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Mistakes Made in Happiness

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“Do you remember, Steven, a few weeks ago, we were... experimenting?” Loki says, putting on a casual air, resting so very near to Steve's shoulder on the loveseat as he sits down. Loki's heart beats rapidly under his ribs.

Steve's face flushes, high in the apples of his cheeks. “Which experiments are you talking about?”

Loki grins. Such a brave boy. “The ones in which you studied the malleability of my flesh.”

Steve blinks at him, clearing his throat. “You're not capable of being straightforward, are you?”

“My dear Captain, your mind is a simple one and it won't do to rush it.”

Steve narrows his eyes. “Now you're just being insulting on purpose.”

“Are you implying it is by accident on other occasions?”

Steve shifts, his shoulder brushing against Loki's fingers. “Loki, enough. What's going on?”

He softens his face, making sure it reaches his eyes, and says carefully, “This is somewhat awkward, as this hasn't happened in a rather long time.”

Steve’s befuddled face is amusing, a distraction from the doubt gnawing at his mind, keeping him from questioning this particular decision. Still, Steve's gaze makes him wonder if he could open a portal and disappear. “What hasn't happened in a long time?”

“I'm pregnant,” he says bluntly, seeing as beating around the bush never works particularly well with Steve.

Steve's eyes widen and he stands up, not taking his eyes off Loki, staring down at him, confusion and astonishment all over his face. “But you're a man.”

Irritation itches at Loki's scalp. “Clearly you learned nothing from our experiments,” he snaps and gets up, moving past Steve to the door.

Steve catches his arm and makes him turn around. “Hey, you dropped a bombshell on me just now and you know it,” Steve says, his gaze intent. “And you never mentioned throughout those experiments that you knew this could happen, that's on you,” he adds.

“It usually doesn't,” he says, frustrated. “It hasn't happened in hundreds of years!”

Steve drops his hand, blinking. “This has happened before? We're been together for a while now and you never mentioned this,” he says softly, his face a canvas of hurt and worry. It's too much.

“There's nothing to mention,” Loki snarls, his heart in his throat. “Congratulations, you're going to be a father.” And he removes himself from their common room to the roof, where it should take Steve at least 15 minutes to find him.

Steve doesn't find to him after 15 minutes. Nor 30 minutes. And after an hour Loki is glad to realize Steve won't be coming to him at all, cherishing the moment to be by himself. He looks over the city, the tiny lives bustling through the streets under the tower. He swallows the sour taste in his mouth and settles a hand low on his belly, just above his pubic bone. “I may have gone about this the wrong way,” he mutters.

“Do my ears deceive me?” Loki rolls his eyes and clenches his fists at the sound of his brother's voice. “Did you just admit you were wrong?” Thor grins at him, settling next to him at the edge of the roof.

“You've clearly hit your head on Mjolnir a few too many times to utter something so absurd,” Loki replies, looking back to the city.

Thor hums, the clang of Mjolnir as he sets it by his feet making Loki shiver, and Loki keeps his feet still as the desire to shuffle itches at them.

“Steve mentioned you quarreled,” Thor says ever so elegantly.

“Whatever gave it away,” Loki replies, glaring at him.

“He didn't say what about.” Thor ignores him, per usual. “But it would appear you are both unhappy about it.”

“Nothing gets by your keen observance,” he mutters acidly.

Thor claps him on the back, laughing. “Brother, your barbs are a nick to the quick, to be sure.”

“What do you want?” he snaps, taking a step back. “Did the captain send you? I didn't think he would choose a go-between to settle the matter between us and certainly not you.

Thor's beaming face darkens as it falls. “There is no need to be spiteful.”

It's as if he doesn't know him. “It is not of your affair, whether we quarrel or not, nor what it was we fought about.”

Thor nods sadly. “No, you are right, it is not my affair, it is yours. But do not forget I have witnessed your affairs before,” he says meaningfully.

Loki swallows stiffly, anger and betrayal burning in his chest and behind his eyes. “He told you? That indiscreet clod.”

Thor's mouth quirks. “Tell me what?” he says softly, raising his hand to rest on Loki's neck.

Loki deflates, blinking at him, Thor's earnestness painful, and Loki knows he took a misstep. “Nothing. Nothing at all.”

Thor looks like he has kicked him in the shin. “Your lies bear truth, brother.”

He smirks. “You are getting better at this.”

Thor shakes his head. “You see manipulation where there is none.” He takes a step back. “I suggest you seek out Steve.”

His lip curls into a snarl. “Mind your own business.”

“I do, Loki. But when will you?” Thor sighs sadly, picking up Mjolnir. “I do hope you and Steve settle your differences; a chill does not become you.”

That hurts. “That is low, even for you.”

Thor's eyes widen for a moment before he shakes his head. “No offense was intended, Loki.”

Loki gnashes his teeth. “Mayhap you should watch your choice of words.”

Thor says nothing as he spins Mjolnir, leaving him with a crack of thunder. After a few moments rain begins to fall, drenching Loki completely. “Typical, bloody typical.”

Loki teleports directly into the bathroom, disappearing his wet clothes and taking the time to look at himself in the mirror. Flat chest, flat stomach, cock resting over rocks, and he glares at his reflection. He shimmers for a moment, fluidly putting on a different shape, and he's always liked that his face doesn't change overmuch when he shifts. He trails a hand over hills of his breasts, the taper of his waist, and he startles when the door opens.

Steve stands still in the doorway when he sees him. “I knew I heard something,” he says, gazing at him intently and Loki gazes, smirking slight as Steve's eyes roam over his body, refusing to twitch at the scrutiny. Steve clears his throat, sounding strained, keeping his gaze averted. “I didn't see you come back.”

“Obviously,” he drawls, keeping his body loose.

Steve inhales a breath and exhales it, clearly counting. Loki would smirk. “Can we talk about this without you disappearing again?” Steve asks, looking at his face and brazenly placing the onus on him.

He keeps his voice cool. “I was perfectly willing to discuss the matter, Captain.”

Steve lets out a bitter huff, shaking his head. “Except you hightailed when I didn't react the way you wanted me to.”

Unfair. “You could have reacted better.”

“Oh yeah? And how do you expect anyone to react when you tell someone that you're pregnant, exactly? I'd love to hear how my reaction had anything to do with you teleporting out of sight,” he retorts, crossing his arms over his chest, pulling his shirt tight over his shoulders.

Loki smirks appreciatively.

Steve frowns for a moment before understanding dawns and his face softens. “Loki,” Steve says, his lips twitching as he strains to keep from smiling.

Loki takes a step and shimmers, pressing flush against him, rubbing his hardening cock against Steve's hip. “Let us talk better, later. I need a warm shower,” he invites, licking his teeth through his smile.

Steve smiles then, his eyes locked Loki's mouth. He raises his hands, placing them on Loki's shoulder and waist. Steve's cock twitches in his trousers. “Loki,” he says again, considerably more inclined to Loki's disposition.

Loki kisses him, licking his lips and stroking his back. “Mmm, do say my name again. Thrice is better than twice.”

“No,” Steve says, strained and regretful, taking a step back. He's blushing and he needs to rearrange his trousers. “I'm going to the gym. Find me when you're actually interested in a conversation.” And he leaves the bathroom.

Loki stares after him, irked his cunning missed the mark. He blinks, briefly wondering why Steve opened the door in the first place.

Loki is willing to admit to himself and only to himself that he is the one stalling. He doesn't know what he expected from Steve. No, that's a lie, he knows what he wanted, he had hoped Steve would oblige in simply accepting the news. A naive hope on his part, for Loki rarely gets what he hopes for.

Except this. Always this.

Steve is in the gym as he said he would be. Not alone as Loki had hoped, but sparring with the little spider. She sees him, raising an eyebrow in greeting. He tips his head, wonders if Steve spoke of their fight to her as well. He seems to have developed a habit of sharing with others.

Steve turns to him, pleasure at seeing him fleeting over his face, while the apprehension is clearly there in his eyes. “Thanks, Nat,” he says to her.

“Anytime,” she replies, taking her leave, giving Loki an inscrutable look. Never an open book to him.

Alone in the gym with Steve, they look at each other, each waiting for the other. Loki will win this one, he can wait until Ragnarok... or the delivery, depending what arrives first.

Steve clears his throat and walks to him, leaning against a pillar, crossing his arms again. “You have other kids?”

Not the first question he thought Steve would ask. “Yes,” he answers, keeping it short.

Steve nods. “Right. And this... it never occurred to you to say anything about it?”

Loki raises an eyebrow. “Aren't you interested in your child?”

Steve stares at him as though he'd conjured his helm again, and doesn't reply for a long moment. “Loki, when you said you were pregnant, you first said that this hadn't happened in a long time. This is a big thing not to tell the man you're - you're with.”

“It was a long time ago and has no bearing on us,” he replies, the words acrid and bitter on his tongue, coated with veracity.

“You know that isn't true,” Steve says quietly. He swallows stiffly before continuing. “If you don't want to tell me, that's your choice, but I'd like to hear it, if you're willing to tell. I want to know everything there is to know about you.”

Damn. “Very well. I'm pregnant, I've been pregnant before, I've have had other children. They either live across the realms, or are dead. Stop.” He raises a hand as Steve's face falls, shocked and saddened. “I do not wish to discuss them, I'm telling you this because you asked and I understand that you deem this important information regarding our relationship and future parenthood.”

Steve inhales an audible breath, taking a step forward. “Loki, stop it,” he begins, taking a step forward.

“Save your pity for your own progeny,” Loki snaps, glaring at him.

Steve stares at him. “Why are you doing this? Why are you pushing me away? It's not pity I feel, in fact you've not given me the option of feeling anything other than confused.” He rubs his eyes and looks at Loki. “Do you think I'm going to leave you? Because I don't understand how it happened? Because you've... you've had kids before?”

He growls, fury tingling at his fingertips. “I told you how it happened. My other children are not relevant to this one.”

“No, you didn't say how it happened, you implied, and you didn't mention something like this could even happen, when you... when you change,” he stumbles.

“That is why it is called an accident. Surprise,” he says bitterly.

Steve blinks and looks down at his feet for a moment before raising his eyes back to him. “How does it work? You're... you're a man now.” He blushes.

It would be endearing, if it weren't evidence of his misunderstanding. “Your idea of my gender is irrelevant to the matter at hand. I am whatever I wish to be.”

Steve doesn't seem convinced. “I know that, Loki, but I'm also way over my head when it comes to this and I wouldn't mind if you threw me a rope here.”

Loki tries not to roll his eyes. “Suffice to say that the fact that I shift my body as I please, I remain the same where it counts.” He taps at his temple.

Steve's face softens as he speaks, listening to him, drinking in the details of what he says. Loki still isn't sure Steve entirely understands, rather that he enjoys the results and the exploration. He clears his throat and takes a step closer. “So. The baby?”

Loki's lips quirk. “Yes?”

Steve takes another step, standing right in front him, almost touching. “Where is it? When you're like this, I mean?” He's looking down at his body.

Loki sees that they will have to work with Steve's curiosity. He takes Steve's hand and presses it to his lower abdomen. “Right here.”

Steve blinks and lets his fingers massage his skin through his shirt. “No guts, no glory, right?”

Loki quirks an eyebrow. “You would know.”

They tell the Avengers straight away, Steve insists and Loki rolls his eyes, but doesn't argue, it isn't as though they have any say on the matter. They are, for the most part, speechless. That suits him fine, though he did not consider Thor's reaction.

The oaf's smile is so wide half his head threatens to slide off and the embrace knocks the air out of him. “Let go of me,” he hisses.

Thor does, still smiling. “I am so pleased for you, brother. It has been a long time since you've had a little one.”

And that, of course, opens the floodgates for the others to pester him with questions.

“Wait, there are more mini-Lokis running around?” Stark blurts, clearly perturbed.

“How long is a long time for an Asgardian?” Banner asks, genuinely curious.

“Aren't we still on the fact that Loki is a guy?” Barton mutters under his breath.

“I am a god,” Loki replies acidly.

Thor looks like he's about to respond. “That's enough,” Steve interjects loudly. “This is a private matter, and it's between me and Loki.” He gives them each a look. “We agreed we should tell you sooner rather than later.”

“In case it didn't become obvious?” Natasha says drily, her eyes skimming over his body.

Loki glares back at her. Steve puts a hand on his shoulder and he looks at him, crossing his arms over his chest sullenly.

The silence is awkward, but Stark breaks it with a sudden clap of his hands, a grin that is far too wide stretching over his face, not quite meeting his eyes. “Congratulations; make a list, we'll throw a baby shower.”

They look at each other, befuddled. “A what?” Steve asks.

A baby shower apparently had nothing to with precipitation and everything to do with gifts. Gifts befitting the child of gods is a sentiment Loki can appreciate; he grins as he goes through the various parcels the team provided.

“We don't need all this, especially not when you're nowhere near delivery,” Steve argues, looking around at the plethora of bottles, clothes, and stuffed animals. Steve smiles as he picks up a fluffy goat toy, squeezing it and looking at him as Steve makes it bleat. Loki will kill Thor. They also receive something called a diaper-genie, a name Loki finds discomfiting; it wouldn't do to invoke a fire-spirit from within a waste receptacle.

“It is best to be prepared, Captain,” Loki replies, turning his delighted attention to the tiny cutlery.

“A literal silver spoon.” Steve shakes his head, but the smile only grows on his face.

“As befits the child of the Silvertongue,” he purrs, pressing himself against Steve on the sofa and flicking his tongue into Steve's ear.

The shivers are always so satisfying.

The belly touching continues with force.

At first it's casual brushes, nothing that would be out of the ordinary, as Steve's casual touches are frequent and thoughtless. The geography, however, is deliberate. When he begins to go convex, Steve's hand is on him at every opportunity, going to sleep and waking up, the hand is there, stroking his stomach. It's distracting and leaves him confused.

He hasn't been touched with such intimate intent without it being sexual in centuries.

He blinks, frowning, when Steve also takes this particular opportunity to slide down the bed to his stomach and press his ear to his bare skin. Not the captain's usual behaviour when in that position.

“There's nothing to hear, other than my digestion,” he says, glaring at the top of Steve's head.

“But there will be,” Steve argues, looking up at him, grinning nauseatingly. “I don't want to miss it when it happens.”

He raises an eyebrow, his hands twitching as he keeps them from balling into fists. “It is the size of an apple.”

Steve's smile widens. “So small.”

Loki swallows the bitter taste in his mouth and plasters a happy looking smile on his face, the muscles straining. “She will grow soon enough.”

Steve's eyes widen at that. “You know it's going to be a girl?”

Humans and their quaint little categories. “Your idea of gender is truly primitive.”

Steve's face falls for a moment. “Gimme a break, the fact that you're pregnant without being a-a woman is still something I'm getting used to.”

Loki rolls his eyes and shimmers, stretching over the bed and grinning as Steve swallows visibly at the sudden sight of his quim, leaving his chest flat. “I wouldn't want you to injure yourself.”

Steve sighs and sits back, giving him an inquisitive look. “Loki, you're being obnoxious.”

He gnashes his teeth and sits up, glowering at him. “Get used to it,” he snaps. He gets out of bed, conjuring his clothes, and leaves their bedroom.

“Hey!” Steve is after him, pulling on his sweatpants, his face pinched. “What's going on?”

He knows Steve doesn't understand, doesn't comprehend that his small gestures are enormous and scrape at Loki's heart, and so he tries for patience. “I am trying to take your gestures at face value.”

Steve blinks, bewildered. “What are you talking about?”

He so hates to spell things out. “Surely you have noticed your physical predilections have increased since you were told of the existence of your progeny.”

Steve's face hardens and he takes a step forward. “You've got to be kidding. Loki, are you complaining I'm touching you more?”

“Complaint, a small word for a small mind.”

Steve shakes his head as he rubs his eyes, inhaling a deep breath. “I can't believe this is what you're picking a fight about.”

He sneers. “You don't even notice, do you? You can't see that you are being proprietary.”

Steve crosses his arms over his chest, frowning. “What do you expect me to do? Ignore the fact that you're pregnant with my baby?”

Loki's feels a fire build in the pit of his stomach, licking the tips of his fingers. “It is my baby, and she is housed within me, and you will do well to remember that.”

“Can it, Loki.” Steve steps forward and rests both hands on his shoulders, trapping him with his gaze, his mouth hanging open for a fraction of a moment. “What's this really about?”

He swallows. “Happiness is fickle, don't expect it to last.”

“Hey!” Steve snaps, shaking him a little, concern over his face. “Are you-are you scared the way I feel about you is going to change? Loki, I love you,” he says fearlessly.

It lances through him and he pushes his hands off him. “These are changes and shifts I cannot control. I fear a part of me will be altered forever.”

Steve noses him and presses his forehead to him and his chest tightens, accepting affection always challenging. “Whatever you change into, I'll love you, because it's always you.”

Sentiment flowed out of the captain is much the same way honey flowed out of a comb; the sting is never far away.

“I do not feel like myself,” he murmurs, and he's a fool to have thought the changes to his mind wouldn't come, the delusion that he could control the fluctuations within his skull with the wave of a hand the way he did everything else. His mind may be as malleable as the rest of him.

Steve pulls away to look at him, sharper than he expected. The man understood more than he let on. “What do you feel like?”

He takes a step back, pulling away from Steve's embrace. “Weak, for this parasite is sucking my life force out of me.”

Steve takes hold of his arms, keeping him close. “Are you trying to be funny, or do I take that literally?”

Loki grins at him. “Guess.”

He sits on the floor of the roof in the middle of the night, gazing up at the stars as he caresses the taut skin; a hand pokes at his palm. He grunts as a foot kicks his lungs, the air knocked out of him. He glares down at his distended stomach, before sighing, and returning his eyes upwards. “Can you see me?” he whispers. “Can you see her?”

“Who are you asking?” Steve asks curiously, sitting next to him. He has joined him up to the open air. At this stage, with the end drawing nearer, and faster than either had anticipated, Steve spends as much time with him as he can.

Loki turns to look at him, his face half illuminated by the light from the penthouse behind them. “My mother.”

Steve blinks, his face softening, and he takes one of his hands, squeezing gently. He loathes this pity, sentiment, and yet Steve bestows grace without a thought. It would be so easy to twist. All he does is squeeze Steve's hand back.

“I didn't know Asgardians believed in heaven,” Steve remarks.

Loki smirks. “There is nothing to believe when you know it is true. Her body, like all Asgardians who die in battle, now resides in Valhalla. Her spirit rests in the stars.”

Steve's eyebrows raise high into his hairline. “Really?” he asks, and Loki isn’t sure if he's skeptical or curious. “So you guys really are space vikings.”

“You spend far too much time with Stark.”

Steve grins, stroking his thumb over his skin. “Nah, I just read the myths about you guys after... well, after we met.”

Loki isn't sure if it's the baby or something else when something sinks in the pit of his stomach. “A memorable sequence of events,” he murmurs.

Steve hums. “It's in the past.”

Loki raises an eyebrow at that. “Are you pretending naiveté, or are you being simple again?”

Steve shoots him an irritated look. “Asshole.”

He doesn't let go of his hand.

The changes continue, the child within him keeps growing, as she is wont to do, and his mind can't help but flash to scenarios that beckon nightmares that seem like visions.

Steve asks, gently and with care, as is his way, when Loki wakes him with a cry trapped in his Loki's throat. “Maybe if you tell me it will ease your mind.”

Loki hates thinking of the other children, his offspring spread around the realms, evidence of his abilities and former affections, from so very long ago. He tries to keep the memories at bay, pushing them down, locking them in a dead cavern within his heart. “I'm afraid it is my destiny to be ill at ease.”

Steve strokes his hair, touches his skin near his eyes with fingers, belying the strength of his hands. “That's not true,” Steve declares.

Loki raises an eyebrow at him. “Do you possess powers of prophesy you've been keeping to yourself?”

Steve smiles crookedly. “No, but you have a choice. Nothing is written in stone.”

Loki wrinkles his nose. “Indeed, stone also corrodes to nothing eventually. Patterns, though, they tend to repeat to infinity.”

“Patterns can be broken,” Steve argues, keeping close to him, his warmth radiating into Loki in the dark.

“Like bad habits?” Loki says. “This is not anything like that.”

“Then what is it? What patterns do you see that-that wake you up like this?” Loki's heart leaps to his throat and Steve's hold on him tightens. “Don't run away, don't disappear on me. I'm with you here. I'm with both of you,” Steve says softly, moving his hand to Loki's stomach.

“That is the issue, that is the pattern,” Loki says, tremors running up his body as specters of his children rose up. Babies born in secret, bartered away in the shadows for the sake of the Nine Realms, back when he was simply spare, the deviant prince, while Thor shone bright.

“What is?” Steve asks. “Please tell me.”

“Ever have the fates of my children ended in disaster,” he states, swallowing down the nausea as his heart squeezes into a tight ball within him and he extricates himself from Steve's embrace, sitting up gracelessly. “I do not wish to discuss it and if you ask Thor you will regret it,” Loki states.

Steve sits up to him and wraps an arm around, pressing his chest to Loki's back. “Stop threatening me and talk to me.”

Steve always wants to know his secrets, always drives a hard bargain. “I don't want to speak of my other children.”

“All right.” Steve nods, looking disappointed, but he won't push, at least that. “But now you're scared for this one.” He strokes a hand down Loki's chest, and rests it over his distended belly.

He grins, smiling as wide as he can. “Astute observation.”

Steve turns his head and presses his mouth to Loki's, creating a seal. He inhales sharply, moaning as Steve licks into his mouth, the position awkward, and still Loki takes hold of Steve's hand. “Tell me what to do?” Steve whispers against his mouth.

Loki shifts and pulls Steve back down onto the bed, keeping his arms around Loki. They end up spooned against each other. Steve's nose presses against his neck and Loki twitches, Steve hugging him as close as he can. He's torn between hating how much he needs to be held by Steve and how much he wants it, how much he desires Steve's affection and surety. “She's mine. Don't let anyone take her.”

Steve kisses his neck. “I won't. I promise. She'll be safe, I'll keep her safe.” And Loki is alarmed to realise tears are running down his face.


He wants it to be over, the weight drags at him, his back and shoulders ache in ways he had forgotten they could, and he is tired of the looks, wary or otherwise. The only ones who look his way with any kind gladness are Steve and Thor. Both of them insufferable in entirely different ways.

He's taken to remaining with genitalia that can actually allow the baby to be delivered; she had finally decided to position herself in a way that will be conducive to actual birth. Loki is sure she's been kicking his heart more often than not.

Not to mention giving him hiccups. The endless, spasming hiccups.

He groans as he moves from sitting on the chair in his and Steve's apartment and heads to the common kitchen. Banner, their only healer in attendance much to Loki's horror, suggested he eat potassium laden fruits. Which was confusing, though fine by him, there was nothing quite like eating a banana or peach in public to make the easily embarrassed leave him alone.

If only it worked on Stark.

“How's it going, baby-mama?” Stark asks, smirking as he slurps on one of his disgusting green concoctions.

“Drop dead,” he replies evenly, licking his wrist and vanishing the pip.

Stark snorts. “Not while you mooch off me, sweet-cheeks.”

Loki glares at him and prepares to retort when the baby kicks him in the diaphragm again and he groans softly.

Stark raises his eyebrows. “You look a little out of sorts, there.”

He grimaces, making sure it resembles a smile. “She is merely out of room and aims true.” He frowns as she kicks him again, stronger now and lower.

Stark's obnoxious sipping has ceased and he puts the drink down. “Loki?”

Loki glares at him, resting his arm on the shelf of his protruding gut. “Don't tell me you are suddenly concerned about your tenant, Stark.”

“Concern is a strong word, considering you're you, but you don't look so hot. Are you, uh, do you need to see Bruce?” He's even standing up and approaching him, concern written all over his face.

“I'm fine, merely heavily pregnant.” He stands up, stepping back at the same time and as he does so, he feels what can only be described as a gloop and a gush of fluid drenches his legs and the floor of the kitchen.

Stark stares at him and he stares back. “Fuck,” they say together.

To give him credit, Stark is a man of action and he wastes no time in ushering him to the lifts. “Unhand me, I'm not an invalid,” Loki hisses and shoves him away, glaring at him.

“You just brought about the fucking flood in my kitchen,” Stark exclaims. “I don't know much about the mechanics of this particular set of hardware, but I know that when water breaks a baby isn't far behind!”

“Calm yourself, I haven't even had a contraction.” Pain lances through his back and stomach, gripping his pelvis in a vise that is sharp and deep. He groans loudly. “Damn.”

Stark's mouth hangs open. “No way. No fucking way!”

“Shut up!” he snaps, gripping his stomach and breathing through the pain. “You couldn't possibly be more useless.”

Stark ignores him. “It's okay, we'll get you to Bruce and we'll call Cap, and everything will be golden,” he mutters, as he takes him by the arm and shoulder.

“Let go of me, you imbecile.” And he cries out at the contraction hits him again with force and his vision goes blurry around the edges. Dread settles on his chest like Mjolnir itself, it can't possibly be this painful this soon.

“Ow, shit,” Stark says, his voice sounding far away as the lift doors close behind them. Stark leans him against the wall and pulls his hand out of Loki's grip.

He hadn't even noticed he took hold of Stark's hand.

“I didn't know I'd need one of my gauntlets for this,” he mutters, shaking his hand and wincing while tucking it under an armpit.

Loki blinks at him, the blurring subsiding as a deep and throbbing ache settles in the small of his back, his pelvic bones, and deep inside where he feels the baby press lower and lower. “I need Steve.”

Stark gives him a look. “No shit. JARVIS, have Cap and Bruce meet me and Loki in the - “ and just like that the lights within the lift and hum of hydraulics die all at once. “You have got to be kidding me!”

“Stark, what the hell is going on?” He slides slowly down to the floor in the dark, his legs shaking as the pain radiates to his knees. It's too hot, the air is too close, and his lungs burn.

Blue light illuminates Stark's face as he opens his phone. “When did my life become a sitcom?” he mutters, as he taps on the screen. The brightness dies after a few seconds. “Don't worry, we'll be out of here in no time,” he says, his voice far too even for Loki's liking.

He aches, deep inside, and he shouts as it punches through his loins. “Now, get us out now!”

“Uh,” Stark says. “About that...”

He gropes in the dark and catches what he assumes is Stark's shin and he digs his fingers into the trousers and skin. “I don't give a damn why, I will not have this child in a hell forsaken cave!”

“Ow, shit, what the fuck!” Stark tries to shake off his grip, but he clings to the leg as a contraction hits him again and they both shout as his hold tightens. “Holy crap, Loki!” As the pain subsides, Stark manages to free his leg and he hears him as he slumps to the floor.

The cave is stifling, incinerating his lungs, the damp between his legs seems to continue to grow, the only place on his body that feels cool. “What-what is wrong with this machine?”

Stark takes a few moments to answer, his teeth chattering. “I don't know, something interfering with the electronics. Or something else, it's fucking freezing.”

He can't breathe, everything feels wrong, skew and on the verge of collapse. “This cannot be happening,” he mutters.

Stark makes a noise and he can feel the other man's body heat; they aren't even touching. “Don't panic,” he says uselessly.

“Don't be an idiot,” he hisses. He clutches at his child, clearly trying to claw her way out of him, his insides gripped in a molten fist.

“Something's wrong with the climate c-control, it's t-too c-cold in here,” Stark stutters quietly.

It makes no sense when he feels as though the air is like boiling oil. He's about to tell Stark he's speaking nonsense when he hears a loud clang from the door of the cave. “Brother?” Thor's voice thunders through.

He wants to scream at the fool, but all he can do is cry out again as the pain stabs at him again.

“Thor! Thor, hurry up, we are in active labour territory here,” Stark shouts as loud as he can, his voice carrying over Loki's wordless howl, the pain crashing over him in waves.

Thor pulls the doors open in minutes, light blinding him momentarily and heat pressing against his skin. When his eyes adjust he sees Thor using Mjolnir as a door stop as he steps inside, his eyes are wide and concerned as he stares around him. And when Loki looks around them he sees the cave, lift, is covered in a fine sheen of ice and Stark is staring at him, his cheeks and nose red with cold.

“Loki, come, we'll get you to the healing room,” Thor says, pulling his cape over to cover his hands.

He looks down at his stomach, his own hands clutching at the bulge are sickeningly blue, his nails black as the abyss and his breath stutters as he stares at his body's betrayal. “No.” Loki's breaths come fast and furious, he trembles as he stares at the horror of his flesh.

Thor picks him up from the floor. The movement jostles the baby and once again the pain cracks inside him. He screams, and Thor keeps his grip on him. “I'll get you there.”

Stark is on his other side, taking another piece of Thor's cape to keep from touching him directly. The humiliation and disgust burn through him. “Let go of me,” he objects weakly.

“No can do, we gotta get you to Bruce ASAP,” Stark says, his voice steady now that he's out of the cold.

“Steve,” he whimpers. “He can't, he can't...”

“He is on his way,” Thor says, all but carrying him. “We contacted him as soon as the child's magic mingle with yours, Loki.”

Stark jerks against him. “You can sense that?”

Thor strokes his shoulder through the cape. “Of course, why wouldn't I?”

The air still scorches him and his insides rebel at the movements. He lurches, losing whatever he had inside, vomiting on the stairs to the infirmary. “I can't... this is wrong...”

“Worry not, brother. All will be well.”

All was not fucking well, he thought as his breath misted over him. A coat of snow and ice covered all the dead electronic equipment that surrounded him. It had taken mere minutes for Thor and Stark to get him to where he was destined to birth a monster. It had felt like an eternity and a half.

Banner gives him a sympathetic look. “Can't undo it, huh?”

“No, I cannot,” he says, looking away. His dignity in tatters, as well as his clothes, he lies nude under a thin blanket, his tainted and pained skin hidden beneath the cloth. The mountain on his belly twitches under the cover.

Banner nods, blowing his breath into his clasped hands. “This doesn't happen a lot, I take it?”

He glares at him. “Don't be obscene.”

Banner blinks, frowning. If he means to reply he misses his chance when Steve all but breaks the door as he barrels into the room, skidding slightly on the ice. “Holy cow,” he pants, his breath white in the air.

Loki stares at Steve, his eyes seizing the details Steve has seen but once, long before they had decided to engage in what is clearly a parody of a relationship and of love, back when he considered Steve an enemy, but had desired him nonetheless. Now the other man gazes at Loki, as though he can't believe what he's seeing.

A beast, blue and bare.

“I'm sorry it took me so long to get here,” Steve says softly, giving that reassuring smile of his, and slowly slides across the floor to stand by his side. “Looks like you've been having a rough time.”

When Steve tries to take hold of his hand, he stanches it away. “Don't touch me!” And the movement triggers a crest in the agony that flows through him. He bites his lip, trying to hold back his cries.

Banner is by him in a second, using primitive implements to try and gauge the progress of the miscreation trying to rip him in half.

“What's going on?” Steve asks, asserting authority where he has none, trying to create order where the mere idea is utterly absurd. Loki laughs, for the first time in this whole ordeal, he laughs, the air bubbling up, chaotic and sharp. Steve and Banner look at him, concerned and confused respectively and that just makes his laugh harder, so hard he has to grip his bulging sides as the anguish pulses through him.

Steve grips his hand and cups his cheek, he hears him hiss as the cold burns his fragile skin. “Loki, Loki, listen to me. I'm here now, it's going to be fine, I promise, everything will be all right.”

His laughter dies as he stares at the hand being held in Steve's, the grotesque blue receding slowly. “What?” he whispers.

The ice in the room and around him also dissipates and the whir of machinery begins to hum in the background, the lights flicker on and he shivers as his temperature evens out as well.

“What's going on?” Steve asks, keeping his grip firm and true.

He can't answer, he can't think, all he can do is cling to Steve's hand, ignoring how needy he is in this moment, when a contraction ripples through him like an earthquake.

Steve strokes his hair through it, comforting him. He wishes it actually helped.

Banner moves around him, having taken off the blanket when he hadn't noticed and attaching electrodes to his belly and to his chest. A beeping sound makes Banner smile broadly. “Okay, let's get this show on the road.”

Loki glares at him, sneering as he pants out, “What the hell do you think has been happening?”

Steve squeezes his hand again. “Forget about that, just hold onto me.”

He doesn't let go.

Loki doesn't know how long it actually takes to get to the end, all he knows is that it isn't close enough. He screams as he pushes through the pain, he hears Steve cry out as well as he crushes his hand, bone and sinew grinding under his grip as his nethers tear as the baby tries to get out of him, as though the body that ensconced her was blighted and contaminated. Loki can feel his blood gushing.

“I can see the head,” Banner exclaims, sounding far too excited for Loki's liking.

He groans, feeling sick. “It hurts too much, too much blood, she's drowning.”

“She's not, Bruce would say if something was wrong, she's fine, you're going to be fine,” Steve says into his ear, his voice quavering. He keeps their skins touching, their sweat mingling along their faces.

The moments stretch into each other and he screams as a white hot spike of pain smashes through him. Loki can feel the small body push out of him, Banner's hand at his thighs, he should have told Steve how to do this, should have made it entirely private. This was nothing but a freak show. A piercing wail adds to the cacophony and he stares at the tiny blue creature flailing in Banner's hands, her face scrunched up as she announces her presence and displeasure.

His heart beats loud in his ears, painful against his ribs as Banner approaches him with a small smile on his face. “Hey, say hello to your daughter.”

He wants to say that her being a girl doesn't make her a daughter, but his tongue freezes behind his lips as her warm, pale blue flesh is placed on his chest. Her hair is white and black, streaked equally. Her cries calm to soft whimpers as she snuffles against him, somehow his hand finds her back and her eyes open, two dark cherries staring up at him.

Steve gasps close to his ear. “She's beautiful.”

Loki keeps staring at her, his breath caught in his chest, his heart in his throat. She has dark blue stripes arching over her eyes, trailing down her cheeks, over her arms and hands. Just like him.

Steve kisses the side of his face and he wants to scream at him to flee, to run away, that all the love in the world can't save Loki and the beast he begot. For the first in a long time, he is lost for words.

He hears Banner putter around them and eventually he knows they are alone, the three of them, two monsters and a man.

Steve detaches his hand from his with a small laugh. “Loki, can I..” He doesn't finish the question when he gently, so tenderly, picks her up from Loki's chest, his broad fingers supporting her tiny head. He cradles her, a loose towel over his arm. He touches her cheek. Loki inhales sharply as the blue recedes and a flourishing pink begins to cover her from the top of her head to the tips of her toes.

Her hair remains the same.

“She's... she's like me,” he says, completely surprised.

Steve looks over at him, smiling at him before returning his eyes to their baby. “Of course she is, why wouldn't she be?”

Loki watches them, energy draining from him fast.

When he holds her again she remains the colour she should be, not a speck of blue on her skin nor a fleck of red in her eyes. When there is no trace of any monster in her that he could see or sense, he lets himself fall asleep.

When he wakes the light is dim and he's covered in a thicker blanket. He sees Steve sitting next to him, his fingers splinted and holding her close to him, swaddled and wrapped like a gift, staring down at her with the face of a moron.

The covers rustle as he shifts, and he winces. That won't do. Steve looks over at him as he shimmers, and he sighs as he puts back his preferred shape, healed and hale. Finally, back to normal. He conjures clothes for himself and gets out of bed, the pregnancy and pain that went with it, ebbing away to a memory as he stands next to Steve and the baby.

“You know what we didn't do?” Steve says as he places a hand on Loki's shoulder.

He looks down at her tiny face, the black and white hair swirling around the top of her head like a flower petals. He suspects his face is no less idiotic. He can't help but check for any signs of unnatural blue. “What?”

“We never discussed names, I don't know if you have one in mind, but I thought of one,” he says, almost sheepish. He looks up at him, trying to gauge his own mood.

“Do tell,” he says, curious despite himself. No doubt it will be something sentimental, tied to the Captain's past.

“Tiger-Lily, like the flower,” he says quietly, stroking her hair tenderly.

He blinks, taken aback and making sure to show not one iota of it. “Tiger-Lily, like the flower,” he repeats.

Steve laughs, informing Loki that he must be showing some of it. The laughter jostles the baby, and she is beautiful. “Her hair,” Steve says. “It looks like tiger-lilies.”

He looks at the man, oblivious to the freakishness he helped create, at the freakishness standing beside him, fingers twitching and keeping from digging into Steve's skin. Loki's heart twists as he looks at her, his other children come to his mind unbeckoned, and he pushes down the sorrow that erupts inside him. There is no need to grieve over this one yet, this delicate and precious mistake is wanted, held like a treasure in the arms of her father who wants him too.

“Tiger-Lily is a fine name,” he murmurs, stroking her wispy soft hair with a single finger.

The end... for now