Bruce was awakened by Tony yelling through his door.
"Hey, Bruce? Bruce? You in your right mind in there? JARVIS says his sensors are all fucked up in your room and he can't talk to you. You okay?"
"I'm fine," Bruce yelled back, pushing himself up from horizontal, and then froze.
There was something--someone--something in the bed with him, wrapped in a shimmering black and green blanket--cloak? Why did he think it was a cloak? It was tiny; it was a baby, with bluish-green skin and oddly misshapen features and a cap of curly dark hair. It blinked red eyes at him and waved its fists, and Bruce pushed himself away from it across the bed as the door opened and Tony stepped in, saying, "JARVIS thinks it might have been--"
Tony fell silent as the baby--thing--baby let out a squawk.
"Loki," Tony said.
"What the fuck," Bruce said, struggling to hold on to his equilibrium. Loki had been here, but judging by the evidence before him Loki had probably also been a hell of a lot closer than just in his room at some point. Bruce had no memory of anything like that--but then he wouldn't, would he?
"Well, Bruce," Tony said as he came closer. He looked fascinated in a way that usually meant something was about to explode, which was not, Bruce thought, outside the realm of possibility. "When a crazy Frost Giant demi-god and a big green rage monster hate each other enough to have frankly alarming penetrative sex...."
Bruce actually managed to tear his gaze away from the baby for that, glaring at Tony. "Did you know about this?"
Tony's hands came up, placating, and his eyes darted from the baby to the door to Bruce, a reassuring calculation. "No, hey, no, just doing the math. But on the bright side, clearly you were on top."
"The other guy," Bruce muttered, trying to slot this into his private ranked list of Worst Things The Other Guy Has Ever Done. There wasn't going to be a handy dollar value or body count to tally this one by--not immediately, anyway. Unless negative one was a body count. Bruce forced himself not to start laughing, because he might never stop.
Tony edged closer, tugging the cloak aside to free her legs.
"No diaper," Tony noted, and then yelled, "JARVIS, diapers!" and then, "Congratulations, it's a girl."
She kicked her legs and waved her arms; Tony shifted closer and tickled her under the chin. She grabbed his hand with startling accuracy from such a tiny thing--not that Bruce was perfectly clear on what her developmental, or actual, age might be. And he had no idea what might be normal for Frost Giants or Asgardians, or whatever his own contribution to her genetics made her, other than green and strong.
Tony winced didn't pull away from her tiny blue-green grip, just stroked his free finger against her cheek. She turned her head and latched on to his fingertip, and Tony said, "Hey, I think she's hungry."
The other Avengers had all assembled--and Tony had outfitted the baby with a diaper made of bright yellow shop towels and gray tape, and got the bots working on a playpen made of clear blast-shielding--before Bruce had gotten through his first cup of coffee. He was staying out of arm's reach of the baby; currently Steve was holding her. Pepper had tried it and put her down hastily after being kicked a couple of times.
Bruce winced in miserable sympathy and remembered that thing parents sometimes said to their children about I hope you have a kid just like you someday. More of a curse than usual, in his case, and harder on the innocent bystanders.
Thor and Tony were discussing Frost Giant nutritional needs with JARVIS, trying to extrapolate from Loki's food preferences and the stories Thor had heard of them. Natasha was trying to prevent Bruce from noticing the ice pack she'd gotten for Pepper, and Clint was frowning intently at the baby, standing only a little closer to her than Bruce was. Finally he seemed to come to some decision; he moved close enough to tickle her feet. The soles were a delicate robin's egg blue-green, contrasting weirdly with Clint's tanned fingers.
"One of your daddies is a damned nasty monster, princess," Clint said, and Bruce gritted his teeth against the joke lurking in Clint's voice. Clint smiled down at the baby, though he probably had Bruce in his peripheral vision. "I'm glad you look more like the one who's just big and green."
"We do have to remember that," Natasha said, a little louder, attracting Thor and Tony's attention. "She's Loki's child--and Loki left her here deliberately. What's his angle? What's he trying to use her for?"
There was an instant babble of voices--Thor defending Loki's intentions, Tony blustering, Steve grimly countering Tony while Pepper took up a third side of the argument and Clint edged away from the baby while trying to look like he wasn't moving at all.
Bruce was sickeningly reminded of the helicarrier, of the moment he found himself holding the spear. He shoved his hands firmly into his pockets and said levelly, "She's our little green apple of discord."
Everyone stopped short at once, and Bruce took a breath and steadied himself before he brushed past Clint to get to Steve, reaching out to the baby for the first time. "Come here, Apple."
"Okay," Natasha said, as Bruce turned the baby's back to his belly, so she'd mostly kick out, cradling her carefully with both arms. "So if she's supposed to distract us, confuse and divide us--"
"She's not fogging our minds, right," Tony said, "because--should I have been more weirded out, Bruce? Is she doing a thing?"
"Babies always fog people's minds," Clint pointed out blandly. "It's their main survival strategy."
"Natasha's right," Steve broke in. "The important thing is to maintain a united front, and to protect Apple--"
"Apple, seriously, we're going with Apple?" Tony demanded, and Pepper punched him in the shoulder. Bruce smiled at Pepper and bounced on his heels, rocking his little girl.
"Maintain a united front," Steve repeated, and Natasha said, "Whoa. Bruce, what did you do?"
Bruce looked down, and Apple looked up at him from a smooth, round-cheeked baby-pink face under tousled brown curls, blinking big brown eyes. He shifted his grip on her, turning her cautiously toward himself, and when she wiggled in his grip the impact of her feet and hands was only baby-strength. The diaper still fit--she hadn't changed size--so she didn't take after him that much. Yet.
"Regular baby formula's probably okay now," Bruce said without looking away from her. "JARVIS, she'll probably need, what, extra doses of valine and lysine?"
"That is my conclusion," JARVIS agreed. Bruce wasn't sure how much more time went by with the others talking around him--Thor, louder than anyone else, was demanding libations and a breakfast feast to celebrate the birth of his niece, no matter that the sun was barely up--before there was a bot at his elbow with a baby bottle.
"Welcome to Earth, baby girl," Bruce said quietly. Apple took to the bottle like a champ.