As odd as the statement may be, it was a simple series of accidents that had made their little family what it was.
Loki wasn't entirely sure why he trusted the strange man who was also a monster, but he did so almost instantly. He hadn't been comfortable at all with the man who had been talking to him, trying to cajole him into following with offers of a hot meal and a warm bed; he had been even less comfortable when the second man stalked up from out of nowhere and grabbed him by the arm.
And then the monster had swept in and saved him from whatever fate the two villains had had in store for him, so Loki was inclined to believe that the monster was one of the good creatures in this world.
It wasn't difficult to like Bruce Banner and his hidden half, not when the monster had all but carried Loki to the country's border before switching places with Bruce who then checked him over from head to toe just so he could be certain that there was no harm done. Loki may have grown up on stories of the monstrous Jotnar and of how they'd started a frivolous war for their own selfish purposes, and of evil shape shifters who would steal the life of a victim that they would then eat, but his new protector was a shape shifter of some manner. He hadn't tried to eat Loki or harm him, and was invested in keeping him out of harm's way.
So Loki decided that Bruce and the creature were Good People, and he vowed to himself to stick close to his protectors until such time that his father came to retrieve him.
The first time Loki called Bruce something other than his name seemed to startle both of them.
They had been in Kazakhstan at the time, passing through the country on the way to their final destination of Paris; that particular city had been picked because Bruce had always wanted to take his off-again girlfriend Betty there, so he hoped that the emotional attachment would help him and his charge settle in quickly. However, it was going to be a few days before they were able to take the next leg of their journey (Ross may have been quiet here of late for unknown reasons, but Bruce wasn't willing to take unnecessary risks now that he wasn't traveling alone) so they'd stopped in a hostel for the night.
Bruce had settled in to talk with one of the few other native English speakers staying at the hostel as well, and it didn't take very long for his conversational partner to ask about the young boy he was traveling with.
"You mentioned that you're originally from Virginia," the woman said in her smooth London accent, "but your young companion speaks with a very slight Scandinavian accent. It's almost difficult to pick up."
"I don't really notice it myself," Bruce admitted. "I suppose I'm used to it."
She smiled. "I'm a linguist and I work as a translator sometimes; I tend to pick up accents without even trying. Is his mother from Norway or Iceland perhaps?"
While Bruce had been talking, Loki had been entertaining himself with some books and periodicals that were on one of the tables nearby. None of them were the sort of thing that would interest a child, but there was a scientific journal mixed in the set that Loki ultimately decided to flip through. He was mildly amused at how the theories were presented (some of the 'new' findings were akin to what he'd learned in his most rudimentary of studies), but the next turn of the page showed a familiar face in one of the photographs attached to an article about gamma research.
Not even pausing to think, Loki dashed over to where his protector was talking to another adult.
"Pappa, is this you?" he blurted out, all but shoving the periodical into Bruce's hands in his excitement at the discovery. Only after the words were out of his mouth did he realize that he'd all but named the man as his father, using an affectionate term at that.
Bruce blinked, managing to hide his shock even as he noted the faint flush that crossed Loki's cheeks. The pronunciation was slightly off to his ears, but there was no denying that the boy had distinctly used a paternal name for him. Rather than react, he instead looked at the article Loki had been so eager to show him and felt a faint smile cross his lips.
"Yeah, that is me," he replied. "That photo is from a good three, four years ago, but I don't think I look that different, Loki."
"But why is the picture in this," the boy paused over the word for a moment, "journal in the first place?"
Thankfully, Bruce's conversational partner didn't mind being all but ignored as he explained what the purpose of the periodical was in terms that Loki could understand. She waited with a patient smile, and laughed softly when the boy was finally satisfied and wandered off to entertain himself once again.
"You have a very curious son," she said kindly once Bruce was able to turn his attention back to her again.
And although a part of him wanted to correct the assumption, Bruce simply smiled and thanked her.
If Loki continued to call Bruce Pappa on purpose after that, neither one of them commented on it.
When Loki started calling the other guy Far (which Bruce would much later learn meant father), Bruce just accepted that his unofficially adopted son had two fathers. It wasn't uncommon these days.
They'd been in Paris for nearly two months when Bruce texted Betty: In the city of lights. Good company, but wish you were here.
He honestly expected to get nothing more than a text back, possibly just the simple and normal I love you or be safe or I wish I was there, too. The last thing he expected was a phone call three days later from the woman he loved.
"I'm at the airport," Betty said, and he could hear the smile in her voice. "Where are you staying and how do I get there?"
Bruce gave her the address of the small apartment he'd been renting and sat Loki down to let him know that they would have company in less than an hour. The boy simply nodded along and asked if Betty was nice.
To say that Betty was surprised to arrive at the apartment and find that her significant other had unofficially adopted a young child may be a bit of an understatement. However, this was the same woman who continued to love Bruce Banner even after the accident that left him with a whopper of a split personality; rather than wonder or ask why she simply offered Loki a warm smile and asked him what he thought of his new dad.
The next week seemed to fly by. Betty only had a short amount of time she could be away from Culver (she'd told them she was going to visit a sick friend, but had neglected to say where said friend was located) so Bruce and Loki dragged their willing victim all over the city to take in all the sights they could before she had to leave again. The days were filled with trips to museums and galleries and shops, while in the evenings they went to any restaurant that struck their fancy and took in whatever show happened to be playing at the theatre of choice.
And if Betty was able to take advantage of the new partnership between Bruce and the Hulk at night after Loki went to sleep... well, they were consenting adults, after all. And she adored all aspects of the man (or maybe that was men) she loved.
On the last day of her visit, Betty gave Bruce a lingering kiss and promised to keep in contact ("I changed my carrier and got a Starkphone," she said with a sly grin. "The general couldn't put a tap on it if he wanted to, Stark tech is just that good against bugs.") before leaning down to give Loki a tight hug.
"Ooh, I am going to miss you all so much," she said sincerely, dropping a soft kiss to the boy's hair. "You take good care of each other, okay?"
Loki offered a grin. "We will. Can you come back again soon, Betty?"
"I hope so. And I'd better at least get to talk to you for a whole five minutes every time I call!"
Two months later, after several phone calls and texts, Loki asked Bruce, "When's Mamma going to come see us again?"
When Bruce told Betty about it in their very next phone call, she nearly cried from happiness; she knew that Loki saw Bruce as his father but hadn't even thought to hope he would think of her as a mother.
They made plans for her to visit sometime in the early summer, after the spring semester was over and she could take a longer sabbatical from the university.
However, that wouldn't come to pass; Natasha Romanoff tracked Bruce Banner to Paris a month before Betty's trip would have taken place.
Checking to make sure that the tracing program was working (SHIELD hadn't been kidding when they said the gamma signature he was following was faint), Bruce smiled to himself and opened Skype. He wasn't sure why a covert branch of the government would have a video chat program installed on their computers, but he wasn't going to argue.
Besides, it had been months since he'd seen his girlfriend's face, and he owed her a call.
He signed into the program and pulled up his contacts list, opening Betty's profile to see if she was available. When he noted she was at a computer, he sent her a video call and waited.
As expected, she accepted the request immediately.
"Hey, you!" Betty said, smiling brilliantly from the monitor. "I wasn't expecting to see you until next month."
Bruce grinned wryly. "There's been a slight change of plans. We're, uh, kind of over the ocean right now."
"Please tell me you are not Skyping me from an airplane."
"I'm not in an airplane. It's more of an aircraft carrier. That flies," he added, biting back a laugh at his girlfriend's incredulous look. "It's a super-secret government kind of thing."
Betty frowned. "You're there voluntarily, right? Because I don't want to have to find out whose heads I have to bust."
Ah, and that right there was what he loved about that woman. "Mostly voluntarily. The other guy almost had to get mean with them, but it's okay now," Bruce said. "I just wanted to let you know that we might have to make our Paris family vacation a trip somewhere stateside instead."
"Well... let's skip Harlem this time," she teased. "I think you broke it a little the last time we were there."
"Yes, ma'am. You want to talk to our boy?" At Betty's happy nod, Bruce glanced up to see what his son had gotten himself into. Spotting him at the work station that had been abandoned while Stark wandered off to get some coffee, he grinned. "Loki, want to talk to Mom?"
The eleven year old quickly jumped down from the stool and darted across to where Bruce was working; the doctor shook his head at the boy's eagerness and shifted off to one side.
"There's my little man," Betty said with a smile. "Are you being good for your dad?"
"Yes, Mamma," Loki replied, bouncing slightly on the soles of his feet. "I met Tony Stark."
"Really?" Betty lifted her eyes to glance at Bruce, silently conveying you are definitely telling me all about this when you can without saying a word; Bruce gave a slight nod and sheepish grin in reply.
"Yeah. He's weird."
From the other side of the wall, out of sight and hearing, an alien who had once been mistaken for a god by more ancient men watched the activity in the lab with a mix of joy and sorrow. The joy was because he, and his family, had believed the young boy currently talking to his chosen family was dead and lost to them. Sorrow because, for all intents and purposes, the boy was lost to them.
Thor turned and walked away, vowing to check in on his once-missing brother later. For now, he had to talk to someone and make sure that Jane Foster would be protected in the event that the Enchantress decided to make her a target.