"I can't believe this is happening to me. This is not happening to me. This is not happening to me."
"Will you cease your stupid prattling and get your arse over here!"
Tony closed his eyes, praying with all his might that when he opened them again this would all be a dream. A terrible, terrible, vicious dream. He squinted one eye carefully open. Nope.
Half-caved-in underground lab: Still caved in.
Precarious balance on tilted slab dangerously close to sludge of chemicals from exploded equipment: Still precarious.
Crushed helmet with crushed communication system: Still crushed.
Pissed off pregnant god--
Nope, nope. Tony shut his eyes again. "This is not happening to--Ow!" He glared at Loki, rubbing his head where he'd just been beaned with what felt like a chunk of concrete flooring. "Throwing tantrums doesn't get you what you want, young man."
"Well, speaking clearly doesn't seem to have worked," Loki shot back. He was sitting propped up against the remains of a filing cabinet, looking somewhat the worse for wear for having been caught in the cave-in with Tony. And, good god, looking really enormously pregnant. No wonder he hadn't managed to make it out.
Just Tony's luck that the bad guy hadn't gotten away.
"Fine," Tony said, giving up on any hope that he was unconscious and hallucinating. "What do you need me to do?"
"Come over here," Loki said slowly, deliberately. "And help me get up."
Tony waited. "That's it?"
Loki glared. "I'm in labor, you idiot. I'd prefer not to deliver my child in a puddle of electrified chemicals."
"I'm sorry," Tony said, after what he felt an appropriate amount of time had passed. "You're in what?"
"It can't possibly have escaped your notice that I'm roughly the size of an elephant. It's customary, at some point, for babies to emerge into the world. Mine will do so soon, probably within the hour."
"Oh, god," Tony said. "This is my worst day ever."
Loki hadn't been kidding. Apparently being a god meant super-stoic birthing powers, because it turned out that the whole time he and Tony had been snarking back and forth pre-cave-in, he'd also been carrying along with having contractions and preparing to make his escape and go have the baby somewhere. Presumably between master plans of evil. Or whatever it was he was doing these days instead of evil.
Now, though, Loki was kneeling on a makeshift pad of lab coats and seat stuffing in someone's office, breathing harsh and fast through each contraction and doing his best to break Tony's arms through his suit. Tony had had to help him get undressed. There was no amount of liquor on this planet that would make him ever tell about the experience of shimmying leather-armored trousers off a pregnant god's ass.
At least he'd found out how the baby was going to come out.
"So, you've got...everything. Everything you need. To have the baby."
"Did you think I was going to squeeze it out my arse?" Loki growled at him.
"Well, no. Thank you for that image, though. But come on, you're a shapeshifter. You couldn't do basic female? Make everything more, I don't know, streamlined?"
"I'm a shapeshifter who wants to birth a baby and who enjoys having a cock. Are there any other inane questions you wish to ask?"
"Kind of regretting the last one," Tony said truthfully. "So, no."
Tony winced as Loki started breathing through another contraction, and his hands tightened around Tony's forearms. He could swear he could hear the metal of the suit stressing. "Look," he tried. "Let me get you something else to hold on to. Like a steel bar. Or the Hulk."
"No time," Loki gritted out, bowing his head and breathing hard. He shifted his grip, pulling himself up and rocking back on his heels. "I'm about to start pushing."
"Whoa, whoa, hold on there. Can't that wait? We're going to get dug out of here any sec--minute now. Any hour. Really."
Loki lifted his head to grin at him, all teeth and wicked mischief. "Babies don't wait for convenience, Stark. Trust me. This isn't my first."
"Oh, now, that's just information I didn't need to know."
But, damn, Loki knew what he was talking about. He pushed on the next contraction, and five pushes later he was reaching down between his own legs to catch up a bloody, squirming bundle as it slid out.
"Oh, god," Tony said. "Can I go throw up now?"
But Loki wasn't listening to him anymore.
"Oh, look at you," Loki breathed, slumping back against the wall as he lifted the baby up, carefully untangling the umbilical cord. He ran his finger inside the baby's mouth, bent his head, and blew a soft green mist into its nose and mouth. The baby wrinkled its nose, sneezed, coughed, and then gave a loud cry. "Oh, yes, I know," Loki said, rubbing along its back. "I know." He opened up the bottom of his shirt, the only piece of clothing he'd kept on, and laid the baby on his still-swollen stomach, not seeming to care about the blood and fluid that covered them both.
It took Tony a minute or two to realize that, as far as Loki was concerned, he'd disappeared. There was suddenly nothing, literally nothing in the world, apart from him and his baby. And even Tony found that he wasn't willing to break that bubble. Not yet. He got up to do some exploring.
None of the sinks worked--hello, burst pipes--but Tony found a stash of water bottles and a roll of paper towels behind someone's desk. There was a first aid kit, too, hung on the wall. He brought everything back to Loki, and found him pretty much as he'd left him, cradling the baby on his stomach and rubbing its back.
"She appears to be a girl," Loki informed him. "So far."
"Is that likely to change?"
"Perhaps. It depends on whether she takes after me or her father." Loki traced a finger along one chubby arm, smiling when the baby reflexively clenched her fist around his finger.
With Loki's guidance, Tony cut the umbilical cord--pretty easy--and then helped deliver the afterbirth--incredibly gross. Loki told him it was usually the custom for Aesir mothers to devour the afterbirth to ensure healthy milk. Apparently the look on Tony's face was the one Loki had been going for, because he laughed his ass off.
"Never mind," Loki said. "I'll refrain this time. I expect my milk will be healthy enough." He settled the baby in his arms, her skin now pink and dry after Tony had helped clean her up and wrapped her in the cleanest remaining lab coat.
"Milk? No, don't tell me," Tony added quickly. "I really, really don't want to know." Loki just flashed him another wicked grin, and then turned back to his daughter as she woke and began to fuss.
And there it was again. Boom. Tony plus everything else gone. Baby equals entire world. Loki brushed his thumb under the baby's lower lip, and she opened her mouth, waving her tiny fists in the air.
"Hmm, yes, I see. Well, we can fix that, can't we?" With one hand, Loki unfastened his shirt the rest of the way. Before Tony had even realized that he was seeing the small round curve of a breast, Loki had expertly guided the baby's mouth to the nipple and encouraged her to latch on.
It made a truly bizarre picture. Loki looked beat, as if he'd just run a marathon and then had to do it all over again. His hair straggled in sweaty tangles around his face, and his shirt was streaked with blood and dust. He was curled up in the little nest they'd made for him, still mostly naked, long legs folded awkwardly under him. But he was holding the baby to him, watching her nurse, and the expression on his face was...well...
Tony had sometimes wondered if Loki was capable of love, or empathy, or compassion, or generally giving a shit about anyone other than himself.
He guessed he didn't have to wonder about that anymore.
"I wish Thor were here."
"Me too, buddy."
Loki shook his head, still gently rocking his daughter as she slept against his chest. "He should see this. His daughter's first hours. Her first cries, her first dreams, her first time at my breast."
"Oh, don't worry about that. Suit records everything. You can show him the whole dammed birth if you want."
Loki arched a brow at him. "If you wish to see Thor fall to the floor into an unmanly faint, then by all means show him. There was a reason I declined his presence until the baby was born."
Tony thought this over. "Wait. You mean that I scored points on Thor by not throwing up or passing out? Yes!"
"Yes," Loki echoed dryly. "By all means, pat yourself on the back for witnessing childbirth without undue distress. I'll merely sit quietly over here and admire you from the lowly status of having actually gone through it."
"Okay. Fair point." Tony uncapped a water bottle, offered it to Loki, then opened another for himself. "But seriously, you were going to just call up Thor and say 'Hey, come meet your daughter?'"
"That was the general idea."
"No offense, but that was a sucky idea."
Loki sighed. "Well, perhaps I would have summoned him somewhat sooner," he admitted. He glared at Tony. "You will note that my plans for today were somewhat disrupted."
"Yeah, not sorry about that."
"I wasn't actually harming anyone, you know."
"About that. What the hell were you doing down here?"
"It was just a hobby, really," Loki said modestly. "I had some ideas about storing magic energy in cold plasma."
"Uh-huh. So you needed to create some cold plasma."
"Naturally." Loki waved a hand. "Along with a few other things." The baby stirred, and Loki shifted her a little higher on his chest, letting her head lie on his shoulder. He rested his cheek against her tiny fuzzy head for a moment, closing his eyes and rocking her slowly until she settled back into sleep.
"So, tearing a hole in the fabric of space and time," Tony continued, when Loki opened his eyes and sat up again. "That was part of your hobby?"
"It was a very small hole," Loki countered. "Which I repaired. Was that what brought you here?"
"I see." But Loki didn't seem upset by the notion. He seemed to be glad to just settle into his pile of coats and cushions and hold his daughter. Very glad, in fact.
"You want to see Thor," Tony said.
Loki smiled. "I believe I just said that."
"No, I mean, we're waiting here for the rest of the Avengers to bust in here and save me and--probably--arrest you, but you don't care because you know one of them will be Thor."
"I imagine he's rather distraught," Loki agreed placidly. "To be honest, I'm a little surprised he hasn't already dug his way down here."
It was then that Tony heard it. Or rather, felt it. A tremor in the ground, something like a quake, but way too sustained. From the grin on Loki's face, he felt it, too. "As I was saying," he said.
"Yeah. Looks like your baby-daddy's on his way."
"I wish you had told me your time was near."
Loki sighed, and leaned into the broad curve of Thor's arm. "For the last time, I didn't know it was 'my time' until your Avengers were already breaking down my door." He was silent. "I would have called for you," he added, very quietly. "I would not have denied you your right to see her at her birth, had it been in my power."
"Then all is forgiven." Thor kissed him, and then bent to place another delicate kiss on top of their daughter's head, her tiny body snuggled between them in their arms. The bed in the SHIELD infirmary was ridiculously small for two full-grown men, even more ridiculous when both of them were as tall as he and Loki. But Thor wasn't about to be apart from them now, not when he'd already missed the first few precious hours of his daughter's life. So they all lay together, Loki's shirt open so he could nurse her whenever she woke, Thor likewise bare-chested so his daughter could cuddle into her father's warm skin. They each had an arm supporting her, and Thor thought that he would like to keep this moment forever.
"She is beautiful, Loki," he said.
"She is," Loki agreed.
"What shall we name her?"
Loki trailed his finger along the baby's cheek. "I thought to name her Jord," he said.
Thor nodded, suddenly not trusting his own voice. "A good name," he said, when he was sure he could say the words. "Jord Lokasdottir."
Loki laughed quietly. "Yes." He pressed his mouth to her forehead. "Hello, Jord Lokasdottir."
As if to celebrate her own naming, Jord awoke, her face crumpling in the beginnings of a cry. Loki rubbed her chin to test her hunger, then eased her to his breast. Thor slipped his arm out of the way, then put it back around them both. He watched his daughter suckle busily, her tiny mouth working while her little hand lay on the small swell of Loki's breast. Thor touched the back of her hand, his finger alone nearly as large as her whole fist.
Loki looked tired, still drained from the birth and the rescue. But his face while he nursed his daughter was, Thor thought, the most at peace he had ever seen him. He kissed Loki's temple, the nearest part of him he could reach, and Loki smiled, his gaze still fixed on Jord.
"You look happy," Thor said to him.
Loki didn't answer for a while, his fingers rubbing gently at Jord's back. "I believe I am," he said eventually. He sounded a little surprised, but not as much as Thor might have feared.
Thor brought his hand up to cover Loki's, twining their fingers together. "You deserve happiness," he ventured.
Loki's smile softened, his head still bent over his daughter. "Looking at her," he said, "I think I believe I do."
"Good," said Thor. "Then together, we will make sure you have it."