By late afternoon Clint’s starting to get sympathetic eyestrain so he forces Loki to put down the books and come outside.
“But I am making progress!” Loki whines.
“Brains absorb information faster if the body connected to them gets fresh air and exercise,” Clint says with authority.
Loki hesitates. “This is truth?”
“Proven scientific fact,” Clint says. “You can ask Bruce.” He hopes Bruce is a decent liar in Natasha’s body, because he was crap at it in his own.
Loki pouts. “Very well. I shall collect some of your fresh air,” he says grudgingly.
There’s a playground not too far from the mansion; Clint’s passed it a couple of times, and it looks like a pretty good one. They have the usual swings, monkey bars and slides (no seesaw, though, because apparently those are dangerous - Clint feels sorry for modern kids sometimes), plus a giant wooden castle thing with a wiggly rubber bridge and a tire swing.
Loki is unimpressed.
“What am I supposed to do with it?” he asks resignedly when they’ve arrived.
Clint flails a little. “You play,” he says. “You climb and jump and sh- stuff. It’s fun! Go have fun!”
Loki gives him a deeply unamused look and trudges off. He performs the most unenthusiastically mechanical job of climbing monkey bars ever witnessed and turns to face Clint when he’s gotten down on the other side, gesturing in a way that very clearly says Are you happy now?
Clint points imperiously. Go play!
“Let me guess,” one of the moms scattered around the periphery says, catching this exchange. “He’d rather be playing video games.”
“Worse,” Clint says. “Reading.”
The mom gives him a confused look. Belatedly, Clint remembers that most responsible adults are supposed to encourage children to read more. He smiles weakly at her.
Loki takes advantage of Clint’s distraction to come over and make a bid for freedom. “I have climbed the silly structure and cast myself down the inclined metal thing,” he says. “It was boring. May we go now?”
Clint rolls his eyes. The mom progresses from confusion to incredulity. “We can leave in half an hour,” he says, giving in. “Try playing with some of the other kids. It’ll be more fun then, I promise.”
Loki crosses his arms over his chest. “Children do not like me,” he mumbles.
“Have you ever played with kids here?”
Loki’s lower lip starts to stick out. “No,” he admits.
“Give it a shot, then!” He puts his hand on Loki’s back and propels him back towards the playground. “There’s a kid over there in a Fantastic Four shirt - go tell her the Avengers are better!”
In retrospect, this is where it all goes wrong.
Clint spends the next few minutes talking to Incredulous Mom, who apparently decides Clint’s just a single parent (very far from the truth) suffering from a genius child (probably not far from the truth). It doesn’t take Clint too long to realize that being the only ‘dad’ at a playground in the middle of a weekday makes him a pretty hot commodity - Incredulous Mom calls over a few friends and pretty soon Clint’s at the center of a gaggle of conversation.
For the record, and whatever Steve might say later, he does keep an eye on Loki throughout. At the half-hour mark Loki’s in the center of a group of kids underneath the wiggly bridge, apparently doing fine, so Clint decides to leave him be until he gets tired.
The first indication something’s gone wrong is when the kid in the Fantastic Four shirt runs up to them in tears with a bloody nose. Her mom actually takes it pretty calmly, but that’s when Clint realises that the normal noise of kids on a playground has morphed into something more like a battlefield, and turns around to see that the entire playground is seething with what can only be called siege warfare.
It takes the combined efforts of Clint and the Mom Brigade nearly fifteen minutes to get everyone separated. By the time they’re done the wiggly bridge is hanging from one side, the tire swing is on top of the castle, and at least half the kids present are crying. The other half are still trying to beat the crap out of each other.
Noticeably, Loki is the only calm one, standing in the center of it all with a pleased expression on his face.