Ragnarok Loki saunters into the seraglio with a smirk on his face and a swagger in his step. The other Lokis pause their conversation and raise their heads. A few of them instantly recognize the reason for his smug appearance and break into grins.
“You’re with child,” states the royal and most recent Loki.
“Oh, indeed I am,” says Ragnarok Loki proudly, striding into the center of the room and lounging on one of the chaises. “The healer confirmed it earlier this afternoon.”
“Splendid! You’re quite excited, I take it?”
He answers with a leer. “No, actually, I took it this time, thank you very much, your majesty.”
Royal Loki clicks his tongue and smiles.
“Have you told Thor yet?” asks Infinity Loki, leaning forward earnestly.
“You mean you didn’t hear all that bellowing half an hour ago?” Ragnarok Loki waves his hand with a soft laugh. “He was ecstatic, of course. You would think it was his first, the way he carried on. When he finally let go of me I came here straight away to tell you all the good news.”
“Well, it certainly is good news,” says Young Loki brightly. “The fifth child in our little family—how fast it’s growing.”
He is holding his daughter Frídda in his arms. She is a murmuring, dark-haired little thing with her father’s blue eyes and her mother’s Jötunn skin. Thor had been overjoyed when she arrived six months ago, and not just because she was his firstborn.
Young Loki had been the first of his brothers to become pregnant (quite by accident, though no one was really surprised), followed by Royal Loki, the secondary monarch of New Asgard and reigning king of Jötunheim, then Dark Loki. The royal had just given birth to a healthy, handsome, intersex son, and is contentedly nursing him in a wingback chair.
Infinity Loki sighs wistfully at his younger, newly-pregnant self. “I must say, brother, I envy you. I can’t wait until it is my turn.”
“Be careful what you wish for,” mutters Dark Loki. He is sprawled on a nearby pillow-strewn couch, petting his pronounced, protruding belly. He is carrying twins—large, active, healthy twins that will likely inherit their father’s mighty physique—and is due to deliver in twelve more weeks. “You might very well get it, and more besides.”
“If I do, I’ll welcome it,” Infinity Loki insists. “I would like nothing more than to carry Thor’s child. Or children.”
“You will soon,” says Royal Loki sagely. “Just be patient. We can’t all be pregnant at once, you know. Poor Thor would go mad.”
“How far along are you?” Young Loki asks while Frídda explores his face with one of her tiny blue hands.
“Not far,” says Ragnarok Loki. “Barely eleven weeks, according to the healer.” He pats his belly absently. “I’m surprised I didn’t get morning sickness. I was expecting I would.”
“You were fortunate,” says Young Loki. “I was sick for the first two months.”
“And I was ill for nearly my entire pregnancy,” says Royal Loki. “It was almost unbearable, but”—he looks down at his green-eyed son and smiles tenderly—“Tórli was worth it.”
“I hope my two will be worth it,” sighs Dark Loki, rolling his eyes and eliciting a few sympathetic snickers.
“Of course they’ll be worth it,” says a sharp voice. “They are Thor’s children, aren’t they? How can they be anything but worth it?”
The smiles of the five Lokis fade as they realize it is Avenger Loki who has spoken. He is sitting on a pallet outside their cozy circle, his arms propped up on his bent knees. His face is grim, his fingers twitching restlessly. He is pale and thin-looking, his eyes dark, full of turbulence. His waist is slim, his chest flat, everything about his body still sharp and hard. He does not share the soft, rosy radiance of his pregnant selves, nor the happy tiredness of the two who hold their beautiful, perfect babies in their arms.
The others awkwardly glance around, their expressions varying on the spectrum from guilt to pity.
They understand Avenger Loki’s bitterness. He and Thor have been trying for a baby far longer than any of them, and two months ago he began to think it had finally happened. For a brief time he had been happy, so optimistic and bright. They saw him inspecting his reflection in the mirror, squeezing his breasts, palming his belly, watching and waiting for signs.
Then his cycle had started and his hopes had been dashed. He blamed himself; he should have known better. His periods were still terribly irregular, even after several months of peaceful living on New Asgard. Thor had insisted that Loki take his time, that this was not a race or some silly contest between him and his other selves. He was under no obligation to have children. There was no pressure. Thor made that repeatedly and abundantly clear to him.
“But I do want children,” Avenger Loki had insisted time and time again. “I want to feel your baby inside me, Thor. I want to be full and heavy, to know what three of my brothers already know. I want to have that power, to feel it growing in me. I want you to be excited for me, Thor. Proud of me. As you are of them. I want this so badly.”
Thor had cradled Loki’s neck and stared into his eyes, kissed him tenderly, and reminded him once again that he loved him as deeply and wholly as he loved the others.
But if Loki didn’t believe it himself, then all those sweet reassurances meant nothing.
After several tense moments in which nobody speaks, Avenger Loki crawls up and stalks out of the seraglio, taking his crushing sense of failure and inadequacy with him.
“He’s so gloomy,” whispers Young Loki. “Why is he like that? Is he guilty for having fought against Thor?”
“It’s because of Thanos,” says Royal Loki softly. “The experience is still very recent for him, I’m afraid.”
“What do you mean? What experience?”
The King of Jötunheim sighs and pulls his lips into a thin line. “After we fell from the Bifrost and found ourselves in Chitauri space, Thanos lured us into his ranks with the promise of power and authority. We accepted, and then he tortured us to make certain we were loyal to him, to prove that we would be worthy of his rewards. He took our mind apart, poisoned it, unmade us, and put it back together as he saw fit.”
Young Loki pales. “Did he… have you?”
“No,” Dark Loki mutters. “But he did other things. Terrible things.”
“He cut into us,” says Ragnarok Loki gravely. “He opened our body and harvested it like a field of wheat.”
“He was intrigued by our sex and our sorcery,” says Infinity Loki. “He stole our eggs and our seed and blended them with Chitauri gametes. He tried to breed us. We suffered many miscarriages before he decided to plant the embryos in other beings.”
“But they all failed.” Dark Loki scowls. “Thank the Norns.”
“Then he gave us to his sex monsters.” Royal Loki smiles coldly. “His way of apologizing for carving us up like a sacrificial offering.”
“He thought he was rewarding us—these were beasts of pleasure, bred to satisfy in every way—but all they did was hurt us.”
“They pumped their filth into our womb and made us bleed. Their sperm sickened us and disrupted our cycles.”
“The cramps lasted for weeks,” says Ragnarok Loki. “We were in agony by the time we reached Earth. The fact that we are even able to conceive children after what he did to us is miraculous.”
Young Loki looks mortified, stunned beyond words. He holds his infant daughter a little more closely. “I… I had no idea.”
“Of course you wouldn’t. You were lucky,” says Infinity Loki, but his tone is gentle, holding no malice. “Which is why I envy you most, little brother. You bear none of our scars. You are innocent and unspoiled, fecund as we shall never be again.”
He reaches over and runs his hand through Young Loki’s short black hair. “Sometimes I fear I might be the unluckiest of us all, that perhaps just being near Thanos again was enough to make me barren.”
He shudders at the memory of that huge, ugly hand grasping his throat and lifting him off his feet, just before Thor and three different versions of himself flew in and saved his neck. Literally.
“Don’t worry,” says Royal Loki to him, lifting his newborn son onto his shoulder and patting him. “I was able to conceive a child, and that one there is bearing twins, so you are not sterile, brother. Thor is more than just thunder and lightning. He is also a fertility god. His seed is potent and healing, a balm to our wounded bodies. It is only a matter of time until you have a baby of your own.”
Infinity Loki smiles bravely at his older twin and blinks away the moisture in his eyes. “Do you think our sad brother will ever conceive?” he asks softly, looking to where Avenger Loki disappeared.
“He will, in time,” answers the King, gently rocking his squirming son. “If that is his wish, our Thor will surely grant it.”