Odin tries to forbid her from seeing him. She knows it’s out of some misguided desire to protect her, but it angers her still. Somewhere between the banishment of her firstborn and the supposed death of her adopted son, Frigga has lost faith in her husband. She no longer sees him as the infallible All-Father, but a mere man who, when faced with the defiance of his beloved sons, had not known how to act.
Odin did not tell her Loki is alive. It is Thor who breaks the news after his return from Midgard. His blue eyes are clouded as he describes his brother’s state.
“He is not the Loki we know, Mother,” he says. His voice carries the grief of a thousand years—of memories of laughter and mischief between brothers, all as lost as if they had never happened.
Frigga embraces her son, now so tall and strapping she can barely fit her arms around him. “But he is Loki,” she whispers. “He is ours.”
Thor nods and buries his head in the space between her neck and shoulder. Still a boy in many ways. Minutes, or perhaps hours, pass before he releases her. Tears glisten in his eyes, though she sheds none. Not yet. There will be time enough for those, but not yet. She touches her firstborn’s face, so like Odin’s and different all at once. He will make a better king than his father—a thought that both pains her and fills her with pride.
“Go now,” she says. “Go rest.” He has done enough, paid the price for his parents’ sins. Her eyes follow him as he turns away, and she regrets the unseen weight that bows his shoulders.
Odin waits for her at the head of the stairs that lead to the catacombs—to Loki’s prison. The All-Father looks a shadow of the king who had conquered until there was peace in the nine realms. His skin is yellowed like old parchment, his eye watery from untold millennia. The magic he used to send Thor to Midgard to retrieve the Tesseract has taken its toll. He will need the Odinsleep again.
She loves him still, though not with the same near worship from so many centuries before. “You will not stop me from seeing my son.” Her voice is tempered steel.
“I know.” The resignation in his tone belies the set of his jaw. “Though it is against my wishes.”
“It was against my wishes that you banished Thor,” she counters. “But there was wisdom in it that I could not see. There is wisdom in this as well, Husband.”
He continues to block her path, not yet able to concede. “He did this to himself.”
Frigga shakes her head. “No, Odin. The blood on his hands is on ours as well.”
The All-Father has no argument left in him. He steps aside to let her pass, and as she does, he murmurs, “Save him, if you can.”
Frigga descends the marbled steps with growing trepidation. She recalls her final conversation with her adopted son—a scene which she has replayed over and again since his fall from Rainbow Bridge. She has examined every detail, studied the nuances she missed in the moment, and realizes how pivotal that simple exchange over Odin’s sleeping form had been. If she had seen the depth of Loki’s turmoil, understood how he never thought himself equal in his parent’s eyes to his brother though he desperately wanted—needed—to be, would she have been able to say the right words instead of the platitudes that turned his broken heart to ice?
How will he receive her now? As a stranger instead of the woman who wiped his tears and rocked him to sleep as a babe? As a conspirator against him instead of the mother who encouraged his talent in magic, who both delighted in and was exasperated by his pranks?
Her heart constricts as she draws closer to his cell. Two guards in gleaming helms and breastplates stand on either side of the crystal chamber, backs straight, gazes alert. They pretend not to see her as she steps up to the clear wall with a breath held painfully tight in her chest.
Loki lazes on the stone bench, turned away from her, though she does not doubt he sensed her approach. He is slender and lanky without his armor, and his usually pristine hair hangs in tangled waves past his shoulders. He is the very image of a fallen prince. The tears she held off earlier begin to sting her eyes.
“Leave us,” she commands the guards in a hoarse voice. The two men hesitate only a heartbeat before lifting their staffs and marching away. She waits until their footsteps become distant, until the echo of the vault door clanking shut, before she looks at her son again.
Frigga is not a fool; she knows what he has done. He is a murderer, a sower of chaos and destruction. But she cannot view him as the villain others have painted him to be, for unlike them, she knows what forced him to this madness. She knows the blame lies, in part, with her—in the lies she and Odin crafted to protect him, to give him a normal life unfettered by the prejudice of their people. Lies that ultimately shattered him when the truth was revealed.
Lies that a part of him must still desire to be true, she realizes as she stares at his familiar Asgardian form—a form created by Odin’s magic. He has not attempted to change his appearance. A tendril of hope burns within her. Perhaps he is not yet lost to her.
His head turns, the movement measured as if he is resisting a compulsion. His expression is blank when his gaze meets hers, and then like water pouring from a broken dam, a dozen emotions flood across his features. Anger, pain, exhaustion, betrayal, hope, need, despair… He settles on wariness as he straightens from the bench and crosses the cell to her in unhurried steps.
He is pale with fading bruises and cuts on his handsome face, and she is suddenly overtaken by a hundred memories at once. Memories of the victorious return of her young sons from whatever escapades they had dreamed up. Loki always looked the more battered of the two and would, each time, seek her out first. For comfort. For approval. For the confirmation that though he was not as skilled a warrior as Thor, he was still a respected prince of Asgard—still her beloved son.
She presses her hand against the cool crystalline wall that divides them and says the three words which became a code between them over the centuries. Three words which she needs to mean everything she cannot adequately convey in this precarious moment.
“You’re a mess.”
His blue-green eyes widen in surprise and her heart aches. What had he expected from her? Hateful recriminations? Did he believe his crimes capable of overpowering her love for him? Or does he believe she never truly loved him at all.
Tears spill onto her cheeks and she presses against the wall as though she could reach through it and touch him, reassure him that her love is immovable and eternal. They remain like this for a protracted breath before he brings his hand up and lays his long fingers against the glassy surface opposite hers. She cannot contain the triumphant smile that stretches across her lips.
“You’re still mine,” she whispers.
He leans forward, resting his forehead on the wall. His brow is creased with strain, as though he is battling with himself. “Yes,” he replies in a hiss infused with bitterness and desperation. “Yours and no one else’s.”
So he still hates the father whose approval he wanted so keenly that he was driven to commit genocide. He still hates the brother he idolized but was compelled to kill to find liberation from his jealousy. And perhaps, he still hates himself for being Jötunn instead of Aesir.
But he does not hate her.
He withdraws first, his face a cold mask as he settles again on the bench. The moment has passed; she is dismissed. Frigga is not hurt, though. She knows of the hostile invectives he screamed at Odin. She knows of his refusal to acknowledge Thor’s presence. Her, he has accepted.
And it is enough for now.