"You have another son."
Loki bends over his book, squinting hard at the letters on the page, studiously ignoring his mother as he wills her away and the words unsaid.
"Loki?" The queen steps forward and lays her hand on her second son's shoulder. "Did you hear me? It's a boy. Healthy. Larger than Vali was." She pauses, offering Loki an opportunity to comment. When he remains silent, her lips press into a hard thin line. "Aren't you pleased?"
"Why wouldn't I be pleased?" Loki says, answering-but-not-really his mother's question before dropping his nose into his papers again. He can sense his mother's frustration, but he is in no mood to explain himself.
During Sigyn's first pregnancy, Loki was the very model of a doting husband. He stayed at Sigyn's bedside for every minute of Vali's birth and was the first to hold his son. He was a natural father. No one understood his radically altered reaction when his wife announced that she was pregnant again.
Loki could not muster any enthusiasm and would not feign what he did not feel. He avoided acknowledging the situation as long as possible. When conversation centered on the new arrival he politely excused himself or- if there was no meant of tactful escape- discussed his new addition with all the enthusiasm of a condemned man contemplating his execution date.
Sigyn was in turns wounded, perplexed and – finally- annoyed by Loki's sulking. She made it very plain that, absent a rapid and pronounced alteration in his attitude, he would not run the risk of becoming a father for a third time. He did not like to upset her, but he could not articulate his abhorrence in words that she would understand. He did not know how to make her see how wrong it was to curse a child with the office of second son.
"…as soon as possible, don't you think?"
Frigga is still talking, but Loki hasn't caught a word. He looks past her, through the open doorway, just in time to catch a flash of blue cloth as his eldest son barrels through the door.
"Gemma!" Vali cries out to Frigga, scaling her legs like a monkey shimmying up a tree and depositing himself in her arms before she really has time to register his presence. She smiles and kisses him just the same.
Vali's nursemaid comes limping in a moment later, apologetic and harried. She drops into a curtsey. "Begging your pardons Your Majesty…Your Highness…the little master got away from me a bit."
Loki waves away the apology as he offers Vali an indulgent smile. It falters somewhat when his mother speaks:
"You may leave him for a while. Loki and I are taking him to his mother."
Loki opens his mouth to object, but the servant is quick to seize her reprieve.
"Yes ,Your Majesty… Your Highness," she says and disappears before Loki can push any words past his tongue.
If Frigga notices his disconcerted expression, she doesn't give any indication. She is focused on Vali, squeezing him close as she whispers into his tousled black hair. "You're a big brother now-just like your Uncle Thor."
Loki squeezes his eyes shut as the words stab into his heart.
Just like your Uncle Thor...
"Do you want to go and see your mummy and the baby?" Frigga continues speaking. Vali needs little convincing. He has been fascinated by Sigyn's pregnancy and has asked after his sibling almost every day.
Frigga turns toward the door. She manages two steps, and then Vali wriggles out of her grasp and runs to Loki.
"Daddy!" he exclaims. His sticky fingers curl around Loki's wrist, tugging him out of the chair. "Daddy! Come see my new brother!"
Loki's resistance falters. He has never been able to defy any of Vali's wishes. Despite his misgivings, he cannot muster the will to do so now. Loki allows the little boy to goad him out of his chair.
It is a long walk from Loki's library to the birthing chamber, and they don't get far before Vali's legs begin to falter. The child stretches out his hands toward his father, begging to be picked up.
Loki hesitates only a second. Vali is nearly too big to be carried, but Loki indulges him this time, greedy himself for the weight and warmth of the little boy's body in his arms. Vali is usually restless and squirmy, but his afternoon with the nursemaid has worn him out. He settles his head on Loki's shoulder and closes his eyes. It isn't long before his breathing is deep and slow.
A wave of love and wonder wash through Loki as he peers down at his son. Vali is perfection: beautiful, intelligent, spirited, affectionate…Loki knows that he can never love another child even half so much. He finally understands the Allfather's coldness- though it pains him just the same. Odin gave all of his heart to Thor, just as Loki has surrendered his to Vali. They mean no malice toward their second sons- there is simply nothing left to give.
"Vali is sleeping," Loki says as they approached the end of their journey. "I should take him back to his room."
Frigga ignores his final ploy for evasion. She signals a guard to open the door to the birthing chamber and strides inside.
"Your Majesty!" Sigyn's voice carries into the hall. Vali is reenergized by the sound. He jolts awake and twists out of his father's embrace.
"BE-!" The queen, the healer and Loki all cry out in unison at the sight of Vali bounding toward the bed.
"Careful." Frigga finishes with a sigh and a wince as her grandson burrows into the blankets next to his mother, heedless of the ordeal that Sigyn has just gone through.
Loki lingers in the doorway, silently observing the scene. Sigyn is exhausted, but radiant. She has never been more beautiful to him than she is at this moment with her limp hair and grey skin and satisfied smile.
Vali's eyes are full of wonder as his mother peels back the swaddling and lets him see his brother's face for the very first time.
Loki expected a blonde, a second Thor to fit the battle of brother against brother that he has scripted in his mind, but the new baby already sports a mop of thick black hair. Loki knows without looking that his eyes are green.
Sigyn unwraps the baby further, letting Vali touch his brother's pale plump limbs and helping him count the tiny fingers and toes. They are engrossed for several minutes, but finally Sigyn looks up and sees her husband by the door.
"Loki!" she calls to him. The frustration and anger of the past months are forgotten as she coaxes him to her side.
He obeys reluctantly and perches lightly beside her on the mattress. His body is tense and poised as if to to flee.
Sigyn chooses not to notice.
"Look at him…" she says. Her voice is husky and thick with emotion. Without any preamble, she presses the baby into his arms.
Loki looks down without thinking. For a fleeting second, the baby's bright green eyes find focus and meet his own.
The baby's face is ruddy and scrunched, but Loki can already see how much his appearance will favor Vali. The resemblance causes something in Loki's heart to soften.
It is the first crack in a dam.
Frigga allows him a few brief moments and then swoops to claim the child. She presses the baby close against her chest, but he immediately begins to cry. The child refuses to be comforted until he is returned to his father's embrace.
"Clever thing..." Loki thinks, and smiles. It is exactly the sort of tactic he might have employed himself to woo an unwilling ally. He reconsiders his earlier observation. This child's coloring and features are not like Vali. Both of the boys are like him.
Loki accepts the baby more willing than he did before. As the weight of his son settles in his arms, a separate burden is lifted from Loki's heart.
It doesn't matter that he gave all of his love away once before.
He made more.
A/N: I'm not sure if this is in the "Azimuth" continuum or not...decide for yourself! This is from a prompt on Norsekink asking for some Loki-kids happiness for a change...although, this is very angsty happiness! I was also inspired by the beautiful drawing of Pregnant!Sigyn made by indigoneversleeps. Look for her on tumblr!
If you enjoyed any of my stories, keep in mind that LillianClaire and I have written an Agent Coulson fic that we are posting under the name "Powdered Doughnuts".
As always, thank you so much for your reviews- they are so affirming and inspire me to keep writing!