The fight really isn't all that bad. Sure, there's the old sarcastic back and forth, both parties going and getting ready for the showdown. Thor begging Loki to please come home, Steve trying to inspire leadership, Bruce waiting to Hulk out, while Clint and Natasha went and did whatever creepy stuff they did before the knives got pulled out.
And then there's Tony, being Tony. He's running his mouth off, gesticulating wildly and being far more of a nuisance than he typically is. Normally Steve lets him have his say as he's usually able to fight at the same time, but he's starting to ramble to the point that even Thor is threatening to quiet him down (in so many words). Tony seems to finally be reaching the end of his long-winded verbal attack against Loki when it happens.
No one can really explain what 'it' is, only that there's a blinding ball of bright light heading directly towards Tony. They all shut their eyes, unable to do anything else, and when they reopen them, the grass is scorched and smoke is spiraling up towards the cloudless sky. In the middle of the ashy ground is a tiny kitten. It looks a little dazed, and it stumbles towards Thor, who is the closest. It meows and then flops to its side, rolling about.
Thor looks up at Steve, who looks over at Bruce. Clint and Natasha drop from their respective hiding spaces. Steve, unable to think of anything else to do, looks back at the kitten.
'Tony?' he finally asks.
The cats mewls in response and bares its belly towards him.
'So you're telling me,' Fury says, his voice louder than necessary 'that Loki came to Earth, coaxed you into meeting him, and then turned Stark into a fluffy kitten?'
Steve nods, the epitome of seriousness. 'That's correct, sir.'
Fury turns to Thor, bemusement on his face. Thor shrugs, the corner of his mouth pinched.
'My brother has always been gifted in the art of magic,' Thor says (or, rather, bellows) as way of explanation.
'Can it be reversed?'
Thor shrugs, rather unhelpfully. 'If I were able to contact Loki and convince him to reverse the incantation, I would. However, given his indifference to the wellbeing of you mortals, I am uncertain such a resolution would be easily found.'
Fury nods and wonders, for the umpteenth time why he thought bringing together these idiots (relatively speaking) was a good idea in the first place.
'He's so fluffy,' Clinton coos as he taps his fingers on the table. Tony licks his paw, his large, dark, yellow eyes watching the trail Clint's fingers leave on the tabletop.
'And cute,' Steve adds, before hastily adding, 'as a cat.'
He's a small kitten, Fury guessing no more than ten weeks old going by the kitten that his granddaughter has. His fur is brown except for a bright white spot on his chest, similar to that of Tony's arc reactor. His paws and ears seem to be too big for his body. He trots over to Fury and mewls at him, his voice high and pathetic. Fury rubbed his good eye and sighs loudly.
'Has anyone been able to reach Ms. Potts?'
'She's out of contact, sir,' Natasha states; she's the only one, in Fury's opinion, of any use right now. 'We'll keep attempting contact until such a time is made.'
Fury nods. He opens his eye just in time to see Clint reaching across the table to grab Tony. He mewls again, paws akimbo, and nips at Clint's finger. He struggles for a second and then starts licking it.
'But may I suggest until then we take turns keeping him for a day?' Natasha continues, her eyes on the cat. 'Just in case Tony is having any cognitive thought. It may soothe him to know this team cares for him.'
'Yes,' Bruce says, nodding. 'We must care for the cat.'
Steve nods, too, as though truer words have never been spoken. Fury sighs and shuts the case file.
'Fine,' he says, moving to his feet. 'But you're cleaning up after him.'
He decides to ignore Clint's quiet, 'yay!'
They decide to move into Bruce's room, as he's the one with the least amount of dangerous equipment. Natasha claims his bed as her territory, while the rest of them sit on the floor. Tony flops down in the middle of the lopsided circle and rolls around, exposing his belly. He mewls and stretches out. Steve reaches over and rubs his belly.
'He's as much of an exhibitionist as he is as a human,' Steve observes. He then adds as Tony suddenly bites him, 'and as painful to deal with.'
'But why a cat? A kitten at that,' Bruce asks. Tony leaps over and valiantly attacks his shoelace.
'It's Loki,' Natasha says dryly as way of explanation.
Tony gives another mewl before flopping over and falling asleep. The rest of the team look up at another.
'Do you think it's going to be permanent?' Steve asks, eyes flicking up to Thor.
'If Loki had intended to remove Tony Stark permanently, he would have done so. As the situation presents itself, I feel that this is intended to be a joke on Loki's behalf.' Thor pauses and picks up Tony, who doesn't wake. He fits in Thor's large hand and continues to sleep. 'Or he used the wrong spell.'
'How are we going to do this?' Clint asks, petting Tony's head. He purrs and flops his paw over his nose. 'Look after him, I mean. Take turns each night, or...?'
Their eyes dart across the room, looking at each other. Thor slowly sets Tony on his lap.
'It wouldn't be fair to Tony,' Bruce says slowly, carefully. 'Depending on his level of understanding, it may frighten him to be shipped around each day.'
'So... you're saying we all take care of him?' Natasha asks.
Bruce nods. 'Yes. Exactly.'
'This room is small,' Thor points out. 'We would require large accommodation to house all of us.'
'Stark Tower?' Steve suggests. 'It would probably make Tony more comfortable, too, to be somewhere he recognises.'
'And we'd be there if Pepper turned up,' Natasha adds.
They all nod.
Which is how the team wound up staying at Stark Tower with a Tony-shaped kitten.
The first thing Tony does when released into the house is run, skittering, under the closest sofa. The group stands around it, all of them cooing at him to come out. Thor offers to lift the sofa up, but Natasha dismisses the idea by saying that would just disorientate him. He's barely a foot off the ground, so everything was probably out of proportion. Bruce also adds that Tony wouldn't appreciate Thor moving everything.
It's Steve who eventually coaxes him out. Tony mewls once, then twice, and slowly wiggles closer to him. Steve hooks his fingers around his belly and drags him out, Tony's claws suddenly digging into the pine wood floor. They all sit around and pet him and tell him what a good kitten he is.
The mention of food comes up. They all agree without conversation that they'd feed him freshly cooked meat. As amusing as it was to think about feeding Stark cat food, none of them in good conscience could seriously consider the idea of actually going through with it.
Natasha winds up going out and buying a collar for Tony along with a couple of roast chickens. He struggles with it at first, and keeps catching his claws underneath it. Thor picks him and scratches him behind the ears, and soon Tony stops attacking his collar and curls up in Thor's large hand. He purrs, loud and low, and rubs his face into Thor's hand. His bell jingles.
'This animal is most delightful. He is very soothing to pet,' Thor declares.
'Are you sure the collar is necessary? Tony might not appreciate it when he... de-catifies,' Bruce says.
'This is Tony,' Natasha says, tightening the collar just a little as Tony purrs in Thor's hand. 'Do you really want him running loose and getting into trouble while we're sleeping?'
Bruce shrugs and nods. 'Point taken.'
So they go about setting up a plate for Tony, and Clint insists they can't get him to eat of a bowl on the floor because when he re-humanfies (Clint's exact words), he's going to be pissed to high hell. A plate gets set for him at the table, and a few slices of chicken are laid out, and Thor plops him down on the table and pets him as he eats.
'I enjoy this form,' he announces, as though it's a grand statement.
They all disperse as Tony yawns and licks his lips and goes about cleaning himself in a very frightening cat-like way.
Steve finds himself a small room with a wide window and plenty of light. He's been drawing for an hour or so when he realises he's hungry. Getting up, he heads to the kitchen and fixes himself a sandwich, after casting a steady look around to make sure Natasha isn't about to pounce on him (no pun intended) for stealing from Tony's food. He sits down at the table and starts to eat when he hears Tony's bell.
Tony mewls and rubs up against Steve's ankles and spins around them. His whiskers are bristling and his cries are so pathetic. He wiggles for a second before he leaps on Steve's lap and meows again.
'Tony, no,' Steve hisses. 'I don't let you eat my sandwiches when you're a human, and I'm not going to start now.'
The only response he gets is a mewl. Tony starts to paw at him, his claws digging into Steve's thighs. Steve hooks an arm under him and sets him back on the ground. He's barely upright when Tony leaps back up and nudges his head on the hand holding the chicken sandwich.
Tony whines and clambers up Steve's chest. He digs his claws in again and starts to purr. With a groan, Steve pulls out a piece of chicken and tosses it on the table. He raps his fingers on the tabletop to get Tony's attention. The small man-kitten turns, and, nose wriggling as he picks up the scent, he leaps over and starts eating the chicken as though he hadn't been fed in weeks.
'You were just fed an hour ago, you can't still be hungry,' Steve says, incredulous. Tony ignores him and continues to chew.
Stretching out on the bed, Steve runs his hand through his hair and looks at the drawing. He glances down at the picture in the magazine he's attempting to copy and starts to erase some sketch lines. There's the jangle of Tony's bell and then a plaintive cry. Steve sets the sketch book on his lap and taps the side of the bed. Tony sits down and looks at him.
'Do you want to see what I'm drawing?'
Tony jumps up and trots over. His bell rattles as he quivers and leaps up on the bed. He paws at the bed and walks over to Steve. Steve smiles- Tony had never shown interest in his sketching before.
'See? I'm drawing this woman,' Steve explains, holding up the picture of the magazine. 'I'm having trouble with her dress, though. What do you think?'
He has no idea if Tony understands, but he still wants to talk to him as though he's human. Tony paws at Steve's shoulder before flopping down on his chest. Steve can feel him purring. Sighing, he sets down his sketch book and shuts his eyes. The light is still on, but he doesn't particularly want to move Tony. He flops an arm over his eyes and scratches Tony behind the ears with his other hand. Tony starts to purr louder and settles in for a nap.
Natasha wakes up with a start to find Tony curled up beside her head. He's lying on her hair, his fur pressing against her cheek as he breathes, slow and deep.
'Tony,' she groans as she tries to pull away. 'I didn't want to sleep with you when you were human, and I don't want to sleep with you now.'
She rolls onto her side. As she's readjusting the pillows, she feels Tony stand and hears the shake of his bell. He presses his paws onto her shoulder and, getting his balance, he walks over her. He nuzzles under her chin and licks her. With a groan, Natasha finally gives him a pet. He purrs softly and falls asleep.
Swearing softly in Russian, she flops an arm over him and shuts her eyes. Fine, if he was going to be that insistent. She scratches under his chin and he rolls into her, purring as he falls asleep.
After his last visit to Midgard, Thor had been very insistent to visit his Lady Jane. They had spent three glorious days together before she was sent to the far side of the Americas on a research project. She introduced him to a marvelous program called Skype, and although it doesn't match up to the wonders of Asgardian interstellar communication, it still allowed Thor to view his lady's face and to hear her voice.
So there he is, speaking to his beloved, when Tony starts to scratch at his door. Thor excuses himself for a moment and opens the door. Tony tumbles in, all legs, and starts to promptly attack his tail. Laughing, Thor picks him up by the scruff of his neck and carries him back to the bed and laptop.
'This is what has become of Tony Stark!' Thor announces. Tony meows and pats at the laptop.
'Oh, the dear,' Jane coos, though she stifles a laugh.
They speak for over an hour, Jane telling Thor about her research and Thor doing his best to tell her from an Asgardian perspective. Tony crawls about in Thor's lap and bats at his hair, biting and pulling at the golden locks. Jane eventually gives her farewells, citing a need for sleep for her departure. Thor bids her goodnight and closes the laptop.
'Is she not the most beautiful woman you have ever beset your feline eyes upon, Stark?'
Tony ignores him and leaps up on Thor's broad shoulder. Swiping at his hair, purring contently, Tony nips at Thor's ear.
'Lady Jane's birthday celebration is coming soon. I hear it is customary to bestow gifts of sweet foods, botanical arrangements and fine trinkets made of precious metals to one's paramour at such a time. Tony Stark, what do you suggest?'
Tony swipes at Thor's hair and starts to chew it.
'I hear you are most successful with women. Do you not agree I should partake some gift giving at Lady Jane's annual celebration?'
Tony reaches up and starts to clamber up Thor's scalp.
'Small one, you are most difficult to communicate with in this form.'
Thor finally detangles Tony from his hair and pushes him into his lap. Tony bites Thor's hand and squirms around, attacking it.
'If you are not careful, Metal Feline, I will gift you upon her.'
Tony looks up at Thor and purrs before twisting around himself and licking at his fur.
It's nice to be in Tony's tower, even if Tony is currently in the form of a kitten. There's something about being in this building that makes Bruce feel as though he can discover anything and everything- perhaps even a cure. He can almost taste the knowledge permeating from the walls. He sets his pencil down, takes a breath, and lets himself meditate for a just a moment.
The door creaks open and there's the jingle f Tony's bell. He pads into the room and sits next to Bruce's foot. He yowls, and stretches his paw up. It catches on Bruce's trousers and he tugs at it.
'Hey, Tony,' Bruce says, bending to pick him up. He places him on the desk beside his notes. 'Want to read something for me?'
Tony looks at him blankly. Bruce laughs and rubs his palm on the top of Tony's head.
'Fine, I'll read it out to you, then.'
He does so, Tony blinking at him slowly the whole time. He makes some notes in the margins, scratching out certain parts as he reads them over. Tony's tail brushes from side to side and he occasionally swats at Bruce's pencil. It's a momentary annoyance, as his pencil drags a dark line over his page, but it's something he's grown used to, working beside Tony in his lab.
'So,' he says, once he's finished. 'What do you think?'
Tony stares at him.
'Right. It's unfinished, but I think I might be on to something.'
Tony meows and falls onto his side, belly exposed. Bruce rubs it, and Tony twists about, rolling onto his back and beating his back legs up into the air. Chuckling, Bruce sets his work aside and watches Tony rolling about on his desk. He can always work on his research later.
It's barely five AM, but Clint is already awake. He's always been an early riser, probably from his days at this circus. He used to work with the animal handler as he learnt the ropes (figuratively and literally), and part of that involved feeding the animals and cleaning their cages. It works now, too, being in the espionage business. On mornings like these, he usually takes his time; soaking in the shower, catching up on his reading or making an oversized breakfast. This morning he's restringing his bow and designing ideas for new arrowheads- he'll talk to Stark later, when he's walking on two legs.
There's a scuffle behind him, and the ring of a bell. Clint looks over his shoulder. Tony's rolling around, batting at an arrow. Clint reaches over and pulls at the arrow. Tony growls and keeps his tiny teeth wrapped around it. Gently pushing Tony away, Clint sets the arrow back on his lap.
'I don't want Pepper or Fury on my back for letting you get injured,' he says as way of explanation, though he doubts Tony understands. He's still adorable as a cat, though.
Tony leaps at his bare foot and sinks his teeth into the cuff of Clint's sweatpants. He tugs at them, rolling and twisting around. With a sigh, Clint pulls the head off the arrow and grabs a loose string for his brow. Looping it about, he secures it and drags it on the floor. Tony stops what he's doing and stares at it. Quivering, he pounces, missing his target just as Clint drags the arrow in another direction.
'You know,' he says, as he finally lets Tony catch the arrow, 'you're much cuter like this.'
They're sitting around the kitchen table, eating breakfast. Tony's up there with them, Steve using Tony's humanity as an excuse to let him eat sausages off a plate. They eat in companionable silence, devouring the food Clint serves up. There's a ding from the elevator, and Natasha and Thor stop eating to look up; Natasha because she's never not ready for an attack, and Thor because he's still highly suspicious of enclosed metal boxes that move only up and down. There's the distinct tap of Pepper's heels on the tiles, and the group softens. Steve stands to welcome her when there's a loud, deep voice.
'Mongolia. Can you believe it? Mongolia. I thought that was just a myth?'
The team turns just as Tony walks into the room. All five-foot-nine of him. Standing on two feet with a scruff of brown hair and his goatee looking a little more untidy than normal. He stops when he finally notices the group sitting at his dining table. His eyes lock on Thor.
'Your brother sent me to Mongolia.'
'I do not understand,' Thor says, blandly.
'Mongolia. North of China. I don't- is that a cat?'
He holds a finger up at Pepper. 'Hold it. Is that a cat? Why is there a cat in my house? Why is it eating sausages off my crockery?'
'We thought...' Natasha says slowly.
All their eyes turn to the small, suddenly not-Tony kitten. The kitten, noticing the attention, mewls and trots across the table to where Tony and Pepper, perhaps the most confused in the room, are standing shoulder-to-shoulder.
'We thought you were the cat,' Clint finally says.
'The cat,' Tony repeats.
Pepper looks confused. 'Why...?'
'During the battle,' Steve says slowly, carefully choosing his words. 'Loki sent a spell at Tony. There was a lot of light, and when we could finally see, this cat was where Tony had been standing. So we thought Loki had, uh, transformed Tony into the cat.'
'We treated him well,' Bruce offers.
The confusion, and, admittedly, annoyance on Tony's face melts a little at that. 'Really?'
'I even let you- ah, the cat- sleep with me,' Steve says.
'So did I,' Natasha says, a little questioningly.
'As did I,' Thor adds.
'Me, too,' Bruce continues.
They all turn to Clint. 'You guys are weird,' he says, rolling his eyes. 'I was long out of bed before Tony dared to venture to my room.'
'Why did none of you contact me?' Pepper interjects.
'We tried,' Natasha says, glaring over at Tony as he pushes her aside and grabs a sausage from her plate. 'But we couldn't get through.'
'That would be my fault,' Tony says, shovelling a slice of bacon from Clint's plate into his mouth. 'Sorry, I was in the middle of upgrading Pepper's phone when we got called out.'
He squeezes in between Bruce and Steve and steals the latter's plate to eat off of. The not-Tony kitten trots over to him and mewls. The five stare at him as Pepper sighs and turns to announce she's contacting Fury if any of them care.
'So, uh, what are we going to do with the cat?' Clint asks.
'Keep it. Duh,' Tony says, with a roll of his eyes. 'He can be our team cheerleader.'
'We can't just keep- '
'His name is Phil Pawson,' Tony continues, interrupting Steve. 'End of story.'