The very first thing Tony wanted to do was take a three hour long shower. No wait, the first thing he wanted was a whole pot of coffee. Shit, the first thing he wanted was out of this armour.
He'd never really been a fan of running into combat against Loki, the guy was pretty creative, and creative villains were so freaking annoying because they kept coming up with more and more ridiculous things. This time, it had been some kind of octopus made out of a neon, radioactive green slime, and while his flippant remarks that he'd seen enough hentai to know where this was going were – thank god – not actually right, every crevasse of his armour was filled with a sticky slick slime that stunk to high heaven. He wanted to get out of the armour, soak in the shower, then down a pot of coffee. There. Order set this time.
Besides, the Loki threat was dealt with. Tony had just deposited him in one of the SHIELD holding cells that apparently had to have been built in the Avengers mansion.
He was dealt with.
“Tony Stark,” Loki called, in that slick, smooth liar's voice of his.
“Not listening,” he sang.
“Come... is that how you talk to the bearer of your child?”
“Sure is,” he said, then stopped dead, the armour thrumming around him for a long moment as he reconsidered what exactly it was that Loki had just said. The mask of his suit suddenly snapped back, folding away, and Tony turned around, arms crossed over his chest, a single eyebrow arched. “Excuse me, what?”
Bruce Banner was scowling as he fiddled with some of his equipment, but he had not, so far, gotten pissed off enough to actually have a problem with this, so everyone pretty much ignored the temporary moodiness. After all, despite all his protests that he was trying to perform science here, dammit, he was the closest thing to a doctor that they had, so he was the one that they went to.
Loki was sitting in what looked like a dentist's chair – though they could imagine that it probably had other uses – with cuffs on his wrists and his fingers folded, perfectly comfortable, on his stomach. He would grin at anyone that looked at him, a lazy, confident smile. He knew why they were all there, and he seemed, well, delighted by the very idea. Damn smug godlings.
His brother, Thor, was the one on official 'make sure Loki doesn't escape' duty, so he was standing just behind the chair, arms crossed. Not that Loki seemed to be trying to escape.
He sort of looked like he was having way too much fun.
Steve looked about as confused as Tony felt, arms crossed. “I don't get it. Loki is a man , isn't he?”
“Yeah.” Tony grunted, hands on his hips. He'd shed the armour somewhere along the line, but was still oozed. There was a towel slung around his neck, and when he'd remember, he'd swipe at his hair or something, to clean it up, but he mostly just didn't want to let Loki out of his sights. He knew the Trickster was probably just fucking with him, but he had to know. “But according to the Norse mythology, Loki sort of has a habit of getting knocked up. Apparently it's a god thing.”
“It is a Loki thing.” Thor corrected.
“Oh, come now, brother.” Loki leaned back in his chair, grinning up at Thor. “Many Asgardian men have borne children. It is not as though I am alone in this.”
“Except,” Tony spoke up, drawing the gods' eyes back to him. “Most of them don't get knocked up by horses.”
Across the room, Pepper made a sort of gagging sound, and quickly set aside her mug of coffee. “ Excuse me ?”
“Sleipnir, our Odin-father's steed, is the offspring of my brother,” Thor confirmed, nodding.
Loki shrugged, and said, casually, as though it was perfectly normal, “It is true.”
There as silence in Bruce's lab for a long moment, then Pepper said, “I take back what I said before. It's not probably your baby, Tony, it's definitely your baby.”
Loki laughed at that statement.
“...not helping, Pepper.” Tony grumbled. “Besides, Loki is the king of liars. We don't know that he's actually, you know, pregnant.”
Bruce cleared his throat. “Ah. Yes. We do.”
They all turned to look back at him, and he sort of waved, helplessly. “I finished the blood work. He's pregnant. As much as I would normally say that makes... absolutely no sense. Scientifically, that is.”
“Oh god.” Tony groaned.
Steven helpfully pulled a chair forward so that the billionaire could sink into it. He wasn't sure his knees would have continued to hold him up much longer.
“...wow.” Pepper said, at last. “Um. Congrats?”
He groaned, and leaned forward, head hanging between his knees.
Steve awkwardly pat his shoulder.
“One would think you'd be happy,” Loki drawled, obvious amusement in his voice. “The creation of a new life...”
Tony bolted up. “Wait. I can't be the father. I never had sex with you.”
“He's magic, Tony.” Pepper huffed.
“Did you not?” Loki mused, tapping his chin with his fingertip as though seriously considering that thought. “And yet, I am so very sure I remember receiving a personalized, engraved invitation to that orgy you held a couple months ago.”
Tony had, at least, the good grace to flush and cough.
“You had another orgy?!” Pepper demanded, at about the exact moment that Thor yelped, “You invited my brother to an orgy?!”
“Oi. Billionaire philanthropist genius playboy.” Tony reminded them. “If I didn't throw orgies, people would think I was losing my touch. Besides. You weren't there.” He pointed at Loki. “JARVIS kept an attendance list.”
“JARVIS!” Pepper squalled. “You knew about this?!”
“I don't ask, and don't tell.” The computer said, in his clipped British accent. “Avert my eyes, as it were.”
“Bullshit.” Tony snorted.
Loki laughed, his laughter cutting through the mess of noise. It wasn't what you could call a nice laugh, exactly, but it also wasn't a maniacal cackle. It was just the laugh of someone who was just having an awful lot of fun. “What, you don't remember the woman in the green dress?”
Tony's confident smirk faded. “...green... dress?”
“Green Dress.” Loki grinned.
He cleared his throat, awkwardly. “Naw, I don't remember any woman in a green dress.”
“You're a terrible liar, Tony.” Steve informed him, seriously.
He groaned. “I've been told that.”
“JARVIS,” Pepper called, crossing her arms over her chest, tapping at her upper arm with her clipboard. “Do you remember any woman in a green dress?”
“Of course,” JARVIS said, cheerfully, and the tv on the wall sparked to life.
“Woah, woah... no way, JARVIS, do not plat – iieee, JARVIS, you are so fired...” Tony scrambled to his feet, groaning. “...dammit.”
JARVIS was playing what looked like surveillance footage on the screen, taken from just above and to the left of what was transpiring on the screen. There were a lot of men and women in suits and sleek dresses milling about in the background, looking less like an orgy and more like a cocktail party, but from the looks of it, people were still arriving. Tony was wearing a suit, sipping at a glass of champagne, and laughing as he trailed his fingertips over the bare shoulder of his companion. She was almost as tall as Tony himself, smiling easily, long dark hair cascading in curls around her shoulders, and dressed in a sleek, form fitting emerald green dress that skimmed the top of her breasts in a sweet heart cut, sliding tight down her hips and thighs, then flaring out in a mermaid cut that managed to flatter her immensely, even though it made a lot of other women look ridiculous.
“Oh.” Tony cleared his throat. “That woman in the green dress.”
The TV flicked off.
“So glad I left a lasting impression,” Loki drawled, voice higher than normal, and it was Bruce that let out a yelp of surprise when they realized that Loki had changed, and was smirking as she looked up at Tony through dark eyelashes. The armour Loki always wore hugged in all sorts of new, interesting ways with a body like that, underneath. “Maybe I should have worn the dress.”
“Not a bad idea,” Tony muttered, then louder, said, “But I’m not stupid. I used protection.”
“Too much information,” Bruce muttered.
“No, frankly, I’d rather hear that he did play it smart than he didn't,” Pepper disagreed, sighing. “The last thing Stark Industries needs I a paternity suit scandal.”
“Like Beiber.” Tony grinned at Steve, who just sort of looked lost. “So there we go. Can't be me.”
Loki rolled her – his? - eyes as she began to shape shift back into him. “I am magic .”
“My brother makes a good point, friend Tony.” Thor pointed out, frowning slightly as he considered that point, then stepped forward to clap him on the shoulder, hard enough to make Tony's knees threaten collapse again. “Welcome to the family!”
“Woah.” He held up his hands. “There is no way of proving its mine!”
“The evidence does seem stacked against you,” Steve pointed out.
“No, no... Tony Stark is right.” Loki announced, drawing everyone up short. He was investigating his nails as though they were the most interesting thing in the world, but as he glanced at them out of the corner of his eyes, he smirked absolutely deviously. “After all, Bruce, as much as it could be Tony's child, it could also be yours.”
“What?!” Bruce squawked.
“Bruce, you old dog!” Tony laughed, grinning at the scientist.
Flushed, he protested, “I never slept with him!”
“No~oo.” Loki agreed, drawling the world out longer than its one syllable as he twisted in his chair, hooking his knees over the arm and grinning as he leaned back over the other, acting every inch a teenaged girl for just a moment. “But you did sleep with a cute little redhead about two months ago...”
Bruce paled, and he sat heavily at his desk, eyes wide.
“Loki!” Thor cried, looking displeased. “It is not...” he hesitated.
Loki rolled his eyes, sitting up properly again, as though he hadn't been sprawled just a moment before. “Yes, Thor, do tell me about how it is unfitting for an Asgardian prince to be dallying with so many residents of the nine realms. Shall I start a list of your conquests, brother? I do believe yours is longer than mine, to be sure.”
“...no.” Thor grumbled slightly, picking at imaginary dust on mjolnir's side.
“I am not the father.” Bruce said, firmly.
“You could be,” Loki shot back, blithely.
“Maybe this is something we should talk about.” Steve suggested, scratching at the back of his neck, looking a little out of place. “I know, in my time, men didn't get pregnant or anything, but when someone got pregnant, and they weren't married, I know the families all sat down and decided what to do. And I guess Thor will have to represent Loki's family, and well, I’ll stand in for your father, Tony, I did know Howard pretty well...”
“But who's going to stand in for your father, Steve Rogers?” Loki drawled, sweet as anything.
Steve blinked. “... my father?”
The Trickster gave him an entirely lecherous grin. “It could be your baby too, big boy.”
Pepper scoffed. “As if Steve would ever...” She hesitated. “...Steve?”
He flushed, not in anger, but in embarrassment. “No, it's impossible.”
“Come on, Cap, he tricked me and Bruce, and we're certifiable geniuses.” Tony clapped his friend on the shoulder, companionably. “It happens – and it did – to the best of us. So tell me... what'd he look like when he got you?”
“No, you don't understand,” Steve shook his head, flushed. “I can't be the father.”
“Just because Loki's a man,” Bruce cleared his throat. “Now, doesn't mean - “
“No.” Steve interrupted, cheeks so red they were fairly glowing. “I can't be.”
“Oh my god!” Pepper gasped.
“Yes?” Loki drawled, lazily, laughing when Thor glowered at him.
“What is it?” Tony demanded, looking back and forth between Pepper and the Captain. “What is it? Pep?”
“Really?” She said, instead, meeting Steve's eyes.
He flushed, and shrugged one shoulder.
“What are you two nattering on about?” Tony demanded, then he suddenly put two and two together and got five. “No way. You're serious?”
Steve cleared his throat, then nodded.
“Dude, you're – you're like... ninety years old! I don't care if you were frozen for seventy years, that's starting to get to Edward Cullent levels of freakiness!” Tony waved at the air, spluttering. “I mean... that's just... we have got to get you laid!”
“I don't understand.” Thor said, at last.
“Captain America, mister Centre Fold himself,” Tony waved at Steve. “Is a virgin!”
The blond god blinked.
Loki sat up straighter in his chair, eyes narrowing. “Is this true?”
Steve cleared his throat, then nodded.
“JARVIS? Are you already compiling a list of possible baby daddies?” Tony called, frowning slightly.
“Well, scratch Steve off of it. Looks like he's not a candidate.”
“No,” Loki said, quickly, relaxing back in the chair again. “Leave him on it. I don't have to sleep with someone to get pregnant by them. Trust me when I say that your Captain America is still very much a candidate.”
Steve looked sort of shell-shocked.
“Noted,” JARVIS said, cheerfully.
“Wait, isn't Loki generally referred to as the Father of Lies?” Pepper frowned, glancing at them. “As in he could be lying?”
“Well, he's not lying about these test results,” Bruce said, tapping the papers on his desk. “I ran them through three times. He's most definitely pregnant.”
Tony cleared his throat. “And there was a woman in a greendress.”
“...and the redhead.” Bruce muttered, squirming slightly.
Pepper sighed, heavily. “I meant about Steve being on the list of candidates.”
“You know what the funny thing about lying is?” Loki said, cheerfully. “The fact that I’ve never actually done it. It's so very much more fun to tell you the truth and watch you pull your own world down around your ears.”
“That,” Tony said, after a moment, “May make things even worse.”
“So let me see if I’ve got this straight,” Jan leaned forward, trying very hard not to laugh, but from the look of her expression, she wasn't doing too terribly well. “We capture Loki, and it turns out that, not only is he pregnant, he might be pregnant with Tony, Steve, or Bruce's baby, because you all had sex with him?”
“He was a woman at the time,” Tony pointed out. “And not all at the same time, Jan, way to make it sound like the doc and the cap and I are up to some kinky shit.”
“And I didn't sleep with him.” Steve said, quickly.
“Right,” Bruce nodded. “If Steve is the father, then the child was created by magical means. The full details of how that works I have yet to figure out, but I’m trying to puzzle out how it could happen, magically versus scientifically... so far more of Loki's 'spells' seem to have a basis in what we refer to as science, so I’m not sure if, for instance, he is using mystical means of invitro fertilization...”
“Fascinating, doctor, but back to the issue at hand...” Tony drawled. “Basically, Jan, it's what you said. We are living in the ultimate Jerry Springer episode. A man is knocked up, and Steve, Bruce, or myself are the possible fathers. At least, that's what Loki tells. He could be lying.”
“He is not lying.” Thor said, slightly morosely. “At least, I do not believe that he his.”
Jan looked back and forth between them – Pepper's tightly pressed lips, Tony's slightly exasperated expression, Bruce's slightly anxious look, and the way Steve looked absolutely shell shocked. Thor, meanwhile, just managed to look terribly disappointed in his brother – though whether it was because Loki was pregnant or because Loki didn't know who the father was, exactly. She considered them all very seriously for a long moment – and then she started laughing hysterically. So hysterically, in fact, that she tumbled right out of her chair, and kicked at the air, shrinking as she did, until she was hovering in the air, kicking as she clutched at her stomach.
“Well.” Tony sighed, leaning back and pinching the bridge of his nose. In that moment, he actually felt his age for once. “She took that better than I expected.”
Clint snickered, shaking his head. “You guys are whores, you know that, right?”
Natasha swatted his shoulder, but she was smirking.
“No, seriously.” He laughed, eagerly. “Loki's been here, what, three months? And he's already snagged three of you? Couldn't keep it in your robo pants, Stark?”
“Fuck you, Clint, you'd have slept with her too.” Tony sighed, dropping his hand.
“Sure, but I wouldn't have got her – him – pregnant, genius.” He smirked. “So you more into chick-Loki, or dude-Loki? Oooh, or are you into chick-with-a-dick Loki, huh?”
“I think the more important point,” Pepper interrupted, smoothly, expert at diffusing these awkward conversations. As she had said, many times, dealing with a whole house full of Avengers was rather much like dealing with a houseful of Tonies, and she made quite a bit of money for handling Tony Stark. She'd become something of an expert at it. (Not that anyone deserved the fate of dealing with multiple Tony Starks. Or one Tony Stark.) “Is what we're going to do with Loki?”
“Do with him?” Bruce repeated.
“What are you intending for my brother?” Thor asked, brows furrowed.
“Well.” Pepper said slowly, straightening slightly in her seat when everyone turned to look at her. “Obviously he is still a villain. Sorry, Thor, but it's true.”
He nodded in her direction, seriously.
“So obviously we can't just let him free to roam in the world, pregnant or not. So obviously we need to keep some form of control over him. But are we really going to keep him in a cell forever, or...?” She sighed, holding up her hands. “After all, I don't think SHIELD has ever had to deal with pregnant villains, so I doubt that the Big House or the Cube would be any good for him, and even Hank's inter-dimensional prison probably wouldn't do the job. And I don't know about you, but I don't think the cells we have downstairs would really keep someone as colossally powerful as Loki contained for long. So. What do we do with Loki?”
“A valid question.” Thor mused.
“Launch 'im into space?” Clint suggested, crossing his arms, legs swung up on the table, crossed at the ankle.
Mjolnir slammed down on the table, and Clint yelped, chair falling backwards, head cracking off the floor. Thor looked absolutely thunderous – fittingly, considering who he was – and they swore they could hear thunder crackling somewhere over the mansion, even though this room was soundproof. Gripping the handle of the hammer tightly, Thor growled, “No harm shall come to my brother's child.”
“Sheesh, okay, I get it.” Clint muttered, rubbing his head as he stood up.
“You feel pretty strong about that, huh?” Tony blinked up at the blond god.
Thor hesitated, then slowly lowered himself back into his chair, sliding the handle back to himself. JARVIS was going to have his work cut out for him, repairing that crack to the table. “Yes. Much harm has been done to my brother's children in the past, and though I strove to save them, I was unable to do so. I will not allow harm to come to this child.”
“Didn't know you were such a family man, Thor.” Jan said, looking up at him, seriously considering that.
He shrugged, quietly. “I do care for my brother, even when he is acting... foolishly.” Thor sighed, and grumbled, slightly, “I simply wish that he knew who the father was.”
“Well, we're narrowed down to three, at least,” Pepper sighed, jotting some notes on her clipboard.
“I doubt that.” Thor sighed.
Jan blinked at him. “Really? What do you mean, you think there's more possible baby daddies?”
“My brother is called the Father of Lies not because he lied, but because he told the truth. Many of his children were killed because of the truths he told.” He squirmed, scratching his jaw slightly. “Specifically... he was telling the truths about how many of the other gods he had bedded. Loki is, regrettably, somewhat of a whore. So I would not be surprised if there were far more than just the three possible fathers.”
“Huh.” Pepper frowned, seriously considering that. “That would complicate matters.”
“Why don't we do DNA testing?” Tony pointed out.
“Well. That would not be until the child was born.” Bruce pointed out.
Steve, who had been strangely silent the whole time, said, “I read in the newspaper that they can test for things like that before the child is born.”
Tony pointed at Bruce. “What he said.”
Pepper snorted, and tapped her pen against her clipboard.
“Well... yes. Technically, that is true.” Bruce agreed, clearing his throat. “However, it is considered something of an invasive procedure. Now maybe Loki has had many children before, and maybe this is perfectly normal for him, all my research tells me that this is the first time it's happened on Earth, so personally, I’m treating this like an extremely high risk pregnancy. He may have been a woman when he became impregnated, but according to my tests, he is a man, now. Just... a man who happens to be pregnant. Therefore, considering it to be high risk, I need to ensure that nothing upsets the balance. And as the DNA test would require punching the amniotic sac, I consider that upsetting the balance.”
“But doesn't he have about seven months left?” Steve asked, frowning.
“Seven and a half, based on hormone levels, but again, this is the first pregnant man I’ve ever encountered.” Bruce sighed. “So I could be wrong. It's actually quite fascinating to document, but I sort of think I’d be laughed out of the scientific community if I published a paper on this.”
“Oh come on, you'd have proof.” Clint snickered. “A fat, bitchy god – woah!”
JARVIS said, sounding slightly frustrated, “I would thank you, Thor, to cease hitting the table every time that anyone slights your brother.”
Sheepishly, Thor tugged mjolnir back off the table.
“So we won't know until the baby's born who the father is?” Steve asked, quietly.
“Should I book the appointment with the Maury show, now?” Tony smirked, crossing his arms over his chest. “All the Avengers as possible baby daddies for a super villain? We'd get a whole damn episode devoted to us!”
“No.” Pepper said, firmly.
He snickered, amused.
“Well, we can't - “ Steve hesitated, then took a deep breath. “While there is still a question of who the father is, I don't think we could possibly send Loki anywhere. I think we need to keep him here, just... just in case.”
There was a still moment, then Jan said, “You wanna be the dad.”
Steve flushed. “I never said that.”
“You do so!” She said, sitting up straighter, and waved at Clint. “He so does, doesn't he?!”
“Damn.” Clint blinked. “You do, Cap, don'tcha?”
“I very much doubt I am the father.” Steve said firmly, rolling his eyes. “After all, of the possibilities, I am the only one that didn't sleep with him. And if he had magically made me the father, I don't think he would have forgotten that!”
“But you want it to be you!” Tony laughed, and clapped his friend on the shoulder. “All yours, man.”
“Tony Stark,” Thor said, firmly, like a warning. “This child may still be your offspring.”
“But it might not.” He smirked.
“But it may.” Thor said again, and in a very stern, very serious voice, said, “My brother has suffered enough loss. I will not see this child of his meet the same fate as its siblings of before. The father of this child will take care of them.”
There was silence around the table for a long moment.
“Well, that sounds entirely ominous.” Clint declared.
“...I need a drink.” Tony muttered.
Steve frowned into his empty mug, as though hoping it held the answer to every question that bounced around his mind, refusing to take a form that he could put into words. When the mug didn't seem forthcoming with answers, he finally set it aside, and took the kettle to fill it at the sink.
Coffee was useless for him, anyway. After the Super Soldier Serum had boosted his system to nigh-unmeasurable levels, caffeine had never really had an effect on him, anymore. Well, there was also the whole issue of it not really needing to work, anymore, because he didn't feel the dulling of his mind if he didn't sleep or if he woke too early in the morning. He slept like a log when he slept, and was alert the moment he opened his eyes. The sort of pep, vim and vigour the million of questionable “treatments” he'd taken when he was young had promised him. Once, he used to kneel beside his bed at night, bony knees pressing into Great Aunt Helen's old rag rug, and pray that God would make him strong and healthy. But it had been science, not faith, that had granted him his heart's one desire. The God of his grandfather's old Bible traded for the god of modern marvels, Howard Stark. And now he fought alongside a literal god and Howard's son, who he was pretty sure considered himself a god in his own right.
The tea kettle whistled, and Steve lifted it off the stove, pouring it into his mug, then rummaged in the cupboard for the coffee grounds. Caffeine might hold no power over him, but coffee itself held a strong psychological sway.
Steve started, surprised, when smooth fingers slid around his waist, then upwards.
A warm body pressed against his back, those arms encircling him in an embrace as those fingers played with the collar of his shirt, almost teasing. Bewildered, he sort of gaped at those hands, then stiffened when he recognized the voice that purred in his ear, “Come now, Captain, you could find something far more... stimulating .”
“Loki.” He said, sternly. “You've been released from your cell, then?”
“I'm the bird in the gilded cage, actually. I’m not chained... literally... but I am in bondage.” His breath puffed hot against the back of Steve's neck. “I'm not free.”
Instead of trying to get free – he was very sure that the Trickster could have him caught again in a moment if he tried – Steve just continued on with what he'd been doing, and dug in the cupboard for the coffee. Spooning some into the cup, he said, casually, “The mansion is nice. I’ve seen real prisons before. This isn't really one.”
“I too, have seen real prisons.” Loki purred, fingers beginning to skim down the front of Steve's shirt, undoing buttons as he worked. “The scenery is nicer, here.”
Steve buttoned his shirt back up. “I'm sure.”
The other seemed entirely undeterred, and deftly untucked the front of Steve's shirt, now, fingers sliding underneath. “Is it true, what Tony Stark said?”
“Tony says a lot of things.” Steve smoothed down his shirt, brushing Loki's hands out of it.
Loki wasn't trying to force him to accept... well. Whatever it was that he was doing. Steve wasn't sure if that meant he was a gentleman, or if he was just trying to tease. Or if he had some other idea in mind, perhaps. If Loki had been one of those over-coiffed, dark-lipsticked girls he'd met a lot of during his tour of entertainment, he'd have known what to do. But Loki wasn't a dancing girl for whom performing patriotic shows was a good way to overcome an already tarnished reputation. He was a man , albiet one that was sometimes a woman, and one that was being met with a most womanly problem, now. He didn't know what Loki wanted, but when he stepped to the side, Loki dropped his arms and let him go.
Sipping at his coffee, he turned to consider the god, feeling out of his depth.
Loki looked the same as he ever had – and he sure as hell didn't look pregnant. He still looked whip thin and sharp featured, pale eyes bright as he looked up at him.
“Well?” The god drawled.
Steve flushed slightly, and hid behind his mug. “Well what?”
“You looked like you were trying to find the secrets to the universe in my eyes,” Loki smirked, stepping closer to him, again, until his chest was pressed to his. “Did you?”
He cleared his throat, shielding himself with the mug.
“You could speak to me, you know.” He said, brushing his fingertips along the line of Steve's hips, as though mapping them. “I have it on good authority that I am a fascinating person to talk to. I only bite if I am asked to.”
Steve muttered, “I'm sure you do.”
Loki arched a brow, smirking slightly, then said again, “Well, was Tony Stark right?”
“He's the possible father of your child. I’m fairly sure you can just call him Tony.” He muttered, still sipping at his coffee, shamelessly using it as a barrier between himself and the god. “I doubt he'd mind.”
“Is that so?” He trailed his fingers up his shirt, undoing the buttons again. “Steve?”
“...yes?” He ventured, at last.
Loki laughed, that laugh of the delighted, again. “Good to know. You still haven't answered my question.”
“Technically,” Steve cleared his throat. “You haven't asked it.”
Loki looked up at him for a long moment, then laughed again, and stepped right up against Steve's chest, hands under the taller man's shirt as he actually scraped his fingernails lightly against Steve's lower back. “True, true. I never did ask my question. Clever man.”
Steve swallowed, out of his depth. Were Loki a woman, at least he would have felt less out of place. If you asked him, there were far bigger issues to worry about out there than whether or not two men wanted to be together. He'd fought in wars, he'd battled genuine evil in the form of the Nazis and Hydra, and as far as he was concerned, little things like sexuality didn't really matter. Not that he was into that himself , of course, he was quick to add. So even though he was fine in theory with it, this was sort of confusing him to no end. “I try?” He said, at last.
“Mm.” Loki leaned up, and seemed to sort of draw in Steve's scent. “The question is... are you a virgin?”
He swallowed, not sure how he was meant to respond to a question like that, exactly.
“Just tell me the truth, Steve.” Loki purred. “Contrary to popular opinion, I don't actually like lies. I adore when people tell me the truth. There's such power in the truth, you know.”
Steve sighed softly, and finally said, “Yes, it's true.”
Loki was still for a long moment, those light eyes hooded as he considered that for a very long moment, then he abruptly looked up at Steve with an almost devious grin. “That is most interesting news,” he said, then he was slipping back from him, putting several feet of distance between them. “ Very interesting.”
“Oh.” Steve said, blinking at him, shirt untucked and hanging unbuttoned, still, clutching at his coffee mug like it was the only thing that made sense anymore.
“Indeed.” Loki smirked, and plucked the coffee mug from Steve's fingers. He lifted it to his lips, but hesitated when Steve took a step closer.
“Caffeine's bad for the baby,” Steve said, softly.
“Oh Steve, you do care.” He smirked, and offered the mug back with an entirely secretive Mona Lisa smile.
He took it back, flushed.
“Terribly interesting.” He said, and turned, leaving the room with a bit of a flourish, that green cape of his flowing more dramatically than even Thor's managed to.
Steve watched him go, confused.
The genius didn't even look up from his desk, where he was working on some kind of terribly intricate looking drawing, and seemed sort of lost in the minutia. There were dark circles under his eyes, and his hair hung lanky in his eyes, though he didn't seem to notice. He did, however, speak, calling, “JARVIS, you were supposed to tell me if Pepper was going to show up unannounced.”
“That wasn't the situation, sir.” JARVIS said.
“I'm not unannounced, Tony, we were supposed to have a meeting. Two hours ago.”
He blinked, and did look up at that. “We weren't supposed to meet until Tuesday.”
Pepper sighed, and stepped up beside his desk, arms crossed over her chest, holding her ever-present clipboard like a bit of a shield. “It is Tuesday, Tony.”
“Huh.” He ran his hand through his hair. “...no wonder I’m so hungry.”
“You are going to kill yourself, Tony, working like this.” His once-assistant-now-CEO told him, firmly, then frowned at the intricate design he was working on. It hung in the air over the work bench like the ghost of some past idea, glowing dully. “What are you working on, anyway?”
“Oh.” He grinned at her, like a kid proud to show off his new toy. Thrusting both hands into the blueprint, he snapped them together, shrinking the massive display down so that she could see the whole thing, and not just an incredibly zoomed in point. It looked like an architectural design, which Pepper thought a little odd. Tony had dabbled in a little of everything, but architecture was definitely not his forte. “Look at this! Isn't it glorious!”
She frowned. “...what is it?”
“Oh. Right.” He turned to look back at it. “It's a containment cell. In theory, it'll neutralize super powers.”
“Mmhmm.” She nodded, arching a single brow. “Mutations, or... actual powers?”
“Well, I’ve compensated, obviously, for both X-gene mutations and those caused by Gamma radiation.” He started waving his hands, excited by the topic. “I wouldn't assume it's fool proof, because one of the best things about mutations is that they're highly adaptive... and I managed to work it out, I think, so that Steve would just be sort of, you know, normal strong, here... not sure if Wanda could still shrink, though...”
“Tony.” She sighed. “Most of the 'super heroes' that you know are just well trained men and women with powerful weapons.”
“True,” he agreed, scratching at his jaw.
“So why don't you just tell me what you're really trying to do here?” Pepper arched a brow. “I mean, it's fairly obvious.”
“Is it?” He blinked at her.
“You're trying to find a way to contain Loki.” She said with a smirk, as though daring him to deny it.
“Well. That would probably be a foreseeable application of the technology...”
Pepper set her clipboard on the desk, and settled in his stool, ignoring the 'that's my spot' look that he gave her. She considered the design for a long moment, reaching up now and again to turn the blue print this way and that, looking at all angles of his 3D rendering. At last, she said, “I'm not sure if you're more worried about the fact that he's possibly having your child, or that you don't understand how magic works.”
“More worried that he's a super villain running free, actually.” He said, blithely.
“Mmhmm.” She smirked.
“Besides, Agent Coulson says he's locked down tight in that damn cell they insisted I had to build in my house.” Tony scowled slightly at that. “Tacky piece of SHIELD propaganda, that thing is. I don't know why we still have to work with them if we were basically kicked out on our asses ages ago.”
“I'm not so sure they kicked you out as you left.” Pepper pointed out. “And they're still involved because that's how we keep you from being arrested for vigilantism.”
“Ay, there's the rub.” He held up a finger, frowning slightly.
“Magic is driving you nuts, isn't it?” She smirked, considering him for a moment.
“There's no such thing as magic.”
Pepper snorted. “Oh yes, because gods that fly around with hammers and tricksters that get pregnant, as men, that's exactly the sort of thing that happens everyday, Tony.”
“Could be a mutation,” he pointed out.
“And the shape shifting?”
“And giving birth to an eight legged horse baby that his father rides around?”
“Creepy.” Tony shuddered. “What kind of senile freak goes 'I’m gonna ride around on the back of my grandson, yeehaw!' As for a cause of that one... well, I’ll get back to you on that one.”
“Magic, Tony.” She laughed.
“No such thing, Pepper, dear, I stopped believing in the tooth fairy a long time ago.” Tony laughed, and headed over to his coffee machine, sniffing at the leftovers in the pot, and cringing. “Ugh, that may be developing a consciousness.”
“It could be magic, Tony.” Pepper said.
“It can't be magic, magic's not - “ Tony cut himself off, as he'd turned around to rinse out his coffee pot and found himself standing nose to nose with Loki. “...real.”
“Loki has transported himself, magically, to the lab, sir.” JARVIS said, helpfully.
“Bit late, JARVIS, and don't use that word again, magic isn't real. Review the tapes of his arrival, if you will, I want a full spectrum analysis on what happens, down to t he molecular level, when he does that.... teleporty... thing.” He waved at the air. “Hello, Loki. Aren't you supposed to be contained in a SHIELD cell, somewhere?”
“Hello, Tony, and yes, I imagine that I am.” He smirked, then stepped back, and bowed, deeply. “I understand you're interested in how magic works. Here I am.”
Pepper stifled a smile, and stood. “I should let you two talk.”
“Oh, don't go, Pepper,” Loki smiled at her, smooth a silk. “I enjoy your company.”
“Yeah, Pep... don't leave me alone with this guy...” Tony smiled tightly at her, arching a brow as he tried to draw a shield in the air, and pretty much failing, based on her non-comprehending expression. “After all, any second, and he could be the woman in the green dress, again!”
“I doubt you can get me pregnant twice,” Loki drawled. “In fact, I daresay that you are safe, there.”
“No, really.” Pepper smiled at them, picking up her clipboard. “I ought to leave you two alone to talk about your possible upcoming parenthood.”
Tony gave her a 'help me' expression.
“If that's the case,” Loki said, as casually as ever, “Then you had best stay, Pepper.”
She hesitated. “...why?”
“Well, it's not every day that a woman finds out she could be a father.” The god said, as casually as anything, drifting about the lab as he picked up one of Tony's old robot hands, turning it over. It twitched, then actually leapt out of his hand and started skittering across the desk like a spider. He laughed, amused, and declared, “I like this toy,” before humming as he walked around. “So if we are discussing this possible parentage issue, then you ought to be here.”
Pepper slowly sat back down. “I could... be...?”
Tony looked back and forth between them. “You two...?”
“I've been told I’m dashing in civilian clothes.” Loki smirked, pleased. He really looked different enough without that helmet with the horns that Steve wasn't really surprised, come to think of it. “Pepper certainly seemed to think so, at the nightclub a few months ago. What was that place called, Pepper, darling, the one with the pennies on the floor?”
Pepper groaned, softly. “Culpepper's.”
“That was the place.” He grinned.
“Woah woah woah...” Tony held up his hands. “Are you seriously saying what I think you're saying?” He demanded. “You banged Loki?”
“He didn't look like Loki at the time.” She muttered.
“I looked something like this,” he purred, leaning on the desk, long dark hair tumbling over his ample – her ample breasts. Good fucking lord, Tony was never going to get used to that shape shifting thing.
“You banged green dress Loki?!”
Pepper groaned, and rubbed at her forehead. “There was no green dress involved, but... yes.”
“This is... you're into women?!”
“I'm open minded.” She muttered, tapping her fingernails on the desk, flushed. “Besides, you slept with her too.”
“You don't understand! You know how many problems this could have taken care of? How many angry girlfriends I could have passed onto you?!”
“And that would be exactly why I didn't tell you.” Pepper said, frustrated. “I already take care of everything else you don't want, I hardly think that it should be necessary for me to clean up after your girlfriends as well! I do not think it's a good idea to share women!”
“Too late,” Loki said cheerfully, still all curvy and womanly.
“You are not helping.” Pepper pointed at him.
“Was I supposed to be helping?” The god said, sweetly, and resumed her search of the room. Tony was beginning to think he really needed to create categories for Loki in his head, 'him' when he was male, 'her' when she was female. Oh, to be able to be whoever you wanted to be whenever you wanted to. And right now, apparently, Loki was determined to be a woman. “Sorry, you should have said something.”
“Can you not be a woman, right now?” Pepper sighed.
“And here I thought you liked it.” Loki laughed, and in the time it had taken them to blink, he was him again.
“I liked it at the time.” She muttered.
“This is great.” Tony smirked, mischievously, swinging his arm around Pepper's shoulder, tugging her against his side as he grinned at her. “This is totally awesome. We're doing something together, Pep. You and me... we're both possibly the father of the same baby. Isn't this the kind of thing you always wanted?”
She glowered at him. “No.”
“Should be,” he smirked, squeezing her shoulder. “Back me up on this one, man.”
Loki looked up, and smirked. “Tony, naturally, is right, Pepper.”
Pepper groaned, and finally said, “JARVIS, have you already updated the list for this... new information?”
“I have,” JARVIS agreed.
“Wonderful.” She muttered. “Loki, so we can give a parameter to this list... how many possible fathers are there?”
“I'm not actually sure.” He considered that, tapping his lower lip.
“...more than us four?” Tony asked, surprised.
“Thor did say it was probably...” Pepper murmured, quietly. “He said there were potentially more than just the three...”
“Ah, has my brother been telling stories?” He smirked, pleased.
“He's been telling quite a few, yeah. I particularly like the one where you were a bitch to Baldur with that mistletoe.” Tony scowled, then ran his hand through his hair, frustrated. “So there are potentially, what... dozens of fathers, or lady-fathers, I guess, and you can't narrow it down. So I could have a maybe baby for, what, seven more months? I was the kinda kid that ripped open my presents weeks before Christmas. I can't handle this kind of suspense!”
“Oh look, upside to this whole issue.” Pepper drawled. “Loki, you're teaching Tony patience.”
“I'm fairly sure I’m teaching him more than that,” he smirked, walking his fingers across the top of several of the awards that Tony had on display on the wall, knocking each over as he did. Casually careless. “For instance, I am teaching him the joy of the little things.”
“What do you mean by that?” Pepper frowned, brows furrowed.
“What is more basic and more perfect than the birth of a child?” Loki rested one elbow on a shelf, considering them for a long moment. “There is nothing more simple and more wholly life changing. Tony Stark has devoted his life to making the world around him bend to his will, and for the first time, the world is forcing him to bend to it. I would think you'd be delighted to have a child, Tony. A child is the perfect culmination of all that you are into a new, helpless vessel that needs your guidance and your tutelage to become a person in who the future rests. I would think, Tony, as a futurist, that you would be delighted to have a child.”
He blinked, and for once , Tony Stark was speechless.
“I think it's a lovely idea,” Pepper smirked, patting his shoulder with a smirk.
“I will wager the entirety of Stark's not small holdings that he never thought of it that way,” he smirked, stepping closer to them.
“I didn't.” He agreed.
“Told you. You should be pleased, Tony, I just saved all of your worldly possessions from being transferred to Miss Pepper. Though I am sure she already exerts considerable control over it.” Loki conceded, and drifted around the work bench, tapping at the glowing blue print that Tony still had floating above the table surface. “This is fascinating. How does this work?”
“It's holograms,” Tony said, dismissively.
Loki leaned on the edge of the tilted drafting table, hands folded, forearms resting on the edge of the table as he met Tony's eyes, waiting, clearly, for a more detailed explanation.
Tony frowned slightly, then said, slowly, “You actually want to know how this works, don't you?”
The god nodded. “I do.”
“Oh, I am leaving before this happens.” Pepper groaned, standing again, picking up her clipboard. “Have fun, boys.”
Loki caught her hand as she passed him, and kissed her knuckles, bending in a low bow. “A pleasure, milady, we shall have to have a talk again, just the two of us.”
“I hardly think that's a good idea.” She smirked. “Tony, he's pregnant. Make sure he eats and sleeps. For that matter... you ought to really consider some of the same medicine yourself.”
He waved her off, and grinned at Loki. “So. Holograms work because the human eye always picks out light.”
Loki nodded, already watching Tony again.
Pepper laughed softly, and shook her head as she slipped out of the room.
Steve didn't look up from his newspaper – he'd sort of gotten used to Clint just sort of popping up out of nowhere and sort of interrupting whatever he or anyone else was doing at the time. He did, however, slide his coffee mug a little further out of Clint's reach, just in case, and said, “Yes, Clint?”
“So you might be a father, huh?”
“That's how the story goes,” he nodded, brows furrowed slightly as he licked his fingertip and flipped the page.
“And you sorta wanna be the dad, right?” Clint said, insistent on interrupting his peaceful reading.
Steve finally looked up, and met the eyes of the archer, who had his arms crossed over the back of the chair opposite him at the dining room table. For once, Clint didn't seem to have that ever-present cocky smile, and instead was meeting his eyes with a serious, steady look. “I'm not sure I’d be against the idea of having kids, I guess, though I sort of figured I’d be married before I had any, and that, well... it would be a woman that would be the mother.... but I suppose I guess, yeah, I want to be the dad. I didn't really think I’d have a chance for things like that, I guess.”
“Hm.” Clint frowned slightly.
All this calmness and lack of joking from Clint was starting to concern Steve. What, exactly, was the archer focusing on, this time? It was almost – no, not almost, it most certainly was – out of character for the other man. “Clint?” He asked, finally. “Why do you ask?”
“You didn't sleep with the guy, huh?”
“No,” he agreed, leaning back in his seat, crossing his arms over his chest. Then a thought occurred to Steve, and he said, slowly, “...not that it's appropriate for me to ask, but... did you?”
“Oh come on, man, what do you take me for?” He snorted, and he was far more Clint.
“I'm beginning to think that I should be taking you for a man that slept with Loki, and is now concerned that he might be on the 'possible baby daddy' list,” he said, arching a brow. Tony seemed delighted to call the list that JARVIS was running this, so he was willing to accept that this was what they were apparently calling it. “Is that the case, Clint?”
The former SHIELD agent frowned, considering that seriously for a moment, then abruptly said, “Yeah, okay.”
“...I thought so.” He sighed, scratching his jaw slightly as he looked back at Clint. “I'm sorry.”
He scoffed. “Sorry? What for? I don't need your sympathy, pretty boy.”
“Clint.” He sat up straighter, frowning. “None of us expected this, none of us were prepared for it. So it's not fair to any of us to be surprised by this, and as I am feeling the same thing, right now... I understand. And I’m sorry.”
Clint frowned, then muttered, “Yeah, well, at least I got laid.”
“Yes, congratulations.” Steve snorted, and sighed. “You think the timing's right?”
“Bruce said about two, two and a half months ago, right?” He huffed, and nodded, pushing up off the back of the chair. “Yeah, the timing's right, I think there's a good chance JARVIS should be adding me to the possible baby daddy list. I mean, I ain't confirmed with Loki yet, or nothing, but I ain't really in the mood to be hanging out around that shitty cell they got him in.”
Steve hesitated, coffee mug halfway to his mouth. “...he's in a cell?”
“Yeah... the SHIELD ones they built down on the first floor. They got two SHIELD agents standing outside of them and everything.”
“...how long has he been in there?”
“I dunno... since we captured him last week?” He shrugged. “I mean, except for when Bruce has got him in the lab so he can poke and prod and try to figure out what makes this pregnancy thing tick.”
Steve sipped at his coffee, frowning slightly. “Do they let him out?”
“No, they don't let him out, he's a prisoner, you meat head.” Clint rolled his eyes. “Obviously they're not going to just let him out of the cell. They're going to keep him there. At least until they figure this all out and stuff, but I sorta figure he's staying there long term.”
“Hn.” He frowned slightly, considering that seriously.
“What's going through that blond head of yours, big guy?” He smirked, and rounded the table to boldly rap his knuckles against the top of Steve's skull.
Steve swatted his hand away. “Clint. Stop it.”
He snickered, and headed for the counter, starting to boil the kettle again, clearly intending to make coffee for himself. “But seriously. Whatever it is you're thinking about... at least I managed to get laid in my effort to try and make a kid. You think he knew he was going to be having a kid when he went around sleeping with us all?” Clint looked up, frowning. “Maybe that's why he slept with us all. To make a... like... awesome super powered baby.”
“I would have to imagine he did know,” Steve murmured, sipping at his coffee. “Because I didn't help him create the child – if I am the father – by natural means.”
“Shit, yeah. Some of a bitch!” Clint blinked, spinning to look at him. “He milked us like some kind of sperm bank!”
“Pleasant imagery, Clint.” He muttered.
“Hn. So... you didn't get laid. Shame. So if you did get to bang Loki... would it be the green dress chick Loki that apparently Pepper and Tony banged, or maybe the little red-head that Bruce got?”
“I'm not planning on sleeping with him,” he said, calmly.
“Is it cause he's a dude most of the time? Cause I dunno, I kinda get the impression that when he's a chick, he's actually a chick. Like it's some kind of transgender switch thing... he's actually become a chick, you know? So relax, you don't have to be homophobic or anything about it.”
“That's not it, Clint.” He looked up, finally, and sighed, softly. “I don't believe in having sex with someone unless you're married to them.”
Clint blinked at him for a moment, then snorted. “Come on, tell me another one.”
“I'm serious,” Steve said, calmly, looking back at his newspaper, flipping the page. “I don't believe in having sex with someone until you're married to them. Whether that person is another man, another woman, or someone of the opposite sex, I don't care. I really don't. And I understand that times have changed, and that people think differently now, and I’m not about to complain and demand that you all conform to my ideals. However... I don't have to agree with you, and I don't have to go along with it. So I’m not going to sleep with him.”
“Huh.” Clint blinked at him, and for a moment, he actually thought the other man was going to express some form of respect for his standing with his beliefs, of something.
And then Clint laughed, and said, “You are such an old man. Shit.”
Steve sighed, and shook his head. “Yes, of course.”
The kettle started to whistle, and Clint poured himself a mug of coffee, then headed out of the room. Just as he was about to leave, he leaned back in the doorway for a moment, then said, abruptly, with a grin, “Dude Loki, by the way.”
He blinked at him. “I'm... sorry?”
“I didn't do any of the girl versions of Loki. I did dude Loki. You know, his normal... manly... dude form.” He smirked. “Just so you know.”
“...either you're the only one that did... or you're the only one admitting to it.” Steve said, softly. “I'm impressed, Clint.”
“You think that's impressive? Wait'll you hear what we did.” He grinned.
“No thank you.” he groaned.
The SHIELD agent looked up when Janet entered the room, and closed his file folder, setting it aside. “Hello, Miss van Dyne. What can I help you with?”
Jan frowned, and looped her hands behind her back, tapping at the floor with her toes. She took a deep breath for a moment, then stopped, and tried again. “It's about Loki.”
“Somehow, I’m not surprised. Your entire team seems obsessed with talking to me about him lately.” He arched a brow, leaning back in his seat, considering her. Agent Coulson had sort of ended up moving right on into the Avengers mansion, even though they didn't really want him here, but he was supposed to be the buffer between them and SHIELD, and as it went, he was the lesser of several evils. They'd rather have Agent Coulson there than Nick Fury or one of the millions of faceless SHIELD agents that hung around. At least Coulson had a somewhat human nature. “Well? What is it?”
“It's just... it seems sort of awful, keeping him in a cell like that.” She sighed softly, stepping closer to the desk.
“Personally, I think it's sort of awful that he was trying to destroy our world.” He said, expressionless.
“He wasn't trying to destroy the world,” she rolled her eyes. “He was having a pissy temper tantrum. Because Thor and him had a fight, and then he fought with their dad, and he ended up getting banished and all that, and then he got pregnant. I mean, I would probably be an absolute nightmare if I went and got pregnant. Just... for the record, I’d be the biggest damn super villain ever, if I got pregnant.”
“Remind me to make sure you always have access to birth control, then.” Coulson arched his brows.
Janet snickered, and flopped down in the seat in front of his desk, crossing her arms. “I just don't think we should be keeping anyone that's pregnant in a cell, that's all.”
“He's dangerous, Janet.”
“Ah yeah, but so am I. So is Tony, so is Bruce. We're all dangerous. You don't keep us in cells!”
“You're dangerous, and that's why I’m here.” Coulson smiled, tightly, tapping his fingers on the desk, idly. “That is why SHIELD has a cell in this house, and why we keep an extremely close eye on you Avengers. Because you are, in every meaning of the word, dangerous. Loki caused a considerable amount of damage to both the city and to the people of the city.”
“Loki never really did anything himself,” Wanda pointed out. “I mean, he basically got his Sorceress buddy to do everything, or convinced other villains to do stuff... he never really did anything. So you can't really blame him just because he told some villains to do some things, and they did.”
Coulson shook his head. “Janet, we most certainly can .”
She sighed heavily, and kicked his desk, then smiled sheepishly when he glowered at her. “Coulson, he was pregnant . Pregnant people do such ridiculous things when they're pregnant! They have hormones up the wazoo!”
He flushed, and cleared his throat. “That's one way to say it...”
“So even if he did do some... you know... villainy stuff... it wasn't his fault! He was all hormone'd up and confused and pregnant!” Janet gestured.
“I'm pretty sure Loki is in control enough to not be swayed by some hormones.” Coulson sighed.
“You don't know that!” She said, firmly. “I mean, have you ever been pregnant?!”
Coulson blinked at her. “.... no ... but... neither have you.”
“True, but I have done my research.” Janet rolled her eyes. “I mean... I’ve seen it happen, time and again... tons of people get pregnant, and some of them do ridiculous bullshit. At least he's not puking everywhere and demanding we bring him deep fried pickles. Loki is pregnant, he's got an Avenger baby parasite in his tummy. Personally, I would have done much more awful things than just convincing a few villains to make some minor inconvenience trouble for us. I mean, our biggest fights were always against Hydra, anyway! So come on, Coulson... let poor Loki out of his cell?”
“I'm sorry, Janet... I understand why... well, no, actually, I don't understand why you'd want Loki free, but regardless, I cannot let him out of his cell.”
She sighed, heavily, puffing her breath up at her bangs, making them ruffle. “Not nice, Coulson.”
“...you aren't Loki shape shifted, are you?” He hesitated.
Janet rolled her eyes. “Do I look like Loki?”
“Janet, he's a shape shifted. I’m fairly sure he can look like anyone he wants to.”
She narrowed her eyes. “...so you could be Loki.”
Coulson sighed heavily. “He's in a cell at the end of the hallway.”
“Hn. Fine.” She stood, and shook her head. “I still think you're wrong, I think you should let him go. I mean, not completely free reign, or anything, but I think you should let him, you know, go around the mansion. I mean... all of the possible baby daddies are people that live in this mansion, right? So... think about it. I think the possible dads should have the chance to actually... you know... prepare for a baby.”
“Janet, we're not just going to have a baby running around the mansion, once they're born, as though this was normal.”
Her eyes narrowed as she considered him, seriously. “...what are you saying, Coulson?”
“I'm saying... that this child is the son of a god that wants to destroy us, and then the father is any number of 'heroes' whose own mental stability is shockingly... unsteady. Many of you dance the line between heroes and villains, really.”
“If you mean the Hulk, just say the Hulk.” She muttered.
“I actually didn't mean just the Hulk, actually.” He said, quietly, shaking his head slightly. “I would say that all of you are remarkably... interesting.”
“But regardless... the child will need to be, for lack of a better word, confined. Studied. Kept away from the general public. It would be dangerous to release this child, so... mother-father Loki and the child will need to be controlled by SHIELD.”
Janet looked absolutely horrified, and abruptly said, “...thanks for that information, Coulson.”
“Of course, Miss van Dyne.” He said, frowning as he watched her sort of flee the room, brows furrowed. He was starting to think that maybe being frank with them wasn't actually a good idea, but Fury had insisted that they shouldn't pussy foot on the Loki issue with the Avengers. This was probably a bad idea.
Tony stormed down the hall, eyes dark, brows furrowed over his eyes. Marching down to the end of the hall, he glowered at the two SHEILD agents that stood beside the cell door, and snapped, “Move.”
“We are under orders, Mister Stark, to keep you and the other Avengers, out of this cell.”
“Fuck. Your. Orders.” He snapped. “This is my house, and therefore, my cell, with my prisoner in it. I’ll be responsible for him. Just back the fuck off, and let me in.”
They frowned, looking back and forth between each other, as though trying to decide.
Tony sighed, and held up his hand, which was wearing the glove from the Iron Man suit, and the glow under his white undershirt tank top started to glow brighter. “Look. Move , or I blow the door open. My house... I don't really care if I blast the wall out.”
Reluctantly, the guards stepped aside.
“Thank you.” He grumbled, bowing his head slightly, and stepped past them, stepping into the cell.
The cell was pretty much exactly what he remembered – he had suggested, when it was built, that they just modify the bedroom they were making it out of, so at least it wouldn't look like such a terribly ugly cell. Instead, it looked like a metal cube, the walls, floor, and ceiling were all the same deep almost blue metal. There were no windows, and there wasn't even a real bathroom, just sort of a rough bathroom like thing tucked back in the back corner. There was a low, cot style bed along the side of one of the walls, and Loki lay on it, on his back. He had no armour, now, just lay there in a green shirt that looked something like a t-shirt and a pair of black pants, hair still tied back in his ponytail.
And he was barefoot.
Good lord, Loki was barefoot and pregnant.
Tony sighed, heavily, and crossed his arms. “Loki.”
“Tony.” He said, calmly, and finally looked up, considering the other. “Did you have to threaten the guards to get in here?”
“...yeah.” He nodded. “You're really good at this.”
“I understand people.” Loki drawled, and swung his legs over the side of the bed as he sat up, considering Tony for a long few moments, then smirked. “You look very dapper, angry. Are you aware of that? Perhaps I should try and get you angry more often.”
Tony rolled his eyes, and said, “We need to talk.”
“Oh well... this sounds serious.” He rolled his eyes, and patted the bed beside him. “Do sit. If we are going to talk, then we might at least pretend to be comfortable.”
Settling down on the cot beside him, Tony pulled off his glove, and dropped it beside him on the bed.
Loki reached around him, curiously, picking it up. Turning it over and over in his hands, he played with each of the fingers in turn, considering it. “This is the kind of armour that the dwarves would love to see... their smiths would be fascinated by it. They are in the ever running quest to create the perfect object. This would certainly intrigue them.”
“I'm sure.” He rolled his eyes, and plucked it back out of Loki's fingers. “We need to talk.”
“Tony Stark, passing up the opportunity to talk about his genius inventions?” He arched a brow, smirking slightly. “This must be something quite serious.”
“SHIELD wants to study your kid.”
Loki's smirk faded, immediately, and he said, voice flat, “Excuse me?”
“Janet talked to Agent Coulson. She was trying to get you outta here, because this cell is shit. But instead of getting you out... she found out that they are bound and determined to make sure that you never get out, and that your baby is 'separated from the general public'.” He made air quotes with his fingers. “So that they can study you and the baby.”
The god tightened his hands into fists, and Tony swore that there were green sparks in his eyes.
“Obviously, we don't want that to happen.”
Loki looked at him sharply, almost startled. “Tony?”
“We don't want that to happen.” He rolled his eyes, shaking his head. “I mean, seriously, you think we'd want you to be studied and dissected or whatever it is they're planning on doing to you? God dammit, Loki, this could be my kid. There is no way in seven hells, or nine worlds, or whatever it is you believe in, that we are going to let that happen to you or your baby. Officially, this baby is under the protection of the Avengers. And if that means we gotta take down SHIELD to make sure nothing happens to it... then that's what we're gonna do.”
The other's clenched fist slowly loosened, and he nodded, jerkily.
“I did some research.” Tony nudged Loki's shoulder with his own, quietly. “Thor wasn't kidding when he said a lot of shit happened to your kids. I mean... every one of them seems to have either been banished, or murdered. Not cool. And Odin showing up to slay the kids you had when you were a milker woman? Shit.”
“I'd rather not...” He hesitated, closing his eyes. “I am sorry. I don't mean to show weakness. But I’d rather not focus on what happened to my children.”
“Hey, I get it.” He said, quickly, and nudged his shoulder again.
“Thank you.” Loki murmured, quietly, and stretched his legs out in front of him, wiggling his bare toes slightly. “I refuse to lose this child as I lost my others.”
“And that's where the Avengers come in.” He grinned at him, brightly. “We ain't gonna let it happen. So here's the deal. I just need a few pieces of information from you, and then we can decide where we're going on this.”
“Is it 'who is the father'? Because I don't know.”
Tony snickered, and shook his head. “Naw, that's not what I meant. I already know we're going to have to wait out that thing... seven more months. I can be strong. Strong Tony.” He smirked, and slapped his fist down into his palm. “So. That's not the question. The question is.... how much of this did you do on purpose?”
Loki arched a brow, waiting.
“Like... the pregnancy, the getting captured... all of that. How much of it was done on purpose?”
“Well, I don't typically sleep with every person I meet.” He smirked slightly, lifting his chin, eyes bright. “I may be talented in bed and a master with sex, but no. I don't usually go out and deliberately sleep with many people. Especially people like you Avengers. No offense, of course, Tony.” He smirked at him, and toed at the floor, quietly. “Yes, I deliberately got pregnant.”
“...I think that's technically considered a sexual assault.” Tony mused for a moment. “Sleeping with people with the intent to get yourself pregnant without their knowledge.”
“Oh mercy, lock me up.” Loki drawled, sarcastically. “Oh wait, you already have.”
He snorted. “So is it only Avengers, or...?”
“No.” The god shook his head, and shrugged. “No, Tony, I didn't only sleep with your Avengers. I slept with a number of people. And some I didn't sleep with, simply added them, magically, to the possible pool. Hence your Captain America. I can, however, assure you that they were all people you would consider 'super powered'. Well, or 'super genius and super armour'd', if you will. I wanted a child, Tony. I have not had a child in... a very long time.”
Tony frowned, and said, slowly, “You slept with super heroes to make sure the baby was strong, didn't you?”
Loki playfully mock bowed. “This child will be strong.”
“That's downright diabolical, you know that?” He considered that for a long moment, scratching at the edge of the Arc Reactor and where it met his skin, through his shirt. The billionaire philanthropist genius version of scratching at a beer gut, perhaps. “Smart. Very smart, actually. It's probably the kind of thing I would do, you know, if I were a woman, and capable of getting knocked up.”
Leaning closer to him, Loki purred, “I'm sure magic would make you capable of carrying one...”
“Yeah, let's not, and say we didn't.” Tony shuddered slightly. “I do not want to think about what would happen to a guy with an Arc Reactor in his chest if he was pregnant. Just... you know. Ungh. Let's not go there. Anyway, so... now that we've determined you actually did deliberately get yourself knocked up...”
“This is a wanted child.” Loki said, with an incline of his head.
“...that's downright cute, you know?” He snickered, and nudged his shoulder again. “Here's the other point. You got captured awful easy, now that I think about it. Like... no problem at all, just... boom, you were in the wrong place at the wrong time with that... slime octopus thing, and wham, bam, thank you ma'am, we blew the thing up and you just.... were there. You totally did it on purpose, didn't you? Like, you wanted to be captured. You actually led us there.”
“A clever deduction from a clever man.”
“Huh. How come?”
“Less clever than I thought.” Loki rolled his eyes, and shook his head, settling back on the little cot, leaning on the wall. “Did you not catch the part where I suggested that I wanted a strong child that would be safe and strong, and not, therefore, exposed to the same threats as my previous children? I chose possible super powered fathers deliberately so that this child would be safe. I was aware that Midgardian humans feel strongly about saving children. But if it was your own child...”
“...you played our heroeyness on us?!”
He smirked, and bowed his head. “I want to keep this child safe.”
“You are a slick son of a bitch!” Tony laughed, shaking his head as he leaned back himself, grinning. “And now you're the barefoot and pregnant baby mama of basically the entire Avengers. And we take care of our own. We're gonna think of a way to bust you outta here.” He hesitated, and twirled his fingers around. “Here. Not outta the mansion. You're not getting outta the mansion, you're gonna be staying here. We can't keep our preggers baby mama safe if he's out running around the world and doing stupid shit. So you're stuck here. But we'll getcha out of this room. Somehow.”
“I trust you, Tony.” He smirked slightly.
“Heh, wouldn't go that far,” he smirked, and playfully ruffled Loki's hair.
The god ducked out of his way, and said, “What has gotten into you, Tony?”
“I'm starting to come around to the baby thing.”
“Ah, is that the case?” He smirked slightly, and shifted to face him, tucking one of his bare feet under himself, considering Tony for a long moment. “Give me your hand.”
Tony arched a brow, but held out his hand.
Loki took it, and pressed the other man's palm against his belly, calmly. “Obviously, it is far too early for the child to be moving enough to be felt, but I am sure you can feel where they are growing.”
Slowly, as though afraid he was going to break the other man, Tony slowly shifted his palm across the other's belly, feeling the gentle swell that had already started. He hadn't noticed any changes, just to look at him, but under that loose shirt, he could feel the gentle change, the way that his belly just curled out slightly. “Huh,” he said, slowly, then looked up at Loki, grinning. “There's a baby in there. Shit... that's the kinda thing you can't build.”
“Well, I imagine an artificial womb could be built,” Loki said, watching his hand moving. “But the child within... that would be far more challenging.”
“This is like a goddamn miracle of life, Loki. Seriously.”
“That is sort of the idea,” he smirked, and pressed his hands over the top of Tony's hands. “This could be your child. It may not be. I don't lie, Tony... it may or it may not.”
“It's totally mine.” Tony smirked. “I got like... genius sperm. It's totally mine. Anthony Junior.”
Tony just grinned up at him. “You'll see. Tony Junior.”
Hydra had tried to knock over a massive research facility in the Manhattan quarter that most of the world wasn't even aware was there, but Tony definitely knew about, because it turned out that the Stark logo was sort of peppered everywhere through the building. Naturally, the Avengers had rushed to stop the Hydra agents from stealing whatever it was they were trying to get out of there.
And they did, they did stop them.
But for once, not without collateral damage.
It was the Hulk that carted Steve back into the mansion, even though the super soldier protested again and again that he was able to walk, would you put me down , please. But it was the first time they'd actually seen the practically undefeatable Captain America showing even the slightest hint of human weakness, so the rest of the Avengers were bound and determined to make sure he was fine. So a grumpy, huffing Hulk carried him into the house as Steve glowered at them all.
He'd been telling the truth , when he said that he could still walk . His legs were fine.
He'd just been shot.
Even the great Captain America, who had somehow run through a hail of gunfire a million times before with only his shield for protection, had to admit that his shield didn't actually cover his entire body, and while his suit was supposed to be bulletproof and kevlar and all, there were parts of his suit that weren't as strong as it could be. Simple fact was, it was only a matter of time before something eventually managed to hit Steve, and it just happened to be that the bullet managed to hit him in the seam of his armour, and there was now a bullet hole in his inner shoulder.
It was Janet and Tony that ended up working him carefully out of the suit, and as much as Jan kept saying that maybe a doctor or a hospital or even Bruce might be more useful, it was Tony that dug the bullet out of the wound and stitched Steve back up.
“You have a shitty bedside manner,” Jan frowned at Tony.
“Yeah, yeah... at least I got the bullet out,” he rolled his eyes, smirking slightly.
“Technically,” Steve muttered, sighing as he sank back into the pillows, considering them both. “Thank you.”
Tony cheekily bowed.
“Is friend-Steve safe, now?” Thor leaned in the door of the little 'clinic', and beamed when he realized that Tony was wiping his hands with a towel and Steve's shoulder was bound up. “Ah! Excellent! You earned that wound nobly in battle, my friend!”
“Thank you, Thor.” Steve smiled at him. “You did amazing out there.”
“You flatter me,” he bowed, not quite as cheekily and far more seriously than Tony had done. “Come, we will have feasting!”
“I'll be along in a few minutes,” Steve laughed, shaking his head. “I gotta get cleaned up.”
“You need any help, Cap?” Janet asked, helpfully.
“No, thank you, I’m all right.” He smiled at her, and nodded at them. “Go on, Tony and Jan... go help Thor with his celebratory feast. I’ll be along soon.”
Tony laughed, and clapped Steve on the shoulder. And then jerked his hand back when he groaned. “...right. Bad shoulder. Just took a bullet out of that shoulder. Sorry about that, Cap.”
“Try not to hurt our Cap, huh?” Janet smirked at him, and tugged Tony out of the room. They could hear Thor's voice thundering through the halls as he talked, cheerfully.
Steve smiled softly, shaking his head as he headed back into the little clinic bathroom, checking the mirror to wet a washcloth, and started dabbing at the dried blood on his shoulder and chest.
“You were injured.”
His head snapped up, startled, and looked in the mirror, realizing that it was Loki's reflection behind him. “...I didn't hear you come in.”
“I didn't walk, if that helps.” Loki said, and stepped forward, snagging the washcloth out of Steve's fingers, and using his other arm to turn the larger, taller man to face him. “You were injured. Impressively.”
“Does it help to say that Thor says I got it honourably in battle?” He smirked slightly.
“Not terribly, my brother thinks that being scratched by a cat you were trying to steal a toy from is being honourably injured in battle. But I am sure you were honourable, regardless. You have always seemed quite honourable.” Loki began wiping up the dried blood himself, ignoring Steve's attempts to reach up for the cloth again. “Calm yourself, Captain. In Asgard, there were shield maidens that would perform this task for the warriors.”
“You don't look much like a shield maiden.”
Loki laughed at that, looking up at him. “I believe I am flattered by that statement.”
Steve flushed, and ducked his head, slightly. “You know... I’ve talked to the others.”
“Imagine that,” Loki said, lightly, carefully working at the other's arm.
“You're supposed to be confined in a SHIELD cell.” He said, quietly, watching the other work. “You're not just supposed to be out and around, they're really worried you're going to do something seriously evil.”
“So I have heard.”
“And yet, you keep running around and showing up all over the mansion. You're not actually terribly restricted, are you?”
“Your SHIELD fails to take into account the fact that I use magic.” Loki laughed softly. “I am a magic being, and this is why they are unable to contain me, they seem to think that they are trying to contain a mutant or something, instead. I am a god, not a mutated man. There.” Loki stepped back. “Your injuries look like they are treated well, in any case.”
“Yeah, Tony's not so bad at this stuff...” he considered that, playing with the edge of one of the bandages.
“Don't fuss with them.” Loki slapped his fingers, lightly.
Steve pouted at him, and the god laughed, pleased by his expression. “Now... I heard something about your being due at a feast.”
“You aren't coming?” He asked, surprised.
“I am a prisoner in a cell, remember?” Loki smirked, and bowed slightly. “Until we meet again, Steve Rogers.”
He was gone, abruptly, and Steve sighed softly, biting his lip.
Loki looked up from the book he was reading – a book he wasn't supposed to even have , did they really think he was just going to sit in this cell for hours and do nothing ? - and looked at the door of his cell, where his brother stood. Stood, actually, might not have been the right word. Thor seemed to consume the doorway, filling it completely, holding a large tray, eyes bright and grinning broadly. “I have brought you a feast!”
“That looks like the leftovers of a feast, actually.” Loki said, but snapped his book shut, and sat up.
“Well... they wouldn't let me ask you to join the feast itself,” he frowned slightly, but come forward to sit on the cot beside him, and the metal of the bed groaned slightly. “I tried. I did. But at least I can be sure that my pregnant brother will have a good meal in his belly. Eat!”
Loki sighed, heavily, but smiled faintly as he reached over to pluck a bowl of ribs off of the tray, eating far more delicately than their friends would have, back on Asgard. He never managed to eat quite as robustly as the Asgardian warriors. “Was it a good feast, then?”
“An excellent feast!” Thor declared, pleased.
He nodded, looking up at his brother as he ate, quietly. “Was this in celebration of the Captain's success in battle?”
“It was.” He beamed, then hesitated. “How did you know that? No, wait, I wouldn't ask. You always seem to know everything like that. You've always been clever, Loki.”
“Thank you,” he dipped his head, smirking.
“How are you faring, brother?” Thor asked, softly, resting his hand against Loki's lower back.
He hesitated, then shrugged. “Technically, I feel quite secure here.”
“I am not concerned about your security. I will be sure that you will be safe, I will kill anyone that threatens you or the child. I will be sure that nothing will cause you harm, like harm was caused to you in the past. Never again.” Thor took a deep breath, and kept stroking Loki's back, quietly. “I am your protector, my brother, now.”
“And here I thought you hated me,” he said, reaching across to pick up a plate of an apple caramel cake that Natasha had apparently made for the party – or at least had made it, and it sort of happened to be served at said feast. “After all, you threw me off the bifrost.”
“There were circumstances...” Thor fumbled.
“I hated you, in that moment,” he said, quietly. “Just so you are aware.”
He cleared his throat, and nodded. “I am unsurprised. For a moment, I hated you. But what good are gods if they cannot learn from their mistakes, and grow?”
Loki laughed. “I am impressed, Thor.”
“You ought to be.” He grinned, looking at him out of the corner of his eyes. “I practiced that speech for hours beforehand.”
He laughed, and leaned on his brother's side, smirking. “I haven't forgotten what you did to me, you great idiot. You made my life miserable, you know that.”
“I know,” Thor said, holding his adoptive brother against his side. “But I hope that you will forgive.”
“I'll consider it,” he smirked, picking up another of the ribs, and taking a bite.
“How is the pregnancy faring?” he said, again, quietly. “Better or worse than previous ones?”
“Neither,” he admitted at last, through a mouthful of meat, chewing. “Not better or worse... well. Better, certainly, than my pregnancy with Slipnier. He was a difficult child to bear. But fairly standard, as pregnancies go. I am close to a third of the way through this, now. You can feel the child growing, if you wish, Thor?”
His eyes lit up. “Is that so?”
He smirked slightly, and took the tray off of his brother's lap, setting it aside and licking the sauce off of his fingertips before tugging the hem of his shirt up, exposing his belly, which was just starting to swell. “You see?”
“Loki!” He laughed, pleased, and pressed those massive hands of his to Loki's belly. “You look happy, brother.”
Loki smiled slightly, watching him. “I am.”
“It is about time that you were happy.” Thor laughed, then leaned towards him. “Now... who is the father?”
“I don't know.” He said, without a moment's hesitation.
“That is not the answer I want to hear, Loki.” He said, brows furrowing for a moment. “You have been married, in the past. You have been both wife and husband. And nearly all of your children have been birthed out of a union that provided the child with two guiding forces in its rearing. I don't like this. Your child needs a father.”
“The child has a father.” He smirked. “I just don't know who they are.”
Thor sighed heavily, and drew his hands back to himself, setting them in his lap as he considered his brother, seriously. “You are much less... temperamental... when you are mated and married and playing the devoted spouse.”
“I don't play the devoted spouse.” Loki said, sharply.
“I know,” Thor said, quickly. “You fall in love true and hard, my brother. Your only fault is that you love too hard and too true. I have seen you lash out at the others in Asgard many times before because of your anger after your love did not work the way you had wanted.”
“Everyone I love is killed!” He raged. “Why do you think I push people away from me, why do you think I am trying to keep this secure? I do not want another that I love to die, whether it be my brother, my son, or a lover. I cannot lose again.”
“I just want what's best, Loki.” Thor murmured.
He sighed, and slumped against his brother's side. “You have always wanted what was 'best', Thor. Forgive me if I am not excited for what the best may be.”
“The baby needs a father,” he said, quietly.
“An Asgardian uncle is not enough?” He smirked up at Thor.
“It is a start.” He said, smirking.
Steve hesitated, and glanced back out of his bedroom door, then back into his room again. Tugging the towel off of his neck, he dropped it beside his bed, then stepped closer to what was confusing him, and reached out to touch one of the petals of one of the dozens of black eyed susans that lay on his bed, bundled together into a large bouquet with a red ribbon. They were a cheerful bouquet, really.
What confused him was where in the world they came from.
He pressed his palm into his still sensitive shoulder, and rolled it, firmly, making sure it didn't get stiff, then settled down on the edge of the bed, and picked up the bouquet. They were pretty flowers.
There was a little white card among the stems of the flowers, and he hesitated for a moment before plucking it carefully out of the bunch, turning it over in his fingers for a few moments, then opened the little plain white card. Inside, in a smooth black ink, had been written, “ For an honourable warrior. Loki .”
What was Loki playing at, anyway? Flowers, and showing up randomly to clean his wounds... Steve wasn't some girl he could woo , and he didn't think it likely that Loki wanted that anyway, so why was he doing all these strange things?
But he still retrieved a jug from the kitchen that he could use as a vase, and set the black eyed susans in the jug, setting it on his bedside table.
And when he curled up in bed that night, to go to sleep, his eyes were on the flowers until he fell asleep.
“So I know that this isn't exactly your level of expertise,” Bruce was saying, as he walked quickly through the hallways of the mansion, waving his hands as he talked. “But you seem the only other person I know in the scientific community that might know what to do about this.”
Reed Richards nodded, looking slightly excited. “To be honest, I find this idea fascinating. It's certainly not the sort of thing I’ve ever seen happen before.”
“I've been documenting it, so if you want to see my files...”
“I most definitely will.” Reed nodded, eagerly. “But first I want to see the specimen.”
Bruce crinkled his nose slightly. “We've been trying to refrain from calling him things like that. After all, he is both a man and a god. And we'd certainly rather not be on a god's bad side. There's also the issue that SHIELD is insisting on treating him like a science experiment, and he is... understandably... irritated by this.”
“I can see that,” Reed nodded.
“So we just call him – Loki!”
Both men stopped in the doorway of Bruce's lab, startled to see Loki standing in the room, flipping through a stack of papers, curiously. He looked up when he heard them, smirking slightly. His stomach was now starting to be noticeably one of someone who was pregnant, and his tight shirt was starting to catch and stretch against the bump. “Ah, Doctor Banner. And this must be the friend you mentioned, Doctor Richards. Hello.”
“You're supposed to be in your cell.” Bruce said, stepping forward, quickly.
“Yes, I suppose technically I am supposed to be,” Loki agreed, and laughed lightly when the flustered scientist plucked the papers out of his hands. “But you said you were wanting to examine me today, and that you had a friend coming, so... here I am.”
“One of these days, SHIELD is going to figure out you're sneaking out.” He muttered, flushed.
“Yes, likely, but I doubt that this day is today.” Loki laughed, then quirked his brow as he considered Doctor Reed Richards. “What is wrong with your friend?”
Bruce glanced back at him, surprised. Reed looked sort of gob smacked, brows furrowed and expression slightly pinched, as though he had just had a very nasty surprise handed down to him, and absolutely had no idea how to deal with said surprise. “Reed? What's wrong?”
Reed seemed to shake himself for a moment, then abruptly said, “Loki, is it?”
“It is, indeed,” he confirmed, nodding.
He frowned, crossing his arms slightly. “...have you ever been to the Baxter Building.”
“I have, in fact.” He agreed, and hopped up onto the medical examination table that Bruce had pressed against the wall, though he wasn't sure if it was there because Bruce wanted to investigate this pregnancy issue, or because he slept there. Loki was fairly sure that Bruce actually slept in his lab, the man never seemed to leave it unless the Avengers were called to assemble and then he left, massive and green. “I find it an attractive place. Are you, by chance, the Reed Richards that was in space, and came back able to stretch? Because I found that terribly interesting.”
“Yes, I’m that Reed Richards.” He frowned, and stepped closer. “Have you met my brother in law?”
“The giant rock man?” He looked startled. “No.”
“No, not Ben, my brother in law.” Reed sighed, shaking his head. “Johnny Storm. The Human Torch?”
“Ah.” He smirked slightly, and folded his hands so that they cupped his stomach, and said, cheerfully, “Before I answer, may I see you stretch? I am terribly interested in seeing how you do that.”
The man frowned, then his head slowly rose higher into the air, his neck stretching as it did, swaying slightly like he was a cobra.
Loki laughed like he was utterly delighted, clapping his hands. “Oh, bravo! Bravo! And yes, Doctor Reed Richards, I have met your brother in law. Johnny Storm... a very... mm. I nteresting man.”
“Bruce?” Reed asked, abruptly.
“Yes?” He looked up, startled, flustered by trying to get all of his things out of Loki's way.
“How far along did you say that Loki was, again?”
Bruce glanced at Loki, then back at Reed. “About three, three and a half months, now.”
“Problem, Doctor Richards?” Loki asked, almost mockingly sweetly.
“May I use your phone, Bruce?”
Bruce Banner looked back and forth between the two men, brows furrowed, then finally nodded, and said, “Yeah, of course. It's just over there.”
Reed moved so quickly to get to it that he was almost stretching himself to get there, clearly in a huge hurry to get to the phone and make a call to... whoever it was he was going to call. Both of the men watched him for a moment, blinking, clearly startled by the oddness of this, then Bruce turned quickly towards him, and hissed, “What do you do?!”
Loki arched a brow, and pressed his fingers to his collarbone. “Do I look as though I did anything to him?”
“It's generally you!” Bruce hissed.
The god laughed, truly amused. “I am fairly certain I did nothing to him. This time.”
“...he's not on the possible father list, is he?”
“Shall I add him to the list, sir?” JARVIS interrupted them, out of nowhere, and Loki looked up, intrigued as ever by the disembodied voice, and Bruce started. He hated when the computer talked to them.
“Stop listening, JARVIS.” He snapped.
“JARVIS is really only trying to be a helpful servant.” Loki countered, smiling quite mischievously. “And no, JARVIS, don't bother adding him to the father list. As fascinating as the incredible stretching man is, he would have been a fairly useless father for any possible child I wish to raise. He's not a possible father.”
“Good to know,” JARVIS said, cheerfully.
Reed walked back to them at a more sedate pace, brows furrowed as though he was thinking very seriously. “Hn.”
“Well?” Bruce asked, quietly.
He crossed his arms, considering Loki very seriously, then said, “My wife and her brother are on their way.”
“Oh, wonderful.” Loki smirked. “It will be nice to see Johnny again.”
Reed's expression was very pinched.
And Bruce suddenly groaned as he decided he understand what exactly the other was looking quite so sour about. “...Johnny's a possible father, isn't he?”
Loki grinned at them.
“...you slept with every super powered person you could find, didn't you?” Bruce sighed.
Steve was in the middle of a set of pushups, counting somewhere around five hundred and fifty three when he very clearly felt someone else's eyes on him. He hesitated in the middle of his lift up, and lifted his head, startled when he suddenly realized that there were a pair of bare feet right in front of him. Shifting up onto his knees, he looked up at the man standing in front of him. “...Loki?”
“Hello, Steve.” He looked down at him, frowning slightly.
“Is something wrong?” He furrowed his brows, then they shot skyward. “Is something wrong with the baby?”
“No. The baby is fine.” Loki's fingers curled over his stomach, though, as though worried about it now that Steve had mentioned it. “Someone is coming. Today.”
“...is that a bad thing?” He asked, alarmed.
“No... but I do not want you to be jealous.” Loki smirked slightly, then said, lightly, “After all, he's also tall, muscley, and blond. And gorgeous. Don't forget gorgeous. I just don't want you to be jealous when he gets here.”
“...why would I be jealous?” He asked, flushed.
“He's another possible father.” He hesitated for a moment. “And he reminds me an awful lot of you. But he I slept with.”
“Oh.” Steve said, quietly.
Loki held out his hand, expectantly.
Steve frowned, and slowly stood, then offered his hand.
Taking his hand, Loki gently pressed his lips to the back of Steve's knuckles, a light brushing of lips on skin, looking up at him, smiling softly. Meeting the other's eyes, Steve was shocked to discover that his breath caught when the other looked at him that way. “No matter what you hear, no matter what they say... don't be jealous.”
He nodded, swallowing.
It wasn't until Loki had smiled and slipped away and out of the room that Steve realized that he wondered why in the world he would be jealous .
Tony was walking past the lab, when he abruptly stopped, and walked backwards, slowly, blinking in the lab again.
Loki was sitting on the cot that Bruce had set up there, grinning like a loon as he looked around the large room, a devious grin as he watched what was transpiring. There seemed to be a whole lot of drama happening, actually, as several people were yelling – well, not yelling, but speaking quite angril - at each other. Bruce was sitting at his desk and looking completely out of place, and a man with dark hair with a white streak at each temple was speaking quite angrily to a young man with blond hair that looked shockingly like Steve. There was a blond woman standing beside him, and she nodded every time that the dark haired man said something, despite the grumpy, almost betrayed looks that the blond guy was giving her.
“Ladies – well, lady – and gentlemen.” Tony stepped into the room, grinning at them. “What's with alll the drama?”
The others sort of blinked at him for a moment, like they weren't really sure how they were supposed to react to him being there, then Loki slid off the cot, and padded barefoot towards him, grinning. “Tony Stark. Surely you know the residents of the Baxter Building?”
He blinked at the three, then laughed outright, grinning. “Reed Richards! Long time no see, man.”
Reed smiled, slightly, and stepped forward, offering Tony his hand. “Hello, Tony.”
He shook, grinning, and said, “So this must be your lovely wife, Sue... and her brother Johnny, I assume?”
“Yes, Sue and Johnny.” Reed nodded, and glanced at Loki, who still stood beside Tony, and who grinned cheekily when the scientist looked at him. “I didn't know you were in the habit of harbouring super villains.”
“Eh, he's not so villainy these days.” Tony shrugged, then smirked at Loki, who looked displeased by that statement. “But I probably shouldn't say that, or this brat is gonna throw a temper tantrum and blow up the entire Eastern seaboard or something.”
“You Midgardians are weak and squishy.” Loki sneered, lifting his chin. “And if you can't stop me, then you deserve to be crushed.”
“You see what we live with all the time?” He rolled his eyes, gesturing at the god. “I fully expect that the moment this is all over, he's going to turn around and lay waste to our planet again. He's kinda evil and all that. But right now, we're useful to him. Ain't that nice, that we get used while we're convenient?”
“You're also mildly more entertaining than the rest of the Midgardians.” He pointed out, smoothly. “When I destroy your world, I’ll destroy you last.”
“Well, that's encouraging.” Tony snorted, and grinned at Reed. “So what brings all you here? Bruce dragged you into this whole thing to help figure out what the hell we do with a pregnant man?”
“Initially,” he agreed, glancing back at Bruce.
“Now we have a different issue.”
“Uh oh... now I gotta know.” Tony grinned, taking a swig of his coffee. “Do tell.”
“Well. Bruce calls me to come and help him with what he thinks is a curious little case of a man that is pregnant. I think nothing of it, and I come to help.” Reed scowled slightly. “Imagine my surprise when I get here and discover that the man in question happens to be someone that I’ve seen my brother-in-law with.”
“Is that so?” Tony grinned, looking at Johnny.
The blond huffed, and crossed his arms, tapping his fingers on his upper arms, looking absolutely displeased. “This is stupid.”
Sue swatted her brother's shoulder. “Johnny!”
“Well, it is! You guys were all 'stop with all these stupid maybe pregnancy scares' so I said 'fine' and started sleeping with more men than women, because dammit, that was the only way I could guarantee that there were no more stupid pregnancy scares. And now the guys are starting to get pregnant too! Not fair.”
“Oooh.” Tony grinned, pretty sure he was starting to get it. “So you're on the list of possible baby daddies too, huh?”
Johnny huffed, and shrugged. “Apparently.”
“He is,” Loki confirmed, with a snicker.
“And you, I take it,” Tony turned to Reed, “Don't really like this.”
“It is irresponsible of him, yes.” He said, crossing his arms as he looked back at Johnny.
“He's a dude!” Johnny squawked, motioning to Loki. “How was I supposed to know that he was a Norse god that could get pregnant when he was... still... a dude?!”
“You could have at least paid attention to the fact that he is a villain, Johnny!” Sue protested. “He's all over the news, it's pretty hard to look at him and not really that he's the guy who blew up the Washington Monument a few months ago!”
Johnny cleared his throat, sheepishly.
“I thought that was a wonderful incident.” Loki smirked. “Your Midgardian monuments are far more interesting when they are in flames.”
“You see?” Sue waved at him. “Super villain!”
“Okay, true, but....”
“He likes that I’m a villain.” Loki drawled, lazily, and tapped his fingers on his stomach, lazily, “After all, how better to have sex no strings attached than to have it with a villain? Haven't you often had the same compulsion with Victor Doom, Reed?”
“No,” he said, hotly, flushed.
Sue blinked at her husband. “...Reed?”
“Not now, Sue.” He said, and said, firmly, “You need to take responsibility for what you've done, Johnny.”
“I didn't do it on purpose!” He howled, frustrated.
“So this is what I walked into in the first place,” Tony rolled his eyes, snickering slightly. “All sorts of baby daddy drama. Well, you know, of course, Reed, that there are a lot of possible fathers. It's not just your brother in law, there are a lot of possible dads. Loki is a slut.”
Loki rolled his eyes. “Midgardian dull sensibilities.”
“Yes, well, I saw Johnny with him more than once.” Reed muttered, scowling slightly.
“Dude.” Tony blinked at Johnny. “You dated him?”
He groaned softly. “No, not... exactly ...”
“You basically dated him,” he snickered, amused, shaking his head. “Seriously, Loki, you were actually dating people?”
“No,” he snorted. “But I do return often to those with whom I had excellent sex.”
Tony blinked at him. “...I only slept with you once.”
Loki smiled, sweetly. “And what does that say about your prowess, Tony?”
“...oi!” He yelped.
Johnny snickered quietly, then stopped laughing when his brother in law gave him a sharp, angry look. “Look, I don't know what you think I should be doing to 'take responsibility' for this, but... I mean, we don't even know it's my kid! And just cause I slept with him more than once doesn't mean that I’m more likely to be the father than anyone else, I mean... it's not like it's a cumulative thing! You of all people should know that, Reed! Seriously, what am I supposed to do , to – to take responsibility ?”
“This child needs both of its parents, Johnny.” Reed said, firmly.
Johnny blinked at him. “...we're not actually dating, Reed, you know that, right?”
“And that's the problem!” He said, getting angry all over again. “That is not a good situation for a child to be born into, Johnny! You need to take responsibility, and - “
“And what, marry him?!” He yelped, throwing his hands in the air. “For the love of Pete, Reed, you've said it yourself! He's a super villain! He's evil! He wants to blow up our world and crush us all under his thumb, and he does not want to get married to a hero! And even if he did, I don't want to marry him!” He hesitated, and pointed at Loki. “No offense, or nothing, don't swear a vendetta on me because of that or something.”
“No vendetta sworn.” Loki smirked, dipping his head.
“Awesome.” Johnny took a deep breath, and huffed. “Look, if the kid turns out to be mine, okay, I’ll help out, or... whatever. If I’m the dad, fine, I can take responsibility. But we got like... six months left til that happens!”
“That's not - “ Reed started.
“Wait. Wait.” Tony held up his hands, and interrupted the whole convoluted argument, or whatever exactly it was. “I got an idea. Johnny... come hang out with the Avengers for awhile. You don't have to fight evil with us or anything, but if you want to, go to. But that way, you can be involved in the whole... pregnancy thing... and Reed'd be convinced you're taking responsibility. Right?” He looked at Reed, arching a brow.
Reed frowned, but nodded. “It makes some sense.”
“Fine.” Johnny muttered.
“Mazel tov!” Tony laughed, tossing his hands in the air. “Problem solved. We've figured it out.”
“Technically, the problem hasn't been solved,” Bruce finally interrupted, sheepishly. “After all, Loki is still pregnant, he's still evil, and the list of possible fathers is getting longer and longer...”
He groaned. “Way to be a buzzkill, Bruce.”
He shrugged, sheepishly. “Just trying to be a realist about this.”
Loki snickered, and shook his head. “I have told you time and again, humans... I don't have to do anything . You just pull your own world down around your ears.”
Johnny and Steve stared at each other from across the kitchen table, just sort of looking at each other, like they really weren't sure what to say.
Loki hadn't been kidding when he'd said that tall, muscular and golden was coming.
“So.” Johnny said, abruptly. “You didn't like... have any illegitimate kids, back during the war, or something, did you?”
“No,” Steve snorted, shaking his head.
“Are you sure? Cause the resemblance is sort of... uncanny.”
“Hn.” Johnny considered him for a long moment, then abruptly shifted forward in his seat, grinning. “See, it's funny. I’ve seen pictures of you my entire life, but you were always wearing that mask thing you wear. I mean, technically, I knew you were Steve Rogers, they didn't really hide the real identities of superheroes back in the day, did they? But I don't think I ever saw a picture of you without the mask, not now, not old school ones from back in the day... huh. Guess I just never realized that it would be totally weird and that you'd look an awful lot like... me.”
“I'm considerably older than you, I’m fairly sure you look like me.” Steve smirked, then abruptly stood. “I'm making coffee, you want any?”
“God, yes.” Johnny groaned, slumping back in his seat.
Steve smiled slightly, and decided to actually make a proper pot of coffee, this time, instead of just making instant. It sort of seemed like a good reason to make a pot. “Besides, we don't look that much alike. Granted, the similarity is a little... uncanny, but...”
“True.” He agreed, considering that. “I mean, you're built like a brick shit house.”
“And you're about a foot taller than me.” He pointed out.
“True,” Steve agreed, scooping coffee into the filter. “But I used to be much shorter, and much less... robust.”
“Oh yeah, the whole super soldier serum experimentation stuff, right?” Johnny nodded, considering that for a moment, scratching at his jaw. “I just ended up getting hit by space radiation because my brother in law is a dickhead. Boom, instant super hero. Handy, that stuff, I guess. But these muscles and all, I had those before the whole radiation thing. I’m a buff dude.”
Leaning on the counter as he watched the other and listened to the sound of the coffee brewer gearing up, beginning to hiss as it work, Steve considered him. “I read about you, in the newspaper. You seem to have had quite a successful life, Johnny Storm.”
Johnny smirked. “Well... sort of.”
“NASA training, military flight training... genius level IQ, most of the reports said.”
“Yeah, well...” he grinned, and spread his hands out. “I can't tell a lie.”
Steve shook his head, smiling slightly. “Modest, too.”
Johnny snickered. “You forgot to mention that I was an underwear model, too. And that I was photographed for Playgirl.”
“I don't usually count those as successful accomplishments.” Steve arched a brow.
“Come on, any man would want to do that!”
“Sorry, but I wouldn't.” He shook his head, and glanced at the coffee maker as the coffee began running down into the pot, watching its hypnotic flow for a moment. “It's not the sort of thing I’d want. Despite the whole singing and dancing thing I did back in the forties.”
“Huh.” Johnny blinked at him, crossing his arms as he shifted, setting his feet on the table.
“What is it?” He asked, frowning slightly.
“I guess I never really thought of it before, but... you were born sometime in the nineteen twenties, right?”
Steve smiled, faintly. “1917.”
“Woah. You were born... during World War One?!” He sat up a little straighter, startled.
“In New York, yes.” He nodded, quietly. “When the American military started into the war in 1941, I was twenty-four. I was an art student.” He laughed, softly. “Not much of an art student now, am I?”
“Not what I would call your typical art student, no.” He snickered. “But anyway, you were born in 1917. And sure, you're here, now, in the twenty-first century. And the whole world changed... but you didn't, did you. You were frozen in ice for seventy some years, I guess it makes perfect sense that you didn't change. You missed the whole sexual revolution, man. You're from a time when porn was still crappy black and white photos in a magazine and the chicks just posed around in underwear and heels, and superheroes were... I dunno... Superman. I mean, you come from a time of apple pie and scraping by and listening to radio dramas and getting married before you have children, and... everything, didn't you?”
Steve smiled faintly, and nodded. “Yes.”
“Huh.” Johnny frowned. “I'm not sure if I should be terribly impressed or laugh my ass off.”
“The Avengers all seem to be torn between one or the other reactions,” he shook his head, and pushed off the counter so that he could retrieve a pair of coffee mugs. Pouring two mugs full, he called over his shoulder, “You want cream, sugar, anything?”
“Both, if you got 'em.”
Steve nodded, and headed over to the fridge, retrieving the half-and-half that Natasha of all people demanded they keep in the fridge at all times, and added both cream and sugar to Johnny's coffee before heading over to the table, sliding it across the table to the other blond before sitting and sipping at his own black coffee. It always surprised him that people added sugar and cream to their coffee, but he remembered, clearly, being a teenager and learning to drink coffee in a time when both of those would have cost way too much to get. “There we go.”
“Thanks.” Johnny grinned at him, and sipped at the mug, groaning softly. “Much better.”
“I'm not sure that it's a bad thing, that I have a more... traditional set of values.” Steve said, at last, sipping at his mug. “Frankly, it's a bit of a refreshing change from the insanity of things like your television.”
“Ah, so basically, you're freaked out by things like my sexy, sexy body in Playgirl.” He grinned.
“I'm not freaked out by you in a magazine, Johnny.” Steve smiled faintly, and looked down into his coffee. “I don't care. I really don't. I just know that times have changed, a lot, and things are different. I’m a little freaked out by Loki being pregnant, but...”
“God, me too.” Johnny groaned, scrubbing his hands over his short hair.
“I've encountered a lot of strange things, in my time.” Steve smiled faintly. “But a pregnant man is absolutely the most uncommon thing I’ve come across, so far.”
Johnny snickered. “No kidding.”
Steve shook his head, smiling faintly into his coffee.
“I mean, it too late to fling him back to Asqueer or whatever the fuck his planet is called? Let him have his baby back with his own people?”
“I think so.” He said, smiling faintly. “And Thor says it's called 'Asgaard'.”
“Yeah... all them Norse gods,” he smirked, then peered at Steve over the tip of his coffee mug as he drank his coffee, seriously considering him. “So I’m trying you figure you out, Steve.”
“There's something to figure out?” He smirked slightly.
“Yeah,” he nodded, setting the mug down. “Cause I’m starting to think that you actually want this kid to be yours.”
Steve sighed softly, and set his own mug down on the table. “Everyone's been saying that.”
“Well, maybe we're right.” He grinned.
“Perhaps.” He considered that, seriously. “I don't know.”
Johnny snickered. “Well, Tony wants it to be his.”
“Yes, I heard that,” he laughed, relaxing back in his seat, shaking his head. “He mentioned that to me. He's been building a nursery.”
“...a nursery.” Johnny repeated.
“Yeah.” He laughed softly, scratching the back of his neck. “A nursery. I heard something about a rocket cradle or something.”
The Human Torch snorted, shaking his head. “Good lord....”
“Yeah.” He smiled.
“...why does Tony even want a kid? I mean, there are like... five cases a year, of women claiming that he's the dad, and he just hands them all over to Pepper, and she crushes each one in court, every time. I always heard he never wanted kids. Why does he suddenly want one now?”
“Frighteningly, I think it's because he wants a perfect little Tony clone. A kid to dress up in miniature Iron Man suits and play rocket football with, or something.”
Johnny shuddered. “That's slightly terrifying.”
“I know.” Steve smiled.
“But it's also sorta... cute.” The younger man frowned slightly. “I mean... you know... in a manly, not girly emotional sort of way at all.”
“So how come you want the kid to be yours, Steve?” Johnny asked, quietly. “Is it cause your entire family is gone?”
Steve blinked at him.
“...wow, that sounds awful, doesn't it.” He cleared his throat. “Tact, thy name is not Johnny.”
“If I want the child, and I’m not entirely sure I do,” Steve pointed out, picking his coffee up again, sipping at it. “I think it's because I like the idea of the Roger's bloodline going somewhere beyond just me. And if it's not my child, well... maybe I’ll help out anyway. After all, it's not the child's fault that their father is evil.”
“You know, I’m starting to question that whole 'Loki is evil' thing.”
“He sicced an octopus made of ooze on the Empire State Building.” Steve pointed out. “And that's just the incident that we caught him during. Loki has destroyed countless things, and his actions have lead to the deaths of probably dozens of people. I mean... he might seem... all right, now, but... we can't afford to forget that he is evil.”
“Yeah, but see... I just ain't sure about that.”
“You're not going to start using Janet's argument that he's just been affected by pregnant hormones, are you?” He frowned, unimpressed, clearly, with that argument.
“No. But I think part of it is that there are some major... cultural differences.”
“Cultural differences.” He repeated.
“Well... think about it. He says humans are weak, that we're not really worthy of ruling our planet and everything, right?”
“Yes,” he nodded.
“Well... he's from a different planet. Or one of the different 'worlds', anyway. And Thor's a great guy and all, but I think he sort of says a lot about how the people of Asgaard see us without even realizing it. He keeps saying that we're fragile, and breakable, and that he needs to serve as our protector, and save us. They treat us like animals. Like stupid animals. Thor seems to go 'aww, ain't they cute', and decides to protect us and watch over us and take care of us, and Loki goes 'they are stupid fucking animals' and tries to wipe us out.”
“And this is meant to convince me that Loki isn't evil?” Steve arched a brow.
“No.” Johnny snickered. “See, a lot of people go 'super villains are just kids that were bullied when they were little and they really just need a hug'. I don't think Loki needs a hug, I’m pretty sure if we hugged him, we'd end up burnt to little crispies.”
“I mean, you get that, right? I mean, Doctor Doom is a villain because of his repressed homophobic problems with Reed, everyone knows that. He probably can't be saved by a hug, but he could maybe be saved by Reed's dick, or something. I dunno. Loki isn't destroying us because of something as stupid as, I dunno, regular super villain shit. He's doing it cause... we're ants to him. He wants this world, and we're in the way. So he's gonna crush us.”
“...still not being convinced that he's not evil.”
“Don't you get it?” Johnny laughed. “It's all a big throw down grudge match with his dad! Loki and Odin are in this stupid, testosterone fueled rage match, and Loki's going 'fuck you, I can't have Asgaard, I’ll take the other eight realms'. And we're these stupid little insignificant ants in his way. He's not triyng to take over Earth because he really doesn't like us, he's trying to do it to piss off dad.”
“So you think he could be convinced to not take over Earth?” He frowned, brows furrowed.
“I don't know about that...” he admitted.
“Hn. You know, it would probably piss Odin off more if Loki decided to stay with the humans like Thor does.” Steve smiled softly, shaking his head. “I mean, to hear Thor talk about it, Odin is furious that he's here. About the best way to piss Odin off would be Loki deciding to take over the world and not just crushing us.”
“Maybe.” Johnny smirked. “Wonder if this 'baby by a human hero' has something to do with it.”
“Well. Yes, I do think that would likely work.”
“I did some research.” Johnny frowned slightly, considering.
“Loki. I mean... I sorta figured that if I was gonna be sleeping with the dude more than just once, I ought to know who the hell he was.” Johnny cleared his throat, scratching the back of his neck. “Cause, I mean... sleeping with a villain is one thing, sleeping with a villain you don't know anything about is another, right? So I figured I should check out the shit he's done, and... you know, the villainy. I mean, I sort of figured if he had a usual pattern that he slept with a person five times, then cuts their heads off, or something... that maybe I really ought to know, right? So I looked into the Norse myths, and did some reading, and... shit. A lot of crap has happened to him.”
“I've heard about some of it,” he agreed, nodding quietly.
“Yeah... sounds pretty damn awful.” Johnny frowned, then drained his coffee, setting the mug aside. “So. How long you been trying to convince yourself that he's evil?”
Steve blinked at him. “Excuse me?”
“How long you been trying to convince yourself that he's evil?” Johnny said again, smirking. “I mean, these are the same kinds of things Reed woulda said, if he knew that I was sleeping with a villain. And dude, I was sleeping with him knowing he was evil.”
He frowned, scratching the back of his neck as he considered it, for a long moment. “I'm not trying to convince myself that... of anything...”
“Oh fuck, you're falling for this guy!” Johnny squawked.
Steve flushed, embarrassed. “I am not!”
“Oh don't even give me that, I have had more than enough men and women falling for me to recognize the symptoms.” Johnny rolled his eyes. “Falling in love with a villain is a seriously dangerous idea. Whether he's evil or not. They sorta like toying with people's hearts.”
“I am not.” He muttered, embarrassed, squirming a little.
“You're turning pink, man.”
Steve glowered at him.
Johnny laughed, pushing his chair back onto the back two legs of his chair, grinning. “You guys are way more entertaining than I thought.”
He didn't slow in his walk, but he did spin around on his heel, walking backwards as he considered the SHIELD agent as he rushed towards him. “Hello, Agent Coulson. What's up?”
The agent glowered at him. “Don't 'what's up' me, Tony.”
Tony arched a brow, and put his hands on his hips, still walking backwards. “Okay, then, Coulson... tell me what's wrong.”
“You remember the cell we built down the hall?”
“Sure I do, you're keeping Loki in it.” He rolled his eyes, shaking his head slightly. “You know, the pregnant dude that you're threatening to keep forever and study? Creepy, dude, by the way, tell SHIELD to tone down their creepy government tactics some.”
“Loki spends more time out of that cell than in it.” He grumbled, brows furrowed.
“Oh really?” He said, innocently, as though that was a perfectly normal thing to ask. As though he was actually oblivious. “Imagine, you haven't been able to keep a super villain contained in your shitty cell. Go figure. You know, if you had let me design the damn thing like I said I was gonna do, back in the day, or if you'd gone with that design I sent you last month – which was awesome, by the way – then I don't think you'd be having the same problem. Come on, you know the design was awesome. He would totally be contained, then. In theory.”
“What I want to know,” he glowered at him, “Is who of you is letting him out?”
“...letting him out.” Tony repeated. “No one is letting him out, Coulson, the dude is magic. Yeah. Tony Stark just said a dude was magic. If he wants out of your crappy little cell, he's going to get out of your crappy little cell.”
Agent Coulson took a deep breath, and crossed his arms. “Tony, this is somewhat... bigger , than just whether or not you have a possible son on the way. After all, Loki has been on a mission to conquer the planet, Tony, this is the kind of thing you're supposed to be stopping, remember? This is the whole reason SHIELD doesn't crack down on your crap.”
“Because you need us.” He grinned, and finally stopped walking, just crossing his arms as he grinned at Coulson.
“We don't need you.” Coulson sighed. “We could manage just fine with SHIELD agents and Captain America.”
“Dude, Captain America thinks he might be Loki's baby daddy. I don't think he's gonna run around and help you with this whole 'stopping Loki' thing. Seriously. So I don't think that's gonna work out so well for you.” Tony rolled his eyes, and said, finally, “Look, Coulson... just spit it out. What do you want?”
He sighed. “...he's been showing up outside the cell.”
Tony arched a brow. “What do you mean?”
“There are always two SHIELD guards outside of that cell.”
“Yeah, I noticed. I don't like it.” He arched a single brow. “I don't remember saying okay to the SHIELD agents hanging around my place and using one of the bedrooms as a break room when I signed on for this whole 'fine we'll help you' deal.”
“Ask Miss Potts about that one.” Coulson said, tightly.
Tony sighed. “Of course. She probably worked it all out in the contract. Well, it was worth a complaint, anyway. Go on, you've always got two guards outside of his room, just in case big bad scary pregnant man decides to go on a Twinkie run or something.”
“As a result, we thought we would become aware of any escape attempts the moment it happened. However, as we discovered, quickly, he was just... teleporting himself in and out. So we attempted to tighten security, naturally, but...”
“It didn't work?” He guessed.
“He's taken to... reappearing outside of the cell.” Coulson pressed his lips into a tight line.
“Like... outside?” Tony snorted. “With the guards there?”
“With the guards there.” He said, looking genuinely grumpy.
“That's ballsy.” He smirked.
“Yes, well, it's that, for sure.” Coulson sighed, fussing with his tie for a moment. “He's been showing up, and informing us that we've been doing a... very good job of guarding him, and that he's terribly impressed.”
Tony arched a brow.
He sighed. “I'm starting to think that he believes SHIELD are like children that need to be encouraged. I feel like the cell has turned into his... art pinned on the refrigerator.”
He snorted, and tried to stifle his laughter for all of a minute, but then Tony just started laughing and laughing, shaking his head. “That is – that is fucking awesome , Coulson!”
“Not terribly encouraged by Loki's attempt to encourage you?” He smirked.
“I'm beginning to think there's no point in keeping up the farce that we can actually keep them controlled, anymore.” He sighed, heavily. “Which is why I wanted to talk to you.”
He narrowed his eyes, suspiciously. “We're not letting him take him off site.”
“Believe it or not, Tony, I actually wasn't going to suggest that we do.” He sighed softly, and shook his head. “Look, in this house, you have yourself, Steve Rogers, Thor, Bruce Banner, Natasha and Clint... hell, you've even managed to invite Johnny storm around. I think, between the group of you, that you could likely manage to keep him... if not controlled, at least within this building. After all, it's not really as though you can possibly do worse than our SHIELD guards have. So the plan is... to allow him out of the cell. To end the farce, as it were.”
“So... you're releasing him into our recognizance?” Tony arched a brow.
“Yeah.” He nodded. “Basically.”
“Huh.” Tony considered that for a moment, then nodded. “All right, we'll do it.”
“Thank you.” He sighed softly.
“And this means no more SHIELD guards, right?”
Coulson sighed, and nodded. “No more SHIELD guards, you are the guards, now, then.”
“Done.” He grinned.
Pepper was in the middle of attempting to make Tony's brain leak out of his ears – or giving him the statistics on some meeting or something, he wasn't paying enough attention to actually know what it was – when the card on his desk lit up, and it said “Avengers assemble!”
Only it wasn't out of the typical set of voices.
Tony cleared his throat, and reached forward to grab the ID card off the desk.
Pepper sighed, heavily, and crossed her arms. “Tony?”
“Yes, Pep?” He shifted to stand up.
“You gave an ID card to Loki?”
“Not exactly...” He cleared his throat again, and pressed his thumb in the card. “Are you actually needing us to assemble, or did you just need something?”
“What, now you think I’m you're pissy wife or something? I said Avengers assemble, I meant it.”
Tony sighed. “...I gotta go deal with this.”
Pepper rolled her eyes, and snagged the card out of Tony's hand. “Loki.”
“Ah, Miss Potts.” The sound of the other man's voice came over the ID card, and he sounded smooth as ever. “I was unaware that they considered you one of the Avengers now. Welcome to the team.”
“You're not an Avenger, Loki.”
“My Avengers ID card begs to differ with you, but that's not the point, we're not bickering. If we're all assembling, then I recommend that you join the others in getting down here. Immediately. Thank you.”
“Loki, we're not going to assemble.” Pepper frowned, setting her hand on her hip. “Because you have yet to tell us why we're supposed to be assembling.”
The god let out a huff of a sigh. “Because I have heartburn and my feet hurt and I want food.”
She arched a brow, and looked at Tony, who looked slightly sheepish. “There is a kitchen, Loki, you're aware of that, right? You can get yourself some food.”
“I want deep friend pickles.”
Pepper actually looked surprised by that. “... deep friend pickles?”
“Deep. Fried. Pickles.”
She frowned, pursing her lips for a moment, then said, abruptly, “Thor? Did you hear that?”
“Thor?” Tony repeated.
She lifted her thumb off the the card, muting the microphone for a moment. “Thor's pretty much the only one who can fly fast enough to get somewhere that might have deep friend pickles, as disgusting a thought as that is. And he's the pregger man's brother, so... he has been saying he's bound and determined that Loki's happy, so...”
“Aye, Pepper, I am here.” Thor's voice drifted from the microphone.
“Oh, thank goodness.” She sighed, and pressed her thumb against the card again. “Thor, can you see if you can manage to find your brother... deep fried pickles?”
“I will take the quest.” He said, as though she'd just asked him to find the Holy Grail, or something.
“Thank you, Thor. You hear that, Loki? Your brother is going to go get you the... deep fried pickles. Do you still need to Avengers to assemble, then?”
“My feet still hurt.”
She groaned. “You are worse than every pregnant woman ever, Loki.”
Janet groaned, and rolled over in bed, hands sort of fumbling to find the card on her desk, and finally picked it up, mumbling, slurred, “Why are we assembling this time, Loki?”
“There is a threat to the city, it's going to destroy... all right, I won't lie to you.”
“You'd better not.” She muttered, rubbing at her eyes.
“I need pineapple.”
Jan moaned, and slumped back into her pillows, pressing her face into the fabric, frustrated. “There are cans of pineapple in the kitchen, Loki...”
“It cannot be canned. It has to be fresh.”
She frowned, and slowly sat up in bed, sighing heavily. “Fine, I’ll run to the grocery store.”
“Not the anemic things they sell in those prisons for food! It must be fresh and it must be picked right off the vine! The baby wants pineapple!”
“I liked you better when you were in the cell.” She muttered, closing her eyes. “...Thor?”
“I shall take the quest, my lady.”
“...good. I’m going back to sleep.” Jan groaned, and slumped back into the pillows.
Clint swore, colourfully, and reached out of the shower, scrambling to pick up the ID card that was sitting on the counter in the bathroom, just sort of sticking his head out of the shower curtain. His hair was still all shampoo'd up, and there was a crown of bubbles on top of his head as a result. “Loki, this better not fucking be another fucking craving.”
“I need - “
“I don't fucking care what you fucking need, I am in the goddamn shower. Next time you need something, just fucking call Thor directly, he always goes and gets the fucking stuff for you. He got a damn white tiger for you last week, and no, I don't want to know where in the world he had to go to get you one of those... just... stop telling us to assemble and just go ask Thor.”
Loki huffed. “Well then.”
“Thank you.” He growled, and slapped the card back down to the counter.
“You've been avoiding me.”
“I have not,” Steve said, calmly, not pausing in his sit ups, despite the fact that every time he lowered himself back down onto the floor, he kept seeing a pair of bare feet. “I wouldn't avoid you.”
“You have been. I’ve barely seen you for more than three minutes in weeks, and when I have seen you, we have never been alone.”
Steve finally sighed, and slumped back to the mats of the gym floor, looking up at Loki. “That would most likely be the circumstances, Loki, if we were being honest. And I thought you were all about the honesty.”
“I am.” He agreed.
“...this is a strange angle to look up at you from.” Steve said, slowly, blinking up at Loki. It really was a strange angle, because he was looking straight up at the other's pregnant belly, which was starting to swell quite impressively, now. Very impressively. He knew, logically, that he was now about six months along, so he was definitely getting round, now, but when he lay on the floor and looked up at him, Loki looked, frankly, even larger. “You are quite... pregnant.”
Loki snorted. “I've been pregnant now for six months, yes, I would imagine that I’m quite pregnant.”
“Sorry, I just... it's hitting me, I guess.” Steve shifted to sit up, swinging around so that he was facing Loki, instead of staring up at his belly from underneath, and considered him for a long moment. “Besides, I’m not sure that I know how to avoid you when you seem determined to not avoid me. You left chocolates in my room last week, remember?”
“I did,” he dipped his head. “But that's not exactly what I had in mind.”
“And what did you have in mind?”
Loki smirked, and offered his hand to Steve.
Steve hesitated, and slowly took his hand, pushing himself up, carefully, not actually wanting Loki to pull him up and strain himself. As much as he had been avoiding Loki the last few weeks – and yes, he had been avoiding him for a few weeks – he still didn't want Loki to hurt himself. Actually, he had been working very hard , even while avoiding him, to make sure that Loki didn't get hurt.
“Steve,” Loki said, looking up at him with a look that said, so terribly clearly, that he was planning something. “Will you come with me to the ultrasound?”
Steve fumbled, caught off guard by the question. “...ultrasound?”
“Bruce insists on constantly monitoring the baby's progress, and while I understand his compulsion, he sort of takes all the... romance out of being pregnant, so to speak.” Loki rolled his eyes, and tightened his hold on Steve's fingers. “Come with me.”
He hesitated, then nodded. “Of course.”
Loki smirked, and tugged him along the hall, leading him towards Bruce's lab. He had plans. Well, he always had plans, that was what made Loki the Trickster, wasn't it? Steve didn't interrupt his thoughts, though he hadn't really expected the tall soldier to do so, as Steve followed him, an intense expression on his face, brows furrowed. Bruce was waiting for him, and within moments of his arrival in the lab, Bruce had him laid out on the cot, and had wheeled the ultrasound machine over to his bedside.
“Are you sure you want to be here?” Bruce frowned, looking up at Steve.
Steve blinked, startled, then nodded. “Yes... yes, I want to be here.”
“Hn.” He nodded, but retrieved the tube of gel. “This will be cold.”
“I know,” Loki said, closing his eyes as he waited.
Steve watched the scientist work, having no idea what he was doing, really, not really understanding all of the technology. He had tried to learn as much as he could about the modern world, but there were certain things that just haven't been necessary to learn, he didn't think, so he just hadn't taken the time to learn them. He was fairly sure he was learning a lot, now, though, as he watched the doctor work, until finally Bruce said, softly, “There they are.”
He looked up at the little screen, and Steve audibly gasped.
Loki hummed, softly, squeezing his fingers, but Steve didn't seem to even notice, his eyes were turned to the screen, completely unable to focus on anything other than the screen. It was black and white, and not terribly detailed, but there was, amongst the “noise”, the shape of a tiny human shape. He shifted forward in his seat, gaping at the display, and listened with rapt attention as Bruce traced his finger over the shapes and pointed out the head, the nose, the hands, the feet. Until that moment, in Steve's mind, the baby had still been a vague idea, an inkling of something that was supposed to be taking shape, but he'd had no mental way of processing what that meant. But there, on that screen, there was a little human, unborn and not completely formed, the head too large for the little body, one hand reaching out further in the liquid they were growing in, little fingers reaching for something.
“Steve?” Loki whispered.
“...that's your child, Loki,” Steve breathed, reaching up to touch the screen, lightly. “My god... so beautiful...”
Loki squeezed his fingers, lightly.
“That's your baby,” he said, eyes bright.
“Loki. I need to talk to you.”
The Trickster god sighed heavily, but didn't look up from his book. He was sprawled on his bed, shirtless – and possibly naked under the blankets that he had pulled just over his belly, but Tony didn't really want to think about the fact that this man was possibly naked, he could never figure out how exactly a pregnant dude dealt with getting at his junk and everything – and he was flipping through a book, idly. His room wasn't as large or as impressive as some of the other Avenger rooms, but it had a stupidly oversized teddy bear in the corner that Natasha had bought and said was for the baby, and several of the trinkets that he'd claimed the baby needed and Thor had gone to get were littered in other places. “What is it this time, Tony? If it's about the baby shower, I already know, terrible job of keeping that a secret.”
Tony blinked, mouth open to speak, then snapped it shut again. “That wasn't it, actually, but how did you find out?”
“Bruce knows.” He rolled his eyes, and looked up at him. “Therefore, when he Hulks out, he knows about that, too, and the Hulk delights in completely ruining any secret that Bruce holds. He mentioned it.”
“I'm a little weirded out by how many conversations you have with the Hulk, actually.”
“We connect on a level that you and your other Avengers can't get to. He and I are... somewhat similar.” Loki let his book fall forward onto his chest, as he clearly wasn't going to get any reading done anyway. “We're both considered freaks by the very people that controlled us, and given the chance, we'd both smash this world.”
“Well, when you put it that way...” Tony stepped into the room, kicking the door shut behind him.
“Oh, it's a closed door discussion. If you're in the mood to get laid, Tony, do try and seek out one of your many, many floozies, I’m just not in the mood today.” He smiled, tightly.
“This is actually... about Steve.”
“Ah, your virginal soldier.” Loki smirked slightly, folding his hands over his belly. “What about him?”
“I'm trying to figure out what your intentions are for him, actually.”
Loki sighed, heavily. “What are you, his father?”
“His father has been dead for ninety years, Loki, way to rub that in,” he rolled his eyes, and settled down on the edge of Loki's bed, folding his hands in his lap as he considered him, seriously. Loki looked remarkably calm, sedate. Funny to see, in some ways, but interesting, all the same. Intriguing, he supposed. “Dickhead. Look, you've been bringing him flowers, and chocolates, and doing all these little... sickeningly sweet lovey dovey things. Shit, Loki, you're acting like a guy trying to seduce a pretty little lady, or something. So what I want to know what you want from our little virginal soldier.”
He considered Tony for a long few moments, then finally said, “I'm seducing him, what does it look like?”
Tony furrowed his brow. “Yeah, but why ?”
Loki snorted. “You have seen the man, yes? It's a travesty that this man is still a virgin. That should be a crime . You think what I have done is cruel and sick in this world, but I have done nothing nearly as bad letting that man remain a virgin .”
He opened his mouth, then closed it again. “Huh.”
“You see my point, now?” Loki tapped his fingers on his belly, shaking his head.
“Yeah, I see your point.”
“Thank you.” He snickered slightly.
“Except that you know that you're evil, right? Like, you haven't forgotten that you're evil and fucked up and that Steve is, aside from the soldier bit, sweetness and light and sugary syrupy candy sweet, right?”
“That may be a slight exaggeration.”
“Only a slight exaggeration,” Tony shook his head.
“Yes, I am aware of this.” Loki sighed softly, and looked down at himself, picking idly at the edge of the blanket. It was almost strange to see. Loki was strong and in control and, well, evil. He wasn't hesitating, and unsure of himself in any situation. He knew absolutely that Loki didn't need a hug, he needed retribution.
“Seriously. You're evil.” Tony said, again.
“You keep using that word,” He looked up, brows furrowed. “I do not think you know what it means.”
He blinked at him. “...did you just... did you just quote The Princess Bride at me?!”
“I watched it with Steve last week,” he said, eyelids heavy as he considered Tony from under his lashes, a devious sort of smirk starting to spread over his face. “It was terribly romantic. I think he thought we needed to watch something about true love. Twu wuv, if you will.”
“...you're creepy sometimes.”
Loki barked in laughter, amused, shaking his head slightly. “Am I?”
“Yeah. And actually, what makes it creepier is that you're... not really creepy.”
“Excuse me?” He laughed, shaking his head.
“You seem more human than your brother does, sometimes. I mean... you get slang, you chat, you make lame jokes... you're less old fashioned and weird than he is. I dunno. I mean, you're magical, you do all this impossible stuff. You're clearly a super powered being, even if you're not actually a god. I have theories about that. Cool super powered people show up, and the Norse people go 'oh my god, gods!' and all. Still, either way, you're super powered and strong and powerful, and you have machinations of world domination. You want to rule the world. Hell, you want to destroy the world. That's fucking twisted, you know that, right? So are you just trying to crush Steve's soul, or what is the plan here?”
“I'm not sure I have to tell you my plans.” Loki tapped his fingertips on his belly.
“I'm serious, Loki.”
“As am I.” He said, firmly. “I don't want to tell you my plans for Steve, those are private and personal. But I’m not planning on eating his soul, or whatever it is you idiots think I’m doing.”
Tony frowned, considering him for a long moment.
“Would you like to put me under your microscope, Tony?” He drawled, quietly.
“Yes, actually.” He smirked, grinning. “But really, I’m just trying to figure out exactly what exactly you are planning for him.”
“I won't tell you.” He said, calmly.
“Yeah, I figured you weren't gonna.” He sighed, and furrowed his brows. “So, can you feel the baby, you know... moving?”
“Oh yes,” Loki shifted in the bed, pressing his palms against the bed as he pushed himself up, leaning on the pillows. “Give me your hand.”
“I'm not going to eat it, you fool of a man, just give me your hand.” Loki reached out to snag his hand, and pressed it firmly to his own belly. “Do you feel that?”
He frowned, not seeing what Loki was talking about, then his eyes widened, sharply.
It just felt like a swollen beer belly or something, maybe, until there was a strange sort of sharp thump against his palm. “Shit, the baby just kicked me!”
“He kicks my kidneys on a regular basis,” he sighed heavily, shaking his head. “And sometimes my liver, and likes settling on my bladder as though it is his very favourite place to sit. On some occasions, he kicks my lungs. Unfortunately, I’m somewhat used to this.”
Tony smiled softly. “There's really a baby coming, isn't there?”
“Two months,” he agreed. “There's a baby coming.”
“Tony Junior.” He grinned, then laughed when he felt another thump against his palm. “See, toldja. Even the baby agrees with me. He's Tony Junior. He's gonna be fucking brilliant.”
“Yes, swearing in front of the baby. That makes you a wonderful father.” Loki rolled his eyes.
“Shut up. I’m awesome.” Tony snickered.
“Who the hell's idea was this, anyway?” Clint said, abruptly.
Janet looked up from where she was sprawled across Thor's lap, head pillowed on her crossed arms, her feet resting in Natasha's lap. The three of them were sitting on the floor in front of the couch, leaning back on the other's legs, where Pepper, Tony, Johnny and Loki were all sort of crunched side by side in the space. Steve was settled on the arm of the couch beside Loki, his arm across the back of the couch, and Bruce and Clint had claimed the two armchairs that flanked it. “I dunno whose idea it was... but I think it's awesome.”
“Awesome?” He repeated, arching a brow.
“It's like... a family night! We're having a family night!” Janet giggled.
“This is what human families do together?” Loki frowned slightly, arching a brow. “That seems unusual.”
“How come?” Jan asked, curiously.
“In Asgaard,” Thor said, voice deep and thunderous, “We used to slaughter enemies as a family.”
“Oh sure, we do that too.” She giggled, squirming a little so that she was laying on her side, her head still pillowed on his thigh. “I mean, we're a family, us Avengers. And Johnny. He's part of our family, too. And look at us, we fight people together! Last week, I distracted that guy so you could crack him in the head with your hammer!”
He laughed, cheerfully.
“Sometimes, Jan, you make my head hurt.” Natasha smirked slightly, idly running her fingers up and down the soles of the other girl's bare feet, laughing when Jan wriggled and giggled, flushed. “Ticklish little girl.”
“Oi, I’m a woman,” she pouted at her, then laughed again when Natasha tickled again.
“That wasn't actually what I meant.” Clint frowned. “I meant, who the hell picked this movie? Seriously. Batman and Robin?”
“It's sort of entertaining.” Loki smirked slightly. “The bright colours are interesting.”
Johnny snickered, and stretched, laying his arm around Loki's shoulders.
“...did you just pull the yawn and stretch routine?” Tony blinked at the man that sat beside him, even though he clearly had his own arm around Pepper's shoulder, the same way.
He shrugged, and smirked.
“I feel like I have been encircled by twins.” Loki informed the room in general, lazily, his own hands folded on his stomach, a blanket tossed over his legs. He was the only one in the room that had a blanket, but he was also the only one in the room that was pregnant, so that sort of made some sense.
Clint snickered. “They don't look that much alike.”
Pepper leaned forward, considering the pair seriously. “Hm. No, I can see it, they look like they could be related. Both blond, both muscley, both pretty...”
“How you doin', baby?” Johnny grinned at her, wiggling his eyebrows.
She rolled her eyes, and shook her head. “You got the wrong parts, Johnny boy.”
“Yeah, well... I heard you dated Tony.”
“And he turned me off of men,” she smiled, tightly.
“I did not turn you off of - “ Tony started, then pursed his lips when he saw her stern, glowering expression. Finally, he turned to look back at Johnny again, and cleared his throat. “I turned her off of men forever.”
“Shame.” He snickered.
“Shame you can't just do the gender swapping bit like your baby mama can,” Clint smirked, playing with one of his arrows as he considered them all. “Cause then any of you could be anybody you wanted to be. Sex with everyone for the win.”
“I dunno,” Tony pressed a hand against his own chest. “I think I’d look weird with boobs.”
“Bullshit.” Clint snorted. “You'd be like your Iron Chicks, like in the shows.”
He hesitated, considering that for a long moment, then grinned as he looked at Pepper. “Would you do me if I was a chick?”
She frowned slightly, considering him for a long moment. Then her expression changed abruptly, and Pepper pressed her lips tightly together as she tried to keep herself calm, trying not to burst into laughter, clapping her hand over her mouth, finally, and dissolving into a mess of giggles.
“What?” Tony demanded, then hesitated when he realized that he sounded... not like himself.
Looking down at himself, he – or she, perhaps – squealed in shock, and flailed slightly. “Holy crap I have boobs ! Boobs! You did this to me!” Tony pointed at Loki.
“It's just an illusion.” Loki smirked. “Unlike myself, you haven't actually shape shifted.”
“Shame,” Clint said. “Iron Chick is far hotter than Iron Man.”
“Hey!” Tony squalled, displeased.
Finally, Pepper laughed softly, and said, “I'd probably do chick-Tony, if she were less of an illusion.”
“Really?” He perked back up, then sighed in apparent disappointment when he realized that his newly discovered breasts were gone again and he was back to regular old Tony. “Aww, c'mon, Loki, I almost got to experience lesbian sex for the first time. I mean, come on, isn't that every man's fantasy?!”
“Is it?” He said, lazily.
He hesitated. “Ah... yes .”
“Steve?” Loki looked up at Captain America. “Is it your fantasy to become involved in a lesbian liaison?”
He flushed. “ No .”
“Okay, it's not fair to ask the ninety year old virgin...” Tony groaned. “He's gonna start sparkling soon!”
“Sparkling?” Thor repeated, confused.
“It's a Twilight reference.” Janet giggled, and rolled onto her back, kicking at the air. “For a guy who likes to say that he completely hates that stuff, he seems to know an awful lot about it.”
“I like to be on top of my cultural references.” Tony said, dryly.
“Hey,” Johnny turned to Loki, grinning. “Give me boobs, too, I would totally be hot enough to get Pepper too, right?”
“I imagine that if you were confident enough, you could convince her to copulate with you even as a man.” Loki said, dryly, and shifted a little on the couch, leaning on Steve's side, closing his eyes for a moment.
“Huh. Good point.” He grinned at Pepper, and wiggled his eyebrows. “Heya baby.”
She rolled her eyes, and just shook her head.
“Seriously, why are we watching Batman?!” Clint interrupted, loudly.
The new chaos started when JARVIS abruptly interrupted the welding that Tony was doing on a new suit to inform him, seriously, “Loki is no longer in the mansion.”
Tony almost ignored him for a moment, then abruptly lifted his head, and shoved his goggles up on his forehead, blinking as he held the welding torch in hand. “...what did you just say, JARVIS?”
“Loki is no longer in the mansion. Sir.”
He gaped at the air for a moment, then flicked off the cutting torch and scrambled out of the recess in the floor that he was working in. “What the hell , JARVIS?! Where is he, then? Did SHIELD take him out, or – or what happened?!”
“He teleported, sir.”
“Son of a bitch... where did he go?!”
“I am attempting to track him, sir.” JARVIS said, sounding slightly excited by this attempt to do so, actually. “As I had mentioned to you before, when he teleports, he opens something of a wormhole, and passes between the two points, rather than simply disappearing and simply reappearing somewhere else, and I believe - “
“I don't want to hear the science right now, JARVIS!” He yelped. “Where is he?!”
“Well.” JARVIS huffed, which was a strange mental image, considering he was a computer system, rather than a person, but JARVIS finally said, “I'm still looking.”
Tony grumbled, and snatched his ID card off of the work bench as he darted over to get into his suit. “Avengers! Dammit, Loki has escaped.”
He groaned softly, and stepped into his suit, letting it click around himself, whirring as it started powering up. “Yes, Clint, he's escaped.”
“You need help going to find him?”
He blinked. “...Johnny, who gave you an ID card?”
“Pepper.” He snickered, sounding absolutely amused. “Cause seriously, I’m pretty sure I can fly faster than you.”
“Oh no you didn't.” Tony glowered as the helmet slid back into place, and his rockets flared as he flew right out of the lab, in a hurry to figure out where the hell Loki had gone. “Steve! You heard?”
“I heard.” He said, then he heard Thor's voice in the background of Steve's transmission, like he was standing right behind the Captain, saying something about helping him get to where Loki was. “We'll be there, have you found out where he's going, yet?”
“JARVIS is working on - “
“I've found him, sir.” JARVIS interrupted him.
“Ha! Awesome. Where is he, JARVIS?” He demanded.
“At a grocery store in Queen's.”
Tony blinked at his display, not really sure how to respond to that. “...did you really just say at a grocery store in Queen's?”
“Yes,” the computer informed him, cheerfully. “These are the coordinates.”
“...son of a bitch.” Tony muttered, and just upped the rockets when a flaming man screamed past him. Dammit, the Human Torch was faster than him.
A few moments later, he was setting down on the sidewalk as Johnny circled and landed beside him, and a few seconds later, Thor slammed down on the street with enough force to crack the asphalt, and set Steve down. Go figure, he had actually carried Captain America to the scene with him. It was Steve that rushed forward, hurrying through the doors, not really seeming to care that it might look a little unusual for Captain America to go bursting into a grocery store.
Tony sighed, and motioned to the door. “After you, gentlemen,”
Johnny rolled his eyes, the flames fading quickly as he jogged into the room, and just managed to avoid an angry looking Thor who slammed into the door like a juggernaut. Tony shook his head, and marched in after him, servos whirring and humming as he did.
Of all things, Loki was standing at one of the counter, smirking as he talked to the cashier, an array of snack cakes and sugary things spread out on the belt. He looked up when they headed towards them, and sighed, dramatically, crossing his arms over his chest, which actually mostly served to make himself look even more pregnant, if such a thing was possible. After all, at seven and a bit months – presumably – along, he was quite round, now, and wore an over sized t-shirt of Steve's that looked sort of like he was trying to wear a maternity dress and mostly just managed to stretch the SHIELD logo slightly. “I was going to come back .” He informed them, seriously.
“Of course you were.” Tony held out a hand. “Coming?”
“I would like to get my food, actually.”
“Come on, Loki.” Steve stepped forward, and offered his hand, as well, like Tony had a moment before. “Before your brother grabs you and tosses you over his shoulder, all right?”
“He wouldn't toss me over his shoulder, that would hurt the baby.” Loki rolled his eyes.
“Loki.” Steve said, seriously.
“Fine.” He sighed, dramatically, but reached out to take the Captain's hand, and let the red-white-and-blue man tug him away from the counter. Even with the mask, it was obvious that Steve looked anxious and nervous. “You all owe me terribly much for this.”
“Brother, you should not be taking such reckless chances,” Thor informed him, seriously.
“Yes, thank you, Thor.” He shifted his hold on Steve's arm so that their arms were linked together, and that he was still holding his hand, as though stubbornly. “Getting groceries is terribly dangerous.”
“Come on, guys, people are staring, let's get out of here.” Tony frowned.
JARVIS pinged his display, and said, seriously, “Sir, several of the patrons are beginning to record the incident with cell phone cameras.”
“Shit.” He darted forward, and set his hands against both Steve and Loki's lower backs, and started pushing them out of the grocery store, quickly, trying to hustle them along out of the doors. “All right, outta here, get outta here, people are starting to record it, we do not need this on the news...”
It was Johnny that turned around to face the crowds as they left the store, grinning as he held out his arms, laughing. “Thank you, thank you , ladies and gentlemen, thank you for everything. Now go back to your regular lives!”
Tony groaned, and reached back to grab Johnny's arm, hauling him along back after him. “Get out of there, you ham...”
“Sorry, ladies, apparently Iron Man's laid claim!” He laughed, and laughed even louder when Tony groaned, heavily, and dragged him along after him.
“What is this?”
Tony blinked, looking up. “Huh?”
“This!” Pepper pointed at the flat screen television on Tony's lab wall, lips pursed, expression very serious. He blinked at her, then at the television, not getting it. That is, he didn't get it, until he realized what exactly was playing on the news.
“Oh.” His eyes widened.
It was a crappy quality cell phone video, jumpy and sort of jittery, but it very clearly showed a very pregnant Loki standing by the counter in the grocery store, who sighed and took Captain America's hand, and let him drag him out of the store. It showed Thor glowering at people until they moved out of their way, it showed Tony pushing the men out of the store, and, to his chagrin, showed the strange little interaction between himself and Johnny.
“That,” he said, after a moment, “Was a very poor quality video. What kind of shitty cell phones are these kids buying these days?”
“Well, it's true.” He rolled his eyes, then watched as the reporter talked about it, earnestly, pointing out certain little points in the video. “Damn, that suit Johnny wears is tight, isn't it? I mean... you're seeing what I’m seeing, right? How is that costume not violating fifteen different indecency laws?”
“We're not talking about Johnny in his suit, Tony!”
“Speak for yourself.” He grinned, hands on his hips as he considered the screen.
“We can talk about your attraction to Johnny's ass in his tights later, right now, we need to talk about the fact that you're on the news, with Loki, who is pregnant!”
Tony mused, seriously, turning away from the screen to consider Pepper, thoughtfully. “Okay... so?”
“So everyone has seen the news, and everyone knows that Loki is pregnant, and that you four are involved!” She threw her hands up. “Steve is holding his hand in the video! You're pushing them around! Hell, you're practically groping at Johnny at one point!”
“I wasn't groping him. If I was groping him, I would have enjoyed it more.” He rolled his eyes.
“You are absolutely impossible!” She snapped.
Tony grinned, mischievously. “I know... I’m pretty awesome. Seriously. But fine, so the world has seen that Loki is pregnant, and that we are somehow involved with the whole... thing. But what does that matter? Who cares?”
Pepper took a deep breath, hands on her hips, and said, finally, “For two major reasons. Firstly, SHIELD is pissed. Coulson specifically left you in charge of making sure that Loki didn't get out. And you not only let him get out, but you showed up and drew a whole bunch of attention to him. So they're very angry with you.”
He sighed. “Less awesome.”
“The second reason... is who I’ve been fielding calls from all day.”
Tony blinked. “...who?”
He frowned, looking at her for a long few moments, not seeming to understand what she meant for a long moment, then finally groaned softly, and said, “The mutant dude, right? The guy that runs all the mutant programs and everything?”
“Yes.” She nodded.
“Awesome.” He sighed, scratching at his jaw. “He thinks he's a mutant, doesn't he?”
“Yeah. Charles thinks that he's a mutant.”
“Well, he's not. He's a god.” Tony rolled his eyes, and headed back to his desk, scooping up his coffee mug, taking a swig, and gagging, almost spewing the cold coffee out. “Fuck, that's gross... right, no more coffee for me. Nngh. So what have you told Charles mutant-man about Loki?”
“I told him that he's not a mutant.” Pepper leaned on his desk, sighing softly. “And he's willing to accept that he's not a mutant, that he might be a god instead, they've apparently encountered gods before.”
“Well. Problem solved, then.” He went to take another swig of the coffee, then caught himself seconds before he did. “Right.”
“What do you mean?” Tony frowned, brows furrowed.
Pepper pursed her lips for a moment, as though trying to think of the right words to describe this with. “Basically, what it comes down to is that... some of the mutants that he works with could... potentially... be parent candidates.”
“...more of them?” He groaned softly.
“More of them,” she agreed, clearing her throat. “Yeah.”
“...are they coming here?”
“They're coming here,” she nodded.
“Awesome.” Tony sighed, and took another swig of his coffee before he remembered, and yowled, spitting cold coffee on his desk.
Steve was sort of hovering at the corner of the table, arms crossed as he glowered slightly at everyone in the room. He was wearing his uniform, but the headpiece was hanging back over his back, because he didn't really care who saw his face, but that didn't mean he had to smile at them or act like he was pleased that they were there.
The Avengers – and Johnny - were sort of gathered around one side of the massive meeting room, and on the other side of the table, there were gathered several members of the X-Men.
Everyone looked sort of quiet and grumpy, actually, as they all glowered at each other.
And Loki, sitting in one of the large chairs, hands folded on his stomach, grinned like he was the king of the castle and these men and women were his courts, spread out in front of him. How lovely.
“JARVIS?” Tony said, finally.
“Pull up the possible father list, please.”
“Of course, sir,” the computer said, cheerfully, and the air over the table flickered slightly, then a massive list appeared in the space over it, glowing blue and hovering in their space. It was already starting to get impressively long – Tony, Steve, Clint, Bruce, Pepper, Johnny – and it was apparently going to get longer yet. “Shall I add to it, sir?”
“One second.” He twisted slightly over to look at Loki. “Which of them is on the list?”
Loki considered them seriously, then smirked. “Well then. The wild man...”
“You mean Logan, right?” Tony frowned.
The dark haired, hirsute man sitting low in one of the chairs, sneered slightly. “He means me.”
“...did you sleep with him?” Steve asked, hand tight on the back of the chair that the other was sitting in, knuckles tight as he clung to it.
Loki took a deep breath, then abruptly sat up, and turned to look back at Steve. “I don't think you should be here for this.”
Steve blinked at him. “....excuse me?”
He sighed heavily, and closed his eyes. “Steve, please. There's going to be a lot of things being said here that I don't think I want you to hear. And I don't think you want to hear. So please. Leave.”
“I just...” Steve fumbled.
“Please.” The god said, jaw set, seriously.
“Come on, now, Loki, you don't want to be hiding things from your man, do you?” Tony snickered.
“No, I’ll listen to Loki.” Steve said, softly, and reached down to squeeze Loki's shoulder, slightly, then slipped out from behind the chair, and headed towards the door, quietly.
“Steve wait, you don't have to - “ Tony called after him.
The Captain just lifted his hand, and shook his head, and kept walking, until he was out of the room, and he was gone.
“....did that really just happen?” Tony blinked.
“That really just happened, hot stuff.” Johnny grinned at him, then laughed when Tony gave him a sharp look. He looked over at one of the X-Men across the table, a Scott Summers, and winked at him. “Seriously, is he not the hottest geek you've ever see? I would tap that ass.”
Scott snorted, and just slowly shook his head.
“What? I so would! No one else gets what I’m going with, here?”
“Naw, I’m with you on that one.” Clint shrugged. “I'd tap that.”
Across the table, Logan shrugged. “Yeah, I could do that.”
“Are you all quite done talking about my ass?” Tony arched a brow.
“One would think this would be exactly the type of thing that would feed your little ego, Tony.” Pepper said, calmly. “Or massive ego, either way. I would think that you'd be thrilled that everyone in the room wants your ass.”
“They're all men, Pepper.” He grumbled.
“And that makes it less flattering, somehow?” She arched a brow.
“...no, but – this is not the point.” Tony grumbled, and crossed his arms. “Can we actually talk about the issue at hand here? Loki! Is Logan a possible father?”
Loki, who looked remarkably serious for once, nodded. “Yes.”
“Right then.” He looked up at the list, which was growing longer. “Any of the others? Scott Summers?”
“And let's see... Hank McCoy? Jean Grey? Bobby Drake? Remy LeBeau?”
Each of them got a nod as well, though Marie, Ororo and Warren Worthington the Third got turned down. They weren't on the list. That was at least a small relief. But what made it even odder was the distant sort of look on Loki's face, like he wasn't paying much attention to anyone else in the room, at the moment. His brother leaned over quietly, at one point, squeezing Loki's arm, gently. Loki looked up, and nodded, quietly.
“Look,” Janet said, suddenly. “This is awesome and all, that there are possible other fathers and stuff... but... how many strays are we gonna be bringing in the mansion this time?”
“I'm not sure it would actually be a good idea for us to stay here,” Scott said, quickly. “After all, we're teachers, we're required back at the school... obviously, were any of us possibly the father, we would be involved, but... we're needed elsewhere, really.”
Jean shifted forward, frowning. “But I think it would be best if we kept a presence here...”
Everyone turned to look at Logan, who arched a brow. “What? I’m not teaching, I’m not needed anywhere, I can hang out. Hell, they're interesting enough people to hang out with.” He shrugged. “So I’ll keep an eye on the pregnant god for y'all. Will that do?”
Jean hesitated, and nodded. “That would work.”
Pepper stood, and smiled slightly at Logan. “Well then, welcome to the Avengers. Like everyone else, lately. Come on, we'll get you a room, and an ID card.”
Logan snorted, but shoved his chair back, and followed her.
“Sorry about all of this,” Scott said, with a soft sigh. “We didn't realize that this was happening... we would have helped out earlier, if we'd known.”
“I know,” Tony nodded.
“I need to go.” Loki said, abruptly, and he was suddenly gone again.
“Hn. He's been kind of pissy lately.” Clint snickered, shaking his head. “Remind me to never get pregnant, huh?”
“Yeah, better watch out for that,” Warren snorted, shaking his head. “Fairly sure you're safe, Robin Hood.”
“Oooh, Robin Hood. I ain't never heard that one before,” he rolled his eyes.
“Fuck this, I’m needing to get the hell out of here.” Tony groaned, and pushed his chair away, rounding the table.
“I'll come with you!” Johnny grinned – and grinned even wider when Tony glowered at him.
“Fine.” He rolled his eyes, and headed for the training room.
Loki padded, barefoot, out onto the wide balcony that overlooked the Stark gardens and greenhouses, quietly. The cement was cooler out here, and he figured that it would likely to be wiser to wear shoes, were he anyone else. As it was, he was a Jotun – he liked the cold creeping through his bare soles and into his toes.
Steve stood on the edge of the balcony, hands resting on the railing as he looked out over the gardens. His shoulders were hunched, fingers tight on the railing.
Stepping forward, Loki rested his hand lightly on the other man's shoulder blade.
He stiffened under his touch, then finally slumped slightly. “Loki.”
“Steve,” he said, softly, shifting to slip under his arm, leaning against his side, quietly. “Are you all right?”
“Of course.” The soldier lied, closing his eyes.
“At least you're beautiful when you lie.” Loki murmured, gently. “Is it because of the other people I’ve slept with? You know why I did that, Steve.”
“Yeah, I know.” He shook his head, clearing his throat. “Besides, what does it have to do with me? I’m just a possible father. I have nothing to do with it. Once the child is born, you'll probably start worrying about the baby with the actual father, and you'll forget about me.”
“You think that little of me.” Loki whispered.
Steve groaned softly. “No...”
“You do.” He said, curling his fingers on Steve's chest, looking up at him. “You still think of me as a villain. You think of me as a villain still, as someone that wants to destroy the world. You think I want more than just this child. You think I’m evil.”
“No,” he protested, quietly.
“Steve Rogers.” Loki looked up at him, tapping the other man's jaw. When Steve finally opened his eyes and looked at him, he murmured, “I am going to kiss you.”
He hesitated, then nodded.
Loki straightened up a little, and pressed his lips to Steve's. It was a soft, gentle kiss at first, just a bare press of lips to lips, then Loki pressed a little deeper into it. Steve's arm slowly slid around the slighter man's shoulders, holding him gently, and even though he had never really had a lot of a experience with kissing, he sort of went with the instinctive thing, and pressed a little deeper into the kiss. For several long minutes, the kiss grew deeper and deeper, until it was finally Loki that broke it, panting heavily. He pressed his forehead to Steve's forehead, and groaned softly.
“Damn.” Steve murmured, breathlessly.
“Hoo... you know how to kiss, Steve Rogers.” He lifted his head, grinning at him.
He laughed, softly. “I don't have much experience, but what I lack up in practice, I make up for in attention to detail.”
“You most certainly do.” Loki grinned.
“...are you going to try and sleep with me now?” Steve asked, suddenly, looking suspicious.
“No,” he smiled, and stood on his toes to kiss the other man again, just a light press of lips. “I am not. I’m going to keep kissing you, though, and I am going to drive you mad with lust, make you want me until you finally give into your own desires and throw me up against the wall and just take me, right there, right then.”
Steve hesitated, and said, “Wouldn't that be bad for the baby, though?”
Loki laughed, loud and happy.
Tony was starting to think that they should maybe start doing this hero-ing thing in shifts, as though they worked in a factor, or something, because of course these villains didn't seem to have the common decency to attack them during the goddamn daytime.
And of course, they couldn't just do something kind of maybe typical like blowing up the UN or something.
No, they had to peel the roof off his fucking mansion !
Feeling a bit like Holmes in that old joke, (“The stars tell me, Watson, that someone has stolen our tent.”) Tony woke and found himself staring up at the night sky. He wondered, for a moment, where exactly his ceiling had gone, until he realized that he recognized the man floating over the building like a megalomaniac madman god, and made a mental note to make sure that when he rebuilt that roof, to do so with a whole lot less metal.
“JARVIS,” he called. “Please fetch the Mark Seven, will you?”
“Delivered through the new hole in your ceiling, sir?”
“That's probably best,” he agreed, as he shoved his blankets aside and slid out of bed. Snagging a robe, he tugged it on, then called, “Hey, Magneto! It's Magneto, right? What's the deal?”
The helmeted man looked at him, then sneered. “Tony Stark. Awfully confident for a man that I could kill with the slightest thought.”
The reactor in his chest suddenly began to hum louder as it started to strain, and he sucked in a sharp breath, clutching at it. His chest was clenching, as though his heart was seizing, and for a moment, he really thought that the mutant was going to disrupt the metal shards in his heart, and he was really going to die.
But then a fast moving tiny woman started flying at Magneto, stinging him as Jan howled, “Leave Tony alone!”
The reactor's hum abruptly returned to normal, and Tony slumped, palms pressed to his knees as he panted for breath. He always joked that he'd learned his lesson in the desert, that he knew the limits of his own mortality, but it wasn't entirely true. He never expected he'd die.
And he hated being reminded that he was, in fact, mortal.
Someone landed beside him, and Tony lifted his head, expecting the Mark Seven, only it wasn't his suit. It was Johnny Storm. The flames that he was consumed with flickered away just as he landed, and he caught Tony's arm, straightening him up.
“What - ?!” He managed.
“You can thank me with an awesome blowjob or something, later,” Johnny smirked, then he was flaming up again, and shooting back up into the sky – but with his arms around Tony, this time.
He'd sort of expected that being flown with the Human Torch would result in third degree burns, but Tony was pleasantly surprised that he felt remarkably un-burned-alive, and his hair wasn't on fire. “This is the most alarming thing you've ever done!” Tony howled, over the rush of air singing past his ears. He wasn't used to flying without the suit around him to block out the wind.
“Oh come on, I’ve done far more alarming things.” Johnny snickered, and set him down by the green house, close enough that they could still see what was going on, but hopefully far enough away that Tony's reactor wouldn't be at risk.
A moment later, the Mark Seven landed beside them, but Johnny just pointed at him. “ No .”
“I have to do something - !”
“Your power is being a man in a metal suit. His power is crushing you like a tin can so hard your innards ooze out the cracks, okay? Stay the fuck away from Magneto. Let us other Avengers deal with it, okay?”
“You're not an Avenger,” he pointed out, then threw his hands up when Johnny glowered at him. “Okay, fine, no desert coffin for Tony! I’ll stay here!”
“Good,” he rolled his eyes, then stepped away, crouching slightly.
“Hey, wait.” Tony grabbed his wrist, and no, dammit, he was not flushed when Johnny looked back at him, startled. “Just... be careful out there, okay, man?”
Johnny blinked at him, then grinned broadly, and Tony got about a half second's warning before the other man had tangled his fingers in Tony's hair and tugged him forward, kissing him with a sort of desperate fury, then abruptly tugged back to say, “See, can't die, I gotta come back to finish that ,” and took to the sky, with a more enthusiastic than normal “Flame on !”
He snorted, and crossed his arms as he watched.
It wasn't really a battle, not exactly.
Naturally, Thor tried to use Mjolnir against him, but a metal hammer against a man that could control metal was probably not a good idea. For one of the few times in his life, Thor had been introduced to the unpleasant sensation of being bitch slapped in the face with his own damn hammer. Tony was fairly sure from the thunder god's expression that he wasn't impressed. He began spinning his mighty hammer rapidly, and overhead, the sky began to thunder. Jan didn't let up stinging the mutant, not even when he flung bits of the roof and the various things left in the garden – shovels, flower pots, rakes, a bench – at her. Johnny was just mostly serving as distraction, flying around and occasionally singeing the man's cape, and Captain America was busy discovering that, while rare, vibranium was still a metal , and that it was about as useful against Magneto as Tony was.
“You look about as impressed to be outta this as I am.”
Tony glanced to his left, and watched Logan as the mutant sort of strolled up to his side, chewing on a cigar that filled the air around them with a rich, woodsy sort of smell. Crossing his arms over his chest, he leaned back against the green house wall.
“So how come you're out?” Tony asked, leaning beside him.
“You know 'bout the metal claws?”
Tony nodded. Even though he was Iron Man and still usually occupied with stories about Loki and Hydra, he still found it hard to turn on the news and avoid the stories about the mutants and the X-Men, especially when the latter was also based out of New York. Of course he knew about Logan's metal claws.
“Adamantium. Runs through my whole skeleton.”
“Really?” Tony asked, intrigued, eyes lighting up, a million questions about how such a thing was possible – and how it was done – running through his head.
“I don't remember how, 'afore you ask.” Logan smirked, knocking ash off of his cigar.
“Oh.” He was dissuaded for a moment, then leaned forward again. “Can I get scans of it, though? You know, for scientific purpose.”
The mutant considered him for a moment, then shrugged. “Whatever floats your boat, bub.”
“Awesome,” Tony grinned.
“Yer a weird - “
The glass roof of the green house behind them exploded.
Tony yelped, and ducked to get away from the shower of glass, only to discover that Logan, even though he was shorter than Tony, had decided to act as a human – mutant? - shield, and that Tony was sort of being shielded from the worst of the damage by the other man. Not really daring to get out from under his impromptu shelter, Tony hollered, “What the hell happened?”
“Remember your giant, angry, green friend?” Logan said, dryly.
He groaned softly. “The Hulk.”
“Yep.” Logan actually sounded amused by the whole thing. Oh yeah, he was definitely chuckling.
“What's so funny?” He demanded.
“Cyke and me, we talked about what'd happen if those two ever rumbled,” he grinned, and finally straightened, the shower of glass apparently over. “Guess we're gonna see which of us was right.”
“Oh, this is gonna end badly.”
And Tony was, of course, right.
It was gonna end badly.
For Magneto, anyway.
The Hulk roared, and launched himself upwards at Magneto. Unlike most of their other compatriots, Hulk didn't even wear enough clothing to have metal on him, so nothing he had could be used against him, and despite the fact that Magneto kept flinging metal things at him, the Hulk didn't really seem likely to stop. After all, he'd taken on the Hulk Buster Squads for years now, and he'd been working with the Avengers, taking on threats – no offense to the old man, or anything – that were much bigger and much badder.
Sure, wrapping a steel girder around those massive green shoulders was a good idea. But Hulk just sort of “popped” the metal like it was a paperclip and crumpled in the side of that odd looking helmet when he clobbered Magneto upside the head.
Everyone just sort of held their breath, not sure what would happen.
Then Magneto started to sag, and sink like he was in water, not air, as though sinking towards the shore. It was Jan that caught his collar and lowered him the rest of the way, so that he sort of drooped onto the ground like a rag doll, instead of crashing like a ton of bricks.
“He's out cold!” Steve called, a minute later, and Tony and Logan jogged over to join the group, the threat of metal manipulation gone now.
“Shit, Hulk, did you kill the dude?” Clint demanded, frowning.
“Hulk smash. Clint hide, like baby.” Hulk glowered at him, baring his teeth at the other man.
“Hey, I was shooting! Fat lotta good it did, he just flew 'em away. Tony, man! How you feel about designing me some non-metal arrows, bro? Glass or ceramic or some shit, you know, the stuff that doesn't set off metal detectors or this dickhead, you know?”
“Done.” Tony crouched beside the limp form of Magneto, and checked his breathing. “He's alive.”
“I'll bring him inside,” Steve said.
“Woah.” Logan held up his hands. “This is one of the most dangerous mutants around, and he just spanked you with your own damn weapons. You wanna bring him inside that huge metal lair of yours?”
“We need to find out what he wants.” Natasha pointed out. “And we are outfitted to hold prisoners.”
“Yeah, cause that worked out real well with his brother.” He jerked his thumb at Thor, chewing grumpily on his cigar. “Fine. Yer funeral.”
“I can assure you.” Thor clapped his hand on Logan's shoulder, and he was probably the first person they'd ever seen that didn't buckle at least a little at that enthusiastic greeting. “This is unlike any funeral I have ever seen. I believe you would like our funerals. There is much feasting and combat in honour of the dead. Our friend Johnny would be most appreciated at an Asgardian funeral.”
“Oh yeah?” Johnny grinned, hooking his arm with Tony's, walking arm in arm with him as they headed back into the house, following Steve, who was carting the still somewhat comatose Magneto. “How come?”
“Funerary pyres.” Thor said, far too cheerfully considering the subject matter, really.
“Awesome,” Johnny grinned.
“You are both terribly morbid.” Jan informed them both, then shrunk again so she could zip forward, hovering around Steve's head as he headed down into the depths of the building, where it was more secure. “So what are the chances, you think, that he's not here cause of Loki?”
“Slim to nil, I’d imagine.” He admitted.
“Yeah, s'what I thought,” She frowned as she considered that, her swiftly beating wings a blur. “Think he's another possible dad?”
Steve frowned. “We'd have to ask Loki.”
Jan glanced at him, then her jaw dropped. “Tony was right!”
Steve looked up, frowning. “What was Tony right about?”
“You're in love with Loki!”
“Oh.” He sighed, slightly, stepping into the Assembly room when the door slid open.
“Oh? That's all you have to say?” She demanded.
He lowered the mutant onto the table with more care than most of the other Avengers would have, and looked up at Jan for a moment, hands on his hips. He was wearing his pyjamas instead of his armour, powder blue, cotton and collared. He looked so terribly innocent , wearing them, really. “Well, quite frankly, I already knew I was in love with him. So it wasn't really a surprising statement, Jan.”
She blinked at him, growing in size as she did, hands on her hips as her feet landed lightly on the floor. “You're completely serious.”
“Yes, Jan.” Steve shook his head, smiling faintly. “I'm serious.”
“Oh my god,” she gaped at him.
He rolled his eyes, and checked their prisoner's pulse, quietly, frowning. “It's really not that big of a deal, Jan. It won't affect the rest of the team, and I’m fairly sure that I’m allowed to manage my own life, aren't I?”
“Well, sure you are, Steve, but you're Captain America, and you've fallen in love with a super villain!”
“And Sarah fell in love with Gareth.” He shot back.
Jan blinked at him. “...did you just cite Labyrinth as a source?!”
He flushed slightly, clearing his throat as he scratched at the back of his neck. “Loki and I watched it last week. It's a sweet story.”
She groaned softly, then abruptly hugged him, tightly. “Well... as long as you're smart about this, Steve...”
“Of course I’m being smart about it.” He blinked, awkwardly hugging her back. He clearly hadn't been expecting this turn of events. “Why wouldn't I be?”
“Because he's a pregnant super villain, and sometimes men do stupid things around pregnant women, and okay, he's not usually a woman, but still. Like... you're not just falling in love with him cause he might be pregnant with your baby, are you?”
“No, Jan.” He said, firmly, shaking his head as the other Avengers stepped into the room, and gave her a look that clearly said, 'Please drop it.'
She narrowed her eyes as she considered him, but she seemed to do so.
“I'm really not a fan of this guy.” Tony declared, loudly and petulantly, as he hung back near the door with Logan and Johnny – Logan because he needed to stay out of the way of him, and Johnny because he seemed intent on making the rest of the team gape at him in shock as he covered Tony in public displays of affection at the moment – and crossed his arms, glowering at Magneto where he lay on the table. The reactor was glowing brightly in his chest, as though drawing attention to why he couldn't get too close to the mutant. “What the hell is he doing here, anyway?”
Clint rolled his eyes, and stepped over to the table, poking Magneto, curiously. “Duh. Loki.”
“Did I hear my name?”
“Teleporting son of a bitch...” Clint muttered, grumbling, as Loki stepped up beside him, smirking. “That's getting really annoying, Loki.”
“You used to like my teleportation.” He smirked, and rested his hands on the edge of the table, considering Magneto thoughtfully for a few long moments. “...what is he doing here?”
“He's the one who gave us our new skylight.” Natasha grumbled.
Loki managed to look confused, actually.
“He took the roof off.” Steve said, quietly. “He tore the roof right off the house.”
“Oh!” The god blinked at them. “Impressive.”
“Is he another possible father?” Jan asked, bluntly, bouncing slightly on the balls of her feet. “Steve said we had to ask you, so... I’m asking you. Is he?”
As though seriously considering that, Loki reached out to take Magneto's jaw, turning his face towards himself, mulling that over, then said, finally, “Aaah... Erik Lensharr. Yes. He is.”
“I presume he saw the news,” Natasha said, sarcastically.
Thor stepped closer to the group, and set his hand heavily on his brother's shoulder, frowning, brows furrowed. “What were you thinking, Loki? This man is dangerous, this man is evil. He tried to kill our friend Tony. I have heard his name before. He is a villain.”
Loki rolled his eyes. “As am I.”
Steve sighed softly, and offered Loki his hand, quietly. The god took his hand, calmly, raising a few eyebrows, but no one seemed willing to actually confront the topic.
Well, except for Thor.
His eyes lit up, and he clapped his other hand on Steve's shoulders, beaming at the two of them. “I am pleased to see this, friend-Steve!”
Steve flushed, and murmured, “Thanks, Thor.”
“So what do we do with Chrome Dome, here?” Tony asked, as he neared the table again, forgetting about his wariness in his curiosity. “We should probably try to make sure he doesn't die, huh?”
“A good idea,” Natasha agreed, and stepped up to the table, carefully working Magneto's now-misshapen helmet off of his head.
“Aren't you supposed to not take the helmet off?” Tony asked, frowning slightly as he considered what the woman was doing, watching as she checked for any broken bones or bleeding spots with her fingertips. Magneto's head seemed more intact that his helmet, which was good, and she simply began working on waking him up. “Like, in case it was the only thing keeping him from bleeding to death and stuff?”
“Tony, you may be an absolute genius when it comes to the human body and how it works, but you also have no idea how medicine works.”
He frowned, crinkling his nose slightly, and shrugged. “Yeah, yeah, whatever.”
“He's fine.” She declared, finally, leaning back. “He's just been knocked out. Where is Hulk, anyway?”
“I think he's still out in the garden, tryin' to calm down.” Clint snickered, standing on his tip toes to consider Magneto over Tony's shoulder. “He doesn't look terrifying right now, you know that? He just looks like an old man.”
“He is an old man.” Steve sighed, softly.
“Well, he's younger than I am,” Loki smirked slightly, amused. “He's just a man, not a god.”
Thor laughed, cheerfully.
Loki smirked up at his brother, finally.
“Charles Xavier is very angry with you.”
Bruce looked up from his computer, startled. “I'm sorry?”
Loki smirked, and ambled into the room, lazily, bare feet padding on the floor as he headed towards the other's desk. “Charles Xavier. The humanitarian, director of a school for mutant students. The creator of the X-Men.”
“I know who Charles Xavier is,” Bruce said, frowning. “Why is he so very angry?”
“Because Erik Lensharr is his oldest and dearest friend, and you cracked him upside the head hard enough to knock him out, remember?” Loki smirked.
He cleared his throat, and hunched his shoulders slightly. “Hulk did that.”
“Are you not the Hulk?” Loki leaned on the edge of the desk, considering the other, seriously.
“No.” Bruce shook his head, looking awkward.
“Oh. But I have seen you change...”
“Just because I change into the Hulk doesn't mean that I’m actually the Hulk.” Bruce sighed, heavily, closing his eyes for a moment, then swung his legs around in the stool as he faced Loki properly, folding his hands in his lap. “Hulk and I have... an understanding. We share a body, but we're not the same person.”
“Did you always have the Hulk inside of you?” He asked, curiously.
“No... not exactly.” He hesitated. “It's difficult to explain. I think maybe I had parts of him inside of me, but he didn't actually have a solid name, a solid... identity. When I was dosed with the Gamma radiation, it gave the Hulk a real form. And he became the Hulk. We talk to each other, we communicate with each other... we're not the same person.”
“Fascinating,” Loki breathed, eyes bright.
“Yes, well... living with it isn't so fascinating.” Bruce sighed, and turned away from him, tapping at his keyboard, quietly. “The first year or so we worked with the Avengers, Hulk and I had a deal. If he agreed to help the heroes, and be more than just a beast, then I would allow him to keep control of our body all the time. For nearly a year, he did. It is only recently that he's allowed me to regain some control of our body again.”
Settling himself on the edge of the desk, quietly, Loki said, “I think that the Hulk is fascinating.”
“You and every scientist in this nation.” He sighed, heavily.
“I'm not certain we find him fascinating for the same reasons, Bruce Banner.” Loki smirked, tapping the hardwood floor with his bare toes, amused. “They want to know how you created him so that they can control him. I find him fascinating because he is a powerful warrior. And he's green. I like green.”
Bruce snorted softly, and looked up at Loki, finally smiling. “All right, well... let's check your status, all right?”
Loki sighed dramatically, and nodded. “Of course, doctor.”
He didn't lift his head, mostly because he was pretty sure that if he did, he was going to crack his forehead off of the base of the cradle that he was under, as though it was the undercarriage of a car. Granted, there was probably a good reason why he was treating the cradle like it was a car – because it was massive, it was large, and it had an engine in it. He figured it was a good idea to make a cradle that could rock itself, and instead of a grumpy father having to go to the baby in the middle of the night – because Loki would so be a grumpy half awake father – then the baby could come to him! It was a sort of more domestic application of the same technology he used in the Iron Man suit, for flying. Well, a far smaller version of it, at least.
He did, however, call, “Yes?”
“What exactly are you doing down there?” Steve laughed, softly, crouching beside the cradle, his arms crossed over his knees. Tony could only see his feet and ankles and parts of his calves, but it was enough – even without the voice – to now that it was Steve. He was somewhat distinctive. “You do know this isn't going to be safe, right?”
“I am running every safety test that I can,” he rolled his eyes, and continued working.
“Yeah, but not all of your inventions – as clever as they always are – are what I would call safe, Tony. I would be concerned that you'd create something that would not be safe for the child.”
“I would never create something that would hurt my child, Steve.” He reminded him.
“Mm, that's true.” He murmured.
He grinned, and tweaked some of the circuitry, quietly. “So what are you up to, then, Steve? Normally you're devoting your time and attention to our dear pregnant god. Being all sickeningly in love and all that.”
“Thank you, by the way, for telling everyone about that,” Steve said, slightly grumpily.
“No problem.” He grinned, mischievously.
They were silent for a few long moments, then Tony finally said, “So what do you want to talk about, big guy?”
“I'm not really familiar with the Norse legends, Asgaard, and all those things.” Steve said, quietly.
“Who is?” He shrugged. “Well, Thor and Loki, I guess, but...”
“Yes, but... it's hard to ask Thor, because I’m not sure he'd understand what exactly I was asking him.” Steve hesitated. “Or he'd understand perfectly, and that might actually be worse.”
Tony snorted. “What what are you wanting to ask about?”
“How does one propose to an Asgardian?”
Tony did bolt up, this time, and cracked his forehead off of the bottom of the cradle. He yowled, displeased, and finally pushed out from under the metal contraption, which was still hanging by straps he'd fashioned to hold it up, and rubbed his forehead. “Son of a... did you really just ask what I think you just asked?”
Steve smirked slightly, but he still looked worried. “I'm not sure what you think I asked.”
“About how to propose to an Asgardian! You want to ask Loki to marry you?!”
“Well, I wasn't going to ask Thor.” He flushed.
Tony shook his head, sitting up as he rubbed his forehead, frowning slightly. “Steve... he's evil, and a god, and... for fuck's sake, you haven't even slept with the man.”
Steve rolled his eyes. “You know that I don't believe in doing so unless I’m married, Tony, so...”
“So what, you're planning on marrying the dude just so that you can get laid?”
“No.” He sighed, and rocked back on his heels, sitting on his ass instead of crouching beside Tony, and folded his legs, neatly, folding his hands in his lap. “That's not it, Tony. I know that there's a chance that this is manipulation, that maybe Loki is trying to control our team by trying to trick me into falling in love with him, but...” He sighed, and took a deep breath. “Let me explain a different way. I know the risks here. I’ve gone over everything. I know that he has a bad track history, that this could just be evil and wrong, but... the heart wants what the heart wants, Tony. I love him. I don't care if the baby isn't mine, I love him just the same.”
Tony sighed, heavily, and settled back against the cradle, leaning on it. “You're serious.”
“Why?” He asked, frowning slightly. “I mean, I know the guy is... fascinating, and clever, and enjoyable to talk to. I really like talking to him, actually, he's kind of awesome to talk to. And I know he's kinda hot, I’d do him... hell, I did do him, but you know what I mean... and okay, sometimes the tricks he plays are funny as anything, but...”
“You sort of sound like you're trying to explain to me why I shouldn't love him, because you already do.” Steve smiled, softly.
“Yeah, that probably wasn't an awesome argument to make, huh?” He snorted.
“No, it really wasn't.” He rolled his eyes.
Tony sighed, and pursed his lips. “I don't... I don't know anything about Asgardian wedding traditions, or anything, but... well, I guess they'd probably be like anything else, all those traditions, right? Get the permission of the father – which might not be such a good idea right now, seeing as how Loki is banished , but you know what I mean – and then offer some prizes and stuff, maybe just a ring would do, then ask the dude to marry you.”
Steve frowned, crossing his arms. “That doesn't sound terribly likely, Tony.”
“Yeah, well... it's a start, ain't it? Wikipedia it.”
He blinked at him.
“...right.” Tony shifted slightly, cracking his spine, then hollered, “JARVIS?”
“Take a look on the net for Asgardian marriage traditions, will you?” Tony grinned at Steve, wiggling his eyebrows. “Everything, got it?”
“Of course.” JARVIS said, crisply, and there was silence for about a moment before he asked, again, “Would you like me to read the information word for word for you, or would you rather that I just summarized?”
“Bullet points.” Tony snickered. “Just the important stuff.”
“Well, most marriages were arranged, although technically by law, any woman over the age of fifteen had the right to deny or accept any marriage offer. Generally, the fathers would meet, decide if it was advantageous to both families, then they would set a bride price.”
“A bride price.” Steve murmured, looking less encouraged.
“This breaks into three parts. The first is the price the groom must pay to take the bride from her father, the second is the morning-price, which is essentially the price that pays his right to have sex with his bride, and the third is the dowry, which is the amount that the father gives to the new groom for having taken his daughter with him. There are very few sources about how the wedding itself occurs...” JARVIS hesitated. “Would you like to hear the speculation?”
“Naw, no thanks, JARVIS.” Tony waved it off. “Thanks.”
“Of course, sir.” JARVIS said, then hesitated, and said, “The internet has very little information about this.”
“Yeah, yeah, you said.” He shook his head.
Steve laughed softly.
“I asked Thor.”
Captain America's eyes widened sharply. “You didn't , JARVIS...”
“I apologize.” The computer said, not sounding sorry at all. “But I rather thought that if I were looking for this information, that perhaps I ought to have the most correct information.”
“Dammit, JARVIS, I am going to turn you into scrap metal.” He growled.
The door slammed back open again, and Thor stood framed in the door frame. Both men looked up at him, slowly, not sure what they should do – fight or flight – but neither was apparently the correct response, because the god stepped into the room, and threw his arms out, grinning. “My friends! My brothers !”
Tony cleared his throat. “Thor?”
“The man in the walls tells me that friend-Steve is asking about Asgaardian marriages.” He looked down at Steve, eyes bright, grin wide. “This is true?”
He took a deep breath, and nodded.
Thor laughed , an eager, booming sort of laugh, and crouched beside the sitting man, clapping him on the shoulder. “This is good news, friend-Steve.”
“Is it?” He asked, warily.
“Indeed, it is!” He said, grinning still, and abruptly knealt down beside him, firmly, grinning, and slapped his thighs. “My brother Loki is always much more pleasant when he is married. Loki is a man that enjoys being romanced. Deserves to be romanced, perhaps.”
Steve smiled softly, and nodded. “So JARVIS was right, then? About the... the bride prices and all that?”
“Yes... but Loki would not be much of a bride.”
Tony snorted. “I dunno, I happen to think that he'd be hot in a wedding gown.”
Thor grinned at him, mischievously. “Naturally, if you prefer to marry my brother as a woman, he has that ability as well, but friend-Steve, my brother is a prince. The bride price for a prince – even if he is exiled – would be very high. Are you prepared for this?”
He cleared his throat, and nodded. “Yes.”
“Good!” He beamed. “I will act as my father's representative in this matter. I give permission for the courting.”
Steve smiled at his friend, flushed. “...thank you, Thor.”
“This calls for a drink.” Tony grinned, pleased.
“I don't - “ Steve started.
“Much feasting and joy, my brothers!” Thor agreed, grinning as he clapped a hand on each of their shoulders. “Let us drink! To this great joy!”
“Well then, a drink I guess it is,” Steve agreed, flushed.
The god didn't look up from the cradle that Tony had built, frowning slightly as he folded the very soft flannel blankets within it, quietly. “Yes, Miss van Dyne?”
“Augh, you're as bad as Agent Coulson.” She rolled her eyes, and padded towards him, quietly. “Call me Jan. Okay?”
He looked up, and smiled softly at her. “Of course, Jan.”
“Almost there, huh?”
“Almost,” he agreed, tucking the fitted sheet under the little mattress. “Soon I will have a child. A strong child.”
“And you'll get to figure out who the dad is, right?” She grinned.
Loki laughed softly, lifting his head. “Yes.”
Janet reached to grab another little blanket off the end of Loki's bed, and offered it to him. “Here, this is the next one, right?”
“Thank you,” he nodded, and began carefully making the bed.
“So... any guess on who it is?”
Loki frowned slightly, as though considering that. “I am not certain. Based on timing alone, it could be anyone on that list. There is no way that I will know until the child is born – and once the child is born, I imagine that it will depend on Bruce's findings, to determine who the father is. I doubt I would be able to tell, otherwise.”
“And that doesn't bother you?” She asked, curiously.
“Not as much.” He shook his head, and accepted the next blanket when she offered it, adding it to the others in the cradle, folding them neatly. “The child is the goal, Jan, not the father.”
“But you wouldn't mind if there was a father, right?” She grinned, almost as mischievously as he did.
“Potentially,” he agreed, smirking back at her.
“Like... Steve, maybe?” She pestered.
Loki shook his head, and patted the much shorter woman's head, lightly. “Interfering with another's love life is somewhat banal for a woman as you, is it not?”
“No way, man.” She snickered. “I love gossip.”
He snorted, then gasped softly, pressing the heel of his hand to his belly.
“Loki?” She asked, alarmed. “Are you okay?”
“The child is attempting to make their way out of my belly,” he laughed, softly, and settled on the edge of the bed, brows furrowed as he kept pressing his belly, swallowing. “Ah... this child is quite active...”
“Can I feel?” She asked, shifting a little closer to him, curious.
“Yes, if you'd wish.” He nodded.
Jan grinned at him, happily, then pressed her palms to Loki's swollen belly, eyes lighting up when she felt impacts against his skin. “Oh Loki , that baby sure is excited! Maybe it's Steve's, or Logan's... they're both the kind of guys who would have babies that would be all angry and excited and active, right?”
“Possible,” he agreed, pressing his own palms under hers, quiet.
“Does he do this all the time?” She asked, quietly.
“Not all the time,” he shook his head. “But often enough.”
Jan considered that, then leaned down closer to his belly, and said, quietly, “Hey, baby... almost ready to come out?”
Loki smiled sadly, then murmured, “You are aware that you're not on the list of possible... parents, Jan, correct? You're not the child's mother.”
“So?” She snickered. “It's still a baby, and it's still an Avenger baby. I ain't allowed to be excited?”
He smiled, and nodded. “Yes, I suppose you are.”
Johnny peered around the corner of the door of Tony's office – the one in Stark towers, not the one in the Avengers mansion – and craned his neck to look around. Not seeing anything around, he grinned, and stepped into the room, grinning.
Tony's office was massive, with one wall entirely glass, and Johnny had to say he approved of the ostentatious display of wealth and power. It was sort of sexy. Humming, he walked along the edges of the room, poking at some of the displays – awards and photos of Tony with famous people – curiously. It was like this office was a display of everything that Tony had done and achieved in his life – but it was also sort of impersonal, detached. Like Tony himself hadn't created this display, that someone else had done it, to try and make Tony more “normal”.
Curious, he rounded Tony's desk, and sank into the leather chair, relaxing for a long moment. Considering the seat of power, perhaps, and what he could see as he turned around to look at what he could see when he was in Tony's place.
Leaning forward, Johnny tugged open one of the desk drawers, filtering through the detritus for a moment, then yelped and jumped when the door opened.
“Woah!” Pepper Potts gasped, startled. “Johnny Storm! What the hell are you doing here?”
He cleared his throat, sheepishly, and said, “Hey, Pep.”
“That doesn't answer my question.” She sighed, heavily, and marched forward towards his desk. Johnny slid the drawer shut, quietly, before she got there, hoping that she wouldn't notice his snooping. “What are you doing here, Johnny?”
“...came to see Tony?” He asked, grinning.
“Tony is back at the mansion, preparing for the birth of a child he is convinced is his own.” She rolled her eyes, and set her clipboard down on the edge of Tony's desk. “He's being a bit ridiculous about it, actually. And seeing as how you were at the mansion when I left this morning, I’m fairly sure that you knew that as well as I did.”
“Okay, true...” he agreed, pursing his lips slightly.
Pepper sighed softly, and sat on the edge of the desk, considering Johnny. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“Talk about what?” Johnny grumbled, crossing his arms.
“Contrary to popular belief, I do know what Tony is like.” She smiled, softly. “I dated the man, remember? So I know what it's like to get caught up in his little whirlwind of activity and fury and sort of forget about all his narcissistic tendencies in favour of falling for his ass. He's a charming man, Johnny. He's an asshole, but he's a charming man.”
“What, you think I’m falling in love with him?” He rolled his eyes. “No way. I just want that ass of his. I mean, hello, can you blame me? That guy is hot. Like... hot as me, hot. And I’m literally flaming.”
Pepper laughed, hands folded on her lap. “Mmhmm. I know. But I am absolutely sure you want more than that .”
“Yeah, whatever,” he rolled his eyes.
“Have you ever watched him work?” She asked, abruptly. “When he's really devoted to a project, and he's really paying attention to something he's working on, more than anything else, when he forgets to eat or drink or sleep, just wants to work?”
Johnny grinned, slowly, eyes sort of focused on something faraway, rather than on Pepper. “And he gets that little furrow between his brows, and he gets really focused...”
She smirked. “Mmhmm.”
He hesitated, and looked up, clearing his throat. “What's that look for?”
“You've fallen for him.” She laughed, happily, and leaned over the desk to pat his shoulder, grinning. “Everyone does, eventually, Johnny. He's a charming man, he gets under your skin. And yeah, he'll drive you mad, but as frustrating as it is, you'll actually enjoy the way he drives you mad. That's what Tony does.”
He crinkled his nose. “No way.”
“Yes. Way.” Pepper shook her head, smiling, and stood. “Try not to focus on what happened to everyone else that Tony has ever dated, Johnny. Try to just focus on the ride. You'll regret it later, we always regret it later, but the ride... the ride's worth it.”
“Hn.” He frowned, then nodded.
“Now...” She stood. “How about we leave Tony's office, now, all right? I don't really think you ought to be hanging out in here if Tony's not here to keep an eye on what you're doing.”
“You were coming in here,” he pouted.
“I'm the head of Stark Industries, Johnny, I’m allowed in here.” She smirked, and picked up her clipboard. “Come on. Let's go.”
“Go where?” He asked, warily, as he stood, and followed her.
“To my office, first, then back home to the mansion.”
Johnny frowned slightly, but jogged along after her, as she walked quickly down the hall, her heels clicking on the floor. He was really liking hanging out with the Avengers, these days, because unlike his sister, her husband, and their friend Ben, the Avengers didn't actually pretty much run around in their uniforms all the time. He liked lounging around in jeans, then changing when he needed to. Much more fun. Of course, he considered Tony sexy as all fuck when he was dressed in his armour, but he also sort of liked when he could see the man, so he liked the whole 'not being in uniform all the time', too. “Why are you dragging me along to your office, anyway?”
“Because I’m not about to let you out of my sight at the moment.” She smirked. “Because I don't trust that you aren't going to go running back to his office. We just need to pick something up.”
“What?” He asked, warily.
Pepper glanced at him, and grinned. “A gift for the baby.”
“...really?” he asked, surprised.
“Well... it could be mine.” She pointed out, and headed into her office, which he was surprised was just as large and just as impressive as Tony's – but hers was far less emotionless. It was stylistically similar to his, but it looked like it had actually been put together by someone that was planning on spending time there, someone who wanted that room to be a comfortable place for her. “Or it could be the child of one of my friends. Or enemies. But either way, it's a child. It deserves gifts.”
“So what'd you get it?” He asked, frowning.
“Nothing.” Pepper smiled, and picked up a blanket off of one of the shelves. “I made it a blanket.”
“Dude. You knit?” He blinked at her, surprised.
Pepper laughed, and shrugged. “And crochet. My grandmother taught me.”
“Green?” he asked, taking the blanket from her, turning it over in his fingers, examining the details of the incredibly soft yarn work.
“Well, Loki insisted on not knowing if it was a girl or a boy... though of course, we all assume he's a boy... and even if he hadn't, we all know, at least, that he likes green.”
“That's true.” Johnny agreed. “Well, now I feel like an asshole for not getting the baby something...”
“Well, if it's yours, you'll be getting him child support for the next eighteen years.” She snickered, grinning at him, and hooked her arm with his. “Come on, let's go home. If you want, I might even give you some other pieces of information about what exactly Tony likes.”
“Nice.” He smirked.
The late morning sun was falling, pale and wane, now, mid-winter sunlight, over the balcony on which Loki was resting, curled up on a deck chair that had been covered by a light dusting of snow before he'd lain on it, and though he certainly didn't need it, he'd thrown a blanket over himself. His child, after all, might not like the cold quite as much as its Jotun father did. His eyes were closed as the sun fell on his lids, and he could see the world through the faint blue of his blood pumping through his veins. When they were children, Thor used to tell him about how the world was red through his eyelids, but Loki saw it blue, even when he still had his Asgardian illusion around him.
He noticed, of course, the moment that someone interrupted his sunlight, and he smirked, not opening his eyes. “Hello.”
“Hello, Loki.” Steve said, softly, and settled down on the edge of the deck chair, beside him.
He finally opened his eyes, looking up at the blond, who smiled softly at him. “Interrupting the pregnant man's naps... never a recommended course of action, Steve. Don't you know we have trouble sleeping at the end of the pregnancy, and we snag sleep whenever we can?”
“I've never been around a pregnant man before you,” He shrugged, and reached up to brush Loki's long black hair back out of his face.
Loki sighed, softly, closing his eyes, and let him.
Steve smiled softly at him, and murmured, “Bruce says that you're close to delivery. Said it might be only days, now.”
“Yes, I’ve noticed, he's been giving me an ultrasound every morning,” he murmured, softly, smiling up at Steve, content to let the other man keep stroking his hair. It was rather comforting, actually. “I keep waiting for him to slip, and accidentally tell me the gender of the child.”
The other laughed softly, and ran his fingers lightly down the line of Loki's jaw, gently.
“Mmm... I admit that I would be grateful for this pregnancy to end,” he admitted, finally, watching the other man as he talked.
“Why?” Steve asked, quietly.
“Mostly because the child is becoming quite heavy, now, and while I am not as bedridden now as I was when I was pregnant with Sleipnir, my back aches, my feet hurt, and I would likely kill for a full night's sleep.”
Steve laughed, softly, and leaned over towards him, pressing his lips softly to Loki's.
Loki sighed, softly, eyes falling shut for a long moment, then murmured, “I would also love to have the energy to do anything more interesting than just this.”
“I need to talk to you about something.” The other man smiled, leaning back, though he looked nervous. “I know it's probably a pretty bold thing for me to be asking about, but... I have a question for you, Loki.”
“And that is?” He asked, curiously.
Steve shifted slightly on the edge of the lounge chair, and dug in his pocket for a moment. Awkwardly, flushed and looking remarkably young, Steve held out a little black velvet ring box, and opened it carefully. Inside was a fairly plain silver band, thin and fairly delicate, with a single green stone set into it. He shifted, and knelt on one knee beside the lounge chair. “Will you marry me, Loki?”
Loki gaped at him, stunned.
He flushed. “I've already talked to Thor about it, he said we could work out the more traditional parts of this, the bride price and all that, later, but... this is the Earth version of all this stuff. Will you marry me, Loki?”
He let out a slow breath, as though not sure what to say.
“I know,” Steve said, quickly. “I know that I may not be the father of your child. I don't care. I swear, I will be a good father to your child, I will be a devoted husband, and – and we can be a family.”
“You understand what you're asking?” Loki murmured, curling his fingers around the other's hands, quietly.
“Yes,” He said, without hesitation.
The god took a deep breath, then abruptly frowned, brows furrowing as he pressed his hand against his belly.
“Loki?” Steve asked, concerned.
“I think - “ He hesitated. “I think you ought to call Bruce.”
Steve snapped the ring box shut, quickly, and shoved it in his pocket. “What's wrong?”
“I think labour's started.”
“Oh. Oh!” Steve scrambled to his feet, and fumbled, not sure what to do, now. “Should I help you to his lab, or – or... should I carry you, or what should I do?”
“Stop panicking, for one.” He grumbled slightly, then sucked in a sharp breath, clutching at the other's arm. “Oh yes, labour has started.”
“Oh!” He fumbled. “Is it - “
“Before you ask, no, I am not screaming in pain, but I know that this is going to get worse and worse.” He grumbled, gritting his teeth, tightly. “Help me just stand.”
Steve nodded, and took the other's hands, carefully helping him to his feet.
Loki took a deep breath, closing his eyes for a long moment, then squeezed the other's hands, and murmured, “Just help me to the lab, please.”
He nodded, helping him along, quickly.
There would be questions to ask again, later, but that could wait.
“And do get Bruce, please, will you?” Loki tightened his jaw, clutching tightly at Steve's hand. “We need someone to deliver this child, and I think he's the only option we have.”
“Oh. Right. Of course.” He nodded, quickly.
“I really don't think I’m the right choice for this,” Bruce was saying, flustered, as Tony and Steve tugged him down the hallway. “I'm not a gynecologist, or a neo-natal doctor... or a medical doctor...”
“Come on, Bruce... they covered this is school, didn't they?” Tony grinned at him.
“Of course they did, but they covered colonoscopies, as well, and I’ve never performed one of those, either!” Bruce protested, throwing his hands in the air, looking desperate. “There are probably people far more qualified. Let's call Hank Pym! Or Hank McCoy! Any Hank!”
“Look, doc, you're more qualified than anyone else here.” Steve pointed out, seriously.
“But - “
“So get in there,” Tony said, firmly. “And help Loki deliver Anthony Junior.”
Pepper, who had been hurrying along behind them, cleared her throat. “Tony, we've talked about this...”
“Okay, okay, or Steve Junior. Or Pepper Junior. Or Johnny Junior. Or Whoever Junior.” He rolled his eyes, then grinned conspiratorially at Bruce. “Trust me, it's Tony Junior. I can tell. Now get in there... do your job.”
Bruce groaned, but took a deep breath, and stepped inside.
“Tony?” Janet called, standing at the end of the hall with her hand over the mouthpiece of the phone, biting her lip. “Magneto wants to know if his son is born yet?”
“How did he even know?” Tony blinked.
“I think Charles Xavier told him,” she shrugged. “He just wants to know if his son is born or not, yet, you know he's pretty bound and determined that it's his kid...”
“It's not chrome-dome's kid!” He howled, frustrated, but stepped into the room after Bruce.
Steve shrugged, sort of helplessly, and followed.
Jan blinked after them for a moment, then rolled her eyes, and tugged her hand off to say, “No, not yet.”
If asked, later, Steve would have to admit that he didn't really remember much of the birth. He did remember that it took a lot longer than he had expected, based on movies and books, that there was blood everywhere, and that after the whole thing was over and Loki finally released his hand, that it was very difficult to move. Cramped, as it were.
He did remember the over-crowding of the room, as many possible fathers swarmed the room, waiting on the verdict, beginning to filter out, slowly, as labour dragged on and some people went to sleep, or came back, as though it was shifts. Just their luck, too, that Hydra decided to attack a lab somewhere about sixteen hours into labour, and it was awkward to have to send some of them off. Steve and Tony had both refused to go – not that it would have done Steve any good to have tried to leave, because Loki was not going to let go of his hand – and Thor had glowered at anyone that had suggested he might go. Bruce couldn't go, he was the closest thing they had to a doctor, so it was Clint, Natasha, Jan, Johnny and Logan that went to go take care of it.
They didn't know it now, but in the morning, the newspapers were going to have a heyday, speculating that the Avengers had somehow lured members of both the X-Men and the Fantastic Four to their team.
But what Steve did remember was the bit of pandemonium that happened when the labour was over and Loki was resting, eyes shut, and Bruce was cleaning the bloody infant, carefully. Everyone had sort of waited with bated breath, wanting to know if there was an obvious conclusion, or if they were going to have to wait for the results of a DNA test.
“Well?” It was Tony that had spoken up, first. “Is it Tony Junior?”
Bruce had hesitated, and looked up, slowly, a little stunned. “No, I really don't think it is.”
“You sure?” The genius had stepped forward, frowning. “They say babies are born with blue eyes, and - “ He'd tugged the edge of the blanket back so that he could see the child's face, and stopped, quite abruptly. “Nope. Not Tony Junior.”
“What makes you so sure?” Pepper had frowned.
Tony had cleared his throat. “Cause I’m pretty sure, Pep, that no one here is the father.”
“Huh?” Clint had glowered. “How d'you know?”
“Loki?” Bruce had called, awkwardly. “Is there another possible father you didn't mention?”
Loki's green eyes had fluttered open, and he'd reached out to accept his child as Bruce had carefully offered him the small, squirming bundle. Laying his child on his chest, Loki had shifted the blankets off that tiny face, then laughed, outright. As though he'd casually forgotten all along, Loki had agreed, “Yes, I suppose I forgot to add Nick Fury to the list. Thank you for reminding me, Doctor.”
As a good dozen statements of surprise and not a few coos of professing the little ones adorability had flown up into the air, Bruce had said, mostly to himself, “Then I guess someone had ought to call the Director of SHIELD and tell him he's got a daughter.”
Now, though, the little lab was silent, except for the murmur of conversation between a god that had just borne a child, and the man who loved him.
Running his fingers gently over the child's downy soft black hair, Steve murmured, “She's beautiful, Loki.”
“She does look rather more human than her siblings,” Loki agreed, wiggling a finger. Her tiny first was curled tightly around the digit, her warm chocolate skin a sharp contrast to her father's icy pale tones. “Perhaps that is because she was born on Midgard. But would you have found her so very beautiful, Captain, had she been born with red eyes?”
“Yes,” Steve murmured, without hesitation. “And she would have been beautiful if she were a serpent or a wolf or half dead.”
Loki laughed softly. “You've been doing your research.”
“I have,” he agreed, smiling at him.
The little girl yawned, and opened her eyes, still unfocused, and despite what Tony had said earlier about all babies having blue eyes, hers were green. Waving her hand in the air, the little girl latched onto Steve's finger the moment he offered it, refusing to let go, sharp baby nails pressing into his skin.
“No one will ever assume you are her birth father.” Loki murmured, gently. “They will see you and her with you, and know that you did not conceive her. Is that something you could deal with, Steve?”
“Yes,” he said, without hesitation.
“Are you truly sure you could raise a child that you know was not yours, as your own?”
“Loki.” Steve said, softly. “I told you once, and I meant it. I don't care if I wasn't the birth father. I love her. And I love you.”
Loki looked back at Steve for a long moment, as though gauging the intent of what he saw in the other man's eyes. Then finally, he shifted, and held out his left hand. “Then I suppose I had best wear your ring.”
Steve's eyes lit up, and he scrambled to tug the ring box out of his pocket, and slid the ring onto Loki's finger with trembling, fumbling fingers.
“Suitably shiny.” He said at last, smirking slightly.
Loki's child gurgled, and waved her hand at the ring, as though trying to grab it. “She approves.” The god said, with a smirk.
Steve laughed softly, and stroked her hair again. “She needs a name.”
“Yes.” Loki agreed. “I rather thought I ought to consult with her father before I named her.”
“Ah.” The blond nodded. “That makes sense.”
“So.” He looked up at Steve, slow grin spreading over his face, still pale from exhaustion and pain, but bright with genuine joy. “What are you naming our daughter, daddy?”
“Maggie! Get back here!”
Tony snickered as he bent over his work bench, trying to fix a misfiring circuit panel in the Mark Nine. “Heh, Steve, you're a terrible babysitter...”
And then the glass wall of his lab shattered, and Tony yelped when a solid shield of Vibranium embedded itself in the wall above his head, trembling in the wall when it finally stopped. “What the ever loving - ?!”
“Sorry!” Steve dashed in the room, flustered, jerking the shield out of the wall. “Maggie has no control over it yet...”
“She almost took my head off!” Tony yelped.
He cleared his throat. “Yes. Well. I’m sorry. But it is all your fault.”
“My fault?” Tony pressed his hand over the reactor, where it shone through his shirt. “How is it my fault?”
Steve glowered at him. “Rocket. Football.”
“Oh come on,” Tony scoffed. “Rocket football is a harmless sport.”
“It's you and Maggie in Iron Man suits, throwing footballs at each other 5000 feet above New York City!” Steve protested, throwing his hands up in the air.
“And for a three year old, she has excellent control over her suit.” Tony grinned.
“One of these days, you're going to have your own kid.” Steve warned. “And Loki and I will be the one giving your child the loud and dangerous and messy toys.”
He scoffed. “Impossible, remember?”
“I'm fairly sure we've been over this concept a time or two before.” Loki said, abruptly, from behind Tony.
“JARVIS!” Tony howled. “We've talked about this! When Loki is doing his teleport thing, you tell me when he's about to appear right behind me!”
“Of course, sir.” The computer demurred. “Loki is now in the lab, sir.”
“I noticed.” He rolled his eyes, and spun to face Loki, who was actually closer to his back than he'd expected, and he jumped slightly, startled. “Shit, Loki. Look, we all know that you are a man that can get pregnant, but you're a god. As incredible as I am, I am still a man. It's impossible for me to get pregnant. And even if I could, my body would never handle the strain of that sort of thing. The reactor gives me enough trouble as it is, never mind the strain of a baby parasite thing in my belly.”
Steve crossed his arms, then suggested, “Put the spell on Johnny.”
“Oi. Centre of the sun temperatures. Also not good for babies.” Tony rolled his eyes, then paused when he heard a giggle.
All three men turned.
Standing just behind the wall, peeking in where the door used to be before Captain America's shield had blasted it to pieces, stood Maggie. Her green eyes sparkled mischievously as she jumped, pigtails bouncing, and called, eagerly, “Foot! Ball! Unca! Nony! Foot! Ball!”
“See? She loves Rocket Football.” Tony grinned. “Sure thing, kiddo!”
“Ah ah ah... after.” Steve scooped her up, grinning when she squealed in laughter, and set her with very little effort on his shoulders. “First it's lunch time. Grilled cheese and tomato soup, remember?”
“Soup!” She sang, bouncing on his shoulders.
“You two better come too.” Steve smirked. “You need it, Loki, and when's the last time you actually ate something, Tony?”
“I ate some time this week,” he said, dismissively, but followed Steve anyway. “C'mon, Loki. Your blondie bear awaits.”
Loki laughed, but followed, hand pressing to the swell of his pregnant belly. Maggie deserved a sibling, after all.
And Steve deserved a child.
Another one, at least.