“I’m going to be fine, Dad, you’ll see.”
“No, I don’t see, Leia, I really don’t! Eject, do not-” his voice cuts off.
Leia can feel the pressure building, her plane struggling in deep space. The nuke at her back is still several hundred metres behind her, but unlike her plane, the nuke doesn’t have any trouble flying. To be fair, she thinks, I lost half my engines clipping that space-whale.
“Dad? Dad,” she calls, but her communications have cut out. Fear slices through her like a knife and Leia can see Thanos now because of how close she is to his floating throne. He stands at the sight of her, their eyes meeting and Leia wants to eject from her plane, to use the blast as a knock-back to get back through the portal. “Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck, I can’t do it yet, no…”
Thanos seems amused by it all, really. Leia bet’s that when her plane hits, he’ll be unharmed – but the nuke is a different story.
Hand on the emergency eject, she shakes as she gets closer and closer, occasionally firing a hurried, explosive shot at Chitauri that get too close. Closer and closer. Leia sees the moment Thanos sees the nuke, gaze ghosting over her head and his smile disappearing.
The nuke is locked onto my plane, Leia thinks as she lets propulsion in her jets fade, the nuke catching up quickly even as she keeps flying towards Thanos. Okay, Father – now let’s see if I remember what you taught me.
Leia presses eject.
The shield she summons around her hasn’t got the decency to be transparent, so she can watch Thanos blow up.
Seventy Years Earlier. July 4th of 1932 – Brooklyn, NY,
“Come on, birthday boy,” Bucky teases, ruffling Steve’s hair as he scowls. “You think I’m going to leave you all on your lonesome the day you turn fourteen? I know your ma’s on shift at the hospital.”
“It’s storming, Buck. I’ll get sick,” Steve says in a dull voice, resting his bony chin on top of his as-equally bony arms, watching the rain pound against the cheap windows. Bucky frowns on seeing a crack in one of them, making an internal note to go see Mr Cooper about getting the Rogers’ a new pane before it broke – or at least, getting the supplies to board it up for them. “Thanks for coming over, though.”
“Got no-one else I’d rather be with.”
“Not even Rebecca?”
“Rebecca’s new family took her to see the fireworks down south to their folks. She’s moved in with them proper,” Bucky replies after a moment of hesitation. At the sad sound in his voice, Steve sits up, twisting to look at Bucky with wide eyes.
“And they didn’t take you too? Even after all the fuss you both put up?”
Bucky pastes on a grin, but it doesn’t feel right – it’s hard to bear and the effort shows. “Nah. Why’d they want some punk ruining their little family?”
Steve reaches out, pushing at his arm, “Becky’s your family. You’re her big brother. I bet she’s missing you real bad.”
“It’s fine,” Bucky shakes his head, before going over to the bookshelf, taking down the scrabble. “Let’s play.” He brings it over, but no sooner had he set it down on the table, did the storm outside suddenly get so much worse, the cracked pane shattering inwards, glass spraying over the floor, the space left behind immediately dripping water into the room, down onto the radiator.
“Shit!” Steve yelps, getting up quickly, heading for the dustpan and brush. Bucky leaves the scrabble box behind as he goes over, gently pushing the bigger shards of glass into a pile before hearing someone groaning outside. It’s faint and he thinks it’s just the storm, for a moment, but then he hears it again and sees a shadow outside. Squinting through the rain, Bucky’s eyes soon pinpoint someone on the street, sitting up slowly. No, he corrects himself, two someones.
“Steve, there’s people outside – I think they’re hurt,” Bucky says as Steve comes back with the dustpan and brush, before heading to the door, only pausing to call back to him. “Put your shoes on before you clean that up. I’ll get them.”
“But what if they’re dangerous?”
“I’ll be fine,” he replies, grabbing Mama Rogers’ baseball bat from the umbrella stand before going out. Immediately, he’s soaked, but he was that already when he came to Steve’s apartment – Bucky’s more surprised that he isn’t freezing, like some other poor sods he saw rushing through the streets on his way to Steve’s.
Making his way down the steps, Bucky rushes around the building to where he saw the people on the ground. Probably got hit by a car. It’s hard enough to see past the corner on a sunny day, let alone when it’s pissing down like this.
One of the people – a man – is standing, now, yelling at the sky. Bucky hesitates, cold fingers clenching around the bat handle. Steeling himself, he keeps it faced towards the ground, tense as he raises his voice to be heard over the torrent.
“Hey! Are you alright, misters?”
The man turns to face him and Bucky thinks he might have made a mistake in coming out as he prowls forwards, feet slapping on the concrete. Before Bucky knows what’s going on, he’s being held up in the air by his collar, slipping through his own shirt as the man growls.
“Where am I? What realm is this?”
“Brook- Brooklyn! You’re in Brooklyn!” Bucky gasp, dropping the bat as he scrabbles in the air, reaching up for the man’s wrist trying to get him to let him go. His feet kick and Bucky hopes to god Steve isn’t seeing this – the little punk will probably try come to his rescue and get pneumonia while he’s at it.
“What is this ‘Brooklyn’?” the man questions and in the flickering streetlights, Bucky can see his face finally. Dark blonde hair is plastered to his face and water drips from a curved bearded jaw, bright blue eyes reminding Bucky of Steve. Hell, he actually looks like Mr Rogers, before he hit the bucket. Except unlike Mr Rogers, this stranger is well-fed and strong, more like a boxer than a drunken bastard.
“Thor, stop harming the natives,” a new voice joins the conversation and another man comes over, reaching up and pushing the man’s arm down. Bucky finds his feet, but the man doesn’t let go of his shirt. The new man is barely any shorter than the blonde, dark hair slicked back over his head and curling behind his ears, one shorter curls stuck to his forehead. “Thor!”
‘Thor’ grunts, loosening his grip on Bucky’s shirt. Bucky wrenches himself out of the last of it, taking a couple of steps back, shoulder bumping against a streetlamp.
“Who the hell are you?”
“Apologies for my- for Thor,” the dark-haired one says, voice all…cultured. “I am Loki. This is Thor. We are very lost and have no way to identify ourselves nor return home.”
“We were banished,” Thor mutters loudly, bitterness prevalent. Bucky tilts his head.
“So…you weren’t hit by a car?”
“What is a ‘car’?” Loki questions. Bucky has a sudden realisation.
“You’re immigrants? Where’re you from?”
The men exchange a look, before looking back at Bucky and nodding in sync. “Yes,” they say together.
“Immigrants, yes, we are immigrants.”
“Definitely,” Thor grins at him and if he hadn’t just held him up by his scruff, Bucky might have thought him nice enough.
“Right,” he replies sceptically, before hearing Steve calling his name. Twisting, he looks up at where he’s at the window, face barely able to be seen through the broken pane. “Everything’s fine!”
“I don’t believe you!”
“Tough!” Bucky shouts back, before looking to the men. They’re sort of like us, he thinks, blonde and brunette. “Have you got anywhere to go?”
“Alas, we do not,” Loki shakes his head.
Bucky knows that if Mama Rogers found out he’d sent them off without help, she’d tan his hide, even if she weren’t his mother. “Come with me,” he grabs his bat from the ground, eyeing them briefly before jogging around the building. A glance back shows the men following him after a moment, easily catching up to him.
Steve’s waiting by the door when he comes up…his mama’s shotgun in hand.
“Steve!” Bucky hisses, “Put that away before you accidentally send me to the emergency room! Your mama wouldn’t be very happy if you killed me!”
His best friend is shaking, pale and cold – he’s going to get a cold if Bucky doesn’t get the front door shut soon, dammit – but as usual, he’s stubborn and doesn’t lower the shotgun.
“They could be thugs or murderers.”
Bucky, wisely, steps out of the way of the shotgun, coming around the side to push the barrel down to the floor, taking it from Steve and flipping the safety back on.
“Did you get the glass?”
“Yes,” Steve mutters mulishly, before pushing forwards past Bucky and the two men, who step neatly inside. Shutting the door, Steve grabs the spare baseball bat from the umbrella stand, holding it up defensively. Bucky tries not to groan.
“Ever heard of being a nice person, Steve-o?” Bucky questions, not waiting for an answer as he looks to the men. “Come on inside and get warm. Try not to get too wet. Steve’ll get us some towels, once he’s stopped being an ass.”
“Thank-you,” Loki says, before Bucky goes to tuck the shotgun underneath Mama Rogers’ bed again.
Seriously, one day that punk is going to get himself into some real trouble – and I ain’t gonna be there to fix it.
Sarah gets home and around the table, Steve, James and two strange men are playing scrabble. Towels draped around all their shoulders, all four look up at her arrival despite the fact that it’s two in the morning and two out of the four people in her living room should be in bed.
As for the remaining two, Sarah has half a mind to fetch her shotgun and half a mind to pick up a baseball bat by the door. Because the baseball bat is closer, she picks that up instead.
James, at the sight of her with the bat, makes a face, one full of exasperation that barely overrides his signature the Rogers’ are idiotic and embarrassing look. Sarah takes that to mean it was James who let the strange men in and got Steve to give them towels and doesn’t raise her bat in a defensive way – it would be another story, if Steve was making a hurt face, indicating that it was his idea.
“Names, now,” she orders in a clipped voice.
In a strangely gentlemanly manner, both men stand up from the table, bowing slightly, the darker-haired and skinnier of the two speaking in a strange, but definitely European accent.
“Milady, I am Loki and this is Thor. Your sons were kind enough to invite us in from the rain, after we found ourselves stranded and quite lost.”
“My boys have big hearts and stupid heads,” Sarah replies, glancing at Thor’s arms that are each about the size of Steve’s stupid head. “I hope you’re being honest, lads, because I won’t put up with mischief in this house.”
Loki grins, looking for all like a Cheshire cat. “Dear madam, I am the definition of mischief.”
“Well then, you can put your mischievousness to good use,” Sarah says, pointing the bat at the full sink in the kitchen. “If those dishes disappear before I wake up for my morning shift at the hospital, I won’t mind if you boys sleep on the couch.”
“It will be done,” Thor promises, before settling down back at the table, twisting away as if dismissing her…which Sarah finds she does not like one little bit.
Thankfully, Loki has more tact and bows his head politely before seating himself again, waiting for her to speak again rather than focusing on the scrabble game. Which reminds me…Sarah pins a glare on Steve and James. Steve is nearly completely unfazed, but James winces and ultimately reaches for the letters bag, pouring his letters in, then Steve, Loki and Thor’s.
“Are we not to play the game of scrabble anymore?” Thor questions as James tilts the board, sliding their words into a jumble.
“Bedtime for the boys passed hours ago,” Sarah informs him as she notices that out of all of them, Steve is the only one who doesn’t look like they were soaked at some point during the day, despite the towels over his shoulders. He sniffs, wiping his nose and Sarah prays to god that he hasn’t got pneumonia as she continues talking to Thor. “When they’re sixteen, I won’t bother them, but until then, I care about their sleep schedule – especially Steve’s.”
“Mom…” Steve groans.
“Go to bed right now. Did either of you think to phone James’ home, before he stayed over?”
“They phoned us when I didn’t come back,” James mutters, tidying up the scrabble. Such a good boy, Sarah thinks with a sigh, wishing she had enough money in the bank to classify as eligible for fostering – or even adoption.
“Good,” Sarah says, before watching the young teens as they plod off to Steve’s room, James yawning quietly. Quite coincidentally, she looks at Loki and…and if Sarah hadn’t known that James’ parents had died, she would have thought Loki his papa, for all they look alike. Subtly, Sarah looks over him critically, before swearing to god under her breath as Thor hits his brothers elbow and questions jovially.
“Sixteen years, brother. Your realm hopping escapades caught Father’s attention nearly that long ago, did they not? James Buchanan looks like Jörmungandr! To be an uncle again-”
“Shut up, Thor,” Loki snaps quietly, glaring at him. Sarah ignores the ‘realm hopping’ part – if they were foreigners who learnt English, it could be just a mistranslation – instead focusing on how defensive Loki is and the theories spinning around in her head.
“Please tell me you are not his father,” Sarah cuts in, getting Loki’s attention immediately, his head twisting her way, emerald eyes locking with her baby blues. “Why are you actually here?”
“I cannot say I am not, for I do not know. However, there is a fair possibility.” Loki says and Sarah properly curses then, putting the baseball bat back in the umbrella stand and just swearing. “I am not here to take him away,” he claims quietly. “Our meeting was quite accidental. He has a far better heart than mine.”
“Damn right he does,” Sarah snaps, so angry at him. She points at Steve’s door, hissing. “He’s fourteen going on fifteen and you have not been here, you have not been here. His mother died when he was a baby, in childbirth and her husband- god, I don’t even know, she must not have had one, at all! All James has got is his name, date of birth and us.”
Loki looks haggard, depression weighing down on him heavier with every word she says. Thor reaches, hand clasping his shoulder.
“Brother, you are not at fault. Father ordered you home – you had to obey.”
“I am not your brother,” Loki shoves his hand off, staggering to his feet. Sarah feels something like pity, but it’s overwhelmed by curiosity. I love drama. I’ll go to hell for my nosiness, probably, but I love it all the same. Everything they say is a clue to their backstory, like characters in a book. Brothers, yet not; a father that can successfully order his son away from his lover and child; that situation itself, with the torn-apart lovers and child that is now grown up, mother dead and father returned.
Sarah, unfortunately, gets distracted by the sight of a broken window pane.
“Fuck, no,” she goes over, back aching from her long hours in the hospital, inspecting the thin wooden patch that is obviously James’ handiwork, soaked through from the torrential rain. “Fuck,” Sarah says again, knowing she can’t afford a replacement right now. She sits back on her haunches, briefly forgetting the strangers in her home as she buries her face in her hands. “Fuck.”
“Is there something wrong, Lady Rogers?” Loki questions with an edge to his voice.
“No,” Sarah replies after a moment, shaking her head, laughing in a slightly maniacal manner. Lady Rogers. “Fuck, I just need some sleep. I’ll figure this out on my lunch-break tomorrow, before…before going to work again. Damn storm, it’s like a damn hurricane out there.”
“Thank-you for letting us stay in your home, my lady,” Thor says.
Sarah sighs, getting to her feet and stretching her arms, popping her shoulders with a wince. “It’s nothing a good person shouldn’t do. There’s only one couch, though, unless one of you wants to stay with me.”
She’s joking, obviously.
“Thor will take the couch,” Loki replies as Thor opens his mouth to speak. “Lady Rogers most likely has zero inclination in sleeping with you, Thor.”
“You got that right,” Sarah shakes her head again, heading towards her bedroom. When Joseph died, she brought Steve into her bedroom so neither of them had to be alone and eventually, she moved into his smaller room, letting him have some space. It certainly came in handy when James decided to stay over three times out of seven, usually without asking first – not that she’d ever kick him out, but, well…
If James weren’t here and she still had to house two extra people, Sarah would have joined Steve instead, so she wouldn’t have to share with a stranger.
“Keep your hands to yourself,” Sarah says strictly when he comes in after her, changing out of her uniform into a nightgown without any embarrassment – and Loki has the decency not to look, either, which says something good about his character. She thinks of James’ mother and what might have happened to the raucous little shit that call’s himself her sons best friend if he’d grown up belonging somewhere, belonging with Loki and his family that orders him around, seemingly with ease.
He takes the towels and his long-sleeved shirt off, setting them over the end of the bed. Then, he takes off his shoes and socks, glancing at her as he motions to his trousers.
“If you have underwear on, it’s fine,” Sarah answers his unasked question. Loki nods, then removes his trousers, slipping into bed before Sarah gets more than a glimpse of his briefs. Sarah in turn gets into bed, twisting to face away from him. A few minutes later, when she sits up to set her alarm – god, if I’d forgotten to do that, I’d never wake up again – it occurs to her to warn him. “If I wake up and try to kill you because I’ve forgotten you’re supposed to be there, please forgive me.”
“You are forgiven in advance.”
His reply startles a small laugh out of her, before she lets herself succumb to sleep, dreaming of the storm and of how warm it is to be sleeping beside another person again.
The Odinsons end up staying a week. A full, entire week.
Loki stops Thor from telling Sarah the truth of their situation, though Steve and Bucky already know, Thor told them that first evening. It took Loki transforming in front of them all for Steve and Bucky to truly believe them. Loki still didn’t know how to feel about himself until Steve and Bucky saw his monstrous Jotun form and wowed in awe. Their teenage wonder was – is, infectious and even though he can see that Thor is on edge, that he is only a few wrong words from doing something stupid, Loki starts to experiment with his form.
Quickly, more and more things make sense about his life.
Was it not his mother who told him of the sorcerers of Jotunheim as a boy? The sorcerers of Jotunheim are the reason most Aesir dislike magic in the first place. Did he not see them summon blades of ice with his own eyes when Thor brought his war party to the heart of their broken capitol city?
The third day they spend on Midgard is not one of icy experimentation, however, unlike the one before. Thor is angry and does not understand their banishment – or the complexities of Loki’s adoption – even when Loki explains it to him in detail. Thor’s peace returns when Loki yells at him in anger, their roles reversed, hurt and pain bubbling over in one loud, horrible outburst that outlines everything Loki feels.
“I was never going to be King of Asgard! Odin raised me, raised us both to believe I had a chance, when my fate was planned from the very beginning! He may have learned to love me, but I was never you!”
Thor’s brow unfurrows, eyes widening. “Never me?” Loki freezes. “Never me?” Thor repeats, reaching forwards to clasp his hands around Loki’s thin shoulders. “Loki, of course you are never going to be me. You are Loki, my beloved brother for whom I would give my life for over and over, until the Norns rendered you immortal just to stop me from bringing Ragnarok down on our heads.”
“I was still never going to be King,” Loki whispers.
“Tis Father’s folly not to contend you,” Thor replies, blue eyes darkened, the storm outside that has still not stopped raging, days later, only worsening in intensity, thunder without lightning rumbling dark and loud. “His secrets shall be the death of you. The prophecy that Jörmungandr, of all the children in the universe, my own nephew, would kill me was preposterous and most likely will happen only because Father has chained him.”
Loki spasms in Thor’s grip, his knees weak. “Thor.”
“Loki,” Thor’s arms shift and then Loki is being pressed into a hug so tight he feels like he may break. “You are my brother and I will be forever on your side.”
Their conversation mutates, afterwards, into talks of their dual banishment. Tyr shall be heir now. Heimdall will be watching our every move. Eventually, they decide their banishment is just – but not just enough. Odin owes Loki, if not Thor, so much more than he has given him. A stolen relic, Loki murmurs, a Jotun runt born to die.
Steve is the one to suggest they get jobs. Thor finds labour work in the shipyard with ease and Loki prowls, investigating the city and – quite accidentally – landing a courier job.
“You look light on your feet and you don’t have no papers,” his new employer grunts. “Until you get your shit sorted out, son, you ain’t gonna be getting any higher-paying job quick.”
“Thank-you for the opportunity,” Loki replies cordially.
The point of getting jobs is so they don’t face boredom. Identification isn’t something either worry about just yet – their banishment could last any length of time, from a week to a century. Loki makes a point in telling Sarah that they will be sorting everything out before the month is out, however, something she approves of.
“Good for you, but you’ll need a different lodging eventually. I don’t have the money to pay for both your meals.”
Food, yet another reason to find work. Loki is fine living off one meal a day, having gone longer without food before without ill effects – but Thor is…Thor. He is also Aesir, unlike Loki. Everything makes so much more sense now, Loki thinks with a shake of his head. Jotuns don’t need as much sustenance as the Aesir. Thor eats through a ‘weekly’ grocery shop within two days.
It’s almost strange Loki knows so much about Jotun physiology without realising, until he actually thinks about himself and his own needs, adjusted to his new world-view. Truly, Frigga was the best mother he could have ever asked for.
“Are you boys sure you’re going to be okay?” Sarah questions worriedly when they find a place, fussing with Loki’s borrowed tie – a remnant of the late Mr Rogers’ wardrobe, kept for Steve. “Is your rent decent? Are your flatmates good people?”
“Yes, yes and hopefully,” Loki answers her frets, bringing his hands up to clasp around hers. “Sarah. Thor and I will not suddenly disappear from your lives.”
Sarah clenches her jaw, glaring at him slightly. “You’d better not, Loki Valknir.”
Loki leans over, pressing a gentle kiss to her copper hairline. “Sarah Rogers, I give you my word,” Loki states, locking eyes with her, “I give you my word I shall not disappear. Will you promise the same?”
“I promise,” Sarah swears.
Loki and Thor get up before the sun to go to work most days, working their arses off till noon, occasionally taking breaks together. Loki’s courier job takes him all over the city and his employer is quick to give him a promotion, as the first month goes by.
Every Tuesday – Thursday instead, if either can’t make it – they go to the Rogers’ apartment for dinner. Sarah, Steve and Bucky are constants in their fragile lives and quite honestly, Loki is perfectly fine with it. The only people from Asgard he misses are those Odin would never allow him to see – Frigga, Jörmungandr, Sleipnir and even Hela and Fenrir. He refuses to entertain the notion that he misses his father- misses Odin. The Allfather owes him knowledge and conversation: explanation.
Thinking of the events that came to pass that failed coronation day make Loki feel more lost than ever. He barely feels any guilt at all for helping that small clan of Jotuns invade the palace. They used the Casket of Winters on the Destroyer, Loki recalls Heimdall’s report, then advanced through the palace to the throne room. It was because one cracked the ceiling with a shard of ice, cracked the murals and our belief, that it all came falling to the ground.
The throne room had been a mess by the time the last of the Jotun trespassers fell by Thor’s hand – but Loki had been staring at the uncovered ceiling. Who is she? Loki remembers asking, staring at the previously-hidden image of who he would come to know was Hela. The wolf was Fenrir, her war beast, who helped her help Odin conquer the Nine Realms. Odin explained all to Thor, to Loki and to Frigga. It was because their own mother did not know that Loki did not fight Thor more on his suicidal trip to Jotunheim, staying quiet and agreeing to accompany him, the Warriors Three and the Lady Sif.
Loki doesn’t know what is worse: discovering your eldest sister was so dangerous Odin trapped her in another dimension or that she isn’t your elder sister at all.
Pretty much in general, Loki has had a shit last few weeks.
“I moved to America with Joseph,” Sarah tells him one Tuesday, after Thor has left with the boys to go play a late-night game of street baseball with the other teenage boys that live in their block. “When we came through customs, I was advised to change my name and so I did.”
“What was your name?” Loki questions as he puts a dried fork in the cutlery drawer, wondering, did I have a different name before Odin stole me?
“Saoirse,” Sarah says. It sounds like sursha, clearly very Irish. “To be fair, it’s what I’ve been doing a lot over the course of my life – simplifying my name, I mean. Before I married Joseph, I was Saoirse McGuiness. Was your name different before you were adopted?”
“I don’t know. As you are aware, I only recently found out I was adopted at all. I was abandoned in a temple.”
“Do you mean ‘church’?” Sarah interrupts – making Loki pause to think about it, knowing that the Alltongue translates as it sees fit.
“No,” he replies slowly. “Temple. The…translation for church is different and my father was shouting, at the time. My shock made it hard to forget, afterwards.” What religion do Jotunkind believe in, for them to have temples? Is there more than one religion? Will there ever come a time where I will know?
“Were you raised Catholic? I can’t believe I never asked before – though, I suppose you’ve never come to Catholic church with us on Sundays,” Sarah hands him a washed plate, Loki accepting it to dry.
“I was raised to believe in the Norns,” Loki says, not saying how he’s met them before. Twice. “We are Norse.”
“That’s an old word, but I think I’ve heard it before, once.” Sarah frowns, tilting her head at him. “Have you got a Norse name? Doesn’t…Norse religion have a Loki?”
“It does indeed, Lady Sarah,” Loki smiles, winking at her. “Loki, God of Mischief, Chaos, Recreation and Fire.”
“Fits you well, then,” Sarah says, stepping close to him to use the tea-towel in his hands to dry her own. Loki doesn’t blink an eye at the closeness, but thinks: careful, Sarah Rogers. “How long do you think those boys will be?”
“Long enough for us to have some fun,” Loki wiggles his eyebrows and then Sarah reaches up, brazen and bold. Her fingers trace his cheekbones and Loki sees how young she is, how human. There are stress lines around her eyes and mouth, signs of age and he knows, feels that familiar warmth in his chest. I could fall in love with you, he thinks to her, reaching, thumb tucking into her skirt to pull her closer. “You are truly beautiful.”
Her face goes pink and she puffs a few stray red curls off her face, which only stay away for a moment before settling down, drifting onto her nose. Her eyes are like Steve’s – blue and bright.
“Thank-you. You aren’t so bad yourself.”
“Thank-you,” Loki copies, before leaning down – because Sarah is small, so abominably tiny, five foot four to his six foot ten – and capturing her lips. I could fall in love with you, he thinks again because he knows he falls in love too quickly for his own good, damn his heart. Loki hears his brother laughing jovially as he opens the door and only Steve’s scandalised ma causes Sarah to pull away from Loki, stepping back a few paces, pink face turning rosy.
Steve doesn’t allow them alone together after that. Thor, once ‘proper courtship’ has been explained to him, defends Sarah’s reputation to the point where Loki wonders what happened to the brother that would gladly sleep with half of Asgard and encourage Loki to do the same.
It’s not actually so bad. It gives them a chance to get to know each other without getting too physical about it all – though, Loki does make a game of it, sometimes, sneaking into the hospital and stealing kisses from her when he delivers somewhere nearby and leaving flowers tucked into her letter-box for Steve to grumble about and put in a vase when he comes home from school. Sarah doesn’t have enough free time to do the same, but Loki only works certain hours a day, unlike her, even after he picks up a part-time shift at the local middle school, mopping floors after dark and dusting.
Steve does get a little geared up, however and while Loki respects most of it, gleefully ignoring some of it, Sarah is less happy with his behaviour.
“Stop it,” Sarah whacks Steve’s arm when he tries to stop them from sitting together on the couch on one of the few days Sarah has off a month. Loki tries to slither out of Sarah’s grasp, seeing Thor about to step in on Steve’s behalf, but Sarah grabs his hand in a vice-grip. “James, do me a favour and dogpile both Steven and Thor.”
“Sure,” Bucky agrees, grabbing Steve and pulling him over to Thor on the new sofa that Thor had bought and convinced Sarah to take the week before. Loki watches Bucky push Steve down and – as instructed – lay on top of him.
Steve wriggles in protest. “Buck! Let up!”
“Nah, Mama Rogers is going to sit with her boyfriend and you’re going to shut up.” Bucky drawls, Loki raising an eyebrow at the ‘boyfriend’ comment. Sarah nudges him.
“You’ve got James’ approval.”
“High praise, indeed,” Loki tries to sound at least slightly sarcastic, but as ever, talking about James Buchanan Barnes makes his voice wobble, throat tightening. Sarah squeezes his hand before reaching across him to twist the radio on, Frank Munn’s voice crackling through the small speaker.
Bucky is part of Sarah’s family. That is made very clear from the start. Bucky and Steve are brothers, bound together in much the same way that Loki and Thor are. The similarities are startling. When Loki takes Sarah out to the local dance club one night the next month, they talk about him on the walk home.
“James is a good boy, too good sometimes. He found Steve in the playground, trying and failing to beat up some bullies picking on this girl Violet they both know, who lives down the street. He’ll grow up to be a fine man, some day.”
“Indeed,” Loki agrees, looking up at the stars as their hands swing. His jacket is around Sarah’s shoulders and his tie is loose – he thinks he can see Asgard, or maybe a different Realm depending on whether the alignment is right. “Would it perhaps be too surprising for me to admit that he is a prince?”
“A prince? Are you royalty, back in Norway?”
“Thor is. I am, but I don’t…I don’t want to go back,” Loki says, looking to Sarah, who looks slightly amused. “My father is King, Sarah. Thor was to be crowned, until he proved he was not ready after an attack during the coronation.”
“You’re joking,” Sarah shakes her head, laughing.
“I am not. It is important that my father never finds out that Bucky exists,” Loki says, stopping them in the street and clutching her hand tightly. He watches her smile slip away at his seriousness, something like fear appearing in its place. “Lady Sarah, please say you understand me when I stress that my son can’t be found out as mine. The last time I-” Loki looks away from her, pain lancing through his heart.
“…the last time, what?” Sarah questions, voice quiet yet urgent.
“The last time I had an illegitimate son,” Loki gets out, “or rather, legitimate in the eyes of the law, but through a marriage not given permission to be by my father, he was taken from me. I know not where he is nor will I ever. My father is controlling and manipulative. I love him, yet I hate him. Thor and I even have a sister that he has locked up somewhere for supposed madness, for trying to depose him.”
“Did you run away, coming here? Is that why you haven’t got papers yet?” Sarah holds his hand still, a lifeline for Loki. Her other creeps up to hold his jacket tighter around her chest, thin wrist shaking in the cold. “Thor is going to go back to your country. He’s said so, before.”
“He will stay here with me for however long he needs to. We are…we are brothers, first and foremost, even if I do not wish to claim our father as mine. I know who my true father is – I know his name and I know that Odin stole me from him, though not if he abandoned me before that. I could have been left in that temple for safety- but that was not our conversation,” Loki cuts himself off. “I want Bucky to stay safe. I have Thor’s word that he shall not say anything and his word is his bond.”
“He’s safe with me, with us,” Sarah whispers. “I promise, Loki. I won’t let your father take him away, if I can help it.”
The warmth in his chest is a flower, budding, ready to bloom. I do so love you, Loki thinks to Sarah as he kisses her desperately, in thanks and adoring worship. But Sarah can give as much as she gets and his lips are tender and bruised by the time their kiss ends.
The month ends and neither Odinson returns to Asgard.
Thor and Loki Valknir become properly known in Sarah’s neighbourhood when they actually move in next door, after poorly old Mr Collins dies in his sleep. Across the street, Agatha Wickers and her secret poker club gossip about them both.
“Sarah mentioned that her fella, Loki, he’s learning to become a librarian,” Polly Higgins natters.
“A librarian!” Agatha exclaims, “You’d think such a charming man like him would be a lawyer in the making.”
“Law school’s expensive,” Jenny shakes her head. “They don’t have much other sets of clothes but the ones Sarah got them when they first stayed with her, those few months ago.”
Loki listens to them sometimes. Seeing as he moves furniture around with Thor for Agatha’s neighbour for pennies whenever they buy and sell to customers, it’s not hard to eavesdrop. It’s both entertaining and useful – learning neighbourhood gossip without having to majorly socialise with other adults and of course, learning the opinions on himself and Thor. The clothes comment inspires him to save some money up specifically for their stylings, something he’d been woefully neglecting over the last year they’d been on Midgard.
The first time he walks into Sarah’s apartment with tailored clothes on, Steve just about gapes, Bucky not too far behind in imitating him.
“This is what a good cut does,” Loki murmurs as he leaves a pre-written note for Sarah in the kitchen. He knows what he looks like. Joseph Rogers’ ill-fitting clothes had not served his image well and seeing himself in the mirror with his new clothes had given him a boost in confidence he hadn’t known he needed. It was like a spinal adjustment – his back straightened and his posture corrected itself back to normal from the slump that being poorly-dressed had moulded from him.
Thor is much the same, some few days later when Loki takes him and both boys, too, to the tailors. In Agatha’s next secret poker club, they barely play, talking back and forth for half an hour about how professional the Rogers boys look. Unfortunately, Loki is too distracted to care, due to their tailor’s running mouth.
“Very nice, very nice,” he mutters, adjusting Bucky’s tie – part of Bucky’s full suit. Loki stands behind him, looking at Bucky’s appearance over his shoulder in the mirror. “Looking very much like your father there, now, young master.”
“What?” Bucky blinks, but Loki freezes because it’s true.
Their suits are matching, pressed and lined the same and Bucky – just as Steve had tried and failed to do with Thor because Sarah is actually in charge of him, unlike Bucky – has grown out his hair like Loki. In the mirror, it’s just so obvious how much they look alike – how their lips, their foreheads, their ears, jaws and hairlines are the same, how especially with Bucky’s longer hair, they look like father and son.
Bucky, staring into the mirror, clearly sees it too.
The tension between them rises, even as no-one else seems to feel it. Steve and Thor still laugh and joke in the corner and the tailor keeps pinning Bucky’s suit like nothing important has happened at all. It’s only when they’re on their way home, each guy wearing ‘something fancy’ as Steve calls it, that Bucky brings it up.
“So…are you my pop or not?”
Loki, terrified, doesn’t answer his question, practically fleeing to his and Thor’s apartment next door. Through the walls, he can hear Thor talking, still and Bucky asks Thor if Loki is really his father – and Thor, the buffoon, answers, “Aye, my brother is your progenitor! He has told you, then? Since our first meeting, I have wanted to call you my nephew.”
“Wait, so if my mom and Loki got married, you’d be my actual brother?” Steve questions and Loki jolts, the concept of marrying Sarah- “Wait, you’re Aesir though. Loki’s a Jotun…Bucky, you’re an alien, oh gosh damn!”
In a strange and worrying twist of fate, Loki doesn’t see Bucky quite as often, after that. He starts working as a librarian in the local library archives, reorganising and at times, re-writing faded documents for legibility. Courier work during the night booms for some reason and Loki does more and more work, saving up money…and yet, his time with Sarah and Steve isn’t impacted.
Bucky is the one who isn’t there. He isn’t even staying over at the Rogers’ anymore – at all. When Loki asks Sarah, she frowns and then, a few days later, she tells him what’s going on.
“His orphanage is under new management. The old matron and I had an understanding, but…but he isn’t being let out anymore. The new matron says she’s already had to phone the police on other kids who’ve spent the night with friends without permission. I got to speak with James before she told me to leave.” Sarah pauses then, looking at Loki with a weighing expression, as if trying to gauge his reaction.
“What is it?” Loki questions, narrowing his eyes.
“Bucky says that the new matron isn’t afraid to show her disapproval,” Sarah says cautiously, still watching him. “The old matron never used corporal punishment, but this one does. He’s staying to keep the younger kids from getting themselves into trouble enough to get hurt for it. Apparently this new matron…she’s got quick reflexes and her new staff are the same.”
Loki takes a few moments to understand what she’s on about, then nods and leaves.
“…you’re joking,” Bucky says disbelievingly. “And this guy wants me to supervise? Because he’s seen my school record?”
Matron Fort glares, thwacking his arm with her ruler. “No cheek. Mr Valknir is looking for several of you useless brats for this charity endeavour and you have a reputation for leadership, apparently – I don’t know how you gained it, though, boy. If I hear you’ve been lying to officials-”
Bucky blanks out whatever she says.
Mainly because he knows the name Valknir. Obviously.
“He’s my dad,” Bucky blurts out. A moment later he realises what he’s said, horrified he’d just told this stupid old lady. Matron Fort, however, looks suspicious.
“Your father isn’t listed in your records.”
“He…he just got back into the country last year. My mom died before she could write his name on my birth certificate. She told the nurse my name before I was born.”
“Well, if he is your father, I’ll expect him to file a claim for you. Visitation rights, if not custody.” Matron Fort sniffs. “Single fathers, untrustworthy bunch. He has a legitimate profession, at least-”
“If he got married,” Bucky interrupts before she can continue, “could he take custody of me?”
Matron Fort narrows her eyes. “What do you know, James?”
Bucky swallows and decides, another day, even as he imagines Mama Rogers – my mom, Sarah’s my mom – marrying his father.
“Nothing, Matron Fort. So, you said Mr Valknir needed me to supervise these kids he wants to borrow?”
Every week, five times a week after school finishes for the day, till six pm, Loki tutors children under eight in reading and writing. He meets them in the playground and half an hour later, when Bucky finishes high school, he and Steve come out to escort Loki and the small gaggle of children that had been picked out for that Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday to the local library where Loki works.
Usually, Bucky goes off with Steve to some quiet corner and they do their schoolwork, either leaving when it’s done or staying behind. Loki knows that the pitiful laws of Midgard’s New York don’t see corporal punishment as illegal and it grates at him – but he can do this, give some children a reprieve from Matron Fort’s care every day. More than one more emotional six year-old has cried into his lap, so happy to be with him instead of going ‘home’.
Somehow, after a few months of improving his young charges’ scholastic abilities, a newspaper finds out about his endeavour. Local Librarian Paving the Way to College for Young Orphans is the headline and before the day’s up, Loki’s had parents coming up to him asking if he could tutor their children as well – if they could turn up to the library sessions, as well.
“No,” Loki informs them. “However, I would be willing to do private tutoring sessions on weekends for small change, depending on your household’s total salary.”
He quits his courier job at some point, around the December of ’33. His schedule keeps getting booked up, full of tutoring sessions and of course, his actual job. Loki saves more money than he uses, occasionally getting bulk purchases of things like food, new suits for Thor and the boys and presents for Sarah.
“You don’t have to,” she says reluctantly, grinning as she thumbs through the Irish translation of Frankenstein. “Where did you even get this?”
“I remembered that you loved reading the English version,” Loki sidles up to her, hand sneaking around her waist. “I translated appropriately and placed it inside my own variation of the cover.”
Sarah gasps, twisting. “You didn’t! You amazing, brilliant, genius man-” she reaches up, smacking a kiss on his lips before exclaiming. “This is why I love you!”
“The sentiment is appreciated,” Loki replies calmly as Sarah flushes at her mistake. The flower in his heart blooms, however, tilting upwards to the sun. I am in love with you, he thinks to his Sarah, leaning to kiss her again only to be stopped by a finger to his lips.
“Wait. I…I mean that. I love you, very much, despite how you’re a prince from a foreign country who has more secrets than hair on his head.” Loki stares at Sarah for a long few moments, long enough that she wilts, finger lowering. She goes to speak again, but he kisses her hard, taking the copy of Frankenstein and placing it on the kitchen countertop, lifting her up to sit on it as well.
Sarah lets out a muffled noise of happy surprise, but reciprocates eagerly, giggling as Loki’s hands shift from her hips to the hem of her skirt.
“Stop,” she peels away, laughing, “Steve and James will hear!”
“They’re out with Thor,” Loki reminds her, pushing her skirt up but slowing as his hand wrap over her thighs. “I love you. Deeply.”
Sarah hesitates, “Are you only saying that for sex?”
“No,” Loki denies. “I didn’t know when to say that I loved you, I don’t think I even planned to. As cowardly as it may sound, I was waiting for you.”
“…good,” Sarah eventually says, before pulling Loki’s hands up her thighs to her underwear. “Get to it, Loki. I’m waiting.”
“You won’t be for long,” Loki replies.
The love-life of Sarah and Loki unfortunately doesn’t stay very secret for long, as they forget to shut the kitchen curtains – Agatha gets a full view of Loki eating her out that evening and the next day, Loki has the pleasure of eavesdropping the conversation she has with her poker-buddies about it when transferring a wardrobe to a truck.
“My husband hasn’t done something like that to me in over fifty years!” Polly exclaims.
Agatha snorts. “Fifty years? Try never.”
When Loki sees Sarah on her lunchbreak the next day – the next time they see each other – he awkwardly says that perhaps, they should shut the curtains if they ever do it in the kitchen again.
Sarah raises her eyebrow. “When did you become a part of Agatha’s poker-club?”
“…you know about the club.”
“I do,” Sarah confirms in amusement, “my aunt’s best friend in school was Jenny McIver. She works in the hospital record-room, the nosy busybody. We talked yesterday evening about you. Agatha’s not the only one with the gossip, you know.”
“Practically everyone in the Irish community here knows each other, somehow,” Sarah brushes it off, glancing at one of her nurse co-workers and waving at her in the distinctly shoo way. Loki turns his gaze on her, raising his eyebrow as the other nurse wiggles her own at them both with a snicker. “That’s Siobhan. We went to primary school together. She came here with her family when Steve was ten, at my recommendation. Worst decision of my life. She’s a worse gossip than I am.”
“Hard to believe.”
For his commentary, Sarah pinches his arm before kissing him goodbye so she can get back to work.
When Bucky turns sixteen on March the tenth, nineteen thirty-four, he moves out of the orphanage – straight into Sarah’s apartment. Less than a fortnight later, Bucky takes Loki aside, clearing his throat.
“Okay, so…you’re my dad. That’s kind of clear, despite how we’ve not talked about it, but Sarah’s my mom as well as Steve’s,” Bucky starts.
“…I’m sorry we haven’t talked about it,” Loki murmurs. Bucky shrugs, hands tucking behind his back, something he’s picked up from Loki over the years, his back straight and his shoulders strong. “I am. Your mother was…a good friend.”
“You didn’t love her.”
“Not like you do Sarah.”
“No. Rebecca Barnes was a singular entity and strictly…against romance, you might say. She was never going to get married or have a family that wasn’t her own child.” Bucky listens to Loki with an intensity that speaks for itself. I should have told him myself, Loki thinks regretfully, we should have talked properly before nearly two years from our first meeting passed. “She did tell me she wished she had a child,” Loki deliberately admits, “You were very much wanted, despite anything people might have told you. Most likely, unexpected, but never unwanted. That Rebecca died is a great tragedy.”
“What was her favourite movie?”
Loki struggles not to laugh, making Bucky glare. “Apologies. It’s just…she preferred music. Being blind doesn’t make theatre quite so enjoyable as it is normally.” Bucky visibly jerks at that. “You didn’t know that.”
“No.” Bucky says and there’s a long pause, before he shakes his head. “That isn’t what I wanted to talk about. Sarah. Sarah – she’s my mom, as well. I think you guys should get married.”
“I beg your pardon?” Loki blinks.
“Get married,” Bucky repeats. “Ask Steve for permission, first, so he feels like a grown-up punk, but yeah, ask her to marry you.” Bucky then quickly exits the flat, leaving Loki standing there.
“My nephew is right – you should ask for her hand,” Thor adds from the kitchen. Loki grimaces at his volume.
“Quiet down, Thor. I’ll…I’ll think about it.”
Loki thinks about it. Then he decides to butter Steve up, because Steve is a little shit who’ll probably make him wait a month for his answer. Steve, rightfully, is suspicious about the sudden attention.
“What do you want?” he questions the day after they get back from a Dodgers game, when he’s sniffling in bed from the flu. Loki, setting down soup on his bedside, raises an eyebrow.
“You bought Dodgers tickets. You got me a signed ball. Last week you took Buck and I to Coney Island. The week before, you gave me fifty dollars to do whatever I wanted with. The week before-”
“May I marry Sarah?” Loki interrupts, clutching Steve’s spoon tightly. Silence falls and Loki stares at the teenager curled up in bed. His eyes are stuck on Loki, wide and swollen from sickness, bony wrists visible over the pile of blankets he’s trapped under. “I love your mother very much and-”
“And I’ve already been married before,” Sarah’s voice comes from the door. Loki twists, expression shifting. “Don’t make that face. I’ll marry you. You don’t have to ask Steve. I’m a big girl and frankly, a lot of people would say you’re getting the short end of the stick, marrying a widow with kids.”
“One of those children are mine, to be fair,” Loki points out. Sarah grins, reaching up to pull out her bun, hair tumbling down past her shoulders as she walks forwards, plucking the spoon out of his grip. “You’d be my wife?”
“You’d be my husband?” she replies, before moving around him to see to Steve, checking his temperature and telling him to shut up when he tries to argue that she can’t accept Loki’s proposal yet. “I do what I like, Steven Grant. Would you have even said no? He took you to see the Dodgers yesterday.”
“He was buttering me up!”
“Yes, he was and obviously it worked, because you ain’t saying no,” Sarah points out before kissing his forehead. “Eat your soup, baby.”
“But there’s no ring – is he that poor?” Agatha questions. “I thought he’d gotten lots of money stored away-”
“Too busy spending it on ink and fabric,” Jenny shakes her head, dealing in. “Twenty chips. He typed up an Irish copy of The Italian for her birthday.”
Do I really need a ring for her? And yes, I did and now, I despise that novel. How does Sarah enjoy it so much? Dracula is a much better read, Loki thinks as he shifts a mirror for Agatha’s neighbour into a truck, ignoring the cigarette smoke drifting from him as he waits for Loki to get out of the back.
“Heard you and your lady are getting hitched,” the man grunts. “I invited?”
“I can’t recall your name, so probably not,” Loki admits as he ties the mirror down appropriately. The man shrugs, not bothered.
The neighbourhood is abuzz with news of their engagement. More than a few people have mentioned the lack of ring, however. Is it such an ingrained detail in Midgardian culture? Loki questions himself, before deciding to visit a jeweller. The pale, rose gold band digs into his funds, mostly due to the detailed ouroboros he has carved into it’s band. Loki would have done it himself, but the metals of Earth are smelted different from those of Asgard and the plain gold band he attempts to carve crumbles under his grip – still stronger than the average Midgardian’s, despite the enchantment Odin has wrought on both Loki and Thor to dull their senses.
Sarah is gleeful. The ring slips onto her hand, only to be taken off when she goes to work, hung on a chain around her neck, jingling among her other matrimonial bands from Joseph.
“I haven’t worn them in years,” she says when Loki points them out. “I won’t be wearing them again, but I loved Joseph, for all that he’s dead and gone. I’m not going to forget him.”
That night, he tells her – shows her his Jotun form and enduring her shriek of surprise. Frankly, however, knowing Sarah, he should have expected that – like her sons before her – she’d want to touch him.
“I would not,” Loki advises, returning to Aesir form, one of the only things he can control here on Earth. “My brother’s friend nearly lost his arm and Volstagg is of a far more durable species than your own.”
“But- but you’re blue!” Sarah exclaims, gripping his peach-skin. “Were blue. Show me again, I want to see, understand – but what am I supposed to do if you get hurt? Are your organs in the same place? I always knew your pulse was below average.”
They get married in Autumn, when the wind is starting to get brisker and frost grows on the grass at night. The church is lit with candles and afterwards, there’s a small party, full of their friends and family – and if Bucky and Steve sneak out with their friend Violet and a bottle of red, it’s none of Loki’s concern that night.
He’s too focused on the amazing woman in his arm, dressed in blue the same shade of his hidden form. It brings a smile to Loki’s face – small and fond – to know that his Sarah, his wife, loves him as he is.
I might still have to work on self-acceptance and it may still take me a hundred years, but Steve, Bucky, Sarah and even Thor’s acceptance make me feel supported.
The second day after their wedding, Sarah goes back to work. “Steve’s hospital bills just keep getting bigger every year.” Loki knows. Both Loki and Thor contribute to Sarah’s finances, despite her resistance. “I don’t need help,” is her usual argument, one which Loki understands and can easily reply to.
“I know that you don’t, I’m just making things easier.”
‘Easier’ is a relative term. Steve was more sick as a child, but he still has terrible asthma, a heart condition and a weak immune system. He’s usually in the hospital for a tallied three weeks every year and despite America’s bring me your poor, huddled masses, it doesn’t quite have the finances to allow for free healthcare like in Asgard.
Sometimes, Loki finds himself praying out loud to Heimdall when Steve is at his lowest, barely breathing even with an oxygen mask, wishing for the Guardian of the Bifrost to send Eir, a healer, anyone that would be willing to help.
Of course, nobody answers.
Thor clasps Loki’s shoulder when he slumps against the wall, each and every time, watching from afar as Sarah hurries back and forth between his room and her other patients. Thor himself is the perfect uncle to both Steve and Bucky and a much better brother to Loki than he ever was on Asgard. Loki wonders if there’s really anything happening, however, inside Thor’s head. Would he still rush into battle, joyfully and proudly?
Once his true nature returned to him, would he punt off to Asgard and leave everything he’s made in Brooklyn behind?
“Pop, am I alien enough to go blue, too?” Bucky asks later next year, when Loki acts as his apartments personal cooler in the hot summer. Loki weighs the possibility.
“There’s no safe way to check,” Loki replies. “Bearing in mind that one touch can near-freeze an Asgardian’s flesh to a necrotic state.”
Bucky flops across the sofa, reaching his left arm out. Loki goes to move away from him, but Bucky is adamant and the lucky teen that he is, instead of turning black, his fingers and hand quickly gain a layer of ice. Bucky grins up at him and Loki, a little annoyed at his son, still shifts away.
“That was very dangerous,” he scolds.
“Not as dangerous as Steve growing his hair out,” Bucky quips before taking a leather tie that Thor had so graciously provided from his wrist, pulling his hair up into a bun. Loki rolls his eyes, recognising Thor’s influence – Loki can remember Thor apprenticing in the Forge of Asgard alongside Sif’s precious Lady Sigyn, using the same hair-care trick so to not have it be used as an excuse as to why his work was shoddy.
“Frankly, your brother’s hair is the least of my concern. He is sixteen and despite Sarah’s protests, apparently that means by human standards, he’s old enough to do what he wants. I won’t let you brush this off though, James,” Loki’s eyes, already crimson, darken and he reaches forwards, grabbing Bucky by the collar of his button-down.
His son yelps in surprise as Loki hisses in his face. “Never do something like that again. I will not lose another son to whim of fancy.”
“Another son?” Bucky’s eyes widen. “I’ve got a brother?”
“Your grandfather took him from me, because he was natural-born shapeshifter. Angrboda and I were married and Jörmungandr was a prince of Asgard in every way that counted. Even that privilege did not save him from Odin’s wrath. Jörmungandr made the childish mistake in showing his dearly beloved grandfather a trick he’d learnt, all by himself, turning into a snake. I did not have any idea that he was able to wield such power, at such a young age.”
Loki lets go of Bucky’s collar, red and blue fading to emerald and peach.
“However, Jörmungandr knew and was warned of the consequences of showing Odin his gifts. My own were barely tolerated as a child and it was through my mother’s intervention that it was not stripped from me. I had no such influence with him.”
“What happened to Jör- Jörmungandr? Is that how you say it?”
“Yes,” Loki’s lip curls and bitterness springs inside his chest, like an overflowing well. “And as for what happened to him, well, how am I supposed to know? I haven’t seen him in two hundred years, after all.”
Loki watches Bucky blanche with an angry, disappointed ache in his chest. “When I say something is dangerous, life-threatening, I expect you to listen to me. Next time, try thinking before doing. If you think, you’ll survive, if you don’t, you’ll end up either like Thor or dead.”
Loki wants to leave it there, to leave without another whisper – but Bucky is his son.
“I guess this means you won’t let me check if I actually turn blue, then,” he quips weakly, wincing at his own words. Loki stares at his son for exactly three seconds before huffing and storming away.
There comes a point where Thor has his own romantic dilemma. Loki, still in a dank mood from Bucky’s behaviour, is a little more cutting than he would usually.
“And you’re sure you feel affection for this man? Are you sure it isn’t a misplaced sense of brotherhood?”
Thor flinches slightly, recognising his own words. “I am enamoured with him, Loki.”
“Enamour – to be filled with love or having a liking or admiration for. Well done, Thor, for finding a word that fully encompasses your affection.”
“I asked for your opinion, not your bite, brother,” Thor grumbles. “Roger is…intrigued by me.”
“And why might that be?” Loki purrs, leaning towards him in fake interest. Thor presses his lips together tightly, looking far more serious than he should.
“He saw me talking to Heimdall, some few months ago and has been making up excuses to be in the shipyard – he has even taken up an apprenticeship under the harbourmaster. We share luncheon together and often go drinking. He is interested in our culture. An obsession, if you will.” Thor looks to his feet, hands clasping behind his back. “Though the way he looks at me is familiar. I am just not sure whether or not he realises he looks at me in this way.”
“At least here, you don’t have the excuse that he wants you for the throne,” Loki jests, before forcing his bad attitude to fade. Thor is in love with a mortal, like I am – but a mortal man. Thor reaps what he sow in the other Realms, with his past homophobia, but I should not alienate him here, where we have both gotten a fresh start. “He is intrigued by you, but does he love you?”
“I do not know.” Thor grits his teeth, hands grasping the other tight enough for his skin to turn white. “Midgardians react as traditional Asgardians do to- to male romance, so I have been cowardly and not asked his opinions.”
“Would you like me to investigate on your behalf?” Loki offers.
“No,” Thor immediately denies. “You are bound to Sarah in matrimony.”
“It’s for a good cause,” Loki argues, “and I doubt Sarah would mind, should I explain the circumstances.”
“Have you told her of yourself?” Thor questions abruptly, meeting his eyes. Loki stills. “Jörmungandr was from Angrboda, aye, but you bore Sleipnir.”
Immediately, Loki hisses at him, anger rising in his defensive panic. “Silence yourself!”
“Sarah does not know, then. Will you tell her?”
“Shut up!” Loki snarls. “We were talking about you, not I!”
Thor looks at his brother, before nodding solemnly. “Roger Dooley has a beloved. Her name is Loretta. They are married and have been for many years.”
Hackles still up, Loki sits back on their sofa stiffly. “Divorce exists here. Do not lose hope, Thor, if you wish to pursue a traditional relationship.”
“I do not wish to come between them, if it means Roger’s happiness is forfeit,” Thor says, sounding particularly miserable, if sincere. Dear me, he really is enamoured.
“Then do not. Ignore him or spend time with him, if your intentions aren’t to be his lover, or with he and his lover, then be his friend or nothing.”
Of course, later, Loki tells Sarah of Thor’s plight and together – for Loki and Sarah are suited to each other, oh they are, for Sarah hears of her brother in law’s troubles and immediately agrees to help regardless of the negative opinion surrounding homosexuals in the West – they hatch a plan. The next week, Loki goes down to the harbour, where Roger is doing honest work, despite how he uses his free time to talk to Thor.
When the end of Roger’s shift comes around, Loki steps into line with him on the street.
“Afternoon,” Loki greets.
Roger glances over, “Afternoon. Do I know you?”
“Perhaps in passing. I would like to understand something,” Loki abruptly steers them into an alley he’d scoped out less than an hour ago, hiding them behind a convenient stack of boxes. Roger goes to yell, but Loki presses their lips together, obviously surprising Roger.
They kiss for about five seconds before Roger pushes him away, firmly but gently. “I don’t know who you are, but while I’m not- while I’m not homophobic, I’ve got a wife. I love her very much.”
“That’s perfectly fine,” Loki replies easily, taking a small step back, watching Roger compose himself, brushing down his dirty overalls. “I’m Thor’s brother.”
Immediately, Roger jerks, eyes widening. “You’re who’s brother now?”
“I’m Thor’s brother,” Loki repeats, holding out a hand. “Loki Valknir. A pleasure to meet you, Mr Dooley.”
Roger shakes, warily. “Right. Is it tradition in Norway to kiss strangers in an alleyway.”
“I wanted to know if you’re like your fellow New Yorkers,” Loki shrugs, clasping his hands behind his back. “I’m aware you have a wife, Mr Dooley. Loretta, yes?”
“Yeah, Loretta. Why’s you on about this, then? Why- why kiss me?”
“Thor likes you in that way. He told me, ashamed because you have a wife and he doesn’t want to get between you or ruin your friendship. Depending on your answer, I have a solution to all your problems.”
“Uh…” Roger glances out the alley entrance before clearing his throat, muttering. “I love Loretta. I’m not about to leave her for Thor.”
“If you did, I wouldn’t think you a suitable candidate for my brother anyway,” Loki informs cheerfully.
“…right,” Roger makes a confused face, brow furrowing. “I don’t know. Thor’s a real interesting guy. Your family has some neat cultural quirks. He’s a decent guy, too.”
“Sometimes,” Loki allows, before continuing onwards. “Have you ever heard of the concept of polyamory?”
Roger narrows his eye. “I took Latin in school, so I figure it’s something to do with loving more than one thing.”
“Person, to be exact. Polyamory is the answer to your situation, should you all choose to pursue it, of course. Complex communication is vital and you set your own terms – whether everyone involves themselves romantically or there is platonic bonding between separate partners.”
“Right,” Roger repeats, shaking his head. “Right, okay, uh…thanks. I’ll…think about it.”
“I would recommend asking the Lady Loretta her opinion on polyamory as a conversation starter,” Loki states, before casually pulling them out of the alley into the crowd again, purposefully losing Roger in the throng of people.
When he returns to state his findings to Sarah, his wife is happy to know Thor has the actual potential to be in a relationship with Roger but perhaps Loretta, as well.
“I met her today, on my lunch-break,” Sarah grins, leaning over the back of a chair to gossip with him. “I asked about and it turned out, she works across the road from the hospital in a lingerie and swimsuit store. I tracked her down and she is the sweetest, Loki. A little plain-faced, but she can do that face up well and they’ve got the money for her to do it every day.”
“Interesting – and her mental attributes?” Loki queries.
“Loretta was quiet, but she had that store floor on lock. It’s the quiet ones to watch out for. I figure if she ever got drunk, she’d get louder though.” Sarah twists her bracelet around her wrist absentmindedly, scratching at an old pox scar on her arm. “I don’t know what she’d think of Thor, though.”
Loki frowns. “You don’t think they’re suited?”
“Honestly, I don’t know. I watched her, I didn’t make more than small-talk. Perhaps you should give it a go – talk to her while I try on something pretty.” Sarah winks and Loki reaches over to hook her by her belt, pulling her over for a kiss.
Seventy Years Later. 8th of July, 2005 – Washington DC.
“And the prize for best birthday cupcakes goes to Darcy Lewis, baker extraordinaire!”
“You made these from a Betty Crocker packet,” Phil replies dryly, before popping the last of the test cupcake into his mouth and subsequently pausing. Chewing, he nods slowly. “At least they’re better than my attempt last year-”
“Shush, Phillip,” Saoirse pokes him in the shoulder. “You’ll boost her ego too much and she’ll burn water tomorrow.”
Darcy points at her grandmother – who, to the outside observer, would most likely judge her to be something like twenty-five years old rather than her true age of sixty-nine – accusingly.
“Cooking and baking are completely different!”
“It’s the sentiment of the statement, Darcy, do calm yourself,” Saoirse rolls her eyes, before sitting up straight and clicking her fingers, making the candle on her specially-sprinkled cupcake flare up before dropping down to a small flame.
“You’ve got to teach me that, Nani,” Darcy states. “Seriously.”
“Fire is dangerous for us,” Saoirse warns. “You’ll need special help if you want to summon it.”
“Special help?” Phil questions, “Do you mean…”
“My father, yes,” Saoirse nods, clicking her nails across the tabletop. “He’s why your mother isn’t here – she’s going to be faking her death soon. It’s getting harder for her to keep the aging glamour up. She needs a break.”
“I’ve never even met Loki as an adult. He refused to see me after I turned twenty-one. I’m really the only one, aren’t I?” Phil questions starkly.
Saoirse reaches over to him, hand clasping the curve of his neck. “You and Darcy respectively are the first of your kind in centuries…we can’t be sure. You might just live a hundred more years than you should.”
“He’s more likely to die on some SHIELD mission,” Darcy interjects, before smiling in an attempt to elevate the mood. “Cupcakes? Happy birthday, Saoirse Valknir two-point-oh – remember to make a wish!”
Saoirse presses a kiss to Phil’s head before sitting back in her seat at the breakfast bar, closing her eyes. I wish…she thinks, I wish that my family stays with me. She opens her eyes, blowing out the candle with one short breath, icy magic of the Jotunheim Frost Giants aiding her.
It’s only after the candle putters out that Saoirse feels Fate begin to change around them.
3rd of October, 1936 – Brooklyn, NY.
“I’m worried about your mother, so very worried,” Loki murmurs to his month-old daughter. Baby Saoirse is a pink vision with a scrap of dark copper hair on top of her head and red eyes.
When she was born, Loki all at once wished for access to the magic Odin trapped inside of him, if only to stop the doctors from testing, poking and prodding her. Red eyes, like my true form. Similarly, more experimentation with Bucky had shown that with more exposure to the cold, his skin starts to gain ridges.
“Your mother, Sarah Valknir, is a nurse. She works in the hospital just down the road. She’s there, now…just not there to work. I am so worried, Saoirse.”
Loki watches his daughter burbles, smiling at him. He thinks of his sons – one on Asgard, one, only Odin knows where and- and his Brooklyn boys. Sleipnir, Jörmungandr, Bucky and Steve.
“I’ve never had a daughter before, did you know that?” Loki questions Saoirse rhetorically. “I wouldn’t know what to call one. A good thing, perhaps, that your mother had a name free for use.”
He strokes her cheek gently before spinning gently, briefly moving Saoirse to one arm so he can one-handedly tie his hair up, distracted by how long it’s gotten in the last few years. I’ll have to cut it soon, he thinks grimly, knowing what long hair means when combined with grabby, childish hands.
Then, of course, he remembers gleefully Thor’s reaction to his regular trims back on Asgard. Perhaps I can take it a bit further this time, Loki wonders, making an internal note to visit a salon. Blonde, yes, maybe curls-
All of a sudden, Loki is reminded of Sif and his glee turns to ash in his mouth.
Loki looks down at his daughter, slowing to a halt. “There is no way your uncle would let such a thing go unpunished, even if we are mortal and able to be killed. It would be suicide.”
As expected, Saoirse doesn’t answer. Loki has always loved children, even when he was very young. He’d sit reading on the hem of his mothers skirts or on her knees during her sessions with her ladies and whenever they brought their babies and young girls, Loki had been…obsessed.
“I would have a hundred children, if I could,” Loki says, not realising how bitter he sounds until he’s already spoken. “I would. I can. Maybe one day, you’ll all amount to that many and I will be happy, raising and protecting you as your parent should.”
Later, in the early afternoon, Thor comes to the Valknir apartment, Bucky at his side wearing an ashy complexion. Loki knows that Steve is in the hospital with his mother – both of them in the TB ward. Steve is under close observation, but Sarah is just…worse, in general.
“Pop, you…you gotta go see Mom,” Bucky stumbles over his words. “I…I’ve already said goodbye and got washed. Same with Uncle Thor. We’ll look after Saoirse.”
“…goodbye?” Loki questions quietly. “Is there nothing they can do?”
“Nothing, brother. I have tried calling for Heimdall, for Eir, for Odin himself, but none will answer. Steven, at least, is well.” Thor comes over, pulling Loki into an embrace.
“They don’t think she’ll pull through. Steve’s doing okay, but Mom…” Bucky drops down onto the sofa, burrowing his head in his hands.
Loki feels strangely calm, like nothing distressing is happening whatsoever, that his wife isn’t dying in a hospital bed next to her son, who can see and hear everything the doctors say to her as he gets better and his mother doesn’t.
“She’s asleep. She’ll wake up soon,” Loki says, before pulling out of Thor’s arms and grabbing his suit jacket, tugging it on with shaking hands. He fumbles around the buttons for a few seconds before forcing himself to stop and breathe, undoing them again as he realises they’re on wrong.
This is my armour here, on Earth. I need to wear it well.
Slowly, he buttons up his waistcoat, which he had undone earlier. Then, he moves onto his jacket, retying his tie and going to the mirror over the fireplace to check his appearance. To his own surprise, his form has shifted into his Jotun one. Turning back into that of an Aesir forcefully, Loki makes a checklist in his head before going over to where Bucky is standing despondently.
“James,” he starts, pulling his son into his grasp. Bucky starts to cry, squeezing his eyes shut. “Let it out. I- I’m going to be a wreck, after she’s gone, don’t worry about that.” Bucky keeps crying and Loki hates that he’s like this, hates that Sarah is dying.
He goes to the hospital and returns the next day with Steve and a death certificate.
14th of February, 2009 – Queens, NY
“Ridiculous, this is…you’re gorgeous, you’re both so beautiful,” Dinesh leans down to press a kiss against her rounded stomach. Leia pokes him on the forehead before it can touch, though, pushing upwards onto her elbows.
“I love you very much, but please don’t do that right now. Dinesh Junior is pushing against my abdomen.”
Dinesh frowns at her abdomen. “Junior, do not be a bitch to your mama. Her pita would not take kindly to me if you inherited bad traits from her.”
“You!” Leia gasps a laugh, grabbing a pillow from beside her to thwack over his head. Dinesh laughs as well, crawling further up the bed to kiss her deeply. Leia would gladly have let him continue, had her earpiece not lit up blue in that moment.
Reluctantly pulling away from her partner, Leia reaches over, grabbing it, tucking it into her ear and tapping off mute.
“Leia Deol-Rhodes on the line,” she glances at Dinesh, who pouts at what was most likely some form of stupid business inquiry.
“Ma’am, turn on your television,” JARVIS orders, voice serious and frantic. Leia immediately looks around, locating the television remote on Dinesh’s side of the bed.
“What channel?” she questions, losing all of her previous domestic happiness. I should have known it wouldn’t last, to think, domestic happiness in reach of a-
“Any news channel, ma’am,” JARVIS interrupts her thoughts as Dinesh frowns, reaching for the remote. He turns on the television as her fear rises, because that kind of talk makes her think of September eleventh and surely there’s nothing…
“Oh my god,” Dinesh sits up in bed, staring at the TV screen as scenes of an exploding convoy play out on the news, a picture of the SI Jericho plastered over the left-hand corner. The reporter narrating the scene describes the events, but all Leia can hear is white noise.
“It’s his convoy,” she breathes, heart palpating, thudding against her ribcage.
“Tony,” Dinesh mutters, clenching his hand around the remote. “Fuck, what do we do?”
“Ma’am,” JARVIS in her ear speaks cleanly and plainly. “For your own protection, His Majesty is requesting you presence at the Malibu House.”
“I- okay, okay, we’ll pack up,” Leia breathes, before getting out of bed slowly. “Dinesh, get some bags. It’s not safe here.”
“Not- fuck, right, right. Don’t move around too much, okay?” Dinesh hurries to get ready, pulling on a nearby shirt, buttoning it in a hurry as he scans the room, checking his phone. “Loki wants us at the M-”
“Malibu House,” Leia nods, finishing. “J, when is our car set?”
“The jet is already touching down at LaGuardia Airport. It will be a matter of minutes before another batch of SI security joins your own.”
“Shit, that’s not a lot of time,” Leia swears.
“It will have to be enough.”
24th of December, 1939 – Brooklyn, NY
“Poor luck,” Loretta murmurs as she crouches down by the Christmas tree, pulling the crawling Saoirse out from under it. Loki eyes the woman as she does so, instead of watching Steve and Bucky as they curse up a storm over their shaken scrabble board on the coffee table.
“As troublesome as I, with as much care as Sarah,” Loki comments, taking the wriggling toddler from Loretta’s grasp. “Thank-you for retrieving her.”
“Your welcome,” Loretta grins, features scrunching up in delight as she speaks in whispers to her niece about how she shouldn’t knock over her brothers’ games. Saoirse grins from Loki’s lap and as per usual, Loki can’t tell whether the words are flying over her head or if she’s listening, knowing what she was doing was wrong.
“Play under the tree?” Saoirse questions, wriggling about more. Loki snorts as Bucky threatens.
“If you let her over here, I’ll put her in her pram and she won’t like how high up it is when I put her in!”
“Calm yourself,” Loki orders his son, instead twisting Saoirse around on his lap instead of letting his slippery daughter go, catching her attention gladly. Singing a little ditty to keep her entertained, Loki almost misses how Roger and Thor are talking solemnly in the kitchen.
Once Saoirse is asleep in bed, in Loki’s room, the family gathers in the living room, one member short for the fourth Christmas holiday in a row.
“What did you avoid speaking of before?” Loki questions them, after Steve finishes telling a funny story that had Roger snorting into his glass of wine.
Thor’s pleasant expression fades. “The war that has broken out in Europe, brother. There are murmurs that not all is as it seems. Adolf Hitler’s leadership in Germany has been talked of for years, aye, but when the eve of war has passed…t’was planned, Loki, this invasion. I pray for the souls of those in Poland.”
“All wars are planned. Rarely, if ever, does one side at least not prepare.”
“For the eventuality, aye,” Thor argues, “but not for the inevitability.”
“As I said,” Loki shakes his head, sipping from his glass, “All wars are planned.”
Nineteen forty sees Winston Churchill promoted to Prime Minister of Britain. Thor pays close attention to the war that already has the Great War being called World War One and Loki has heard Roger talking with his Brooklyn boys.
“I’ll be signing up, if they need it,” he mutters into his pint.
Bucky and Steve, nearly eighteen each and old enough to enlist, try to dissuade him, but Loki can see that Steve wants to do more. His son-by-law would never get past recruitment. He doubts Steve would see it as anything other than a challenge, however.
“Army, air or sea?” Loki questions, when it comes up. Roger glances at him in surprise, but tries to pretend he expected Loki to know, playing it cool.
“Armed Forces. I’ve talked to Thor and Loretta about it.”
“He has,” Loretta confirms as she weaves her way through them both, elbowing Roger when he gets in the way of the fridge.
“You then decided to talk about it to my impressionable son and my other, less-impressionable son,” Loki stares at Roger, who purses his lips.
“You- you weren’t around, during the Great War, because you were up in space.” Roger shakes his head, still slightly disbelieving. “I was a kid. If I were something like twelve years older, they would have recruited me, too, round the end of the war. No, ten – I looked old for my age.”
Roger shakes his head again, leaning back against the kitchen counter, only to be moved again by Loretta. He sends a light glare at her, which she returns, before Roger speaks to Loki again.
“If this war involves the USA and it gets as bad as last time, forget about Steve – Bucky’s not going to have a choice.”
Nineteen forty-one: America joins the War.
Roger signs on immediately, going to do his ‘patriotic duty’. Loki thinks Thor might have gone, too, had Roger not asked him to stay with Loretta. Loki swears on the Norns, if his brother joins the war-
Nineteen forty-two: Loki, Thor and Bucky are conscripted.
Loki is clever enough to know that he’s not a front-lines fighter. He has the capability, of course, but he’s much better suited to strategising. The problem is that he doesn’t want to leave US soil or leave Saoirse behind to play the chessboard of war, even if Saoirse is left in the capable hands of Steve and Loretta Dooley.
Unless he erases himself, there’s no way he can return to Brooklyn. Not returning to Brooklyn means he can’t be with Saoirse again and…and that’s not happening.
So, perhaps Loki already had fingers in pies before he was conscripted – it’s not a fault to have a back-up measure. The Strategic Scientific Reserve gets a phone-call from Loki’s library and a week later, his conscription papers disappear, under the provision that Loki joins the SSR as an agent.
That, of course, is perfectly fine with Loki.
Being allowed to remain in New York is a boon he can’t really repay to his friend, there, especially when Saoirse is in the picture. With that dealt with, his only problems are Thor and Bucky. Unfortunately, he can’t do anything about them.
In this moment, Loki thinks when his SSR friend can’t pull through, I wish I were a god again or a Prince of Asgard.
If he were a prince, he could withdraw them both from the fighting and return them safely home. If he were a god, he would retrieve them regardless of the consequences for Midgard. Loki doesn’t know which one he prefers better.
Bucky and Thor go through training – meanwhile, Steve sneaks off to various states, trying to enlist and failing. Brooklyn, Ohio, New Haven.
“It’s never going to happen.”
“I can try,” Steve sticks stubbornly to his purpose and when Bucky comes back for his two weeks before being shipped out – just Bucky, not Thor, because of course Thor is recruited to an elite taskforce by his commanding officer – it happens. Steve goes to Stark Expo and that evening he comes home, packs a bag and leaves a note without so much as a goodbye.
Only because Loki is in the SSR does he know where Steve goes, seeing his name on a list of candidates for Dr Erskine’s super-soldier program.
“Enough,” Loki murmurs and then, he makes his arrangements.
The woman – the agent – twists, saluting as three men approach. “Colonel Phillips.”
“I can see that you are breaking in the candidates. That’s good!” an older man, presumably Phillips, nods approvingly before looking to Hodge. “Get your ass up out of that dirt and stand in that line at attention till somebody comes tells you what to do.”
Hodge gets up, sniffing at the blood coming out his mouth. “Yes, sir!”
Phillips comes over, checking out the line of recruits. Steve glances in the direction of the others, finding Erskine and another man with blonde hair, wracked with a sudden, strange familiarity. I know him, Steve thinks, forcing himself not to frown as Colonel Phillips begins a speech.
“General Patton has said that wars are fought with weapons, but they are won by men. We are going to win this war because we have the best men-” Phillips pauses briefly at the sight of Steve and he knows what the man is thinking, feeling the small well of his worth shrink some. “-and because they are going to get better. Much better.”
“The Strategic Scientific Reserve is an Allied effort made up of the best minds in the free world. Our goal is to create the best army in history. But every army starts with one man and at the end of this week, we will choose that man.”
Steve glances at the stranger, taking advantage of the way Phillips is turned.
The stranger meets his gaze and winks.
It takes everything Steve has not to make a noise of surprise or jerk, but he can’t help but state because he knows this man – of course he knows him.
“He will be the first in a new breed of super-soldier,” Colonel Phillips finishes, “and they will personally escort Adolf Hitler to the gates of hell.”
Loki smirks, before stepping forwards, nodding to Colonel Phillips in respect. Steve looks at his pale uniform, finding stripes and stars that make no sense – he hasn’t even served longer than Bucky! – but his eyes keep drawing back to his hair, which is a strange golden blonde. It’s combed and slicked back just like Steve’s is, having been forced to cut his hair to military standard when he came to Camp Lehigh. Loki just looks so much like Thor, all of a sudden and it’s strange.
“You have met Agent Carter and presumably, some of you have met Colonel Phillips. This is Doctor Erskine,” Loki introduces, before putting a gloved hand to his chest, “and I am Agent Valknir. Colonel Phillips is your Officer in Charge, however I will be handling your paperwork, personally. This includes any correspondence and requisition requests.”
Colonel Phillips takes over after that and Steve can see his step-father watching him from afar, practically feel the weight of his gaze. Once, he even hears Agent Carter talking to him about it.
“Do you know Private Rogers?”
Loki glances at her, “I married his mother, so I should hope so.”
“Oh,” Agent Carter blinks in surprise, before Doctor Erskine steps into the conversation.
“Isn’t that a conflict of interest?”
“Not if I don’t want my son in this program. Unfortunately, you recruited him,” Loki says and had Steve not known any better, he’d have said Loki was acting as if Erskine was of no interest to him. Lamentably, Steve does know better and fears for the doctor in that moment, if not for himself. He could take any punishment his father gave, but Erskine…
Steve just hopes that Loki will continue to play by the rules and not murder the poor man.