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Lead Me Out Of Hel

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You must first understand that Asgardians have different code of sexual ethics then Midgardians; when you have all the time in the universe, people get bored. Of course, there are still taboos, and those against rape are chief among them. When you have the gift of AllSpeak, though, it considerably widens the scope of who can consent. Peter Quill could sleep his way through the galaxy and no one would bat an eye at this mixing of species, because if a human could speak to it, then it was thought of as simply a weirder, possibly misshapen human. Loki does the same, just on a much larger scale.

 

The first time he’d fucked a horse was as a teenager, when his tongue was still sometimes faster than his wit. He’d persuaded the Gods to make a rather miscalculated deal for the construction of Valhöll with The Builder; when they realised they might actually have to pay the man, they’d turned on Loki with entirely unreasonable levels of anger. Svaðilfari seemed to be the key to this man’s speed, so the logical solution was to distract him. At first that had been all Loki had intended, but Svaðilfari turned out to be kind and gentle, so he slept with him anyway. By the time he returned to the palace, sore but exhilarated, the builder was revealed to be a hrimthurs, and killing the beast swiftly took priority over paying it fairly.

He’d returned to Svaðilfari since, but it was different after New York and Svartálfheim. He’d been stripped of his family, his beliefs, and his history, fallen through space and time and come out the other side broken and bitter. He’d intentionally betrayed his brother and accidentally killed his mother; in short, he’d become the villain. He arrived in that familiar forest glade seeking comfort, needing someone else to take control for a while. The Midgardians thought him abhorrent, and he must admit to a sick sort of satisfaction, as Svaðilfari brought him to a shuddering climax, in the knowledge of how repulsed the feeble-minded Midgardians would be if they could see him now.

 

He couldn’t have expected what happened next.

 

At first, he could write off the puffy eyes, the fatigue, and the constant need to pee to the cold he’d caught that night. He’d gotten caught in a rainstorm on his way back to the palace; he spent the next week moodily sipping mug after mug of tea and sniffling, a perfect excuse for letting the depression that had curled itself around his brain keep him chained to his bed. By the time his nose stopped running he’d begun to swing from feeling freezing cold to burning hot several times an hour, necessitating him to transform his clothing a truly inconvenient number of times a day. His chest ached, and most embarrassingly, his nipples throbbed every time the fabric shifted around them. Deep in his gut he knew what was happening, but there was enough rational doubt and biological impossibility surrounding that answer for him to stubbornly remain in denial for a few more weeks. Suddenly he fainted twice in one day, and that evening, unable to ignore that something was wrong, Loki had slipped into his mother’s private study.

No one had entered here since Frigga’s death; the rich colours were desaturated by a thick film of dust, turning what was once a welcoming refuge into an eerie shrine. The book he’s looking for is easy to find, a small volume bound in magenta linen. The spells within were aimed at intimate problems, but they didn’t rely on the user having been born with or taught the seiðr; mere housewife’s rituals, so far beneath his abilities he’d balk at performing them if he wasn’t so desperate for answers. He’d sank down on the futon he’d spent so many afternoons on in his childhood, leafing through the pages until he found the ritual to see if a fetus had took. Fetched a smooth stone from Frigga’s chest of supplies, held it against his belly and chanted the proper words. The stone grew hot between his fingers, which meant the spell was working: according to the book, if the stone turns red as it cools, the bairn will be a boy; blue for a girl; purple for a child who belongs somewhere in between. Black meant an empty womb, and if you’d done the ritual wrong the stone should be unchanged. When Loki looked down at the stone in his hand, it was a violent shade of orange.

The book had no entry for orange.

At that point, denial based on a technicality seemed more effort than acceptance.

 

If it weren’t for the strangeness of it all, the pregnancy after that point would have been fairly forgettable. The birth was a wildly different story. He remembers pain, mostly. The excruciating pain of his body trying to do things it was never designed for. In reality the birth was quick, barely three quarters of an hour, but to Loki it had felt like an eternity. The sheer terror as he realised this thing may very well tear its way out of him; the relief as, just as he thought he had nothing left and was losing his grip on consciousness, Sleipnir appeared on the ground beside him, bloodied and braying in terror. He crawled to the newborn, exhausted, and pulled him to his chest. For the first time since finding out the truth of his history, Loki felt loved unconditionally. Spell lifted, his body had returned to normal, and knowing instinctively that the foal needed to nurse but unable to provide him milk, Loki had given him the juice of a golden Iðunn apple. Sleipnir did not inherit the gift, but he was special in other ways, and much of it could be traced not just to his impressive parentage but to that first feeding.

Sometimes he tries to see the whole experience as a lesson. Before Sleipnir’s conception, he was suicidal; figuring out what was going on, observing the changes, learning the rules, it gave him something to focus on other than anguish and regret. Kept him interested enough to keep living. Giving him to Odin seemed the natural thing to do. He’d been a good father, before things went to shit between them, and he’d never seen someone treat their animals better then Odin. It even allowed him a measure of payback; let Odin learn to love someone so deeply, blind to the truth. See how he likes it, when curiosity eventually overcomes him and shatters his world.

Does it make him any less likely to fuck at every opportunity? Absolutely not. He’d slept with hundreds of beings before this, and never had any ill effects; worrying about something clearly far beyond his control, beyond all logic, seems pointless.

 

***

 

He knew when it began, this time. He felt the spark in his gut as something latched there before En Dwi Gast had even rolled off him. Back in his room the morning after, he’d made a few desperate attempts at ridding himself of it, growing weaker every time; eventually he’d collapsed in a shaking heap on the cold marble floor of his bathroom, waiting for tears that never come. By the time he saw Thor again, he had accepted that he’d have to carry the damn thing to term, and realised that his brother was the key to getting off this planet and away from the Grandmaster. He could figure the rest out later.

There was a moment back there, when Thor saw through his trickery and flicked the switch on the obedience disk, that he really thought he was finished for good this time. In that instant, his regrets weighed heavy on his soul, and he silently wished he’d been able to repay his brother’s love now that it seemed they may never meet again. But luck granted him a boon and Korg came along, providing him a band of pliable miscreants he can transform into a cavalry to save as many Asgardians as possible. A baby is the furthest thing from his mind as he charges into battle, as he places Sutur’s crown into the Eternal Flame at Thor’s request, as Ragnarök begins and Hela is destroyed alongside Asgard.

 

Now it seems like it’s all he can think about, as he feels his internal organs shifting ever so slightly, liver and lungs and stomach adjusting to this unfamiliar thing within him. Among the many questions swirling through his mind as the refugee ship begins its long journey towards Midgard, the most pressing one is how the fuck is he going to explain this to Thor? He’s trying not to lie to his brother. They’d had a long, painful talk after Ragnarök, and they’re attempting to work towards a point where their love for each other doesn’t feel like a burden. Honesty is the first baby step, but maybe it can wait for a few more days.

Those days quickly turn to weeks, the initial bloating morphing into a tiny but firm bulge. He’s spent so long disguising himself that he barely notices the extra effort it takes to disguise his growing abdomen. Doesn’t even bother properly shapeshifting, just adds it to the glamour he wears daily, the one that hides the all ridges, that changes the deep blue skin into something more palatable. The Loki of years past wouldn’t have settled for surface level changes, but dysphoria he felt so strongly once the truth of his Jötunn heritage was revealed had eased some. As long as the being he saw in the mirror looked like who he felt he was, it worked for him. If someone were to try and touch his stomach they might be surprised as their hand hit an invisible wall; they’d feel the solidness of his body while seeing nothing. They could follow the curve and learn the truth, if they hadn’t already recoiled in horror. But he never let anyone close enough to touch him, couldn’t since that night on Sakaar despite the several enticing propositions he’d received from rebellious Asgardian youths. Thor observes these interactions with a growing level of suspicion, quietly redirecting the steady string of rebuffed individuals towards each other and the Statesman’s supply of prophylactics; maybe the elders aboard the ship would disapprove, but Thor wasn’t prepared to deal with a mutinous band of horny teenagers wreaking havoc in addition to all his other problems.

Loki senses Thor’s wariness, but he’s exhausted and that makes it hard to think of anything besides the increasingly creative excuses needed to explain away his frequent disappearances so he can bolt for the nearest waste receptacle and throw up. He hadn’t had any nausea with his previous pregnancy. And Sleipnir had barely shown at all, only the slightest bulge before the ninth month; it was easy enough to hide any changes under the glamour disguising him as Odin. When Sleipnir had started kicking, though, powerful shocks that felt like they’d snap his spine in two, he feigned illness and ordered everyone to stay away. After this his belly began to expand rapidly, as Sleipnir grew to his full size in the space of three short months. But this spawn’s growth in the beginning was almost frightening; then it plateaued out for a week or two before bounding forward again, seemingly overnight. His skin aches constantly and he can’t keep anything down. He drops a lot of weight, in consequence, which only adds to the terrible strangeness of his body when he looks in the mirror at his true self.

 

Eventually after a month or so, Thor summons him to his makeshift office. He wants Loki there as he starts planning their negotiation strategy, and Loki realizes this is as good a time as any to bring the issue up.

“Thor, there’s something you should know before you bargain for my life.”

“This is hardly life or death, brother. If I can’t secure legal refuge for you on Earth, I’m sure I can convince T’Challa to hide you somewhere in Wakanda.”

The trickster has built his life on a golden tongue and on being cleverer then his elder brother. Neither is helping him now, as he struggles to tell a truth that felt more tangled that any of his lies had.

“I’m… there’s going to be a child.”

“A child?” Thor’s eyes narrow. “Don’t tell me you’re adding kidnapping to the list of deeds I’m asking the Midgardians to overlook.”

“No. I’m going to have a child.”

Thor’s eyes widen in surprise, but he quickly catches himself and looks at him with polite interest. “My congratulations to you, then. Loki, God of Mischief, a father. Tell me, brother, when will you welcome this child to the realms?”

Loki tries not to show his shock at Thor’s composure. Perhaps he gave his brother too little credit.

“I don’t quite know.”

“Well, find out. I know little of the hearts of women, but I know when the time comes, they want their beloved near. And you must bring her to the next banquet,” he adds, eyes lighting up at the idea. “I need to meet the one who’s to be my nephew’s mother.”

Ah. So Thor hadn’t been calm out of acceptance, but ignorance. Loki braces himself once more as he corrects him, a tad unkindly. “No, Thor, you complete moron. I am with child. Me.”

“Brother, you’re not-”

“Not equipped to bear young? I’m aware, believe me. But try telling that to the child who grows inside me.”

Loki’s grabs Thor’s hand and pulls it to his stomach, eyes aflame. Thor gasps as his hand hits the rounded flesh; his eyes still show him Loki’s slim, toned figure, his hand floating in thin air a few inches from his brother’s abdomen.

“If this is another one of your games, brother,” Thor declares, voice uncertain, “I cannot discern your motive.”

He’s suddenly exhausted, worn thin by the tiresomeness of Thor’s (completely reasonable) distrust. He breathes deeply to fortify himself, and then drops the glamour. All of it.

Loki’s barefoot, dressed in a loose linen shirt and intricate fitted slacks. His hair is dishevelled, with dark circles under his eyes that look like bruises against the bright blue of his Jötunn skin. Even Thor, hardened by centuries of deceit and betrayal, knows that Loki does not show his true form without great personal cost; He would not show the bumps scattered across his face only to shapeshift the swell of his belly. Suddenly Thor is reminded of the Loki he saw in the dungeons, consumed with grief over the death of their mother

Their mother, who so long ago had ingrained a sense of responsibility in him, especially for his brother’s safety. She was the reason, even when his love for his brother seemed extinguished, he still showed mercy. Their mother would know exactly how to handle this. If she were here, she’d take unfaltering care of Loki. She’d raised a Jötunn as her own, and taught him the seiðr; helping him bring her grandchild into the world would be no great trouble.

But Loki didn’t have Frigga, he had Thor, and every instant Thor stood there, hand on Loki’s belly, he could see his brother retreating further inward. He may not understand what’s happening, but then, Thor was never the clever one; protecting his brother was about actions, not words. He gently draws his hand back, and Loki, interpreting this as a rejection, turns to flee. Thor catches his hand and pulls him back, sinking down against the wall and dragging Loki with him, coming to rest cross-legged on the floor. There may have been more comfortable options available in the room, but Thor knows his brother, remembers his penchant for forgoing furniture in times of stress. Loki crosses his arms, face tilted away, legs stretched out in front of him in a way that’s meant to suggest cool indifference but instead serves to highlight his anxiety, as he repeatedly points and flexes his left foot.

“How?” Thor asks, simply.

Loki doesn’t look at him as he answers, “It’s a long story.”

“And it’s a long way back to Midgard. Time is one resource we currently have in abundance.”

“Parts of it are unpleasant.”

“Most grand tales have an uncomfortable middle.”

“It’s far from grand.”

“It will be, if you’re telling it.”

Loki finally looks at his brother, truly looks at him. Thor’s face shows no judgement, no disgust, only concern. Suddenly Thor’s face vanishes and his field of vision becomes a deep burgundy, and Loki realizes he’s staring at the soft fabric of his brother’s cloak. His face is pressed against Thor’s shoulder, because Thor is hugging him, a warm bear hug like only his brother can give. Loki realizes this is the first time since Sakaar that the very idea of being touched hasn’t made his skin crawl, and he lets his brother keep his arms around him, leans against him as he pours out the whole sordid story of how far he’d gone for the Grandmaster’s favour, why he had been so desperate at the last to get off Sakaar. Thor listens, waiting till Loki seems finished before asking any questions; a deed quite unlike his brother, but so very like Frigga.

“You said you knew, when it happened?”

“This isn’t…” Loki hesitates. “It’s not the first time.”

“You’ve borne a child before?”

“A son. Sleipnir. I believe you’re acquainted.”

Thor can’t contain his shock. “You slept with a horse?”

“With Svaðilfari, yes. Still do, sometimes. What, brother, does that revolt you?” Loki probes, a malicious gleam flashing across in his face. “His conversation is certainly more stimulating then yours.” The insult is reflexive, a wicked habit that he’ll probably take to his grave.

“You always were better with seduction then I was,” Thor replies, composure regained. “I used to be jealous, how you could attract anyone you pleased.”

Used to be jealous?” Loki quips, and Thor rewards the wisecrack with a gentle punch in the shoulder and a beaming grin before gently shifting so Loki can rest against him once more. They stay like that for a long time, breathing in unison, both lost in thought.

It’s Thor who finally breaks the silence. “Do you know when?” he asks, gently, and Loki shakes his head.

“Couldn’t even guess. I carried Sleipnir for eleven months, and Svaðilfari said that was normal. I barely know anything about the Grandmaster”

Thor opens his mouth to ask something else, then shuts it quickly and leans back against the wall.

“Thor, what is it?” Loki presses. His brother’s solid presence in the face of the evening’s steady stream of bombshells has given Loki a measure of tolerance for Thor’s curiosity.

“It’s none of my business”

“Isn’t that what families do, though? Get in each other’s business? Normal ones, at least.”

Thor hesitates, but finally gestures in the general direction of Loki’s belly and asks, “How does this work, physically? I mean do you, er…”

“I don’t have a womb, if that’s what you’re fumbling towards. My guess is the seiðr shifts whatever it needs to”

“It still has to come out though, somehow. Right?”

“Not like how you’re thinking. But it’s still going to hurt. There were moments during Sleipnir’s birth when I thought I was going to die. Pain worse than anything I’ve ever faced in battle.” Loki laughs suddenly, a harsh cackle that alarms his brother. “Frigga warned me once that when beings other than Asgardians gain the gift, it can have unusual consequences. I don’t think this,” he says, gesturing towards his midriff, bitterness thick in his throat, “was quite what she was anticipating.”

Tact was never Thor’s strong suit, but dammit if he doesn’t try. “I don’t… I don’t mean to push you, brother, but if this is too heavy a burden for you to bear, there are ways to relieve you of it.”

“You mean abortion,” Loki says, flatly.

“I’m not saying it’s the right choice for you, just that it is an option. There are healers on the ship we could seek out-“

“It won’t work,” Loki cuts him off, dismissive. Thor looks over in surprise, and Loki responds with a defeated shrug, his tone growing soft. “I already tried.”

“Oh.”

“I tried everything short of cutting myself open, and frankly I think the seiðr might succeed in stopping that, too.”

Silence descends upon them after this revelation. This time it’s Loki who breaks it, his voice so quiet Thor almost doesn’t hear him.

“I miss Mother” Loki says, and a wave of grief crashes through both of them.

Thor’s grip on Loki’s shoulders tightens ever so slightly. “As do I.”

“She’d know what to do.”

 “We’re going to get you through this, Loki,” Thor declares, suddenly springing to his feet with an air of unshakable confidence. “I’m not Frigga, but I’ll do what I can. You’re not alone now, brother.” He holds out a hand to Loki, who takes it and allows Thor to pull him to his feet. He wobbles a little and Thor steadies him, concern etched on his brow.

“Brother, when was the last time you ate?”

“The sight of food is enough to make me vomit right now.”

“It’s settled, then. Our first objective is finding something on this ship that you can keep down.”

And suddenly they’re kids again, Thor dragging his brother off on another breathless adventure, and Loki along for the ride, preparing to talk their way out of whatever trouble Thor manages to stick his foot in.

Right now, nothing in the universe could be more welcome.