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What We Have Left

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“If you were really here, I might even give you a hug.” Thor tossed the stopper across the room.

Loki caught it.

He smiled. “I’m here.”

Thor stared at him, and then, before Loki could move, crossed the room and embraced his brother tightly. Loki made a shocked sound, stiffening. Then, after a few moments, he took in a deep, shuddering breath and returned the gesture, gripping Thor’s shoulders.

The two of them stood there, brothers embracing. Then Thor pulled away, one hand on Loki’s shoulder. “I’m here, too.”

Loki smiled wanly, but suddenly flinched, his face going tight with an expression of pain, and drew in his breath sharply. His hand flew to his midsection.

“Loki?” Thor felt a rush of fear. Had Loki been injured? “What is wrong? Are you hurt?”

Loki straightened up, wincing a bit. “I’m not hurt, Thor. But . . .” He seemed to hesitate, looking cautious, almost fearful. “There’s something you ought to know.”

Thor frowned. He didn’t like the sound of this. They had just escaped doom and watched their homeland die; he didn’t need another crisis to deal with. “What is it, brother?”

“I-” Again, Loki hesitated, that expression of doubt and fear on his face. He sighed. “It’s - just . . . Watch.”

He drew in a breath, placing his hand just below his ribs. Then he closed his eyes and let the breath out, bringing his hand down over his stomach. As he did so, his form shimmered and changed. His midsection became rounder, fuller, and the tight leather changed to loose-fitting cloth that was still tight over his stomach because he was something that it was impossible for him to be; Thor would’ve known.

Loki laid a hand on his swollen belly, which was rounded in an unmistakable shape. “This is what you needed to know.”

Thor couldn’t speak. He stared at his brother, dumbfounded. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. This had to be an illusion, he thought; had to be. There was no other way. And yet he knew it wasn’t, somehow. He knew, deep down, that this was no trick.

“You’re pregnant,” he said.

Loki nodded. “Yes.”

Thor was at a loss for words. He had so many questions, but couldn’t find the words. “How long have you . . .?” he managed.

Loki sighed. “I’m in the second week of my eighth month.”

“Your eighth-?!” Loki was eight and a half months pregnant? “Loki, I . . .”

Thor trailed off. He couldn’t believe it. Loki was pregnant. Pregnant, carrying a child inside him. Of all the shocking revelations Loki could’ve made him aware of, this was the most shocking. Loki was going to have a baby.

“Who is the father?”

Loki rolled his eyes. “Does it matter?”

“Yes! Who is it? The Grandmaster?”

Loki sneered in disgust. “My gods, no! Do you really think that I would ever allow myself to conceive the child of that disgusting creature?”

“So you never . . .?” Thor trailed off again, reluctant to finish the sentence.

Loki laughed, a little maliciously. “Oh, no; he bedded me many times, and I was quite enthusiastic, I might add. Being pregnant does that to a Jotunn, you see. We crave attention of a very specific kind. But the child is not his,” he went on. “The child’s father is an Asgardian, a nameless man who fucked me a few times and is now most likely dead.”

Thor shook his head, astounded. He couldn’t take his eyes off the round swell of his brother’s body.

Loki, pregnant.

Then a horrible thought came to his mind. “Loki, if you were with child this whole time, why did you fight alongside me? You could have easily lost the babe.”

“I cast a powerful protection spell,” Loki explained. “It kept the child safe, and strengthened the illusion.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You weren’t there,” Loki said. “And even when you were . . .” He sighed. “I didn’t want to put my child in danger. If Odin knew . . . You saw what he did to my other children; to Hela, to Fenris. I didn’t want it to happen again. I didn’t want to lose another one.”

“But Odin didn’t know,” Thor said. “Why not tell me?”

“Because you’re just like him,” Loki said bitterly.

“What?” Thor said angrily. “I would never harm your children!”

“You already have!” Loki snapped, and his words and the anger on his face stopped Thor dead.

“What are you talking about?” he asked, bewildered.

“Do you remember this?” Loki pulled something from his pocket and flung it at Thor’s feet. Thor bent down and picked it up. He shuddered slightly. It was the implant the people back on Sakaar had used multiple times to shock him silly. The implant, he realized, he had put on Loki and shocked him with.

“I do remember,” he said. “What of it?”

“What of it?” Loki’s eyes were dangerously bright. “ What of it? ‘What of it’, he says. You shocked me with it! For three hours!”

“And?” Thor said, sensing this was leading nowhere good.

“And?” Loki snarled. “It hurt! You care nothing for my pain, but that’s not the worst! When you electrocuted me with that thing, you almost sent me into labor! For me to give birth like that would have killed my baby! YOU COULD HAVE KILLED MY CHILD !”

Thor felt as though the ship had dropped out from under him. Horrible guilt came crashing down over him. He had meant to incapacitate Loki. He knew that to be electrocuted like that wouldn’t hurt him, but it would definitely been near fatal to any child Loki was carrying.

“Loki . . .” he stammered, “I-I’m sorry. I didn’t know. I would never harm a child of yours on purpose. I would never take them from you.”

“You never tried to stop it from happening.” Loki wiped his eyes angrily. He laid his hands on his belly, running them over the swell of his body. “Not once. I couldn’t take any chances, not on Asgard. And you certainly seemed eager to be rid of me; why would my babe be any different?”

He laid a hand on his belly, stroking it gently. “That’s why I wanted to stay on Sakaar. I could’ve given birth to my child there. I could’ve borne her safely, but now that’s ruined.”

Thor didn’t say anything for a moment. “Her?”

“What?”

“You said ‘her’,” said Thor. “It’s a girl?”

Loki nodded impatiently. “Yes, it is. Not that it really - ah!”

Thor stepped forward and laid his hand on Loki’s belly. Loki stiffened, drawing in a sharp breath as his brother touched him. Then he let out a soft grunt as the babe inside him kicked.

Thor smiled. “I can feel her kicking.”

Loki could hardly believe it. Thor wasn’t angry. He wasn’t disgusted or disappointed. He was smiling. Happy. For the first time, the news that he was pregnant was met with joy, not aversion.

Loki allowed himself to relax, and brought his hand to the top of his belly. He smiled, too. “She’s a fighter.”

“Good,” Thor said. “We’ll need those.” The two of them stood in silence for a while, feeling the baby kick.

“So,” Thor said at last, “I’m to have a niece.”

His brother smiled. “You are.”

“And you’re going to have a daughter. You must be happy.”

Loki nodded. “I am, Thor. I am very happy.” He ran his hands over his belly, communicating through touch with the baby inside him. “She’ll be free. No one will take her this time.”

Thor watched his brother stand there, smiling, holding his belly and the babe within him. For the first time in a long while, Loki looked happy, peaceful. That was enough for Thor to know that he would protect this child no matter what people said.

“That’s why you ran from Hela,” he realized. “Your baby.”

Loki nodded. “I had to protect her. I didn’t know what she would’ve done to the babe. I tried to talk to her, Thor, I really did. I thought that she might listen to me. To her mother.” His face fell, pain and heartbreak settling in his features. “But she wouldn’t listen. Just when I thought that I couldn’t hate Odin more, I find what he did to my perfect, innocent daughter: he twisted her into a heartless monster.”

His voice cracked “Oh, gods, my children; my Hela, my Fenris, my Sleipnir-” His voice broke completely and he covered his face with his hands.

Thor was at his side in an instant, taking his pregnant brother into his arms and holding him close. And then Loki was sobbing, sobbing into Thor’s chest, gripping his shoulders and wetting his armor with his tears. His whole body quaked with their force.

He understood Loki’s grief. He felt loss and grief very deeply as well: he had lost his mother, his father, his hammer, his homeworld. He was still trying to process his feelings. But Loki . . . Loki had lost Frigga, the one person he had trusted all his life. He had lost his daughter and his sons. He had been lied to all his life, he had been told that his children were monsters, he had had his children taken from him.

Thor didn’t know what to say. It had been so long since Loki had opened up to him on any feeling, and now Loki was sobbing into his shoulder with such force that Thor was afraid that his sobs would shake him to bits. This may have been because of the hormones that came along with the baby, but it was still a lot.

The baby. Loki was pregnant. That was the one bright spot of hope amid the grief and destruction. There was a new life growing in the midst of the pain and the grief. Thor had to be strong, he thought, for his brother and for his unborn niece.

“Easy, Loki,” he said. He stroked Loki’s hair, as he used to when they were younger and Loki had a nightmare. To his surprise, Loki didn’t pull away. Instead, he nuzzled into the touch, pressing himself into Thor’s hand as if he was starved for contact.

Encouraged, Thor continued to stroke his brother’s hair, talking quietly to him. “Easy Loki,” he soothed. “It’s going to be all right, I promise. It’s all right. I’ll take care of you. I’ll take care of your baby. It’s all right. I’m right here.”

They stood there for a long time, Thor’s arms wrapped around Loki, and Loki buried in his embrace. Loki’s sobs died, but still he stood there, pressed into Thor’s arms. Finally, he stirred, pushing himself away from Thor.

“I’m sorry,” he said shakily, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand. “I didn’t mean to make such a fool of myself. It’s the baby; she makes me so emotional. I-”

“Loki.” Thor put his hands on Loki’s shoulders, effectively silencing him. “Make no excuse for your tears. You have suffered much, and you have lost much. I too have wept, for I have lost much. But we did not lose each other. As long as we have each other, that’s all we need.” His voice cracked. “I do not know what I would do if I lost you, Loki.”

Loki looked at Thor, and for once his green eyes were free of anger and malice. “I’m sorry, Thor,” he said, “I’m sorry for everything I did. If it weren’t for me, none of this would have happened. I was angry that I was blind. Please don’t hate me for what I’ve done, Thor. Please, Thor, you’re all I have left.”

“Loki, I don’t hate you!” Thor exclaimed, his eyebrows upturned in concern. “I could never hate you, brother. I will always be here for you. I will take care of you. And we are not all that is left,” he added. “We have Heimdall and the rest of the people. And we have her.” He laid his hand on the swell of Loki’s belly. “Your child.”

Loki cradled his belly in one hand. “Yes,” he agreed, his voice soft. “I have her.”

“It’s going to be all right,” Thor said quietly. “We have each other.”

Chapter Text

Loki was tired. He had been running nonstop for what seemed like days. Even on Sakaar, where he’d had all the finery he could ask for, he’d been constantly on edge.

The Grandmaster had been easy to win over, at least. How could he resist, really - Loki flush with pregnancy hormones, his dark hair thick and wavy and his pale skin practically glowing - the Grandmaster was all over him at once. All Loki had had to do to win his favor was spread his legs and moan prettily. And with all the hormones running through his system, making him hungry to be touched and filled, it had been incredibly easy to do so. It had gotten him new clothes, a beautiful room, and all the food and other fine things he could ask for. And all he’d had to do was get bedded.

But he had never really relaxed. How could he, with the secret he was hiding? He could never let his guard down. Back on Asgard, before Thor appeared out of nowhere, he’d been able to lose the illusion, to relax in his chambers as Loki instead of Odin. As the baby grew, it had become increasingly difficult to maintain the illusion. He was surprised that he hadn’t lost it when he dropped the Odin glamor.

On Sakaar, he never knew if or when he was being watched. It had been hard to maintain the illusion there. He had been very pregnant, after all, and the babe was growing restless in his womb. She had been especially so during Thor’s fight with the Hulk. Fortunately, he had been able to pass his squirming off as nerves, instead of divulging that his unborn child was kicking him harder than she had before.

What would the Grandmaster have done, had he known that Loki was pregnant? Loki shuddered to think. He might’ve taken the babe, or he might’ve wanted an heir. He couldn’t risk showing his pregnancy, despite how difficult it was to maintain the illusion of being thin and agile while being mere days away from giving birth to his child.

So Loki was tired. But now, at last, he could rest. Thor had promised to protect his child, and Loki knew that he would. He didn’t deserve Thor’s kindness, he thought. He had been so broken and so lost for so long and had treated Thor so cruelly. He’d broken his brother’s heart. He had wanted nothing to do with Thor.

But now he wanted nothing more than to be with his brother. Thor was all he had left of the things he’d loved in his old life, and the only one he felt safe to trust. He loved Thor. He was proud of him: king of Asgard.

Thor was off talking with the Asgardians, leaving Loki alone in the captain’s quarters. Loki decided to take the opportunity to take a bath. He ached all over, both from the battle and the babe. His limbs and back felt as though they’d been pummeled by the Hulk.

He slipped out of his clothes and stepped into the warm water, lowering himself down. Loki let out a breath, and finally allowed himself to relax.

It felt wonderful. The warm water melted the tension in his body and soothed its aches. He hadn’t been able to let himself breathe in weeks.

Loki laid a hand on his belly, sinking into the water. He lay there, his eyes closed, the thump of his heartbeat in his ears as he cradled his swollen belly in his arms. She moved inside him, testing the limits of her motion as she grew.

He lay there in the warm water, holding the swell of his body as his child moved within him. Alone at last; just Loki, pregnant, and his daughter. Loki, the mother.
“What am I going to do with you?” he murmured.

He loved his child. He loved her before she was even born, loved her before she’d started moving within him. He had initially been afraid when he’d found out he was with child, but then realized that with Odin gone, he would be able to keep her. Even on Sakaar, he hadn’t been too worried. He had planned to give birth to her alone, preferably in the bathtub; working through the familiar pains of childbirth all by himself.

Now he was uncertain. Part of him hoped that she would be born before they reached Midgard. But what then? How would the Midgardians react? How would Thor’s friends react, seeing him and his child?

The babe stirred inside him, distracting Loki from his thoughts. He put his hand above her, feeling her move. Thor would protect them, he thought with a smile.
“It’s going to be all right, my little one,” he said quietly, stroking his bulging belly. “Your uncle will take care of us. And I will take care of you.”

 

Thor was drinking at the moment. Not with the intention of becoming drunk, but just enough to steady his nerves. He’d just suffered a terrible shock.
Everything was a mess. Odin was dead. Asgard was smoldering ruins scattered throughout the universe. Mjolnir, gone; Banner, stuck as the Hulk; and Loki, eight months pregnant with a child Thor hadn't known existed.

The child was perhaps the only good thing about this whole horrible situation. It had to be a good omen, Thor reasoned; a new life, growing desite all the death.

“Pregnant,” Thor said to himself. “Always with the surprises, Loki.”

He was sitting in what he assumed to be the bar of the ship. It had surprised him to learn that the ship even had one, but if the rest of the people on Sakaar were anything like the Valkyrie, he supposed that he shouldn’t be too shocked by the revelation. The bar was empty, save for Thor. He was alone at last, trying to process what had been revealed to him.

Thor was happy to learn that Loki was going to have a baby, but he was also concerned. He had no idea how long it would take to get to Earth from this godforsaken corner of space, and there was a high probability that Loki would give birth in that time. How one was supposed to deliver a baby on a spaceship was beyond him. Thor wasn’t even sure that there was a midwife on the ship. What if something went wrong during the birth? What if Loki or the child didn’t survive? What if neither of them survived? Thor had just gotten his brother back; he didn’t want to lose him again.

And how would the Asgardians react to Loki’s child? He’d left Loki in the captain’s quarters so that he could get some rest, so no one except for Thor knew about Loki’s pregnancy. The vast majority of Asgard had not accepted Loki’s children. They had seen them as beasts and monsters, even more so because Loki - a man - had been the one to give birth to them.

Indeed, after the whole business with Hela, the Asgardian people would be highly unlikely to accept another Lokidottir with much joy. Thor prayed that he would not have to defend his brother and newborn niece from an angry mob.

And then there were his friends, the Avengers. They would not be happy to see Loki after what he had done. What would they do with him? How was Thor going to convince them that Loki was a changed person? And what was he going to do with Loki? What was he going to do with the Asgardians? Where would they go? How would they adapt to Earth? Would they be able to do so?

Thor groaned. “By the All Fathers,” he muttered, burying his face in his hands, “what in the name of the Nine am I going to do?”

There were footsteps behind him, footsteps that shook the floor. Thor felt rather than saw a large, solid presence behind him. He knew who it was at once. “Hello, Hulk.”

The Hulk grunted. “What Thor doing?”

Thor poured himself more of whatever alcohol the Sakaarans had stocked the ship with. It tasted like engine oil, to be honest. “I’m drinking,” he said. “What does it look like?”

“Hmmph.” The Hulk grumbled. “Thor worried.”

Thor snorted derisively. “Very observant.”

The Hulk grunted again. “What Thor worried about?”

Thor took a swig of his drink. He really didn’t feel like talking about it. “It’s a bit of delicate situation.”

“Thor can tell Hulk.”

Thor sighed, putting down his glass. He had to tell his friends about Loki’s condition; he might as well start now, with Banner. Still, he was silent for a moment before replying.

“Loki is pregnant.”

Next to him, the Hulk made a choking sound, a sound that was followed by a loud thud as something hit the floor. Thor didn’t bother looking; he knew what he would see if he did.

“Pregnant?!” Banner sputtered. “What do you mean, pregnant? Like, got a baby inside him?”

Thor took another drink. “Yes, that is exactly what I mean.”

“But-but-” Banner stammered. He got to his feet, pulling the ruins of Tony’s pants up around his waist in an attempt to preserve his dignity. “But Thor, that’s not possible! Loki’s a guy; he can’t be pregnant!”

“Loki is not human,” Thor retorted. “And he is not Asgardian, either. He is a Jotun, meaning that childbirth is entirely normal and possible for him. He has several other children. I told you about them, if you remember. I told you that Hela was Loki’s daughter.”

“Yeah, but I thought that he was her dad!” Bruce said, trying it vain to pull his pants up. “You didn’t tell me that he was her mom! Are you trying to tell me that Loki gave birth to Hela?”

“And his other children, yes,” Thor said. ‘Really, Bruce, after all you’ve seen, Loki being pregnant is the hardest for you to believe?”

“It’s kind of hard for me to wrap my head around, yeah!” Bruce said. “This isn’t a thing that happens on Earth! The aliens, the monsters, the supervillains - we have all that, but pregnant men? No!”

“Well, you had better wrap your head around it,” Thor said, “because it is reality. Loki is with child. And that is why I am worried.”
Bruce still looked totally baffled, but he now looked worried. “Hey, Thor,” he said, concern creeping into his voice, “are you ok?”

Thor sighed. “No,” he said. “I just told you that I am not. I am worried about Loki and his child. I don’t know what I’m going to do about them. I fear that I will not be able to protect them as I promised.”

Bruce pulled himself onto a barstool, still attempting to keep his pants up. “Why don’t you tell me about it? I dunno; I might be able to help.”

 

So Thor told him. He told Bruce his concerns surrounding the Asgardians, the Avengers, Loki, and his child.

“So that’s what’s worrying me,” he finished. “And to make matters worse, we don’t even have a midwife to aid Loki if he needs it.”

“Well, actually, Thor,” Bruce said, “you might not have to worry about that: I’m an MD, among other things.”

Thor stared at him blankly. “You’re what?”

“An MD,” Bruce repeated. “That’s a doctor of medicine,” he added, seeing that Thor still looked confused.

“One of your PhDs?” Thor asked, a small smile crossing his face.

Bruce smiled back. “No, actually,” he said. “For some reason, you’re can’t get a PhD in medicine.”

“Earth is confusing.”

Bruce chuckled. “Yeah, I guess so. But the point is that I might be able to help Loki. Even if he doesn’t have the baby before we get to Earth, it’d still be a good idea to check him out and make sure everything’s ok.”

“I would be most grateful to you if you did so,” Thor said. “Would you really?”

Bruce shrugged. “If he’ll let me. I don’t know how willing he would be to let me examine him medically.”

“I will talk to him,” Thor said. “He may be willing to do so for the sake of his child.” Thor stood. “Come, let us go to him.”

“Yeah, uh, hang on there, Thor,” Bruce said.

Thor frowned, looking back at Bruce. “What is wrong?”

“Can I get some clothes first? At least a pair of pants or something.”

Chapter Text

It took a little while to find Bruce a pair of pants. None of the Asgardian refugees had brought extra changes of clothing, so Bruce was forced to wear a pair of pants that Thor dug out of a pile of clothes they found in a store room. Bruce noted the weird stains on them, but didn’t want to find out where they came from.

“It could be anything,” Thor said. “Not what you’re thinking of.”

“Stop it,” Bruce scolded. “I told you, I don’t wanna know.”

“It could be juice,” Thor reasoned.

“I’m not gonna think about it,” Bruce said. “It’s out of my head. Come on; where’s the captain’s quarters?”

“This way.” Thor led Bruce down a hallway and up a flight of weird space-steps that Bruce nearly tripped and ate shit on, and then down another hallway.

“How do you not get lost in here?” Bruce asked. “I feel like everything looks the same.”

“I did get lost,” Thor admitted. “I found the bar on accident: I was looking for the cargo hold.”

“How do you go that wrong?” Bruce asked.

“It’s a big ship,” Thor said defensively.

“Yeah, I’ll agree with you there,” Bruce said before tripping on another set of stairs. “Ow!”

Thor helped him off the ground. “Please do not break yourself before we get to our destination.”

“Sorry,” Bruce said a bit meekly. “I’m still getting used to space. I think the Hulk deals with space better than I do.”

“I do, too,” Thor agreed. He shook his head. “I can’t believe that you were startled out of the Hulk.”

“I can!” Bruce said. “Loki being pregnant is one hell of a shock! At least you knew that that was a possibility when you found out!”

“It was still quite a shock for me,” Thor retorted. “I’m sure you can imagine. I didn’t think it was a possibility, what with everything he’s done recently.” He sighed. “I am glad to hear the news, but I am very worried. I don’t know how our friends will react. They will not have forgotten what he did, and I fear that they will imprison him or take away his child. Perhaps both. Loki wants this baby so badly - I fear to lose her would break him.”

Bruce sighed, too. Poor Thor, he thought: the guy had so much on his mind. He’d lost so much and been through even more, and now he had another set of things to worry about. Bruce had his own things to worry about, but he wanted to help Thor. Maybe he could do so by helping Thor deal with some of his worries surrounding Loki and his baby.

“Thor, I know things have been tough,” he began, “but I might be able to help. The Avengers are my friends, too. They might listen to me. I’ll talk to them, don’t worry.”

Thor smiled gratefully. “Thank you, Bruce. I am truly in your debt. Ah, here we are.” Thor stopped outside a door with a funny symbol on it.

“What's up with these weird symbols?” Bruce asked. “Are they some kind of alphabet?”

“I don’t know,” Thor said. “But we’re here about Loki, not Sakaaran culture.”

“Right,” Bruce said. “Sorry. After you.”

“Thank you.” Thor raised his hand and knocked. “Loki? It is I, Thor. May I come in?”

“I suppose,” said a voice from within. “Close the door after you.”

Thor turned to Bruce. “All right,” he said, “follow me.”

“Shouldn’t you tell him I’m with you?” Bruce asked, slightly concerned. “He might freak out. I don’t wanna Hulk out again. The Hulk isn’t an MD.”

“Yes, and if I do tell him you’re with me, he may not let you in,” Thor reasoned. “I’ll talk to him, don’t worry. Come, let us go in.”

“Ok,” Bruce said a little uncertainly. “After you.”

Thor opened the door by means of a button on the wall, and he and Bruce stepped into the room beyond.

Loki was standing by the table, his back to the door. His hair was damp, and he was dressed in loose clothing that Bruce didn’t recognize. “Where were you?” he asked without turning around. His attention seemed to be focused on a book on the table.

“I was in the bar,” Thor admitted. “I needed a drink.”

“How kingly,” Loki scoffed, “drinking a few hours before your coronation. What would Odin think of that decision, I wonder?” He turned around, clearly intending to continue mocking his brother, but then he saw Bruce and he stopped, his eyes widening and filling with an emotion Bruce had never imagined seeing on Loki’s face: fear.

Loki backed up quickly, knocking the book off the table as he did so. His hands flew to cover his stomach, but no gesture could hide what was there: Loki’s belly was round and swollen to the point of stretching the tunic he wore. It was an unmistakable shape, one that as a doctor Bruce recognized at once.

Bruce couldn’t help staring. Thor had told him about the situation, but he had failed to tell him how far along Loki was. Loki wasn’t just pregnant, he was very pregnant. If he were human, Bruce would’ve judged him to be full-term, at the very end of his third trimester and very close to giving birth.

“Thor, what is the meaning of this?” Loki demanded, his voice sharp with fear. “Have you lost your mind? Why have you brought him here? Send him out immediately! He can’t see me like this!”

“Loki, please, calm yourself!” Thor took a step towards his brother, his hands raised in a pleading gesture. “It’s all right!”

“No, Thor, no one can see me like this!” Loki protested, panic creeping into his voice. His hand was pressed tightly to the swell of his belly. “They can’t know I’m pregnant! They can’t know about my baby! You don’t know what they’d do to her!”

“They’re not going to do anything to her!” Thor said, reaching Loki’s side. He laid his hand on Loki’s shoulder. “I will protect your child, Loki. I promised, remember?”

Loki didn’t look completely convinced. “Why have you brought him here?” he asked, jerking his chin in Bruce’s direction.

“Because he is a doctor,” Thor said. “He’s here to make sure that your child is all right.”

“She’s fine!” Loki snapped, jerking out of Thor's grasp. “I’ve managed this entire time without a healer, and I can continue to do so! I don’t need you hovering over me!”

“Brother, please-” Thor began, but was cut off.

“I’m fine, and so is she!” Loki said angrily. “I will take care of myself! You don’t need to have people examine me.”

“Actually, Loki,” Bruce said, “I offered to come and make sure you’re all right.”

Loki looked at Bruce critically. “Why?”

“You’re pregnant,” Bruce said. “The health of your baby is very important, and you can’t take care of it properly without a healer or a doctor making sure that everything is going all right. Thor’s worried about you, Loki. He wants to make sure that you and your baby are ok. Will you let me take a look? It won’t take too long. For Thor?”

Loki hesitated. He looked up at Thor, uncertainty in his green eyes. Thor looked back down at him, concern in his single blue one. “Please, Loki,” he said. “If not for me, for your babe.”

Loki looked down, running his hand over his bulging midsection. “All right,” he said. He looked back up at Bruce. “I will allow you to examine me, for my child’s sake. And for Thor’s,” he added quietly.

Thor beamed, his shoulders relaxing at once. “Thank you, Loki,” he said. “It takes a great weight off my mind.”

“Yes, yes,” Loki said, pushing him away, but gently. He sighed. “Very well, doctor, where would you have me sit?”

“The bed is fine,” Bruce said. “Pull your shirt up over your stomach, please.”

Loki sat down, settling himself on the edge of the bed. Hesitantly, he pulled up his tunic to reveal the swell of his pregnant belly. His skin was porcelain, unblemished and perfect. There were only a very few stretch marks.

“Ok, wow.” Bruce tried not to stare as he knelt down on the floor. Now that he was up close, he could confirm that Loki was very heavily pregnant, probably just days away from giving birth. He knelt down by the bed. “Uh, ok, Loki, I’m going to have to touch you. Is that ok?”

Loki didn’t look too thrilled by the prospect, but he nodded. “Do what you must,” he said, the resignation clear in his voice.

“Ok, thanks. If you feel weird about it, just let me know and I’ll stop.” Bruce rubbed his hands together to generate some warmth, and then laid his hands carefully on Loki’s belly. Loki sucked in a breath at the contact, but didn’t pull away.

Loki’s skin was cool to the touch, almost cold. Being as gentle as he could, Bruce poked and prodded with several fingers, trying to determine how the baby was positioned inside its mother. The biggest shock was that there was a baby. He could feel its back against his fingers.

“Ok, Loki, I’m going to move my hands a bit lower, now,” Bruce said, giving the god warning. This was a totally surreal experience, he thought: acting as an obstetrician to a pregnant being he had once smashed into a floor.

The movement of his hands to Loki’s pelvis provoked a sharp inhale, but no further action. A quick glance up showed him that Loki wasn’t even looking at him, instead staring pointedly out the window into space. So Bruce continued to check the baby’s position. It was low inside its mother, and turned upside down. He wasn’t going to go so far as to check Loki’s dilation, but he could guess from the low position of the baby that Loki really was mere days from giving birth to his baby.

The baby shifted suddenly beneath his fingers and he pulled back with a sound of surprise. Loki’s hand immediately went to rest above his child’s movement, cradling the swell of his belly with his slender fingers. He glared at Bruce. “Well? Is my child healthy, or are you going to continue prodding me?”

“Oh, my god,” Bruce said quietly. “You really do have a baby in there.”

“Yes, I do,” Loki said irritably. “I’m so pleased that you trust your eyes. What have you learned?”

“Well, the baby’s position feels totally normal,” Bruce said. “Not upside down or sideways or anything. Is it a boy or a girl, or do you not know?”

Loki’s face lost some of its irritation. “It’s a girl,” he said, his voice soft and almost affectionate.

“A girl, huh?” Bruce said. “How do you know?”

Loki’s face softened. He ran his hand over his belly. “I just know,” he said. “I can’t explain it. I just do.”

“Well, she feels fine to me,” Bruce said. “I’m just going to listen to her heartbeat, and then I’ll be done.”

“You see, Loki?” Thor said. “That wasn’t so hard.”

“Oh, shut up,” Loki said, but he didn’t sound angry.

Bruce rolled up a piece of paper he found on the table and pressed one end to Loki’s belly while putting his ear to the other. After moving it a few times, he found what he was searching for. “There we go,” he said, “heartbeat. She’s got a strong one. She sounds and feels totally healthy.”

“Thank you, doctor,” Loki said, and Bruce was surprised to see the gratitude on his face. “I am glad to know that my babe is well.”

“Yes, thank you, Bruce,” Thor agreed. “It is wonderful news.”

“Sure thing,” Bruce said. “It’s my job. Whoop! And she’s moving.”

Loki inhaled as his daughter shifted inside of him. He laid his hands on his belly, feeling her move. A small smile appeared on his lips. “Hello, little one,” he said. “It’s all right. He was just listening to your heartbeat to make sure that you’re healthy.”

“She’s moving?” Thor came to stand in front of his brother. “May I feel?”

Loki nodded, not looking up from his belly. “Be gentle.”

Bruce got out of the way as Thor knelt down. Gently, the thunderer laid his massive hand on the swell of Loki’s belly. A smile spread across his face. “I can feel her,” he said quietly, almost reverently. “My gods. She’s moving, Loki.”

Loki rolled his eyes. “I know, Thor. I can feel her better than you.”

Thor kept his hand on Loki’s belly. “Hello, my niece,” he said in a soft, gentle voice, “I’m your uncle. I’m going to take care of you, little one. I’m going to take care of you and your mother.”

He bent his head and pressed a gentle kiss to the swell of Loki’s belly, a gesture that on Asgard signified a relative’s promise to protect an unborn child before and after birth. Frigga’s brothers had done it for Frigga when she carried Thor. And now, Thor did it for Loki. “I promise.”

Loki didn’t reply right away. His eyes were bright, and he didn’t seem to trust his voice. He swallowed. No one had ever pledged to protect his children before. And now Thor, though they were shattered and without a home, made the promise without a second though. The tears in his eyes were not just from hormones.

“Thor, I-” He broke off, quickly dragging his hand across his eyes. “Thank you.”

The words were quiet, barely audible. They were words Thor had not heard from his brother in a very long time, and to hear them brought dampness to Thor’s remaining eye. He took Loki’s hand. “Of course, Loki,” he said. “I will protect your child. You will keep her. I promise this as well, and I will keep my promises.”

Loki nodded, still unable to speak. Bruce felt something in his eye, as well. He felt bad about interrupting such a moment, but he still had some information to convey. He cleared his throat. “Excuse me; sorry,” he said. “Something in my throat.”

Thor stood, clearing his throat as well. “Quite all right,” he said roughly. He wiped his eye quickly. “Is there anything else you wish to tell us?”

“Uh, yeah.” Bruce nodded. “Loki, I don’t know if you know how far along you are, but if I had to guess, you’re full-term. The baby’s turned upside-down, and she’s full-size. She’s ready to go. You could go into labor any day now.”

Thor looked startled. “That soon?”

Bruce nodded. “Yeah, that soon. I’m kind of surprised that all that fighting didn’t induce labor, to be honest.”

The worry Thor felt was clear on his face. “I do not know if we have a midwife,” he said. “Space does not strike me as a good place for Loki to have his child.”

“I can help, if you want,” Bruce said. “It’ll be ok, Thor,” he added reassuringly, seeing that Thor still looked worried. “I know what I’m doing, and so does Loki. This baby’s in good hands.”

“Thor.”

Thor looked down at his brother, who had pulled his tunic back down over his belly. Loki looked back up at him. “It’s all right, Thor,” he said. “He speaks the truth: I know what I’m doing. Besides,” he added with a small smile, “you promised to protect her. It’s going to be all right, brother.”

Thor managed a smile. “Your confidence gives me hope, Loki.”

Loki snorted. “My confidence is what has kept me alive.”

“Oi, your majesty!” The door to the room opened suddenly and the familiar, gruff voice of the Valkyrie made all three occupants of the room jump. Bruce let out an unmanly yelp and Thor, more startled by Bruce than by the Valkyrie, jumped and knocked over the table. Loki made a choking sound, his hand flying to his stomach in an instinctive motion to hide it from view. This, of course, only drew more attention to what was already plain to see.

The Valkyrie blinked, surprised at the chaos her arrival had caused. “Sorry to interrupt,” she said. “You’re not green anymore.” This was addressed to Bruce. Her eyes flicked to Loki. “And what’s wrong with you?”

Loki stood with some difficulty. “I’m pregnant,” he said evenly, looking her dead in the eye. “Is it that hard for your brain to puzzle out?”

It was the first time the three had seen anything like confusion on the woman’s face. Her brows knit together and she stared in disbelief. She opened her mouth a few times, and was able to speak the fourth time. “Is that something that men can do on Asgard now?” she asked, her voice echoing the shock on her face.

“I’m not Asgardian,” Loki said. “I’m Jotun.” He closed his eyes, and his form shimmered. Blue crept up his limbs and across his face until his entire body was swallowed by the hue. He opened his eyes, revealing them to be ruby-red.

There was a resounding crash as the Valkyrie dropped the bottle she was holding. She stared at Loki with her mouth hanging open and her eyes wide. “Oh, my gods,” she said. “You’re a fucking Jotun. You’re a fucking pregnant Jotun.”

“Whoa,” Bruce muttered, also staring at Loki. “That’s what a Jotun looks like?”

“I thought that childbearing Jotun men were a myth,” Valkyrie said. “And how did you end up being a prince of Asgard?”

“Adopted,” Thor and Loki said at the exact same time.

“It’s complicated,” Thor said. He turned to Loki. “But why do you show your Jotun form? I thought that-” He paused. “I thought that you hated it.”

“It was to prove a point, Thor,” Loki said. He smirked. “And might I add, the Grandmaster found it quite appealing.”

“Oh, gods,” Thor groaned. “I didn’t need to know that.”

Loki shrugged, the Aesir glamor returning. “You asked.”

Valkyrie, in the meantime, was still focused on Loki. She was floored by his appearance. She had only known Loki as slender and beautiful, an agile, thin form. He was very different now. He was still beautiful, but gone was the thinness of him. She had never seen a pregnant person during all her time on Sakaar, and so to see someone who was this pregnant was a great shock to her. He wasn’t just pregnant, he was incredibly pregnant.

“I’m drunk,” she said. “There can’t be any other way. This can’t be real.”

“It’s real,” Loki assured her. “I’m pregnant with a daughter.” He looked at her expectantly. Expectantly; everything about him was expectant. “You have a question?”

She nodded. “Yeah. Can I touch?”

“If it will help convince you that my child is reality,” Loki said.

Hesitantly, Valkyrie reached out and touched his belly. She sucked in a surprised breath. She felt the baby move beneath her fingers, stirring within its mother’s body. Loki’s hand moved in response, stroking the swell of his body.

His actions made sense now that she knew his secret. He’d blocked every strike aimed to his stomach, used magic instead of force, and allowed himself to be captured with the minimum of fuss. He hadn’t been cowardly, he’d been protecting the child he was pregnant with.

A mother’s love, she thought.

“You really are pregnant,” she said.

Loki sighed. “The number of times I’ve heard that today . . .”

“You said it’s a girl?” she said.

Loki nodded. “Yes.”

A smile twitched on Valkyrie’s lips. “A princess,” she said. “Good. I’m getting tired of Asgardian princes. I’m glad that the heir to Asgard’s throne is a female. Maybe now we’ll have some peace and sanity.”

Thor crossed his arms, but there was a smile on his face. “What is that supposed to mean?”

“It means that you two make me wish that I could jettison myself into space,” she said.

“Please don’t do that,” Bruce said in concern.

Valkyrie laughed. “You’re so sweet,” she said, patting Bruce’s arm. “Don’t worry; I’m not about to leave. I’ve got something to fight for, now. Besides, we don’t have an army anymore. Who’s going to protect the princess?” She turned to look at Loki. “I’m sorry about smacking you around. That probably wasn’t very good for the baby.”

Loki laughed softly. “It’s all right,” he said. “She’s fine. I owe you an apology for pulling some knives on you.”

Valkyrie shrugged. “No harm done,” she said. “I like the knives from nothing trick. Anyway.” She turned back to Thor. “Coronation time. Heimdall sent me to find you three.”

Thor blanched. “Oh, gods: I forgot!”

Loki sighed. “A good start, Thor.”

“It’s been a hard few days,” Thor retorted.

“Yeah, no kidding,” Bruce agreed. “I guess the upside is that it can only get better from here.”

Thor smiled. “I am sure that it will.”