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On the Road to Happiness

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Loki sat on the cushioned bench at the balcony of his and Thor’s private chambers. It was situated to overlook the south of Asgard, affording the kings the best view of the green pastures, golden orchards, and frigid blue mountains of their kingdom. It was a sight that rarely failed to bring Loki a deep sense of peace, as he gazed upon the vibrant beauty of the land he’d called home for a thousand years.

On the other side of the royal chambers was a view through floor-to-ceiling windows of Asgard’s north. There lay the city with all its noise and bustle, the crystalline sea rushing over the edge of the land mass, and the bridge that led to the whirring Bifrost. Loki liked that view less. Too much activity.

And today, stillness was what he craved. Especially for the sake of his daughter curled up in his lap. Modi had clung to him like ivy on a tree since they’d returned from Jotunheim six weeks ago. Not that he blamed her, after what they’d all been through. Especially his precious little girl.

His arms tightened around her. She ended up burrowing even further into his embrace, nuzzling into his chest as if she were an infant, rather than the girl of three hundred years she was now. She was still far, far too young to experience what she had.

He had to walk himself back from that phrasing. Was there any age at which one was deemed ‘old enough’ to be molested by one’s uncle?

He shook his head sharply, as if to knock loose the memories of that day. Dwelling on it wouldn’t help matters. As he’d wryly noted to Thor, he’d been sexually violated no less than three times in his life. The first time, he’d been the same age as Modi, and it had been committed by the same perpetrator. If nothing else, he’d learned which reactions of his were helpful, and which were not.

So, he focused on the landscape again. It helped his heart rate slow, which Modi could probably hear, the way she was pressed against his chest. As he looked toward the mountains, the wind picked up with a sharp whistle. Modi squeezed in even closer.

“Are you cold?” he asked her.

He felt the shake of her head as she squeaked out a “No.” Between the wind, the way she had her face smushed against him, and how timidly she said the word, Loki could hardly make out the sound.

But it made sense that she wasn’t cold from an Asgardian breeze. A true chill would have brought out the Jotun side of her heritage, turning her into a blue child in his lap instead of a pink one. In any case, he started gently rubbing her back. Even if she wasn’t cold, maybe it would soothe her. It was certainly soothing him.

“Are you comfortable?” he asked.

She just nodded. She didn’t say anything right away this time. But she did try to curl even closer to him, as if trying to climb inside his ribcage and take up residence in his beating heart. If it were possible, he would let her. He would let her have any comfort from him she needed.

“Thank you for letting me sit with you,” she whispered.

Loki’s heart broke upon hearing that. Why would she ever think she would be denied something so simple?

He looked down at her squeezed-shut eyes. “Of course, baby,” he said. “You can sit with me anytime you want.”

“Even if you’re busy?”

Loki’s throat tightened at the implication. He tilted Modi’s chin up toward him with one finger. Her big blue eyes looked ready to hide from him. So before they could, he said, “I’m never too busy for you. I want you to know that. You can come to me anytime you want.”

A smile flickered on her face. Though it faded before it could be called a proper smile, it was the closest thing to one Loki had seen on her for weeks. So it counted.

She tucked her head into his chest again. He kissed the mess of blond hair now available to him, before he started to slowly rock her again.

Yes, he was a king, and a husband, and a mother of eight. Quite the busy man. But he and Thor had made a concerted effort to prioritize their children over their royal duties from day one. Each of their children had sat in their laps or played by their feet while they sat the throne. All of them had dangled from Thor’s biceps or clung to Loki’s leg during council meetings. And how many appointments with foreign diplomats had he and Thor cut short because one of their babies needed some attention? The list was endless.

As the first few years of their reign had taught them, the duties of a king never ended - even when shared between two monarchs. Which meant those duties could almost always be delayed for a few minutes or hours. But children? Cast their needs aside often enough, and they would grow up with the belief that their needs didn’t matter.

Thor’s father had tended more toward that end of the parenting spectrum. Loki’s father, meanwhile, had been from a ‘the only reason I keep you alive is so your future husband can abuse you however he likes instead of me’ school of thought. It was only by the grace of the Norns that Loki’s husband had turned out to be the kindest, most wonderful man in the Nine Realms, who would sooner cut off his own hands than even think of hurting Loki or their children.

“Mama?”

“Yes, baby?”

Modi didn’t reply right away. Loki looked down toward her, but she was still hiding her face, so he couldn’t discern the reason for the delay.

Finally, she asked, “Why did he do it?”

“Who?”

“Byleistr.”

That electric current of shame burned in every inch of Loki’s skin, causing him to freeze. It sounded too near to his own questions of why Byleistr had done the same thing to him centuries ago, with the whispers of Not good enough and Just a worthless little runt running through his head as answers.

But now he knew better. He knew that such reasons were no more true about him than they were about his daughter. And he had to make sure she knew that, too.

“He did it because he’s a cruel, heartless brute,” he said. “He enjoys hurting others, especially those already smaller than him. It makes him feel more powerful.”

“So it’s because I’m small?”

Loki took a deep breath to calm himself. This was quickly becoming an uphill battle, the way Modi was making his answers about some fault with herself. But his centuries of practicing patience with his children kicked in, so he didn’t panic. “No, baby,” he said. “It wasn’t anything to do with you. It was all to do with him, and how he likes hurting others.”

“But…I’m the same size as Magni. We’re both small. So why did he-”

Loki’s eyes widened as she spoke. “Why did he pick you?” She nodded. He heard her sniff, too, which prompted him to start stroking her hair in an effort to soothe her.

He knew exactly why Byleistr had chosen her. Yes, she and Magni had been the smallest in the room, and thus the most innocent. But while Magni had always been more outgoing and headstrong, Modi had always been more reserved and unsure of new situations. Byleistr could sniff out that insecurity like a wolfhound, and exploit it to his advantage. He’d had centuries’ worth of practice with Loki, after all.

But if Loki told Modi that, she would take it to mean that there was something inherently wrong with who she was. Loki would rather die than be responsible for making one of his children feel that way.

“He could have picked either one of you,” he told Modi instead. “He could have picked any of us.” He was going to pick all of us, he thought but didn’t say aloud. You were just the one he picked first.

But some truths were too painful to be spoken, so he did his best not to dwell on them.

She didn’t reply to that right away. So he settled them deeper into the pillow-strewn bench they were cuddled on, stroking through her hair in a slow rhythm. It might not be enough, but it could at least help her feel a little better.

“Is it because of my dual sex?”

Loki’s breath froze for a second. Yes, came that terrible voice in his head, it’s because you’re too much like me, like the horrid little freak that I am who deserves to be hurt.

It startled him how easily his father’s words could hijack his own thoughts, even after all these years.

And because he’d hesitated to respond right away to soothe Modi’s worry, she might start to believe the worst. “I just…” she said, “…since you said Byleistr did the same thing to you.”

Loki was losing against time by not saying anything. But how could he respond? Saying yes might make her internalize the shame about her body that he’d felt for the first thousand years of his life. But saying no would be a complete lie.

When faced with these dilemmas with his children, he usually compromised with a tactful, age-appropriate truth-telling. But that was a tall order this time, when it concerned a topic so close to his own traumatic history.

But Modi was worth trying to accomplish this task for. So he would do his best.

To start, he tilted her face up toward his again. Her staying hidden would just bolster the shame, and she needed to see his sincerity, not just hear it. “I think that was part of why he did it,” he said. “Do you know why?”

She shook her head. So far, she hadn’t burst into tears, or tried to hide her face again. All good signs. So Loki forged ahead.

“A dual sex is rare among the Jotnar, do you know that?” She nodded. “Well, often times, something different is seen as a bad thing by others, unless they’re taught otherwise. Especially when it concerns something so personal as what’s between someone’s legs.”

He paused to see if she was still following him. She appeared to be. He also used the pause to collect himself. He’d never really spoken to any of his children about his own upbringing. There’d never been any real need to. Dinner table conversations didn’t usually leave any openings for, “Hey, did I ever tell you about the time my father threw me against a wall for menstruating on my bedsheets?” or “Children, you’ve no idea how many times my brothers would taunt me with all the horrific sex acts I would one day have to perform for my future rapist husband!”

He’d always thought it a good thing his children knew nothing of his own childhood. It meant their experiences were far removed from his. But now, those memories were somehow proving useful in helping his own daughter, in the face of her first true taste of cruelty.

“Well,” he continued, “my father didn’t teach any of us that. He taught us the opposite. He taught us that my difference was a terrible thing, and that I only deserved cruel treatment for it. My brothers tormented me the whole time I lived in Jotunheim. Them molesting me was just another way for them to do that. The only reason they didn’t do it more than once was because my father nearly killed them for it when he found out.”

She looked disturbed by all this, but she wasn’t telling him to stop, or asking any questions. So Loki let her chew on his words for a moment, before continuing. “But he didn’t stop them out of kindness toward me. He stopped them because he believed my future husband should be the only one to hurt me like that, and anyone else doing it would ruin it for him.”

Her eyes widened. “He wanted Papa to do that to you?”

Loki started to speak again, then stopped himself at the last second. Technically, Thor had hurt him like that on their wedding night, even if he’d been just as unwilling as Loki.

But he didn’t feel it appropriate to explain the minutiae of that situation to her tonight. Even Thor had had difficulty understanding that his lack of consent had also mattered, and he’d been a grown adult at the time. So all Loki said was, “He expected Papa would want to hurt me like that.” He smiled, and pushed some of her hair out of her face. “But Papa would never think of hurting me in any way. You know that, right?”

She nodded. It warmed his heart to see how easily she did. How secure she was in the knowledge that her parents would never mean each other harm. Loki had never imagined such a future for himself, until he’d woken up one day to find himself in a loving marriage.

Her gaze slid away from his then, settling back toward his chest. “So Byleistr hurt me and you because of our dual sex?”

“Not because of it,” Loki replied, “but because he sees it as something bad. Something that makes us objects of amusement, not people.”

Her face drew in. Loki immediately recognized the change in expression. He’d worn the same look when he would start to shut down as a child, when faced with being treated as an object by his family.

So he gave her what no one had ever given him as a child: a return to personhood. Once again, he raised her face to him. “But just because that’s what a terrible man on Jotunheim thinks, that doesn’t mean it’s true. You’re not an object, and you don’t deserve to be treated cruelly because of the body you were born with. There is nothing wrong with you, Modi. Nothing at all. Do you understand?”

Though his words were said gently, he was pleading inside for her to say yes. And thankfully, though she looked down again, she nodded. “Yes,” she mumbled.

That would have to do for now. Loki let her burrow in his chest again, and he resumed rocking her in his arms. “There’s nothing wrong with you,” he murmured into her hair. “You’re perfect, and lovely, and wonderful. You’re perfect just as you are, my sweet girl. Just as you are.”

She didn’t say anything to that. He didn’t expect her to. He could only hope his words were taking root in her heart where they were needed.

Silence settled around them for several minutes, before Modi softly broke it. “Why did your father think Papa would hurt you?”

“Because my father couldn’t imagine a world in which I wasn’t being treated badly,” Loki replied. “That would mean he wasn’t justified in treating me that way himself.” He couldn’t help but smile as he said, “But Papa proved him wrong. Papa is kind, and gentle, and good. He’s always been so good to me.”

Modi nodded. “Papa loves you.”

“Mm-hm. And he loves you, too. And all your siblings.”

“I know.”

Loki grinned further, even as his eyes watered. “Good.”

As if summoned by their topic of conversation, the door to Loki’s chambers opened and shut, followed by the familiar footfalls of his husband.

Loki looked over his shoulder with a smile. Thor grinned back. He walked over to them, holding little Thrud in one arm. “There you both are,” Thor said. “You were the only ones unaccounted for just now.”

“Where are the others?” Loki asked.

“Let’s see…Vali and Hela are sparring. Sleipnir is taking a nap. Fen and Jorm are trying to shapeshift again. And Magni is with Lady Maximoff.”

Thrud looked up at her father with a toothy grin. “Are the humans gonna stay here with us forever?”

Thor smiled down at her. “No, I don’t think so. They have to go back to Midgard one day.”

“Why?”

“Because they have people there who love them. You wouldn’t want us to stay on Midgard forever without you, would you?”

She clung closer to him. “No,” she mumbled. She seemed reluctant to apply the same logic to the humans, but she couldn’t come up with a better argument for making them stay besides, “But I want them to stay here.”

Thor chuckled as he sat them both down beside Loki. “I know, little one. You can tell them how much you like playing with them. Who knows, they might decide to come visit you again.”

Loki shot Thor a warning look. They couldn’t possibly promise such a thing to Thrud. The debate with the other realms’ monarchs about whether to open Midgard’s borders was still ongoing. The Avengers’ presence here in Asgard was only due to exceptional circumstances, after rescuing the royal family from Jotunheim.

Thor gave a sheepish smile in response. Though he was a fair parent most of the time, if there was one child he was in the most danger of indulging, it was their youngest daughter. Sometimes Loki swore Thrud was fully aware of that fact.

But today, Thrud contented herself with sitting on Thor’s knee, sucking on her fingers while Thor kissed her head. She giggled when he rubbed his beard over her forehead. They were each wrapped around the other’s little finger, so maybe the slight favoritism on each side canceled the other out.

Thor soon looked over to Modi, still nestled tight in Loki’s lap. “How are you, sweet one?”

Modi just shrugged. Usually when others tried to talk to her as she cuddled in Loki’s lap, she would shy away from them. But not with her father. She knew in her bones that her Papa was a safe person.

Especially since Thor didn’t try to coax her out of her sanctuary in Loki’s arms, the way others might have. He just asked her, “Have you been sitting with Mama today?”

She nodded. “I’ve been talking with him.”

Thor glanced at Loki. He knew exactly what they’d been talking about, and he knew why Loki was the best person for that. “And that’s helping?”

Modi nodded again. This time she gave a meek smile. Loki smiled himself when he saw it, as did Thor. “Good,” Thor said.

Thrud took her fingers out of her mouth, and leaned over Thor’s arm to Modi. “Are you still feeling sad, Modi?”

That was how Thor and Loki had explained it to Thrud. As the only one of their family who hadn’t been captured in Jotunheim, and thus hadn’t seen the abuse take place, Thrud was the only one who didn’t know the full horror of what they’d suffered. Since she was too young to understand it all, they’d just said that Byleistr had ‘hurt’ Modi worse than the others. And because of that, Modi felt ‘sad’, and she might feel that way for a while.

They’d also told Modi why this was the explanation they would give Thrud, and she’d said she understood. So, even though her face turned red with embarrassment at her younger sister’s question, Modi nodded.

Thrud visibly wilted at the reply. Her spirit was all sunshine, just like Thor’s, and she hated when those around her weren’t as happy. She climbed out of Thor’s lap to crawl into Loki’s, so she could give Modi a big hug. “I hope you feel better soon,” she whispered.

Her words seemed to have the opposite effect, however, as Loki saw Modi’s face crumple into small sobs. Loki understood part of where it came from. This wasn’t something like a scraped knee or losing a favorite toy. Modi’s soul had been dealt a wound that a three-hundred-year-old wasn’t equipped to handle, and she might be reeling from its pain for centuries to come. She wouldn’t ever again have the complete innocence her sister still possessed.

All Loki could do was rub her back, in the hope that it might soothe this burst of pain. Meeting this one flare-up at a time was the only way forward.

“Sweet girl,” Thor soothed, stroking her hair. “It’s hard right now, isn’t it.”

She just nodded, and kept quietly crying. But between Loki holding her and rubbing her back, Thor stroking her hair, and Thrud hugging her tightly, she had three dedicated family members who would stop at nothing to soothe her. Her tears didn’t stand a chance.

When she was breathing more evenly, Thor thumbed away some of her tearstains. “Modi,” he said. She looked up at him with still-watery eyes. “I know it’s hard. But I want you to know that even if you’re sad for a while, even if you don’t feel better soon, we’ll still be here. We’ll still love you, no matter how sad you feel.”

She sniffed deeply. But she did adjust her grip on Thrud to hug her even tighter. “Thank you,” she whispered.

“Love you, Modi,” Thrud whispered back.

Loki smiled at that. “That’s very sweet, Thrud.” And he didn’t just say it for positive reinforcement, either. He meant it. If there was one good thing that had come out of their three days in Jotunheim, it was how all his children had gathered around each other, supporting one another through this difficult time.

The chambers’ doors opened and closed again. Loki knew it must be another of his children; after returning to Asgard, he and Thor had told the guards to let any of their offspring into his and Thor's chambers without asking the kings' permission first. After those harrowing three days, even their elder children needed more of their parents’ comfort and support.

But when he looked, he was surprised to see a young wolf pup bound into the room, with a small garter snake wrapped around its back.

Thor grinned with him at the sight. “Fen, Jorm? Your magic came back?”

The wolf pup yipped happily in reply as he ran over to the bench. Thrud giggled at her brothers’ antics.

Though Loki was still smiling, he noted with some sadness that both Fenrir and Jormungandr had shapeshifted into quite smaller versions of their usual wolf and serpent. Shifting was a more nuanced branch of magic than most believed, as the specifics of the chosen animal form weren’t entirely in the practitioner’s control. A baby wolf and a small, near-venomless snake were much more vulnerable creatures than a grown alpha male or a king cobra. It belied Fenrir and Jormungandr’s feelings of vulnerability after Jotunheim, even when they tried to hide it.

Indeed, Fenrir was having some trouble jumping up onto the bench, he was so small. Thor scooped him up with one hand and set him in his lap where Thrud had been. Fenrir braced his front paws on his father’s chest to lick kisses onto Thor’s face, making Thor (and Thrud) laugh.

Jormungandr, meanwhile, uncoiled from Fenrir’s back to slide onto first Thor’s shoulder, then Loki’s, nuzzling their necks with his head as he went. It was less intuitive to show affection as a cold-blooded animal, but Loki knew his son well enough to recognize the ways he showed his love. He draped himself over Loki’s shoulders and flicked his tongue against his mother’s cheek. Not exactly a wolf’s slobbery kiss, but a kiss nonetheless.

Loki smiled at him. “Hello, darling,” he murmured. “I’m glad you two were able to shift. Not even mine or your father’s magic has fully come back yet.”

He couldn’t help the shudder down his spine after he’d said that. He supposed the only way to conceivably imprison him, Thor, or any of their older children was to seal away their seidr. But that seidr flowed to them from Yggdrasil just as their life energies did; binding it away was like ripping out a piece of their souls. Six weeks later, it was coming back, but Loki still felt like he couldn’t breathe properly without it. Byleistr was indeed a cruel monster.

Jorm must have felt Loki’s shudder, for he rubbed his scaled head against Loki’s chin. Loki started petting his son’s neck. Thrud giggled and joined him, and surprisingly, Jorm allowed it without so much as a hiss. Jorm wasn’t often the most responsive to others’ warmth, but it seemed the aftermath of Jotunheim had made him more tolerant.

Suddenly, Loki felt Jorm tense against him. Every muscle in his serpent’s body tightened. And beyond that, Loki could sense something else. Something in his son’s seidr was wavering. Almost like a stutter.

“Jorm?” he asked. His voice must have alarmed Thor, for he looked up from where Fenrir had been play-biting his arm.

“Jorm, you’re changing,” Thor said softly.

Loki looked down. Sure enough, the edges of Jorm’s body were starting to glow with the faint gold of his seidr.

Quick as blinking, Jorm uncoiled from Loki’s shoulders and darted down toward the bench. He only just made it to the cushions before he unfurled into his adolescent Aesir self. He was sprawled on the bench, panting as if he’d just run to the mountains and back.

Jorm had inherited Loki’s grace in his movements (or at least, Thor had told Loki that was the case). He was never this ungainly when he transformed into a serpent or back again. And he was never so inconsiderate as to risk crushing his mother or sisters with his weight by turning back to himself on top of them.

All of this pointed Loki to the fact that Jorm hadn’t unshifted on purpose just now.

It seemed to take Jorm a few seconds to acclimate to his surroundings with his own sensory input instead of a serpent’s. When he had, he coiled up again, drawing his limbs back in and sitting more upright on the bench. He ran a hand through his short, black hair. “Sorry, Mother,” he mumbled.

“It’s alright,” Loki said. “You didn’t mean to.”

And that was just it. Jorm hadn’t meant to shift back just then.

“Are you alright?” Thor asked him.

Jorm nodded. He hadn’t looked at either one of them. He kept running his hand through his hair. “I just thought I’d managed it this time.”

Loki settled a hand on the back of Jorm’s neck. “Give it time,” he murmured. “It’ll come back.”

Jorm didn’t reply. He was still panting hard. He hadn’t been this out of sorts since he’d first been learning to shapeshift, back when he was Modi’s age.

“Remember what your mother said,” Thor told him. “Right now, it’s like lighting a fire with wet tinder. We just have to let it dry.”

“I’m glad you’re trying to use it, though,” Loki said. “It does hasten the process. Just make sure you’re not overexerting yourself.”

Jorm ducked his head even more. He did look quite embarrassed about the whole thing. But he seemed to recover himself enough to look over to his brother, still in the shape of a wolf pup in Thor’s lap. “Why haven’t you needed to shift back yet?”

Fenrir tilted his head to the side with a soft “rawr?” If it were possible to look positively adorable while still being a smug little shit, he was pulling it off. Jorm stuck out his tongue at him in response.

Thor raised his eyebrows at Fenrir (who still hadn’t let go of his arm). “If you do shift back, Fen, I’m not letting you keep biting me. That is exclusively a wolf privilege.”

Fenrir playfully growled, and started mouthing at Thor’s forearm again. Thor indulged the resumed wrestling game with a chuckle.

Thrud climbed out of Loki’s lap, to snuggle up next to Jormungandr. He put his arm around his youngest sister. “What were you all doing here?” he asked her.

“Papa and I found Mama and Modi here!” Thrud exclaimed. “We helped Modi not be as sad!”

Jorm’s burgeoning smile faltered at that. He glanced at Modi. She burrowed back into Loki’s chest again, so he held her closer. It seemed she didn’t want any more attention drawn to her feelings right now. Loki could understand that.

Jorm didn’t pry any further. Instead, in typical Jormungandr fashion, he asked a practical question: “Is there anything else that would help you, Modi?”

She looked down. Loki wasn’t sure if she was thinking about the question, or if she’d just shut down from the conversation. But a few moments later, she turned to look at Thor. “Papa?”

Her voice was soft, but it still cut through the noise of Fenrir’s playful growls and grunts, enough for Thor to look over to her. Much like Loki's, Thor’s ears had long since become supernaturally attuned to their children’s voices of need. “Yes, baby?” he asked.

Modi hesitated for a second. “Um…I know Mama said your magic isn’t back all the way yet, but…could you call a storm?”

Fenrir’s tail started wagging. His bright blue eyes, as well as the eyes of their other four family members on the bench, all looked at Thor expectantly.

Thor smiled. “I think I could.”

Fenrir let go of Thor’s arm, only to yip in delight. Jorm grinned. Thrud clapped, saying, “Yes, a storm, Papa, a storm!”

Thor looked out to the sky. His eyes closed. Loki could feel him searching for his seidr, bringing it out with the deft control Loki had helped him master over the years. It took him longer this time. For a moment, Loki wasn’t sure anything would happen at all.

He silently slid his hand over to grab one of Thor’s. Thor’s expression immediately softened.

That’s when the clouds swirled in.

Thrud started giggling and wiggling her legs in front of her. The skies darkened. Distant thunder rolled in. Thor started smelling even more like ozone than usual.

When the rain broke from the clouds, it was gentle. Loki was glad for that; he didn’t want Thor to overtax himself the way Jormungandr had. But he suspected Thor was holding his full power back on purpose, for the sake of soothing Modi rather than startling her.

It made Loki’s heart ache with tenderness. It brought to mind how he’d felt when he’d first seen Thor hold a newborn Vali in his arms. When Thor would carry Hela around the training yards as a baby. When he would stroke Sleipnir’s hair as he rocked him to sleep. When he would cuddle with Magni and Modi when Loki was too exhausted by the double feedings to manage any longer.

How Loki had felt when Thor had first kissed him. When Thor had first stroked his knuckles down Loki’s cheek. When he’d first wrapped his hand around Loki’s cock. When he’d first kissed Loki’s cunt. When he would move inside Loki so gently it made Loki cry.

Thor was the most powerful man Loki had ever seen. He could conjure roof-shattering hurricanes with his seidr, and could rip a man’s limbs off with his bare hands. But when handling his tiny, precious babies, or his slighter, physically weaker husband, he always made sure to hold back his full strength. He could be so. Damn. Gentle. Gentle as the rain around them now.

Around them, of course. As always, Thor kept a perfect circle of clear sky around them all to keep them dry. Sometimes their children requested to leave the circle so they could play in the rain (particularly Thrud). But this time, they were happy to just watch their father’s power all around them, as his storm nourished their people’s lands.

Fenrir settled into a little furball in Thor’s lap. Thor absently started petting him. Thrud started climbing onto Jormungandr’s shoulders so she could ‘see the rain closer’. He allowed it with only minor complaining.

Modi stayed huddled in Loki’s lap. Loki heard and felt a long sigh leave her. Between her mother’s embrace and her father’s storm, she seemed to have finally found a measure of peace.

As his motherly brain tended to do, Loki started cataloging where his other children were. Magni was with the humans, so probably inside. Sleipnir was taking a nap, so he was inside. And Vali and Hela were-

Oh no. They had been sparring. Outside.

Loki leaned over to Thor. “Did you make sure to keep Vali and Hela dry?” he murmured in his ear. “They were sparring, right?”

Thor nodded. “I remembered,” he murmured back. He turned to Loki with a soft smile. “I’ll protect us all.”

Loki’s smile snagged on something on its way out. A memory. A memory of them all chained to the walls of that terrible, dark room in Utgard’s dungeon. Of Thor pulling on his chains with all his might as Byleistr grabbed Modi. Of Thor yelling for Byleistr to take him instead, that he could use him however he wanted if he would leave the rest of his family alone-

Thor’s eyes were bright as he met Loki’s now. But they weren’t just bright with happiness at protecting his family. They brimmed with determination, with his iron will, which always made Loki shiver when he saw it. Thor would truly do anything to protect his family. Even offer his own body to a monster.

Loki was still holding Thor’s hand. He let go only so he could cup Thor’s face, stroking through his beard. He loved how it would tickle his face when Thor kissed him, and he loved how it would leave a slight rash between his thighs when Thor ate him out. He could almost feel that burn right now. It had been too long.

When he looked at Thor then, he was sure his eyes were just as bright with the resolve that mirrored his husband’s. “We will protect us all. You, and I. Together.”

Thor smiled broadly, his gratitude bursting forth from his crinkled eye corners. Loki could also detect that soft, vulnerable side of Thor, which he had only ever shown in full to Loki. Any guard Loki had put up melted away upon seeing it.

He kissed Thor gently, and Thor kissed him back in kind. It wasn’t a drawn-out affair, as their children were all around them. But it was a promise for the future.

When they broke apart, they grinned at each other. For the millionth time in his life, Loki affirmed to himself that he was the luckiest man to have ever lived.

Loki rested his head against Thor’s. Thor kissed his available cheek. Thrud and Jorm played beside them, while Fenrir and Modi curled up in their respective laps.

They’d been through Hel and back. But Byleistr wouldn’t win. In the end, no horror in the universe could overcome the enduring love that bound Loki’s family together. Six weeks ago, he’d been screaming for his daughter in the face of his worst nightmare. But today, he could nestle into his husband’s warmth, and his children’s laughter. Warm, and safe, and on the road to happiness.