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Attack of the Minivengers

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“Hawk, we need you on the roof!” Cap yells over the comm from beside Tony who is firing missiles at the new surge of minions that Loki has unleashed. Steve releases his shield and it spins through the flock of small, winged, elven-looking creatures, sending a number of them to their doom hundreds of feet below. Some obliterate into the usual puff of green smoke before they even reach the ground.

“Where-is-that-smirking-little-shit,” Tony breathes, punching a minion in the face. He cringes as he spies another ripping the television aerial off of a nearby building, and another as it claws at Tasha’s hair on the street. An arrow plunges into its chest, and it screams before poofing out of existence.

“On my way, Cap. Just had to deal with another of the bastards,” Clint replies breathlessly. Tony and Steve continue their on-going battle, and soon enough Clint has joined them, shooting arrows in every direction.

“Don’t you think this is a bit on the strange side?” Clint muses, strategically placing an arrow in the temple of one of the minions. It bursts into smoke. “I mean, usually Loki’s minions are a little more…durable? And they aren’t even causing major havoc. They’re just being…annoying.”

Tony crushes a minion’s windpipe, and it makes a choking sound before his hand is wrapped around nothing but air. He’s been contemplating this all morning. Suddenly, Tasha and Thor come crashing through the roof’s door and Hulk smashes down next to them, making the floor shake.

“They’re only concentrating on us!” Tasha cries, emptying the rounds in her gun on a few oncoming minions. “This is beyond irritating! And they ruined my hair.

Clint swivels his head back around from grinning at them. “Plus, there isn’t actually any sign of the dick. Maybe he’s too scared to come out and play today?”

 “I am not too scared!” comes a clogged-up-yet-familiar voice from behind them. Loki is standing on a nearby rooftop, looking one hundred percent worse for wear. His nose is red raw, and his eyes are watery. He coughs, which escalates into him almost hacking up a lung. His hand is raised, and the minions freeze in mid-air, pausing the fight. The Avengers watch the God of Mischief with shock and curiosity.

“You look like crap,” Tony states matter-of-factly, and Loki glares at him, but the proceeds to sigh and let his shoulders relax a little.

“It appears that I have been affected by some type of deadly Midgardian disease. It is most unpleasant. I cannot breathe through my nose. Disgusting, disgusting human afflictions. I fear death may be imminent. I was not aware that human illness could kill gods but as of yet I do not see my health improving. It is, on the other hand, getting monumentally worse with each passing day. My magic is being compromised because of it. Look!” He waves a hand at the suspended minions. “It is most degradi- why are you laughing?”

Tony, Steve, Tasha and Clint are wheezing, all on the brink of falling about laughing, but it is Hulk who is roaring with laughter, and shrinks suddenly into a very naked Bruce. A compartment in Tony’s suit opens and JARVIS pings a minutely folded pair of pants at Bruce’s chest. As he puts them on, tears continue to roll down his cheeks.

“How dare you find amusement in my brother’s pain?!” Thor thunders, and they all shut up. “HE IS DYING!”

“Thor, calm down!” Clint says. “Loki’s got a cold. A common cold. He’s not gonna die.”

Loki startles. “A cold, you say?”

“Yes,” Steve cackles. “All humans get it once in a while.”

Red tints Loki’s cheeks. “Oh!” Then he frowns. “Oh.” His face scrunches up, and he gasps for air.

“He’s gonna sneeze,” Bruce announces dumbly.

Loki sneezes.

As the cloud of smoke dissipates, Loki seems to have disappeared.

“Did he explode?” Clint asks hopefully.

Tasha smiles. “With any luck.”

“I did not explode, you blithering idiots! Oh blast it all.”

The smoke settles finally, and the entire team’s jaw’s drop. A four-year-old-looking Loki is standing on the roof opposite, hands on hips and seething.

“Shit.”

“Oh my.”

“He’s tiny,” Clint giggles.

“ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” Loki screams, and it’s weird because his voice is the same as his adult self, but it’s coming out of a child’s mouth. “THIS IS AN OUTRAGE!”

“Looks like your bro’s magic is in serious doo doo,” Tony says, turning to Thor who is still lost for words. Loki is pacing back and forth. His outfit has shrunk along with him, so the whole sight is pretty incredible. Tony snorts with laughter.

“WHY?” Loki pummels at his helmet in distress. “WHY?!?”

Thor disappears from beside Tony and lands next to his brother.

“Loki, brother, are you not able to amend this problem?”

“NO THOR, I CANNOT AMEND THIS PROBLEM. MY MAGIC HAS BEEN SACRIFICED TO THIS VILE AILMEN-”

He coughs violently. Thor slaps him on the back and he flies across the roof tops. Luckily, Clint leaps into the air and catches the little sucker, who wrenches himself from the archer’s grasp and drops to the floor as soon as he can.

“…So you didn’t anticipate this then?” Steve jabs, and it’s clearly the last straw for Loki. The tiny god growls loudly before squeezing his eyes shut and muttering under his breath. In the process of his incantation, he braces himself for yet another sneeze.

“Uh oh.”

BOOM.

Tony blacks out.

*

Honest to god, it feels like a tank has just rolled over him. Tony doesn’t move, instead he continues to lay staring through his visors at the blue sky.

“Stark,” Loki hisses, and something thuds against his side. “Stark.”

“Piss off, small fry.” He lifts his head to see Loki land a pathetic kick against his torso again. “Quit kickin’ me.”

“Stark this is of the upmost importance. It seems I’ve caused a rather large problem.”

“Don’t you always?”

“STARK.”

“Okay, okay! Jeez, I’m up.” Tony sits, removing his helmet, and rubs a hand through his hair. “Where’d everyone go?”

“That’s the problem.”

“What?!” Tony cries. “Did you obliterate them all or something?”

Loki sighs. “No. It’s worse than that. Much worse. You see, the spell I was reciting backfired when I-”

Tony looks around. When he finally sees the outcome of Loki’s spell, he freezes.

“-sneezed. It was a spell that would return me to adulthood-”

“Loki, what have you done?”

“-and the sneeze made my spell turn tail and reverse its original purpose-”

“Shit. Shit shit shit I am going to kill you.”

“-and it may or may not have caused…this.” He motions at what Tony is already fixated upon. In the corner of the roof, five four-year-old superheroes are cowering, mouths downturned in pouts. Their huge, round eyes blink, and tiny Steve hugs tiny Thor tightly.

Tony quakes with anger. “Turn them back right now.”

“I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

You had better be lying.”

Loki looks at the floor sheepishly. He coughs and wipes his runny nose on his sleeve. “I’m so ill and so small now, that the blast of magic the spell produced has drained me completely. Until I have returned to health, I cannot hope at all to reverse this spell. Even at full health it may still take weeks for my magic to fully return. Any attempts before that time could be very problematic and not work as I wish. This is an example of one of those attempts.”

Tony climbs to his feet, towering above Loki. “So you’re completely vulnerable right now, squirt?”

“…You wouldn’t harm a child, would you?” Loki smirks.

“Not seriously, but I can sure as hell spank your ass you little whippersnapper, you.”

“You wouldn’t dare.” But nevertheless, Loki looks uncertain, and is that…fear? “Also also, I am the only one who can return your team and my brother to their original state. Therefore it seems you have use of me. Laying waste to my buttocks will get you nowhere.”

“Smacking your ass into oblivion would actually give me more gratification than you’ll ever know.” Loki glares at him. “But yes, sadly, we do need you to fix this. Hey, wait a sec. Why the hell am I still an adult?”

“It would seem that your metal suit protected you against my magic.”

Tony feels smug. “Hell yeah it did.”

Something buzzes in Tony’s ear. He flinches, sparks crackling next to his ear drum.

“Stark! Do you copy?”

“Fury?”

“Thank god! We lost communication with all of you for a while there! There’s back-up already deployed and on their way. What happened?”

“Shit happened.”

“You wanna specify what kinda shit?”

“Nick ol’ buddy ol’ pal, I’m not sure it’s explainable over the comm. I don’t even think it’s explainable, to be honest. But…” Tony looks around. The minions have all disappeared. “It seems the hostiles have vanished for now. I’ve captured Loki.” Tony proceeds to knot his hand in Loki’s cape and lift the boy up off of the ground. He lashes out with his fists and growls at Tony. “We’ll head home with the back-up.”

“You’ve got Loki? You’ve actually got him?”

“Literally.” He grins at Loki, who bares his teeth.

 

Chapter Text

Coulson hands Loki a tissue.

“Thank you,” Loki says begrudgingly, and he empties his nostrils into it noisily.

“So yeah, that’s what went down. The whole shebang.” Tony rubs his eyes, infuriated.

“And Loki’s the only one who kept an adult head on his shoulders?”

“Obviously.” The three of them all cast their eyes over to the five tiny heroes who have been imprisoned in the holding cell for the flight back to the tower. Thor has his finger up his own nostril, and Clint is trying but failing to climb the glass wall. Bruce is sulking in the corner, and Steve is sitting beside him, patting his knee. Tasha has her arms crossed, and she’s glaring at Tony who recoils a little at her sternness. Could kids even look sternly at things?

“Fury is going to explode,” Coulson sighs. “Absolutely explode.”

“At least we got Loki?”

The aforementioned sits up. “Don’t think for a second that you’re containing me. After my magic has come back I will break free of your tower and return to causing havoc across your city.”

“If you keep talking like that we will bind you to a bed for the entire time you’re on our premises.”

“Pshhh,” Loki grumbles, but slumps back into his seat, defeated.

*

“Oh HELL NO,” are the first words to come blaring from Nick Fury’s mouth when he sets his eyes upon the group of children and Tony, who is now free of his suit. Steve is clinging to Tony’s leg, hands all bunched up in the denim, and Thor had literally climbed Tony’s body and is now perched on his shoulders, waving a miniature Mjolnir about, making Tony incredibly nervous for his own well-being.

“I apologise sincerely,” Loki explains, running a hand through his hair. “Really, I do. And I don’t say that often. But honestly this is a damned nuisance of a situation for us all and for myself personally this is utterly degrading.”

“You’re a tiny person,” Fury breathes in disbelief, bending down to examine the god. Loki backs away indignantly.

“I’d rather you didn’t – what’s the phrase you Midgardians use – get all up in my face, Director.”

Fury steps away and folds his arms. He stares at Tony.

“We have to wait until this kid’s magic returns until we actually have a response team again? What if serious shit goes down? We have no one!”

“…You have me?” Tony points out.

Fury looks appalled. “Yeah, we have you. But you’re just Iron Man. What if an alien race comes and declares war again? You ain’t worth shit alone then.”

“Ouch, that’s a bit harsh,” Loki evaluates. Tony’s stung.

“Well,” he sniffs, “fuck you, Mr. Fury.”

“You know it’s true! Face the facts. We’re knee deep in baby poop here.”

“We’ll deal with it.”

“Yeah, you will. If there’s nothin’ anyone but Loki can do to bring our team back, then I’m leaving this mess of a situation down to you and…him. The kids are your responsibility. Think of it as a learning curve for the future. You want kids one day, right? Well, here’s some practise.”

Fury stalks out of the door, leaving Tony gobsmacked.

“Well doesn’t his presence alleviate the atmosphere. I feel as though all light has been drained from the room on his leaving,” Loki drawls sarcastically. When Tony doesn’t reply, Loki spins on his heel. The genius playboy is open mouthed and still, staring at the door where Fury had just exited the room. “Stark, I’m afraid my brother has drooled upon your head.”

“I’m hungry,” Clint says, tugging at Tony’s shirt.

“That big scary man was scary,” Tasha blubs.

“It’s okay.” Steve comforts her with a hug. He kisses her cheek but she pushes him away.

“EW!! Gross!”

Steve frowns. “It was only a kiss?”

“KISSES ARE DISGUSTING.”

Loki grins. “Have fun with them.”

Tony finally manages to gain clarity in his thoughts.

“Oh don’t worry, we will.”

“…We?”

“Just because you’re small doesn’t mean you’re not going to help me out.” Loki goes to run away, but Tony scoops him up and throws him over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry. Thor has jumped down and is laughing at Loki.

“Brother you do look silly up there!”

“PUT ME DOWN THIS INSTANT! THIS IS PREPOSTEROUS STARK I WILL NOT HELP YOU WITH THIS MADNESS!”

“You’re the one who caused it all, so shut the hell up.”

“I-BUT-WHAT-NO-”

 “Exactly.”

*

It surprises even Tony how quickly the spare floor of the Avengers’ tower is transformed into a space that most four-year olds would class as heaven on earth. The video games from the rec room upstairs have been brought down, along with the TV. Sofas and toys and the like fill the new rec room as well. Beds are brought in for them all to sleep in the same room, which is just down the hall, and another larger bed is dragged into a room nearby which is apparently going to be Tony’s room for the amount of time that his teammates are miniscule. He fights for his rights to hire a nanny, but Fury is adamant and very much prone to blackmailing so Tony slouches against the wall, giving evils to every passing agent.

Loki runs out of the kid’s room.

“I’m sorry but there is no way I am sleeping in there with that lot! I am not a child!”

“But Loki, technically you are.”

“Shut up, Stark!” the god snaps. “I refuse to reside in a room where flatulence is acceptable and even deemed humorous.”

“Oh c’mon. You seriously can’t be that uptight. Farts are funny.”

Not when they reek like that.”

“Who was it?”

“Barton! Who else? Disgusting, abominable cretin. I demand my own chambers!”

“Dude, “chambers”? Really?” Tony sighs. “We can probably fix you up a room.”

Loki breathes a sigh of relief. “Thank you.” He sneezes. “Ugh.” Snot is hanging from his nose like a thread.

“That’s nasty.”

“It is rather, isn’t it? So rather than just standing there it would be very good of you to get me a tissue, wouldn’t it?”

*

Evening draws in, and Tony wishes wholeheartedly that Pepper would get back from her meeting in San Francisco already so that she can help him with his kiddie issue.

Clint is tearing about the rec room, arms outstretched and making airplane noises. Steve is using a pillow as a pretend shield, and using his hands as pretend guns.

“WOOOOOOOOOOO!” Clint cries, and makes machine gun sounds at Steve who rolls out of the way.

Bruce is curled up on the sofa, eyes glued to The Little Mermaid, and Tasha is sitting happily beside him, playing absentmindedly with his thick curly hair.

Thor, unfortunately, has found the arts and crafts closet.

When did they have time to add in an arts and crafts closet? Tony thinks. He rolls his head around from making coffee in the attached kitchen to watch as Thor begins to paint the walls with purple. Serves you right, Fury.

Loki’s cold has somehow grown progressively worse throughout the day, and now he’s wrapped in a thick blanket and looking very sorry for himself. He’s at the table, with a cup of hot cocoa in his hands.

“Drink up,” Tony urges. “You’ll feel better.”

Loki’s eyes brim with…tears? “My throat hurts.”

Tony can’t quite get past the fact that this kid was once a guy who made it his mission to make his life a living hell. Though, after all the opportunities Loki had to kill him, he never did. So in a way, Tony’s thankful for that.

“It probably due to all that coughing you’ve been doing. I’ve asked Coulson to bring you some medicine that should make you feel better.”

“…You have?”

“Yeah.”

“…Why do you act like you care about me, Stark?”

“Because I want you to get better as soon as possible so you can fix my friends.”

“No other sentimentality there?”

“Nope.” Tony tries to hide his smile.

Loki doesn’t even bother hiding his.

*

The sound coming from Loki’s room is horrifying. A while ago, Tony was ready to punch the kid in the face because he wasn’t letting Tony get any shut eye, but now it’s gotten to the point where the amount of coughing sounds downright dangerous. Groaning, Tony slips out of bed and crosses the hall. He opens Loki’s door and peers inside.

The God of Mischief is sitting on his bed, sweating profusely. He coughs again, long and loud and painful, and then flumps back down, only to sit back up seconds later and repeat the process all over again. Quietly, Tony closes the door. He jogs down the hallway and takes the elevator up to his usual room. Crossing over to the bathroom, he digs through his cabinet until he finds what he came for, and not soon after he’s re-entering Loki’s room just as the boy begins coughing again. Tony walks over and sits on the bed, rubbing Loki’s back soothingly because no matter how evil he may have been – and probably still is – Loki is only a kid now, with no magic to help him or defend him. Eventually, Loki stops coughing.

“Stark?” he croaks.

“Tony,” Tony corrects. “I brought you something that might help with the cough.”

“It’s about time,” Loki mutters.

“You better rethink your attitude or you’re not getting any of my sympathy.”

Loki falls silent for a second, and actually looks apologetic. “What is it?”

“Vaporub.” Tony holds it out to Loki, who takes it and peers at the labelling.

“It says I must smother it on my chest and throat?”

“Yep.”

“How does that help me?”

Tony shrugs. “It just does?”

Loki unscrews the lid and begins applying it to his chest. He looks relieved in almost an instant.

“This is marvellous,” he chirps.

“What did I tell you? Don’t forget the little pocket in your throat.”

“…I’m sorry?”

“Here.” Tony points to the dip where Loki’s collarbones meet. “I put it in there. Dunno why. Always have. Ritual, I guess.” Loki obeys and then coughs a little, but hardly as much as before.

“My throat still hurts terribly.”

“That’s why I brought you these too.”

Loki takes the packet. “What are these?”

“Lozenges. They’ll sooth your throat. Don’t eat too many – I know they taste good.”

Popping one in his mouth, Loki sucks on it and grins. “I may not hold you to that, Stark. This is delicious.”

“I told you to call me Tony.”

“Perhaps someday, Stark. But today is not that day. You seem to view us as acquaintances, but I am afraid that is not so. You don’t understand that the moment my magic is revived I will return to my old ways. I am merely using you and your resources to aid me through my illness and healing.”

Tony smirks. “I know you are. But what’s wrong with acting like we’re acquaintances? That’d make this situation a hell of a lot easier.”

Loki crunches the lozenge with his teeth, cocking his head to one side and visibly thinking.

“I suppose it may make this all the less tedious. Well, I must thank you graciously for your help. His name is like poison on the god’s tongue. “I will see you in the morning.”

“Good night, Loki,” Tony chuckles, opening the door.

“Sleep well, Tony,” is the last thing Tony hears before the door closes with a soft click.

Chapter Text

“Tonyyyyyyyyyyy!”

Tony didn’t even know that this time in the morning could exist.

“TONYYYYYYYYY!”

The endless sobbing manages to penetrate through the pillow that Tony has dragged over his head. Unable to bear the infuriating sound any longer, he throws the pillow off and breathes in deeply ready to yell at Steve who is standing in the centre of his room bawling. His yell, however, never escapes him since Loki storms through the door to clamp a hand firmly over Steve’s mouth. Eyes wild with insomnia and nose still shining red, Loki is even sicker than yesterday.

 “I fear that if you do not cease this obscene racket then I will rip out your vocal chords,” the ailed boy growls, though his hoarse voice cracks randomly. He pushes Steve away but he continues to cry. Loki looks at Tony with despair. “Do something about this!”

“Steve,” Tony says sleepily, “whassup?”

“Clint pinched me! To wake me up! He pinched me-e-eeee!”

Loki seems ready to strangle him, but he breaks off from his glare to cough. And boy, does he cough.

Tony rubs his eyes. “Send Clint in here.”

“I want to die,” Loki moans.

*

“So what don’t we do?”

Pinch people…” Clint mutters, annoyed. “Can I have breakfast now?”

“No breakfast until you’ve apologised to Rogers,” Loki cuts in, but Tony shoots him a look.

“Kid, you don’t get to make the rules.”

“Don’t talk down to me, Stark.”

“Well, that’s kinda hard since you’re a midget.”

I still retain sanity, you obnoxious oaf.”

“When have you ever been sane?” Loki stamps his foot, enraged. Tony almost cries with laughter. “Did you actually just stamp your foot?”

“ARGH!” Loki slams the door hard behind him. Tony chuckles, finally raising himself from his bed. “Go say sorry to Steve, Clint. Then bring everyone to the kitchen for breakfast. JARVIS!”

“Yes sir?”

“Switch the kettle on, would ya?”

“Certainly sir.”

*

The Avengers have assembled at the breakfast table, with the addition of Loki who is propped on a stool beside Tony.

“Now then,” Tony warns, “if there’s any misbehaving, I’m gonna whip your tiny little asses into next week. And – oh crap – Steve that is not the place you should be putting your spoon.”

Steve removes the spoon from Thor’s ear.

“Sorry Tony.”

“…That’s right.” Tony feels proud of himself. This isn’t so hard.

FLLLLLMPH.

UGH!” A large glob of scrambled egg smacks him in the side of the face. “FUCKING CLINT!”

The children gasp. “You said a baaaaaaaaaaad word,” Bruce says, biting his lip.

“No no! I can’t swear in front of you! You’re barely people yet!” Wiping the scrambled egg from his cheek, Tony’s cheeks burn. Then he thunders down upon Clint. “THROWING FOOD IS NOT ACCEPTABLE.”

“Stark, egg has collected in the shell of your ear,” Loki says somewhat helpfully, pointing to his own ear as if Tony isn’t aware where his ear is. Tony doesn’t take it so helpfully – he’s too pissed off to do that. Rage bubbles inside of him and goddamit he’s so not prepared for this child malarkey and probably never will be. Clint has darted across the room and has his bow drawn, one of his new rubber arrows aimed at Tony.

“You,” Tony snarls, “you dare let that off and AGH GOD MY GOD THAT WAS MY CO – ARGH - MANLY PARTS OH GOD.” The pain of the rubber arrow smacking into his crotch sends him reeling in an abundance of almost-swears, and Loki is having a laughing-coughing fit beside him. “THAT’S IT.”

*

Coulson crosses and uncrosses his arms, only to cross them again.

“…You put Barton in the Hulk’s cell?”

“Well it’s not like Bruce is hulking out at all in kiddie form. However much of me actually wants to see it, I don’t really wanna deal with it, but since it all seems pretty safe for now, yes, Barton is in his cell.”

“…You do realise you can’t just leave him in there, don’t you?”

“He needs time to think about what he’s done.”

Raising an eyebrow, Coulson tears his eyes away from the imprisoned and agitated Clint.

“Tony, what do you base your parenting skills on?”

“Super Nanny! Have you seen that woman? She fixes bad kids. You know, with the naughty spot or naughty step. This is the kid’s naughty cell. And Clint has to serve his time, the little asshole.”

“….What did he do to you?”

“Threw egg at me.” Tony digs around in his ear with his pinkie. “I think there’s still some egg in here. And then he fired an arrow at my dick. Tell me this isn’t justified.”

Coulson looks between Tony and Clint before sighing deeply.

“Just…don’t kill them. However much they get on your nerves, please please don’t kill them.”

“…Not even Loki?” Tony winks.

“I think baby Thor could still smash you into the ground, so no, don’t kill Loki either.” Suddenly, Coulson appears to be having some sort of revelation. “If you’re here…who’s looking after the kids?”

“Loki.”

“…”

“Yeah, thinking about it now, it doesn’t seem like a good idea to me either.”

*

“STOP THAT! THOR, PUT MJOLNIR DOWN. NO, ROGERS, GET OFF OF THE TABLE HE WON’T HIT YOU – THOR, I SAID PUT IT DOWN.”

“NYAH NYAH NYAH NYAH NYAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!” Thor dives across the room, Mjolnir leading the way, and together they crash through the kitchen table. Steve screams, bounding off just in time to land – accidentally – on Bruce, who begins to growl.

“Uh oooooooooooooh,” Tasha says, darting away from Bruce and lunging behind Loki.

“Damn it,” Loki snaps, but his eyes are as wide as Tasha’s. “Rogers! Get over here now!”

“Bruce!” Steve whimpers. “Bruce, are you okay? I didn’t mean to hurt you!”

“Roge -blast- STEVE I COMMAND YOU TO DO AS I SAY!” Loki doesn’t particularly want to wade into the battlefield, but Steve just isn’t complying. The goodie-two-shoes Captain America insists that Bruce hears him out.

“Bruce, p-please don’t be angry at me!” Eyes brimming with tears, Steve attempts to actually hug Bruce in the middle of his transition into the Hulk. Loki slaps a hand to his forehead, then dashes in to grab Steve’s collar just as Bruce completely loses it.

“RAAAAAAWWWR!!”

“BRUCE!” Tony yells from the door. Child-Hulk is honestly horrifying and unnaturally muscular, and both he and Tony have a stare off as Loki yanks Steve to the door. Tasha is already behind Tony. Thor is in front of him, brandishing Mjolnir. “Bruce, calm down.”

“Come at me, foul beast!” Thor cries. Tony whacks him on the side of the head.

“Shut up you stupid-”

“ROAAAAR!” Hulk charges towards them.

“-crap.” 

Wrapping his arms around Tasha, Steve and Loki, and clutching Thor’s cape with his hand, Tony slams the door in the Hulk’s face.

For once, Loki doesn’t complain about being manhandled.

*

The rec room is – ironically – wrecked.

*

“I didn’t mean to!” Bruce weeps into Tony’s chest. Edging around another bustling, tidying agent, Tony steps over the smashed ceiling fan. He rubs Bruce’s bare back.

“I know, kid. I know.”

“Here are the clothing items you requested for the bloody beast.” Loki appears at Tony’s side, holding up a pair of sweats, undies and a t-shirt. He’s not amused. “It’s nice to see you not so green, Banner.”

Bruce sniffles, more tears seeping through Tony’s shirt and onto the arc reactor.

“Thanks.” Tony takes the clothes. “Here, Brucie.” Bruce refuses to look. “Come on, kiddo. Let’s get you dressed.”

“Am I a bad person?”

Tony starts. “Huh?”

“I am a bad person, aren’t I?”

“What! No!” Sighing, Tony puts him down and kneels so they’re eye-to-eye. “You never asked for this. You will never be a bad person, okay?” He places a reassuring hand on Bruce’s shoulder.

“Never ever?”

“Never ever.”

*

“Loki, I know it’s gross, but it’ll help.”

“I want more lozenges!”

Tony is sitting cross-legged in the now-clean rec room, opposite Loki who is lounging on the couch. Hercules plays on the new TV, which Loki and the team have been enthralled by the entire afternoon. Clint is now out of the cell and sitting alone in the armchair, and whilst he had been grumpy for what had seemed like an eternity, he’s now laughing at Hades for having his flaming hair blown out by Pegasus.

“Lozenges only hide the pain, they won’t take it away. Come on, you’ve already had one spoonful!” Tony waves the medicine bottle at Loki, and flies the spoon like a plane towards him.

“You seriously think me a child, don’t you?”

“Well, it’s kinda hard not to when you look like one, and act like one, I might add! Hey, remember this morning when you stamped your foot?”

Loki silences for a moment.

“…I’m not taking that ghastly medicine.”

Tony shrugs. “It’s not like I can’t force it down your throat. I mean, you’re basically mortal with your magic gone and-” Tony stops talking because he can’t breathe.

Loki’s hand tightens around his neck. “Mark me, Stark. I still have some of my strength and I will crush you if I – ATCHOO!”

Tony dares not open his eyes. “Oh god. You just splattered boogers all over me. I have them on my face. No this isn’t fair oh god oh GOD get OFF!”

Rolling away onto the floor, Loki whimpers.

“My throoaaaaat.”

“TAKE THE DAMN MEDICINE.”

Tony, still choosing to be blind, pushes the bottle at him and lies there, not wanting to move.

He has boogers on his face.

Chapter Text

That night, Loki is somehow even worse. He’s finding it almost impossible to breathe and his voice is barely a whisper. Tony grimaces as he thinks about it, and he tucks Tasha under her comforter.

“Is Loki gonna die?” Clint says with an eagerness that echoes his adult form. Usually, Tony would have joined in with Clint’s hopeful attitude, but over the past day or so Tony has seen Loki at his most vulnerable and that’s a scary, scary thing to witness.

There’s also something about the little guy that annoyingly makes Tony way too sympathetic.

“No, Loki won’t die. He’s just really sick.”

“Sometimes sick people die,” Bruce pipes up, and Tony tries to ignore the pang in his heart. What if the common cold is too much for a Norse god? Hell, it seems insanely unlikely because they’re immortal and oh, gods, but what if the most pathetic illness for humans turns out to be the most dangerous for them?

No, Tony’s thinking way too much into this.

“Shh, Brucie. He’s not gonna die. I won’t let him.”

*

“Hey, Loki, how are you feeling?”

“Is that a trick question?”

Loki is sprawled out across his bed with his comforter on the floor, and he’s cast his pyjama shirt away. His chest and horrifyingly pale face are shining with sweat.

Tony leans against the doorframe, watching Loki as the boy stares at the ceiling. His breathing is laboured, his nose is blocked and his eyes are sunken. It’s honestly near impossible not to feel any sort of sympathy.

“Was Barton lying when he said one couldn’t perish from the common cold?”

“Hmm?”

“What he lying?”

“No. Well, it’s very, very rare if it is true. But damn, kid, you’re really not lucky at all.” Crossing the room, Tony sits by Loki’s feet. “You got hit hard.”

“You don’t say.”

That, Tony decides, is enough. “You are going to stop being snarky with me. Okay? We could have killed you the moment you set foot in this building. You don’t have a clue how much Fury is kicking himself that you’re just roaming about in the Avengers tower. He wants to see you incinerated. So show some fucking decency and be thankful you’re not six feet under. It’s time to cut the act and just be yourself. Take off the asshole mask.”

“But-”

“Take it off.”

The two stare at each other for a long while. Tony watches Loki’s face with avid scrutiny – he picks up every softening then re-hardening of Loki’s eyes, and the twitches of his mouth.

When Loki doesn’t speak, but instead jumps out of bed and slams the bathroom door behind him, Tony shuffles up the bed and lies down with his head on the pillow. It’s been a long day.

Dinner had been chaos. Upon offering up the idea of pizza, the kids had gone wild. Clint had fist-pumped the air and had begun running around like a lunatic yet again. When the pizza had arrived (pizza arrives within the second when you give the address as ‘The Avengers tower’), tears were shed when the pieces were torn from someone else’s grasp who “HAD IT FIRST” and Tony was left to point out that there were “more slices in the box than that one!”

It had been an experience Tony doesn’t particularly want to go through again. But depending on how quickly Loki gets his magic back, Tony could be facing another ten or twenty of these dinner time fiascos.

He shudders.

Loki doesn’t come out of the bathroom for a long time. When he does, Tony’s almost asleep, but he cranks an eye open and watches the god pad over to the side of the bed and meet his gaze.

“Do you mind?” Loki hisses, clearly not okay with Tony’s presence on his mattress.

“Nope,” Tony replies with a grin, and he doesn’t move.

He expects to hear an angry remark in response but nothing else is spoken.

Loki simply climbs into bed beside him, puts his back to him, and switches off the lamp.

Tony plans to stay there just for a short while longer to annoy Loki.

He doesn’t count on actually falling asleep.

*

It’s the sun that wakes Tony up the next morning. It blares through the gap in the curtains and the stream of light annoyingly falls across Tony’s face. It’s annoying, because he’s actually pretty damn comfy. It takes him a considerable amount of time to notice that the mattress beneath him is breathing. Slowly, Tony tilts his head up and finds himself face to face with…

“Good morning, Stark,” adult Loki sing-songs down at him.

“WHAT THE HELL?!” Springing off of the bed, Tony miscalculates his movements and ends up landing on his ass, but he’s too shocked to care. “HOW?!”

“During the night I had one of my coughing fits, and it was so intense that I managed to somehow cough my magic back ever so slightly. The magic I coughed back was barely controllable, but I grasped it and managed to not only heal myself but make myself…myself again.”

“Shit, so you can help the others?”

“Well, not quite.”

The closest thing to Tony is a sock, which as a weapon is just pitiful but he throws it at Loki nevertheless.

“You wanna rethink your answer there, buddy?”

Loki dodges the sock and chuckles strangely.

“I can’t. That use of magic really did zap it all out of me. I may be healed physically, but I strained my magic so much that this time it truly has diminished into nothingness.”

Tony scrambles to his feet and points an accusing finger. “YOU…YOU…”

“Yes?” The smirk playing on Loki’s lips sends Tony over the edge.

WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS SUCH A PROBLEM?!”

Loki shrugs. “Because it’s fun?”

Tony roars and throws himself at Loki. They both fly off of the other side of the bed and land in a crumpled heap amongst the comforter and broken pieces of the bedside lamp.

“YOU-SMIRKING-LITTLE-SHIT,” Tony exclaims, whacking the Norse god on the side of the head. Loki retaliates by slapping Tony across the face, and Tony shrieks in humiliation and disbelief.

“I may not have my magic but I am stronger than you can ever imagine being without your suit so if you desire to live, Tony Stark, then I suggest you keep your hands to yourself.”

“Back at ya!” Tony is borderline Hulk-anger now, but then he splutters as he realises something. “Why didn’t you kill me when you got the chance?”

“I still have the chance, don’t forget.” Loki winks, but continues. “You seem to have forgotten that this entire section of your tower is under lock-down so I have no hope of escape, and killing you – though it would bring me much joy – would be foolish. Plus, Director Fury not wanting me here but having to deal with it is exceptionally thrilling so I will relish the time I have here. With no magic, I need a resting place and this is the best I can get in my current situation since you require me, so there you have it, Stark. You’re just going to have to put up with me.”

Tony punches him in the face.

He only regrets it when he slams hard into the wall, breaks through it and lands in the living room on the other side.

Loki walks through the door and enters the kitchen. Tony spits out some wall.

“I hate you.”

Loki holds up the kettle. “Coffee?” 

Chapter Text

One of Tony’s hands is wrapped around a mug of coffee. The other presses an ice pack to the back of his head. He glowers at Loki, who seems to be having problems of his own.

“But you can’t be the same Loki as the little boy!” Bruce shouts, pounding his fists on the table. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

“For goodness sake, I used magic!” Loki says with exasperation for the hundredth time. “You’re children! You’re supposed to believe in all of…that!” Loki waves his hand around in the air exaggeratedly.

“When we ain’t got no proof, we ain’t got no patience,” Tasha growls in a mock-gangster accent, and flips onto the table, landing in front of Loki and pointing a knife between his eyes.

“HOW DID SHE GET A KNIFE?!” Tony shrieks, standing.

“For goodness sake, child, I am Loki!” With that, the god grasps the knife, throws it past Tony - barely missing him - and it sticks into the far wall. Then he proceeded to swoop Tasha off of the table, grab her ankle before she touches the floor and turn her upside down, only to carry her out of the room before Tony has a change to contemplate what exactly just happened.

“Um, Loki just stole Tasha.” Steve pokes Tony in the rib.

“Crap.”

Upon entering the hallway, Tony stops dead when he sees Loki wandering aimlessly around with Natasha Romanoff dangling by the ankle from his hand. Loki appears to be looking for something.

When he spots Tony, he tilts his head back slightly, questioning.

“Sorry, but where can I dispose of this intolerable creature?”

Tony doesn’t quite know what to say at first. He simply darts forwards and grabs Tasha from Loki, holding the wailing child to his chest.

Loki.” He stares at the god, incredulous. “You cannot just carry a kid by their leg and hope to dump them in the trash.”

Mischief dances across Loki’s features, causing Tony to roll his eyes. The guy truly is back in business. Save for the magic.

Thank god.

*

“Now are you sure you’re going to be able to handle them whilst I’m in the shower?”

Tony cringes just thinking about leaving the kids with the Liesmith of Asgard. Said Liesmith is rubbing his temples angrily.

“Yes! For heaven’s sake Tony, just go and wash yourself. You’re beginning to reek odours most foul.”

“Jeez, that was harsh.”

“It’s me. What did you expect? That I’d say “no, you smell divine, darling”?”

“Well no, but-”

“GO!”

Tony scarpers.

It’s only when he’s under the hot water that he realises Loki had called him ‘Tony.’

He stops shampooing to consider the casual use of his first name in conversation. Loki has never called him that before. It’s always been ‘Stark’ or ‘insufferable mortal’ or ‘dense machine.’

Tony decides that Loki must have said it accidentally.

Yes, that must be it.

*

“WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU?!” Tony screams into the room. Loki is nowhere to be seen, and the rec room is upside-down once more, with the kids still demolishing. Steve is yelling over the happily squealing others to “stop! Tony’s mad! Stop!” At least Steve has remained somewhat the same as his adult self. “LOKI WHERE THE FUCK-”

“Be quiet or you’ll anger it more,” comes a frightened voice to his left. Peering into the kitchen, Tony gasps loudly.

Loki is pressed into the corner, almost completely immersed in the gap between the fridge and the wall, and Bruce is stalking towards him, getting bigger and greener with each second.

“What did you do?” Tony snaps in a hushed voice.

“I may have lost my nerve when he kept poking me and demanding me to not lie and tell him what I did to make myself big again – Stark, please, please, just, turn it off or something. Power it down. Put it in chains I don’t care do something before it gets here.” Loki disappears behind the fridge entirely.

“Bruce!”

Nothing.

“Bruciee!”

Nada.

“Rooock a bye baaaaby on the tree tooooop…?” Okay so it’s totally a long shot but what Tony doesn’t actually predict happening is Bruce spinning around and grinning dopily at him, reverting instantly back to his usual happy chappy self.

“I like that song,” Bruce smiles, and he waddles over to Tony who kneels down, bemused by what’s unfolded. Loki’s head emerges from behind the fridge.

“Well, isn’t that something?”

“You’re tellin’ me,” Tony mutters, falling back onto his ass in the middle of the kitchen whilst Bruce climbs into his lap and snuggles close to his chest. 

“Sing it again?”

So Tony does.

And Bruce sleeps.

“I wonder if this’ll work when he’s all adulty Hulk again?”

“If it does?” Loki grins, “then I can’t wait to use this new-found knowledge against you.”

*

“Wow, for once your ideas lead to peace and not to absolute destruction! Give yourself a pat on the back- no! Wait! Let me do that for you.”

Tony goes to slap Loki on the back but the god raises a long, pale finger.

“Don’t touch me.”

“…Okay.” Tony withdraws his hand.

On the floor, all five kids are fast asleep. Empty mugs which once contained hot milk lay scattered around, and a story book about Rapunzel lays open on the floor.

“I wish I’d recorded you reading the story. I could have used it as blackmail. The internet would have gone crazy.”

Loki just rolls his eyes. Thor stirs in his sleep but rather than waking he hugs Mjolnir closer and smacks his lips. Tilting his head to one side, Loki studies them all.

Tony clucks his tongue. “We’d make an awesome parenting team.”

“…Excuse me?”

“Y’know. I’m more of the ‘chilled out parent’ whereas you’re the harsh one who sets the rules. We work together somehow. Maybe after all of this is over we can both get a part time job as babysitters. It’d be like Kindergarten Cop but with superheroes…Well, me being the hero and you being some oddly sentimental villain. ‘Liesmith and Man of Iron – Kindergarten Heroes.’ Yeah, we should totally set up a business.”

Loki turns his full attention to Tony. He stares at him with curiosity. “Your brain never ceases to amaze me, Stark.”

“Is that supposed to be a flirtatious comment? Because it’s kind of a nice one. Aw golly, stop, look at me: I’m blushing!”

Try as he might to hide it, Tony sees the upturn of Loki’s mouth that is visible for a brief moment before it dissipates back into a frown.

“Seeing as it’s silent now – for once – I’m going to go and take a rest.”

“Nuh uh. We’re going to use this free time to our advantage.”

“I’m sorry?!” Loki gawps. Tony laughs.

“Not like that, jesus. I mean you’re going to come with me to my workshop and I’m gonna try to kickstart your magic again.”

Loki’s eyes widen. “Stark, that’s nigh to impossible.”

“It’s worth a shot.”

“There’s really no chance-”

“I’ve been working on developing technology to pick up your magic since I got a sample of your blood a little while back.”

“How dare you?! How did you obtain it?”

“From my suit’s fist. When I punched you in the face that time? Remember that? I do. That was a great day.”

Face reddening, Loki reaches out to clasp Tony’s neck, but restrains himself, hand tensed in mid-air.

“You are such a nuisance.

“Guess we’re one in the same then, huh?” Tony winks and grabs Loki’s wrist. Dragging Loki out into the hall, he pulls out his cell. “Hey Phil? Yeah, could you come watch over the kids for just a while? They’re sleeping, so you’ve got nothing to worry about. Mmmhmm. No, shut up, this is important. I’m taking Loki to my workshop to run some tests on his magic. Yes I’ll be careful. Phil come on it’ll only be for a half hour or so! Okay. Good. Yeah, bring a bunch of agents if you want. Just remember that if Bruce starts getting angry, sing him ‘Rock a Bye Baby.’ Works a treat. Thanks Phil. Toodles!”

Chapter Text

Tony can’t help but smile when he notices how intrigued Loki is by his tech.

“I’ve always admired your intellect, Stark,” the god says, fingering just one of Tony’s many keyboards.

“What’s with all this flirting, hmm? It’s getting a bit creepy.”

“It’s not flirting. It’s observation and shameful admittance of the truth.”

“Whatever you say, sweet cheeks.” Loki looks appalled at his use of words and Tony chuckles to himself. “Now then. I guess what’s most important here is getting your magic back on track so I’m willing to give up the info on my invention that I was building to track your magic.” Tony brandishes a strange looking handheld device. It resembles a television remote, minus the numerous buttons.

“How does it work, pray tell?”

“Well, that’s the thing. It works. I think. I just need some of your blood because from what I deduced about you over time was literally confirmed over these past few days. Your magic is linked to your body not through spiritual-ness or whatever – it’s actually a part of you. If I can locate the central hub of your magic – it could be in your brain or somewhere – then I can maybe find a way to jumpstart your engines.”

“Stark I’m very sure this won’t work.”

“No harm in giving it a shot, right? C’mon. What have you got to lose?”

“My blood?”

“Hardy har. Aside from the obvious?”

Loki lifts a sceptical eyebrow. “How am I to know that you won’t use my blood against me in the future?”

“Because I’ll only take enough for this one test. I promise. Look, I just want to reassemble my team, okay?”

“Ever thought that maybe I don’t want the Avengers reassembled? Unless you haven’t noticed, your team likes to be a right pain in my backside.

“This is so ironic because here I was all along thinking the exact same thing about you.”

“Hardy har,” Loki echoes.

“I’m guessing you’ve gathered by now that if you refuse to heal them then Fury’s gonna destroy you? Or at least trap you for eternity?”

“It has been one of my more plausible theories, yes. But either way, even if I do fix them, I don’t see Fury setting me free in the foreseeable future.”

Tony bites his lip.

Hard.

Why he says what he says next makes him question many things about himself and his morals.

“If you help me with this, I’ll get you out of here. Somehow. I promise.”

Once more, Loki’s eyebrow lifts. He leans back against Tony’s desk, arms crossed and eyes scanning Tony’s face undoubtedly for signs of lies.

“…Why?”

“Don’t get all philosophical on me. Shut the hell up and just nod and agree.”

“…Alright Stark,” Loki beams. “If I do this to help you, and you do not keep your word…mark me. I will peel the skin from your bones whilst you writhe – very much alive – and watch as I do so. I will force you to watch. I will pin your eyelids open an-”

“Yes, yes, I understand that you’re all evil and therefore have a duty to go to extremes. Yep, got it, yada yada skinning alive, yada, burning yada. Yes, good. Okay. So deal?” He holds out his hand. Loki eyes it warily before meeting it in a shake.

“Deal.”

“Roll up your sleeve.”

During his stay in the Avengers tower Loki has succumbed to wearing “ghastly mortal” clothing. Right now he’s wearing black skinny jeans and a dark green v-neck. He’s sticking by the green no matter what, Tony decides. It’s very strange to see Loki in such…vulnerable clothing. And the skinny jeans do wonders for his ass.

Not that Tony’s been looking.

Or admiring.

Or whatever.

Loki rolls the sleeve up to his shoulder and sits on Tony’s chair, rolling his lower lip under his teeth. When the needle slides into his skin, he doesn’t flinch but watches it with wonder. The red liquid seeps into the syringe and one of Tony’s fleeting thoughts is:

I wonder how much Norse god blood would go for on ebay?

He shakes the thought off.

After extracting the amount he needs, he places a band-aid over the scratch on Loki’s arm and Loki examines the Iron Man faces all over it.

“Yeah, they make band-aids with my helmet on it.”

“…And you use these instead of normal ones? That’s very pretentious.”

“Pretentious is my middle name, sugar. Now then, all I have to do is insert this icky godly red stuff into the special detecting device aaaaaand…”

The scanner bleeps into life and Tony grins widely.

He’s such a genius.

“Now stand up and take off your shirt.”

“Stark.”

“What? I gotta scan you’re upper body and material will get in the way.”

Loki sighs.

“I’m guessing you magic isn’t located any lower than your stomach because hell if your dick controls your magic then you’re clearly using your dick the wrong way.”

“And I suppose you would know how to use it the right way?” Clearly, Loki didn’t think about his question because a dappling of red spreads across his cheeks. Tony cackles and winks at him.

“Oh baby I can show you how to use your dick the right way if you want me to.”

“Just shut up and do the scan,” Loki snarls.

“Okay, calm down Captain Tense. It was only a joke.”

Loki wriggles ungracefully out of his shirt.

“Right. Uhm. Scanning, uh, commencing. JARVIS, you’d better take note.”

“Of course, sir.”

Tony steps up close to the god, who’s tense as hell.

“Loosen up or this might not work as well as it could.” Tony slides the scanner up Loki’s torso. Nothing really happens at all with the scanner. However, when it reaches Loki’s heart, it lights up vividly. “There’s a lot of magic in there. Are you sure you can’t tap into it?”

He actually hears Loki swallow hard. “Yes, I’m sure.” What was that all about?

They both stare at the scanner, watching the light glow against Loki’s skin, and Tony can’t help but touch a finger to where the magic pulses most.

“Your magic comes from your heart, so yours must be severely broken, judging by the way you use it.” Surprisingly, Loki doesn’t shove him away. He doesn’t retaliate and wrap an ethereal hand around Tony’s neck. He just stands there, unmoving. Tony lifts his eyes to Loki’s, and his own heart almost breaks at the pain he sees there.

“What is it?” he asks in a gentle voice. Loki looks away, but Tony stares at the side of his face adamantly until Loki sighs and turns back to him.

“How would your heart cope with discovering you had been living a lie your entire life? That your “father” never truly cared for you? That you were just a pawn; a waste of space if not for your heritage?”

“Loki, I-”

“And then you try your very hardest to make that father proud but after all you have done to please him he tells you he’s disappointed. That’s all he’s ever told you. And that you weren’t ever hailed like your brother because he was strong and powerful like all Aesir should be. Whereas I was none of those things.”

Tony has no idea why this has all risen to the surface now. But he does know how Loki feels.

“Sometimes, I don’t think my father even knew my name.”

“…What?”

Tony blinks. He looks back down at the scanner. “My dad…he was somewhat of a big shot, you could say. Genius. Inventer. He…his time was dedicated to his work. Not to his son. When I was born, I was a publicity stunt. ‘Oh hey look, Howard Stark had a child! I wonder if he’ll grow up to be like his dad!’. That’s what the reporters said. So my dad shaped me, not because he cared about me but because he cared what they thought. So yeah, I know how you feel. I know what it’s like to be used. I know what it’s like to be unloved. I know how it feels to be a constant disappointment. And when it comes to the strength thing? Hell, I’m no macho man. I have no superpower. All I have is a smart suit and a brain. We have to work with what we’re given. Sometimes others may not see it as an asset but as we move through life people begin to appreciate us for things they never did in the past. I’m sorry they put you down in Asgard. I’m sorry you weren’t what was deemed ‘perfect’ by their standards. But really, who’s ever perfect? No one is. I know how you feel. I know, Loki. I understand.”

They’re closer than ever now. Their foreheads are brushing as neither of them have moved their gaze from Loki’s heart. Thin, pale fingers slide over the dimmed light of the arc reactor shining through Tony’s shirt.

“At least you didn’t find that you were a monster.”

“At least you weren’t raised to be one.” Tony’s eyes drift to Loki’s again. Loki stares deep into his. “My dad invented war weaponry. He gave America the atomic bombs that destroyed entire cities. I took over from him. I gave my country weapons. I was named ‘The Merchant of Death’. Yeah, it has a ring to it. The ring of hundreds of innocent people’s screams who died at my hand. Because of me. Loki, you complain that you didn’t like the fact you found out you were a monster. So why, why, do you insist on living up to the name?”

Loki is silent for a while. “Because in all of my life, being what I truly am inside meant that I was finally being true to myself. That I knew who I was. That I really am a monster.”

“But you weren’t raised to be a monster. No one is born evil. You didn’t have to turn against your loved ones. Yeah, you were adopted because you were needed, but then you gained some incredible, caring family who, after everything you’ve done, still love you. That’s a lot better than being born to a man who never loved you at all.”

“Stark, I…”

“I told you to call me Tony.”

Loki averts his gaze to the arc reactor. “Are you saying my vengeance is uncalled for?”

“Yes. In part. I think you deserve to feel hurt. You were used, yeah. But in the end, did that matter at all? You had, from what I’ve heard, some amazing friends. You had a brother who to this day will die for you if he has to. You’re just being selfish. You got much more of a childhood than so many people. Some people don’t have a father. Some people don’t have brothers and sisters willing to die for them. To me, it seems like you got a pretty sweet deal. So don’t be a dick anymore. Don’t live up to the monster you never wanted to be. Be the good person you always were.”

A long silence passes and neither move.

Loki is the first to respond, and he turns around completely, putting his back to Tony and drawing in a stuttering inhale. He lets it out in an elongated sigh, and gathers up his shirt.

“I’m glad you have located the source of my magic. But really, all you ever had to do was ask where it came from, and I would have told you.”

“…Why didn’t you?”

“Because I’m me, you fool, and I like to be difficult. Being simple just isn’t as fun. Also, your technology fascinates me nd I wanted to see the device you had created to use against me. I’d rather not be tracked through my magic, thank you.”

The angst in the air has lifted slightly, and Loki slithers back into his shirt. When his head emerges over the collar, he smiles at Tony for the first time in a way that’s actually warm.

“I think we should continue this at a later date, Tony. We’d better check on Agent Coulson and the children because I fear the worst.”

“Mmm,” Tony replies, his mind on other things like the fact Loki just called him ‘Tony’ and this time it very much wasn’t accidental. “You called me Tony. Does this mean we’re acquaintances?”

“You said everything I’ve ever needed to hear,” Loki replies. “If you’ll allow me, I’d much rather call you my friend.”

Something has changed.

Something huge.

Loki’s eyes are soft; no longer hateful and wary. His stance is humble now, not secretive and dark.

“Are you feeling okay?” Tony asks.

Loki laughs a real, actual, happy laugh. Should Tony be afraid? But…just…oh?

Loki smiles hugely. “Thank you, Tony Stark. Thank you.” 

Chapter Text

Clint falls from the bookshelf and rolls onto the sofa when Tony opens the door into the rec room. From the corner of his eye he sees Loki’s jaw drop, and feels his own do the same.

Tony certainly hadn’t heard the bomb fall. But apparently one must have done because the kitchen table is smashed beyond repair, and the new television is in pieces on the floor beside Steve, who’s biting his lip nervously. The curtain rail has come away from the wall, and one of the windows has an enormous crack running from top to bottom. And there, on the floor in the centre of the room, Coulson and five agents are bound together with cable and gagged with what looks like shreds of Tony’s pyjama pants. Tony gawps at Coulson, who makes a sound akin to a whimper and begs him for freedom with his eyes.

“How on earth?” Loki asks, and the five kids stop in their savagery to focus on the two men at the door. Tasha squeaks with delight.

“You’re alive!” Thor hollers, bounding past Coulson and stopping before Tony to give him a grin. “We thought you dead!”

“When we woke up you weren’t here so we thought these baddies had killed you or somethin’ so we tied ‘em down,” Clint beams, not stopping for breath. His smile falters when he spies Tony’s unamused expression.

Guys, Tony blurts, “they were here to babysit you whilst Loki and I went to go run some tests. You weren’t supposed to trap them!”

All five kids look at their feet and pout.

“Sorry,” Tasha mumbles.

“See!” Steve says loudly, putting his hands on his hips. “I told you there was nothing to worry about!”

A pillow from Clint’s direction whacks him in the face.

Steve cries.

A lot.

Clint goes without dessert that night.

*

“I HATE YOU!”

“How enlightening, Clint.”

“I WANT ICE CREAM!”

“No.”

“BUT LOKI-”

“No.”

“TONY PLEASE!”

Tony almost sobs when the child turns his attention on him. He drops his head to the table and tries desperately to block out the constant begging. The others have already left the new table and are playing with some toys on the rug, but Clint is still not impressed that he was denied dessert.

“Can I squash him?” Loki asks, irritated. However much Tony wants to say yes at that moment, he can’t.

“Clint, if you keep going on you will go into the cell again for the entire day tomorrow.”

“BUT-”

There’s a loud scraping sound and a screech and Tony snaps his head up in time to see Loki throwing Clint over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry.

“Don’t kill him!” Tony cries, but Loki just rolls his eyes.

“Of course I won’t kill him. I just want to put him somewhere where his noise isn’t so audible.”

Nervous, Tony follows Loki and the yelling Clint into the hallway. Loki disappears into the kid’s room for a second and then he quickly darts out, locking the door behind him.  When he looks up from the door, he shrugs and smiles.

“Just for a while. So he can calm down?”

It’s as though he’s asking Tony about how he should punish. Well, it makes sense. Before, the guy was all about killing anything that pissed him off. Now he’s…nice and it’s strange and Tony can’t work out if he likes it or not. Yeah, he makes snarky comments and threats still, but somehow, now, Tony doesn’t feel that Loki will ever see those threats through.

“Uh…that’s fine?”

Loki grins.

*

“Is that the time?” Tony asks, yawning and stretching out on the couch. His toes come into contact with Loki’s side, but the god doesn’t make it apparent that he cares. He also yawns and rubs Tasha’s back, who’s fast asleep on his lap. Tony is sprawled across the couch, with Steve laying on his chest gently snoring, and Clint on the floor beside him, nestled upon a few pillows. Clint had been allowed out of his room after his twenty minutes of reconciliation. When Loki and Tony had opened the door, they had found him colouring in a picture in a book, so deciding he was calm enough, they’d let him out.

“I do believe so,” Loki replies. “That was a marvellous motion picture. I think I like this Disney thing.”

“There ain’t anyone who doesn’t love a bit of Disney,” Tony chuckles, only stopping when he realises the movements could wake Steve. “We gotta get these teenies into bed.”

“How are we going to do this?” Loki peers down at Tasha warily.

“…I don’t quite know.”

Loki sighs. He runs a long finger gently and repeatedly up and down Tasha’s nose, cooing at her to wake up. Tony feels his heart falter. It’s just about the cutest thing he’s ever seen in his life and how the hell is this Loki? The same God of Mischief who tried to kill him on more than one occasion?

Tony decides he has nothing to complain about.

“Steviee,” Tony says, copying Loki. He tickles behind Steve’s ear, and the baby Cap wrinkles his nose and jerks a little in his sleep. “Steeeeevie? It’s time for beddy byes.”

“Nghh,” Steve mumbles, but he blinks and allows Tony to sit up and scoop him into his arms. Loki has already left with Tasha. Thor and Bruce are curled up with each other on the armchair, and Tony will come back for them later. Loki and Tony pass one another in the hall, sharing contented smiles, and when Tony gets back into the rec room, he finds Loki cradling a sleeping Thor in his arms, just….looking at him.

“You okay?” Tony asks. Loki glances up.

“…Yes. It’s just…it’s just been a very long time since I’ve felt so…myself. I do miss my brother, Tony. I do. I always have, ever since…ever since it all…happened.”  

“Course you did. He’s your brother. But hey, what do I know about sibling love? I’m an only child. I wasn’t as lucky as you.” He purposefully echoes their previous conversation, and watches as Loki’s cheeks twinge with red.

“I’m…going to go and put Thor in bed. Will you bring the other two?”

“Sure thing.”

Bruce and Clint are easy enough to carry together, and soon all of the little Avengers are tucked up in bed.

“Well, that was an easy evening, aside from Clint’s outburst,” Tony reminisces as he slumps back onto the couch.

“Mmm,” Loki replies over the sudden noise of the kettle heating up, and Tony closes his eyes to the sound of mugs clinking together and a spoon tapping on the counter. “Coffee?”

Tony snorts. “Coffee? At this time? Nah, I’d rather actually get to sleep tonight, thanks. Maybe a hot cocoa?”

“Very well. I’ll join you.”

“Wait…you weren’t gonna make a drink for yourself?” Tony spins around and leans on the back of the couch, watching Loki.  He rests his head in his hands.

Loki shrugs. “I just presumed you might want a drink.”

Wow. Again, how is this Loki. Nonetheless, Tony giggles. “We’re getting way too domestic.”

Loki merely smirks, staying silent.

“Y’know, I think we’re getting the hang of this parenting hassle.”

“Mmm.”

Loki’s lack of enthusiasm and general response indicates to Tony that the god is tired as hell, as if the dark circles under his eyes don’t gave that away enough.

 “You’re zonked, aren’t you?”

“Is that some sort of Midgardian insult?”

“No,” Tony laughs, “I was asking you if you’re tired?”

Loki inhales deeply, and lets out a long, heavy sigh. “Yes. Very. Who knew caring for five children would run you so very much into the ground?”

“Yeah, who’da thought?”

Loki pours the steaming water into the mugs and swirls the spoon around in rhythmic motions which has Tony entranced. He has no idea why. When Loki is done, Tony turns back around on the couch and accepts the mug into his hands, relishing the warmth that spreads across his palms and the mouth-watering aroma of the cocoa that drifts up into his nostrils.

“You even put marshmallows on top.”

“I like marshmallows.”

“So do I.”

“Mmm,” Loki muses.

“Well this is certainly the beginning of an enthralling conversation,” Tony chortles, and he stretches out again like he had been before, resting his feet just next to Loki’s side. The god eyes his beloved-but-holey purple socks, smiles and sips his drink.  “So Pepper comes home tomorrow. She knows the situation and for some reason she literally cannot wait to get here to help out, so whilst she looks after the kids I’ll try and run more tests on you. Is that okay?”

Not moving his eyes from their focus into the cocoa, Loki blinks. He bites his lip.

“How will you even go about trying to restart my magic? Surely you know that there’s no chance you can?”

“Meh. As I said, it’s worth a shot? And I have no idea. So if you’re okay with it, I’ll just try every method under the sun that I can think of.”

“Dare I ask what even one of these methods may involve?”

“You probably don’t want to know.”

“Stark,” Loki growls firmly.

“Well I have the idea that maybe some form of electrical pulse to your heart may give you the spark you need to tap back into the magic that’s there.”

Loki’s shocked. “You’re going to electrocute me?!”

“No! No! Well, no. Yes. Maybe a little. I won’t do it enough to hurt you…well, it’ll hurt some but-”

Loki is on his feet. He’s glaring at Tony with anger and disbelief.

“I thought, Stark, that you wouldn’t have been planning to put me through serious pain in order to do this. I had hoped that you had ideas that wouldn’t involve injuring me. I will not tolerate this. My magic can…can come back by itself!”

“Fine! No pain! No…no pain uh…”

“Did any of your ideas actually involve no pain?”

“I…um…”

“Argh!”

Loki’s storming towards the door, but Tony places his mug down and he darts in front of him.

“Okay! Okay, I’m sorry. I just…before you turned into Mr. Nice Pants I had this plan to strap you onto a gurney and just experiment on you to get your magic back-”

“Ugh!”

“- but since you’ve changed I sort of could never bring myself to…put you in harm’s way.”

“You were planning to electrocute me!”

“No! I…I don’t think I’d have been able to do it to you, honestly. I’d just be standing there with the defibrillators, unable to do anything because dammit, you’re actually pleasant to be around now, believe it or not.”

Loki sniffs, indignant. “I’ve always been pleasant to be around.”

“Ch’yeah, okay.” The two stare at one another before breaking out into smiles. Tony claps Loki on the back. “Okay, I’ll um, try to come up with methods that involve no pain, but it seems impossible.”

“That’s most likely due to the fact that it is.”

Tony goes to respond but comes up short, so instead he groans, walks back to the couch and throws himself upon it, landing unexpectedly painfully and crunching his nose against the cushion.

“Ow.”

Loki sits beside him, and Tony can hear him casually sipping away at his cocoa. Tony rolls over, and the top of his hair brushes Loki’s thigh. Loki casts a glance down at him and chuckles.

“Your nose is bright red.”

“It hurts,” Tony moans, throwing on a babyish voice. He exaggerates a grimace and Loki laughs again.

“I’m afraid it’s serious. There’s nothing I can do. You’re dying, Tony.”

“Noooooooo.”

“You’ve only hours remaining. Is there anything you wish to do before your imminent death?”

Tony thinks hard. Then he concludes with what he assumes will be a very gratifying act.

“…Sleep.”

“I concur,” Loki agrees with a yawn. “But I’m too…uh…zonked to even move.”

“Then don’t.”

Tony decides he’s comfortable, so he stays there with his eyes closed, humming Dani California.

He’s out like a light within minutes.

 

Chapter Text

Mmmmmmm, Tony thinks happily. He's so darn comfy that moving is the last thing he wants to do in the world like, literally ever. It takes him only a very short while, however, to notice that his entire left arm is dead due to a heavy weight pressing down on it. He shifts, pulling his arm out from whatever it’s trapped under - too drowsy to care- and tucks it up against his body. As he does so, the hem of a blanket tickles his chin. 

Wait...blanket?

Didn't he fall asleep on the couch last night?

Dozily, Tony flutters an eye open and glances down, drinking in the fact that his own comforter is spread out across him. 

Had it been Loki? Had Loki put it over him?

Tony curls his head around to where he last saw Loki and realises as he does so that he's moved up the couch and that Loki has somehow managed to manoeuvre himself sort of beside Tony and sort of not. So that had been the weight on his arm.

Loki.

The Norse god is literally hanging on to the edge, with one leg stretched out across the floor. Tony's head is resting on the crook of Loki's armpit, and his arm is flopped across Loki's chest. 

Well, this is awkward.

Yup.

Definitely on Tony's list of most awkward situations.

But who had put the blanket over them? Clearly Loki hadn't, so who-

"Good morning, sleepy heads!" singsongs the chirpy, gleeful voice of Pepper Potts. The relief that washes through Tony as her presence is made known is entirely consuming, and he sighs happily. There's a sound of coffee being made and Pepper's face appears above Tony's. She strokes his hair back off of his forehead.

"Yaaaay," Tony cheers softly, "Pepper's home!" 

She beams back. "I am indeed. Care to explain what's happening here?" She motions at the Tony/Loki situation and giggles. She's been constantly updated the entire few days on both the kid's and Loki's progress, so Tony assumes this doesn't really surprise her since the god is all “nice” now.

"We both fell asleep on the sofa last night. Somehow I have managed to embrace the bastard but screw you, I am warm and cosy and I refuse to move. How were the meetings?"

"Tedious," Pepper replies, perching herself on the top of the sofa. "The most exciting part of my week was when one of the governors spilt coffee all over himself and had to strip down to literally nothing but his boxers in case he burnt to death."

"Was he hot?” 

"Why do you think it was exciting?" 

Tony chuckles. "Well, quite the opposite from you, the last few days here have been absolute hell."

"So I've heard. I met Coulson on the way in. My, he had a few things to say about it all."

"I bet he did," Tony grins mischievously, earning a clip across the ear from Pepper, who is, however, unable to hide her own.

"You failed to mention that the Avengers managed to tie up six incredibly skilled agents.”

“I didn’t want to scare you,” he teases, but then turns serious. “These kids have the same abilities as their adult selves - they just don’t have the maturity to know how and when to utilise them correctly.”

“That’s not good at all.”

“You’re telling me.”

Pepper’s lips thin. “Hush now. Wake Loki, because no doubt the kids will be awake soon. It's almost seven thirty."

"But I don't wanna get up," he moans, petulant. Pepper raises her hand to deliver him another whack so he recoils slightly and adheres to her adamant glare. He listens as her heels click off down the hallway before turning back and focusing on the slumbering Loki.

There's a poignant and frightening vulnerability that Loki unconsciously conveys as he lies there, breathing deep but even, eyelids resting just about together. After the apparently life-changing conversation he and the god had shared the day before, Loki had been much more at ease and put simply, the person Tony had always imagined had been waiting to break free for so long from the hard shell that he'd been using as a mask. 

But it's here, now, where Loki looks - dare he even think it - human. He has a heartbeat and a mind and blood that could be spilt just like any other. 

My, Tony, he thinks to himself, how poetic you are.

Yet he cannot help but feel an immense sense of pride over the fact that he’d been the one to bring Loki back from the dark place he had been dwelling in.

There’s no doubt that when Thor find out what Tony’s done, Tony will probably be crowned king of Midgard or Asgard or some other realm up for grabs because seriously this is what Thor has been trying to do, but has failed every time. A smug smirk twists onto Tony’s lips. Brushing away the snarky thoughts, he turns his full attention back to Loki.

Maybe Tony needs to be there for him a lot more now that he’s all kind and such.

Maybe Tony needs to be that friend that Loki unintentionally visibly yearns for – the friend that he’s been deprived of ever since he found out he was a Jötun.

Loki fidgets in his sleep.

How he slept through the entirety of Pepper and Tony’s conversation, Tony has no idea. But it’s true, Loki does need to wake up now. Tony smiles and runs a gentle finger up and down Loki’s nose, just like the god had done the previous night with Tasha.

“Lokiiiiii,” Tony calls quietly, “Loki, it’s time to wake up now. Rise and shine. Lokiiiii.”

Loki doesn’t open his eyes, but his nose wrinkles under Tony’s touch, which makes Tony laugh and prod him in the side. Loki yelps in surprise and flails massively, flying from the sofa and landing with a thump on the floor. He takes the comforter with him, and ends up in a tangled mess.

“OW. WHY.”

Tony cackles heartily, sitting up and watching the disgruntled God of Mischief correct himself. All the while, Loki glares at him.

“You are…just…insufferable. How did I remain here all night?”

“Because I’m a comfy genius.”

Loki rolls his eyes. “The amount of conceit within you is blinding, Tony Stark.”

“That must mean my conceit can be seen within my physical beauty?” Tony frames his cheeks with his hands and receives a very firmly thrown pillow right in his face.

Chapter Text

As it turns out, the kids absolutely adore Pepper. Tony and Loki are literally forgotten due to the amount of attention the Avengers give the red-head, who’s shamelessly loving every second of her reverence. Tony and Loki lean against the kitchen counter and watch Pepper as she sits on the floor surrounded by the five children. She’s changed out of her work clothes and is adorned in sweatpants and a t-shirt, and her hair is out of its scrunchie so it hangs loosely around her face. Behind her, Tasha is attempting to plait said hair, the tongue poking through her lips a sign of her concentration. Clint, Steve and Bruce are sitting cross-legged in front of her, listening intently to the story she’s reading from the book on her lap. It’s Rapunzel again; a tale they all seem to adore. Thor is spread-eagled on the floor, the side of his face pressed against the carpet, and it looks as though he’s asleep but when he giggles at the funny parts, Tony realises he’s just closing his eyes to see the story book world better in his head. Thor really has a thing for the Rapunzel story. More so than any of the others. He’s always drawing her.

Just as Tony takes a sip from his coffee, JARVIS’ voice echoes in the room.

“Sir, Director Fury requires your presence immediately.”

“Tell him to stick it. Pepper’s just about to get to the good part.”

“Ignoring Director Fury’s wishes has never served you well, sir. I advise you follow orders.”

“Jeez Jarvis, what are you? My mother? Sheesh.” Tony yawns widely and places his mug on the counter. “Well, Loki, Pep, the kids are in your hands for now. I’ve gotta go pay a visit to the one-eyed assh-” Shit. He can’t swear in front of the kids. “-uh…I mean…grump. The one-eyed grump.”

*

Apparently, Fury has been watching the past few days using hidden cameras.

Creepy douche, Tony thinks.

“I don’t care if the guy is nice now. You do what you’ve gotta do to make this problem dissolve as soon as freakin’ possible. Compassion for a monstrous ex-villain is not an option here.

“But-”

“No buts! If you don’t get him to agree to your demands then I swear I will have him restrained and I will personally be the one to electrocute him. And mark me, if I have to be the one holdin’ those defibrillators I will not go easy on him. I will shock him until he begs for mercy because even if it don’t work, I’ll get a hell of a lot of pleasure outta making him writhe.”

Tony’s gut churns. “And you have the audacity to call Loki ‘monstrous’? You’re an enormous dick, did you know that?”

“It’s not in my job description to care about what you think of me, Stark. But it is within my job description to protect this planet so it’s pretty much my main goal right now to have my response team back. Now you goddamn go and help that little asshole get a hold of his magic right this fucking minute. If you fail to comply, so help me I will torture Loki to the point where he wishes he were dead. Just before Coulson told me you were trying to bring his magic back I was ready to storm down there and do just that. Maybe pain is what he’ll need to remind him that his only worth is in his magic and that without it he’s defenceless.”

Something snaps within Tony. He marches up to Fury and squares his shoulders. His voice is low and threatening.

“There is so much more to Loki than his magic. But your head’s too far up your own ass to see it.”

“Get outta my face before I break yours,” Fury snarls. He shoves Tony backwards. “If you are not in your workshop with Loki in five minutes I will send my agents in to retrieve him. Your choice. You either attempt it yourself or you give him over to me.”

It takes all that Tony’s got not to punch him. He’s about to explode. Oh god, he’s so pissed. He’s really, really, goddamn motherfucking pissed. He wants to scream at Fury with all his might.

But he doesn’t. He simply clenches his fists at his sides, gives Fury a glare in which he conveys everything he wants to do, and turns on his heel.

He walks away.

*

Tony mutters insults under his breath all the way back to the rec room. When he walks through the door, Pepper beams at him from the arts and crafts table where the kids are all collaging. If Tony wasn’t so pissed, he’d ask Pepper how on earth she manages the children so well.

“What did Fury want?” she asks, but her voice falters as she notices his enraged expression. “Uh oh.”

“Where’s Loki?” Tony demands.

“Here,” pipes up the god from the side of the crafts table hidden behind the wall. Tony peers round and sees Loki gluing some purple tissue paper for Bruce. “What’s the problem?”

“Just…get over here. I need to talk to you.”

“Tony, can you quickly pop down to the kid’s room? Thor went in there a while ago to get something but he hasn’t come back. He’s probably gotten distracted by toys or something.”

“Pepper I don’t have time to-”

“Please? Talk to Loki as you go?”

Pepper!”

“Tony.”

“ARGH FINE.”

Loki’s beside him now, so Tony grabs his wrist and pulls him from the room.

“You seem troubled,” Loki smirks. Tony almost almost smacks him in the face.

“Don’t…don’t get sarcastic with me I am not in the mood.”

They reach the kid’s door, and Tony grasps the handle.

“Your meeting went that badly?”

Tony opens the door, but doesn’t reply because his jaw swings open and he freezes on the spot. There’s a huge, gaping hole in the window. Shattered glass lies all over the carpet.

And there’s no Thor in sight.

*

“I didn’t know he would smash through a window!” Pepper shrieks at Tony, who may or may not have yelled at her about how the responsibility of looking after the kids had been hers and Loki’s (who had also been on the receiving end of Tony’s rant). “I would have thought you’d have made the windows Thor-proof!”

HA!” Tony cries in disbelief. “Thor –proof? There’s no way to make anything Thor-proof, Pepper! He’s a god, no matter how miniscule. Don’t you remember when I told you that the kids still have their powers? Yeah? Remember? NEVER LET ONE OF THEM GO WADDLING OFF ON THEIR OWN.”

Fury and about twenty agents come pouring into the rec room.

“We were on our way to collect Loki, but seeing as the situation just got monumentally worse in other areas, we’re gonna need you two to get out there to help retrieve Thor,” Fury explains.

Loki starts. “…Collect me?”

“That’s what I was trying to tell you,” Tony says quietly. “But more on that later…uh…two of us?” He aims his question at Fury.

“You and Loki. I’ve already got over fifty agents out there searching.”

“I’m sorry,” Loki frowns, “but I don’t work for you. Don’t give me orders.”

Fury strides forward. “You are my prisoner and therefore you will do as I say. You have no magic, therefore your defences are down, so at the moment, you’re my little bitch. If you don’t do as I say, you’ll face the consequences.” Suddenly, Fury stabs a needle into Loki’s arm. Loki yelps in surprise, and he grabs Fury by the collar as the Director draws the needle out. Loki throws him to the floor. There’s a chorus of clicks as guns point towards the god.

“WHAT DID YOU DO!” Loki thunders.

Fury chuckles evilly. “Tracking device. So that you can’t just disappear.”

It’s Tony’s turn to give everyone a little surprise. The Mark VII suit comes crashing down through the ceiling and everyone drops to the ground besides Tony, who allows the suit to attach itself after locating his bracelets. He smirks because JARVIS is awesome. His AI knows exactly what Tony thinks of Fury, and the suit had come through the ceiling just above the Director, so it was he who was covered in the rubble. In the distraction, Tony grabs Loki and throws him onto his back. He spins around in mid-air, looking pointedly at Fury.

“Have dinner ready when I get home, sweetie! Love you always!”

He’s pretty sure he hears a few choice curse words flung in his direction before Fury’s angered voice can be heard no more.

*

“This is extremely degrading,” Loki grumbles from behind him, his arms curled around Tony’s neck. “And also nauseating, so I’d much appreciate it if we landed and talked about finding Thor on sturdier grounds.”

Tony takes the hint, because he doesn’t particularly want vomit all over his suit, so they drop onto the top of a nearby building and Tony pulls off his helmet. Loki wobbles a bit before brushing himself down and blinking rapidly.

“So is there anything you know about where Thor could be?” Tony asks, beginning to pace.

Loki shakes his head. “Nowhere that I’m aware of.”

“Okay…that’s helpful.”

Silence passes.

“I’m really not at all fond of Director Fury.”

“No one ever is.” Pawing at his previously attacked arm, Loki grimaces. “Has Thor talked about any places he wants to visit in the city over the past few days? Is there something he’s been mentioning?”

“Again, nothing significant. The only thing he’s been obsessing over is that damn book…what’s it called again…Rapuntel?”

Rapunzel. It’s called Rapunzel. And I don’t see how a girl with long hair who’s trapped at the top of a huge tower is anything to do with-”

Tony’s long pause confuses Loki.

“…Stark?”

“Good god,” Tony gawps. “I think I know where Thor went.”

Chapter Text

"Rapunzel!" Thor cries desperately as he swings Mjolnir above his head, hovering outside the windows. There are humans inside staring at him beyond the panes, their heads tilted in shock and confusion. Through a nearby open window, Thor hears "isn't that one of the Avengers?" 

"Thor?"

"Why is he a kid?"

"What the hell?"

"Why is he shouting for Rapunzel?"

Avast! The perpetrator! He must be the one who is imprisoning his dear Rapunzel! The one who's keeping her trapped! Thor drops onto the edge of the building, grasping the window ledge and edging along, before reaching the open window and glaring inside. 

"Give me Rapunzel!" he yells. The humans look at one another, then back at Thor.

"...There's no Rapunzel here!"

Thor screeches. "Liars!" Mjolnir makes contact with the glass and it shatters around him, almost sending him flying from his foothold, but he remains steadfast and drinks in the screams of the enemies. 

He will prevail!

*

Loki really isn’t a fan of travelling via Iron Man Express. He complains excessively and grunts at every twist and turn in the air as Tony rockets towards where he assumes Thor has set out for.

"Please, please don't tell me that's my brother doing that," Loki groans from behind Tony when thunder booms and thick, dark clouds circle above the Empire State building in the distance. "Please. Please."

"Sorry but yes, yes it is."

"...Fabulous."

*

"Now, you dastardly fiends! Hand over the girl and peace will follow. If you do not comply, force will be brought down upon you!"

The humans are all pressed in the corner of their office, staring at him with wide eyes. 

"Rapunzel is in a story book! She ain't real!"

"Shut up, Freddie!"

"Jesus, you'll make him even angrier!"

"It’s always Freddie."

The person who is apparently named "Freddie" recoils behind his co-workers, sheepish and now white as a sheet.

"You have thirty seconds!" Thor cries.

"Quick! Who's got the longest hair?"

"Nigel the copy boy?"

"A girl, you knob!"

"Susie?"

"Oh no, don't even think about bringing me into this!"

"Think of all the lives you'll save!"

"For the good of the company!" 

"For the good of us!"

"For the good of New York's most recognisable structure!"

"Susie! Go!" 

Suddenly, a girl stumbles forwards, her unbelievably long blonde hair whooshing outwards, immediately capturing Thor's attention. 

"...Rapunzel?"

Susie gulps. "Um..."

"Rapunzel, you're safe!" Thor runs over and she backs away, but someone behind her pushes her into Thor’s arms. He hugs her leg. “My love, I shall take you far from here to a land where no harm shall ever come to you.”

“Um,” is all Susie has to say again. There’s an almighty crash and Iron Man appears through the cloud of dust, just as Loki slips from his back.

“What are you doing, Nate?”

“Recording this for YouTube, duh.”

“Thor!” Tony shouts, and the miniature thunder god looks up at him, not letting go of Susie’s leg.

“Why is Loki here? Isn’t he supposed to be the bad guy?”

Loki shoots the crowd a glare and they fall into silence.

“Thor, what do you think you’re doing?”

“Rescuing Rapunzel!”

Tony turns to Loki. “See. My hunches are always right.” Loki rolls his eyes. Tony looks back at Thor. “Thor, kiddo, you gotta come home. You can’t just run away like that.”

“But my Rapunzel needed me?”

“Rapunzel’s doing okay on her own, see!” Tony motions at Susie. Thor gazes up at her and she just looks lost. “You’ve rescued her from the clutches of her desk and monotonous work! Well done. Now then, it’s time to head back to the tower.”

“Not until I get my hero kiss!”

There’s a pause.

“…Huh?”

“At the end of every movie, the hero gets a kiss. That’s how you know he did a good job.”

“Uh….”

Loki sighs. “The Disney movies. You know, like Hercules?”

Tony gasps. “Ohhhhhh. Yeah, lady, you gotta kiss the tiny person there.”

“What?”

“Just give him a peck on the cheek.”

“I-”

“If you don’t kiss him serious shit will go down.”

Susie’s eyes widen further. “Okay okay! Jeez.” She squats down beside Thor, who stands proud and victorious, cheek tilted up ready to receive his prize. It’s then that Susie can’t help but giggle, and she places her lips onto his cheek and then hugs him tightly. “Thank you, Thor. You saved me!”

“All in a day’s work, fair maiden.”

“How can I ever repay you?”

“Another kiss, if you will?” Thor pats his face. Susie complies and then stands, watching Thor hurry back to Loki and Tony and jump into Loki’s arms.

Tony salutes her. “Nice job.” She nods.

“It’s not every day you get rescued by a teensy god.”

“…Can I ask why he’s a kid?” someone pipes up from the crowd.

“No,” Tony answers sharply. “Oh, and sorry about your wall. You may need to get that fixed.” He points to the gaping hole in the building. Walking towards the hole, Loki jumps onto his back. Tony can almost feel the god’s embarrassment burning through his suit. He laughs.

“Hold on tight, buttercup. Wave goodbye to the lovely office people! You too, Thor!” Loki tenses around him, and Thor bounces around on Tony’s neck.

“Goodbye Rapunzel! I will miss you!”

And with that, Tony heads for home.

*

Thor tells his exciting tale over dinner, because no one finds it in their heart to punish the boy for wanting to save a damsel in distress. His hands outline the story; tiny fists claiming glory and the unwashed-off lipstick marks on his cheek symbols of his gallantry. The other children sit listening with awe, their small mouths forming ‘o’ shapes and their eyes yearning for more.

Pepper, Loki and Tony stand, their plates balancing in their hands as they eat.

“So how are we going to prevent Thor from escaping again?” Pepper asks, crunching on some carrot. “I mean, you said Thor-proofing wasn’t an option.”

“What about taking away Mjolnir?”

Loki’s head falls back as he lets out a single “ha!”

“What?”

“Trying to part Thor and Mjolnir when Thor doesn’t want to part from Mjolnir is like walking directly to your death.”

“Hmmm,” Pepper hums, eyes slits, and she places her plate down before she crosses over to Thor. Thor’s story pauses momentarily as Pepper whispers something into his ear, to which he listens intently. After a while, Thor nods and picks up Mjolnir. Loki and Tony watch with disbelief. Taking Pepper’s hand, they walk together to the safe in which Thor places Mjlonir, and Pepper clangs it shut.

“How-” Loki begins as Thor slides back onto his chair and Pepper re-joins them.

Pepper shrugs. “We’ve all got our own little super-powers.”

*

When the kids go to bed, and Pepper yawns around a “goodnight”, Loki and Tony are left alone in the rec room once again.

Fury hasn’t bugged him about Loki since they returned, so Tony presumes the shit will hit the fan tomorrow.

At least they’ve got tonight.

Jeez, Tony thinks, that sounds like a line from a cheesy chick-flick.

Loki is quiet; he’s reading The Great Gatsby which he got from god-knows where, and he’s so into it that he doesn’t notice Tony watching him. Tony doesn’t mean to watch him. He’s just sort of mesmerising in this state of absolute normalcy. He’s reading a book, curled up in a blanket, and expressing such a deep serenity that Tony finds extraordinary in a guy who once caused such chaos.

“I’d really much prefer it if you didn’t stare.”

Okay, so maybe he had noticed.

“Sorry. Good book?”

Loki nods. “Very. Midgardian books are enthralling. I never realised before, but the human mind is a complex, clever and creative place. Particularly in some.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Well.” Loki places his thumb between the pages and closes the book. “There’s you, as one example. Not many humans have such control of science. It’s as though it is a physical part of you that branches out from your fingertips and flows into the science around you. It is as though it is you that puts the science into something that is already deemed as scientific. You look beyond the original science and you see so much more than others. You don’t work for science. Science works for you. It’s fascinating.”

Tony doesn’t quite know what to say, so he settles for humour.

“Flirting again, are you?” He winks and nudges Loki with his toe. Loki lowers his eyebrows but quickly relaxes and smirks.

“Is that what you would prefer, Stark? If it were a flirtation?”

Wow, so Tony wasn’t expecting that. Jesus Christ how does he answer that kind of thing? But wait…if he’s even questioning it surely that must mean that he’s been subconsciously confused this whole time. Like, he’s never seen Loki as more than…well, taking into account the past few days alone, a friend. Sure, the guy’s hot and his ass is like woah but last time he mentioned that to Thor he ended up smashing through two skyscrapers and landing very painfully on a roof the other side.

But it’s easy being around Loki in some weird, fucked up way because hello, the guy used to be one of SHIELD’s most wanted. But Tony likes the domesticity they have going on. Part of him never wants the kids to grow up. He wants to look after them forever with Loki at his side. It’s fun and yeah, it’s a challenge and a half what with one of them escaping to the top of the Empire State building but they dealt with it. And they’ll keep dealing with it. Tony knows it’s pointless trying to force Loki’s magic back, but he also knows Fury won’t give a shit what Tony thinks.

Tony also knows that he’s not going to be the one who electrocutes Loki. He won’t let Fury electrocute him either. He won’t. Oh god, now he’s feeling protective over the bastard.

What’s happened to him?

Well, he doesn’t have to be clever to know the answer to that one, but he tucks the idea away before he can properly process it. His brain’s already processing too much to deal with any more.

“I’m sorry if I just made everything awkward,” Loki gushes apologetically, shifting and going to stand. Tony yanks him back down and sighs.

“No, no…you just caught me off guard. Not many people catch me off guard.”

“Yet I managed to…Interesting…” Loki raises an eyebrow and chuckles. Once more, Tony doesn’t know how to respond. Loki seems amused by this, but then something flickers across his face and his smile drops. “Earlier…Director Fury said that he came to collect me. Why?”

Damn.

“He’s uh, pissed that your magic isn’t back yet.”

Loki’s face remains unphased, yet there’s something something in his eyes that Tony finds strange but he has no idea why.

“And he wants to hurry along the process, I imagine?”

“Um…sort of.”

“Meaning yes. And knowing your delightful boss, the means by which he will attempt to do so will not be pleasant, considering all I’ve done in the past.”

“You’ve changed. You don’t deserve what Fury wants to do to you.”

Loki smirks, and sits back, removing his eyes from Tony’s.

“But have I changed? Really? How can you be sure? How can you know that this isn’t all just part of a huge game where I lure you in like a naïve little fish before yanking you out by a twisted hook in your lip?”

Tony swallows around a lump in his throat he never knew had formed. “Because I trust you.”

It’s brief, but Tony doesn’t miss the irregular rise and fall of Loki’s chest.

“That’s one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard you say.”

“Then clearly you haven’t heard me talk enough.”

“Clearly.”

The sweat lining Tony’s collar and hairline is insane and unexpected. Very unexpected. He rubs his neck, and the silence that passes is bordering on unbearable. Did someone turn up the heat in here?

Their eyes stay locked until Tony can’t take any more and he stands, forcing himself to yawn.

“Well, I’m beat. I’ll see you in the morning. Great chat. Fab. Really eye-opening. Maybe a little too eye-opening. Yeah, you know when I said I say stupid things well here you go, have your fill because I’m really rambling way too much now and screw you stop smirking at me.”

“You’re adorable.”

Tony’s taken aback. Loki looks even more surprised at himself for saying it.

“Adorable?”

“…Goodnight, Stark.” Loki stands too – abruptly - and crosses the room to the door. His hand barely makes the handle before Tony places his hand over it instead and opens the door for him.

“Night Loki,” he says breathlessly, letting the god pass. He stands there, perspiring forehead pressed against the cool surface of the door, until he hears Loki’s door close. It’s only then that he allows himself to drop to the carpet and tuck his arms around his knees.

His heart feels funny.

 

Chapter Text

Tony wakes up to the sound of murmuring voices. He’s disorientated, unalert and very drowsy, meaning he doesn’t truly register the distant talking. It’s still pitch black outside, and so he rolls over to check the clock. 2.34am.

Weird, he thinks, who’d be awake at this time?

He grunts, pulling himself to his feet. The hallway is empty, but there’s light coming from the edges of Loki’s door. Confused, Tony pads over silently, and presses his ear to the door.

“And there, at the end of the pathway, was the most beautiful fairy I’d ever seen.”

“What did she look like?” That sounds like…Steve?

Tony twists the handle and wraps his head around the door. Steve is nestled against Loki’s chest, Loki’s comforter drawn around them both, and Loki’s hands are in mid-air, whooshing about as he narrates a story. Loki doesn’t look at Tony, but the small smile that curls onto his lips indicate that he’s aware of his presence.

“She had long, auburn hair that hung all the way to her ankles. Her eyes were as green as emeralds, and her wings so clear they were almost invisible.”

“What happened then?” It’s only now that Tony notices Steve’s face is blotchy red, and his eyes are puffy. He’s been crying. Why?

“She cast an enormous spell and sent the evil goblins back to their caves, where she locked them away forever so they’d never cause any more mischief and terror ever again.”

Steve claps his hands together. “Yay! What a lovely fairy!”

“She was indeed,” Loki grins, finally looking up at Tony. Steve glances over too, and waves. Tony closes the door behind him and crosses his arms.

“Hey mister, whatcha doin’ outta bed?”

Steve huddles closer to Loki. “I had a bad dream.” Tony’s heart almost breaks at how scared the kid looks. Loki rolls his eyes.

“For goodness sake, Tony. I’d just about managed to get him to stop thinking about it.”

“Hey,” Tony says, hooking a finger under Steve’s chin as he kneels beside the bed. Steve’s eyes are filled with tears. “You’re surrounded by superheroes. No monsters will ever get you here. We won’t let them.”

Steve sniffles, and throws his arms around Tony’s neck. Because Steve’s still as strong as adult Cap, he literally yanks Tony across Loki and Tony’s chin is pressed against Loki’s chest as Steve cuddles him tightly.

“Thank you,” Steve whispers into his ear.

“Now, are you gonna be a big, brave boy and get back into your own bed?”

“…One more story?”

“That’s pushing it.”

“I don’t mind,” Loki shrugs. Steve let’s go of Tony and Tony sits back on the bed beside Loki’s legs.

He lowers his eyebrows. “Hey, don’t go against my ruling.”

Loki chuckles. “Hush up, Stark. One more tale won’t hurt anyone. Come here, Steve.” Opening his arms, Steve shuffles back into the position Tony had previously found them in, and Loki begins another story about a phoenix and a sorcerer. Tony finds himself listening intently, because Loki’s one hell of a story teller. He paints the exact picture he wants you to see, and Tony can tell just by looking at Steve that the kid’s in a completely different world.

“Pssssssst. Stark.”

“Hmmm?”

“How do you always manage to fall asleep beside me?” Tony jerks awake, totally shocked because he can’t remember falling asleep, and he hisses when he sees the time is only 3am. He blinks at Loki, who’s cradling Steve in his arms. A Steve who’s fast asleep with his thumb in his mouth. “He’s drifted off, so I’m going to put him in his bed. Well, I would if it weren’t for you lying across me.”

“Oops, sorry.” Tony blushes (why is he blushing?) and slithers to the end of the bed. Loki stands, holding Steve, and leaves the room.

“Carry me to bed, Jarvis,” Tony moans, flopping back onto the bed.

“I would do sir, but you never designed me to have arms.”

“Don’t blame this on me, Jarvis.”

“Never, sir.”

Loki re-enters the room a few minutes later.

“Loki, you’re strong. Carry me to bed?”

Loki doesn’t answer, but he walks over to Tony, peers down at him and puts his hands on his hips.

“Get out of my bed before I drag you off of it.”

“…Drag me to my bed?”

“Argh!” Tony feels the bed disappear beneath him and he lands somewhat painfully on the carpeted floor, staring up at the ceiling. Loki clambers back into his own bed and switches off the bedside light. “Good night. If you do so wish to sleep on my floor, so be it. But if you snore, even a fraction, I will throw you through the wall again.”

“I never snore. Do I, Jarvis?”

“Well-”

“Do I, Jarvis?”

“No, sir.”

“Hey, can I at least have a pillow?”

“Your own bed has pillows,” Loki hisses.

“But I’m not near my own bed.”

“That’s because you’re a lazy idiot.”

“Hey, come on now. Earlier you couldn’t sing my praises high enough about what a genius you think I am.”

Something whacks him in the face.

It’s a pillow.

“Aw, thanks buddy!”

“Shut UP and go to SLEEP.” Okay, so Tony actually can’t stop laughing because the whole argument is so petty. “Stark I will kill you.”

“I’d like to see you try.”

“I’ve tried to kill you multiple times have you not had enough of me yet?”

“I’ll never have enough of you, baby.”

Okay, so maybe after the chat they’d had earlier, that wasn’t the best thing to say, but hey, in order to break the awkwardness maybe it’s the right thing to do to act sarcastic and funny?

“You’re insufferable.”

“Now where have I heard that before?”

WILL YOU PLEASE BE QUIET AND LET ME SLEEP.”

“Wow someone’s a grumpy pants.” Oh this is fun. He likes annoying Loki. Oh yes, this is hilarious.

Well, it’s very funny until Loki’s on top of him, a hand wrapped tightly around his neck.

“What – WHAT – did I SAY?”

“Sorry! Sorry! I’ll let you sleep now!” Or at least that’s what Tony tries to say around the fact he can’t actually breathe.

How on earth Pepper ever deals with you is beyond me. Do you never let her sleep either?”

Tony chokes even harder then. Loki let’s go. “P-P-Pepper?” He rubs his throat. “What are you talking about?”

“…You…You and Pepper are together, are you not?”

Tony chuckles sadly. “No. We uh…we ended it a few months back. Just wasn’t working out. But we’re cool.”

It’s very disconcerting not being able to see Loki’s face. All he can feel is Loki hovering over him, his hands either side of Tony’s head.

“Well, it doesn’t surprise me that you’re still single. I mean, if you never let anyone sleep then who’d want to share a bed with you?”

“You might.”

He means it in a totally jokey way, but then again, he doesn’t at the same time. Does – would – Loki - want to - ever?

No.

No.

Tony can’t be thinking things like this, because - no.

Surely - surely he doesn’t want Loki to want to - no.

Nope.

Nada.

Nein.

“Sorry, I uh, I’m gonna go to my bed now. Yep. And you…I’ll let you sleep.” He tries to edge away but Loki’s hands remain adamantly beside his head. “Loki, lemme go. What’s the matter?”

“I… nothing. Nothing’s the matter.” He stands, and Tony hears him climbing back into bed. “Good night.”

Tony’s already at the door.

He forgets to reply.

*

Earlier that morning….

There was something tugging at Loki’s shirt. Being always on edge, he woke instantly, flicking on the light and glaring down at his assailant with warning in his eyes. All of the anger melted away, however, when he saw Steve Rogers – tiny, tiny Steve Rogers – holding his shield tightly in his hands before him (he used it as a teddy bear, which Loki thought was odd, but hey, if it made him happy). His face was patchy with red splotches, and his eyes were flowing with tears. Loki rubbed his own eyes and grabbed Steve a tissue from the box on the bedside table.

“Steve? What’s wrong?”

“I…I had a ni-ni-nightmare!” Steve blubbed harder.

“Oh, come here,” Loki said without apprehension, and with a sigh and a small chuckle, he patted his bed with his hand. Steve scrambled up, but rather than just staying there he crawled up the bed into Loki’s arms, and Loki paused before hugging him tightly.

“What happened?”

“There was…this big monster…which chased me…and..and…and…it was so scary. And…and…and you were in it and you were trying to…save….save me….but…but the monster got you and ate you in one bite and I was all alone and I….I woked up…and…and I woked up and I thought you might still be eated so…so….I came to check and you weren’t…and…now I’m happier because you’re not eated but I’m still scared because of the m-monster.”

Loki started. “You…you were scared…for me?” He knew that wasn’t what he should be worrying about, but he just can’t help it. “Why?”

Steve tilted his head, curious. “Because I love you and I don’t want you to-to get hurted.”

Loki’s head went muzzy. “I…you what?”

“Hmm?” Steve sniffed, blinking.

“Why…why do you love me? I’ve done so many bad things?” Oh god, his heart raced.

Steve considered him. “I’ve never seen you do bad things, ever. You’re one of the nicest people I’ve ever knowned. You helped me make my collage and you glued things and read stories and made me laugh. When I grow up, I want to be as nice as you.”

Oh the irony, Loki thought for a split second, but he was suddenly overcome by emotion that he’d never been aware had been pent up inside of him.

“Oh Steve,” he croaked, pulling the boy closer. He coughed, and smiled widely, and ruffled Steve’s hair. “Would you…would you like to hear a story? Will that take your mind off of the nasty monster?”

Steve beamed up at him. “Yes!”

Loki snuggled down, taking Steve with him, yanking his comforter over them both.

“Once upon a time, there was a family of evil goblins, who caused nothing but mischief and terror across the land…”

Chapter Text

When Tony spies Steve in the morning (the correct hour of the morning where being awake is acceptable), he gives him the thumbs up, to which the response is two thumbs up it return and a grin which shows mushed, chewed Fruit Loops. Walking behind him, Tony rifles a hand through the blond mop on Steve's head, and then he scoops up a mug and pours himself a coffee. Pepper closes the fridge door, and carries a jug of orange juice over the table.

"Who wants juice?" she asks, to which three hands shoot up. The other two - Bruce and Thor - demand milk. Well, Thor demands it. Bruce asks politely, barely lifting his head from his cereal. 

Yawning widely, Tony slides onto one of the empty chairs. He grabs the box of Fruit Loops and empties some into a bowl. He can't remember the last time he had Fruit Loops. To his left, Clint munches away at a bowl of Lucky Charms, and to his right, Thor glugs down his freshly poured glass of milk. A newspaper is suddenly thrust under his nose.

"Look." Worry strings through Pepper’s words. Tony takes the paper and scans the headline, only to smack it back down on the table and stand with force - a force which sends his chair clattering to the floor.

"Damn! Crap. Oh, god, are people really THAT stupid?!" The kids stare up at him in shock.

“Tony-”

“No! This…this article” – picking up the paper which has the entire story of the Thor-Rapunzel incident in it, and he scours through the columns - “literally announces our situation to the entire world! Shit! There’s no doubt one of our enemies will hear about it! And what if Fury sees this?” He stabs at the headline.

“He already has.” Tony spins round. Coulson is standing in the doorway, hands together behind his back. Tony stares at him.

“What-”

“Actions have had to be taken.”

“What do you-” Tony stops. “No.” He pushes past Coulson - who puts up a good-but-not-good-enough fight – and falls into Loki’s room.

Loki’s gone.

“Where did you take him?” Tony yells angrily as Coulson wipes away some blood from his lip. Tony’s too enraged to care about his dripping nose. “TELL ME.”

“Stark, it’s for the good of the planet that we take Loki into our own custody. He needs to be reacclimatised with his magic.”

Tony punches Coulson in the face.

He’ll regret it later.

He likes Coulson.

But it’s a distraction so he can run past. He dashes down the hall and throws himself into the elevator.

“Come on, come on,” he growls, willing it to go faster. When he reaches his floor, he jumps into his suit faster than he ever has before and then flies down the stairs to one of the lower sections of the tower. If they were going to take Loki anywhere, it’d be a holding cell. A holding cell with medical equipment.

As Tony nears the floor, he hears yelling and explosions.

Shit.

The doors open and he’s met by a burst of smoke.

“Your boyfriend lied to us, Stark!” Fury yells, obviously spotting the glow of the arc reactor through the blackness. “No magic my ass!”

“I won’t stand for being attacked after I distinctly told you the truth!” Tony can’t place the location of Loki’s shouting, but he finds Fury crouching behind an overturned desk, gun in his hands. Tony grabs him by the lapels and shoves him against a wall.

“What did you do?”

“We needed our defences back! After the fuckin’ press did a freakin’ front page spread on our weakness, any number of our enemies could come callin’! I need his magic back so I can reassemble my team!”

“We didn’t know if the electrocution would work!”

“IT WOULDN’T HAVE!” Loki shrieks, another ball of energy exploding nearby.

“It was worth a shot!” Fury hisses, but Tony slams him against the wall again – harder this time.

“No it wasn’t! It was one of my hunches! It wasn’t a definite solution! You knew that! For all we know, it could have slowed down the process even more!”

“Stop being damn mad at me and take your anger out on your lover, Stark! He’s the one who lied to you!”

It hits Tony then.

Right in the – heart…?

Fury coughs, the smoke clearly filling his lungs. “As we laid the defibrillators on him, he screamed at us that his magic was fine – that he’d been pretending to be broken this entire time.”

“WHY?” Tony exclaimed, his metal hands tightening around Fury’s collar.

“He wouldn’t tell us! He just roared and did voodoo with his hands and escaped from our bindings! But I don’t give a shit what his reasons are - he has betrayed the little trust he gained from me. He’s a threat. He’s always been a threat. He will always be a threat.”

Tony lets go of Fury. The Director drops to his knees, choking, but Tony doesn’t care. He can’t see through the smoke. He can’t see Loki.

“Jarvis, I need you to run a scan across the entire area. Pick up every object, every person, and every untrustworthy little Norse god you can find.” In front of his eyes, Jarvis maps out the room which Tony is blind to, and there he is.

Lurking by the far wall.

Tony lunges.

His hands wrap around Loki’s shoulders, and they head for a collision with the floor.

But there is no collision.

*

Tony blinks open his eyes and his surprised to find himself staring up at the sky. There’s a heavy weight on his chest, which he assumes is Loki, so he throws him. As far and absolutely as hard as he possibly can.

Which results in Loki propelling himself up into the air mid-throw like a stupid fucking graceful swan or whatever because Tony doesn’t give a shit, and then landing softly on the rooftop (Loki had obviously teleported them to a nearby rooftop) only feet from Tony.

“I’m gonna kill you,” Tony spits. “I’m gonna…I’m gonna….”

“Let me explain, Tony-”

You don’t get to call me that anymore! And by all means, I’d really love to hear your explanation for this one.”

He’s hurt, and he’s betrayed and he – he thought Loki had changed. There’s another weird feeling in his chest but he can’t place it. He doesn’t want to. Loki’s eyes are round and sad – a fake mask, he tells himself.

“There were no lies at the very beginning of this mess. I truly did have a cold and when I turned myself and the Avengers into children it was my fault – it was my mistake. But then I saw the benefits of being needed by you and you cohorts. You took me to the centre of all of SHIELD’s operations, and I planned to extend my stay as long as possible in order to gain as much information as I could.”

Tony’s visor flips up. His fists clench. “So you used us. You used me.”

My explanation is not complete.” Loki shifts from foot to foot. “My magic was dim but never non-existent. At first, I was afraid to use it for fear of another accident occurring. The cold was also a lie, or at least, the intensity of it which you perceived was the lie. Hours into my arrival at the Avengers tower, my cold began to heal, not get worse. However, I made you see it get worse by risking everything in order to use my magic. It worked, luckily, and when I reverted to my adult self it was not due to a coughing fit. It was because I chose to. My magic fully restored days ago.”

“So what’s your angle? You used us in order to get information, and then that way you could get closer to Fury and then attempt to kill him?”

“No!” Loki cries. “No! When he captured me I told him that I lied about my magic but he refused to let me go! I had to free myself!”

Tony’s rage bubbles furiously. “So what? Your niceness? Your change? All of that was one big lie?”

Loki slaps a hand to his forehead. “NO! Stark, for goodness sake. Let me finish!”

“I don’t really see-”

“That was my plan. My original plan! I planned to pretend to be nice and pretend to have changed so that you would all trust me! But then…then you and your stupid, stupid way with words and the things you said in your workshop and…and Stark, I never planned to actually change. It was supposed to be a guise.” Loki points his finger and walks towards Tony, who holds up his repulsors, but isn’t sure if he can bring himself to use them. “But you! You. You changed me, you fool! You…you.” Loki stops, lowering his hand, and then covering his face with both. “You changed me, Tony Stark. Much against my wishes.”

Well, Tony is speechless.

“I…I...”

“And do you want to know what else played into my change? Those children. They…they want me, Tony. They love me – the person I really am. The person you brought back from a place I deemed had been consumed by death. Last night, when Steve had that nightmare, he came to see if I was safe. He came to me for comfort. No one has ever needed me! But yet, there was a tiny child putting all their faith in me and it was then that I realised that if I could keep the façade of no magic up for…for as long as I could…I could be happy. I could be me. For once in my life, I could be wanted.”

“You’re always wanted,” Tony sniffs, because damn, that wasn’t emotional at all, was it? A Norse god just divulged his entire plans – his deepest woes. “Well, now at least. Not when you were a dick.”

Loki chuckles miserably. “I’m never wanted.”

“The kids want you.”

“I have to turn the children back. My time of being myself is over. This has been a pleasure, Tony Stark. But alas, it must end.”

Tony bites his lip as Loki begins turning his hand in an incantation. “Wait.” Loki looks up. “I…you can’t…you can’t go back to being the way you were. I need you to um…”

Tony stops. He doesn’t want Loki to go. He can’t fight him again. Not like he once did. Loki’s changed. He has. He’ll go to the ends of the earth to prove it to Fury. It makes sense – what Loki said – it does. It may be fucked up and crazy but that’s Loki. And Tony can’t help but like that. It’s not just the kids who’d want him to stay.

“I need you.”

Loki freezes. “…Pardon?”

“I…I need you. The way you are. Now. Not evil. Just…yourself. The person who you say is the person I brought out in you. You want that too. So you need me around to keep that person alive. We need each other. If you stay, we’re both winners. We both gain what we need.”

“And pray tell, Tony Stark, why do you need me?”

“I just need you.” He doesn’t know why. But does it have to be explained? Can - can it ever be explained?

“No, but what do you need from me?”

“Nothing. Just you.”

Loki blinks rapidly, undoubtedly trying to process what he’s just heard. Tony is too, even though it came from his own mouth.

“STARK!” Fury’s voice yells over the comms. Tony and Loki’s eyes remained locked.

“Piss off.”

“Stark, we need you and Loki back here now.  Doom must’ve seen the papers. He’s playing games. There are Doombots in the lower city. We need the team back now.”

“If I bring Loki back, will you trap him?”

A sigh. “No.”

Tony laughs, sarcastic. “Right.”

“Put me on speaker.” Tony does. “Stark, I heard everything through the comms. Everything. Whilst I’m blocking out all the homo or whatever it is that’s happening, I heard what Loki had to say. If he brings my team back to normal size and he fights alongside you to remove this problem, I’ll give him five minutes of my time to discuss what the hell is gonna happen with him. If he’s willing to comply with my terms, that is.”

Loki tilts his head, considering what he’s heard. “That sounds…acceptable.”

“Good,” Fury replies. “Now get your asses to the tower so we can reassemble the Avengers.

Chapter Text

When Loki and Tony arrive back at the Avengers tower, Fury and Coulson (whose lip is so puffed up that Tony winces and mouths a sincere apology) are waiting in the rec room with Pepper and the kids. Bruce, Steve, Thor, Tasha and Clint are sitting silently on the floor, their legs crossed obediently and their hands tucked into their laps. Tony’s brow furrows. Fury, he growls internally.

“Loki,” Fury says through gritted teeth. His one eye focuses on the god’s every movement as he enters the room, but Loki’s attention is elsewhere. His gaze sweeps across the children’s faces, and Tony doesn’t miss the unnaturally fast blinking and the bottom lip that swiftly detaches itself from being caught under his top teeth. “We don’t have time for sentimentality. Change them back already.” Fury’s voice makes Tony’s toes curl.

“You know how much they mean to him,” Tony snaps, but Loki brings up a hand to silence him.

“I’d really rather you didn’t, Stark. I’m embarrassed enough about what the Director heard over your communicator.”

 “Dammit, assholes! There are Doombots wreaking havoc in the city! I’ve got agents down there evacuating but I have no response team! So shut the hell up and do what you gotta do!”

Loki’s lip arches up in a silent snarl. “…Very well.” His hands twirl together, whooshing around and around until an orb of light begins to form between them, and it expands in a sudden clap of what Tony can only describe as sounding like condensed thunder. Loki turns his head, eyes meeting Tony’s, and he smiles sadly. Tony nods, understanding.

Loki doesn’t want them to go.

Facing the children once again, Loki releases the near-blinding ball of energy, and for a long moment, the entire room is consumed in a bright white light which has Tony holding his gauntlet over his face. It dims excruciatingly slowly, but there’s new, loud, scuffling noises and -

“Oh my god what the shit.”

Well, Clint’s back.

The light eventually dissipates enough for Tony to see outlines of figures, and it’s identifiable that all of the Avengers are back to adult size.

“Steve?” he calls out, wondering why he searches for Cap first, but his hands are outstretched and come into contact with something.

“Tony?”

“Steve!”

“Tony!” The billionaire finds himself crushed into an enormous hug, and there’s a pectoral pushing against his cheek bone.

“Alright big fella. Nice to see you back to your usual bulging, rippling self.”

Steve laughs. “All thanks to Loki.” The light has disappeared now, and all attention turns to the god, who’s standing with his head held high and his eyebrows low.

The mask, Tony thinks.

“If it hadn’t been for me you wouldn’t have miniaturised in the first place,” Loki sneers, but Tony notices how it doesn’t reach his eyes. Loki coughs. “So you…remember everything?”

Tasha steps forwards, shrugging. “Parts - as though they’re my real childhood memories. Some are fainter than others, some are much more vivid.” She crosses her arms. “One thing I do remember is you.” Her index finger motions at Loki, and a mysterious smirk tugs at her mouth.

“Same here,” Steve grins, clapping Loki on the back. Loki’s jaw shifts and he glances at the Captain with disbelief and surprise. Tony almost snorts when he blushes. The God of Mischief drops his eyes to his feet and smiles, which in turn makes Tony smile. The new softness that adult Steve has in his eyes around Loki is heart-warming. Does he remember the nightmare incident?

“Glad to have you back, team.” Fury’s stern voice breaks the pleasantries and captures their attention. “Cap, you remember what I told you when you was still a kid?”

“Freshest memory I’ve got, sir,” Steve replies. “Doombots in the lower city. It’s up to us. And there something about flaming homos, which I really think we need to do something about.” Steve frowns when everyone starts laughing, confused.

Tony tenses. Loki freezes (“What?!”). Fury slaps a hand to his forehead.

“Fuck’s sake, Rogers.”

“I still don’t understand what you mean by that, sir. It sounds horrifying. If people are dying then-”

Clint cackles. “It means there’s gay afoot.”

“Oh. I thought it meant that there were homosexuals on fire somewhere!” Steve goes red.

Okay, so now Tony’s not looking anywhere near Loki. Damn. What the hell. The god looks in shock. Clint’s wheezing, with his hands on his knees for support.

“Ain’t got time for messin’ around,” Fury snaps. “I need you deployed. Get to it! Family reunion later.”

*

Thor jostles Loki all the way up to the helipad.

“Brother, as I recall you were the man I once knew whilst you cared for me alongside Tony Stark, and I must say, I am overjoyed! This calls for much celebration! There shall be a feast this eve where we shall sing in jubilation and jest until the morning light!”

“I think I rather prefer you as a child,” Loki mutters, but he’s unable to hide his smile. “You have Stark to thank for my change.”

Suddenly, Tony is thrown sideways by the weight and strength of an overly ecstatic Norse god. Arms tight around Tony’s suit, Thor hugs him close.

“All this time attempting to bring my brother back to the goodness that has always been within him and it was you, Tony, who pulled him from the dark abyss in which he dwelled! I am most gracious! The extent of my thanks is so vast it is impossible to convey in mere words alone.”

“Thor – you’re – breaking my  - suit-”

“Apologies, friend.” Thor lets him go.

Tasha, Clint and Steve are already in the air in a helicopter, and Bruce roars as he hulks out. Loki recoils behind Tony as subtly as he can but Tony spots him and laughs.

“You’re fighting with the good guys now,” Tony says, grabbing Loki’s wrist. Loki starts and stares from Tony to his wrist, and he doesn’t have time to look up again because Tony’s throwing him onto his back.

“What are you-” 

“How else are you gonna get there?” is all Tony says before he drops from the helipad and rockets off to catch up with Thor (flying via Mjolnir) and the team in the copter. Hulk bounds from rooftop to rooftop below, and already Tony can see the billowing smoke from where the Doombots are causing chaos.

“What if Victor’s there? What if he sees me?” Loki shouts against the wind.

“The papers already dished the dirt on you joining me in our Thor-hunt yesterday. Doom will know already. Why’d you think he’s doing this? These are just a couple of Doombots he sent out to see if we’re almost an entire team down, and how we’ll react. You know how much of an asshole he is.”

Loki goes quiet.

*

“Cap! Drop!” Clint cries just in time. A bolt of electricity zaps across the street as Steve rolls to the floor, barely missing the top of his head. Thor roars as he brings Mjolnir down on the Doombot’s head, and the robot crumples to the tarmac under the hammer’s power.

The street is ablaze, with flames licking the building from both inside and out. There were more Doombots than Tony had first thought there would be. It’s more like a fully-fledged attack. Of course Doom would attack – when better than to strike when the Avengers were (supposed to be) down for the count? Tony had just been getting his hopes up.

Loki is in the centre of the street looking battered, his hands glowing with a bright blue light, and he’s firing energy balls at oncoming Doombots. There are at least twenty still milling about, fucking shit up. They have to keep them contained or the entire city will go down. Tony hovers above, scouring the area for any rogues. It’s then that he spies three Doombots coming up the street behind Loki.

“LOKI! ON YOUR SIX!” he screams.

But it’s too late.

Three violent forks of lightning slam simultaneously into Loki’s back before doing it again and then again. The god shakes in mid-air before dropping to the ground. As Tony shoots down, Clint limps over, clutching his own bleeding arm.

“Loki!” Tony hears him shout. “Loki, you gotta get up!” Clint tries to bend down but can’t with his injured leg. Tony lands beside them both. “Tony, he’s fuckin’..he’s…like…oh god.”

“It’s okay, Clint.” But it very clearly isn’t. Loki’s breathing is extremely laboured and his cape, helmet, shirt and parts of his pants have blown completely off. “Clint, go find cover and fix your arm. Here’s a med kit.” A compartment on the suit opens and Tony hands it to him. “I’m gonna get Loki to higher ground, see if I can…do…anything.”

Clint nods, and darts into the shadows. Hoisting Loki onto his back, Tony takes to the air again.

“Don’t die on me, you son of a bitch. Not after all of this. Not after you just changed. I won’t let you.” Tony blinks hard. “I won’t let you.”

*

Tony lays Loki’s fidgeting body down on the rooftop and kneels beside him.

“Jarvis, I need a full medical scan done,” he begs desperately.

“Sir I’ve not got that function-”            

Tony punches the floor. He can’t lose Loki. “Just DO IT!”

“No need,” Loki croaks, eyes sliding open slightly. Tony opens his own eyes wider in surprise. “I’m – fine.”

Tony flips up his visor and yanks off his gauntlets. One hand tucks itself behind Loki’s neck, the other cups his face.

“Don’t you dare do that to me again, you understand?”

“I – did nothing to - you.”

“You got yourself nearly killed, you bastard. I need you, remember?”

Loki manages a chuckle.

“Sorry – I’m selfish – what – did you expect?”

It’s Tony’s turn to let out a short laugh. “You…are you….gonna be okay?”

“Yes – I just – need to reconnect – with my magic – and-” Loki bounds to his feet. “There.” He brushes his hands off on what remains of his pants. “Much better.”

Tony’s jaw drops. “Okay, you need to teach me how to heal myself like that. It could come in handy.”

Loki goes to reply but a high, cruel voice cuts him off.

“Loki, my old friend! How nice of you to turn against me.”

“Victor,” Loki growls, not having to turn around to know who the voice belongs to. In his state of undress, Loki looks more vulnerable than Tony has ever seen him – minus when he was a kid. The visor on the suit closes and Tony turns to face Dr. Doom.

“My my, I must say, after what I read in the papers I presumed the Avengers were merely bouncing babies but I was so very wrong. It appears you’ve fixed your problem.”

Doom lands on the rooftop beside them.

“Not all of them,” Tony snarls. Doom cocks his head to the side.

“Oh? And what other problems do you have, might I ask?”

“You.” Both of Tony’s repulsors fire at the villain but he counteracts them with his own electrical power. Tony stumbles backwards but manages to kneel to dodge Doom’s lightning. Loki screeches and lets two energy balls pummel into Doom before holding both hands in front of him and closing his eyes tightly. Doom shrieks, grabbing his head and dropping to the ground.

“What are you doing?” Tony cries over the noise of the magic. It’s a loud, high-pitched sound which almost has him clutching his own head.

“Aneurysm,” Loki sniggers darkly. His hands curl – more claw-like – and Doom is literally screaming at the top of his lungs.

“Loki, I…I think he’s down…”

Loki doesn’t stop. His hands clench even closer together. The pain on his face – his own face – worries Tony to absolutely no end.

“LOKI.”

The god sighs, exasperated, and drops his hands. “What?”

“I think you got him.”

*

The team aren’t told where SHIELD take Doom. Some facility or another, Tony doesn’t care. As long as he’s gone. His Doombots were called off once he’d been captured, and the Avengers had returned to the tower with bleeding, broken and bruised limbs.

“Well done team,” Fury commends with pride, an actual smile on his face. Tony wants to punch it off. “And…I can’t actually believe I’m sayin’ this but…thanks Loki, for uh, again, I can’t belive I’m sayin’ this, pinnin’ down Doom.”

Wearily, Loki simply nods. His face still echoes with the pain Tony had seen when he’d been brain-frying Doom, and Tony’s hand twitches with nervousness.

He wonders what that pain is.

Is it that Loki was fighting an old ally?

Or…is it something else?

“I’m willin’ to let Loki rest for now. I swear to god though, if he so much as puts a toe outta line, I’m imprisonin’ him too. But y’all should just go take it easy.”

*

Tony catches Loki’s arm on the way back to the old rec room – the one they had been the others were kiddified. Everyone else is far ahead, but Loki’s been hanging back.

So, naturally, Tony’s been hanging back behind him.

“What happened today,” he asks, turning Loki to face him, “up on the roof?”

Loki avoids his gaze. “Nothing.”

“You know, for the Liesmith, that was a really crappy lie.”

Loki smirks. “Yes. I suppose it was.”

“So? You gonna spill the beans?”

Loki rolls his eyes up to stare at him and shake his head. “I’m…sorry? Beans? I have no beans…?”

Oh. “It’s…a phrase…a…oh, just, are you gonna tell me?”

“There’s not much to tell.”

“Right.” Loki tries to pull away but Tony keeps his hand firm on his upper arm. “Loki.” Loki’s eyes are back on the floor. Tony bites his lip, and places his finger under his chin, tilting his head up. “Loki, look at me. Please.”

Loki blinks, and finally focuses on Tony’s eyes. “You’ll never let me go if I don’t tell you, will you?”

“Nope.”

“You realise I could easily throw you to the floor and walk away myself.”

“But you won’t.”

“I might.”

“Loki.”

“Fine! You really want to know? I saw myself in Victor today. My old self. My craziness, my instability and my complete disregard for life and morality. I saw myself standing on that rooftop. Not Victor von Doom. So I hurt him. Me. I hurt that part of me I hate as much as I possibly could. I dug my nails into his brain and squeezed with all my might. I don’t think an aneurysm that powerful has ever affected anyone on Midgard before.” He chuckles, smug. It doesn’t hide the agony in his eyes though. Damn those eyes, Tony thinks. He wonders if Loki knows how much he subconsciously gives away in them.

“Loki…Loki…shit. I mean,” Tony runs a hand through his hair, “that’s…wow.”

“Mmm.”

“You’re really fucked up, did you know that?”

“I’ve been made aware, yes.” His eyes drop to the floor again. Tony realises he’s still holding his arm. His hand runs up to his shoulder, and slowly creeps to his neck. Loki eyes it, and then Tony. “What are you doing.” But there’s hardly a question there.

“I…I’m not sure. You just…sound like you need someone right now.”

Loki shrugs, eyes locked on Tony’s. “I really don’t think-”

Tony silences him with a kiss. It’s fleeting and strange and odd and all the synonyms for those two words that there are but Tony does it, barely thinking about what he’s doing. When they part, Loki ogles him with curiosity and astonishment, feelings that Tony reciprocates when Loki pulls him in for another, wrapping his arms around Tony’s waist and grinning against his lips.

“Then again,” the god says between kisses, “I actually do think I need you too.”

Chapter Text

WHAT,” comes a shriek from the other end of the hallway which causes Loki and Tony to spring apart violently. Their heads both snap around to locate the source of the sound and Clint is leaning out of the rec room door, jaw hanging wide open and eyes fixed on the two blushing men. “I mean, when Fury said something about homos I thought he was just talking about like, the domesticity you guys had going on. I didn’t know…I didn’t…I…well then.”

“Clint, what’s happening?” Tasha’s voice drifts from inside the room and suddenly she’s beside Clint, peering at them down the length of her nose.

“We were having a conversation,” Loki lies smoothly.

“Yeah,” Clint snorts, “with their tongues.”

Tasha gasps and giggles, her hands covering her mouth, and Tony’s eyes go like saucers as he stares at Clint, aghast. Loki, however, appears unphased after the shock of being interrupted.

“God, it was like seeing my parents kissing. Gross.” Clint sticks his tongue out and gags.

“Technically, we were your parents for a time,” Loki replies, placing his hands behind his back and walking towards Clint and Tasha, who scoot out of the way to let him through. Tony’s left stranded in the hallway. He’s just made out with a god. The God of Mischief. Had he been planning it? No, not really. It had just sort of…happened. The new Loki – or the old Loki that’s been supressed since the whole heritage-reveal – has had an effect on Tony that he can’t quite put his finger on.

All Tony knows is that he’s a goner.

In a good way, but a way he still doesn’t understand.

He hurries after them all when he regains poise and hears conversation float through the open door.

“Dare I ask what happened out there?” Steve asks.

“Tony and Loki were making out. You know, the usual. Nothing odd there. Nope.”

“I resent ‘odd’,” Loki hisses. “It was hardly unexpected, either. Tony’s basically been throwing himself at me these past few days.”

Tony is standing just outside the door, breathing in and resuming composure, but he almost chokes when he hears this. Forcing the usual casual-Tony Stark-visage, he walks in with a smirk on his face.

“If I do recall, it was you who jumped me the other night when you decided to basically straddle me.”

Loki tenses. Tasha whoops (“get in there!”). Clint feigns puking in the waste paper basket. Steve looks a little awkward. Oh yeah. From the 40’s. No homo. Right. Well, Steve’s just gonna have to deal.

Thor grumbles.

Crap. Tony forgot about Thor. Loki’s brother. Loki’s probably over-protective, scary-when-angry (well, Tony knows this already), brother.

“I was attempting to strangle you, Stark. Nothing more.”

Now, if Thor hadn’t been towering over Tony’s shoulder, Tony would have probably replied with:

“Ha! Don’t tell me you didn’t want it.” Just to make the others feel uncomfortable. Tony’s still confused about his feelings for Loki, but hey, he’s just kissed the guy, so that’s progress in itself.

How he does reply, however, is:

“Ah, right! Sorry, must’ve taken it the wrong way. Hey, Thor!” He drags out the ‘hey’ lengthily, spinning around to hold his hands up at the low-browed Norse god. “Hey!”

Thor’s upper lip quivers. “I was not aware that this was more than mere friendship.”

Tasha cackles. “Oh come on, Thor. You saw them when we were kids! They were so cute together!”

Loki’s eyes roll at “cute.” Tony’s mirror them.

Thor’s frown falters. Then he chuckles. “I must admit, my brother’s doe eyes he displayed whenever you were around, Tony Stark, were such that I shall never forget.”

Loki’s cheeks burn. “Thor.” Tony eyes him and waggles his eyebrows.

“Doe eyes, huh? What a great new nickname. Sorta fits in with the old one.”

“…Old one?”

“Reindeer.”

Loki glares and coughs a little.

“It’s nice to know you two survived each other,” Bruce says, rousing from his usual quiet (when not the Hulk) nature. “But how the hell did you fix Loki? No offense, Loki.”

“None taken.”

Tony bites his lip. “We uh, talked about stuff. Tough stuff. Stuff that’s tough to talk about.”

Bruce raises an eyebrow. “Right…?”

“No, we aren’t going to tell you,” Loki snaps, suddenly defensive, his voice strained slightly. “It is between myself and Tony. All that you need to know is that…I’m…more myself than I’ve ever been. Thanks to Tony. And to all of you.”

“Us?” Steve grins.

Loki smiles. “Yes.”

“How did we help?” Clint pulls a mock-innocent expression.

“Because you…let me in. And cared for me. Your previous discriminations and prejudices against me were gone so I was totally new to you. It was…uplifting. Gratifying. Truly…heart-warming.”

“Uh oh, we’ve crossed the sappiness line!” Tasha punches Clint in the arm.No but seriously, that’s cool bro. You were awesome.”

“Yeah, you were.” Steve’s eyes are shining.

“OH GOD STEVE’S GETTING EMOTIONAL,” Clint announces loudly. Steve ignores him, focusing on Loki.

“I meant what I said, Loki. You – as you were – were one of the nicest people I ever knew. Don’t change back. Don’t. Please.”

Loki blinks.

“Oh Steve,” Tony giggles, pulling both Captain America and Loki into a hug. The others pile in, and a group hug of epic proportions commences until Loki begins wheezing and coughing.

“Loki?” Thor exhales as the God of Mischief collapses in Tony’s arms. Tony guides him to the ground, Steve and Thor following him down, kneeling by his sides.

Loki’s breath is short and he’s fighting for it, his eyes rolling back into his head.

“Loki – what the fuck is going on?” Tony shrieks, shaking the god furiously. “Can anyone explain this?”

Bruce pushes Steve out of the way. “I may not be a doctor doctor, but I’d swear it looks like he’s having a heart attack.” Bruce takes Loki from Tony and places him flat on the floor.

They thought they had time.

Loki goes limp.

SHIT,” Tony cries, and smacks his fist into Loki’s chest before beginning actual compression techniques. “Shit, what’s going on?”

“Just keep giving him CPR, the medics are on their way to take him in.”

“He’s not BREATHING,” Thor roars, and he throws Tony across the room. Tony smashes into the arts and crafts cupboard, dazed but not out of whack, and he jumps up to his feet as fast as he can.

Thor pummels Loki’s chest. “BROTHER, AWAKEN! AWAKEN!” he sobs.

Running his hands through his hair in despair, Tony ends up tossing over one of the chairs.

WHAT IS GOING ON?!” he screams again. The medics file into the room with a stretcher and a drip, and Thor helps them lift him onto it. Just as they do, Loki’s mouth stretches around an enormous gasp and his body shudders, eyes flickering. “Oh thank god!” The sign of life is all that brings relief but Tony knows it’s nowhere near over. Loki collapses against the stretcher once more, and he follows the medics and Thor through the door and up into the elevator. The others shout that they’ll follow in the next elevator.

Inside the elevator, Tony gets a good look at Loki. His skin is pale white – far more so than usual – and dripping with sweat. Tony strokes sticky hair out of Loki’s face and bites his lip hard. He’s scared. Oh god, is he scared. What’s happening? Why did Loki have a – have a heart attack?

What haven’t you been telling me, you son of a bitch?

 

Chapter Text

The tower’s hospital doors fly open as the medics, Tony, and the stretcher carrying Loki rush inside. On the journey, Loki had stopped breathing again, forcing Tony to fall further into panic mode, if that was even possible. Luckily, it hadn’t been far from the hospital, so once inside the doctors got to work applying CPR, with Tony clutching the bars of the stretcher tightly and staring down at the immobile figure who could be simply napping if taken out of context.

“Come on, come on,” Tony begs, rattling the bars. What if he loses Loki when he’s only just got him? Hell, Tony doesn’t even know what he wants from this…whatever it is that’s going on. The one thing he’s most definitely certain of is that he needs Loki. Loki knows that. And Loki needs him. Maybe that’s what’ll keep Loki fighting.

“I’m sorry sir but I’m going to have to ask you to move out of the way,” a medic insists, and Tony unwillingly steps back.

“We have response,” a medic announces, bringing Tony out of his reverie. He watches in horror as they drag  too many wires – too many tubes – into the room for his liking. He knows it’s serious. He just doesn’t want to have to see the evidence. Loki’s a god. A god. He shouldn’t be here, under human doctor’s hands. He shouldn’t be under any doctor’s hands. He’s a god. He’ll – he’ll pull through. A tube is slipped down his throat, the sight almost making Tony gag, and the doctor who seems to be in charge starts shouting orders about scans and other tests that makes Tony’s stomach churn.

Whilst someone hooks Loki up to an IV, the others check is blood pressure and cut off his shirt so they can attach him to a heart rate monitor. Loki’s pulse suddenly stops. Tony’s almost does too when the noise is a constant, long, droning beep.

“Defibrillators!” a doctor shouts, but Tony barely hears it.

His vision is going blurry. Black and white dots fill the corners of his sight. The room suddenly feels a lot smaller and all he can hear is his own heartbeat booming in his ears.

It’s all getting too much. Loki can’t be dead. He’s not dead. He won’t die.

He stumbles and lands in someone’s arms, their hurried steps towards him being the last thing he hears before the world cascades into darkness.

*

Tony wakes up groggily, and he’s pissed for a moment because this bed isn’t soft at all.

But then he remembers. Loki.

He sits up fast, hissing at the head rush the quick movement causes him. He’s in a hospital ward.

“You passed out,” a voice says as Tony throws his legs off the side of the bed. Steve’s sitting in a chair at his bedside, looking up at him with sad eyes. Tony gasps.

“Is he…is he…?”

“He’s alive, Tony.”

Tony gulps around the lump in his throat and breathes out raggedly. Relief shoots through his very core and alleviates his stressed brain. It races through his veins to the tips of his fingers and toes. He slips off of the gurney. “…How is he?”

Steve bites his lip. “Come see for yourself.”

*

It smells too sterile as Tony walks down the hall. A sick feeling bubbles in his stomach each time he inhales. Everything’s a bright white and it blinds, burning into his eye sockets. Steve guides him to Loki’s room, where Tony braces himself outside of the door before turning the handle and peering inside.

The scene is agonizing to witness. Loki lies in the hospital bed, looking weak and sickly pale. His eyes are sunken and dead-looking as he stares at the ceiling, blinking long and slow and weary. The tubes that were down his throat have transferred to his nose, and both the ECG and the IV still stand either side of his bed.

The hand that’s been on his shoulder the entire walk rubs it gently.

Steve lets Tony go in alone.

When the door closes behind Tony, Loki’s eyes flicker to him. A pained smile slides onto the god’s dry lips, but Tony doesn’t return it. Instead he strides over, sudden anger consuming him, and he grabs the bars of the bed.

“What the hell? WHAT THE HELL?” he exclaims, shaking the bars wildly. Loki blinks. “Why? What’s going on, Loki? Huh? What is this all about?” His hands let go of the bars and flail madly in the air. He’s close to tears.

No he’s not.

- Yes he is.

Loki’s voice is barely audible. “I’m - sorry, Tony. I – I’m sorry.”

“That’s not answering my question.”

“I – didn’t heal my – self after the – Doombot attack. Masked – it. Pushed – the p – ain down along wi – th the symp – toms.”

His voice gets weaker with each spoken word. Suddenly, Tony feels awful for forcing him to speak. He strokes some hair out of Loki’s face.

“Shhh, don’t talk anymore. Sorry. I’m sorry.”

“Thi – s is ver – y degra – ding.” Loki’s IV’d hand flops beside him and he grimaces.

Tony chuckles. “I told you not to speak.” His thumb runs down Loki’s cheek and he carries on with the motion when Loki closes his eyes in contentment, leaning into Tony’s touch.

“So you had a heart attack because of the electrical shocks from the Doombots? Just nod or shake your head.”

Loki nods slightly.

“You should have told me that this would happen. Did you know it would happen?”

Loki shakes his head. “I ho - ped I’d – be – okay.”

Tony looks at the ceiling and sniffs. His eyes drop back to Loki’s.

“Turns out you were wrong.”

Loki smirks. Then he gasps. “Ouch  - oh – oh my ches – t.” His hand flies to his heart. “O-w.”

It’s happening again. Oh god, it’s happening again.

Tony presses the nurse call on Loki’s bed and then throws himself out of the door.

“We need a doctor in here!”

Steve’s lurking outside the door and he jumps into action.

“I’ll go get who I can!”

Tony darts back to Loki, whose breathing is irregular and face pained. Tony grips his hand, but Loki snatches it away in order to push down on his own chest. He’s in agony. Tony can tell by his whimpering.

“Loki, you stay with me! You got that? Don’t you dare let this take you.”

Doctors hurry inside, pushing Tony out of the way.

It’s all like before.

Tony feels a little faint again, but pulls through.

“It’s not another heart attack,” a medic confirms later. “He’s just suffering from angina. It’s a common after-effect of a heart attack.”

“Is he going to be okay?”

“We’ve given him some pain killers so that should help for a while. If there are any more problems let us know.”

Tony smiles falsely. “Thanks doc.”

The doctors leave after final checks. Tony and Loki are alone once more.

“Sorry about – that,” Loki sighs, shifting slightly. Tony rolls his lip under his teeth and pushes down the bars so he can get to Loki better when he sits down in the chair.

“You gotta stop scaring me,” he replies softly, taking Loki’s hand and rubbing small circles into it. “We need each other, remember?”

Loki only smiles, but then his eyelids flutter and he’s asleep within the minute. It’s then that the exhaustion hits Tony – all that worry and stress really takes its toll then – and it’s not long before he lets his head roll back and his body allow him to rest.

*

Tony’s awoken by the scuffling of feet and loud voices. Blinking, he realises his chair’s moved a few feet from the bed whose occupant is writhing and being attended to by two medics. He springs from his seat and dashes over beside one of them.

“What’s happening?” he ask urgently as he stares at Loki’s agonised face.

“He’s having another episode of angina. It’s fine, he just needs more pain meds.”

“Fine?!” Tony spits in disbelief. “Fine?! You call this fine?!”

“Mr. Stark I-”

Tony grabs Loki’s hand and turns away from the doctors. “You’re gonna be okay, Lokes. I promise. You’re gonna be okay. It won’t hurt in a while. It won’t.”

Loki stares back at him, his eyes suggesting that his mind is far away.

Suddenly, the non-existent grip that Loki has on Tony’s hand goes vice-like, and Tony yelps in pain. A searing heat travels up his arm as Loki’s hand glows pure white, and the medics gasp, too shocked to move. Loki’s eyes are tightly shut and he’s crying out in pain, and so is Tony, because it fucking hurts. His own arm is glowing white with blinding light and then Loki lets go. The ceilings a lot further away than it ever was before. He can’t recall falling. There are a pair of hands underneath him; catching him. They feel enormous.

Everything goes black.

*

When the team are told to report immediately to Loki’s hospital room, Steve worries to no end that the worst has come to pass. The Avengers stroll down the hall, and Steve has his arm around Thor because the god is almost almost on the brink of losing emotional control. Fury is standing outside of the door already. His arms are behind his back and he looks monumentally annoyed.

Not the face of someone whose old nemesis just died.

Steve’s sadness lifts a little.

“Sir?” he says when they stop before the Director. Fury rubs his temples.

“I swear to god, will this ever fuckin’ stop? Again, I’m not dealing with it.”

“…What’s happened?” Tasha asks, stepping around Steve. Fury just points into the room and the team lean to look inside. They gasp unanimously.  

A medic is standing in the centre of the room, holding what looks like a one year old baby. Behind the medic, Loki retracts into his pillow, looking incredibly sheepish.

Tasha splutters. “Is that who I think it is?”

“Oh no,” Clint gawps.

Please don’t tell me that’s Tony,” Bruce moans.

Your fuckin’ problem,” Fury growls.

 

 

Chapter Text

Fury throws his hands up in the air in despair, unable to formulate any more words on the matter because apparently he’s just that angry. Instead, he sort of roars before turning on his booted heel and stomping off down the hall, muttering those modern-age cusses under his breath than Steve hates. The entire team watch him depart, and then spin back to stare at the baby in the medic’s arms.

“Loki what did you do?” Bruce gawps, his hands running through his hair and his assessment of the situation showing on his face. In the bed, Loki sinks down under the covers slightly and purses his lips.

“Loki, answer the fucking question,” Clint yaps, though his eyes are locked on the baby. Steve’s thinking the same thing, but more politely. What is it with the need for cussing these days?

“I don’t know what I did,” Loki moans, covering his face with his hands. “One minute I’m having excruciating chest pains and the next I’m feeling better and I’m aware that one of the doctors is holding a baby and I’m wondering whether or not somehow I’ve given birth yet again.”

“Given what? Given birth – what – again wha - ” but Clint doesn’t get much further since Tasha claps a hand over his mouth and glares at him intensely with a look that says “now is not the time”. Loki just rolls his eyes.

However, according to the doctors I somehow performed a spell on Tony in the midst of my pain and as one of them so eloquently described it – “You held hands and there was this ‘whoosh’ and a great big shiny light in your hand and his hand and you screamed and he screamed and then there was this baby and yeah”.” There’s a cough from the medic holding Tony. Loki looks over and sighs. “Oh, really? You? You’re still here? Give Tony to someone, this is not your place to bear witness to conversation since you quite literally cannot hold an articulate one of your own.”

The medic sniffs, offence very clearly taken, and they stalk over to Steve, thrusting Tony into his arms. He’s so surprised to receive the baby that he doesn’t have the mental clarity to respond in any other way than, “Uh, thanks?” and clutch at Tony like he’s the most fragile thing in the entire world. With Tony out of their clutches, the medic issues Loki a haughty scowl and exits the room, slamming the door behind them. The others pause for a moment before Clint bursts out laughing and manages to form “that-was-the medic-you-oh god-that’s awkward-hilarious-but-” between his snickers. Steve, however, is more focused on the tiny billionaire in his arms. There’s definitely tell-tale signs that this is Tony. First and most obvious is the appropriately-sized arc reactor that’s wedged in his chest. Secondly, there’s the way the miniscule nose gives away that it’ll be Tony’s nose in the future. And then there’s the eyes. A dark, chocolate brown. Yep, definitely Tony.

Tony turns his round head from side to side, making gurgling noises in the back of his throat. His feet kick out alternately and he grins, showing off a small array of milky white teeth. Pudgy hands reach up and pat Steve’s face before trailing down and fixing a tight hold on his shirt.

The last time Steve held a baby was at his friend Michael’s house before the war when his wife had just had a child. Steve had almost dropped the kid, and he’d never been allowed to hold her again. Go figure.

He bites his lip  Now he’s so strong, what if he crushes Tony?.

“God, Steve, he’s not made of glass. You can move him a little. You’re holding him awkardly.”

“Oh,” Steve says in surprise, looking up at Tasha whose hands are on her hips. He tries with all his might to rearrange Tony but it all gets very worrying when he feels like he’s going to do something awfully wrong like drop him, so Tasha gives up and lifts Tony from his arms. She holds him up under his armpits and Tony kicks his feet, squealing with delight. Tasha beams at him.

Steve’s lower lip pokes out in a pout.

“It is good to see you feeling better, brother.” Thor’s booming voice captures his attention. The god is standing beside Loki’s bed, a hand on Loki’s shoulder. “You had me frightened for your life.”

Loki coughs weakly. “I apologise for scaring you. I also apologise for what has happened to Tony. Deeply, deeply apologise to you all and to myself.” He glumly casts his eyes to Tony who’s now perched on Tasha’s hip and biting his fist.

“So you got any idea why the hell you subconsciously transformed him into a baby?” Clint quizzes, sitting down in the chair next to Loki’s bed.

“I recall that when I was having the pains I was thinking of you when you were all children. I thought I was dying, the agony was so great. My most recent, happiest memories were of you as children. You helped me to change. And they were of Tony because-” the god pauses and gulps a little “-and I must have transferred those thoughts into a spell when Tony grasped my hand.”

 “But you will be able to turn him back, right?” Steve cuts in worriedly as Clint goes to talk, undoubtedly about what Loki had prevented himself saying about Tony. Clint’s face slumps as he glares up at him indignantly. Steve ignores it.

“In time,” Loki replies. “For now I must rest. My magic is still present – clearly – but I cannot control it whatsoever until I am stronger. I barely have the capability to reach out for it. Once I regain my strength I will mend my heart and I will fix Tony.”

“And in the meantime?” Bruce asks, an eyebrow raised.

“Yeah, what do we do with him?” Tasha bounces Tony on her hip.

Loki grins mischievously. “As Director Fury stated, he’s your problem.”

The team falls silent.

Eventually, Bruce gulps. “…No but, he meant that we can like, hire a nanny, right?”

Loki’s grin doesn’t falter. “He didn’t let Tony hire a nanny before.”

“But – what – no – nuh uh – no way.” Clint springs up from the chair. “I’m not being a part of this, no way.”

“Clint, if you even think about trying to get out of this, think again,” Tasha growls. Steve notices Tony frown at her stern tone, mimicking her expression. “Try to run away? I’ll catch you. And you’ll be the first to change his diaper.”

Clint freezes at the door.

“Screw you, Romanoff, I ain’t never cleaning baby poop especially if it’s Tony’s baby poop!”

At first, Tasha doesn’t speak. She simply walks over to Steve and hands Tony back to him carefully (because Steve’s still afraid of holding something so small and breakable), and then she breathes in deeply before stalking over to Clint, wrapping her claw-like hands around his collar and slamming him into the wall, face merely a breath away from his.

“You listen here, Barton. We’ve been given orders therefore we see those orders through, you got me?” Clint’s eyes grow wider. “In every mission we’ve ever been on together, you manned up and you got the job done, no matter the cost. You do as you’re told and you play your goddamn part or so help me I will release the contents of your porn stash to the press do you understand me.” Clint opens his mouth. “Yes, I do know where it is. What, you think I wouldn’t find it? I judge you so bad but I think the general public would judge you even more. You wanna go there, tough guy? Huh? HUH?”

“Okay okay okay!” Clint cries. “Okay! I’ll do whatever I gotta do, jesus christ.”

Tasha pats his shoulders and spins back around, a smug smirk on her face. It disappears when she sees Steve holding Tony at arm’s length. Tony’s face is scrunched up, bright red and he looks ready to explode.

“Oh dear,” Thor mutters, shaking his head. “Oh dear, dear, dear.”

“I don’t think he liked your shouting, Tasha,” Steve mumbles. Tony’s bottom lip quivers.

Clint throws his hands over his ears. “It’s gonna blow!”

And he does.

For the next hour and a half, the crying is non-stop. No one is able to soothe him.

Within twenty minutes of the bawling, Loki had ordered them out of the room. He couldn’t take it anymore. (“WELL NEITHER CAN WE!” yelled Clint).

Eventually, Tasha calls the team together to gather around Tony, who’s lying on a baby mat in the newly kitted out rec room (seriously, how did Fury get the rec room suitable for a baby so quickly? It’s even been repainted to a light yellow. Steve shakes his head. He still doesn’t understand the future).

“Right team. This must be something more than just the yelling I did. He’s either hungry, or he needs a diaper change. Now we gotta sort out a rota here because hell, I’m not doing this every time and…” She rattles off, beginning to set the “diaper rota”.

Clint nudges Steve with his elbow, and tilts his head towards the door. Steve nods. He’s not dealing with diapers either. Bruce and Thor catch their eyes, and they all creep away silently from behind Tasha, and once they’re safe enough away, they make a dash for it.

They’re almost at the elevator when they hear her.

YOU BASTARDS!”

Chapter Text

"Where the hell do you think you've been?" 

The abrupt, furious bark manages to catch four of probably the most vigilant men on Earth off guard, which is saying something. With an undignified squeak, Clint freezes on the spot, eyes round like saucers and mouth drawn tightly shut. The sudden halt causes Steve to bump into the back of him, but Clint is so focused on finding the source of the all-too-familiar voice that he doesn’t even flinch, so Steve’s awkwardly wrapped around the archer for a second before collecting himself and peeling away. Bruce - who’s been walking behind Steve and Clint - stumbles around them in an attempt to avoid a collision, but catches Steve’s foot as he goes past and almost falls flat on his face. His cheeks flush a brilliant shade of red instead of green because it’s just embarrassing for a grown man to find himself flailing into the middle of an open, empty space. Thor strides past the other’s spectacular situation with his head held high, eyes seeking out the man who steps into the sunlight which is streaming in through the lobby’s doors.

The four of them had decided to enter into the tower in the most unusual way – for them – possible to avoid, well, this. The front entrance seemed so stupidly simple that they had deemed it the most unlikely place for them to be confronted in. They were wrong.

“Did you not hear me correctly?” Fury spits, his hands clasped together behind his back as he storms over, face like thunder. “I asked where you’ve been, assholes.”

“”We uh, we went to do a perimet-”

“We drank and were merry.” Thor cuts Clint off, his face happy and genuine. “It was glorious. The Hawked One and I had a contest. Which I won.” His pride is clear – as clear as Clint’s disbelief.

Dude,” the shorter man whines, jutting his head forwards as a sign of his agitation, “shut up.”

Thor looks at him, incredulous and confused, but Fury coughs loudly to recapture their attention.

“I swear to whatever god is listenin’, if I could shoot you all in the foot, I would.”

“Sorry, sir,” Steve apologises, looking at his feet in shame. Clint rolls his eyes.

Goody-two-shoes.

“Ha, I’d like to see you try,” Bruce mutters, and meets Fury’s glare with a cool, calm smile.

Anyways, Miss Romanoff is not the only one whose problem this is. You all gotta pitch in and deal with this…this…issue.”

 “But sir - ”

“But nuthin’.”

“ - I don’t like children.”

“And I don’t like you, Barton. But I have to deal with you. So you’re gonna deal with this. Stark looked after you when you were a screaming brat. Now it’s your turn. So congratulations, daddies. It’s a boy.”

“No. No way.” Bruce backs off. “I’ll end up throwing him out of a window.”

“Then I’ll throw you ou-” Fury pauses. His face scrunches up a little as he peers at Bruce. “Never mind. Just do your part. The easier it is to deal with Tony, the easier it’ll be to juggle having a baby around and your missions. And the quicker Loki heals up, the better.”

“It’s all his fault in the first place,” Clint grumbles.

Fury’s eyes widen. “Oh yeah, let’s just give him to the heart attack survivor and make him do all the work. Wow, Barton. That’s thoughtful of you.”

“Last time I checked, you hated the guy,” Bruce chips in. “Is that compassion I detect?”

Astounded, Fury gawps at him. “Compassion is for the weak, dumbass. I’m just sayin’ that Loki can’t do shit for us right now. It’s down to you. Now get up to that rec room and do your damn job.”

“It’s not even a job - ”

“If I say it’s a job, it’s a fuckin’ job.”

Steve salutes. “Yes sir.”

Clint punches him in the arm.

*

“I’m not going to wipe his ass. Like, ever.”

Clint leans against the wall of the elevator with his eyes closed, eyebrows knitted tightly together, and arms folded against his chest.

Steve pinches the top of his nose, also closing his eyes. “I have a bad track record when it comes to dealing with kids. I could break him.”

“Talking of breaking things, I wonder how the Other Guy would react to a baby.” Bruce sniggers at the mental image of the Hulk trying to change a diaper, but then winces when he imagines how frustrating that would be and how easily the Hulk could crush Tony between his fingertips. Obviously having a similar mental image, Thor bites his lip in concern.

“This will indeed be a spectacle to remember.”

“If I see Tony’s ass, I won’t want to remember,” Clint groans.

*

Steve freezes when the rec-room-come-nursery door creaks open.

After exiting the elevator, the four of them had been incredibly surprised to be greeted with silence. No crying, no voices, no nothing. Aside from the noisy door, they slip into the nursery quietly, bracing themselves for a presumed-inevitable blast of Russian rage, but instead spy Natasha sprawled across Pepper on the couch – both of them dressed in comfortable clothing – and snoring softly. Their faces are serene with sleep but their red heads of hair are awry, indicating stress or, judging by Clint’s smirk, something else entirely. Steve, in displeasure, nudges Clint in the ribs with his elbow and the bowman jumps, almost letting out a yelp. He giggles sheepishly and shrugs.

“What’s a man to think?” he whispers, but shies away from Steve’s stony glare.

Beside the couch, there’s a cot. Steve tiptoes over and finds Tony inside, wide awake and eyes shining. He locates Steve and smiles behind his new pacifier, reaching his small hands up in an attempt to grab the looming man.

“Hey, lil’ fella,” Steve coos.

Tony’s fingers curl inwards in grabby motions, and his legs kick out furiously. Sucking a breath in, overcome by how adorable baby Tony is, Steve kneels beside the cot and pokes his hand through the bars, allowing Tony to wrap his pudgy fist around Steve’s index finger. He gurgles and squeals with delight. Steve beams. Tony returns to sucking on his pacifier which has a little yellow duck on it as decoration. His sleep suit matches; a baby duck is on the right of his chest, and Steve can see the gentle glow of the arc reactor beneath the material. Tony clenches around his finger even harder, surprising Steve with his strength, and Steve kneels up higher so he can see Tony over the top of the bars rather than through them. With his other hand, he runs a finger down the side of Tony’s face. The skin is like silk and his cheeks are podgy and round. Steve pokes one and Tony giggles, kicking his feet out again happily.

“Jesus, it looks like he won the best prize at the carnival,” Clint muses to Bruce and Thor, eyeing Steve. Pulling himself away from Tony, Steve stands and frowns.

“Have you seen how cute he is?”

“I think him most endearing,” Thor says with a smile as he crosses the room and stands beside Steve. “When he’s not bawling, that is.”

Looking at Tasha and Pepper, Steve tilts his head to the side.

“Guys, can you get some blanke-”

He’s cut off by screaming.

Tony is wailing at the top of his lungs, hands desperately reaching up for Steve, and he rolls onto his stomach, then climbs to his feet after hauling himself up using the bars. He bounces as he sobs, face bright red.

“STEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE,” the baby pleads. “STEEEEEEEEEE!!”

Steve flounders, his hands everywhere but Tony because he doesn’t know what to do. Thor, however, swoops in and grasps Tony under his armpits, lifting him up and holding him at arms-length.

“Now see here, young one,” the god orders. “You silence that awful din this instant!”

Tony cries harder. Thor looks at a loss.

“Dammit, Steve!” Clint growls. “Why’d do you have to make him cry?”

Steve goes to defend himself but is cut off by a female voice which seems fuelled by an incredible rage.

“I have just got him to calm down.” Tasha is standing, eyes flashing with fire and hands balled into fists. “I have just got him to calm down,” she repeats. Steve backs away. She imitates his footsteps. “I will kill you, and then when you’re dead I will kill you again.”

“You can’t do that,” Clint mutters.

“Salt and burn,” is all Tasha replies to that with, her words coalescing in a snarl which makes the hairs at the nape of Steve’s neck prickle. A wall greets his back, providing no assistance in his attempt to escape the angered woman, and she curls her hand around his throat as she puts a gun to his temple. Dark, bruise-like marks circle exhausted eyes, and she blinks hard before glaring at him once again. Tony’s sobs stutter, but Steve is too focused on the loaded gun which is pressed into his head than anything else.

“Sorry! Sorry! I didn’t know he’d cry!”

“Screw you, you useless piece of crap,” Tasha snaps, letting go of his neck and whacking her hand on the side of his head.

“How rude!” Steve hits back, rubbing his skull. She takes the gun away and turns. Pepper is pointing another gun at Clint and Bruce, the most likely reason for the fact that neither of them have spoken in the past few minutes.

“Pep, put the gun down,” Tasha sighs, but Pepper doesn’t falter.

“I heard what Loki had done so I came as fast as I could,” the other pissed-off red head explains. “Tasha was very, very angry with you and I’m surprised she hasn’t bazooka’d your heads off already. You’re cowards. All of you.” The gun clicks. Bruce and Clint yelp and hold each other. “I’ve been toiling away here trying to get Tony to sleep and though he didn’t nod off, he finally quietened down until you all came waltzing back in here stinking the place out with alcohol and then you wake him back up just so we – Tasha and myself - can go through the motions all over again?!”

“Pep-”

“I mean, I’ve dealt with Tony’s shit before but never his literal shit and once again Tony is entirely dependent on someone other than himself and if you don’t do something to help I will shoot to kill.”

“Jesus Christ,” Clint gasps, clutching Bruce - who’s starting to lose it – closer. Clint doesn’t even realise that Bruce’s skin is tinging green. When Pepper does, she immediately drops the gun.

“Oh.”

“Yeah, oh,” Bruce growls, but his skin returns to normal as he considers the lowered weapon. “We realise that we have a job to do here. Fury decided to drill it into us earlier.”

Tony hiccups and his crying softens, and half a dozen shoulders drop with relief until he starts back up again, somehow even louder than before. Tasha rolls her eyes in exasperation and stalks over to Thor to take Tony from him. The god crosses his arms and slumps, stomping away to stand next to Steve and watch as Tasha bounces him in her arms.

“Shhhhhhh,” she hushes, stroking his hair. Tony continues to cry, and Tasha looks just about ready to break down herself.

Steve’s eyebrows lift. “Huh. I think I have an idea.” Everyone looks at him. “It just might do the trick.”

*

Loki isn’t amused – visibly – when the bawling baby is brought into his midst. His eyes narrow, and the book he’s reading drops onto his lap.

“I do hope this isn’t punishment,” he says through gritted teeth, but Steve shakes his head.

“Just an experiment.”

Loki begrudgingly watches the flailing boy as he’s brought to his bedside, but a grin breaks out onto his face when a set of enormous brown eyes meet his and the sobbing halts almost instantly.

“Lo Lo,” Tony says with glee, patting his hands together.

“Hello, Tony,” Loki chuckles. “Sorry about this.”

“Lo Lo,” Tony repeats, struggling towards Loki, away from Tasha who’s been carrying him. Warily, Tasha places the baby into Loki’s hands, and the god cradles him against his chest whilst running a finger up and down his nose. Tony yawns, showing his small number of teeth, and smiles.

“That’s impressive,” Bruce decides. Loki shrugs, nonchalant.

Tony closes his eyes, and so does Tasha who dropped into the chair beside Loki’s bed only seconds after she’d handed Tony over. Both begin to snore, and the others smile.

“So tomorrow there’s a list of things we need to do,” Pepper announces, and smiles drop. “Fury may have fixed up a nursery but it lacks the bare essentials for a baby, probably Fury’s way of torturing us further. We need someone to go to a store to pick up diapers and other items, so I’m happy to go with someone to do that.”

“I’ll do it!” Clint calls out. Everyone turns to him with raised eyebrows. “What? Any time I can spend away from Tony is time well spent.”

“The people of New York – will they not recognise you?” Thor asks.

“I’ll wear my hoodie.”

“People will think you’re a dangerous youth,” Steve says. “A guy in a hoodie buying baby supplies? They’ll definitely think you’re up to something.”

“Hmm,” Clint wonders, rubbing his chin. “Maybe I’ll just walk in in all my gear and perhaps they’ll give us all the stuff for free because I’m a national hero.” Bruce snorts, and Clint shoots him a glare. “What, I am!”

Pepper sighs.

“Look, we’ll discuss this in the morning. In the meantime, Tony is finally asleep so I suggest we copy him and hit the hay.”

Loki’s head darts up.

“What? You can’t leave me here alone with him! What if he wakes and starts crying again?”

“Tasha’s here to keep you company,” Pepper winks. Loki pales, his gaze slipping from Pepper to the sleeping Tasha and back again.

“She’ll murder me if he wakes in my possession!”

“Then you’d better be extra careful then, Loki dear.” 

Chapter Text

“I have located the jars.”

“I still can’t believe you made us bring comms.”

“What! This store is huge and it’s easiest if we can talk to each other from afar.”

“It seems like I’m talking to myself. People are giving me funny looks.”

“Don’t they always, Pepper?”

“How dare you.”

“I mean, you are a ginger.”

“You’re a dick.”

“Language. You’re in the baby section, remember? Delicate ears make cause for delicate words.”

“I’m going to kill you.”

“Stop it, you’re scaring the children.”

“There’s no one in my aisle!”

“Well, you’re scaring me.”

“Shut up. What food do you see?”

“Lots.”

“I swear to – ugh – I mean particular flavours?”

“Flavourey flavours.”

“You have ten seconds to run because I’m heading towards your aisle and if you’re there when I get there then may god have mercy on your soul.”

Clint cackles down the comm and scarpers, dashing into the diaper aisle where diaper packets reach up to the ceiling on enormous, towering shelves. Grinning from ear to ear, he does what he does best.

Well, second best.

Maybe third best.

First is archery. That’s what he’s best at.

Second is his way with women.

Third is climbing.

And climb he does.

*

“Get down, Clint.”

“Make me.”

Pepper looks ready to scream the place down as she glares up at him from below. Her hands are perched on her hips, and her face is red with anger. Clint is situated on the very top shelf, hidden amongst the diapers aside from his face which peers through the gap and down at the grumpy red-head on the ground. He laughs when a male sales assistant sees Pepper looking upwards, follows her gaze and then stumbles back when his eyes meet Clint’s. Clint winks, and the assistant’s jaw drops before they say something inaudible into the walkie-talkie and then dash off around the corner.

“Clint, I’m going to count to three.”

“You can see all the way across the store from up here!”

“One.”

“Oh hey! That sales assistant found his manager.”

“Two.”

“Wow, that’s a hot manager. Look at the pins on her!”

“Three.”

“Eh eh eh.”

“CLINT BARTON GET DOWN FROM THAT SHELF THIS INSTANT!”

“NO!”

“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to climb down please.” The “hot manager” looks both amused and unimpressed at the same time, her arms folded. Clint beams at her and launches himself down. The sales assistance screams because they must think he’s leaping to his death, but just before he makes contact with the floor, Clint rolls in mid-air and he lands gracefully on his feet, barely millimetres from Pepper’s nose.

“Hey,” he says casually. What he doesn’t anticipate is her knee smacking into his crotch.

“Terribly sorry,” Pepper sighs, turning to the manager who’s astounded. Clint rolls around on the ground behind her, clutching himself. “Apparently I can’t take him anywhere.”

“I’d really appreciate it if this didn’t happen again, or else I’m afraid we’ll have to ban you both from the store.”

Pepper’s deceptively placid face flickers

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me, madam. You control your boyfriend or you’re banned.”

Pepper chuckles. “Oh that’s funny. Because I have enough money to buy you out. You’re a single store, right? Not a big chain. Pity. For you, that is.”

“Oh please.” The manager throws her head back in a laugh, but chokes on it when Pepper flashes her business card. “You-you’re Pepper Potts? Oh god I knew I recognised you! Stark Industries CEO, oh gosh it’s a pleasure to meet you.” She extends her hand but Pepper simply eyes it with distaste.

“That’s…great. Now let me and my colleague - not boyfriend – buy our items and leave your premises without any other threats, okay?”

“Not – boyfriend,” Clint agrees between pained sobs. The manager nods and flusters and asks if there’s anything else she can do for them and then apologises so incessantly that Pepper almost almost smacks her in the face.

When they exit the store, Clint is limping, still rubbing himself, and Pepper is in the car in a flash and screeching off into the distance before Clint can even reach for the handle. Shocked, he stands there staring after the car until it’s out of sight, and his pocket buzzes.

See you back at the tower. Enjoy your walk/limp. PP xx

Clint’s hand squeezes around his phone and he looks at the tower in the distance.

He really doesn’t like Pepper.

It doesn’t even cross his mind that he deserves it.

*

“Tony, c’mon buddy.” Steve waves the spoon around in the air near Tony’s face. “Eat your egg.”

Tony clamps his mouth shut every time the spoon comes near.

“Uh uh,” he hums.

“Tony, you gotta eat!”

“Uh uh.”

“Have you tried the airplane method?” Bruce asks, not lifting his eyes from the paper. He takes a sip from his coffee.

“The airplane method?”

“You know. The airplane method. Where you pretend the spoon is a plane and swoop it around and say ‘Here comes the airplane!’ and it works wonders.”

“…What?”

Sighing, Bruce lets the paper fall to the table and stands to walk round to beside Steve. Tony smiles, bouncing in his high chair. Taking the spoon, Bruce swirls it in the air and then heads for Tony’s mouth.

“Open wide! Here comes the airplane! Permission to land?”

Tony squeals with joy and opens his mouth to allow Bruce to feed him. Smugly, Bruce looks at Steve, whose jaw is hanging agape.

“That’s amazing.”

“I know.”

“Where’s Tasha?” The two men and the baby glance up, spying Pepper storming into the nursery with bags of shopping in her hands. Her face is a picture of rage.

“What did Clint do?”

Where is Natasha?”

“She’s in her room…?”

“Thanks. Hey, Thor, can you put these away?” Pepper dumps the bags on the counter and stalks back out, leaving Thor staring at the bags and at the cupboards, not quite knowing what to do.

*

When Clint finally makes it back, he groans into the couch cushion.

“Why didn’t you just get a cab?”

“Because I had no money.”

“That sucks.”

“Yeah, Steve, you don’t say.”

“You sort of asked for it. You shouldn’t have climbed - ”

“Shut your trap.”

“Look who’s decided to turn up!” Pepper sing-songs as she re-enters the nursery. Clint flips her off. “Oh, Tasha told me the location of your porn stash so if you think about doing something like that ever again I have leverage.”

Clint lets out a “ha” before replying, “I moved it.”

“You think Tasha wouldn’t find it again?”

“…..Fuuuuuuuck.”

“Exactly.”

Tony crawls over to his building blocks and taps them with his hands. Steve’s sprawled out on the floor nearby playing with the toy cars and Bruce has joined him, sitting cross-legged and soaring planes above them, declaring war on the vehicles below. Pepper rolls her eyes.

“It’s like you’re all still children.”

“There’s nothing wrong with being young at heart,” Steve retorts, zooming his car around Tony causing him to giggle. Clint rolls onto his back and stares at the ceiling. He almost jumps out of his skin when Tony appears beside him, pulling himself to his feet using the couch edge and peering at Clint with curiosity.

“Shoo!” Clint hisses. “Shoo, little turd.”

“Tud,” Tony copies, nodding his head with acceptance. “Tud.”

Pepper groans. “Clint.”

“What? You should be happy! I taught him something useful.”

“How on earth is ‘turd’ going to be of use to a one year old?”

“Tud,” Tony says again. And again. And again.

“It’s better than other far more vulgar words. Plus, if he gets pissy and starts calling everyone turds then it’ll be hilarious.”

“Don’t use the baby as a source of humour.”

“Don’t use my porn as blackmail.”

“Don’t be a dick then.”

“See! Now look who’s saying bad words around the baby.”

“…Dik.”

Clint shakes his head disapprovingly. “Look what you’ve done, Pepper. Look what you’ve done.”

*

“How are you feeling, brother?”

Thor is seated on Loki’s bed, patting his brother’s knee and smiling sadly. Loki wiggles his toes as he stretches, making the sheets ripple, and rubs at his eyes.

“Much better, thank you.”

“Do you anticipate the return of your magic soon?”

“It depends if my heart gives out once again. If so, my magic will be long in returning. It seems now I am on the road to recovery, and if I keep it up at this rate, I’ll be able to heal myself soon without any – or many – complications.”

Thor pats Loki’s knee once again.

“That is good.”

“Indeed. How are the others faring with the baby?”

Thor sturgeons. “So-so. The Hawked One is particularly irked by the situation, and Lady Pepper is, I fear, growing wrinkles from the amount of stress she is under.”

Wincing, Loki snuggles down further under his sheets. “I am, in all honesty, very sorry.”

“I know you are, Loki. I know you are.”

“I do so wish to be out of this hospital. After all of those days being surrounded by company, it is very dull to be alone.”

“I am sure that when the doctors announce your well-being contents them, then you will be allowed to live upstairs once again. However in the meantime it is best if you are in a place where you can heal your fastest.”

I suppose so,” Loki sighs, stretching again. “Will you perhaps ask the others if Tony can come and visit me again this evening? I can tell him a story like I did Steve.”

“Of course. You still have not told me in full about this ‘nightmare occurrence’ of Steve’s. It appears to have changed you greatly.”

Loki bites his lip.

“It did. Amongst other things.”

“Things like Tony?”

“Mmm.”

Thor pats Loki’s knee one more time. “I am thankful to him for that. More so than he will ever know. It is the deepest, most profound happiness I have felt, having you back the way you were. I can finally talk to you as I used to. I owe Stark a lot for that.”

Loki smiles at Thor. Thor smiles at Loki. From the CCTV room, Fury’s lips quirk as he stares at one screen in particular, and tilts his head as he listens.

Norse gods really are something else.

Chapter Text

It quickly becomes apparent that Tony Stark is a very restless child. He's forever on the move - either crawling or rolling - and he's always demanding attention. Those around him have to be extra vigilant, or else he disappears faster than should be possible. 

"Tud," Tony chirps at Clint, whom has come to be known as 'Tud' which both amuses and irritates Pepper endlessly. Amusing because Clint is being called a turd in baby language which he hates, therefore Pepper loves. Irritating because Tony knows the word in the first place, even though his adult self could reel of thousands more curse words, and far filthier ones at that. From the couch, Steve laughs aloud as Clint bounds to his feet and dashes to the other side of the room after Tony starts to crawl towards him.

“Why does he insist on coming near me?” Clint moans in annoyance, wrenching a box of Fruit Loops from the cupboard and shovelling some straight into his mouth. “Do I look like I want to play?”

“Don’t talk with your mouth full.” He shoots Tasha a glare and goes back to munching on the rainbow-coloured cereal.

“Tud!” Tony pouts, staring at Clint from over Bruce’s shoulder since the man has scooped him up and is  now advancing on Clint. Clint’s face drops.

“No! Stay away!”

Fruit loops fly everywhere.

“He’s just a baby, Barton!” Bruce cackles, breaking into a jog. “He can’t hurt you!”

Pepper’s hands fly to her mouth. “Careful with him! Oh god.”

Shrieking, Clint tears across the room and bumps into Thor, who takes him by the shoulders, spins him around and - with god-like strength – holds him in place.

“Lemme go, you bearded, overly-muscular Barbie!” Though confused due to not knowing what on earth Barbie is, Thor doesn’t adhere to his wishes. Bruce grins evilly as he advances, now with Tony in both hands and facing the struggling archer. “I don’t wanna be – no! – please, I just – no it’s smelly and – NO!”

“Tuuuuud!” Tony squeaks as he cups Clint’s face in his tiny palms. Clint holds his breath, leaning as far back as Thor’s grip will allow, but Bruce simply follows with Tony. There’s no escape.

“Hold him or I will punch you.”

“No.”

“Hold him or the Other Guy will punch you.”

Clint scowls, but reluctantly holds his arms open and Bruce places Tony into his hands. Thor lets him go. There’s a long silence as Clint stares at Tony, Tony stares at Clint and as everyone stares at them. Inquisitively, Clint cocks his head to one side and looks Tony up and down as the baby smiles in his grasp.

“As long as he doesn’t start screeching, I think I can deal.”

Ironically, at that exact moment, Tony’s face reddens and scrunches up. Clint’s too busy tutting at Bruce for his threat to notice, but Thor does. He taps Clint on the shoulder.

“Friend, I do believe - ”

“Oh crap.” The smell hits Clint’s nose before anyone’s. “MAYDAY MAYDAY WE HAVE A SITUATION IN THE HULL.”

Everyone freezes. Glances are shared this way and that.

Clint looks absolutely petrified.

“GO GO GO!” Pepper yells suddenly, and before Clint can think another thought, or move even a fraction, he’s alone in the nursery. There’s a click as the door is locked. Through the glass, the others wave with smirks on their faces. Clint’s jaw falls open. Tony sobs.

“Diapers are in the closet!” Tasha calls.

“Don’t forget to make sure he’s squeaky clean!” Bruce hoots.

Very slowly, Clint moves his eyes from (don’t say it don’t say it he’s learnt too many bad things from you already) those people outside the door to the unhappy child in his hands whose stink is something that rivals and possibly even beats Clint’s own farts. A part of Clint’s brain is impressed. The rest of his brain is disgusted.

“When you become an adult again I am going to fire an arrow into your butt and you will never poop again, let alone sit down.”

Tony’s cries even harder.

Clint takes that as an acknowledgement.

*

“Oh jeez, what did you eat?”

Clint wants to barf. He really, truly does. Tony is lying on the baby mat kicking his legs and wailing, and Clint can’t even get a hold of the diaper because there are flailing limbs in the way. “Jarvis, do you have ANY idea how to change a diaper?”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Barton, but Miss. Potts has advised me not to…advise.”

“But you can see I’m struggling!”

“That’s not really my problem.”

“You are rude.”

“I was made by Tony Stark.” Clint glowers at the baby, and then at the ceiling or wherever the fuck JARVIS comes from. Damn Stark tech stupid AI bodiless voices with attitudes mother fu – “Good luck, Mr. Barton.”

“I swear to god, everything is problematic because of you,” Clint hisses at Tony, who’s still crying. “Right, let’s just…get this over with.” He rips open the first seal of the diaper. “Oh god I’m going to see your thing.” Clint hops from foot to foot, almost crying himself. “How could they do this to me?” He unsticks the other seal. “I hate this. I hate them. I hate you, you noisy little – UGH, IT SMELLS WORSE NOW.” The audience outside the door whoops with laughter. He flips them the finger. “Uuuuh huh huh huuuuuh this is so unfair!”  The front of the diaper drops open and Clint screams, springing away. “NOOOOOOOOOOOO TINY TONY PEEN NOOOOOOOOO.”

He covers his eyes.

“Deal with it, Barton!” Steve shouts through the glass.

“I never wanted to see this! Not in adult form, not in baby form, not in any form whatsoever! And you’re telling me I have to wipe it?!”

“Good and proper!” Pepper grins.

“WAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” Tony wails.

“Shut up!”

Tasha bangs a fist on the glass. “CHANGE HIS DIAPER, CLINT. It isn’t fair on him anymore!”

“ARGH!!!” is all Clint replies with but he spins and tries to think of a way he wouldn’t have to look but comes up short so he breathes in deeply –

Oops. Big mistake.

Lungful of poop stink.

“EURGH.”

Whipping out the used diaper, he retches as he spies the source of the smell. He flings it into a bag and ties it before flinging it into the trashcan, and then he lifts Tony’s legs up with one hand and braces himself before going in with the wipe. When all appears clean, Clint slides another diaper underneath and freezes.

How the hell does this thing work?

“How - ”

A hand pats his shoulder. He hadn’t even heard them all come back in.

“You did well, Clint,” Pepper says proudly. “I’ll take it from here.”

Stumbling back, Clint finds himself in Steve’s arms.

“Steve,” he whimpers, looking into the huge man’s eyes. Steve nods and pulls Clint into his chest.

“I know, buddy. I know.”

*

Clint remains in shock until Tasha makes a hot chocolate for him from a recipe that she does not divulge even after Steve’s nineteenth time of asking. The only thing she does reveal is her frustration towards his persistence.

“It’s a thing she does for me,” Clint explains as he takes the cup away from his lips with a contented smile. “After every mission she makes me this incredible hot chocolate that she learnt to make from some tribe in some far off land somewhere.” He and the red-head share a wink, and he takes another slurp.

“I saw you add saffron! Why would you add saffron?!” Steve flounces around her and eventually she grabs his collar and shoves him onto the armchair.

“I have kept this a secret for a very long time so no matter how much you beg and plead and whine you will not find out what makes it so delicious.”

“And you’ll never get to try it, either,” Clint adds. “It’s for me, and me alone.” He pokes his tongue out at the soldier who slumps his shoulders and grumbles.

“Shoot.” All attention goes to Pepper as she enters the room with Tony hitched on her hip. “I have a situation.”

“What?”

“I’ve been called away. An urgent meeting with the board and they’re holding it in California since that’s where most of them are right now.”

“You can’t leave us!”

“How will we survive without you? We need a woman around!”

“First of all, how goddamn sexist, Steve. And second, uh, hello? I’m a woman?” Tasha waves at him.

“Pepper nooooooo!” Clint whimpers.

She sighs. “I’m sorry. I don’t – well, Tasha, you’re okay – but I don’t really want to be leaving Tony with you all.”

“Take him with you?” Clint cheers up significantly.

“No.”

“Oh.” He deflates.

“He’ll need to get some fresh air whilst I’m gone. You cannot keep him cooped up in here for however long he’s a baby. I hope to god that he’ll be adult again when I get back.” She sets Tony on the carpet and he crawls towards Clint, who pulls his feet up onto the couch. “I expect people to keep me updated.”

“When you say fresh air - ”

“I don’t mean the helipad. I mean he needs a walk. In the stroller. Outside.”

“But we’re all recognisable!”

Pepper shrugs. “Then send someone who isn’t.”

*

“No,” Coulson growls into his phone the following day.

“C’mon! Just for an hour round Central Park?”

“I’m needed here at all times.”

“Tell me, Phil – can I call you Phil? – do you sleep?”

“What.”

“It’s a simple question. Do you sleep?”

“…Yes?”

“Therefore you are clearly not needed at all times. Therefore you can walk Tony around Central Park.”

“Banner. NO.”

*

“So Coulson is a no-go,” Bruce sighs as he takes the phone from his ear and perches on the edge of the couch.

“There’s no way one of us can do it. We wouldn’t even make it out of the lobby without the press snapping photos and following us around.”

“I have an idea.”

“What, Tash?” Clint asks naively.

“Drag.”

“…Drag what?”

“No,” Bruce snaps.

“No but drag what?” Clint presses.

“NO.”

“Oh…OH GOD!” Steve shouts. Tasha grins at him expectantly. “No! I’m not…NO! I’m not doing it!”

“Clint’s been through enough. Thor has a beard. Bruce could Hulk out. I’ll even dress up as a guy to go with you. I have wigs galore and it’ll be easy as pie to find you a cute little dress.”

“No need.” They all spin their heads around to see Loki standing by the door. Thor rushes over and is about to pull Loki into one of his bone-crushing hugs when Loki raises his hand to stop him. “Brother, I am still weak. But my recovery rate is exceptionally fast because I am a god, therefore the medics have allowed me to visit you instead of the other way around.”

Loki is still frightfully pale and slightly shaky, but he walks into the room and kneels beside the happily gurgling Tony.

“Lo Lo!”

“Hey,” Loki beams. Then he looks up at the rest of them. “I don’t have enough magic back to heal myself or Tony, but I can transfigure Steve into a woman for at most an hour, perhaps two.”

“Ha! That’s a funny joke, Loki!” Steve begins to retreat. “Funny joke!” Thor grabs him.

“No need to fear, friend! Loki’s magic will not harm you!”

“It’s not that I’m scared it’ll harm me, I just don’t want to be a - ”

He’s cut off by the swirl of red light that surrounds him.

“LOKI!” shrieks a very annoyed, very surprised and also very female voice.

 

 

Chapter Text

Clint’s jaw drops to the floor. “Jesus Christ.”

Bruce peers over his glasses and will never ever admit that he drools just a little.

Tasha’s hands fly to her mouth. “Steve.”

Thor simply grins.

“I’m a woman, I’m a woman!” Steve yelps, twirling around on the spot and staring down at him – her? – self.. He – she? – pats around her waist, not knowing what to do with her hands, and it’s clear that she’s noticed her new endowments because her eyes are like saucers as she gawps at them. “I have…breasts.”

Incredible breasts,” Clint adds, eyes popping out of his skull. Tasha elbows him in the ribs, but her attention is quickly recaptured when Steve stumbles towards her and she has to catch her by the shoulders. Steve lifts his leg and peers at the scarily high stilettoes that she is adorning.

Why did you put me in heels this enormous when I’ve been a man all my life, Loki?” Steve examines her manicured nails and then pulls at her dress, whimpering. “And why did you put me in a skin-tight red dress?”

Lifting Tony into his lap, Loki sniggers. “Because I can?”

“Argh!”

Steve really is something else. Thick, luxurious blonde hair curls delicately down to the bottom of her back, and her eyes are huge, lined with dark eyelashes and topped with neatly trimmed brows. Her physique makes Tasha feel fat, and her legs are never-ending. Hips curvaceous, breasts the size of melons and an ass that J-Lo would be jealous of, Steve is absolutely stunning.

“My, you make a fine woman,” Thor says in awe, stepping towards him. Steve darts out of the way, teetering and blushing violently.

“No touchie. No. I…I have breasts.”

“Touch them or forever hate yourself.”

All eyes fall on Clint.

“WHAT?” the new female shrieks, trying to cover her cleavage but accidentally enhancing them in the process by pushing them up.

Clint grins eagerly. “Touch them Steve.”

“But I – I’ve never even touched any breasts, I don’t really – I mean – they aren’t mine, not really.”

“They are.” Loki smirks. “If you had been born a woman, this is exactly how you would have matured.”

“You’re a virgin?” Clint gawps, receiving a well-deserved clip around the ear from Tasha.

Not the time, Clint.”

“My junk is gone!”

“That’s because you’re a woman!” Bruce interjects, running a hand through his hair and trying to avert his eyes.

Clint stands. “DAMMIT STEVE, CUP YOUR BREASTS OR I WILL.”

“CLINT!”

“Do you blame me, Tash?!”

“CLINT.”

Steve looks horrified. Clint lifts his hands in defence.

“Alright! Alright. Jeez.”

“Can I at least see what I look like?” Steve asks. Loki clicks his fingers and a mirror materialises in front of Steve. Her eyes narrow as she drinks in her new appearance, but then a small smile curls onto her plump red lips. “Damn, I’m hot.”

“How very pretentious.”

“You sound like Tony,” Tasha sighs, rolling her eyes and then casting them to the baby who’s sitting on the floor chewing on a teething ring. “Well, how Tony used to sound.”

Steve’s hands are near her breasts, and when Clint leans forward for a better look, Tasha pushes him onto his ass in the chair and shakes her head disapprovingly. Steve lingers, but eventually drops her hands and shakes her own head.

“How long do I have, Loki?”

“I’d say an hour, give or take a few minutes. It might stretch for two hours but that’s pushing it.”

Steve nods at her reflection. “Then let’s get this show on the road.”

*

“Why is Steve being so goddamn boring?” Clint moans as they watch her walk into the park through one of the many cameras that are attached to the stroller and her person. “I mean, if I’d been transfigured into a woman, I would have flipped the finger at all of you, run off into a room and locked myself in there to examine everything and then test some things out.” He winks at Loki, who’s looking at him, confused.

“That’s because you’re an ever-horny son of a bitch who’s always been wondering what it would be like to do that,” Bruce sighs.

“Damn straight,” Clint beams, and Tasha sighs for about the fiftieth time since Steve’s change.

*

“People are staring at me,” Steve whispers into the comm.

“No one knows you’re Captain America,” Bruce replies reassuringly. “Plus, you’ve seen yourself, right?”

Steve blushes. “Yes…but…”

“But nothing.” Clint’s voice chips in in the background. “You’re hot. When you’re hot, people stare.”

“Clint.”

“Thus, people can’t take their eyes off of me.” There’s a thwump, and Steve assumes Tasha’s whacked Clint again so she chuckles. In the stroller, Tony is gazing all around him, attention ensnared by the people passing on bikes and the doves that are pecking around on the pathway.

“Ba,” he chirps, stretching his hands out at a nearby dove.

“That’s right, Tony!” Steve smiles. “It is a bird!”

Tony squeals with delight. “Ba!”

Steve’s out of her high heels, instead wearing a pair of sneakers, and she’s dressed in worn grey denim jeans and a simple white polo which she forced Loki to magically dress her in because there was no way she was going out dressed the way she originally was.

Steve hasn’t been able to walk in the public eye for a long time now, and it’s alleviating to be out so freely and know that no one will recognise her. The sun is streaming through the canopy of leaves above the path, dappling the ground and bathing the walkway in a soft, warm light. The dappled ground suddenly becomes a lot closer when something smacks into the back of her, and she almost falls head over heels over Tony but strong arms catch her and she’s brought back to her feet.

“Watch where you’re going, asshole!” an angry voice barks, and Steve spins to see two men glaring at one another, one rugged and tall and like a dark-haired Thor and the other equally tall but far more clean cut and adorned in a sweatpants, sweat bands and a white wife beater.

“She moved into my way!”

“She did not!”

“Uh,” Steve says, but she’s ignored.

“Yes, she did! Look, sorry lady but - ” Suddenly, the runner is grabbed by the collar and Steve stands, wide-eyed, not doing anything because justice is being served and for once he’s not the one throwing the punches, or clutching the collars in this guy’s case.

“Apologise properly,” the other man growls, and the runner gulps before he’s dropped back to his feet.

“Well whadda ya know, chivalry isn’t dead,” Bruce says.

You realise that this guy just wants to get into Steve’s good books to get into his – uh, her – pants, right?” Clint sighs.

Steve goes red.

The runner blinks, sheepish, and turns to Steve. “Sorry, m’am.”

“Thanks…?”

With that, the runner scarpers. Tony begins to cry so Steve has to unhook him from his stroller and hitch him onto her hip.

“You didn’t have to do that, you know,” she says, turning to the man. He lets out a short laugh.

“It was nothing. He was a douche and I literally saw it coming. He had his eyes shut and was singing along to his music and – oh, sorry, I babble. I’m Steven.” Steven holds out his hand.

The laughter that erupts in Steve’s ear almost deafens her. She looks at Steven in shock because of all the names, seriously.

“Ha! Ha, it’s funny because that’s a great name. Funny. Hahaha. Ha. That’s a great name. I’m Ste” he stops. Thinks. “-eee-phanie.” Her fumbling over her fake name makes Steven’s eyebrow rise, but he clearly passes it off as something other than Steve being her real name, not that that’s what he was probably thinking in the first place.

“Pretty name for a pretty lady.”

What the hell, Steve thinks, I am with a child. I could be married for all you know!  But all these thoughts are pushed aside when Steve notices him eyeing up her left hand where no ring is present. Damn.

“Oh, heh, thank you. Um. Yes. Right. Okay.”

“Get in there, Steve,” Tasha giggles. Steve taps his ear and the loud bang on the microphone causes those at the other end to jump and shout at him a little. He blocks it out as best he can.

“So…are you the nanny? Or a single mom? I mean, I see no ring…so am I right to assume…?”

“I’m the nanny. Yep. The nanny. Yes. Right. Okay.”

Steven raises his eyebrow once again. Steve blinks innocently.

“And you’re…not in a relationship? Because I’d love to take you out for a drink. I promise I won’t bump into you unexpectedly.”

“So this guy wins all the awards for the absolute worst pick-up line ever,” Tasha’s voice says, drifting into Steve’s ear.

“No! I mean, to the drink. I can’t. I am…”

“You’re in a relationship?”

“No!” Steve freezes. Backtracks. “I mean yes. Yes, I am. With my boyfriend…” Oh god she needs a man’s name any man’s name any at all. “Clint.”

“SCORE.”

“Who’s this Clint guy? Does he know he’s got such a good thing going for him?” Steven winks. Steve cringes.

“Clint is a sexy ass mother fucker who could take you down, buddy. Don’t be gettin’ near my woman or I’ll break your face.”

“He’s a very protective boyfriend who will beat you up if you come a step closer. Thanks for your assistance but I really must be on my way.”

Steve turns tail and adds a sassy hip movement to his walk and he can hear applause in the comm. Clint whoops.

“You told him! You betcha that I’ll protect you, what with you being all female and vulnerable right now. OW! Tasha stop HITTING me all the time!”

“Stop being a sexist pig, then.”

The utter awkwardness that Steve had been feeling eventually slips away and he returns to admiring the scenery, and Tony returns to his seat in the stroller. The two of them make it around the park with ten minutes to spare if Loki is right about the spell lasting for one hour, and Steve’s about to enter the Avengers’ lobby when there’s a cry for help from an alleyway nearby. Steve stops and frowns in the direction of the sound.

“Steve, what is it?”

“I’ll…I…” She begins, staring down at Tony and then back at the alleyway. Can she even risk it? Steve walks to the top of the alleyway and sees a man being thrown against a wall by another who brandishes a knife.

“NO!” the victim yells. “GET OFF. HELP!”

“Give me the money!”

Not even thinking, Steve leaves Tony on the sidewalk and throws herself down the alley.

“Shit, he – she – GOD WHATEVER - doesn’t have time for this!”

“GO GO! GET DOWN THERE NOW!” comes the distant voice of Fury.

The crackling of the comm dies as it powers off.

The man with the knife pauses and stares at Steve before laughing.

“Seriously, bitch? You wanna taste metal too?”

Steve doesn’t reply, but instead crosses her arms.

“You really don’t wanna go there,” she warns, fists clenching at her sides. The man laughs again.

Please.” Suddenly, the victim is slammed into the wall so hard that they’re knocked unconscious so that the man can start advancing on Steve. Steve growls under her breath.

“You reeeeeeally don’t wanna go there,” she repeats, tone dangerous and body poised to both defend and attack if need be.

“What, you a superhero or something? I know a lotta martial arts and I will - ” His sentence ends there because Steve launches herself at him and lands a fist in the hollow of his cheek, sending him catapulting into the side of the alley and smashing into the brickwork. He shakily pulls himself to his feet and is about to fight back when Thor lands like a dropped boulder in front of Steve, holding Mjolnir. The man looks like he just found shit in his cereal.

“Oh fuck.”

“‘Oh’ indeed,” Steve sneers, and Thor grasps the man’s wrist which has the hand that’s holding the knife and squeezes, and Steve hears the bones crushing. Screaming, the man falls to the floor and begins to sob, and Clint cackles from behind Steve.

“That’s getting away lightly. If I had my way I’d freaking shoot you in the balls.”

The man screams harder.

“Get him to jail, Thor. Hulk, take that guy to the hospital. We’ll take care of Steve,” Tasha commands, and Steve spins. Tasha’s holding Tony and glaring at him. “Talking of which, Steve, you left Tony unattended.”

Steve winces. “Um. Sorry.”

Tasha goes to reply when her eyes widen. “Uh, Steve.”

“What?”

Clint bursts into fits of laughter. “THA-T WAS SO-O MU-CH MORE SUD-DEN THAN I THOUGHT IT’D B-BE.”

“WHAT?!”

“Steve.” Tasha motions at her chest and Steve glances down to find himself completely naked aside from a small strip of denim like a mini-skirt wrapped around his crotch, barely covering him decently. Decently because he’s now a man once again. He hadn’t even felt the change.

How the hell did that happen?

“THAT’S FU-CKING HILAR-IOUS,” Clint chokes, using the wall to support his shaking body.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

When the Avengers had arrived to assist Steve after his (then ‘her’) decision to take on a psychotic, knife-wielding hobo, Natasha had landed beside Tony and glared at the then curved female back of Steve Rogers. How dare she leave Tony unattended? Tony – unaware of anything, really – was staring around apparently oblivious to Steve’s fight with the homeless man and the arrival of the rest of the team. Sighing deeply, she had turned back to face the then-ended confrontation for the briefest of moments to bark orders and reprimand Steve, and then she had glanced back down at the stroller to find it empty.

Empty.

“Oh,” is all she can quite manage at first. “Oh, oh oh. Oh. OH.”

“What are you – OH.” Steve’s jaw drops and that’s when the panic sets in.

*

“He can’t have gone far!” Tasha decides as they scour the street, and people are beginning to notice them because Steve hasn’t had time to go and find clothes and he’s too worried about Tony to care that he’s basically naked, and so he’s drawing attention due to that. Also, Clint and Tasha are sporting their Hawkeye and Black Widow outfits, and ten minutes later a topless Bruce Banner appears along with the God of Thunder.

“No sign of him?” Bruce asks worriedly as he jogs over to Clint who’s peering into a trashcan.

“Nope.” Clint bites his lip and looks away from Bruce.

“You’re allowed to be scared for him.”

“Of course I am,” Clint snaps suddenly, whipping his head back around. “Just because I go on and on about hating the guy as a baby doesn’t mean I want to lose him. Who’d want to lose Tony Stark? He’s the life of every party and he’s my friend. If we can’t find him, who knows what’ll happen?”

*

The sun begins to set, and SHIELD has almost all of its agents out searching for the baby, but to no avail.

“No luck?”

“Sorry, boss,” Steve replies into the comm, fighting back the tears that are forming in the corners of his eyes. This is all his fault. He’s now dressed in his uniform after an agent came and handed it to him, but right now he’s not Captain America, he’s Steve Rogers searching for his friend, and so the costume feels wrong and far too tight around his neck, as though it’s almost strangling him. “We have to find him,” he whimpers to himself whilst pulling at the collar of his costume. Thor, who has just appeared after checking the alley beside them, places a hand on his shoulder.

“Do…do not fear, friend. We shall.”

“But what if - ”

“Do not dwell on ifs and buts. It does not do well for the mind to worry so.”

“I have every reason to panic, Thor.”

Suddenly, the sky illuminates above them in a pink hue – pinker than the colour that the sunset had streaked it with – and there’s a high-pitched laugh that’s bubblegum sweet and sickly to the ear.

“Looking for something?” trills the voice from somewhere nearby, and the comm crackles.

“You seeing this, Rogers?” Tasha whispers.

“There’s no way I couldn’t be.” His words trail off because he’s trying to locate the source of the voice, but nothing appears until the sky bursts with light again and there’s a scantily clad woman with flowing blonde hair standing on the rooftop across the street, her hands on her hips and as far as Steve can see, a smirk on her lips.

Thor growls beside him. “Amora.”

Steve’s fought her before. The Asgardian sorceress with a bad attitude and too much magic for her own good. She and Loki don’t get along, and had almost destroyed half of the city in the midst of one of their tiffs which the Avengers had had to break up. She’s infatuated with Thor and has made far too many attempts to woo him by fucking things up that makes Steve dislike her even more. Thor certainly doesn’t reciprocate the feelings.

“Thor!” she squeaks, and bounds down to ground level. The street is empty aside from a few parked cars, so there’s no one else around to see their conversation.

“Do you have Tony Stark?” Thor snarls, deep and dangerous, cutting straight to the point. Amora bats her eyelashes, throwing off expressions of innocence and contrived naivety.

“I certainly have no idea what you’re asking.” She winks. Thor raises Mjolnir above his head and she all but rolls her eyes. “Don’t even think about harming me, because otherwise you’ll never see your precious Tony Stark ever again.”

Anger bubbles up inside of Steve. “You want to make a deal. Something in exchange for Tony.” It’s a statement, not a question, because he already knows it’s the truth. She beams at him, and claps her hands together joyfully.

“Very good, Captain! A deal is what I wish for.”

“What do you want?”

Amora twiddles a few strands of her hair between her fingers, looking into his eyes pointedly.

“Loki Laufeyson.”

*

Amora gives them three days to hand Loki over, and promises that Tony will be kept well and safe and then returned as his adult self if the deal is done. Steve had wondered aloud how on earth she had known about Loki, to which she had replied that Midgardian cameras were not the only way to gain visual information, and that magic is just as good if not better.

Without Tony, the team meander back to their old rec room, which has been redecorated in their absence. Clint voices his hatred for the new deco whilst kicking the new couch and wearing an expression of sorrow mixed with rage.

Thor paces.

“I refuse to agree to her terms,” he says, gnashing his teeth. “I will not hand over my brother to her.”

“Then she’ll kill Tony, Thor! You heard her!” Pepper’s on the computer screen, her face white and now drawn. “I’m sorry I ever told you to walk him.” She begins to cry slightly, and Steve wishes he could reach through the screen and pull her into his arms. He’s on the brink of tears himself. He has been for hours.

“Why the hell would she want Loki?” Bruce wraps his hands further around the mug that he has been holding for half an hour and hasn’t touched a single drop of.

“Because my brother is weak now and could not defend himself well if at all,” Thor rants. “No doubt she would do terrible things to him; experimentations, utilising the little magic he has for her own gain…” Thor shudders. “I dare not think about the consequences if we see her deal through.”

It can’t help but be admitted that if Thor’s word is final, then there’s no way that they will ever see Tony Stark again. Thor’s a god. No one will make it even a step towards Loki if they even mentally plan to bundle him out and do the trade.

If Steve had been in this same position a month ago, he would have eagerly handed Loki over in a heartbeat, maybe even less. But now? Now he’s chewing on his lip, a torn man, somewhere between a rock and a hard place with no visible means of escape. He can remember the way Loki treated him when he was stuck as a kid. The way Loki cared and allowed himself to be vulnerable and himself, and how he’d held Steve when he’d had that nightmare, and how Loki had stroked his hair when he’d tucked him into bed. It’s those little things – the things that showed that Loki was a better person than Steve could have ever imagined – that are what are causing him to have an internal battle with himself. Of course he wants to save Tony, but he also doesn’t want to give Loki away knowing that he’s literally sending him to his death.

“Don’t you dare speak ill of my brother!”

Steve focuses back in on the conversation, this time being held between Clint and Thor. Clint is on his feet, hands balled into fists.

“Tony Stark is my friend and he means more to me than Loki, okay? Yeah, turns out your brother’s actually a nice guy once, you know, he’s not being a total dick, and yeah, Tony Stark is a total dick, but he’s our total dick and I’m sorry but which way is it to the infirmary, I have a deal to do.”

Clint spins away on his heel and Thor lunges. Bruce is watching the entire scene, sees Thor’s motion to move after Clint, and Hulks out just in time to catch Thor and hold him back.

“Stop,” Hulk growls simply. Thor struggles, face reddening, but eventually, eventually, he gives up.

“I do not wish to fight,” he says quietly, and Hulk warily lets him go. Thor blinks rapidly. “I merely don’t want to lose my brother after only just having him return to me the way he was.” Thor – Thor, the god – chokes on his words. “The way he was best.”

Clint presses his lips together and then lets out an almighty sigh.

“What are we going to do, then?”

“Maybe Loki might have a plan?” Pepper says, wiping away stray tears with a tissue. “You know, if we tell him about all of this.”

“I’ve already heard enough,” the Liesmith says from the door where’s he’s leaning against the frame. Who knew how long he’d been there for, staring at the ceiling. “So Amora demands me, hmm?”

“Brother, I - ”

Loki raises his hand to stop Thor from talking.

“I will not see Tony killed. If anyone should die, it should be me. After all of the wrongs I’ve done, I must give myself over to take his place.”

“No!” Thor exclaims at the same time as Steve.

Surprisingly, Loki looks to Steve first, and raises his eyebrow, awaiting an explanation for Steve’s disapproval.

It appears that everyone else is as well.

“Loki, you don’t deserve to die,” the solider fumbles, then regains his poise. “We’ve all done things we regret. Things we’re not proud of. Tony Stark is no angel. He’s done a bunch of awful things.”

“I do agree with that,” Pepper concurs weepily.

Loki tilts his head to the side. “I am aware of Tony’s weapon-making past. But still, he was not the hand to murder the people. I have killed people willingly, Steve. I am a terrible person.”

“No. No, you’re just…lost.”

Loki looks away. “I cannot make up for how my misguidance has fouled me.”

Suddenly, unexpectedly, Steve grabs Loki and pulls him into a tight hug.

“We’ve all been lost, some more so than others. There are dark times in our lives that we battle through so that we can find the light on the other side. Don’t you dare ever degrade yourself by your mistakes. Your mistakes are in the past, and everyone is able to change. You did, Loki. For the better. So much better. I never truly thanked you for how you cared for me after my nightmare. You’ve found your light, Loki. You’ve found it. You’ve made it through the darkness.”

“Christ, Rogers, any deeper and we’ll be in freaking China,” Clint drawls, but everyone ignores him.

Loki is still, not yet returning Steve’s embrace. Then he liquefies and falls into him, holding him close.

I’m sorry.”

“I forgive you,” Steve replies truthfully. “We all forgive you.”

“I don’t.”

Clint leaves the room with a dead arm.

*

The team decides that they will try to figure their problem out further in the morning.

*

Which is difficult, when morning comes around and they discover that Loki is missing.

*

Thor, naturally, almost murders Clint before they discover the note.

You come to realise, when absence of someone pains you so, that you cannot survive as you once did, if at all.

Since Tony has been de-aged, I’ve felt lost once again, for he of course is not himself, therefore I am, in most ways, deficient of him. It has taken me these past days to realise that Tony Stark has changed me in more ways than I first thought, and for the first time I am willing to not be selfish, and hand myself over in return of his safety. Though he has expressed concern for me in the past, and yes, we kissed, I do not think he feels as I do about our situation, and I think he would do better if I do not corrupt his life any further than it already has been. It is for the best.

Thor, this is my choice. You could have done naught to prevent my parting.

Farewell, my newest, dearest friends, if I may call you so. Perhaps not Barton, since he seems disinclined to even have the notion of forgiving me. I understand. Also, he was an annoying brat as a child so I can’t truly bring myself to call him ‘friend’ just yet. As you humans say, “no offense”.

I hope Tony comes home himself and well.

I shall miss you.

The writing is messy and scrawled, as though it were written in a rush, or by someone with shaky hands – someone ill.

Or both.

 

Chapter Text

Bruce is the one to discover the note which is neatly folded on the new table in the rec room. As he reads the final words aloud, Thor wordlessly swings Mjölnir at the nearest window and throws himself out of it as the glass shatters to the floor, almost a physical metaphor for his heart. He flies into the distance with Mjölnir circling above his head, the sky cracking with thunder, suddenly transposing into a grey, dark tumult which whips up winds that cause the remaining Avengers shiver.

“He actually did it,” Clint breathes in disbelief, walking to the smashed window and running his hands through his hair. “Like, he gave himself up.”

No one else speaks. No one else really knows what to say. Tasha scans the note that she’s taken from Bruce, who has slumped into a chair, staring into nothingness. Steve - with glassy eyes - reads it over her shoulder.

“At least we’re getting Tony back,” Tasha says in a small voice, clutching the note tighter so the crisp paper crumples under the pressure of her fingertips. The notion makes Steve bite his lip whilst nodding slowly.

Clint stutters out a growl. “Nice timing.” Snapping around, they see reason for the archer’s anguished voice. Amora is hovering in mid-air just outside of the window. Clint is barely feet from her and unarmed, but his fists are clenched and his jaw is set nonetheless. She smirks at him, eyes filled with a twisted joy no doubt founded by her new possession of Loki.

“My, you are all on edge,” she cackles, folding her hands behind her back. Steve storms towards her, barely stopping at the edge of the broken window. She doesn’t even flinch, unless you counted the slight quirk of her sneer which stretched her smirk wider.

“Are you happy now? Have you got what you wanted?” he spits.

Her laugh which follows is high and cruel, fuelled by malice and undoubtedly their hatred for her. “Indeed I have, dear Captain. I have simply returned to deliver what is now rightfully yours.”

She makes an exaggerated, fluid motion with her hands, a glow of pink rushing about her skin from the tips of her fingers, and then it’s over; Tony is in her arms. At the sight, Bruce growls and Hulks out, and Clint shakes with anger. Tasha whips out her guns and Steve can’t believe his eyes. In the Asgardian female’s arms lies a tiny baby Tony, not the adult one she promised.

“What the hell, bitch?” Tasha snaps loudly, stepping closer to the gaping window.

Amora giggles. “The deal was for you to hand Loki over to me, not for him to come willingly. Thus, you are granted the pleasure of your friend as a baby for one more day. Isn’t that wonderful? Think of it as punishment.”

“If you weren’t holding him, I swear to god I would rip your throat out,” Tasha snarls.

There’s a pause as Amora’s malevolent smile uncoils and drops into an innocent pout, her eyes rounding and seemingly emptying themselves of any form of guilt which she has ever acquired.

“…If I weren’t doing this, you mean?”

Clint’s heart stops and his brain short-circuits as Tony is released from Amora’s hold. Tasha shrieks and fires her guns at the place where Amora had been but seconds before.

Now she’s nowhere to be seen.

Steve dives. He throws himself after Tony, who’s hurtling towards the streets below at a sickening speed.  He hadn’t even considered how he’d survive the plummet - he hasn’t a shield or a parachute to provide even the slightest assistance. Nevertheless, when he catches up to Tony, he curls his hands around the tiny form and pulls him to his chest, hoping – praying - for a miracle.

They drop like rocks.

The miracle comes in the form of two huge green arms that wrap around them both. As the muscular limbs fold around him, Steve thanks the Lord and presses his lips against Tony’s skull, whispering repeatedly against the soft tufts of hair that “everything is going to be alright”. He shakes with both fear and adrenaline, and Hulk must feel the shuddering since he tightens his hold somewhat reassuringly, roaring as he pushes off of the Avengers tower with his feet and landing with a smash on the nearest rooftop, keeping Steve and Tony close until the dust has settled. Stumbling out of Hulk’s grip, Steve chokes on a sob of relief as he falls to his knees. Tony’s muffled crying loudens as Steve pulls him away from his chest, and he continues to cry, which should be annoying but is, in fact, the very first sign of human life itself, a thought which shoots through Steve’s mind and makes him happier than he’s ever been to hear it.

*

“I swear I’m gonna – I’m gonna take my damned Rampuri to her fucking jugular if I get my hands on her.”

Tasha seethes as she paces, her hands clutching the sides of her head in despair and indignation. Night has fallen now, and Pepper has been contacted and is up to date, expectedly relieved to hear that Tony is – in most cases except one – fine. The case being that he is now sitting on the floor playing with his building bricks with Steve close by. Steve hasn’t left his side since the incident.

“You’ll let me have a piece of her though, right?” Clint says from the couch where he’s glaring at the ceiling, throwing a stress ball up into the air and catching it over and over again. “I wanna take two arrows and put ‘em in her eyes.”

Thud.

The team look up from their positions to see Thor on the carpet just inside of the broken window. He’s breathing hard and his lashes are wet.

“I have searched your country as best I can,” he breathes. “But my brother is nowhere to be found.”

“You searched the entire United States? In a day? ” Clint replies in awe, sitting up further. Thor tilts his head to the side, forgetting himself for a moment.

“…Yes?” Clint stares, then shrugs. Thor’s saddened expression returns. “I…I fear Amora has taken Loki outside of these borders. If not then I do not know where else to look. The things she could do to him!” Thor falls down to his knees and Bruce walks over, kneeling beside him and patting him on the back as best he can. “I see Amora did not fulfil her side of the bargain.” Thor motions at Tony, a hint of resentment in his eyes amidst the relief.

“She said he’d be back to normal by tomorrow.”

“Then we must hope she has not lied again.”

*

Writhing, Clint pulls the pillow further over his head but it's just not working. Tony's screams penetrate through the material and sink into his skin like knives.

"ARGH SHUT UP!" Clint yells, flinging the pillow at the wall in a last, meagre attempt to silence the baby somehow through the solid barricade. Either someone isn't doing a very good job at soothing him, or no one is doing anything. Clint groans as he falls out of bed and stomps to his door which he wrenches open. He pulls Tony's door open and there he is alone, standing in his cot, holding the bars and screeching. "I hate you."

Shuffling over to the cot and yawning, Clint stares at Tony through tired eyes, willing him to go to sleep. When that doesn't work, he grumbles and lifts Tony out of his cot and lifts him in the air, waves him around a bit and hopes that any smell would make itself known rather than leaving him with having to put his nose to the material. Sadly for Clint, no smell arises, so he scrunches up his face and sniffs the material, relaxing when there's no apparent odour.

"So what's up then, kiddo?"

Tony's crying has significantly lessened since Clint has picked him up, and he pulls himself closer to the archer by wrapping his fists in Clint's night shirt and pressing his cheeks against it. Clint doesn't really know what to do but sit and wait for Tony to calm down before he can put him back to bed, so he takes up the armchair beside the window that looks out across the city and holds Tony against his chest.

He hears the footsteps that enter the room, but doesn't even react because he knows them. They're wonderfully familiar but altogether way too late in their arrival for his liking.

Tasha stops beside the armchair and looks down at Tony and Clint before moving her eyes to the skyline that Clint's are fixed upon.

"Don't say anything about this. Ever." Clint motions at the quiet and gurgling baby whose eyes are bright and reflecting city lights.

Tasha only chuckles, pats Clint on the shoulder and then leaves the room as silently as she came in.

Chapter Text

Clint’s nose wrinkles when he awakens the next morning. There’s something sharp scratching against his cheek, and there’s a solid, dead weight on his chest. When he opens a heavy eyelid to ascertain why something is on him, he’s very quick to realise that the weighty mass is, in fact, Tony Stark. A fully-fledged adult and bearded once again, Tony Stark snores against Clint’s ear, his facial hair itching Clint who is unimpressed until he recalls that he’s missed adult Tony terribly, and now he’s back. No more crying at night, no more diapers - Clint’s overcome.

“You’re back!” Squealing with joy, he hugs Tony close. As he wraps his arms around him, he makes the mistake of looking down. Tony is naked - completely naked. Clint sucks in a breath before “DUDE GET THE FUCK OFF! YOUR BALLS ARE TOUCHING MY THIGH! UGH THEY’RE TOUCHING MY THIGH.”

“WOAH WHAT THE SHIT!?!” Tony literally explodes into the woken world and springs off of Clint, landing with a smack against the window before glancing down with huge eyes and whipping a pillow from the cot to cover himself. “WHY AM I NAKED?!”

“I can exp - ”

“WHY WAS I NAKED ON YOU?!”

“Tony, seriously, gimme a sec to - ”

“WHY WAS I NAKED ON YOU NO CLINT SHUT UP I WANT YOU TO ANSWER ME EXACTLY WHY THE FUCK YOU WERE UNDER ME IN YOUR…YOUR….” Tony motions drastically at Clint who is wide-eyed in the chair. “YOUR UNDER THINGS.”

“These are my pyjamas.”

“I DO NOT CARE, YOU ARE SCANTILY CLAD OH FUCK.” One of Tony’s hands flies to his hair and runs through it, sweat beginning to bead along his forehead and his bottom lip is sucked under his teeth.

“TONY, SHUT UP!” comes a highly strung female voice from the doorway. Clint spins around in the chair and Tony stares upwards. Pepper is standing in the doorway, jacket still on and splattered with the rain which is hammering down upon New York City outside. Her eyes are brimming with tears and she flings herself across the room onto Tony.

“Pep, I’m naked!”

“I’ve seen it all before,” she mumbles into his neck.

“So have I,” Clint whispers under his breath in distaste whilst shuddering. Tony glances at him like what the fuck? but clearly decides he’s misheard and turns his attention back to Pepper.

“Why are you soaking and why are you hugging me like I’ve just come back from the dead? You’re crying, god.” Tony cups her face with his free hand.

“I just got back from a meeting,” she replies, placing her hand over his. “And you never died, thank god. But you almost did.”

“What?”

“You fell out of the sky after Amora dropped you.”

“Ha. Right, okay. Hmm? Say what?

“Um, I don’t think he remembers,” Tasha says, entering the room.

“Remember WHAT?” Tony shrieks, lost. “I’m sorry but would someone please please tell me why I woke up naked on Barton, why my best friend and colleague is crying and talking about me falling from heights and why I really seriously crave milk?”

Clint bursts into peals of laughter at this, and Steve who has materialised beside Tasha is biting his fist to stop himself from doing the same.

“Put some pants on,” Tasha hisses, face devoid of emotion. She throws some at him and they all cover their eyes as he changes.

“Okay. So now I’m decent, can we let Tony know the answers?” Tony demands.

“What’s the last thing you remember?”

“Loki having another attack of angina and then I fainted. There was a lot of bright light. But – oh, wait, shit. Is Loki alright?”

“Yeah!” Bruce pipes up, lying. Both he and a tired, sad Thor have entered the room. “Yeah, he’s fine. Fine. But, uh…nothing since then?”

“…That was…yesterday...?”

The rest of the team look at one another. “Um.”

“GET TO THE POINT!”

Steve rolls his eyes. “Tony, Loki accidentally turned you into a baby. You’ve been a baby for almost a week.”

*

“I can’t believe you let Barton change my diaper!”

Tony storms out of the nursery where the group had returned to after he had come back to them as a baby.

“Neither can I!” Clint’s voice drifts from behind him, but Tony ignores him because he’s set on heading to the infirmary to yell at Loki for causing such a mess.

“Tony, where are you going?” Pepper calls after him worriedly.

“To give Loki a piece of my mind!”

“Oh shit.”

“Um.”

“Someone’s got to tell him.”

Tony!

“ARGH! WHAT?!” Tony spins on his heel and glares at them all. Then he sighs. “Y’know. I shouldn’t be mad at you because you actually kept me alive these past fe – wait. Wait. You…” He points at Pepper. “You said Amora dropped me out of the sky.”

“Yes, that’s sort of what we’re trying to tell you about.”

“Well stop trying and just do it!”

“Amora captured you,” Steve explains, stepping around Tony’s red-headed friend. “We took our eyes off you for a second and you were gone. She wanted…she wanted…”

“She wanted to strike a deal.”

“Exactly. A deal,” Tasha takes over. Tony doesn’t understand why Steve looks so upset.

“She wanted to trade me for something.”

“For Loki.”

 

Now Tony understands.

*

“That son of a – fuck, that son of a bitch.”

“Tony - ”

“I bet he did it because he thinks he “deserves to die”. Was that it?” Tony’s sitting on the couch, hands rubbing his “no-I’m-not-crying” eyes and on occasion pushing away anyone who tries to physically comfort him. “Was that it?”

“That was his original thinking, yes,” Steve replies. “But I talked to him. Told him he’d changed for the better so he shouldn’t judge himself on his past mistakes. In the end, that wasn’t the reason he left.”

“THEN WHY?!”

Without a word, because words fail him, Steve goes to hand Tony the note. The billionaire flinches, but when he notices he’s being given something, he blinks up at Steve and then takes it, unfolding it slowly.

The silence as his eyes scour the lines is deafening.

As he reads on, his face reddens. His fists begin to shake.

““Expressed concern?”” Tony mutters, furious. “Do not think he feels as I do?” “It is for the best”?”

“Hey - ”

The note is crushed between Tony’s palms.

“Tony, are you alright?”

The note crunches further. Tony doesn’t move.

“Hey, Tony.” Steve’s hand rests on his shoulder.

“NO!” Tony wrenches himself away. “NO.” His eyes are brimming. “No.”

Before anyone can say another word, or even move, the door to the nursery slams in Tony’s wake.

*

“Sir? Sir, Miss. Romanoff is attempting to override my system to gain access to your workshop.”

“That’s a poor attempt at trying to cheer me up.”

“Sorry sir. I just thought you’d find it humorous.”

Tony doesn’t reply to that. Instead, he remains with his head against his workbench, occasionally sliding his chair along so he can find a cooler spot after his forehead has brought the last one to his scorching body temperature. He feels feverish. The sickness of fear has come over him; the fear that he’s lost Loki for good, the fear that he hasn’t been in control of himself for the past week, the fear that Thor will forever more hate him for simply being alive whilst his brother isn’t – or at most, barely isn’t. And the fear that Loki doesn’t know how much he cares for him. The fact that Loki thought that leaving him would be what was best. Did Loki not remember that conversation on the rooftop? Had what Tony said slipped in one ear and out of the other? Is Loki going to die thinking that Tony “doesn’t feel as he does”? That the kiss had meant nothing but comfort, maybe?

The thought makes Tony’s knuckles bleed because he punches the underneath of the table. The pain is nothing compared to how his insides are churning – how it’s like there are daggers slipping jaggedly through the arteries and veins that enter and leave his heart. How could Amora take Loki away from him. How dare she take Loki away from him. If he ever finds her he’ll –

He’ll never find her.

Because she won’t dare show her face here again if she knows what’s good for her.

If he can’t find her, then he can’t find Loki.

By now they’ve probably dropped off of the map.

“Or…not…?” Tony breathes to himself, suddenly recalling something which flicks a switch in his brain and throws him into action. “Jarvis, I need you to access SHIELD’s satellite’s system!”

“Yes sir!” The AI actually sounds excited, which doesn’t come as much of a surprise since Tony assumes he’s hardly been used in a week. Tony’s shaking with adrenaline. Everything is a blur yet clear at the same time. He’s at his computers now, fingers sweeping across the keyboards like a forest fire because thank you, Nick Fury. “I’m in.”

The satellite system of the SHIELD agency flashes in front of his eyes. He gets to work routing through files and cracking various codes before the list he’s been searching for appears and bingo! Jackpot.

The tracker entitled ‘Little Bitch’ seems to be his best bet, and sure enough when he selects it an image of Loki pops up in the top right hand corner along with a short snippet from his data file and a link to the rest of it. Tony doesn’t care about that. All he cares about is the small white blip that’s saying Loki is in the north of Sweden. And that Loki is alive. If the blips are white, the host is alive. If they’re red, the host is dead. Relief floods into Tony – a refreshing remedy to his fear-fuelled fever.

“Transfer the information on the tracker to your mainframe and erase it from SHIELD’s. I want a profile drawn up of the entire surrounding area of Loki’s location. Any threat must be assessed and registered.” Tony’s eyes narrow at he stares at the blip. “Prepare the suit.”

*

Darting out of his workshop, he passes the rest of the team who follow behind him as he strides towards the elevator. They’re asking all sorts of questions which he ignores until he reaches the elevator doors and spins on his heel.

“Loki is alive. He’s in Sweden which, Pepper, is where I am going. Yes, I’m better now Steve, thank you.”

“My brother lives?” Thor says with hope. Tony nods.

“How the hell did you find out?” gawps Clint.

Tony taps the side of his nose knowingly. “Look, anyone who wants to go save Loki, come with me.”

Steve bites his lip. “What about Fury? You know he won’t allow this.”

“If we’re quick, Fury won’t know until we’re halfway across the Atlantic ocean,” Bruce replies, and he shares a smile with Tony.

“So who’s with me?”

They all step forward except Pepper who can’t, and Clint.

Clint.”

“I will crush you, little bowman,” Thor growls, making thunder clap outside. He punches his fist into his palm.

The entire way up to the helipad, Clint couldn’t seem more eager to find Loki even if he tried.

 

Chapter Text

It’s painful to move even a fraction, but Loki hadn’t been expecting any less. A dull agony pools in his shoulders, snaking up his arms to his wrists which are clamped in chains. They are held out to the side, in line with his head, locked to the wall which digs torturously into his spine, and his mouth is dry from a thirst begging to be quenched. Lifting weary eyes, he watches Amora prepare the deer that Skurge had dragged in that afternoon. The rancid smell of blood and spilt guts turns Loki’s stomach, making him heave, but he manages to calm himself and not spill the contents of his own.

“I must say, I’m disappointed in you. Running to the Avengers for protection after what you did to me.”

Loki has to swallow hard in order to regain some voice before replying. “I did not seek out their protection,” he spits, suddenly overcome with rage. “I ran to no one. I do not fear you.”

“But your spell left you so weak!” Hands caked in blood, she turns and kneels beside him, taking his face in her palm and wrenching it around to make him look at her. Her eyes laugh at him, taunting and malicious. “You knew I was searching for you. You hid yourself away.”

“I grew ill with a Midgardian ailment and brought the entirety of my situation on accidentally. There was no running. I was captured.”

“That’s even more pathetic. You? Captured? There’s no way. You may not have predicted what your ailment caused but you wanted to be taken into their custody. You knew that a SHIELD prison was far better than what I would have brought upon you. What I have brought upon you. Isn’t that right?” Loki stays silent. She clutches his face harder and he catches his breath. “Isn’t that right?”

“Desist, viper,” Loki hisses, baring his teeth. Amora smirks, letting him go.

“You may call me all you wish – you will be undone, all magic gone, before the day is out. Does it hurt? Does it hurt knowing that you can do nothing to prevent it?”

It does hurt. It hurts to his very core. The spell which Amora has cast over him is slowly dragging out his magic. It is a spell that he has never witnessed but has only heard of.  It is the cruellest spell to cast upon a sorcerer, and also one of the most difficult, as it completely extinguishes the victim’s magic. The caster of the spell must remain in the vicinity of the victim or else the spell is instantly backfired and the caster is made as powerless as the intended should have been.

Loki will never see Tony again, nor anyone he cares for. He is alone, and will remain alone until his death. Though he will not endure true death, magic is what powers his being; it fuels his soul. He is nothing without magic. Nothing but a pathetic, empty shell of a god – no, a giant – with no hope left but to walk wherever Amora decides to leave him in when she is done.

“So why did you do it?” Amora’s voice brings him out of his solemn reverie. She is sitting on a nearby bench now, arms crossed. “Why did protect her?”

“I will not answer you.”

Amora twists her glowing hand and something in Loki’s chest tightens. Unable to breathe, he writhes against the solid wall which tears at his back, and gasps for air when she lets her hand fall back into her lap.

“Yes, you will.”

“Thor will never love you,” Loki snarls, staring her straight in the eyes. “He has found love in Jane Foster, a love that will keep him far happier than yours ever would.”

The tightness is greater this time, and there’s a searing pain in his skull, clanging against the inside of his head.

He had discovered Amora’s plan to kill Jane Foster after overhearing her conversing with Skurge when he had been trailing them. Amora had always wanted Thor, and Jane was in the way of her claiming him. He had been appalled – Thor was happy with Jane. He had never seen such complete adoration in his brother’s eyes. Thor did not know what Loki had seen, but Loki had been watching and he knew that Jane was Thor’s, and that Thor was Jane’s. No matter what had happened between Loki and Thor, Loki would never see his brother ruined by another if the other wasn’t himself. Amora would not succeed because yes, he had hated – nay, despised - Thor, but Loki’s love for Thor never disappeared, not truly. Loki had just always been too proud to ever admit it.  It was enough that after realising Amora’s plot, he had visited Jane Foster and told her of Amora’s plans. At first she hadn’t believed him, but after seeing his desperation she had allowed him to perform a ritual so powerful that it prevented Amora or anyone associated with her from ever being able to cause harm to Jane both directly and indirectly. Escaping just as Amora had appeared, Loki did run. He rushed across the globe, exhausted and weak from his magic exertion, and due to this he ended up catching the cold which Darcy had had back in the place where Jane worked.

Jane had promised never to tell Thor. She had promised never to tell anyone.

“You’re better than you let yourself think, Loki.”

“I did not do this out of sentimentality,” Loki had lied harshly.

“Then what did you do it for?”

He had left before he’d given an answer to that.

*

He screams out, the sound intertwining with her shrill laugh, and she frees him once again.

“Liar. You hate Thor. Why would you want to see him happy?”

“Because I would rather see him contented than see you ever succeed.”

He closes his eyes and smiles as the sound of her footsteps grows louder and then stops altogether beside him. She grasps his hair and yanks his head back. The hairs pull hard at the roots and it’s agonising, but instead of letting it show he opens his eyes and looks into hers – full of anger and hate.

“You may despise me, Liesmith, but not as much as you despise yourself. You have always hated yourself. And you hated yourself for hating your brother. He showed forgiveness and he never stopped caring for you but you – with all your self-loathing – feigned ignorance and pushed him away. You ran, Loki. That’s all you ever do. You are a weak, tragic creature with no true place to call home. You are a giant by blood but you are not wanted there. You are an Asgardian by name but you do not belong there. You are nothing but a leech. You latch onto whatever you can for purpose because that is what you crave. Has it not struck you yet? That purpose is what you seek and will always seek for all your days? I am doing everyone a favour by ridding you of what makes you believe you can do more than you are destined to. It is sad watching such a lost individual trapped in an eternal cycle of failure and utter, absolute worthlessness.”

Loki is numb. All his deepest, darkest thoughts have been spread out before him. It’s one thing to think them and know them, but to have someone else speak what torments him most?

There is no pain which equals the pain that ensnares him as those last words fall from Amora’s lips.

He is barely aware of the sudden crash from the opposite side of the room. He stares at the floor, absent within himself and broken. His senses shut down, all sounds a distant thrum and all sights a watery blur.

There is shouting – he knows that much. There is fighting too. The last remnants of his beloved magic ebb at the tips of his fingers. It’s almost over.

“He isn’t worthless,” growls a familiar voice, “not to me.”

“Tony?” Loki croaks, though the word doesn’t make it past his lips.

“I’m only telling him what he already knows about himself! He shouldn’t be surprised! All of that is what his mind is made up of. Are you sure you want that, Tony Stark? Something so insecure and wretched?”

“You’re a bitch, you know that? To use his own inner fears against him? That’s wretched. What makes you any different? It’s not like you have a purpose. You float about fucking shit up and for what purpose? What exactly is your purpose, Amora?”

Silence. Loki manages a smirk. The edges of his vision are going black.

“…I…”

“Who’s the leech now?”

The sound of Thor’s roar, Tony’s repulsors firing and another thunderous crash are the last things Loki hears before there’s an enormous explosion of white light from all around him, and then he’s unconscious, head lolling forwards, and recently shattered heart slowly repairing itself around the edges because of a man in a red and gold suit of armour who is the place where Loki is finally wanted, and most certainly the place he knows he belongs.

 

Chapter Text

Earlier that day…

 

Rocketing through the air, Tony keeps his eyes on the small white blip on the tiny screen at the top right of his visor. He’s clinging onto hope, but a hope that’s almost smoke – difficult to catch and keep contained because it’s barely there at all, slipping through adamant fingers that refuse to give in. He will remain resolute until the blip turns red, but he’s sure that even if it does before he gets there, he’ll pursue Loki in ignorance because ignorance is bliss. That’s how the old saying goes, right? He just prays that he’ll be able to keep all thoughts on the matter at bay until he sees him – Loki – for himself. But no, Loki will be alive when he gets there. Loki will be alive for a long time yet. Tony Stark will make sure of that.

*

“I hate the Atlantic ocean,” Clint grunts, yawning widely. Tasha sighs but responds no further, instead keeping her eyes on the endless blue both below and above. Since the news of Loki’s whereabouts, Thor has brightened up significantly; the storm is far behind them, possibly even over in New York City, and the sun is shining. It glints off of Tony who is flying just ahead. “It’s stupid.”

“Why is it stupid?”

“It’s way too big. Like, unnecessarily big.”

“…You’re bored, aren’t you?”

Really?” Clint drawls, voice dripping with sarcasm. He yawns again. A long silence passes, the only sound audible being the muffled roar of the quinjet’s engines outside.

“I actually find it quite small.”

Clint tosses a jelly doughnut behind him, hoping it whacks the god on the head and explodes preserves onto his disgustingly luxurious hair. “Shut up, Thor.”

*

A few hours into the flight, Nick Fury’s voice exploded into the aircraft.

“I’D LIKE TO KNOW WHERE THE FUCK YOU ARE TAKIN’ MY QUINJET AND WHY YOU ARE TAKIN’ IT WITHOUT MY PERMISSION AND WITHOUT AN OBJECTIVE SET BY ME.”

“Oh crap.”

“Jarvis, cut communications with our dear Director, would ya?” Tony growls, also a part of the conversation, and Fury is in the process of saying another word when his voice dies out completely.

Tasha chews on her lip. “He’s gonna kill us, you know.”

“Then we die knowing that we did the right thing. Oh please, come on, he couldn’t kill us if he tried.”

“He could. Some of us at least.”

“Hulk will protect us. Right Brucie?”

Tasha tilts her head around to see Bruce who offers her a small smile and a shrug.

*

It’s evening when they cross the Swedish border, but the long daylight hours mean that it’s still light enough to see.

“We’re right behind you,” Tasha says in Tony’s ear. “Just tell us where to go.”

“It’s not much further. See that open area of land over to the right? Between the trees? Land there. We trek on foot to the shack where Amora’s got Loki.” Her name is poison on his tongue and he spits it out with repulsion.

After landing, Tony waits (impatiently) on the ground as the quinjet’s engines power off and his teammates join him, some shivering a little in the rapidly falling temperature.

“We head north west for about a mile and a half. When we reach the location, Widow and Hawk will take the perimeter – scout it out.” Tasha and Clint nod. “When they get back to us and give us the run-down on details, we’ll decide who goes with who and where. I’m guessing Skurge will be there somewhere so I suggest we leave him to Hulk. The rest will be arranged later. Got it?” This time, the entire group nods. The white blip on the screen blinks. I’m coming, Loki. Just hang in there, just a little while longer.

*

“Skurge is guarding the front entrance,” Tasha explains breathlessly, placing a hand on Clint’s shoulder to steady herself. “There’s no back door - just one way in and one way out.”

Cap steps forwards. “We need to get Skurge away from the door.”

“We need a diversion,” Bruce affirms, already quivering. Tony lays a metal hand on Bruce’s arm.

“Don’t give away our position yet. Okay, so Hulk will lead Skurge away from the door. Cap, Thor and I will head inside and look for Loki and Amora. Let’s just hope her magic is having an off day, for all our sakes.”

“What about us?” Clint asks.

“You take the roof. Tasha, get behind that small bunker of dirt between the trees so that you can keep your bazooka aimed at the door. If Amora tries to escape, you blast her to smithereens.”

“Gotcha.”

“Okay Bruce. You’re up.” Tony turns around and Hulk grins down at him. “Woah, you’re already there. Well, go get ‘em, tiger.” Tony uses his arms to present the direction of Skurge and Hulk roars as he thunders towards him. Skurge is so surprised that he loses himself for a moment – one, fateful moment – and is thrown sidewards by a clobbering green fist. Not knowing how much time they have, the others leave Tasha behind and race towards the shack – Tony, Thor and Cap diving inside and Hawkeye springing up the walls and onto the roof above.

*

There is a voice talking at the end of the hallway. Light is scarce, only a faint tinge illuminating the hallway which exists solely because of the glow that’s flickering around the edges of the closed door straight ahead. As Tony turns, however, his arc reactor lights it up further. The wooden walls are strewn with cobwebs and grime, rotted in more than most places and Tony swears he sees a rat scuttle across the pathway ahead of them. He hates rats. Stealthily, they creep towards the door. The voice gets louder. It’s Amora.

“…You hate Thor. Why would you want to see him happy?”

“Because I would rather see him contented than see you ever succeed.” Loki. That’s Loki. Tony’s heart skips a beat from joy because god, is it good to hear him speaking. There’s silence for a moment, and the three Avengers reach the door. Thor raises his hammer but Tony shakes his head and puts a metal finger to the mouth of his helmet.

“You may despise me, Liesmith, but not as much as you despise yourself. You have always hated yourself. And you hated yourself for hating your brother. He showed forgiveness and he never stopped caring for you but you – with all your self-loathing – feigned ignorance and pushed him away. You ran, Loki. That’s all you ever do. You are a weak, tragic creature with no true place to call home. You are a giant by blood but you are not wanted there. You are an Asgardian by name but you do not belong there. You are nothing but a leech. You latch onto whatever you can for purpose because that is what you crave. Has it not struck you yet? That purpose is what you seek and will always seek for all your days? I am doing everyone a favour by ridding you of what makes you believe you can do more than you are destined to. It is sad watching such a lost individual trapped in an eternal cycle of failure and utter, absolute worthlessness.”

When she stops talking, Tony his almost foaming at the mouth. He’s quaking with anger and he wants to wrap his hands around Amora’s neck just to squeeze the life out of her and watch as he does it. Thor, clearly, didn’t want to listen to anymore. With a swing of Mjölnir, the door goes crashing down and they all step through. Amora snaps her head around, staring at them with wide eyes.

“HOW DID YOU FIND THIS PLACE?!” she screeches, lunging across the room. Thor throws Mjolnir and she darts out of the way just as it smashes into the wall, shattering wood and opening up a gaping hole to the outside.

“YOU HAVE ANGERED THE MIGHTY THOR!” Thor booms, Mjölnir shooting back into his hand. As he goes to throw it again, Tony puts his hand up to stop him, not taking his eyes off of Amora.

“You pissed off the wrong people,” he snarls. Steve nods in agreement, eyebrows low.

“I am going to tear you limb from limb.” Thor grinds his teeth so hard that Tony can hear it.

“Easy fella. Let me just interrogate the bitch for a sec before you go all apeshit.” He looks back at Amora. “Now I’m guessing you’re using a heavy duty spell because otherwise you’d have magicked us outta here or at least tortured us a little. You’re weak. I know how magic works. So what shit are you pulling?”

Amora just smirks. “Doesn’t matter. It’s almost done. The worthless disgrace is soon to get his comeuppance.” She casts her eyes to Loki. Tony takes a menacing step forwards and she backs away, looking back at him.

“He isn’t worthless. Not to me.”

Loki whimpers and Tony just wants to go to him and hold him and save him but he can’t right now because of Amora. Fucking Amora.

“I’m only telling him what he already knows about himself!” She trips on a table leg and almost falls as she backs into the corner of the room. “He shouldn’t be surprised! All of that is what his mind is made up of. Are you sure you want that, Tony Stark? Something so insecure and wretched?”

Yes. Yes he does want Loki, however insecure he is. He wants to be the one who makes Loki feel secure. He doesn’t care how broken he is or how broken he thinks he is. But how dare she call him ‘wretched’?”

“You’re a bitch, you know that? To use his own inner fears against him? That’s wretched. What makes you any different? It’s not like you have a purpose.” Then it hits him. “You float about fucking shit up and for what purpose? What exactly is your purpose, Amora?”

The expression on her face that follows is priceless. It’s exactly what he’s needed to see.

“…I…”

“Who’s the leech now?” he smirks. Thor flies past him, yelling about injustice, and smacks her in the arm with Mjölnir because she doesn’t quite get out of the way fast enough. Tony fires his repulsors at her but together she and Thor fly through the wall and land far outside, right at the place where the forest meets open ground. The second that they touch the floor, a great white light explodes from both Amora and from Tony’s left. Loki. Temporarily blinded, Tony bangs into tables and other invisible things as he wades through the light in the direction of the god.

“Loki?” he calls in desperation, ripping off his gauntlets after falling to his knees. He searches with his hands and locates a leg, then a torso, and then a face.  “Loki?” Tugging off his helmet, Tony tosses it to the floor, not caring where it rolls off to, and pulls Loki into his arms. “Loki, hey, Loki c’mon. Stay with me.”

The light dims. Now that Tony can just about see properly, he notices that Loki looks, well, thriving. Fighting fit. He simply appears asleep. All traces of any torturing of any kind are gone, his hair looks clean and his skin isn’t so pale any more. Tony can hardly believe it.

“Guh.” The god’s head rolls up and he blinks fast, flexing his hands. Tony remembers the chains and shoves the gauntlets on to break them, then breaks the metal clasps and frees Loki from his captivity. Looking up from removing his gauntlets again, vivid green eyes meet his. “Tony.” The relief in his voice is gratifying and also a reciprocation of how Tony is feeling.

“And you thought I didn’t feel the same way about you. You asshole.” Tony chuckles, placing his lips against Loki’s forehead enthusiastically. “If I didn’t, would I be here right now?”

“You read the note.”

“Of course I did.” Tony cups Loki’s face in his hands. “Why do you have to constantly think everyone’s so against you?”

“Because usually they are,” the god sighs, going to get up but failing when Tony pushes him back down.

“Not this time.” Angling Loki’s head, Tony presses his closed mouth against cold, thin lips. Loki pauses for a moment beneath him before grabbing Tony by the back of the neck and pulling him closer. Desperate, needy sounds rise up in his throat and escape as their mouths mould together. But as quickly as it began, it’s over.

“No,” Loki hisses, pulling himself away suddenly and scrambling to his feet. He looks petrified, and he’s thumping his chest with his fists madly, staring down at himself. Jumping up, Tony grabs his wrists, preventing him from causing himself any unnecessary damage.

“What the hell are you doing?” Loki tries to shove him away. “Stop this!”

“No! No no!” Loki’s eyes are filling with tears and Tony doesn’t know what to do. “No!”

“What’s wrong? Loki, what’s wrong?”

Beginning to shake, Loki drops to his knees. Tony goes down with him, cautiously letting go of his wrists and instead collecting him up in his arms. Loki buries his face into his hands.

“It’s gone,” he whispers sorrowfully. “It’s gone. It’s gone.”

Tony pries his hands away from his face and wipes a tear away with his finger. “What’s gone?”

Lifting his eyes to Tony’s, the pain Tony sees in them is devastating. Loki shakes his head.

“Loki, what’s gone?”

A hollow chuckle precedes a shuddering sob. “She destroyed my magic.”

“How – what – Amora? – how do you know?”

Loki springs from Tony’s hold and glares at him. “Because I’m empty inside! I feel…I feel…nothing! There’s nothing inside me…no…no…there’s nothing!” Covering his face with his hands again, he turns and bumps into Steve, who unabashedly wraps his arms around him.

“Shhhhhhh,” Steve coos. “We’ll…we’ll fix this.”

“NO WE CAN’T!” shrieks Loki, now pushing Steve away. “What’s done is done. I am nothing without my magic. Nothing!”

“You don’t need your magic to be something,” Tony mumbles. You’re something to me, with or without it. Loki snaps around.

“Yes, Stark, I do. We can’t all get everything we want delivered to us on a bloody silver platter like some.

The hurt that has taken over Loki’s features and attitude is turning him vicious. Tony hates it when Loki is vicious.

“Don’t take your issues out on me,” he snarls. “I came to save you, you ungrateful bastard. You think I wanted you taken away from me?”

“I didn’t ask you to come to my rescue.”

That hits Tony hard. “Well I’m sorry.”

“If you’d read the note, it clearly stated that I didn’t want to ruin your life further, so you were just unwise to come all of this way for a failure like me.”

GOD!” Tony yells. “Stop being such a fucking downer! You seriously need to do a reality check, you stupid dick. I came to your damn rescue because I want you in my life. I want you and all the messy, knotted strings that are attached to you. When you want someone enough you take them exactly as they are because that’s who you fell in love with and who you want to be with. I will never ask you to change for me.”

Tony blurts out the last sentence in a rush because as he begins it he realises what he’s admitted in the last. Loki clearly realises too, because the colour of his face transposes to scarlet.

“P-pardon?”

“I said you don’t have to change for me. End of story. I didn’t say anything else. Nope. Not at all. Fuck.” Fuck. Had he meant that? It had just slipped out! Had he meant that? No, of course – of course not.

Stop lying to yourself.

Steve is grinning.

“Friends, the Enchantress has lost her magical powers,” Thor announces, striding into the room. “The green one has defeated Skurge and Amora is contained.” Thank goodness for Thor and his well-timed arrivals. Awkwardness averted.

For now.

“The end of the spell must have coincided with her breaking the boundaries that the spell reached…It must have both worked and backfired…and also healed me…” Loki muses to himself glumly.

“BROTHER!” Thor exclaims with joy when he notices Loki standing in the centre of the room. “BROTHER, YOU LIVE!”

“Barely,” Loki mutters into Thor’s shoulder as the God of Thunder encases him in an elaborate hug. But instead of arguing any further, he slinks his arms around Thor’s waist and presses his forehead to Thor’s neck. It’s then that Thor freezes and backs away.

“You seem different,” he says warily. “Something about you is changed. You are not…you are not yourself.”

Sucking in a breath, Loki hangs his head sadly. “Amora has extinguished my magic.”

“She has done what?” Thunder booms overhead.

“Brother, calm yourself. There is nothing to be done.”

“I will crush her bones,” Thor bellows, brandishing Mjölnir. “I will rip her with my bare hands!”

“Be my guest,” Loki chuckles darkly. “But it will not bring my magic back.”

“There must be a way,” Steve pipes up, after having been silently watching the events from the side lines. “You’re gods, for heaven’s sake. Aren’t there…jeez, there must me something?”

Loki shakes his head as Thor’s eyes go wide.

“There is…someone - ”

“No, Thor,” Loki sighs. “I know who you think of.”

“But - ”

“She will not heal me. Odin will not allow for it.”

“I will talk with father. I will defend you. I will make him listen.”

“He won’t listen.” Loki spits out his words, eyebrows furrowing.

“I will try,” Thor says. “I will try my very hardest to make him listen.”

“And why would you do that?” Loki shuffles from foot to foot. “Why are you so willing to fight for me?”

Thor tilts his head to the side and smiles. “Because Amora, in her fit of rage outside, told me what you did for Jane. That you protected her.” He places a hand on Loki’s shoulder. “Thank you, old friend.”

And to Tony’s surprise, instead of running, or biting back at Thor’s words, Loki simply blushes and nods.

“You are my brother, after all.”

At this, Thor – mighty god, God of Thunder, enormous giant humanoid creature – begins to cry. Not extremely noticeably; in fact, if you were only to glance at him, you wouldn’t see it at all, but his eyes shimmer and he sniffs loudly.

“…Will you…will you allow me to help you, Loki?”

“Please help me,” Loki replies, voice all of a sudden small and desperate. Thor’s arms catch him as he falls forwards, and both brothers hold the other in such a way that they look like they’ll never let go. “Please, please help me.”

“Of course I shall help you,” Thor whispers, so softly that it’s barely audible. “You are my brother, after all.”

Chapter Text

“I’m sorry.”

“Hmm?” Lifting his eyes from the floor, Tony tilts his head to the right. They’re in the quinjet now, somewhere over the Atlantic, and everyone gave Tony questioning looks when he had come aboard back in Sweden instead of flying solo ahead. They’d seen the way Tony was never too far away from Loki, though further than Thor, and how his eyes were following the trickster who had no idea he was being watched. It clicked then, for the others, that Tony didn’t want to leave Loki’s side, and not just in the quinjet.

When Loki’s apology reverberates against his ear drums, Tony takes a while to properly respond. He’s been thinking about what he admitted in the shack – what he said to Loki. In his gut, Tony knows that he meant it. He just hadn’t thought such a thing as – well, as this – could happen so fast to someone. Perhaps he’s kidding himself. Perhaps he’s wrong, and he’s looking at his feelings from the wrong viewpoint. He felt this way with Pepper, right at the start. And it’s how he feels about Loki now. The sweaty hands, the jittery stomach, the inability to breathe in their presence because they are the ones who take your breath away, and that incurable, sometimes insufferable knowledge that you can’t and never will be able to live without them. They’ve ruined you, they’ve claimed you, they’ve consumed you and they’ve probably done it all unknowingly. Most likely. With Pepper, Tony always knew from the get-go that he would never be able to live without her. She’s his rock, his grounding and he owes the fact that he’s alive to her. They’d tried more than friendship. It had worked. Hadn’t it? For a while, at least. But after the sweaty hands stopped and his stomach calmed, he realised it had only been a crush. He couldn’t see Pepper as more than a friend – a friend with added benefits which entailed lots of really incredible sex. Whilst Tony had never been in love before, he knew that that wasn’t it.  But he’d been too afraid to tell her because he was too afraid to disappoint her. Again. So when Pepper had been the one to voice that their relationship wasn’t working, the relief had been astronomical. He just wanted his friend back.

“I’m a terrible boyfriend,” he had said.

“You’re a wonderful boyfriend,” she’d corrected with a sad smile. “Just not the one who’s meant to be mine.”

“Well then, where did we go wrong, Pep?”

“When we tried to be something more than what we were. When we both realised we’d just had crushes.”

“…You know?”

“Tony, you haven’t been the same since we’ve been together. You’re unhappy because this isn’t right.”

Tony had dropped his eyes to his feet. “Will we ever be what we were?” he had whispered, worry inflecting his words .

Pepper laughed. “Don’t think you’re getting rid of me that easily.”

What if it’s just a crush with Loki? he asks himself. What if I’m jumping the gun?

“I’m sorry about what I said to you, back in Sweden. I’m not ungrateful that you came.” Loki smiles slightly. “Honestly, I was just surprised that you did.”

Tony shakes off his reverie and lets Loki’s words sink in. “O-of course I came to find you.”

“Wouldn’t your life be easier without me?”

And that’s when it hits him. Yeah, it would be easier. It would be so much easier to not have Loki around. To not have Fury on his back all the time about the ex-villain, or to not have to deal with the press if something ever becomes of them, or to not have to deal with Loki’s lack of magic or to not have to worry about Thor if it all goes to shit between them. Tony has fallen, and he’s fallen hard. He never thought he would – not with Loki, at the very least. But things have changed. He – Tony – certainly has, what with being a baby for god only knows how long. That’s most definitely a change in Tony’s book. Loki has also changed, but scratch the fact that he became a child too, Tony thinks. Once upon a time, Tony well and truly hated the “conniving, evil little son of a bitch”. Those had been his exact words on one particular occasion where Loki tore down half of his tower whilst working alongside Victor von Doom.  There was also that time when Loki threw him out of a window after almost killing their beloved Agent Phil Coulson (who had actually survived the near-fatal wound, obviously) in the same day. Oh, and he also tried to take over the planet that day too, Tony didn’t let himself forget. But after that – a long while after that – Thor and Tony had been sitting at the bar and Tony may or may not have gotten Thor disgustingly drunk (he will deny that he bet Thor couldn’t drink the entire alcohol contents of the tower until his dying day). After asking on a whim about why Loki was so fucked up, Thor had suddenly gone into excruciatingly close detail about why Loki was the way he was. At the end of that night, Tony understood. Maybe not everything, but he understood a hell of a lot more than he originally had. He also understood why Thor was so open to taking Loki back – because Loki was simply lost. Very, very lost. So when Loki had poured his heart out to him whilst Tony had scanned him for magic, Tony had already known the basics. But hearing the words fall from Loki’s lips, and seeing the pain first hand because of a messed up family life, Tony had evoked his own memories and past experiences of seeing a similar expression on his face in the mirror back when his father had been alive.

Sometimes, Tony wonders whether, if under different circumstances, he might have ended up on the wrong side of the tracks himself. The corrupt side. Loki’s now tiptoeing in the middle of the tracks, and maybe Tony can be the one to pull him all the way over onto his own side.

Tony doesn’t want easy. Since when has life ever been easy after an electro-magnet was shoved into his chest? Or even before that? He saves the world – hell if that’s easy. When he said to Loki that he wanted him with all his messy strings attached, he meant it. He wants Loki no matter the consequences.

“Yeah, it would be easier,” Tony chuckles truthfully. Loki smirks. “But I’m just gonna have to deal with that.”

“Are you sure? Because there’s no going back if you change your mind. I won’t let you.” Tony pauses - mulls it over. Is he?

“Absolutely.”

“You’re mine now,” he hears the god whisper as he leans into Tony’s neck. The words send shudders down his spine, and he grins, nudging Loki’s knee with his own.

*

“I don’t think that there are enough words in my vocabulary to clearly express how fuckin’ angry I am at all of you.”

Fury has been waiting for them in the tower. They didn’t even bother trying to creep inside, because any attempt would have been futile.

“What are you going to do, punish us?” Clint jibes, earning himself a sharp prod in the ribs from Tasha. But he continues. “We’re not children. You don’t own us.”

“You’re making me think you wanted to go and save Loki,” Fury sneers.

Thor’s shoulders heave and his eyes narrow when Clint glances at him, so the archer hurriedly turns back to Fury. “Of course I wanted to go and save Loki. That’s all I ever want to do. Save Loki.” Loki rolls his eyes. “How can you be pissed at us when we went and saved someone?”

“Because maybe I needed my team here to handle a serious situation?”

“But see there was no serious situation, was there?” Tony cuts in, winking. “Because everything seems to be pretty damn calm around here.”

“Only due to the fact that we had someone fill in for you all.” The team all look at one another “For you all,” Fury emphasises again.

“You mean…there was a serious situation?”

Fury sighs heavily. “None of you have paid the slightest attention to the news recently, have you?” There’s a chorus of silence. Fury looks, well, infuriated. “You’re lucky I had faith in the kid. I swear to god, you’re fuckin’ lucky. Mark my word.”

“…What the hell happened?”

“You can come in here now,” Fury barks towards the door. It creaks open slowly, and a young teenage boy with a ruffled yet beautiful mess of brown hair pokes his head around it and then steps inside. His eyes go round as he sets them upon the Avengers.

“Who…?” Steve asks, not quite managing the rest of his question. The boy is simply dressed in a pair of beat up, baggy black pants and a t-shirt, topped with a hoodie and an abundance of battle wounds across his face.

“Who…?” Bruce echoes Steve, equally confused..

Fury claps the kid on the back, making him wince. “This, assholes, is Peter Parker. Also known as Spider-man if you so cared to read the news every once and a while. He’s been on my radar for a while now, and there’s been a giant lizard-man running around New York for the last few days and he goddamned saved us all from it last night whilst you were all gallivanting around wherever the hell it was you were.”

“…I’m sorry, what?”

“How did we not know about this?”

“A giant lizard-man? And we missed it?” Clint groans, upset. “Dammit!”

“You’re telling me that you let this…this kid defend New York multiple times and failed to tell us about it?”

Fury smiles. “You all had your own shit to deal with. I wanted to see what he was made of.” Peter blushes and shifts from foot to foot.

“You and your fucking risk-taking,” Tony mutters. “What if he’d failed?”

“He didn’t fail.”

“But what if.”

“He didn’t fail.”

Tony growls.

“He’s just a kid!” Steve blurts out in disbelief.

“Sometimes kids surprise us,” Fury says gruffly, but there’s a hint of humour in his tone. “The lot of you should all know that by now.”

“Damned kids, doing our job for us,” Clint grunts, unimpressed. “What is it with us and kids recently? Loki, is this your doing again?”

Loki shakes his head, chuckling. “Not this time, I’m afraid.”

“…So is Loki a good guy now?” Peter finally says, speaking for the first time.

They all turn to look at Loki, who blinks and then grins mischievously. “Borderline. I’d say more tolerable than good, but nonetheless, things have changed.” His eyes flicker to Tony for the briefest of moments before settling themselves back on Peter. “However at the moment I am more useless than anything.”

Fury raises an eyebrow.

“Loki lost his magic,” Tony says carefully, registering the slight twinge of Loki’s mouth as he explains. “Amora destroyed it. He’s uh…”

“Powerless,” Loki finishes with a grimace.

Fury looks like he almost has to hold back celebration. “Oh that is a shame,” he deadpans. Anger crosses Loki’s features, but he doesn’t voice it.

“Why is this kid being allowed to listen in on our conversation?” Bruce asks, and they suddenly realise that yeah, that’s a fact. Top secret information and all.

Fury pats Peter’s shoulder. “Because he’s on the team.”

“An Avenger?” Tasha exclaims, shocked. Peter frowns dejectedly.

“If you’d have been here, you would have seen that he goddamn earned his right to uphold that title. You’re gonna show him the ropes, get to know him, treat him like he’s a fuckin’ hero because guess what, he is.”

Tasha raises an eyebrow, evaluating Peter with crossed arms. “So why’d they call you Spider-man?”

It’s as though he’s been waiting for that question his entire life, let alone since he’s entered the room, because Peter’s face lights up and there are white wires shooting from his wrists and then he’s rocketing past them all and out of the hole in the window that’s still there after Thor had stormed out after hearing Loki’s note. They all run to the window and watch as Peter swings around the nearby sky scrapers and does countless flips in the air.

“…Kid’s got style,” Clint muses. “He’s already growing on me.”

“He was so psyched about meeting us,” Tony huffs smugly, watching Peter trapeze back onto the tower’s window beside them and somehow, against the laws of nature, climbs across without falling off. “…The hell?”

Peter peers into the room and beams. “Spider-man,” he says simply.

Bruce nods along with the others. “Definitely not normal.”

“Never have been,” Peter shrugs, still clinging onto the glass as if by magic.

Steve lets out a laugh. “Join the club.”

“Are you sure it’s okay if I’m part of your team? I mean, I don’t have to be if you don’t - ”

“Yes you do,” Fury interjects. Peter glances at him, blushes again, and then looks back at the others somewhat pleadingly. Those big puppy-dog eyes are extremely difficult to deny.

“I think we’ve got enough experience with kids to deal with this one.” Steve smiles at Peter, who has crawled back in and is standing sheepishly with his knees together and his hands behind his back.

“Not with a teenage kid,” Tony mutters. “They get uncooperative.”

“That’s a bit hypocritical, what with it coming from you.”

“Hey, I can’t help it if I was uncooperative as a baby. I was a baby.”

Tasha smirks. “I wasn’t talking about when you were a baby.”

“…”

“I say we give him a chance.” Everyone turns to Clint, surprised. Clint shrugs and puts his hands up in defence. “What? He flips around on wires in - ”

“Webs,” Peter corrects.

“ – He flips around on webs in the air, for crying out loud. I gotta see me some more of that. It’s awesome.” Clint winks at Peter. Peter puffs his chest out proudly.

“Well, welcome aboard, kid,” Tony announces. “I hope you’re prepared for not being prepared for anything whatsoever.”

“Story of my life.”

“Well then, you’re gonna fit right in.”

Chapter Text

As evening rolls around, the team disperse from the seating area in the rec room. Tasha yawns and places a long leg on the table, her stretch resulting in a satisfying crack from her back. They’ve been sitting for hours talking about how Peter became Spider-Man, how he defended New York City whilst they were gone, and the reason for Loki being around and not bound up in chains. When Peter finally mentioned that Captain Stacey had been lost in the fight, the entire team felt a pang of sorrow. Captain Stacey had assisted them in many a case, especially when it came to getting civilians to safety, and they’d respected him for his bravery.

“He was a good man,” Steve said sadly. The others nodded.

When the stories were told about the recent events that the Avengers had succumbed to, the teenage superhero fell into peals of laughter on multiple occasions, particularly when he found out that Steve became a woman.

Steve wasn’t impressed when everyone else joined in.

*

“Do it again!” Clint urges excitably, and Peter grins as he shoots out a web that latches onto the soda can on the counter. Poking his tongue out in concentration, Peter yanks the can back and catches it smoothly in his hand before handing it to Clint. Clint jumps in his seat a little. “You’re awesome.”

Night has fallen, the talk long since over. Clint and Peter are perched on the sofas, the archer – who is by far the most taken by the teen - cross-legged and agog at Peter who is expressing an abundance of pride as he shoots webs this way and that around the rec room. Thor ducks to dodge one and laughs away Peter’s apology before dropping into a nearby chair.

“So this is what you wear when you become ‘Spider-Man’?” Steve asks through a mouthful of doughnut, jabbing a finger at Peter’s picture on the front of the newspaper.

Peter whips his head around to see what Steve is alluding to. “Oh, yeah.”

“Nice colours,” Steve chuckles, holding the paper out further as though the distance lets him get a better view. “They remind me of my own costume.”

Peter smiles and dips his head. “Sorry about that.”

“No, no! It’s fine! Did you make this yourself?” Hunching his shoulders inwards, Peter nods. “Impressive!”

Peter goes to reply, but Clint bounces in front of him and waves his hands crazily.

“Do you have the suit? Do you? C’mon, let’s see it!”

Tasha chooses this moment to walk into the room. She rolls her eyes. “Clint, leave the kid alone.”

“But - ”

“No, Clint.”

At this, Clint slumps. He gives Peter the I’m-not-really-her-bitch-I-just-always-do-what-she-says eyes and Peter giggles, shrugging. He honestly can’t believe he’s here – with the Avengers. These are people he’s idolised ever since they all came onto the scene, especially Iron Man – no, Tony Stark. He’s one of the coolest guys Peter has ever seen, but as Peter looks around, the man has disappeared. His smiles falters; perhaps Tony Stark isn’t interested in him at all? Then he recalls what the team said earlier, about what happened over the past few days, and Peter can’t bring himself to blame Tony at all for wanting to escape all of this whilst he can.

*

“So, about what you said back in Sweden…”

The sudden voice from out of nowhere makes Tony jump and drop the soldering iron that he’s holding, which leaves a pink mark on the side of his index finger. Sticking it into his mouth to sooth the inevitable burn that’s going to swell up, he spins around to face Loki whose standing in the doorway, leaning against the frame with a smug expression plastered across his face. “Are we going to talk about it?”

“I don’t know what you’re referring to,” Tony grunts, feeling his cheeks begin to go as red as his finger if not redder, so he turns back to his work, fumbling around for something – anything – to make it seem like he’s busy. Loki wants to talk about that? It’s crazy enough just thinking about it rather than Loki actually pulling it up into conversation.  Silence follows; Tony hopes it’s because Loki has left the room, but the slender arms that wrap around his waist from behind and the lips against his ear tell him otherwise.

“Oh, I believe you do.” Hot breath tickles against his ear, and that infamous silver tongue draws patterns on the back of it, snaking down to the side of his neck. Overcome with the sensation, Tony leans back, savouring each flick and twist of Loki’s mouth against his skin. “You made mention of loving me,” Loki says, hands grasping Tony by the hips, nails digging gently into the space just above his belt where his shirt has ridden up.

“I made mention of lots of things.” He’s breathless now, voice unstable.

“Yes, but that was the thing which struck me most.”

Tony turns, Loki’s hands following his movements so that when they’re facing one another they’re still resting on his hip bones. Tony slips his arms around Loki’s neck.

“Do you love me?” The question is quiet; hopeful. Loki looks taken aback briefly but softens and sinks into Tony’s embrace.

“Why do you feel the need to ask?”

Clearing his throat, Tony loosens his grip on him.  “You’re a god. You’re crazy years old and I’m just a man. An awesome, handsome man, but simply a man nonetheless.”

Loki sighs and chuckles. “You, Tony Stark, are far more than simply a man. Your intellect alone rivals the god’s. And you reverted me back to the person I once was, more or less. You have no idea how much I missed being myself rather than driven by a psychotic desire for blood and reformation. You assisted in the return of my humanity, the love for my brother and the realisation that I need not be more than I am when I am with you.” Loki swallows hard, all traces of humour vanished. For Tony, everything is hazy. The only things that are crystal clear are Loki and his words, because they’re all that matter. “You showed me that my problems were not as bad as I had thought. That I am not alone in my troubles. I love you because without you, I am nothing but a half. Without you, I will never be whole. You are my humanity, Tony – its living incarnation. And if I am worthless to all but you, it matters not. Because being worthy of you is an honour all on its own, god or not.”

"W-wow," Tony stammers, proper articulation failing him. Loki doesn't really look like he's expecting a response; he just smiles contentedly and watches the movements of Tony's face. "I think some of the reasons I love you are because you're capable of being and doing all of those things. Psychopathy and blood-lust included. Which is...which is messed up, man.”

Letting out a small laugh, Loki presses his forehead against Tony's. "You're mine now," he breathes, reiterating what he said on the jet with added emphatic passion. "You're mine." 

And so he is. Tony is claimed, ruined and utterly consumed - that much is true. He shudders, a smile breaking onto his face. Loki copies him, his grin far more impish, however. When Loki swoops in and snatches Tony's mouth for his own, Tony meets him halfway. The intensity causes him to stumble, and his hands whip around to stop his back from crashing into the bench. They barely miss the soldering iron which is perched precariously on the edge. 

"Careful," he manages. "Hot."

"Mmmm I know you are."

"No no, the iron. It's hot. I already burnt myself." Pouting, Tony reveals the injury in front of Loki's face, and huffs out a laugh when the god's eyes cross as he tries to focus in on the afflicted digit. 

"Awww," Loki mocks, bringing the finger to his lips. Tony's jaw drops a little as the Liesmith's mouth tinges blue. It's suddenly cold, numbingly so, against the burn. "I may have lost my magic, but I can still be helpful." His lips move against the skin and cool it. 

"Frost Giant," mutters Tony, recollecting, still in awe at the sight of Jotun Loki. When Loki folds his hand away, blue disappearing, Tony grasps his face. "No. I want to see you."

A sceptical eyebrow. A turn of the mouth. "No, you don't." He steps away. 

Tony's intrigued. He's never seen Loki's true form, and he's sure that Loki will be stunning in whatever state he so chooses to be. 

"Please."

Noiselessly, with a look of uncertainty, Loki's skin morphs into a deep blue, and a maze of parallel lines almost like scars emerge from under the surface. It's both mesmerising and numinous, because suddenly Loki is another creature from another world. He can't be mistaken for a human, not now. Apart from his eyes. Though red as blood, they're filled with nervousness and they’re searching for approval. Tony is speechless. Lifting his fingers, Tony goes to touch the lines on Loki’s face, but he backs away.

“Do not touch me. My skin will burn you.”

“Your lips didn’t before.”

“I was hardly in my true form.”

“You’re beautiful.” It’s an outburst when Tony says it, because he can’t keep it back any longer. He just wants to touch, wants to know, wants to feel. “You can be ashamed of where you come from, Loki. I know what they did and no one can ever stop you hating them. But please, please don’t hate who you are. Just because you’re one of them doesn’t mean you’re intrinsically as bad as them. You’re beautiful, damn.”

“Beauty is the greatest deception. It can conceal pure evil and hide all despair. Beauty cannot be trusted, for it proves to be what misleads us most. You must not let it blind you.”

“Oh,” Tony whispers, grasping Loki’s blue neck and instantly feeling the ice biting against his fingers, “I already have.” He pulls them together, losing all feeling in his hands and now his lips because he forces himself onto the god. Loki’s stunned, frozen for a moment, and then he’s warmer again. Edging around the workbench, they walk backwards, never breaking their kiss, until they tumble onto the bed that Tony keeps in his workshop for times when he can’t be bothered to trudge to his real bedroom. After his back hits the sheets, Tony peels open one eye to see that Loki is back to his Asgardian self. But that’s all Tony sees, because to everything else – everything but Loki – he is blind.

Loki’s mouth detaches itself from Tony’s, slithering down the mortal man’s jugular and nipping delicately at the spot just behind his ear. Tony bites his lip hard as Loki’s hands travel southwards, and upon thrusting into the long fingers that graze across his crotch, feels Loki’s lips curl into a self-satisfied grin against his neck. The grin, however, is quick to disappear when Tony presses his knee up between Loki’s thighs. The god lifts his head high enough for Tony to watch as his jaw hangs open and he stutters out a moan – a sound so satiating that Tony’s pants are going through a serious struggle to restrain him. It’s then that Tony decides he’s going to make the god come apart; beg for more – desperate, used and oh so close – and Tony is going to savour that inevitable, ravaged expression for as long as he possibly can.

With a sly twist of his leg, Tony flips them both over so that Loki is staring up at him with surprise and a greedy, ferocious lust. His knee returns to Loki’s arousal, pushing against it firmly, and he licks his lips when Loki throws his head back to moan once more in earnest. His long, pale neck pleads to be ravished as it stretches out, flawless and silky smooth to the touch under Tony’s fingertips which drag down it in wonder. It’s too much to pass up, so Tony sets his lips against the skin and sucks onto it a vivid reminder; a possessive, impermanent tattoo that stakes his claim over the god. Hands are in Tony’s hair, on his shoulders, on his waist, dragging his shirt over his head and casting it aside before they return to his neck and remain there inflexibly. It’s almost Loki’s way of silently stating that he’s the one in charge here. Tony shakes his head, chuckling into the kiss, and drives his knee up with even more enthusiasm than ever before. Loki cries out, Tony’s name fluttering across his tongue, and both he and Tony open their eyes at the same time. Loki glares, pushing him away.

“Don’t think you can dominate me, Stark,” he hisses, though his voice cracks and he blushes at his breathlessness. “I’m a…I’m a god.”

“And I’m more than simply a man.” Tony’s reminder is soft and low, filled with promises and intent, and it forces Loki to drop his head back to the pillow, neck revealed once again. “Remember?”

“Indeed,” Loki mutters. Tony eyes the bruise that’s appearing on Loki’s skin, giving it a twin for good measure, and snatches the hem of Loki’s shirt. For someone who is usually so graceful, they both go through a great deal of trouble in their attempt to get it over Loki’s head. When he’s finally free, Loki collapses and giggles, stretching his arms up above his head, and Tony straddles him, trailing a finger down his side, merely basking in the beauty that’s splayed out beneath him. They watch each other awhile, eyes locked and brimming with passion and a desire to touch; to discover. Slowly, Tony climbs off, not breaking eye contact as he tugs off Loki’s pants. He stands to toss them somewhere – anywhere – into the room, and when he turns back to Loki he’s pushed up against the nearby wall and kissed almost senseless, one hand wrapped around his throat and the other inside of his underwear. It’s overwhelming, the suddenness of the welcome attack, and Tony groans with want into Loki’s mouth. He lowers his eyebrows when Loki’s hand removes itself from its preferred place, but is surprised when both of his wrists are snatched up and pinned beside him on the wall, the vice-like grip of the god impossible to escape from if he did so care to try. He’s not held captive for long, however, since it seems that Loki can’t keep his hands in one place for any amount of time, and soon they’re back on his neck, allowing them to walk to the bed and drop back onto it, revelling in the skin-on-skin contact of their bare chests and limbs.

From the moment that Loki’s hand darts into his underwear and curls around him once again, Tony’s train of thought completely and utterly disappears.

*

Tony awakens slowly the next morning, shifting a little and finding himself aching from the movement. Without opening his eyes, the previous night’s events rush back to him and he smiles, sliding his hand over the mattress until he locates the naked stomach beside him, which he leisurely walks his fingers up. Shuffling over, he cracks open a heavy eyelid and spies Loki sleeping soundly facing him, face pressed into the pillow and mouth hanging ever-so-slightly agape. Tony remembers the last time they “slept” together, back on the couch when the others were kids, and he recalls thinking about how vulnerable and serene Loki looked whilst he slept. It’s the same now, and it makes Tony’s heart beat a bit faster. The sheets are sticky to the touch, but Tony doesn’t care. They’re a reminder of the events that took place – events which leave Tony grinning madly as he thinks of them – and he’s so close to Loki now that they’re noses are barely two centimetres apart. The god’s hot breath dances over his skin, and Tony can’t help but twirl his finger around the stray strands of hair splayed out like a halo on the pillow.

“G’morning,” Loki mumbles, stretching and burrowing himself into Tony, head tucked under Tony’s chin and nose pressed against his chest. Tony doesn’t reply for a long while. When he does, he kisses the top of Loki’s head and holds him just a little tighter than he has been.

“And you are mine.”

Chapter Text

“Are you nervous?” Tony asks, thumb drifting up and down the intermittent bumps of Loki’s spine. The god is lying on his front, head resting on the pillow and arms tucked beneath it, with his eyes closed and mouth upturned in a slight, contented smile. Tony is on his side, propped up on one elbow, and he’s been caressing Loki’s back in silence for the past twenty five minutes.

Loki’s eyes open, finding Tony’s. “About what?”

“Y’know. Going back to Asgard. Facing Odin again. Pleading for your magic.”

Loki doesn’t answer. Instead, he twists his neck and hides his face in the pillow, his muffled groan barely audible. “Is Odin gonna be mad?”

“Odin is always mad,” Loki hisses, rolling over onto his back. He glares at the ceiling with disdain, as though it’s the blank surface that’s done him some sort of wrong. “The last time I was in Asgard, I was answering to my crimes against Earth.”

“Yeah, well, he had every right to be mad. So did we. I mean, you did bring an entire alien race to Earth in an attempt to rule over us all.”

Loki laughs strangely – tightly. He places his hands on Tony’s shoulders and pushes him back against the bed, following him and throwing a leg over his hips in order to straddle him.  “Ah, the little you know.”

“…What is it?”

“I didn’t care to rule over your planet at all.” It’s as though Loki has been waiting to get this off of his chest, Tony gathers, judging by the expression of relief on the god’s face. “I needed something – anything – to make it seem that I was doing all that I did for myself. But no, Tony. I didn’t want to rule. I never wanted to rule. Not Earth, not Asgard. Not anywhere. And I still don’t.”

“Then…then why…?”

“At first, the creature whom I fell into the clutches of after falling from Asgard did not know who I was, or where I was from. All he knew was that I was filled with magic and anguish, and liked me for those two things alone. He took me under his wing – he told me of his plans to obtain the tesseract – and I told him I knew where it was. That was where I made my mistake. I had to sit and wait in a terribly draining meditation, listening and waiting for the tesseract to be activated. Using the people near to the tesseract, I used mental projection to look through their eyes. I saw an opportunity, and I used all of the magic I had within me to activate the tesseract myself.”

“Is that why Clint said that you looked like shit when you arrived on Earth?”

Loki chuckles making the tension break for a moment. “Yes. That’s exactly the reason. However…he asked me where I had come from – the creature, that is – and I told him that it was Earth. I told him that that was how I knew where the tesseract was.”

“Why?”

“Because he wanted to destroy those who had the ability to use the tesseract’s power. He told me that once my “home” was destroyed, he would rid himself of me and I would be free.” Loki’s eyes glaze over with an echoing memory of horror. Tony doesn’t want to know why Loki rubs at his wrists, scratching at something that isn’t there – not any more. Reflexively, Tony reaches up and cups his cheek in an attempt to comfort him.  “He wanted the tesseract’s power all for himself with no threat of it being repossessed. He felt threatened because he believed that all on Earth were as powerful as I. He asked if any other civilisations knew of the tesseract’s power. If I had told him Asgard, he would have forced me to take him there also. Back then, Earth was nothing to me. Earth was but a near-invisible dot on a map of stars. It was a picture in story books. It - ”

“It didn’t matter that we all died as long as Asgard was safe.” Loki blushes furiously but doesn’t disagree. “You told him Earth and not Asgard because you’d rather have seen Earth destroyed than the place that you called home for most of your life.” Again, Loki stays silent. “…Does Odin know that?”

“Why do you think I remain to walk free? My last request before my execution was to have private discussion with the Allfather. I told him everything. I told him how, even after all of his lies and all that had happened between us, I protected Asgard. I told him that the creature was after me. How he would have begun to seek me out the second he heard of my failings on Earth. Odin listened. For the first time, he listened. And he understood why I had done what I did. He brought together the most powerful mages in the cosmos to place wards upon me to hide me from the creature’s radar. That is why I cannot speak his name. It will break the wards and I will be found.”

Tony is stunned. “But…I don’t…why did you choose to save Asgard? I thought you hated - ”

“No,” Loki mumbles, “never hated. Disliked? Perhaps. Never hated. Whilst Odin may have kept my heritage a secret, they were all my kin, Tony. My adoptive kin. My friends, my father, my mother, my brother.

“Surely Asgard would have been able to defend themselves against the Chitauri? We did!”

Loki shakes his head. “Only because you managed to close the portal. The creature was coming, and you prevented him from doing so. He is…far more powerful than you can possibly conceive. I fear that even Asgard would struggle against his wrath.”

“But he can’t find us, right? I mean, Earth is safe?” Loki blinks, and then tears his eyes away from Tony’s and pushes himself off of his partner to locate his clothes which are scattered around the room. He’s only just pulled his underwear on when Tony’s hand clutches at his arm. “Loki, Earth is safe, isn’t it?”

“I…When…when I spoke with Odin, we both acknowledged that I had done some wrong on my own part in the battle between the Chitauri and Earth. He stationed me upon Earth as its…as its protector.”

“…Sorry?”

“Earth is under my protection. Well, it was until my magic was taken from me.” His fist clench and his jaw sets. “Thor does not know. He believes that father simply banished me to your planet. I am not banished – I could return to Asgard if I wish but never particularly wanted to because I’m not exactly in anyone’s good books there anymore. Tony, without my magic and without my wards surrounding your planet, the creature can find you. All of you. If he cares to look whilst I am powerless, there is no hope – not if he gets here before I can shield you all again. That is why Thor and I must travel to Asgard today. I do not know when I will return.”

Tony bites his lip. “Don’t be too long, okay?”

Smiling, Loki turns around and presses a kiss to the space between Tony’s eyebrows, wrapping his arms around the smaller man’s neck. “I wouldn’t dream of outstaying my welcome.”

“But surely Odin will let you have your magic back like, pronto? Because I mean, you’re protecting Earth and all that.”

“Not…necessarily. Odin will always put Asgard first. I was only stationed here as punishment. If he had not chosen this as my punishment, I fear that Earth would, currently, be no more.”

“I…what?”  Tony stumbles away, glaring in disbelief.

“Odin is dedicated to Asgard! Whilst Earth and Midgard are special to him he will not care so much if it gets wiped off the map as long as Asgard remains intact!”

“So…so what, there’s a chance you’re not getting your magic back?”

“Who knows?” Loki shrugs miserably. “Who knows what my dear father will decide?” His head hangs, shoulders drooping, and so Tony steps forward once again and embraces the god, pulling their lips together and making the kiss long, slow and deep. I’m here, I’m yours, and I’ll be by your side whatever the outcome. Loki guides them both to the bed again, and they repeat the previous night’s events but almost in slow motion because Tony doesn’t know how much longer he has left to appreciate this intimacy before Loki disappears to the other side of the cosmos.

*

“Where’s the kid?” Tony yawns, walking into the kitchen and poking a piece of bread into the toaster. The rest of the team are crowded around the table – even Clint, who’s usually the last to rise, behind even Tony.

“He went home,” Steve replies as he bites into a muffin. His eyebrows are low and eyes are calculating, fixed on Tony. Tony’s flooded with confusion, not understanding why Steve looks somewhat angry with him. Instead of dwelling and probing for an answer to this, he simply continues the conversation.

“…Home?”

“He’s a teenager. He has school. He lives with his aunt and he’s a big fan of yours if you’d so care to give him even a minute of your time.”

Ah. So that’s why he’s angry. The accusatory twist of Steve’s tone has Tony glaring at him. “Excuse me?”

Steve climbs to his feet and squares his shoulders off to Tony. “You disappeared yesterday. You were out of the room as soon as the conversation was over. It was like you didn’t even care that this boy is something incredibly special, and that he saved the state, the country and maybe even the world all on his own.”

“I heard what he did!” Tony snaps, clenching his fists. He doesn’t want to be part of an argument this early in the morning, but Steve’s just asking for it. Steve responds by lowering his head menacingly and taking a daring step forward. From his pocket, Tony subtly draws out his Mark VII bracelets and starts snapping them onto his wrists. “I listened – I know how great he is! And don’t you think I needed a little break after what happened to Loki?”

“I haven’t said that you didn’t deserve a break. I just think you could have shown a little more care.”

“I did - ”

“You barely paid attention. Show some respect next time, okay?”

“Why don’t you show me some respect and shut your damned mouth, Rogers? I’ve just woken up and I don’t need your verbal abuse at this time in the morning.”

“It’s one in the afternoon! Don’t blame me if you’re tired because you’ve been banging your god all night!”

Tony’s jaw falls open and then snaps shut just as fast. “Wow, finally learnt something other than “fondueing”, huh? Pipe down, you’re just jealous because I’m getting some and you never have!”

“God, you’re like children!” Tasha barks, standing. Both Steve and Tony hush and stare at her. “Are you serious, Steve? So what if he didn’t give the new kid all the time you wanted him to give him? He just got back from saving his guy from death, probably. I wouldn’t expect anything other than banging to be honest.” Tony smiles smugly. “And you!” Tasha continues, pointing her finger at him. His smile dissolves. “You need to stop acting like a child and bringing up Steve’s virginity all the time!” Steve blushes. “It’s actually pretty endearing. He’s waiting for the right person and you respect that, okay?”

Pepper appears from apparently nowhere because Tony hadn’t seen her at all since he’d entered the room. “Well said, Natasha.” She claps the other red-head on the shoulder and smiles. “Tony, you didn’t tell me you were having sex with the god of mischief.” Her voice is far too matter-of-fact for everyone else’s liking, but Tony just smirks.

“It’s sort of a recent development.”

“Mmmm. Any good?”

“Glorious,” Tony replies, and everyone’s jaws drop open.

“How can you even talk to each other like this?” Bruce asks, putting his now-empty coffee mug onto the table. “I mean, you dated.”

Pepper shrugs. “So? We’re also best friends and the part of our lives where we dated is over. It’s just maturity, I guess.”

“Or weirdness,” Bruce grunts, lifting his coffee mug and peering into it as though expecting his coffee to magically reappear.

“Plus, Tony knows that no one is better in bed than me. And even if they somehow are, he wouldn’t dare tell me.”

“No one’s ever better than you, Pep,” Tony yawns, stretching.

“That’s really conceited, Potts,” Clint says, leaning back on his tilted chair. She turns to him, raising an eyebrow. He grins at her mysteriously.

“I’m allowed to be conceited. I learnt conceit from the best.” She and Tony share a wink, and then she glances back at Clint who holds her gaze for a little longer than she anticipated he would.

“I have work to do,” Bruce sighs as he vacates the room. Steve follows, shooting a dirty look at Tony on the way out. Thor for some reason isn’t in the kitchen at all, Tony realises, and Tasha finishes pouring herself a fresh mug of jasmine tea before exiting too. Tony snatches his toast from the toaster as it pops up and mentions in passing something about going back to bed his god before his journey or something and it leaves Clint and Pepper alone. Pepper swirls her spoon around her own cup of tea and goes to follow suit, but Clint’s voice makes her falter in her step and freeze altogether.

“Seeing is believing, you know.”

She turns back around and jumps at how close he’s suddenly gotten to her in such a short space of time. He’s hardly a metre away, eyes boring down on her and a curious smile on his lips. “S-sorry?”

He takes a step forwards and she takes a step back, misjudging where the doorway is and instead hitting her back gently on the doorframe. Clint places a hand just above her head and leans forward, a bit too close for anything good to be on the horizon.

“What you said. About being good in bed. I’d like to be able to judge that for myself.” His voice is hushed and dripping with a lust-filled hunger.

“You’re a creep,” she hisses, though she can’t find it in herself to put much meaning into the words and instead stutters them out embarrassingly. Unwillingly, her gaze flickers between his eyes and his lips. She knows her pupils are disgracefully dilated because his distance from her is depleting rapidly and his other hand has found her hip.

“Oh come on,” he chuckles. “You can’t deny the chemistry between us.”

“If you call pissing me off in a store “chemistry”, then you are pretty deluded on this subject.”

Clint smiles warmly. “No, you ditz. I’m talking about before all of that. Before all of that stupid mess of us being all being little kids.” He catches a stray curl of hair that’s escaped and twirls his finger around it, pulse quickening when he hears her breath catch. “Remember that time not that long ago when I got smashed up by that Doombot? You fixed me up on the helipad. Treated my wounds and all that. There was eye contact and lots of it. It was weird, because I mean, you’re Pepper Potts, Tony’s ex and his best friend and his colleague and I never even really thought about you in any way other than just…another face. No offense.”

“None taken,” she chokes.

“But when you looked at me on that helipad, your eyes caught the starlight and you looked…beautiful. Not that you don’t always look beautiful but-”

“Is this…oh my god, is this you trying to sweet-talk a woman?” Pepper can hardly hold back her laughter, however much she’s trying to. He frowns. “No, but Clint, I mean, my eyes caught the starlight? Please. You couldn’t care less if my eyes were as red as the pits of hell. I bet I leant forward just enough to let you accidentally catch a glimpse of my cleavage. Am I right?”

Clint’s jaw drops, and he steps back. “Woman, jeez. I was just trying to make you feel…I don’t know, special? So what if I got an eyeful up on that helipad. Not that I did.”

“I caught you staring!”

“Whatever!” Clint yaps. “I just really want to get in your pants, okay? Is that a problem?”

“No!”

“…What?”

“Good god, just come here,” she breathes, and throws her arms around his neck as she locks their mouths together and causes them to almost fall over the table. Instead they fall onto it, barely missing all of the plates and cutlery that have been left there by the others.

If Bruce so happened to pass by the kitchen as they clambered off of the table and rammed one another up against the nearby wall, he never spoke a word of it to anyone.

Chapter Text

As the god of mischief tilted his head backwards, his gaze skimmed across the dank ceiling of his prison cell. Unlike the rest of Asgard, which shone in all of its clean-cut, beauteous glory, the prisons of the great civilisation were as though they were sculpted with visions of Niflheim in the designer’s mind. Not only that, but they had been left to rot and so Loki’s nose wrinkled each time he was forced to take a breath. His aching mouth remained covered by the gag, teeth biting into the indestructible metal, unable to clench together. His eyes fell from observing the ceiling and he sank back against the moss-covered wall, closing them. His execution was imminent – that he knew – and unless he could reason with the Allfather, his death was inevitable. With a strained sigh, he clasped his hands together and crossed his legs. His wrists were bound with enchanted rings which muted his magic and his ankles were shamefully shackled.

He had to make Odin listen. He had to.

There was a clank of metal on metal, making Loki open his eyes and stare through the bars at the door opening at the other end of the hallway. Two heavily-armed guards regarded him with distaste as they stomped to his cell, but rather than flash them a look of mischief which he usually would, Loki simply stared at the ground.

“You will kneel before the Allfather this evening in Gladsheim and he will decide your fate,” one of the guards – they all looked the same – said in a gruff, harsh voice.

“I think we already know what that is,” the other said with a tone of sick amusement, and Loki glared, standing. The guard stepped forwards and grinned cruelly. “There’s nothing you can do to me, you power-hungry scum.” He spat at Loki’s feet and they both turned, cackling, and left Loki staring at the now-closed door at the end of the hallway, filled with more anger, more hatred and more horrible, painful dread.

*

“Upon the act of attempting to destroy the peace and the people of Earth, you are hereby sentenced to death by way of beheading. Your execution will take place at the toll of noon tomorrow.”

Odin’s voice rang out across the grand hall, echoing and devastating. The Aesir that sat either side of him nodded in agreement at the god who knelt before them on the cold floor, never feeling smaller than he did at that very moment. He had been disallowed to speak since all evidence pointed against him, and even Thor had shaken his head in sorrow when he had been unable to vouch for his brother.

“Does he not receive a final request?” Thor asked, finally speaking out. Odin looked up at his son and tilted his head to the side with contemplation.

“Of course.” He turned back to Loki. “Remove the gag.”

Loki did not open his eyes as the gag fell from his lips. The sheer relief which greeted him when he stretched his mouth wide and then closed it again was gratifying, but he did not have time to relish it.

“I ask for private discussion with the Allfather. That is my last request.”

The Aesir gasped and began to whisper amongst themselves, but Odin silenced them. “Whatever you wish to say to me alone can be said before the court.”

Loki’s eyes narrowed. “Are you going to deny a dead man his last request?”

The Aesir continued to whisper. Odin frowned. “No. You are permitted to have your say in my presence and my presence alone. Come, Loki.” Odin stood. “Guards, escort Loki to my chambers.”

*

Loki’s heart lurched as the person he once regarded as his father paced, hands clasped behind his back, his one good eye looking straight between his own. No matter how he felt about Odin after discovering his true parentage, the expression of disapproval reverted him back to his childhood. Suddenly he was a boy again, feet turned inwards towards each other and top teeth worrying his bottom lip. He hadn’t mastered or even attempted the face that lied at that point. The face that shrouded all emotion and gave nothing away. The face that didn’t require words to cover for him.

“Loki, how many times have I told you not to use your magic against your watcher?”

“But father - ”

Odin had raised his hand to silence him. “No, Loki. I do not want to hear that he deserved it or some other excuse. You deliberately disobeyed my direct order not to harm anyone with magic.”

Dropping his eyes the floor, Loki had pouted. He hated being looked at like that.

“I’m sorry,” Loki said many years later, eyes fixed directly on the Allfather’s good eye. His face was serene, but he knew that Odin caught the slight shudder of his lip. Odin raised his eyebrow and stopped pacing.

“You’re sorry?” The question was filled with doubt.

“You’re listening?” Loki shot back. Usually, Odin would have just ignored Loki’s every word but this time, this time he had actually stopped and responded. Odin’s brow furrowed.

“Why are you sorry? You are never sorry for the problems you cause.”

Loki began to hiss something but then he stopped himself. Odin was listening. It was now or never.

*

“I know why you didn’t let me speak in Gladsheim,” Loki growled, now free from death but with the burden of Earth’s safety on his shoulders. Odin had believed him only after consulting with the head of Mimir which sat on a pedestal in the centre of Odin’s chambers.

“The one who lies now speaks the truth,” Mimir breathed, his aged voice barely a whisper but still filled with absolute and indefinite knowledge. Odin had turned back to Loki with a face of pure relief and twisted joy and strode towards him with open arms before realising that Loki was not going to return the oncoming embrace. Odin folded his arms away.

“I know why you didn’t let me speak in Gladsheim.”

Odin raised his eyebrow.

“You didn’t want me to tell them all of who I really am. Of how I’m a Frost Giant and how you raised their very enemy right under their noses. I could have done. I could have told them everything and they would never have trusted you again.”

Sighing, Odin sat on a chair and put his hands on his knees. “Why do you think I’m sending you to Earth?”

At that, Loki choked on his own retort.

“W-what?”

“Even if you did announce that to my people, they would be unlikely to believe such a consistent liar. Yet it may arouse suspicion and I do not want that.”

Anger and sadness filled Loki once again. “You’re a coward. You fear the uprise of your people against your ruling and you fear me. You fear me now because I could show them who you really are. I may be a liar but I clearly learnt from the very best liar of them all.” He took a step towards Odin. The Allfather rose to his feet and walked towards Loki. Worried that he might have taken it a bit too far, and that Odin was now going to demolish him, Loki winced, but was surprised when Odin lay a gentle hand on his shoulder. He whispered a few words and suddenly the great mages of the nine realms appeared around the room. “What are you going to do to me?”

“Shield you from the creature that seeks you out. Then you will go, and I shall pretend to banish you to Earth.”

“…Pretend?”

“You are always welcome to come home, my son.”

Loki swallowed the slight happiness that swirled within him. “I would never wish to come back here.” It was a lie but also the truth. This was his home, but people had never really liked him. Not like they had liked Thor. He was an outcast. He belonged nowhere.

“Exactly.” That one shattering word of confirmation that he and Odin were through being father and son was enough. Loki’s actions – though somewhat justified – since he had found out his heritage had been Odin’s perfect excuse to finally show his true feelings for him.

He was a Frost Giant.

And he was not welcome here.

He never really had been.

He could never come home.

*

There is a special place in the Avengers tower where Thor can travel to and from Asgard by means of the Bifrost. It had been rebuilt faster than Thor had anticipated it would, and Heimdall had resumed his position as gatekeeper.  The special place meant that nothing would get destroyed when Thor catapulted back down to Earth. The special place is the roof.

The Avengers assemble on top of the tower to bid farewell to the two gods. Loki stands with his hands clasped at the front, head hanging low and eyes fuelled by a worry that only Tony knows the truth behind. For a moment, Loki lifts his head and stares at Tony, a small smile silently promising a safe and soon return. Well, hoping to promise, Tony thinks begrudgingly. Loki obviously senses his doubt and shifts from foot to foot with discomfort.

Then it hits Loki hard. These people have accepted him. All of them. Even Clint looks slightly sad that they’re parting. This is where he belongs. With the Avengers. With Tony. Here it doesn’t matter if he’s a Frost Giant or a Norse god. He looks at Thor, who smiles at him with apprehension. Thor’s scared too. Of course, Thor doesn’t know that Loki wasn’t actually banished. He doesn’t know what Loki did for Asgard – for him. Loki never told him or anyone until Tony because when people see good, they expect good. And he didn’t want to live up to anyone’s expectations. But now he is good. He doesn’t think malicious thoughts anymore and he isn’t fuelled by hatred. He wants them to expect good from him, because that’s what he’s going to give them and that’s what he’s going to be. Steve walks forwards and shakes his hand, and Natasha punches him on the shoulder which is apparently – when the person is smiling warmly – a show of good will.  Loki nods at her and allows Tony to wrap his arms around his waist and place a kiss on his jaw line.

“Hurry back,” he whispers.

“Heimdall!” Thor calls out. Loki turns away from the group and gazes up through squinted eyes at the darkening sky. Loki isn’t going home.

He’s leaving it.

*

As Loki walks towards the steps to Gladsheim, people all around stop to stare at him and whisper.

“He’s back!”

“I thought he was banished?”

He blocks them out as best he can but they grow ever louder with each footfall. When they enter the hallowed hall Odin stands from his throne and casts an angry glare over them both.

“Thor!” he cries in rage, but Thor simply stops and stands his ground, Loki following suit.

“Father! Listen to me! I know Loki has wronged you but you must hear that my brother’s magic has been destroyed and - ”

Odin raises his hand for silence. “Destroyed, you say?”

Thor nods. “Yes. By Amora.”

“Ah.” Odin steps down and all he can do is stare at Loki’s mouth – free to speak at any time and completely ruin Odin before the court.

“Loki.” His eyes finally meet the trickster’s own.

“Father.”

Smirking, Odin turns on his heel to face the Aesir. “Loki was not banished to Earth. He came to my chambers and told me that he protected the people of Asgard by taking the army of the Chitauri to Earth and not our home here.”

“I told you that in private conversation!” Loki shrieks, tearing away from Thor towards Odin. The guards grasp their weapons and advance but Odin shakes his head.

“Because you feared people may no longer fear you if they discovered what you had done for us?” Odin turns back to Loki  I did you a favour keeping it a secret this long.”

“No! Because you would never have listened if you were seated on your high throne surrounded by these imbeciles!” Loki motions at the council who stand and clench their fists, indignant. “They would shout that I was not to be trusted and not to be believed because I am the god of lies but the truth is that you can’t survive on lies your entire life. You of all people should know that.” Odin growls under his breath as whispers run along the line of Aesir behind him. “Amongst other reasons relating to that particular accusation. Would you like me to elaborate?”

For the first time in Loki’s memory, Odin seems lost for words. Thor looks astounded which isn’t entirely surprising since what Odin had said was certainly news to him.

“Why did you believe him, Allfather?” someone shouts, but Loki’s vision is too shrouded by rage to see and his ears are pounding with the sound of his heartbeat so he doesn’t recognise the voice.

“Because Mimir told me I could.” Odin tilts his head to one side and considers Loki. “I suppose you came back so that I would grant you permission to consult with Eir?”

“She’s the only one who can help him,” Thor croaks, finally talking. There is silence as Odin climbs back to his throne and takes a seat.

“As punishment for previous crimes, I stationed Loki as protector of Earth. Without his magic, Earth’s safety is at stake. I will grant your permission to seek out Eir, but that is all I can do. I cannot force her to help you.”

Loki is buffeted with relief but also a weighted sorrow. Odin isn’t granting this permission for him. He’s doing it for Earth, and Earth alone. Odin had to tell the council the truth before Loki could, because he knew how Loki could twist words and make even the council distrust the almighty Allfather.

Odin could not take that chance.

*

“I’m sorry I did not tell you, brother,” Loki says as they walk down the familiar halls of Asgard. Thor takes a deep breath in and lets out a heavy sigh.

“I understand. At least I know now. I am…proud of you. All of it on Earth, about ruling and freedom? It was all lies?”

“I am the best,” Loki chuckles, making Thor grin. The thunder god claps him on the back.

“Let us find mother. She can tell us of Eir’s whereabouts.”

Loki’s step falters and he freezes altogether. Thor doesn’t realise that Loki isn’t beside him until he passes the next archway, glances to the left, then back, and sees Loki motionless far behind. “Loki?”

“Mother…” is all that escapes his brother’s lips.

“…has missed you terribly.”

Loki looks up. “Please don’t lie to me,” he replies in a small voice. Thor smiles again.

“I wouldn’t dare. Mother will be overwhelmed when she sees you.”

“Really?”

“Indeed.” Thor puts his arm around Loki’s shoulders and urges Loki onwards.

*

They eventually find Frigga seated on the balcony just outside her bedchambers. She hears them approaching and when she turns and spots Loki, she lets out a sob and throws herself out of the chair and into Loki’s arms, who holds her tightly.

“Loki, my darling boy. My darling boy!”

“Mother,” Loki manages around the lump that’s formed in his throat. “Mother.”

She squeezes him tightly. “I just discovered what you did for Asgard. Your father was just here. Oh dear sweet Loki. I have missed you. I have missed you.”

Loki beams into her thick blonde hair. Well, maybe he does belong somewhere in Asgard. 

Chapter Text

When Clint arrives at the deserted skate park just under the freeway, hands shoved in his hoodie pocket and eyes scouring the outlying area, he assumes he’s alone and that he’s early. He checks his watch and yep - fifteen minutes early. After a while, he catches sight of a huge symbol emblazoned on the wall with graffiti, and he can’t believe he missed it before. It’s a spider.

“Cool, huh?” The sudden voice doesn’t make him jump, because he’s trained not to let it, but he stares upwards at where the source of the noise had come from and finds Spider-Man dangling above him on a web.

“Dude!” he cries with glee, beaming up at Peter who yanks off his mask and waves, a stupidly happy smile plastered on his face. Clint looks hard at the suspended individual and whistles. “I’m gonna say it again – you’re awesome.”

A blush dapples Peter’s cheeks and he drops down from his web, flipping over in the middle of his fall in order to land on his feet beside Clint. They both stare up at the giant spider graffiti.

“Apparently I’m all the rage at the moment,” he chuckles, motioning at it. His blush grows even deeper, and he finds himself rubbing the back of his neck nervously. He still can’t get over the fact that this is Hawkeye and Hawkeye thinks he’s awesome.

Clint turns to him and places a hand on his shoulder. “Are you ready for this?” Peter simply grins. “I mean, this is serious shit that’s about to go down. Are you sure you’re prepared?”

“Are you sure you are?” Peter hits back, and Clint’s eyes go wide with surprise.

“Oooh, someone’s a little cocky!” Clint barks as Peter yanks his mask back on and pulls his skateboard out from his backpack. Clint throws his own to the floor and places his foot on it.

“You are going down.”

“Watch it, Spidey. I’ll have you know that even without the super strength I - ” Clint doesn’t get to finish his sentence because Peter has already sped off into the distance. Smirking, Clint kicks off and feels the wind against his face as he speeds after the red and blue blur. He hasn’t skateboarded in a while, but that doesn’t mean he’s forgotten how.

*

Tony is anxious. He can’t help that – his guy is traipsing across Asgard somewhere, probably seeing old flames pass by and feeling rekindled emotions and –

Stop that. God, you’re seriously worrying about that when it’s more important to worry whether or not Loki will get his magic back? You’re a selfish bastard, Tony Stark. Maybe Steve was right.

Tony laughs out loud.

What am I saying? Steve can shut the hell up.

It’s at that precise moment that Steve just so happens to walk into the kitchen where Tony has been fixing himself a well-needed coffee, and the tension between them gets to such a point that Steve’s eventual sigh manages to make Tony’s skin crawl.

“I’m sorry about earlier.” Well, that’s surprising, Tony thinks to himself, spinning around to face the pretty-boy super soldier.

“Say what?”

“I said I’m sorry about earlier.” He even looks genuinely apologetic. “I…I – You had every right to spend time with Loki after all of that. I mean, I guess I just understood the kid. Back before the serum, I was a nobody. My only gift was art. No one gave it the time of day so I almost gave up. I don’t want Peter to feel unwelcome and - ”

Tony chuckles under his breath and claps Steve on the back, making him pause. Oh Steve. Always fighting for the greater good.

“I get it. And I’m sorry for using your virginity against you. It’s cute. All the girl’s will find it cute.”

Steve blushes harshly, but a sad smile plays on his mouth. “There’s only ever been one girl for me, Tony.”

Tony feels a pang of regret for making Steve think about that. About her. Peggy. Her name was Peggy, right?

Steve moves around him to grab a mug and places it beside Tony’s on the counter. His fingers slide off of the mug and remain on the edge of the counter, gripping it. He stares at the mug, in all of its unimportance and mediocrity, as if it’s the most precious thing on earth. He’s thinking about her.

“Steve,” Tony manages, hand wavering over the soldier’s shoulder, wondering whether or not his comfort is wanted. Tony’s had never been one to be able to soothe a troubled heart, but ever since his escapades with the others as kids, he’s found himself much more capable of putting people at ease. “Steve.”

“She died last year, Tony.” Steve glances up, his eyes glassy and his mouth twitching. “She died of old age. I should either be dead too, or deaf and frail in an arm chair twirling a wedding ring around on my finger. I should have a head filled with memories of a life with the girl I love. I should have kids. Maybe even grandkids but I don’t and it hurts that that’s true.”

There’s absolutely nothing that Tony can do to rectify this. He can do many things but he can’t fix what was done to Steve all those years ago.

“You listen to me, Captain America,” he says sternly, suddenly knowing what to say. “You have saved so many people because of what happened to you. You’ve let other people have those memories that they wouldn’t have had if you hadn’t been there. You have let people have the lives that would have ended if not for you!”

The kettle flicks off, finishing its boil.

“I guess,” Steve replies quietly, his smile warmer.

The sorrow in his eyes, however, does not disappear.

*

After their emotional reunion, Thor slips away as Frigga links her arm with Loki’s and guides him towards the flower gardens. It’s silent for a long while, with Frigga often pausing to sniff the occasional blossom or floret.

“I worry about you, Loki,” she sighs eventually, breaking the quiet. Loki feels his stomach churn, sensing the disappointment that worms its way into her words. He may have prevented Asgard from the creature’s wrath, and he may have changed for the better, but his mischievous nature had indeed caused him to wreak havoc multiple times on Earth for no particular reasons. No doubt Thor has been keeping Asgard up to date on his antics.

“Oh mother. Surely simple trickery is allowable on my part? I am the god of mischief, after all.”

She gives him a disapproving glance, but then her mouth curls into a slight smile, and she takes a seat on a stone bench, patting the space beside her. Loki sits. Her hands wrap around his own, her face suddenly serious.

“I know that part of your attack against Earth all that time ago was fuelled by the anger you feel towards your father.”

“Mother - ”

She shushes him. “I understand that you felt pain, my dear. And you fell into the hands of a dark force which only added to your rage. But no matter how distant you felt or how much you resented us for not telling you, you were always loved here. You will always be loved here.”

Loki breathes in deep. He’s not welling up. He’s not. “I was stupid to act so irrationally. I was hurt and so very lost. But now I know that my family issues really don’t warrant such outlandish behaviour. Someone wise helped me to see that.”

Frigga raises her eyebrow, her question quite clear before it escapes her. “Whom do you speak of?”

A sensation of immeasurable warmth spreads through his entire being. “I am in love, mother.”

“Oh my goodness!” She beams at him. “My dear boy! Who?”

“His name is Tony Stark.”

“The Iron Man whom Thor speaks of so kindly? The genius human with the metal suit of armour?”

“The very one. He set me back on the right path. He made me see my idiocy, and he has claimed me as his own.”

Frigga has tears in her eyes. She cups Loki’s face. “I am so happy for you. If he is the one who has brought you back to me as you once were, then I must meet him. But Loki, he is only a human. His life span is - ”

Loki places a finger on her lips. “That bridge is meant for a later crossing. For now, we are content. But before you meet him I must have my magic returned to me for I fear if I am left as this hollowed shell of a body for much longer I will perish.”

“Of course! Of course. Mount Lyfia is where you shall find Eir. No one can ask her to heal you – your father already made that clear. You cannot lie to her, my dear. She can see directly into the souls of men and she – she alone – will be the one to decide whether she deems your worthy of being healed. Tell her truths and she will listen.”

Loki nods, squeezing her hand gently. “Thank you, mother.”

Smile soft, she places her lips on his cheek. “Good luck.” She looks up, her face suddenly serious. “Good luck.”

*

“You are slooooooooow, old man!”

Clint pokes his tongue out at the teenager and grinds to a halt. Peter bounds off of the wall and walks over to him, gait smug. Clint can’t help but let out a laugh.

“Okay, okay. I gotta admit, you’re slick. But why not see how you fare against my talents?”

Peter wrenches off the mask just so Clint can see his raised eyebrow. Crossing the large empty space, Clint pulls his backpack out from its hidey hole and produces a long case from it. From that, he removes something which mechanises into a bow. Peering back over his shoulder, he can see Peter’s expression of confusion.

“What are you going to do? Shoot me?”

Clint doesn’t reply until he’s hooked his arrows over his shoulder and readied his equipment. When he turns around, his enormous grin is answer enough.

*

“Fury would kill you if he knew about this!” Peter cried, voice filled with adrenaline and ecstasy. He shoots his webs this way and that, avoiding the arrow-fire that’s on a constant rampage in his direction.

“You’ve caught on quick, kid!” Clint calls out, releasing another. “So would Tasha!”

“Oh, she so will.”

Clint lets his arm drop and spins around. Tasha stands not too far away, arms crossed and eyes narrowed with anger.

“How did you find us?!” Clint gawps, beginning to back away. Peter lands beside him.

“This isn’t good, is it?”

“Of course I found you,” she snaps, suddenly storming towards them. “What are you doing, Clint?”

“Practising!”

“On a boy?”

“He’s a superhero!”

“He isn’t invincible!”

“He’s got Spidey-senses!”

“I DON’T CARE WHAT HE HAS OR HASN’T GOT. CLINT, GET YOUR BUTT BACK TO THE TOWER RIGHT NOW AND PETER, YOU GO HOME.”

“But - ”

“NUH UH. NO IFS ANDS OR BUTS. YOU GO AND YOU GO NOW.”

Clint gives Peter an apologetic look as his wrist is grasped firmly and he’s dragged out of the skate park.

*

The two brothers travel together to Mt. Lyfia. As they grow ever closer, the world around them seems to brighten even though the day grows longer. It is not that it’s the light that’s brightening; it’s everything. The colours of the trees and their leaves, and the grass either side of the pathway – their vibrancy is amplified.

“It is beautiful here,” Thor murmurs under his breath, the little of it left after the rest has been taken away by the sheer splendour of their surroundings. The mountain looms ahead, a palace adorning its peak, turrets twisting in magnificently odd ways towards the sky.

After scaling the mountain, they dismount their horses and allow the stable boy to lead them away. Thor straightens his helmet and presses onwards into the palace, Loki keeping up with his stride. Huge, gleaming doors tower over them and open upon their closer approach, silently sliding into a grand entrance hall glistening with gold finishes. An enormous chandelier hangs above their heads on a single thread no thicker than a strand of hair.

A number of young girls in floaty white dresses giggle as they scamper by, eyeing the two gods with curiosity but not stopping to ask questions.

“Welcome,” a silken voice asks. Loki and Thor look to their right to see a stunning woman with bronze tresses curling down to her waist, her hands open in greeting and a pleasant smile on her face. “Loki and Thor, I presume? Frigga’s children?”

“Indeed,” Thor says, bowing. Loki does the same and watches her face which grows harder in expression the longer she inspects him.

“You have sought me out in order for me to return your magic.” It’s a statement, not a question, and Loki knows that his trial before her has begun.

“If you would be so kind.”

She chuckles sadly. “I would be so kind but alas, I cannot.”

Loki’s world stops spinning. His heart slams into his gullet and his stomach drops. Well, there had been a chance that this would be the answer but he had been so believing that it wouldn’t be –

“But I’ve been good!” he stammers, pushing his hands through his hair. “I deserve my magic back, I do!”

A gentle hand places itself over his heart, nails digging in slightly.

“There is a history of darkness here which cannot be erased by a few good deeds. The chaos of your past is…consuming.”

“Is there – is there nothing to be done?” Loki whimpers, clutching at her hand. She gazes up at him, green eyes honest.

“Three witnesses of your good acts. They must be presented to me. Their words must be truth and their hearts pure. If I believe their accounts to suffice for your healing, I will do so willingly.”

“I shall bear witness!” Thor cries valiantly, and Eir laughs – a refreshing sound. Loki glances at Thor with gratitude.

“You may be a witness. But all three of the witnesses must be brought to me by sundown tomorrow. It is then that I shall make my decision.”

 

Chapter Text

Tony decides to take his suit and do a circle of the city in an attempt to calm his frazzled nerves, but barely makes it a quarter of the way round before he’s strolling – still suited - into a Dunkin’ Donuts, helmet under arm and sunglasses perched on the bridge of his nose. The zit-faced teenager behind the counter faints at the sight of him, and has to be dragged out by a fellow employee before the manager of the establishment bustles through and flusters at him about what he would like to purchase. He browses the selection before pointing out a few for himself and then paying for a donut for everyone in the joint, because he’s just that kind of guy. If there’s no crime to be fought, then good deeds must come in the form of free donuts from everyone’s favourite superhero.

*

Tony finds a comfortable spot on the top of the Brooklyn Bridge and settles back, biting into tasty goodness and closing his eyes. After a while of silently munching through his box, he cracks open an eyelid and stares at the New York skyline.

“Jarvis?”

“Sir?”

“Tell me what you can about Peter Parker.”

“Certainly, sir.”

*

Half an hour later, Tony has called Happy and has had him pick him up so he can remove the suit and arrive at Parker’s house in a more civilised and less noticeable way. He even goes to the extent of hiring an old banger of a car and pulling on a baseball cap.

Tony rings the doorbell, and a kindly looking woman opens the door, peering up at him with expectancy and a smile.

“Can I help you?”

Tony moves his head so that she can see his face fully, and she gasps, throwing a hand to her mouth.

“Oh my! Oh, I’m sorry, I just don’t expect to open the door to someone who is, well, you.”

Tony chuckles. “I apologise for my unscheduled visit, but I’m here to see Peter. Is he home?”

“He just got in. Can I ask…what this is regarding?” She bites her lip. She knows.

“I think you’re already aware.”

Eyes drop, cheeks pink. “Please, come inside.” Tony steps over the threshold, and she closes the door behind him. “I’m May Parker. Nice to meet you, Mr. Stark.”

“Aunt May, who was at th - ” Tony glances up the stairs at Peter, who has frozen with his eyes fixed on the billionaire below. Tony smirks and waves. He’s used to getting such expressions thrown his way. “Uhhhhh – hi – um – oh god – hi Mr. Stark – sir – um – hi.” Peter thunders down the stairs and grabs Tony’s hand, shaking it furiously.

“Hey kid,” Tony smiles. “I’ve been hearing some things about a promising young man in the science field and I was wondering if you’d like to come with me for a little trip around the city?”

Peter’s eyes pop, and he glances at May who keeps her face serene and looks as though Tony Stark just showing up at their house and asking Peter to go out somewhere with him is the most normal thing in the world.

“Can I go?”

“Of course,” she replies with a slight nod of the head and a small smile. Peter looks just about to whoop with joy, but then composes himself, grabs his jacket and stands with eager eyes locked onto Tony’s own. “Would you like a cup of coffee, Mr. Stark?”

Tony breaks his gaze to let his eyes dart to May’s. Her smile is warm and inviting, but he only concentrates on this for a second since he notices a picture of an older man propped in a delicate frame on the table beside her. There’s a vase of flowers too; fresh and crisp as though they’ve been cut only recently. May’s hand is resting on the table, and she goes to follow his eye line.

“No. Thank you.” She looks back at Tony. Relief tingles inside of him. “I’ve had way too many cups this morning and I’ll be up all night if I have any more.” He offers her a grin and opens the door for Peter. “Shall we?”

*

Peter sits facing Tony, his knees bolted together and his eyes everywhere but Tony's face. The car slides through the city streets and they sit in silence for ten minutes before Tony coughs, causing Peter to jump suddenly and snap his eyes to lock with Tony's. 

"First rule of being a superhero - don't let random sounds freak the shit outta you."

"I was sort of on edge..." Peter mumbles.

"Superheroes are always on edge. Not knowing where the next villain or spook is coming from – it’s kinda sorta part of the package deal."

Peter shrinks back into the seat and Tony automatically feels awful. He didn't invite Peter along so that he could reprimand him. Shifting uncomfortably, Tony licks his lips and places his hands together on his knee.

"I watched the news footage. Of the other night when you took on Dr. Lizard Psycho. You're an incredible young man, Parker." 

Peter's blush deepens to a scarlet and he can't help but let a smile creep onto his face. "Thanks Mr. Stark. That means a lot coming from you."

"Call me Tony. Please. You know, I envy you. You fly through the city on webs and have the benefit of a non-metal, non-restrictive suit. It moves with your body and lets you perform stunts that I could only dream of with what I have to work with. You say you made it yourself?" 

The teen nods eagerly, now not looking anywhere but Tony's face. "Yeah! And the devices for the webbing to come out of!"

Woah, Tony thinks. This kid is smart. Really smart. 

"I like you, Parker. You're clever and you're not ashamed of it. Good for you. I'd love to see your work at some point if you'll let me. Maybe we can work together on a few things. I'll show you my workshop."

Peter's jaw drops. "Y-your workshop? As in...where you built your Iron Man suit and-"

"Yes. And I'm sure Dr. Banner would love you on board too. We work together a lot."

Looking fit to burst with excitement and joy, Peter beams and nods again. Then he composes himself.

"Thank you so much. That’s – it’s – wow.  Such an honour.”

“It’s the least I can offer you after the other day. I totally disregarded you and what you did for our city. For the world, even.”

Peter smiles. “It’s okay, Mr. St- Tony. The others got me up-to-date on everything.”

“…Everything..?” Tony’s collar gets hot. Awkward.

“Yeah. The truth behind the whole kid fiasco – I saw the papers with little Thor in them – and how Loki is now a good guy and is off to Asgard to get his magic back which was taken from him and how you and him are dating and-”

“Oh god, they really did tell you everything, didn’t they?”

“I don’t judge, Tony. It’s 2012. If you don’t support all kinds of love then your head is stuck way too far up your own ass. Shit’s in the way of you seeing what’s right. Plus, I know what it feels like to love someone.”

“Huh.” A grin breaks out onto Tony’s face. He goes to respond further but his cell vibrates in his pocket. “One sec, I gotta take this.” It’s Pepper. “Hey hotstuff.”

“Loki’s back.”

“Happy, head straight to the tower.”

*

Peter doesn’t mind coming along as Tony makes Happy race through the city streets at way-too-fast-to-be-legal speeds. When they make it to the front entrance and dash into the elevator, Tony tells JARVIS to skip out any floors that aren’t the floor Tony’s heading to. When the doors ping open and Tony sees Loki standing there in his full Asgardian attire, helmet perched under his arm, he has to restrain himself from throwing himself at the god and ravishing him then and there in front of all the others who are also gathered all around the room. Loki spies him, and the lack of reciprocating smile makes Tony’s stomach flip.

“Your magic…?”

“…Is not yet returned to me.”

“Well, that’s not exactly great.”

“No.”

There’s an awkward silence that fills the room amidst an impossible-to-not-notice sexual tension between the inventor and the Liesmith.

“We’ll...leave you to tell Tony what you told us,” Steve announces, already half-way towards the kitchen.

“There’s no time,” Loki hisses, impatience brewing under his tone. “Tony, I need your help. I need three witnesses to stand for me before Eir to tell her of how I am changed. How I am good. She cannot see into my heart because it has been so rotted by darkness.”

Without hesitation, Tony nods. “Of course I’ll be your witness. Who are the others?”

“I,” Thor booms with pride.

“And me,” Steve says, waving.

“And when’s Eir getting here?”

Loki cracks a smirk. It feels good to see it, but the dread that comes along with that feeling is inescapable.

“Eir is not coming here. We are going to her.”

“You mean…”

“Yes, Tony. You’re coming to Asgard.”

*

It never crossed Tony’s mind that he’d be travelling to the realm of the gods at any point in his life. Not once in his childhood did he think “one day, I’m going to go where Odin lives”.

“I thought no humans are allowed to cross the Bifrost?”

“Odin is making an exception for yourself and Steve,” Loki says.

Thor steps forwards, face serious. “You must be appropriately dressed if you are to travel to Asgard and respect our culture. Therefore we have brought both Steve and yourself the correct clothing.”

Oh fuck. “Oh you so do not mean - ”

Loki cackles as he leans behind the couch and produces a pile of clothing. Tony spots some metal amongst the burgundy material.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“Afraid not,” Loki beams. He thrusts the clothes into Tony’s hands and the weight of the pile is shocking. “Well, go on then. Steve, you too. Go put them on.”

“Go on Tony!” Clint crows, and narrowly dodges an apple from the fruit bowl that comes from Tony’s direction.

*

He’s wearing a cape. It touches the floor and it’s a cape. There are golden metal arm guards and hulking boots that add a few inches to his height. There’s also a cape. A massive burgundy cape. It’s all heavier than the Iron Man suit.

“Loki…”

Tony walks into the room and everyone’s reactions are different. Clint breaks into guffaws. Thor’s claps of approval echo around the walls. Tasha whistles. Loki blushes and goes goggle-eyed. And Steve sighs.

“Christ, Rogers, you look worse than me.”

 “Thanks, Tony.”

Steve is dressed in a royal blue cape and arm armour similar to Thor’s. He’s all silver and blue and stupid-looking.

A hand wraps firmly around Tony’s. It’s Loki. He looks Tony up and down and licks his lips.

“Um. We should get to Asgard. Um. Yes. Huh.”

“Someone’s flustered,” Tasha coos, and Loki goes even redder than before. He shoots Tasha a glare, but Tony puffs his chest on and gets a handful of Loki’s butt. Loki jumps and glares at him now. Tony grins.

“Before we leave, there is one final part to your attire.” Thor produces two helmets.

“Oh no.” Steve gulps.

No.” Tony says bluntly.

“Oh yes!” Clint screeches. He doesn’t even stop laughing when an apple hits him square on the chest.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Though Tony despises his new clothing, he can’t help but enjoy how Loki keeps glancing at him and sweeping his eyes up and down his body. As they walk up to the roof, Tony tucks his arms behind his back and clasps his hands together before leaning in towards Loki’s ear.

“I bet you couldn’t wait to get me into these clothes,” he whispers, hot breath hitting Loki’s neck and ear, making him shudder.

“Yes, but now I can’t wait to get you out of them.”

“Please,” Bruce says with a heavy sigh from behind them. Tony and Loki hadn’t realised just how close the scientist had been. Tony chuckles to himself. Loki frowns.

When they reach the roof, Thor calls upon Heimdall, and the Bifrost opens ready to take them to Asgard. Before they depart, Tony swiftly locates Pepper and rushes towards her as best he can with the (damned) cape fluttering around behind him.

Pep.”

“Tony.”

“I’m going to freaking Asgard.”

“I know you are.” She repositions his helmet. “Be polite and bow to Odin. Remember your pleases and your thank yous and don’t you dare drink too much. Just…try to stay out of trouble.”

Tony feels a warmth wrap around his heart. “God, I love you. What would I be without you?”

Her head tilts to the side as she calculates an answer. “A mess.” Tony nods in agreement. “Now go. They’re waiting.”

He kisses her on the cheek. When he looks up at the others, Clint is absolutely most definitely staring directly at Pepper’s ass. He glances up at Tony’s own hard stare and winks. It’s a wink that says “I’ve totally screwed her and therefore I can stare at her ass all I want.”

Now, it’s not because Tony is a genius that he knows this: Pepper had told him what they had done and Tony had whooped for her, proud that she had finally gotten laid.

“That’s the first time in what…ages?” he had said.

Pepper had rolled her eyes. “Of course not.” Her red face had given her away nonetheless.

In the present, Loki has his hand out and Tony places his own in it.

“Are you ready?” Loki asks softly. Tony tears his eyes away from the smug archer, looking his god in the eyes and forgetting everything but that very moment and what was in store for him no matter what his reply is going to be.

“No,” Tony replies with certainty as he’s consumed by a blinding light, and then everything goes dark.

*

When Tony comes around, he’s being held up on his feet by Loki, and before him stands a giant, terrifying black guy in a giant, terrifying, golden horned helmet with a giant, terrifying, long golden sceptre in his giant black hand.

“Well hello,” Tony slurs, still slightly dazed. “You’re very big, aren’t you?”

“At least he is dressed appropriately,” the giant says with no hint of amusement, ignoring the swaying human. “From what I’ve seen of human fashion, it would not have been fit to be worn before Odin.”

“Precisely,” Loki replies, squeezing Tony’s arm just a little tighter. Tony blinks hard and snaps out of his daze. The giant black god man looks down at him with warning eyes and suddenly Tony can empathise with an ant that doesn’t know whether the oncoming boot will land on its face or not.

“Please don’t land on my face,” Tony voices aloud, caught up in yet another daze. When the giant looks almost confused, Loki pushes the small of Tony’s back to usher him along.

“You’ll have to excuse him, Heimdall. He’s…acclimatising.”

Heimdall does not look impressed.

“Well I never,” Steve gawps, stepping around Heimdall with Thor. Tony and Loki follow soon after, as Tony finds it hard to tear his eyes from the giant.

“Really Steve? No one says ‘well I never’ anymore.” Tony’s jab at Steve barely makes it out of his mouth before he too drops his jaw at the sight that greets him. A vast, golden city stretches out across the visible horizon, and below them is never-ending space filled with innumerable stars and distant galaxies. “Well I never,” Tony breathes.

Loki grins, wrapping his arm around his waist. Thor places an arm around Steve’s shoulder. The two humans remain motionless, the only movements being the constant dart of their gaze from one surreal reality to another.

“Welcome to Asgard, friends.”

*

“Loki, I can’t – oh my god. This is…” Steve can’t even finish his sentence. Thor waves to the citizens in the street who part to allow them passage on the horses that Loki has managed to finally get Tony astride. A few people offer them gifts of free food, and acknowledge the humans with curiosity and wonder. Small children run alongside the horses, giggling and asking who Tony and Steve are.

“Special guests,” Loki whispers to a particularly small boy whose round eyes are a little too large for his head.

A girl hands Tony a bag of fresh peaches in a burlap sack, and he looks at Loki as he raises one to his mouth.

“Yes, it’s safe to eat,” Loki chuckles. Biting into the peach, Tony is met with an extremely un-peachy flavour. That isn’t to say it isn’t delicious and far more so than the peaches of Midgard. Tony doesn’t ask questions as to what they are. He just eats.

“Steve, haff you tred this fwuit? Oh mah gohd.” Tony loses a bit of fruit from his mouth and it slips down his chin. “Cwrap.”

“Yah know, I acshully haff?!” Ahead of him, Steve turns and also has a mouthful of fruit. “This is thuh bescht fwuit like, evah.”

Tony takes another bite. “Oh mah gohd.”

*

Luckily for both Tony and Steve’s dignity, they have finished their fruit by the time they get to Gladsheim.

“Don’t we need to just go straight to this Eir lady? Because I mean she did say sunset tomorrow and it’s getting late and then you’ll only have like a third of a day or so and - ”

“Odin expressed wishes to meet you before we continue our journey, Tony,” Loki sighs. “You’re not getting out of meeting him.”

“But. it’s. Odin.”

“And I’m Loki and that’s Thor.”

“Yeah but - ”

“And I’m Captain America,” Steve interjects.

“No one cares, Steve. Shut up. But seriously, this is Odin. We’re talking the bearded, omniscient god of gods who has been around for I don’t know how many millennia. How is that your father. I mean of all the dad’s you could have had.”

“Don’t I know that,” Loki snaps, suddenly seething. “You shut up, Tony Stark. I’m well aware of who he is and don’t really want to be taking you in there for him to rip me apart for taking on a human as a partner. You are far beneath me in his eyes and I would not wish the judgment of Odin upon anyone after feeling it so heavily upon my own already weighted shoulders.”

Tony recoils slightly. Then he feels terrible. “I’m…I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking…I…”

Sighing, Loki rolls his eyes and his face softens. “It’s fine. I shouldn’t have…Look. Let’s just…get this over and done with.”

*

“And you are sure they will both pass as suitable witnesses?” Frigga asks.

Odin sits in his throne, the other seats of the court of Gladsheim empty upon Frigga’s adamant request. His expression is unreadable to Tony, who remains to kneel beside Steve. When they entered Gladsheim, Tony heard his heartbeat pounding in his ears and his footsteps were – to him – thunderclaps that bounced from the walls and echoed around the hallowed halls. He looked at Loki, but the god was fixed on the white-haired ancient sitting in the throne at the top of the steps. Odin’s gaze was slowly shifting between Tony and Steve. He looked intrigued.

“I am certain,” Loki says.

“And this man, Tony Stark,” Odin booms. A shudder runs down Tony’s spine as his name is spoken and he freezes. “You love him?”

“With all my heart,” Loki replies with no hesitation. At this, a heat grips Tony’s heart and unfreezes his entire being. He smiles.

“Then I condone their presence in Asgard, and declare it acceptable for them to travel with you to seek audience with Eir. Good luck.”

Just as Tony thinks it’s all over: “Tony Stark?” Frigga steps down from her place beside the throne and approaches him.

Don’t flip your shit stay calm it’s only Frigga wife of Odin calm Tony calm jesus lord oh god. “…Yes?”

“Rise.” He stands. Her eyes are full of kindness and love. Tony is all at once at ease, as though it is only he and she in the echoing hall. “You saved my son. Asgard owes you a debt of gratitude.”

“It was nothing. Really. I mean, I love the guy so - ” He’s silenced by her arms around him in an embrace. After a moment’s shock, he returns it, drinking in her scent of honey and wild flowers.

“You saved my son from death and from himself. You are welcome to Asgard whenever you wish. We are very glad that Loki has found you.”

“You sure he’s okay with that arrangement?” Tony jerks his thumb towards Odin. Frigga smiles.

“If I was making the wrong choices, my husband would have made that clear by now. He trusts me.” She turns to Odin and meets his gaze. The ancient god’s eyes crinkle as he replicates the grin on her face.

“My wife is correct.”

From the corner of his eye, Tony sees Loki’s eyes widen in disbelief.

*

“Your folks adore me,” Tony says with a smirk as they leave Gladsheim.

“I cannot….believe it to be so….but it is,” Loki mutters, almost to himself alone. He looks at Tony. “You persist in astounding me.”

“Kinda comes as part of the package deal of loving an inventor. We tend to astound, and do indeed sometimes persist in doing so.”

Steve yawns loudly. Night has fallen on Asgard, making any attempt at travel impossible.

“We will leave just before sunrise,” Thor says decidedly. “Mount Lyfia is less than half a day’s journey. We will make it there before sundown. For now, we must sleep.”

*

Tony grins, exhausted, and slithers his arm over Loki’s chest, holding him close. A moon of some kind that definitely isn’t the one that Tony’s seen all of his life on Earth shines through the windows and shimmers on the beads of sweat that trickle down his forehead, and he places a kiss on the god’s shoulder.

“I love you,” he coos, giving him another kiss. Loki shifts onto his side so that their eyes are on the same level.

“I love you too,” Loki replies with a smile, pressing his lips against Tony’s. “That was good for you, yes?”

Tony lets out a short laugh of disbelief. “You heard the noises I was making right? Of course it was good. Why’d you say that? Wasn’t it good for you?”

“No no! I just…” Loki bites his lip.

“What?”

“I just worry that I may hurt you. Because I have strength far beyond yours and I fear I may not realise whether or not the noises you make are that of pain or pleasure.”

“Look, I’d let you know if you were hurting me. But just for the record, you never have. Does that clear your conscience?”

Loki smiles again. “Indeed.” He kisses Tony again, and this time doesn’t stop until he’s removed most of the breath from Tony’s lungs.

*

“Sleep well?” Steve asks with a yawn the following morning. The sun is not yet up but both are dressed in their Asgardian clothing ready to leave for Mount Lyfia. Tony beams at him, sporting the widest smile he can muster.

“Nope.”

“I…I should never have even asked...”

Thor looks truly worried. “Tony, I will ask for chamomile tea to be brought to Loki’s chambers next time you stay here in Asgard. It aided my sleep as a boy, so I’m sure it will aid yours.”

Tony lets out a laugh, and even Steve can’t help but cackle.

“The horses are ready, your greatness,” a servant says in a small voice from the doorway. He darts off as soon as he’s spoken.

Thor claps his hands together. “Then we must leave at once!”

Loki walks in with Frigga, their hands linked. “Are we to leave?” he asks.

He sounds incredibly nervous. Tony notices the tight grip he has on Frigga’s hand.

“The horses are ready, brother. Are you?”

Loki sighs heavily. “I just want my magic back. So yes. I am ready.”