Loki is...old enough. Young enough that his eyes are still bright, still flickering around to catch every little detail. Old enough to have the right wants, and to catch the hints. Glut sees that he is clever, and allows herself a smirk at the game before she smiles warmly at him.
Glut lives up to her name, positively radiating interest. Loki, usually so quick with his tongue, stumbles in her presence. She is...she is not the loveliest he has ever seen, he thinks. But Glut is playing with him. Loki toys with everyone, and being played with is novel enough when those clever enough have never bothered with him. But Glut isn't toying with him, not really. It's not her game; it's theirs. Something sparks in her eyes, and he needs to answer it, because she is bright enough to see that he is not like the others and still interested. Still here.
A few touches, a few leading words, and Loki finds himself in her rooms. The whole of the game was new, but he has kept his mind sharp and sparred with her. Her mouth on his is distracting, but a sensation he knows, if only a few times before. The difference is like walking to dancing, but he can feel the similarities, use his clever little mind to turn it back on Glut--
And then her mouth moves, and then her hands, then all of her, and he can't think, can't breathe, can only beg, "Yes, yes, please, yes..."
Something similar happens a few more times, though Loki extends the game some each time. Learns to control himself, learns that she stutters when he touches her here, learns every inch of her until he begs but rarely and until he coaxes little whines from her throat.
Every time, it is a wildfire. Something breaks, bone or wood, and he learns to fix both. Once, he actually burned her, magic too new and passions too high.
When Loki sees the first girl, he smiles at her ruddy cheeks and names her Eisa, for a child so lively and active must have warm name.
The second girl seems nearly a shadow. Loki thinks, briefly, of Thor, the blond, blue-eyed, sun-tanned child, and his pale, dark-haired shadow. Then he shakes that thought away and thinks instead of the forest after a fire. All the precious bits of new growth waiting, wrapped safely. "Einmyria," he murmurs.
Glut smiles gently at the link of theme among their family.
Loki went with Glut because he felt a similarity, something he might have called kinship had he ever felt it with his kin.
He wishes it hadn't surprised him when she disappeared.
The story is simple enough. No wall protecting Asgard—and the previous had been flimsy enough, held up more by expectation than its supports—so someone comes along to take advantage.
Loki notices the man is a Jötunn, of course. Difficult not to, if one bothers to consider the possibility, and difficult to hide a lie’s presence from Loki Lie-Smith. But he wants to see where all this is going, and then…
“We could get the wall without losing the sun and moon, or precious Freya.” Said almost absent-mindedly. As if he is only stating the obvious.
“What?” Ah, Thor. Odin is just looking at him expectantly, which is the closest thing to trust the second son expects to see.
Loki shrugs. “Have him build it alone, within a winter. No one could complete a wall so swiftly.” Though Loki is giving just a touch of advantage. He could have said the summertime instead, and the Jötunn would genuinely have no chance. But all the Asgardians see winter as more difficult, and anyway, Loki’s bored. No plans this time, just hoping someone turns out to be clever enough to make it interesting. With Glut gone, everything is far too plain for his tastes.
The mason builds the wall more swiftly than any expect, the winter is exceptionally long—which shocks, simply shocks Loki—and every Asgardian turns on him--which terrifies him, of course. “Traitor!” Some other things—Loki hardly pays attention. After the first few centuries, he has heard all the insults; now he just waits until they stop long enough to listen to him.
Dropping the detached tone, replacing it with one of fear. “I promise I will find a way to fix this, just please let me go.” He lies every time, and they should know, but they don't. They drop him and he leaves, making the choice of action on a whim. The trickster shifts, stretches, and then a mare is galloping in his place.
Men and women are easy. Stallions are easier.
The horse chases; Loki runs. When both are far enough out of sight of the mason, Loki decides that tiring the stallion a touch more cannot hurt, and lets the poor thing catch up.
Surprise, to Loki's mind, implies planning and expectation. It's the emotion that goes along with, This did not happen as I thought it would. Nonetheless, the word is the closest he has.
Loki recognizes the sensation. Not that the shapeshifter in question had ever been a horse during, but there’s a little tug of something siphoning off just a touch of magic, something small growing inside. They stay in the forest for some amount of time; a few months? Until the babe is born and walking. It is a horse, so stands within minutes, and his child, so is walking within seconds of standing
Loki makes a few soft sounds that the colt will find comforting, leading the little one, still shaky on his eight feet. The colt is beautiful, and Loki feels just a spark of hope, that maybe this one can stay with him. (Glut left, but Loki has had time enough to wonder if someone pushed her, for "her own good" or some similar prattle.)
Loki shakes the idea from his head and emerges from the forest with his lovely little boy. Joy is such an intense feeling that it seems the trickster should glow, a feeling that is mine and beautiful, wonderful, spectacular, unique little one and I can raise you wrapped up in this bond between between mother and child.
Odin takes his grandson as a mount.
Loki avoids anything serious after that.
They were his, damn everything; they were.
It is simple enough—almost no one wants him, though many do want the rare pleasure of having a shapeshifter. Loki plays along with each for a while, then pulls some trick when they bore him. Sif was creative for long enough that he still keeps the token he took.
(And she raged for days. Bargaining with the dwarves was well worth it.)
Any physical needs he has are well met, and he continues half the game he had with Glut, teasing to the other’s breaking point. Some decide to dominate him, as if that made it more difficult, as if he is not used to being the ‘weaker’ one. Manipulation, pretending not to understand, too-light touches, and soon enough a firm, “Loki,” becomes a growled, “Loki,” and then a broken, gasping, “Loki, Loki, please…” Each is different, but each falls.
There are no Gluts here. Loki is not who he was.
He does not break the pattern until after “falling” from the Bifröst. Midgard, even with the Avengers, is beginning to bore him. He has not used a path that led to Jötunheim since knowing what he was, so the land should be novel enough, if only for the new perspective on his heritage.
And the fact that it will be ruins.
Loki finds that most of Jötunheim’s buildings are solely ice and snow, so learns the magic and then helps rebuild, leaving bits of splendid artistry and mischief behind him.
He still takes lovers. Some enjoy dominating him as an Asgardian; some enjoy him by various standards of Jötunn beauty; some, as always, use him for guilty little things they'd never tell anyone; and one is Angrboda.
She reminds him of Sif, so much steel and will, so what he expects is: a creative mind, a difficult and satisfying break that he can practically hear, and a grudge that lasts a lifetime.
What he gets is: “What would you like me to be?”
“You.” Said as if it were simple, as if anything were ever that simple.
Loki shifts to his Asgardian form, then watches her.
Angrboda looks him over, a genuine smile on her lips. “Interesting.”
"I love you, too."
Loki underestimated her, clearly. She lacks Glut’s exquisite touch, but each time she says his name and looks at him, and she comes back to him. Jötunn or Asgardian, she does not care, she just looks in his eyes and whispers/gasps/moans/begs, “Loki…”
This is exactly what Loki had been trying to avoid. She doesn’t want a warm body; she doesn’t want some fantasy a shapeshifter can fulfill; she wants him, and it feels too damn good to be wanted.
Three children, this time. No twins. There’s Hel, beautiful, half-dead, wonderful little Hel who has her own realm in too little time, whom he barely gets to see grow. Iörmungandr goes down soon after, though he is older when he leaves, thrown to/left for Midgard. Loki doesn’t leave for either of them, because they want comfort, they don’t want him, and then Fenris is bound.
Then, finally, the spite in her eyes for losing her three of her children outweighs the love of him. Perhaps it is because he worries he won’t be able to do it later; perhaps because he cannot bear to hurt her again; perhaps because the spite in those still-loving eyes hurts too much. One, all, none; it hardly matters.
Loki returns, forgiven, as he always does and always is. He needs to talk his way out of things no one else would, but then, he always can, so he supposes it almost evens out. There is envy toward the first son, even in that thought, but little, as when they were children.
Their family stabilizes. Loki pulls tricks harmless enough to keep him trusted; Thor behaves as if nothing has changed; Frigga welcomes her child back and watches for him in her visions. Only Odin is openly wary.
Odin calls Loki into his chambers, and Loki knows where the conversation will go even before Odin’s first words. It will be an attempt to bind him, as it always is, and Odin has exhausted nearly every way he can think of to bind his clever child.
“You need heirs, son.” Loki knows Odin tries, but saying ‘son’ that way makes him think more of calling a dog ‘boy’ than of being the All-Father's adopted child.
Loki looks at him, and his thoughts flicker to his two children by Glut, to his three by Angrboda, to Sleipnir. Lost, banished, bound. He does not want Odin to know, so he is honest, and knows the man will not believe it. “I am unexcited by the prospect.”
“I understand your nervousness.”
Loki chooses his game and bows deeply. “Thank you, Father,” he says respectfully. “Did you have someone in mind?”
Odin blinks in surprise. “Sigyn.”
Loki nods. “She would make a fine mother.”
“Oh…good.” Odin expected a fight, an insult, twisty words, anything but this, and only millennia of practice keep him as eloquent as he manages. “You should be; I have put much thought into this match.”
The second son bows once more. “Thank you,
All-Father.” Loki only says it in his head, because he needs it for the game but cannot make himself truly call this man "Father". Loki asks to go, and Odin dismisses him, bewildered. The All-Father spends the next few hours working out what Loki could be planning with Sigyn. Nothing direct, surely, Loki is far subtler than that, but…
Upon leaving, Loki allows himself a smirk.
Loki spoke the truth about Sigyn—that had been the fun—and she fulfills her side of the bargain. They mate, though there the experience lacks the sport he’d associate with sex or anything he’d associate with making love. Procreation, and for that purpose only.
When the first little one starts to grow in her, they stop, and both feel some measure of relief at dropped pretense.
“Are we going to have a second?” Sigyn asks, when she is six months along and beginning to show in earnest.
“I would rather not.” I would rather no child of mine be the second. “Why?”
Sigyn shrugged. “Just…wondering.”
The trickster manages to not sigh aloud. “Do you want another, Sigyn?” Loki wishes she would either be better or worse at hiding. Better, it would be a game, and worse, she would simply be transparent, regardless of how little he knows her.
“I do not know if I would want to have another,” she said, very softly, “but…I think I may.”
Loki looks at her, feeling foolish on her behalf and his. “Sigyn. Regardless of my feelings on the subject, I will not leave one of my children. If you bear twins, we will raise them both.”
She holds her belly, whispering tonelessly, “And if I die birthing them?”
Oh, damn. It’s one of those moods, then. Loki has the distinct advantage of having been on both sides of them before. He stands, takes her face in his hands, and tells her what she needs to hear.
“Sigyn," he says firmly. "I have fathered a snake, a wolf, and a child who appeared half-dead. I have mothered a horse. I raised two children when I was barely old enough to get someone with child. Whatever comes from your womb, whether you survive or not, I will care for any child of mine.” He had no interest in breaking a perfect streak just to spite ‘Father’.
Sigyn leans into
him the comfort of the embrace. “Anyone else…”
Loki smooths her hair. “You would trust to love the little ones as a part of you.”
Though he cannot see, the trickster knows
his wife this wife well enough to be able to hear her bite her lip. “I…love you, Loki.”
He replies mostly on reflex. “I love you, too, Sigyn.”
Loki wonders, absently, if it’s true.
Tears and curses from this one would usually surprise Loki, but given the circumstances, Sigyn shows commendable restraint.
“Damn it, Loki, you don’t have a spell for this?” she bites out at an apparently milder point in the waves of pain.
“Painkilling spells have side-effects on infants in the vicinity,” he says calmly. “The infant is crowning; this should be about the hardest part unless you were right about the twins.”
Another stream of curses that boils down to, “Not helping, Loki!”
“Ears,” he says mildly, and the curses turn to muffled gibberish. Truly remarkable restraint, really.
Sigyn is too still. A jolt runs through Loki as he notices, having looked up from washing the child—their child, who would grow up without a mother because Loki hadn’t the right spell—before he sees her breathe.
At the child’s first cry, Loki half-shifts on an old reflex before remembering he isn’t the babe’s mother. Sigyn chuckles. Loki smiles and hands him to her. He still doesn't know if he loves her, but there's a glow around all infants, and he knows enough to cherish it.
“He’s a Vali.”
Sigyn nods. “Mm. Good name.”
Silence falls. It occurrs to Loki that a second child need not be second as he was, and that is enough to make up his mind, in this moment that glow's with little Vali's light. “You want another.”
Sigyn says, softly, “Yes."
And so Narvi was born, and Loki had some measure of family again. He did not expect it to last longer than any of the first four, but he would raise them, just the same.
Narvi and Vali are raised as twins. They are born close enough that they might as well be, by the time either is old enough to question the concept, and it neatly avoids the trouble of first and second sons. Loki lacks anything that cannot be split between the two, at any rate. Knowledge will be their inheritance, if they grow old enough to gain anything.
Thor gives him a bone-crushing hug and appears to genuinely believe the two are twins. Frigga smiles, and even Odin tries to, though Loki knows his king well enough to see through the façade.
(He sees through Frigga’s, too, whenever she looks at the little one’s futures. He has not seen that look until he was about to fall from the Bifröst. Thor, as usual, wears no mask at all.)
Evenings Loki watches them for signs of magic, and makes certain to hide them from the other Asgardians, who see it as a mark of weakness or cowardice
, never mind that Odin uses it. If they grow, he will teach them the spells, and allow them the choice to hide or to show.
Loki rocks his infants to sleep, hides their skills from those who would name them faults, and waits for this family to break.
Sigyn empties the bowl. Loki writhes against the entrails of one son, pulled out by the other. They do not break.