He must have been imagining it. He must have.
This was surely just a natural response to having a child; to immediately attempt to imprint their heritage onto them, even if he now knew that heritage was not his, or his child’s. It was like all those times he’d stared into the large mirror in his old chambers and believed so strongly that he could see those few tiny resemblances to his family, and that the thinner, darker features must have been given to him by a relative from the distant past.
This was just sentimental idiocy. His son’s face was far too tiny, red and scrunched up to look like anyone. His eyes didn’t even have a true colour yet. Loki was just seeing things.
The weeks progressed rapidly, and the baby’s hair steadily became thicker and blonder. His eyes became brighter and bluer. Little Halli was now fairer than Steve, who, like everyone else, Loki had assumed to be the one the child got his colouring from. Certainly the two looked alike already, and Loki sometimes saw himself in the tiny face, but still he could swear that there was the presence of another in Halli’s features. Another, whose presence simply should not have been there. Loki hadn’t spoken to anyone of his puzzlement, and no one else seemed to notice anything peculiar about the baby. Not even Thor. He’d been too busy banging on about hope and light and possibly redemption, although Loki hadn’t really been listening . . . but he had understood. Halli’s birth had been at a time of peace, he was the child of Captain America and Prince Loki, he was a tiny beacon of light and gorgeousness, if Loki said so himself.
One evening Loki was cradling his son in his lap, and, once again, analysing the baby’s face to see if there had been any changes to disprove his ridiculous revelation.
‘You look ready to eat that poor kid.’
Loki looked up to see Agent Barton lounging on the sofa opposite him, staring at him suspiciously, and although his words contained true malice, Loki knew it was not a genuine attack. He could, of course, have handled it if it was. Barton was simply in the mood for a bit of competition, and Agent Romanov wasn’t there that night. If she had been, Loki probably would not have chosen to sit where he was, as she was still smug about her success at fooling him all that time ago, and when with her comrade, they were annoying . . . and somewhat unnerving to be around. Natasha was tricky in a very particular way; sometimes easy to read, but that did not guarantee her vulnerability, and then there was Barton. Barton, who had seen Loki at his absolute lowest, who he was certain knew more about him than he let on, and who, even more disturbingly, had been able to change the Black Widow, or at least her allegiance.
Loki looked back down at his son, ‘I’m simply studying his features. Something’s – not quite making sense.’
Barton grunted, ‘Did you get the baby daddy wrong?’
‘You recall the plethora of DNA tests Halli was subjected to?’ Loki said, rolling his eyes. ‘And it’s not about Steve – it’s just, with each passing day, Halli looks a lot like someone he shouldn’t.’
Barton shrugged, ‘It’s probably nothing.’
Usually the two of them would have gone back to ignoring each other with no problem, but something was nagging at Loki’s mind. He thought at first that he must have been irritated by Barton’s dull, restrained language, but he wasn’t usually, and then he realised. Hawkeye had inadvertently given Loki a simple idea he was embarrassed for not thinking of himself. A DNA test. It would be good, he told himself, to see proof that his crazy suspicion was just that: a suspicion. Then he could just move on with life, with Steve and with Halli.
Loki didn’t know the details of how DNA tests worked, and although he was certain that the mortals ‘science’, a pathetic shadow of magic, was something he could learn easily, he just didn’t have the patience. Dr. Banner did look rather alarmed when Loki swept into the lab asking whether he had any of Thor’s blood available, but he answered the affirmative without any cheek. Mercifully Stark was out somewhere showing off; it really was a wonder that he and Thor weren’t closer.
Bruce listened to Loki’s problem with a glint of amusement in his eyes, but he was swift and efficient as he sprang into action. Halli’s DNA was still there from previous tests but Loki decided to offer his, too, and within a few days, he had an answer. But he knew what the answer was the second he saw Bruce’s troubled face looking at him from over a file.
‘Thor’s related to both of you,’ said the doctor. ‘I don’t know how exactly, but you’re definitely blood relatives.’
Loki felt numb. He didn’t know, either, but there were only a few explanations for this that he could think of. After all, Thor was almost the spitting image of Odin.
It was time for Loki to pay a visit to Asgard.