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Second Time's a Charm

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Loki smiled to himself as he silently slipped from the bedroom shared by Lila Barton, Hannah Keener, and his own daughter, Hela, closing the door with a soft ‘click’. He had taken a moment to check in on the girls and had found Lila and Hela snuggled together and sleeping within Lila’s bed, a book laid out next to his little girl. After covering the pair with Lila’s pink unicorn blanket and matching comforter, he had looked to Hannah, finding her to be soundly asleep beneath her own sheets, somewhat bemused to see the multicolored butterfly patterns that decorated the pale blue background. Staying still for a moment, the God allowed a feeling of calm and safety to settle over himself, the level of happiness within Loki so strong with the knowledge that his sons were asleep not too far down the hall. Basking in the feeling of completion for the first time in his life, the emerald-eyed man could feel a stinging in his eyes; this was more than he had ever dared to dream of, to have all of his children together with him and know it wasn’t a cruel trick or Odin using them as a silent threat to get Loki to bend to his will. The fact that Anthony Stark had rescued his babies, imprisoned unjustly for so long, along with himself and that he wanted nothing in return aside from their freedom and happiness… Loki was ashamed to admit it, but he had doubted that it would last. It never had before, after all, and those in power in Asgard wondered why he became the way he did.

 

When they taunted him, stole from him, bullied him, lied to him, and even Odin’s precious Thor participated, it was considered to be all in good fun.

 

When Loki learned to give as good as he got and paid them all back, including Thor, for every single bruise, tear, and drop of blood they shed of his, he was labeled as a troublemaker and a cheater because of his Aesir magic.

 

It was glaringly obvious now to Loki that Odin had never truly considered him to be his son, part of Odin’s family. One only had to look at the difference between how Thor was treated and how he was. Thor was just like Odin and yet he wanted Loki to carry on the charade of being brothers, looking wounded each and every time Loki rebuffed his claims of brotherhood.

 

Maybe if Thor had acted more like Anthony Stark, Loki might still consider him a brother.

 

For now, though, Loki despaired that he would never be able to repay Anthony for bringing his family together, despite their initial history. Even though he had been under the Sceptor’s control at the time, he had thrown the man out a window without one of his metal suits on, for Norns’ sake! Yet the genius hadn’t hesitated to bring him and his family to safety, to offer them all sanctuary and a loving environment where his children could finally grow and flourish without fear of being cast away or the hatred of small-minded fools. Whether Anthony liked it or not, Loki considered himself indebted to the mortal, a debt of honor that he would fulfill.

 

Drawing himself out of his thoughts, Loki was silently walking through the hallways when he heard a familiar voice speaking nearby, stopping to listen.

 

“Shh, hush baby, I know…”

 

The ebony haired man quickly backtracked his way to the common room, somewhat surprised to see Laura pacing around the kitchen with Nathaniel in her arms. The toddler was badly flushed in the cheeks and crying while clinging to his mother, coughing every so often and sniffling. Laura herself looked somewhat frazzled, her chestnut waves in disarray and dark circles under her eyes while she leaned against the counter and continued to rub Nate’s back soothingly as he continued to fuss.

 

“Laura?” Loki called softly in an effort not to startle either mother or child, his heart skipping a beat when he saw how lovingly she cared for her sick little boy despite her clear exhaustion. He understood it well, for though he’d been prohibited from doing so most of their lives, he would have done the same for his own children.

 

Laura’s eyes immediately locked onto the man when he stepped into the common room, blushing a tiny bit while continuing to caress her baby’s back. “I’m sorry Loki, did we wake you?” She asked, raising her voice just enough so that the God could hear.

 

“I was just coming back from checking in on Lila, Hannah, and Hela to make sure they were asleep.” Loki quickly assured her, his emerald eyes holding a mixture of care and concern as he fully took in Nathaniel’s appearance. “Is he alright?”

 

The brown-eyed woman shook her head, exhaustion lining her face. “I think he has a bug of some kind… he’s been off for a few days, but tonight’s the worst since he developed a fever.” Giving Nate a kiss on his small, overly warm forehead, she gently rocked him in her arms. “It’s not serious enough to warrant bothering Bridget this late but he’s too miserable to sleep even with the pediatric Tylenol.”

Loki nodded in understanding, a thoughtful look on his face. “Frigga… my mother taught me all she knew about the healing arts. May I…?” He held his hands out for the toddler, and Laura smiled with gratitude and passed the baby to him, watching as Loki instinctively settled Nathaniel onto his hip and began rubbing down the child’s back when he fussed again, speaking in a low, soothing voice. “There there, little one, no need for that.” The hand that was moving gently upon the little boy began glowing a gentle green, and after a few seconds, Nate began to settle, letting out little hiccups as he relaxed into Loki’s hold. “It’s no fun feeling sick, is it, dear heart?” He continued to speak, oblivious to Laura’s brilliant, thankful smile. Finally, Nate gave a tiny huff and fully resting against the man holding him, falling asleep with his cheek laying upon on the emerald-eyed God’s shoulder. “There you go, little one.” Loki breathed softly, continuing to channel the magic into the tiny body against him.

 

“You’re a really amazing dad, you know,” Laura whispered, not wanting to wake Nathaniel now that he was sleeping so peacefully, sincerity in her eyes as she gave Loki a smile. It really was a shame that her brother, Clint, had never had a chance to see this warm and caring side of the man that was forced to attack and attempt to conquer their planet. Surely, she thought, they would have been friends if that had been the case.

 

Loki was startled back to the present, looking at the woman in front of him with glistening green eyes, his lips opening and closing for a few moments before he shook his head slowly in sadness and regret. “If I were such a good father, Laura, I would have fought harder for my own children, for their right to be free and happy. They have suffered the heavy burden of being my children, hated as I am hated. They’ve gone through so much because of me.”

 

Laura guided them over to the couches and sat, Loki joining her when she motioned for him to do so. “Loki, the choices Odin made are not a reflection on you or your abilities as a father,” she beseeched the God passionately, unable to imagine the pain of knowing your children were tortured and one literally put in Hell by a prejudiced old man. “It’s a reflection on him , on his cruelty and narrow-mindedness and willingness to put the potential outcome of a self-fulfilling prophecy above the lives and well being of children, and above a son he claimed to love.” She gently rested her hand on his shoulder, causing the God to look over with tears swimming in his green eyes. “That you strive so hard to not be the kind of man he was-- be it as a leader, a warrior, an example, a father -- puts you leagues above him already.”

 

It took a moment for the ebony-haired man to be able to speak around the lump in his throat. “He… It always was my fault, if it had not been for me, my children wouldn’t be monsters and outcasts forbidden to have any of the rights that every Asgardian child is supposed to have. Except for mine, of course, because I am the Trickster and the exception to the rule, as always. Even Thor said nothing, did nothing while my little ones were branded monsters. And until what happened to my precious Hela, I would have defended him and any of his children from Odin with my last breath..” Tears finally started to stream down the God’s face as he spoke, looking at the second friend he’d managed to make on Midgard since his arrival and the closest one he’d ever had in his life.

 

“You stop that right now, mister,” Laura ordered him softly, but no less stern. “Your children are not monsters. Those are the words of a man who was nothing short of emotionally abusive to you. Please don’t look at me like that, Loki, it’s absolutely true! Odin always made you feel inferior to Thor, he never gave you the recognition you deserve, and he knew about the abuse and bullying you endured from the other Asgardians and ignored it! He whipped all of them into a frenzy over how terrible the Frost Giants were when he knew about your parentage, especially since he’s the one who brought you to Asgard in the first place! And after the events of New York, he didn’t even bother asking your side of the story before having you hauled off to be tortured! That is, by definition, emotional abuse, and condoning of physical abuse.” Laura took a few seconds to breathe deeply before continuing on. “I saw Lila and Sleipnir on the grounds a week ago. Your son had taken his horse form and was letting Lila ride him as he trotted around. I have never seen such a huge smile on my daughter’s face. Two days ago I found Jörmungandr and Fenrir in the training room with Cooper and teaching him basic self-defense. They never got frustrated with him or shouted at him-- they patiently explained each point and helped him work through it. And Hela, sweet adorable Hela, she always makes sure that neither Hannah or Lila feel excluded when they’re playing together. Those aren’t the actions of monsters …” she shifted so her hand was resting against his, which was still pressed to Nate’s back. “And neither is this . They aren’t monsters, Loki, and neither are you .” She gently pulled Nate into her arms, standing for a moment. “Let me put Nate to bed, and I’ll be right back. Don’t move an inch .” She gave the God a pointed look before padding down the hall with Nate snoozing on her shoulder.

 

Emerald green eyes stared at the doorway she’d disappeared through, the male feeling poleaxed in a way he’d never experienced before. In his head, he could hear the echo of Odin’s voice, the false claims of love and unkept promises. And that’s what it boiled down to, wasn’t it? The lies the Allfather told when it suited him, when he needed something from someone. Whether he honored those promises was entirely his prerogative, and the declarations of familial bonds were nothing but a tool to keep him in check. In the end… everything the Allfather had said was a lie.

 

Everything…

 

A sudden realization struck Loki, and he felt as if the breath had been knocked from his lungs.

 

He’d called frost giants monsters. He’d slandered them, turned all of Asgard against them and worked to tear them down in the eyes of his people.

 

But if Odin was a liar… then how accurate could such statements be? Were they true at all?

 

After a moment, his thoughts took another turn. Odin was a liar… but there was one person who had never lied to him, who had never been false in her opinions and feeling. One who spoke her heart and mind without a care for what others thought of her opinion, who never lied through her teeth to get something she wanted from someone.

 

“Loki?” The man in question snapped back to the present to find the subject of his thoughts standing in front of him, a worried look on her face. “I’ve been calling your name for thirty seconds,” She said, gently tilting his face so she could study it, looking for any signs of distress. “Are you okay? You look like you’ve been hit by a thunderbolt.”

 

The god didn’t speak at first, staring at the woman in front of him with wide eyes. Laura had never been false with him, had never toyed with his emotions and fed him lies to keep him complacent. She’d taken care of and defended his children, springing to his daughter’s defense before even he could. She’d looked beyond the assumptions that everyone in Asgard seemed to be so obsessed with and saw him as someone other than the monster he had been taught he was. She saw beyond the rumors of his children being monsters, instead choosing to see them for their kindness and compassion. After a moment, he managed a smile. “I’m alright, Laura. I… You’ve given me much to think about.” He stood from his spot on the couch, looking at the woman with a gaze she couldn’t quite place. He took one of her hands in his, pressing a gentle kiss to her knuckles. “Thank you.” He whispered softly with gratitude flooding his voice, but before she could answer he swept away down the hall.

 

Laura blinked for a moment, stunned, before a small smile of her own crossed her face and she blushed. Maybe she had gotten through to him after all. She hoped so. Maybe then he would stop seeing himself as the monster the closed-minded fools on Asgard claimed he was and instead see the brilliant, kind-hearted man she knew he was.

 

---

 

“Thank you for taking them for a while, Holly. I need the chance to let my hair down a bit and just relax.”

 

The woman smiled brightly and nodded as Hannah, Hela, and Lila ran around behind her, playing an impromptu game of tag. “No worries, Laura! Given how you’ve been taking care of Nate since he was sick, I figured you could do with a little time to yourself!” She shifted Nate in her arms, waving the woman away. “Now shoo! Go take care of yourself!” She commanded, prompting a laugh from Laura.

 

Cooper waved from his place next to Harley, who had his arm around the younger boy’s shoulders. “Bye, Mom! We’ll be good for Ms. Keener!”

 

Laura waved to her kids and gave Nate a quick kiss on the forehead before leaving to walk back to her own floor. She sighed as she stepped into the elevator, leaning against the wall as it began to ascend. She was looking forward to her weekend away from the kids. Oh, she loved them to the moon and back, but after dealing with Nate being sick for so long and the restless nights it caused, she needed a chance to unwind. A moment later, a smile crossed her lips-- Loki healing her infant son had been a blessing in that regard. The brunette came to enjoy the time they took to have tea, the long talks they would have about anything and everything.

 

The smile fell a tiny bit when she thought back to one of the last meetups they’d had. She’d received news that day that her hopefully soon-to-be-ex husband was dragging out their divorce again, trying to claim full custody of her children despite the fact that he’d seen them maybe three times since Nate was born. His argument was based on the destruction of their old home-- not that it had been any fault of hers. He had also brought up that their current residence could also be attacked at any moment by a random supervillain, given that it was a publicly known location. Truthfully, Laura knew that the only reason he was dragging it out was because he didn’t want to pay the alimony to her, not to mention he would have to pay child support if she had full custody of the kids. Unfortunately, Robert had the money to drag their legal battle out-- given her need for two attorneys, she would run out of funds eventually despite her pay working with SI. At this point, she was debating finally going to Tony-- she wouldn’t let Robert take her children, even if she had to ask for help to keep them. They were worth far more to her than any pride.

 

Laura sighed deeply as she closed her eyes. She’d wait a few days before going to Tony-- right now, she just wanted a chance to unwind and just breathe . She heard the elevator doors open in front of her, and she made to step out before pausing. She blinked at the trail of beautiful, snow-white petals leading from the front of the elevator, down the hall and out of sight. She knelt to pick one up and inhaled sharply at the unexpected cold temperature. She looked closer and discovered the petal was constructed of intricately designed ice that didn’t melt from the heat of her hand. The brunette began to follow the trail laid out for her, eventually ending up in the bedroom. On the bed sat a delicate flower made of the same ice, along with a note written on parchment. Her name was written on it in flowing cursive, the green ink shining like emeralds in the light. Laura quickly flipped open the note and her eyes swept over the print she found there.

 

‘Laura,

 

I have something I wish to show you. Dress warmly, and be ready by 4:00.’

 

There was no name at the bottom, but Laura knew the handwriting well enough to know who the note and presumably the ice flower was from. She blushed brightly, a brilliant smile on her face as she delicately placed the flower on her dresser. Well, who was she to deny the God what he wanted? With a spring in her step, she made her way to her shower-- she only had two hours to get ready, and she intended to be so when the time came.

 

---

 

Laura adjusted the scarf around her neck as she glanced towards the clock on her bedside table. Two minutes before 4. She nervously adjusted the green beanie on her head, the color very reminiscent of Loki’s eyes. Her black down jacket had hints of gold in the trim, and the jeans she wore sat snug against her body and were tucked into a simple pair of boots. She took several deep breaths to try and calm her racing heart-- she wasn’t sure what was going on, but she trusted the Trickster God with her life. The thought startled a small laugh from her-- Clint would have an aneurism if he knew about how she felt. But Clint wasn’t here, and he didn’t make her choices or live her life. She was a grown ass woman, dammit, and she wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of her happiness, not even her over-protective brother.

 

The sound of a small pop drew her attention to the bed, where a note had materialized and now sat on the comforter. She eagerly reached for it and popped it open.

 

‘Laura,

 

If you’re ready, just hold tight to this note and say my name. You’ll be brought directly to where I am.’



The brunette took a deep breath to center herself. She gripped tight to the note and whispered his name, and a moment later she felt the world shift and contort around her, stilling itself only a moment later. She staggered for a second from the sensation before righting herself, looking around curiously. An instant later her eyes widened and she gasped in stunned awe at the sight in front of her. A town lit up in the night sat in the distance, and the clear skies overhead glowed and danced in the most spectacular display of the northern lights she’d ever seen. Her brown eyes were wide with shock and delight at the majestic scene before her.

 

“Beautiful, isn’t it?”

 

The woman jumped and turned to see Loki approaching her with a smile on his face unlike any she’d seen before. His normal Asgardian-style outfit had been changed to a simple green button down silk shirt with a black leather jacket over it. He wore a pair of tight-fitting blue jeans and a pair of black sneakers on his feet. Around his neck was a simple brown cashmere scarf with hints of gold in it. “Loki, this…” she choked, looking from the town to the sky to him, a grin on her face. “There’s no words… it’s just…” She gestured hopelessly, a laugh bubbling up from within her. “... Breathtaking .” She finally managed to get out, smiling at the God like he was the most amazing person she’d ever seen.

 

Loki smiled back at her, moving so he was next to her to look over the scene as well. “We’re just outside of Tromsø, Norway. This is one of the best places in all of Midgard to see the Northern Lights.” He glanced over at her and was struck speechless at the beauty of the woman, only amplified by the look of joy on her face and the lights dancing in her eyes.

 

Laura looked back at Loki after a few minutes of just watching and observing the scene and shuffled closer to him, leaning her head on his shoulder. “I’m so glad I’m here, Loki. This is amazing…”

 

The God gave a soft chuckle, wrapping his arm around her shoulders and pulling her closer. “I’m honored to share this with you…” He replied, smiling down at her for a second. They observed the scene for another minute before Loki pulled away again. “So, I actually have a gift for you.” He admitted, holding his hand out to one side. A moment later, a button and string envelope fell into it and he handed it to Laura with a gleeful glint in his eyes.

 

The brunette looked from the envelope to Loki once before undoing the tie and pulling out the papers inside. She started to read through them before she gasped hard, almost dropping the packet. Her eyes flew over the rest of the information before she looked up at the God in front of her, tears streaming down her face. “I… How did…?” She choked, barely able to speak around the lump in her throat.

 

Loki gave her a soft smile and pulled her into his arms. “I waved money in his face, told him I would take care of child support, and told him to leave the country and not come back. He also can’t ever come after you, your children, or anyone associated with them in any way. The contract drawn up is iron-clad.” He pulled away so he could look her in the eye, tenderly wiping the tears from her eyes with his thumbs. “He has given up all rights to them. You have full custody, and he’ll never be able to contest it.”

 

The woman stared at him as if he’d just given her the world. In a way, he had. “You got me my kids.” She finally managed to croak, gratitude and something else the God couldn’t identify shining in her eyes.

 

The emerald-eyed male nodded with a knowing smile. “I did for you what someone once did for me. And I meant what I said-- you and your children will want for nothing. They have become as important to me as my own children.” He paused for a moment before moving his hands so he was cupping her cheeks. “ You have become important to me.” He admitted softly, gazing deeply into her eyes, still dancing and flickering from the lights above them.

 

Laura’s breath caught in her throat again as she gaped at the God standing so close to her. There was a moment of silence between them before she finally managed to whisper, “Can I please kiss you now?”

 

The God didn’t verbally reply. Instead, he tilted Laura’s chin up and gently pressed his lips to hers, giving her all the answer she needed. The brunette sighed softly and relaxed into his arms, allowing him to take the reigns. The kiss was soft and sweet, tender in the press of their lips and exploration of each others’ mouths. After a few minutes they finally pulled apart, Loki gently resting his forehead on hers. He stared into her eyes, heart pounding and mind racing. After a moment, he made a decision.

 

To Helheim with propriety, and Norns take the doubters. He knew what he was feeling, and he refused to deny himself a chance at happiness because of what people thought they should or shouldn't be.

 

He took a deep breath and gently cupped the woman’s face again, eyes shining in the light. “ Jeg elsker deg, min gudinne. ” He breathed, the language flowing easily from him.

 

Laura blinked at the sudden use of the foreign tongue. She swallowed and whispered, “What does that mean?”

 

Loki smiled at her and pulled her in for another brief kiss before moving to whisper in her ear. “I love you, my goddess.”

 

Brown eyes went wide and Laura had to grip Loki’s shoulders to keep her knees from suddenly buckling. It took a moment to regain her bearings before she pulled back to smile at Loki. “I think I’ve loved you since that night you healed Nate. To Hell with the fact that we’ve known each other two months-- if anyone tries to use that as an excuse, I’ll kick their ass myself.” She gripped Loki’s face in her own hands. “I love you too, my Prince.” She smiled brilliantly as his eyes lit up with joy. Her smile then turned playful as she wrapped her arms around his waist again. “Now, your Goddess would like another kiss, if you are so inclined.”

 

The God’s laugh echoed across the snowy landscape as Loki willingly bent to kiss her again. If either of them noticed the lights above them glowed just a little brighter at that moment, neither bothered to point it out.

 

---

 

Laura smiled brilliantly as she leaned her head against Loki’s shoulder, relishing in the arm that immediately wrapped around her own and pulled her close. She smiled at the kiss that was dropped on head, and she tilted her head to catch his lips in a tender kiss. Her partner had taken the weekend to show her around Tromsø, enjoying the local cuisine and culture, and every night they would return to the spot on the mountain where she’d first landed to watch the stunning display created by the lights dancing overhead. Loki had been a gentleman the whole time, not that she had expected any differently… but there was a tenderness and fondness that hadn’t been there before, a spark of love and adoration in his eyes that made her heart skip every time she saw it. He hadn’t been shy in his physical affection either, constantly brushing the hair away from her face or holding her hand, throwing his arm around her shoulders or pulling her in for a kiss even when they were in a public setting. The brunette wasn’t complaining in the slightest-- being with Loki brought a light to her life that had been missing for years.

 

The sound of an odd rumble brought her attention back to the present, and she looked up curiously to find the source. An instant later she paled and gasped, grabbing Loki’s hand tightly at the sight of a red-cloaked figure flying overhead. A soft, loving chuckle stopped her panic short and Laura glanced up at her partner.

 

Emerald eyes glittered with love and mirth at his love’s reaction of genuine worry for him, and Loki pressed a kiss to her head. “Worry not, min gudinne .” He soothed her, rubbing her back. “We are hidden from detection from anyone looking for us.”

 

Laura immediately calmed, pressing herself against Loki as she willed her heart to slow. “Really? How many favors did you have to pull in from Tony to do that?”

 

“None.” Loki replied immediately, a grin stretching his face. “Because it wasn’t Anthony to place the protections…”

 

---

 

“So. You and Laura, hm?”

 

Loki jumped a foot in the air, nearly slipping in the snow beneath his feet before turning to the figure behind him. “Lord Hadrian. I was not expecting to see you here.” He took a moment to breath before nodding. “Indeed. She is… a remarkable woman. She saw me for more than what others claimed I am. She has jumped to the defense of my children, and her fire burns bright and hot in the wake of her enemies, yet is warm and comforting to those she loves and love her in turn.”

 

The Master of Death studied Loki for a moment as if searching him. “... You swear to take care of her?” Loki blinked at the line of questioning, which prompted a quirk of Hadrian’s lips. “Seeing as her father isn’t around to ask, I’m doing it for him. Are you going to take care of that woman?”

 

The God immediately nodded sharply in reply. “I cannot promise that we won’t disagree and argue, but I will love and cherish her ‘til the Norns take us both. Even then, I believe I would love her just as much in death.”

 

Hadrian nodded and smirked. He waved his hand, and a strange pressure settled around Loki before disappearing. “I’ve completely hidden you from detection by Asgard for three days. Make them count.” Before Loki could find the words to thank him, the ebony-haired Master of Death had vanished as if he’d never been there in the first place.

 

---

 

Laura’s mouth was hanging open in shock at the information, and it took her a few seconds to find the words she wanted. “Are you telling me that Hadrian Black, the Master of Death, basically gave you the ‘dad talk’ before giving his blessing??” Loki’s grin grew as he nodded, and the brunette couldn’t help but finally laugh, resting her head on his shoulder. “The Master of Death made my potential suitor, who is a bonafide God, sweat it out. This is my new normal, it seems.”

 

That prompted a laugh out of her partner, and he tilted her head so they were looking eye-to-eye. “Would you change that if you could?” He asked, mirth shining in his eyes.

 

“I wouldn’t change a damn thing.” Was all Laura replied before she pulled Loki down for another kiss.