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What Indeed?

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“Oh?” said a voice that was far too familiar. 

  

Loki blinked, trying to clear his head of all the suddenly bright light and conflicting smells, trying to figure out what had even happened. What was he doing here?

 

“What’s a handsome little fellow like you doing in a place like this?” Stark said in a tone that sounded almost amused, and for a moment, Loki was confused, because surely the mortal, Iron Man, wouldn’t be flirting with Loki. Would he? And then Loki’s vision cleared a bit more, and he saw shoes and pants legs that were either entirely too big, or...

 

Loki was just... entirely too small. 

 

The man crouched in front of him, and Loki looked up at Stark’s smiling face, and felt the strangest urge to hiss. He blinked again, barely refraining from turning and running when Stark stretched a hand out toward his head — there was no telling what he might be able to do to Loki when he was in this... whatever this condition was that he was... tiny, and possibly fragile — fingers moving to... scratch behind his ears. 

 

And Loki would blame sheer horror for the way he froze up, sheer horror and instincts beyond his own, and certainly not the fact that it felt nice. More than nice. It felt downright luxurious. What in the Nine was going on? Usually, Loki knew the difference between dreams and reality, but this... this was really making him question if he had dozed off at some point and fallen into the most bizarre reverie he’d possibly ever been victim of. Not exactly nightmare material, at least not yet, but, Loki was at a loss for what to make of any of it. At least until Stark opened his mouth again, and damned him. 

 

“The alley is no place for a cat,” he said in a light, nearly singsong tone, and certainly not the sort of voice one would use when speaking to an enemy. “Well, I suppose maybe there is the whole thing about alley cats, so I guess they do live in places like this, but you don’t look like the sort.” He grinned wider, and crooked a finger under Loki’s chin. 

 

A cat? Seriously? And he was... He looked around, seeing damp pavement and brick walls, loud noises and chaotic scents surrounding him. Where was he? New York? With Tony Stark? Loki knew he had done a fair few bad things in his time — even a few wholly reprehensible ones — but why had fate or the Norns or whatever decided he deserved this? 

 

Stark seemed not to notice Loki’s inner turmoil, perhaps because Loki was a cat, and the glare was too rote to be truly effective. He just prattled on, seemingly without a care for all the inanity of his words, spoken to a cat

 

“No, you’re far too handsome, regal almost. You'd rather eat filet mignon than garbage scraps, I can tell, I know the type.” He chuckled and ran a hand down Loki’s back, still able to do so since Loki hadn’t moved, not to run, nor even to swat at the insufferable human for condescending to a god, and, and taking liberties. “You’re very soft,” he said absently, fingers stroking through Loki’s fur to better feel the texture. “Do you condition?” Of course Loki did, but that didn’t change the fact that that was quite possibly the stupidest thing anyone had said to a cat, and people tended to say stupid things to them all the time. “Oh, I know, you’ve got that spit shine thing going on.”

 

Loki did give an indignant meow at that, but to his embarrassment, it came out warbled and pitiful. He could feel the tip of his tail twitching, at Stark or at himself, who was to say, and Loki decided then and there that he hated cats. 

 

“Yeah?” Stark said, like he could understand Loki, or worse, was indulging him. “You like that?” he crooned as he scratched more firmly at the base of Loki’s tail. “Feels good?” And Loki was mortified to find that yes, yes it not only felt good, shamefully so, but his hindquarters were starting to rise into the movement of those fingers rubbing over that spot. 

 

Just when Loki thought things could not get worse — and seriously, why was he not clawing the man to shreds at this very moment? — Stark decided to pick him up. Of all the indignities-

 

Loki wriggled fiercely, or at least as fiercely as a cat could do, because this was just too far. The petting, the baby talk, that was a mistake, but this? 

 

Unfortunately, Stark merely tucked him inside his coat and wrapped him up tight. 

 

“Easy, little guy, I’ve got you,” he said sweetly, cupping a hand under Loki’s haunches to support him as he was carried. 

 

Oh, the mortal was dead. Loki would see to it. Just as soon as he figured out what had caused him to be in this predicament, he would flay him for this. 

 

“Good thing for you there’s plenty of room at the tower.” Did Stark ever shut up? “It’ll be good for you to get out of the cold, have a nice meal, maybe find somewhere cozy to sleep.” No, no he did not. “I’m sure there’s a spare pillow or two lying around. If not I could always steal one from Steve,” said Stark. 

 

“Reeoow!” said Loki. 

 

“Yeah,” Stark replied, with a laugh in his voice. “I’m not the biggest fan of Cap either. I wonder how he’d react to cat hair all over his uniform?” Despite himself, Loki’s whiskers twitched. Well, perhaps the mortal wasn’t all bad after all. Besides, any mischievous deed was practically an act of worship, whether the man knew it or not, and that Loki could get behind. “So whaddya say? You want the job?”

 

Loki just blinked, and tried to focus on the fact that he was likely shedding all over Stark’s clothes as well, which the human was either oblivious to or cheerfully indifferent about. Still, it made Loki feel just a little bit better. What could he say, he never shied away from spite. 

 

Of course, Stark couldn’t have actually expected an answer, and carried right on without one.

 

“You’re very handsome, you know?” And yes, Loki did, in fact, know that, because Stark had only mentioned it by now three times. As if Loki would be anything else. “Or beautiful. I’m not really sure how you’re supposed to tell. You look kind of like a boy I guess?” Thank you, Loki thought dryly. Although, truth be told, he was glad Stark didn’t try to take a glimpse at his genitals, because he didn’t particularly want to clean bits of the man’s beard from between his claws. “At any rate, you’re a very pretty kitty.” No, maybe it would be worth it after all. “You’ll need a name eventually I suppose.”

 

Stark craned his head down to look at Loki, and Loki just stared back, a silent challenge and threat. Which Stark soundly ignored. The man blinked. 

 

“Do black cats normally have green eyes? You look like a witch.” 

 

Loki, without meaning to, growled. Actually growled, like some kind of feral animal. Well, he was an animal, but even Stark could recognize his sophistication. 

 

“Okay not a witch then. But there’s still something almost enchanted about them, like magic. Hmm. I can’t name you after Strange, you deserve better than that.” And for once, Loki actually agreed with him.

 

Stark’s fingers of his free hand came up to once again pet Loki’s head, stroking softly over his ears and along his forehead. Loki closed his eyes, starting to relax against the soothing and very pleasant touch. A purr slipped out. 

 

“Oh,” said Stark, sounding pleased and surprised. “You sound like thunder. Don’t suppose I could really call you Thor, though. You don’t look a bit like him, and, well, it’d make things confusing. You could pass as his brother, though, with the black fur and the pretty eyes. That would be hilarious! Oh, Fury would be so mad if he found out, and I can just imagine the disappointment on Steve’s face!” he said gleefully, and Loki noticed that he hadn’t stopped purring. “Besides, cats should have villain names, it suits them.” And Loki did not at all like being called a villain, and was contemplating how accidental he could make a bite seem. But, well, Stark had also said his eyes were pretty, and Loki kept his teeth to himself. For now. 

 

“Loki it is then,” Stark said. “Lokitty. Hello Kitty.” He laughed at his own joke. 

 

Loki stopped purring. 

 

Stark just started petting him again, rubbing at his temples with just the right amount of pressure that had him purring again in no time. 

 

“We’re almost there, I promise.” And then Stark surprised him utterly by kissing him right on the nose.