There were times that Phil Coulson enjoyed his position as SHIELD liaison for the Avengers. It was sort of his due after nearly dying to get the initiative rolling the way it should have, but the months spent in the hospital recovering were well worth it in order to be the go-to guy for Captain America. And for the rest of the team, of course, given that he was still the only handler who could work with Clint Barton for more than five minutes without wanting to strangle him.
But then there were the times when his unofficial title of Supernanny had to be utilized, and he wasn't much fond of his position in those instances.
For one thing, it meant that if the team was called on to go handle a potentially explosive situation somewhere then Phil was responsible for the technically-two-hundred-but-looks-more-like-eight year old that the Avengers were caring for. Which in itself wasn't too bad; Loki oddly enough preferred to not be witness to any fights, especially not after the bank robbery in which the Hulk managed to haul the child around like a sack of potatoes while tossing robbers around the building and the Central Park incident in which Dr. Doom sent his robots to kidnap the boy.
But the part that Phil really didn't like about his unofficial nanny duties was when Loki did something that was worthy of punishment, because that was the second every damned Avenger in the immediate vicinity suddenly had something more important to do than deal out discipline.
This was shaping up to be one of those instances.
Right around twelve o'clock, Natasha had gone to find Loki to inform him that it was time for lunch and to see what the 'youngest' resident of the tower would like to eat. When she got to his room she discovered that he wasn't there, and proceeded to search the entire floor before thinking to ask JARVIS where he may be hiding.
JARVIS informed her that Loki had left the building approximately half an hour before she began looking for him, meaning that the boy had been missing for nearly an hour at that point.
Natasha immediately rallied the rest of the team, including Phil who had somehow managed to get a floor to himself (he was fairly sure that was due to Pepper, although Tony had warmed up to him sometime between Phil tapping him for the Avengers and waking up in the hospital), and they were in the middle of deciding who would search where in the city when Loki walked out of the elevator as if he hadn't vanished in the middle of the day for an hour and a half.
Phil waited until everyone had fussed over the boy (honestly, it was very bizarre to see a group of the world's toughest combatants nearly in tears because they were so happy to see a precocious pre-adolescent) before clearing his throat. The reaction was immediate from all parties, but his attention was focused on the child; it was obvious that he knew he was in trouble by the way he refused to meet Phil's gaze.
"Loki," he said evenly but firmly, "please come with me for a moment."
He turned and walked towards the elevator, punching the number for his floor. As he stepped inside, Phil noted that the boy slipped in quietly next to him, still keeping his eyes averted. That was okay for the moment, but it made him feel a bit guilty for the fact that he had to enforce the rules that everyone had agreed upon for the child's own safety.
When the elevator arrived on his floor, Phil headed straight for the study. After a moment's hesitation, Loki followed him into the room. The rules were that this study, as well as the lab spaces used by Bruce and Tony, was off-limits unless the child was given permission to be there.
And there was only one reason Phil brought Loki into his study.
He waited until the boy was standing in front of his desk before speaking again. "Do I need to go over the rules with you again, Loki?" When he shook his head, Phil added, "A verbal answer, please."
"No, sir," Loki said softly, eyes focused not on the man's face but on a small paperweight designed to look like Captain America's shield.
"So you would be able to tell me which rules you broke by leaving the tower?"
The boy bit his lip, a nervous tick that Phil was almost willing to bet had been cultivated a lifetime ago in Asgard. "Don't go outside the tower without telling an adult," he replied, voice still very quiet. "And don't leave the tower without an adult if I'm going to go further than the end of the block."
That one had been a bit of a compromise, allowable only because if Loki was diligent in informing the older residents of the tower that he was going outside, chances were very high that Clint would be watching from one of his many perches to ensure that no one messed with the kid. Phil hadn't liked that part, but allowed it because it meant that his team was taking their responsibility seriously.
"But you didn't tell anyone that you were going outside, did you? And you went further than the end of the block because you wouldn't have been gone for over an hour in that case," he said carefully. He hated being the disciplinarian, but someone needed to make sure that this little boy didn't grow up thinking that he could break every rule there was. It was a mistake made by his parents in his first childhood, and Phil wasn't planning to repeat Odin's folly.
"No, sir," Loki said again.
The boy slowly walked around the desk, knowing what was coming and trying to put it off as long as possible; alternately, the adult wanted to get this part over with so they could both put the incident behind them. Phil waited until Loki was right next to him before reaching out to pull the child over his lap.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Phil, sir," the child said, burying his face in his hands. It was something he did any time Phil had to discipline him for breaking one of the major rules.
"I know, Loki," Phil replied, "but you still need to be punished. Only five, okay?" He waited for the slight nod, because no child ever wanted a spanking, and then proceeded to lay five swift swats to his charge's backside. He knew it didn't hurt the boy too much, because there was a fine line between disciplinary action and abuse, but understood that sometimes a lesson needed to be enforced through actions in addition to words.
After the final swat, Phil helped the boy back to his feet and pulled him into a hug. Loki's arms wrapped around his neck, the boy sobbing out another apology and promises to never break the rules again. The agent let out a tiny sigh; children tended to push the limits in order to test their boundaries, and Loki was still learning his even after six months. It was likely that he would break a rule again, but chances were good that he wouldn't break one of the big rules for a good long time.
"It's alright, Loki," Phil said, rubbing a hand on the boy's back. "You've been punished, and now you're forgiven. It's okay."
It took several more minutes for Loki to calm down, the agent speaking in a soothing tone and hugging him the whole time. When the boy finally pulled away, Phil pulled a handkerchief from the top drawer of his desk and wiped the tears from his charge's eyes.
"I'm sorry," Loki said a final time.
"I know," Phil replied. "Now, come with me. It's past lunch time, and I'm sure you must be hungry."
Green eyes lit up, and Loki followed his guardian to the elevator. The punishment was past now, and though Phil knew it wouldn't be completely forgotten for some time he was pleased to see that the child was back to his usual cheerful self.