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Second Son

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     Odin, called the Allfather, has ever appreciated the early mornings in Asgard.  Save for a few memorable occasions when he and his lady spent the night previous and the morning after indulging themselves in a hedonistic marathon of sorts he has never been one to lie abed well into the day.  There is always too much to accomplish, too much to see done or begun.  Perhaps it is because of this that the time before Asgard awakes, just before the sun peeks over the horizon, has ever been a favorite of his.  It feels peaceful before the problems of the realm, and indeed all nine of the realms, can be brought to his attention.  It is the only time he can be, first and foremost, a husband and a father.  He smiles softly thinking of his wife lying in their bed, long hair flowing out around her like a river of softened gold, a small smile on her face as she dreams pleasant things, just a few creases in her beautiful facade.  Numbering just enough to display her love of laughter on her face.  He thinks that he wouldn’t mind if there were more.  They are not as young as they once were, after all, and there is beauty to be found in the marks that give away age.  To him it simply shows the universe that his wife is a mighty warrior in her own right, a shield maiden of Asgard capable of keeping herself alive these many years through her strength, wisdom, and magic.

     He often envies Frigga her capability with magic.  It is something that he has never had an aptitude in.  There is an innate power in him given by virtue of the fact that he is the Allfather.  It is a magic passed down from father to son just as the rule of Asgard is passed.  It allows him to nearly any and all powers needed to protect and preserve the realm, and the inner wisdom to know when to use them, but he has no real control over them.  He can never say, if asked after the fact, what he has done.  Somehow his words become power and as that power flows through him it works in ways he doesn’t understand to become exactly what he needs.  With Frigga it is different.  She controls every aspect of her magic, down to the most nominal detail.  Her copies are exact, so much so that even he can’t tell the difference.  The beautiful little entertainments she and Loki make together at almost every evening feast as their younger sits on her lap happily are absolutely exquisite.  He often wishes they were solid just to study them closer.

     Loki.  His thoughts turn to his youngest and he turns swiftly, leaving the private balcony off of the chambers he shares with his queen, suddenly needing to see his youngest for himself.  It has ever been a fear of his, hidden so deep in his heart that he cannot express it, even to Frigga, that some day he will wake to find Loki gone.  That somehow Laufey will have come in the night to steal back that which Odin saved from death.  He enters Loki’s room silently as the dawn and makes his way to the large bed.  His youngest looks so small and pale against the dark green sheets.   Loki is curled up on his side, his arms and legs pulled in tight, and his face is peaceful, sweet and impossibly young in his sleep.  The knot in Odin’s gut loosens.  His son is exactly where he should be, safe, protected, and taken care of.  He cannot help himself.  He lies on the bed and studies the features of that which he claimed as his own.

     When Thor was born his birth was somewhat overshadowed by the grief of losing Gaia to childbirth.  As much as Odin loved his eldest from the moment he took his first breath he cannot help but see his first wife whenever he looks at him.   He and Gaia had too little time together, and they’d always known that she was fragile, but the healers had thought her strong enough for one child.  He cannot regret that she insisted on carrying and birthing Thor.  Thor is everything he ever thought he wanted in a son.  Thor is bright and strong, willful and golden as Gaia was.  He looks just like her with his ice blue eyes and his spun gold hair.  He loves Thor more than anything and he would have liked to have seen Gaia raise him.  But, Fate often has a way of making things as they should be and he would never trade the family he has now in Frigga, Thor, and Loki for what he and Gaia might have had.  They are all everything to him, but there is an especially tender place in his heart for Loki.

     The first time he laid eyes on Loki, at the height of the war with the race he had been taught to hate, his life was changed forever.  Along with his heart.  The battle was nearing its end, the Frost Giants were defeated but not yet willing to surrender.  Laufey was unconscious and being guarded by some of his most trusted men as he searched for The Casket, the loss of which would keep the Frost Giants at bay and return peace to the nine realms.  As he was making his way back to the great doors, the Casket in his hands, victory assured, he heard it.  The small cry of a newborn babe.  Not strong and lusty like Thor’s were just after his birth, but fragile, weak…pathetic almost.  He considered moving on, but found that he could not leave the babe to suffer if there was something he could do to put it out of it’s misery.  He strode up to the pile of furs thrown carelessly on a jagged ice table and froze.  The baby was small, much smaller than it should have been, and obviously neglected.  Just days old and already it looked as if it was starving.  He didn’t know what staid the hand resting on his sword, but he removed it from his hilt and let it drift to the babe closer to death than to life. 

     He touched the navy blue skin, surprised when it didn’t burn his hand, and the child stopped crying.  Odin looked on in absolute amazement as the skin under his hand began to pink and warm until it covered the little body and even the bright red eyes burned into an emerald green.  The babe, tired and weak as it was, smiled at him and attempted to coo.  Odin felt his breath catch and his heart stutter in his chest.  When his men came into the room he handed over the Casket without thinking so that he could sweep the infant into his arms, furs and all.  First he unwrapped the babe, checking the biology, to find the infant was male.  Then, he tucked the furs around the small body once more, tightly, to keep him warm, and gave into the urge that had possessed him.  He kissed and nuzzled the boy’s temple.

     “It’s alright now, little one,” He whispered, “My little…Loki.”

     He called an end to the battle, to the war, despite his warriors’ protests.  Laufey was defeated, the Frost Giants’ power stripped with the loss of the Casket and the destruction of their inter-world portal.  He would not destroy an entire race for the actions of their leader and a select few.  And Loki was the most important thing at the time.  He knew the child was just hours away from death and he could not allow that to happen.  So he brought Loki home to his new wife and to his bright son.  Frigga fell in love with him on sight and swept him away.  He didn’t see his wife or Loki again for three days.  On the dawn of the forth Frigga carried a much improved Loki into their bedchamber and sat on her chaise to look out at the rising sun, Loki sleeping peacefully on her chest.  He walked over to them slowly, not wanting to break the spell, and sat on the edge of the chaise.  Frigga looked over at him, tears in her eyes, and set a hand to his cheek.

     “Thank you, my love,” she said quietly, “For this gift.”

     “A gift to all of us,” He responded, just as gently, “To complete our family.”

     She handed the baby to him and he stood, carrying Loki out onto their balcony and into the warming sun.  Loki wrinkled his little nose and turned his face trustingly into Odin’s chest and for only the second time in all his long life Odin fell completely, irrevocably in love with someone.

     The love has only grown in the years since and as he looks at his younger, safe and warm and at peace in his sleep his heart settles into place once more.  He loved Gaia, he loves Frigga, but nothing can compare to the love he feels for his boys.  He gently runs a finger down Loki’s pale face and smiles when his son comes awake immediately, his eyes still sleepy, but aware.

     “Father?” He whispers around a yawn, “Is something wrong?”

     “Nothing, dear one,” He assures Loki, “Go back to sleep.  It is not yet time to be about.”

     Loki closes his eyes, trusting his father implicitly, and somehow manages to make his way into Odin’s arms without having looked like he moved at all.  Odin closes his eye and smiles against the dark hair.  Every now and again, he thinks, perhaps it is acceptable to lounge a bit in bed.