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King of sorrow

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It was different than Loki imagined, having a child with Tony, having a half-human child that was completely dependent on him.

The pregnancy surprised them both and while Tony quite quickly came to terms with becoming a daddy and taking that new role as a challenge, Loki grew more anxious day by day. Everything was going to change, he thought and that wasn't as thrilling as one might expect.

Tony insisted on using one of those Midgardian machines to determine the gender of their child and was overjoyed to discover it was a boy. He planned his son's future instantly, mentioned building a tiny version of his suit and creating special toys that would enhance the baby's development. Loki nodded absent-mindedly, trying to hide his distress.

It was overwhelming, taking care of a newborn, stressful, frustrating, constant guessing what the child was crying about. Most often it seemed that he cried for no reason, just to express himself and pass the time. Tiptoeing and whispering because the baby was napping, changing all habits and routines because the baby was demanding and so on. Loki looked at his son, dressed in tiny blue footed pajamas, eyes finally closed, chest moving slowly, that sight was supposed to melt his heart but he felt hollow.

Tony adapted to the new situation so easily it made Loki horribly envious. Why didn't Tony complain about not drinking while the baby was awake? Instead of being grumpy, Tony cheerfully imitated any sound the child made, encouraging him to be even louder. Loki missed silence. Even when the baby was sleeping, he was sure he could hear that alarming sobbing.

Loki did everything that was expected of him, changing, feeding, playing, pretending he was all right. He wasn't. Somewhere beneath layers of exhaustion and disappointment, there was guilt. Loki never thought he was able of remorse, yet he genuinely felt sorry for not loving his child. The little one did nothing wrong, he was cute and playful, grinned at his mother and quickly learnt to say 'Mama'. Maybe Loki really was a monster, deprived of normal emotions. Maybe it was the fact that his half-mortal child was far more needy than Sleipnir or Fenrir.

'Are you smiling for Daddy?' Stark asked for a thousandth time, the child was beaming at him, grateful for the undivided attention. 'Are you smiling for Daddy? Good boy. Loki, look.'

At first, Loki fulfilled his duties without delay, didn't keep the baby waiting but soon discovered nothing tragic happened if he waited a bit more before picking up the baby after his nap. The child would cry out for him, clearly signalling that he was fully awake and demanding cuddles and food, but every additional minute of not dealing with him was beneficial for Loki. Anyway, the boy always forgave him the moment Loki stepped into the nursery.

'Hey, there, are you awake already?' Loki asked, his tone falsely sweet, he was lying to everyone, even his son. 'I didn't hear you. Up, up!'

It ended when Stark installed a camera in the nursery, as he said, to watch the baby sleep. Loki faked his approval, wondering if Stark was suspecting something. Together they watched the child turn in the crib and wriggle his tiny butt.

'He's cute even when he's asleep,' Tony noted with pride and Loki gave a nod. Babies are cute to make everyone love them, why sometimes it fails?

It was then that Loki discovered a new way of avoiding taking care of the boy. Right after a nap, he would feed him and then take him for a walk. A long one. He didn't need to entertain his son when he was in the stroller, no eye contact, no physical contact, Loki pushed the stroller and could easily imagine that there was no baby at all. It was a perfect solution, an illusion of spending time with the child, Loki seemed to be a perfect, caring mother. Three-four hours of peace and quiet, the baby rarely made a sound and then a little slice of watermelon or a cookie solved the problem. Loki roamed the city streets with his son, feeling a little less dead inside, a little more like himself. When people started smiling at the stroller, Loki knew the baby fell asleep again, good, he relaxed a bit more. Later he would lie about taking the child to a playground.

Perhaps it was so hard because the child was so hard-to-please. The slightest discomfort caused unending tears, food too spicy/too hot/too cold made the boy whine for hours, he cried when his diaper was full and cried when Loki changed that diaper. Extremely short attention span turned playing with the baby into a nightmare, one toy was interesting for seconds only. When Loki tried a little less, the boy started to wail and then it was a real challenge to calm him down because he was so focused on his misery that he paid no attention to Loki. Such a dramatic creature. As with many other things, Loki gradually cared less and finally chose to let the baby cry as long as he wanted.

For the majority of time Loki spent with his child, he was either feeling guilty or annoyed, or both, yet still managed to be a relatively good mother. Sometimes, though, the boy pushed his buttons. A rainy day, no way they could go out, so Loki did his best to keep the boy interested with the help of stuffed animals and colourful books. The boy didn't like it, he also wanted to go outside, so Loki showed him thick raindrops on a window pane.

'Look, it's raining,' Loki explained, doing his best to keep his voice down, although inside he was shaking. He put the boy on the kitchen counter, letting him watch the drops trickling down but of course, the child gripped a half of a lemon Tony left there and without a second thought he pushed it into Loki's hair. A little thing, normally it wouldn't faze Loki but that day was hard enough and it was the last straw. He left the child on the kitchen floor and closed the door behind him, breathing hard. The boy was bawling, 'Mama, Mama' until Loki finally let him out.

Loki promised himself he would not lose his temper like that anymore, he would not hurt the child, never would he raise a hand against him. Some time later the boy was feverish and more fussy than usual, it was right after his nap, Loki couldn't put him back into the crib. He hoped the baby would not poop before Tony came home but no, once again he had to change a poopy diaper. The boy protested against such cruelty and got up from the floor before Loki was done. So Loki pulled him back, and again, maybe a bit roughly, giving the child another reason to cry. It was a vicious circle. 

Tony decided that it was still too early for a daycare or a nanny. The boy needed his mother, not strangers, he would stay home with Loki for the first three years. After a careful discussion, Loki convinced him to make it a year and a half. The boy was eleven months old. Almost there.

No one saw an enemy in Loki anymore, not now when he was domesticated, turned into a loving mother. The Avengers would sometimes come and play with the child and retreat the moment a meltdown was coming. Loki wanted to leave as well.

The child's needs came first, always, always. Loki wasn't important, Loki's relationship with Tony wasn't important. Another diaper, milk, water, 'Would you like an apple? No? A pear? A banana?' Why was it so difficult? The boy wasn't even one, how could he be so stubborn and picky? He already had his habits and preferences and did not appreciate it when he was forced to something he didn't like. Loki cursed himself for being weak but he finally started to eat behind the baby's back, so he would not have to share. Hiding was easier than refusing. The child was so greedy, he wanted everything that Loki was having, even if it was something hot.

On top of everything else, Loki was guilty of being jealous of his own child. Tony adored his son, loved every smile and every wet, sloppy kiss, he played with the boy while Loki stood aside, hating himself for not joining them. If he left, would they even notice? Tony kept talking about the boy, his pride, even when he was in bed with Loki. To make things worse, he casually called Loki 'Mummy' and himself 'Daddy', without even making it sound dirty. Where was the passion? They used to be inseparable, addicted to each other, Tony used to love only Loki- and now there was someone else. Their child.

Sometimes Loki thought he would just stand up and leave without looking back, abandon his family and never return. But it wasn't what he really wanted. He wished no harm to his child, he only wanted the child not to exist. Turn back time and avoid having him. Be only with Tony, that was Loki's dream, have only Tony at his side. Unfortunately, the child was there with them and it was not going to change.

 

Loki and the boy came home after another long walk and Stark was late, again. Loki, too tired to do anything, sat down on a couch and waited for Tony. The boy was drooling on his toys, somewhat baffled by the lack of attention of his parent. He tried to engage Loki in the game by staring at him, handing him toys, smiling, saying 'Mama'. That was Tony's fault, he spoilt the child, making him feel like he was the most important person in the world that no one could refuse anything.

'Just play alone.'

The boy was puzzled but reluctantly followed the advice, he focused on climbing a chair. Loki looked away and then heard a noise. The boy fell down, on his butt and cried. Loki used to comfort him in such situations but what was the point? The child was not injured, only being a little dramatic. He would stop crying in a few moments.

Loki closed his eyes and took a deep breath, thinking about another lie he was going to tell Stark. At the playground, the boy played in the sandbox and went on the slide, all by himself. Believable? Yes. Something was put on his lap, his eyes snapped open- the boy gave him a book about spiders. Why did he even bother? He never listened when Loki read him the story anyway. Loki pushed the book off his legs onto the couch and the boy clumsily climbed it. He settled himself next to Loki and when understood that his mother had no intention of opening the book, he decided to do it all by himself. The pages were hard and thick, somehow he managed to close the book when his fingers were still inside, another reason to sob. Loki glanced at him- it was a summer afternoon, the baby's face, neck and chest were wet with drool and tears, his bib soaked and covered in damp crumbs, hands sticky and dirty, the little body sweaty.

'Stop crying.'

Stark came back, at last, Loki sighed, relieved that his ordeal was over. The boy lit up immediately, 'Daddy, Daddy!' Loki gritted his teeth, watching them, how could Tony be a good parent, why did his child love him so much? Then the boy turned to Loki and smiled at him, invited him to his world.

It was easier to deal with the child when Stark was around, his presence soothed the whiny cranky baby and turned him into an adorable sweetheart. Loki almost let himself enjoy it, he almost got up and played with his lover and their child but then recalled how he hissed, 'Shut up, shut up'  at the baby just hours ago. He was stepping on a thin ice. The baby still forgave him, still loved him- how long would that last? When would he stop reaching out to Loki? It was obvious whom Stark would choose.

'Daddy's boy, were you good to Mummy today? Did you play with other children?'

'Yes, in the sandbox.'

'Mummy said you were in the sandbox. Tell me, did you eat sand again? Give Daddy a kiss.'