't mourned when Thor had moved down the table from her, why then should she now?
There are questions she never asks, questions that she should but won't, because he hands her a tiny blue bundle and she's done for, over, finished before she even began. She holds the icy child in one arm and the warm child in another, and feels whole for the first time in her life. She feels whole when she never knew she felt broken, she feels content when she never knew she'd been restless. That she knew nothing of this lack until it was filled bears more attention, but at that moment all she can see and hear and feel are the two solid weights in her arms.
And somewhere in the back of her mind for the rest of her existence is etched this strange, perfect triptych: a tall vertical stroke of pale gold and white, with a spark on either side, one red, one blue. She sees that image, sometimes, and the way their faces shaped up at her. Thor's open, red, squalling face, already proud and present in a way Odin was sometimes and Frigga chose never to be, matched and rebounded by Loki, calm and cool and pale, the blue tinges fading away in the warmth of Asgard and Frigga's skin, mouth shut and eyes watchful, and she lost her heart forever, then and there.
She never asks what Loki remembers, what he would have seen, what he would have become if he'd stayed blue and frosted, sharp around the edges. He grows up sharp anyway, Asgardian features hiding the barbs and spikes underneath — cheekbones like glass, or (she never says) like ice, and eyes that sting when they look at you. Sharp, too, in his words, and his thoughts; sharp in the way so few Asgardians are, sharp instead of soft, closed instead of open, and she never loses that image in her head of the new little thing, watching her hungrily, taking in everything around him already.
Loki finds a pet, once, a small, mousy animal whose species no one has ever bothered to give a name to. Odin doesn't approve, but Frigga doesn't have to say anything to make it right. Loki needs friends, needs his own space and someone to look at him the way everyone looks at Thor: like he's their whole world, like he's the one and only thing of importance in all the realms. Loki names the little thing Nal, and it lives on his shoulder for a time. Nal dies, in the end, because pets never live long, and Frigga thinks, sometimes, that its death changed Loki for good, that Loki became crueler, his pranks more malicious and mean-hearted, his laughter more cutting.
But of course Nal died when Loki was growing up, so perhaps Frigga misattributes. Perhaps Loki was turning colder and angrier because he was approaching manhood, not because the only thing he'd ever had that Thor hadn't had or wanted, too, was gone. Frigga watched, waited, and kept these things in her heart, and made notes of when Loki seemed to disappear for hours on end, only to show up with a smile on his face — not a pleasant, open grin like Thor's, but a thin screen, almost a smirk. She notices the way his face changes when he thinks no one is looking at him, the way he lets words and ideas slip out of his mouth like crumbs, like it's an accident, like he isn't deliberately aiming them at particular people. She watches him pine for Sif, and her heart aches, because there is no way she can tell him what she feels; a mother cannot say those things to her son, and her son would never hear them anyway.
Frigga chooses not to think about the questions she's never asked, because it's too late. If Odin was to answer them now the way she thought he might, she'd be doomed, and all of Asgard, because Loki had become (had always been) her son in every way that mattered. It was better, somehow, to assume the best and quietly, secretly, shamefully prepare for the worst. The worst Thor could do is bad enough; the worst Loki could do…she cannot even imagine it. And so, every day, she practices with sword and ax and spear until her old skill resurges, strong and electric in her veins, until her muscle memory carries her through every motion she remembers from her youth.
The day is liquid and golden, and she is young again, and strong. Crouching by a small pool, one she'd visited often in her youth, and she smiles, because it's a dream, of course. Her sons are there, small and laughing, playing tag in the grass and making the walls ring with their joy, and Frigga feels the age drip away from her like flames dripping from torches — she runs to join them, spins with them, laughs and falls down in the grass with them. Loki is dark and smiling, alight with laughter; Thor is red and gold as always, the open kind grin on his face spilling joy into the sky.
"The grass is just as green," Loki sings, "the sky is just as blue," and Thor joins in the old song, something they'd learned as toddlers, "the day is just as bright, the birds are singing, too." They are smiling at her, and they look just alike, happy and free and good and unashamed, and Frigga opens her mouth to tell them something—
She wakes with tears on her cheeks and cannot remember why. She puts a hand (cold, goosefleshed, and looking older than she could ever believe) to her face; it comes away wet, and she scrabbles at her skin until her face and hands are mostly dry, because it wouldn't do for anyone to see her with tear-streaked cheeks. Odin, deeply asleep, doesn't notice when she rises, doesn't stir as she pulls on a robe, continues to dream as she slips out of the door.
Loki is in the throne room, standing before the high seat, arms clasped behind his back.
"You look deep in thought, my son." She can hear the shake in her voice, and cannot stop it.
He turns to her, and she catches just the edge of the mask slipping over him, just a bit, before he gives her an easy false smile. "I am, Mother. Thinking about the crowning tomorrow."
"What are you thinking about it?" She moves to him, takes his arm in hers, lays a hand over it — like she's old, like she needs the support, because sometimes when she does so he swims up out of the depths of the man he's become and she can see the boy he is, sometimes, just enough to keep her hoping.
"Thor slipping and falling, dropping Mjolnir, and all of Asgard laughing at him." He smiles, showing sharp teeth, and pats her hand with his. "Not meanly, fondly. It'd be funny, wouldn't it, Mother?"
"Yes," she lets a corner of her mouth quirk up, a suggestion of laughter, "but your brother would be very embarrassed."
"He'd get over it."
They've started to walk, slow easy steps down the length of the throne room. The night outside is warm and dim. The suns of Asgard never really set, and night is just a softer part of the day. "He would, of course, but not for a while."
"No," his voice is shy and small like a little boy's, "no, not for a while."
He's walked her back to her room, and she hasn't even noticed. "I miss you, my son. It seems you're always off with your friends." She turns, frees her arm, looks into his dark eyes. "No time for your old mother anymore?"
"Ha!" He swoops in, kisses her soundly on the cheek, and there it is, the little boy she loves so much, shining out of his face. "They're Thor's friends, anyway, not mine, and I'll have more than enough time for you soon enough, Mother."
She wishes, later, that she'd caught his arm, held him, told him things he should have known. It would have been easier, and better, and safer — maybe if he'd found out then, that way, not after shock and anger and a cold blue chill, things would have been different.