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05 September 2014 @ 02:49 pm
Fic: The Ice Demon and the Snow Princess  
Title: The Ice Demon and the Snow Princess
Sequel to: The Snow Queen and the Ice Demon AO3 |
Characters: Loki, Frigga, Elsa, Thor, Anna
Crossover: Frozen

Summary: After a Snow Queen melted a heart grown cold, Loki never expected to visit Arendelle again. But news comes, and this time Frigga refuses to stay home and miss this.

also at AO3 and ff.net

NOTE: so I started this for Mother's Day, well, it's Mother's Day somewhere, right? Also, if you're not in the mood for FAMILY FEELS this is probably not for you. :) Thanks to [personal profile] hearts_blood for the beta.

Frigga finally cornered her younger son on the balcony of his suite, where he could not escape her without sprouting wings.

She let the door slide shut behind her and waited patiently while he stared into the sky and pretended he didn't notice her. His hands tightened on the balustrade, as he refused to greet her. It was intentionally provoking in its rudeness, but she smiled and moved nearer.

"It is a lovely day, yet I think you do not see it at all," she greeted.

"It is like every other day in this place, exactly the same as the day before and every day yet to come," he returned flatly.

Her brows lifted, surprised that he was openly grumpy, instead of ignoring everyone or badly dissembling that he was well. Apparently he had noticed that he was trapped and hoped a display of ill-temper would push her out.

But if she was so easily put off by grumpiness she would not have married Odin in the first place. "If you are attempting to draw me into a discussion of whether loveliness can still exist when there is little variation, I would be pleased another time. But I think rather you are in the foul mood that has hung over you of late."

"Can I not just be out of sorts?" he retorted sharply.

"You could," she allowed with a nod, "but I know what that looks like. There is a reason this time, is there not?" Of course, there was always a reason: when he'd been younger, the reason had been Thor, and more recently he had been frequently moody, missing Midgard and impatience with Asgard. This was different, though.

"Maybe it's private, and no concern of yours." The tone was irritable and petulant, but there was also some genuine pain he was trying – badly – to hide.

"My darling, won't you unburden your heart?" she asked gently, laying a hand over his. He pulled away, but not before she saw the distress in his eyes and the visible quiver in his throat.

There was only one thing she could think of that might have caused this much feeling in him, so she guessed, "Is it Elsa?"

The flinch in his shoulders and lack of denial told her she was correct.

Ancestors, no... She wrapped her hand around his forearm, the cloth soft beneath her fingers, and this time he allowed the touch. "Did she die?" Frigga asked in as soft a voice as she could. Only a handful of years had passed since Loki's departure from Midgard, so Elsa's passing would be too soon, even for one of her kind.

But to her surprise, Loki shook his head. "She is... well," he answered hoarsely. "But I saw – I saw –"

Frowning, she prompted, "What? Loki, what did you see?"

"She... she has a child," Loki eventually whispered. "A … a baby."

Frigga could only stare at him, uncertain she'd heard him properly. "A baby! But that is a delight, not a sorrow, Loki. Why in all the Realms are you stomping about in a surly temper to have a grandchild? This is a wondrous event!"

"Wondrous?" He turned on her, with a snarl. "How is it wonderful? To see how happy she is, to hear her ask me to visit, and to know she is that much closer to ceasing to exist?" He hurled the words at her in a pained fury and whirled away, back stiff.

Frigga hesitated to organize her thoughts, wishing that Loki had more of her temperament, and would not always expect the worst possible outcome for everything. "I think that is exactly why you should visit Elsa and the child."


She moved back to his side closely, gathered up all her wisdom and calm to speak. "My dearest, you are trying to shield yourself from the pain of their passing, but all you are shielding yourself from is feeling their love. Their passing is inevitable, but their love is not. It is a gift, and you are refusing it." She reached for his face and smoothed his cheek, coaxing his head around to face her. "You will grieve the loss more if you do not visit, because then you will have regrets, too."

His eyes were always far too revealing, cracks in the wall he tried to put up or glimmering in opposition to the falsehoods he tried to tell, and right now they were very blue and stricken in confusion and helplessness. "How?" he whispered.

She tucked a hanging lock of raven hair behind his ear. "Not alone, that is how. I will go with you."

His eyes widened. "You would go with me? To Midgard?"

She smiled and took his hand. "My son's first grandchild? I missed Elsa as a child-- I am not missing her baby."

Her tone was light, but her grip was firm as he clung to her hand, needing the reassurance, as his face fell back into the raw lines of loss that had haunted his expression those first weeks after he had returned from Midgard. But she was pleased, hoping that with another visit he would stop anticipating the end and let himself experience the present with Elsa.

Whether he did or not, at least this time, she would meet her grandchild in person. She was very pleased about that.

Odin was not pleased by her decision to visit or Thor's desire to join them when Thor discovered the reason for their trip. But nor did Odin forbid it, and she took that as blessing enough.

All three brought gifts for the baby as Heimdall set them down outside the city. The air was crisp with a hint of lingering snow, as it was late winter; the early flowers were blooming, some poking up through snow still lying about in the shadier spots.

"Is this where you lived as the Ice Demon?" Frigga asked Loki curiously.

He gestured. "That way, those peaks, they form the border with Norway. I visited both, in those days." He peered with narrow eyes and pointed, "The flat-topped one and the forest below it were what I claimed for myself."

She took his arm. "I am glad you gave it up."

He slanted her a look. "King of a mountain peak on Midgard seemed rather pathetic, when I finally had sense enough to consider what I was doing."

"It cannot compare to prince of Asgard, protector of the Nine Realms, master sorcerer, and dragon-friend," Thor declared with a laugh and slap of his shoulder. "Many there are who have slain a dragon, but I think none have talked one into friendship."

"After she nearly killed you, I thought we should be friends," Loki retorted.

Frigga glanced at him in disapproval, tightening her grip on his arm. "Loki." But she was amused, too, which he knew and was not remorseful at all. But it was a good tale, one favorable to Loki, emphasizing his courage and wits. Thor was less enamored of it, as the tale made him foolhardy, but she had told him that Loki needed this; there were plenty of stories that made Thor look good at his brother's expense, and it was true that Loki had saved his life and the dragon's teachings had expanded his skills.

Loki cast his eyes around, trying to place himself. "The village is this way," he decided and led them forward.

Soon it was clear they were on the right path as Frigga heard the jingle of a bell, and the voices of a man and woman talking, and coming their way.

Loki's head lifted, and he smiled in pleased recognition.

Thor noted the look too. "You know who it is?"

The smile disappeared and Loki rolled his eyes. "Of course. And so do you. I should make sure they don't walk past us."

He hurried away and she lifted a brow at Thor. "I was here only two days," he protested.

She patted his arm. "Let us go meet them." The pair of them followed after Loki, toward the mortals.

They heard – most of Midgard probably heard – the startled gasp followed by the gleeful shriek. "Loki!"

"Hello, Anna," he answered, voice calm.

Frigga was in time to see through the trees as a small red-headed woman flung her arms around Loki. There was also a fair-haired man standing there, his hand on the neck of a large reindeer pulling a cart.

Anna didn't give Loki a change to hug her back as she pulled away again, to look up in his face. "You came back! Elsa said you were back, I wasn't quite sure how she could tell, but I guess it was magic? So she sent me and Kristoff to get you, and here you are!" Anna hugged Loki again, and the look on his face was one Frigga intended to recall for the rest of her days – a sort of stunned amusement as if he wasn't sure she was real or he didn't know what to do with her enthusiastic greeting. Then, still not letting him get a word in, she let him go again and spun away, clasping her hands together and then grabbing the free hand of the other man to pull him closer. "Oh, and this is Kristoff. My husband," she said the words both proudly and a bit defiantly as if she thought Loki might not approve.

Kristoff shifted his feet. "Uh, hello?"

Loki acknowledged him with a nod, but returned his gaze to Anna. "The child?"

Anna grinned. "We wondered if you would know. Birgitte. She's six months old now, cute as a button."

"Does she have powers?" Loki asked.

That brought Anna's exuberance down a notch in surprise. "I... don't know? Not that we can tell yet, anyway."

"And Elsa's husband?"

"Frederic? He's a sweetheart, you'll love him." She reconsidered. "Well, maybe you won't. Depends on whether you think anybody could be worthy of Elsa, since I got the feeling last time you didn't think there would be. But he's great, and he thinks the ice powers are amazing, not scary." Then her eyes settled on Frigga and Thor who had emerged into the cart track. "Oh my goodness, Thor. You've come, too? Welcome! And good grief, where are my manners? Hi, I'm Anna, Princess Anna, sister of Queen Elsa of Arendelle."

Loki introduced, "Anna, may I present my mother, Queen Frigga of Asgard."

Clearly Anna had no idea who she was before that– her eyes grew even more enormous. "You – I thought - you are – you're the queen of Asgard?" Her voice went up in a squeak at the end, eyes going from Loki to Thor and back to Frigga, before swallowing hard and dropping into a deep curtsey. Kristoff bowed immediately, following her lead, though he seemed more confused by what was going on.

Frigga set her hand gently on Anna's reddish hair. "Ah, no, child, there is no need for such things among family. Please."

"Gosh, it's so - it's so amazing, though," Anna said as she straightened. "We didn't expect all of you. Elsa will be so happy. She didn't think we'd ever see you again," she said to Loki, "but I think she wanted to believe that, so she wouldn't be disappointed."

Frigga almost nodded – Elsa was his daughter, all right. Expecting the worst. Refusing to hope.

Loki's gaze flickered with awareness that Elsa would have been correct, if he'd had his way. But then he chuckled. "Then we shall not disappoint her. Come, this way. It is not a far stroll."

Anna picked up her skirt and ran after him as he started down the path. "Oh, there's something you should know. Before we get there."

He looked down. "Yes?"

"Because Elsa holds by right of our father, you can't actually, you know, be her father. Or I'd be queen, and nobody wants that, me least of all." She laughed. "So. What we put about was that yes, you were the Ice Demon, but you were our ancestor. A century ago. And you came to visit us a few years ago because your powers showed up again in the line and you were curious." She slanted a look up at him, waiting for his reaction with an anxious smile. "Which is mostly true?"

He hesitated, but then gave a little shrug. "'Mostly true' seems appropriate for me. I will be as vague about our blood connection in public as she wishes."

"And, you know, it puts me in your bloodline, and I think that's neat, but maybe you think it's kind of, um, presumptuous?" she asked with a nervous laugh. "Because you and I both know I'm not, and I think--"

"Anna," he interrupted, now smiling more genuinely at her. "I don't mind."

"Oh phew!" she sighed gustily in relief and seized his arm, "This kind of makes you my other dad, too! But don't be disappointed that Elsa can't acknowledge that publicly; it's a political thing. We all know the truth. Elsa is so excited! And she gave me very strict instructions to hurry to the meadow and bring you home. There's going to be a feast, and you can sit in your place. Though," she cast a frowny look over her shoulder at Thor and Frigga, "We'll have to change the arrangements."

"She did as she said, then, there is a place at the table? For me?" Loki asked, and he tried to keep his voice level but Frigga smiled, hearing that he was so pleased.

Anna seemed very smug. "Every formal banquet. We started it the first one after you'd gone. Always a place setting and a chair that no one can sit in." She gave a little sheepish laugh. "It's usually at the far end, to be honest, but I know for tonight she said to put it at her right hand."

"It would be much more fun to have the feast already begun, so I can come in and sit there," he said, with a gleam in his eyes.

"Very theatrical of you," Frigga commented drily, and he glanced at her and smirked, unabashed.

"Someday they will have forgotten and I will take my seat amid their confusion. It will be glorious. But... another time. We will have to greet Elsa first and that will ruin the surprise. We have gifts for the child," he told Anna.

"Oh, I can't wait to see them!" she clasped her hands together excitedly. "Kristoff, they're bringing presents!"

"I heard." He turned his head to meet the eyes of the reindeer with fond amusement, and no little amounts of what appeared to be understanding on the reindeer's part. Frigga frowned curiously at the awareness in the reindeer's eyes. Power had seeped into this land more than she had expected before setting foot here. Loki had mentioned that Elsa's power had some unexpectedly strong consequences, but still, affecting the fauna? That seemed odd. Midgard was supposed to be a preserve, protected from the high technology and seiðr use of the rest of the Realms, but plainly that was not so.

She stirred from her thoughts when she noticed where Loki and Anna's conversation had turned.

"What news from Corona?" Loki asked Anna. "Have Rapunzel and Eugene had another baby?"

Frigga smiled. Eugene was Fandral's get, either directly or in his line, and apparently Loki was fishing for more news to bring back to him.

Anna opened her mouth to answer, stopped, and asked, "Wait, you know them?"

"Rapunzel was stolen while I was in Corona, so I tried to find her. But when I found nothing, I thought she was dead, so I stopped looking." He shrugged as if it didn't matter, but when he glanced away, Frigga saw the guilt. "I heard she was found and was visiting there again when I heard about Elsa's winter."

"Oh. You should've said you were there. Rapunzel's sort of our cousin, since her mother and mine grew up together. Kristoff and I visited two years ago. They were happy to see us, even if Elsa was not very happy to let me leave on a boat. I saw their first two kids and they had twin boys last year."

"They have four!" Thor exclaimed in amusement and nudged Loki with a shoulder. "Truly Fandral has a far weightier mortal branch than yours, Loki."

Loki whirled on him. "If you ruin it when I tell him he has four grandchildren, I will never speak to you again."

"Do you promise?" Thor retorted, grinning. He set the velvet sack he was carrying over one shoulder and Mjolnir to the ground.

Loki narrowed his eyes, and added, "Or maybe I'll turn you into a hound. It won't change your personality at all."

At that, Frigga stopped walking and with a hand on Anna's shoulder drew her and Kristoff to the side. She knew this dance, with both of them egging each other on. She wanted to sigh about how supposedly mature princes were behaving like children, but on the other hand, Thor was provoking him on purpose and it was a generous thought to try to help his brother with the anxieties of being back.

Thor shot back, "Better a hound than a cow."

"Your grandmother was a cow!" Loki shoved his shoulder, and Thor shoved back, making Loki stumble. In retaliation, Loki flung himself at Thor, sending them both tumbling into the dirt. It turned into a wrestling brawl where Thor's strength was pitted against Loki's wiry agility. For a long time Loki had seethed that Thor could pin him when Loki could rarely do the reverse, but since returning from Midgard, he'd found some pride in more often forcing a draw with techniques he'd picked up from the mortals.

Thor got a good grip and hurled Loki into a tree. The trunk cracked. But when Thor tried to follow up his advantage, Loki swept around the tree and slammed both feet in Thor's chest, flipping back off him.

Anna cringed. "They're fighting. Should we... intervene?"

Frigga shook her head, watching with some amusement as Thor rushed him again, not stopped by Loki trying to kick him in the groin. "No, only if one of them grabs a weapon."

"Sometimes they use weapons?" Anna asked in shock.

Frigga patted her shoulder. "No one will be hurt, dear. Let them have fun."

Thor nearly had Loki pinned when Loki managed to get his boot up and use his leg to yank Thor by the neck to the side long enough to slither out from under him. When Thor plunged after him, it was to have his hand pass through a shimmer of illusion. "Cheater!" Thor bellowed in surprise, but he was quick enough to realize Loki had to be behind him and rolled clear, laughing.

Remaining where he was, ending the tussle, Loki scoffed. "If you didn't know that was coming, you have only your thick head to blame." He knelt there, his armor smeared with dirt, a twig caught in his vambrace and leaves in his hair, but he looked more at ease. Thor grinned at him, and Loki smiled back.

"Boys, there is a feast to attend. I would rather not be late to meet my grand-daughter," Frigga called.

They both started as if they'd forgotten and Thor scrambled to his feet. "Yes, Mother." He held out a hand to help Loki up. Loki batted it away and stood on his own, his clothes shimmering and shifting to Midgardian attire so it didn't matter that his armor had gotten dirty. Thor was not so lucky, and Frigga hid a grin as he glanced at the sky as if pondering rain. She flicked her fingers with a small weave to clean him off - it was one of her most used between the two of them.

Kristoff gasped, having never seen Loki shift his clothes apparently. "How--?"

Loki's glance suggested Kristoff was none too bright. "Did no one tell you I am a god?" he asked shortly. "Now let's go find Elsa."

When they crested the ridge above the town, Frigga had to grin in surprised delight. The entire castle from causeway to tower had been covered with glimmering ice in narrow high arches that rose to fantastical turrets and spires.

Anna folded her arms and looked extremely satisfied with the surprise. "Elsa did it for you," she told Loki.

His smile wasn't large but it seemed full of pure joy as he looked upon the whimsical creation. Without a word to the rest of them, he flicked his fingers, spun two threads of seiðr to unpick the fabric of reality, walked through the resultant curtain of green fire and vanished, teleporting himself to the castle below.

Anna and Kristoff both stared in open-mouthed amazement, much to Frigga's internal amusement.

"And he calls me rude," Thor muttered. "He's abandoned us. Shall we walk down?"

"Let us see what he does first." She knew Loki well, and he hadn't left them merely to take a closer look. She was proven right when she could feel the power building against her skin, even from this distance. The ice began to shift, clear crystal flowing like water, growing and spreading, becoming a shape less like a castle and more like a … tree, its branches spread over the Arendelle castle.

She had to smile. It was a showy display, which Loki always enjoyed, plus a statement: This place stands under the protection of Asgard, it said to all with the wit to read it. In the town below she saw people start to notice the change and point to it.

"Yggdrasil." Thor laughed softly. "It still irritates him that we are gods no more in this place."

Anna's mouth snapped shut with an audible click. "I – should have known. But, but when they built the tree in the courtyard it was nothing like this..."

"Last year, he learned new skills from a dragon on Vanaheim," Thor explained to her.

"Oh. Of course he did," Anna said faintly, still staring at the crystalline tree that towered over the castle.

Frigga announced, "Come, children, I came to see my grand-daughter and her baby, not admire my son's spellcraft, impressive though it is."

By the time they reached the town, Anna had recovered her cheerfulness and Kristoff had recovered his unflappability, and they greeted people as they paced through. Frigga walked with Thor at her side, and they crossed the causeway.

Loki was waiting for them, sitting atop the wall of the causeway with his knees tucked up, like a raven perched above the water. He looked impatient and bored, but she thought the true purpose of his sitting there was to rest; that had been a lot of power and focus, even with his new dragon-learned technique and affinity for ice. She would have to remind him to eat later, when he inevitably forgot in the excitement of being with Elsa and the baby again.

She mentioned none of that; he wouldn't appreciate her airing his need for rest in front of the mortals. "I expected you to go in already?" Frigga asked. "She knows you're here."

"We should all go in together," he demurred, but she knew it was truly anxiety that he hadn't wanted to go in alone.

"Then shall we?" she held out her arm in invitation.

Anna glanced upward at the ice crystal tree over their heads, and Kristoff's gaze was just as admiring. "It's always so beautiful, the ice you and the queen make. Perfect. Not like the sea ice in the fjords."

Loki glanced at him, softening his derision to explain, "There is no air trapped in it. That's why it's clear."

"There's air in sea water?" Kristoff asked, frowning. "How can that be? It's water."

Loki was going to make some sarcastic comment about Kristoff's grasp of the basics, but Frigga squeezed his arm to silence him.

The two guards welcomed Anna and Kristoff with a bow and then with a comical double take they recognized Loki as well. "My lord, welcome. The queen awaits you."

They pulled the door to the hall open and the party entered. The pair of thrones at the end were empty, but the hall was not. A pale-haired woman was talking quietly to a dark-haired man, and turned when she heard the door open. "Loki!" she exclaimed, her grin spreading across her face. She didn't launch herself across the room, having too much dignity for that, but she looked as if a part of her wanted to, as she walked swiftly to meet him.

"My snow queen," he murmured. They embraced tightly, and Loki rested his head on the top of hers for a moment, closing his eyes as if to absorb the moment.

Oh, my son, to think you nearly didn't visit, Frigga thought sadly, when you love her so much.

When they parted, he tipped up her chin to examine her face. "You look well."

"I'm not that much older," she teased gently. But then big blue eyes went behind him. "But I see you have brought important guests with you. Welcome back to Arendelle, Thor, and you - I recognize you!" she realized in sudden delight, her eyes meeting Frigga's. "Loki showed me your picture. I am honored you would visit, Foremother."

Frigga held out both hands for Elsa to hold. "Oh, my dear, trust me, I am the one honored to meet the woman who reminded my son of all the true and beautiful things in life, and brought him out of his loneliness. For that, you have my gratitude and my love, always."

Elsa glanced down, seeming abashed by the praise, but smiling happily. Then she held out her hand and brought the man she had been talking to forward. "And this is Frederic of Genovia. My husband."

He bowed to them, and said in a heavy accent, "I have much honor to greet the family of my wife."

Loki stared at him, not moving or speaking, his eyes glaring as if he would cut Frederic down with them. Frederic returned his look - swallowing uneasily but not looking away. Then Loki threatened in Frederic's own tongue, "If you harm Elsa in any way, you will learn why they called me a monster and a demon. Your god has no power over me, so do not look to him to save you."

Frederic listened, looking both offended that Loki would assume he was ill-intended and cowed by the threat, but then pulled himself together and bowed to him. "She is my treasure, my lord. I want only her happiness."

Mollified, yet still suspicious, Loki said, "Good. Never believe I cannot see you or I do not know when you lie, because I do."

Elsa stepped between them. "Did I not warn you he would be fierce, Frederic?" She took Loki's hand. "He is a good man, and I love him. So no more threats."

Loki glowered at Frederic as if in last silent warning, and then smiled at Elsa. "As you wish. We have come bearing gifts for Birgitte, to welcome her to life."

"Oh!" Elsa looked delighted. "Presents. How exciting!"

"I will fetch her," Frederic offered, and strode away. Frigga thought he was probably glad to get away from his wife's overbearing relatives for a few minutes.

While he was gone, word began to spread, and onlookers came into the great hall, lured by the great tree of ice and word that the Ice Demon had returned. Frigga listened as Loki and Elsa spoke quietly - Elsa to tell him how she had recognized the burst of power and the sudden storm of the Bifrost and known he was coming, and he complimented her skill. Frigga smiled contentedly. Usually Loki's compliments were grudging or mocking, if offered at all, but he was proud of her. When Anna told her sister excitedly that Loki knew a dragon, Loki tried to shrug it away until Thor intervened to tell the story properly.

But Frederic returned, carrying his daughter, and Elsa seated herself on her throne. He handed her the baby and took up his post at her side, as Elsa sat Birgitte on her lap. She was little and cute as a doll, with wisps of golden hair and big wondering eyes, round little arms, a green velvet dress and tiny black shoes.

After the formal introductions, Thor was the first to go up to her, pulling a small metallic sphere from the bag he'd been carrying. It was a children's ball, Frigga saw, and smiled as the small crowd gasped as it hovered in the air and spun around, coaxing a baby's coo of delight from Birgitte.

Thor grinned happily at the success of his present.

Frigga moved forward then, to open her package. "This, I wove my own hands," she said. It was an emerald green blanket, trimmed in gold and black in Loki's colors. She had woven it intending it for some future child of his, but his grandchild was sufficient cause. There was time to weave another. "And imbued it with protective spells to give her peaceful rest and healing when she is beneath it."

Elsa gasped and took it in a shaking hand, wrapping it around Birgitte. "All-mother," she whispered, "this is … a generous gift."

"For my own family, even unto generations," Frigga promised.

Loki was last up. He carried nothing, though Frigga knew he had several things tucked away in his dimensional pocket. She didn't know what he had, though; he'd kept his gift a secret. But she knew he'd been very busy at something for the past few days.

He stood before the throne and his child and grandchild, and held out an empty hand. He gave a flourish, and a paper book with a gold cover appeared on his palm. He presented it to Elsa, who handed the baby back to Frederic, to take the book.

Loki tucked his hands behind his back then, to appear relaxed, but Frigga could see how tightly his fingers were locked together as he waited to find out what she thought.

"You told me I should write a book," he said, his voice a little tight with false relaxed, casual tone. "So I did."

Elsa lifted her gaze. "You wrote this?"

"It is for a child." He shrugged, trying to disclaim his doings. "Very simple. I modeled it after books of my youth that give an introduction to the structure of the universe."

She opened the cover carefully and read aloud, "A Rabbit's Guide to the Universe." She burst into peals of laughter. "A Rabbit's Guide! You wrote a book for rabbits."

He grinned as she continued to laugh, both pleased by her response and the confusion of everyone else at the private joke.

"I do not understand," Frederic frowned. "Rabbit. Un lapin, yes?"

Elsa patted his hand absently. "Yes. I'll explain later." Then she turned the pages and glanced at Loki in amazement. "You illustrated this, too?"

He glanced away and shrugged. "A few sketches. Nothing particularly talented, but --"

"They're fantastic," Elsa interrupted and clutched the book in both hands against her chest as she stood up. "I love it."

Thor looked at Loki with no little amazement himself. "You scribed a book, brother? I hope you made a copy of it, so that all in Asgard may see it as well."

"It's not for them," Loki answered shortly. "It belongs to Elsa and Birgitte. And Anna and her children," he added with a nod in her direction. "It is for Arendelle."

"We will treasure it always," Elsa declared, and added hastily to Frigga, "As we will treasure all your gifts." She chuckled. "I feel a bit as if I am receiving the three kings bringing gifts to the baby Jesus."

Loki sniffed in mild offense. "You say that with the branches of Yggdrasil hanging above this very castle."

"Is that what you did?" she asked curiously.

"You should see. As I saw what you made. It was a very beautiful surprise, Elsa," he told her with a softer warmth.

"You're welcome." She took his hand in hers. "I'm glad you're here. We should retire to the sitting room to be a family." She stepped forward to address the onlookers. "Thank you for all helping me to greet my very special visitors. And also I want to express my appreciation for those who are doing their best on short notice to get the feast ready. But we need to clear the hall to set it up. You are all invited to return this evening to help me celebrate this joyful day."

Frederic and Kristoff stayed in the hall to oversee preparations, while Elsa and Anna led their Asgardian visitors to a smaller room with a hearth and enough furniture for them all, though no one sat down.

Elsa took the baby back and after checking that she was still content, stepped toward Loki. "You should hold Birgitte."

He took a step back, demurring with a shake of his head, but Elsa insisted, offering the tiny princess to her grandfather to hold.

Frigga watched, as Loki took Birgitte in both hands. He held her gingerly, fearful he might hurt her, with his strong hands wrapped around her tiny ribs. But large blue eyes met his, and the baby grinned toothlessly at him.

His expression softened and he smiled back at her. "Hello, little one," he whispered. A lump formed in Frigga's throat, remembering how she had said exactly the same words, as she had taken someone else's abandoned child into her arms.

This was what she had hoped for, that he would love Elsa's child as well, to understand that love was not a thing with boundaries of time or distance or even mortality. She watched him melt and yet strengthen at the same time, bitterness and resentment washing away, as he brought Birgitte against his chest. He put an arm underneath her bottom, his other hand splayed across her back, the motions so practiced she wondered what mortal babies he'd handled before.

Birgitte grabbed at his hair and the golden thread in his collar, burbling happily.

Elsa's smile was broad and relieved. "She usually cries when strangers hold her."

"We are not strangers, are we?" he asked Birgitte, as if the baby could answer him.

Elsa watched them and said softly, "Strange to think you'll look exactly the same when she's an old woman."

To Frigga's relief he didn't react with sorrow, but instead a dry amusement, "It's far stranger to think I am a grandfather already. We have not even thought about marriage--"

"Perhaps you have not," Frigga teased, "but I certainly have." Her smile widened when both her sons looked at her with matching expressions of wide-eyed alarm at the news. Elsa and Anna both laughed.

"Having endured two years of suitors," Elsa said, touching his arm in commiseration even as her eyes danced with humor, "I have great sympathy for your coming plight."

"I can see how much sympathy you have," he returned, but when Birgitte squirmed, he shifted her to the crook of his arm and held out his other hand. A tiny flame appeared above his palm and danced. Birgitte watched and kicked her feet, excited, and tried to grab it. Even though the flame wouldn't hurt her, he still kept it from her reach.

"I still can't believe Hans sent two of his brothers to try," Anna said. "What were they thinking? That we wouldn't remember?" She rolled her eyes.

Meanwhile Thor had been leafing through Loki's book curiously. "This is a treasure, Loki." At Loki's glance as if he thought Thor might be mocking him, Thor hastened to add, "Truly. I am sorrowed there is no version in Asgard. Did you show Father before we left?"

Loki snorted. "As if he would be interested in a children's physics primer." He let himself be distracted when Birgitte grabbed at his lapel and tried to pull it to her mouth.

Frigga's eyes met Thor's, as he opened his mouth to protest. She wanted to as well, but in the end neither spoke. Odin had never shown much interest for Loki's studies, and even the dragon had merited only approval for saving Thor's life. Loki wasn't wrong that Odin would at best mildly appreciate the skill, and at worst ask Loki why he had wasted his time with something so useless.

Elsa's blue eyes were keen, traveling between her relatives, and Frigga wondered what Loki had told her. "Well, we will treasure it," Elsa reassured him. "In fact you may call it a children's book, but I'm sure Anna and I could learn from it. Also, remind me later, I kept correspondence that arrived for you. I wrote them all back that you had left, but I thought you might want to see the letters, if you--" she twisted her hands together and finished with a bit more effort, "if you came back."

Frigga remembered what Anna had said about Elsa not wanting to believe he would return, and yet here was proof that she had hoped he would, in spite of herself.

Loki recognized that as well, extending a hand to her shoulder and tugging her close for a one-armed hug. "I -- I didn't want to return," he admitted. "I thought it would hurt too much. But now, I wonder how I could have ever thought that not seeing you was the answer to anything."

He kissed the top of her head and then Birgitte's also.

Frigga approached them and smoothed Birgitte's downy hair. When Loki's eyes lifted to meet hers, she told him, "Twice in my life has someone placed a tiny baby in my arms, and twice I loved that boy with all my heart. Because love never subtracts, only multiplies with the giving of it."

His smile was rocky, and his eyes blinked rapidly, before he looked down at Birgitte again. After a moment, he cleared his throat and pretended he wasn't about five seconds from crying, saying in a brisk tone, "So let's see if I can answer my own question about this little one's magical inheritance."

Loki set his fingers lightly on the baby's head and narrowed his eyes to thin slits, probing delicately. "She will be resistant to cold-- that will stick another generation, at least. But as for powers, they will be weak, if she displays any at all."

Elsa grimaced in disappointment. "It's probably a good thing we don't have to worry about her freezing her room, but I did wish to share my powers with her."

He shook his head in regret. "She will carry the potential for sorcery, that remains in the blood, but without training it will lie mostly dormant."

Frigga thought that was likely for the best. Sorcery attracted sorcery, and Arendelle did not need to attract other visitors to its mountains.

"Without training she might also call on--" Elsa started.

Loki interrupted her, "Fortunately I think that is not likely either. Unlike you, she will simply not have the strength to work any power unconsciously. She will be… normal," he added, a wry twist to his lips. "The first in three generations."

"She is special," Frederic corrected, looking at his daughter. "Not an angel or demon, but still special."

"All babies are special," Anna said and swooped in to tickle her niece's chin to make her burble with laughter.

"I suppose they are, at that," Loki agreed, amused when Anna tried the same move on him.

Loki kept hold of Birgitte until she started to fuss for hunger, and then it was the adults' turn to eat. They left the baby with her nurse, and it was time for the feast.

The feast was quite festive. Frigga sat between Elsa and Anna, and Thor sat down the table a little ways with some of the younger men and Elsa's main military advisor. She could tell just from the few words she caught of Thor's booming voice, that he was relating some tale which sounded suspiciously like he had stolen the story from the humans' own myths since she had never heard of his wrestling a large snake. Loki would not have stopped teasing him about it for many years, if it had actually happened.

On her other side, Loki, almost in spite of himself, fell into far more serious conversation with Frederic and Elsa about Genovia and especially about neighboring France. His family especially was worried about a French Corsican general who had gained some reputation among the republican factions. Loki listened thoughtfully, interested in this new player and the aftermath of the violent revolution that he had missed.

"We are far away here," Elsa murmured, "and the crown lies not so heavy on the people here as in France." She nodded out toward the people at the other tables, citizens who were enjoying the feast as well. "But still, all of it is shocking and troubling."

Frigga smiled to see Loki so engaged- usually he despised feasts in Asgard, uncomfortable and disdainful - but here he was at his ease. It made Frigga sad that she was going to have to remonstrate with him, but she leaned forward, "Children, this conversation needs be shelved for a more private time. Your people are wondering what makes you all so grim."

Elsa smiled reflexively, and then more genuinely as an idea came to her. "Then we shall have to be less grim."

She leaned back in her chair and cast her eyes to the ceiling. In a moment, a delicate chandelier of ice was forming above the table. Everyone watched, ooh-ing and aah-ing in appreciation as the sculpture grew, breaking into applause.

Elsa glanced at Loki archly. "Ice Demon? Your turn."

"I put a tree over the entire castle," he protested, laughing.

"You altered my ice castle. That was cheating."

Since Loki had no more ability to back down from a challenge than Thor did, he pushed back his chair. "Fine. Let me think… what to do…" He held out his hand, forming a staff of ice that he then slammed into the floor. The staff grew into a small tree, and with another twist of seiðr, purple plums began to form.

There was more applause and delighted cries of amazement as he plucked them and started handing them to the tables.

Frigga shook her head, wondering how she had ever gotten such a peacock, as he strutted around the hall very smugly handing fresh plums to everyone.

When the music began and the central tables were pushed aside for dancing, Loki tried to demur from the dancing, but Anna was the first to pull him back to his feet, irresistible in her lively fearlessness.

The dancing lasted long into the night, until the family retired. Elsa and Frederic volunteered their own room for Frigga to sleep in and she refused gently, "Dear Elsa, we need little sleep. Please, it is yours. The three of us shall entertain ourselves quietly, you need not concern yourself."

She looked to Loki. "My study is at your disposal then. Please make yourselves at home." Then lifting her skirts, she hurried to him and stood on her toes to kiss his cheek. "I'm so glad you're here, Father," she murmured. Then she took Frederic's hand and they retired to their bedchamber.

In the study, Loki stretched out on the armchair and its matching footstool with an ease that suggested he'd done it before. He had the pile of old correspondence and was reading it curiously.

"Kristoff and Anna volunteered to show me a colony of stone trolls in the mountain," Thor said. "Did you know of them, Loki?"

"Yes," he answered absently. "They tended their business, I tended mine. Be warned, they're not too bright. You should get along well."

Thor ignored the taunt. "Do you want to join me?"

"Let's see, shall I watch my infant grand-daughter for the precious minutes I will have with her, or shall I visit a bunch of stone trolls I nearly slaughtered in annoyance a hundred years ago?" he asked mocking.

"You could just say no," Thor groaned.

"No." Loki put aside the last letter and rose to his feet.

Frigga looked up, "Loki? Where are you headed?"

"I want to look in on Birgitte. Be back shortly."

She watched him go, but didn't try to follow him. She doubted he would be back that night at all.

"How long are we staying?" Thor asked a few minutes of silence.

"A few days," she answered. "Before he wishes to leave, but enough days to remember in years to come."

Thor gave a soft sigh. "It will break his heart when she dies."

"Loving mortal things always does, my son. But we go on. So will he. Now at last there is Birgitte to remind him that life and love continue in a chain, unbroken across the years."

Thor nodded, thoughtful and seemed less the reckless young warrior than he was normally. In the fire's glow, she saw an echo of the king he would be someday.

Time marched on, for all of them, pain and wisdom gained from it, in her sons, too.

Loki found his way to Birgitte's quiet nursery. He looked in to her small bed where she slept, and watched her.

He was only there a few minutes, when the door cracked open. He turned, expecting the nurse, but found Elsa. She wasn't surprised to see him, she only smiled and joined him at the bedside.

In silence they watched the baby sleep for a time, until she took his hand and pulled him to the deserted and dark sitting room next door. Loki lit the lamp with a flick of his fingers.

"I go look at her, too," Elsa murmured, "Even though she no longer nurses at night, I still wake to check that she is well."

"She seems very much like a miracle," Loki said. "I know she is, in fact, the result of a quite ordinary process, and yet seeing her… amazes me."

"Not me?" Elsa teased gently.

He smiled back. "You are a miracle and you amaze me, but you did seem to spring fully-formed into maturity. I know you must have been the same, tiny and fragile at some point, but it is just as well I did not know you then, for I most certainly would have stolen you from this place for myself."

Elsa grinned back, as if he was making a jest, which he was not. "That sounds much more exciting and fun to abandon my responsibilities and grow up the Ice Demon's Daughter in the mountains…"

"I would have liked that." He would have liked it a little too much, probably, and since he had no idea how to raise a human child, he would have made a hash of it. Elsa had saved him; he would have destroyed her.

Elsa's humor faded and she glanced at both doors to lock them with a flash of her ice powers, to cover both keyholes. Loki watched, curious by what she wanted to do or say secretly. She drew him to the sofa and sat down beside him, smoothing her dressing gown over her knees. "I noticed something earlier and I wanted to talk to you about it alone. Your mother and brother don't know about the tesseract, do they?"

His eyes flicked to her, impressed that she had read the situation correctly. "No. They do not."

She nodded once. "Are you going to take it back to Asgard this time?"

"No. It's for you to use, if there is some great threat to Arendelle. Plus, it's been lost almost a thousand years; it should remain lost. It is pure temptation and word of its recovery would draw enemies even unto Asgard." Both were good reasons, and true, but at least to himself Loki could acknowledge that they weren't the whole of his reason. The tesseract was his, and he would keep it where Odin wouldn't take it from him and lock it away in the treasury with all the other artifacts he'd stolen from their owners.

"Bishop Nordhaugh died last year," she murmured. "When I go, you'll be the last to know its location."

The reminder of Elsa's mortality stung. He'd done a good job so far pushing it out of his thoughts.

Her fingers folded around his. "I'm glad you braved a return," she murmured. "I'm very happy you came to visit Birgitte. Looking at her now, imagining what I would feel if something happened to her, I understand your fear more."

He shook his head in denial, but didn't speak. He pulled his hand free and brought something out of his surcoat. "I brought another gift for you."

He handed her a red stone the size of a half of a chicken egg set into what looked like bronze. It was polished on its one round face, but not faceted, giving it a dark and cloudy look.

She took it curiously. "Is it a ruby? The color seems off."

He shook his head. "No, it is a flawed red beryl, but the crystalline structure was adequate for my purpose. I wanted it to seem to have only sentimental value, so it would less a target of theft. But it is highly valuable in fact, at least to you. If you break it – it will require effort, since I did not want it to break by accident – but if the stone is broken by someone who shares my blood, I will know. Wherever I am, whatever I am doing, I will know. For you, for Birgitte, for her children to come, break it and I will come to you."

She eyed the stone and then raised her head to look at him in gratitude and awe. Tears threatened her eyes as he reached both hands to clasp both of hers, enclosing the stone between them. "I swear this, Elsa. If Bonaparte invades or your people rise against you, whatever it is, if you need me, I will come."

She raised their joined hands to her lips, kissing the back of each of his hands. "I knew you would."

"Even though you didn't believe I would come back?" he teased, tugging her into resting against his shoulder.

She shook her head and laid a hand against his chest. "Arendelle is in your heart. You couldn't abandon us."

"There was a time I would have," he murmured. "There was a time when none of you mortals mattered to me. But you changed that."

"Of course," she said, smiling at him as if he was the silliest fool in all of creation. "Don't you know? Love is the only thing that can thaw a frozen heart."

"And was my heart frozen?"

"It was." She set her head on his chest to listen. "It's not now. And I hope it never is again."

"I shall try, my Snow Queen; for you, I will try." His fingers moved gently on her soft pale hair, smoothing it until she fell asleep. He stayed awake, absorbing this moment of peace and contentment, to hold it in his memory for later, when darker times would come.

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