Chapter 1: Frankenstein Can Suck It
[Edit: guys, I finally got my original novel off the ground! You can share the journey with me at patreon.com/sineadsmith. Hope to see you there!]
Darcy was asleep. She had certainly earned it. The birth had not been long, by Asgardian standards, less than half a day, but she was human, and the labor had been, if not difficult, rather strenuous. She had fallen asleep as soon as she had been moved into a recovery room. Elden, who now appeared as Aesir as any other Asgardian, slept also, cradled on Darcy’s chest. Darcy had insisted on something she called skin on skin, something human mothers apparently did with their newborns. In any case, it made a charming picture, both of them covered by nothing but a thin sheet.
Loki sat next to the bed, leaning back in his chair. He had a tablet in his lap, the streams of data flowing across the surface forgotten in his reverie. He found the sight of his wife and son sleeping to be endlessly fascinating. Elden was a small infant, smaller than Loki had been at birth. Darcy had already assured him that their son was a perfectly normal weight for a human, though Loki still worried.
Now that Elden was properly masked, it was even easier to see the resemblance to his father. Even with the ambiguous features of an infant, there was no doubt as to his parentage. He had a full head of glossy, ink-black hair and his skin was even paler than Darcy’s, which had lost the color it had gained from their time in the past.
Elden snuffled softly in his sleep, his face crumpling, and for a split second Loki feared he would wake and cry. But his face smoothed out again and he continued sleeping. Curious, Loki leaned forward and traced his fingertip across the soft skin of his son’s forehead.
Loki did not have an abundance of mind magics, like his mother, or Darcy. His bond with Darcy had been entirely of her creation. However, Elden was his own flesh and blood, and that changed things slightly. Loki was able to gather a series of muddled sensations from his son.
Elden’s mind was not developed enough to form coherent thoughts, so what Loki received was a vague impression of tired/warm/mother?/safe . He could also sense a growing hunger, and knew that Elden would need to eat in the near future. Darcy would be allowed to nurse Elden for the first few days, when he would need the least amount of nutrients, and after that she would feed him from a bottle for several weeks. Only once the bond between mother and child was in place would Elden’s nutrition be handed over to a wet nurse.
“Hey,” came Darcy’s hoarse voice, and Loki looked up from where he was still leaning over Elden. She smiled at him wearily, her eyes shadowed by purple bruises.
“Did I wake you?” Loki asked in concern.
“Nah,” Darcy replied, and tucked her chin against her chest so she could look down at the top of Elden’s head. “Too excited to sleep long. How’s he looking?”
“Perfect,” Loki assured her.
Darcy rubbed Elden’s back soothingly. “I told you. We make pretty babies, not monsters.”
“He is no monster,” Loki agreed. He reached over and brushed a few strands of hair from Darcy’s face. “Do you need anything?”
Darcy took a deep breath. “I don’t know about you, but I am starving .”
“What do you wish to eat?” Loki asked. “Name anything and I’ll see to it.”
“Anything?” she challenged.
“Anything at all,” Loki assured her.
Darcy scrunched her face up. “There was this steakhouse in Stuttgart, I think it was called the Meatery? It was off Kronprinzstraβe, I remember that. I can’t even remember what I had, it was so long ago. But it had steak fat, and rock salt on top? And the potatoes were to die for.”
Loki smirked. “Trust you to crave food on an entirely different realm.”
Darcy gave him a hopeful expression. “You said anything .”
“I did indeed,” Loki replied. He rose to his feet and leaned down to kiss her briefly on the mouth. “Can you do without me for a few hours?”
She wrinkled her nose. “Is Wyrd still here? Can you send her instead?”
“Quite a favor to ask,” Loki observed.
“She’ll do it,” Darcy said confidently. “I’m her sister, and I just had a baby.”
At that moment there was a brisk knock on the door before Wyrd opened it and let herself in. “I heard my name,” she announced quietly.
“You couldn’t possibly have heard us talking through that door,” Darcy replied archly.
Wyrd grinned back. “Is there something I can do for you, darling?”
Darcy gave Loki a triumphant look. “Actually, there is.”
After Wyrd had been kind enough to bring Darcy food (which was just as heavenly as she remembered), Eir announced that they had drawn a bath for Darcy. Apparently it was some kind of healing bath meant to speed along her recovery, which Darcy was all for, because having a baby fucking hurt . It had hurt during, and it hurt after. Asgardian women evidently did not use painkillers during childbirth, so Darcy had had to do it the hard way.
The bath had been prepared in the bathroom connected to her recovery room, so it was private. Wyrd helped Darcy into the tub while Loki hovered worriedly nearby. Elden was in a basket by the window, awake but content after his first feeding.
The water, as usual, was at the perfect temperature for Darcy, cloudy with whatever healing elements Eir had added to it. Once she was safely submerged, Wyrd shooed Loki away.
“She is fine ,” Wyrd insisted. “She doesn’t need you circling overhead like a vulture.”
Darcy leaned back against the side of the tub. “Why don’t you hold Elden, Loki?” she suggested.
Loki froze, an uncertain expression on his face. “I--I do not have experience in dealing with infants,” he said, his voice catching.
“How do you expect to get experience?” Darcy challenged. “Go on. Just make sure you support his head.”
“Do you want me to show you?” Wyrd offered.
Loki appeared to battle his pride for a moment, and then caved. “Yes, if you would,” he said softly.
Darcy watched while Wyrd bent down to gather Elden into her arms. She trusted the Eldest implicitly with her son. Wyrd had birthed many children of her own, not to mention overseen the births of her countless nieces and nephews.
“Hold him against your body thusly,” Wyrd told Loki. “Use your other hand to ensure he does not roll out of your arms. See?”
“Yes,” Loki said tightly. Wyrd stepped towards him to transfer Elden to Loki. Darcy watched as Loki’s entire body tensed, his shoulders hitching upwards. When Wyrd actually place Elden in Loki’s arms, Darcy heard him draw a sharp breath inwards.
Elden made a tiny sound, like a kitten mewling, and then immediately settled, rubbing his chubby cheek against the soft material of Loki’s tunic. The expression on Loki’s face was one of unadulterated wonder. He stared down at the infant in his arms, eyes wide. Loki drifted back towards the tub, and Wyrd wisely grabbed a stool and dragged it over. Loki sat without even looking around.
The water was already doing wonders for Darcy. She could feel her muscles relaxing and the pain was ebbing away. She sloshed over to the side closest to where Loki sat, propping her arms on the edge of the tub.
“Hey,” she said. “You doing okay?”
Loki couldn’t even bring himself to reply, so enraptured was he with his son. Darcy smiled and rested her chin on her hands, content to watch the two of them together. Loki used the back of one finger to stroke Elden’s cheek.
“You were wrong,” Loki murmured without looking up.
Darcy raised an eyebrow. “About what?”
“There is no possible way I could be called the Father of Monsters, if this is my child,” he replied, tilting his head.
Darcy snorted. “A, I told you so. B, that prophecy may not have been literal.”
Loki took a deep breath. “I did not think there could be anything in this universe I loved as much as you,” he went on. His voice had a dreamy quality. “Until the girls, and now Elden.”
“Don’t make me swoon, I’ll drown,” Darcy teased. Loki’s head shot up and he glanced quickly at her as if to assure himself her head was still above water. He frowned at her and went back to staring at Elden.
Darcy stayed in the water until it went cool, dried off, fed Elden again, and felt strong enough to have visitors. Loki went to fetch their other children (including Fenris, who was now a curious, clumsy, and rambunctious pup that thrived on his sisters’ attention).
When they arrived, the girls were quiet and shy, huddling around Loki just inside the doorway. Fenris wriggled in Loki’s arms, begging to be put down. Once Loki obliged, Fenris bumbled over to Darcy’s bed and begged to be picked up again.
“What are you guys hiding over there for?” Darcy demanded. “Come meet your brother.”
It was Kari who stepped forward first, following Fenris. She stooped and hefted the wolf cub in her arms, plopping him on the bed, and climbed up after him. Fenris wriggled in excitement, trying to crawl into Darcy’s lap, and only belatedly realized there was an infant in her arms. His tail whipped back and forth as he sniffed eagerly at the blanket covering Elden’s feet.
Kari stared hard at Elden’s face for several seconds. Small , she signed to Darcy.
Darcy nodded back. “Yeah, he is, isn’t he?”
Kari frowned and sat back on her heels. The other girls crept closer, lining up along the side of the bed. Loki followed them and leaned down to pick Sylvi up around the waist, setting her on the bed next to Kari. That prompted the rest of the girls to clamber up and gather around Darcy.
“His name is Elden?” Astra asked.
“That’s right,” Darcy told her. “Elden Lokison-Lewis. Just like your name is Astra Lokidottir-Lewis.”
There was a long moment of silence from the girls, much to Darcy’s confusion. It was Erika who broke the silence, tears in her voice. “When are you sending us away?” she asked, too emotional to speak in English.
Darcy stared at her, not comprehending her question for a long moment. “What?” she finally asked. “Why would we send you away?”
“You have him now,” Gyda explained unhappily. “You won’t want us anymore.”
Loki sat on the bed next to Darcy. “That is not true,” he told the girls firmly. “We will always want you. Having Elden does not change that.”
Astra heaved a deep breath. “Promise?” she asked in a high, squeaky voice.
“You have my word,” Loki told her solemnly.
Astra held up her fist, little finger extended. “Pinky promise?”
Loki, with a grave expression on his face, hooked his little finger around hers. “Most certainly.”
Darcy would have given anything for a camera.
Chapter 2: Man, I Feel Like A Woman
I have decided to keep up the tradition of posting on my birthday! I am too damn close to thirty for comfort. In honor of my new furbaby, Loki (who was named that before I adopted him, I swear), please give your pets a treat and tell them I love them. All of them. Every last one. They're all magnificent.
Darcy knew that she was lucky. Now that Elden was on the bottle, she and Loki could take turns waking up at night to feed him. Which meant she got approximately 50% more sleep than the average new mother. Loki would have handled all the feedings, but Darcy wanted to get up and feed her son. It would only be a few short weeks before he would be transitioned to a wet nurse, so her opportunities to bond with him through feeding were running low.
This particular morning, Loki had taken the last feeding before dawn, so Darcy would have the opportunity to get a decent stretch of sleep before getting up to face the day. The trade negotiations with Niflheim were to resume, and Elden’s naming ceremony would be this evening, which, as Asgardian events usually did, entailed a banquet.
Odin had been kind enough to send Sif to fetch Darcy’s parents for the ceremony and, after much discussion, Darcy had managed to convince Loki to let them bring their Temple’s Rabbi. Darcy was adamant about doing Elden’s brit milah on his eighth day, and Loki had eventually caved, on the caveat that she agree to an Asgardian dedication as well.
So it was going to be a very long day, and Darcy was grateful for the extra few hours of sleep. She woke to the sound of Loki rummaging around in the closet. With a faint groan, she clawed her head free of the blankets and rolled over to check the bassinet beside the bed.
Elden was fast asleep, lips pursed and tiny hands tucked under his chin. He’d lost a bit of weight the first few days after birth, much to Eir’s consternation. Darcy had to reassure her (and Loki) that was normal for humans. He’d gained the weight back as soon as he went on the bottle, anyway.
Loki emerged from the closet and Darcy rolled back over, but her intended question died on her lips. She found herself staring at the woman she’d only known as No One, a lifetime ago on Muspell. Darcy blinked and wondered how she could have been so blind as to not realize the woman had, in fact, been Loki. They had the same razor-sharp cheekbones, the same noble brow, the same deep-set eyes.
Loki had a mouthful of pins and was twisting her hair up into a complicated style without the aid of a mirror. She was dressed in a knee-length tunic in her customary green, trimmed with black and gold embroidery. Over it she had on a molded leather and metal breastplate that had two pieces, hinged together at her sternum. Darcy recognized the vambraces and the boots to be the ones Loki always seemed to wear in spite of current gender.
Once the last pin was in place, Loki turned around to find Darcy awake and very curious. “You’re staring,” she pointed out.
“Uh-huh,” Darcy said, unabashedly checking her spouse out.
Loki raised an eyebrow. “You find this form pleasing?”
“Uh-huh,” Darcy said again. She blinked a few times. “Though it begs the question why you’re in this form. Not that I’m complaining. At all .”
Loki pressed her lips together in annoyance. “The negotiations begin again today, and Hariasa and her father will be present. I am in no mood to tolerate her attentions.”
Darcy snorted. “Lemme guess. Hariasa is straight.”
“Very much so,” Loki confirmed. “I have used this form to escape her before.”
Darcy groaned and flopped face down onto the bed. She asked a question that was completely muffled by the mattress. Loki sat on the bed and dragged her fingertips down Darcy’s back, making her shiver.
“I did not understand any of that, elskede ,” she said, amused.
Darcy popped her head up. “Why can’t you just tell her to beat it?” she complained. “You’re a freakin’ prince … ess. Princess.”
“And her father’s businesses provide for most of the needs of the palace,” Loki replied bitterly. “If I were to deliberately insult her, I could do irreparable damage.”
Darcy groaned again, but then her eyes widened. “I know. Let’s find Hariasa and make out right in front of her. Like, really obnoxiously.”
Loki hooked her fingers under Darcy’s chin and tilted her face upwards. “I approve of that idea,” she said with a smirk, and then leaned down to kiss Darcy. It was the first time she’d done that in female form. Her lips were softer as a woman. Darcy liked it. She liked male Loki, too, of course. But female Loki was nice in her own way.
Elden made the little mewling sound he made when he woke up, and Darcy broke away from Loki to flop awkwardly onto the other side of the bed to get to him. “Hey, sweetheart,” she cooed, gathering him into her arms. He screwed his face up, as if he was going to begin wailing, but only let out a high-pitched squeak instead.
Darcy summoned a bottle from her pocket dimension and held it out to Loki. She wrapped her hand over Darcy’s, and the bottle warmed to Darcy’s exact body temperature. “Thanks, babe,” Darcy told her, and offered the bottle to Elden.
“Do you wish me to choose your clothing?” Loki asked, leaning over Darcy shoulder to stare at Elden’s face.
“If you don’t mind,” Darcy replied, distracted.
Loki didn’t immediately move, and reached around to stroke Elden’s cheek with one fingertip. For a moment they remained like that, the three of them, two parents and their child. Then Loki stirred, placed a soft kiss on the side of Darcy’s neck, and left the bed, disappearing back into the closet.
Elden suckled at the bottle hungrily, blinking open cloudy blue eyes to peer near-sightedly at his mother. His tiny fists waved in the air and his expression was one of deep concentration. Darcy stared back down at her son. It had been six days and she was still not over the fact that this was her son . Her own baby. That she made (with Loki’s help). It was incredible. But, unfortunately, duty called, and Loki returned with appropriate clothing for the day. Once Elden was fed, Darcy was dressed, it was time to get the girls up.
In retrospect, they probably should have at some point told the little Widows that Loki was a shapeshifter. It wasn’t really one of the things one thought about until it became immediately pertinent. So when Loki and Darcy went into the girls’ room to get them up, there was a great deal of confusion.
“Who are you?” Astra challenged as soon as Loki walked through the doorway. “Why do you look like Papa?”
“Because I am your papa,” Loki replied, setting her hands on her hips and cocking her head at Astra.
The redheaded 4-year-old stood atop her bed in her nightgown, arms crossed over her chest. “You can’t be my Papa,” she argued. “My Papa is a boy .”
“Sometimes, yes,” Loki agreed. “But sometimes I can be female, as well.”
Astra screwed up her face to think for a long moment. Gyda came trotting over and tugged on Loki’s tunic. Loki looked down at her. “You can be a girl if you want to?” she asked, sounding more fascinated than cautious.
“Yes, I can,” Loki confirmed.
Gyda’s eyes widened. “Then why would you want to be a boy?”
Darcy couldn’t help it. She dissolved into helpless laughter, gasping for breath at the expression on Loki’s face.
“Well,” Loki said, searching for an answer. “When I was an infant, my parents decided I would be male, and it was not until I was older that I discovered I could be also be female.”
Gyda nodded sagely. “Can I be a boy if I want to?” she asked.
“Yes, if you truly felt that you were male, it is possible,” Loki replied.
Gyda shook her head. “I don’t think so. I like being a girl.”
Loki smiled. “So do I.”
Erika clawed her abundance of curly hair out of her face. “Does this mean we have to call you mama? Because we already have a mama.”
“You may still call me Papa,” Loki told her. “I will always be your papa, no matter what form I wear.”
Kari climbed out of bed and walked over, looking Loki up and down. She smiled and made the sign for “pretty.” Loki smiled and nodded back. “I think you are beautiful as well, meyla .”
That was all the convincing the girls needed, as it turned out, and they accepted Loki’s gender change with graceful aplomb and were content to breakfast as normal before Loki and Darcy had to leave.
Elden was tucked into a fabric sling across Darcy’s chest, happy to sleep through the talks to his next feeding. As they entered the conference hall, the gathered dignitaries turned to look at them. Loki didn’t miss a beat, striding in ahead of Darcy so she could pull Darcy’s chair out for her.
Angrboda smiled at the sight of them. “Loki, Lady Darcy. It is so good to have you back. Congratulations.”
Loki smiled at her old friend. “Thank you, Angrboda. You are very kind.”
A whisper went around the room and Darcy couldn’t help sending a surreptitious glance in Hariasa’s direction. The Asgardian woman was staring at Loki with a frown. Her father leaned over to whisper in her ear and she frowned even harder.
“Excuse me, Prince Loki,” said an older Asgardian delegate whose name Darcy couldn’t remember for the life of her.
Loki, who had not yet taken a seat, turned to face the man, one delicate eyebrow raised questioningly. “Yes?” she asked, ignoring the deliberate misgendering.
“We of course understand that the last few days have been trying for you and your wife,” the Asgardian gentleman started. “And we all do wish your son good fortune and good health, but perhaps you and Lady Sigyn may wish to take a few more days to rest?”
Loki propped her arm against the back of Darcy’s chair. “Your concern for our wellbeing is touching, Baedor,” she said with only the barest hint of sarcasm. “However, the negotiations have been delayed long enough. I would think we would all be eager to come to a resolution.”
“Of course, you are right,” Baedor continued, inclining his head respectfully, “But if you are not feeling yourself…”
“Baedor, simply say that you take exception to my current form and be done with it,” Loki said flatly. “My gender does not dictate my ability to fulfill my duties. I assure you my mind is quite the same.”
Angrboda snorted indelicately behind her hand while another murmur went through the gathered delegates. Baedor’s face suffused with blood and he stood stiff and silent for a long moment, then he bowed jerkily and stalked back to his chair.
Odin arrived at that moment, sweeping grandly into the room, flanked by his Einherjar. He scanned the room with his single eye, and it fell on Loki. For a split second Darcy thought she saw annoyance flash across his face, and then it was gone, smoothing out into the impassive mask the Allfather wore.
“Loki. Lady Sigyn,” he greeted. He stopped at Darcy’s chair and leaned down to look at Elden, who was briefly awake. “May I?” he asked Darcy.
Unsure of what he meant but unwilling to flat out tell him “no,” Darcy merely nodded silently. Odin leaned down, carefully plucked Elden from the sling, and tucked him into the crook of one arm. Then he strode around to the head of the table and sat, signalling the session would begin.
Loki slid into the seat next to Darcy, her green eyes fixed on her father. Darcy leaned over. “Ok. I had no idea your dad even liked kids.”
Loki shrugged minutely. “Is it not universal that many a distant parent becomes a doting grandparent?” she whispered back.
“Apparently,” Darcy muttered.
Odin called a recess around midday for a meal, and during the whole morning had not relinquished Elden at all, not even for his feedings. He’d merely stared expectantly at Loki until she had hesitantly handed over the bottle. Many of the delegates, including Thorvald, kept sending uncertain looks in the Allfather’s direction, but no one dared say anything.
Darcy was wondering if she should just straight up ask Odin for her son back when Hariasa approached her. Darcy sighed internally when she saw the taller woman headed her direction.
“I wanted to wish you congratulations, Lady Sigyn,” Hariasa said with a thin-lipped smile. “A first-born son. Clearly the Allfather is pleased.”
“We were just hoping for healthy,” Darcy replied mildly. “But thank you.”
“It must be trying for you, so soon after the birth,” Hariasa continued.
Darcy couldn’t even bring herself to roll her eyes. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what you mean.”
“Loki was always playing tricks when we were children,” Hariasa went on. “I would have thought he’d matured past that.”
Darcy narrowed her eyes. “Are you talking about Loki being female?”
“Well, I was not going to put it quite so bluntly…” Hariasa tilted her head demurely.
“Why not?” Darcy demanded. “She decided to be a woman today. She has that right.”
“And you are… content with that?” Hariasa probed.
“Why wouldn’t I be?” Darcy asked, now thoroughly annoyed. “Loki’s gender identity is her own business. I don’t have a say in that. She needs to do whatever she feels is best.”
“Well, I would imagine it would be difficult for him to fulfill his husbandly duties as a woman,” Hariasa said with the faintest hint of a sneer.
“Actually it’s no trouble at all,” Darcy replied with a smile.
Loki appeared at Darcy’s elbow, gave Hariasa a flat look, and turned to Darcy. “Unfortunately, I do not think the Allfather will be relinquishing our son any time soon,” she told Darcy.
“Oh boy,” Darcy said. She checked the clock on the wall. “Sif should be getting back with my parents and the rabbi in an hour. I was really hoping to introduce them to him then.”
“I will endeavor to retrieve him at the end of today’s session, but I cannot make a promise,” Loki replied dryly. “If the Allfather hands him over to my mother, we will never see him again.”
Hariasa, piqued at being ignored, interrupted sharply, “It must be confusing to your wards, having you change shape so often, Loki.”
Loki gave her another flat look. “Not at all,” she said simply. “I do not want you walking to the Bifrost,” she told Darcy. “Do you wish me to call for a skúta or a horse?”
“A skúta is fine,” Darcy replied. “That way my parents and Rabbi Moses don’t have to walk back, either. None of them are exactly spring chickens anymore and it’s like, three miles to the palace.”
“You should leave soon, then,” Loki told her. She was still a great deal taller than Darcy as a woman, and had to lean down to press a kiss to Darcy’s temple. “I will see you before the banquet.”
“Thanks, babe.” Darcy eyed Hariasa challengingly and then swept regally away. She’d check in with the girls before going to meet her parents. Hariasa had better not try anything while she was gone, though, or Darcy was finally going to lose it.
“Darcy,” Heimdall greeted when she reached the Bifrost. “A momentous day for you.”
“Yup,” Darcy agreed. She scratched her chin. “Hey, do you ever get any time off?”
“I do require time to eat and sleep,” Heimdall replied, raising one eyebrow. “Why do you ask, little one?”
“Elden’s brit milah is tomorrow, and I’d really love for you to show,” Darcy explained. “You’ve been my friend for so long, and it’s important to me.”
Heimdall inclined his head, thinking for a moment. “The Eldest is still in Asagarth, no?”
“She is,” Darcy acknowledged.
“Will she be attending this brit milah?”
Darcy shifted her weight. “Uh, no. She doesn’t agree with the fact that I am still observing the religion of my childhood despite being awakened.”
“If she is willing to take my place here at the Bifrost, I would be honored to attend the ceremony,” Heimdall told her.
Darcy beamed. “Awesome. I’ll ask her.”
Heimdall nodded, a small smile on his lips. “Ah. Sif returns with your family and your religious leader.”
Darcy bounced excitedly on her toes. “Can’t wait !” she said, clapping her hands together.
Heimdall stepped to the Bifrost lock and slid his sword into place, activating the bridge. Within moments, Sif arrived with Darcy’s parents, and Rabbi Moses. The rabbi looked around dazedly and then promptly passed out. Sif thankfully caught him before he hit the ground.
“Oh, no,” Joanna said with a grimace. “Is he going to be alright?”
“Every person reacts to the Bifrost differently,” Heimdall said. “But the bridge causes no one harm. Greetings once more, Lady Joanna, Sir George.”
“Thank you,” George said with a shaky smile.
Darcy squealed and launched herself at her father, nearly knocking him off his feet in her enthusiasm. “Ohmagod, I’m so happy you’re here!” she all but shrieked.
“I wouldn’t miss this for the world, Darce,” George assured her, hugging her back. He only let her go so she could glomp her mother.
“You look amazing!” Joanna said. “How do you feel? Where is he?”
“Thank you, very okay, and with Odin,” Darcy answered. “Odin claimed him from me this morning and then refused to give him back. You guys have competition.”
“Bring it on,” Joanna said, her eyes narrowing.
Rabbi Moses began to come around. He groaned and reached up to rub his eyes with one hand. He opened them to find Sif staring down at him with an annoyed expression. “Oh, dear,” he mumbled.
“Can you stand?” Sif asked brusquely.
“Yes, I believe so,” Rabbi Moses said. Sif set him on his feet, held him a moment to ensure he would not fall again, and then stepped back. The rabbi looked around again. “Oh. Oh .”
“It’s a lot to take in at first,” Darcy said, holding out her hand. “Rabbi. It’s good to see you again.”
“Darcy, of course, hello,” Rabbi Moses said, taking Darcy’s hand with both of his. “Congratulations on the birth of your son.”
“Thanks,” Darcy smiled. “We really appreciate you coming here to do his brit milah.”
“It is my duty to see to the needs of our people, wherever they may be,” Rabbi Moses assured her. He reached up to adjust the yarmulke on the back of his head. “I think this is the furthest I have ever traveled, though.”
“I bet,” Darcy said wryly. “This is my old friend Heimdall, by the way. He’ll be attending the ceremony tomorrow.”
Rabbi Moses blinked a few times and had to crane his neck back to look Heimdall in the face. “Wonderful to meet you, sir,” he said a little uncertainly.
“And you,” Heimdall replied, clearly amused.
Rabbi Moses almost passed out again on the trip back in the skúta, but managed to hold himself together until they got to the palace. Darcy escorted her parents and the Rabbi back to her and Loki’s quarters to see the girls.
The girls were ecstatic to see their grandparents again. Fenris was excited that his sisters were excited and crowded up against George and Joanna so he could sniff them all over.
“You got a dog?” George asked, stooping to scratch Fenris behind the ears.
“Um, not really,” Darcy said with a grimace.
“Fenris is our brother!” Erika announced. “We have two brothers now!”
“Fenris is a hyper-intelligent magical construct that is technically Loki’s offspring,” Darcy explained to her parents. “He’s a person, just shaped like a wolf.”
Joanna stared at Darcy for a long moment. “Is anything in your life normal?” she asked flatly.
“I’m gonna go with ‘no,’” Darcy replied.
Loki returned with Elden three hours later, looking harried and perturbed. Darcy had been trying to find a way to tell her parents that Loki was temporarily the opposite gender, but eventually gave up and decided to tell them when Loki arrived.
Joanne looked up when the door to the sitting room opened and Loki entered, holding Elden against her shoulder with one hand and reading from a tablet with the other. “ Elskede , can you take him for a moment,” she asked as soon as she stepped inside.
“Yeah, what’s up, babe?” Darcy jumped up from the couch and hurried over to take Elden. He was awake but fussing, squirming in her arms.
“Thorvald and Baedor have joined forces to make my life exceedingly tedious,” Loki complained. “Neither of them will accept Angrboda’s amendments to the trading contracts we’ve drawn up, and I am certain they are doing it out of spite.”
“Sucks, dude,” Darcy said sympathetically, bouncing Elden lightly in her arms.
Loki shook her head with a sigh. “Nothing that matters at the moment. George, Joanna, welcome back to Asgard. And you must be Rabbi Moses. Welcome. I am Loki, Darcy’s spouse.” Loki stepped towards the Rabbi, holding out her hand.
Rabbi Moses blinked a few times, staring at Loki. “H-hello,” he said uncertainly, shaking Loki’s hand.
“Ah,” Loki said, shooting Darcy an exasperated look. “Darcy must have failed to mention that I am a shapeshifter.”
“I was going to, I just didn’t know how,” Darcy said, walking over to her mother.
“So… Loki is a woman now,” Joanna said slowly. “Because he--uh she? Can change shapes.”
“Yup,” Darcy said, putting Elden in Joanna’s arms.
“Oh, Darcy!” Joanna said, immediately distracted. “He’s so beautiful.”
“Isn’t he just?” Darcy beamed.
“Am I to understand that you are normally… male?” Rabbi Moses asked hesitantly.
“That is the gender I spend most of my time as,” Loki said wryly.
“Oh, I see,” the Rabbi said, and thought for a moment.
“George, come look at him,” Joanna said.
George broke off staring at Loki to join his wife. “Wow,” he said, grinning. “He’s a handsome fella, isn’t he?”
Darcy crossed over to the girls’ playroom, “Hey, ladies. Papa’s home!”
The next couple of hours were a blur of preparation for Elden’s naming ceremony and the subsequent banquet. Joanna and George acquiesced to wearing Asgardian formal clothing, but Rabbi Moses politely declined.
Jane and Thor arrived to escort Darcy and Loki to the ceremony. Thor grimaced when he caught sight of his brother. “Do you truly mean to attend the ceremony thusly?” he asked in annoyance.
“Yes,” Loki said stubbornly. “Is that a problem?”
“No,” Thor said with a sigh.
“Loki? That’s you?” Jane asked curiously, poking Loki in the arm with one finger.
“As ever,” Loki replied, amused.
“Okay. That’s new, but okay,” Jane said, nodding. “You look amazing, by the way.”
Darcy, Loki, Jane, and Thor waited at the great entrance to the banquet hall, waiting for the signal to enter. Elden was fussing again, despite being fed moments before. Darcy was desperately trying to get him to settle down. Thor eventually leaned over.
“Don’t trouble yourself,” he assured her. “It is considered a good sign if the babe is gusty during the ceremony. Shows he has a strong spirit.”
“Oh,” Darcy said. “Okay then.”
The doors swung inwards and a wave of noise washed over Darcy as the gathered members of the Royal Court cheered at the sight of them. Darcy kept her head held high as she paced alongside Loki, Thor and Jane ahead of them.
Darcy’s parents were waiting on the dais with Odin and Frigga, and Rabbi Moses had a position of honor on the steps, along with Sif, Wyrd, Eir, and the rest of their children. When they reached the dais, Loki and Thor bowed to the Allfather, but Darcy, as a norn, and Jane, as a human, were not required to make an obeisance.
Odin raised Gungnir and slammed the butt of the spear against the floor, making a noise far louder than it should have. At this signal, the hall went dead silent. Odin gazed down at Loki and Darcy for a moment.
“Who is it you bring before the Allfather?” he asked in a quiet voice that still managed to carry to every part of the hall.
“We bring the child born of royal blood this day,” Loki replied in a high, clear voice.
“And who brings the child?” Odin asked.
“I, Loki Odinson, and Sigyn of the norns, bring this child,” Loki recited.
Odin held out his spear to Frigga, who took it from him so Odin could hold out his hands. Darcy ascended the dais to place Elden in Odin’s arms. At the separation from his mother, Elden wailed at the top of his tiny lungs, bringing a smile to Odin’s face.
Odin raised Elden towards the gathered crowd. “Behold the child,” he announced. “The firstborn son of my second born child, Loki. This child is flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood, a scion of the house of Odin.”
The hall erupted into cheers again, which caused Elden to wail even louder. Loki had to put a hand on Darcy’s arm to prevent her from snatching her son back from his grandfather.
Odin cradled Elden to his chest and brushed his fingertip across Elden’s forehead. The infant’s screams dropped to angry whimpers, then died out. The hall gradually silenced again.
“Now and hereafter,” Odin began. “This child will be known as Elden Lokison, prince of Asgard, holder of all rights and privileges of that title, so long as the people of Asgard wills it.”
“We will it,” the gathered crowd replied as one.
Thor ascended to the last step before the dais, next to Darcy, and accepted Elden from Odin. He turned to face the hall. “I, Thor Odinson, by the will of the people heir to the throne of Asgard, name Elden Lokison, son of my sibling, my heir and third in line to the throne, until such a time as I am granted a son of my blood.”
Another cheer rose from the audience. Thor gestured to Jane, who stepped up on his other side. Darcy stepped down so Loki could take her place. “Do you, Thor son of Odin, accept the duty of fóstri for this child?” Loki asked. “To train him in the ways of Asgard, to instruct him in honor and strength, to guide and guard him as if he were your own?”
“I do,” Thor replied solemnly.
Loki turned to Jane. “Do you, Jane of the house Foster, accept the duty of fóstra for this child, to train him in the ways of Midgard, to instruct him in honor and strength, to guide and guard him as if he were your own?”
“I do,” Jane said, her voice barely carrying.
There was another part of the ceremony where Odin would have asked Darcy to swear fealty to Asgard, to give up all other loyalties and obligations and dedicate her life to the raising of the prince of Asgard, but this had to be left out as she was a norn, and could not hold loyalty to any one realm.
So instead Frigga had tactfully suggested that Odin declare Darcy’s parents honorary citizens of Asgard, to give them the rights and privileges as such, without conflicting with any obligations to Midgard as citizens of earth.
Finally Elden was returned safely to Darcy, and he made his displeasure at being separated from her known. Darcy cradled him close to her chest and bounced him gently. Loki wrapped her arm around Darcy’s waist and leaned over to whisper in her ear.
“It is official. You are the mother of a prince of Asgard.”
“Lucky me,” Darcy said, and wasn’t completely sarcastic.
Chapter 3: The Price We Pay For Freedom
He could not move. He was fairly certain he was not breathing. He did not know where he was. She stood at his side and just behind him. He could not see Her, but felt Her presence, peering through his mind with a terrible, scorching eye, laying all his secrets bare.
He stood in front of an altar of stone, and upon lay an obsidian knife, cold and ugly, a thing of death and nothing more.
“Take up the knife,” She whispered in his mind, and his body moved forward, like a puppet driven by Her desire. He did not want to take up the knife, but he could not fight Her, could not stop Her, only watch as his hand stretched out for it.
Another hand reached the knife before his; small, pale, and quick, and then the knife was gone from his grasp. Her attention on him wavered, and for a moment he was free of her will. He looked up to see the person who had taken the knife from him.
A woman; dark blue eyes and chestnut hair, pale and scared in a white gown. His heart, still in his chest, beat once, and then twice, then found a rhythm. She spoke to him, called his name. He heard the words but did not understand them.
But her voice… he knew that voice…
The woman pleaded with Her. Let him go, she begged. Free him. But She laughed in his mind.
“Take up the knife,” She said again.
He did not want the knife. He did not want to hurt the woman.
Loki, the woman called. I need you. Please.
Air rushed into his lungs as he took his first breath, then another. The woman still held the knife in her hand. No. The knife was death. He did not want her to die. But he could not move, could not call out to her, could not take the knife.
The woman called his name one more time, then plunged the knife into her own stomach.
Loki woke before she realized what had woke her, and for a moment was caught between dream-male-consciousness and awake-female-consciousness, so it took her a moment before she realized someone was whispering her name.
“Loki ,” Darcy hissed again, quiet despite the fact they were alone in their chamber and the room was soundproof.
It was still dark, and Darcy was leaning over her, a concerned expression stamped on her features. “What is it?” Loki muttered, reaching up to rub her eyes.
“You were having a nightmare,” Darcy explained in a low voice.
The dream was quite vivid in Loki’s mind, an indelible memory she feared would never fade. “I am fine,” she assured Darcy, her voice still thick with sleep. “I am sorry I woke you.”
“You didn’t,” Darcy replied, sounding disgruntled. She dropped back onto the mattress with a sigh, burying her face into one of the many pillows.
Loki blinked a few times to clear away the grip of sleep and rolled over onto her side. “Why were you awake?” she asked.
Darcy’s reply was muffled by the pillow, and even Loki’s keen ear could not catch it. Loki reached out and put her hand on Darcy’s shoulder, shaking her slightly. “ Elskede ,” she pressed.
Darcy rolled her head to face Loki. “I miss Elden,” she admitted in an unhappy mutter.
It was Loki’s turn to sigh. Elden’s time on the bottle had ended, and his feeding had been turned over to Brenna, his new wet nurse. As was the custom, Elden moved from his parent’s bedroom to Brenna’s, so he would not disturb Loki and Darcy. Darcy was not handling it well.
Loki rubbed her hand down Darcy’s back. “You will become accustomed to it, my love,” she assured her wife.
“But I miss him,” Darcy said in a tone very close to a whine. “He’s my baby . I want him close to me all the time.”
Loki pulled Darcy close to her and held her tight against her chest. “I know. I would rather him close to me, also. He is my son, too. But you cannot provide for his needs, and there is no reason for you to wake for feedings you do not participate in.”
For a few moments Darcy lay still in Loki’s arms. “Could you feed him?” she asked suddenly. “This form, this you ,” here Darcy poked Loki in the arm. “This isn’t just a glamor or a veil, right? You’re actually female, right?”
Loki frowned and cleared her throat. “Well, yes … however…”
When she did not finish her sentence, Darcy pulled back to look at Loki’s face. “However?” she prompted.
Loki felt suddenly very claustrophobic, as if her skin was too tight for her body. She quickly, but gently, disentangled from Darcy and rolled out of bed, walking over to the terrace and dismissing the transparent shielding so she could pass through.
The night, as usual, was cool on Asgard. The city, stretching below the palace, was lit with golden light, breathtakingly lovely even after a lifetime of living there. Loki stared past it with unseeing eyes, out to the place where the ocean ended, out into the long dark.
Darcy joined her after a moment, a woolen blanket wrapped around her shoulders against the chill. For a short while they stood in silence, side by side at the railing. Then Darcy slipped her hand under Loki’s arm.
“What did I say wrong?” she asked quietly. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“You didn’t,” Loki said quickly, and then fell silent. She looked down to see Darcy staring up at her with a confused and hurt expression. Loki swallowed. “It is not easy to explain,” she admitted.
“Okay,” Darcy said. “Try going slow, and use little words.”
Loki huffed silently, frustrated not at Darcy, but at herself. “I am not a woman,” she said in a rush, and stopped again. Darcy continued to stare at her, but this time held her peace. “I can take the form of a woman, but I am not one,” Loki went on. She tilted her head to the side, unable to meet Darcy’s gaze.
“I am not a man,” she said after a brief pause. “I can take the form of a man, but I am not one. I am neither. I am both.” She gestured with one hand. “Under this mask I am a Jotun. My mind… is Jotun, even if my skin is not. My blood is Jotun. My body is… Jotun.”
“And Jotnar have only one gender,” Darcy said softly.
“Yes,” Loki replied, lowering her hand.
“You’re intersex,” Darcy said. Loki glanced down at her, frowning. Darcy shrugged. “That’s just the term we use on earth, about humans. Someone being biologically both male and female.”
Loki nodded. “Yes, very well.”
Darcy leaned against the railing and twisted to face her, her hand still tucked under Loki’s arm. “So you’re saying that even though you present most of the time as male, you don’t consider yourself exclusively male because underneath the mask, you’re intersex?”
Loki pressed her lips together. “This is not easy for me to discuss,” she admitted. “I have never spoken of this to anyone.”
Darcy squeezed her arm gently. “I can only imagine,” she said softly. “I’ve never been in a vessel like that before, not that I can remember, anyway. I honestly have no idea what that’s like.”
Loki looked down at the city. “My father wanted another son,” she said in a voice barely above a whisper.
They were silent for a long while until Darcy spoke again. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bring up something painful.”
Loki smiled faintly. “You deserved to hear it. You are, after all, my wife and lover. It would not be fair to hide it from you.”
“You know it doesn’t matter to me, right?” Darcy said. “I mean, not in that way. Male, female, pink, blue. I still love you no matter what.”
Loki looked down at her upturned face and saw the honesty there. “Does it truly not?” she challenged. “You knew me only as Aesir, and male. Now you’ve seen me as a Jotun, and female. Do those forms truly not disgust you?”
Darcy groaned and leaned her head back. “Loki,” she said chidingly. She lowered her head and met Loki’s gaze. “Before I was awakened I was bi. Bisexual. Attracted to two or more genders. I dated a girl in high school, and again in college. Now I’m awakened… Did you know that all the norns are pansexual? Except Ingrit. Pretty sure she’s ace.”
“Pansexual?” Loki echoed the unfamiliar word. It did not translate into Allspeak.
“Attracted to all genders,” Darcy translated. She squeezed Loki’s arm again. “I don’t care what you are,” she told Loki. “I care who you are.”
Loki inhaled slowly and looked away from her intense gaze. She thought Darcy’s words over in her mind. Something occurred to her and she looked down at Darcy again. “ Elskede , was I the first man you have ever been with?”
There was something deeply satisfying in the way Darcy’s cheeks turned scarlet. She leaned forward and pressed her face against Loki’s arm.
“... yes ,” she admitted, her voice muffled.
Loki laughed at that and put her hands on Darcy’s shoulder, pushing her away so she could see Darcy’s face, still blushing vividly. Loki leaned her head down and kissed her briefly.
“Don’t let it go to your head,” Darcy muttered, poking Loki in the bicep. “You were only good because I didn’t have anything to compare you too.”
“Oh, is that the only reason?” Loki challenged, raising an eyebrow. “The only reason?” She looped an arm around Darcy’s waist and pulled her flush against her body. “I can think of a few more.”
“I’m sure you can,” Darcy said dryly, and circled her arms around Loki’s neck, pulling her down for another kiss.