Brooding 12

Loki heard Clint’s decision as though it were a death-knell. He had expected it, of course – he knew the Human would never shrink back from any threat – but it still felt like a blow from Volstagg’s battle axe. He bit his lip again and vowed to remain silent for the remainder of his stay. It would not be difficult, he thought. He only hoped it would be brief.

Since Loki refused to speak and Thor was hesitant to divulge his brother’s secret, Frigga began by explaining how Loki had been found by Odin as a baby and was actually Jötun, not Æsir. She also added how he had shown marvelous abilities as a child and exceeded their expectations in many ways. Then she noted that since Asgard had long been at enmity with Jötunheim, there were many things about Jötun physiology which remained unknown to them. Loki gripped his hands even tighter as she came to the crux of the matter.

“We are now discovering that at least in some Jötun males, female organs can coexist within their bodies, allowing both functions to be possible. Heretofore we had not even considered such an anatomy viable, but it seems there are many wonders beyond our comprehension yet in this universe.”

When she paused, Tony jumped in to ask, “Okay, that’s great – but why are you telling us all this? Why do we need a lesson in Jötun anatomy?”

“Oh, God!” Clint burst out, effectively negating Tony’s question. “You don’t mean… You can’t possibly…!”

Yob,” Natasha swore under her breath.

“Loki!” Clint said, ignoring everyone else. “Look at me! Is it… Are you… Damn it, Loki – look at me!

Loki was startled when his chin was pulled up so he could not avoid facing Clint, who had leapt onto the coffee table (made of bulletproof glass) and was now crouching on it directly in front of him. He wanted to turn away, but the fierceness of Clint’s gaze prevented him from doing so. With a sinking feeling, Loki realized that the Human had deciphered the truth. Loki tasted blood as he bit his lip hard enough to break the skin.

“You are,” Clint whispered, almost numb with shock. “Oh, God… you really are…”

“Um, excuse me,” Tony interrupted, “but am I missing something here?”

“You’re not the only one,” Fury said, his eye still fixated on Loki.

“Am I correct in assuming,” Bruce began hesitantly, “that in spite of everything we assume to be true of Human – or rather, humanoid anatomy… that Loki is now… pregnant?

“What?” Steve cried, astonished. “How is that even…?” He trailed off after receiving a withering look from Tony, who had figured it out a split second after Bruce had started speaking. Steve turned back to Loki and Clint, whose eyes were still locked, and gasped, “Oh! Oh… of course,” blushing bright crimson. Natasha, by contrast, had turned ashen.

Loki felt trapped – not in a cage, but as though he were on the knife’s-edge of a precipice, balanced for now but poised to tumble into the abyss below at the slightest breath of wind. It was an all-too-familiar feeling, one he had hoped to never experience again. The only thing keeping him in check was the piercing, steely blue of Clint Barton’s eyes, and even that, Loki knew, would soon be filled with disgust and loathing, leaving him to teeter into the blackness beneath. The Human would reject him for the freakish monster he was, just as Odin had, just as Thor had, just as his own birth father had so long ago in Jötunheim. It was only a matter of time…

But suddenly Loki felt strong arms wrapping around him, pulling him close to the warmth of Clint’s chest, and lips that were both tender and fierce pressing against his own, forcing him to unclamp his teeth and give way to the tongue that demanded entry there. He could not breathe, he could not think, he could not even move. He felt Clint lick the blood away tenderly from his abused lower lip. He numbly allowed himself to be held while Clint combed his hair with one hand and placed kisses in the hollow of his cheek. He stared at nothing, his eyes unable to focus, until he was given a brisk shake and made to look into Clint’s eyes again.

“You’re carrying my child – our child. That’s… amazing! Unbelievable, and incredible, but… amazing,” Clint declared, his eyes still clear blue and even, to Loki’s surprise, filled with awe and delight. “I should have known, the moment I saw you wearing these baggy robes,” Clint continued, not realizing the meltdown Loki had experienced earlier upon finding that his impeccably tailored clothes no longer fit him. “Or at least, I should have guessed. Not that I would’ve thought you’d be pregnant in a million years… But hey, does this mean you have a… a… what-do-they-call-it, a… baby bump?”

Loki swallowed hard and averted his eyes. It had taken all of Frigga’s considerable powers of persuasion to get him to wear his current outfit, which, though shapeless and unflattering, hid his belly very well, and then it had required Thor’s strong-arming to get him to come to Midgard. Loki was not yet comfortable with the changes to his body, but with a start he realized that Clint (who had a more intimate knowledge of Asgardian dress than any other Human) was beginning to unfasten the clasps of his loose tunic.

“Wh-Wha-What…?” he stuttered, his vow of silence forgotten as Clint deftly opened the front folds of his outer garment. “C-Clint!” he protested, but by then the Human had already unhooked the diagonal flap of his high-waisted trousers, revealing Loki’s slightly protruding stomach. It was soon covered, however, with the warmth of Clint’s sturdy hand.

“Hey, there,” Clint whispered, almost to himself. “So… that’s where you are. Hiding in your mama’s tummy…”

Loki was stunned when he understood that Clint was talking to the child. He was also overwhelmed by some very un-maternal emotions triggered by the sensation of Clint’s hand – which had always felt hot to Loki’s skin – touching his bare belly. That same hand had often wandered across the expanses of Loki’s body, trailing heat and desire, while they had consummated their passion. Loki was mortified to sense his manhood responding to the well-remembered touch, but before it could grow to obvious proportions, he was distracted by Clint yet again.

“Loki,” the man demanded, staring straight into the demigod’s startled green eyes, “why did you warn me not to find out about this? Why didn’t you want me to know… about my own kid?

Loki opened his mouth to reply but could not think of anything to say. He struggled to find some words – any words – but was pulled into a crushing embrace before he could succeed.

“I get it,” Clint murmured into his ear. “You thought I wouldn’t want the kid, didn’t you? You thought I’d hang you out to dry, knocked up and all alone, because it happened while I was under your mind control. You thought… I’d cut and run, just like everyone else in your life has. Well, you thought wrong.” Clint grabbed Loki’s face in both hands and forced him to meet his gaze again. Clint’s jaw was set in a strong line of determination. “You thought dead wrong, do you hear? I don’t know what sort of men you have in your world, but here on Earth a man isn’t worth his name if he won’t even take care of his own. I would never, never turn my back on my own kid! I don’t care what the circumstances are, or how… unexpected it might be: if the kid is mine, I won’t stand for having it raised without knowing me as its father! I have every right to raise it the way I think it should be, to teach it the things I think it ought to know. So, like it or not, Loki, you’ve got a partner when it comes to raising this kid. You’re not in this thing alone. And no matter what happens, we’ll get through it together.”

Before Clint was even halfway done talking, Loki’s eyes were overrun with tears. He hardly knew why he was crying, but the flood of emotions rushing through him was inexorable and undeniable. He felt more exposed, more vulnerable, more weak than he ever had before, but when Clint hugged him tightly and began kissing the wetness off his cheeks, he also felt more safe than ever before. He clung to Clint and allowed himself to cry as he had not cried since his childhood, when seeking his mother’s comfort had not yet been a cause for ridicule.

Frigga, sitting next to him, was also weeping, but with tears of joy. Clint Barton’s response to the news of Loki’s child was better even than she had dared to hope; he had not only claimed the child as his own but had also sensed Loki’s loneliness and reached out to claim him as well. She could not have wished for a better mate for her son, and she inwardly thanked the Norns for guiding him to this man, even though he was a mortal and would be taken from him much sooner than an Asgardian.

Sitting on the other side of the sofa, Thor had heard most of what Clint had said to Loki, and it gave him pause. Though he had not understood some of Clint’s expressions, his meaning was clear enough, and one phrase in particular was now stuck in his mind: “You thought I’d run, just like everyone else in your life has.” While he wondered to whom, exactly, Clint was referring, it was impossible to deny that Thor himself must be included in that all-encompassing statement. He remembered how Loki had attempted to kill him, having harbored that much secret resentment against him – what had he done to cause it? When Thor had been banished to Midgard, his friends had disobeyed Loki in favor of helping him – did his brother feel that betrayal more keenly than he had let on? He also considered Odin’s refusal to acknowledge Loki’s misguided efforts, which resulted in Loki letting go of his hold on life – was that how Loki had expected Clint to respond as well?

Although Thor was relieved that Clint was willing to be a father to the child and was offering Loki his support in more ways than one, it nonetheless bothered the thunder god to realize that the Human was (probably) the only man other than himself who had experienced carnal pleasure with Loki. He knew he never should have used his brother in that way, but it was an altogether separate matter to make his heart accept that his role as Loki’s lover was being usurped by another, and a mortal man at that. Thor fought to overcome his jealousy as he watched Loki being comforted by Clint Barton.

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