Christmas morning started with an icy rain in Rutland. Sarah lay in her bed listening to the pings on the roof and once again fingered the necklace at her throat. She had exchanged gifts with Thor and Jane the day before she left for Vermont, had given the ring she'd bought for Loki to Thor to deliver to him when he went home and Thor had given her a small package in return. "Loki sent this for you." She'd opened it to find a gold necklace upon which hung a gold pendant, a rectangle with celtic working around the outer rim, and in the center, what looked like two snakes intertwined in a sort of yin/yang configuration. "It is Loki's standard." Thor had said, "His symbol, do you understand?" Sarah had nodded, thought of the ring she'd been drawn to that now sat in Thor's jacket pocket, and smiled. "I'd tell you to give him a hug and kiss from me but I don't think it would mean the same." Thor had grinned then, "I will do my level best to convey the message, M'lady, though I'm not sure Loki will enjoy it." They had laughed and she had set there wondering at how her life had changed inside of a year.
She rolled to her side and rubbed her back. She'd been sore for the last two days, more than usual in fact, and she stretched to try and remove the kinks from it, receiving a slight roll against her palm for the effort. The baby hadn't been moving as much lately and at first she'd voiced her concern to the doctor who told her that space was at a premium in there, that the baby had moved from a mill apartment into a studio. As she lay there, she could suddenly smell coffee and it moved her enough to make her sit up and swing her legs over to the floor. Getting up was so much more difficult now and she arched her back, pushing with her hands on the bed until she was standing up. When she reached the bathroom and raised her nightgown to relieve herself, she was startled to feel that it was already wet and then she felt pain run through her back again as she turned to walk back to the bedroom. When she reached the bed, she felt the sheets where she'd been laying and they were damp. "Aw you've got to be kidding me."
She went back to the bathroom after grabbing a pair of slacks and a top, she started the shower then returned to the bedroom to remove the sheets from the bed. "Kid, you're taking me to a whole new level of problems." She said as she dropped the wet sheets in a pile in the hallway beside her bedroom door and returned to the bathroom to take a shower.
"Christmas morning has to start out like this?" She mumbled to herself as she washed up. Another twinge of pain in her back as she stepped from the shower made her stop and look down. She quickly pulled on her pants and her top and made her way down stairs to the kitchen where everyone was involved fixing breakfast. "Can we open presents now?" Daniel asked as soon as he saw Sarah walk into the kitchen. "After breakfast kiddo," Sarah's father said, "How's my Sarah bean this morning?" Sarah smiled and motioned to her sister to come into the living room, "I'm fine, be right back."
Lizzie came in to the living room where Sarah was standing beside the tree. "I think my water broke." Sarah whispered, "What?!" Lizzie shouted and Sarah shushed her, "Geez keep it down will you, I don't want mom and dad to know until after we've done the presents. I don't want to ruin everyone's Christmas." Lizzie steered her to the couch and sat her down. "Ruin? This isn't exactly a disaster you're having. Are you getting any contractions?" Sarah shrugged, "My back hurts and I read that labor can be centered in your back too." "But this is early, isn't it? You're not due till the third week in January." Lizzie reminded her. "Just gather everyone in the living room as soon as you can, I haven't had a zing for twenty minutes now, since I stepped out of the shower upstairs. Maybe I was just leaking a little." Lizzie glanced into the kitchen and back at Sarah, "Okay, but if it gets worse, we're going, presents or not." Sarah nodded in agreement as Lizzie quick stepped back into the kitchen to fetch the rest of the family.
Loki twirled the entwined snake ring on his right ring finger, watching it glitter in the candlelight, wondering how she could have made such an appropriate choice for a gift. The warm wind rustled the flaps of the tent he occupied in the encampment, himself, Thor, and a handful of warriors had been traipsing around Alfheim for better than five days visiting various tribes, making new inroads with the light elves of the realm though there were more than a few that refused to deal with him, instead talking to Thor, thereafter explaining that they could see the darkness that still dwelt deep within Loki. It both angered and curiously enough, saddened him to think that not even love could dispel what lies beneath the surface.
He heard Thor approaching the tent, talking in a low voice to one of their compliment, then he lifted the flap, walked in and set down in a chair across from Loki. "We will head back to Asgard tomorrow. It is Christmas eve in Midgard and I told Jane I would try to be with her on Christmas day. It is of great importance to her, this Christian holiday and she wanted to share it with me." Loki looked up at Thor and back down at his ring, saying nothing. "I see you are well pleased with Sarah's gift." Thor said as he watched Loki turn the ring. "As she was with yours." Loki allowed a slight smile, "How would she know about my standard? You say you said nothing to her?" Thor shook his head, "Not until I gave her the necklace and she had already given me your gift." Loki nodded, "It will be good to get home, brother." He said quietly, "I am weary of this campaign."
Sarah felt another contraction, drew breath through her nose and blew out through her mouth as gently as she could, glad of the fact that everyone was busy with presents, including herself, though she could barely concentrate on them. She had timed the contractions and they were holding at once every 40 minutes, finally she managed to slip out into the kitchen quietly with her phone.
"Hello?" Jane answered the phone, hoping it was Thor, "Jane?" it was Sarah, "First of all, Merry Christmas, second of all, where's Thor?" Jane walked to the window of her apartment in Brooklyn and looked out at the deserted street, "I don't know, he was supposed to be here by now but he's late. As far as I know, he's still in Asgard, why?" "Asgard?" Sarah paled, panic starting to set in. "Oh Jane, I'm in Rutland and," Here she dropped her voice to a whisper, "I'm in labor." "In labor already?" She heard Jane shout into the phone, "Yes, my water broke last evening, I think when I was asleep. Thor has to tell Loki. After we get done here, I'm going to tell my parents and we're heading to Rutland Regional I guess, I'd rather be at my own hospital in New York but it can't be helped, I don't think I'd make it there. Call me when Thor gets there would you please?" Jane agreed, "But aren't you early?" Sarah looked out to the living room and saw her father stand up, headed for the kitchen. "I gotta go, my father is coming, talk to you soon." She smiled a bit to herself, thinking about how teenaged that statement had sounded as her father found her by the kitchen door. "Hey Bean, we're not done yet." Another pang, this time around her belly, made her bend over and breath deep, she looked up at the clock on the wall, "Dad, we're going to have to be done right now. I'm in labor." She heard not a peep from her father, rather she heard the scramble of feet and her father's voice in the living room. "Everyone get dressed," A groan from Daniel, "But we're not finished yet," And her father's voice again, "We are for now, go."
She sat in one of the kitchen chairs easing back at the contraction passed and her mother came up to her. "Where are your boots Sarah?" Her mother asked, a mask of calm covering her voice as her shaking hands did the talking while she tried to help Sarah pull on her boots she'd fetched from the mat near the kitchen door. Suddenly Sarah remembered, "Oh mom, my overnight bag is in New York!" Her mother glanced up at her, "We'll get what we need here, that's the last thing you need to worry about." Sarah was in complete agreement with her mother.
Jane was pacing the floor of the apartment when she heard quick steps to her door and a loud knock. She raced to the door and flung it open to find Thor standing there, duffle in hand and a big smile on his face, "Go back, go back," Jane said, pushing him out the door and into the hallway, Thor staring at her in confusion, "To New York Jane? I am truly sorry for being so late returning. We were on campaign and it takes a bit to come through the portal." Jane had grabbed her coat and was locking her door behind her. "Sarah is in labor!" she cried but when she turned back to Thor, he was already down the stairs and to Jane's car.
As they fought the traffic over the bridge to Manhattan, Jane cursed the rule that Fury had now imposed on Thor. The Bifrost would be aimed at the landing platform on the top of the office building that housed S.H.I.E. L.D. in New York. "So as not to scare the general populace of just about anywhere you decide to beam yourself in that rainbow colored tornado.", was how Fury had put it so they now had to return to New York just to send him back home to get Loki.
"She is not yet at her quickening though," Thor remarked, "how is it that she is in labor?" Jane shrugged, "Sometimes the baby has other ideas. That's the thing about life, it's unpredictable." Jane thought that was the understatement of the century as she sped down the streets towards the office instead of doing what she had planned for the day, fixing a cozy Christmas dinner for two, exchanging presents, messing up the bed sheets until the 26th. "Is she here at the hospital in New York?" Jane shook her head, "She's at her parents in Vermont," she laughed, "Fury's going to have a fit when he finds out where Loki has to go." "If he lets him, "Thor added and Jane cast a withering glance at him, "If he thinks he's going to stop Sarah from having the father of her baby there for the birth, I'LL sock him in the mouth."
"Vermont?!" Fury bellowed, irate at having been interrupted in a video call with his great granddaughter when Thor walked into his office."And just how are you going to get there? I'm not going to let you aim that rainbow into Vermont on Christmas day. You know how holidays seem to make people remember cataclysmic events?" Thor started to protest until Jane stepped around him and put her hands on Fury's desk, "They're going to get there because you're going to give them a jet and you're going to do it out of the goodness of your heart because it's Christmas, damnit
"She paused, the both of them eyeing her, "Besides, no one's that heartless." Fury put his fingers to his temples, "Alright, you've got the jet, and you've also got me because I'm not going to let this turn into a circus." Jane stood back up at once proud that she'd stood up to him, and confused because he'd listened. "Thor, you get up there to Asgard and get Loki, and by get, I mean bring him back here with you and no place else, understood?" Thor nodded and was out the door, leaving Jane alone with Fury. She smiled at him but he didn't smile back as he said, "Merry Christmas, huh?"
Loki was wiping his face with a towel that he'd laid beside the basin in the bath room of his quarters, having only just removed five days worth of whiskers with a straight razor when he heard Thor's shouts and frantic footsteps running through the hall and into his bedchamber, "It is time brother, it is time!" Loki walked back into his chambers, a confused look upon his face, towel still in hand, "Time for what, Thor, aren't you supposed to be in New York?" Thor strode up to Loki and grabbed him by the shoulders, "It is time for you to come, Sarah's quickening has begun!" Loki's eyes widened. He dropped the towel, grabbed his tunic from the bed and ran out the door of his chambers with Thor close at his heels.
They alit from their horses minutes later at the portal where Heimdall stood waiting. "Heimdall" Thor called out, "Open the portal to Midgard!" There was a sound of metal sliding against metal as Heimdall slid his sword into the portal key and the dome started to spin and tilt itself towards Earth. They felt the familiar tug of the Bifrost as it drew them out of this realm and into the realm below.
Loki drew in a sudden sharp breath as the extreme cold air atop the outer landing pad of the 60 story building hit him. "Damnit," He swore, his eyes adjusting to the bright sunlight. He saw Fury and Jane standing around the landing pad. "Where is Sarah? What facility have they taken her to?" Loki asked as he strode towards them, Jane momentarily reminded why she had wanted to deter Sarah's affections in the first place as she watched him approach her, his eyes blazing, his hair whipping wildly in the cross winds that flew through the city, towering over her, dressed in a dark tunic, breeches and a dark green cloak that completed the overall effect.
"She's in Vermont, in Rutland Regional hospital." Loki turned his head, "Rutland, the place where her parents live?" Fury nodded, "Its Christmas and she wanted to be with her family, wouldn't you?" Loki walked up to Fury until he was inches from his face, neither one blinking, "Yes I would, I would have loved to have been by Sarah's side all these long months but you saw to that didn't you." Fury shook his head, "No, that was an arrangement you made yourself when you decided to take Miss Miller home with you.." Loki clenched his fists by his side, a snarl forming on his lips, "Brother, this is not the time, we must go.." Thor shouted at him, the words seeming to break the spell. "Come inside, the jet is ready to go." Fury said as he opened a door in the floor of the landing pad.
Fury walked up to the jet and started up the rear walkway. "You," Loki began, then looked at Thor, "You're going?" Fury turned and glanced back at Loki in lieu of an answer. "The last person I want to see on this jet is you." Fury turned and kept walking, "And the first person you're going to see on this jet will be me, this is my jet and I don't let anyone I deem irresponsible take it without my permission, so get on or stay here." Loki stalked up the walkway and sat down heavily beside Thor. "And don't get comfortable either." He threw them both a small bundle, "Change into these clothes, at least they don't make you look like the two of you just stepped off the set of Dune." Jane strapped herself in as the men walked to the back compartment and started to strip off their clothes. Fury turned and watched the skyline fall away beneath them. "I keep getting roped into these bad ideas." He grumbled as the jet darted forward, banking north.
Sarah watched the monitor, the needle starting to move back and forth and she knew another contraction was coming. Her mother was sitting there too, watching the monitor just as closely. Sarah turned on her side, the only position that seemed to offer at least some relief from the pain and drew in a deep breath as it hit, blowing the lungful of air out through her mouth, repeating the same motion until the spasm had passed. Earlier, before she'd arrived at the hospital, she'd called Lily and told her what had happened. She could hear the tears in Lily's voice as she told her good luck, "I was so hoping to be there with you. I'm going to borrow my dad's car tomorrow and come up okay?" Sarah had told her she would love to have her but to be careful driving as snow was predicted up north.
Another contraction was coming, she gripped the railing of the bed and squeezed. "Hold my hand and squeeze that, honey." Sarah shook her head quickly, breathing through the contraction until it was over. "Mom, I'd break your hand," Sarah gasped, closing her eyes, she was so tired but not another fifteen minutes would pass before she'd be in the throes of another contraction. She heard her mother ask the nurse, "When are they going to give her the epidural?" and the nurses answer, "We're going to see how far she's dilated, she has to be at least four centimeters.." , and missing the rest as she dozed lightly until the next contraction.
The sky had started to cloud up considerably and light snow was beginning to fall as the jet touched down at the Southern Vermont Regional airport, ten minutes away from the hospital.
"It feels like you're about ready for that epidural, Sarah." The obstetrician, a middle aged woman named Doctor Lear said as she slipped the gloves off her hand and threw them in the trash. "I'll go get it ordered. Other than that, everything looks good, baby's heartbeat is a little high but that's to be expected, you'd be excited if it was your birthday too." Sarah smiled wanly, glancing out of the window across the room as the snow was starting to fly, then to Lizzie who'd just walked back into the room, "I don't think he's coming." She sighed and rolled back to her side to weather another contraction, Lizzie stroking her hair, "You've got us. We're here for you." But Sarah didn't hear her, she was too busy concentrating on the task at hand.
Dan Miller was standing outside the room nursing a coffee, listening for any change in the room that might signal the arrival of his grandson when he heard the elevator doors slide open with a ding at the end of the hospital corridor. He glanced up and saw a group of people step off looking like they'd just stepped out of the pages of a comic book. They stopped at the nurse's station halfway down the hall, speaking to the nurse who pointed in his direction and he jumped as one of the group broke away and came down the hall at a good trot, stopping before him, "Sarah Miller?" He asked and Dan nodded slowly, glancing down the hall as the rest of the group followed the tall stranger's lead.
Lizzie and her mother were sitting at a table beside Sarah's bed when they heard the footsteps behind them and turned to see who it was.
Loki bent over the bed to Sarah, smoothing the hair from her face and kissing her forehead. Sarah opened her eyes, "Loki?" He flashed her a smile, "I made it, dearest heart." He sat down on the side of the bed, careful not to jostle her, taking her hand in his and squeezing it, "Might not want to do that, contraction coming," She moaned, "It's okay, go ahead," He said as she gasped through another contraction, he stroking her forehead as the contraction peaked and began to fade again.
He was suddenly aware of two sets of eyes on him and he turned to see Lizzie and another woman he didn't know, sitting there with open mouths. "Hello Lizzie," He said nodding in her direction, then turning to the older woman, "I don't know you." "I'm Sarah's mother, Annie." Her mother said, finally finding her voice and her ire. "And you are?" He glanced at Sarah who seemed to be resting again, "I am Loki," he turned back to her and held out his hand in greeting but she neither looked at it nor took it and his smile faded. "I understand your feelings but.."
The nurse who had walked into the room unnoticed, said, "You'll all have to leave for a minute, we're going to give her an epidural. It won't take long." "A what?" Loki said as Lizzie walked over and took him by the arm, "What are they doing to her?" Lizzie kept steering him out into the hall where her father was having a staring contest with a one eyed man. "They're giving her something for pain so she can rest and save her strength when the baby is ready. They're not hurting her." She steered him a bit further down the hall, wanting to have words with him herself when they both turned to see Dan walking towards Loki and she went to meet her father who sailed past her till he was in front of Loki, when he reared back with his fist and met Loki hard with a right cross to the jaw, driving his head back against the wall of the corridor, causing him to stumble backwards in a struggle to regain his footing as he put a finger to the corner of his mouth, tasting blood.
Down the hall, Fury opened his hand, ready to grab for his gun. "That's for not being there for my little girl when she really needed you." Dan roared at him, then turned and walked back down the corridor to Sarah's room. Loki looked back at Thor, Jane and Fury, all of them finding somewhere else to look except for Fury who stared back at him.
Loki walked back to the group and stood before them, casting a glance at Sarah's father who stood like a sentinel at the door to her room. "An interesting custom you have to greet someone, Daniel." Loki said, Dan's eyes narrowed at him. "You've got a lot of strange customs yourself, buddy." Dan retorted as Loki smiled and Fury opened his hand again, feeling the strap of his side holster cut into his side. "Oh you've no idea, Mr. Miller. I should like to show you if I had the time." Dan stepped away from the wall and stared at Loki with a smile bordering on a grimace, "Is that a threat?" Loki's hands started to curl into fists and he was about to reply when he felt a hand on his shoulder, "Brother, you are here for Sarah and your child, remember this." Loki looked over his shoulder at Thor, paused, and put his hand atop Thor's as the nurse stepped out of the room and said, "Okay you can go in now."
Loki turned to Dan, "Excuse me." and he walked into the room, Dan watching him as he sat down on the bed beside Sarah and took her hand. He looked back to the group before him, "That guy's got balls." Fury glanced into the room at Loki, "You have no idea. C'mon, it's going to be a while, I'm gonna sit down, you all can stand if you want." Fury headed for a designated waiting room across the hall. "I'm going in to see Sarah for a few minutes," Jane said to Thor who nodded, "I'll come with you in a minute." He said and watched as Jane turned to him halfway to Sarah's bed and wagged her finger at him, a serious look on her face. Thor ignored the gesture and turned to Dan who was still staring into the room at Loki. "I sometimes share your feelings about my brother, but he is still my brother, and the father of Sarah's child. It would do you well to know the whole story before you let your anger control your actions." Dan looked from him to Loki, to Sarah's face as she spoke to him. "It's not going to be easy," Dan finally said, "My babies are my world and when they hurt, I hurt." Thor clapped him on the shoulder, "It is the way of all parents and their progeny." Dan eyed him curiously, "You're not from around here are you."
Loki had settled into an easy chair beside Sarah's bed, he had leaned back into it, put his hand on the bed over hers and had drifted to sleep along with her. Dan had wandered to the waiting room where Nick Fury had retired to earlier but found the man with the eye patch asleep or at least pretending to. Annie came in to set beside Dan and put her arm around his shoulders. "At least she's happy, you should have seen her talking to him. It was like a great weight lifted off of her." Dan shook his head, "Because he decides to finally visit her? He should be kissing her feet because she decided to tell him she was in labor." "Loki is under travel restrictions here in the U.S." Fury said as he opened his eye and gazed at Dan who said, "Travel restrictions, what kind of restrictions do you mean?" Fury shifted his gaze to the soundless TV hanging on the wall where the Tonight Show was running down. "I can't tell you that Mr. Miller, I'm afraid that information is classified." Dan cast a sidelong glance at Annie, "Classified? Just what did she get mixed up in?" "Can't tell you that either." Fury replied, leaned back and closed his eye again.
The doctor woke Loki up as she walked into the room at around five-thirty that morning. "Oh hello, you're the daddy, correct? Sarah mentioned you were on your way." Loki sat up in the chair and stretched, glancing at Sarah who was blinking her eyes against the light that the doctor had turned on above her head. "I'm going to check and see where we are with this baby, okay?" Sarah yawned and nodded, felt the slightest touch as the doctor felt around inside her and finally smiled, "Well are you ready to have this baby?" Loki was fully awake now, standing up and looking about the room at Sarah's mother and sister who were also asleep, heads on their arms on the table before them. He tapped Lizzie gently and she jumped, "What
is it time?" Loki nodded, smiling, "The doctor says she's ready."
Sarah felt the epidural starting to wear off as she felt the contractions coming fast and furious but as if from far away. She watched Loki don a light blue gown, Lizzie tying it in back for him, another contraction and she doubled forward, breathing hard. "Okay honey, daddy's suited up, ready to push?" Sarah took Loki's hand as he put his other arm behind her back, the pressure building again until the nurse said, "Okay we're going to push until ten, ready, big push, one..two..three.." Sarah felt something move, and the release as something gave way, the pain dull at first then sharp again, "Okay we're going to have another big push, take a deep breath," Sarah glanced at Loki who was staring, rapt, at the mirror the nurse had put behind them so Sarah could see what was happening, "Okay push, one..two..three..keep it up almost there.."And Sarah felt a swift movement against her thighs, the release of fluid beneath her as the nurse said, "here he is. Happy birthday baby boy!" Sarah leaned back against the pillows panting, her eyes closed as she caught her breath. Opening them again, she saw Loki, at the end of the bed, his face wet with tears, lit with wonder, holding the scissors the nurse had just handed him, "Cut right there, yup just like that, very good." Loki looking up at Sarah, smiling, watching as they laid Fen on her stomach, finishing with Sarah. Sarah reaching down and stroking the fine dark hair, meeting Loki's trembling hand at the baby's head, then he was walking with the nurse as she brought Fen, who had started to scream his indignation at such an entrance into the world, over to the warming table to check his vital signs, and she thought her heart would burst, so completely right did this feel.
Thor and Jane had crept into the room and were peering over Loki's shoulders at the baby. Sarah waited for what seemed interminably long minutes until she saw Loki turn with the baby, wrapped in a white blanket with pink and blue accents. She pushed herself upright and held out her arms for him but Loki stopped short of the bed and putting his mouth to the baby's ear, whispered something she couldn't understand, before he placed Fen in her arms and sat before her on the bed, glancing from her face to his and back again. "Dearest heart, we have a son." He said as he stroked the soft hair atop Fen's head, then leaned forward and put a hand to Sarah's cheek. "We are now truly one together. You, me and Fenris." The baby let out a squeak and a yawn and they returned their gaze to the small bundle in Sarah's lap.
Thor had come up behind his brother and put a hand on his shoulder and Loki turned to Thor, the years seeming to melt away until the days they had forgotten so long ago seemed to settle around them, as they smiled at one another, "Brother, he is a fine boy. He will grow up strong like his uncle," Loki shook his head, "cunning, smart, like his father." Another squeak from the baby and the nurse who'd come back into the room to take away the tray of instruments that she'd put aside after the birth, said, "Sounds like someone's hungry. Mommy and Daddy need some baby time." Her mother came to the bed and kissed her forehead, stroked the baby's cheek and said, "I'll be back in a little bit, we're going to get some breakfast downstairs in the cafeteria. C'mon Thor." As she passed Loki, she put her hand on his shoulder briefly and was shooing Thor out into the hall with everyone else. As Sarah dropped one shoulder of her gown to bear her breast, the nurse showing her how to help Fen latch on to her nipple for the first time, helping her reposition him, none of them noticed Fury standing in the doorway, gaze fixed on the baby, and Loki, finally walking away down the corridor to where everyone else stood waiting for the elevator.