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Thor sat perched on the edge of his comfy recliner in front of the TV watching the Saints playing against the Eagles, a garbage can between his legs and a bushel of apples at his side.  Modi was running around the room, enjoying Thor’s short outbursts as Loki and Hela sipped wine in the kitchen. There was a fumble and Thor jumped to his feet, stomping the floor and shouting at the players.  Modi stood next to him and imitated his movements.

         “Thor!” Loki called.  “Stop teaching our son how to be a barbarian and keep peeling!”  Thor looked behind him and gave Loki a sheepish smile from where he stood.  Neither sibling looked amused.

         “Yes, dear,” he winked, enjoying the light flush that came to Loki’s face.

         “Yes, Mama!” Modi replied, as well, squealing and running over to Loki to hug him around the legs.  They were going through the painstaking process of making homemade applesauce for the year, and while it was a tradition, it was always an all-day affair.  Two bushels of apples, hand picked by all of them, aged in the garage for a week, then brought inside to be turned into sauce. The three siblings had been doing it since they were young.  Thor in the living room with Odin, peeling apples as the game played, Hela and Loki in the kitchen helping Frigga chop and cook. It was a labor of love. Sometimes Hela would help with the peeling if she wanted to watch football, but Loki was never interested.  Always standing by Frigga, wanting to learn as much as he could from her about cooking. It was a mutual passion they shared and the family had always reaped the benefits. Thor was still reaping the benefits.

          ‘Homemade just tastes so much better than that store crap,’ their mother had insisted.  And she was right about that.  Thor could never understand why they tasted so different.  Cut apples, put in pot, cook until they’re mush. The end. How hard was that to figure out?  Thor watched as their older sister took another long drag from her wine glass. Hela had just finished ripping out a guy’s heart and asked if she could stay for a little while as she recovered.  Thor and Loki welcomed her with open arms, of course. She had described it as her breaking his heart, but Thor was pretty sure she’d broken her own in the process.

         Thor sighed and sat back down to watch the game, peeling the skin from another apple and placing it in the basket on the other side of the chair.  He glanced outside briefly to watch Thrud chasing after Fenrir in the backyard, Hela’s giant wolfhound. His daughter looked so happy to have the giant dog to play with, and while it was starting to get cold out, Thrud had always loved that weather, just like Loki.

         “Hela, you need to eat something,” Loki was encouraging from the kitchen.  “I swear, Thor eats enough for five, but I still have some leftovers in here.”  Ever since they were kids, Loki was always the one chasing after Hela. Always had stars in his eyes for his impressive older sister.  Hela taught Loki how to paint his nails, how to wear a flawless face of makeup, which outfits would kill your targeted audience, and most importantly to her, how to guard yourself against the evils of the world.  She taught Loki how to fight and how to rip someone to shreds with his words alone. And Norns help the world when they weren’t getting along.

         “Leave her be, Loki.  If she wants something, she’ll ask for it,” Thor called, distracted by the game and the apple peeling.

         “What would you know, Mr. Popular?” Loki yelled back.  Thor could still hear the sounds of dishes clattering and knives being removed from their proper places.  Thor looked back into the kitchen, and true to form, Hela simply stood around while Loki cut up the apples, removed the cores, and stuck them in various pots to cook on the stove.  His brother was a flurry of activity, always needing to put his nervous energy somewhere.

         “I’m fine,” Hela replied.  “Oh, but that pasta does look delicious,” she grinned.

         “Oh, I was going to cook that up later,” Loki frowned.  The two of them had bought some fresh pasta from the grocery store earlier and Loki had told Thor all about this amazing dish he wanted to try out.  He had been looking forward to cooking it all day.

         “Oh, what a shame,” Hela told him.  Thor could hear the pout all the way from the living room, just waiting for Loki to cave.

         “I mean...I could cook you something with it now.  It’s fine…” Thor heard more things clattering as Loki moved stuff around in the fridge.

         “Loki, leave it.  That’s dinner,” Thor called.  “Hela, cut it out. You know Loki was looking forward to cooking with that pasta tonight.”  He peeled his last apple from this bushel and hoisted the basket of peeled apples onto his shoulder, carrying it into the kitchen.  Modi was quietly enjoying a snack at the table as Hela watched Thrud and Fenrir out the window.

         “It’s not a big deal at all, THOR,” Loki growled.  “Hela should eat something. She’s going through a rough time,” the youngest sibling insisted.

         “Hela,” Thor warned, shooting her that look that said, ‘I know this is all bullshit.’  The eldest sighed, rolled her eyes, then looked over at Loki.

         “Just a bit of cheese and crackers will be fine, if you really insist on feeding me,” Hela replied.  “The pasta will be lovely for dinner.” Loki took a deep breath, turning to look over at the both of them, then let it out slowly.

         “Are you sure?” Loki played with his hands, a nervous gesture he’d picked up from their mother.

         “Yes. The cheese goes better with the wine, anyways,” Hela smiled, blowing Loki a kiss to appease him.

         “Fine…” he mumbled.  “Fine!” Loki moved things back around in the fridge, pulling out Thor’s collection of fancy cheeses.  Loki didn’t much care for dairy, but Thor could never get enough of it.

         “Hey, those are—”  Loki turned to glare at him, murderously, the cheese knife clenched in his fist.  “...perfect for Hela,” he pouted, placing the basket of apples down on the counter and unloading them for Loki.  When Loki had handed over a small cheese board with crackers and nice slices of Thor’s favorite cheeses, he turned back to his husband and gave him his saddest look.  “Are there any more apples to peel,” he asked.

         “There’s still a whole bushel in the garage, now don’t give me that look.  You knew what today was,” Loki sniffed, turning to put the cheese away.

         “Can I at least have a little cheese?” Thor asked, hovering over by the nice spread Loki had given up to Hela.

         “Get your own cheese,” Hela scowled.

         “That IS my cheese!” Thor grumbled, snatching a piece and shoving it in his mouth.

         “You two are just the worst,” Loki sighed.  “Modi, please do not treat your own sister this way,” he instructed.  Modi giggled, shoving a piece of apple into his mouth.

         “I love Thrud.  She can have all my apples if she wants,” Modi smiled, bits of apple falling from his mouth.

         “That’s disgusting,” Hela replied, as Thor and Loki both aww’d over their son.

         “Why don’t you take some out to her?” Thor smiled, going over to ruffle his Modi’s hair.

         “OK!” Modi cried, jumping off the chair and picking up as many slices of the apple as he could.  “Can Fenrir have apples?” he asked, turned to smile up at Hela. At this, Hela melted. Fenrir was her baby and anytime someone brought him up, she went all soft.

         “Fenrir loves apples,” Hela smiled, bending down to place a kiss on Modi’s cheek.  “Just not too many, alright, kiddo?” she winked.

         “OK!!” Modi giggled, rushing over to the side door to go outside with his bounty.

         “I still can’t believe you freaks procreated...twice…..” Hela deadpanned, standing back up and reaching for her wine.  Loki colored with embarrassment. Hela was the only one they’d told about them, and her response had been, ‘what was wrong with me?’  And after a minute of very uncomfortable silence, her cackling laugh had broken out over the other end of the phone. Thor went over and hugged Loki close to him.  He fought against it for a moment, but eventually gave in and relaxed against Thor.

         “Hela, why don’t you help me peel the apples in front of the game?” Thor asked.  Loki wrapped his arms tightly around Thor, sniffling a little. What they hadn’t told Hela yet was they were expecting again, and it was stressing Loki out the longer they kept it from her.  But it was Loki who had also insisted it wasn’t the right time to share the news.

          ‘You don’t rub your happiness in someone’s face when they’re going through a bad breakup, Thor,’ Loki had hissed at him that first night in bed, when Hela came to stay.

          ‘If you get too stressed out over this, we’re telling her,’ Thor had argued, kissing Loki’s forehead.

         “I’m fine,” Loki replied, pulling Thor down for a quick kiss.

         “Fine, I’ll help you with the apples,” Hela acquiesced.  “But I’m not sharing my fucking cheese with you,” she huffed, carrying the food and the wine out into the living room.  Thor smirked, pushing Loki back against the counter and claiming his mouth.

         “Thor…” Loki protested.

         “I love you,” Thor whispered, kissing the drying tears on his cheeks.  “Our children are beautiful, healthy, and glorious.” He kissed Loki’s forehead.  “Hela is just being herself,” Thor whispered, threading a hand through Loki’s hair and tracing a fertility symbol over Loki’s stomach with his other hand.

         “Thor…” Loki breathed, closing his arms around Thor’s waist.

         “Yes?” he panted, placing an open mouthed kiss along Loki’s neck.

         “You have apples to peel.”