Date Finished: 5/4/2022

Rating: R

Keywords: Pregnant Loki, Female Loki, Doctor Strange/Loki

Spoilers: Thor: Ragnarok, Infinity War, maybe some for Endgame, but not really.

Disclaimer: These versions of these characters are probably unrecognizable to anyone who knows the canon better than me, but they still belong to Marvel and Stan Lee. Any elements taken from the original mythology technically belongs to no one and everyone.

Summary: Thor returns to Asgard after the battle of Sokovia to find Loki occupying the throne. As a Queen. A very beautiful, very pregnant Queen. It's a long story...

Author's Notes: This was swirling in my head since I recapped the first Avengers movie and it solidified a few days after seeing Ragnarok. I am not at all well versed in this canon and this is my first MCU story, so apologies for all the things I will no doubt get wrong. I'm learning.

Destiny - Part 2
by Diandra Hollman

Pregnancy made using certain powers difficult to impossible for Lorelei. Her body was slower and limited to its present form. Replicating and astral projection were too difficult in her state. She could still levitate and she was sometimes tempted to demonstrate her superior physical strength to Stephen just to see the expression on his face, but these were never talents she particularly enjoyed using. She had always happily left tasks requiring brute force to Thor, preferring the far more refined mental abilities her mother taught her. Stephen didn't need visual demonstrations to learn, however, as she discovered she could help him hone his replicating skills without having to perform the trick herself. She had felt a rush of pride mixed with fear when he first successfully replicated himself. Pride for obvious reasons. Fear because she realized he was right. She was falling in love with him.

She suspected Stephen was capable of learning most of her abilities and she thought she may well enjoy teaching him if she had the opportunity.


She stood in front of the attic window of the sanctum, dressed only in a robe, looking out at the city and waiting to feel the next contraction. She couldn't see into the future, but she was beginning to suspect she knew why none of her plans were affecting changes. She would not survive the birth.

It was fitting, really. Hela would kill her as she had killed Hela. It made sense. Her daughter would never know her destiny, even though it was already written. She would never know who her birth mother was. Lorelei still didn't know how she had traveled so far back into Asgard history to become Odin's eldest adopted child, but that would be Stephen's concern. Obviously he would find a way.

She felt Stephen's presence in the room before he made it known, but she didn't let on. She hummed as he swept her hair aside and wrapped his arms around her, kissing the bare curve of her neck and nuzzling behind her ear.

"Did I hurt you?"

She snorted. "With what? Your tongue?"

"Mmm. Thank you for not yanking my hair this time."

"I couldn't reach your hair if I'd tried."

He smiled and ran his hands along the curve of her abdomen. "You've gotta be getting close now."

She sighed. "Closer than you think."


She twisted in his arms, a smile twitching her lips as she noted the way his eyes darted briefly to her exposed breasts. Human males were so easily distracted. She draped her arms over his shoulders. "I think I might be having contractions."

He went still and she saw a moment of panic flit across his face before his medical training took over. "You think? How far apart are they?" His hands were on her abdomen again, prodding gently.

"Very. I wasn't sure they even were contractions and not just lingering...spasms. I've given birth before, but not in this form so I don't really have a frame of reference."

Stephen blinked, opened and closed his mouth, shook his head. "Okay, well...let me know when you feel another one so I can time it. For now you should rest. Get some sleep if you can."

He waved a hand and they were transported back to the bed she had left not long before. She could teach him to do that much more efficiently, she thought as she wobbled, slightly dizzy.

He supported her as she sat on the mattress.

She reached for the drawstring of his sweatpants. "We have time..."

Stephen brushed her hand away. "No."

Humans were such prudes.

She let him tuck her beneath the covers. He climbed in after her in an approximation of the position they had just been in vertically.

"So...what form were you in the last time you gave birth?"

She smiled. "I was a mare. I had no way of telling how long I was in labor, but it couldn't have been longer than five or six hours. Humans and Asgardians take considerably longer."

"For a first pregnancy, yes, but if you've given birth before..."

"Not in this body."

Stephen was quiet for a while. "So is there a horse running around somewhere..."

"No. He died long ago."

Stephen winced. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be. He died of old age. Even on Asgard, a horse rarely lives more than about a hundred years."

"Forgive me if this question is as rude on your world as it is on mine," Stephen said after another long silence. "But...how old are you?"

"Mmm...just over 1,500."1

Several thoughts hit Stephen at once. 'What is that in human years?' 'This is why ancient humans thought they were gods.' 'Even if I used dark energy to lengthen my life, I wouldn't see him reach his 2,000th birthday.'

The one he settled on, however, was "how old were you when you first got pregnant?"

Lorelei covered his trembling hand on her abdomen. "In human terms? A teenager. I didn't mean for it to happen. I was just trying to seduce the horse. I thought I could outrun him." She saw the growing horror on Stephen's face and realized she had said too much. She hadn't talked about Slepenir and the manner in which he was conceived in recent years and never with a human. She reached for the extra pillow they kept on hand and Stephen automatically helped her arrange it between her knees. She would rather prop her leg on his hip, but she knew that would be just as uncomfortable as nothing after a few minutes. "I had a choice then as I did now. I don't regret it. He was magnificent. The finest stead Odin ever had."

"Wait...he was Odin's horse?"

"Well...he made an excellent war horse and I wasn't a warrior."

"Odin rode his own grandson into battle?!"

"Calm down, Stephen."

"I am calm! I..." Stephen realized he was practically shouting and took a deep breath.

"I was his mother, but he was still a horse. He was well cared for." Her breath caught as a cramp gripped her. "Yes, this is definitely labor," she breathed.

A watch appeared in Stephen's hand and he made a mental note of the time. "Gotta be very early stages. At least twenty minutes apart." He gently brushed her hair back and curled his fingers around the back of her neck, brushing her cheek with his thumb. "You're sure this won't last longer than human labor?"

She had already assured Stephen that her prolonged pregnancy would not end with an equally prolonged labor. Even though she had absolutely no idea what constituted "normal" in this exact circumstance, she knew that labor lasting longer than forty-eight hours was rare for both humans and Asgardians. Frigga had always claimed her thirty-six hours giving birth to Thor was due to him being stubborn from the very beginning.

She twisted her head around to kiss his palm. "I'm sure."


Christine Palmer wished she could remember a time when life had been normal. When her friend, former coworker and occasional fling couldn't just show up in the hospital as if he had appeared out of thin air and fly around the room as an "astral projection". When they didn't have to worry about attacks from alien beings and humans with abnormal abilities.

When Stephen had appeared weeks ago and pulled her into a private room to "discuss a situation", she hadn't known what to expect. His story about a woman he had impregnated four months earlier but who could possibly give birth any day now to their ten month old fetus had left her in stunned silence. And that was before he told her the woman was the same shape-shifting alien that had attacked New York years earlier.

"He was working on behalf of a bigger enemy then. Probably not entirely willingly."

Christine had blinked stupidly. "He?"

"He's a she now, obviously. Shapeshifter."

"Not that I don't believe you, but...are you sure the baby is yours? How is that even possible? His...her DNA is completely alien - how is it compatible with yours?"

"I don't know," Stephen had admitted. "But it happened. And I need your help."

She had agreed, even though she never met the patient. And weeks later a very frazzled looking Stephen had appeared in her apartment.

It was early in the morning - she hadn't even left for the hospital yet - and Stephen said Loki had been in labor for more than twenty-four hours and was only just entering active labor.

"I know it's normal, but she can't rest and she won't let me do anything for the pain," he babbled.

Christine hadn't attended many childbirths since completing her residency, but in almost all cases she had witnessed this sort of panic in the father. This desperation of a man watching a loved one suffer and being helpless to ease their pain. She caught his trembling hands and ordered him to breathe, giving him a minute to calm before prompting him for medical details and retrieving the supply bag she had kept on hand since he told her about the situation.

She barely had time to take in the mansion she followed him through a portal into before her attention was drawn to the woman on her hands and knees at the top of a staircase, naked except for a robe hastily pulled around her.

Stephen was at her side immediately, bending to help her up. She yanked him down on the floor with her instead, one hand twisted in the fabric of his shirt, and a deep moan vibrated through her.

Christine stood back and marveled as Stephen pulled the woman he claimed had once attacked their planet into his arms and murmured "it's okay, honey. I've got you. Breathe."

When the contraction ended, Christine noted the time and offered to help Stephen get their patient somewhere more comfortable.

"You must be Doctor Palmer," the woman said wearily.

"Er...yes." Christine held out her hand to shake.

"Help me up," the woman said in the manner of someone accustomed to people obeying her orders.

"Okay," Christine said meekly, mostly because Stephen was already following the command.

They each took a side, supporting her as she insisted on walking. "Should I call you Loki, or..." Christine's voice trailed off uncertainly.

"You can call me whatever you like," Lorelei panted. "Seeing as you'll be wrist deep in my cunt, I think we can dispense with formalities."

Christine shot Stephen a look, but he was averting his eyes uncomfortably. "Okay, well...speaking of that...have you checked her dilation, Stephen?"

"About five centimeters," he muttered.

'Still a ways to go,' Christine thought. "Stephen tells me you won't take anything for the pain."

"I said she wouldn't let me DO anything," Stephen corrected. "I found something far more effective than an epidural."

"It works faster, too," Lorelei muttered. "Not. Yet."

"Well, it's your decision, but there's no sense in suffering if you don't have to," Christine said with the sort of gentle authority well practiced on difficult patients.

"I am not suffering. I've handled far worse pain. I won't prolong this just to get temporary relief."

"Will you at least consider the bath again," Stephen asked.

"Mmm...only if you join me again," Lorelei purred.

"Knock it off, Loki,"

"Tell me, Doctor Palmer, are all humans as ashamed of their own sexual desires as this one?"


A contraction seized Lorelei before Christine could formulate an answer. She grunted and staggered a step before pulling away from Christine to wrap both of her arms around Stephen, burying her face in his shoulder to muffle her pained whimpers.

"Breathe, honey," Stephen murmured in her ear, his annoyance with her behavior instantly evaporating. He swayed with her instinctively as she rode out the wave.

Christine checked her watch and waited.

Minutes later, when the laboring woman sagged in Stephen's arms, she helped him get her the remaining steps to the bed so she could perform her examination.

"Are the contractions getting stronger," she asked, taking Lorelei's pulse.

Lorelei nodded.

Christine pulled a latex glove from her bag and put it on her right hand, then coated her gloved fingers with KY. "I'm sorry, this will probably be uncomfortable," she said as she worked. "I'll try to be gentle."

"Oh, please, don't be."

Christine hesitated and shot her an incredulous look.

"Stop it," Stephen muttered tiredly.

Lorelei sighed and leaned back on her hands, spreading her legs, the open robe falling unceremoniously to her sides.

Christine's eyes were drawn momentarily to the full, bare breasts above the swollen abdomen. She averted them quickly, embarrassed by the sudden, intrusive and entirely inappropriate thoughts she was having. She steeled herself and - quickly and carefully - pushed her lubricated fingers into Lorelei's birth canal, feeling the opening of her cervix.

Lorelei winced and almost instinctively closed her legs. She was pretty sure Stephen had been far more gentle when he'd examined her earlier.

"Still just a little over five centimeters," Christine declared, removing her hand and pulling the glove off. "You should let us give you the epidural. Or...whatever it is Stephen is offering, which I'm assuming is safe." She added the last part as a warning. She didn't think he would try any crazy, experimental drugs on OTHER people, but there was no telling what a person might be willing to do for someone they cared about as he obviously did for this woman. "This baby is going to come when it is ready to come and refusing pain relief isn't going to make that happen any faster. If you can take something now, maybe both of you can rest before you need to start pushing."

Lorelei brought her legs back together and gathered her robe around her naked body slowly. She glanced at Stephen as she debated with herself. She had wanted this to be over as quickly as possible - both for her sake and for Stephen's. But it was becoming obvious that nothing about the birth would be easy and she didn't really relish the idea of spending all of who knew how many remaining hours screaming in agony. She nodded at Stephen and he sagged with relief.

Christine turned to Stephen expectantly, but all questions of what he needed her to do to administer the pain relief died on her lips as he pressed a hand to Lorelei's back and she groaned softly, her body immediately relaxing.

"That's...that's it," Christine spluttered. "What did you do?"

"Too difficult to explain," Stephen muttered. "But you were right - it's perfectly safe. And it will last as long as we need it to."

Christine was silent for a while, standing back as Stephen helped Lorelei arrange herself comfortably on her side, bunching pillows around her and between her legs.

She had another contraction once she was settled and Stephen stroked her hair as she grunted softly. It was an odd feeling - pressure and discomfort, but numbness where there had been sharp pain before. She wondered if she had been wrong to refuse the treatment sooner.

She fell into a fitful sleep before the next contraction.


Christine kept watch over Lorelei while she slept. Well...she and the creepy cloak that moved by itself and, she was pretty sure, Stephen's astral form. He had disappeared somewhere to sleep, but she was pretty sure she had felt his presence while she was setting up the electronic fetal monitor he'd "borrowed" from the hospital.

Lorelei managed to sleep through several contractions, occasionally emitting a soft whimper. Whatever Stephen did was working wonders.

She had barely entered transition when Christine felt a gust of air and both the cloak and the presence disappeared. She called Stephen's name tentatively and briefly considered leaving Lorelei to look for him. But then Lorelei whined, her eyes fluttering. She was waking up.

"It's all right," Christine whispered, rubbing her shoulder. "You're doing just fine."

It took two more contractions before awareness fully returned to Lorelei.

"Stephen," she moaned.

"Do you want me to get him?"

"I'm here."

Christine jumped as Stephen breezed into the room suddenly, a very tall, very muscled man with a patch over his right eye trailing behind him. She made room for Stephen to kneel beside the bed. He bent so his face was level with Lorelei's.

"Can you hear me, honey," he asked, stroking her hair.

She moaned.

"It's okay." He kissed her cheek. "Everything's fine. You're doing great."

"...ihzit time," she mumbled sleepily.

"Not yet. Is the spell still working?"

She hummed noncommittally.

As Stephen seemed to have forgotten them in his concern for the laboring woman, Christine decided it was up to her to introduce herself to the newcomer.

She held out her hand. "Doctor Christine Palmer."

He was slow to respond, focused on the woman on the bed. "Thor," he said, shaking her hand.

"Thor," Christine repeated slowly. "As in..."

"Loki's brother," Stephen interjected. He spared her a glance and shrugged. "Figured we could use an extra set of hands."

'Yeah, sure,' Christine thought. 'It's not like this can get any weirder than it already is.'

"You're...the one with the hammer, right?"


For an hour and a half, Christine and Thor played catch up between periods of helping Lorelei shift positions and checking her progress. She was barely aware of them and she mistook Thor for Odin once in her delirium. She mostly drifted in and out half draped over Stephen, who had taken to singing quietly in her ear to soothe her. Pink Floyd, Bread, Poison, Earth Wind & Fire. It seemed to be working, but midway through a rendition of "Wildfire" she ordered him to stop on pain of death.2

She was still numbed from the spell, so Stephen felt the change almost before she did. The powerful, unending contractions suddenly eased and the far-away look in Lorelei's eyes shifted.  He called to Christine calmly, not taking his focus from Lorelei, petting the long black hair that was becoming limp and matted.

"What's wrong," Lorelei asked, her voice strained.

"Nothing's wrong," Christine assured from between her legs. She pulled her hand free and smiled. "You're fully dilated. You can start pushing on the next contraction."


Twenty minutes and two attempts at pushing later, Lorelei ordered Stephen to break the spell that had kept the pain at bay for the latter stages of labor. Stephen did so reluctantly, though he knew his hesitance was partly his own selfish desire to not watch her suffer. He produced a steady supply of damp cloths to wash the sweat from her face and neck in a helpless bid to comfort her as she strained and writhed and cried in Thor's supportive hold.

For a while they worked as a team. Christine coaching her through each push. Stephen reminding her to breathe and offering reassurance. Thor holding her steady and squeezing her hands, unflinching as her nails dug into his skin.

Lorelei was too focused on the pain and overwhelming need to push to be horrified by her helpless state. She didn't remember feeling so overwhelmed when she gave birth to Slepenir, but that had been more than a century ago. And she had been a mare.

"I see her head," Christine announced just before Lorelei's water broke and the cushion around her daughter's body disappeared. She wailed as the burning pain spiked, barely aware of the arms around her, the hands rubbing her trembling thighs. She didn't know whose they were and she didn't care.

"Out...get her out," she heard herself sob. For a horrible second she feared she was projecting herself out of her body and clawed frantically at Thor to ground herself.

"It's all right," she heard Stephen say in that calm but urgent tone he had been using for hours. His hands stroked her face. "You're doing great, honey." His voice was warbling. She could feel the anxiety he was trying to control, the empathetic pain and distress he tried to hide.

A long, blood curdling cry ripped from her as the burning increased until she was sure she would pass out from the pain. And then suddenly it stopped.

"The head's out," she heard Christine say from a distance. "One more big push, okay?"

Lorelei gathered every ounce of strength she had, clamped down on Thor's hands and curled around her abdomen, focusing everything she had on pushing. She barely heard the encouragements they continued to offer and barely felt the hands helping guide her daughter into the world. She was only distantly aware that she was screaming.

And then suddenly it was over. The horrible, burning pressure eased and she fell into her brother's arms, limp.

"Strange," Thor called, alarmed.

Stephen tore his attention from the newborn, who was taking her first breaths and crying wetly, to look to Lorelei, who had become alarmingly pale.

"Go," Christine prompted. "I've got this." She wrapped the baby in towels and retreated from the bed.

Stephen helped Thor lay Lorelei back, piling pillows beneath her. He took her pulse and gently pried her eyelids open to check her pupils. "Talk to me, Loki."

"Ihzzshe...mhm..." Lorelei slurred.

Stephen gathered her hand in his, fighting back tears. "She's fine. Perfect. You did it, honey."

Lorelei hummed weakly. "Love..." Her hand went limp, her head lolling on the pillow.

Thor made an alarmed noise and gathered the already soiled sheets, pressing them between Lorelei's legs. "She's bleeding!"

Post partum hemorrhage. Stephen froze for a moment, not quite comprehending how he could be losing her like this. Berating himself for thinking he could do this so far from a hospital. She was bleeding out. There wasn't enough time to get her into surgery.


He projected his astral form from his body almost before the thought had finished forming in his mind and raced to the Sanctum library, searching through texts for the spell he needed. He knew he had time to find it. His body had barely begun crumpling to the bed. But he moved quickly, frantically. And by the time he returned to his body, it had barely moved an inch.

"Stand back," he ordered.

Thor stumbled back obediently after only a moment's hesitation and watched in amazement as the wizard bowed over the dying woman on the bed, pressing his hands gently to the sides of her head. The air around them seemed to warble and, like an image coming into focus, the feminine curves of the body on the bed flattened, realigned and shifted into a shape Thor recognized as his brother.

Except he was blue.

"Oh my god," Christine gasped, clutching the cleaned and swaddled newborn to her chest and watching, wide-eyed from the corner as Stephen nearly collapsed on top of the blue skinned man lying where Lorelei used to be.

Thor reached to steady the sorcerer.

Stephen blinked at Loki in surprise. He had seen pictures of the trickster god responsible for the Chitauri attack, but this creature with ridge patterns in his blue skin didn't quite match that image.

Loki's eyes opened and an instinctive spike of fear ran through Stephen. They were blood red.

He calmed as he realized the eyes were unfocused, terrified and, despite their alarming color, entirely familiar. He cupped Loki's face between his hands gently, wincing at the unnatural coldness of his skin. "It's all right," he murmured, though the creature was obviously barely aware of his surroundings. "You're safe. Rest, Loki."

Loki made a garbled noise, as if he had forgotten how to speak, and the blue tint faded, his skin warming beneath Stephen's hands, his eyes turning back to their former greenish blue before he lost consciousness.

"I've never seen him in his Frost Giant form before," Thor murmured.

'Jotun,' Stephen thought. He had seen a picture of one once in an obscure text. They were, essentially, an artifact of Asgardian history. Loki was the last one. He verified that Loki was stable and conjured some boxers to preserve his modesty. Assuming he had any.

Assured that there was nothing more he could do for Loki for the time being, Stephen turned his attention to his daughter, fussing quietly in Christine's arms. "Is she all right?"

Christine, still staring at the man on the bed and trying to process that he had given birth to the perfectly healthy, seemingly human child in her arms, startled. "Uh...yeah. Yeah, she's...she's fine."

She gently transferred the infant into Stephen's outstretched arms and smiled as tears sprang to his eyes.

The smile froze in confusion as he asked "can you get bloodwork for a DNA test?"

"For her? Why? Do you think something is wrong?"

"I don’t know," Stephen admitted quietly. "Just...take a sample and give it to Thor."

Christine glanced at the Asgardian king hovering beside his brother's insensate form, whispering softly to him. This was why Stephen had brought him. She wanted to ask, but she doubted Stephen would give her any answers.

"Okay..." She rubbed Stephen's arm comfortingly. "Do you have a name for her?"

Stephen didn't look up as he answered "Hela."

In the moment between consciousness and full awareness, Loki wondered if it had all been a dream. He reached instinctively for the swell and found only a flat abdomen. He opened his eyes and took quick stock. He was still in the New York Sanctum, but he was back in his male body. And he was alone.

He frantically tried to recall the events immediately preceding his loss of consciousness. He remembered feeling the strength leave his body, the warm rush of blood, Thor yelling in alarm and then Stephen's voice soothing him. He had been dying.

He dragged himself upright. Someone had dressed him and changed the bedding, but he could still feel the dried blood between his thighs.

He staggered from the bed and conjured his old, familiar leathers around him before he went searching for Stephen.

He found the sorcerer sleeping in a chair beside a crib. Or rather, waking up in a chair beside a crib. Loki wondered if Stephen's astral form had been standing guard over the infant.

"Loki." Stephen moved toward him, reaching out.

Loki took a step back. "Don't touch me."

Stephen hesitated and let his hands fall back to his sides, but he didn't back away. "How do you feel?"

"Alive," Loki sneered.

An awkward silence stretched between them until Loki spoke again.

"Is it her?"

"Thor took a sample for Doctor Banner to test. We'll know for sure soon, but..." Stephen let his words trail away. He didn't need to say the rest. They all knew the baby could only be Hela. "Would you like to hold her?"

Loki grimaced. "No."

He turned and retreated from the room before Stephen could say anything else.


Construction of the mirror dimension was one of the few spells Stephen had been able to teach Lorelei. Thankfully, Loki remembered it and had the consideration to use it before taking out his rage on the Sanctum.

Stephen stepped tentatively into the dimension and took a moment to appreciate this good fortune as he surveilled the damage. Everything had been upended. The floor was littered with books, broken pottery and shattered glass. Part of the banister had been ripped away.

Loki sat slumped at the foot of the main staircase, his hair mussed and wild, his eyes red-rimmed.

Stephen knelt beside him and reached to brush a lock of hair back. Loki slapped his hand away. Stephen sighed and sat on the floor - close enough that Loki could lean on him if he chose to, but not actually touching him.

"Why," Loki asked after a long pause in a rough voice - a quiet accusation.

Stephen debated prompting him further, but decided it was pointless. Instead, he answered with a question of his own. "Did you actually want to die?"

Loki sneered. "You think I had a choice?"

"You think you didn't?"

"It was my FATE. All this talk of destiny and choice, but when it really matters you cannot accept the necessary sacrifices that must be made."

"What makes you think you were a necessary sacrifice? Hela didn't know who her real parents were. How would dying change anything?"

Loki made a noise that might have been a laugh if it weren't so bitter. "Is that how you've worked it out? You tell yourself your savior complex is justified because there's a chance I can still alter her destiny?"

Stephen bristled. "Savior complex? You think I saved you out of a compulsive need to be a hero?"

"No, I don't think you want to be a hero. I think you want to be a god."

Stephen flinched. He knew there was some truth to that accusation. All doctors felt the rush of successfully defeating death. But that wasn't why he had saved Loki. "I didn't save you out of some twisted sense of self glorification. I saved you because I couldn't bear to watch you die!"

Loki snorted. "You still think you love me."

"No," Stephen snapped. "I *know* I love you. And if it makes me a selfish asshole who ripped a hole in the fabric of spacetime because I couldn't let you go, then I guess that's my fate."

Loki was silent for a while. Then he pulled away from Stephen and climbed to his feet.

Stephen followed, sensing the impending collapse, catching Loki as he staggered and muffling a pained yell when the god slapped his hands again a little too hard.

Loki froze at the garbled sound. He had been so mindful of Stephen's injured hands when he'd been Lorelei. Even in the throes of labor. But in the heat of the moment he had forgotten himself.

"Look..." Stephen held his hands out in a non-threatening gesture. "You're exhausted. Even if you've healed, you lost a lot of blood. You should rest."

Loki stopped fighting and allowed Stephen to escort him out of the mirror universe. He said nothing until he was seated on the bed and a glass with a milky fluid was pressed in his hands.

"Are you drugging me again?"

"No. It's just coconut milk. It's good for replenishing fluids."

Loki stared at him.

"Okay, I might have laced it with a pain reliever, but it's only enough to take the edge off."

Loki sipped at it tentatively and grimaced.

"I'll draw you a bath."

"I'm fine," Loki protested.

"Yeah, maybe, but you smell awful, so..."

Loki almost laughed at that. He sniffed at the "milk" again and did a quick spell to change it into a mug of tea.

Stephen gave him a displeased look.

"What? It was revolting. Too watery to qualify as milk and too cloudy to be water."

Stephen gestured and the mug turned into a glass of orange juice. "Better?"

Loki sighed and drank while Stephen disappeared into the tiny bathroom. By the time the Midguardian returned, he had drained the glass, refilled it (lacing it with a generous doze of Asgardian pain relief) and drained it again. He waved away the hand Stephen offered to help him up. "I can manage."

He stumbled into the bathroom, closing the door before Stephen could follow. He hesitated when he saw the way Stephen had arranged everything for him - the shampoo, conditioner and soap lined up in easy reach of the tub, a soft towel and robe draped over a rack on the wall. He thought of how Stephen had fretted over him...her...the last time she had been in that tub. How he'd soaked his t-shirt holding her laboring body and humming soothingly in her ear.

Loki shook himself of the memory and removed his clothing, easing his body into the warm water. Stephen didn't love him. He loved the illusion Loki had created for him. The beautiful seductress who bore his child. He might believe he could love the man "Lorelei" had turned back into, but that was only a delusion.

Loki cleaned his body slowly and methodically. He washed his hair and carefully worked the tangles out with the conditioner. By the time he was finished, the painkillers had fully kicked in and he relaxed in the cooling water as long as he could stand.

He startled when he heard the baby cry and instinctively crawled from the bath before he remembered that Stephen was watching her. The crying stopped and he stood frozen for a moment, stunned by the evidence of a mothering instinct.

He dried himself, wrapped the robe tightly around his body and crept quietly back to the room he had found them in earlier. The makeshift nursery.

Stephen had his back to the door. He was singing softly to the bundle in his arms, swaying gently. "We're gonna have a good time and no one's gonna take that time away. You can stay as long as you like. So close your eyes...you can close your eyes, it's all right. I don't know no love songs and I can't sing the blues anymore. But I can sing this song, and you can sing this song when I'm gone."3

The words trailed away until he was just softly humming the melody. He kissed the baby and tucked her back into her crib, watching for a moment to make sure she had settled.

Loki debated fleeing the room before he was caught hovering in the doorway, but he knew it was pointless. Stephen already sensed his presence. Their eyes met as Stephen turned.

"Feel better?"

"How can you do that," Loki blurted.

Stephen blinked, thrown by the question. "Do what?"

Loki gestured vaguely at the room. "You act as if you don't know what she will become. How she will die."

"What am I supposed to do? She's a baby, Loki. None of that matters."

"It does matter! She will destroy Asgard and most of our people. She will die a wretched monster."

Stephen gestured for him to quiet down before their argument woke Hela and sighed. "Yeah, maybe. But right now she is a *baby*. Our baby."

"You still think you can change it? You think you can save her from her fate?"

Stephen threw up his hands in exasperation. "What do you want me to do? Nothing has changed. You want me to use the time stone right now and deliver her to Odin before we understand how or why or if that's even the way it's supposed to happen? For all we know that would only make it worse!"

Loki's eyes slid away from Stephen's, focusing on a random spot on the wall. He knew Stephen was making a valid point, but he was tired of feeling helpless, trapped by preordained events. Thor was right: his plans always managed to blow up in his face in the end. If he hadn't come up with his scheme to secure the throne none of it would have happened.

Maybe that was the answer.

"Would you use the time stone to prevent us from ever meeting?"

Stephen's breath caught in his throat. "No," he said quietly when he was able to speak.

Loki's eyes returned to Stephen's face, anger flashing across them. "Why? We would all be better off."

"Don't say that," Stephen pleaded, moving toward Loki, reaching out to him.

Loki dodged his hand deftly. "Don't *touch* me. You only think you love me because you were taken in by the illusion I created - the seductress. And now you think you can defy fate and fix everything, make us into some sort of perfect family. It won't work!" He squared his shoulders as his resolve hardened. "If you won't do it, then I will be forced to do it myself."

Stephen visibly panicked. "You can't..."

Loki was already moving, changing back into his leathers as he walked. He knew where Stephen kept the Infinity Stone. He and Wong had explained the history of all the stones to Stephen one day and Loki had partially explained how Thanos had used him to obtain the most powerful of all of them in an ultimately failed attack on Earth. Loki let them think the Tesseract had been destroyed with Asgard.

Stephen appeared in front of Loki. "Please don't do this."

Loki replicated himself and ducked around Stephen before he had time to identify which clone was real.

"You don't know how much damage you could do," Stephen tried when he caught up again.

Loki slipped past him again and reached the podium where the artifact encasing the stone was kept. Stephen's hands covered his as he reached for it.

"You will remember everything. Dormammu killed me a thousand times and I remember every death. How it felt to be suffocated, crushed, impaled on a spike, torn apart...the stone doesn't erase your memories."

Loki looked into Stephen's desperate gaze. He had never attempted to manipulate time in this way before, so this was not a detail he had considered. It gave him pause, but only for a moment. "Then I will remember why it had to be done," he said.

He tore his hands from Stephen's grip, opened the Eye of Agomotto and vanished.


His plan was to intercept Lorelei on her way to meeting Stephen for the first time. He would convince her of the folly of her plan - tell her it was doomed to disaster. She would believe him. She *was* him.

But as he waited for her he thought about the look in Stephen's eyes when he realized he couldn't stop him. Would *he* remember any of it when the timeline changed? He was never supposed to know Lorelei's true identity. He was never supposed to know about the baby. Everything had become complicated once Thor had discovered his plan and forced Lorelei to return to Midgard.

What would it be like, he wondered, to remember something that had never really happened? Would it be like a dream? Like he was remembering a life someone else lived?

How long would it be before the memories faded? Would they? He didn't think he could ever forget the look in Stephen's eyes as their bodies entwined. The gentle reverence of his touch. The feel of the first stirrings of life inside him. The agony of birth.

He thought of Hela again. Much as he wanted to believe she was an irredeemable monster, he had recognized her for what she truly was. A broken, damaged soul desperate for Odin to see her as worthy. Wanting to be loved, but convinced she didn't deserve it. She was his daughter. He had been blind to not see it before.

Loki looked at the glowing time stone and recalled all the conversations he'd had with Stephen in the months before Hela's birth. If he was successful in changing the past, would Hela simply cease to exist or would her progeny merely change? Would she become the true child of Odin and Frigga as she believed herself to be? Or if Ragnarok truly could not be stopped would another take her place entirely - one that was beyond redemption?

He slowly spun time forward again until he found himself back in the New York Sanctum and returned the artifact to its pedestal.

He found Stephen on the bed, dressed as he had been when he'd left, curled protectively around the sleeping bundle he had retrieved from the nursery. Waiting for her to disappear. He startled when Loki sat on the bed and blinked up at him with red-rimmed eyes.

"I couldn't," Loki said softly, an answer to a question that hadn't been asked. Trembling fingers wrapped around his wrist and he ignored his instinct to pull away.

Stephen felt the tension in him anyway. He stroked the soft leather that almost covered everything below Loki's neck, including the backs of his hands. "Why don't you want me to touch you," he asked softly.

Loki didn't respond. Didn't move.

Stephen sighed and cast a spell to send the baby back to her crib the same way he had gotten her out of it without waking her. He tugged Loki's wrist, coaxing him to lay down, then continued stroking the inside of his arm. "I didn't fall in love with Lorelei," he said after a long silence. "She seduced me, yes, and in the heat of passion I might have confused the lust I felt for her with love. But I have fallen in love with the person beneath the illusion - the one I have gotten to know these past few months." He stroked down the arm until he could take Loki's hand in a loose grip. "I know it can't last. You are still young by the standards of your people and I am already middle-aged by the standards of mine. I know it's foolish to think you would want to stay with me, but...please. Just let me have this a little bit longer."

"You haven't seen the real me," Loki muttered.

"You mean metaphysically or the blue-skinned creature you turned into when I tried to get you back to this form?"

Loki stared at Stephen. The moments before he passed out were fuzzy. He didn't remember taking his Jotun form.

"I mean, the red eyes were kind of spooky, but otherwise you looked the same as you do now."

Loki cringed. "I am a monster."

Stephen let go of his hand and gripped his chin gently, coaxing him to turn his head until their eyes met. "No, you're not," he said softly.

Loki was silent until Stephen started to lean closer with the clear intention of kissing him. Then he blurted "do you really remember dying a thousand times?"

Stephen hesitated, then slowly eased back, letting his hand fall. "Uh...yeah. I mean, after the first six hundred they sort of started to blend into each other a little, but...yeah.

"Why did you keep coming back?"

"Because my world needed me to hold the line. Because my life..." Stephen stuttered as he realized the significance of what he was about to say. "My life was an acceptable trade for the lives of everyone on the planet."

"A necessary sacrifice," Loki said dully.

"It's not the same."

Loki sighed. "I know." He thought for a moment, then seemed to switch gears. "The pain lingers when I change form. Sometimes for years, even though the scars are long erased. Thanos never laid a hand on me. He always got his 'children' to do his dirty work. The worst was Ebony Maw. He is a sadist and his devotion to Thanos borders on religious worship. He delighted in making me scream and grovel until I vowed to do anything Thanos asked of me just to make it stop."

"Including leading the attack on Earth and retrieving one of the infinity stones for him."

"I thought I could double-cross him. I suppose in a way I have, even if it wasn't quite what I had planned. Thor took one of the stones back to Asgard and Stark put the other in his android. Since the loss of neither was my doing, he cannot blame me." He was saying too much. Revealing a weakness. Admitting he was afraid of Thanos and his "children". But he couldn't lie to Stephen anymore. The man who had cared for him tirelessly and pulled him from the brink of death. The man who looked at him as no one had ever looked at him before - who had seen the monster hidden beneath his skin and still claimed to love him.

The scarred fingers that had been stroking his arm transferred to his abdomen. "Does it still hurt," the doctor asked in a gentle, low murmur.

There was no point in denying it. His chest ached despite the fact that he no longer had breasts so full of milk that they felt ready to burst like overfilled balloons. Everything between his ribs and his groin felt like it had been removed and reinserted wrong. He had dreaded cleaning between his legs in the bath as he still felt like he had been torn open - like he should still be bleeding. He nodded.

His breath caught as Stephen bent over him, peeled back his tunic and kissed his abdomen. He had performed the maneuver only days ago, when the skin had been stretched around their daughter. Emotions welled in Loki that he couldn't quite understand and he feared for a moment that he might cry.

Stephen straightened and captured Loki's lips in a brief, tender kiss. He settled beside the Jotun, being mindful of where their bodies touched so he didn't cause him any pain. Loki was both grateful and annoyed by the gesture. He remained quiet and still as Stephen traced his features with light, trembling fingers.

"Is this really the form you are most comfortable in?"

Loki bit back a sigh. He had known this was coming. "You preferred me as a woman."

"I meant Asgardian."

Loki blinked. The human was annoyingly determined to defy his expectations. "It's the body I've had most of my life. I suspect my birth mother was Asgardian, but the only parents I ever knew were Odin and Frigga. Whatever my birthright...this is who I am."

"Well...I meant what I said. You're still you no matter what form you take." He traced Loki's jaw. "You're beautiful."

Loki captured the wandering hand and pressed his lips into Stephen's palm. "I'm afraid," he murmured into the scarred flesh.

"I know," Stephen replied softly. "I am too. But whatever happens - whenever it happens - we will get through it together. Just promise me one thing."


"Don't ever do something like that again. TALK to me before you go off half-cocked on some crazy plan. Especially if it involves using the time stone."

Loki's lips twitched in a half-hearted attempt at a smirk. He nodded, though he doubted that was a promise he could realistically make. He twisted his body closer to the humans and let his leathers melt away, replacing them with more Earth appropriate attire. He noted the relief that flickered in Stephen's eyes.

"You are correct that this cannot last," he murmured, reaching to gently run his fingers over the streak of white in Stephen's hair. "But not for the reasons you believe. Human lives are much too short. You will leave me long before I could ever grow bored of you."

A slow smile crept over Stephen's face as he realized the meaning of Loki's words. It was as close to a declaration of love as either of them had ventured. He eased his arms around the god, tugging him closer. "Rest," he whispered. "I will give you some more pain meds when you wake up."

Loki didn't really want to sleep, but his brief burst of energy was running out and the exhaustion of nearly two days of labor was creeping back in. He would have to face his destiny sooner than later, but there was no sense rushing it. And he did not have to face it alone.

He closed his eyes and focused on the feeling of Stephen's arms around him - lips occasionally pressing gently against his temple - and allowed himself to fall asleep.


He woke in a cold sweat from a nightmare about his time at the mercy of Thanos' children.

"What is it, baby," Stephen slurred, barely opening his eyes.

"Nothing," Loki said quickly, breathing deeply, calming as the dream loosened its hold. "It's all right. Go back to sleep." He brought the sorcerer's hand to his mouth, pressing his lips to the knuckles.

Stephen hummed and closed his eyes again, easily giving in to the pull of sleep.

Loki lay awake, listening to Stephen's breathing deepen, his thoughts running wild. Thanos was coming. He could sense it. Of course, he'd known about the Titan's quest to gather the Infinity stones in a deranged plan to save the universe by destroying half of the beings in it, but he hadn't really cared before. He hadn't had anything to lose and Thanos wouldn't bother with him anymore after that botched mission.

But now...

The Tesseract had fallen into Loki's possession again. Lorelei had stolen it before Asgard was destroyed and only he knew where it was hidden, but it was only a matter of time before Thanos realized that.

Did Thanos already know Stephen had the time stone? He must. Yet he hadn't come to collect it yet. He had been inexplicably quiet since the attack on Earth and nobody but him and possibly his children knew why. It was possible he was waiting until he knew the location of EVERY stone so he could gather them all at once and complete his plans before anyone could mount a defense to stop him.

This must be why Hela ended up the daughter of Odin. Stephen would send her back in time in a desperate effort to save her as Thanos laid waste to his world. Would they both die fighting the Titan?

Loki slipped from the bed carefully so as not to wake the human and crept to the nursery.

Hela was awake and just beginning to fuss. Despite the evidence of a mothering instinct he had discovered earlier, Loki was unsure as he lifted her from her bed. He didn't have any experience with caring for infants. Nursing Slepenir for a couple weeks before retaking his Asgardian form hardly counted.

Stephen's cloak was just as lacking in confidence of his abilities as he was. It had been standing guard in the corner, but it moved closer as Loki picked up the baby and he could have sworn it was poised to snatch her from him should he do anything suspicious. Loki did his best to ignore it, as he always did.

He used magic to change Hela's diaper. No sense getting his hands dirty if he didn't need to.

She continued to whimper and fuss as he replaced the onesie Stephen had dressed her in. He picked her up carefully, uncertainly. "Shh," he whispered. "It's all right. It's..."

'Your mum?' he thought, swallowing.

He cradled her, trying his best to mimic the stance he'd seen Stephen use when soothing her. "It's all right," he repeated. "I'm here, darling." It was what Lorelei had called her on the occasions she spoke to the child growing inside her. Whether because she recognized him somehow or simply by coincidence, the infant quieted.

For a moment, he simply looked at her in wonder. At the tiny fists swinging aimlessly. At the features that were a perfect combination of his and Stephen's. At the eyes that he could no longer deny were the same steely blue as the woman who had tried to kill him - only failing, he now realized, because she had to, or else she wouldn't have been born.

Thor had been right, much as Loki hated to admit it. He couldn't change anything. He had to let her fulfill her destiny. He wasn't sure there was anything he could do to stop it anyway anymore. She was the child of two very strong willed beings from races inclined toward violence. Odin tried to focus that energy for centuries before she became too powerful for him.

She changed him, Loki realized. If it hadn't been for her, Odin might have treated him differently and he may never have wound up where he did. He may never have come up with a plan to take the throne of Asgard without bloodshed by seducing a sorcerer into giving him an heir.

Her destiny had been written the moment she had been conceived.

Loki kissed her forehead, inhaling the scent of her deeply, shakily. This was why he couldn't have known his daughter's true identity until after Ragnarok, he realized. If he had known who he was really raising Sutur against, he doubted he could have gone through with it. He wished he hadn't known until after she had been sent back to Odin, but he had a feeling he needed to know that part now. Because if Thanos was really coming, Loki understood why he had to send her back. If she was left to survive the Titan's attack on Earth - an orphan among the rubble - Thanos would raise her as one of his slavish "children". Odin's parenting skills may have been flawed, but they were a far better alternative. An alternative Loki may never have considered if he didn't already know it would happen.

"You won't believe this," he whispered. "But I love you. And I'm sorry."

Hela blinked up at him innocently and then slowly drifted to sleep in his arms as he sang a lullaby he remembered his mother...their mother...singing to him when he was a child.

He tucked her carefully back in her crib and nodded at the cloak that continued to stand guard. Part of the collar waved back at him and he wasn't sure if it was a nod or a far less charitable gesture, but he was inclined to believe the former as it seemed to have relaxed since he had first entered the nursery.

He crawled back into the bed carefully so he wouldn't wake Stephen. Although really, what Loki wanted to do was wake him by kissing him breathless and then invite the human to explore this new body and see if he could illicit the same responses he had days before with filthy promises to return the favor in kind. He wanted to make the most of what limited time they both had left (together or, in fact, at all).

But it could wait until morning.

He closed his eyes and listened to Stephen's breathing for a few minutes before deciding he wasn't going to sleep anytime soon. And, he thought as he reached for Stephen, he was never much for delayed gratification.

1. This number is based on research I did a few years ago on how old all the Asgardians were. Both Thor and Loki were supposedly somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500. Except now Nick Fury is saying "almost a thousand" in the "What If" series, so...whatever. I'm sticking with this.

2. For anyone who doesn't know the song...it's about a girl dying in a "killing frost" looking for a horse that may or may not be a ghost.

3. You Can Close Your Eyes, by James Taylor, 1971.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4