Brooding 14

“Well, my friends,” Tony remarked, unable to suppress himself any longer, “I believe this calls for a celebration! Jarvis, have one of my other suits deliver some champagne and Cuban cigars.” When Clint turned to him in disbelieving amusement, Tony pointed to the image of the fetus and declared, “That, Hawkeye, is a fine-looking kid! I wouldn’t have believed it possible that you could make such a fine specimen of a… well, whatever it is – let alone with Loki – but you should be proud of yourself!”

“Yes, congratulations,” Bruce added, stepping closer to give Clint a gentle slap on the shoulder. “You’re right about this being one for the history books; I don’t suppose there’s ever been a Human-Jötun crossbreed before… It’ll change our understanding of genetics forever. But for what it’s worth, Hawkeye, I think you’ll make a great dad.”

“Thanks,” Clint said, touched most by his last comment.

Frigga’s projected image of the child faltered and blurred for a moment. “Excuse me,” she said mildly, “but why do you all call Clint Barton ‘Hawkeye’?”

“Oh,” Bruce said, gesturing vaguely with a disarming smile, “it’s from his precision aiming – he’s quite the marksman, you know. He has ‘eyes like a hawk.’ Just a little nickname we have for him.”

“I see.” She turned to tease Loki, “You never told me that was why you’d chosen that name.”

“M-Mother!” Loki spluttered, his cheeks flushing an even brighter crimson than they already were.

“What name?” Clint immediately demanded.

No name,” Loki insisted, but his embarrassment said otherwise.

“I thought it was a rather lovely one,” Frigga said with a sigh. “And fitting, too, now that I know its origins.” She smiled at Clint and explained, “I walked in on him unexpectedly the other day and found him talking to the babe in his belly – much like you did, earlier. Of course the child cannot yet know what we are saying, but I’m sure it can recognize our voices.”

Trying not to squirm, Loki assiduously avoided Clint’s gaze.

“Loki. No more secrets,” Clint stated flatly. “If you’ve picked out a name for our kid, I’d like to know.”

“It is… folly to name a child before it is born… especially when it is uncertain whether the child will even survive its first breath,” Loki muttered. He had had too many of his secrets exposed already, in the presence of his former enemies, with very little choice in the matter. And he felt uncomfortable revealing this particular one just yet.

“The baby looks like it’s doing great,” Clint said, reaching out to touch Loki’s stomach again and sending shivers of pleasure through his tense body. “The fact that it has grown this much is proof enough for me that it can and will survive. Loki, stop expecting the worst case scenario and making things more complicated than they have to be. Just tell me… please.”

Loki blinked in surprise at the need in Clint’s tone. The demigod was used to being threatened, ordered, even cajoled, but he could not remember the last time someone had made a genuine request of him. Clint was actually treating him with respect, and it felt… nice. Hesitantly, Loki opened his mouth.

“I had thought… perhaps, if it does live, and… if it just happens to be a boy… the name… ‘Heideral’ might be… appropriate,” he admitted.

“It means ‘Little Hawk,’” Frigga translated, beaming.

“You were going to name it after me?” Clint said, a little taken aback even though Frigga had hinted as much before. “You weren’t going to tell me about my kid, but you were still going to name him after me?”

Loki shrugged as nonchalantly as he could. “Like I said, only if it survived, and only if it were a boy.”

“What would you name it if it’s a girl, then?”

“I… I don’t know,” Loki confessed. “I haven’t thought of a good one for a girl…”

Clint narrowed his eyes at the way Loki glanced at his hands while speaking. “No. That’s not it. No more lies, Loki – you haven’t bothered to come up with a name for a girl because you know it’s going to be a boy.”

Loki’s head snapped up, his eyes betraying his shock.

“I… I n-never… s-said that,” he stammered.

“No, you didn’t. But I think I can tell when you’re hiding something.” Clint took care not to sound harsh. “It’s all right, Loki – I’ve always accepted that you have powers I can’t understand, abilities I can’t even begin to imagine. So if you tell me the kid is going to be a boy, I believe you.”

Loki shook his head. “No, I-I don’t… I’ve never had the gift of foresight,” he explained. “I’ve never even claimed to! It’s just… I have this… sort of… feeling… I can’t explain why…”

“Darling, it’s not unheard of,” Frigga interjected. “Many mothers claim to sense their child – what it will look like, how it will sound – while it is still in their womb. With as many gifts as you have, I would not be surprised at all if you have perceived aright the gender of your child.” She smiled indulgently. “Perhaps, if he is as gifted as you, he has told you himself.”

“What did you say it was?” Clint asked, placing his palm on Loki’s bared belly. “Hide… Hime-what?”

“Heideral,” Loki mumbled. Suddenly, the baby in the golden sphere turned, making both Loki and Clint jump in surprise.

“Well!” Frigga laughed, her voice echoing like music off the walls. “It seems he knows his name already!”

“I guess so,” Clint said, a huge grin spreading across his face. Stroking Loki’s stomach, he spoke at it rather than the shimmering projection above it: “Heideral, this is your dad. Or at least one of them. I can’t wait to actually touch you and hold you, but I guess that’ll come in due time. For now I’m just glad to know you’re in there; I can’t think of a better, safer place for you to be.” When he drew his fingertips across the bump as though scratching it, the miniature arms in the projection flailed in response. “He could feel that, couldn’t he?” Clint asked Loki with an expression of pure joy. “He might not have liked it, but he definitely felt it!”

“It would seem so,” Loki managed to reply, although the same touch had winded him for a very different reason. He ached to be consumed by the heat of Clint’s passion, as he had been so often before in those memorable nights and days they had spent together. When Clint began tucking the folds of Loki’s clothes, refitting the hooks and clasps that held them in place, Loki felt a strange mixture of relief and loss – relief at having his disfigured body hidden from the prying eyes of the other Humans, but disappointment at having his erstwhile lover’s attentions removed from his skin. Even Frigga took her hands from his shoulders, no longer sensing the need to project his child’s image, making Loki feel bereft. But as soon as his robes were in order, Clint took Loki’s hands (which were still chained with magic-dampening manacles) and intertwined their fingers. Loki looked up in surprise to find Clint’s lips twitching.

“You said something earlier about your brother wanting to pay his lady friend a visit,” Clint said with a drawl. “Does that mean he’ll be here for a while? Meaning… you’ll be here for a while, too?”

“I… I don’t know,” Loki answered truthfully, glancing sidelong at his mother. Frigga gave him a shrewd smile.

“I’m sure your father knows what is happening, with or without Heimdall’s assistance,” she replied. “I’m also sure I can persuade him that… it was necessary for you to spend some time here on Midgard. To acquaint yourself with the other half of your child’s heritage, of course,” she blithely added. Loki’s jaw dropped; he was unable to believe his good luck.

“Well, then.” Clint turned to Fury and asked with aplomb, “The mother – or father – of my child just came all the way from another world to visit me. I wonder if I could get some time off for a… conjugal visit?”

If Fury could have spared it, his remaining eye would have started out of his head, but his voice was steady as he replied, “You still have some medical leave that you haven’t used, ordered by our head shrink himself. I suppose you really ought to take that time off… recuperating.”

“I think I will. Thanks, Nick,” Clint said before standing up. He pulled a stunned Loki up onto his feet as well, where the demigod stood for a moment with want and worry warring within him. “What is it, Loki?” Clint asked, reading trouble in his hesitance.

“I… I just… I can’t use my magic,” Loki said, miserably indicating the chains on his wrists. “And I… uh… I’m not sure…” He swallowed hard. “I don’t know exactly how… fertile… I might be. The Jötun are a much larger race than either the Æsir or Midgardians, so…”

“So if you happen to get pregnant again, on top of this one,” Clint filled in, realizing what was troubling him, “it’s going to get too crowded in there. I got it – we need condoms, and probably lube, since you can’t do your magic trick thingy.”

Loki nodded, blushing bright red again; after all, his mother was right there, listening to this exchange with a beatific look of feigned innocence, and Thor was on his other side with thunderclouds forming on his brow. Clint ignored both of them to pull Loki down for a thorough kiss, which promised much more to come.

Fury sighed in resignation. “Barton, I suspect your barracks quarters are going to be… a bit cramped for your guest. We already have rooms set aside for our visitors; I suggest you show Loki to his.”

“With pleasure,” Clint responded, throwing Fury a grateful grin. He tugged on Loki’s chain as though to lead him away by it. “The PX is right on the way.”

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