The third child is born with blonde hair. They leave it with Loki for a full three months, to suckle and gain as much strength as possible before taking it away. The soldier who comes to retrieve it is one of the few blondes on the compound, and the only one who has been allowed access to Loki.

This is your son. His name is Aric, Loki tells the soldier with his eyes, willing him to understand, for Loki's mouth has been sewn shut and he hasn't spoken aloud in years. But the soldier doesn't notice, and the tag on the infant's wrist only reads 'Subject 3'. Loki weeps bitter tears of sorrow for his stolen child, and tears of shame that anyone should see him so debased.

Loki doesn't see that soldier again. He wonders if he ever guessed, and if so, what he thought, or said, if anything.

The breeding begins again. Two or three men take him every night, for over a month. This time there are no more blondes. It seems that it is important that these children, these future super soldiers, never know their parentage. The men selected now have varying shades of brown hair, from light to near-black.

Loki wonders what other criteria and tests they needed to have passed in order to be let into his cell to breed with a captured god. Feats of strength and intelligence, proof of lineage free of illness or insanity. Loki hopes the bar was high. Judging by the strength and quality of the men who come to use him, he knows it was. If Loki is to be forced to have children, he would have them be strong. So Loki allows himself to take wicked pleasure in the parade of studs who mount him. He knows they bear only a sliver of responsibility for his true torture. Being held and being bred isn't nearly as painful as being torn away from his babes. Someday, he will find those people responsible for stealing his children, and make those people pay dearly. If he doesn't get out until after they've died, he will chase them to the underworld and invent a fresh hell for them. Oh yes they would pay.

Kept on his back, Loki watches each man as they rut inside him, taking their measure. He can't keep himself barren for long, but if he is careful he can choose which one to open for. He notes every difference, no matter how slight. The shade of their eyes, the shape of their teeth, the flecks of red, gold, or black in their hair. Even though they never exchange words, he comes to know them.

Sometimes he chooses carefully, and sometimes he chooses on a whim.

One he chose for his wicked smile when he noticed that Loki was enjoying their coupling. One he chose for kissing his ankle, and one he chose for the girth of his manhood. One he chose for the sadness in his eyes and the comforting way he stroked Loki's thigh while he entered him. One lusty fellow he chose for sneaking in every night for a week after the lights went dim. He wasn't as tall or as broad as the others, but it must have taken some ingenuity to trick both the cameras and his colleagues. You shall have a child, Loki thought to the young man in the dark who quietly fucked him. And then he made it so.

After the breeding comes the pregnancy, which is harder for the fact that he is now alone. Jotuns carry their children for a long time - his true father once told him that his brother Byliestr grew for ten years inside of him before deciding to show his face. But Loki's half-human babes are so eager to be born, they come in less than two.

Loki names them all. Vali, Ronal, Aric, Ebbe, Asti, Brant... The humans only give them numbers, but Loki stops keeping track of those. In his mind, he knows them by their names and by their faces - all the qualities they took from their fathers, and the qualities they took from him.

He knows his children too by their gifts. For when his newborn babe is at last given to him to suckle, and his tears fall fresh on its skin, he draws as many runes as he can, as far as his tears will stretch. Strength and beauty, all will have. Cunning, he gives to some, wisdom to others. Humour is gifted freely and kindness only scarcely. Sparing a thought for his brother Thor, he burdens poor Aric with a sense of honour. And each is given a rare gift that none of the others have.

Loki blesses his children with the last of his magic, mustered anew through each pregnancy. It is magic he could use to free himself someday, if it were kept and hoarded, but that would take years. Loki is a god. He is strong and will endure. Judging by the cruelty of these people who keep him, his children need his protection now. He gives them all that he is able.

One night, Loki is many months pregnant when someone visits in the dark once again. The second he steps close to undo his bindings, Loki knows him.

"I'm One," he tells Loki.

You're Vali,Loki thinks. Vali is nearly a man now, in fact he's just on the cusp, but he remains Loki's child if only for this night. Loki would cry, but he's already cried his tears for Vali. He's saving up all he has for the little one growing inside him now.

Another visitor walks around the edges of the room, tearing up the binding spells - little Asti, his runespeaker, nearly ten years old now.

"That's Five," says Vali. "We wanted to bring you with us. We're leaving."

And so they left.

Loki takes little Torrey into his arms, stolen from therein less than a year ago, and walks with his half-human children - all ten of them - into to frozen tundra of beyond the compound where they'd been kept. The cold wind soothes their Jotun skin, and behind them a series of unnatural fires rise up to burn wood, metal, and flesh alike, doubtlessly cast by the child Loki gifted with cruelty.

When Asti cuts the bindings from his mouth, he opens it to speak the words that have been on his tongue for nearly twenty years - the words to take himself and his children home.