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Mating Rituals

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Loki tapped the microphone. It squeaked gratingly.

“Testing, one, two, three.” He cleared his throat. “Test: in the great beginning, there was only Ginnungagap, the void edged on one side in ice, and on the other, fire.”

He hit the ‘stop’ button and played back the sound file he had just recorded.

Testing, one, two, three. Ahem. Test: in the great beginning, there was only Ginnungagap, the void edged on one side in ice, and on the other, fire.

Nothing out of the ordinary. So far, so good. He hit ‘record’ again.

“I am a fish in a pinstripe suit. Will you marry me? There is a cat in my teacup. I want to bear your children.”

Stop. Play back.

I am a fish in a pinstripe suit. Will you marry me? There is a cat in my teacup. I want to bear your children.

He took out a picture of Jane and repeated the entire process. The results were the same. Then he conjured an illusion of her, as warm and solid and real as he could make it, cast a two minute partial befuddlement to aid him in believing his own little deception, and repeated the process again. Once more, the results were the same.

Well. At least now he knew for sure that he wasn’t hallucinating it. He either said one or the other. He did not hear one while saying the other. And he was capable of saying either, at least under certain conditions.

The problem, therefore, was getting himself to say the right thing under the right conditions.

He wheeled his chair away from the table with the sound equipment and toward the table holding his own, more advanced magical equipment. With a wave of his hand, this too stopped ‘recording’. And here, again, he found what he had already been expecting: nothing. There was no sign of a curse on him, or of an entity of whatever kind possessing him, nor any other form of magical meddling he could think of.

Oh well. It had been nice to pretend, for a while.

Loki sighed, sat back, and let a wry smile tug at his lips.

The data did not lie; nothing and no-one was doing this to him but he himself.

 

The first time, he had said it in the heat of the moment. A rather frighteningly sentimental moment at that. He’d developed a worrying tendency toward those after overcoming the initial shock of falling in love with a woman who honest-to-goodness loved him back. Somehow, in the years leading up to his brother’s coronation, he had convinced himself such a thing was impossible.

The mid-coital Moments were always the worst.

Perched astride Loki’s hips like she owned them, Jane had leaned down for a kiss, and as he cupped her cheek and touched his lips to hers he had been, for whatever reason there ever was for these moods, struck full-force with his love for her. For this tiny, beautiful woman with her dazzling mind, star-bright spirit and warm heart – and her physical frailty and mayfly lifespan.

Sometimes, remembering the fleetingness of mortal life was like a punch to the gut. They had fifty, sixty years together, perhaps seventy if they were truly lucky. The rest of Jane’s life. But compared to his own remaining four thousand, it was merely a season.

And then an idea had come to him that was so simple and perfect he wondered why he hadn’t thought of it before. If he and Jane were married, she would be entitled to a golden apple of immortality of her own, such as Thor or Frigga came down to bring him once a year. Even in exile, he was still a prince of Asgard; he wasn’t so damningly Jotun or banished so permanently as to have lost those rights.

His mind had filled with visions of all that could be, everything he could give her, all the years he could have her by his side. Had she the hardiness of an immortal, he could take her along the inhospitable secret paths surrounding Midgard, to realms not fit for Earth-born life, show her the stars she had dedicated her life to studying. They could explore the cosmos until the five hundred years of his sentence were up, and then return to Asgard, start a family...

He’d blurted out the question before sense could wrest back control from schmaltz. Or at least, he’d meant to.

What came out instead was not “Will you marry me?” but a rushed and garbled “I want to bear your children.”

“What?” Jane had looked at him with absentminded confusion, the motion of her hips stilling. “You want to what?”

“Nothing,” he’d said quickly. “I just thought of something I should remember next time I need to conjure things in a hurry.”

She had mock frowned at him. “You have time left to think? Clearly I’m not doing a good enough job.”

He’d huffed out a secretly relieved laugh and run his hands up her thighs. “I can think out loud, if you want. I know how you love to hear me talk about magical theory...”

 

The second time had been even worse. He had woken Jane up with his tossing and turning and she, in turn, had roused him from a nightmare. Violent dreams were not a new development – Asgard was a realm of warriors, battle its life-blood. But it had been many centuries since the subject matter had been so disturbingly and persistently intimate.

“Was it the fight with your brother again?” Jane had asked, running a soothing hand through his hair. It usually was, these days. Either a rehash of the real thing, or some twisted version where the knife slid into Thor’s mortal belly and he did not wake up again, or their mother jumped up from the throne she filled while Odin slept to take the blow, or he looked down and saw he had struck Jane instead of Thor. Sometimes memories bled together, marrying that day in Puente Antiguo to the first time he had witnessed his brother struck down on the battlefield, to the week he himself had spent fighting death and delirium after an ambush in Nidavellir, to friends long lost or decisions nearly as shameful and disastrous as those that landed him here.

The dreams that recurred most often were those where Thor took him up on his half-crazed demands that he fight back and slay the Jotun cuckoo in their father’s nest. Delightful things to reminisce on in the dead of the night.

“No,” Loki had said. “I dreamed you’d become an old crone overnight, and come morning, you drew your last breath before I had the chance to say goodbye.”

She had understood immediately. That was perhaps the worst part.

“It won’t be anywhere near that quick.”

“It’ll be quick enough,” he’d replied blackly.

And though he had not spoken of it again, the moment irrevocably gone after that freak slip of the tongue, he had not been able to chase the idea of marriage (and home, and family, and children) from his mind either. So, with the courage of sleep-drunkenness, he had rolled over to face her fully and asked again.

And because the memory of last time just happened to jump out in front of the wheels of his tongue as it got moving, he ended up saying “I want to bear your children,” again.

Unfortunately, she’d heard him loud and clear that time.

Bear my children?” she’d repeated, looking flabbergasted. “What?”

He very, very much would have liked a time travel spell, to go back and stuff a sock into his own mouth, just then.

Instead, he’d said, “...I can do that, you know.”

“...you can?”

“I turned into a mare once and had a foal.”

Jane had looked at him, rubbed her eyes, and looked at him again. “Holy non sequitur, Batman.”

The upside was that her curiosity had kept her from taking his outburst as a serious proposition. By the time he had explained Sleipnir’s unique existence in a level of detail that satisfied Jane’s exacting standards, he probably would have succeeded in asking the right question. If only he hadn’t been so mortified by his mouth’s earlier mutiny.

Some time later, he’d considered that next time he should perhaps wait to pop the question until he was no longer feeling so bloody maudlin.

 

Easier said than done. The third time was when he’d gotten rip-roaring drunk off of makeshift poetry mead he’d brewed in Tony’s basement. (Tony didn’t get any. The stuff was so strong it would have killed him. Great way to die, but still.) Loki was almost sure he’d done it on purpose that time, but Jane’s amusement had still played a louder drum on his pride than the hangover did on the inside of his skull.

The fourth time happened after an explosion destroyed half of SHIELD headquarters – with Jane inside. When they found each other back, Jane had been shaky and covered in dust, but unharmed, and Loki had crushed her to him and said, “By the roots and branches I thought I’d lost you please don’t ever scare me like that again please just let me have your babies already,” without pausing for breath once. His mouth had been running on autopilot, and he’d barely realised what he was saying. He also hadn’t realised until later that Jane had been rendered temporarily deaf by the explosion.

The fifth time, he had had an unfortunate lapse in muscle memory; he had made the split-second decision to take the brunt of an attack in order to advance his own without interruption and finally take out one of the Avengers’ trickiest foes, knowing that an Asgardian healing stone would have fixed the damage thus incurred in a jippy. But there weren’t any healing stones at hand. So he had had to be carried home on a stretcher, where the human doctors stitched up his skin and wrapped his broken ribs and sedated him with drugs that barely tickled his inhuman system, and the much slower and more painful process of weaving healing magic by hand had begun. Jane had been there with a whole arsenal of second-hand medical knowledge and all the concern and pampering instincts a woman could feel the first time her semi-divine lover came back whining and groaning like a baby. He hadn’t even meant the grateful moan-that-was-supposed-to-be ‘marry me’ that time!

 

The sixth time, Loki had actually prepared, something he did less often than people tended to assume. Usually he liked the challenge of improvising, but as that hadn’t worked out so far...

They had gone out to dinner. The night had been perfect, the food superb, the mood unparalleled. Finally, he had reached across the table to take Jane’s hand and opened his mouth, the carefully rehearsed ‘Will you marry me?’ ready to roll off his tongue – when Jane’s phone rang.

The instinct to pick up a ringing phone was deeply engrained in the Midgardian psyche, he knew, so he didn’t blame Jane for ruining a perfect moment. But there was not a chair in the world safe for Phil Coulson to sit in for weeks afterward.

Jane had ended her call and turned back toward Loki with an apologetic grimace. “Lab accident while the kids were reliving their college days. Darcy will have to keep to bed for a week or so, until the extra limbs retreat. I’m sorry, I should’ve remembered to turn it off. You were saying something?”

“Yes,” he had said, thinking fuck it all. (His vocabulary had taken a decidedly Midgardian turn in the years he’d been staying here.) “I really would like to bear your children. For science, you know. It would be awesome.”

And he’d been too busy being passive-aggressively cheerful for the rest of the night to ask the right question after all.

 

Which brought him to the present, to the lab he had commandeered to convince himself once and for all that something had to be done.

Loki wheeled his nifty wheeled chair over to a computer and logged onto the internet.

 

He waited until it was Jane’s birthday. He cleared out the entire SHIELD building for the night (there would – as the agents so eloquently put it – be a shit storm over that later, but his life motto had always been that having all that magic was no good if you weren’t going to abuse it once in a while) and lured Jane there with a note placed on their bed.

I have kidnapped your lover’s libido!
Come to the office tonight at midnight,
or you will never see it again!

Signed,

an evil man with penis envy who could
only dream of having such a wonderful
woman to share a sex life with

PS: Please make sure to enter through the front door.

Loki hid in the shadows as Jane slipped inside. As intended, her eyes went to the giant neon sign on the reception desk. It read,

MOST BELOVED JANE, ☞

– with a large neon hand pointing to the nearest staircase. On the door to said staircase hung another neon sign.

I

Jane pushed through the door to find the next sign on the wall in front of her – and another on the next wall, after the staircase turned, and so on.

WANT

TO

BEAR

YOUR

CHILDREN ☜

A second giant hand pointed her into the third floor hallway.

WHICH

IS

TO

SAY...

She turned corner after corner, her pace quickening, until she reached the massive glass wall fronting the building. There she skidded to a halt. Her hand slowly went to her mouth.

“Oh, Loki...” he heard her whisper. She looked around for him, but now that he’d gone this far, he intended to milk his creative cowardice for all it was worth.

WILL YOU MARRY ME, JANE FOSTER? ☞

Another arrow. The signs led her criss-cross through the building, up and down stairs, through labs and offices and gyms.

I HAVE NO IDEA WHY I KEPT SAYING ‘I WANT TO BEAR YOUR CHILDREN’. MUST BE THAT ‘FREUDIAN SLIP’ I’VE HEARD ABOUT. MARRYING AN ASGARDIAN MEANS YOU GET TO BECOME IMMORTAL, BUT PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT THE IMMORTALITY GRANTED BY IDUNN’S APPLES IS AN ONGOING PROCESS THAT CAN BE ABORTED AT ANY MOMENT. JUST IN CASE YOU CHANGE YOUR MIND.

There was more, but at that point she stopped running and spun around, looking for him. “Loki? LOKI!”

Deciding that it wouldn’t do him any favours to hide any longer, Loki released his camouflage and stepped forward. When she caught sight of him, Jane launched herself at him with full force.

“I do, I do! Of course I’ll marry you!”

There was a sloppy, nose-knocking, ecstatic kiss, and Loki lifted Jane up and spun her around, laughing, and then kissed her again. At some point, they stumbled into a conveniently placed lounge and fell back onto a couch in a tangle of roaming limbs and exhilarated giggles.

“I’m never going to change my mind,” Jane managed to say between wrestling off his tie and her own coat. “And hell if I know why you’d want to, but you can have as many of my babies as you like.”

“I don’t know either, love. I will never claim my mind is a sensible place.” He pulled her on top of him, her chest pressed to his, and grinned. “But we can start now.”