It was rare for the Laufey family to meet outside of the holidays, but the mounting stress lately left him with no choice. Loki was still debating on whether or not letting Thor would be a full-time thing. The fact that his paranoia was influencing his decisions was becoming an increasing problem. He liked to think that he was above his past, but his protectiveness over his children spoke otherwise.
His mother waited for them on her patio, as fragile looking as she had always looked, even when young. She greeted each child with a hug and kiss after they barrelled out of the SUV. Loki, she embraced as tightly as her small arms would allow, and smoothed the hair from his face. He pressed a kiss to her brow and smile.
"Nanna Nal, do you still have some of those M&M cookies from last time?" asked Joel, charging the porch with his brother at his heels.
"You shouldn't ask things of your grandmother as soon as you arrive." His son looked putting upon at his father's scolding, pouting from where he stood at the door.
Nal took Loki's hand in her own and squeezed," Now, now. I remember you asking much the same after coming home from school, when you were little." Hel gave them a look that implied she could not imagine her father as a child, no matter how much photographic evidence. "I actually made a batch just for the visit."
"You didn't have to, mother..."
"Oh, I know, but I do have a mind of my own," she chuckled, patting his hand," I do what I want, Loki."
His face coloured in shame, hearing his favourite phrase from childhood being repeated by his mother. She smiled too, knowing full well that it embarrassed her son to no end.
Once the children had been let inside the house, Nal stopped short, her voice barely above a whisper," Your father won't be home for quite a while." Loki tensed under the hand, and even forgot how to breathe.
As far back as he could remember Loki had never gotten along with his father. Not that he hadn't tried, up until college; he did whatever he thought would please the man. From a young age, though, Loki had made it painstakingly obvious that he had no interest in the family business, unlike his two brothers. It had never sat well with his father, and the only time that he had come close to making the old man proud was by marrying. The day that he received his father's blessing, had been the closest he'd felt to the man. They had not spoken since his wife's death, but whenever his mother called to check up on them, he would hear his father ask about the kids. That, in and of itself, meant a lot.
Loki shut the door behind them, watching to make sure that his boys didn't knock over one of their grandmother's prized collectibles. "How is he?"
"Stubborn as always, but his health isn't what it used to be."
"He has been taking his medications, yes?"
Nal looked peeved then, lips pursed," If I hand it to him, but I can never be sure. You know how he feels about doctors and their 'sugar' pills. I swear I could choke him sometimes."
"But you wouldn't really, right?" came Fen's shy question, big eyes focused on the two adults.
"Of course not, sweetie." After she picked the child up, she gave Loki a look and mouthed the word yes. He couldn't help but to laugh. "Now, who wants some of those cookies?" All three children chimed in with an enthusiastic yes please.
Loki sat on a swinging chair with his mother; they watched the boys play tag. Somehow, Joel roped Hel into playing, and it didn't take long before all three were running across the yard. Nal had made sandwiches for lunch, despite how much he insisted she didn't have to. He was grateful though, because Loki had not thought to eat before leaving home, something his mother likely suspected.
"How are you holding up?" she asked, never looking away from the children. Now that they were preoccupied, she felt more comfortable bringing up whatever concerned her son. "You look so worn-out."
For a moment, he thought about lying, but knew that she would see right through it. He shrugged his shoulders and mustered the best smile he could," Parenting is a full-time job, as you well know."
"I aware, but you know that was not what I meant. You sounded so upset over the phone."
"Yes, I know." Loki exhaled softly, running a hand across his face. He felt his mother rub his back in soothing circles. "I've recently befriended someone, and he's been a tremendous help. I even allowed him to watch the children one day while I worked."
His mother made a thoughtful noise and inclined her head. She understood what such a feat meant to her son, and how much it must have frightened him. Even now, she could see Loki's hand tremble, and took them into her own.
"I know that you're scared to lose your children, and you've every right." Nal drew short and ran her thumb across his knuckles. "You've come a long way since Sigyn, and she would be proud that you've trusted someone enough to let them close to your family."
Loki turned his head, not even wanting to hear his wife's name. It hurt way too much, despite all the years that had gone by. He was the only one who refused to use her name, almost in hopes that the children would forget. The only one of his children to remember their mother's name was Hel, and their names as well. She rarely spoke them though, and Loki was grateful. That Joel and Fen had been too young at the time was a blessing. He felt ashamed of the fact that he hide so much away, just to lessen his own grief, but Loki feared what might have happened had he not.
Fingers snapped in front of his face, blinking him back from the past. His mother wore a concerned frowned," Did you go and get yourself lost again? There's not a moment in the day where you look anything but lonely."
"You know me, always over thinking the world around me."
"All that thinking is going to catch up with you, Loki, and I don't want you to succumb to it." His mother looked away, eyes once again on her grandchildren at play. "I know that you may not want to hear this, but have you considered looking for another wife?"
"Or a fellow, even."
"You did have that phase," she said in a hushed tone.
Face as bright as a light, Loki stumbled over his words," That never took-I cannot even believe you."
Nal grinned that Laufey grin, and pushed on the ground to get the swing moving," I'm just teasing you, dear, but I am impressed that someone else is able to get a rise from you. I would like to meet this man, and you never did mention his name."
"Thor," he muttered, knowing that his mother would laugh, and she did, loudly.
"Oh my word, you must be joking." The look he gave her told otherwise, and only made Nal laugh all the harder. "Irony is not lost on your life. Oh my goodness, someone else with a Norse name, and Thor out of all of them."
Well, at least someone found his predicament amusing. He should have known that it would be his mother, of all people. Gods only knew that he must have resembled a child, sitting hunched over with his arms across his chest, pouting furiously. Nal patted him atop his head, because, as she always said, if he was going to act like a child she would treat him as one. Eventually, he leaned over and let his head rest against her shoulder.
"This man, Thor, do you trust him around your children?"
Loki sulked for a moment," I suppose..."
"Is there any rational reason you should fear him near them?" She was never afraid to get straight to the heart of the matter.
"Rationally? No. Irrationally? Yes."
"Well," his mother began, chin now rested atop his hair," I think that you should be rational. The person that you should fear is locked away, and she cannot touch your other three children. Removing everyone, outside of your family, and automatically labelling them as a threat will accomplish nothing."
She was right, of course, but he never knew his mother to be wrong about anything. This little fact was likely the only reason Loki's father was still alive. The man really should count his blessings for having such an amazing wife, and he for an incredible mother.
Beside him, Nal shifted, forcing Loki to look her in the eyes as she spoke," Now, here's the big time question; are you going to let the man baby-sit again?"
It was not surprising that the first answer to come to mind, was no. When he stopped to think it over, as a rational adult would, he saw no reason not too and frowned.
"I'll give him another try, but if I come back from work and find my house on fire, I'm going to say I told you so."
"If that happens, and I stress the if, you have my permission to gloat."
Joel threw himself on the porch at that moment, and scrambled across it to hide behind his father. Coming up the stairs were a winded Hel and sleepy Fen. At least Loki wouldn't have the worry about sending any of them to bed tonight.
The kids were already half asleep by the time Loki loaded everyone into the car. Nal had given each a hug and kiss, then gave Joel the responsibility to hold on to a plate of her cookies. His father was due back home any minute now, and he wanted to save any awkward discussions or hateful words for another day. There was enough for Loki to ponder over as it were.
"Call if you need to," his mother said as they embraced.
Loki chuckled and pressed a kiss to her hair," Of course."
"And you had better call me once you get home. You know how I worry."
Satisfied with his answer, Nal gave her son once last hug and padded back towards the porch. She waved as they pulled out of the drive, and those still awake did the same. It was not until they were mostly out of view that his mother went back inside her house. It was something of a family tradition, one that they all seemed to pick up from their mother.
The drive home was peaceful, each kid nodding off to the steady hum of the radio. Straight to bed with the lot of them, Loki thought, watching car lights pass them by. His wife always used to say they were like angels when they slept, and he was inclined to believe her.
At his side, his cellphone lit up and rang; a quick glance down said it was Thor. It was as if fate was forcing Loki to make up his mind, and towards one very specific answer. He just let the oaf continue to call until he had pulled into his driveway. No sense getting into an accident, just because the faux god of thunder demanded attention.
Loki left the children in the car while he stepped out, dialling Thor back. It rang long enough that he assumed the man had gotten tired of waiting, and he considered hanging up before Thor finally answered.
"Started to think you were ignoring me." Thor was laughing on the other end, but there was hesitance that spoke of the truth in words.
"Oh, I was," he said plainly, an air of nonchalance to his voice," Just long enough to get home, anyway. Is there a reason that you're calling me so late, thunder boy?"
"Just-I was wondering if you'd given my offer any more thought." It was then that Loki decided that awkwardness did not suit Thor, not by a long shot, but if anyone were going to be the cause of it, it might as well be him. "If not, I actually need some of those games back."
Now was the perfect time to turn him down, and if not for his mother's words, Loki might have. He let out a sigh, full to the brim with irritation. "Is that really why you've called me? I'm letting a child baby-sit my children, what has this world come to?"
"Is that a yes?"
"Of course not."
"Yes, it's a yes." Clearly, this man is not fluent in sarcasm. Thor's excitement was nearly tangible, and Loki had to hold the phone away from his ear as he explained that he would not regret it. That much was already a no-go, as Loki was regretting. The part about how great his kids were was, of course, true. "Are you free Wednesday? I've a conference, and there's no way I'll be out in time to pick the children up."
What sounded as if Thor had dropped his phone was followed by a scribbling sound," I have a couple people scheduled, but I'll be free in time for school to let out. Is that okay?"
"That's fine, and thank you." He stopped short of ending the call, opened and closed his mouth a couple times with the intention to speak, and let his shoulders fall. On the other end, Thor made a confused noise. "And I mean it, thank you. Your help couldn't have come at a better time."
Thor's smile could be heard as he spoke," I never doubted the sincerity, and I'll see you on Wednesday."
A/N: I am so sorry for the delay, truth is I have had this chapter done for quite a while. I seem to continue missing spelling errors, which is bugging me. XD I am sorry, so feel free to point them out if you want. I only hope it's not because I'm using British English, but I know for a fact that my grammar can be awful...so.. Anyway, I hope this chapter was worth the wait, I'm gonna go and nurse my flu.