teakay: (I triumphed unfairly most fairly!)
[personal profile] teakay
Title: Hatred and Treachery Tyrson
Fandom: Marvel Cinematic Universe (Thor) with dashes of mythology and comics canon.
Rating: PG-13
Word Count:: ~7000
Summary: For this prompt on Norsekink, in which Fenrir is impregnated by eating Tyr's hand and Loki demands a shotgun wedding.
Notes and Warnings: Contains mpreg, forced genderbending, the mental equivalent of teenage pregnancy, dubiously consensual marriage, allusions to parent-child incest (none of the latter three with actual sex), Odin engaging in A+ grandparenting.

Fenrir and Tyr's relationship is inspired by Villy Sorensen's take in The Downfall of the Gods. A Finnish name shows up in Asgard due to Finland's proximity to Viking stomping grounds and as homage to its particular mythological tradition of being knocked up by eating random shit. Takes the "everyone-loves-Balder" thing to one of its logical conclusions. ETA: Tyr's parentage is partly derived from the poem Hymiskvida, in which his father is the Jotun Hymir and he sets off with Thor to borrow his Jotun-size cauldron for a party.


So it came to pass that Fenrir Lokason, indisputably the most famous wolf on Asgard for reasons other than he'd been given to expect, found he had one further thing in common with his father.

He'd had no courses to run dry, so that wasn't how he knew. Nor was it the slow swell of his belly; the last thing he'd eaten was Tyr's hand, the one thing he drank was rainwater, and he knew swelling could come from famine as well as feast (and he had used to feast, gorged himself to bursting just as his father did. And that was one of the other things they had in common, but in Asgard the land of perpetual feasting it was stranger to come across someone who nibbled at his supper).

How it came to pass was thus: his father himself made his latest escape and came to see his second-eldest son on the heather-strewn island. His father's too-bright eyes moved over the wretched-soft fetters of Gleipnir, the string of spittle dripping from his open jaws (wedged open as he'd seen his father's sealed), his narrowed eyes, his swollen belly. And there, it seemed, he looked deeper and saw more than Fenrir himself could feel, a sight Fenrir might have learned to see but had not, and he laughed at it and was gone. For the next long stretch of time before the dawn came, Fenrir watched the patch of air where he had been.

***

When his father came to him the next night, he came with Tyr and they made the approach across the water as once not so long ago a gathering had sailed with basketfuls of lunch and Gleipnir coiled in one such basket to be dramatically produced once the first rounds of drinking were done. Tyr's voice carried over the wind and waves, low as he tried to make it, "Are you certain...?"

"He has hardly made a habit of devouring extremities, has he?" said his father, in his voice that was soft but meant to be heard well. "Has he taken a bite out of Balder?"

He wouldn't have bitten Balder. Balder, like most of Asgard, hardly ever came close enough to possibly be bitten, but had he done so more often he would not have been. And he didn't-come-close with far more courtesy than most; from a distance he pronounced words of unstrained amiability. He was soft and smiling but not disgustingly so. He was the last person in the Nine Realms Fenrir would bite.

Not so long ago, if asked, he would have said Balder was second-last; the last person would have been Tyr.

Balder hadn't gone to the island. Nor had Uncle Thor. Perhaps they hadn't been told. Perhaps they had been and wanted no part of it. It was a simple thing to imagine.

Simple like the ripened cowberries that day. He might enjoy them with tomorrow's meat, he'd thought before going to the boats, but he would consider first the meat to be had today.

"Perhaps even of Volstagg – he would hardly notice anything missing... or perhaps, if there were another shapeshifter as depraved as I, to take wolf-shape and lie with him... ah, Tyr Hymirson, I am told you are a man of your word. I am certain such an honorable warrior will take responsibility for what he must."

At some point, Fenrir realized what his father was driving at. Then he began to wonder if it might not be a complete lie. As he wondered, Tyr brought their boat ashore. There were other things in the boat, he saw now. Of course it could not hold as much as those other boats, but what it did hold would feed two very well. It would also feed three very well, he thought before he could stop himself, and then it was too late and his mouth watered the heather beneath.

Tyr looked at him soft and sad and disgusting (and disgusted, he thought, but then was not so sure). His father looked at him sharp-edged and smiling and triumphant. He snapped his fingers and the sword that held Fenrir's jaws apart turned sideways and slid out of his mouth to fall in the watered heather. As Fenrir gulped and coughed he said, "My dear son, I've brought you your bridegroom."

***

Jormungand Lokason was the one to go in pursuit of their father. He had learned to shapeshift because of the many things of interest he could do with fingers, but (years ago now) when he went to the still-ragged edge of the Bifrost after the first time their father escaped, he went as a sparrow. Heimdall's eye had just moved to follow him when he returned to his natural shape and let gravity pull him past the edge. Heimdall told Fenrir and Tyr this, very simply. He had landed in an ocean of Midgard. The last news Fenrir had from Heimdall was that sometimes ice would form in the waves, and sometimes he came ashore on island settlements and enjoyed himself with the natives.

And naturally it would have been Jormungand, who was the one with the lazy heavy-lidded smile (on such occasions as he had eyelids) that promised he knew something he would never tell. Jormungand was the one who took an interest in magic. He was the one who would, before he grew too large for it, wind himself about their father's shoulders as he read. While they were doing this Fenrir would be gamboling outside, tumbling in the grass with Tyr or Uncle Thor – less of the latter, as time passed. Uncle Thor had a good idea of how to treat a pup, and a good idea of how to treat a nephew, but he had less and less of an idea of how to treat a growing wolf that spoke and called him uncle.

That was one of the few times Fenrir began to wish he might learn some magic – to be a beloved nephew that could carry a sword and be clapped across the back and cheered at tourneys. But if he were the sort to learn magic he could not be that nephew after all.

***

"Has anyone told you yet," said his father as he unloaded the boat with quick peremptory gestures, "the true reason you are a monster?"

Tyr's head turned as if his neck would snap and his remaining fingers tightened on the one cask he carried beneath his one whole arm. "Loki," he said with a tight throat, and no more.

"They told me," said Fenrir. They'd told him when they thought his father dead. The thrust of their words was that they were still his grandparents and Uncle Thor was still Uncle Thor, no matter their (lack of) blood ties, but now he knew that wasn't so.

He'd said nothing else yet, in answer to what else his father had said. He wanted to scream and demand to know what he meant by all this nonsense and why he was speaking of bridegrooms and bride-prices and how he could think a man who was not him could possibly bear children. But then his father would speak with his silver tongue, sensible and sarcastic, and make him feel a fool once more, and that he knew he couldn't bear.

"I spoke to your mother recently," said his father, "without glamours, and it explained a great deal." Fenrir knew, or had known, that his mother was a sorceress of great power and great beauty and little patience with children no matter the shape they took. One of the braver children in Asgard had asked once if he missed not having a mamma. He remembered nothing of her to miss.

"She was not best pleased with me, alas. Trying to destroy her homeworld will do that."

He might not be as quick-witted as his father, but he could do that sum well enough. And he likely could have done the next sum, if his father hadn't beaten him to it. "Ah yes. And with –" And he stopped, just long enough for Fenrir to notice him shoving another word back down. "– Thor still gallivanting about on Midgard, His Majesty took it upon himself to ensure that Gungnir would never again pass into Jotun hands."

Tyr looked pallid and ill. Fenrir hoped he had been ill, ill for all the past months, lain abed raving with fever and with pus congealing on his rotting stump.

And then his father spoke on. He spoke of his research on the Hymir who had sired Tyr Hymirson, who Fenrir had been told before was a brewer and whose recipes were still followed and served in Tyr's hall. He had never seen Hymir or the brewery though he had met Tyr's mother, fair-haired and placid. He was told that this was because Hymir Hymirson – Hymir the Younger, Little Hymir – did his brewing on Jotunheim. Little Hymir was small enough to manage congress with an Asgardian woman without too much difficulty from either party. It was in the days of half-free passage between the realms, and when she returned to Asgard before the war broke out on Midgard she had taken her small son with his pale skin and dark blond hair and Jotun-blue eyes. Tyr looked at some points as though he would protest or demand how he came to know this, but though his mouth might move his tongue did not.

His father spoke on with a twist to his lip of the myriad methods of conception the Jotun had evolved, to ensure their race would never lie barren as their lands. "Do you suppose our dear Thor would consent to bring Mjollnir for the bride's blessing?"

***

Uncle Thor did come, eventually, and brought Mjollnir.

That was a turning of Mani later. In between his father did not come again, but every night once Sol set and Mani shone Tyr would sail back to the island with the boat laden with food and feed it to Fenrir as he did, eventually, on the first night. He took up the blade that had been between Fenrir's jaws. With his remaining hand, he used it to skewer whole pheasants and loaves of bread and present them with arm outstretched. Fenrir ate it all because he was hungry. Tyr often wanted to speak, but never started speaking, and Fenrir did not take pity.

("How do Hela and my brothers fare?" he asked his father, when the first night was coming to an end, and his father had said they fared well, and he made a light useless reply to the effect that he was glad to hear it. That was all.)

Uncle Thor took pity on him. That was why he came to the island. The space in Tyr's boat that was customarily used to hold supper now held Uncle Thor and King Odin and Queen Frigga, which Fenrir thought a poor substitute indeed. Uncle Thor helped Tyr with the rowing; the boat approached much faster than it had each night over the last turning of Mani, once his father was not there to speed it with seidr.

Uncle Thor came deliberately within range of his jaws, and spoke. He said there had been a terrible mistake, and Fenrir wondered whether his uncle had always had this tendency to belabor the obvious. He spoke then of something new: of his own research in the lore of Midgard, which Asgardians were inclined to dismiss as thrice-filtered half-nonsense – but somehow, said his uncle, they had named his father as Jotun-blooded Loki Laufeyjarson before his father or his uncle or most of Asgard had ever realized. Properly of course it would have been Laufeyson (now that it could no longer be Odinson), but who knew with frost giants? (said his uncle, averting his gaze toward Fenrir's face rather than away from it). If they had heard of it before they had dismissed it as more Midgardian flights of fancy, but in retrospect it could not be denied. The Midgardians had foretold, also, that Loki Laufeyjarson would sire three children by the Jotun sorceress Angrboda. That Fenrir would be bound with the ribbon named Gleipnir on a solitary island before he had even finished growing, and that Tyr would give his hand for a pledge he knew he would break. And they had foretold that before he bit down and severed and swallowed that hand, Fenrir had committed no heinous crime to be punished thus. That it had been done solely out of fear, because of a prophecy of what might be, and that in acting in haste to forestall the rise of a prophesied enemy Asgard had created one.

Ah, Fenrir thought, things fitting into place, so this is about Asgard, in truth.

So it was for Asgard that King Odin began to speak and say, in more words than he needed, that it was too late – that he'd taken Tyr's hand no matter the provocation and there was no dismissing that (ha, thought Fenrir, so he was not even entitled to demand wergild, not even allowed to claim the penalty all had agreed on?) – but it did not have to be this way. As the sole party who was actually harmed (besides him, thought Fenrir, but he had never mattered had he) Tyr had agreed to take Fenrir into his house and custody, as he had done before in fact if not in formality. Not as his fosterling now, as his – and here even King Odin faltered, briefly at a loss – as his wife, and as the mother of his child.

"His children," said Queen Frigga soft and hard both, "And yours."

The binding could be modified to be more magical than physical. He would not have to keep a woman's form once the children were born and weaned – or even born; they only put forth the condition that he take one for the safety of him and the children. He was not nearly as versed in magic as either of his parents, who could conceivably carry and perhaps even bear in a mostly-male shape.

Once the children were born and weaned, Fenrir thought, it would be back to the island. To watch Sol rise and set, to watch Mani wax and wane, to watch the waves lap and the heather grow.

The season for cowberries was long gone, but soon winter would end too. If the children grew as Asgardian children did, then before they came the cherries would bloom and ripen. And if they did not take too long to be weaned, then would come the bilberries and perhaps even the cowberries once more, and the apples Tyr's mother would throw into the cauldron for mead and cider.

They asked if he gave his consent to this new sentence. "I consent," he said.

His uncle brought Mjollnir but they did not, after all, lay it in the bride's lap.

***

His wedding feast had been last autumn and no one had realized; he did not have another. Tyr's lands lay on the frontier of Asgard. Tyr rode there on horseback, while his uncle flew him with Mjollnir in one hand and his arm about Fenrir's new-formed torso. The wind tried to rip the cloak from his shoulders and Gleipnir from his hair. He suppressed a scream of terror and delight. His uncle had not done this for him since he began to grow in earnest.

The golden spires shrank below them, still gleaming under Mani. If he were not wearing the trousers Tyr brought – along with the cloak and the tunic and the shoes and the belt and the ring of keys – he would have seen how far his piss would stretch. He consoled himself in the small ways he had learned to console himself – at least Tyr did not mean to make him wear skirts.

Tyr's mother greeted them when they landed. If she was shocked when his uncle said she had already met his nephew Prince Fenrir, she gave no sign.

(Prince Fenrir. He thought this over and wondered if, in the absence of princesses that weren't Hela, this was meant to be their reward for Tyr's brave and honorable sacrifice.)

"It is good to see you again," she said. He half-bowed, still awkward on two legs. She had never been unkind to him. She had not gone to the island. Her name, she remembered, was Marjatta Oddsdottir.

His uncle embraced him and said he would come see him when he could. Fenrir endured it and said thank you and farewell.

Tyr had not yet come home. Before he did, Marjatta showed Fenrir where things lay about the hall that he had not thought to look for and he noticed what things had been changed to account for Tyr's one hand. She showed him what doors and chests and cabinets each key unlocked. In the kitchens he fumbled his new fingers to pick up a sharp knife and test it on a thumb and slide it in his trouser pocket. She saw it and said nothing because she knew he could do nothing. She told him he could eat as he liked. They were more than prepared for winter. So he sat and ate bread and cold roast and jars of cowberry preserves; she did not take it back.

Before he lay in Tyr's bed he slipped the knife underneath the pillow; he did not think the bedding was so fine the last time he had wandered in Tyr's hall, the last time he slept at the foot of Tyr's bed. This time he lay straight lengthwise as Asgardians did. The new configuration of Gleipnir would not prevent him from striking back in his own defense, so his uncle said. There was that. His uncle had probably not imagined what sort of defense he planned to mount if need be.

He was still awake when Tyr returned. He lay on his back, so over his belly he saw Tyr's shadow in the opened doorway. Tyr came slowly in and closed the door behind him and pulled up the blanket and climbed in to lie beside him in the bed. He did not try to touch him. Eventually Fenrir slept.

***

There was this: they did not force him to act a woman.

They would not let him learn to ride, nor to spar, nor to ski. They would not let him hunt, or climb the trees he'd wanted to ever since seeing his siblings do it. For the sake of the children. But if it were not "for the sake of the children" it would be the same as for any man of precarious health whose healing gut was not to be disturbed. They still did not force him into skirts. He did many of the same things Tyr did (though Tyr could still ride and spar and ski, if not nearly so well). He could do other things, with two hands, that Tyr struggled with. His swimming was much improved.

He learned to shoot. The bow was not the sort of weapon he would have imagined wielding. One more thing he hadn't imagined. He practiced ferociously until he reached a consistent rhythm, the arrows thudding thunk-thunk-thunk in clusters at the heart of each target.

At night he reached beneath the pillow and curled his fingers about the handle of the knife.

Tyr still did not touch him. Perhaps he had no interest in women or girls round with child. Perhaps it was not the shape Fenrir wore, but the shape Tyr knew lay beneath (the monster beneath his father would say). Perhaps... perhaps Tyr did not desire him for something of the same reasons Fenrir had once had for not desiring him (he had other reasons now). Perhaps – as it was poetically explained in one of the sagas on the Vanir in Tyr's library – he bore the sort of love that could not be mixed with desire without becoming strange and perverse.

No, it had nothing to do with love at all, thought Fenrir, reaching for another book. Perhaps it was only that he still thought himself a man of honor.

There had never been many servants here, but now there were only the oldest and most faithful. Fewer to witness his shame. It was strange – they seemed almost to treat him with more deference now that he wore their shape, and keys clinking on his belt. When he was a child he had used to think it would all be different, once he was of a height to look across into their eyes – four-legged, this was more difficult than for his agemates. Then he had grown to that height. Things were different, then. They were different again.

His uncle visited several times. He was awkward and embarrassed and left quickly for the next calamity on Midgard.

The queen visited. At first Fenrir had done his best to be away for these visits, but then he realized it was no use – she was visiting for him. She came to take the measure of the children she called her great-grandsons. They would be two, she said, and brothers, she could tell. She looked as if she were on the verge of reminiscing how delightful brothers at play could be, but had the good sense not to. She fed him draughts and potions to close the gaps of the king's magic, to make the twins grow strong after the months they had gone as unfed as Fenrir. She brought him fine-stitched loose tunics and cloaks, and once a tapestry of a forest idyll. He nodded and shook his head and she did not press him. Marjatta helped him put up the tapestry on the wall of the bedroom next to the side of the bed on which he customarily slept.

Tyr began to speak to him. Fenrir did not speak back. He bid him a good morning and a good night. He asked him one evening if he enjoyed the meal of the first boar he'd helped bring down since he lost his hand; Fenrir allowed him one nod, and Tyr took it as leave to continue to ask on the following evenings.

Then when they both chanced to be in the kitchens he brought out an ancient yeast stick. Fenrir had seen it when Tyr and Marjatta used it in the brewing; before that, he was told, Hymir had used it. Now Tyr said that the branch on which the yeast grew was made from a Jotun tree. He spoke, too, of the special herbs and mosses imported from Jotunheim long ago and grown in the cellars, to be added to the brew for flavor and good health.

***

Once, in that mercifully brief stretch of time when he was trying to imagine how he might have brought it on himself, how things might be made to make sense, he'd thought back to just after his father had fallen in all senses of the word. The news had been making the rounds of how his father had torn open the Bifrost and tried to tear Jotunheim asunder in turn. Fenrir had not quite understood why everyone sounded so appalled at the notion. The usurping and so on, that made sense. But before all this, Uncle Thor had boasted of how one day he would ride on Jotunheim and turn the snow red with frost-blood. The difference, he'd supposed, was that his uncle would have killed the Jotun one by one in honorable combat and his father would have done it at a distance, all at once. He asked Tyr about it, if that was right. Tyr had looked at him strangely (now he could remember bleeding-sharp how strangely he'd looked) and said it was not as simple as all that.

He'd thought, in those days with nothing to do but think, that they believed his mind must travel along the same treacherous paths as his father because he did not understand how wrong it was straight off.

***

As spring neared he grew still larger, and slower, and wearied easier with the children kicking like Sleipnir inside him, and was permitted less by Marjatta (if Tyr forbade him he would have done it all the more, and perhaps they were wise enough to know that). Soon the only tunics he could wear were the ones the queen gave him. He wondered if they would be cold and blue, coming out. He had not thought it was possible to eat more than he had been, but he proved himself wrong.

He had another opportunity to prove his wrongness when Tyr, surer of himself and steadier on his horse, invited a group to visit, go hunting and feasting. It was a small group. His uncle's favored companions, his uncle being away on Midgard once more. Balder and his twin Hod (invited, he supposed, because Balder would not go without him, and to have someone worse than Tyr along). Lady Skadi Thiazisdottir, the new-arrived emissary from Jotunheim, dispatched by the new-crowned brother-kings to negotiate wergild and the return of the Casket of Ancient Winters and possibly a combination thereof.

King Byleistr and King Helblindi. King Laufey's sons, and so his father's brothers. According to these sums they were his uncles. Backed by blood though they were, these sums were no more real to him than the ones that claimed King Odin and Queen Frigga were grandparents.

Fenrir retired to the library for the preliminaries and emerged only for the feast once he decided there was to be no hiding away in the kitchen like a craven, as though there was something he ought to be ashamed of. Perhaps there was, but that was no matter. He was still Prince Fenrir, though it sat strangely. He wore the finest of the tunics, and the keys at his loosened belt. Marjatta helped him braid in and knot the long ends of silken Gleipnir as though it was meant to be there. One of the maids ventured, "You look lovely, Highness." He glowered at the mirror and that was enough to have her backing away.

Balder, seated beside him without apparent qualm (he wondered if he ought to be insulted even if it was one of those things he'd used to wish for), said he looked handsome. He had said this before. Fenrir said thank you and looked down without meaning to. For Balder the Beautiful to call one handsome was high praise indeed.

Hod sat next to Balder and looked to Fenrir as well, looked at him, closer than anyone would think he could look if they knew only that he was blind. Skadi sat across from the table, on Tyr's other side, between Tyr and Marjatta. She looked, and she stared, when she was not slipping sidewise glances at Balder. Fenrir wondered how much she had been told.

After Balder spoke to him, Volstagg followed his example. Then Fandral. Then Hod, then Sif and Hogun. Skadi spoke, eventually, of her small acquaintance with his mother. Marjatta spoke in turn of Hymir Hymirson. They spoke to Tyr, too, but there was one thing they didn't speak of, and he was glad of that, so he answered them. Let them speak to Tyr as they would.

***

He retired after finishing his last helping. This was not early or impolite; most of the others had set their plates aside, and Volstagg was already beginning to slump sideways in his chair. He lolled in the bath, Gleipnir torn loose and trailing over his shoulders. He looked down, and looked across to the glass on the wall, and wondered as he had once wondered as a child what he would look like as an Asgardian man. Probably not like his father; even as a woman he was broad-shouldered and thick-built and tall for an Asgardian if not for a Jotun. A man could only be more so. A man would probably have much the same sharp face. A man would have the brown-almost-yellow eyes, and the dark cloud of hair, and the ribbon knotted up inside it.

After spring broke he would be a man with a ribbon in his hair.

No, ridiculous thing to suppose when he knew in the spring or in the summer or whenever the twins no longer needed suck he would be a wolf again with a ribbon round his paws. He jerked upright and clambered out of the bath.

In the bedroom, when Tyr came in, he stood next to the bed with his arms and his hand behind his back. He said, "You seemed... lonely."

When he was a child and lonely Tyr had always been able to tell without saying it aloud and shaming him with it. Fenrir would not have to explain that his father and uncle were away on a quest and Jormungand and Hela were cloistered in the library and he'd bitten Sven's boot after Sven kicked him and everyone else ran away even though it was Sven's fault, it was. Tyr would take him hunting, and Tyr would laugh and rub his ears when he fetched fish out of the river in his teeth. And by the time the sun sank he would have stopped being lonely, without having to beg it.

Tyr said, "I hope..." and stopped, and sighed. He said, "I do not know if you will ever believe me in anything again, but I am sorry."

"If you were to tell me the sky was blue," said Fenrir, "I would have a look out the window to see what had befallen it."

This was something Fandral had once said of his father. Sif and his uncle had laughed and his father had moved his lip in what might generously be called a smile.

"I should have been more persistent on your behalf," said Tyr. "I should have warned you when you received the invitation. It was by merest luck only that I was never in your place."

"You fell out of Lady Marjatta two-legged and two-armed," said Fenrir. "Hymir Hymirson might've been Jotun but he was never a seidrmadr or a traitor to the crown."

Tyr bowed his head briefly. "As I said. Merest luck."

***

If anything thawed between them that night, it was frozen again by morning. It stayed frozen as spring came upon them, followed quickly by the time for birth in company with the other animals.

Marjatta and the queen and Lady Eir the royal physician attended him, the latter two arriving barely after he first felt his womb seize. Even as a woman, they predicted, it would be difficult. He'd yet to quite reach his full growth. His hips were narrow and the passage out of his womb untried by even what usually had to happen to put a woman in this state. Lady Skadi followed in their wake, looking as though she wondered as much as he did what she was doing there. Perhaps they wished for Jotun insight, he thought as he knelt for birthing, and Jotun hands that would not be frozen black in pulling out the babes – and then he screamed through his clenched teeth as the next wave of pain broke over his head.

He spent most of the following hours submerged, breaking the surface rarely and momentarily. Father! he heard himself cry once, and don't leave me! Don't leave! clutching a hand blue and webbed with scars.

***

When he woke he lay in the bed with pillows at his back and Eir put his boys one in each arm. She'd cleaned them. They were fat and pink and looked thoroughly Asgardian (maybe this was another reason they insisted on this form, so that he would not whelp more wolves). They had his and his father's dark hair, soft and feathering. Their eyes were blue as Tyr's; too soon, yet, to know whether they would stay that way. Their twin faces looked much the same, but one bore a small brown spot at the corner of his lip. Both already had a scattering of teeth.

Eir wanted to pull their teeth. It would be safer, she said, it would make it easier for them to nurse, and the extraction would be a matter of a simple painless spell. Fenrir snarled at her and clutched them close and she gave in.

It did hurt when they suckled, but he sat grimly through it. This once, at least, before they turned him back. He remembered every promise they had made even if he did not expect them to be made good.

***

They did turn him back, the day after, or back a half-turn. The king arrived, at first intending to escort the queen back to the palace. He left without her and left Fenrir in a man's shape, Gleipnir wound and knotted about his left wrist like a lady's favor, seeping milk for another three days. Marjatta and the queen helped him feed his boys on soaked rags and bottles – his own milk while it lasted mixed with that of goats and sheep – and taught him other ways babes needed tending. Skadi sent for plants and raw meats through the Bifrost to be prepared in old formulas to make children grow and mothers regain their strength, draughts to be swallowed alongside the queen's concoctions. He asked her if they would think she had delivered a child. "No," she said, "they know you are Angrboda's son."

"Do they know I am Loki's son also?"

"They know that you have never taken up arms against Jotunheim, and as his second-eldest you are Their Majesties' closest heir."

Attempting to murder one's prospective subjects was convincing grounds for disqualification from the succession. Sleipnir, the eldest, would be out of the question as well; who among the Jotun would want a king who'd been literally mounted by King Odin? "And this does not trouble Their Majesties?" He was nearly a man grown and he might well have taken up arms if his paws would have held them.

"No." She added, blunt, "They have plenty of time to sire their own children."

Skadi liked the high cold mountains, and skiing down them. She also liked serpents and kept some as pets. She might have liked his brother Jormungand, he said, if she had no objections to seidrmadr, and she nodded. "My own father was a shapeshifter." She did not offer the reason behind the was and he did not pry.

He kissed his boys on their closed eyes and their tiny noses, and tickled them into laughter.

On the ninth day, as was custom, Tyr finally arrived for the claiming and the naming. He sat in a chair before the bed and balanced them one on each knee as they fussed. He expertly used his handless arm to keep the one on his right in place – he was the one with the mark at his lip. "They are beautiful," he said, smiling, looking awed. Awed, surely, that Fenrir could ever have produced them... but Balder said I was handsome. "They'll be as strong as you. Have you thought of names?"

Fenrir quelled his surprise at the question and resolved himself. "Yes."

He smiled. Already he was forgetting. "Would you tell me?"

Fenrir smiled back. "Hati," he said, pointing to the one with the mark before moving the finger to his brother. "And Skoll."

The color drained from Tyr's face with the first name. He looked as he had when Fenrir bit down and blood flowed across his tongue. As he had then he was shocked – shocked! – that Fenrir took what he was given. "That is poorly done," he said once he regained his speech and wits. "Hatred and Treachery are dire names to give innocent babes."

"My name was hardly dire," said Fenrir, "and it did little for me." His father told him once that he was named after the queen's ancestral hall, Fensalir of the fenlands, where he played when his eyes were pup-blue and her ladies still found him sweet and pettable. "And it was after all what they were conceived in.

"Besides, husband," he continued, relishing Tyr's wince, "I have read my uncle's books of Midgardian prophecy." His uncle had not wanted to, but finally brought them to him in the last months, acknowledging he ought to have the chance to guess what lay in store. "As they told how we became wed, so they told the names of our children."

This was not entirely true. The books were immensely confused. They said nothing of a wedding (though one of them had spoken of Tyr's pride when he broke Leyding and Dromi before Gleipnir, and of the tears in his eyes after; he set that one aside quickly), and some believed the twins had been (would be) conceived of incest with his mother. And as far as he knew the king had yet to sire this man Vidar with a massive shoe to kick his jaws apart. As far as he knew, to his relief, neither had the king sired Balder and Hod. Perhaps Balder at least would be safe.

"After all," he said, grinning as he had not grinned since before his father fell, and not like then either for now he filled it with all he inherited of his father's poison, "who am I to dispute the workings of fate?"

***

Asgard had this at least for women and other wives: its methods of divorce were as multifarious as Jotun methods to conceive.

A half-turning of Mani later, when he had regained his strength, Fenrir left out a nasty piece of flyting-verse for Tyr, casting aspersions on his honor and his potency in bed. It was not very good verse, but surely the intent was what mattered. He hoped it would not be offset by the letter of apology he left alongside the keys for Marjatta, who had been good to him even if as a mother she was also good to her son. He dressed in cloak and tunic and trousers and bundled Hati and Skoll in the queen's blankets – he remembered that though he was full Jotun by blood, he had not been impervious to night chills – and rode for the Bifrost on the mare he had only recently learned to ride. As the lights of the city grew larger and the mare began to tire, Sleipnir ran out to meet him. He dismounted and saw that Sleipnir was saddled and ready for riding. "Thank you, brother," he whispered, tying on the saddlebags full of books and swinging himself on while trying not to disturb the twins strapped to his chest. When he tried to think who else he might thank for Sleipnir roaming out of the royal stables in his time of need, the first possibilities were too outrageous to be believed.

After that, his main fear was that Heimdall would not let him through and that he would have to jump like his father and brother – and surely Heimdall would be wise to that trick by now, perhaps the Bifrost now had railings. But Heimdall did not even raise an eyebrow when he arrived on Sleipnir's back – of course, all-seeing as he was, he would have had plenty of time to be surprised at a distance. "I want to go to Midgard," he said. "Land, but near our brother."

"I see," said Heimdall, and slid his sword in place.

There was time to talk while the Bifrost charged, and he said, "I thought you hated him." The books of Midgard had spoken of that too. They said one day at the end of all things (all but people like Balder and that unborn Vidar) they would strike one another dead.

Heimdall looked at him as though he were slow in the head and said, just as slowly, "You are not him."

***

They landed on a rocky islet strewn with seaweed; the runic mark Heimdall left to show the Bifrost's passing was distorted on the uneven surface. Sleipnir set out his eight legs with care. It was night on Midgard as well. The journey had awakened Skoll, who began to wail; soon this woke Hati, who made it a duet. Fenrir fished a bottle from the saddlebag, kept warm by a simple enchantment, and fed them each in turn. He had fed Hati first the last time, so he began with Skoll.

He was not quite finished when Jormungand burst from the water. He emerged a serpent of less than his natural size, landed on the rocks a large black cat, and took an Asgardian shape once he had leapt up to reach his brothers. "Brothers!" he called, with the long-missed sound of pure delight. He wrapped one arm halfway around Fenrir's shoulders and ruffled Sleipnir's mane with the other. "Brother, you have shrunk! And who are these little ones? Am I to understand I've become an uncle?" Fenrir barely got in a nod edgewise. "And what lovely boys you have! ... they are boys?"

"Yes," Fenrir managed to shoulder in, tipping the last drops to Hati before putting the bottle away. "Their names are Skoll and Hati."

"I supposed as much," said Jormungand. Fenrir wondered if he too had read the prophecies. If he could imagine killing Thor any more than Fenrir could imagine eating Sleipnir. "Allow me to extend my hospitality. There are inhabited islands to the east of here that I find quite agreeable. The Midgardians agree on the agreeability, so they are well prepared for visitors, and there we can surely arrange lodgings."

Just before Fenrir could point out that Sleipnir could hardly swim west further than the eye could see (and likely neither could he, with the twins to see to), Jormungand shapeshifted again into a curiously unmarked Jotun and raised his hands. As his fingers opened ice bloomed across the water into another bridge, strategically roughened for Sleipnir's hooves to find purchase, extending into the moonlit distance.

"I'm told they shaped you into an Asgardian woman," he said as he stepped onto the ice. "And now I see you as an Asgardian man. Mother's kin are Jotun, Father's blood-kin are Jotun, and yet somehow you have never worn their shape man or woman. We will have to fix that someday."

"Perhaps," said Fenrir, and followed.
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