The corners of Loki’s mouth quirked up in a sleepy smile as he became aware of soft, caressing touches on his stomach, tracing the round shape of it before ghosting up along his flanks. The lamps were blown out and no moonlight filtered through the windows. Loki could not be certain his eyes were even open, but he pressed into the familiar touches as they mapped his body, enveloping him like smoke.
“Thor, you brute… you are insatiable,” Loki hummed, tilting his head up in an invitation, welcoming the feel of Thor’s lips and the scrape of his bristles against his neck.
He startled a little when the embrace grew tighter without a warning, for Thor was always mindful of his strength, never allowing it to run unchecked around Loki, not even when the occasional quarrel between them grew into a full-blown scuffle. Loki was suddenly aware of a weight around his limbs, coiling around the long column of his exposed throat and pinning him against the mattress.
The familiarity of the situation vanished and Loki began to struggle, panic blooming in his chest the moment he realized he was unable to move.
Something twisted around his horns, the touch forbidden and invasive and Loki could sense the distress of the child he carried inside him. Their shared fear spread along his nerve endings like wildfire at a sudden and searing pain in his womb, so intense that Loki could not even scream.
He awoke and scrambled up in the bed, clawing at his stomach as his heart raced in his chest.
Ice shot into Loki’s hand and a moment later, there was a frozen dagger pressed against Thor’s jugular.
“Loki!” Thor gasped, “it’s me! You were having another nightmare, none of it was real.”
Loki blinked, eyes glazed, taking in the dark shape in front of him. He felt disoriented, but the room was brighter now. A waxing winter moon bathed the bed in its pale light and there was a red glow around the fireplace where their evening fire continued to smolder.
Thor wrapped his hand around Loki’s wrist and guided the blade away from his neck, brushing his thumb against Loki’s palm until Loki let go of the weapon. It fell on the bed and evaporated in a cloud of blue smoke.
“It was just a dream, Loki,” Thor murmured, his voice soft and consoling. “Just a dream.”
Loki’s eyes brimmed with unshed tears. The pain had felt so real. He had been so helpless.
“You are safe, both of you,” Thor whispered, wrapping his arms around Loki’s body, holding him close as Loki wept quietly, overwhelmed by the lingering memory of his dream.
He’d been plagued by the same nightmare for weeks now, every dream more vivid than the previous one.
He shuddered as he held up his hand, realizing what he had been about to do in his disoriented state. He had always been in control of his seiðr, but the blade had appeared in his hand before Loki had even been aware of it.
“I'm so sorry,” he mouthed against the nape of Thor’s neck. “I… I could not control it, I thought you were-”
“Was it the same dream?” Thor asked, his fingers tracing soothing patterns across Loki’s shoulder blades.
“It’s her,” Loki whispered, “I know it. She wants revenge.”
Thor pulled back, alarmed. He lowered his hand between them, pressing his palm against Loki’s stomach in a protective manner. “You mean... Angrboða?” Thor asked warily, reluctant to speak the old seiðkona's name within the walls of their bedchamber.
“You killed her child and I am about to bear your firstborn. The dreams cannot be a mere coincidence.”
“Perhaps- perhaps this is just your mind playing tricks on you,” Thor offered, for it was not uncommon for expecting mothers to be plagued by many fears and doubts. Loki shook his head and Thor could see the fear in his eyes was very real. “I will get my father’s counsel in the morning," he promised. "Odin sees everything from his high seat, he will have answers for us.”
Loki was coaxed awake by soft humming and the smell of sweet cakes and bacon grease. The Allmother sat by the tall bedroom windows, sipping tea as she worked on her embroidery. She glanced up from her needlework when Loki rolled to lie on his side.
“Good morning, Loki,” Frigga smiled. The chain of keys hanging from her belt jingled with the soft sway of her hips as she walked across the room and took a seat at the edge of the bed.
Loki greeted the queen with a polite bow of his head, but the formality between them vanished the moment Frigga pressed her palm against Loki’s cheek, tracing the shape of it with her thumb. “How fare you, child?” she asked. “Do you still feel ill in the mornings?”
“Not for some time now,” Loki replied, glad to be rid of the nausea that ailed him in the beginning. There had been days when he’d been so ill that he hadn’t been able to keep his food down at all, which had irritated Loki to no end, for there were few things in this realm he loved as much as the fine cuisine.
“I have drawn you a nice, cool bath,” Frigga said, “and after you have bathed, we can break fast and have a little talk. Thor tells me you have been having bad dreams.”
Loki averted his eyes, the memory of the previous night fresh in his mind. “Thor has left already?” he asked, suddenly aware that he could not sense Thor’s presence in their rooms.
Frigga nodded. “He is visiting his father in Valaskjálf to get his counsel, but he’ll be back by nightfall. I’ll keep you company until he arrives.” She helped Loki out of the bed and handed him his dressing robe. She offered to help Loki into the bath, but he insisted he was still perfectly capable of getting in the basin by himself. “Take as long as you like, darling, I will be right outside,” Frigga smiled and closed the door, her sweet perfume lingering in the air in her wake.
Loki sank neck-deep into the water and leaned his head against the sloping side of the basin as he began to wash himself, staring at the shape of his rotund stomach where it poked through the soapy water. The birth of their first child was still some moons away, but Loki felt enormous, unable to believe the sheer size of his belly. There was some faint scarring on his skin where it had been forced to stretch and accommodate the growth of the child inside him, and Loki traced the marks with his fingertips, hoping they would not be a permanent reminder of this uncomfortable time.
He was still struggling to deal with the impending parenthood, but Thor had been ecstatic from the moment Loki had agreed to finally give him a child. His heat didn’t come upon him more than once or twice every decade, and the thought of waiting several years for a new opportunity had made both of them impatient, albeit for very different reasons.
Thor had wanted a family with Loki for ages and part of him was glad to finally grant Thor his wish. Loki’s own reasons, however, were more selfish, for he hoped that giving Thor a child would finally strengthen his own position in Asgard.
He had no political power or official say in anything outside of the walls of Bilskirnir and he had long ago become fed up with his idle existence in Thor’s shadow. Most of the realm regarded Loki as little more than the prince’s exotic concubine, a plaything to be thrown aside once Thor found himself a true queen.
Loki tossed the wet cloth he was using to clean himself across the room in a fit of ire.
He could not hope to marry Thor without Jötunheimr’s consent, but having his child would no doubt prove Thor’s devotion to Loki to the gossiping court and the commoners. The sight of his growing belly had not gone unnoticed whenever Loki mingled with the people in the market place or traveled to the nearby provinces with Thor. The looks and whispers he attracted were as malicious as ever, but Loki welcomed the attention, the child inside him undeniable proof of Loki’s position in Thor’s life.
It was not visible to the untrained eye, but Loki could see there were blessings and protective runes all around the bedchamber, ancient seiðr far beyond Loki’s skill meant to ward them against harm. The sight of Frigga’s own rune, glowing faintly in the air above the bed brought a relieved smile to Loki’s lips and he knew there would be no nightmares tonight.
As he walked around the room, Loki noticed there were new clothes laid out for him on the bed: a black tunic and a long dark green, gold-embroidered vest, hand-made by Frigga. Loki ran his fingers across the soft leather with a contented gleam in his red eyes.
Loki dressed himself and admired his reflection in the mirror, pleased with the way the outfit allowed him to maintain his usual sleek style without concealing his condition.
“Thank you, my queen,” Loki said, voice sincere, as he joined Frigga in the sitting room and took a seat at the table she had set for him. “I’m grateful for the clothes and for the blessings you have bestowed upon our home.”
Frigga looked up from her sewing and gave Loki a pleased smile, looking him up and down. "I had Thor hunt down one of the wild boars of Vanaheimr for the vest. Their hide makes exquisite leather." She pointed the needle she was holding at the large tray of food. “You should eat before your tea gets cold.”
There was freshly baked bread and different meats and winter preserves of Iðunn’s apples on the tray. Loki felt his mouth water at the sight and he emptied the plates to the last crumb, washing everything down with the tea Frigga had brewed for him.
There was a strange flavor in the sweet drink and Loki felt himself become more relaxed with every sip.
”I put a little lemongrass from my garden in your tea to soothe your nerves,” Frigga revealed as Loki set his empty cup on the tray.
He took a seat on the chaise longue next to Frigga, leaning against the lush pillows to get comfortable after the filling breakfast. It had begun to snow outside and Loki felt a familiar calm at the sight of the land being shrouded in a soft, white blanket. He watched as Frigga’s fingers worked nimbly on her embroidery, pulling yarn through the canvas, slowly adding color and shape to the design.
“Is my son treating you well?” Frigga asked, startling Loki out of his comfortable lull.
“Quite well,” Loki grinned. “Last week, he traveled all the way to Nidavellir for a bag of dwarven healing stones to ease the pains in my back.”
Loki’s smile grew wider as he thought of all the times Thor had fulfilled his requests, never once scoffing at Loki’s whims, even if some of them were a bit ridiculous.
“Have you thought of a name yet?”
Loki shook his head, picking at the cuff of his sleeve. Thor had made some suggestions, but Loki kept avoiding the subject, for naming the child made everything feel more real and final. Thor had already prepared their future son or daughter a beautiful cradle and more toys than any child could ever want. There was no doubt that he would be a wonderful father, but Loki did not know if he could say the same about himself.
“There is still time,” Frigga said, patting Loki’s knee, sensing his discomfort. She poured Loki another cup of tea and he drank it even if he didn’t particularly enjoy hot beverages, feeling himself relax further.
“Well, darling, shall we talk about the dreams?” Frigga asked as she took the empty cup from Loki’s hands, setting it aside.
Loki’s heart began to race in his chest. “I… I don't know how to-“ His mouth kept opening and closing as he searched for a way to describe the overwhelming sense of danger and helplessness he felt in his dreams every night.
“Come here, child,” Frigga said, spreading her arms in a disarming invitation.
Loki dug his fingers into the cushions, hesitating, but in the end, he could not keep himself from moving closer and pressing his brow against Frigga’s breast. She held Loki as if he were her own child, stroking his hair, twirling the damp curls at his nape around her fingers as Loki continued to hide his face in her apron.
The unconditional, nurturing love mothers in Asgard showed to their children was strange and novel to Loki and he often wondered if he would ever be capable of loving his own child in such a manner. Loki had not even met his own dam, for Farbauti had passed away long before Loki was old enough to form solid memories of her.
The soothing touches upon his scalp made Loki’s pulse settle and he leaned back, raising his face to meet the queen’s soft gaze. “There is a dark force in my dreams, rendering my body immobile… Then, a searing pain as something reaches for the babe inside me.” Loki pressed his hand against his stomach, clutching at the folds of his tunic. “I fear something bad will happen to the child.”
Frigga watched Loki for a long time, her gaze roaming across his body, and Loki thought he could see a flicker of worry pass across her features, but she pressed her palm against the round curve of his stomach, her touch reassuring.
“All will be well.”
Frigga let out a quiet gasp as she continued to stroke her palm across Loki’s stomach.
“What is it? Is the child alright?” Loki startled, worry twisting his features.
“Oh, do not worry,” Frigga’s face lit up with a joyous smile, “the children are well.”
Loki’s eyes grew wide when the queen’s words sank in. “Children?” he echoed, “there are more than one?”
“There are three,” Frigga laughed.
Thor paced before his father’s high seat, pausing every now and again to shoot the Allfather an impatient glare. Odin had been sitting on his throne since the early hours of the morning, and Thor’s patience was growing thin, for he was anxious to return home to Loki.
He watched as his father’s servants began to enter the room, carrying plates of food and setting them on the long table near the fireplace. Thor had left their home before dawn and he hadn’t had anything to eat since last night’s supper. His stomach growled loudly at the sight of the large ox and the barrel of ale.
“My all-seeing gaze has traveled far and wide, but it did not land upon the old Sorrow-Bringer in all the Nine Realms.”
Thor hurried to the bottom of the dais as Odin hobbled down from the throne, leaning against his staff. The king's two loyal wolves appeared at his side and the old god bent down to give them a scratch behind their ears.
“Angrboða did not survive the might of my lightning after all?” Thor asked, his eyes hopeful as he helped his father across the hall.
Odin shook his head. “I cannot promise you her spirit doesn’t linger somewhere, in the darkest reaches of the Tree. Perhaps she has not yet taken a physical form or she has found a way to fool us all. There are many ancient evils in the realms and some of them are deceiving to the eye.”
The lines on Thor's brow deepened with worry at his father’s gloomy words. “Can we not do something? I believe Loki is right, the dreams that plague him cannot be a mere coincidence.”
“Only your mother has the gift of foresight,” Odin placed a reassuring hand on Thor’s shoulder, “sometimes even our worst nightmares are just dreams, born out of our own fears and insecurities.”
Odin took a seat at the long table where his dinner was laid out for him. Thor followed on his heels, unsatisfied with his father’s answers.
“But if it is an omen, what can we do to avoid such a dire fate?” Thor persisted.
“All of this could have been avoided had you only taken my counsel centuries ago…”
Thor stopped in his tracks, glaring at his father. “And what is that supposed to mean?”
Odin remained quiet as he poured himself a hornful of ale, filling his plate with pork and boiled potatoes.
Thor’s temper flared at the way his father ignored him, as if he were but a godling getting a reprimand. “You have never respected the choices I have made.“
Odin glanced up from his plate. “Many of them are selfish and not in the best interest of the realms,” he remarked casually, throwing the wolves at his feet some meat.
“You treat me as if I were but a boy!” Thor bellowed.
“You are but a boy,” Odin growled, the weight of his gaze silencing any argument Thor had been about to make. “A boy who is having a bastard child out of wedlock with the runt of an ancient enemy.”
Thor's jaw clenched and his fingers squeezed around Mjöllnir’s hilt, itching to heed her call and smash something. “That bastard will be your grandchild and the future ruler of Asgard, for there is nothing that will keep me from claiming the child as my own.”
“That does not change anything I have said,” Odin muttered into his horn, the golden ale wetting his beard.
A heavy silence settled into the hall and the servants had withdrawn into the shadows.
Thor continued to squeeze the hilt of his hammer as he felt his control begin to crumble and he forced himself to walk away, not wanting to risk further animosity between his father and himself.
Thor had nearly reached the large wooden doors when he heard Odin stand up from his seat.
“The child will have my love, Thor,” Odin said, and the words were spoken with the voice of a father instead of a king.
Thor froze in his step, glancing over his shoulder. Odin leaned against his staff, looking more like a weary old man than the King of Asgard.
“We have your approval?” Thor asked, his anger vanishing as quickly as it had risen.
“My approval means little and it cannot sway the opinion of the people,” Odin replied. “You must understand that any children born out of this union with Loki will face more than their fair share of judgment.”
“You did not answer my question,” Thor said, retracing his steps to the long table.
Odin watched his son with his heavy-lidded eye, the gaze in it considering. Finally, he gave a nod. “You have my approval.”
Thor let out a relieved bark of laughter, hurrying to kneel before his king. “Thank you, father,” Thor breathed, balling his right hand into a fist, pressing it against his heart. “This means much to me, and to Loki.”
Odin gave a low grunt, pulling Thor up to his feet. He set his staff aside and took a seat in his chair once more, returning to his dinner. “Well, boy, sit down and fill your belly with food and drink. It's been a long day.”
Thor did not need to be told twice.
Thor reclined in his favorite armchair by the fireplace in their bedchamber, his hooded eyes following the swirl of Loki's long fingers as he painted blue markings on his skin in front of a tall mirror. Loki’s already impressive appetite had become even greater in recent months and Thor took note of the way his features had begun to fill out, the hard muscles now concealed under a layer of fat.
He made certain Loki was looking the other way before he allowed his gaze to lower down to the budding breasts, the nipples dark blue and tempting. Sometimes, when the ache in them became distracting, Loki allowed Thor to massage and knead the soft mounds. Thor licked his lips, wondering if Loki would let him suckle on them once the milk came in, the mere thought of tasting him in such manner enough to make his groin tighten with want.
Thor adjusted his breeches, unsure if Loki would welcome his advances tonight, for he’d been in a mercurial mood since Thor had returned home, barely speaking a word to him.
He threw another log into the fire and began to fill the base of his pipe with the fine tobacco his father had given to him, but he’d barely managed one inhale when Loki glared at him through the mirror.
“You oaf. Must you smoke that filth in my presence? The smell is disgusting.”
Thor blinked, dumbfounded. Loki had never complained about his smoking before, always allowing Thor to enjoy a pipeful if the mood struck him. Loki continued to sneer at him through the mirror and Thor opted to put out his pipe without questioning Loki’s sudden change of heart.
He got up and opened one of the windows to let in some fresh night air, coming to stand behind Loki, meeting his angry eyes in the mirror. “Is something wrong?” Thor wrapped his arms around Loki’s waist, but his hands were slapped away as soon as they touched Loki’s stomach.
“Don’t!” Loki snapped, shooting Thor a withering look through the mirror. “You’ll smear the paint.” He pulled on his dressing robe, but the sash had gone missing and his stomach pushed through the flimsy fabric even as Loki attempted to wrap it around his body.
“Loki… I can tell something is bothering you,” Thor said, refusing to be dejected by Loki’s nettled mood. He placed his hands on Loki’s shoulders and forced him to turn around. “Have I done something to upset you?”
“Oh, you most certainly have done something…” Loki huffed, visibly exasperated.
Loki refused to meet Thor's eyes and he eventually followed Loki's gaze down to his stomach. There was the familiar jötunn pattern Loki had been painting above his navel after they became aware he was with child and Thor knew it was supposed to protect the baby from harm. He blinked as he noticed the same pattern was repeated twice more on the taut skin.
“What…?” Thor traced the markings with the pads of his fingers.
There was a faint blush on Loki’s cheeks, the look in his eyes now more overwhelmed than angry. Thor’s mouth split into a happy, bewildered grin as realization dawned on him.
“Oh, Loki,” Thor laughed. “Is this the reason you are cross with me?” He pressed both of his large palms against Loki’s stomach, not caring if he smeared the paint.
“There are three of them.”
Thor was beyond delighted by the news, but he understood why Loki was upset, for he knew how difficult it had been for him to adjust to all the recent changes and the new limitations his body was forced to accept. The knowledge that he was carrying not one, but three children must have left him more than a little shaken.
“This is happy news,” Thor smiled. “We are thrice blessed, Loki, for children are rare among the Æsir. Most women here are lucky if they have three newborns in three centuries.”
Loki’s hands settled on top of Thor’s larger ones, but instead of shoving them away, he pressed his stomach into the touch. "You are pleased?"
"Pleased? I could not be happier, Loki," Thor exclaimed. He could feel the tension between them melt away and he sank to his knees in front of Loki, glancing up, arching his brows in a silent question. Loki gave a small nod and Thor pressed his bearded cheek against the side of Loki’s stomach.
“Three sons or daughters,” he marveled, feeling a sense of self-satisfied pride for having filled Loki’s belly with a whole litter of children. He turned his face up, unable to hide his smug grin from Loki.
“It would seem the mortals do not turn to you in matters of fertility in vain,” Loki said, and there was an amused twinkle in his red eyes.
Thor’s smile grew even wider and he squeezed Loki’s left buttock playfully, already aware of the faint smell of arousal in the air. He felt Loki lean closer and a moment later, there was a hand in Thor’s hair, guiding him below Loki's stomach where his cock was half-hard and filling rapidly right in front of Thor’s eyes.
Thor trailed soft kisses along the underside of the curved belly while his hands caressed Loki's smooth calves and thighs, slowly working his way to the stiff prick. He parted his lips to allow Loki to push into his mouth, holding on to his thighs as Loki tugged on Thor’s hair to guide his movements.
He fumbled for his cunt, unable to reach it over his large stomach and he let out a frustrated hiss, taking one of Thor’s hands into his own and guiding it between his thighs.
The brazen greed for pleasure sent Thor’s blood racing and he listened to the wet sounds from his fingers as he worked them in and out of Loki’s cunt, fighting the urge to reach between his own thighs where his arousal was beginning to strain inside his breeches.
Loki tightened his grip on Thor’s hair and pulled him closer until Thor’s nose was buried in the coarse black hair around the base of his cock. Thor inhaled the intimate smell, enjoying the taste of Loki’s seed as it began to fill his mouth in thick, copious bursts.
“I am not done with you,” Loki murmured, slipping out of his dressing robe until it pooled at their feet. He removed Thor’s fingers from his passage and pressed his wet folds against Thor’s face, grinding down long enough to allow Thor a quick taste. “Take me to bed.”
Thor helped Loki to lay down on his side, his swollen stomach resting against soft sheepskin pelts. He undressed and settled behind Loki, molding their bodies together before reaching down between Loki’s thighs to gather some of the slick he found there on his fingers, spreading it all over his erection. He teased Loki with the head of his cock, sliding it along his cunt, which the pregnancy had turned as plump and soft as it had been during his heat.
“I am not in the mood for your teasing,” Loki growled, grinding against Thor’s hardness until Thor finally sought out his opening and slid inside.
He kept his thrusts slow, reaching over to caress Loki with his free hand, eager to feel the sheer size of him. He moved his palm along the round shape of Loki’s stomach, tracing the painted patterns on the skin before reaching down to brush his fingers over the belly button, which was already protruding out of the bump.
“You are going to be enormous by the time you’re ready to birth our children,” Thor sighed, the mental images of Loki so full almost enough to make him spill right then and there.
“You should choose your words more carefully,” Loki murmured, “you may be balls deep inside me, but that does not mean I won’t take offence at being called enormous.” There was no real anger in Loki’s voice and Thor simply chuckled against his shoulder, increasing his pace as he continued to touch and feel the exciting mix of sharp angles and soft roundness that Loki’s body had become.
“Seeing you like this… You have no idea what it does to me,” Thor panted. He reached up to fondle one puffy nipple between his thumb and forefinger, rolling it gently and pulling quiet sighs from Loki.
“Oh, I think I do,” Loki breathed. He took Thor’s hand in his own, moving it back down to the underside of his stomach where his cock had smeared the skin wet with pre-spend.
Thor wrapped his fingers around Loki’s arousal, brushing the wet tip with his thumb, the sensation enough to drive Loki to his climax.
Thor pulled out and turned to lie on his back while he waited for Loki to get his breathing under control. "Ready to continue?" he smirked when Loki got up to his hands and knees and climbed into Thor's lap, his soft thighs pressed against Thor's hips.
"Ready," Loki smiled, taking a hold of Thor's cock and sinking down on it.
Thor's eyes rolled back at the feel of Loki's warm passage enveloping him. He began to thrust up, meeting the roll of Loki's hips, unable to keep his hands from reaching out and holding on to the rounded belly as Loki rode him.
"You are lovely," Thor sighed, the movements of his hips growing erratic, his release so close now. Loki leaned down for a kiss and the weight and feel of his stomach pressing against Thor's own abdomen was enough to finally make him spill.
Thor stood in the doorway of their bedchamber, watching as Loki took his falcon cloak from its golden rack and began to brush the sleek feathers lovingly, unaware of Thor’s eyes upon him.
It was no secret that Loki missed his freedom.
He hadn't been able to fit in his cloak or transform his shape for many moons and there were days when Loki seemed to sink into deep melancholy, refusing Thor’s company and comforting words. Thor continued to watch as Loki set the plumes aside, a quiet sigh escaping his lips. He turned to open the balcony doors and disappeared into the dark winter night.
Thor knew Loki wasn’t likely to welcome his company tonight, but he followed anyway and found him sitting on one of the stone benches, looking pensive. His face was turned up to the night sky where a curtain of bright aurorae danced behind the mountain peaks, painting the valley green.
They had celebrated midwinter blót nearly two moons ago, but the weather continued to stay cold, and Thor was thankful for it, knowing how uncomfortable it would have been for Loki to carry their children in the heat of an Asgardian summer.
Loki’s right hand rested on his stomach while his left hand stroked the stub of his horn in an attempt to calm the children who were always active this time of night.
“Loki? May I join you?”
Loki startled a little, the hand on his horn dropping to his side where it balled into a tight fist. Thor watched Loki with bated breath, prepared to return inside, but Loki simply nodded, wiping the bench clean of snow for Thor.
“Are you certain you don’t wish to be left alone?” Thor asked as he took a seat next to Loki.
Thor felt himself relax when Loki burrowed against his flank and took Thor’s hand in his, the coolness of his skin in winter time still a surprise to Thor even after all the centuries they had spent together.
They sat together in comfortable silence for what felt like hours and Thor suspected Loki had fallen asleep, but he was content to simply enjoy Loki’s company and his solid weight against his own body. He pressed his hand to Loki’s stomach, which had begun to protrude so much that Thor had to wonder how Loki was able to stand upright without support. He slid his hand across the round curve, feeling the children move beneath his palm as they stretched their little feet and changed position. Thor often wondered what they would look like, if they would take after Loki and have his cunning nature and tiny horns of their own, or if their hair would be sun-kissed like Thor’s, the blood of the berserk flowing in their veins.
The children’s movements roused Loki from his sleep and he turned his face up to stare at the play of lights above the mountains once more.
Thor saw there were unshed tears in Loki’s red eyes. He pretended not to notice, but he tightened his hold around Loki's shoulder, showing that he was there for him if he wished to talk.
Loki remained quiet for a long time until finally, his gaze fell down to his stomach. “I don’t know if I’m ready for this,” he sighed, his voice thin and a little vulnerable, “for it will come at the cost of my own freedom. I’ve already lost control of my seiðr and I can no longer don my falcon plumes and go where I wish, and once the children are born, I will be tied to them for the rest of our long lives.” Loki glanced up at Thor, the look on his face somewhat abashed. “Do you think I'm selfish?”
Thor gave Loki a soft smile, shaking his head, for he understood Loki’s fears better than Loki knew. “I do not, for I will also miss the freedom we have enjoyed thus far. Every new parent does.”
“But what if I’m… incapable of showing the kind of love mothers here are expected to have for their young?” Loki’s voice grew anxious and the tears that had gathered in his eyes finally rolled down his cheeks.
Thor cupped Loki’s face, stroking his thumb against his pointed chin. “You will not have to raise them alone, Loki,” he reminded. “They will have both our love.”
The harbor was bustling with people from different realms with spring just around the corner. The waterways were open once more and the many booths on the long wharf were full of imported merchandise from distant realms: dwarven steelwork, elven fabrics, nuts and exotic spices, fish and salted meats; the finest delicacies each realm had to offer.
Thor trailed a few feet behind Loki, his eyes fixed on the goods on display, the merchants’ shouts loud in his ears as they competed for Thor’s attention. He stopped to sample the salted pork from Nidavellir, glancing to his right every once in a while to make sure he did not lose Loki in the crowd.
The birth of their children was drawing close now, and Loki could no longer move long distances without exhausting himself to the point of discomfort, but Thor had agreed to bring him to the nearby harbor after Loki’s persistent complaints about feeling trapped inside the walls of their chambers.
“Could I interest the honorable Prince Thor in the finest silks and furs Nornheim has to offer?” Thor glanced over his shoulder at the peddler who seemed to be carrying her entire collection of furs and fabrics on her person. “Perhaps something for the lovely young consort?” the woman suggested, her gaze darting to Loki who stood a few booths away from them. “Such exotic beauty deserves to be cherished.”
The words were sweet, but Thor could see the poorly concealed contempt in the peddler’s eyes, heard it dripping from her overly honeyed voice. His temper flared, but he clenched his jaw and declined the offer politely, pushing through the crowd to make his way to Loki.
Thor found him at a booth that sold fresh catch from the seas east of Thrúndheimr, sampling the raw eel with greedy enthusiasm. He embraced Loki from behind, wrapping his arms around the large bulge in his robes, no longer able to reach all the way around it. Loki startled at the unexpected touch, and Thor saw a spark of seiðr shoot out of his long fingers. The merchant let out a surprised yell as the fish in the booth were suddenly covered with a thick sheen of frost.
“Relax,” Thor whispered, pressing his mouth against Loki’s neck. “It is only I.”
The blue glow of magic dissipated and Loki spun around in Thor’s arms to shoot him an angry glare. “I’ve told you not to sneak up on me! You know I can’t control my seiðr.”
Thor glanced over Loki’s shoulder at the frozen fish. The merchant looked very displeased, but he could not express his anger directly at his prince.
“My apologies,” Thor said sincerely, handing the merchant a handful of coins as compensation.
They walked along the wharf, and Loki’s mood improved as soon as he got a taste of a berry cake Thor bought for him from one of the merchants. Thor watched, transfixed, as Loki shoved the last of the cake into his mouth, his pink tongue flicking out to lick the crumbs from his lips.
“Thor… You’re staring again,” Loki admonished, shooting Thor a self-conscious little scowl.
“Forgive me, but I cannot help it,” Thor smiled. He touched Loki’s cheek with his woolen glove, running his hand along the round shape of it until Loki began to fidget.
“I am starving,” he announced, taking Thor’s hand in his own to drag him to the nearby inn.
By the time they had made it across the street and stepped into the crowded inn, Loki was drawing in labored breaths, leaning most of his considerable weight on Thor. There was sheen of sweat on his brow and he pulled out a small cloth from one of the inner pockets of his cloak, padding it against his glowing skin.
“Prince Thor,” the old innkeeper greeted with an enthusiastic smile. “To what do we owe this great honor?” His expression darkened a little when he noticed Thor was not alone.
“I am hungry,” Loki said bluntly, the look in his red eyes displeased at being ignored as if he were not right there, clinging to Thor’s arm.
The innkeeper looked a little flustered, but in the end, he gave Loki a deep bow and offered them the best table in the house.
They ate a fulfilling meal while a young bard entertained them with different tales and poems, accompanied by his lute. Thor had already finished his own dinner, but Loki took his time, ordering the servants to carry away the empty plates before asking for more. The cook eventually poked his head out of the kitchen door, the look on his face dumbfounded, and Thor chuckled low in his throat as he overheard him complain how their pantry was threatening to run empty.
Thor smoked his pipe while Loki kept shoveling food into his hungry maw, his gaze wandering around the smoky inn. Most of the people had recognized the royal guests, but they left them alone, opting to nurse their tankards. Thor had always been in friendly terms with the common people, happy to have a drink or two and exchange some tales with them, but Loki's presence seemed to change things and some of the frowns and glares the patrons shot their way did not go unnoticed by Thor.
He seethed quietly, but Loki seemed too interested in the remaining herring on his plate to pay any heed to the looks thrown his way. He spit out a large fish bone, finally finished with his meal, leaning his back against the wall behind them and folding his hands above his heaving belly.
“Satisfied?” Thor grinned.
“Not quite,” Loki whispered, a wry smile on his lips.
Thor watched as Loki’s right hand disappeared under the table, nimble fingers reaching beneath the hem of Thor’s tunic to pull at the fastenings on his breeches. The look on Loki’s face remained casual as he slipped his hand inside Thor’s smallclothes, his fingers wrapping around Thor’s soft length, coaxing it to hardness.
Thor coughed into his fist, sliding lower in his seat. He set his pipe on the table and reached his own hand between Loki’s legs, pressing it against the loose-fitting pants he wore under all his layers, not at all surprised to find him hard, a wet patch already soaking through the fabric.
“Shall I get us a room?” Thor smiled.
It took some effort to get Loki up the stairs to the second floor of the inn and Thor had to carry him for the final third of the way. The room they got was the finest in the house, but it was still very rustic, and not in a charming way, as Loki put it.
“I have spoiled you rotten,” Thor snorted, helping Loki to the pelt-covered bed and offering to remove his clothes while Loki leaned his weight against his arms and caught his breath.
“You love to spoil me,” Loki grinned as Thor pulled off his leather boots, wet and muddy from the slush in the streets.
“Aye, I do,” Thor nodded, massaging the sole of Loki’s foot, kissing the bones of his ankle.
Once they were both undressed and settled on the bed, Thor wasted no time sinking into Loki’s body. The rickety frame of the bed kept hitting the wall with his rhythmic thrusts and there was no doubt that the patrons downstairs could hear what went on above their heads.
"Let them hear," Thor growled.
Loki held on to the simple carvings on the wooden bed frame, his knees sinking into the straw-filled mattress as Thor fucked him from behind, his large hands roaming all over Loki's body, fingers sinking into the small rolls of fat on his flanks.
The mere sight of the fertile roundness and the lovely glow of Loki's skin was enough to rouse such mighty lust in Thor that there were hardly any corners left in the many halls of Bilskirnir where they hadn’t ravaged each other, Loki’s desire to rut as insatiable as Thor’s.
Thor kept his movements slow and gentle, rocking into Loki’s body as he leaned in to trail soft kisses along his spine. He’d expected Loki to be more drowsy after such a big meal, but Thor felt him meet each thrust as he sank on Thor’s cock.
He grabbed Loki's unbroken horn gently, knowing he had permission to do so, and pulled to the side until the long, slender column of Loki's throat was revealed to him. He pressed his lips against Loki's pulse point, feeling his rapid heartbeats against his tongue as he left a trail of kisses on his neck. He continued up to Loki's temple where he licked the salt of his skin before turning his focus on the stub of Loki's broken horn.
Loki let out a loud gasp the moment Thor's tongue touched the hard, uneven surface.
"Do that again," Loki panted, "please, Thor, again."
Thor lowered his hand down to Loki’s cock and continued to press wet kisses all over the remainder of his horn until, finally, he took the entire stump in his mouth, sucking lightly around the blunt end. Loki let out a quiet wail and there was suddenly a burst of warm seed coating Thor's fingers, followed by a trickle of wetness running down his sack where their bodies were joined.
Loki's orgasm was so powerful that Thor was forced to pull out and take him in his arms to support his weight. Loki lay against his chest, panting, and Thor could see his arms and legs were trembling with exertion.
"Do you wish to lie down?"
Loki nodded and Thor helped him settle on his back. He crawled into Loki's arms and laid his head against his shoulder until he had a perfect view of a rounded breasts, his hand already reaching for the plump nipple.
“Do not think I don’t know what you’re up to,” Loki chuckled, his chest still heaving with his shallow breaths.
“What ever do you mean?” Thor murmured, glancing up to grin innocently at Loki as he began to massage the left breast.
“It’s going to start leaking if you keep that up...” Loki warned even as he arched into Thor’s touch and pressed his milk-laden breast into his hand.
“I don’t mind,” Thor whispered, his lips already latching on to the nipple.
Loki let out a quiet huff, but he ran his fingers through Thor’s hair, cradling Thor against his chest, allowing him to continue.
Loki's eyes slipped closed and his breathing slowed down, but Thor continued to tease and taste him, suckling with great enthusiasm now that he had permission to do so. He felt the first burst of warm milk hit his tongue, the sensation going straight to his cock. He wrapped his hand around his erection, stroking himself as he drank from Loki’s breast, careful not to chafe the tender skin with his beard.
He felt Loki’s hold in his hair grow lax, and glancing up, Thor saw he had fallen into light slumber. He paused, wondering if he should continue. His cock was hard in his hand and he watched the white droplets of milk leak out of Loki’s peaked nipple, thinking it would be a shame to let them go to waste.
Thor lapped up the trail of milk and took the nipple back into his mouth, thrusting into his own fist until he spilled against Loki’s hip, painting his skin with stripes of white.
Loki’s eyes flickered open when Thor began to wash his body with a wet cloth. He exhaled a quiet sigh and allowed Thor to lift one of his legs and clean the traces of semen and slick between his thighs, a content grin splayed on his lips as he dozed off once more.
Thor paced the room while Loki slept and recovered from the exertion, the floor boards creaking under his heavy steps. He pulled on his smallclothes and walked to the window, looking through the stained glass at the bustling street below. His eyes caught sight of the fabric peddler from earlier and his jaw tightened when he remembered the open disdain her eyes had held for Loki. The looks they had attracted downstairs hadn’t been any less contemptuous. They all looked at Loki as if he were like the jötnar in the tales Thor had read as a child, nothing but a mindless, ferocious beast to be slain for glory.
Thor felt his cheeks flush as he recalled the young man who had ventured into Jötunheimr for that same reason, his heart set on felling the very jötunn that now carried his children. Thor closed his eyes, his heart heavy with shame and regret.
Knowing that children in Asgard still went to bed listening to the same stories, still grew up fearing the icy realm and its inhabitants made Thor’s nostrils flare, hot anger coloring his cheeks red.
The sun had begun to sink beneath the mountains and the room was shrouded in blue shadows by the time Loki awoke from his nap. Thor helped him into his clothes and they made their way back to the edge of the harbor where their sled was soon made ready for them.
Loki was forced to let Thor pick him up in and lift him into the fur-covered sled and he gave the young stable boy a murderous glare when the whelp made the mistake of resting his gaze on Loki’s large stomach for a moment too long. The boy hurried to harness their horse to the sled and Thor gave him a coin for his troubles.
It began to rain icy sleet as soon as they got on the road that led to Bilskirnir. Loki eyed the ashen clouds above them, wiping wet sleet from the fur collar of his cloak. There was a telltale rumble of thunder in the distance, very unusual for the time of year.
“You are cross,” Loki remarked, taking in the grim look on Thor’s face. “With me?” he asked when Thor remained tight-lipped.
That did the trick and the sled jolted to a sudden stop. “Of course not,” Thor said, shaking his head.
Loki turned to give Thor a puzzled look. “What is it then?”
Thor stood up from the sled and began to pace along the side of the road. “There is no formal bond or a union between us,” he said and Loki’s expression darkened.
“You don’t need to remind me,” Loki muttered glumly.
Thor ceased his pacing and circled around the sled to stand before Loki. “I know you are not satisfied with your position in Asgard,” he said, “but I cannot make you my consort in the eyes of our laws without Jötunheimr’s consent.”
The red of Loki’s eyes deepened with anger. “That is something we will never have. My kin wants me dead.”
Thor took Loki’s hand in his own, brushing his fingers against the soft skin of his palm. “We cannot marry, but there is another bond we are free to make." He paused to trace the long lifeline on Loki's palm. "A bond most sacred that even death cannot severe.”
Loki’s eyes grew wide as the meaning of Thor’s words became clear to him. “You… You would make me your blood brother?”
“I would,” Thor smiled. “You would be my family until the days of Ragnarök are upon us and even in death, we would be together.”
Loki’s mouth split into a wide grin, his sharp fangs digging into his bottom lip. "Oh, Thor..." He wound his arms around Thor's neck and nuzzled his broken horn against his cheek.
They left the sled at the stable, but instead of returning to their rooms, Thor led Loki to their private gardens.
“You wish to do the ritual right away?” Loki asked, surprised.
“I think we have waited long enough, don’t you?”
Loki couldn’t have agreed more and he followed Thor to the old gazebo that stood under a large ash tree, its roof still buried under a heavy layer of snow.
“Is this good?” Thor asked, pointing at their surroundings.
Loki’s lips curved up when he realized Thor had chosen a very specific spot, his eyes lingering on the gazebo. “This is where our children were conceived” he remarked, “It’s perfect.”
“Do you think you can manage to melt the ground here with your seiðr?” Thor asked, pointing at a spot where the roots of the tree were buried in snow.
“I can try,” Loki nodded. He closed his eyes to concentrate, calling forth the familiar fire spell. It took a while, but Thor could eventually see faint wisps of seiðr begin to flow from Loki’s fingertips and he stepped back as the snow beneath their feet began to melt.
Loki opened his eyes, panting from exertion. The children took so much of his energy that even the simplest of spells was a huge effort to him. “That should be enough,” Loki said, glancing down at the wet, muddy grass.
Thor nodded and pulled out a small hunting knife he carried on his belt. “Are you certain you wish to go through with this?”
“More than anything,” Loki smiled.
The bond of blood brotherhood may not have carried the advantages of matrimony, but it was more intimate, more meaningful.
Loki took the knife from Thor and they both rolled their sleeves up, standing as close to each other as they could. Loki held Thor’s hand in his own and pressed the tip of the knife against his palm. He sank the blade into the calloused skin when Thor gave him a nod.
Thor did not even flinch as the first red droplets began to spill from the wound, the pain almost nonexistent to a god. He took the knife from Loki and made an identical cut on his slightly smaller hand, drawing the blade across the expanse of his blue skin deep enough to leave a scar that would serve as a visible reminder of their bond.
They clasped their hands together, their blood mixing and running down their wrists before falling to the ground as they made their vows and became bound to each other in this life and in the next one, swearing loyalty to each other, promising to protect each other from harm and to avenge each other in death.
“Fóstbróðir,” Thor whispered, leaning in to press his lips against Loki’s.
“Fóstbróðir,” Loki echoed into the kiss.
The air in their bath chamber was sweet with the smell of richly scented soaps. Thor ran his hands through Loki’s wet hair, massaging his scalp, his fingers hidden in white suds. Loki had kept his hair short for centuries now, choosing to cut the long, black locks he used to have in his youth when Thor first brought him to Asgard.
“How do jötnar raise their young?” Thor asked.
Loki slid lower in the basin and leaned his back against Thor’s broad chest, his stomach cradled between Thor’s legs. “I believe childbirth is the same in every realm, but I do not think any other realm treats their young as coldly as my people do. Many of our children do not survive past their first winter, so I supposed it is easier not to get attached.” Loki let out a quiet sigh as Thor’s fingers brushed against the ribbed surface of his horns, the sensation pleasant. “I was a runt, but like my brothers, I was left to fend for myself as soon as I was able to catch my own food.”
“Why did Laufey-King drive you out of his hall?” Thor asked, sounding a little hesitant. “You were living alone in the icy wastes when I met you, yet you were barely of age.”
Thor felt Loki’s body grow tense in his arms. They had never discussed his past in great detail, for Loki was reluctant to reminisce. He couldn’t say what exactly had loosened his tongue enough tonight to ask about it for the first time in decades.
Not expecting an answer, Thor was surprised when Loki relaxed in his arms once more and began to talk. “It was because of her.” Loki did not have to speak the völva’s name, for Thor knew who he meant. “I was still a child when I met her. I’d wandered out of Útgarðr to the eastern parts of Jötunheimr in search of the fierce frost wolves that were known to dwell in her wood, for I wanted to prove myself in my father’s eyes, show him I was a worthy son, that my small size did not matter. But I’d hardly stepped beyond the borders of Útgarðr when I found myself in mortal peril and then…” Loki paused, lost in his thoughts.
The water sloshed in the basin as Thor leaned closer to peer over Loki’s shoulder. “And then?”
“And then she saved me.”
“She took me to her home in Járnviðr and nursed me back to health. I stayed with her for many moons and she showed me her seiðr and it… it was magnificent, like nothing I’d seen before! They do ice spells in the palace to fortify the foundations and simple illusions to entertain the court, but most knowledge of magic in our land was lost with the Casket.”
Thor could hear the familiar excitement and hunger in Loki’s voice that talk of seiðr often coaxed out in him.
“I could hardly believe it when she told me she could teach me to control the elements around me, show me how to bend them to my will,” Loki spoke, moving around excitedly, splashing some of the lukewarm water out of the basin. “Never again would I have to suffer defeat in battle if I learned how to fend myself with the ancient art of seiðr.”
“And you did learn,” Thor said, his hands now resting on Loki’s shoulders, squeezing lightly. “There are not many in Asgard that know the ways of magic. Only my mother and father and perhaps the fair Freya are more skilled in seiðr than you. I may have a healing touch like my mother’s, but I am unpracticed in it.”
Loki seemed to snap out of his memories, the excitement in his voice replaced with regret. “I was a fool to trust the old völva. Her teachings always came with a high price.” He cradled his belly in his hands in a protective manner.
Thor sensed the shift in Loki’s mood and he pressed his lips to the nape of Loki’s neck, stroking his arms.
“Come, let’s get you to bed,” he murmured, helping Loki out of the basin and handing him a soft towel. “I’ll sneak into the kitchens and fetch you some salted eel,” he smiled.
Loki allowed Thor to help him into their bed and he began to leaf through an old story book Frigga had given to him during their last visit to Fensalir as he waited for Thor to return. The book was somewhat tattered, for it had belonged to Thor when he was a child. Some of the pages were dog-eared and full of smudges and stains from tiny fingers, and Loki could tell which stories Thor had liked best.
There were age-old legends about brave heroes and their great deeds in the book, silly tales about animals getting into all sorts of trouble and stories about trolls and ancient monstrosities that were meant to teach a child about fear.
Loki continued to flip through the different fairy tales, but he paused when he noticed several pages in the middle had gone missing. It looked like a whole story had been removed from the binding and it was not hard to guess what the missing pages had contained. He laid a hand on his stomach, grateful to Frigga, for it was no doubt she who had tampered with the book to make sure her grandchildren did not have to grow up listening to bedtime stories where their own kind was slain as brutish monsters.
Thor was dragged awake from his dreams by a persistent tapping sound. He forced open one eye and observed the two dark shapes hopping around on the balcony. One of his father’s ravens continued to knock on the window with its beak until Thor finally opened both eyes and sat up in the bed.
It didn’t take him long to notice the urgency in the tapping and the way both birds flapped their black wings as if they were in distress. Thor spun around and found Loki’s side of the bed empty. He touched the bedding and noticed the covers were soaking wet, as if someone had poured a bucket of water into their bed.
Thor threw the covers aside and hurried out of the bed, dashing around their rooms in search of Loki, vaguely aware that one of the ravens had taken to the sky while the other remained on the balcony and continued to tap on the glass.
“Loki, where are you?” There was no answer, but the raven continued to make noise outside and Thor finally opened the balcony door to let it in.
The bird flapped its wings as it flew low in the room, heading to the closed door of their bath chamber. It cawed and landed on Thor’s shoulder, the gaze in its black eyes almost as intense as the Allfather’s.
Thor was afraid he’d find the door locked, but it opened smoothly and he rushed inside, leaving the bird behind.
And there was Loki, pacing around the gold basin where they had bathed last night, one hand cradling his stomach while the other rubbed small circles around his back.
“Are you alright?” Thor asked as he hurried to Loki’s side, taking hold of his shoulders to still him. “The bed was all wet and-“
“I can’t do it,” Loki said, yanking himself free from Thor’s hold. “I won’t.”
“I’m not ready.” Loki shook his head, voice winded. “I’m not ready.”
His red eyes were wild and angry, sparks of seiðr flying from his fingers as he pointed them accusingly at Thor. “This is all your fault,” Loki snarled, “I can’t believe I allowed you to put me in this state.”
“Loki…” Thor took one of Loki’s trembling hands in his own, a hint of laughter in his voice. “It’ll all be alright.”
Loki was about to yank his hand away once more when his features suddenly twisted with pain and he was forced to grab Thor's shoulder for support. Thor caught Loki in his arms and held him as Loki hissed and uttered curses in his native language, his chest heaving.
"Breathe," Thor murmured, "Just breathe." He rubbed his hand across Loki's back, feeling it rise and fall with the deep breaths Loki blew out through his nose.
Something in his touch seemed to alleviate the pain and Thor felt Loki relax in his arms. "Better?"
Loki nodded, leaning into Thor's embrace, the anger in his eyes diminishing.
“Father’s ravens were here. I’m certain Mother will arrive shortly,” Thor said, helping Loki back into the bedroom. He called for the servants and had them change fresh linens into the bed while Loki continued to pace around the room.
Childbirth was women’s art and Thor had never felt more out of his element, but he did his best to keep Loki comfortable while they waited, talking about mundane things and holding his hand whenever the pain returned.
The mere sight of the Allmother filled Loki’s heart with courage he didn’t know he possessed. The queen wore a plain dress and a dark green apron and her hair was hidden under a white linen cloth, but she appeared as regal as ever.
“How are you feeling, child?” she asked, cupping Loki's sweaty face in her gentle hands, her smile as soothing as her touch.
“I’m afraid,” Loki said, the words slipping past his lips without a second thought.
Frigga pushed Loki’s sweat-matted hair behind his ears and placed a light kiss on his brow. “Everything will be fine, I will be with you the entire time.”
Loki glanced over the queen’s shoulder and realized there were more people in the room. He recognized Eir from the healing halls, but there were also two young maidens behind the healer, and Loki felt panic bloom in his chest when he saw they were escorting Thor out of the room.
“Where are you taking him?” Loki asked, sitting up on the bed.
“Childbirth is women’s business, men have no place here,” Eir said, setting her bag of instruments on a nearby table.
“I want him to stay,” Loki protested. He attempted to get out of the bed, but Frigga pressed him back down, her hands gentle but surprisingly strong.
Thor knew it was against tradition for him to stay, but he turned to his mother, hesitant to go. “Can we not make an exception?”
Eir shook her head adamantly. “There are no men present at the birth of Æsir children,” she said firmly. “That is the Æsir way.”
“I am no áss and these are not Æsir children,” Loki growled, flashing his sharp teeth at the old healer. “Thor will stay.”
Eir began to protest, but Frigga raised her arm and beckoned Thor to return into the room. “Loki speaks the truth,” Frigga said. “Our traditions are not his, which is why I see no harm in making an exception. My son can stay.”
Thor hurried back to Loki’s side and Loki took his hand in his own, twining their fingers together, his grip possessive.
The healer disapproved, but said no more as she and her two apprentices began to prepare the room for the birth. Loki watched them light incense and draw runes in the air and on the nearby walls, giving Thor a confused look as they began to open all the doors in the room and untied the knots in the drapery.
“This is all part of an age old tradition to assure there is nothing in the room to block or complicate the birth,” Frigga explained.
“Could you also open all the windows?” Thor asked one of the young girls, taking in the sight of Loki’s sweaty face.
The girl walked from room to room, opening every window to let the cool spring air inside.
“Thank you,” Loki sighed. He held on to Thor’s hand, reluctant to let go even when Frigga began to undress the robe Loki had draped loosely around his body.
“You too, darling,” Frigga said, looking at Thor, “remove your tunic.”
The air in the room was almost freezing, but Thor did as he was told and Loki felt a little less self-conscious in his own nakedness. Frigga looped her set of silver keys in a leather string and placed them around Loki’s neck as the two maidens began to draw birth runes on his body, starting with the tips of Loki’s black fingernails and moving up to his arms.
“What are these for?” Loki asked, touching the set of keys.
“They will aid in opening the way for the children to enter this world,” Frigga explained. She drew a large rune on Loki’s stomach while the maidens moved on to Thor, painting his arms with the same runes that now adorned Loki’s skin.
The day wore on and the contractions began to grow intense and more frequent, but the children remained in Loki’s belly. He knelt on the bed, his back pressed against Thor’s naked chest and Thor ran his fingers along the surface of Loki’s horns to calm him.
The handmaidens had left as soon as the room had been cleansed and prepared for the birth, but both Eir and Frigga stayed, and Eir sang ancient songs in a soft voice while Frigga eased Loki’s pain with her seiðr.
The queen lowered her hand between Loki’s thighs from time to time to see how things were progressing, until finally, she looked up and smiled. “Your first child is ready to be born.”
Frigga's words sparked fresh fear in Loki’s heart, but there was also a sense of relief, for it would all be over soon.
“Let’s get you in the proper position,” Frigga said, helping Loki to turn around on the bed until he was facing Thor and kneeling on the bed, leaning most of his weight on his elbows.
Thor massaged Loki's shoulders and ran his hands along his spine, whispering silly endearments to him. Loki could feel the nervous tremble in Thor’s hands, but the knowledge that he was not the only one who was afraid made him feel better.
Loki had not truly feared the pain of childbirth until the moment he finally felt it: pain so intense that nothing could have prepared him for it. There was naught he could do to keep himself from crying out as the child made its way into the world. Loki held on to Thor’s thighs, sinking his nails into the thick muscles, but Thor did not flinch as he continued to whisper soothing gibberish into Loki's ear, the pads of his thumbs massaging the ridges of Loki’s horns.
“You’re doing so well, both of you,” Frigga spoke behind Loki, but he barely heard her, his eyes glazed and unseeing.
Part of his mind eventually fled his body and everything was a blur, but he knew their first child had arrived when the nervous expression on Thor's face shifted, his blue eyes suddenly wide with awe. The pressure in Loki's lower stomach eased and he could hear shrill cries behind his back, the sound muffled by the rush of blood in his ears.
He looked up and realized Thor had begun to weep.
Loki felt his vision swim and the wails behind his back began to sound like howls. It’s a monster, just like before, he thought. Loki squeezed his eyes shut, burying his face in Thor’s lap. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, his voice muffled by the fabric of Thor’s breeches. “I’m sorry.”
There were hands on his body and Loki felt someone turn him around to lie on his back between Thor’s thighs, but he kept his eyes shut, shaking his head. A monster. A monster.
Loki felt fingers brushing against his cheek. “Open your eyes, Loki, and meet your daughter,” Thor laughed.
“No,” Loki shook his head, “no.”
His eyes shot open from sheer surprise when he felt a sudden weight on his chest. The Allmother set the baby on Loki’s naked breast and the crying ceased as soon as the child felt his heartbeat against her ear.
Her skin was warm and slick with traces of blood and afterbirth, but Thor did not seem to care. “Oh, Loki… Look at her,” he breathed, lowering his left arm to cradle and support the babe’s tiny body while Loki’s own hands remained limp at his sides.
He stared at his daughter’s face, barely able to believe his eyes. The child’s hair was as dark as Loki’s, but there was only a hint of crimson in her eyes and her skin was a shade of blue Loki had never seen before.
“She’s perfect,” Thor murmured, pressing a kiss on top of Loki’s head, his large thumb brushing the baby’s cheek gently.
Loki didn’t even realize his own hand had risen from his side until he was offering the child his fingers, and the moment she grabbed hold of one, Loki felt something inside him crumble. The tears that spilled from his eyes mixed with the sweat running down his temples, and when Eir came and took the baby away to be cleaned and swaddled, Loki couldn’t help the cry of protest that slipped past his lips.
“We must prepare the way for the second child,” Frigga spoke gently, reminding Loki that he had a long way to go yet.
Thor escorted his mother and Eir to their chariot, bidding them goodbye.
“Thank you for everything,” Thor said, shifting his weight from foot to foot, eager to get back to his new family.
Frigga touched her gloved hand against his cheek, her eyes twinkling with joy. “Go, be with your children,” she urged. “Your father and I will join you in nine days for the Ausa Vatni.”
“I shall see you then,” Thor grinned, dashing back inside, waving his mother goodbye over his shoulder.
He ran through the corridors of his hall, making his way up to the northern wing where Loki and their children awaited his return. The wide grin on Thor’s face was infectious, spreading his joy to all the servants as they stopped to congratulate their master on the happy occasion.
Thor hurried to their rooms, making his way straight into the bedchamber where Loki was asleep in their bed. Thor could not blame him, not after the ordeal his body had been through. What Loki had done was beyond every brave deed Thor had witnessed in the many battles he had fought over the centuries.
He made sure his steps were soft on the wooden floor as he approached the three small cradles, placed near the bed. Their first born was asleep like her dam, but the two boys watched Thor from the bottom of their cradles, their small, fat arms waving and grabbing at air.
Thor could not resist picking them up and cradling both babes against his chest.
They burrowed their faces into the soft linen of his tunic, staining it with small spots of spittle. The children were so light in his arms that Thor had to keep his gaze fixed upon their tiny faces to make sure he was truly holding them. He listened to their soft snuffles and pressed his nose against their warm skin, inhaling their scent, feeling his heart swell with an emotion he could not name.
Both children had a hint of crimson in their blue eyes, and one of the boys had golden hair exactly like Thor’s, but the locks on the youngest were flaming red and neither Thor nor Loki could explain the strange color.
Thor pressed a soft kiss to his sons’ brows and settled them back into their cradles. He removed his boots and climbed into the bed, the mattress sinking under his weight as he crawled to lie next to Loki.
“I thought the old healer said you were not supposed to share my bed for at least a fortnight,” Loki murmured as Thor settled against his back.
“Oh… Do you want me to leave?” Thor asked, disappointed.
“Fool,” Loki huffed, the look in his eyes was fond when he turned to lie on his back.
His hair was still damp from the bath Thor had given him after everything was finally over and there were dark shadows around his tired eyes.
Thor pressed a kiss to Loki’s nose and drew him into his arms. “You were magnificent,” he sighed. “I have never seen anything like it.”
“I’m glad your mother allowed you to be with me,” Loki said. His voice didn't rise above a whisper, his throat still too sore from crying at the pains of labor.
One of the children chose that exact moment to begin to wail in the cradle and Thor felt Loki jump lightly in his arms. He turned toward the crying babe as if guided by an invisible hand.
“Could you get him?”
Thor nodded and climbed out of the bed to fetch their golden-haired middle child from his cradle. Loki sat up and held out his arms and Thor hid a secret smile in the tuft of yellow hair as he saw the eager look on Loki’s face.
“He must be hungry,” Loki mused.
“Aye,” Thor nodded, “let’s not keep him waiting.”
He placed the baby in Loki’s arms and took a seat at the edge of the bed. Loki cradled their son against his chest while his right hand worked to loosen the fastenings of his tunic, tugging the linen shirt open all the way to his navel to expose his breast.
Eir had shown them both all they needed to know about breastfeeding and they had practiced once with all three of their children. Thor had no doubt that Loki would be a natural, but there was an audibly relieved sigh from Loki when their son latched onto his breast and began to nurse.
Thor let his gaze drift down to Loki’s stomach which was visible through the open tunic. It was still quite swollen, the skin around the navel loose from the immense stretch and it was apparent that it would be some time before Loki would have his old figure back.
Thor leaned closer and turned his attention on their baby, touching his brow with the tips of his fingers. “They do not have horns,” Thor remarked.
“You wanted me to push out three horned children?” Loki gaped, aghast.
Thor shook his head. “Of course not, but they all seem to take after you as much as they take after me, and I thought all jötnar have horns.”
“We do, but they do not grow until later,” Loki explained. “And they are children of two realms,” he said, brushing the child’s soft yellow hair, “perhaps they will be hornless.”
“They will be perfect either way,” Thor smiled.
Loki hung his golden torque around his neck and twined a matching string of golden coins around his horns. He dipped his fingers into a bowl of goat blood and brought them up to his face, painting a red stripe across his eyes. His cheeks and brow were adorned with the traditional markings of his house, proof of his noble heritage. It didn’t matter that he had severed all his old bonds with his family, he still wanted Asgard to know he was the son of a king.
Loki eyed his reflection in the mirror, not entirely satisfied with the way his outfit hung on his body like drapery. The swelling of his belly had gone down in the last nine days, but it would still be some time before he would fit into his old clothes.
There was movement behind him, and looking in the mirror, Loki saw Thor standing in the doorway with their two sons in his arms while their daughter was carried by the young nursemaid who had accompanied Thor.
“Mother and father have arrived,” Thor said, stepping into the room.
Loki washed the blood from his fingers and turned around to greet their children, kissing their cheeks. “I wish to hold her,” he said, taking their daughter from the maid and cradling her against his chest.
The children were all dressed in long, intricately decorated robes, woven from the finest silk Alfheimr had to offer. Thor was also dressed in his ceremonial armor, his beard trimmed and his golden hair pulled back in a loose plait.
Loki took one last look at himself in the mirror, frowning at the lingering softness on his body, but the patterns on his face made him feel like himself again. The baby in his arms began to fuss and tug on his lapels and Loki forgot all about his appearances, smiling down at his daughter.
“Alright, I'm ready. It’s time to name our children.”
All of Asgard’s nobility had gathered in the great hall of Bilskirnir. There were also foreign delegates and diplomats from different realms and Loki could even see a few peasants in the back, no doubt invited by Thor.
Thor stood before his high seat, plain and small compared to Hliðskjálf, and Loki climbed up the dais to stand on his right while the Allfather and the Queen took their places on their son’s left side.
“We are gathered here on this ninth day since the birth of my children for Ausa Vatni, the naming rite,” Thor announced, his deep voice echoing in the vast hall.
Loki felt a sense of immense pride and satisfaction as he stood there on Thor’s right side, hundreds of pairs of eyes all fixed upon him, the look in them judging, disbelieving and even humbled. The fierce Skaði of Jötunheimr was in the crowd, standing next to her Vanir husband, her red eyes shining with mirth as she bowed her head to Loki in a show of respect.
Thor sat down and one of the royal servants handed Loki a golden bowl filled with sacred water from Mímisbrunnr. Their firstborn was brought forth and given to Thor, who settled the babe on his knee and by doing so, he officially claimed the child as his own in front of all of Asgard. She would be queen one day, even if she was born out of wedlock.
“I throw water on this child and give it the name of Birtá,” Thor spoke and dipped his fingers in the golden bowl Loki held out for him, sprinkling some of the blessed water on the crown of the baby’s dark-haired head. She wrinkled her tiny nose, but no cry escaped from her pursed lips and she simply glared at Thor with her eyes of red and blue.
Little Birtá was taken aside by one of the maids and their fussy second born was placed in Thor’s arms. Loki held out the cup for Thor as he repeated the ritual, sprinkling water on the child’s brow, giving him the name of Egíl. Their son let out a shrill cry as soon as the water touched his brow and Thor lifted him up with a proud smile on his face. “This one has quite a set of lungs,” he laughed, handing the boy to the maid.
Some quiet gasps rose from the crowd when their last born was set in Thor’s arms, for no god or goddess in Asgard had flaming red hair like little Nilá.
“It must be a jötunn trait. No áss would have hair like that,” one of the noble women at the front of the crowd whispered to her husband, but Loki shot her a withering look that silenced her before she could utter another word.
After the naming ceremony was over, Thor invited all the guests to feast in the many banquet halls of Bilskirnir. It was a blót to honor three small children, but that did not make the celebrations any less hearty. Mead and ale flowed freely and the halls echoed with the sounds of merry-making.
Loki sat next to Thor at the high table, holding his daughter in his arms while Thor looked after the boys. Both of them were asleep in their father’s arms and Thor tried, in vain, to take a drink from his meadhorn without rousing his children. Loki grinned at him, taking the horn in his own free hand and lifted it to Thor’s lips.
He fed all three children in front of their guests, ignoring some of the appalled looks shot his way. The children were hungry and that was all that mattered. The babies were finally ready to be taken to bed, but before Loki could hand Birtá to the nursemaid, there was a heavy hand on his shoulder.
“May I hold my grandchild?”
Loki looked to his left, a little startled as he laid his eyes on the Allfather. Odin was dressed in his ceremonial armor, shining and regal, but there was something almost soft about his expression. Loki stood up and bowed his head, his jaw clenched as he placed his child in Odin’s arms.
Little Birtá waved her arms, grabbing her grandfather’s white beard, tugging at it lightly. The lines around the old god's eye deepened with something that could only be a smile.
Loki glanced over his shoulder to see Thor watching them from his seat. Something passed between Thor and his father in the look they shared. Loki could not decipher it, but the air in the room shifted and he felt himself relax.
“Birtá is not an Æsir name,” Odin remarked, his gaze still fixed on the babe in his arms.
“No, my lord,” Loki replied.
“Jötunn, is it?”
“Yes, my lord.”
Odin brushed his calloused thumb across the child’s light blue cheek before handing her back to Loki, his eyes lingering on the faint scar that ran across Loki’s palm, a reminder of the bond he had formed with Thor.
“It is a good name,” Odin said. “A name fit for a queen.”
“Thank you, my lord,” Loki breathed, not entirely certain what to make of the Allfather’s words. He watched as Odin sauntered toward the armchairs near the large fireplace and handed Birtá to the nursemaid who took her and her siblings back to their rooms.
Loki returned to his seat at the table, taking a sip of wine from his goblet, enjoying the rich taste of it for the first time in many moons. He set the goblet next to his plate and looked to his right when he saw Thor place his hand on the table next to Loki’s, the palm turned up in an offer.
Loki smiled and laid his own hand on top of it, entwining their fingers, feeling the warmth of Thor’s skin against the long scar of brotherhood on his palm.