It had been three days since the revelation of Natasha's parentage. Clint was troubled, needless to say, but had a habit of sleeping like a rock whenever he got the chance and unless someone tripped one of the many, many wires he'd set up around his bedroom in the newly reconstructed Stark Tower, now called the Avengers Mansion. And Natasha would hardly be Black Widow if she couldn't avoid such basic traps.
So what did wake him was her slipping an arm around his waist and whispering, "I missed you."
Even his subconscious knew her voice well enough by now that she was not immediately placed into a headlock, as anyone else would have been. Instead he rolled over and put an arm around her in return. "Missed you too. How long was it for you guys?"
"Have some blanket."
She nestled against him gratefully. "Saw a lot of great things. The best probably was Loki saving my life."
"Huh. I looked up a bunch of Norse myths yesterday when I had the time. In them Loki gets knocked up all the damn time, and gives birth to horses and serpents and things."
"Wacky Vikings," she said with absolutely no inflection.
"Yeah. I - I'm glad you're not a talking wolf or anything like that."
They lay in silence for a while, friendly darkness around them. Then she said, "I understand if you're conflicted; he hurt you a lot, and you haven't seen how he's changed, and with him being my mother it's got to be weird..."
"Tash. Neither of us are our pasts or families. And I'm willing to comprehend one more killer turning around because they find someone worth caring about."
She didn't have anything to say to that, so she kissed him.
Thor was glad to see his friend the Doctor again after only a week, the blue box appearing in his chambers. He wrapped the Doctor in an embrace the moment he emerged. "How do you fare, noble Gallifreyan?"
"Oh, tolerably, tolerably," the Doctor replied. "Would you like to come aboard for tea? Loki wishes to speak to you first, though, in private."
"So soon? You are a wondrous healer indeed."
The Doctor scratched the back of his own neck. "If only. For us it has been in excess of a year. Come in. Things have been delayed long enough."
Thor was directed to the ship's library where he found Loki pensive before a fireplace, his hands clasped in front of him. "Brother, I am glad to be welcome in your presence once more," Thor greeted him.
Loki bit his lip. "Thor - allow me first to apologize for my actions."
"You are welcome to my forgiveness if the apology proves genuine."
"Sit. You will not wish to stand for this news."
"What is it?" But Thor obeyed.
The man he had for so long thought blood-kin spoke softly, so he had to lean forward to catch his words. "The Doctor explained to me a truth of the Jotun. It seems that a fair number - not a majority, but many enough to be known unremarkably - of the folk of Jotunheim have some characteristics of two sexes at once. This is also true of Midgardians but less so. He said he would not be surprised if there were Asgardians in secret with such traits. In any case, with such as these, one may have the mind and look of a maiden but the member of a man. Or, conversely, the mind, the heart, the soul of a man, and the appearance of a man, but have both a male member and a womb capable of bearing."
"Loki..." realization dawned on Thor's face.
"One of the reasons I was so bitter against you and Odin All-Father was that in growing up unaware of my heritage, I also grew not realizing what consequences I could suffer from, say, a drunken coupling. And if the Doctor had not learned my secret and interceded, what I had thought my first murder would have stayed a wound in my heart, letting all other deaths seem lesser."
"You are saying there was a child," Thor whispered. So many questions, yet this revelation was an answer to many as well.
"There is a child, not was. But through the mysteries of time travel and Fate, the child is grown and known to us both."
"Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow, is our daughter."
In silent shock, Thor could manage only one thing, the only thing that felt correct and healing at this time. He took Loki into his arms as both of them wept for reasons they could not speak.
The Doctor meanwhile explained the tale to Odin, who was grieved in extremity by what he had helped create. "How do you believe this could be made right?"
"I suggest you let Thor and Loki stay on Earth and help protect it from threats. They will want time with their daughter, even if the circumstances were strange - I know that from experience. Loki can be acknowledged as her mother with a minimum of prejudice, though sadly there will still be a great deal in Natasha's home era, and he can begin to repay his crimes. Thor will be with friends and also protect Loki from the wrath of rightfully angry humans, who in their search for vengeance would prevent him from redeeming himself and being a force for good. I'll put in a word for him at an organization known as UNIT if the people of SHIELD are initially unwilling to help him. They employed me in the past when I was marooned on their planet."
"Most just, most just," said Odin. "But what about you, Doctor?"
"Oh, me, don't worry about me."
"Surely we have been friends long enough for me to answer."
The Doctor took a deep breath. "I have another lost daughter born in unusual circumstances to meet. And I have delayed long enough. Farewell, All-Father."
"Why do you seem so sad?" Loki asked the Doctor as he was hugged goodbye just outside the Avengers Mansion. Loki no longer resisted hugs but was bad at giving them to anyone but Natasha.
"Surely he will miss the friend to him you have become," Thor said, clapping the Doctor on the shoulder. "I cannot thank you enough."
"Take good care of the Earth, please," the Doctor replied. "I've put a lot of work into it. Director Fury will have a visit from me momentarily, and remember that if you find yourselves unwelcome, instruct Natasha to contact UNIT, where Loki is sure to find a place."
When the Doctor had left them, Loki cleared his throat. "Perhaps in light of recent events you should no longer address me as 'Brother'."
"If you wish us to wed, I will do the honorable thing and..."
"Oh, no, no, just because we had a child together we shouldn't bind ourselves to one another. But call me 'Friend'. Or simply 'Loki'. And I shall be content."
And they entered the building, to begin a new journey.