Six Avengers, a scientist, her assistant, and a very stern doctor waited outside recovery room 4A on the 11th floor of a hospital in Nowheresville, Nebraska. That was where Jane's portal had dumped them and in the middle of a cornfield nine hours ago. Half their team had been waiting on the Earth side of the portal when they arrived. JARVIS had immediately conveyed to Tony where the nearest hospital was and with a handoff of a very limp and cold Loki from Thor to him, he reached it in a minute and a half.
To give the hospital staff credit, they were only stunned for a full six seconds or so before they jumped into action. It wasn't everyday that a big, green rage-monster entered an Emergency Room, begging for help from any who were willing.
Only one staff member offhandedly commented if Loki was "that guy who tried to take over the world."
"Doc, tell us. How is he?"
"Mr. Stark, I've already told you, I can't tell you. HIPPA laws were created for a reason." The doctor clutched a clipboarded-chart to her chest.
"Look, Doc, I'm a very rich man. Yes, I will bribe you. I'll even buy the hospital. Whatever it takes," Stark insisted. "I'm also Iron Man. You know that, right?"
"I don't care who you are, Mr. Stark, I cannot disclose his—"
"The guy's not even human. Well, he is, but he wasn't before, so HIPPA laws don't apply, right?"
"Unless he has family—"
"I am his brother," Thor interrupted, stepping forward. "Whatever these laws are, you have my permission to break them."
As if that would settle it. The doctor—Doctor Mason—slipped her black-rimmed glasses off, pinched the bridge of her nose and sighed. "None of you are going to leave unless I tell you, are you?"
They all shook their heads in unison. "It's your patriotic duty to tell us, ma'am."
Natasha rolled her eyes. Erm, okay Steve…
The old-fashioned Boy Scout flashed an all-American smile, full of sunshine and rainbows, and the middle-aged woman melted.
Well, damn. Clearly, the man had serum-enhanced powers of smile-manipulation Fury needed to know about.
"Alright, if you must know…I could get fired for this, Captain Rogers, so being my daughter's date to her prom next month would be much appreciated." The Doctor pulled the chart in front of her and flipped it open.
"Really? That worked?" Tony scoffed and Natasha found the corners of her mouth twitching into a tiny smile.
"To be honest, I don't know how this man survived. He should be dead."
"What do you mean, ma'am?"
"Shall I list his injuries, Captain?" She pulled out a pen from her coat pocket and tapped it on the clipped paper as she listed each one. "Multiple cuts and bruises. A broken nose, two cracked ribs, and four broken ones. Skull fractures. Head trauma. Internal bleeding. Stabbed. His spleen ruptured, his liver lacerated, and one of his kidneys has failed. Oh, and a punctured lung, the other partially collapsed. His arm was not only broken, but pulled out of its socket and ligaments torn. I'm actually surprised it wasn't ripped from his body. His leg impaled—that had to hurt—broken fingers, an eye socket fractured. His trachea was also partially crushed." She flipped the chart closed. "Young man, I don't know what happened to him, but I've never seen injuries quite like this, especially around here. I can only imagine the agony he was in when you found him. The fact that he was even conscious is amazing."
"Will he live?"
"Doctor Banner, I don't know how he's alive now, frankly. His heart stopped twice during surgery. Anesthesia was also ineffective. He woke up three times screaming in God knows what kind of pain before we were able to pump him full of unethical levels of morphine and sedatives to induce a medical coma."
"But, will my brother live?"
"Right now, if he wakes up—and I'm not sure he will—it's unclear what kind of person he'll be. He's had significant blood loss, was clinically dead there for a while, and an MRI scan on his brain shows severe trauma."
In other words, the news was dire and the mood in the waiting room soured. A wave of nausea threatened to make her lose her stomach contents.
"Is there nothing else you can do?" Bruce asked, quietly.
"Wait. Only time will tell," was her answer before she walked off leaving their group to face reality.
A moment of reflection and silenced passed over them, as each of them shot glances at the door to the recovery room. Through the see-through window, a pale and intubated Loki lay unconscious, covered in wires, gauze, and bandages. A sheet covered his waist and the long, dark hair she loved running her fingers through fanned against the white pillow case in a striking contrast. Beeps and the soft shhhhhhhh-ing! of the machine supplying oxygen to him every few seconds served as a constant reminder to her of the fragility of life.
But, what now? That was the question that hung in the air. What do they do now? Do they leave and continue their duties saving the world and perhaps the universe? Does one or two of them stick around, just see if he wakes up? Thor would, no doubt, but what about the rest of them? What about her? There was no guarantee Loki would ever wake up and oddly, that thought terrified her. He was a pain in the ass, sure, but she had gotten used to his unexpected visits. He was her—their—pain in the ass.
"Hey, who's the creepy dude with the metal eye-patch?"
Clint, who sat beside her on the uncomfortable sofa, had noticed an older man standing behind Thor before any of them did. He had shoulder-length, white hair and a beard to match. He was dressed in a fine, tailored suit and leaned on a gold cane. His gaze, too, was directed at the recovery room where Loki slept.
"Father!" Thor exclaimed, turning to embrace the man behind him.
Father? As in Odin? Wow, Odin All-Father, essentially the God of Norse mythology, was in a Nebraska hospital waiting room? How interesting…
"My son," the All-Father said softly to Thor.
"Loki will not wake, Father. They say he may never. He is in a sleeping death," Thor's voice quaked with fear of that very real possibility.
Stark cleared his voice. "It's called a coma, Thor. And he will wake up. He's too much of an annoyance not to." He turned toward Odin and extended his hand. "I'm Tony Sta—"
"The Man of Iron," Odin simply replied, ignoring the younger man's outstretched hand. Stark took his hand back and pretended not to be embarrassed over the All-Father's rejection of a greeting.
"Father, this is the scientist I was telling you about, Jane Foster," Thor said, pushing the petite brunette in front of him. "Her knowledge and dedication has been invaluable in repairing this side of the Bifrost. With her study of the Tesseract, she created the portal that allowed us to return."
Jane beamed up at Thor, who now stood next to her with his arm wrapped around her shoulder. Thor was evidently proud of Dr. Foster as he should be—Jane was a brilliant scientist and it was no secret the two were sweet on each other. It was because of her that he was able to return to Earth in the first place after the Bifrost's destruction.
"It's nice to meet you," she said, smiling at Thor's father.
Jane slowly lost her smile when Odin said nothing for a full minute, but continued to stare at her. Clearly nervous, perhaps worried about disapproval, she tucked a lock of brown hair behind her right ear and looked up at Thor. It was then that Odin moved forward and put his hand on her stomach.
Dr. Foster startled, but said nothing as the magnificent god peered at her with a one-eyed gaze. The move was extremely rude, but how did you tell a god that? She watched the tiny woman lift her hands and put them over where his was placed.
"You carry my grandchild."
Shocked murmurs and even a gasp echoed throughout the waiting room at Odin's words. Jane's assistant even squealed, but Natasha remained silent. She was curious how the All-Father would even know that, but then again…he was an alien and she knew nothing of so-called magic. Things like that simply didn't exist on Earth. Odin dropped his hand, allowing his son to turn to stand in front of the scientist she had come to consider a friend.
"Jane?" His face was a mixture of equal parts of confusion and elation.
Dr. Foster erupted into nervous giggles as the God of Thunder towered over her. "Uh, surprise! I just found out yesterday that—" The woman didn't have to say anything further. She was swept into the air and two of their team, Tony and Bruce, had to dodge her feet as he twirled her around. Clearly, Thor was happy to hear he was going to be a father.
A frown creased his brow when he put her down. "But you are so tiny…however will you manage to carry and birth a child born of my seed?"
Nevermind that of an alien, Natasha thought. "If she could adapt to your size in the sack, Thor, I'm pretty sure she'd have no problem with pushing a demi-god out." Tony's comment was reciprocated by a smirk from Steve and a flattering blush to spread over Jane's cheeks.
Words of congratulations and goading of Thor's virility were tossed around. The change was amazing. Thor's father had barely spoken two sentences in the last five minutes and yet he had managed to lighten the mood in the waiting room.
Natasha looked at Clint (who looked more bored than anything), still seated next to her, before she dropped her gaze. She focused on a particular smudge of dirt on the tile floor, letting her thoughts wander. She was happy for Thor and Jane, truly she was, and she would give her congratulations later to the happy couple. With so much death and destruction, the threat of war that had loomed over them, happy news was needed. What better irony than a death ushering in new life. Death… Loki wasn't dead yet, but still the elephant in the room remained: Loki's life still hung in the balance.
She closed her eyes and swallowed. Just thinking of his impending fate made her feel sick again, even if no one else cared. Yet the darkness made her feel worse, as the room seemed to spin.
Coffee. She needed coffee. Or…something. She opened her eyes and the smudge of dirt was now covered by shiny black shoes. She jerked her head up to find Odin staring down at her. It was as if he was expecting her to say something, but she didn't know what. She matched his stare and quirked an eyebrow, choosing not to be intimidated by Thor's father. Loki had tried to do the same once and had failed spectacularly, so there was no way that—
"You also carry my grandchild."
Silence. All chatter and conversation in the waiting room stopped at Odin's soft-spoken and ridiculous statement directed toward her.
"What?" Clint asked, startled. "Tasha?"
She stood—the motion making her dizzy, yet she ignored it—and kept her gaze directed at the all-powerful alien god still towering over her. There was no fucking way in hell she was pregnant with Thor's—
"Loki will always be my son. You carry his child."
She swallowed. What? Wait…what?
"That's not possible," she whispered. And it was true. Her time as a spy before joining SHIELD had taken care of that, as even the smallest chance to get pregnant was a complication when sex could be (and was) used as a weapon. Even if she had a choice, she wasn't so sure she would have wanted to deal with that possibility. Regardless, the decision had been made for her by the time she was old enough to have a monthly cycle. Therefore, it was physically impossible to for her to—
"He healed you."
"Stop reading my mind," she whispered through clenched teeth. "It's rude." She felt a tear fall, the warmth gliding down her cheek and she swatted it away in protest. Everyone was staring at her and she hated their scrutiny.
No, it was ridiculous.
"My son…healed you." Surprised tinged his voice. His face softened and there was a catch in his voice as he continued, "He gave you his seed. Why would my son give you this gift?"
"She is a worthy and formidable warrior, Father. Her skills of manipulation—"
"Shut the fuck up, Thor!" The All-Father's lips twitched in a half-smile in response to the panic in her voice.
That was the gift Loki had spoken of three months ago?! She did the mental math in her head. Yes, almost three months ago they danced a super sexually charged Tango, fucked like rabbits, and almost three months ago Loki had told her he would make her his Queen one day and oh, by the way, don't spoil the gift you've been given.
It made sense. She hadn't had a cycle since she was surgically made sterile as a teenager, so she hadn't been expecting bleed regularly. If she suddenly had the power of a menstrual cycle and it never came, she wouldn't have even noticed. But this… this was ridiculous.
No! If Loki didn't die because of is injuries, she'd kill him herself just as soon as she got the opportunity. Why that son of a bitch, how dare he—
"Agent Romanoff." She cringed. Aw fuck, it was Fury. "Is there something you need to discuss with me?"
She knew he wanted an update of the situation, but she didn't think he'd want it in person. And now he had overhead Odin's announcement that she was carrying the love-child of an egotistical super villain.
So did everyone else.
She glared at the All-Father, who simply nodded to her and vanished into thin air. No one noticed the disappearing act. All eyes were on her, including the one belonging to Director Fury.
She had never felt more small, more vulnerable in her entire life than she did at this very moment under their scrutiny.
"Now, Agent Romanoff," Fury stated before walking out of the waiting room.
She was going to be sick. Literally. And now she knew it wasn't just stress or nerves or lack of sleep… yup, baby. Damn, that also meant coffee was off-limits…right?
Oh, shit. "Ladies room?" she asked to no one in particular. Stop staring at me!
Jane, bless her nerdy-scientific heart, pointed to a door to her right. She was going to buy that woman a star or a kitten or something.
She heard Clint ask if she was alright before she slammed the bathroom door closed. She slid to floor and forced air into her lungs.
"Breathe. Just breathe…you can do this," she whispered to herself. You have no choice. But did she have a choice? Would Fury demand she have an abortion? Would she do that? Could she do that? What ramifications did this have when it came to Loki? He was still a Prince of Asgard, and alien—holyshitshe'dbeenfuckinganalien—and a god, so what place would his child—her child—have there?
OhGodohGod! She crawled to the toilet just in time to empty her stomach contents. Tears stung her cheeks as she continued to heave.
Oh, fuck. It was too much all at once.
Dry heaving turned into sobbing.
For the first time in a long time, the Black Widow sobbed. Was it out of fear? Fear of the unknown, fear of her future, fear of losing those she cared about? Her life was forever changed.
Or was it because of hope?
Hope. Hope was something intangible and elusive that she had only dared to believe in once before when someone else gave her a choice. That choice had changed her life and her future to bring her to this very moment, to the very situation she was in now.
Well, no, fucking a mischievous life-ruiner brought her to this situation…
She started laughing. She had never given thought before about having a baby. What would it look like? Would it look like her? Would it look like him? What about the genetic compatibility when it came to her being human and Loki, well, not being one? Oh God, what if she miscarried?
Hope. She needed to believe in hope, for the idea of being a mother, surprisingly, didn't actually horrify her.
She'd put that on her list of baby names.
Right after she beat the shit out of Loki, of course.