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The Little One

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Loki did not much care for the children of Orbital 4.

These creatures who in infancy did little more than mewl and puke in their mothers’ arms grew into girls that moved in packs like animals. The sounds of their abundant laughter, frantic shrieking and the occasional cries when they fought amongst themselves were little more than a shrill cacophony that plagued his very existence.

Just this side of feral, they always seemed to turn up when he, looking for a peaceful spot to read, would settle down under an apple tree in the orchard, or on a wooden lounger near the bamboo grove. Why didn’t these monsters avail themselves of the three parks with their playgrounds and swimming pools? All the amenities for children that were located all the way on the other end of Orbital 4? Shouldn’t they be in school, learning their sums and how to recite?

When Loki sought validation of his opinions from his beloved Hannah, she would merely shake her head, kiss his cheek,  and suggest he acquire a set of earplugs. He did not appreciate the suggestion, pouting to himself until Hannah consoled him with a nice round of snogging.

As the first generation of children to grow up with the Companions, the little girls had never known Orbital 4 without them. They understood that yes, these gentlemen were not born like they were. The Companions had very particular tasks and responsibilities to their mothers, things that were just for grownups. But they were also there to teach and look after the little girls, as they were so inclined.

Captain Nicholls was the best at giving piggyback rides, and Sir Thomas made wonderful toys. Oakley taught them how to play football (and practical jokes, much to their mothers’ dismay). Even taciturn Adam gave guitar lessons. Edward, who operated the nursery with his wife Julie, was patient and never too tired to read stories to them. The girls behaved themselves for the Companions.

But for Loki? Not so much. His annoyance, which he didn’t bother hiding, only seemed to stir up their interest. Why did Loki always scowl at them? Why wouldn’t he play with them like the others did? Why couldn’t they put stickers on his boots? Couldn’t he use one hand to read from his tablet and let them paint the nails on the other? Loki had the most beautiful hair and if only he would let them braid it…

“Loki?”

The sound of Edward’s voice startled Loki from his reverie. It was the morning after the birth of Edward and Julie’s child. Mother and daughter were fine, resting in their little room at the medical centre. The news having spread through the station, most of the staff had already stopped by to see them. Loki had watched them all from his spot on the couch in the waiting room. He was expecting Hannah, as the two of them would visit the new family together.

But now Edward stood just in the doorway, his hands resting on his hips. He jerked his head inward. “Your turn.”

Loki frowned. “I thought I’d wait for Hannah.” He looked over his shoulder down the corridor. “She has the gift.”

Edward chuckled. “You don’t have to give us anything. Come on. Julie’s asleep but she should be up soon. And besides, there’s somebody who wants to meet you.”

“But —”

“Loki,” said Edward firmly. “She’s just a baby.”

“She’s not just a baby. She’s your baby.”

Edward chuckled. “Yes. Yes, she is.”

“You and Julie…” Loki sighed in frustration. “I am fond of the two of you. Inordinately so.”

“We know.” Edward took a step forward. “We like you, too, Loki.”

“I don’t like children,” said Loki bluntly.

“Oh, we know that, too.” Edward sounded almost mirthful.

“Then why…?”

“Because you say you don’t like the girls and yet here you have sat all morning, watching them come and go with their mothers. The girls annoy you, but that never stopped you from coming to see us at the nursery just to check on me and Julie the closer we got to today.” Edward grinned. “And if you don’t like our little girl…”

“Edward…” Loki said, almost pleadingly.

“If you don’t,” Edward interrupted, “we’ll just keep having them until we have one who doesn’t annoy you.”

Despite himself, Loki laughed.

“I’ve been working on my dad jokes.” Edward looked pleased. “But enough. Get in here.” He turned and entered the room, stopping just at the foot of Julie’s bed. When he saw Loki out of the corner of his eye, Edward nudged him with his elbow.

“She looks tired,” said Loki. “Is she alright?” He peered at the tiny cot at Julie’s bedside, straining to see the precious bundle within. “What about the child?”

Edward stifled a yawn, grinning as he did so. “She’s fine. They both are.” He nodded at a chair by the window, which looked out over the orchard and the grounds just south of the station building. “Take a seat.”

Loki did as he was told, making himself comfortable. He patted himself, checking his coat pockets for his tablet. Perhaps he could read to Julie when she woke up, do something for her.

“Here she is, Loki.” Edward appeared in front of him, cradling the baby in his arms. “She’s just starting to wake up, so she’ll be needing Julie soon. But why don’t you hold her until then?”

Loki looked at Julie, who was still asleep. “Shouldn’t we wake her?”

“Not just yet. She does need her rest.” Edward smiled at his wife, then looked back at Loki. “Here.”

Loki nodded, then held his hands out in front of him.

“Actually, if you could sort of fold them in front of you? That’s it. Perfect.” Edward gently laid the baby in Loki’s arms, standing upright when he saw that she was settled.

Loki grimaced at Edward, then peered at the child. He sighed. It was just as he feared. She was beautiful.

The baby had her mother’s large, dark eyes, and there was the hint of her father’s patrician nose. Her little rosebud lips were pursed as she blew a little bubble, then parted when she yawned.

Loki couldn’t help but marvel at her. While her father was a Companion, and therefore not human, she still had his DNA. Genetic material that had been duplicated and modified, pulled from the original actor who, hundreds of years ago, had inspired the Companions’ creation in the first place. The DNA that was part of her, was part of her father, was also part of Loki. They were connected. She was his family.

“Oh Edward,” Loki tutted.

“What is it? Are you alright?” Edward, who had been sitting just on the edge of Julie’s bed, looked up. “Is she okay? Are you tired already?”

Loki shook his head. “No.” He smiled at the baby, who wiggled a tiny bit. He cuddled her. “She’s gorgeous.”

“Yes. Yes, she is.” Edward puffed up his chest a little. “She’s wonderful.”

“Does she have a name?” Loki turned his head to peer at the cot, which bore a label with her information. “Ah. There it is.” He peered back at the baby, who appeared to squint at him. He lifted her head up a bit, then pressed his lips gently to her forehead.

“Hello, little Phoebe.” Loki smiled. “Phoebe Julia Knighton, please allow me to introduce myself. I am your Uncky Loki.”