Thor Odinson, alias “Thunderstorm”. Former soldier, professional assassin, unintentional hermit. Been living in a remote cabin safehouse outside the city limits for the last four years. He has exactly one bowl and one plate and one spoon and they’re all military surplus. He grooms his nails with his tactical knife, wears his boots to bed (which is actually the couch), and jacks off in the shower more than he would care to admit. His wardrobe consists chiefly of black BDUs and white tees. He owns more guns than pairs of socks, and he has more socks than reasons to get up in the morning. He hasn’t been in a relationship since 2001 and he hasn’t had a home-cooked meal in even longer. He’s two years from 40, he has no living family, all of his friends are dead, it’s getting hard to read small text, and Doc Banner says if he doesn’t get his blood pressure down soon, he won’t live long enough to die saving the world like he’s obviously planning to.
Sooner or later he’s going to have to hang up this contract killing bullshit, take all the money he’s earned popping bad guys for the last two decades, and find a fjord somewhere to grow old and bitter in. What’s the point of trying to live a normal life when you’re this numb inside anyway?
But this last assignment…
His client hadn’t said anything about a kid being in the house. Certainly not a pregnant teenager who was one of the Grandmaster’s “living assets”, an orphaned tersh (tertiary gender, intersex, very rare and valuable to underworld sleazebags) who was currently being served hot and fresh in the VIP lounge at Club Sakaar. The kid—Loki he’s called, no surname, no ID or records, according to the government he doesn’t even exist—had his virginity auctioned off for 2.2 million when he was sixteen and was leased for breeding at age eighteen. The first leasee’s “investment” is growing in his belly now.
Thor hadn’t known what to do. He couldn’t kill the kid. The sight of him huddled against the wall with his hand on his belly, tears shining in his big beautiful eyes, begging for his life… Thor would rather suck the lead out of his Beretta. Nor could he leave him behind to be bought, sold, bred, and abused for the rest of his life. Other assassins might, but Thor lived by a different code.
That left only one option.
Loki had come willingly, and one haphazard, heart-stopping motorcycle ride later, Thor is looking around at his grungy, disgusting cabin and wondering how in the hell he’s going to make it suitable for human habitation. Especially considering what Loki had come from: caviar and silver spoons, plasma TVs and limousines, luxury sheets, designer clothes, his very own room that locked from the outside and was under 24-hour video surveillance. It was a golden cage, but it was still a lot nicer than this dump.
Loki, already shocked and shaken and scared by everything that’s happening, starts to cry when he realizes he might have to spend the rest of his life in this awful place. That’s just how it is. Every man he’s ever known has owned him, body and mind and soul, and he doesn’t know anything about this Thor guy other than he’s a huge, angry-looking contract killer who lives like a backwoods troglodyte.
He sobs about the appalling conditions of his new home and Thor’s feelings get hurt. Hell, Thor can’t remember the last time he felt hurt—or anything for that matter—and like any prickly, hypersensitive old bastard, he ends up lashing out and snarling at Loki about how “life’s tough, your highness” and how he has to “get used to it, because this is the way it’s gonna be” and how he’s “lucky to even be alive”.
Loki wipes away his tears and screams that he’s traded one monster for another, and at least his old monster wasn’t so fucking mean and revolting, then he storms off to Thor’s bedroom—the only bedroom in the cabin, the one Thor hasn’t used in years—and slams the door in his face.
Thor drops down onto the couch with his head in his hands and wonders if this is what having teenage kids feels like. He is old enough to be Loki’s father.
God. That means he’s old enough to be a grandfather.
He gets up, goes to the kitchen, and digs out the bottle of Glenlivet from under the sink, because realizations this awful deserve to be drowned.
All of Thor’s uncomfortable new feelings are pretty well anesthetized by the time Loki emerges from the room an hour later and murmurs that he’s hungry. Then everything comes roaring back in full fucking Technicolor glory, along with one metric shit ton of added guilt, totally killing Thor’s buzz.
Maybe trying to drink away the first feelings he’s had in years is the wrong thing to do. He takes a breath and decides to try again.
He doesn’t have much in the way of real food, and he was saving the MREs for a genuine emergency, but he lets Loki have his pick (he needs the nutrition, after all), and clumsily clears off a spot at the tiny, rickety kitchen table so he has a place to sit. Loki sits down and eats his MRE in silence, Thor takes his tray when he’s finished, and he offers up a quiet, tentative, “Thank you.”
Thor replies just as tentatively, “You’re welcome.”
It isn’t the best start, but at least it’s a start.
A few days later, Thor goes somewhere he hasn’t been in years: a real, actual supermarket. Gas stations and drug stores are good enough for a bachelor, but now he has a baby on the way and—no, no, not his baby, he’s just taking care of a pregnant tersh for a little while, that’s all, just a kid who needs balanced meals, fresh fruits and vegetables, bread and milk, perishable stuff like that, maybe some comfort foods, too. What do expectant mothers eat anyway? Shit, Thor should have thought of this before he left the house.
He ends up with half the store in his cart and enough bags in the back of his battered old Land Rover to obstruct the view out the rear window.
When he returns to the cabin and unloads everything, Loki comes padding out of the bedroom and is shocked by the cornucopia covering the kitchen counters. Not only food, but some of the things he’s either cried for or griped about missing since he’s been here: his own toothbrush, some basic clothing, a heating pad for his sore back, his own towel and washcloth, cocoa butter lotion, a big bottle of prenatal vitamins—
“I got ice cream,” says Thor helpfully, holding up two of the twelve one-pint cartons he bought. “You get cravings, right? I didn’t know which flavor you liked, so I got an assortment.”
Loki folds his arms on top of his bulging belly and puts his hand to his lips, wincing. “I… can’t eat dairy. I’m lactose intolerant.”
Thor goes still. Then he looks down at the twelve pints of ice cream he’s going to have to eat by himself, as if staring at his own demise, and Loki can’t help it. He starts giggling and it catches. Soon he and Thor are standing in the kitchen cackling and guffawing, and every time they look at each other, it just kicks up another notch.
Finally Loki wipes his eyes and says breathlessly, “Oh. Oh my, I haven’t laughed like that in ages. I think it woke someone up.”
Thor gives him a quizzical look, and Loki steps forward and picks up Thor’s hand, pressing it to his belly. “Wait for it… ah, there. Do you feel it?”
Thor does. The smile vanishes from his face, replaced with a look of wonder. Something is bumping into his palm, maybe a little foot or a fist, strong and insistent.
Something strange comes over him in that moment. Something soft and warm, wistful and reverent. It’s insane, really. Assassins don’t nurture lives. They end them. To feel the evidence of a new life growing inside someone is… very different from what he’s used to.
He kind of likes it.
Thor looks up and smiles. “That’s a lot of energy being burnt in there. I’m not the best chef in the world, but… can I make dinner for you and the little one?”
Loki grins. “That would be lovely, thank you.”
Thor practically glows. “You’re welcome.”
Thor, as it turns out, is not the best chef in the world. He’s not even the best chef in the house. Loki is exactly half his age and knows more about cooking than he does, and as a result, Thor spends the next two weeks getting schooled at every meal.
Loki has to show him how to cut and pit an avocado (Thor has never even touched an avocado before), how to julienne carrots, and why extra virgin olive oil—“evoo” Loki calls it, which makes Thor’s balls crawl—is the greatest thing in the world. They squabble about knives—“It’s just for cutting food,” Thor argues, “why does it matter which one you use?”—and how to whip eggs for omelettes versus beating them for scrambled eggs, just to name a few of the lectures.
“Don’t use hot water to make coffee, you barbarian. It ruins the flavor. Use cold.”
“I’ve been making coffee since before you were even on this planet, Loki. I think I know what I’m doing.”
“Well, you don’t. Here, let me show you how to make it correctly…”
They’re always bickering and bantering and bumping into each other, fighting for control over the sink and stove, and lightheartedly heckling one another:
“You’ve been to India how many times and you’ve never had mattar paneer? You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Thor.”
“‘Medium chain fatty acid’. What’s that? It sounds lethal. Has anyone been killed with one yet?”
“Bacon is not a main course, nor is whisky a side dish. Are you actually trying to kill yourself?”
“I was eating scorpions in the goddamn jungle when you were still in nappies, Loki. You learn to get by with what you’ve got. It’s called survival.”
“I can’t believe you’ve never had kale. I bet your arteries look like a New York City sewer. You’re lucky I’m here. I’ve probably saved you from a heart attack.”
They spend many evenings like this, pestering and picking on one another, sharing mischievous smiles that remain on their lips as they lie down to sleep at night—Loki in the squeaky old bed, Thor on the sagging couch—and long, lingering glances that grow steadily fonder as time goes on.
At Loki’s insistence (nagging, it was definitely nagging), Thor works to improve a few things around the cabin: bulbless lights, broken mirrors, leaky spots in the roof. He even manages to squeeze his oversized ass into the crawl space to fix the leaky pipe in the bathtub so Loki can take a real bath. The sound of Loki’s pleased purrs on the other side of the bathroom door is reward enough for Thor. But the kiss on the cheek that Loki gives him later, well. That makes Thor feel really good. Maybe even a little… happy.
Yes. It’s happiness he’s feeling. And affection. Care. Compassion. Love. All the things that Thor has given up on ever feeling again, and here they are, right in front of him, going by the name “Loki”.
Only once does Thor bring up the subject of Loki’s leasee, and it’s after dinner one evening, while he’s washing the dishes. Loki is engrossed in a crossword puzzle when Thor asks the question, and Loki sets down his pencil and takes a breath.
“I didn’t know his name,” he says calmly. “He was a big man, even bigger than you. He was bald and he had huge hands, and wore these enormous gold rings with jewels in them. He had tiny eyes, like a pig’s eyes, and the ugliest chin I’ve ever seen.”
Loki stares down at the table and puts his hand on his belly.
“He’s not the father, though. He used a donor—I don’t know who. I never had to have sex, but every day for a week I would go to a special room and the doctors would… they’d stick this big syringe inside me. It was cold and it hurt. And he would always be there, watching. I think he liked to see me cry.”
A shiver courses through Loki’s body.
“He used to come visit me at the Club. He would make me sit in his lap and he’d touch my stomach while he talked to En. I hated when he did that. Sometimes he’d put his hand under my shirt and touch me. Pinch me. Say nasty things about me and the baby.”
He folds his arms protectively over his middle.
“I still have nightmares about him. I think I always will.”
Thor clenches his teeth. He thinks he knows who Loki’s leasee is. Only one motherfucker in the underworld fits that description, and that motherfucker is Boss Thanos. Weapons collector. Gemstone enthusiast. Self-styled philosopher. Tyrant. Serial adopter of homeless little girls who end up either running away or disappearing. He’s got everyone in his pocket. He’s practically untouchable, unstoppable. Nothing inspires more fear and dread than the name of Thanos.
Shit. If he thinks he owns Loki’s child, there will be no ridge, no barren moor, no crevice where he cannot find him. Loki will be hunted for the rest of his life. What Thanos wants, Thanos always gets.
Thor grips the edge of the sink with his soapy hands and bows his head. “I’m sorry for bringing it up. I won’t do it again.”
“No, it’s. It’s alright, Thor.” Loki stands, rising awkwardly—belly first, pushing himself up with the back of the chair—and shuffles over to the sink. He slips his arms around Thor’s waist and hugs him. Thor can feel the warm, firm press of his pregnant belly against his lower back. “You saved me from that monster, and other monsters like him.” He lays his cheek against Thor’s shoulder blade. “Thank you.”
Thor stiffens his lips, trying not to think about how he hasn’t really saved Loki at all. That he’s only delayed the inevitable. That Loki will eventually be returned to Thanos’s ownership and be terrorized, tormented, and tortured for the rest of his life. He and his child. Or worse, children.
A lump rises in Thor’s throat.
“You’re welcome,” he says hollowly.
Thor finally has a good reason to dip into his savings, and he does.
Holy shit, he thinks when he looks at his balance. He forgot that he’s been accruing interest in these accounts for the last fifteen years. He has the means to give himself a very nice retirement.
Or set someone else up with a brand new life.
That’s what he’ll do. Fuck the fjords. Fuck retirement; he’ll live in a tent in the Gobi goddamn Desert if it means Loki is safe and his child has a future. There is no better use of his money than that.
Of course, it means he’ll have to take one last job, make one final hit. The biggest one of his life, possibly the last thing he ever does.
But if it gives Loki and his baby a new lease on life, so be it. Thor’s life is almost half over anyway. Loki’s is just beginning. It would be a worthy sacrifice.
He spends the next several days on his cell phone, calling in favors to his contacts at SHIELD, getting in touch with nonprofit groups who specialize in helping victims of sex trafficking and provide protection programs for exploited tershes. Loki’s due date is rapidly approaching and there’s no way Thor is just going to drop him off at a maternity ward somewhere and say goodbye; not with Thanos lurking out there, possibly monitoring the incoming patient manifests of all major hospitals, hoping to swoop in and collect his productive little investment.
Just the thought makes Thor’s hackles rise, that that big ugly bastard raped Loki with an artificial penis and paid for nine months’ rent of his uterus—and everything growing inside it. It’s beyond monstrous. It’s unconscionable. Thor wants to take his Ka-Bar and shove it right into Thanos’s taint. Drive it in to the hilt, carve him a big old pussy, then slice off his dick and shove it inside. Let him see how it feels to be—
Blood pressure. Gotta watch the blood pressure, Thor reminds himself. Calm down, deep breath, relax, you’ll live longer.
Because suddenly he does want to live longer. It hadn’t really mattered to him before. There had never been anyone waiting for him to come home at night, no one to ask him how his day was or what his plans for the future are. No one to cook dinner (or breakfast, or brunch) with him, or scold him about his bad habits and encourage him to take better care of himself. No one to stand in the living room wearing his huge t-shirt and nothing else for pajamas, the cloth draping from an eight-month pregnant belly, and shyly ask if he wants to come to bed.
“I just want to be held,” Loki murmurs, his hands fidgeting. “I want someone beside me and I… I want to feel safe.”
Thor hesitates. “Loki, I am an assassin. I kill people for a living. I am walking death.”
“I know. What safer place to be than by your side?”
After a long, thoughtful pause, Thor gets up and follows Loki into the bedroom. He slips under the covers with him, his pulse pounding in his ears. Loki turns off the lamp and they lie there against one another, warm and comfortable, and Thor’s heartbeat slows. He relaxes. The tension leaves his muscles, his breathing becomes calm and slow. He’s pretty sure his blood pressure is actually somewhere in the normal range now. This is nice. This is good. This is… wonderful, actually.
Loki picks up Thor’s hand and puts it on his stomach, inviting him to rub. Thor feels the baby kicking and squirming restlessly inside Loki’s small, cramped belly, and he draws his hand soothingly back and forth over his tight skin. He doesn’t know why, but he begins to murmur nonsense words in a low, deep rumble. It sounds like gentle thunder and resonates through his hand and into Loki’s flesh.
Eventually the kung fu fighting ceases and the baby settles, quiet and content.
“Thank you,” Loki whispers, looking at Thor with his large, pale eyes. He reaches up and runs the back of his finger down Thor’s bearded jaw. “For this. For everything.”
He leans up just enough to brush Thor’s lips with his own—soft young skin against rough, prickly beard—then he sinks back into the pillow with a tender smile.
Thor looks at him and knows he has fallen painfully, desperately in love. “You’re welcome.”