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Smiley Sunshine Daycare

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When Steve had left college with an arts degree, he wasn’t really sure what he wanted to do with his life. He tried to make it as an artist for a while, but it just wasn’t happening, and it had gotten to the point where he was holding down three jobs that he hated just to pay his bills, which left very little time to draw anyway.

And then his ex-girlfriend turned one third of his best friend group came to him with an idea. Peggy and her new girlfriend Angie were looking to set up a new daycare center right in the heart of New York, and they needed some extra help staff-wise so they could take on more kids. It wasn’t exactly what he had thought he’d be doing with his life, but Steve loved kids, he loved Peggy, Sam and Bucky, and he desperately needed a more stable salary.

Now, three years later, Smiley Sunshine Daycare was fully established as one of the best daycares in the city. He, Peggy, Angie, Bucky and Sam split the work equally between them, and they had a total of nearly fifty kids split between three classes – a strictly morning class, a strictly afternoon class and an all day class. Steve tended to supervise the all day class, and had grown very attached to a lot of the kids.

“Heads up,” Sam called as he entered the staff room that morning before the kids had arrived. Sam was in charge of administration, and was holding a list in his hand as he entered the room. “Odinson’s in your class, right, Steve? Well, he’s got a brother, and he’s starting today.”

“And I need a heads up for that, why?” Steve replied, taking a sip of his coffee.

“Because the kid’s been kicked out of three separate daycares before we accepted him,” Sam replied. “Apparently he’s a little bitch.”

Steve snorted into his coffee. “I really don’t think you can talk about the kids like that.”

“What? It’s not like they’re here right now to hear,” Sam shrugged. “Just keep an eye on the kid, okay?”

“Will do,” Steve nodded. “What’s his name?”

“Loki.”

“Wow,” Steve hummed. “Creative parents, huh? Thor and Loki, Jesus.”

Little Tony Stark was busy in the sandbox with his friends Pepper and Rhodey; Jane and Darcy were playing dress-up with Bruce and Betty tagging along; Clint, Natasha, Wanda and Pietro were bashing around with the toy insturments that had been donated; Fandral, Volstagg, Hogun and Sif were happily drawing all over each other and some paper in the arts and crafts corner, occasionally peering around to see if Thor had arrived yet. None of them were tall enough to see through the windows, so they couldn’t see the fact that Thor was currently skipping across the parking lot towards the door with his harried looking mother carrying his screaming brother along behind him.

It was undoubtedly going to be a long day.

“G'mornin’ Mista Wogers!” Thor called as soon as he made it through the door, throwing his lunch pack on the nearest table before barrelling over to join his friends at the crafts station.

“Good morning, Thor,” Steve replied, shaking his head fondly as he turned back to the door to meet Frigga and Loki, who’s bottom lip was still trembling. “Well hi there!”

“Hi, Mr. Rogers,” Frigga replied, shifting Loki against her hip. “This is my other son, Loki. He’s supposed to start today, and he’s feeling a little nervous.”

“Oh, well I’m sure he’s gonna have a great time, right, Loki?” Steve replied with an accommodating smile. Loki’s bottom lip just wobbled more, shaking his head vehemently as Frigga tried to hand him over.

“No,” he cried, gripping her arms tightly. “Noooooooo, Mamamamamamama!”

“Loki, honey, you’ll be fine,” Frigga replied exasperatedly, finally managing to hold him far enough away from her that Steve could take him. “Be good!”

“Go while you still can,” Steve suggested as Loki started to scream, moving his face out of the way of the boy’s flying, chubby fists. Frigga did as suggested, waved over at Thor, and then left.

Sighing to himself, Steve placed Loki on the floor and watched as he threw himself at the door, banging his little fists against it as he screamed.

“You know what,” Steve sighed, because Loki was starting to disturb the other kids. “Why don’t we acquaint you with time out, huh?”

Without another word, he scooped Loki back up and carried him over to the cordoned off naughty corner.

Loki became very well acquainted with the naughty corner over the next couple of hours. He had stopped crying pretty quickly after realising he wasn’t going to get whatever it was that he wanted, and instead turned to being the naughtiest little fucker Steve had ever worked with.

“Loki!” he snapped for what felt like the millionth time that day.

Across the room, Loki stuck his tongue out and blew a raspberry at him, of all things, before turning back to continue drawing crude, completely inappropriate things on the wall.  Loki was three – how did he even know how to draw a dick, never mind have a grasp of the social history behind the gesture?

“I know your mommy wouldn’t let you draw on the walls at home, so why do you think it’s okay to do it here?” he asked, dodging around the other kids to go over to him. “I’ve got to put you back in time out, young man.”

“No!” Loki screamed, and then threw the pen at him. “You’re stinky!”

“That’s it,” Steve grunted, physically scooping Loki up off the ground to carry back over to the naughty corner. “You stay here for three whole minutes, you hear me?”

He slammed the gate a little harder than necessary on his way back.

By lunch, Steve had a terrible headache. Loki had been screaming for the past twenty minutes, and it didn’t matter what he did – pick him up, put him in time out, try to reason with him – he just would not stop.

Steve was at breaking point.

While everyone else sat down on the carpet with their packed lunches, eating and playing happily, Steve went over to the naughty corner and sat down. Loki was sat on the stool in the corner, facing away from the room with his arms crossed stubbornly across his chest.

“Loki?” Steve asked softly, and the little boy jumped, turning on the spot as he filled his lungs to start screaming again. “No, no, don’t start screaming again. I just thought you might be able to be good for long enough to eat your lunch. All that screaming must have made you hungry, right?”

Loki sent him a mistrusting look, but eventually nodded silently as he got to his feet.

“Okay, let’s go,” Steve smiled, offering the boy his hand. Again, Loki looked at it for a moment like he thought something bad might happen, but he eventually took Steve’s hand and held it tightly. Taking this as a good sign, Steve opened the safety gate and led him out of the naughty corner.

On his way over to the edge of the carpet, Steve snagged up Loki’s lunch bag and the juice box that Steve usually drank at lunch. He then sat down with the rest of the kids and patted the carpet for Loki to sit next to him. Loki stood with his toes brushing the edge of the carpet for a moment, cogs obviously turning in his brain, before taking one step forwards, and another, and then folding himself down onto his butt beside Steve.

“See, this isn’t so bad, right?” Steve smiled, opening Loki’s lunch box and then placing it in front of him. “You wanna tell me why you were so upset?”

Loki just shook his head as he delicately picked up a quarter of sandwich to eat.

“Fair enough,” Steve sighed, turning to his juice box. He pulled the straw off the side and pierced the foil, and was about to take a drink when he caught Loki watching him intently. Lowering the juice box, he considered the boy for a moment. “Do you wanna trade? Your bottle of orange juice for my juice box?”

Loki looked down at his lunch box, pondering again, and then, in a tiny voice, replied, “Yes.”

“Yes what?” Steve hummed, though he was already reaching for the little bottle of orange juice.

“Yes… please,” Loki whispered, watching carefully as Steve put his juice box next to his lunch box and took the bottle of orange juice in return.

“There you go!” Steve grinned. “See, you can be a good boy when you want to be, huh?”

Loki pouted, bottom lip wobbling again, and Steve prepared himself for the screaming to start again for no apparent reason, but… the screaming didn’t come. Instead, Loki just sniffed, a silent tear falling, and reached out to take the juice box for a drink.

“I miss Mama,” he croaked quietly, rubbing a chubby fist against his wet eyes. “Want her t'come back.”

“Well… she is coming back, buddy,” Steve replied, frowning. “She’s only gone to work for the day, okay? She’s coming to pick you and Thor back up before dinner time.”

Loki frowned, sniffing again. “Y’… y'promise?”

“Of course I do,” Steve nodded. “She’s coming back soon.”

“Oh.”

“Is that what this has all been about?” Steve sighed, smiling wistfully. “You were scared she wasn’t coming back?”

After a moment, Loki nodded, and then took another sip of his juice box.

“Well, do you think we could start again now you know that’s not true?” Steve asked, and smiled wider when Loki nodded. “That’s great! Tell you what – why don’t you and I do some drawing after lunch, huh? And then it’ll be nap time, and when you wake up your mommy will be here to pick you up.”

“Okay,” Loki nodded, smiling for the first time all day. “Yeah.”

The next couple of hours were much better than their morning had been. Bucky, their teaching assistant, popped over from Peggy’s morning class after lunch to help him out, so the other kids got the attention they deserved while Steve gave Loki a little extra one-on-one time.

They drew an array of different pictures for Loki to take home to Frigga. The boy was surprisingly good at drawing, and Steve genuinely enjoyed spending a little time with him when he wasn’t being a pill.

“Mista Wogers?” Loki murmured shyly after about an hour of drawing.

“Yes, Loki?”

“I drewed y'a picture,” Loki told him, holding it up for him. It was of him and Steve holding hands in what looked like the outline of the daycare centre.

“Wow, thank you!” Steve grinned. “Why don’t I put this up on the wall and then we’ll get everyone settled for their naps, huh?”

Loki had a bashful, pleased smile on his face as he watched Steve take some tack out of his desk drawer and then pin his picture up on the wall with all the others.

“Looks good, right?” Steve grinned, and Loki nodded. “All right, nap time, everyone!”

Bucky herded everyone onto the carpet while Steve went to the cupboard and pulled out a tonne of blankets and pillows. He threw them to the masses and watched fondly as they all fought for a space. To his pleasant surprise, Thor gestured for Loki to come over and share a pillow and blanket with him. Even more surprising, Loki went, and was asleep in moments, thumb stuck in his mouth.

Parents started to arrive around an hour later. Frigga was one of the first, looking a little worried as she walked in.

“Was he much trouble?” she asked quietly as the kids slept on.

“This morning wasn’t great,” Steve replied honestly, watching Bucky gently shake Thor and Loki awake. “But we had a chat at lunch and he’s been good all afternoon. I think he’d got it into his head that you weren’t coming back.”

“Oh,” Frigga whispered, but didn’t have time to say anything else before Thor and Loki ran over. “Hi, babies!”

“Mama!” Loki squealed happily, holding up his drawings for her. “F'you!”

“Thank you, honey!” she replied with a smile. “Let’s go home, huh?”

“Pwomise t'be good t'morrow, Mista Wogers!” Loki called as he was led away, and Steve couldn’t help but smile.

Sometimes he really loved his job.