Ever since the Avengers had formed, their lives had been what most people might call insane .
But this ?
This took the cake.
Thor stared down in shock at the damaged Iron Man suit standing in the rubble in front of him, unsure of what exactly he was seeing.
A tiny toddler with his hands on his hips, a riot of messy brunette curls, with a faded Black Sabbath t-shirt swimming on his petite frame was glaring up at the Avenger’s from the open torso of the Iron Man armour. “Stark’s don’ pay no ransom!”
“What the shit! Is that fuckin’ Stark ?”
“It would appear that whatever spell Amora threw out has struck the Man of Iron.”
“Yeah no shit, Thor!”
“If I may interject, ” JARVIS’ smooth voice broke through the noise, and the toddler in the armour started, “ perhaps this would be better dealt with when the young sir has been taken care of first? He cannot be comfortable in his current state.”
“J-Ja’vis? Where you? Can’t see you…” The little voice that not a few moments ago had been so full of assertion and confidence had dropped to a volume and tone that sounded more like a child in this situation should. It wobbled a little and Thor felt it tug at his heart.
“I am always here for you, young sir. But for now, you must listen to the adults around you. You can trust them, you have my word.”
The child made a noise of agreement and nodded his head, seeming to accept that for now as he looked back up at the Avengers, his big brown eyes tracking over each of their faces steadily, until he gave a soft little gasp, and leant so far forward he nearly fell out of the suit.
“Cap’n America? ‘s that you?”
Steve couldn’t help the little double take as he looked down at his suddenly pint-sized teammate. A pointy elbow dug into his side from Natasha’s direction, and after a moment’s hesitation - and another elbow dig - he crouched down to the toddler’s eye level. He drew a deep breath, and did his best to keep his voice calm and steady, and his smile friendly as he spoke. “It sure is, bud. I’m here to help you. Can you tell me your name?”
Those already huge brown eyes grew even bigger and the most adorable toothy grin broke out over his face. “Yeah! My name’s Tony Stark, an’ I’m three, sir!”
Clint’s face scrunched up in confusion as he turned to Natasha to ask, “What’re we supposed to do with a kid? Even one as smart as he obviously is. We can’t take him, right?”
The Black Widow shrugged delicately, and turned away to face their teeny teammate. “Turn him over to SHIELD, clearly. We’re not exactly equipped to care for him, and he lives alone in that tower.” She watched with a carefully blank expression on her face as Steve gently picked Tony up and settled him on his hip. Outside of the armour he was tiny, the jeans and boxers that his adult self had been wearing falling away to land on the ground. “Where else would he go?”
Thor glanced over at Natasha briefly, a frown creasing his brows, before turning his gaze back to the small child who was wiggling around and trying to climb Steve. “I will return to Asgard immediately, and see if Loki can help to undo the curse our teammate finds himself under. He has been pardoned of all his crimes, and has been much more amenable of late. It is possible he will know how to release Amora’s magic.”
Clint snorted. “Amenable, sure pal. Dudes as mad as a hatter. Bruce was right - you can smell the crazy on -”
“I would ask you do not finish that sentence, Hawkeye. He is my brother, and he was not under his own control. A feeling I am sure you remember quite well,” Thor interrupted in a quiet voice, his bright blue eyes not moving from where Tony was now climbing up to sit on Steve’s shoulders, as the super soldier tried – and failed – to keep the t-shirt down over Tony’s bare bottom.
There was a slightly awkward silence for a few moments, before the sound of Tony’s little voice broke it. “Mis’r Fury! Mis’r Fury!”
All eyes turned to Tony as he waved furiously from his new perch on Steve’s shoulders, before turning in the direction he was waving. Director Fury was walking slowly their way from a nondescript black SUV that had SHIELD written all over it. “Lookit Mis’r Fury! I foun’ Cap’n America! Howard is gonna be happy! Is he here? Is Auntie Peggy?”
Everyone watched as Steve’s shoulders tensed up, and his whole body went deathly still. “Is she here? I wanna see Peggy! An’ mama! An’ I’m thirsty. ‘s Jarvis here now? Ana? You got juice? Can I has it?”
Fury approached slowly and looked around at all of them, his eye eventually focusing on the kid sitting on Steve. The friendly smile that was now on his scarred face looked very out of place as he gave the kid a little wave. “Tony! You’re taller than me, now kiddo. How’s the view?” he smiled up at the toddler. Clint and Natasha both turned stunned expressions on the director, as he smiled up at Tony.
“’s awesome! I found Cap’n America, an’ now I wanna see Peggy an' Mama. They here now? We go?”
“Sorry Tony, but they’re not around right now. Think you might want to come back with me and we’ll hang out for a bit? Do you remember SHIELD? I’m the boss there now.”
Tony cocked his head to the side and stared at Fury, as though he were actually considering his offer. It was such an adult-Tony move that Thor felt himself a bit taken aback by it.
“Okay then. Can Cap’n come too?” Tony tugged at Steve’s hair to get his attention, and turned his megawatt grin on him when he turned his head. “You come too? Come wi’me Cap? Is more fun then!”
Steve glanced at Fury, before turning a sheepish smile on Tony. “Sorry buddy, but I have to help clean up the mess here with the rest of the Avengers. How ‘bout if you go with Fury here, and I’ll make sure to come visit you real soon, okay?”
Tony’s little face fell, but he held himself together with an expression that spoke of practise at keeping his emotions in check, even at his young age. Thor had an uneasy feeling in his stomach as he watched Tony’s eyes dim and his smile disappear. What kind of life had his shield brother led as a child, that he could already hide his emotions so?
“Okay Cap’n America, sir. It would be very nice t’see you ‘gain, if you got the time.” Tony’s voice was whisper quiet as he held his arms out and let Fury reach up to pull him down and settle him on his hip.
“I’m gonna carry you, alright? There’s smashed glass and rocks everywhere, and you ain’t got your shoes on, little Stark.” Tony just nodded, and tucked his head into Fury’s shoulder, all his previous energy and personality seeming to almost physically drain away.
“G’bye ‘vengers,” he mumbled, as Fury spun on the spot and walked away to settle him into the black SUV he’d pulled up in.
“I too will take my leave now,” Thor’s voice broke through the melancholy that had settled over them as Fury’s car pulled away, Tony’s dejected little figure barely visible through the tinting. “I would speak with my brother to lift this curse from our friend.” With a brief nod at each of them, he stepped back and called the Bifrost to him, disappearing in a flash of rainbow coloured lights.
“You’s a bad pirate! You don’ ev’n pirate prop’ly! You have no hook!” Tony stomped his little bare foot down on Fury’s desk and began his demands again, as Nick sighed and reached to pinch the bridge of his nose, desperate to stave off the headache Thor had no doubts was forming. “I wanna see my mama! I want Peggy! I wan’ Jarvis an’ Ana! They is not in stupid heaven! Mama wouldn’ go wi’out me! You is lying!” His face was wet with tears, his eyes red and sore looking, and he’d clearly been at it for a while. “You’re dumb! Howard’s dumb too! Cap’n ‘Merica don’t even like me, he’s not comin’ back! He’s a liar! W-why is no one comin’ back?”
When Thor returned to SHIELD base two days later with Loki in tow, he hadn’t expected to walk in on Tony throwing a tantrum of epic proportions on Nick Fury’s desk. He winced as Tony’s yelling started again, and turned his head to look at Loki, who had drawn in a sharp breath at the state of Tony. He was dressed in ill-fitting clothes, had no socks or shoes on and looked as though he’d not had a bath since the de-aging incident took place.
Thor watched quietly as Loki took a few steps forward, and simply picked the sobbing child up off the desk and held him to his chest.
“Cease your fussing,” he said softly as Tony buried his head in Loki’s shoulder, “and let us go find you something clean to wear. I am sorry that your mother and friends are gone, but you will be alright, Anthony.” Loki looked over to where Thor was standing by the doorway, with a soft smile on his face, and a determined glint in his eyes. The God of Mischief and Lies had always looked best with a child in his arms. Thor would be proud to be an uncle again. “We will take care of you.” Thor nodded his head in agreement.
“We will take the child with us, Fury,” he said, his tone of voice leaving no room for an argument. “He is not being taken care of here, and Loki and I are both familiar with caring for a small child. We will take him with us to his tower, and care for him there.”
Loki was rubbing small circles into Tony’s back as he whispered endearments and assurances to him, making his way slowly but surely to stand beside Thor.
“Shall we leave, brother?” Tony lifted his head and met Thor’s eyes, his nose running and his cheeks red and wet.
“You is gonna take me home now?” When Thor nodded, Tony buried his head back in Loki’s shoulder and shifted his hands to grip at his shirt as he rubbed his face against the soft green fabric.
“Thank you,” came the tiniest whisper from the toddler. Loki sighed and pressed a gentle kiss to the greasy, matted curls on Tony’s head and reached to place a hand on Thor’s arm.
“We’re leaving. He needs a bath and something to eat.”
“I will contact you within a few days with an update, Director,” Thor said quietly, placing a hand on top of the one Loki still had resting on his arm, and his other on Tony’s head. Loki had bent his head down to whisper to Anthony that he would need to keep his eyes closed as Loki moved them home with magic. “We will be taking Anthony home now. It would be appreciated if you could ensure we are not disturbed until then. I am aware that no-one but Anthony resides within Stark tower these days. I shall have JARVIS keep a lookout.” He waited until Fury had acknowledged him and the quiet threat, and then they were gone in a green shimmer of Loki’s magic.
“Welcome home, Master Odinson, Master Loki and Young Sir,” JARVIS’ voice echoed through the empty penthouse. “I shall do my utmost to assist you with his care in any capacity that I can, sirs.”
“Jarvis?” Tony’s little voice was shaky and thick with tears, and Thor gently ruffled his hand through the mess of tangled and dirty curls, and sighed softly.
“He is not the Jarvis that you are remembering, Anthony. This Jarvis is a creation of yours, in memory of your original Jarvis. He sees all, and loves you dearly. Protecting you is his most important function.”
“This is true, young Sir. Master Odinson, I was able to listen in to your discussion with Director Fury through your communications unit still attached to your armour. I will be amplifying the tower security and adjusting the permissions for the penthouse level.”
Thor nodded and turned his focus back to Tony and Loki.
Tony lifted his face from where it had been buried in Loki’s shoulder, and stared up at the ceiling.
“Posso fidarmi di loro e tu?”
(Can I trust them and you?)
“Puoi. Non ti mentirò mai, Anthony Stark.”
(You can. I will never lie to you, Anthony Stark.)
Thor looked at his tiny teammate in surprise, the Allspeak instantly allowing him to understand.
“You speak another language, Anthony?” Loki asked quietly. “Questo è più comodo per te?”
(Is this more comfortable for you?)
Tony looked at Loki in shock. “Tu mi puoi capire?”
(You can understand me?)
Loki nodded and smiled at him. “We both can, Anthony. We are not from Earth, and are gifted with the knowledge of what we call the Allspeak. There is not a language we cannot understand.” Tony’s eyes widened before he suddenly ducked his head back into Loki’s shoulder.
“Sorry,” came a tiny muffled whisper. Loki and Thor shared a confused look between them.
“Whatever are you sorry for, Anthony?” Loki asked in a low voice. “You have done nothing to apologise for.”
“I did’n mean to say it like that ,” he mumbled. “‘M sorry.”
“Ti stai scusando per la lingua che hai scelto di parlare?”
(You apologise for the language you choose to speak?)
“A Howard non piace quando parlo comme Mama,” came the whispered response, Anthony’s voice still muffled in Loki’s shirt.
(Howard does not like it when I talk like Mama.)
Thor frowned, and moved to stand closer beside Loki, a look passing between them that spoke of pain for Howard’s eternally resting soul if what they suspected was true.
“What do you mean, Anthony, he does not like it? Does he tell you to stop?” Thor made sure to mimic his brothers tone and kept his voice low and soothing.
A slight shake of his head and Loki bit his lip to stop from interrupting when that tiny voice spoke again. “He puts me inna closet. An’ he burneded my Bucky Bear the las’ time, cause I’m too growed up for silly baby toys.” He sniffed and pressed his face further into Loki’s shoulder, his hands tightening their grip on his shirt. “M-my mama… mama gotted me Bucky… he was m’only friend.” Another sniff, and he pressed his face harder against Loki’s shoulder. “An’ now they is all gone.”
Loki’s hands tightened their grip on Tony, and Thor felt the hot sensation of pure rage flow through him. “He punished you, and burned your bear, young one?” he asked softly, meeting Loki’s eyes above Tony’s head. There was wrath in Loki’s, and Thor knew he must look no better. “For simply speaking that which your mother taught you, and behaving as a child should?” When Tony nodded his head, and turned his face to Thor’s, he had to quickly force his expression to one of friendly calm. “Well, no child should be without the comfort of a friend. We shall rectify this immediately.” Tony’s little face was wet and covered with dirt and snot, but he still managed a small smile.
“I like your hair, Mis’r O-Odin’n,” he whispered. “Is nice, like Ana’s.”
Thor beamed at him, and rested a gentle hand on his grubby cheek. “You shall call me Thor, little Anthony. And the one who is holding you is my brother, Loki.”
Tony reached his little hands out to touch Thor’s hair, twirling the strands through his fingers.
“Mis’r Thor? Wha’s this one?” Wrapped in his fingers was a single braid, threaded through with strands of black hair. “‘S diff’rent.”
Loki was the one to answer, his voice very soft and his eyes not leaving Thor’s. “I fell, little Anthony. For a long time and to a terrible place. And Thor believed me to be gone, that I had fallen so far as to land in Valhalla. So he wove my hair through his here,” he reached one thin, pale hand out to rest on top of the hair in Tony’s hand, “and kept me with him, until I was found.”
Tony turned his face to Loki’s, and put one small hand on his face, copying the way Thor still had his big hand resting on Tony’s cheek. “‘M glad you got found, Mis’r Lodi.”
“Just Loki and Thor is fine, Anthony. None of this mister business. And I am glad too,” he smiled back, his eyes bright, “for it has brought me now to you.” Tony nodded his head, and petted his cheek.
“Maybe...maybe we c’n look after each oth’r now, Lodi. We can be friends?”
“A very fine idea, little Anthony,” Thor answered, and Loki nodded.
“Indeed. But for now,” he shifted Tony around so that he was sitting on Loki’s arm, his other supporting his back, “there is a very dirty little mortal here who needs a bath.”
Thor couldn’t help the grin that spread across his face as he watched his brother bathe Anthony. The child had been reluctant to get in the water, until Loki had used his magic to create dancing animals from his bath bubbles. He was happily babbling away to Loki in a charming mix of Italian and English, and Thor was positive it had been many hundreds of years since he’d seen such a genuine smile on his brothers face. Not since Odin had taken -
“Master Odinson,” JARVIS’ voice spoke to him quietly through the speaker closest to him, immediately derailing his thoughts. “Sir, I have detected a presence in the lower floors. My scanners indicate that it is the Agents Romanoff and Barton attempting to gain access. They have also attempted to infiltrate my mainframe by means of a virus. I have already eliminated it.”
Thor smirked at the camera above him. “Then I shall escort them back out, JARVIS.”
“Very good, Master Odinson. I shall take you to them when you are ready.”
Quietly, so as not to break the mood of the two before him, Thor approached Loki and placed a careful hand on his shoulder. When Loki turned to look at him, Thor crouched beside him and spoke softly into his ear. “Brother, there is a spider and hawk attempting to gain access to the tower, and to disable JARVIS. He has eliminated their puny electronic threat, and has tasked me with their physical removal. I shall return directly.” Loki placed his own hand on top of his brothers and nodded once, before turning his attention back to Anthony.
A brief pause to collect Mjolnir and summon his armour, and he made his way to the elevator, and down to the floor where Romanoff and Barton were being kept by JARVIS. As he did, Thor couldn’t help but feel proud of Loki. He’d come so far from the broken mess he’d been after the failed invasion. But the healers on Asgard had been adamant that he’d not been under his own control, and Odin had had no choice but to pardon Loki and allow his treatment. Thor was forever grateful to those wonderfully wise old women.
“Master Odinson, we have arrived. I have kept them from leaving this floor by locking it down under protocol ‘Big, Mean and Green’. Sir programmed it when it appeared that Dr. Banner would be staying with us. It enforces all windows and doors, and prevents them from being physically disabled. When you are ready to leave, simply inform me and I shall terminate the protocol.”
“I thank you, friend JARVIS,” Thor grinned up at the ceiling, before he straightened his shoulders and cracked his neck. The doors to the elevator slid open, and he made his way to where the two frustrated spies were sitting on the simple brown leather couch. Well, Romanoff was sitting. Barton was perched like a bird on the back.
A brief glance around the room let him know that this space had clearly been designed with Dr. Banner in mind. Simple furnishings, plenty of open space and natural light. Thor again felt that low simmer of anger in his gut. He’d been unable to stay, his brother and his duties in Asgard unable to be postponed. But the Captain, the Doctor and the spies… he’d thought better of them.
He’d been too hasty in that, it would appear.
“Hello, Thor.” Natasha’s voice was quiet, but in the empty room it still seemed to echo.
Thor nodded at the two of them, but made no move to get closer to them. “You are not supposed to be here.” His voice was low and unfriendly, and he crossed his arms across his chest, allowing Mjolnir to to be seen where she hung from his belt.
The Widow glanced at it, and then met his stare, her own eyes giving nothing away. “We were sent here to ensure that Tony was being cared for properly.” Barton nodded along. “We were not expecting such resistance to our presence.”
“That is, as Tony would say, ‘bull-fucking-shit’,” Thor snorted. “Director Fury was informed by Loki and myself that we would be taking Anthony, and that we would be taking on the roles of his caretakers. He has chosen to disregard our wishes, and for that, it is the two of you who will pay the price.” He took a step forward, never loosening his posture nor uncrossing his arms. “You have two choices before you now. You may simply step into the elevator and Friend JARVIS shall take you to the exit." He took another step and his left hand swung free to rest on Mjolnir's handle. "Or you can choose to resist and I shall escort you personally . Which shall it be, Widow?”
Barton threw his hands up in a gesture of surrender. “Easy big guy! We’re only here to check on the squirt. No harm, no foul yeah? We’ll go, right Tasha?”
Those oddly empty eyes never flickered from his, and Thor saw the moment she knew she was beaten. Enhanced though she may be, she was no match for a god. A sharp nod, and she stood in a single graceful movement. Barton simply jumped from the back of the couch, a tidy flipping motion putting him flat on his feet once more.
“Regardless of why you are here, Hawkeye, the fact remains that Director Fury was informed of the consequences of ignoring our wishes. Friend JARVIS, please see to it that these two are taken directly to the exit.”
“Of course, Master Odinson. Agent Romanoff, Agent Barton - please step into the elevator. Do not attempt to step out early. My sensors and weapons array are now locked onto your bio-signatures.”
Thor watched them pass with a disappointed frown on his face, and judgement in his eyes as they stepped into the elevator, and JARVIS escorted them out. Tony had clearly taken the Avenger’s initiative and the idea of the team together much more to heart than any one of them, if the individually decorated floors were any indication.
“The agents have departed the tower, Master Odinson. There was one last attempt to introduce a virus to my systems by Agent Romanoff, but it was unsuccessful. Again. Shall I take you back to Master Loki and the Young Sir now? I believe your brother could use some assistance in encouraging Young Sir to exit the bathtub.”
With a chuckle, Thor made his way to the elevator and allowed JARVIS to take him back to the penthouse. He could hear Anthony’s giggles and Loki’s deeper voice attempting to reason with the toddler from the entryway. Leaving Mjolnir on the table by the door, Thor removed his armor and stepped into the bathroom.
“Anthony, please, you must get out now. The water has long gone cold and-” A loud splashing sound and more of Anthony’s giggles almost completely muffled Loki’s exasperated sigh. “Anthony, really! I am completely soaked through!” Loki’s voice was filled with amusement as there was more splashing.
Another sigh and more giggling greeted Thor as he made his way into the bathroom. There were bubbles everywhere - on the floor, the sink, his brother, and the ceiling. And in the midst of it all sat Anthony, with the first grin Thor had seen on his face since Captain America had let him down.
“Thor! Thor! Lodi maked the bubbles alive !” he gushed, finally raising his arms to be picked up, and the God of Thunder hurried forwards to scoop him up, not caring at all that he too was now soaked through. “There was dogs, an’ a cat an’,” he paused to take a deep breath, and Thor took advantage of his pause to quickly swaddle him in a towel and hoist him up higher against his shoulder. “ An’ Lodi can be a cat ! Isn’ he amazin’, Thor? Can you be a cat? Or a dog? Can I have a dog? Can I stay here always? Lodi says I’m stayin’ now, an’ I getta be all yours, ‘cause everybody is gone! Are you happy? Lodi is happy. I like it. Makes me feel happy too!” Thor grinned down at Anthony as he chattered away happily, telling Thor all about the bubble animals and the fact that he was staying with them made him very happy.
Loki was following their progress through the penthouse, quietly directing Thor to the room he’d put together for Anthony to use. “I have managed to see the curse that Amora has struck him with, brother,” he said softly as Anthony babbled away in his endearing mix of Italian and english. “Amora’s magic has always been… undisciplined. She is a violent energy and her magic reflects that.”
“What does that mean for Anthony?”
Loki stopped in the doorway and watched the toddler as he ran about the room, and explored it, still wrapped in his towel. “It means that when she struck him, her magic was in disarray, she was emotional.” He sighed, and carefully leant his head against his brother’s broad shoulder, as though the weight of the world suddenly sat upon his own. “It means it’s permanent, Thor. I cannot undo it without irreparable damage to Anthony’s very soul. He must age naturally.” Loki lifted his head from Thor’s shoulder, and turned to face him. “Thor, we cannot allow those - those Avengers to take him. I will not have it! He will stay with us. We can take care of him. And I - * he* needs us.”
“I agree with Master Loki. There is nowhere better for the Young Sir if this is indeed irreversible. He shall stay here. I can see for myself the he already trusts you, and that is not a thing easily earned. I will do all I can to assist you, if this is what you choose also, Master Odinson.”
“And what of the Man of Iron? The armour?”
“I can pilot that remotely. Sir, I do believe that it would be a wonderful experience for Anthony to have a childhood. Young Sir, if you would look in the drawer below that one, you will find -”
“Lodi! Thor! I found my jammies!” Anthony’s excited little voice interrupted them, and Loki’s attention immediately swung to him. He was waving around a pair of pajamas with little Mjolnir’s and lightning bolts printed on them and bouncing on the bed. “Look Thor! ‘s got your hammer! An’ lightnin’s!” Loki gave an undignified snort, and grinned at Thor.
“They were the first thing I found in the gift store downstairs,” he teased. “Surely you do not mind?”
Thor threw his head back and laughed loudly. “They are most impressive, little Anthony! Shall we assist you to put them on?” Tony paused his bouncing and tipped his head back to stare up at Thor.
“I like you. Y’don’ lie. I can tell.” Both Loki and Thor stared down at him in astonishment. “You… you said y’would take me home an’ you did. An’ Howard’s gone, s’there’s none monies, but you still did it . S’why I like you.” He grinned up at them, before suddenly throwing himself forwards to wrap around Thor’s legs, his towel falling away as he moved. “ Thank you. ”
Loki answered, his voice soft and happy, “No Anthony, thank you . You’ve brought my brother and I back to each other. And we are so very happy to have you with us. I assure you that we will always do our best for you. Now, let’s get some pants on you, hm? JARVIS, could you turn the heat up a little, please.”
But Anthony shook his head and tightened his grip on Thor’s legs, reaching one small hand out to blindly grab at Loki’s pants. “Y’won’t... don’ leave me, ‘kay? Jarvis is all diff’rent now, and I don’ like the others. They looked at me weird. ‘M not weird. ’M three, an’ Howard says I gotta be smart now. I gotta do the fam’ly job!” Loki met Thor’s eyes and raised an eyebrow in question. Thor shook his head, and gestured to the ceiling instead.
“The Stark family was first and foremost a weapons manufacturer. Howard Stark assisted in the creation of the Atomic Bomb, and began developing military and private weaponry after. It was only after Sir’s experience in Afghanistan, when he came home with the Arc reactor, that he shut down the weapons department. Sir programmed me with basic knowledge and information about his ‘childhood’, as it would pertain to assist with his adult life. He did not have one, Sirs. He was largely ignored and displayed when necessary. I will download the relevant information to your StarkPhone, Master Odinson. It is not something that the Young Sir needs to hear.”
Thor and Loki both looked down at where Anthony still had his head resting against Thor’s legs and his tiny body pressed as hard against him as he could, one little hand firmly gripping Loki’s pants, the other tangled in Thor’s. Loki reached down and petted at the damp curls gently, until Anthony tipped his head up to meet his gaze. “Come now little Anthony. You cannot stay like that all night. It is getting late and cold. Pajamas and dinner, then bed, hm?”
Tony nodded and rubbed his face against Thor’s legs.
“‘M not tired though,” he yawned. “Not a’ all. Jammies is okay, an’ I like dinner, but I don’ need bed, Lodi.”
“Of course not, Anthony,” Loki agreed, shooting an amused look at Thor. “If you get dressed quickly, I shall allow you to choose what you would like for your dinner tonight.”
“PIZZA! Lodi! Pizza!” Anthony hollered. “PIZZA!!”
“Thor? What is pizza ?”
“A most excellent choice, little one! Quickly now, allow me to assist you with these pajamas so we can educate Loki in the ways of pizza.”
"Those pants do not belong on your head, Young Sir.”
It took them a couple of days, but eventually the three of them fell into the beginnings of a routine. There had been a few hiccups along the way – Anthony was apparently allergic to three different kinds of washing powder and he absolutely would not eat peas – but they’d worked through. The hardest hurdle had been informing Anthony that Fury hadn’t been lying about his parents, or Jarvis, and that he had been struck with a wayward spell. He took it with all the composure and poise a child his age could muster, though Thor and Loki had both been concerned at how calm he was. The screaming nightmares that began to plague him from that night onwards however were clearly his mind’s way of coping.
Thor had returned once to Asgard while Anthony slept, to inform Frigga of what had happened, and she had been delighted for Loki to have a child to care for again, and to hear of his recovery continuing. Anthony was proving to be extremely intelligent, adapting to his new life in a completely different time with the ease that only a child could. He was inquisitive and energetic in all he did, but every now and then the shadow of Howard Stark’s parenting techniques would overcome him and he would retreat within himself. Loki was quicker at spotting these episodes than Thor, and he would take the time to sit and talk with Anthony about his own childhood experiences, allowing the little boy to sit in his lap or to braid his hair as they talked.
Thor had been positive that he’d never see his brother smile like this again, and yet everyday more and more of the Loki that he knew - the Loki he’d grown up with - shone through. He smiled easily, and often, and instigated casual touches and embraces with both Anthony and Thor. He laughed, and taught Anthony children’s songs from Asgard. But he’d also shown rage the likes of which Thor hadn’t seen since Odin had taken Loki’s family.
JARVIS had been true to his word, and sent a file that first night with all the information he’d been programmed with, as well as what he’d been able to compile over the years about Anthony’s original childhood. Conversations between Tony and James Rhodes when Tony had gotten drunk each year on December 16th, small sections of dialogue between Tony and Pepper Potts as they argued and fell apart on the issue of children and more. It had taken all of Thor’s not inconsiderable strength to restrain Loki that night, for the other god had been determined to force his way to Howard’s soul in Hel and demand his daughter hand it over to him. But though Thor had also been full of a need for vengeance and violence upon the man, he was able to see the upside to their situation.
“Perhaps now, with us, Anthony can have a true childhood, brother. He will be well cared for, and allowed to simply be a child. We have no demands upon him for acts of genius or publicity. He will be safe, and he will be cherished. It has been only a matter of days and already he is precious to you, as he is to me. Is he not?” When Loki had simply nodded and gone limp and still in his arms, Thor loosened his grip and turned his brother to him. In a move he had not made since childhood, he leant forward and rested his forehead against Loki’s, both of them still and quiet as Loki’s magic calmed itself, and Thor’s rage dimmed. “We can do this, Loki. I assure you that there is no force in this universe that could separate us from him now. He is ours.”
“Ours,” Loki echoed softly, bringing his hands up to rest against Thor’s chest, his fingers clenching in the fabric tightly. “Thor, if we are going to commit to this, we must place the necessary wards and spells for his protection. I will not allow Odin to… I cannot lose another, Thor.” With a careful shifting of his face, Thor pressed a gentle kiss to Loki’s forehead where his own had been resting.
“I will not allow anything to remove him from you, Loki. Do not fret. Mother has spoken with Heimdall, and the council has no need to know what transpires here on Midgard. The Lady Jane is of no concern either,” he paused to clear his throat awkwardly. “She, I believe the Midgardian term is ‘dumped me’. I am too unreliable for a romantic partner,” he finished quietly. “But it is no great loss. Not when I have you and we have Anthony.” Loki nodded and allowed Thor to guide their heads back together. “I grieved terribly for you, brother,” he whispered suddenly. “When you let go of the bridge, I thought surely that my heart would stop and cease to beat again.” Loki tensed up and shifted as though to move away, but Thor simply moved a hand to rest against the side of his neck.
“Do not vex yourself for what has already passed, Loki. Just know that even when you believed yourself alone in life, I was always there for you.” Loki had made a choking noise, his shoulders shaking slightly as he pressed himself closer. Thor ignored the tears that were wetting his face, choosing instead to hold his little brother as he finally began to accept that Thor did truly love him. It was some time until they parted again, and Loki had stayed close to Thor for the remainder of the evening.
Loki had used the time while Thor read a story to Anthony that first night to set strong wards of protection around the room and the penthouse. He ensured that no one not personally invited would be able to set foot in Anthony’s room, a painful expulsion awaited those that tried.
No one would be taking him.