This whole thing came from skimming through my old book of Mother Goose nursery rhymes and hearing Loki muttering critiques in my head the whole time. Just a bit of harmless fluff with some Loki Feels and a little (hopefully not too heavy-handed) allegorical shading. But shhh, don't tell Loki about that last bit. He doesn't know it's in there.

LOKI: Excuse me? What's that?

Mnemosyne: Oh, nothing.

"The itsy-bitsy spider went up the water spout.
Down came the rain and washed the spider out.
Up came the sun and dried up all the rain,
And the itsy-bitsy spider DIDN'T climb up the spout again, because she had already determined that doing so was foolish and fraught with peril. Instead, she chose to remain where she was near the base of the pipe and gobbled up all the other insects that were washed down by the rain. As a result she lived a long, happy life, though given that spiders have very limited lifespans it was over much sooner than she would have liked."

Darcy raised an amused eyebrow as she approached the sofa. "I don't think that's how the song goes, Lokes." She held out the plate of sandwiches she carried. "Hungry?"

"Thank you." The pale alien reached for one of the sandwiches in the stack with his free hand and gave it a delicate nibble before turning his attention back to the small bundle nestled in the crook of his elbow. "And as for the song, whoever composed it was a twit. It is a silly bit of nonsense with no educational value whatsoever that just happens to have a pleasing meter. It encourages the audience to court failure rather than examine the situation and discern how best to turn it to their own advantage. I'll not have the future queen of Asgard listening to such drivel without putting it in a suitable context."

Darcy took a bite of her own sandwich. A few years ago she would have laughed if someone had told her that someday she'd be sitting on her living room sofa with her more-or-less-reformed psychopathic-alien-turned-Avenger boyfriend who had once tried to destroy New York City, eating cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off and babysitting Thor and Jane's baby girl. Once upon a time she would have called it crazy; these days she just called it "Tuesday."

"I think you're thinking too much about it, babe," she said around her mouthful. She smiled and wiggled her fingers at the little pink-wrapped bundle in Loki's arms and chuckled as the tiny girl cooed and blew happy bubbles in response. "God she's cute. Isn't she cute? She looks just like her mama and papa. She's going to be a heartbreaker when she grows up."

Loki took another small nibble of his sandwich. How did he manage to make eating a sandwich look sexy? He didn't even get any crumbs on his immaculate forest green Oxford. "I believe she will favor her mother more than her father," he mused, peering down into the round, cherubic face. "Her eyes will be golden green."

Darcy snorted at his smug expression. "You and the green thing. It's adorable."

"Green is a fine and noble color."

"I know, honey." She pecked him on the cheek. "And Jane's eyes are hazel, not green."

"Mm, but Frida's eyes will be green. Is that not so, little one?" He smiled fondly, his sharp cheekbones doing nothing to mute the softness in his eyes as Frida gabbled something and flailed an arm out of her blankets to rest on his shirt. "That's right. Green. Good girl."

Darcy rested her cheek on his shoulder, watching the pair of them with her own tender eyes. "You're really good with kids, did you know that?" she murmured, rubbing her hand up and down his back in long, soothing strokes. "It's... unexpected."

"My dear Darcy, you know how I love to surprise." He gave her a devilish smile before pressing a kiss to her forehead and turning back to the baby in his arms.

"Children are such malleable young souls," he went on softly. "They've not yet been inured to the cynicism of life. They have no knowledge of how very small they are compared to the universe. Tiny, flickering candles in a vast, empty, suffocating darkness." His eyes warmed as Frida sucked on her fingers, watching him with round, enraptured eyes; she loved the sound of his voice. "So small, but so bright. To a child, the universe is what can be seen and touched and tasted and heard. There is nothing beyond the senses; no deeper darkness than that which lies behind their own eyelids, no greater comfort than that which they find in their parents' arms. They do not need to act strong, because they do not understand that they are weak. They do not need to wear a mask, because they do not yet know their own face. Their world is so much bigger than ours and holds so much danger for them, but they do not know to be afraid. Every day is full of promise."

He looked up to turn a smile in Darcy's direction. "They are made of magic," he murmured. "Pure, untainted magic."

Her fingers combed gently through his hair. "Have you ever thought of having any of your own, magic man?" she murmured.

Loki laughed softly. "According to your mythologists I've already sown my seed several times over the centuries, with frequently disastrous results. Though it would have come in quite useful to have the mistress of Helheim for a daughter. I could send her to bed without dinner and steal all the souls away from their afterlives to form my own personal army while she was sulking into her diary."

"I'm pretty sure herding souls has got to be even harder than herding cats, babe. And you know what I mean, Frosty," Darcy teased, poking him in the cheek. "You'd be a good father. Ida already adores you. Haven't you thought about it? A little Loki with bright green eyes?"

"Are you offering yourself as my brood mare, Miss Lewis?" Loki asked, amusement failing to mask the wistful tone of his voice.

"Not if you ever call me a brood mare again, bucko."

He laughed, his sharp eyes crinkling at the corners as he lifted Frida up to his shoulder to rub her back. "My fertile warrior goddess then?"

"Mmm, I like that better." Darcy crossed her eyes for the baby girl, grinning as Frida gaped in amazement, then laughed with delight. "Are you hungry, sweetie? Uncle Loki and Auntie Darcy have sammiches, but your mommy left some milk for you. Want Auntie to warm some up?"

"If you're expecting her to answer you, my pet, you'll be waiting a long time," Loki mused, resting an elegant hand on the back of Frida's head. "She is several months away from achieving sufficient intellectual and physiological development to form words, let alone coherent sentences."

"Yeah, but she always looks so amazed by how words work; it's too cute." Darcy pressed a kiss to Frida's apple cheek, then stood up and kissed the crown of Loki's head. "I'll go warm up the milk for her. Don't let your sandwich dry out, ne? A hungry Loki is even less fun than a hungry Thor."

"I am offended by the comparison," Loki chimed after her as she scampered into the kitchenette. Her only response was a snort of laughter, followed by the clanging of pots and pans.

Loki turned his attention back to the baby girl resting on his shoulder. "Would you enjoy a cousin, little goddess?" he murmured, rubbing her back. Her eyes were heavy but she was still watching him with her golden-green gaze. "The trouble the pair of you would get into together... You would turn your dear mothers' hair quite gray, though your father and I would secretly be pleased. It is the proper duty of the young heirs of Asgard to get into as much mischief as possible without actually setting off a war between the realms. That is part of learning how to plan and strategize, and more importantly how to face the consequences of your actions, be they bad or good. It's also terrible great fun, but don't tell your mother I said so."

He smiled as she started to doze off, lulled by his soft voice and the steady thrum of his heartbeat. "Sleepy, little goddess? So like your father. Had I not already known you were Thor's child I would know by your ability to sleep anywhere, through anything, at anytime. Remind me to tell you of the Yule feast when Thor fell asleep inside the roast boar, while it was on the spit." He chuckled. "But that story will have to wait until you're older and understand what it means when someone is described as being 'drunk as a Lord.' Your father is much more temperate about his alcohol consumption these days, so I fear you will not enjoy an encore performance."

Loki rocked her gently from side to side, humming under his breath and imagining what it would be like if the little girl were his own. Instead of a mop of golden hair like cornsilk, she'd have dark ebony locks that shimmered in the sun. Instead of summery eyes she'd have dark green irises framed by black lashes, with a slender nose like her father and the full, soft lips of her mother. A perfect little combination of himself and Darcy; because of course the mother would be Darcy. He found it quite impossible to imagine anybody else bearing his children. No one else could keep up with his wit.

"Shall I sing you another nursery rhyme, little goddess?" he whispered. "Something suitable as a lullaby, hmm? The Midgardians have such a wealth of children's poetry; far more than we have in Asgard. But I must admit that their children's rhymes are much more violent than ours." He considered quietly for a moment before settling on one.

"Rock-a-bye, baby, in the treetop.
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock.
When the bough breaks the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, bough, cradle and all, but since the babe's parents are clearly cretinous monsters who were willing to leave their young child at the mercy of the elements, an observer has already reported them to the proper authorities and the baby is rescued before being dashed to pieces on the ground below. The worried onlooker is happy to adopt the newly-abandoned infant and the child grows up to be a well-adjusted young man who lives happily ever after, while his good for nothing parents molder away in some godforsaken hole in the ground till the end of their days. The end." He clucked his tongue. "If I ever meet this Mother Goose woman I shall give her a piece of my mind. She turns a lovely phrase, but she's positively miserable when it comes to penning a satisfying conclusion."


(Hopefully with this out of my head, I can finally finish my Fili/Sigrid fic! *scurries away!*)