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Heimdall hadn't initially seen his exile for the sign it was: Asgard's future, writ small, carried out first in him, the gatekeeper and the guardian.

On the first days of their journey came another sign: a twinge, this time, deep inside. He looked, and saw at once what it was. He saw, too, that it must have been growing for weeks--since Hela had come, at least, if not earlier.

It was not a difficult sign to interpret. Creation to counter destruction. Life to counter death. A future for their people to counter the fear that there would be none. A child, the first of many to come.

At first, Heimdall gave the particulars of the matter little more thought than that.

*

"Heimdall, are you well?"

Heimdall had been sitting, as he'd often been forced to stop to sit, these past few weeks. He became fatigued easily, grew dizzy at inconvenient moments. No one else seemed to have noticed, except for the one person on the ship who shouldn't have, having concerns of his own in equal number to Heimdall's.

"It's nothing, my king," he said. "A passing spell."

Thor crouched down next to him, wearing a concerned frown. His every expression came in a frown, these days, but there were variations. "You've had a few of your spells, lately. I want you to see a healer."

"There's no need." He would make sure to make it to a chair going forward, Heimdall decided. Thor couldn't reasonably object to a chair the way he could to the floor.

"It's not a request. You're going to the healer. As soon as possible. In fact, I'll take you now."

"And what do you think the healers will see that I haven't seen already?"

Thor's frown changed: irritation, this time, mixed with a fear much more potent than his former concern. "Heimdall. What have you seen? What's wrong with you?"

"Nothing. I'm merely with child."

"You're wi--" Confusion and then understanding drifted into the frown. "You're--still going to the healer. Come on, let's get you up."

*

"So," Thor said the next day, sitting down next to Heimdall. His frown was gone, but Heimdall had too much of a headache to figure out why. "You really are pregnant."

"So it would seem."

"You're a few months pregnant."

"Yes."

"And you weren't going to tell anyone."

"I shouldn't have to," Heimdall said, grimacing; glancing at Thor had taken its toll on his head. "Is it my fault if no one else ever sees anything?"

"...I suppose not." Thor looked at him for a long moment, and then: "If I may ask: who's the father? Or, well, the other father."

"There is none."

"Ah. Well, who's the other parent, then?" If Heimdall had not been looking, headache or no headache, he would have missed the moment Thor's face lost its false cheer, and fell into a horrified frown. "Oh, Heimdall, you didn't lose someone you--"

"No. There is no other parent. The child is Asgard's."

"Oh." How a frown could be cheerful was anyone's guess; what Heimdall guessed was that the pain had bored deeply enough into his head to affect his sight...but only for a moment, before he saw it true. "Well, that's good, then."

Once, Heimdall never would have dared to say what he said next. There were some things that ought to remain unspoken, not out of any fear of reprisal, but because to expose some truths would have closed too much of the necessary distance between he and the rest of his people. But that sort of thing didn't seem to matter anymore, and if Thor didn't seem inclined to leave him alone when he was suffering, perhaps this would encourage him to do so for at least the next few days.

"Why so interested, sire? Did you wish it were yours?" he asked, knowing the answer before he spoke it.

"Do I--no, of course not. Don't be--don't be ridiculous," Thor said, and laughed, a nervous laugh not at all like himself. He got up from his chair a minute later, after no less than four new denials, and all but ran back to one of his many other concerns.

*

He came back several hours later.

"Can I ask you a question?"

"Certainly," Heimdall said. "Although I don't promise you'll like the answer."

"All right. Do you think your child might be mine, after all?"

"...No." For one thing, they'd never lain together, or even come close, though Heimdall was not unaware of how Thor had lusted after him in the autumn of his boyhood, and sometimes still. For another, even if Thor had developed some new power in the last few weeks, he'd been nowhere near Asgard when this seed had been planted.

"Well, Asgard is a people, and I'm the king of that people...and you say the child is Asgard's. It would make sense, wouldn't it?"

This argument was almost certainly flawed, but Heimdall's headache was such that he couldn't see where the flaw might reside. "...Perhaps."

"See? You were right after all," Thor said nonsensically--or at least Heimdall could make no sense of it.

*

Several weeks later, Heimdall seemed finally to be free of headaches, dizzy spells, and other such weaknesses. His abdomen had also swollen during this time, so that everyone else finally noticed the difference.

Of course, it was once again Thor who remarked upon it, by sitting down and asking another question: "What does it feel like?"

"My ankles hurt," Heimdall said. "And my back."

"Ah," Thor said.

"Was that not what you wanted to know?"

"You know it wasn't."

"No," Heimdall said. "But you may."

Thor did, hand coming to rest on Heimdall's stomach. First it was a cautious touch, fingertips only. Then his palm came to rest there, too, fingers splayed out, as if he were trying to span them across the whole of Heimdall's belly. He smiled, wholly, the sun come to burn away the clouds. Something warm seemed to pass from his hand through to Heimdall: some heretofore unknown power, some new sign.

"This is a powerful blessing," Heimdall murmured.

"Mm," Thor said, and leaned in and kissed him, leaving his hand where it was all the while.

Heimdall found he had no objection to this, after all.