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Tales of the Storm: He's a what?

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Loki grabbed the vodka bottle off the bar and headed for the hatch. Thor saw and called him back. "Loki!"

Looking over his shoulder with narrowed eyes, Loki lifted the bottle. "This is weak."

"Still... you're not supposed--" It was a mistake the moment the words started to come out. Trying to keep Loki from doing things he wasn't supposed to be doing was such a reflex, even minor things, and even if the attempt would be futile.

Loki was having none of it. "I do what I want, Thor. You are not the All-Father, and I don't listen to him!" He stormed out with his bottle, and the hatch slammed behind him.

In the resultant silence, Tony chuckled and shook his head, imitating in a high-pitched mockery. "'You're not my dad!' I thought you two were super-old but that was so teenager, it's ridiculous."

Thor thought about it and then nodded. "By our standards, I suppose he would be."

Tony's hand froze, his cup only halfway to his lips, and then he lowered it again to stare at Thor. "What?"

Thor frowned at him. "Was I unclear? In Earth years, he has many centuries, but because we live so long, we mature slowly. Loki has not yet reached our formal age of majority. So in a sense, he is what you call a teenager."

Absolute silence followed Thor's words, as if he'd said something strange or shocking. The others looked around at each other, in that way of wanting to know if everyone else was reacting the same way.

But Tony was the first to speak. "Are you telling me he's a kid?" Tony demanded in disbelief.

Barton was suddenly close, looking at Thor with an odd intensity. "If that's true, why isn't he home?"

Feeling suddenly defensive, Thor answered, "He is old enough to adventure. He is not a child. He lacks only a century to reach the formal age to vote in the Council of Elders." His eye fell on the bottles of alcohol on the top of the bar. "And to drink our liquor, which is much stronger than yours. It is not thought healthy for the youth to imbibe."

It seemed the more he explained the more they were flummoxed by what he said.

"He can't drink? He can conquer other planets but he can't drink booze? God of mischief, my ass. More like, god of juvenile delinquents," Tony added with relish.

"It was not as if he had permission to conquer Midgard," Thor objected, offended by the implication that it had been allowed.

"So, he wasn't put in jail, he was grounded," Tony said and laughed.

Thor did not get the joke. "No, he was put in a cell until we understood that Thanos had tampered with his mind. Though it is true that his youth made it an offense that reflected upon our parents. Were he of age it would be his alone, but because he was not, it was our parents' responsibility. That was one of the reasons Father attempted to send Loki to make amends, on our original quest here, before Malekith intervened."

Barton's face held a deep furrow of confusion and growing anger. "Wait. He was held prisoner and tortured, and now he's planning to fight this Thanos immortal bad guy. And he's a teenager? Jesus. That's not right."

It was strange. Barton had been the most hostile to Loki, but suddenly he seemed angry at Thor, not at Loki. All because he had found out that Loki was a little younger than he had thought. Thor understood the idea of protecting children, but this was a strong reaction.

Bruce was quiet, with a troubled expression as well, but he asked more calmly, "Thor, is there nobody else?"

"No, friend," he answered. "There is not. There are other sorcerers, but none with the strength to battle Thanos."

Tony wasn't amused anymore. "Great," he said in a tone that said it was anything but. "So we have to fight a war with a child prodigy."

"He is not a child," Thor repeated, wishing he'd never said anything about Loki's age. "It is a somewhat arbitrary number, after all. He is full-grown."

Bruce waved his cup and explained, "But he can't drink and he can't vote, that puts him between seventeen and twenty, to us. Even if it's not a true equivalent, it's still a surprise to find out he's that young, relatively."

"A teenager," Clint muttered, scrubbing a hand through his hair and shaking his head. "With all that power. Who thought that was a good idea?"

Tony snorted. "No wonder he reminds me of me at twenty. He is me at twenty. I'd have tried to conquer Earth, if I could, but I drove fast cars instead."

"'Drove'?" Bruce repeated dryly. "You still drive fast cars. Let's hope Loki finds a better lifelong hobby than world conquest."

Glad that the conversation had lightened, Thor smiled and slapped Tony on the back. "Perhaps, when this is over, you might introduce Loki to fast cars."

Tony's glance toward the closed hatch was full of speculation, and he muttered, "Maybe I will."

Thor shook his head and laughed at the thought. Stark could make his offer and Loki would scorn it, but who knew, maybe he would find the offer itself intriguing enough to try it. There were worse diversions than driving Midgardian vehicles for entertainment.