Chapter 1: Growing Attraction
Bruce was lonely. Steve and Tony were in Paris, Thor had gone back to Asgard and Natasha and Clint had never wanted to hang out with him in the first place.
He considered going to the dancing place he had visited with Steve and Tony all those months ago, but he suspected it wouldn't be much fun on his own.
He used to enjoy solitude, but recent friendships and companionship had altered that. So now, left to his own devices, he was miserable.
It had been years since he had been embraced by the scientific community, but recently Bruce had decided to try and publish some research. He was limited in what he could reveal, as almost everything he had been working on was classified, but there was enough there to knock up a pretty impressive paper. So impressive that he had been invited to a big gala event to accept an award on the subject.
It was a surprise, but not an unwelcome one. Acceptance was always welcome.
And there would be people there who were not hostile. None of them knew he was the Hulk, most of them would be impressed by Dr. Banner.
A little voice at the back of his head whispered he might even get lucky with someone. He might meet The One. If there was a One. Tony had mentioned there were reports of a lawyer who had a secret identity as a 'She Hulk' . If he ever met her, Bruce knew they would have things in common, but he wasn't bowled over by the idea of someone who had quite so much in common. Also it would be a little too convenient if he ended up with her. It wasn't going to happen. He was intrigued but not really interested.
He was, however, ready to date again at least. With all that entailed.
The speech went well, everyone applauded, many congratulated him afterward.
He was talking to a group of graduate students about his ideas when she approached: a willowy woman with long dark hair and a mesmerizing smile.
“Dr. Banner, I believe,” she almost purred, holding out a slender, well-manicured hand to Bruce. “I love your work. May I have an autograph?”
Bruce took her hand and smiled back. “Thanks.” Her grip was tighter than Bruce would have imagined it to be, but there was a definite frisson.
“We have met, though you probably don't remember,” she continued as he signed his name for her.
Bruce blinked. He looked at the woman for a second, trying to remember where he might have met her; she seemed vaguely familiar. He wondered if he had been the Hulk at the time, and felt a rising wave of panic.
“Hush,” she said, as if sensing this. “Don't worry. Your secret is safe with me. She leaned forward and whispered in his ear, “I won't tell if you don't.”
With blinding clarity he suddenly recognized the face, if not the rest of her. “Loki?” he said, slightly choked, hoping if he was wrong she would overlook the faux pas, or just not know what he was talking about.
She said nothing, but her smile increased and she seemed amused.
“What are you doing here?” Bruce said tightly, fighting the urge to turn into The Other Guy.
“I'm just taking break from the old me, temporarily. I am very lovely, aren't I?”
Despite the egotism of the statement, Bruce couldn't really deny the truth of it. Though when he looked at this stunning woman, he couldn't help but see the old Loki concurrently. Which, rather confusingly for Bruce, made him even more turned on by the creature before him.
She giggled. “Oh my, am I making you angry? I can see parts of you getting bigger already.”
Bruce blushed, a little tint of green in his cheeks.
“Why aren't you locked up? I thought Thor had said they were going to punish you,” Bruce snarled.
“Well, their version of punish might differ from yours. It might even differ from mine. I was exiled, in this form. To be perfectly honest I am enjoying it so far.” Loki seemed very relaxed about it.
“You can't change back?” Bruce asked.
“You know, I am not at all sure. Maybe a kiss from my One True Love will do it – do you want to give it a try?”
“No!” Bruce said, a little too quickly.
“You know, people can change Dr. Banner. I would have thought you would know that more than most,” Loki said sadly. Before turning to leave.
There were many people wanting to talk to Bruce and though he tried to follow Loki he quickly lost sight of the erstwhile god of mischief.
He felt surprisingly miserable about that.
Chapter 2: Fait Accompli
Thor takes it with his usual stride.
“My brother looked well?” Thor asked eagerly.
“Loki looked... well, yes, very well. Though not how I would have expected him to look,” Bruce admitted.
“Has Loki arranged to meet with you once more?” Thor continued. “I have not seen him since his exile, and I wish to know he is safe and happy.”
“I don't understand why he's not in captivity,” Bruce said. “He tried to take over the world!”
Thor looked at him blankly. “He is in exile, is this not punishment enough?”
“Why is he female now?”
Thor shrugged. “I believe he once again accused the Allfather of Seiðr. Perhaps it was thought apt that this transformation should take place.”
“Is calling him... what was it, 'Seeder'?... is that an insult?” Bruce was perplexed. He had heard Thor say the word before but hadn't bothered looking it up. He was pretty sure what he meant from the context though.
“I do not believe Odin thinks it so, it is more that Loki needs to see this for himself.” Thor paused. “Why is this of importance? I wished merely to know if Loki is bearing his exile with grace.”
“He looked pretty graceful,” Bruce admitted.
“This is good! Perhaps you can befriend him, and help him to adapt to life on Midgard. He will need friends.” Thor pouted, “He is still upset with me.”
“Thor, I don't even know where he went, how am I supposed to be friends with someone who isn't even there?” Bruce said, exasperated.
“So it is agreed! Then you have my blessing. When you have made every effort to find Loki, you will... what is the Midgardian phrase... 'show him a good time'.”
Bruce wanted to say something, but he had absolutely no idea what words to use. By the time he thought of something Thor was gone.
“Don't you mean how her a good time,” he muttered.
Chapter 3: Bothered and Bewildered
Steve and Tony were back from the honeymoon. They were both jet lagged, or at least worn out from some sort of exertion.
Bruce could guess, but he didn't really want to.
The two of them were sprawled together of the couch when Bruce came in. Tony looked up and gave a lazy wave.
“Hi, Bruce, what's up since we've been gone?” Tony asked.
“Nothing much, Tony. Thor's just back from Asgard, Clint got a new bow, Loki's a girl, the usual.”
“Run that by me again, now! Loki's a girl? I did not see that coming. Is she hot?”
“Um,” Bruce said. Unsure how to answer that without incriminating himself.
“I'll take that as a yes then!” Tony smiled.
“How did you see Loki, anyway?” Steve frowned.
“I'll let Thor tell you that. I really don't know how to explain Asgardian methods of punishment. But they seem to involve sending the prisoner on dates,” Bruce said, with a sigh.
“Excuse me?” Tony said.
“It's complicated,” Bruce sighed. “I'll just leave you two alone to enjoy your post-honeymoon lovefest.” He retreated to his room.
Loki could be anywhere by now, Bruce reasoned. There was no need to worry about Thor's plan to set them up, because Loki was probably half way to Mexico, or Canada or somewhere else far, far away. Though without a passport or any form of identification getting past the border might be tough.
Bruce closed the door and decided to get an early night, maybe read the latest Scientific America for a while.
He switched the light on.
“Hello, Dr. Banner,” said a very naked Loki, shifting in the bed. “I've been waiting for ages.”
Bruce let out a shriek before he could stop himself. “Loki, what the hell?”
“I thought you'd be pleased,” Loki sulked. “Am I not alluring?”
Bruce composed himself. “You're... very... look can you just put some clothes on?”
Loki looked dejected at this. “I am an outcast no matter where I go. Nobody wants me.”
“Oh, no, I didn't mean...,” Bruce rubbed his temple. This was a hard one, in more than one sense; though he could certainly relate to the sentiment behind the statement (even if Loki was being a tad overdramatic).
“No matter what form I take I am repulsive,” Loki wailed.
“That's not true, Loki.” Bruce sat on the bed. “And it could be worse. At least you don't turn into a giant green monster.”
“In my true form I am a giant blue monster!”
“Really?” Bruce had not known this.
“Please don't make me leave,” Loki said quietly. “I am so alone!”
Bruce found himself pressed up against a naked ex-god and he did not know how to react. A gentle pat on the back seemed appropriate. “Uh... OK... but please don't think I want to take advantage of you. I'll get Tony to give you a room of your own.”
Loki pulled away and smiled coyly. “All right, if that is what you want. But I am perfectly happy staying here with you.”
Bruce retreated before he did something he might regret in the morning.
“Uh, I tell you what, if you want to stay here, please feel free,” he said as he went. “I can sleep somewhere else tonight. Don't go anywhere...”
Closing the door behind him Bruce gulped. This might be a tricky one to play.
Chapter 4: Working Girl
“Loki is in my building?” Tony did not sound amused. “How did he get past security? JARVIS, why did you let Loki in?”
“Sir, a young woman claiming to be Dr. Banner's new PA was allowed inside three hours ago. Initial security checks revealed nothing that set off alarms and she was allowed to enter. She had Dr. Banner's signature on an authorization document.”
“Bruce, have you gone crazy? Why would you employ Loki as a PA?” Tony said.
“Obviously I didn't!” Bruce protested.
“Contractual law says otherwise, sir,” JARVIS said.
“How has he got a contract?” Steve asked, reasonably enough.
Bruce looked stricken. “I gave Loki an autograph.”
Tony shook his head, about to berate Bruce, but before he could say anything there was a genteel cough from the doorway.
Bruce and Tony both turned to the figure wearing nothing but a sheet, dark waves of hair falling on her almost translucent shoulders. Both men gulped. Steve looked too; and quickly looked away, slightly embarrassed by the sight of a semi-clad woman.
“Well, I can see why your head might be turned, Bruce,” Tony said.
“Tony!” Steve warned.
“Mine isn't, obviously!” Tony protested.
“I am sorry if I have caused you any problems,” Loki said, meekly. “I don't have anywhere else to go!”
“Where have you been staying, Miss?” Steve said, avoiding eye contact.
"Miss? Steve, this is still Loki," Tony scoffed. "I don't think you need to go all 'courtly love' on us! No need to be a gentleman, Loki is no lady, even if he does appear to be every inch a woman."
“I've depended on the kindness of strangers,” Loki pouted, ignoring Tony's outburst. “Please don't send me away! I promise not to misbehave.”
Tony let out a short barked laugh. “Forgive me for saying so, but that hardly seems credible.”
“I am powerless, ask Thor,” Loki said bitterly. “I put myself in your hands.”
“What say we just lock you up and throw away the key?” Tony said.
Loki sniffed. “As you wish. I have no where else to go, so I must do as you say.”
“Hold on, I promised Thor I would look after Loki,” Bruce said.
“And so what?” Tony countered.
“Loki doesn't have any powers, but Thor does, and I assume so does the rest of Asgard. I don't know about you but I would rather not find out what sort of wrath is in store for us if we do anything to annoy them.”
“You have a point,” Tony conceded. “And I suppose Loki really is powerless right now. OK, I know am going to regret it, but the beautiful naked lady can stay.”
“Thank you Mr. Stark,” Loki nodded, demurely.
Steve scowled at this. Tony patted his arm. “Don't be jealous, Cap – nothing compares to you.”
“How can I ever repay you?” Loki said.
“Well, apparently you're Bruce's PA now, so I assume someone's paying you,” Tony said.
“Stark Corp, sir,” JARVIS piped up.
“Oh, OK. Well, welcome to the company, Loki If you need any tips on policy or workplace grievances just contact Pepper, or Natasha, even. She's got form. Oh, and please don't think you've got to put out. I am reformed and I don't take advantage of my employees ... any more.”
Steve was stony faced through this. “She's not your PA, anyway, Tony,” Steve said. “She works for Dr. Banner.”
“Please don't think you've got to put out for me, either!” Bruce said, a note of panic in his voice. “Really.”
“Oh, I feel no obligation,” Loki said, with a coy glance to Bruce. “I can separate work from pleasure.”
Chapter 5: Beauty and the Beast
“Has everyone lost their minds?” Natasha was not amused by the latest development.
“I let you be my PA, and Loki's no more dangerous than you,” Tony shrugged.
“I think that might be over stating it!” Clint chipped in. “Tasha didn't try to take over the world.”
“Where is he anyway?” Natasha asked.
“Out with Bruce and Steve, buying clothes. We thought it was best there were two people making sure nothing disastrous happened,” Tony said, unfazed by Natasha's reaction.
“That already sounds like a disaster waiting to happen,” Natasha pointed out. “Those two can barely dress themselves.”
Loki, Steve and Bruce arrived back laden with bags and boxes. Bruce was looking very tired, Steve looked his usual self and Loki was beaming.
“Ms Romanova what a pleasure to see you again,” Loki smiled when he saw Natasha.
Natasha narrowed her eyes. “You look different. Have you changed your hair?”
Loki laughed. “Oh, and Mr Barton, I trust you are well?”
Clint said nothing. He still wasn't over the whole mind-control thing, and he certainly wasn't about to forgive Loki for killing several of his favorite close colleagues. Some of them closer than others.
“I really don't think a makeover is a suitable punishment,” Natasha said to Bruce. “Do you think, perhaps, Loki is using you all?”
“Undoubtedly,” Bruce admitted. “But almost all of us have done terrible things and most of us have sought redemption.”
“Hmph,” said Natasha.
“We all have a little red in our ledger, wouldn't you agree?” Said Loki, sweetly.
“Except Steve,” Tony said. “Steve's pretty near perfect.”
“Besides, this is mostly to appease Thor,” Bruce said.
At the mention of Thor, Loki winced, but said nothing.
“Why are we appeasing Thor!” Natasha said in exasperation. “Can't he deal with this back on Asgard without our involvement?”
“You don't have to get involved at all!” Bruce said, anger starting to rise. “I told him I would look after Loki, and... oh, no,” He tried to get the anger under control, but Natasha just rubbed him up the wrong way.
“Natasha, get out of here now!” Tony said, alarmed. “Bruce, calm down...”
The words 'calm down' seemed to upset Bruce even more and pretty quickly his clothes were ripped and the Hulk was standing there looking very angry indeed.
He made no move for a second and then grabbed Loki and lifted the ex-god off of the floor. “Must look after Loki!” he said, then started running, leaping over furniture and making for the fire escape down and out of the building, before anyone could stop him.
“Now look!” Tony said.
“You really need to invent some sort of stretchy fabric for him,” Clint said as they watched from the window as The Hulk and passenger retreated down the street. “It's pretty cold out there. And he's going to scare old ladies.”
The abandoned warehouse where Hulk ended up was indeed cold. Loki was fully dressed and was uncomfortable.
Fortunately Hulk was still big and green, was refusing to let go, and was presently providing quite a bit in the way of body heat.
“Pretty,” He said as he stroked Loki's hair.
“Do you think we should go back now?” Loki said calmly.
“No!” Hulk said. “Sleep here.”
“It's very cold,” Loki pointed out. “Wouldn't you prefer to sleep in a lovely warm bed?”
“Warm good,” He admitted. “Loki warm.”
Snuggling seemed like the best (and only option) for now.
When the rest of the Avengers found them Loki was asleep, and so was Bruce – curled around Loki protectively.
“Aw,” Tony said.
Bruce opened his eyes, and looked around tentatively. “Oh,” he said.
“Brother, you are safe!” Thor said. “I knew I need not be afeared with Dr Banner keeping you from harm.”
“Do you think maybe you should think about semantics and nomenclature, what with Loki not really being your brother and, you know, not really being your brother? Just saying,” Tony smirked.
“No matter what, Loki is always and forever my brother!” Thor said firmly.
“Thor!” Loki hissed. “I do not need your help.”
“No, indeed, brother, but I will give it anyway. And I will assent to your betrothal, to Dr Banner.”
“We're not getting married!” Bruce said.
“You are naked and alone with Loki, so custom dictates you must marry. Otherwise you dishonor my brother and you dishonor me, the Allfather and my mother. Do you do wish to do such a thing?”
Bruce looked at Thor and then at Mjölnir, held aloft, and thought for a second. “No?” He said meekly.
“Then a wedding must be arranged!” Thor said cheerfully. “And forthwith I shall call you too my brother, Dr. Banner.”
Chapter 6: A Thing Going On
Thor really doesn't take no for an answer.
It was awkward. Neither Bruce nor Loki were in favor of being made to be married – but Thor seemed to discount either of them having a say on the matter. He was very eager to get the ceremony arranged as quickly as possible.
“And before this, we must hold a Thing! And all must come,” Thor announced as soon as they arrived back at Avenger's Tower.
“In public?” Tony's eyebrows shot up. “Because, I've got to tell you, there are bylaws that say you can only hold your thing in the privacy of your own home.”
Thor frowned at this. “But many people must bear witness. You cannot hold a Thing without many guests. They must all take part: it is custom.”
This caused Tony to grin.
“Mr. Stark, please don't make fun of Thor, he doesn't really get it,” Loki said.
“Understood, ma'am,” Tony mock saluted Loki. He turned to Thor. “Don't worry about it – if you want to hold a thing, you can hold the biggest thing anyone has ever seen. Though I'm pretty sure Loki will be holding an even bigger thing on the wedding night, right, Bruce?”
“Are you really going to make the two of them go through with this, Thor? Steve asked.
“Of course!” Thor said. “Surely you understand the glories of marriage and commitment, Steve Rogers?”
Having had marriage and commitment kind of sprung on him, Steve could relate to Bruce's plight. It had worked out for him, he was happier than he could ever remember being right now, but Tony wasn't a massive egotist bent on world domination. Well, not as much as Loki was anyway.
“I am not a blushing virgin, Thor!” Loki pointed out.
“In this form you are an innocent maiden,” Thor pointed out. “And as your elder brother I must protect you.”
“Wow, go patriarchy,” Natasha said. “Could you be any more of a misogynist?”
“I know not,” said Thor confused.
“Figures!” Natasha tutted. “Look, I am not Loki's biggest fan, but don't you think she should be in charge of her own body and destiny?”
Thor stood there, arms folded. “No.”
“Bruce isn't an innocent maiden, either,” Tony pointed out.
“They will be married!” Thor said firmly.
“Bruce, do you even find Loki attractive?” Natasha, wasn't going to let this lie.
“Well... I can't deny a certain...,” Bruce rubbed the back of his neck. “I suppose I do, yes.”
“I do not need to be protected,” Loki said, smiling at Bruce's response to the question, “But I do find Dr. Banner pleasing. I would not be averse to a coupling.”
Thor looked smug at this.
“What if she turns back into the old Loki?” Clint asked.
Bruce paused for long enough, and looked shifty enough, that the answer was pretty obvious.
Natasha threw her arms up in frustration, “Well, don't say I didn't try to get you out of it!” she said.
Chapter 7: An Ever-Fixed Mark
Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds
They hadn't even kissed yet and they were betrothed. Loki hadn't sought this but wasn't particularly upset it had happened.
“What Clint said – are you likely to change back to your old form if we... um... consummate the marriage?”
Loki smiled. “I know not – Odin did not go into great detail when I was exiled. Suffice to say I was relieved not to have undergone his initial suggestion for punishment.”
“Which was?” Bruce asked.
“He was going to chain me to a rock and have a great serpent drip its venom onto my face until the time of Ragnarok.”
Bruce winced, “And how long is that?”
“Until the end of all creation, more or less,” Loki said, strangely relaxed about it. “Fortunately I talked him out of this.”
“That does sound a little extreme, even if you did try to destroy the world,” Bruce admitted.
“Oh, it was not because of my plan for the domination of Midgard, Odin cares little for that – it was that I insulted him and composed a flyte and several kennings mocking his virility. He felt a suitable punishment was to take away mine.”
“He's a bit touchy about the subject then? Thor did mention something along those lines,” Bruce nodded.
“That he took away my power is vexing, though I am not concerned which form I take. All my life I had been in a form that was not mine, and yet I was not aware of this until recently. And what of you, Bruce?” Loki savored the name, saying it slowly, almost seductively.
“And what of me?” Bruce wasn't sure what Loki was getting at.
“Do you consider this your true form?”
“The Other Guy is not me,” Bruce said.
“You are all the things you are, this is a lesson I have come to learn,” Loki said. “Denying a part of you will lead to naught but madness.” Loki reached over and brushed Bruce's cheek. “You must embrace it all.”
Bruce touched the hand Loki had placed on his cheek. “Wise words,” He said softly, leaning in.
Loki's lips were pliant and warm. Bruce closed his eyes as the one-time god gently nipped at his bottom lip. It was not quite hard enough to draw blood, but there was a bite behind it.
Bruce pulled away. Loki was still in the same form as before – a beautiful, willowy brunette.
“I wouldn't have minded if you had changed,” Bruce said. “Though if you stay as you are right now I would not complain.”
“I concur,” Loki pouted. “I find you pleasing, and your alter ego is also intriguing.”
Steve and Tony were planning a night out Steve had begun to insist every Tuesday should be devoted to the exploration of parts of New York City that had changed since he had been frozen.
“Hey, we're going to the new skating rink in Prospect Park,” Steve said excitedly as as the two of them came into the room. “You want to come?”
“I would have thought you'd had enough of ice,” Tony said. “And it's not actually finished yet. I've got contacts – we're just looking at how it's shaping up. We can't actually skate there yet.”
Steve looked upset at this. “Aw, I thought the guide book said it was done.”
“Built and scrapped and about to be rebuilt. It's been a long time since you lived in Brooklyn – I expect a lot has changed. Do you want to go somewhere else instead?”Tony eased in behind Steve, circling his waist and kissing the crook of his neck
“Well, we could stay in I suppose,” Steve said sleepily.
“I can show you a good time in New York without ever leaving this building,” Tony said.
The two of them left again, hands and mouths all over each other, barely acknowledging Loki and Bruce, let alone bidding them goodbye.
Bruce turned to Loki. “That's the sort of marriage I'd like!”
“That can be arranged,” Loki said. “When can we start?”
It was a wild night. Loki seemed to have studied whatever the Norse version of the Kama Sutra was and Bruce, less flexible and agile than Loki, was happy to have his bride to be take the lead.
“Thor would not approve,” Loki said at one point.
“Thor doesn't need to get involved,” Bruce said. “Please let's not get him involved, ever.”
Sated and exhausted the two of them finally laid back in the bed and curled up against each other.
“I think this will be a happy marriage,” Loki said. Bruce agreed,
The next morning Bruce awake slowly, enveloped in a long, strong arm. He opened his eyes and stretched. “Morning,” he said dreamily. Behind him Loki stirred.
“Let us sleep a bit longer,” a voice deeper than it had been said.
“Oh!” Bruce said.
“Oh!” Agreed Loki, when he realised the change in the timbre of his voice.
Bruce shifted around to get a better look. “Oh!” he said again, trying not to sound shocked. “I see what you mean about the big and blue thing.”
Loki jerked properly awake, looking down at his arms and then the rest of his body. “I am disgusting!” He wailed. He tensed as though trying to force his body back to the way it had been the previous night. It did not seem to have any effect.
“No, no, you're not disgusting,” Bruce assured him,. “It's a very pretty color. You look lovely.”
“Really?” Loki said, sounding not at all convinced. “I am enormous and blue and scaly! How can you think me lovely! You lie.”
“No, I'm not lying!” Bruce said, and he was surprised to find he really was telling the truth. He reached out to stroke Loki's arm. “This is how your really look?”
“No! I have never looked like this!” Loki said firmly.
“But this is how you would have looked if Odin hadn't brought you to Asgard?”
Loki folded his arms and stared at Bruce. “I believe if Odin had not brought me to Asgard I would not look like this: if he is to be believed I would not even be alive. He told me Laufey abandoned me because I was so weak and small.”
Loki stepped off the bed and stood up. Fully unfurled he was close to eight feet tall.
“Oh!” He said as his head scraped the high ceiling.
“Well get dressed and we'll talk about what to do next,” Bruce said calmly.
“I do not think any of the clothes we purchased will fit me now,” he said.
Which is how the rest of the Avengers came to find Bruce comforting a tall, naked Frost Giant on the couch.
“Sheesh,” was Clint's reaction.
Thor just blinked when he saw his brother.
“Oh. Well, looks like the big Thing Thor was talking about didn't necessarily belong to Bruce,” was Tony's contribution.
Steve just went and fetched a blanket, which he wordlessly passed to Loki.
“I take it the wedding's off,” Natasha said.
“Though you've certainly got the something blue if you go ahead,” Tony added.
“An espousal was made,” Thor said after a very long , contemplative silence. “Therefore honor must still be satisfied. The wedding will still take place. Dr. Bruce Banner, you must obtain a sword from the grave of your forefathers. Do it quickly - you will be married next Frigga's Day ”
Chapter 8: Ancestry
“I have to say, I really love the new look,” Tony said, looking over Loki. “It's your color.”
Loki pulled the blanket tighter round his shoulders and glared at Tony. “Do not mock me. My powers may be diminished at present but I will have my revenge on those who make sport of my predicament.”
Tony threw his hands up. “No, I'm honestly not mocking. You have to know how hot you are! Bruce, tell him.”
Bruce made a grumbling sound. He was still not sure how he was supposed to get the sword of his forefathers, and he was pretty sure exhuming bodies wasn't the done thing even if any of his forefathers had been buried with weapons. He had a lot on his mind.
“Don't be like that - show your fiance some love!” Tony said. “Ooh, a though: will any offspring you and The Hulk produce come out a kind of turquoise?”
“I do not believe any offspring will be forthcoming,” Loki frowned. “Not in this form.”
Thor thumped Loki on the back. “It is a pity that you have been kept ignorant of your ancestry, Loki, for else you would know that the Jotunn can bear children in many capacities.”
“What?” Loki looked alarmed.
Thor looked sheepish. “I believe the Allfather may have told your you were Laufey's son, but he did not reveal all. I questioned him when your heritage was revealed and he told me Laufey, king of the Jotunn, might be your mother not your father,” Thor said. “ He told me the Jotunn can shape-shift, but always return to their true form when bearing children.”
Loki let out a small, squeaky sound.
Bruce looked between Thor and Loki and after a moment , gasped.
“Oh dear,” said Tony. “This is why you should always use protection.”
It took a few moments longer for Thor to catch on. “I will be an uncle!” he said joyfully, at last.
Steve looked thoughtful. “If Laufey is really Loki's mother, does that mean Odin might actually be his father after all?”
Thor looked overjoyed at this possibility, while Loki seemed upset.
Bruce just looked dazed.
"Well, here's to giant monster babies," said Tony, which caused Loki to look even more stricken.
Chapter 9: Horsey Horsey
“This is all supposition, then?” Natasha said when told the news. “You're just assuming he's having a child?”
Thor, who had been the one joyfully spreading the story, looked sheepish. “You think it may not be so?”
“Natasha has a point. Do you really know any more than Loki about Jotunn physiognomy?” Bruce asked.
“I know what the Allfather has told me, this and no more,” Thor said.
“And of course Odin never lies!” Loki said bitterly. “I do not believe I am with child. I think it is a trick to punish me. When last I was with child it stirred within me all at once.”
“You've been pregnant before?” Tony's eyebrows shot up. Everyone else in the room with the exception of Thor also looked fairly startled at this statement.
“I thought Thor said you were a 'maiden',” Natasha said. “Does everyone in your family make things up?”
“In the form of a human female I was a maiden still when Bruce took me last night. Well, more or less,” Loki said nonchalantly. “I was a horse when I gave birth the last time.”
“'Tis true, Loki had such dealings with a mighty horse named Svaðilfari,” Thor nodded.
“I didn't expect it to go as far as it did! I blame Odin for that too,” Loki said, miserably. “If I had not been threatened with death I would not have needed to distract Svaðilfari. Suffice to say, I knew right away that time. I refuse to believe I will give birth to another monster. I will not!”
Loki curled up against Bruce and buried his, presently gigantic blue, head in the crook of his neck. Bruce patted him awkwardly.
“Putting aside how much of a pain in the ass Loki has been these last few weeks, is it just me who finds it disturbing that he had to choose between death and screwing a horse?” Tony said. “I'm beginning to see why he has so many issues.”
Nobody said anything for a very long time.
“Okay, well if he isn't having a baby, why did he change into the big blue creature, and why can't he change back?” Steve said.
“I know not,” said Thor. “Perhaps this is part of my father's plan.”
“Well, he sure works in mysterious ways,” Tony said.
“Not to put too fine a point on it, Thor, your father is a dick,” Bruce said.
Loki looked at him after he said this, adoration in his eyes.
There was another, very tense, silence; everyone expected Thor to start throwing his hammer, but he just stood there looking sad. “Yes, he is,” he said.
"Now is the marriage off?" Natasha asked.
Everyone had been distracted by Thor's reaction, but now they turned to Loki and Bruce - they were making out on the couch, seemingly oblivious to everyone else. And Bruce had very quietly, and without the usual chaos, transformed into The Hulk.
"Doesn't look like it!" Tony said. "And it looks as though we might have found a way to distract the Hulk from smashing up the place."
Chapter 10: Don't Go Changing
The two of them were definitely distracting one another. Trouble was they were distracting each other right in the middle of the open plan apartment. It meant that there was no avoiding the spectacle for the rest of the Avengers.
The other problem was it went on for some time.
Eventually Hulk and the giant blue Loki finished the exerting part of the floor show and fell asleep.
That had been several hours ago. Since then anyone who wanted to get to the door had to step around the sleeping giants.
It was easier to either go out and stay out until it was over or retreat to the bedrooms. Steve and Tony had chosen the latter option, which suited the both of them just fine.
Even so, eventually strenuous activity will make even the hardiest heroes hungry.
“Doesn't the Hulk usually turn back to Bruce when he sleeps?” Steve asked Tony as they stood at the top of the balcony looking down at the two enormous creatures curled up below, blocking access to the kitchen. The apartment was pretty much trashed.
“He has the last few times, yes,” Tony admitted.
“Do you think we may have a problem?”
“Possibly. Though we could just contact Thor and have him deliver something.” Tony shrugged; he was hungry but he could hold out for a while longer. They couldn't get to the kitchen or to the outer door, but Thor's godlike way with teleportation could see them through for a while.
“No, I mean shouldn't we be worried he hasn't turned back?”
Below them, Hulk stirred. He looked up at Tony and Steve. “Hulk happy!” he beamed.
Loki sat up and sleepily looked around at the chaos. “Oh. I am sorry about the damage to your property, Tony Stark.”
“Que nada, it's a lot less messed up than the rest of New York after those huge aliens you sent had their way with it,” Tony said. “I think the real issue is the effect you've had on Bruce.”
Hulk was looking mellow and not making any move to do any smashing. He reached over and started nuzzling Loki's neck, gently.
“Well, I seem to have soothed the savage beast,” Loki said cheerfully. “This is surely not a problem.”
“Yes, but is he going to stay like that?” Steve said exasperatedly.
“I know not,” Loki said.
“See, the trouble is, a loved-up Hulk may be less destructive than usual but he's not going to be much use fighting the bad guys,” Tony said. “Though maybe he can just love all the bad guys into submission. It worked this time,” Tony said.
“No!” Loki said, annoyed. “He is mine.”
“Not to mention – Bruce!” Steve said, ignoring Loki's interjection. “What if he stays the Hulk and can't change back?”
“I will still love him!” Loki said.
“Be that as it may, I am sure Bruce would rather he was Bruce,” Steve said.
Hulk looked up from necking Loki. “Hulk not mind.”
Steve looked at Tony. “I really think this is a problem.”
Chapter 11: Size isn't Everything
“Bruce?” Tony said gently to the Hulk before him, in the vain hope he could somehow get through to the creatures alter-ego.
“Bruce tired,” Hulk said.
“Ah, now we're getting somewhere,” Tony sighed.
Steve nodded, “It must be exhausting trying to keep the Hulk at bay. I can't imagine what it would be like to keep switching bodies, though if I kept going back and forth from the old me I think I would want to stay like I am now as long as possible.”
“Yes, sweetheart, but you don't have anger issues,” Tony smiled at Steve and for long moments the two of them just stared dreamily at each other.
Loki looked from one to the other and coughed loudly. “I believe some strange enchantment must be holding Dr. Bruce Banner and me in thrall.”
“Maybe it's just a by-product of the two of you going at it so hot and heavy,” Tony said irritably, not welcoming the interruption. “Maybe give it a rest for a while and you'll both shrink a bit. It's probably just blood flow.”
Loki scowled. “Are you mocking me?”
“Would I?” Tony said, mock scandalized, his hand clutching the part of his chest housing the arc reactor.
“If this be my true form then so be it – I will endeavor – and if this be the true form of my beloved this too I will accept, but if this all be maleficent magic made manifest I wish to overcome the spell.”
“You Norse gods like your alliteration, don't you!” Tony said. “But, yes, glad you're seeing the problem at last.”
“Who would put a spell on you?” Steve asked.
“'Tis Odin, to be sure,” Loki said, decisively. “If it be not he then I know not.”
“Didn't Odin want you do just learn what it was like to live as a mortal woman – did I get that wrong?” Tony said. “That was what I gathered from Thor. I may have misunderstood. That doesn't explain why you're big and blue, or why Bruce is staying big and green.”
“You think someone else to blame?” Loki said.
“Maybe somebody is messing with the Tesseract,” Steve suggested.
“Hulk happy,” Hulk said softly.
“Yes, we know,” Tony said. “Oh! Yeah I suppose if you take the anger out of the equation Bruce might be reacting strangely to all that gamma radiation in his system.”
“I would have expected him to just stay Bruce,” Steve said.
“Well, according to records, the only other instances of some sort of super serum being used the subject stayed changed. From what I've read of the Red Skull he didn't go back to being a mild mannered scientist when he wasn't being a lunatic evil genius, and...” Tony paused.
“And I don't have an alter-ego either,” Steve finished for him. “I'm just me.”
“Exactly.” Tony said. “You said yourself you wouldn't want to go back to being the old you. Maybe Hulk feels the same way about Bruce. Though I can't imagine Bruce would want that.”
“I don't think I'm that different to the way I was before, not really,” Steve said. “It's just how other people see me now.”
“I'm sure I would love you just as much if you didn't look this hot!” Tony said. “You'd still be hot to me.”
“I don't think you mean that,” Steve replied miserably. “Nobody ever looked twice at me back then.” He sat down and Tony joined him.
“I thought you said you have not changed!” Loki interjected, though neither Steve nor Tony was listening, they were too wrapped up in almost devouring each other's faces. “Ah, yes, I believe there is an enchantment over the whole of this house,” Loki said.
“What?” Tony said at last, pulling back a little to catch his breath. And then, “Oh - you may be right.”
“Why do you say that?” Steve asked.
“Don't want to worry you, Honeybear, but I think what we were saying a few minutes ago might be about to bite the both of us in the ass.”
Steve's first reaction was “'Honeybear'?” But then he caught a glimpse of his arms. He jumped up frantically. “No! I can't go back to this.” He flopped back down onto the couch, tucking his spindly arms around his knees.
“Yeah, not that you aren't as cute as a button, but we should definitely try and find out what's going on,” Tony said.
“It seems you are not altered at least,” Loki pointed out to Tony.
“What you see is what you get,” Tony said. “But we should also probably tell SHIELD to quarantine this building. Although Natasha and Clint are pretty much one-dimensional, bad-asses so they probably don't need to worry. Does Thor have some sort of secret identity we haven't discovered?”
“Thor is as Thor is,” said Loki. “I have never known him different. Except for the one time he dressed in bridal garb to recover Mjolnir; and even then he was very clearly Thor.”
“Thor in a wedding dress? I'm torn between wanting to see that and being very, very disturbed.”
“What if I stay like this?” Steve asked. “Will they still let me go on missions?”
Tony took hold of his hand and lifted it to his lips, kissing it gently. “That's not going to happen – and even if it does I will build you the best armor ever – better than mine. You and me can be the world's mightiest metal heroes together: Iron Man and Golden Boy!”
Steve laughed, in spite of himself. “You're going to paint me gold?”
“You're going to look super-hot!"
They knew it wasn't a solution but kissing seemed like a pretty good idea iin the interim.
Chapter 12: With Shifting Change
“I can't get over how tiny I was,” Steve said, before correcting himself, “How tiny I am.”
He was in the kitchen, wearing Tony's robe - swamped by it.
They had told everyone to stay away until they could figure out what was going on, If they couldn't find a solution or an explanation, maybe either SHIELD or Thor would
So all they could do was wait.
In the meantime they decided they should quarantine themselves in case it was something that might have an effect on the civilian population.
So an uncharacteristically laid back Hulk, giant blue Loki, pocket sized Steve and an exactly-the-same as ever Tony were stuck inside the Avengers tower. Just the four of them.
They had tried playing Scrabble to pass the time a few hours before but Loki was bored after a couple of minutes and the best word Hulk had managed to make was 'xqwjzyh'. Which was still more impressive than they could have expected in the circumstances and, as it was on triple word and double letter squares, scored quite a lot.
In the end Loki and Hulk had retreated upstairs together. There was very little noise so they were probably just sleeping.
“You're taking it all very well,” Tony said.
“Well, I was like this for years, it's strange but I can adapt. Besides, I think I'm very lucky the effects of the serum didn't get reversed completely. I would be in my 90s, or dead, if that had happened!”
“You make a very good point – whatever it is that's happening it doesn't seem to have any fixed pattern,” Tony said, grabbing a tablet and starting to make notes.
“Maybe it's like that movie you made me watch about the ogre and the princess,” Steve said.
“What, Shrek? You think Loki is Princess Fiona in this scenario?”
“True love's kiss!” Steve said. “It's as reasonable as anything else we've come up with.”
“Yes but this is real life!”
“If I stay like this, will you still love me?” Steve said, quietly. “I'm not exactly love's young dream.”
“Always. And I would expect you to love me no matter what as well!” Tony smirked.
“You probably shouldn't tempt fate,” Steve said, grimly.
“Hey, what's the worst that could happen?” Tony said, distractedly; he was concentrating on the calculations he had made. There must be some sort of pattern.
There was a sort of strangulated yelp from Steve.
“What?” Tony said, before looking down. “Oh, holy shit, did I turn into a woman?” He said nonchalantly.
“Tony?” Steve said.
“Yes, it's still me, obviously. Well, looks like I will have to eat my words. Though this is manageable, I suppose.” Tony shrugged.
“Oh, no!” Steve was looking panicked.
“Steve, it's not that bad. It's surmountable! I bet I look hot in an evening dress,” Tony said, examining his prodigious bosom.
This did not seem to make Steve any less aghast.
“What?” Tony said. “Don't say you're a Kinsey 6!”
Steve ran out of the kitchen and didn't stop running until he had reached the bedrooms. He slammed the door behind himself and started wheezing. This was a nightmare: Tony looked exactly like Peggy.
Chapter 13: Flames
Tony knocked on the door.
“Steve, what's up? Can I come in? I don't want to be a dick about this but if it happened to you rather than me, I wouldn't freak out that much,” Tony said, a little shocked by the higher tone to his voice.
Steve opened the door, but didn't look Tony in the eye. “You look like somebody I used to know,” he said.
“Oh shit, do I? Is it your mom?” Tony asked.
“No!” Steve said quickly. “But – Tony what was your mother's name?”
“Not Margaret then? Not Peggy?”
“No, definitely Maria...” the penny dropped. “Oh no, do I look like the infamous Peggy?”
Steve nodded, still avoiding eye contact.
“Well that's interesting,” Tony said.
“I think I loved her,” Steve said softly.
Tony breathed deeply. “Oh. I suppose this is problematic then,” he gestured down at his body.
A sleepy-looking Loki emerged from a nearby room, “What is all this noise... oh,” he said glancing at Tony. “Major Carter, good to see you again, it has been a while.”
“Wait, what? You recognize me?” Tony said.
“Yes, of course,” he said. “You and I had some very good times. I suppose it was long ago, but I thought I was more memorable than that! Though I suppose I was not quite as big and blue then.”
Steve looked up, startled. “You knew Peggy?”
“Jealous, Captain?” Loki looked smug. “Do not worry, I am content not to rekindle the flame.”
“When did you know Peggy?” Steve demanded. “Where was I?”
“I believe you were trapped in ice at the time,” Loki said. “But this was many years ago, and mortal lives are brief. You are looking very fresh, my dear.”
“Why yes,” Tony fluttered his lashes. “Experimental procedures.”
Steve looked at Tony, briefly confused. Loki seemed unperturbed and unsurprised by the explanation, he nodded and ducked back into the bedroom, closing the door behind.
Tony raised an eyebrow. “Well I bet that's an interesting story!”
Steve pouted; he wondered how long Peggy had waited for him.
"Are you going to kiss me anyway?" Tony asked. "I could really use a kiss right now."
Steve frowned. These were not the circumstances he would have wanted for a reunion with Peggy, but then again this wasn't Peggy. And it seemed as though Peggy might not have pined over him - or if she had it hadn't stopped her having fun after he was gone. It was perhaps selfish of him to have hoped a little that she had.
"I will kiss you - but on the understanding that I am kissing you, not Peggy. I am kissing you because you are you."
"I'm always me, Steve. Even if I do have a bodacious rack right now," Tony grinned. It looked peculiar on Peggy's face, making him suddenly look very definitely Tony Stark.
Steve grinned back. He could do this - even if they stayed this way forever, he could live with it, he realized.
Tony made the first move. Steve closed his eyes and let himself be kissed. The soft, supple lips were familiar, and he remembered the feel of Peggy's last kiss, but there was something deeper, more passionate about this kiss. As it continued the texture of the skin altered, smooth turned to ever so slightly rough. Steve opened his eyes and pulled away.
"Don't stop," Tony said, then, as he realized his voice was back to normal, "Am I back? Well, I don't know whether to be disappointed or overjoyed. I was kind of looking forward to taking a test drive the way I was. By the way, you seem to be back to your old self too."
Steve looked down at himself, then leaned back onto the wall, relieved. "If it happens again at least I'm prepared," he said. Though he wasn't at all sure that was entirely true.
"Maybe we should hold off on all kissing - and sex - until we can pin down what's causing all this," Tony said.
"That's going to be hard," Steve said.
"Very," agreed Tony, wiggling his eyebrows.
Chapter 14: Love is a Many Splendored Thing
Steve was relieved Tony was back to looking like Tony, and he wasn't sure why exactly.
Sure he loved Tony, but he had thought he had loved Peggy back then. Though, he could admit to himself now, he kind of loved Bucky more. And perhaps the feelings of jealousy he had over Peggy and Howard's little fondue episode were perhaps not only due to the Peggy part of the equation.
Only now, years after the fact, did he realize how complicated his feelings were back then.
He glanced at Tony; thank goodness he hadn't turned into Bucky – or Howard.
Something twisted in his gut. This was all too much to handle even thinking about it. He just wanted to be kissed, but he daren't – just in case some of these 'what if?' scenarios came to pass.
Tony looked enough like his father already, and the implications of that were worrying.
So the only thing to do was sublimate and focus on getting Bruce (and Loki) back to their usual selves; not that either of them seemed that unhappy about the situation.
Loki and the Hulk had woken up and were just snuggling in front of the TV, watching old Disney movies.
Tony was incredibly bored, cooped up here with not even the possible distraction of sex with Steve.
Steve was just busy with angst and contemplation.
It was almost a relief to hear Nick Fury's voice on the intercom.
“What the hell is going on, Stark?” Fury demanded.
“Not entirely sure. Though maybe you should keep away until we find out,” Tony replied.
“I'm coming up!” He insisted.
“No! You might turn into some sort of terrible creature – do you want that to happen? Because I sure don't want to find out what hellish beast you might end up as,” Tony said quickly.
“Why have you allowed Loki into your house – how are you that stupid?”
“I don't think it's his fault – not entirely. Thor thinks it might be something to do with Odin, though we haven't pinned it down yet. The most pressing problem is Bruce – we can't get him to turn back from the Hulk.”
“Hulk not want to,” Hulk interjected.
“You hear that!” Tony said.
“Hulk stay with Loki and make love!” Hulk continued.
“What the hell!” Fury blurted.
“Oh yeah, the wedding's on Friday – we would have registered them at Macy's but we've had a lot to deal with,” Tony said.
“And nobody saw fit to apprise me of the situation?” Fury said angrily.
“Telling you now,” Tony said. “Now go away until you've come up with something.”
“I bring news!” Thor boomed, suddenly appearing behind Tony.
“Geez, don't sneak up on a person like that!” Tony said after he had made sure his heart beat was back to its regular rhythm.
“'Tis not the Allfather's doing. He merely wished to have Loki know what love is,” Thor said. “He believes this is Loki's doing – albeit something that Loki does not know is of his controlling.”
“I have done nothing!” Loki protested. “I was happy in the body that Odin made me take. If I had stayed a mortal woman I would have borne this with fortitude, and would gladly have lived my life with Dr. Bruce Banner. My plan was to become what I have heard colloquially described as a 'soccer mom' - this was my fond hope.”
“That's possibly the most terrifying thing I have ever heard!” Tony said.
“Odin thinks this is because of Loki's Jotun ancestry. He believes Loki becomes that which he believes will cause others to love him most.”
“That is ridiculous!” Loki protested.
“And furthermore he will affect those around him with this until he is united with his soul mate.”
Tony guffawed at this. “Loki has a point - that does sound idiotic.”
Steve decided to chip in. “It does sound implausible. Why would anyone want me as I was before the serum? They never did when I looked like that the first time.”
Thor frowned. “What has this to do with Loki?”
“I turned back the way I was – and Tony...”
“I turned into Steve's lost lady love... which is worrying if that is what he really wants me to be,” Tony said.
“I don't!” Steve protested. “I want you. I don't want Peggy or Howard or...”
“Howard! How the hell did my dad get into this discussion?” Tony asked, alarmed. “Don't tell me you were in love with my father. Oh my god!”
“No!” Steve started to panic. “I didn't mean... Tony, you have to believe me, I don't want anyone else.”
“Hulk not want this!” Hulk said, holding his head in his hands.
“Yes, everyone, stop fighting," Loki said. “You're upsetting Bruce.”
“Good!” Said Tony. “Maybe then he'll snap out of this daze and get back to his usual tortured self.”
“Rarggh!” Hulk said, and started smashing up the living room.
“And maybe you turned into Peggy because Loki slept with her!” Steve said, ignoring Hulk. “And it was nothing to do with me!”
“I did not sleep with Peggy Carter!” Loki said.
“You didn't?” Steve said.
“There was very little sleeping,” Loki admitted.
Steve looked upset.
“It could be worse, Steve – at least Loki never had sex with my dad!” Tony said ruefully.
Loki merely gave a little grin at that.
“Oh, no!” Tony said.
Hulk paused in his smashing and glanced at Loki. “Loki only sleep with me now!” He said firmly.
“What the hell is happening up there?” Nick Fury said over the intercom.
Chapter 15: Revelations
Tony had to get out of the apartment, no matter what was causing the unexplained changes he couldn’t stay in there with Loki – or with Steve – not until he had worked out what he was feeling right now. And he had no idea what exactly that was.
He dashed to the elevators and pressed down before anyone could talk him out of it. Nick Fury was in the lobby looking every inch his name.
“Stark! Do you mind enlightening me as to what exactly is going on?” He growled.
“Yes, I mind very much. Got to go, see you!” Tony said, rushing past. He made his way to the nearest coffee shop. Caffeine was better than booze, it would keep him clear headed. If he started drinking right now he had a feeling he might never stop.
He got to the counter then realized Natasha and Clint had installed themselves in a booth, evidently waiting for the all clear to return to the apartment. Tony was all set to walk back out again, but Natasha called out.
“Hey – join us! I assume everything's back to normal if you're here,” she said.
“Not exactly back to normal, no. Just couldn't stay there any more. I found out a few things I would really rather I hadn't known,” Tony said grimly.
“About Steve?” Natasha said sympathetically.
“Partially,” Tony admitted.
“Oh well, it was bound to come out sooner or later. Probably for the best it was now not later,” she said.
“Oh?” Tony asked. He wasn't sure exactly what she meant, but it seemed Steve had used her as a confidante about something at some point. Tony hadn't even realized Steve liked her well enough to tell her any of his secrets. And until now he hadn't even known Steve had any secrets.
“Yes, well you bowled him over. He's far too polite to say no to anyone. It's no basis for a long term relationship, is it?” She continued.
Tony narrowed his eyes at her.
“I'm sure he loves you now – you only have to look at him to realize that. It's funny really, you have to laugh!” She said brightly.
“Yes, I have to laugh,” Tony agreed, not sure what he was agreeing with.
“Hilarious really – that you announced the engagement to Steve when he hadn't even realized you were interested. Hell, I don't even think he knew he had those sorts of feelings about you – or any guy – until it happened. You did him a favor. Kind of.”
Tony looked at her. He was too stunned to say very much.
Clint was just looking uncomfortable. “Tash, what are you talking about?” He asked.
Natasha looked at Tony and then sucked through her teeth. “Oh no. You didn't know, did you?”
“What? Know? Sure, sure I knew. I'm just the kind of guy who takes advantage of a naive, trusting all-American hero. Even though he was clearly hung up on my dad. Even though everyone seems to have been involved with my father!”
Tony got up to leave. “I need some air. A lot of it.” He left before Natasha made him feel any worse than he was already feeling.
Chapter 16: Aftermath
Fury strode into the room.
“Hello, Mr. Fury, a pleasure to see you again.” Loki said.
Hulk had calmed down from his rampage and was asleep on the floor amid the debris. Steve was chewing his nails and looking anxious and distressed but saying very little. He didn't even acknowledge Fury's arrival.
“Where was Stark going in such a hurry – and why are you here?” Nick asked Loki.
“I think he was a little upset for some reason. And I am harmless, ask Thor,” Loki smiled, almost flirting at Fury.
“'Tis true, my brother has no powers at present,” Thor confirmed.
“But he's big and blue!” Fury said.
“Yes,” Thor nodded.
“Would you like to come to my wedding, Mr. Fury?” Loki said. “I would be honored if you consented.”
“That's another thing – what's this about a wedding – how the hell is this possible?”
“We just fell in love,” Loki said dreamily. “I'm a changed person.”
“Yes, that I can see!” Fury said.
“Tony's never going to forgive me!” Steve wailed suddenly. “And I haven't even done anything wrong!”
Nick Fury looked confused and worried at this outburst.
“See this is why I should have laid down strict no fraternization rules!” He said. “Well, I'm just going to say one thing – whatever is going on sort it out, and quickly. And yes, I will come to your wedding. There had better be one hell of a cake.”
And with that he left, tutting to himself under his breath.
Chapter 17: Family Ties
Natasha crashed in followed by Clint. “Steve, I'm sorry, I thought he knew – I didn't mean to betray a confidence!” She said.
“What?” Asked a worried Steve.
“We just saw him, he seemed upset – I thought he'd found out you hadn't wanted to marry him,” she explained.
“He thinks I didn't want him?” Steve said.
“Well you didn't did you?” She said.
“Ah – did he send an emissary to woo you?” Loki asked.
“He didn't woo at all, “ Natasha said, “He just assumed. Poor Steve never stood a chance.”
“No! It wasn't like that. I could have said no – I just didn't want to,” Steve insisted. “Does Tony think he forced me to like him?”
Natasha looked guilty, “Possibly.”
“My uncle Frey sent an emissary to woo a Jotun called Gert once. She didn't want to marry him so the emissary told her if she didn't they would send her to a cave and make her marry a three headed troll instead - and keep her there until she was so old and hideous that everyone would avoid the sight of her. So she said yes after that. Is that the sort of thing Tony Stark threatened?” Loki said cheerfully.
“No! Nothing like that,” Steve said.
“Your family sounds awful,” Natasha said.
“Yes, they are. Absolutely horrible. Frey is actually one of the nicer ones,” Loki said.
“How dare you besmirch the name of Frey!” Thor boomed.
“It's true though,” Loki said.
“Yes, it is true,” Thor paused. “I begin to see your point of view, Loki, our family is indeed awful,” Thor hung his head
“What happened to the giantess?” Natasha asked.
“Well she married Frey; And Odin was fine about it. Of course when I was involved with a Jotun maiden that one time, he went absolutely crazy and said if we had any children he would throw them down a well. Talk about hypocritical. Especially when I am Jotun, as it turns out!” Loki quirked his lips. “Odin is probably going to be upset when he sees me – and when he sees Bruce the way he is now.” Loki glanced over to the sleeping Hulk. "He hates monsters," he whispered.
“You have done nothing to cause this, my brother – and the Allfather only wants you to be happy,” Thor said.
Loki humphed at this.
"And he knows you and Dr. Banner are transformed. He seemed unconcerned. Though it is possible he was not really listening when I told him," Thor looked pensive for a moment, then disappeared.
“Is this Gerd still married to your uncle?” Natasha asked when Thor was gone. “Maybe someone should stage an intervention and rescue her.”
“Well they'll all be at the wedding,” Loki said.
“I should go look for Tony – did he say where he was going?” Steve said. He had been pacing through Natasha and Loki's tangential conversation.
“Oh, yeah, Tony – I don't know. He'll probably just wander around for a bit and come back when he's hungry.”
“He's not a dog, Natasha,” Steve said.
Natasha raised her eyebrows at this.
“I've got nothing to say,” said Clint.
Chapter 18: Tell Him
Central Park was more crowded than Tony would have liked. And it was cold. He should have put a coat on before he came out, or maybe brought the Iron Man suit. That at least had its own central heating. And he could have flown far away to find some solitude.
As it was it was impossible not to be recognized. Most people just pretended not to look, but he got a few stares and a few shouts and wolf whistles as he wandered. Being Tony Stark, well-known playboy billionaire philanthropist really sucked sometimes.
“Hey, Stark” Where's your boyfriend?” Followed by a snicker was not something he had expected.
Tony just nodded and smiled and went on his way. No point explaining Steve was actually his husband, no point explaining that Steve had been railroaded into the arrangement and was probably even now just being polite so as to not offend Tony by dumping him.
Steve was just too selfless and heroic for his own good, Tony thought miserably. Shameless as he usually was, Tony didn't know how he was going to be able to look him in the face again after this. It would be too painful.
He had outed Captain America, and taken advantage of him – oh shit, maybe Steve wasn't even gay.
Though, Tony thought, he had been doing a hell of a good job of pretending.
Meanwhile back at the apartment Steve was doing some worrying of his own.
He didn't do long speeches, he generally didn't say more than a few words, and certainly he tried to keep it light and uncomplicated; no big emotional outburst. All his life he had gotten by by being stoic and brave. He hoped it wasn't about to blow up in his face now.
“I should have told him how I felt!” Steve said.
“Steve love Tony?” Hulk asked sleepily. He had been woken by the commotion, but was still showing no signs of turning back into Bruce.
“Yes!” Steve said.
“I am so sorry,” Natasha said. “I really didn't want to cause friction.”
“I was trying to be a man of action. Words are too hard!” Steve said.
“Oh, but talking is splendid!” Loki said. “If Odin had talked to me more and told me the truth sooner I would have been far happier. You can't let things fester. I have learned my lesson on this.”
“This is not about you, Loki,” Natasha growled at him.
“I was just giving my advice,” Loki said.
“Loki love Hulk?” Hulk asked, pouting. “Loki not say.”
“Yes, I love Hulk, I love Bruce, I love whatever we have,” Loki said, seemingly surprised at this.
Which resulted in another bout of kissing, which Steve, Natasha and Clint could not help but watch – even though they really wanted not to.
Several minutes later Bruce, normal (albeit) naked and not at all green, and a pinkish, male-looking and a lot smaller than he had been Loki pulled away from each other, breathlessly.
Thor popped back into the room. “Ah, it seems the spell has been broken,” Thor said happily. “This is cause for rejoicing!”
Bruce was looking dazed. “What did I miss? Are we married yet?”
“Odin has sent a decree that you be married at once and sent his blessing, lest the unfortunate situation continue for too long,” Thor said. “So, yes you are married.”
“Aw, no ceremony? I was hoping to catch the bouquet,” Clint said.
“We will still have a Thing to celebrate the nuptials - this is still set for Frigga's Day,” Thor boomed. “It will take place in Asgard, the banqueting hall is being prepared as we speak - all are welcome.”
“I should go look for Tony,” Steve said, distractedly. “Uh, congratulations Bruce. Have to dash,” he said, rushing out of the door.
Chapter 19: Thursday in the Park with Steve
The leaves were turning yellow and red. Tony could get behind that. He had been sitting on a rock in Central Park, watching squirrels, for what felt like an eternity. It was starting to get dark and the chill in the air was more marked than ever. Still, he wasn't going to back and face Steve until he really had to.
Usually it was easier – if he did something that made him feel guilty he just made it better. He could stop all weapons production, he could atone for all the deaths he had surely caused in some way by putting on a shiny suit and fighting bad guys. It might take the rest of his life but he would make it better.
This, though. He tried not to, but he had seen the articles claiming Steve was too good for him – that he had somehow corrupted the epitome of American values.
While some of the views were definitely skewed, he had certainly taken advantage of Captain America, of this he was certain. There was no getting round this.
He closed his eyes. Maybe the early frosts would get him and he would wake up in 70 years time – by which time maybe Steve might have forgiven him.
He must have fallen asleep, because he awoke to a warm hand in his hair. He hoped some crazy homeless person wasn't about to do anything unspeakable to him. He kept his eyes closed in the vain hope that playing dead might avert that (though if someone was going to do unspeakable things they might well have no compunction to doing it to his dead body, he realized quickly once the decision had been made.)
“Tony,” a whispered voice said. It was Steve, and Tony wasn't sure whether that was worse than the alternative. He kept his eyes firmly shut. “Tony!” The second was more panicked, Tony fancied – though it was hard to tell. Even panicked Steve sounded fairly calm and collected.
“I am not dead, but I can't look you in the eye right now,” Tony said.
Next thing he knew his mouth was being covered by another hot, damp mouth. Tony hoped the voice really was Steve's because the crazy-person-with-a-voice-like-Steve's scenario wasn't very appealing. Though whoever it was certainly kissed like Steve.
“I asked you to marry me, don't you remember?” Steve said.
Tony thought back. “Yes, but I pushed you into it.”
“Nobody makes me do anything. I'm a big boy, Tony!”
“Well that's the truth anyway!” Tony said, grinning in spite of himself. He opened his eyes. Steve was looking down at him looking worried and sad.
“I didn't even know what I was feeling,” Steve said. “But when you announced in front of everyone that you were going to marry me that was the happiest I have felt since I woke up from the ice. Maybe even the happiest I have ever felt.”
“Back up!” Tony bolted upright, “Are you saying you didn't even know I was interested until the press conference?”
“Not a clue!”
“That's even worse than I thought!” Tony stood up to walk away. This was never going to be good.
“Tony,” Steve said forlornly. Then, noticing Tony had no overcoat, “You'll freeze to death.”
Tony couldn't help it; he started to giggle. It might have been hysteria, but this was just too much. He felt Steve's hand on his shoulder and his first instinct was to flinch; he resisted the urge and managed to look Steve in the eye, though. “I'm sorry. I really don't deserve you. You are far too good for me.”
“Probably!” Steve smiled. “But you're stuck with me anyway, because I am never going to leave you.”
“You're so hot right now!” Tony said.
They walked back to the tower, arm in arm, oblivious to the paparazzi, or indeed anything else except each other.
Back at the apartment Bruce had dressed and was having dinner with a back-to-his-usual-self Loki, a smug looking Thor and Clint and Natasha.
“Hey!” Bruce nodded as Steve and Tony arrived. “Everything good again?”
“Bruce! Great to have you back with us, buddy!” Tony said.
“Join us for food?” Bruce said.
“Maybe later,” Steve said. “We're just going to work up an appetite first.” He glanced at Tony.
“What the man said!” Tony acknowledged.
They didn't come out of the room until late the next morning.
“You need to get ready for the Thing!” Thor said as he saw the two (both looking disheveled and well-sated).
“I've had quite a lot of the thing already!” Tony admitted.
Thor frowned. “But that cannot be – it is later on this day, in the halls of Asgard. Do not be late. Heimdall will not keep the Bifrost open for long - it is still unstable.”
“Okay, should I wear a suit?” Tony asked.
“Yes, wear your suit of Iron. And Steve Rogers must wear his leather apparel,” Thor said. “You will be representing the valor of the people of Midgard.”
They went to get ready, but were distracted for quite a long time while getting dressed.
Eventually they came downstairs again, just in time to see the Bifrost appearing in the middle of the kitchen.
“Okay, we're ready to walk the rainbow way!” Tony said, flipping his faceplate down.
Chapter 20: The Star to Every Wandering Bark
“Guess we're not in Kansas anymore!” Steve said as they stepped onto the rainbow bridge and looked towards the gleaming towers of Asgard.
Tony sighed wearily. “I'm going to let you get away with that because you haven't had 70 years of being exposed to that joke. He glanced over at Steve and noticed the slight pout. “But good call,” he added.
Thor was excited. “We will feast and drink all night!” he said, striding ahead of them.
Tony nudged Steve. “Hey, if Thor is the Cowardly Lion, what does that make me?” He looked down at himself. “Oh, stupid question.”
Steve smiled at this, much to Tony's delight. “We should probably not match anyone else up. They might get offended,” Steve said.
“Wise!” Tony agreed, vaguely wondering what Steve would look like in a pair of ruby slippers.
Everyone else had already crossed most of the bridge; the portal closed behind them.
“You joining us?” Tony asked Heimdal.
“I must guard the Bifrost,” Heimdal said gravely. “It is only recently repaired.”
“Come on, you must have fun sometimes!” Tony replied. “Can't you leave it for a while?”
“I wish to stay here,” Heimdal growled, avoiding looking at Tony.
Tony shrugged and followed Steve and Thor. When he was far enough away that he thought Heimdal might be out of hearing range he asked Thor, “What's eating him?”
“Heimdal might be out of sorts,” Thor said. “He and Loki have somewhat of a history.”
“Sheesh!” Tony said. “Is there anybody Loki hasn't been with?”
Thor said nothing, but looked a bit guilty; after a second he carried on walking, ahead of Tony.
Tony glanced at Steve. “Whatever you're thinking can't be true,” Steve said.
“That you know what I might be thinking is worrying!” Tony said, “But I think it's best if we don't dwell on it any more than we have to.”
The 'Thing' was already swinging by the time they arrived. Most of Asgard must have been there and, surprisingly, quite a lot of Jotunheim as well.
“There has been a truce!” Thor told them. “In celebration of the marriage of a son of both great realms.”
A lot of SHIELD was there too (including an uncomfortable-looking Nick Fury who was mixing but not looking happy about it). Natasha was talking to a tall, beautiful blue creature who could have been either male or female. Tony and Steve caught wind of the conversation as they approached.
“...you don't have to stand for it!” Natasha was saying.
“But I was given little choice,” the creature said.
Natasha tutted. She spotted Tony and Steve and called them closer. “Hey, guys, this is Gerd – the one who was forced to marry that Frey guy.”
“Charmed,” said Tony, kissing the hand the beautiful creature proferred.
“I told her she can come stay with us if she wants. She might take us up on it,” Natasha said.
“Won't that cause friction?” Tony asked. The last thing they wanted was another Asgardian mad at them.
“Frey apparently hasn't even noticed he's been married for the past couple of hundred years!” Natasha said.
Gerd looked sad. “'Tis true, he abandoned me as soon as he had won me. He spends most of his time in Midgard, some place they call San Francisco.”
“He runs some kind of cult if you can believe it!” Natasha said.
“Sure, why the hell not, may as well come and stay – everyone else seems to have!” Tony said, only a little exasperated. He was starting to enjoy all the company.
Loki and Bruce were sat in the middle of a long table, and looked to be feeding each other various fruits and other assorted morsels. The both of them were draped in silky fabrics and gold. They didn't seem to be aware of anyone but each other.
It seemed best to leave them to it and mingle with the rest of the guests.
“Father, these are my Shield brothers Tony Stark and Steve Rogers,” Thor said behind them. Steve and Tony turned. “This is my father, Odin.” Thor then wandered off.
“Yes,” Tony said. He could have guessed that for himself. “I have heard so much about you.”
Steve saluted Odin, which made Tony grin.
“And I you,” Odin said. “Thor has told us many tales of your bravery. And Loki too has composed drápa in your names.”
“Oh... good, I think,” Tony said.
“You have very talented sons,” Steve said, just to be polite.
“Yes!” Odin nodded.
There was an awkward silence which Tony eventually broke. “They seem very happy,” he said, glancing over to Loki and Bruce.
“Hope it lasts. He hasn't caused any major destruction for a while!” Steve said.
Tony wasn't sure if he was talking about Bruce or Loki, but it seemed to cover both eventualities.
“Both my sons are troublesome, I am very sorry for that!” Odin said. “If I had known how they would cause such havoc in Midgard I might have been more merciful to your people.”
“Oh, no, think nothing of it!” Tony said, magnanimously. He was feeling quite light-headed from the two or three glasses of mead he had had already. He could usually hold his liquor but this was strong stuff. It also did not help that the beer was serving itself to the guests. “Say, is Loki's real dad here?”
“Tony!” Steve said, warning Tony not to continue along these lines. Though Tony was oblivious.
Odin might have been expected to react badly to this but he didn't say anything at all for a moment. Eventually, “Laufey is not here, no,” he said sadly.
“No, I mean the other one – the one that knocked Laufey up!” Tony said, happily.
“Laufey was struck by lightning. That is how Loki was conceived,” Odin said calmly.
“Wow – that's like finding a baby under a cabbage patch or having a stork deliver it!” Tony was vaguely aware he had had too much mead, and he should probably have stopped talking about five minutes ago. “Hold up, isn't Thor the god of lightning?”
Thor, mead in one hand and the leg of some huge bird in the other, took that moment to wander back into the conversation. “Do I hear my name?” He said.
“No, no,” Odin said jovially, before shooting a look at Tony.
“No, no!” Tony agreed. Even through the haze of the mead he knew enough not to get involved in this families' weird-ass dynamics any more than he already had. “I propose a toast To Loki and Bruce!” He said by way of deflection.
This led to much drinking, even more eating and almost total oblivion for most of the more mortal guests.
Next morning Tony woke up in a huge bed, mercifully free of any trace of a hangover. Steve was curled up beside him.
“Did I say anything embarrassing last night?” He asked blearily.
The look on Steve's face said it all.
Meanwhile in a room nearby Clint and Natasha had somehow ended up sleeping in Gerd's room. Neither of them at all sure what had happened.
Loki and Bruce had both stayed sober, and had also stayed transformation-free for the last 48 hours ( to the relief of each). They had had a very energetic night after all the guests had dispersed and had certainly not slept much.
“You know what, I am more relaxed than I can remember being for years,” Bruce said. As he snuggled up against Loki.
Most of his problems had not been solved and neither had Bruce's, but at this moment, feeling this happy, it didn't seem to matter.
Love might not conquer all, but it felt pretty damned good.