(E02) 02. Human

“I can dance and play the part if that’s what you ask Give you all I am.”

Christina Perri, “Human.”

He’d named her Svanhild.  Loki wasn’t sure why he pictured a swan when he thought of his unborn daughter, but such grace and elegance with such deadly power undoubtedly appealed to him.  She would need such a strong name if the Allfather were to cast her out like the rest of his children.

Hel, his daughter who was neither living nor dead, he had gained a place for as the ruler of the underworld.

Loki hoped he could do as much if not more for this child.

Thor had been the first person he had confided in.  He had debated for weeks, but he knew he needed an ally before Frigga and ultimately Odin found out about the impending birth. 

He’d glided up to Thor in Frigga’s private garden, under a fig tree, where his older brother was reading.  Many in Asgard did not see Thor as a scholar and he was hardly that, but he did enjoy the odd treatise on war formations and battle tactics and could sometimes be found with a scroll on such a subject.

“Reading, I see,” Loki whispered as he approached.  “Is now not a good time, Brother?”

Thor looked up, his loose tunic swung up over his arm, and he smiled.  “Brother, I always have time for you.”

“I am flattered,” Loki returned archly, his voice smooth.  “But I wish to speak of something delicate.”

“Delicate,” his brother repeated, as if to test the word out on his lips.  “You mean you wish to keep it from Mother and Father.”

“For now,” Loki agreed.  “I wished you to be the first to know.”

“I am honored.  But what is it you wish to tell me?”

And Loki looked at him, at his kind eyes and his easy smile, and felt his broken heart mend a little.  “It is good tidings, Brother,” he began.  “I am with child.”

Thor looked at him hard for several moments.  “Loki, if you jest…”

“I do not jest,” he assured.  “You know I bore Sleipnir.”

“As a mare,” Thor conceded.  “You are not a mare now.”  His brows suddenly furrowed as if he bore many burdens and one of them was now his brother.  Loki wished he could wipe such a look off his brother’s face, but all he could do was press on.

“No, I am not a mare.  I am an Asgardian.”

“You should not be able to bear a child.”  The fact hung there in the air for several long moments.

“I am an Aesir of many tricks,” Loki finally whispered, as if this would answer the question that he himself could hardly bear to ask.

“Is the father an Aesir?”

Loki remained silent, looking up at the fig tree.  He would never say that he wasn’t.  He would allow others to assume as they would.

“When will be the wedding?”

Loki’s attention snapped back to his brother.  “There shall be no wedding,” he confided.  “The sire is not inclined.  Nor am I.”  He didn’t know if the last part of it was true; he assumed it was.  It must be.  Stark was a Midgardian after all.  They could not wed under Frigga’s blessing, even if Stark were an Aesir.  It was certainly impossible since he was from another realm.

“Then you, perhaps, have been a fool, Brother.  I have never been caught by the maidens whose attentions I seek—“

“Yes, yes, I know,” Loki groused irritably.  “We all know of your feats of chivalry.”

“Everyone thinks you above such things, Brother,” Thor pointed out, setting his scroll aside and standing.  He caught a fig between his two large fingers and snapped it from the tree.  “They know not of your earlier dalliances.”

No, they would not have.  The giantess had been far away when she had born Loki’s children and, well, Loki had remained a mare until he had birthed Sleipnir all those hundreds of years before.   Society remained ignorant.  Odin had kept it that way.

“Well, they will know of this one,” Loki pointed out, looking over at his brother.  Thor didn’t meet his eyes.  “Say that you are happy for me.”

“How can I be happy for a royal bastard?” Thor asked in truth.  They both knew what her life would be like.

“I will recognize her,” Loki stated bravely, not daring to meet Thor’s eyes that were now looking at him.  “I do not care what Father thinks.  She will be a princess of Asgard.”

“She?” Thor asked.

Loki only nodded.  “I can feel her heart beat against mine, Thor.  It is truly marvelous.”

Silence enveloped the brothers once again.

“I shall not tell Mother—or Father,” Thor promised, his voice almost softer than the wind.  He was looking down at the flowers that bloomed around their feet, the wind picking up his hair to reveal his chiseled profile.

“Thank you,” was all Loki could say, and before Thor could answer he was gone.  There was much planning to be done.

No one noticed as he withdrew from court.  He completely arranged his room so that there was a small basket next to the bed so that his child could sleep near him.  He instructed the servants to bring him spare bits of cloth and he soon had a pile from which he could sew clothes for his unborn daughter.  His fingers were quite nimble and since he could feel her growing, he could guess what size Svanhild would be when she was finally born.

Of course, after a few months, his disappearance did not go unnoticed.  By this time, Loki was round with child and was beginning to wonder what it would be like to give birth without the help of midwives.  He didn’t want to alert them to his condition lest they tell the Allfather.

However, within a few short moments, that was no longer a problem.

“Loki Odinson!” Frigga cried as she entered his suite of rooms, catching him unawares.  He was lounging against a couch, his stomach distended, a book between his hands.  “Loki!” she cried, staring at him.

“Mother,” he greeted.  “I trust you are well?”

Frigga, though, was staring at him in shock.  “Tell me you haven’t—tell me it’s not—“

“I haven’t and it isn’t,” Loki said tiredly.  It was better to allay her fears whatever exactly they were, and he could certainly guess.  “I am merely carrying the next Asgardian princess.”

“It’s Midgardian!” she cried out.

“She’s Asgardian, as I am Asgardian,” Loki explained.  “No one need ever know.”

Frigga stepped toward him and cupped his cheek.  “Oh, Loki.  How could you allow this to happen?”

“I didn’t allow anything to happen.  Svanhild simply wished to exist.”

“Svanhild,” Frigga repeated, a slight question in her tone.

“Svanhild,” Loki confirmed.

Frigga sighed and sat down beside him.  “It is a fine name.”

“Fit for a princess,” Loki agreed.  “I will not see her exiled.”

“You never said a word about the others.”

“I did not carry the others in an Asgardian womb,” Loki answered.  “I will not part with my child.”

Tears of understanding formed in Frigga’s eyes.  “Oh, Odinson,” she bemoaned.  “Your father will never allow it.”

“Merely tell him that the sire was a fine warrior who died valiantly,” Loki lied smoothly.  “Father will have to allow it then.”

“Will he now,” Frigga wondered.  “And what of the Midgardian?”

Loki was silent.  He had gone to the edge of the bifrost and stared into the distance, wondering about Stark.  He would travel to Midgard and see him with his own eyes, as his curiosity needed to be sated, but he would not risk such a harrowing journey with Svanhild still inside of him.

“I see,” Frigga finally said.  “Your father will not be happy.”

“No, he will not,” Loki agreed.  “But he will allow it.”

And allow it, he did.  Within days, Loki was dining in the great hall and the midwives were put on alert.

Just two months later, Loki bore his child—but she was cold to the touch and blue.  The Allfather looked at the small girl with disdain and ordered that she be cast into Jotunheim, but Loki held Svanhild to him and refused to let go.  He always slept with one eye open, in case someone would come and steal away his daughter and he used magic whenever anyone did come in order to save his daughter’s life.

After three years the Allfather had grown weary and demanded that Svanhild be contained within Loki’s quarters, and Loki agreed.  It was then, and only then, that Loki turned his mind toward Stark, and looked inward at himself until he saw out toward the galaxy to where Stark was in California.

The mortal certainly lived up to his reputation.  He took beautiful women to his home and left them in his bed while he tinkered in his laboratory.  There was never anyone special.  He never treated anyone like he had treated Loki. 

With a quiet sleeping spell sung to Svanhild, Loki took the familiar path to Midgard with his child in his arms.  It was easy to gain access to the Penthouse suite at the Waldorf Asotria in New York and to contact his publicist who flew to the City from her office in Los Angeles.

Svanhild remained sleeping in a crib provided by the hotel and Loki would only awaken her when there were no Midgardians to stare at her skin color or ask insipid questions.

He had only three days to wait before Tony Stark arrived with his personal assistant.

“Angela,” Loki said over breakfast one morning.  He’d asked his publicist over especially.  “Be a dear and call Miss Potts for me and let her know that I am in New York.”

“Should I mention your daughter?” Angela asked with an arched brow.

Loki just stared at her.

“That would be a ‘No,’” she said to herself, taking out her phone and scrolling down her list of contacts.  “Ah, here she is.”  Angela pressed a button and put the phone to her ear. 

Loki could hear the ringing on the other end.

One ring.  Two rings.  Three.

“Hello, Pepper,” Angela said enthusiastically.  “It’s Angela Frost.”  There was a long pause.  “Yes, I’m well, thank you.  How have you been?”  Another pause.  “The reason I’m calling is The Magician happens to be in New York and you said that should he ever return to America—Yes.—Yes. Yes.—I’ll be waiting for your call, but I imagine that should Mr. Stark be available, it won’t be a problem with The Magician.”  She hung up the phone.

“I can’t confirm this, sir, but how would you feel about lunch?  Mr. Stark has a business dinner this evening.”

Loki raised his eyebrows in amusement.  “Lunch?” he checked.

“You can bring the little one, I’m sure.”  Angela looked at him pensively.  “Unless—“

“My daughter is not for public consumption.  As far as they are concerned, I don’t have a daughter.”  Loki, however, wondered how circumspect he could be in the face of her own sire.  He may be a liesmith but he did not gamble with the lives of his children.

Angela leaned forward hurriedly.  “Of course, sir.  I would never breathe a word.”

Loki picked up his tea cup.  “No, of course you wouldn’t, Angela.  I wouldn’t employ you if I didn’t think you could handle such sensitive information.”

“I’m surprised she isn’t awake by now,” Angela mused.

“She doesn’t like company.”

The phone rang.  Angela answered it.  The lunch was confirmed.

Loki almost lost track of time.  He was standing with his daughter at the window, explaining everything that they could see to her.  She’d never heard any English but when he couldn’t find a suitable word in Asgardian, he would substitute the Norse or English word for it.  It’s the only way he could find to describe a car or a skyscraper.

Breezing in ten minutes late, Loki spotted Stark in a corner booth.  “My apologies,” he greeted.  “I was delayed.”

“Maj!” Stark greeted, clear delight lighting up his features.  “I was beginning to think that Pepper was pulling my leg.”

“Pulling your leg?” Loki asked, unfamiliar with the expression, but Stark just waved it off and offered him a seat. 

Stark stared at him, as if he couldn’t get enough of Loki, which rather surprised him.  “You never said goodbye,” he accused finally.

“Were you expecting me to?  You knew I was leaving.”

He shrugged.  “True,” he said in an off-hand manner, “but I wasn’t expecting you to disappear like you did our first night together.”  He made it sound casual—light—but Loki could see the depth of emotion in Stark’s eyes.

“No wife yet?”

Stark openly laughed.  “No.  And no lover.  You?”  He was now leaning forward, one hand holding his glass of scotch, the other tapping some rhythm against the table top.  An untouched glass was in front of Loki.  By the fragrance of it, he recognized it as the label Stark had favored all those years ago.

“A daughter,” Loki admitted after a moment’s consideration.  “But no one else.”  He held Stark’s gaze, driving the words home.

“Is she here with you? In New York?” Out came the charming smile that Loki remembered so well, and the brown eyes flashed with some emotion Loki couldn’t quite read.

“She travels everywhere I go.  I would not leave her to the tender mercies of my family,” Loki replied archly, taking his first sip of whiskey.  The taste was crisp, just as he remembered it.

“Then I suppose I cannot ask you to come back to the Ritz with me tonight.”  The words were once again casual, but Loki could hear the emotion behind them.

“What?” he teased.  “You don’t have someone else waiting to fall into your bed?”

“Oh, I’m sure I have somebody waiting,” Stark replied with a large grin.

Loki smiled.  “Perhaps you should come to the Waldorf Astoria.  The little one sleeps through the night.”  His skin was positively crawling for this mortal and he wouldn’t be so careless as to bear another of his blue-skinned children that were reminiscent of frost giants.

Frost giants.

That thought bore thinking about later.  Much later.

Stark’s eyebrows lifted.  “No name for the little magician?”

Thinking, Loki looked at the Midgardian across from him.  “Svanhild,” he admitted.  Stark was the sire, after all.  It was his right.  “Her name is Svanhild.”

Stark’s glass stopped halfway to his mouth.  “That’s an interesting name.”

“It is one worthy of her ancestors,” Loki admitted.  “I’m sure your father felt the same way when he named you Anthony.”

“I have no idea what the man was thinking.  He spent more time in his laboratory than bothering to visit me.”  His tone was laced with an old resentment that had been simmering for years.  Loki thought that he should not mention it again.

He didn’t wait up for Stark.  Instead, he played with Svanhild, enchanting her toys so that they’d move about around her.  She would giggle and clap her hands and though she only appeared to be about three months old to a Midgardian onlooker, she was extremely intelligent for her age.

When a knock finally sounded at the door, Loki laid her in her cradle and whispered a spell to make her sleep before answering it to see his publicist on the other side.

“Angela.  It’s nearly ten,” he protested.

“I’m sorry.  Did I wake the baby?”  Her face was one of horror and, although she had never seen Svanhild, she was quite fond of her.

“No.  I don’t think so.  What is it, Angela?”

Pulling a paper from under her arm, she placed it flat on a clear surface.  On it showed a picture of him and Stark from that afternoon. 

“What of it?”

“Read the headline.”

Oh.  OH.

The paper professed them to be lovers.  Of course it was correct, but this was not the type of press that Angela wanted.  “I don’t want you to become another one of Tony Stark’s conquests,” she explained.

As if on cue, there was a knock on the door.  “Are you certain he’s not one of mine?” Loki asked her with a grin.

He opened the door to reveal Stark.  He was clutching a paper, a bottle of whiskey, and a large plush swan.  Clearly he had done his homework.  Or Miss Potts had for him.  “Hey, everyone.  Sorry to be late to the party.  Have you seen tomorrow’s paper?  Don’t worry, Pepper is all over it.”

“You should call Miss Potts, then, Angela,” Loki instructed.

Angela was glaring at Stark.  “You should lower your voice.  There’s a baby sleeping.”

His eyes perked up.  “When do I get to see the angel?”

“No one does,” Angela explained morosely.  “Apparently she has some birth defect and Sir doesn’t want her getting a complex.”

Most of that Angela had made up herself but part of it was true.  Loki wasn’t allowing any Midgardian access to Svanhild.

“It’s quite severe,” Loki elaborated.  “The last thing I need is anyone else screaming at the sight of her.”  The last servant who had entered his room on Asgard had done just that before flinging Loki’s clean clothes at him in fright.  The servant had even previously been warned.

Stark looked stumped.  “Have you come here for medical advice?” he finally asked.

“There’s nothing to be done,” Loki responded, not answering the question.  Still, he had looked through every tome on magic.  He was uncertain what had caused this daughter to be a monster.  Why were all of his children monstrous to others but beautiful to him?

“I’m so sorry, Maj,” Stark whispered sincerely.  “Is that why her mother—?”

Angela sucked in a breath.  Even she had not dared to ask Loki such a question.

Loki looked away, his eye catching on the swan.  He picked it up, a small smile on his face.  He would certainly bring it back to Asgard as it came from Svanhild’s sire.  “I’ll go quickly give her this.”  He left the room and allowed whatever his publicist wanted to gossip about with Stark to happen away from his ears.

He came up to the cradle and looked down on a sleeping Svanhild.  She was so beautiful, with soft baby features, and a pale blue skin that highlighted her dark brown eyes.  Stark’s eyes.  They were hard to miss even in that blue face.

Loki came back and Angela was gone, the paper left behind.  Stark was leaning against the table pouring out glasses of whiskey.  “I hope she likes the gift.  I wasn’t sure what age she was—“  He didn’t get a chance to finish.  Loki had come up to him and kissed him full on the mouth.  The whiskey remained untouched for the rest of the night.

About half past three, Stark was sleeping and Loki couldn’t help but stare at the ceiling.  Svanhild had been sleeping for several hours and he just wanted to hold his precious daughter.  Carefully, he crawled out from under the covers and padded his way toward the second bedroom that he was using as a nursery. He had baby monitors in all the rooms, courtesy of the Waldorf Astoria, but they were rather useless.  He had even forgotten that they were on and relayed sound to his bedroom.

Lifting the sleep spell, he watched as she moved over in her sleepiness.  He took her to the large glass windows in the main area and looked out over the city.  “Look, Svanhild, there are still cars out at this time of night,” he whispered to her in Asgardian.  “This is the city that never sleeps, or so the Midgardians say.”

He continued to talk softly to her, smiling when she opened her eyes to reveal the brown gaze of a Stark.  “Oh, Svahild Lokidottr,” he murmured, kissing her head.

Hearing the door open from his bedroom, he stiffened, not turning around.  “I did not think you’d be up.”

Loki could hear Stark move around behind him.  “The bed became cold.”

He smirked.  “I thought that’s how you liked your bed after an encounter.”

“Not with you,” Stark said, voice suddenly solemn.  “With you it’s different.”

They lapsed into silence and Svanhilde cooed at Loki, waving her small arms.  Loki smiled back at her and tickled her stomach.

“Why did you contact me, Maj?  Why, after all these years?  You had a family.”

“I never had a family except for Svanhild,” Loki corrected.  “And it was always—different with you.”  He parried the words back, wondering how Stark would take them.

“Tell me about her mother.”  It was odd that Stark was pushing so hard, but Loki could push back.

“Tell me about that blonde reporter you went home with two nights ago.”

“I asked you first.”  It was frank, blunt, and it made Loki shiver a little.  He did not understand his own reactions to this Midgardian.  By rights he shouldn’t even be here.

Stark shifted behind him and Loki could hear him walk closer.

“Don’t,” Loki commanded.  “Svanhild.”

“I won’t scream,” Stark promised and then he was at Loki’s shoulder, looking down into Svanhild’s smiling face.  “Hi, there, cutie,” he greeted, not bothered by her blue skin.  “If I were in genetics we would be the best of friends.”

Loki stared at him incredulously.

Stark blinked.  “She has my eyes.  And my chin.”  He looked at Loki in confusion.  “How is that even possible?”

Loki just gazed back at him before looking down at Svanhild. 

“Never mind her age,” Stark was saying quickly.  “But you’re a man.  I think I would know.”

“I think the American term is ‘hermaphrodite,’” Loki explained archly, looking only at his beautiful daughter.  It was the closest approximation Loki could make to being a shapeshifter.

“You’re—?  I was drunk one night, wasn’t I, and didn’t even realize?  But she’s too young.”

“Another genetic—mutation, I think it’s called.  She’s unusually small for her age.  It is characteristic in my family,” he threw in just because he could.  He knew he didn’t have the upper hand in the conversation and felt exposed.  What if this mortal wanted to keep his child?

“May I hold her?”

Loki looked at him thunderstruck.  Svanhild was small and blue and the Midgardian still wanted to hold her.  Carefully, he placed the cooing baby in Stark’s waiting arms.

“Hi, beautiful,” Stark whispered, afraid perhaps that he might startle her.  “I’m your daddy.”

He couldn’t help himself, really, he couldn’t, but Loki’s eyes softened and his body became a little less stiff.  This is how it was supposed to be.  Two parents and their child.  He had never had this before with any of his other children.  He didn’t realize how much he’d been missing it.

Stark brushed a hand across Svanhild’s forehead, his hand previously having been wrapped up in her blanket, and both Loki and Stark inhaled suddenly.  Where Stark had touched it was as if paint was being rubbed away.  The skin was slowly turning a healthy Asgardian peach.  The color spread as Stark held his hand there until Svanhild was suddenly a perfectly beautiful Asgardian baby.

Loki quickly snatched her back.  “It couldn’t be that simple,” he murmured as he rubbed his thumb back across her forehead.  It remained skin-toned.  “Svanhild.

“What just—“ But before he could complete the sentence, Loki had kissed him, whispering a spell. 

“You won’t remember this,” he intoned carefully as the mortal slumped over in sleep.

It was with a few more whispered words that Loki had Stark back in bed, sleeping soundly without a care.  With quiet precision, Loki dressed himself and grabbed Svanhild’s swan plush.  It really was perfect as Svanhild meant “swan” and “battle.” 

Loki left without checking out, instead leaving that for his publicist to do in a quick voicemail.  He kissed Stark tenderly before leaving, hating himself for his weakness.  Still, he would always be thankful to the man for Svanhild and for curing her of her blue taint.

Traversing one of the old pathways back to Asgard, Loki shimmered so that he appeared in an Asgardian tunic and leggings.  No one need know where he’d gone.

Triumphantly he entered the throne room as soon as he arrived back at his home, his child in his arms, daring the Allfather to say anything.  Thor was in attendance along with a few Asgardian nobles but Loki didn’t pay attention to any of them.  Instead, he walked up to the large throne and held out Svanhild.  “Your granddaughter, the royal princess,” he intoned.  Then in a whisper, he added, “She’s cured.”

The Allfather looked at the infant with a stern expression on his face but eventually lifted her up and kissed her forehead.  “You are well met, Svanhild Lokidottr,” he murmured.  The entire room heard him.

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